Success Or Bust

Quote for the Week

Somerset Maugham said: The common idea that success spoils people by making them vain, egotistic, and self-complacent is erroneous. On the contrary, it makes them, for the most part, humble, tolerant and kind. Failure makes people bitter and cruel.

Have you or do you suffer from fear of success? You think if you get successful then you'll be set apart from your family and friends? You'll have other problems to contend with and don't know how you'll handle them? Do you fear losing the comfortable rut you're in because you're unsure how success will change others' perceptions of you?

Do you let these nebulous, subconscious thoughts affect your forward progress? Now, how silly is that? Fearing something that could give you what you want - success.

Takeaway Truth

Writer, know thyself. Sort through your feelings now. Get your thinking straight or you'll engage in self-sabotage throughout your career.

Great Line From Mystery

The Mystery Lover's Book Of Quotations by Jane Horning has some great lines. I've been reading through it looking for something particular that I'd read in the past. And here it is, I should have known it had been written by Rex Stout for Archie Goodwin to speak.

No man was ever taken to hell by a woman unless he already had a ticket in his pocket, or at least had been fooling around with timetables.

Gosh, I adored Nero Wolfe books. Haven't read one in years. I think I'll have to pull one off the shelf and see if I still find them as pleasurable as I did when I was a kid.

Takeaway Truth

Good books are like old friends. To read them again is to visit with people you find amusing, entertaining, and intelligent.

The Silent Land

Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land.

"Remember," Goblin Market, 1862, by Christina Rosetti

Frances Smith Reeves, gone into the silent land five years ago. Never forgotten. Remembered always.

Superior Content Creates Faithful Audience

Website Design Basics: Part 4 of 5

What makes you return to a website or blog?

That’s a question you should keep foremost in your mind. Chances are the thing that brings you back to a site, any site, is the same that makes me or anyone else visit that site. Content.

The content of the site pulls visitors because (1) they’re looking for exactly that kind of information or (2) they’re looking for entertainment of the sort your brand offers or (3) a combination of both.

What I Offer

Here at Sling Words, I try to offer both with articles about the art, craft, and business of writing. I spend a lot of time and attention to detail in producing articles that will benefit those who are or want to be professional writers. I also pull in those who just want to write better for their personal blog or who want to understand complicated web dynamics. At least that’s what my emails tell me.

Target Audience

In creating well-written blog posts about issues targeted to what I see as my audience, I always try to make the writing in and of itself entertaining. There are probably a lot of ways one could present Website Design Basics for instance. I’ve tried to present the subject as if you and I are sitting together on my patio and kicking the subject around over a peach mojito. And without all the techno jargon.

Web Dynamics

When I get into web dynamics - these articles or the other recent series on Ping - I try to present the material in easily understood language because I’m not a computer programmer. I abhor tech manuals and have rarely learned anything from reading them since they’re all written as if everyone has a degree in computer programming. I learn by doing. Takes a long time, but the lesson stays with me. More importantly, I can tell others how to do it.

I’m not the sharpest crayon in the box by any means. It takes me a while to research these subjects, assimilate the knowledge, put it into practice, then figure out how I can impart that to someone else so they’ll not only understand but be able to use the information immediately.

Blog Voice

Occasionally, I’ll write something about what’s going on in my life or some social issue about which I feel strongly. Sometimes I’ll write a piece of paid copywriting under the Literary License label. I’m very selective in the clients I take on, and even if it's copywriting, I write in an entertaining and informative manner in my usual blog “voice.” However, the majority of everything on my website and blogs is created for what I perceive as my target audience’s interest.

I also illustrate everything I write with photographs or digital illustrations. These are all images I create or legally obtain the rights to use. Illustrations give visual interest and break up blocks of prose.

Content: Emperor Of Blog Universe

All of this - the articles (and how those blocks of prose are constructed) and the illustrations - is content created or my target audience.

Who is your target audience? What will your content be for that audience? How will you attract visitors? What is your editorial focus? How will you provide your audience with content that makes them not only return but also tell others about your website and/or blog? You need to spend a lot of time thinking about these questions and writing down your answers.

Visit next week for Part 5 of Website Design Basics. (I think I initially said this would be a 4 part series. However, there’s so much to tell that I can’t do it in 4 posts. We’ll see if 5 will shut me up. I did another series on the subject of content from the standpoint of just starting a blog if you like to check them out, read the blog from July 8 - 11.)

Give the matter of content a lot of thought because the quality of content will determine the success of your web presence.

Takeaway Truth

A pretty girl with a boring personality is like a beautifully-designed website with inane content. Neither get very many admirers.

Lazy Rehab Your Creativity

A short while back I wrote a post about refreshing your creativity. Here's a little more on the subject.

When The Going Gets Tough

The tough get going. Right? Well, maybe sometimes, when the going gets tough, just relax. Take a load off. Take a vacation or at least a few days off just to goof. First, set a time schedule for relaxing or you may end up relaxing the rest of the year away instead of a couple of days. After a few days of catching up your TV viewing or a day at the golf course or shopping or just reading some of the books from your towering to be read stack, you'll be surprised how much better you feel. You'll be ready to dive into the writing again with renewed energy.

Take A Dis Vacation

Take a vacation from disrespecting yourself or anyone else. All that negativity and whining takes an enormous amount of energy. Resolve that if you can't say anything good about someone that you'll just keep your mouth shut. That goes for your self-talk too. Some people trash talk themselves so much you'd think they were getting paid to do it. Start saying good things about yourself. You're not a loser because you didn't write last week or because an agent rejected your manuscript or because you didn't land a lucrative freelance contract. Get some perspective on this business and don't personalize rejections.

Figure Out Where You're Going

Do you have goals? If so, are they realistic? Most people set goals so high that they set themselves up for failure. Figure out exactly what you want. You. Not your critique partner or your best buddy. What would make you happy? Set your goals realistically - high enough that you have to work to achieve but low enough to be in the realm of real possibility. Instead of: I want to hit the NYT best seller list with my first book. Finish the manuscript might be a more realistic goal. Set up a viable action plan to achieve the goal.

