Handwritten Notes & Letters

Do you still write letters by hand? Once, letter writing was not just communication but also an art. I admit to seldom writing a letter by hand these last few years, but I'm going to do better in the New Year.

Why? Because when I was working with my Mom on her memoir Memory Lane: My Sentimental Journey, I treasured the handwritten correspondence, notes, and cards she'd collected over the years.

Love Letters Are Handwritten

In her book, we published the poem my grandmother had written to my grandfather on a Leap Year prior to their marriage. To see the words she'd written in her own handwriting affected me profoundly. That love letter, treasured over the decades, made me realize how lacking our modern world is in the art of letter writing.

I can't visualize a future in which a woman unties a ribbon from a packet of ink jet printed emails to disclose the love letters from her husband. It just doesn't seem as personal.

I have notes my husband has written me on scraps of paper over the years though we were never separated long enough to need letters. I treasure those bits of paper. He sends me emails when he travels, but, somehow, they're not the same.

Test of Time

Handwritten notes and letters stand the test of time. Maybe they're treasured because they represent a gift of time. It takes but a moment to dash off an email. When writing a letter by hand, one must gather paper, envelope, postage, pen, and one's thoughts. When a letter writer sits down to write, to transfer thoughts to paper, more consideration and introspection is called forth.

Indeed, it strikes me that a handwritten letter is a gift of time. It's even more of a luxury in today's busy world.

In the Bible, Jeremiah 31:33 says: I have written you in my heart.

Takeaway Truth

If you love someone, make an effort to hand write a letter to them more frequently this next year.

Always Listen to Mom

I've got a confession to make. A couple of months ago I was visiting Mom and accompanied her to a doctor's appointment. In the course of visiting with the doctor, my mom said she was tired all the time and had no energy. I jumped in and told the doctor that she didn't sleep at night because she, like many elderly widows, felt anxious alone in the house at night. (Sheesh! If my mom reads this and sees I referred to her as elderly, there will be repercussions. She hates the E word.)

Sleep Study

Anyway, her doctor suggested she have a sleep study done. I knew he was thinking sleep apnea, but I didn't think she had sleep apnea. I thought, erroneously, that this condition affected snorers who shook the rafters with the sounds they made - and who were usually overweight too. My mom doesn't really snore. She just breathes a bit heavily sometimes. And she's a tiny thing. Not overweight at all.

To make a long story short, I was ignorant. And wrong. So I want all of you to know that if you're tired all the time, you might want to talk to your doctor. Check out sleep apnea for the quiz they have and to learn more about this condition. I wish I'd visited the site before. I might have recognized that what was affecting my mom wasn't just advancing years.


The site is a directory of all the medical centers and doctors nationwide that treat sleep disorders and cure sleep apnea, and there are a lot of resources on the site to help you with your inquiries.

My mom has been fitted with a high-tech gadget which I call a sleep machine. Hopefully, she'll be catching Z's every night, all night long until dawn, instead of counting sheep or tossing and turning.

Takeaway Truth

Don't dismiss out of hand the complaints of your older loved ones. There may be reasons for being tired other than being, well, let's just say, slightly more mature in years.

Find Time = Make Time

Are you thinking about starting a blog in the New Year? Or, maybe you've decided to set a goal of posting your blog more frequently, even, perhaps, on a regular schedule? Why haven't you blogged more frequently before? Because you couldn't find the time.

That well-worn phrase is wrong thinking! No one ever finds time. Anyone who does anything in a block of time, does so because he or she made time.

Here are some tips to help you.

Make Time

1. Write a blog post and time yourself. How long did it take from beginning to ready to publish?

2. Get the calendar out and look at it. What are your existing time commitments? Find the day or days when you can devote the block of time discovered in step #1 to your blog posting. Is it just one day so you're immediately discouraged because you've heard a blog must be posted daily?

Relax. A blog posted once a week on the same day with good content will be more successful than haphazard posts on a random basis.

3. On your desk calendar or Daytimer or whatever calendar you use to keep track of your appointments, mark the days when you'll post to your blog. It's a scheduled appointment.

4. Honor your scheduled appointment. If you set up a dentist appointment, then you go when it rolls around. Right? Same principle. You set an appointment to post your blog. Then do it when that time rolls around.

5. Now, brainstorm a list of ideas about which you want to write so you won't have to search the corners of your brain for something about which to write. Your list of topics should reflect your niche or your theme for your blog. To paraphrase, Blogger, know thyself then to thine own self be true. It's easier to write when you know the topic in advance because your brain will toy with the idea.

Be yourself. Don't try to copycat a popular blogger. There's already a Paperback Writer, and she does a great job. Same goes for all the other popular bloggers. So don't be a poor imitation of the original. Just be you because no one can do that as well as you.

Takeaway Truth

The more you write; the more the words will flow. That's what blogging can do for you: get the words flowing.

The Last of a Year

Quote for the Week

This old year of 2008 is ending. The great Eudora Welty said, in The Optimist's Daughter (1968): Never think you've seen the last of anything.

I think it's safe to say we'll see the last of 2008 in just a few days. And I'm glad. The year has become tedious and wearisome. I'm ready for a fresh, brand- spanking-new, shiny year with all its hope and potential.

We'll certainly see the end of the old year, but, the repercussions from 2008 are rushing toward us like a tsunami, hidden deep beneath the ocean. Actually, I guess Ms. Welty was right after all.

Takeaway Truth

Embrace the New Year with all its promise.

Quick Lesson: Archetypes

Once upon a time is understood at the beginning of every story, isn't it? Some things are just the same regardless of what kind of story you write. The same is true of characters. If you're new to the fiction writing game, you may have heard authors bandy about the term archetypes and wondered to what they referred. After all, if you're starting to write a novel, you're just going to tell a story about some character you made up. Aren't you?

Stories Old and New

Not necessarily. In all stories from the beginning of time to present day, there are character types and relationships that recur again and again. Carl Jung used the term archetypes to describe these common character types, relationships, and symbols. To really understand this subject, study The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler or any of the other books about mythic story structure. Gaining an understanding of the archetypes that occur in all cultures and eras will be a major asset for you and your writing.

Think about any good book you've read or any popular movie you've seen. I guarantee you the characters in either represent these Character Archetypes (as related by Vogler and others), whether they be male or female. Later works break down the archetypes differently and identify female archetypes differently, which I'll cover at a later date, but I like this delineation of the archetypes because I think it holds true.


1. Hero is the character who is on a quest to achieve something and who will change during the progress of the story. (Hero refers to male or female.) In the Bourne movies, Jason Bourne is the hero on a quest for his memory.

2. Mentor (Wise Old Man or Woman) is the positive character who aids, teaches, trains, or nurtures the hero to aid him in his quest. In the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Gandolf is the Mentor.

3. Threshold Guardians aren't necessarily the villain or antagonist in your story. They're usually the minions whose job is to keep interlopers, like the hero, out. They're a challenge to overcome. In action movies, they're the hired thugs who keep the crooked boss secure.

4. Herald is a character who is the harbinger of change either by issuing a challenge or announce a significant change. In Star Wars, the first appearance of Darth Vader is a herald of change.

