Tech Wars: Survival

In the beginning, I didn't know computers were out to dominate my world. They appeared innocuous, a play thing, possibly a boon to productivity. After the first gray hairs, I realized the truth. The electronic marvels with their chips and their boards were out to get me.

I've been fighting the electronic menace ever since. This week, a mortal blow has been struck against me. Witness it in the wrinkles on my brow, bags under my eyes, sleepless nights, curses ringing in the air wherever I sit or walk. (I'm one of those triple-cussers. If you're from the South, you know what I mean.) All because of this blankety-blank (trying to be genteel in case my mom reads this) new computer with its seductive wide-screen, gigantic hard drive, big ram, and soft purr.

Yes, a new computer is more a pain than a pleasure. Try loading a program that should run perfectly on it except for maybe one file that wasn't upgraded. XP to XP should present no problems. Right? Wrong!

I finally slapped the electronic bitch into submission after I've had to "ghost" it to get it back to factory default a couple of times. I may triumph in the end. Lost the battle but won the war. I hope.

Let me say two words in the event you're thinking about doing the same thing with a year-end clearance bargain of a deal. Restore point. Trust me. You'll save yourself a lot of time, trouble, and gray hair. Create a restore point when you get it working perfectly. Then before uploading each new application, create a restore point.

So say we all.

National Treasure Book of Secrets

In case you didn't know, my family and I fancy ourselves as movie critics. We discuss our movie list for major holidays. It's usually a family expedition to the local cineplex as long as I promise to keep my mouth shut during the screening. You see, I have an unfortunate habit of pointing out plot loopholes and inconsistent characterization.

What you also may not know is that I get paid to review films for an Internet client so I'm not your typical amateur critic. I've done a few hundred reviews. I'm sometimes amazed at the obscure facts I know about equally obscure films as well as the blockbuster flicks everyone sees.

Today we saw National Treasure. I won't spoil it for others. In a dumbed down world, it was as close to intellectual as you'll probably get this holiday season. It was okay. Nice pacing. Good action sequences. Good emotional tugs at the right spots. I guess I wasn't enthralled because it didn't have as much puzzle as the first movie.

That lovely historical element of following the clues, all supposedly based in history, was a huge part of the first film's appeal, even for non-history lovers.

Book of Secrets did a good job of picking up the previous movie's characters with Helen Mirren added as Mom to Ben Gates and ex-wife of Ben's dad. The characters were believable with good relationships between them. Riley is so adorable, and the part where his closest friends didn't buy his book was, unfortunately, too believable.

I've seen that happen, and not just to me. You write a book and get it published. You think all your family and friends will run out and buy the book. Not! Too many times, they ask you to give you a copy for free. Guess none of them know that your royalties are based on sales. Not giveaways. But, *sigh*, I digress.

I like the Ben Gates character as someone who cares deeply about his country, his history, his family, and all those other old-fashioned qualities I hold so dear. Cage does a nice job in the way he plays Ben Gates.

Don't be surprised at the blatant setup for National Treasure 3. I think they might need a little help in coming up with another mysterious treasure though because they don't seem to have thought of some more doable scenarios than the one with which they ran.

Hey, Hollywood! Have your people call my people. We'll do lunch. I'll give you a list of treasure scenarios for #3.

Uh oh! I forgot. I don't have any people. Okay. Email me. I'll start that list tomorrow.

I Am Legend

I'm trying to decide whether to see this flick. Anyone know if it is true to Richard Matheson's 1954 novel on which it's based? Or is it a departure like the second film adaptation of it, The Omega Man?

I won't spoil it for you in case you haven't seen the latest adaptation starring Will Smith or read Matheson's seminal book, but this just doesn't strike me as a Christmas feel-good movie. Why didn't they make this for a summer blockbuster premiere?

Click to give aid and comfort

By a simple click, you can help feed shelter animals, fund literacy, feed the hungry, save the rain forests, and find a cure for breast cancer.

This is legit. My friend Perry in Oklahoma sent this to me. He verified it through Snopes. Just click to verify for yourself if you wish.

Please help! It's simple and takes just a couple of seconds.

The Animal Rescue Site is in dire need. They're having trouble getting enough people to click on it daily to meet their quota of getting free food donated every day to abused and neglected animals. I did it. It just takes a few seconds. I also clicked the other tabs and their CLICK button too.

Doing this doesn't cost a single penny. The sites have corporate sponsors and/or advertisers who donate according to the number of daily clicks. They donate food for abandoned or neglected animals in exchange for advertising.

Please forward this to other people by email or blog. The need is real. You can do something worthwhile that will make you feel good and won't cost a thing. Unless you order some of the really great products they offer at each site. Yeah, I did a little January birthday shopping.

The campaign to get people to go to the site and click the appropriate button needs your help. Visit the different tabs and CLICK to donate today.


Did you ever have one of those weeks?

Well, lately, every week has been one of those weeks. Makes me think about something Aldous Huxley said: "Maybe this world is another planet's Hell."

What do you think?

10 Authors To Discover

Like most things in life, writing has a pecking order. It's easy to see who's at the top. They're the authors who hit the best seller lists. Their books are the wallpaper at big chain bookstores. Publishers call them the A-list.

The next level is generally called mid-list. I did a long presentation on mid-list at a writers' conference a few years ago. One of these days, I'll pull that speech out and sling it across this blog. For now though, let me define mid-list.

Once upon a time in a galaxy far, far away

Okay, maybe not in a different galaxy, but it sure seems like it.

A couple of decades ago, mid-list was the B-list for publishers. These were solid books written by good writers that sometimes made it onto the A-list by word of mouth and big sales numbers. For the most part though, a mid-list writer lived and died on the mid-list.

Still in that far away galaxy, the bottom of the pecking order was genre writers. They were the C-list for publishers and turned out quantity rather than quality, or so conventional publishing wisdom went. These were the romance, mystery, horror, science fiction, and fantasy books that have devoted readers with voracious appetites for new stories. Genre writers, though accorded less contract money, no publicity money, and little respect, were the bread and butter for many a publishing house.

Fast forward

We still have the A-list, but the rest have kind of merged into a mid-list that's got a pecking order. It's composed of writers who write stand alone books or series books that aren't part of a "line."

Line? What line you ask? Well, a line is a book publishing program that produces a specific number of books each having a specific word count on a regular basis. You may be most familiar with the Harlequin and Silhouette publishing program wherein they publish romantic suspense in Harlequin Intrigue or emotional angst in Silhouette Special Edition or hot, sexy romances in Harlequin Blaze. Those are line books.

Romance genre books have healthy sales, and some of these authors actually break into the best seller lists with them. The authors get publisher support for the line, and their advances and royalties can grow from minimal to real income.

This contemporary mid-list has writers with publisher support at one end and genre writers, also with publisher support for the line, at the other. Right in the middle, kind of a no man's land, are good writers producing critically acclaimed books with little of no publisher support.

In case you think the books found on those tables at big book stores are these unknown middle of the mid-list authors, let me set you straight. Those books have received big monetary support from publishers. It costs about 10 grand for a publisher to have a book set on that table. They've probably got decent advances too. Those writers are the top echelon of mid-list writers.

No, the mid-list middle are the authors struggling for name recognition and struggling to grow an audience through their own devices. And there are a lot of them out there.

I want to introduce you to 10 mid-list authors in hopes you'd like to take a chance and get one of their books for a gift or for yourself. Order from your favorite online bookstore or by at least requesting the book be ordered by your local library system. They will do this. All you have to do is make the request and fill out a form with the information below. Then pass on this info to a friend who reads.

The great thing about all these books is that they're different. So if you've been bored with the fare on the shelves, check these out.

On with the show

Mike Befeler has Retirement Homes Are Murder (ISBN 9781594145155). His next book in the Paul Jacobson geezer-lit mystery series is Living With Your Kids Is Murder. These humorous mysteries from Five Star Mystery take place in Boulder, Colorado, where 85-year old Paul Jacobson, who suffers from short-term memory loss, is the sleuth.

Maria Hudgins book Death of an Obnoxious Tourist (ISBN 1-59414-467-2) features Dotsy, an empty-nester and ancient history professor who travels with her scatter-brained friend, Lettie. Obnoxious Tourist is set in Italy. Her next Dotsy Lamb Travel Mystery is Death of a Lovable Geek, out in May 2008, and set in Scotland.

April Star is a first-time novelist with Tropical Warnings: A Wanderlust Mystery (ISBN-10: 1594144796) that has early retirees who travel across the United States in their Bluebird Wanderlodge motor home as sleuths who find murder, mystery and mayhem in the camping resorts they roll into.

Jon F. Baxley has a medieval fantasy epic, The Blackgloom Bounty (ISBN: 1594144516 445).

Michael Bergey has New Coyote (ISBN 978-1594143229) and Coyote Season (ISBN 978-1594146107), both genre-defying. They're fantasy/adventure involving Native American spirit legends.