Dance To The Music

Celebrate, celebrate, dance to the music. With everything you do, set up a system of milestones and rewards. When you achieve a stated milestone like completing the first draft of a manuscript, celebrate. When you sell a piece of copy writing, celebrate. If you get your first rejection, celebrate. I don't mean pop a hundred dollar bottle of bubbly each time, but do celebrate and bask in the glory of achievement. Have a little chocolate or whatever is your special treat. Let the reward fit the achievement.

Be Present

Live today. Don't get caught in the trap of regretting what you didn't get done yesterday or the publishing gravy train you missed last year because your paranormal wasn't ready. And don't think: when I get this book contract, I'll be happy. I hate to use Hollywood buzz words, but be present in your life. Live in the now. Be happy now.

Takeaway Truth

Enjoy the journey because time spent on the road is longer than time spent at the destination.

Lighting Up the Action

A lot of people, young and old, complain about modern life and how we're all slaves to the latest technological whatever. There may be a lot of things we could do without, but the Internet isn't one of them as far as I'm concerned.

I don't know what I'd do without the convenience of looking up something, anything, in an instant.

As an example, I was wondering why all cops don't have a light attached to their guns. You know when you see a movie and a cop is juggling a flashlight and a gun? I cruised over to the L. A. Police Gear website. I've been checking out various items on the site in connection with a book I'm researching. Right there, I found an easily attached light called the Surefire x300.

The little gadget only weighs 3.7 ounces with the batteries installed. They're a bit pricy so chances are police departments don't pass them out like donuts, but my cop in my book will definitely have a Surefirex300 to attach to his sidearm.

Takeaway Truth

The Internet makes research a breeze for writers. Surf the net and learn something new every day.

Gustav Go Away

Looks like Hurricane Gustav is going to come visiting Labor Day weekend. We'd planned a trip to the lake, but I guess I'll call in a minute and cancel those plans.

I hate these late season storms, but what I really hate is how everyone who isn't used to hurricanes goes nuts when a warning is announced.

I've lived with them most of my life. Here's my preparation:

1. Avoid all the stores and gas stations if possible. If I have to fill up, do it late at night then don't go anywhere so I won't use up the gas.

2. Know all evacuation routes so I can be sure and not go near any of them.

3. Clean up all the loose stuff in the yard because I never do it until a storm threatens so it needs it.

4. If I don't already have plywood for boarding up, then just forget it and take comfort in the fact that all our multiple insurances are paid up.

5. Make sure I've got plenty of Snickers and Cracker Jacks because comfort food will make us all feel better if the worst happens.

On a more serious note, I've weathered many a storm and know exactly what to do. I always have storm supplies ready to go, and we have a 20 gallon gerry can for each family member for water not to mention that we fill 3 tubs of water for sanitary use.

If you don't know what to do, put hurricane preparation in the big G and learn.

Takeaway Truth

Be prepared, and make sure your flood and homeowners insurance is paid up. And you know where the policies are.

I've Become a Gearhead Girl

When my darling husband and I got our conspicuously large flat panel TV, we signed up for Dish HD and got more channels than we'd ever thought to surf. To my amazement, and my husband's delight, I got hooked on the Mecum Auto Auctions televised on HDTheater every Saturday night.

You'd laugh if you saw me parked in front of the television with my mouth hanging open in astonishment. I've seen a classic muscle cars go for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Conversely, later model Corvettes in showroom condition sell for 10-12 grand. I'm dying to go to one of these auctions.

Since I'm a writer, the whole collectible car scene has inspired a story so I've been researching by cruising car websites and blogs. I came across Cool Super Cars. You've got to see the amazing cars shown, including a Bugatti Veyron, the fastest car in existence - and not street legal here. It's totally gorgeous.

I love my T-Bird. It looks exactly like the brochure picture here. But I'd love to just sit in a Veyron. Or any of those Cool Super Cars. Okay, I'll be honest. Sitting in one wouldn't be enough. I'd want to drive.

Takeaway Truth

Life inspires fiction, and sometimes that's more fun than you dreamed possible.

Eavesdroppers Hear Good Stuff

Remember that old cliche about eavesdroppers? They never hear anything good about themselves. If you're a writer, you're not interested in hearing people talk about you. You want to hear what they have to say about other subjects.

Are you as guilty as I about eavesdropping on strangers' conversations? Actually, in today's world when people discuss the most intimate details of their lives on cell phones, in loud voices, it's impossible not to eavesdrop.

Never Off Duty

Writers are never off duty. We're tuned in to conversations, subconsciously noting the cadence of voices, word usage, pronunciation, and the fascinating things people say on cell phones or when standing in line and talking to strangers. We constantly mine the mother lode of experience for writing inspiration.

I carry a notepad everywhere. I've even been known to take notes of conversations when I'm forced to stand in a long line. In fact, I never enter the time dilation field - you may call it the post office - without a paperback book and pen and paper.

Some of the best characters I've created have been inspired by strangers in line.

Here are notes from a DMV line experience a few years ago.

Valley Girl & Goth Boy

Teenage Asian girl, very cute, with expensive purse, shoes, and cell phone. In line behind teenage Goth boy. She's a valley girl. He's a typical boy despite his Goth appearance, and he typically checked her out when she walked up.

Goth boy: So what are you here for?

Girl: Oh my God! You wouldn't like believe it. I like hit a car from behind. The cop was like so mean. I told him it wasn't like my fault that the car in front was like going too slow. Would you believe he gave me the ticket? Now my dad's like so pissed at me that he wouldn't like buy me another car. He's making me drive his old Dodge Intrepid. It's like so not fair.

Goth boy: Bummer. So why are you here?

Girl: I've got to like get some kind of form filled out. I can't believe I have to stand in this line with all these people. You'd think they'd have like a special line for people like in a hurry.

Goth boy: Yeah. You're right. They should.

Girl: Oh my God. I'm going to like be here like all day. Would you like my phone number. (giggle) If you let me cut in front of you, I'll give you my cell.

Boy: (Laughs. Shifts feet awkwardly.) No, that's okay. I'm in a hurry too. I have to go to work. In my Dodge Intrepid.

I almost fell on the floor laughing. Writing a teenage character? Great dialog examples for that age group, and a great put down.

Bigot In Church

This conversation is from a woman sitting in the pew in front of me at church a couple of years ago. It was staggering in its bigotry of which she seemed unaware. She needs to pay more attention to the sermons, don't you think?