5. Shapeshifter is a character who changes appearance or mood. They're difficult to pin down and cast into strict roles because they may mislead or behave in ways contrary to expectation. The female love interest is often the shapeshifter character in books and movies. In the TV series, the hero Edward/Henry is also a shapeshifter - a man who's never what he seems on the surface.

6. Shadow is a representation of the dark side. Like the old radio serial that was made into a movie starring Alec Baldwin (showing on the Encore channels endlessly of late): who knows what darkness lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows. The Shadow Archetype are your villains and monsters who oppose the hero. Or sometimes they're just opposed to the way the hero goes about achieving his goal. In Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal Lechter is a Shadow.

7. Trickster is the character who's usually the comic sidekick, but there are trickster heros too. The energy and desire for change is embodied in this archetype. In the Beverly Hills Cop movies, Eddie Murphy was a trickster hero.

Takeaway Truth

Every character you can create has a lineage dating back to prehistory. Knowing the archetypes and how they relate to each other will bring power and authenticity to your writing.

Long Road Home For Christmas

Christmas Cheer! That's what you say to each person as you see them for the first time today. At least, that's what we do in my household.

Early this morning, I had a lovely email from a friend Ralph Neal Hanson who lives in west Texas. Ralph sent me his story about a memorable Christmas he experienced 50 years ago. This story will be part of Ralph's new book Chasing the Rainbow which he will complete and publish later this year. Ralph is a Renaissance man who discovered the joys of writing after he retired. He's written and published his first memoir Flashback to the Golden Years.

Like his first book, his Christmas story is emotionally touching as well as a revelation about a way of life that has faded from view. Ralph was kind enough to give me permission to reprint the story here for our audience. I hope you'll enjoy it.

Merry Christmas!

Long Road Home For Christmas
Copyright 2008 by Ralph Neal Hanson

December 1958

Since volunteering for the army draft in September, I'd been away from home for three and a half months. After enduring a brutal 10 weeks of basic training at Fort Hood, Texas, I was nearing completion of the advanced Radar Operations and Intelligence school at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas.

I finished O&I school on the Monday before Christmas, and I would receive my orders immediately after the first of the year. Until now, I had never been away from home for this length of time. I was anxious to show off my uniform and the 30 pounds that I had gained. Since we were given only one day off for Thanksgiving, I hadn't been able to take leave then, and it had been my first Thanksgiving away from home in my 19 years. So I planned to take 10 days of leave through the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. I was 500 miles from home. I was dreadfully homesick, and I had assured my mother on the telephone that I would be home for Christmas.

* * *

I sat impatiently on the wooden bench at the Texas and Pacific depot in El Paso, waiting for my train which was due to arrive in half an hour. The terminal was always busy since El Paso was a large city located about half way between the east and west coasts. I waited in the passenger boarding area, a long, red brick street between the depot and multiple sets of parallel railroad tracks. The red bricks looked like those that paved all the major streets in my home town, including the street in front of my house.

The waiting area was crowded - mostly with uniformed military personnel. Some of the soldiers and airmen carried Christmas packages along with their suitcases. I carried only a small AWOL bag with a change of underwear, toilet articles, and a carton of Lucky Strikes.

I felt rather awkward because I hadn’t bought anyone a gift this year though I had recently been promoted to Private First Class, and I was making just over 100 dollars a month. But I was proud of the new chevron on my green-wool dress uniform. Besides, gifts weren’t so important now since everyone in my immediate family was grown. The real gifts would be the love and fellowship with family and friends on this special day of the year.

I knew the trip home would take more than a ten hours whether I traveled by rail or bus since both carriers stopped in every small town along the way. A round trip ticket cost less than 25 dollars by either transit. I chose to take the train because I'd been fascinated by steam driven trains since I was a child.

One of our close family friends worked his whole life for a local rail road, and I had two uncles who worked over 30 years for Santa Fe. As a child I spent thousands of hours around the depot and the switching yards at home, watching in awe as giant steam engines moved their heavily loaded cars to unknown places far away.

My train was due to leave at 6:15 P.M. on December 23rd and arrive in Abilene at 4:30 A.M. the next day, Christmas Eve. When a steam locomotive came to a screeching metallic halt on the tracks about 50 yards past the depot and expelled a huge cloud of steam from the bottom of each side of its boiler, I was ready.

The train I'd ride pulled a coal car, a baggage car, ten passenger cars, and a caboose. I looked through the windows of the coaches and the two Pullman sleeping cars and saw that my train was literally packed with people. I guess I'd forgotten that this was just two days before Christmas and the holiday rush was upon us.

When I got to my feet and joined the throng of waiting travelers, a conductor popped out of the door of the first passenger car. He wore a full railroad conductor’s uniform complete with trousers sporting a stripe down each pants leg and a billed cap with a visor. The conductor had a full beard and looked more like John Phillip Sousa, the famous band director, than a railroad employee as he helped passengers de-train.

Then we were allowed to board the train. There were no numbered seats: it was first come, first serve. I managed to find a window seat in the third car back from the engine. All the cars were crowded, and the luggage racks were jammed with suitcases and Christmas packages so I put my canvass AWOL bag on the floor at my feet.

An extremely large Hispanic man took the seat beside me on the aisle. His bulk pushed me closer to the window. He couldn’t speak a word of English, but he grinned a lot. I spoke broken Spanish well enough to introduce myself. I learned that Manuel was going to Ysleta, our first whistle stop on the trip. When he offered me a shot of tequila from the flask he retrieved from the inside pocket of his overcoat, I thanked him but declined.

I have to admit that the news of his early departure didn’t bring tears to my eyes. I was jammed so hard against the window that I'd begun to lose circulation in my right shoulder. Just about then I heard the most beautiful sound that I'd heard in three months: Conductor Sousa, hanging part of the way out of the train car by a steel door rail called out the familiar, "All aboard."

With his electric lantern, he hand signaled the engineer that everything was ready to go. The steam whistle on the engine gave 3 mighty blasts. With its large bell ringing, the train lurched forward. Moving slowly at first, the train began accelerating. The wheels made the familiar clackety-clack sound as they rolled over the rail joints and side-track switches. Suddenly, I was filled with the excitement of a little boy. I was going home for Christmas!

About 30 miles from El Paso, the train slowly rolled to a halt at the small depot at Ysleta. Manuel stood up. His face was creased by a wide smile. I said, “Buenas noches. Feliz Navidad, y vaya con Dios”. (Good night. Merry Christmas, and Go with God.) I could tell that Manuel was filled by the Christmas spirit as well as the spirit of Jose Cuervo. After he disappeared through the doorway, I began rubbing the circulation back into my arm.

There were several more small stops at towns along the Rio Grande River before the train headed due east through the sparsely populated region of the Davis Mountains. After each stop, there were fewer passengers left on board. When we reached Fort Stockton, there were only three other people in my car.

I regretted that the entire trip would be made at night because this mountainous region of Texas is very picturesque. Earlier in the year, I'd seen its rugged beauty on my way to El Paso in the army bus. Tonight, as I looked through the window, there was only darkness - not even the lights from any of the scattered ranch houses pierced the blackness.

