What can I say?

Actually, the problem isn't that I don't know what to say? It's that I don't have time to say it. Seldom am I at a loss for words.

However, lack of time is something I frequently face. Right now I'm trying to get ready for a trip to Europe, and problems seem to be popping up on all fronts. Isn't that the way it always is?

So bear with me, and I'll get something *important* said before I leave.

Sling Words out.

Lone Star Writing Contest deadline nears

Gee, I'm a member of the Northwest Houston RWA Chapter, and I nearly forgot to post this reminder they sent out about their annual writing contest. The LONE STAR WRITING COMPETITON is the real deal. The final judge is an editor, and winners and finalists have gone on to publication.

June 4 is the deadline for the 15th annual LONE STAR WRITING COMPETITON.

Here's their reminder.


Foreign entries may enter electronically & pay with PayPal.

Preliminaries judged by two published and one unpublished judge.

Finalists judged by an editor and an agent.


Competition is open to published and unpublished.

Unpublished authors may enter any category.

Published authors my enter any genre in which they've never published or have not published in the past five years.

All authors may enter no more than once per category, but may enter more than one category.


Submisssions must be postmarked by June 4, 2007.

Entries postmarked after the deadline will be returned unopened.

For more info, email jrcarver1 @verizon.net.

For testimonials, rules, and entry form visit Northwest Houston RWA.


$30 for non-NWHRWA members, $20 for members.

So there you have it. You've got about 13 days to get your entry postmarked and mailed. Good luck!

Simon & Schuster reacts

If you'll recall, on Friday, I posted the warning I'd received from Authors Guild. When I returned home from my weekend trip, I found a follow-up to their warning about the contract changes at Simon & Schuster:

"S&S has fallen back some, now saying they'll negotiate regarding the reversion of rights clause 'on a book-by-book basis.' They also accuse us of an 'overreaction.' Their official statement follows."

Here's what the The Authors Guild requested be forwarded to other writers.


Simon & Schuster's official reaction, from Adam Rothberg, VP for Corporate Communications:

We are surprised at the overreaction of the Authors Guild to Simon & Schuster’s contract. We believe that our contract appropriately addresses the improved technology, increased availability, and higher quality of print on demand books, and reflects the fact that print on demand titles may now be readily purchased by consumers at both online and brick and mortar stores. We are embracing print on demand technology as an unprecedented opportunity for authors and publishers to keep their books alive and available and selling in the marketplace in a way that may not have been previously possible for many authors, and are confident in the long term it that will be a benefit for all concerned. We would also like the author and agent community to know that, when necessary, we have always had good faith negotiations on the subject of reversions, and will continue to on a book-by-book basis.

Ahh. Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble, and so the pot gets stirred.

Contract terms change at Simon & Schuster

As most of you know, I'm a strong supporter of Authors Guild. I even host my website through them because of this. Yesterday they sent out a warning about the new contract terms at Simon & Schuster. This is important because writers need to be aware of the business side of writing. Here's the full text of the warning.

"Simon & Schuster has changed its standard contract language in an attempt to retain exclusive control of books even after they have gone out of print. Until now, Simon & Schuster, like all other major trade publishers, has followed the traditional practice in which rights to a work revert to the author if the book falls out of print or if its sales are low.

The publisher is signaling that it will no longer include minimum sales requirements for a work to be considered in print. Simon & Schuster is apparently seeking nothing less than an exclusive grant of rights in perpetuity. Effectively, the publisher would co-own your copyright.

The new contract would allow Simon & Schuster to consider a book in print, and under its exclusive control, so long as it’s available in any form, including through its own in-house database -- even if no copies are available to be ordered by traditional bookstores.

Other major trade publishers are not seeking a similar perpetual grant of rights.

We urge you to consider your options carefully:

1. Remember that if you sign a contract with Simon & Schuster that includes this clause, they’ll say you’re wed to them. Your book will live and die with this particular conglomerate.

2. Ask your agent to explore other options. Other publishers are not seeking an irrevocable grant of rights.

3. If you have a manuscript that may be auctioned, consider asking your agent to exclude Simon & Schuster imprints unless they agree before the auction to use industry standard terms.

4. Let us know if other major publishers follow suit. Any coordination among publishers on this matter has serious legal implications.

Feel free to forward and post this message in its entirety."

In case you don't know, The Authors Guild is the oldest and largest organization of published book authors in the United States.

Sling Words out and off to nephew's graduation. Congratulations, Joshua!

Sling Words door prize: free idea

I was checking around the Net today, looking for a historical tidbit to offer readers when I came across this item:

On May 17, 1824, John Murray, Lord Byron's publisher, ordered the burning of the manuscript of Byron's personal journal. Though Byron's friends protested, the journal manuscript was indeed burned.

Wow. Just think of the story possibilities there! What was in Byron's personal journal? Did he name names that preferred to remain unknown? Was Murray paid off or coerced in any way to do this? Was he protecting someone? A man? A woman? Byron ran with a pretty fast crowd if you'll recall.