Woman: You know I can't stand Texans and particularly native Texans. They think because they were born here that makes them somehow more Texan than someone else. As if being Texan in the first place is anything to brag about. I can't stand those rednecks in Louisiana either. They're as bad as those people from Kentucky. Kentucky and Indiana. I don't know which is worse because Hoosiers are dumb as posts. The only ones dumber are from Mississippi or maybe Tennessee.

I was completely repulsed. The woman looked normal, but her conversation indicated otherwise. My goodness. I really wanted to ask her from what state she hailed.

So if you see my scribbling furiously while standing in line, you better make sure you're minding your conversational manners or you may find yourself in a book.

Takeaway Truth

Listen not just to what people say, but how they say it. You'll fine-tune your ear for dialog, and that will help your writing.

Name Game

Website Design Basics: Part 3 of 5

(Sorry for the upload error with the first attempt to publish this.)

After you’ve decided, based on your budget and your needs, what kind of web presence you’ll have, how you’ll have it hosted, and who will design it, you need to decide on the crucially important name or title for your site.

Why Crucial

I say this is crucially important because it has to do with branding. If you don’t know about branding, you can check some of the posts here at Sling Words about the subject. Plug that word into your favorite search engine to research it more in depth. Suffice it to say that branding is creating a label for you and/or your site. You want everything to tie together so that when one hears your name or your tag line then they immediately think about you and your product.

Learn From My Mistakes

All this is something I didn’t know when I first started establishing a web presence. Get ahead of the game and do it the right way, from a marketing standpoint, from the beginning. I’m glad for you to learn from my mistakes.

In the case of a novelist who will publish books under his or her name, more than likely you want a website in your name so you’ll register a domain name that way. Hopefully, your name isn’t already taken and you can get your dot com. If someone already has registered your name, then you’ll have a tough decision. Do you go with the dot net registration or try for a version of your name or your name with something added to it as the dot com?

Dot What

Just about everybody who’s a frequent Internet user knows about the various dot extensions yet we all automatically plug in dot com. In fact, I even have to consciously think to plug in dot net or dot biz. It’s like that first law of marketing: it’s best to be first. First becomes part of the culture. That’s why dot com is automatic when someone says, “Check my site out on the web.”

So, check with Who Is for domain registration to see if your name is available. There are a lot of bargain domain registration sites. (Just Google to find some if you are unfamiliar with them.) Wherever you register your domain name, be sure you sign up for automatic fee renewal each year. It would be a shame to lose the name because you forgot to pay the annual renewal fee.

If your name’s available, grab it asap even if you plan to set up a blog first rather than a website. Maybe even register every version - dot com, dot net, etc. Once you get the website set up, you can set up an email using that name i.e. jennifer @ jenniferwriter dot com. In the meantime, set up a Yahoo or other email addy: jenniferwriter @

Get Set Up

Set up your blog with your name also if you want and choose a catchy tagline for your website and blog. If you want a colorful blog title instead, make the tagline something like “the Blog of Jennifer Writer.” Always remember: you are marketing a product. If you want to use a separate email for your blog registration, then make it the blog name @ your domain or @ yahoo. Make all the titles work together whether they’re your domain name or a substitute, and put links on each to the other.

What kind of substitute name can you use if your domain name is already taken? If Jennifer Writer is taken then how about Jennifer middle initial or name Writer dot com? Or JenniferWritesBooks dot com? Jennifer Writes Mystery dot com? Or Novelist Jennifer Writer dot com?

Name Game

1. Use your imagination.

2. Don’t make it too long. Shorter is better in the domain naming world.

3. Don’t use symbols like the underscore to separate names i.e. that make it hard to read when it’s in a clickable link. When links get underlined, they obscure the underscore. Everyone who has ever used the Internet and email know that names and words run together. Your eye gets used to seeing joanreeves and knowing it says Joan Reeves.

4. Don't use more than 1 dash or hyphen.

5. Make it easy to spell and pronounce.

6. Try to be intuitive in titling. If someone is looking for you, what would they most likely put into a search engine? If you choose to pick a colorful name, be sure it lends itself to appropriate marketing in all kinds of venues. Try to get something that won’t offend more than it attracts.

Brand Everything

Once you’ve settled on a name, extend the brand to email, blogs, etc., put links in your signature line for email. Have cards printed with your brand on it. Use your web addresses anyway you can.

Look for Part 4 of Website Design Basics: Content, later this week.

Takeaway Truth

Branding, or naming and using that name repeatedly, is a fundamental goal in marketing you and your business whether that business is writing or something else. Choose your brand name carefully.

To Thine Ownself Be True

Quote for the Week

This week's inspiration comes from one of my mother's favorite quotations. Shakespeare wrote:

This above all:
to thine own self be true,
And it must follow
as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false
to any man.

What does that mean? Does it mean that if you are honest with yourself then you will be honest with others? Integrity certainly means that.

Have A Vision

In a broader sense, I think it means being true to the larger vision we have of ourselves. By that I mean, we all have dreams or lofty goals. I know I have mine. Chances are you have certain visions of greatness for yourself whether you talk about it to others or just hold your dreams close to your heart.

Be Purpose Driven

Are you being true to those dreams by trying to fulfill them? Or do you just "dream" and do nothing to get what you want? Do you take that larger vision of what you can be, what your life can become, and apply action consistently in order to achieve it? If you do, then you are being true to thine own self because you are living with purpose.

Nothing is sadder than looking back at life and thinking: "I had a dream. If only I'd done something about it."

Takeaway Truth

Be true to your dreams. Be true to yourself. Don't make excuses - that's living falsely. Live with purpose, and you'll have lived well.

Get Jott - You'll Love It

Last month I read about Jott on Rachelle Gardner's Rants & Ramblings. Since I'm the kind of girl who always thinks of VIS (very important stuff) while I'm driving, Jott sounded like something I could really use.

Free Is Always Good

Of course, it sounded too good to be true. I immediately went to the website for Jott and learned it's totally free and with a ton of features tat help us harried members of the rat race. I signed up and have used it every day I think.

How It Works

I just programmed their number 1-866-568-8123 (1-866-JOTT-123) into my cell. All you have to do is call and tell Jott where you want your message to go. Jott captures your voice, turns it into text, and sends it to your destination.