Patricia Hubbard writing as C. C. Harrison has The Charmstone (ISBN 978-1-59414-579-7), a mystery set in Monument Valley on the Navajo Reservation where she lived for a time as a VISTA Volunteer. Her next book is Running From Strangers, about a child advocate, running for her life with a child in her care, also from Five Star Mystery in September 2008.

Michael Allan Mallory with Marilyn Victor have Death Roll, starring a zoologist as sleuth, set at a zoo with lots of animal lore and a behind the exhibit look at what goes on.

L. C. Hayden has Why Casey Had To Die (ISBN 1594144931) which deals with geocaching. This book is an Agatha Finalist for Best Novel. Her next release will be an inspirational mystery novella, Bell Shaped Flowers, from a different publisher.

Lorraine Bartlett writing as L. L. Bartlett has Murder On The Mind (ISBN 0373266154), a paranormal thriller with an emphasis on the three main characters, who've all been victims of downsizing. The sleuth is Jeff, a former insurance investigator whose mugging left him with the "gift" of sensing others' emotions. This one's available only in Paperback from Harlequin's website.

Beth Groundwater has A Real Basket Case (ISBN 10: 1594145474), a mystery with a strong romantic subplot crucial to solving the murder. Kirkus Reviews said: "Drugs and jealousy add up to a Rocky Mountain murder. A tense, exciting debut." Her next book is a Large Print Edition of this one, out in January 2008.

Read. Discover new writers. Adopt a writer. Often.

Filling the creative well

I've been slinging words fast and furiously so it's time for a quick R&R break with a cup of tea. Also time to fill the creative well. You know what that is, don't you?

I like to think of it as the part of your brain where ideas bubble and simmer. I visualize it as a kind of mental soup pot full of words, phrases, images, bits of music, odds and ends of trivia, and other flotsam and jetsam of my life. It all simmers together until it's ready to be served up to my conscious brain.

It's important to fill the creative well because it works like a real water well with a pump attached. I remember when I was a little kid, my grandparents had a water pump. It was a heavy iron contraption that required muscle power to pump up water from the well.

Now, most of the time, water pumps work great. You can pump bucket after bucket of water. But sometimes, you can pump until your arm feels as if it will fall off, but you get nary a drop of water. What happened to it? Where's the water? It's still down there, but you might have to prime the pump by pouring fresh water down the well in order to get the flow going again.

Same thing with your creative well. You have to prime it with fresh ideas, experiences, and thoughts to keep it from running dry.

Never underestimate the importance of your creative well. Fill it often to keep the flow of creativity going.

More gift ideas

As promised, here are some more gift ideas for writers.

1. I write therefore I am paranoid design can be put on lots of things. Pick a product and choose the design.

2. Script Design Notebook is a really cute journal for writers.

3. Anything from Levenger is guaranteed to please. Ooh! Just give me a gift card and clear a path!

4. Cure for Writer's Block can be found here.

5. Much Ado About Nothing Sticky Notes is what everyone needs.

Okay, that's it's for holiday gift ideas unless I find something I just have to pass on like jewelry made from old typewriter keys. I really, really want one of those bracelets.

Back to slinging words.

Christmas Gifts For Writers

In no particular order of price or anything else, here's 10 great gift ideas for writers. In the interest of full disclosure, today's list comes from my Cafe Press ShopsThe Write Way and Smart Chick.

My cyber gift shops are my outlet for the frustrated artist hiding within. Deep within. I paint - badly. I craft - sloppily. I design jewelry - only for me. I practice photography - expertly.

And I dabble in graphic design - mostly designs focused on writers for their promotional use or gift-giving. Who better to design for writers than a writer?

I also create designs for women with ATTITUDE using some iconic quotations from famous women with loads of attitude. Lord knows I've got enough attitude to go around. Just ask my husband. He'll be glad to give you details.

Anyway, if you're looking for something for yourself, your writing friends, or your brood of chick friends, or if you just want to drop a hint to someone else, check these out.

Price range is thirty bucks and below. Way below. You can still get delivery by Christmas. (Tomorrow, I'll give you some leads for other online sources for writers' gifts.)

1. The perfect stocking stuffer for the writer in your life? Ask Me About My Lobotomy button tells it like it is. We writers are seriously cracked so let's just admit it. Why else would we do this?

2. Writer's Messenger Bag in bright yellow with quotation: "The spoken word takes wing and cannot be recalled. The written word remains."

3. Writer's Baseball Jersey in 3 colors with typewriter graphic: "Write hard. Live free."

4. Writer's Journal: "The spoken word takes wing and cannot be recalled. The written word remains."

5. Writer's Sweatshirt keeps you focused: "Writers write. Everyone else makes excuses."

6. Smart Attitude Journal with Bette Davis quote: "I always make it a point to speak grammatically. Who knows? It might become popular again."

7. T-shirt with Bette Davis quote: "I always make it a point to speak grammatically. Who knows? It might become popular again."

8. Smart Attitude Mug with my definition of Smart Chick: "A woman who knows who she is, what she wants, and where she's going. And she isn't afraid to ask for directions. I am a Smart Chick."

9. Writers' Java Mug "Writers write. Everyone else makes excuses."

10. Writers' Christmas Ornament. Celebrate who you are with this porcelain tree ornament that tells of writers' gift to the world.

I have such fun creating these designs. Maybe you'll see something that tickles your funny bone or something that will help you promote yourself, stay focused on your goals, or just make you feel good about how you choose to spend your time.

Jennifer Love Hewitt ROCKS!

Women of the world, don't you just love what Jennifer Love Hewitt said about the ridiculous standard of beauty as espoused by Hollywood?

Get real. A size zero? How did the bony, gaunt image of female beauty ever get accepted as the norm? And, no, before you think I'm a bonbon eating woman of enormous size (not that there's anything wrong with that as the Seinfeld episode went), I'm not. Well, I do eat bonbons but not every day.

I look at some of the women celebrities with the sharp angles of their clavicle, shoulders, and joints that seem to have skin stretched tightly over them, and I shudder. If they look that thin on television, which adds 10+ pounds so they say, what do they look like in person?

A size zero on a 5'10" frame is not a pretty sight in person.

So, I'm with you Jennifer. Here's to boobs, butts, hips, and curves. I'm going to buy one of everything you advertise on TV, and I'll start watching Ghost Whisperer too.

Sling Words standing strong, but it's a little too cold for a bikini at the moment!

Writers and rules

Mention rules, especially to a bunch of writers, and you get one of two reactions.

Some will wag their heads sagely, and say, "Yes. That's right. There are rules about writing, and you must follow them."

Others will brandish their fists and shout: "Rules? We don't need no stinking rules."

Now, here comes the shocker. Both groups are right.

Writers should follow rules.

Writers should ignore rules.

The trick is to know when to do each.

There are rules about grammar, rules about fiction and dramatic techniques like viewpoint, and even rules about nonfiction.

Why should you know these rules? One good thing about knowing the rules is that they can help you if you're just jumping into this crazy writing thing, and you're a bit unsure of your ability to tell a story.

You might want to write a novel, but you don't know who should be the viewpoint character of your story. The rules say tell the story, the scene or whatever, from the viewpoint of the person who has the most at stake in the scene.

Don't know how to handle a flashback? The rules say tell that backstory incident in past perfect.

By the way, there's probably a rule for just about everything.

So if knowing the rules is "a good thing" as Martha Stewart says, then why would you ignore them?

Ahh, because breaking the rules, once you know them enough to realize you're breaking them, can add a different dimension to your writing. Sometimes, breaking a rule can ignite a scene or get you through a part of the story where you're just plain stuck. No writer wants to be stuck.

Let's write something and follow one of the viewpoint rules. (There are many in case you didn't know, or at least some people try to convince you that there are a plethora of them.)

A caveat: these samples are straight off the top of my head so the writing isn't to be judged for quality, just for illustrative purposes.

Viewpoint using the person who has the most at stake.

Mary watched John. She gnawed nervously on her lower lip. She just knew that he was angry at her because she'd burned dinner. Again. He had every right to be angry. She'd let him down again. She just wished that he'd yell at her, but she knew he wouldn't. Sometimes she thought he was just too understanding and tolerant.

Same scene, told from the boss's viewpoint, a secondary character.

The executive vice president of sales regarded the blackened pot roast and suppressed a weary sigh. His own wife had always been dependable when it came to entertaining the junior execs.

"Mary, what is this?" John asked.

The VP looked at Mary whose face was as crimson as the red-checked tablecloth. He felt sorry for her obvious embarrassment.

"John, I'm sorry. I just got interested on Oprah. Before I knew it, smoke was pouring from the kitchen."

John put his arm around his wife's shoulders and hugged her. "That's all right, hon. The salad and bread look delicious.

Surprised, the VP stared at John. For the first time since he'd hired the young man, he saw some evidence that the kid actually had a streak of humanity in him. It certainly hadn't been evident in his Pit Bull attack on the sales competition. Who knew?