Would lives, fortunes, and/or history have been altered by the journal's publication?

What if there'd been another copy of the journal manuscript? What would it have revealed? What if that manuscript copy were suddenly discovered today? Oooh. What if is a game writers play, and it's a game that usually leads to a book.

Okay. That's my gift to you today. Take that idea and run with it though I may play with it too. Just remember me in your book dedication, okay?

Quotable Richard J. Evans

Don't let life discourage you; everyone who got where he is had to begin where he was.

Great quote for you struggling writers, isn't it? Do you know Richard J. Evans? Allow me to introduce you.

Richard J. Evans, Professor of Modern History at the University of Cambridge, is someone I admire. As a British historian, his life's work has been writing about Germany. He's refused to remain silent in the face of attempts to whitewash what happened in Germany with the rise of Hitler.

Mr. Evans is the author of many famous books. I heard moans and groans all through school from classmates who hated history. I guess some of them are supporters of the postmodernist theory that the study of history is no longer of value. In Defence of History, is the book Professor Evans wrote to counter this school of thought.

I think more history courses should be required because reading history is like reading about the mistakes of the past. A smart individual looks back on his mistakes and learns from them. Nations are made of individuals. If individuals who know nothing of their history comprise a government, then is a country not destined to repeat mistakes rather than learn from them? Shouldn't the past be a learning experience?

Or is the literary agent from New York I heard speak once correct? In his estimation, Bob and Mary Six Pack were only concerned with television, movies, and their six packs.

A nice cosmopolitan slap in the face to us yokels in Texas from someone who thought the frontier ended at the Alleghenies? True. But was he right?

I hope not.

Happy Birthday to my Mommy

This is the picture I'm using for the cover of my mother's memoirs. You notice how her right foot is blurry? She told me it's because she could hardly sit still to have the portrait made. Her foot is tapping away, showing her impatience to get up and go play.

Funny thing. My Mom is still that way. Always impatient to be up doing something.

Happy Birthday, dear Mom.

Children keep you young--HA!

Been a busy week here at the Reeves hacienda. Sometimes "things" happen, if you get my drift, and writing kind of takes a back seat. That's called real life.

I'd committed to writing several articles with staggered deadlines beginning this week when DD (darling daughter) decidedly last week to move to a new apartment rather than renew her lease at the old one. So I've been run pretty ragged between fulfilling deadlines and helping her move.

How one little girl can accumulate so much stuff is amazing. I think she inherited the pack rat gene from both her grandmothers. When you consider that she's an artist and an art teacher, well, you can begin to imagine the scope of this move. We're not just talking furniture, clothes, and household goods. With the help of professional movers, that was pretty much taken care of.

We're talking art supplies of every description: saved odds and ends and found objects because they might be incorporated into a project some day; books - HEAVY - books (Have you ever seen a skinny art book?); a flat file as big as a Volkswagen filled with mats, drawings, paintings, etc.; and a garage full of ceramic molds, a potter's wheel, and 40 pound bags of various clays (bet you didn't know there were different kinds of clay characterized geographically).

Wisely, she didn't bother getting a quote from the movers for all that stuff. She may be an artist, but she has good money sense! So Mom and Dad - and Dad's old Tahoe - to the rescue. We've been rescuing a little every day and will shift into high gear this weekend.

They say children keep you young. I refute that. Children make you feel old. And tired. And sore in places you forgot you had muscles. Moving muscles.

Self-editing for writers

I wrote another article a few years ago about the importance of editing one's copy. It was very similar to this article, but I called it: Weeping Stoned Fences because that title was a classic illustration of the problem of self-editing. Rather the lack of self-editing.

I’ve listened to a lot of presentations from other writers, editors,and agents about characterization, plotting, scene and sequel, and all the other elements of dramatic structure, but I've only heard a couple of really good ones about self-editing. The first was given at a Golden Triangle Writers Guild Conference in Beaumont, Texas, by Joe Blades, then an “ordinary” editor at Ballantine, later a “power” editor, and now retired I imagine. The other workshop was offered by the talented Barbara Dawson Smith, the well-known historical romance author of so many popular books.

These two workshops singularly helped me hone my ability to spot common errors such as misspelled words, wrongly-used words, typos, and other goofs like inconsistencies, awkward phrasing, stilted dialog, misplaced modifiers, and so on - IN MY OWN WRITING. Spotting these problems in other authors’ work is easy. Seeing them in your own, well, to illustrate my point - that’s a hoarse of a difference choler.

Why don't I see that I wrote: hoarse instead of horse, used difference instead of different, and wrote choler instead of color? Why do sentences like this appear in manuscripts: John and Mary, using there whipps, raced toward each othr;, jumping on hirdles and weeping stoned fences.

A gremlin sneaks into your office at night and edits your file then prints another copy and destroys your perfect one! Sorry. I wish I could say the gremlin theory is correct, but you know it's not.