I can call Jott if I'm out and remember that I need to call the gas company about a misread meter when I get home. I call if I suddenly think of an answer to a scene problem that has me stalled. I call if I need to remember to send a birthday card to my nephew. I can send myself any kind of notes, set up reminders and calendar appointments, or just stay in touch with the rest of my friends and family. The sky's the limit for how you can use it.

Try it. You'll like it!

Takeaway Truth

Modern women, and men, need all the help they can get because our responsibilities seem to be growing faster than our ability to keep up with them.

Privacy & Safety Nightmare

A friend in Oklahoma alerted me to the new Google Phone and Map search engine. Another thing to be paranoid about, and this is one we should all take seriously. Maybe you know about this. I didn't.

New Google Feature

The new Google feature lets you type in a telephone number into the search bar, hit enter, and receive not only the name and address attached to the number but also the ability to get a Google Map telling you exactly how to get to the address. It's not enough we have satellites mapping our residences for the entertainment of anyone who wants to Google an address. Now they can get all your private location information in a neat package. Maybe tied with a bow. Just what everyone needed - a nationwide reverse telephone book.

What genius thought this was a good idea? If you've got children and someone can get your phone number, anyone from sex offenders to solicitors to wacked out fans of your writing can find where you live and how to get there. The safety issues are alarming, but I'm particularly concerned about the threat to a child.

I advise all who read this to try your phone number and see what happens. If your home address info shows up, use the removal option. Click your phone number and fill out the form. At least the removal is easy, assuming they take care of it which means you have to check back after 48 hours and see if it's been removed.

Be sure and check your number even if it's supposed to be unlisted because some have found it there too.


Here's the Google URL for removal if you want to view it not as a hot link. Also, here's a snail mail address to opt out if you want to be able to send a trackable letter:

Google Phonebook Removal
2400 Bayshore Parkway
Mountain View, CA 94043

More Invasive Sites

For more info on avoiding invasive websites, visit Search Engine Optimism where there's a lengthy article on the subject complete with other the names and addresses of other directories that do the same.

Takeaway Truth

Privacy and security are going the way of copyright. Do what you can to stem the tide.

Choices? Choose Wisely

Website Design Basics: Part 2

Glad you stopped in for Part 2 of Website Design Basics. I'm not a professional website designer who's going to tell you how to use CSS and HTML to build a web page. I just wear my freelance writer hat quite often and have had to do tons of research into what makes a website successful and have subsequently written about what I've learned.

This series is a commonsense guide to making the right choices for your website because, as a writer, you've heeded the rallying cry: Get a website. I've given few specific examples below so how can you find companies that provide the services I discuss below? Easy. Just type the phrase into any search engine. The Big G is my favorite, but there are many search engines you can use, including some new ones on the block which I'll be writing about later.

First Decision: Website Or Blog

If you're just starting out, you may want to create your web presence with a really good blog. It's not as intimidating, nor as expensive, and it will help you get comfortable with working the Internet (and I mean that in the sense of "working a room").

There are many free blog services with great design templates and the ability to add just about anything you want in the form of bells and whistles, or widgets in computer-ese. You can get into the Internet with no or little expense and create a highly-regarded blog using the tools the blog domain offers its subscribers. Best of all? It's free. Next best thing? Very user friendly.

Whether you choose website or blog or both, the next issues are crucial and apply to websites and blogs because you can pay big bucks for both. It all depends on your choices and how deep your pockets are.


Should you pay to have a website or blog hosted, sign up with an organization that offers hosting for a small fee, or sign up for free hosting?

I'm not going to be cavalier and say go for your own domain, hosted on its own server. That's the ideal, but there are many levels between that and free hosting. Budget will govern this decision. If you can't afford the most expensive option, then choices are: sign up with a professional organization that offers web hosting to its members, or join a group that offers either low-cost or free hosting. My site is hosted by Authors Guild. They have 3 levels of service. I've got the middle level.

If you have published, then you can join Authors Guild. Otherwise, check out some of the other groups that offer its members hosting. Remember about the bandwidth issue (from part 1) and make sure the bandwidth offered is sufficient for fast loading.

Free hosting is offered by just about all ISPs (Internet Service Providers) so whoever provides your Internet service has reserved so many megs or gigs for a free website for you. They usually offer free software that helps you upload your site also, but it's easy to download that kind of software, called FTP, from the Internet or buy a package at your favorite office supply store. It's everywhere. Again, check the bandwidth and any other issues that might affect speed or size of the proposed website.

Design: DIY Or Pay

Sure, we'd all like to have a snazzy site, artistically rendered, with all the bells and whistles. The reality is that your budget will rule this choice also. If you can afford an actual designer, go for it. If not, here are your options.

Templates created by designers that you can upload either for free or for a small fee. You'll have to be able to follow the directions on how to replace an existing template with the new one, but this is a way to get a custom look for a low price.

Joining an organization and using their preexisting templates as is or personalizing them. Again, I use Authors Guild which has 12 layouts, more than a dozen themes, and different color palates. I take that and personalize it with my own original graphics, etc. Lots of groups offer this.

Lowest-priced option is a free site via Freewebs or something similar. Freewebs is where I host my mom's website. They have a lot of good-looking templates and lots of widgets (all those neat bells and whistles). They can be used as is, and you get a good-looking product or you can personalize them.

My blog is from Blogspot, just one of their templates that I've tweaked a bit. I'm getting ready to have a designer create something just for me based on artwork I'm creating. The free blogging platforms are super easy to use.

If you choose a free website, be sure and surf around and look at many of them. Some have really obnoxious advertisements. You know, those blinking, strobe-like popups that nearly give you a seizure just looking at them.

What's In A Name

Word involve the most crucial choice. What are you going to call your site or blog? How will you go about branding it? Tune in next week for Part 3 in this series.

Takeaway Truth

Even if you can afford to pay for the best of everything, you should know what constitutes that best so you'll know if you're getting your money's worth.

Honey-Do List Now Handyman List

A while back I told you about my search for a contractor to do a small fencing job. All the local contractors I talked to didn't want to give me a bid for a tiny section of fencing that needed to be replaced. They wanted to bid on replacing the entire fence. Every time one told me this, I saw dollar signs with tiny wings attached drifting skyward.