Not great writing, but I think you can see that using someone other than the person who has the most at stake can impart information the reader couldn't otherwise know or reveal personalities and attitudes of characters. It can also make a static scene more interesting because it's unexpected. Always surprise the reader if possible.

Flashback scene? Rules say to use Past Perfect and relate the scene.

The storm had hit on a Sunday. I had been crying because Jack and I had been fighting. The wind had shattered the windows, spraying glass everywhere, but Jack had flung himself over me. That's when I had known that he loved me.

Let's break that rule. Rather than depart from the story, create a transition into the world of the flashback scene by starting out in past perfect then going to the present time of your story, tell what happened as if it were present time, then end the reminiscence in past perfect and go back to the normal tense you'd been using. Same example.

The storm had hit on a Sunday. I had been crying because Jack and I had been fighting. (3 past perfect verbs)

The wind shattered the front windows, spraying glass everywhere. Jack flung himself over me. (Simple past tense, which is how most stories are told, for however long the scene lasts. In flashbacks when you switch to simple past, passages are usually much longer to make them justify this flip-flop of verb tenses, but that's just another rule.)

That's when I had known that he loved me. (Back to the past perfect to end the flashback though generally speaking 3 sentences is better.)

I encourage you to learn the rules. I prefer to call them tools in your writer's tool kit. Then learn how to break those same rules, when to break them, and why you're breaking them. Rule breaking just adds more tools to your writer's tool kit.

Overflowing with words

As if I don't have enough to do, I started a new blog with the very catchy title Joan Reeves's Blog.

Actually, I'm doing so much blogging work on the freelance side of business that writing about blogging and freelance writing just seemed natural. True, I could do it here, and I will, but I'm just overflowing with words if not with time.

So check me out over at Performancing. By the way, they've got some great advice and how-to's in their archives.

I think I'll be teaching a class in the spring on "Writing the Web: Making Money Freelance." If you live in the Houston, Texas, area and are interested, let me know and I'll send you the 5W details.

Court reverses freelance class action suit

I'm a member of Authors Guild, a great organization that works for writers. They notified me of the recent court decision regarding a class action lawsuit brought by freelance writers. Their permission to spread this news is: "Feel free to forward and post this message. The Authors Guild is the nation's oldest and largest organization of published authors."

If you're eligible to join this organization, please do so. They do good work on our behalf.

We received surprising and disappointing news in our freelance class action suit this morning. The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, in a 2-1 decision, the district court's approval of the settlement.

That settlement, valued at up to $18 million, was to resolve the copyright infringement claims of freelance writers against database companies, such as Dow Jones and the owners of Lexis-Nexis, that had made digital use of the writers' articles without permission. Plaintiffs and defendants had arrived at settlement in 2005.

The appellate court ruled that the district court lacked jurisdiction over claims relating to unregistered freelance articles. Copyright registration is required to bring a suit for infringement, but since registration is viewed as a formality (comparable, many of us believe, to the requirement that one file a complaint in order to get into court), lawyers on both sides thought the settlement could resolve infringement claims for both registered and unregistered works.

The settlement had been objected to and appealed by a group of freelance writers who thought it failed to allot sufficient funds to the claims of authors of unregistered works. If this decision stands, of course, such claims would be shut out entirely.

The shard of good news is that there is a substantial dissenting opinion by Judge Walker. We are considering our options at the moment. One possibility is to seek an en banc review (a review by all of the judges of the 2nd Circuit) to see whether we can persuade a majority of the court to see things our way.

To see the court's decision, go to our website.

We'll keep you posted.

Well, that's disappointing, isn't it?

Sling Words out.

God bless Harlan Ellison

Harlan Ellison is my hero!

How refreshing to hear a writer tell it exactly the way it is. If you haven't seen this on You Tube, follow the link. If you're easily offended, overlook some of the language.

Harlan is so right. Especially about people who want your writing for free, or the nearest thing to free.

As someone who freelances, I see this "compensated by recognition" as an escalating problem. Every day I see jobs posted where clients want 50 articles for a buck a pop. You've got to be kidding me! The amateurs who eagerly land those jobs don't realize they're getting screwed, and, in the process, they're screwing every pro out there by creating a low-paying environment for writers.

Sure, it exists in the book publishing industry too for those without agents. Get a good agent and then what you get depends on the negotiating power of your agent.

I guess it's just a surprise that someone of Harlan's stature is subjected to the same thing.

I won't take penny-ante jobs as my dad would call them. In fact, I turn down about three jobs offered to me every day. Why? I won't work for peanuts though due to my own perfectionism, I sometimes feel like that's what I end up with, but that's another story.

I produce quality writing, and I expect to be compensated justly for that. Every writer should do the same.

Rant on, Harlan. Rant on.

Are we not fat enough

Who are these evil people who design menu items? You won't believe this. I thought the deep-fried Mac and Cheese Bites advertised the other night had to be the most nutritionally obscene food item in the market place.

Then in the junk mail blizzard today there was an ad for DEEP FRIED CHEESECAKE BITES served with Cinnamon Caramel Dipping Sauce.

Why don't they just call them Heart Attack Nuggets?

Why do we have to bother chewing them? Couldn't we just drive in to Sonic and have a reverse lipo and get all that fat pumped directly into our thighs, bellies, and butts? It'll all end up there anyway.

Come on, Sonic! The rest of the fast food world seem to be making an effort to offer healthier items. Why not you?

Long Road Out Of Eden

I want to tell you about two new albums I bought. I'll save the Paul Potts album for another day because today I want to rave about the Eagles' new album LONG ROAD OUT OF EDEN. (If you follow the link, you can hear the album.)

In fact, I want to thank Glenn, Don, Joe, and Timothy B. for this new album. Guys, I know that sometimes you don't get along, or so the celeb rumors go, but when it counts, you gather together and create great music. I told my husband just yesterday that this album is on the same level as HOTEL CALIFORNIA, one of our all-time favorites.

You don't have to be an Eagles fan to like this album. Let me tell you why I think the music and the lyrics make it great. I'm no music critic, but this is how I see it as someone who listens to a LOT of music of every variety.

The strength of the music is in the layering of instrumentation, the melody, the counter melody, and the foot-tapping beat.

The lyrics? The specific words chosen, the ideas they represent, the internal rhythm, the poetic meter, the expressed emotion, the emotional response evoked in the listener.

The arrangements? Eagles to the max. The same elements that make HOTEL CALIFORNIA songs recognizable as an Eagles product are present in these songs too. I'm so glad they know what their strengths are and haven't tried to "modernize" or suddenly incorporate hip hop as certain others have. I'm glad they realize their style or "sound" is as good today as it was when they first joined forces.

Put all that together, and you get songs that make you think as you're listening and think about their ideas even when the song isn't playing.

Another thing you get? Singable songs. These are the kinds of songs that you can sing, and that is a rarity in today's music world. Oh, they're also songs you can dance too. That's important, at least to me.

This album is a WalMart exclusive (very smart marketing). The Eagles have acquired a business savvy over the years that other creative artists should probably emulate. For example, after their famous lawsuits, they are now their own producers and their own recording company.

EDEN sold 711,000 copies the first week out. Number 1 on Billboard, thank you very much. It's a 2-CD album for the paltry Wally World price of eleven bucks and change.

EDEN is so good that I'm hard pressed to pick one or two favorite songs. But I'll try.

How Long - nice rocking song -- love the line, "How long, how long, woman will you weep? Rock yourself to sleep." Also love, "wish I lived in the land of fools and no one knew my name." (Sometimes I think I do live in the land of fools.)

Busy Being Fabulous - "You were just too busy being fabulous, too busy to think about us." This song makes me think of too many men and women I know who got enthralled by the whole fame/power/money thing. They didn't have time for their children's school activities, for their kids' problems and needs. I guess they just didn't have time for kids period. Hard to think about PTA meetings, Little League, or Sunday school class in the climb up the corporate ladder or the rush to write a bigger book for a bigger contract. Now these people who "made it" can't understand why their kids are such problems or why their kids are too busy to visit during the holidays. Too many self-absorbed people bewildered by their adult children's indifference.

What Do I Do With My Heart - Oh! The ultimate breakup song question. Its lyrics say what we've all wondered at some point in our lives.

Fast Company - Everyone wishes their kids heeded them when they warned of this.

Do Something - Utterly love it and the meaning behind it!

Don, Glenn, Timothy B. and Joe, I'm a fan and have been for a couple of decades. I've seen you in concerts - solo and collectively. My husband and I raised all our kids to be fans. When you had your first concert tour after years of being apart, we spent nearly a thousand bucks to take all the kids to see you.

We own all your music, your albums as Eagles and each of your solo albums. You're great as solo artists, but you're breathtaking shattering as Eagles.

Congratulations on a wonderful album. Hope it sells and sells and sells! And thanks. Long Road Out of Eden was worth waiting for.