A convenience of riding the train, as opposed to the bus, is your ability to get up and move around while in transit. I got up to stretch my legs, and I walked down the aisle into the next car. There were about a half dozen people in this coach. Most of them were asleep. In all my excitement, I had ignored my own weariness even though it was approaching midnight. Soon it would be Christmas Eve. In a few more hours, I would be home. I'd be arriving a day early to surprise my folks. They weren't expecting me until Christmas Day. I thought this little surprise would make our reunion even more special.

When I returned to my car, I stopped in the Men’s room, located at the end of the car. The restroom was about the size of a phone booth, but with all the necessary facilities. I think Superman would have had difficulty making a costume change in there. Above the toilet was a 2-inch sign: PLEASE DO NOT FLUSH, WHILE TRAIN IS IN STATION. The railroad company had thought of everything.

By the time I settled back in my seat, it was Christmas Eve. I was weary. I stretched out across the seat where Manuel and I had been sitting. I laid the back of my head against the cold glass window. The last thing that I vaguely remember was the conductor walking down the aisle. Like a carnival barker, he proclaimed, “Next stop...Pecos.” I was over half way home.

My deep sleep was interrupted by the same conductor calling out: “Abilene!”

I almost jumped to attention. My watch showed 4:10 A.M. The train was right on schedule. I'd been asleep for almost four hours. I stood, smoothed the wrinkles from my uniform, and picked up my AWOL bag.

As I stepped down from the train, the night air was crisp and cold. I pulled on my GI-issued, black leather gloves and walked four blocks to the Greyhound Bus terminal. I had a 40 minute delay there, and an hour’s bus ride before I reached home.

I hated bus stations. This one was no different with canned music coming in through a garbled speaker in the ceiling. I had to use my imagination to make out the words of the Christmas carols that played. I smoked a couple of cigarettes as I tried to will the sweeping second hand on the wall clock to move faster. Finally, I heard the familiar hiss of air brakes as my bus arrived.
I was not only the first passenger on the bus but also I was able to take the first seat behind the driver so I could look out the wide, panoramic windshield.

We left the holiday-decorated streets of Abilene for the main highway to the north. Christmas lights were still on in the yards of many houses as well as the city street light decorations. Their bright reflections kept me from seeing the early morning sky. As we pulled onto the highway, through the windshield of the bus I could finally see the millions of stars in the moonless, winter night. These were the decorations that I liked best at night.

Through the darkness, I could occasionally see lights from scattered farm houses along the highway. The cotton crop was already harvested. Most of the fields were winter bare. Yet, the rural people still arose about the same time each day to attend to daily chores. This routine had gone on this way every day since long before I was born.

Finally, the bus pulled into the terminal at home. The terminal, as was the case in many other rural towns, was a 24 hour café that also served as an ice cream parlor and taxi service. Since my early homecoming was a surprise, I'd have to walk another 8 blocks to get home.

It was only a block to the town square from the bus station. I looked at the window decorations as I walked around the square. The store decorations were kept lighted all night during the holidays. The post office stood in the center of the square. There was a life-size, lighted Nativity scene set up on the lawn. This community project had been done for several years by a cooperative effort of local church organizations. I always thought it was such a commendable thing that groups from all churches could work together on a common project, particularly on such a religious holiday as Christmas.

I walked past the magnificent structure of St John’s Methodist Church in which I'd grown up and been baptized. Although I'd been away, I was still an active member of the adult choir. I was musically blessed. I'd memorized every piece of music in the church. Tonight, I'd be singing, along with Mother, in the choir. There would be a special Christmas Eve service, since Christmas Day was on Wednesday this year. The service would be extra special for me this time because it seemed as if I hadn’t seen my friends and family for years.

As I walked past my uncle’s gas station, I noticed that gasoline had gone up to 38 cents a gallon. Inflation was setting in! Not too long ago, I had pumped gas, serviced cars, and repaired flats for 25 cents. Gasoline was 29 cents a gallon then. Maybe, I thought, it is best that I am 19 years old and have never owned a car.

I walked under the Missouri Valley railroad trestle and past the City park where I'd played for thousands of hours when I was a child. I stopped on the sidewalk in front of my house. The eastern glow of a rising sun had erased the stars for another night. Another glow came from the lights in the back windows of my house.

Breakfast should be ready about this time. I stepped up on the wooden porch, as I had done so many times, and opened the unlocked door. I knew that my mother would know who it was by the sound of my steps. The warm air from the house and the smell of freshly-percolated coffee broke through the chill of the night air. Although I knew that I didn’t need to identify myself, in my excitement I called out down the hallway, “Mama, I’m home!”

Emotion filled me. It was like the morning I remembered, when I was a little boy, when Santa Claus had brought me toys. There were no toys this year, but I had the most special gift of all.

I was home for Christmas.

Cold Weather

Quote of the Week

It is impossible, to me at least, to be poetical in cold weather.
George Eliot, in a letter written in 1840, George Eliot's Life as Related in Her Letters and Journals, by J. W. Cross, 1884

We each have our preferred seasons - those times when we feel most creative. I'm a southern girl who has lived most of her life in sub-tropical climes, except for the coldest year I ever spent, living in South Dakota. That was the year I committed to memory The Cremation of Sam Magee by Robert Service. I'm not much of a winter chick. Does winter make me creative, imaginative, and poetical? Not so much.

In Texas, when winter pays a rare visit, I just want to curl up on the couch under an afghan, and read a good book. Fortunately, with the holidays upon us, I'm winding down my writing days so I can enjoy the blustery wind from the warmth of my living room.

Though I don't care for cold weather, I enjoy the rare winter day when the wind blows, the temp hovers around 45, and we're snug and warm inside. My husband watches the game of his choice on TV. I snuggle under the afghan on the couch with my book of choice. Something fragrant simmers on the stove. Today, it's a big pot of homemade chili releasing the aroma of onions, garlic, cumin, and peppers.

Takeaway Truth

Happiness is found in small moments so it's entirely possible to be happy each day.

Take Control of Your Muse

A lot of people who want to be writers only write when they're inspired. Professional writers know you have to be able to write when the muse is with you as well as when the muse is AWOL. If you're a pro writer, chances are you are under some contract or other. You can't wait for inspiration to strike, or you'll never be able to consistently meet deadlines especially when you have more than one contracted deadline.

Feast or Famine

It's always feast or famine in the writing business. If you're a freelancer, you're juggling proposals to clients, contracts that need to be negotiated, writing that needs to be done, possibly revisions to submitted work, and so much more including research, clerical and accounting, and required communications with clients.

If you're a book writer, then you have pretty much deal with very similar tasks. You're putting together a book proposal for the next work, writing the work with the closest deadline, making notes or researching the next work after that, communicating with agent and editor, promoting the current book that's out, promoting your name with lots of various activities including an internet presence to name a few. Then the copy edited manuscript of the book you turned in most recently may arrive with only a week's turn around time for you to attend to it. Oops, the page proofs or galleys of the next book to be published may land on your doorstep at the same time.

What's A Writer To Do

Oh, and did I forget to mention, you're also trying to have a life as a spouse, parent, sibling, best friend, etc? And what if you have a day job away from home? And what happens during the holidays when you still have deadlines to meet and a home and yard to decorate?