Uh, no thank you.

Click Smart Experts

Luckily I heard about ClickSmart that has directories of certified experts in just about every area of home maintenance and improvement. What's even better is they're located in cities all across our home-improving nation.

With the fence no longer a concern, I can now focus on other issues. Those issues are detailed for my husband on his Honey-Do List. Actually, I've started calling it his Honey-Don't List because he never seems to get around to taking care of those home maintenance matters.

Somehow, the golf course holds greater appeal on Saturday than replacing torn screening. He'd rather tee off at the first hole than get teed off trying to figure out why the garage door light won't shut off when it's supposed to.

Hello, Houston Handyman

Since I've discovered Houston Handyman, a ClickSmart service, I've become the perfect wife. I never nag about those home repair chores. I can either go pick up the phone or go online. Within minutes, I can set an appointment for a qualified expert to take care of everything from Screen Construction to Landscaping to Pest Control and a host of things in between including Garage Door Service.

I may even join my husband on the golf course now rather than stew about all the nitpicky jobs that need to be done on the weekend. Thanks to ClickSmart's Handyman in the Houston area, home maintenance is more convenient than ever.

Takeaway Truth

When you own a home, you'd better line up qualified people to do all the repairs that crop up over the years. Having experts on tap will save your time - and your sanity.

Millie Benson aka Nancy Drew

I know it's a misstatement to say Millie Benson was Nancy Drew even though the late Ms. Benson did create the spunky girl detective. I guess I just feel that Millie patterned Nancy after herself. When she was a child, she didn't like playing with dolls. She liked sports, especially swimming and golf. Back in the early part of the 20th century, that kind of behavior was considered odd.

Cleaning Out Files = Procrastination

Why my sudden interest in Millie Benson? As usual, my interest was sparked by cleaning out some clipping files. I came across an article published in June of 2002 when Millie Benson died. She was 96 at the time and had just finished writing her weekly column for the Toledo Blade newspaper.

I reread the article. (That's why it takes me so dang long to clean out files!) I decided it didn't tell me nearly enough about this remarkable woman so I did a little research on the Internet. (What a great way to procrastinate on a tedious job.)

Millie had to have created Nancy as a reflection of herself. When she was young, Millie often had dived off a bridge into the Iowa River. She never gave up adventuring or sports. She continued to swim and play golf even past the age of 90 when most people are thinking a rocking chair on a porch is physical activity.

Millie outlived two husbands. She was the first person to receive a Master’s degree in Journalism from the University of Iowa. When she was 59, instead of retiring, she learned to fly and traveled to archeology digs in Central America. She never retired from life, especially never from writing which she'd been doing consistently since she was 14. She made her first sale in elementary school and earned the grand sum of $2.50. From 1930 to 1953, she wrote 130 books as well as writing for newspapers.

Under the pseudonym of Carolyn Keene, Millie wrote 23 of the first 30 original Nancy Drew books for Edward Stratemeyer, the book publisher behind the Bobbsey Twins and the Hardy Boys too. She signed a non-disclosure agreement and kept her word, never revealing to anyone that she was Carolyn Keene. The contract was a work for hire meaning she had no rights to the books. She never made a dime on them other than the original $125.00 fee paid to her. All those books, movies, and TV shows. She got nada.

Lawsuit Reveals Truth

In 1980, she came forward and testified in a lawsuit about the matter of who wrote those first Nancy Drew books. Millie believed strongly in honesty in everything, especially in journalism." The Stratemeyer Syndicate had celebrated Nancy Drew's 50th birthday that year. Harriet Stratemeyer Adams claimed that she and her father, Edward Stratemeyer, had written those early. The information was reprinted everywhere.

That's what got Millie involved. She set the record straight and discussed the style, tone, and voice of the early books compared to the later ones created by Harriet Stratemeyer Adams. In her testimony, Millie said that the newer books removed the "spice." She said: "I was probably a rough-and-tumble newspaper person who had to earn a living, and I was out in the world. That was my type of Nancy."

Finally, she began to get the recognition she so richly deserved. In the 1993 Nancy Drew Conference at the University of Iowa honored her achievements. Today's girls probably don't know why Nancy Drew was so important to previous generations of women. Nancy was a hero in an era when heroes were men, not girls. She took on crooks, explored secret rooms, and always solved the mystery.

Millie Benson said it best herself. She wrote about her memory book from high school and college. It was a reflection of youthful career ambitions in an age when girls weren't supposed to have any. From her memory book itself: Give life your best shot - if achievements fall short, the satisfaction of having tried will be its own reward.

Takeaway Truth

Your life cannot be separate from your writing. Each is a part of the other. Write what you know, and you'll find out you're writing about yourself, your life, and your times.

Confessions of an Internet Shopaholic

Okay, I'm not quite a shopaholic, but I am definitely an Internet shopping enthusiast. I've pledged allegiance to the lazy era of Internet shopping. You see, I've never been one to stand in lines to buy anything. I want to walk into a store and buy what I want when I want. I don't want to schlepp out in the wee hours of dawn to bag a bargain.

It's not that I don't like bargains. I do. I just prefer sleeping in to rousting my unwilling body out of bed to go stand in a line with a few hundred other bargain hunters. One of my daughters-in-law on the other hand is a Black Friday veteran. She, her sister, and their mom plan their after-Thanksgiving attack like combat veterans planning a preemptive strike. They hit the drop zone, snag the bargains, and take no prisoners. Four in the morning? No problem. An hour after midnight after a day of cooking and consuming mass quantities of Thanksgiving goodies? No problem.

Finally, lazy little me can compete with them in the bargain arena because I've discovered Black Friday 2008, a website where you can get the same bargains without the hassle. This year on November 28, I'll take a big mug of hot coffee to my study, sit in my comfy chair in front of the computer and let my fingers do the walking on a keyboard in search of fabulous deals and bargains. All I'll need is my gift list.

A gift for my husband is usually the hardest because he's got just about everything. Last year he got a big honking flat panel television. This year I'm giving him something connected to golf, hunting, or fishing so I can pry him away from his TV. Dick's Sporting Goods will make that an easy task.