In the white heat of creativity, all we are concerned with is putting words on paper as fast as our flying fingers allow. Because we know what the correct words are supposed to be, we are blind to anything that doesn't match the finished script in our brains. Then, we go back and revise. Then we polish. But we overlook typos and other errors because our brain knows what is supposed to be on the page and that’s all it sees - not what’s actually there.

Remember in Jurassic Park where the computer is programmed to verify that (I forget the actual number, let's say 100 animals) all the animals are in the park? Well, when the animals start reproducing, the computer does not register that there are more animals. It has been told to verify that 100 are there so that is what it does even though there are now 120.

Our brains are like that. Our mental computer knows our beautiful, moving story in all its glory - reams of conflict, unforgettable characters, scintillating dialogue. When we read our copy, our brain verifies that the printed page matches what's in our head, even when it doesn’t!

Of course, you can show what you wrote to a writing friend, and she'll immediately circle, in red, all the errors and then proceed to bleed all over your deathless prose, writing such phrases as: "You misspelled forty-seven words, including your own name; you have dangling participles, misplaced metaphors, and are totally lacking in scene logic. And you don’t even want to know what I think about your heroine who starts out blonde and ends up a redhead - without benefit Clairol, I might add!”

So what’s the answer? You can’t depend upon the kindnesses of friends all the time. You must develop the ability to see your own mistakes. You do this by putting time distance between you and your finished copy. A week after writing a scene, you can read it and easily see you wrote about drugged fences that weep rather than leaping over fences made of stone. Always allow yourself time to “rest” your manuscript after you complete it.

You’ll be amazed how the boo-boos leap off the page as you look at it with fresh eyes.

Leisure, what's that?

Kim Komando is touting this book, Follies of Science today on her website. It's supposed to be about what the future will be like as envisioned about fifty years ago.

This made me recall watching television programs when I was a small child that said in the future everyone would work only three days a week and the big problem would be how to fill all that leisure time.

What a joke! I think most people in today's world have forgotten what leisure time means.

Just about everyone I know works more than 40 hours a week.

I want the future they talked about 50 years ago.

Quotable Daphne du Maurier

Quote for the week is from the incomparable Daphne du Maurier, author of one of the best opening lines in a book. "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderly again." Ah, Rebecca, what a book. I'm surprised that hasn't been remade starring Gwyneth Paltrow and perhaps Daniel Craig.

Anyway, Ms. du Maurier said: "Writers should be read, but neither seen nor heard."

Based on some things I've seen and heard when a lot of writers get together, there's a lot of wisdom in that.

Bowling balls and chainsaws

Another rainy day here at the Reeves hacienda. I'm in an odd dilemma. I'm too tired to write.

Been pushing the old pen rather hard lately trying to get through the first draft of my novel and balancing that with my freelance writing. Throw in helping DD (Darling Daughter) move to new apartment and you get one tired writer. Balancing all the demands in my life sometimes feels as if I'm juggling bowling balls and chainsaws.

Still have writing books to sell, but haven't had time to scan any covers so nothing new today.

Instead, I'm going to enjoy my morning coffee inside today rather than on the patio where I can smell the roses. Hard to smell roses in the rain. Think I'll peruse the newspaper and act like a woman of leisure before I start juggling today's bowling balls and chainsaws.

Enjoy TGIF. I intend to.

Happy Birthday, N P R

Do you listen to NPR? I do. I'm happy to say Happy Birthday to National Public Radio which is 36 years old today.

Yes, they have cultural programming, news, editorials, political talk, and all that, but my very favorite program on NPR is Car Talk, or as I call them, Click & Clack, the Boston mechanics aka Tom and Ray Magliozzi. I don't even know anything about cars and engines and such, but I find myself listening to these two from
"Bahston" and their "Cah" Talk as they diagnose engine maladies from nebulous descriptions. I guess my favorite part are the end credits where they give tribute to their team of lawyers, Huey, Duey, and Louie among others.

Research tells me that NPR was founded as an alternative to commercial, and commercial-ridden, radio with the goal of informing, educating, and entertaining which they certainly do. With 600 member stations, NPR's satellite-based network radio can be heard all over the U. S., D. C., Puerto Rico, and Guam. They claim 13 million fans.

So Happy Birthday, dear old NPR, honestly, no one would guess you're 36. You don't look a day older than 35.

Book reviews & illiteracy death spiral

Yesterday since it was the first, I posted my website update. On the Reading page, I included a small article about Illiteracy. I frequently do this because Literacy is one of the causes I champion. If you are a writer, which I am, you too should be a supporter of the Literacy effort. If you're a human being, you should support Literacy because it's an important aspect of an individual's health and well-being.

Naturally, when I received my email newsletter from Booksquare today, I was interested in what they had to say about the death of book reviews and illiteracy among other things. They linked to an article by Kathleen Parker on the twin subjects.

Ms. Parker dissects the recent decision by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution to discontinue its Book Review section. It was one of only six newspapers left in this country that had stand-alone review sections.

I urge you to follow both links especially if you are a writer. What happens to writers in a world where readers dwindle? Are you doing anything to increase the number of readers? Think about it.