Show me the money

My friend Brenda Hiatt has updated her annual survey of what writers are actually getting. This is valuable info (and a reality check) for those of us in the writing biz.

Check out Show Me The Money on Brenda's website. She goes to a lot of trouble to do this so while you're there, email her a nice thank you, and tell her Joan sent you!

Sling Words out to gaze out the window at the cold, drizzly rain while she awaits a visit from the freelance muse.

Wait for it

Okay, I've been AWOL for over a month. Chalk it up to sickness, writing deadlines, houseguests, and holidays.

The drought is coming to an end though. I hope. Should have 2 delayed contracts put to bed within the next few days. So I'll return to the blogging world by then.

Hopefully, I'll have time to focus on a book publishing project I'm doing for someone and will get the finished manuscript to the publisher by the first of December. Then it's back to putting contracts to bed. Hope to be free of those obligations by the middle of the month.

I keep trying to cut back my work load, but somehow it just keeps building. I've really got to learn to say no - and mean it in the New Year. Or I'll never get my latest book manuscript finished, submitted, and sold.

The day is just too short. Life is just too short.

I'm still kicking

Despite early flu and a recent food poisoning episode courtesy of a local restaurant, I'm still here.

Busy. Way behind on just about everything. But still here.

Early flu

Somehow or other my darling husband caught what seems to be the flu. In the course of a day, he got so sick he had to cancel a business trip. When my DH does that, then he's really sick.

In the course of another day, he gave it to me.

I swear. I told him from now on if one of us got sick, the other one was going to sleep in the guest room.

I struggled to make deadlines until Friday evening when I gave it up. Spent all day Saturday in bed. Now it's nearly three in the morning on Sunday, and I'm wide awake courtesy of a throat so sore I'd like to just rip it out and be done with it.

Instead, I did the Alka Seltzer Flu med, and I'm sipping a cup of tea with honey as I type this.

Not looking forward to this next week and it's demands at all!

Sling Words (cranky and sick) out!

Dawn Temple's book is available

Dawn Temple, a friend of mine, was a Romance Writers of America Golden Heart finalist in 2005. The Golden Heart is a contest for unpublished writers. She subsequently sold her book.

Fast forward (fast? not really!) to September 2007. Her novel To Have And To Hold has been published by Silhouette Special Edition.

Drum roll please! The book is finally in the stores!

Two years, people. That's why we writers get frustrated and cranky, not to mention, starve!

Everyone, if you see Dawn's book, buy a copy!

Congratulations, Dawn, and thanks for providing a heartwarming novel for readers.

TeePee Motel in Wharton, TX

This place was featured in the Houston Chronicle today and provided a trip down memory lane to my childhood. Once upon a time in America, the country was dotted with picturesque motels like the Tee Pee Motel.

When I first came to Houston nearly thirty years ago, there was still the cutest little motel on the Gulf Freeway. Neat white frame cabins with a glowing neon sign featuring a bell boy complete with pillbox-type hat. It was torn down long ago like most of the mom and pop motels and tourist cabins. If you've ever seen the old Clark Gable-Claudette Colbert movie It Happened One Night, then you know what I mean by tourist cabins.

The Tee Pee Motel in Wharton, about 50 miles southwest of Houston, lay abandoned for many years until Bryon Woods won $49 million in a July 2003 Texas Lotto. Just four months after that, Woods and his wife Barbara were driving by the ruins of the old motel. Barbara Woods announced she wanted to stay there so they bought it and renovated it, adding the usual amenities today's travelers look for including stellite TV and high-speed Internet. They even made one of the teepees wheelchair capable.

Apparently, they're doing a booming business from nostalgic adults to kids attracted by the teepee. You can call it tacky if you want, but to me it sounds fun. Of course, I'm like most adults. I'd love to spend the night in a teepee. Add all the high tech stuff I'm used to, and it sounds better than a couple of places in Europe I've stayed in.

At $52.50 a night, it sounds like a bargain. I may have to make a reservation, but I think I'll wait until they have the coffee shop renovated. Got to have my morning coffee.

World War II insights

I'm interested in most facets of history. Call me an amateur historian, and I certainly wouldn't be insulted. In fact, I usually watch History Channel while I have my morning coffee rather than news broadcasts of events that will be history of the future.

I was pleasantly surprised during a recent conversation with noted audio book voice actor Simon Vance to discover that he too is a history buff. (You may know Simon Vance from his stage or television work as well as his audio book performances. If you haven't heard him perform a book, then immediately order The Quest or The Terror or perhaps one of his "Master and Commander" narrations or DUNE MESSIAH coming in October. You'll be blown away!)

Simon had just finished reading NO SIMPLE VICTORY by Norman Davies, a reassessment of the five biggest battles of World War II. Simon said most people don't realize that most of the major battles were on the eastern front.

That conversation made me go looking for a book I'd read a long time ago, TENOZAN by George Feifer. Tenozan is about the battle of Okinawa. Since I'd lived on Okinawa for a number of years and had recently been asked to write an article about that, I wanted to reacquaint myself with the World War II battle fought on that chunk of coral.

You know how sometimes things just come to you when you're interested in a particular subject? First was the request by the magazine editor in Japan asking for an article, second was the conversation with Simon Vance, and the third was a friend of mine who is retired military sending me what I'm posting below. We call that coincidence though I have a little sign posted on the copy stand next to my computer that says: "Coincidence is God's way of remaining anonymous."

I found these WWII trivia tidbits really interesting. Maybe you will too. Of course, if this is floating around the Net, it may have already washed up on your shore.

From Col. D. G. Swinford, USMC, Ret. (and a history buff).

1. The first German serviceman killed in WW2 was killed by the Japanese (China, 1937). The first American serviceman killed was killed by the Russians (Finland 1940). The highest ranking American killed was Lt. Gen. Lesley McNair, killed by the US Army Air Corps.

2. The youngest U.S. serviceman was 12-year-old Calvin Graham, USN. He was wounded and given a Dishonorable Discharge for lying about his age. (His benefits were later restored by act of Congress.)

3. At the time of Pearl Harbor, the top U.S. Navy command was Called CINCUS (pronounced "sink us"); the shoulder patch of the US Army's 45th Infantry division was the Swastika; and Hitler's private train was named "Amerika." All three were soon changed for PR purposes.

4. More U.S. servicemen died in the Air Corps than the Marine Corps. While completing the required 30 missions, your chance of being killed was 71%.

5. Generally speaking there was no such thing as an average fighter pilot. You were either an ace or a target. For instance Japanese ace Hiroyoshi Nishizawa shot down over 80 planes. He died while a passenger on a cargo plane.

6. It was a common practice on fighter planes to load every 5th round with a tracer round to aid in aiming. This was a mistake. Tracers had different ballistics so (at long range) if your tracers were hitting the target 80% of your rounds were missing. Worse yet tracers instantly told your enemy he was under fire and from which direction. Worst of all was the practice of loading a string of tracers at the end of the belt to tell you that you were out of ammo. This was definitely not something you wanted to tell the enemy. Units that stopped using tracers saw their success rate nearly double and their loss rate go down.

7. When allied armies reached the Rhine, the first thing men did was pee in it. This was pretty universal from the lowest private to Winston Churchill, who made a big show of it, and Gen. Patton, who had himself photographed in the act.

8. German Me-264 bombers were capable of bombing New York City, but it wasn't worth the effort.

9. German submarine U-120 was sunk by a malfunctioning toilet.

10. Among the first "Germans" captured at Normandy were several Koreans. They had been forced to fight for the Japanese Army until they were captured by the Russians and forced to fight for the Russian Army until they were captured by the Germans and forced to fight for the German Army until they were captured by the US Army.

11. Following a massive naval bombardment 35,000 US and Canadian troops stormed ashore at Kiska, in the Aleutian Islands. 21 troops were killed in the firefight. It would have been worse if there had been any Japanese on the island.

Happy Labor Day! Fly those flags high!

Meaning behind TV commercial

You've seen that (name brand acetaminophen product) commercial, haven't you? You know the one where all the caring, compassionate people who manufacture (Name Brand) talk about how they do it with such integrity and love? The message is: "We don't make drugstore medicine. We make (Name Brand)."

Call me cynical, but the true meaning is: Generic sales of acetaminophen are cutting into our bottom line so we need to get people to buy (Name Brand) rather than the much cheaper generic so let's say that (Name Brand) is better because it's made with love by caring people.

Am I the only one who thinks this is patronizing and insulting?


Someone emailed me about yesterday's blog. She was not familiar with Coolidge's quotation on persistence. So you'll find it below, but, first, I want to tell you something about our 30th President of the United States, John Calvin Coolidge who was born in 1872 and died in 1933.

Coolidge was a Vermont lawyer who as President earned the nickname Silent Cal because he sat through most meetings without making a comment. In a way, he was the most distant of Presidents but also was the most accessible in making himself available to the various delegations that visited the White House. After the corruption of the Harding presidency, he was credited with returning integrity to the White House.