Black Friday offers email alerts to let you know when new ads are posted. This consumer friendly site has stores from AAFES and Ace Hardware to Value City and WalMart. In total, there are 59 stores listed. Even my daughter-in-law and her crew couldn't cover that many stores on Black Friday!

Takeaway Truth

It's better to give than to receive. The Internet makes it easy to give - and save money.

Fiction Contest Nears Deadline

Just wanted to alert you to the fast-approaching deadline for the Family Circle Fiction Contest. Deadline is August 31, 2008.

The contest for Short Stories (2500 word limit) is open to American Citizens, age 21 and up. First prize is $750.00 and publication in the magazine along with some other nice goodies. Prizes awarded to two runners-up also.

A lot of us write short stories because we get an idea that just drives us crazy until we get the story told. However, there's very little to do with short stories. There just aren't that many paying markets for short fiction. Contests are a good testing ground, a place where you can send that baby out into the world. That way, your writing has a chance albeit slim of finding publication.

Takeaway Truth

We write so someone will read our words. Contests are one of the few ways left for short fiction to find an audience. Take a chance. Be brave. Submit.

Catch The Wave & Write

Bloggers, if you like to take advantage of paying markets, Bloggerwave is one that pays you to blog. I recently checked them out and decided to register. If you have read my Disclosure Policy at the bottom of this blog, you'll see I only endorse a product if I believe in it. But don't just take my word for them. Do your own homework. I think you'll like what you find.

Fairly New Kid On The Block

Bloggerwave is fairly new. All freelancers hope that means that there aren't quite as many writers signed up yet because that usually translates into ground-floor opportunity. That means the ratio of opportunities to writers favors the writer.

Lofty Goal

So if you have a blog and would like to make some extra money with it, Bloggerwave presents an opportunity since one of their goals is to be Europe's biggest blog advertising media. By signing up, writers help them grow, and that creates more jobs for writers.

Takeaway Truth

Win-win situations for writers are hard to find. Take advantage of them when you locate one. Then pay it forward by passing on the news to other writers.

Zurza Steals From Me Again

Zurza struck again. No sooner had I uploaded my weekly post on August 16 to my Performancing Blog, complete with a copyright notice and a preface rant against Zurza than my post was stolen and posted to Zurza's blog. Have a good laugh and see the whole thing (I refuse to put a hot link to that spam blog.)

I had to laugh. Guess whoever operates the Zurza site is using completely automated software. They don't even realize they're publicizing their own theft.

Wonder what I'll have to say about Zurza in my next Performancing post, if I keep that blog? Since the powers that be at Performancing haven't deigned to respond to my notice to them about the situation (neither have any of the other blog directories), I may abandon that blog. Apparently, they don't care that the posts there are being stolen. Now that I'm on Zurza's hit list, I'm sure it will happen every week. It's infuriating.

Same with Zurza's website host No response to my "DMCA letter" notifying them of Zurza's copyright infringement.

I've sent "DMCA letters" to the Search engines also. Will let you know what happens.

Does anyone care?

I care. Why should I spend time and energy composing a great blog post only to have some moron steal it and post it on his/her own blog?

Any thoughts?

Does This Site Look Good On Me?

Website Design Basics: Part 1 of 5

(Look for Part 2, Thursday, August 21.)

Friendly Website Critique

A couple of months ago one of my friends asked if I would view her newly constructed website and critique it. This actually followed a discussion between us about another friend who had asked everyone to look at his friend's new site.

I had done so and was shocked by how slow the site loaded. I use the word shocked because apparently the website owner was a tekkie pro. Even professionals can get tunnel vision when trying to accomplish something.

In an effort to help my friend and others who are trying to be their own website designers, I thought I'd explore some of the fundamentals of good website design.


The problem with a slow load? Probably a bandwidth issue. Most ISP's offer customers free website hosting, but the space allocated is usually limited in size. Worse, they have limited bandwidth also. Limited bandwidth means if you get too much traffic, your site crashes. It also means if you design a site with lots of images, animations, and, my all-time least favorite, sound, then the site will load slower than an armadillo crossing a Texas farm road at midnight. (If you're not from Texas, well, let me tell you, on Sunday mornings the armadillo death toll on farm roads can be pretty staggering.)

Of course, you don't notice this when you're building the site. Once you have the site finished, you need to ask several people, using several different kinds of computers and monitors, to view your site and tell you how long it takes the site to load.

How fast it loads for me with high-speed connection will be vastly different from how something loads with a dial-up connection. Yes, there are millions using dial-up either because they can't afford high-speed or because it's not available in their area. In most rural and other isolated areas, you can't get anything but dial-up or satellite high speed which is iffy at best in bad weather.

Ask a broad section of people to time the loading of your site. Trust me, if it takes longer than 10-15 seconds, most people will click Stop unless they really, really want to see your site. If they're just casual visitors who don't know you but thought they'd check you out because they heard about you, you'll lose them if it takes that long for your site to open. Fifteen seconds is a lifetime when you're waiting for a webpage to open.


The other thing you need to ask of your informal critiquers is how does the site look on their respective monitors. What I see with my over-sized wide-screen monitor may be different from what Molly Public sees with a tiny 15" monitor connected to her 486 computer. And, yes, there are still a lot of people running 486's as well as systems running Windows 95, 98, 2000, XP, and now Vista, not to mention Linux and Mac/Apple systems.

The monitor display setting, in pixels, controls how large a space you view when you look at the monitor. Just about everyone uses what is web standard which is 1440 X 900. If you want to see what your setting is, right click on the desktop. From the window that opens, select the tab that says Settings. Your monitor setting will be displayed.

The next thing to ask your friend who's looking at your site is if everything is displayed properly or are there some elements overlaying or hiding other elements? Is it jumbled together? Are some text areas incomplete? You always want a software where the "boxes" expand with the text created.If you're designing your site yourself, always select a WYSIWYG software. That's What You See Is What You Get. So that when you preview it, it will look exactly like it will look when you upload it.

Most end designs with errors result from using a software package not compatible with the host site, i.e., the host site doesn't allow CSS or templates and that's what your software uses. If the software or your host site requires your monitor be set to a specific parameter, it may not display properly on monitors not set to that parameter.

Good website design software is expensive, but it's worth it.