The stress of all of the above isn't conducive to the imagination, is it? That's usually when a lot of writers discover their muses have abandoned them. Heck, even the Vegas CSI team couldn't find trace evidence of a muse under those conditions.

How do you keep writing when inspiration is lacking? Pros do it all the time. You can train yourself to do it too. Here are a couple of ways to get started.

Tap Into Imagination

Keep a notebook and write down ideas, flights of fancy, dreams, snippets of dialog - all these are your imagination at work. You write it down because you want to encourage your imagination to work.

Don't even call it a journal because a lot of people think if you start a journal, you're making a commitment. Keep it light and fun. Call it a notebook - there's less pressure that way. For some reason, old school paper and pen seems to stimulate the ideas. Maybe it's because your brain works faster than your hand moves across the page so the brain knows it's got to produce something when you pick up the pen and open the book.

Once you start jotting down these odd pieces of observation or flights of fancy, you'll be surprised how fast they'll come - sometimes in the middle of the night so keep a pen and your book on the bed table. Once the floodgates open, you'll be amazed at the flow of thoughts and ideas and memories too.

Schedule Time

Set up a schedule of writing time so that when you sit in front of the keyboard to write a page or a scene or a chapter, your brain knows that's what expected. That flow of ideas you triggered with your notebook will now be triggered by your scheduled writing time if you expect it to happen.

Just start typing whether or not you know what happens next. Just start typing whether you want to be sitting in front of the computer or in front of the TV watching Leverage. If you don't know anything else to type, just type I don't know what to type I don't know what to type I don't know what to type....

Trust me, if you make a bargain with yourself that you will work one hour each night and you'll type the above nonsense over and over for one solid hour before letting yourself off the hook, then your brain, out of sheer boredom, will provide you with something to type. Then you'll find yourself not just typing, but writing. That's the secret that pros know.

Keep Words Flowing

If you want hot water, you have to turn on the faucet and let the water run before it runs hot.

With writing, you have to get the words flowing before any useful ideas are created. Writing in a notebook gets the ideas flowing. Writing for an allotted period of time gets the words flowing. Repeating the process every day, keeps the ideas and thus the words flowing. That's why you seldom see writers who take a break longer than a few days.

Takeaway Truth

The words come easy when they're always flowing. The more you write; the better the words flow. The better the words flow; the more your muse is at your mercy rather than the other way around.

12 Steps to Success in 2009

Since 2009 is less than two weeks away, let's start thinking now about goals and achievement. Success isn't just a random throw of the dice. There are specific things you can do to ensure success.

This post isn't about what you want to achieve. This is about how to achieve. The advice that follows applies whether you want a career as a writer or a career as a sculptor or a career as a home-office based CPA.

Here are 12 steps to success, regardless of what you want to achieve. Think about these steps. Think about them so deeply that they seep into your consciousness. Think and assimilate.

1. Dream

You have to dream. If you're afraid of dreaming about what you want because you're afraid you won't get it, then you're already lost. Dream about what you want to gain. Make it a dream so rich in sensory detail that it's very nearly a virtual reality experience.

2. Set goals

You must lay it on the line. Write down what you want to achieve. Then write down what you're going to have to pay to achieve it. We all pay, one way or the other. Maybe the price is working toward the goal when the rest of the family is watching Burn Notice. Maybe the price is getting up an hour early or staying up when everyone else has gone to bed. Then ask yourself: "Are you really willing to pay the price?"

3. Develop work discipline

Everything worthwhile can only be achieved through focused, consistent work. Establish how often you will work. Make a schedule and keep to it as if you were being paid a salary.

4. Image and behave as if you have already achieved that goal

Keep regular hours devoted to your goal. Develop professionalism in whatever endeavor to which you aspire. Let others see you are dedicated to the goal. Believe it.

5. Learn your craft

Whatever it may be, know everything about it. Strive always to improve.

6. Practice your craft

Practice makes perfect. Start a project and complete it. Then do it again.

7. Expose yourself to the best

Every field has bright shining stars. Expose yourself to the best examples of your chosen career. Meet those who are successful in that career. Ask for insight and guidance. Learn from them. Find someone who is doing what you want and model your behavior and habits after them.

8. Market your work

You eventually have to put your work and yourself in the marketplace. No one will ever discover you and what you can do unless you let them see you and your work.

9. Organize your work, your office, your time

Dedicate a space to your work. Set it up. Keep it workable, not a cluttered mess. Enjoy going to that space because it means it's time for you to work on your goal.

10. Manage your time

If you dedicate an hour to working on your goal, don't spend that hour emailing, talking on the phone, or playing Free Cell. Use the time to achieve your goal - no matter how small or how large the block of time. Know how long it takes you to accomplish a certain task. Record your time on a calendar or journal.

11. Network

Join in forums and subscribe to lists where others seeking the same goal congregate. Meet them. Share the joys and sorrows. Learn from them. Give so they can learn from you.

12. Celebrate

Always celebrate your triumphs no matter how small. Don't wait for those big scores to pop the bubbly. Big scores don't come along too often. Celebrating the small victories helps you mark progress and keeps you from burning out.

Takeaway Truth

You can have anything you want, but you can't have everything. So figure out specifically what you want, and go for it!

Website: December Update Highlights

Oops! I nearly forgot to tell you the highlights of the December update to my website. Since there are some great things on the website this month, I guess better late than never applies.

The theme for December is Giving. The Written Wisdom quotations about Giving are from: Barbara Bush, Buddha, Lydia M. Child, Dale Evans, Audrey Hepburn, Francois de La Rochefoucauld, and Eleanor Roosevelt.

In Reading, there's a great interview with popular erotica author, P. J. Mellor.

In Writing, there's Sticky Is Good, an article that will help writers with their web presence.

Wordplay, my website subscription newsletter, has a feature from me So This Is Christmas.

Work In Progress has 12 of 12, the latest in my updates and/or inspiration for me and you too maybe.

Previously Published has Think Outside the Box on finding markets for your previously published work.

Takeaway Truth

I try to offer new content that's entertaining and educational on my website with each first of the month update.

Holiday Ideas: Hasta La Vista, Baby

All good things must come to an end - sometimes prematurely. I had planned to continue to Christmas Eve, but that's just not going to work.

Due to contracted work that must be completed within the next few days, holiday celebrations, and family obligations (gee, Mom, why are you still working), I won't be scouring the web in search of perfect gift suggestions again this year. Hope you enjoyed the ideas and found some things that work for you and your writing friends.

As fun as cruising the web is, I must face the fact that I just don't have the time to devote to it this next week. Especially since I've got to make a quick out of town trip. So you guys and gals, or y'all as we say here in Texas, will just have to do your own cruising/shopping. If you find something really cool, be sure and let me know.

Takeaway Truth

It's better to give than to receive so go for it!

After Santa Comes Uncle Sam

By the time I pack up the Christmas ornaments, I'm also packing up the business papers for the year. I'm one of those people who keeps every receipt and journalizes every penny of income and expense for my writing business. By mid-January, I have a tax return draft completed, awaiting only the proper forms to arrive in the mail so I can file my tax return.


I realized a long time ago that not everyone is as efficient as I when it comes to taking care of their tax business. My dear mother-in-law, bless her kind heart, rarely had her paperwork ready to file in April so she always needed an extension. There are a lot of procrastinators out there, and you know who you are.