Coolidge served as Governor of Massachusetts from 1919 to 1921 when he became Vice President of the United States under Warren G. Harding. In 1923, when Harding died, Coolidge who was visiting his father was sworn in by the senior Coolidge, a notary public, as President. In 1924, he was elected in his own right and served until Herbert Hoover took office in 1929.

Coolidge knew something about persistence. His young son Calvin Jr. died while during the Presidential campaign of 1924. President Coolidge said: "...the glory left the presidency after his son's death." Bereaved, he pressed on, fulfilling his responsibilities.

Many condemned him and his presidency as being one of the architects of the Great Depression that hit the country with the stock market crash of 1929, but history has lent a kinder interpretation of his part in those events. Democrat Alfred E. Smith said about Coolidge: "(He was)...distinguished for character more than for heroic achievement."

Though I spent two hours in Internet research prior to writing this, I could not find the occasion upon which he uttered his most memorable advice about persistence. It's times like this that I miss being able to pop into the reference section of a library. There are still some things you can find easily in a good library than you can on the Internet.

I can only conclude that his words on persistence went unremarked at the time. Perhaps they were spoken on an occasion not deemed important. Maybe they were only part of a conversation between him and another person.

The persistence quotation was spoken at Coolidge's memorial service, and from that event they were immortalized by the Oxford Book of Quotations which attributed them to Coolidge.

How odd that the source of the words that have meant so much to so many cannot be found. Or at least easily found by a writer determined to know.

Coolidge was an honest man who dealt honestly with his responsibilities and with the people in his life. In today's world, that's becoming more of a rarity with each passing decaded. I suppose you could say, though life was difficult for Coolidge, he lived his life according to the words that have somehow become his memorial:

"Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'Press On' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race."

How do you persist?

Lots of people talk about persistence. Motivational speakers urge everyone to persist. Lots of writers quote Calvin Coolidge's famous quotation which begins: "Nothing takes the place of persistence."

Judging by everything we see and hear, the road to achievement must be paved with stones of persistence. So why aren't more people successful? Why aren't more people living the life they want to live? Doing the things they want to do?

Maybe, for many people, persistence is merely a noun. Maybe, they haven't discovered yet that persistence is a PROCESS, a process that requires ACTION.

If someone's trying to achieve something difficult, how do they persist? What action is required from them? This combines goal setting and acting over a period of time to achieve the goal.

Persistence = action.

1. Know clearly and specifically what you want.

Not some pie-in-the-sky thing like happiness. You have to know that you want a book contract by next year this time. Or maybe you want a job promotion by the end of the fourth quarter. Or maybe you just want a weed-free yard by the end of summer. Whatever it is. Know exactly what you want.

2. Once you know what you want, ask yourself: what are the steps between here and there.

Identify all the steps. For a book contract, you have to write the book. So what's required for that? How much background work of plotting and characterization? How many pages a day do you write to obtain a finished manuscript by a certain date? How much time to revise and edit? What's the submission process? For a job promotion, you identify who is responsible for promoting you. What do you have to do to make yourself a candidate for the promotion? For a weed-free yard, you figure out how many hours a day you must weed to get the darn things gone. Then how much mulch do you use to make sure they don't come back.

3. Once you know what the steps are, figure out what stands in the way of each step.

With writing, it might be lack of research or insecurity. With a job promotion, it might be lack of experience or time on the job. With the yard, it might be the weather, lack of time, or allergies to weeds.

4. When you know what your obstacles are, figure out how to get rid of the obstacles.

In writing, if the obstacle is your own lack of confidence, then write and study and hone your skills. If it's emotional, work on unloading and throwing away your internal baggage. If it's a job, then the same advice applies. It it's a weed-choked flower bed and you're allergic, then take allergy meds and wear gloves. The bottom line is you have to be like the Marines: adapt, overcome, improvise.

5. Take action. Do what's next.

Nothing changes unless action is taken. You can sit 24/7 and think about what you want, fantasize about it, and dream about how great life would be when you reach your goal. Unless you take action -- take the steps, one by one, that you have identified -- then nothing will change. A year from now, ten years from now, you'll still be sitting and dreaming about being a published author or being the vice president or having yard of the month.

Take action, and keep on taking action, one step at a time. That is PERSISTENCE.

Killer Fiction online

If you like your suspense with a heavy dose of humor and romance, visit Killer Fiction, a new website/blog that includes my friend Christie Craig. Be sure and check out Christie's newest book while you're at it.

That's it for today. I'm typing as fast as possible to finish a set of articles in case the tropical storm headed toward Corpus Christi decides to veer north and pay the Houston area a visit.

Best lawyer quotation ever

One of my daughter's friends just graduated from law school. I wondered if I should include my favorite lawyer quotation in her card?

"There are 3 reasons why lawyers are replacing rats as lab research animals. One is that they're plentiful, another is that lab assistants don't get attached to them, and the third is that there are some things rats just won't do."

Now you know why I don't work at Hallmark.

Guess I'll go with a simple, "Congratulations."

Becoming Jane

Ah, another movie I want to see that's showing at a theater NOT near to me. Sadly, the conglomerate multi-plex theaters near me show none of the really interesting movies.

Now, there's nothing wrong with Transformers (seen it--great summer flick) or Bourne Ultimatum (seen it--fabulous though I nearly got motion sick from all the running, jumping, camera-in-hand shots). BUT, I'd love to see the movies that, I think, take a bit of thought.

I like the effort Becoming Jane makes to put a human face on Jane Austen though I was disconcerted by the Houston Chronicle reviewer who described her attending a dance as: "looking for a hot hunk." I won't name the person because perhaps he/she was trying to put her attendance in terms the modern generation could relate to.

Funny, how much thought I've put into that short description. After hooting with laughter, I wondered how old the reviewer was. Then I wondered why that phrase was chosen. To appeal to young people who might not even know who Jane Austen was? To sound young when perhaps the reviewer was on the down side of forty? To express what the reviewer saw the event as in his or her own familiar terms because the reviewer is too young, journalistically inexperienced, and historically challenged?

I still haven't seen the movie. Unfortunately, since the nearest theater with it on the marquee is comparable to a safari trek for me, I probably won't see it until the DVD hits the shelves.

When I finally check it out, maybe I'll discover it really does portray Jane as looking for a hot hunk. Guess I'll have to write an apology blog then.

Texas Council on Family Violence

Got a few bucks to spare? Here's my pick this month for where to send some money. The Texas Council on Family Violence helps battered people - that's children, wives, some husbands too.

Since the tragic murder last month of my friend's sister, I've learned more than I want to know about violence perpetrated by family members and hidden from the world by the walls of the family home.

Battered family members need safe harbor so donate to shelters. Everyone deserves to lay their weary head on a pillow without fear they'll be murdered as they sleep.

Bluetooth keyboard is toothless

I needed a new keyboard. I write so much that I go through keyboards the way long distance runners go through running shoes. So I opted for the super expensive wireless Bluetooth keyboard from Miscrosoft.

Agh! I wasted my entire Sunday afternoon trying to connect the nifty new keyboard with onboard mouse controls. Love what the keyboard was supposed to do, but I never could get it to work properly. The Bluetooth thingee just wasn't reliable.

Never could get the laser mouse that came with it to work, but the keyboard worked great. That is, it worked great when it worked. The transceiver could not maintain the signal, I guess. I'd be typing along and the application would just shut down.

After troubleshooting everything and spending countless hours on the darn thing, I gave up. Back to Office Depot I go first thing in the morning. I guess I just saved myself a lot of money.

Now, I've hooked up an old keyboard just to get operational again. Technology, ahh, frustration is thy nickname.

Movie day: Bourne Ultimatum

Yes, after office hours today, I'm escaping to The Bourne Ultimatum. I've seen all the Bourne flicks even the first one made long ago starring Richard Chamberlain as Jason Bourne (believe it!) and Jaclyn Smith as Marie.

The first movie followed the book closely, but the remake with Matt Damon, though taking considerable creative license, was better executed.

I love a good thriller. I discovered Robert Ludlum with The Scarlatti Inheritance and followed his parnoia through all of his books. I don't think I ever read one of his books where I placed a bookmark in and closed the book. I read through whatever else was going on, unable to pry my eyes from the page.

After he died, the mantle for his kind of thriller passed to another of my favorite authors Eric Van Lustbader who continues the exploits of Jason Bourne. Plenty of fodder for more movies.

I can't even remember how many times I've read Lustbader's book The Ninja. It's so tattered that I really need a new copy.

So I'm looking forward to my guilty pleasure this afternoon. Jason Bourne stands a good chance of becoming archetypal, just as Bond - James Bond - has.

Cancer-Cure Radio Frequency Machine (John Kanzius)

Got this from a friend. If you haven't seen it, click. My main question is: Where do I buy stock in this?