Takeaway Truth

Good website designers are worth every dollar because it's an esoteric skill set that's taken time to learn. Not everyone can do it. If you can't afford a good designer, then educate yourself about the fundamentals of good website design. With knowledge, patience, and an esthetic vision, you can do it yourself.

Just make sure you learn how to make it look like a pro designed it, not an amateur. Otherwise, you'll be the owner of a site that's not only unappealing but also one that will fail to capture an audience.

Lightning Happens...Sometimes

Quote for the Week

Raymond Carver in his introduction to The Best American Short Stories of 1986 wrote: Once in a while lightning strikes, and occasionally, it strikes early in the writer's career, sometimes it comes later, after years of may hit the writer who couldn't, not in one's wildest imaginings, make anyone's list of top-ten possibilities; it happens sometimes - the dark horse.

It happens, lightning.

Or it doesn't.

Naturally, it's more fun when it does happen.

But it will never, never happen to those who don't work hard at it and who don't consider the act of writing as very nearly the most important thing in their lives.

Right up there next to....


And food.

And shelter.

And love.

And God.

Takeaway Truth

Don't waste time wondering why lightning struck for your friend but not you. Or wishing lightning had hit you instead of someone you consider less-talented. Besides sounding like sour grapes, it's an energy suck. You can't predict the vagaries of fate any more than you can predict a lightning strike.

Spend your time learning your craft. More writers have become successful because they worked at their craft than because they got lucky.

Interview: Daniel Arenson, Fantasy Author

Reprinted from The Website of Joan Reeves, August 2008, (READING Page & WORDPLAY, website subscription newsletter.

Welcome, Daniel Arenson. Thanks for taking the time from your schedule to share some time with us.

Readers, Daniel is the author of FIREFLY ISLAND, a fantasy novel published by Five Star Publishing, an imprint of Gale Cengage (formerly Thomson Gale). Here's the information you need in order to ask your local library to order his book if it hasn't already done so or for you to purchase it from your favorite online source.

by Daniel Arenson
ISBN-10: 1594146012
ISBN-13: 978-1594146015
Purchase from publisher: 1-800-877-4253 (Fax 1-800-414-5043). Email: or go to their website

Daniel's Website:

Daniel's Blog:


Joan: How many years from first manuscript to first sale?

Daniel: I started writing seriously when I was about 16 years old. I sold my first story when I was 18. It was titled "Worms Believe in God", and it's been lost to the ages. My first fantasy novel, FIREFLY ISLAND, was published last year.

Joan: What has been your best experience as a published author?

Daniel: The best moments are when people email me, telling me that they loved my fantasy novel FIREFLY ISLAND. To me, these are worth a lot more than "official" reviews.

Joan: What has been your worst experience as a published author?

Daniel: When FIREFLY ISLAND became available for pre-order, Amazon placed an "available at" date which was too early. When that date arrived, Amazon automatically emailed everyone who pre-ordered the book, telling them that FIREFLY ISLAND was still unavailable, and offered a link where they can cancel their order. Luckily, Amazon received their books a couple days later, and shipped them out. Very few people canceled their orders, so all ended relatively well.

Joan: What has surprised you most as a professional writer?

Daniel: Promoting books is more work than I expected.

Joan: If you could write any story, without regard to it selling or any of those other business issues, what would you write?

Daniel: I'm writing what I love right now - fantasy which offers epic adventures, but also deals with relevant "real world" issues. I write the type of fiction I myself would like to read. I wouldn't write fiction just because "it sells."

Joan: What do you love about your career?

Daniel: Creating stories and sharing them with readers. It's not about any money or prestige (real or imaginary); it's about the writing itself.

Joan: What do you hate about your career?

Daniel: That the world of publishing is full of connections and networking. In many ways, it's about who you know. If all you have is a great manuscript, and no connections, selling and promoting your book is a tough job. Many great manuscripts get overlooked because of this.

Joan: If you got a big 6-figure advance for a book, what's the first thing you'd buy for yourself?

Daniel: Even in a hypothetical fantasy, I can't get a 7-figure advance? Oh well.... In any case, the first thing I'd spend the money on is a big book launch party, with lots of food and drinks.

Joan: What is the best advice you can give beginning writers?

Daniel: Keep studying the craft. That's a fancy way of saying that I have no one, single piece of advice; there is so much to learn. I've written a bunch of "writing advice" articles on my website. You can find them at

Joan: What would you like readers to know?

Daniel: I'd like readers to know about my website,, where they can find those writing tips, free stories, learn about FIREFLY ISLAND, and a bunch more stuff.

Thanks again for sharing these thoughts with us, Daniel, and best of luck with your writing.

Readers, next month my author guest will be mystery and romantic suspense author Terry Odell.

Rounding Up Writing News

I wanted to point you to some "don't miss" information on the web this week.

Novelist's Inc. blog has a great interview with Tekno book packager Denise Little. I met Denise several years ago. She was knowledgeable and articulate about the book biz, and that hasn't changed.

In the interview she made a statement that, I think, will resonate with readers and writers of genre fiction: I find genre fiction to be the last refuge of heroic values and classical story structure in literature.

I'm adding that to my quotations file.

For all you writers who want to know how much contracts with different publishers bring, Brenda Hiatt has updated her very popular report Show Me The Money.

Takeaway Truth

Industry insider knowledge is always good to know.

Going Down For 3rd Time?

One of the hardest things for parents to teach their kids is money management. Making the transition from allowance as income to paycheck as income is something most kids embrace because they like having so much more money to spend. That spending ethic follows them into adulthood.

In college, it rains credit cards for students. I heard my daughter talking one day about the dozen plastic temptations her friend had in her wallet. Fortunately, our daughter didn't follow the example of her friends. Today, she lives debt-free, but few of her friends can say the same. Most of them are drowning in debt.

Now, one of her friends is checking out the various agencies that help when debt becomes a burden too big to carry any more. One of the sites I recommended for him is Freedom Debt Relief, part of Freedom Financial Network. Why? Because I feel these people know what they're talking about.

My first step when I showed him the website was their About Us page. The guys that started Freedom Financial met years ago at Stanford University's Business School. At the bottom of that page, you'll see certification and award badges displayed, including the Better Business Bureau.