The trouble with procrastination is that eventually you end up between a rock named IRS and a hard place called panic. If you are one of many who have problems in this area, including delinquent tax returns, then I'm going to direct you to a website that just might provide some panic relief.

Online Help

Panic relief is good, but Tax Relief Specialists.com can also help you with some Tax Relief, germane to your specific situation.

As I always say, check out a website's credibility. You'll notice that Tax Relief Specialists has been featured on ABC, Fox, and MSN. Read their testimonials, and you'll see the full names of people who have used them with excellent results. They sport the D&B and BBB badges.

You'll also notice their mission statement that they can help you with any state or IRS tax issue. Further, they vow: "No problem is too big for us to handle."

Myriad Services

These specialists offer services ranging from payroll issues to helping set up an income tax payment plan. Whatever your problem, chances are good that they can help you. In fact, the site has an 800 number where you can talk to a live human immediately.

Takeaway Truth

Sometimes you just need some pro help to get you back on the right track.

Holiday #18-20: Relax

The holidays are usually the busiest time of the year for families. For those who work at home, like me and other writers, they make busy look like a slow day watching the grass grow.

I was so over-scheduled this past weekend that I completely forgot to post a Written Wisdom for Sunday. To miss my Sunday post doesn't happen very often. I didn't even realize I'd missed it until Monday morning. That's when I decided it was time to take a step back and relax.

Giving a gift or relaxation is great for just about everyone, but especially for the self-employed who usually work from a home office. That always sounds great to those who work outside the home, but the reality is that you are never away from the office.

So here are some gifts you can give, maybe even to yourself.

Holiday Gift Tip #18: Massage Envy has locations all over the U. S. I believe. Giving a gift certificate is easy via the Internet or find your local Massage Envy and call or walk in.

#19: Tune Your Brain for Stress Relief uses Bach to help you relax and de-stress. Highly recommended to load on your computer and play when you're frazzled but still need to keep working. Great background music for email, paying bills, and those never-ending clerical duties.

#20: Keep a journal. It can be inexpensive like the one shown here from my cyber shop The WRITE Way or it can be a leather-bound uber-expensive work of art.

Therapists say a journal is one of the most useful tools for dealing with stress. If you vent your frustration, depression, wrath, and mean reds on the pages of a journal, it won't give you hurt looks and damage your relationships with those close to you. Get a journal and let 'er rip. (Another plus is that, as a writer, you may find keeping a journal increases your creativity.)

Takeaway Truth

You must take care of yourself or you won't be there to take care of those you love.

24-Hr Short Story Contest

Angela Hoy andWriter's Weekly, billed as the highest-circulation freelance writing ezine in the world is hosting their 24-Hour Short Story Contest. I like this contest because they try to keep it honest by requiring writers to enter first. Then they announce the topic, and entrants have 24 hours to write a short story.

24-Hour Short Story Contest

Entry fee: $5.00

Start time: January 24th, 2009 at 12:00 p.m. (noon) central time.

Limit: 500 entrants

Prizes: 1st is $300.00, more than 85 prizes in all.

Guidelines: When you register, you get to download a PDF containing them.

Takeaway Truth

Sometimes it's good to test your abilities.

Holiday #17: Wife Needs This Shirt

Okay, time for the women to step up to the plate and support their husbands who are writers. Fortunately, that's easy to do with this Supportive Wife Tee Shirt.

So, women order one today to show you love your writing husband. Men, don't wait for the wife to find The WRITE Way, drag her to the computer and show her what you want. Better yet, order it and put it under the Christmas tree for her.

Takeaway Truth

Support between husbands and wives is a two-way street.

Susan Crealock & Online-Novels.blogspot

A few weeks ago I received an email from Susan Crealock. Susan requested permission to place a link to Moonlight On Snow, my romantic comedy published in 2008 by Romantic4ever.com on her blog Online-Novels.

(Note: I was notified today, 11/24/2013, by a reader that this blog is no longer available.)

Susan maintains Online-Novels which currently has more than 400 works of fiction listed with accompanying links. These works of fiction are all free online reads so I know you'll want to bookmark the site.

Of course, I knew the amount of work that must go into a project like this. After my publisher and I gave permission to be linked, I asked Susan to visit with us here at Sling Words and tell us more about her ongoing project. Not only did she agree, she also sent a stunning photograph of the village where she and her husband live. Bettona in the Fog was taken a few days ago by Susan's husband, Alejandro Toyofuku, Copyright 2008, all rights reserved.

On with the interview.

How did you get the idea of starting your Online-Novels blog?

Most of the sites listing novels to read on the internet exist to promote books written by their webmasters, and Online Novels is no exception. Last April I uploaded a story I'd written onto a private blog as a sort of ultimate backup in case the house burned down or my computer died. Several months later, wondering if anyone would actually read it, I made the blog public and sat back waiting for readers. And waited. Naturally no one Googles the name of a book he's never heard of, so my story was destined for oblivion without some kind of plan. A bit of research on the internet turned up a number of directories for online novels. I submitted mine to several of them, got accepted, and readers started trickling in. However grateful I was at being listed, I realized I was pretty much at the mercy of others. If they decided to remove my story or take down their site, I was back to square one. This gave me the idea of starting my own online novel website.

When did you "open for business?"

Online Novels went public at the end of August; I took it down for a few weeks in October, so it's been up just under three months.

How many visitors does your site get?

Currently the blog receives about 4,600 hits a month. That's small compared with the older, well-established online novel sites, but the total is growing. I spend three to four hours every day on maintenance - writing authors to solicit listings, answering email regarding the site, updating the database, checking for broken links, etc. - and the effort seems to be paying off.

What kind of book do you enjoy most?

Mostly I read books on history, political science and current affairs, not too many novels.

Who is your favorite author?


Is there anything special you'd like visitors to know about Online Novels?

Online Novels contains tracking code to show me where readers are coming from, what they're looking for, where they go in the site and what books they click on. What never fails to astonish me is the global reach of the internet. As I write this paragraph, there are people from the United States, Australia, Pakistan, Germany, France and Romania reading my blog. Since August, the site has received hits from 95 countries! To further emphasize the international character, I'm based in Italy.

Please tell us something about yourself and how you plan to celebrate Christmas and New Year's.

I retired at the end of 1999 after 30 years in data processing. In 2003, my husband and I came to Italy, initially to study Italian. After we found la dolce vita suited us, we decided to stay and bought a house in a small town in the region of Umbria, less than 100 miles north of Rome.

At Christmas, for the first time, our town is staging a presepe vivente, or living nativity scene. This is usually a recreation of the manger, featuring live people in the roles of Mary, Joseph and the magi, but ours will be a series of scenes - the shepherds in the hills (with live sheep, no less), the Annunciation, the manger, Herod's palace and so on - accompanied by a narration of the nativity story.

The production calls for 125 costumes and the whole town will be turned into Bethlehem. Every able-bodied seamstress, including me, has been drafted into sewing the outfits. I finally convinced my husband, who is the event's photographer, that walking around town in khaki pants and a down jacket will detract from the mood of the spectacle, so he has reluctantly agreed to dress as one of the three kings - but he balks at wearing a crown. After the final presentation, January 6, we plan to take a vacation in the U.S. to visit our children and grandchildren.