Wouldn't it be wonderful if this worked? Cured cancer and provider cheap energy for the planet.

Sling Words out -- and dreaming of the possibilities.

Vagaries of Fate & Eliza Dushku

Every now and then, I muse upon the vagaries of Fate. This is a popular subject of mine for musing. I've done it every time I've seen a stage production at the theater because of the talented men and women in road companies of productions that trek from theater to theater. Maybe I should add a Vagaries of Fate label? Nah. Too much work. Miscellany works just fine for musings.

I've been watching the repeats of Tru Calling starring Eliza Dushku on SciFi.

Tru Calling had a great premise, great story lines, solid characters with growth arcs, and a story arc that was never completed because the series was cancelled. In watching it again, I wondered why Ms. Dushku, who you may know from her role as Arnold's daughter in True Lies or from her role as vampire slayer Faith on Buffy, just hasn't made it big.

She's a fabulous actor, actress if you prefer. She's had good roles. She was in a great vehicle that had all the right elements. She's got Presence, that indefinable something that sets one apart from others.

The only answer? Vagaries of fate. More musings to come.

Kernel 32, in the library, with a computer

I don't know if you'll find this funny, but, to me, it's simply hysterical.

I do a lot of what I call pro bono computer consulting for ladies and gentlemen of a certain age. Most of them are my mother's friends, and they're all on fixed income.

Mom volunteers me for everything from: "sure, she'll be glad to design a 5 page web site for you for free" to "sure, she can fix your 20 year old hard drive." I even change light bulbs.

Anyway, there's one of my "clients" who has a corrupted kernel 32 file. The last time I visited my mom, I made the rounds. I tried to fix this problem by downloading one from the MS website, but the old corrupted file would not let the new one overwrite it. Very frustrating.

This is an abandoned, unsupported Windows version so basically, the dear lady is screwed. With no money to purchase a new computer, I managed to get it working, for the most part. She can still use it for email and Internet, but other applications lock it up.

I explained the problems to her and told her about kernel 32.

Yesterday, I got this phone call. Excitedly, the lady with the kernel 32 problem told me a message had appeared on her computer, and she wanted to read it to me so I could tell her what it meant. She starts reading the kernel 32 general protection fault message.

I gently interrupted and told her that this was what I was talking about when I explained to her why her computer would not work properly. I asked, "Do you remember my telling you about that?"

In a confused voice, she said, "Oh, yes. I remember you talking about Colonel 32, and I remember wondering what branch of the service he was in."

5 rules about promises

I'm thinking about that moldy oldy rock song that goes: "don't make promises you can't keep."

That's how I live my life. If I say I'm going to do something, then, by God, I do it. This helps me sleep well at night, but sometimes it also makes me really, really tired. Why? Because I often over-commit when it comes to friends and family.

Lately, I've been doing a lot of grumbling because of all the favors I'm asked to do. Sure would make life easier sometimes if I just blew them off the way so many citizens of our modern world do. Still, I hate it when someone tells me they'll do something and they don't follow through. I just can't live that way.

If you are commitment-challenged and want to become better at keeping your word, follow these 5 rules:

1. Don't make a promise if you can't, won't, or don't intend to keep it.

2. Learn to say no. That's a biggie and one I need to work on.

3. Write it down so you won't forget the commitment you made and when you have to follow through. I won't begin to tell you what happens if I don't log something on my calendar.

4. If you create deadlines or contracts in business, plan on absolutely making sure you follow through. Future business may be on the line. This applies to getting that book manuscript to the agent on time or that article to your client on time. It also applies to showing up for meetings on time and everything else under the sun that is time-oriented.

5. If you can't keep your promise, contact the person immediately and try to negotiate another time. Sometimes it's okay to renegotiate if you find you can't keep your promise. This is assuming that it is a business promise.

Personally, your seven-year-old isn't going to understand the concept of renegotiating if you miss her school play when you promised to go.

Amelia Peabody: old friend rediscovered

On my most recent trip, I entertained myself by listening to a book on CD. I do this often because I find audio books far more entertaining than movies on small screens.

In this case, the book was The Golden One by Elizabeth Peters. The book wasn't new to me. I'd listened to it before, but it is a particular favorite listening experience due to the talent of Barbara Rosenblat, the actress who narrates the story.

The story itself is full of intrigue, greed, tomb robbing -- think the Brendan Fraser/Rachel Weisz "Mummy" movies without the supernatural element. It's a great swashbuckling kind of story, but what makes the audio book so wonderful is Barbara Rosenblat. She's simply amazing as she performs. Her voice lends itself as easily to a wily Egyptian trader as it does to a young girl or middle-aged Egyptologist Amelia Peabody or Radcliffe Emerson, the Father of Curses.

Ms. Rosenblat weaves a spell with her voice and transports you to Egypt as it was in 1917. I adore Elizabeth Peters. Her writing is always superb. Barbara Rosenblat does her Amelia Peabody books justice, easily helping your imagination create mental pictures of the characters as she effortlessly goes from character to character.

The book is entitled The Golden One, but Barbara Rosenblat is golden too. Her voice is a golden treasure.

For readers & writers: Book tour

If you don't read Booksquare regularly, get on over there and read their blog about a new venture called For writers and readers, this is a pretty exciting concept.

Writers can register and list their latest release news and their book signing events.

Readers can register and request email news about their favorite authors.

So go register at Best of all? It's free. I love free.

10 best things about home

Since I just returned from a trip, I thought I'd list reasons why home is so great.

1. My husband who didn't accompany me
2. My own bed
3. My own pillow
4. My brand of coffee at the strength I make it
5. Sleeping late the next morning
6. Wearing my pajamas to work (my home office) the next morning
7. Browsing through several days' worth of newspapers
8. Sitting on the patio to breakfast and gaze at the roses
9. Walking barefoot throughout the house and yard
10.Sitting down to write and looking out my study window at the weird things people do.

Like the man who pulled up in a pickup, got out, looked around to see if anyone was watching. Then he took a stack of old newspapers from the neighbor's recycling bin on the curb, tossed them in his truck, and raced away as if he were committing some felonious act.

People are just endlessly interesting.

Rain on the roof

I'm finally home after another short trip. Rain greeted me when I returned to Texas. Of course, rain accompanied me on my trip also. I'm feeling rather wet and a bit tired of the weather we've been having.

However, I must tell you I rather enjoyed the rain where I was staying. Each night, in darkness, I listened to the music created by the falling rain on the tin roof of the screened room in which I sat. The sound was never monotonous. Rather it increased in loudness as the rain drove hard against the metal then it ebbed to a gentle patter as the rain slacked and nearly stopped.

Now I'm home and listening to the rain pound the contemporary asbestos shingles on the roof. Sadly, no music.

Houston author gets 3.75 million

I read in the paper this morning that a Houston MALE author is getting $3.75 million to write a vampire trilogy.

Why did I emphasize the word MALE?

Because women authors have been writing these kinds of books for more than a decade. Some of the authors have fanatical followings who wait for their books the same way readers wait for a new Harry Potter. I don't know any of them getting that kind of advance money.

It's no secret to writers that there's a huge disparity in advances between men and women authors. I'm not saying the men aren't worth it. I'm just saying the women are worth it too.

On the heels of my mild outrage, came other thoughts. Who is this guy's agent? And is she/he taking new clients?

Privacy notice

We value your privacy.

The privacy notice is a curious modern phenomenon. As usual, the well-intentioned idea is a result of government regulation. Sometimes I wonder how many trees die in order to print these notices each year, or each time some company information changes, and ship them to the consumer.

You know. You get one from the bank, the insurance company, the utility provider, the credit card company, and one is sent for every product you have with these businesses. Got a checkings, a savings, and a CD? Three privacy notices. Auto insurance, homeowners, jewelry and furs, life insurance? Four notices. Lots of dead trees.

Have you ever read these notices? True, most require a magnifying glass and a couple of aspirin to get through all the dull, boring, repetitive prose, but they are supposed to be read and filed with your other business papers.

A couple of weeks ago I heard a security expert say that one reason identity theft is mushrooming is because people don't block their private information from being sold to every Tom, Dick, and Harriet who gathers personal data. He went on to say that people should take advantage of the protection offered by the privacy notice and restrict this info.

Like any concerned citizen, I decided to do this. The opportunity presented itself when a privacy notice from Comcast appeared in our mail box. Comcast bought Time Warner cable last year and recently took over. I waded through the tiny 6 page leaflet, printed front and back, circled the phone number to call to opt out of their information sharing program.

I delegated the task to my husband. He called one evening and was directed to call the next day during business hours. He did. After calling the number in the notice, he traversed the dreaded voice mail menu options and ended up on hold for about 15 minutes. A customer service representative finally came on and did not have a clue as to what my husband wanted. Didn't know anything about this privacy notice "thing." He palmed my husband off with another number to call.

More voice mail menu options. Holding for 30 minutes. Finally, a confused person who said to call Billing and gave him a number.

More voice mail menu options. Long hold. A woman named Rhonda who listened patiently and said she would take care of it.

My husband and I both wonder if the matter is taken care of. Is there a big X mark next to our names now? Do not sell this person's private information. How do we know? Do they send us an acknowledgment by mail to confirm?

In a perfect world, they might. In a perfect world, the flood of junk mail would lessen. Of course in a perfect world, there wouldn't be such a thing as identity theft.

Too bad this isn't a perfect world.

Drugs KILL

My heart is heavy with sadness this morning. I want to tell you about something that happened Wednesday. I'm not using real names or locations because there will be a murder trial about this. I don't want to be part of pre-trial publicity that might be prejudicial.

We, my husband and I, have a dear friend who called early yesterday morning. She'd been up all night. A few weeks ago she confided about the hell her sister has been living through. Her sister's teenage son, involved with drugs since high school, had grown increasingly violent with much violence directed at her. The deputies had been called to the residence many times because he was beating up on her, but each time she would not press charges. He was her son. Desperately, she loved him. She prayed he would clean up. She did everything she could to get him to clean up.

In the end, she lived in fear. She became even more afraid that if she pressed charges, he would be released and would take out his fury on her. She was a tiny petite woman. Her teenage son is well over six feet.

Finally, she did have an arrest warrant for mental reasons sworn out. He was picked up. The shrinks said he was normal. He was released.

He stabbed her to death sometime this week. They don't know when yet. Her body wasn't discovered until Wednesday night. He was still on the premises and was arrested.

She was a single mother who did everything she could for him. She loved him dearly. He had grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins who loved him. In the end, none of that meant anything compared to the drugs he was hooked on and the devastation wreaked on him.

Who are his victims besides his own mother? Her sister. Her elderly parents. All the family. Friends. The list is long.

Why do I write this? To make these points.

If you haven't tried drugs, DON'T. There's increasing evidence that there's a genetic factor in addiction. Maybe you have the gene that predisposes toward addiction. Maybe you don't. Do you really want to test something like this?

If you are on drugs, do whatever you need to do to get off. You may save a life--your own, or the lives of everyone who cares for you.

If you know someone on drugs, and you care about them, do whatever you have to do to get them off, even if that's turning them in.

If someone is physically abusing you, press charges. It doesn't matter if the abuser is your spouse or your child. Do it the first time. If it's an ongoing thing, then plan ahead for shelter and support from family, friends, or social services. Don't let it become a cycle of abuse that climaxes in unspeakable violence.

Drugs are killing our country. They are the scourge of the small parish in Louisiana where I grew up. You can't pick up a newspaper without hearing about some drug-related violence. You can't listen to a news broadcast without hearing about it. When kids get hooked young, the situation is particularly dangerous.

We had friends whose daughter tried drugs in middle school. By high school they had to have a forced intervention which culminated in shipping her out west to one of those isolated drug rehab places. She came home, hating them. She graduated from high school and moved out, never wanting anything to do with them again. They got her off drugs, but they haven't heard from her in years. They don't know whether she's alive or dead. They saved her life for the short term, but they suspect it was too late.

My daughter had a college friend whose older boyfriend gave her meth. She dropped out of college, spent months in a rehab, and struggles to stay clean. Her family moved away in order to break the connection with the bad influence. Drug sellers never let you alone. If you're around, they'll get to you. Users can't return to their old life with their old friends.

Meth has got to be the worst. I think they ought to make posters of before meth and after meth pictures of users and hang them along the hall ways in high schools. I've seen documented photographs. Meth can take a beautiful, glossy-haired woman in her twenties and transform her in a few years, should she live that long, into a toothless, straw-haired woman who looks fifty or more.

The next time you watch a movie, notice how drug use is glamorized or made part of the humor, especially in movies aimed at young people. Is it any surprise that kids think drugs are cool, hip, or just a funny thing?

Drugs do kill. No, drugs didn't wield the knife this young man used to repeatedly stab his mother. He did that. But drugs killed his life and every hope and dream he had. And drugs killed the hopes and dreams held by those who loved him.

Smart Car

I read in yesterday's business section that Smart Cars are poised to invade America. When I was in Italy, I fell in love with the Smart For 2. I photographed this one in Florence. I wanted to put it in my pocket and take it home as a pet.

I normally drive a retro-designed Thunderbird (love that car!) or a big all wheel drive Tahoe (love it too), but this cute little toy car appealed to me. In Europe they get almost 70 mpg, but to meet EPA standards here, they'll get much less--maybe only about 30 mpg which isn't any better than the Buick LaCrosse my husband drives for the daily office commute. Heck! My old Tahoe gets better gas mileage than the new ones.

I have a feeling the price tag is going to be a lot more also. Over there, you can get one for about 9,000.00 Euro (about $13,000. USD at current exchange rate). My brother who has a car dealership in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, said they're all over Vancouver. He's even seen a couple go through the car auctions, but they were pulled because they didn't reach the minimum bid of $15K. So look for the new ones to sell for a lot more in the U. S.

Hollywood Librarian

Read a review this morning of a movie, actually documentary, I'd like to see. Hollywood Librarian was a labor of love for Ann Seidl, a consultant. When Ms. Seidl was obtaining her master's in Library and Information Studies in 1997, she was inspired to create a cinematic offering to refute the long-held view of librarians.

The result is Hollywood Librarian, financed mostly by private donations. Premiered at the recent American Library Association convention in Washington D.C., the movie features, among other American librarians, Houston's own Dr. Rhea Brown Lawson, Director of the Houston Public Library with its 600 employees.

Unfortunately, I probably won't find this at my local theater. Features like this are usually shown only at what passes for Houston's art house cinema. Maybe I'll get lucky and it will come to DVD fairly soon.

Reading this, made two memories pop into my head. The first was something that happened when my first book SUMMER'S FORTUNE was published. The mother of one of my daughter's friends had bought the book. With a wide smile, she told me that she particularly enjoyed the fact that the heroine was an elementary school librarian - just as she was. She said, "I loved that there was no bun or spectacles in sight. It's about time someone depicted a librarian as something other than an old sourpuss."

The second memory was of Miss Zelma Berry, the school librarian and sponsor of the Library Club which I joined in ninth grade. Miss Berry was what people called an old maid, and she had a twin sister named Thelma. They lived together until their deaths at a ripe old age.

I loved books and thought, in my naivette, that nothing could be better than a library club. Boy! Was I wrong.

From the first moment I met Miss Berry, she traumatized me. We're talking the black spectacles, the hair style that had been all the rage in 1945, a sharp arrogant glance that could freeze you in mid-motion, and the imperious voice that could shush a varsity football tackle in a nano second. The woman scared the bejeebers out of me.

So of course we had a run in the first time we met. She ordered me to shelve returned books. To my dismay, I learned immediately that the library club had nothing to do with reading and everything to do with labor. I told her okay.

She fixed me with her sharp gaze and said, "I beg your pardon."

"Uh, okay," I mumbled, face red.

In an icy voice, she repeated, "I beg your pardon."


She never blinked. "I beg your pardon!"

My brain froze. I stared into her unblinking eyes, magnified by the thick glass lenses. Then my poor fourteen-year-old brain thawed and went into overdrive, trying to figure out what the proper response was because if I didn't come up with the proper response, I just knew I'd be standing there, staring into her flinty eyes for the rest of my life.

Suddenly, it dawned on me. "Yes, ma'am," I whispered, and added for good measure, "I will."

She smiled. Or I think she did. It happened so fast that I really can't be sure.

Miss Berry and I had a stilted relationship, but she instilled knowledge of the Dewey Decimal System that I retain to this day. Funny thing was, after I was grown, I ran into her at the grocery store during one of my visits to my hometown, and she beamed at me. Beamed! She said how wonderful it was to see me again and how fondly she remembered my time in the Library Club. She asked me if I still loved books.

Isn't that just weird?

I made sure to say, "Yes, ma'am."

10 ways to be safe & secure

I keep saying I'm going to start a web service geared to my Mom and her friends because I spend a lot of time helping them with their computer and Internet issues. The only thing stopping me is that I want to call it Blue-Haired Web Service, and my Mom would kill me if I did. Age jokes are NOT funny to her. Don't even get her started on the label senior citizen!

All joking aside, I was typing up some security tips to disseminate to her and my other blue and silver-haired "students" and thought I'd pass them along to you as well. I read these in today's Houston Chronicle and thought their expose in the Business section was useful knowledge for everyone.

If you have someone of a certain age you love, print this out for them.

1. Don't ever answer an email supposedly from a bank or mortgage company. Banks don't send emails to customers. Sheesh, they barely have the time to service you when you stand in line so what makes you think they'll personally email you? DELETE without opening the message.

2. Don't ever answer an email supposedly requesting a donation for charity. Legit charities don't use email to solicit donations. DELETE without opening.