Buon Natale e Felice Anno Nuovo a tutti!

In return, I wish you and your husband a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year also.

Takeaway Truth

One of the best aspects of the Internet is that it brings together those with common interests.

Holiday #15 & 16: It's All About Wine

Both these wine accessories come from my favorite KK shop.

You'll love, love, love this Bottle Opener. It'll make you look like an experienced sommellier as you open a bottle of wine.

All it takes is 3 steps:

1. Cut the foil with the built-in foil cutter
2. Slide the needle to pierce the cork.
3. Press the top button to pressurize the bottle with inert gas.

The cork is forced out by the compressed gas. It goes "pop" just like in the restaurant. Opener comes with a cartridge good for 60-100 uncorkings. That should keep you for a few weeks.

Price: $27.95

Next up is the perfect way to rack a bottle of wine in the fridge. Instead of struggling with raising and lowering shelves to accommodate the height of a bottle, just use this Fridge Wine Rack that easily clips to the wire shelves.

You get clips for 2 bottles.

Price: $12.95

Takeaway Truth

There's a perfect tool for every task - wine is no exception.

Holiday #14: Your Husband Needs This Mug

My husband will do just about anything I ask because he loves me. When he thinks it will help me sell books, he does it because of the previous reason and because he knows the importance of promotion.

This mug was designed for women like me to give to the wonderful, supportive men we married. An open book graphic is the background for the bold words that proclaim: Ask me about my wife's book.

Great design on a cup that will be used every day at the office. And a great stocking stuffer.

Takeaway Truth

The best promotion is that which will actually be used daily because it will be remembered.

Shutter Savvy

I own rental property. One house in particular has those rolling steel shutters over the back windows. In Texas, where we have some humdinger storms, shutters are wonderful. These are - when they work. I've spent a few hundred bucks having those darn things serviced. That's an expense I don't want next year so I'm looking at low-tech alternatives.

I'd like something that you could close in order to protect the windows during storms, and I'd like it to be maintenance free. You're probably thinking, no way, right? Wrong! I found vinyl shutters at LarsonShutter.com that fit the bill.

The ones I'm looking at aren't your ordinary decorative exterior shutters. You can get a kit that makes them operational. LarsonShutter has one of the best selections I've seen of decorative shutters. But the fact that I can make them functional is exactly what I was looking for. With free shipping on orders placed this year, I think I can solve my shutter problem.

Takeaway Truth

Low-tech and good-looking beats high-tech and ugly in my book.

Holiday #13: Alpha Smart

I've owned an AlphaSmart 3000 for years.

I've lugged it all over the country, piled books and papers on it, and generally abused it. It still works beautifully and, amazingly, on double AA batteries. I've never had it die on me or crash. It's so lightweight I can drop it into my purse and always have it ready for long hours spent in various waiting rooms or smaller segments of time when I'm waiting for my daughter to pick the shoes she wants. I don't kill time because, for me, time is money.

My Alpha powers down automatically if I forget to turn it off. A USB cable dumps what I wrote into my computer. In general, it's one of the best things I've ever bought so I highly recommend them as a perfect holiday gift for yourself or a loved one who writes.

Today, there's the NEO and the Dana which you'll find on the website. The prices are a bit higher than what I paid for my 3000 but still less than the cost of a standard laptop. Of course, they have more bells and whistles than my 3000.

If you're looking for a bargain, try eBay where you can find some older AlphaSmarts like mine as low as 66.00 and lower prices on the newer products too.

Takeaway Truth

How can you kill time without wounding infinity? (I didn't originate that. Do you know who did?)

Single Sentence Novel

This was in my Publishers Lunch report last week. Read this then tell me if your reaction was also, well, WTF.

Mathias Enard's ZONE, A 500-page, single-sentence French novel, with Charlotte Mandell translating, to Open Letter, for publication in summer 2010, by Actes Sud.

I wonder if it's grammatically correct? I'll never know because I won't buy it. Why? I don't think a single-sentence French novel can be the kind of book I'd find a page turner. I'd probably fall asleep counting the commas.

Takeaway Truth

Like Sly and the Family Stone sang: "Different strokes for different folks."

Matchmaking for Entrepreneurs

I'm getting tired of hearing about our declining economy. Here in Texas, where most major cities have economies tied to oil and gas and the products made from them, the news hasn't been good. I just hate to hear about layoffs that always seem to come at Christmas.

Better Way

A lot of people think there has to be a better way to make a living than being tied to the fortunes of a corporation. Many dream of being their own boss. As a writer, I've been my own boss for more than 20 years. I'm so irascible I probably couldn't be anyone's employee. I don't know that I'd recommend anyone looking for self-employment to try writing, but there are other opportunities that might work for someone who dreams of being his or her own boss.

My Franchise Path

Starting a franchise business is one way. According to a business article I read, franchise fees are dropping along with the rest of the economy. If you ever thought of doing this, I found a website that matches people to their best franchise opportunity. They're kind of matchmakers for entrepreneurs.

At this site, you can search by industry or by investment amount. Each listing gives you the cash requirements and investment range so you know in advance if it fits your budget.

Due Diligence

In addition to offering free consultation, the site has articles you can read to educate yourself about what you're getting into. You must, of course, do your own due diligence to make sure you know what you're doing, including any risks involved.

I didn't know it, but a dry cleaning franchise is apparently the easiest way to own your own business because it has a very low start-up cost. That probably explains why every corner seems to have a dry cleaners in my neighborhood, and they all seem to be successful.

The site is a franchise broker with experienced people you can use to find the best opportunity, based on your individual profile, for you. And, like I said, it's free consultation.

Takeaway Truth

I love being self-employed, but it isn't for everyone. However, if it's something you dream about, research the business that interests you.

Remembrance Is Good

Quote of the Week

Mary Astor in A Life on Film, 1967, said: "A person without a memory is either a child or an amnesiac. A country without a memory is neither a child nor an amnesiac, but neither is it a country."

December 7, 1941, a date which will live in infamy, according to then-president Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Hardly anyone under the age of 50 knows the date, and many don't know why it should be infamous. Is our educational system in this country at fault? Or does the climate of political correctness demand that we not call attention to our past history because it might embarrass our present allies?

Who Are We - What Are We

If we have become a nation that does not, or can not remember, what then does that make us? Are we a country? Or are we just millions of people with rapidly eroding common bonds?

Don't get me wrong. My point is not about spurning the Japanese. I lived in Japan for many years, and I am completely sympatico with them. They were my neighbors, and they're my friends. They're fine people. My point is all about accepting history as truth. Our nation doesn't need to slide down that slippery slope of whitewashing the past or worse, reinventing it.

This Above All Things

Great nations deal honestly with the past - warts and all. Trying to pretend something didn't happen is a good for little more than creating distrust. Just ask the Native Americans or the African Americans or the Japanese who were interred at Manzanar.

A famous American poet and philosopher, George Santayana, said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." I don't want to repeat it. Not Pearl Harbor. Not 9/11. Not any of the awful tragedies.