3. Don't ever answer an email where a store wants to send you a free gift card. Trust me, Macy's isn't in the habit of sending $500.00 gift cards. DELETE without opening.

4. If you set up a PayPal or Ebay account, they will never send you an email without using the user ID to contact you. Be suspicious of every email that says it's from Ebay or PayPal. Open your browser, go to your online account, and read about how to verify legitimate emails. Print out the information. Keep it by your computer so you can check out those emails if necessary.

5. To verify whether a nonprofit organization is legitimate, got to

6. To check out securities dealers or legitimate information on investments, go to

7. To check out whether the amazing email story you received from a friend is true, go to

8. Not on the Net, but in real life, if someone befriends you, earns your trust. and then, in whatever way or circumstance, offers to help you manage anything if you'll give them power of attorney, run the other way. Power of attorney should be 3 words that are warning signals screaming: "Danger, danger!"

9. Let your representatives know that you support legislation to enhance punishment for those who prey on the elderly and the disabled.

10. Register with every "do not call" agency so you won't get those calls from telemarketers. If you still get them, learn these 2 sentences and overcome whatever manners that were drilled into you as a child: "No, thank you. Remove this number from your call list."

They're supposed to say, "Yes, we will." If they start arguing. Hang up. If they call back, ask for their name and phone number and report them to your state's attorney general.

I look at it this way: unsolicited emails and phone calls do not require white gloves and manners. Though some of the stuff falling into my Inbox makes me think I need to wear rubber gloves to deal with it. E-yu!

Meager offering

I'm doing on-site work for a client so I'm not really at home, but the world of computers makes it look as if I am. Hmmm. How many plots have been done that revolve around techno-created alibis? Actually, I can't think of one except an old Columbo episode. Anybody?

Anyway, I have a quotation today as my minimum-required blog effort. This is from the irrepressible Fran Lebowitz and was brought to mind by some of the books that have landed on my desk this last month and by an artist portfolio I viewed recently.

Fran said: "Very few people possess true artistic ability. It is therefore both unseemly and unproductive to irritate the situation by making an effort. If you have a burning, restless urge to write or paint, simply eat something sweet and the feeling will pass.

Some people should have their computers, number two pencils, and Crayons taken away.

Don't bother bribing me. My lips are sealed.

Bill Crider is amazing

There are few bloggers as dedicated and prolific as my friend Bill Crider. Visit his blog Bill Crider's Popular Culture Magazine and congratulate him on his 4000th blog entry. Actually, that's 4004 as of today.

Better yet. Go buy one of his books. Authors like that as much as they like accolades. Maybe more since that equals royalties.

Pour me some of that cyber champagne, Bill. Here's looking at you!

Happy Birthday, U. S. of A.

Freedom isn't free. The freedom we celebrate was bought and paid for with the blood of patriots, the blood of our soldiers, sailors, air force, coast guard and marines. Whether you agree with the politics that sent our military into harm's way or not, please support our troops. There are many organizations that send care packages to them or help out their families at home. If you haven't made a donation before to aid our military, do so this year.

Whatever your faith, wherever you are right now, take a minute to say a prayer for our country. No matter what you think is wrong with this country, take it from me. I've lived all over the world. There's no country better than this one. No country that provides more opportunity for its citizens. No country that has provided so much for so many others in different parts of the world. No country that has such lofty ideals. True, we fall short. But we keep trying.

I'm Christian so I say, "God bless America."

Cutting, slashing, bleeding aka revising

I finally did it. I butchered the first two chapters of my WIP. Was it crap, you ask?

Actually, it wasn't. It was laugh out loud funny for twenty or more pages, the length of the two chapters. So why did I chop it to shreds?

Because it didn't advance the plot.

I loved those two chapters because it revealed the heroine in all her dysfunctional, comic glory. But, forward motion of the plot screeched to a standstill because I got so involved in writing the yuks that I lost sight of where the story should be going.

Sometimes I have such fun writing dialogue and crazy internalizations that I think I need to put brakes on the old keyboard. I'm smokin' hot, but going nowhere.

A writer always needs to remember what the through-story is and not get carried away by the introductory scene which, though highly entertaining and interesting, may not have anything to do with the plot which will be kicked off by an initiating incident a few pages beyond.

If you don't heed this, then you end up with 20-30 pages of wonderful prose that then must be cut. And sometimes that's hard to do because, darn it, you just think it's wonderfully witty and maybe the editor will be swept away by your writing and ignore the fact that....

Nope. Ain't gonna happen. Cut and be done with it. Move on down the road with the story you're telling.

Writing news: Elmer Kelton, Sandhills Boy

Call me a foolish dreamer or a hopeless romantic, but I believe there is still a viable market for the western novel. The western and the western hero is in the ethos of America. I honestly believe if readers would pick up some of the western novels by the premier writers of the genre, they would find compelling books with great characterization. They'd also find that most of these characters and stories aren't as far removed from today as they believe.

Though Clint has given us the anti-western in Unforgiven, a grim tale of all that was bad about the West, I think there was much that was heroic and admirable and, yes, good about the West, though it has become unpopular to believe.

What brought on all this analysis of a dying genre? I read a review of Elmer Kelton's memoir Sandhills Boy: The Winding Trail of a Texas Writer. I can't wait to get my hands on a copy.

Now, you may think it odd that I, a published romance novelist and a would-be mystery novelist (wait for it, my manuscript will be finished by fall!), see the allure of western novels. What you don't know is that I cut my teeth on Zane Grey novels. I read every one I could get my hands on the summer I was thirteen.

Kelton, the son of a real cowboy, has published 50 novels with many of them like The Time It Never Rained being highly regarded. Though he's not the household name McMurtry is, Kelton is one of the best writers from Texas, and this state has produced some good ones.

Sandhills Boy tells of his early knowledge that he wanted to be a writer. Encouraged by his mother and misunderstood by his father, he majored in journalism at UT but was drafted into the Army and sent to Europe. After the war ended, he was assigned to a POW camp in Austria where he met the young woman who became his wife.

Persistence paid off, red tape was eventually surmounted, and they married and settled in Austin.

Kelton began a full-time job as the farm and ranch reporter at the newspaper in San Angelo. Though he published his first fiction in the late forties, he never quit his day job. He did his faction at night and on weekends.

Kelton was, and is, a working writer, mining the theme of change over and over in his books. Get a copy of his memoir and let that lead you to his books.


Hello, Blog Universe! I'm back.

Actually, I didn't intend to take off the entire month of June which I basically did. When I returned from Italy, I found so much writing work waiting for me. Between fulfilling all the contracts offered and trying to get a couple of pages on my mystery done each day, I just didn't have the energy or brain power to blog.

Today is the first day of a new month, and it's a great day to return to blogging.

Since it's Sunday, let's get back on track with my first of the week inspiration, a quotation from Rita Dove, former Poet Laureate of the United States.

"If you wait for inspiration, inspiration's going to go away and look for more fertile ground to work with."

Now, if you are an aspiring writer, chances are you view writing as something done when the "muse" is communing with you. There's something you don't know that professional writers do. Inspiration comes to those who write consistently, every day.

Professional writers don't wait for inspiration before hitting the keyboard. We know that the part of the brain that spews words is like an old-fashioned water pump. If you don't know how one of those water pumps work, let me enlighten you.

The pump has a long, cast iron handle. You pump the handle up and down vigorously. After a few seconds of pumping, water spurts out - unless the pump hasn't been used in a long time. If the pump isn't used regularly, you may have to pump and pump until your arm muscles scream in protest and you're out of breath. It takes a long time for that water to spurt out. Sometimes, you even have to prime the pump by pouring water into it in order for it to start pumping water out again.

That's how writing works. When you write every day, it's easy to get that outpouring of words. But, if you write every now and then, when inspired, it takes a lot longer to get the words flowing. Many professional writers leave nothing to chance. They prime the pump every day by leaving a dangling thread that can easily be picked up the next day. They also may prime the pump by reading over what they wrote the previous day, editing it a bit, and then diving into the current day's writing.

Sometimes, writers who don't write regularly have a difficult time getting the words to flow. Sometimes the flow is less than a drizzle, only a drip or two. If they give up then, it's even harder the next day. Sometimes if they don't persist and keep pumping that handle and priming that pump, the flow dries up completely. The longer they go without producing a flow of words, the harder it gets to squeeze a word out.
That's when a writer says they have writer's block.

I dont' think I've ever heard of a daily working writer with writer's block.

"If you wait for inspiration, inspiration's going to go away and look for more fertile ground to work with."

Stargate SG-1 bows out *sob*

If you know me, and many of you do, you know I'll be crying in my chianti tonight when one of my favorite television shows, ever, has its series finale.

For ten years, my family and I have followed the exploits of SG-1 as they've saved the world one episode at a time. What a ride it's been. It's been a pleasure and a privilege. Thanks, SG-1.