Where Are We Headed

I fear that in twenty or thirty years kids won't know why September 11 is significant. History is important. Kids need to learn it - so do their parents probably. Curriculums need to be enhanced, and scholastic requirements toughened.

Maybe we should put it all in a video game.

Takeaway Truth

In remembrance of Pearl Harbor.

Holiday Gift#12: Give an Adventure

Have I got a gift for you!

Remember adventures? Sure, it's probably been a long time since you climbed out of the rut and took time away from the rat race, but I bet you haven't forgotten the thrill of exploring different places, gazing out on a landscape that looks like a picture postcard, and smelling air untainted by car exhaust and urban life.

Great Gift

Adventures. Yes, those magical times that quicken your step and make you feel as if you've got the vitality and motivation to tackle anything. There's no better gift to give someone this holiday season than the gift of adventure.

Now, you don't need to buy a gift certificate for a Sherpa's services on the next K2 assault. Besides, I don't know where you'd go to purchase something like that. I mean, Sierra Adventure Gear, my holiday gift suggestion for this evening, has just about everything you'd need to undertake any adventure, but even they don't have that kind of gift card.

Easy to Shop

Anything else? Sierra Adventure Gear has got you covered from backpacks to camping gear to watches and everything in between. GPS? Of course. Headlamps, knives, tools, tents, and so much more.

The neat thing about the site is that you can search by department i.e. Bags and Backpacks or by brand for instance Luminox if you're looking for a Navy Seal Dive Watch.

You can find a gift in your price range plus if you order $75.00 or more, you get free shipping. Maybe you can give that tent that will help you take the long-talked-about camping trip? Or new sleeping bags for you and your happy camper.

Takeaway Truth

Break your routine. Try something different. Get in touch with mother earth and her beauty. That's what an adventure is all about.

Holiday #11: Kept Man Hat

Okay, girls. If you write and are blessed with a husband who supports you, then get this cap for him. He'll love it, and all his buddies will die laughing.

Actually, this design was inspired by my husband who always says his fondest wish in life is that I become a rich author so he can be a kept man. Needless to say, he's still waiting.

This Kept Man Hat sold only at The WRITE Way will definitely be a conversation starter.

Takeaway Truth

Promotion using humor is always a winner.

Tag Kirium? Just Call Me Sherlock

I was talking to my husband the other day. He was seated at his desk in his home office, and I was standing, glancing at the paper blizzard that covers his desk when I saw a note he'd scribbled. I'm pretty good at reading upside down so I was immediately curious when I read: tag kirium.

Secret Santa

Since this is the season to be jolly - and mysterious, I immediately assumed he'd taken notes on something he'd viewed on the Net. Sure, I could have asked him, but where's the fun in that? Besides, any wife worth her salt is capable of doing a little amateur sleuthing.

The word tag immediately made me think of one of his favorite watches, a Tag Heuer he's had for years. So with a hopeful smile on my face, I went to my computer to do some cyber investigating.

It didn't take me long to find the Tag Heuer watches at The Watchery.com. It took me even less time to find this gorgeous watch.


If you've never ordered an expensive item from the Internet, generally you check for credibility and security. This is just a habit with me on any site from which I order. The Watchery is a McAfee Secure site so you can feel safe about purchasing. Additionally, there's a good 6 inches of each web page devoted to displaying every kind of security badge you can imagine.

How They Do It

The site doesn't sell refurbished watches or manufacturer's rejects. All the watches are 100% genuine with serial numbers. Unless noted, they're brand new with original box and papers. Substantial discounts to the manufacturer's suggested retail price are possible because The Watchery isn't an authorized dealer of any one brand. They buy in large quantities, have a low markup and low overhead since they're an online seller.

Well, that's another mystery solved. Except, I still don't know what Kirium is. Guess I'll have to keep visiting that site.

(Honey, in case you're reading my blog today, the Tag Heuer Link watch with the white face would look great on my wrist. Hint. Hint.)

Takeaway Truth

A girl never outgrows her need for bling.

Holiday #9 & #10: Paper and Pen

Do you remember the tactile pleasure of writing with pen on paper?

Day in and day out, I compose at the keyboard. Electrical energy transforms my keystrokes into binary bits and words appear on the monitor screen. That's great for efficiency, but sometimes it's so refreshing to settle into a comfy chair, open a beautifully bound journal, take a beautiful pen in hand, and just write.

The physical act of writing is pleasurable. These time-honored implements of writing have a sensory experience all their own. The smooth whiteness of a quality paper. The easy flow of black ink as I move the pen across the paper, depositing dark, dramatic squiggles that turn into words on the pristine surface of the paper.

I love beautiful writing implements and good quality paper. I have more than a dozen pens that are weighted, balanced just right to make the act of writing comfortable.

The writing pens shown here are from Levenger though good pens are sold many places i.e. Target, Office Depot, etc. and at prices from low to high.

You can also find excellent paper at any of the stores mentioned or shop Levenger for paper too.

Takeaway Truth

Take a break from the keyboard and enjoy the physical act of writing.

Legitimate Poetry Contest

This is a Blue Mountain Arts Contest for all you poetry fanciers. Blue Mountain Arts publishes greeting cards and books. An essay I wrote for them on Southern life will be in one of their upcoming anthologies.

SPS Studios announces its Thirteenth Biannual Poetry Card Contest

Deadline: December 31, 2008.

Prizes: 1st - $300 * 2nd - $150 * 3rd - $50.

In addition, the winning poems will be displayed on their website. The gist of the guidelines are below. Visit the website for the entry form and other details.


Poems can be rhyming or non-rhyming, although we find that non-rhyming poetry reads better.

Suggest you write about real emotions and feelings and that you have some special person or occasion in mind as you write.

Poems judged on the basis of originality and uniqueness.

English-language entries only, please.

Enter as often as you like!

Rules: Visit website.

How to Submit

Complete form found on website or send submission via snail mail:

SPS Studios Poetry Card Contest,
P.O. Box 1007, Dept. E,
Boulder, CO 80306.

Takeaway Truth

Contests that don't require entry fees are a really good thing.

Holiday #8 Stocking Stuffer for Writers

My motto Write Hard; Live Free can be found on buttons, magnets, and more at The WRITE Way, my online shop filled with gifts and promotional items designed by a writer - that's me - for writers - that's you.

Pictured here is the 2.25" button. Get one to give and one for yourself. Oh, they're also sold in multiples for organizational purchases.

Takeaway Truth

Sometimes it helps to have a visual reminder of what you're trying to achieve.

Design Your Reward System

Do you set goals? If so, do you give it everything you've got, do whatever it takes to achieve your goal? Yes? Then good for you. So what do you do to reward yourself when you've achieved that milestone?

Uh oh. Too many just shrug and look blank. I was like that once. I thought just achieving the goal was reward enough. Well, it is, and it isn't. Even worse, it can be a blueprint for burnout.

Self-Employment Requires Self-Motivation

In any self-employment endeavor, from writing to art to a home bookkeeping service, the work is often solitary, arduous, and, on many days, unrewarding in itself. The payoff for all you do may be on down the line. This is true for any entrepreneur, but for those in the arts, the reward may be so far out into the future that you can't see a glimmer of it. Sometimes, you may work faithfully on a project that never pays off.

It's only human nature, after a lot of this goal seeking and goal achieving with no reward, to become less gung ho the next time around. Too many of those times, and you suffer apathy which is just a symptom of burnout.

For Writers

Goal setting usually means: get the damn book written. Okay, you get it from your brain to paper. Now what? You try to sell it. You get turned down flatly by everyone. Next step? Write another book. Full speed ahead. It's finished. It fails to find a buyer. No reward again. Okay, now what?

You find yourself hesitant to try again, reluctant to start the process all over. Yet you do. Only this time, you're not so pumped. You aren't dedicated to the goal. The evil voice of rationalization jumps in. Why bother? It won't sell either. Just go watch Bones on TV.

This is where I'd yell like a Hollywood director. "You've got the scene wrong. Cut." Some flunky would come out and slap a black and white clapboard together.

What's Wrong

You're working hard to achieve a goal without allowing yourself a reward. Now, don't tell me the reward will be getting it published because that's something you have NO control over. Remember this: goal setting and goal achievement only works if it's something you control. You control the writing. You control the submission process. You will never control the acquisition process, and all the positive thinking and positive imaging in the world won't change that.

Lots of good books don't get published. Lots of questionable books do. In other words, that's all a crap shoot that you can't predict. So if you're writing manuscripts and waiting for publication as the reward, you're doomed to lose your fire. Worse, your motivation to write will erode like a sand dune in a hurricane.

YOU set the goal. YOU achieve the goal. YOU reward yourself. And a corollary to that is: reward yourself every step of the way from little achievements to large.

Goal: write 4 pages a day. Result: you did it for 1 week. Great. Reward: what reward did you set? The purchase of that book you've been wanting to read? A banana split from Sonic?

Goal: finish a chapter in a specified amount of time. Result: you did it. Reward: anything you previously decided was appropriate.

Goal: finish the book. Result: yes! Reward: dinner and dancing or a weekend at a B&B or anything that makes you feel rewarded for all your hard work.

So that's the deal. If you're a writer - or any other kind of entrepreneur who must be your own motivator - design a system of rewards for every step of your journey. I won't have to tell you how to celebrate and reward yourself if the outside world smiles on you, i.e. a publishing contract with a big, fat advance. We all have our own ways to howl at the moon.

Takeaway Truth

Whether it's a smiley-face sticker or a sports car, make sure you celebrate the milestones from the seemingly insignificant to the magnificent.

Holiday #7: Ornament for Writers

I'm particularly proud of this ceramic Christmas Ornament for Writers. Why? Because I designed it, and the sentiment is what I believe about the importance of words which are all too often taken for granted.

This design also can be found on long-sleeved tee shirts and sweatshirts at my cyber shop The WRITE Way. If you haven't visited The WRITE Way before, I hope you'll click over there now.

All the products feature my own designs. It's the place to buy gifts for writers (and promotional items if you are a writer). Like I always say: Gifts and Promotions for Writers designed by a Writer.

Of course, I am my shop's best customer. I have this ornament on my tree, and I give it to friends who are writers also. And, yes, in case you want to know, I have my coffee mugs in my kitchen; I wear my tee shirt designs; I carry my tote bag designs too.

Takeaway Truth

I'm proud of being a writer. I hope you are too - whether you made a dollar or a gazillion dollars this year.

Holiday #6: Chill The Wine

Chill the wine and pour me a glass.

I like my wine. I usually prefer a nice pinot noir, but lately I've been enjoying Haak Vineyards Blanc du Bois which we brought home from our vacation. The trouble with white wine is that you have to plan ahead and chill the bottle. I'm more of an impulsive "I want it now" kind of girl so I found the perfect gift for me. Maybe it'll be perfect for you or someone you know.

It's the 10-Minute Wine Chiller I saw on KK's site. You just secure the frozen wine chiller around the bottle. In 10 minutes, your wine is ready to go.

Price: $13.95

Takeaway Truth

Wine should be chilled to about 60 degrees F. to thrill your taste buds.

Allen: This Hog's For You

I have a great brother-in-law named Allen. He reads my blog though he's not really interested in most of the topics I talk about. However, that will change with this blog because I'm writing it just for him.

You see the delight of Allen's life - other than his wife and family - is his 100th Anniversary Edition Harley Davidson Screaming Eagle Deuce Softail. I have to admit that it is a gorgeous bike. Gold and black and shiny. I guess you'd call it a macho guy's bling.

Guess what, Allen! I've got a tip for you. Next time you want to get some custom parts for your baby, visit Cruiser Customizing.com for all parts motorcycle.

P. S. Tell Bertha I said hi! (That's his wife who rides on the back of his hog.)

Takeaway Truth

Even chicks dig bikes.

Departing Visitors

Quote for the Week

Judith Martin, perhaps better known as Miss Manners, in her Guide for the Turn-of-the-Mllennium, said: It is a widespread and firm belief among guests that their departure is always a matter of distress to their hosts, and that in order to indicate they have been pleasantly entertained, they must demonstrate an extreme unwillingness to allow the entertainment to conclude. This is NOT necessarily true.

I'm Going to Get in Trouble for This One

Let me make some disclaimers. I completely adore the people who visited over the last two weeks. I hope they come again. Often. And stay as long as they want.

Now, having said that, and, just now sitting with my feet propped up after the last guests left late today, I must also say that having house guests is like boat ownership.

Happiest Days in Boat Owner's Life

Every person I've ever known who bought a boat and, subsequently, sold said boat have made this statement: The two happiest days in a boat owner's life are the day you buy the boat and the day you sell the boat.

So to apply this to house guests.... Well, I guess you get the picture. You're delighted beyond belief when your visitor arrives. Then, after several days of cooking three meals a day, shopping, watching movies, providing entertainment, staying up late, and generally playing the role of host, you're delighted they depart.

Seriously, I wouldn't take anything for the time I get to spend with loved ones. However, I'd give a lot to have extra energy. A LOT of extra energy.

Takeaway Truth

Why can't happy days give you tons of energy and subtract years from your age and depressing, mundane days be the ones that tire you completely?

AAFR Guest Blogger

In case you'd like to know more about funding your retirement, especially if you're a card-carrying baby boomer, check out American Association of Future Retirees.

Actually, we're all future retirees, right? You owe it to yourself to learn more about providing for the biggest expense of your life - retirement. The older you are; the more interested in this topic you should be.

We've tried to impress the importance of saving, saving, saving to all our children. I guess we've been successful in our attempts. In fact, one of our sons is a certified financial planner who is part of a notable investment management firm. I keep intending to list some of the radio broadcasts on investing and retirement which he's done. But, so much to do and so little time, yada yada yada.

In any event, I wanted to let you all know that I'll be guest blogging on the AAFR Blog from time to time.

When I do, I'll give you a heads up because everyone should be interested in this subject matter.

My first blog for AAFR is a review of the Ben Stein and Phil DeMuth bookYes, You Can Still Retire Comfortably. This should be required reading for every American who works.

Takeaway Truth

Most people have plans or dreams of embarking on a second career (one more fun than the first) after retirement from the first. It's great to have a dream, but you must also have a plan on how to turn the dream into reality.