If you're in over your head, Debt Relief can help with their Debt Reduction Program, also know as Debt Negotiation or Debt Settlement. Custom designed for each client, it'll help find the best solution to lower monthly payments, deal with creditors, and reduce your debts faster. The website explains the 6-step process and gives an 800 number you can call for a free 10-minute consultation.

The Debt Relief program is centered around negotiation, but, in order to make an informed choice, you'll also learn the other four solutions to debt problems:
• Credit Counseling
• Debt Consolidation
• Bankruptcy
• Credit Card Monthly

Takeaway Truth

Don't drown when someone's ready to throw you a life preserver. Seek help from professionals when you need it.

Ping: The End (For Now)

For now, this is the end of my 3-day series on the fine art of the ping.

Now that you know how to ping, here's a time-saver for blog promotion. Don't ping site by site. Ping a directory that will in turn ping dozens of other directories all at once. Cool huh?

Here are 3 of many mass directories to get you started.

1. Multiple Directories is just what the name says.

2. Pingoat pings more than 50.

3. Pingomatic pings 15 services.

I hope you'll take advantage of all these free registration accounts that allow you to ping directories to gain attention for your blog. Tune in next week for more on time effective and cost effective ways to promotion.

Takeaway Truth

A little time and consistency of effort can pay big rewards.

The Art of Pinging

Ping why? You ping Internet directories in order to get your blog noticed.

Ping when? When you've updated your site which means when you post new content.

Ping how? You ping by going to the chosen directory's website, fill in the form, and click the Ping button.

Ping who? You can do it site by site or you can find a directory that pings several services at once. Your choice.

If you want to do this site by site, here's a half-dozen to get you going. In just about every case, you must first create an account and/or place a link to them in your blog before you can ping.

1. Weblogs

2. Feedburner

3. Yahoo (Must sign up for a "My Yahoo" account.)

4. BlogExplosion

5. BlogRolling

6. WeBlogALot.

Tune in tomorrow for more on the Fine Art of the Ping, the tiny word with big possibilities for you and your blog.

Takeaway Truth

You may not have given it much thought, but your purpose in having a blog is to gain attention for your career and your product. In our case, that product is writing. However, you're just a speck in the Internet universe vying for attention. Just like all the other specks trying to get people to visit their websites and blogs. Learn some basic web dynamics to help you grow from a tiny speck to, well, whatever size you want to be.

To Ping or Not to Ping

Today's blog post was going to be about getting your blog noticed. However, the word PING suddenly had me wondering how that word was created and what the actual definition was. I wanted to know so I could dumb it down for me and the other non-tekkies of the world who inhabit the blogosphere.

The Big W

I visited Wikipedia for the answer:

Ping is a computer network tool used to test whether a particular host is reachable across an IP network; it is also used to self test the network interface card of the computer, or as a speed test. It works by sending ICMP “echo request” packets to the target host and listening for ICMP “echo response” replies. Ping estimates the round-trip time, generally in milliseconds, and records any packet loss, and prints a statistical summary when finished.

Okay. Clear as mud, right?

Joan's Jolly Simple Version

Remember those old submarine movies where the captain says: "give them one ping." The communications operator pushes a button, and we all hear a metallic PING. That's basically what happens when a computer sends a ping to a target. The ping is an ICMP, or Internet Control Message Protocol, one of the core protocols of the Internet protocol suite which is what makes the Internet work. That's all you need to know. It's mostly used by networked computers' operating systems to send error messages, i.g. a requested service isn't available etc.

These ICMP packets are bits of information. That's all a packet is. An echo request means that they send a packet of info and want to hear back from the receiver, that's the echo response which is another packet of info.

Ping is used either as a verb or noun, but why is it important to getting our blog noticed?

Because you can also use pings. You can list your blog with different agencies and then ping them when you have posted. They'll ping you in response and note that your blog has been updated. This process can raise your rank in the blog world and your ratings.

Takeaway Truth

Pings can be important if you're trying to get your blog noticed. Tune in tomorrow for a list of who to ping.

Warning About Zurza

I sorted out my feelings about the plagiarism of one of my Performancing blog posts by the anonymous people behind Zurza. I refuse to create a hot link to that site, but you can cut and paste the link into a browser to see the post stolen from me:

Today, I posted on Performancing about what you can do when people steal your words. I could have called the anonymous Zurza various epithets like scumbag, no talent hack who must steal for content, scurrilous scoundrels (they'd probably have to use the dictionary on that one), but in the end I decided to take the high road and not call them names. Instead, I'll dispassionately discuss their copyright infringement and try to tell you what to do if it occurs to you.

Why Do Some Steal?

Because they're larcenous at heart? Because they don't have the talent, brains, or skill to produce their own content? Who knows? What's more important is to know what you can you do about it when they do. I've had to confront all these questions upon discovering the morning of August 4 that my post had been hijacked down to the very last period by Zurza, apparently well-known in the blog community for its plagiaristic, copyright-infringing actions.

Do they steal because they're too lazy to write their own posts? Again, who knows? I don't. At this point, I don't care either. I could pose questions all day long, but I suspect one of the reasons people steal others' words is because they can.

It's so easy on the Internet to copy something. The sad thing is that there is little that can be done to prevent it from happening or to punish those who do it so they won't do it again.

What To Do

The DMCA (Digital Media Copyright Act) is supposed to protect the rights of us creators of content. So the only thing you can do is follow the protocols established by it. That's what I'm doing. If you want examples of the letters to write and to whom you should send a letter, please visit Jonathan Bailey at Plagiarism Today.

Jonathan maintains a resource treasure for writers. You can educate yourself about the growing copyright infringement problem and what you can do about it. One of the tabs you'll see is Stock Letters, actual letters you can personalize and use to send your notices of copyright infringement to the appropriate party.

Takeaway Truth

As I said in my weekly Performancing blog, every writer needs to protect his or her work. If you want others to use it, then select one of the Creative Commons licenses. If you want your name attached to your work in whatever license you choose, then you need to educate yourself about copyright, the different licenses available to you as a creator, and the redress available to you when someone infringes on your license or copyright.

Most importantly, you need to bear the responsibility for fighting plagiarists and copyright theft by doing your part when it happens to you.

Got Patience?

Quote for the Week

Grace King in Balcony Stories (1893) said: "Patience! Patience! Patience is the invention of dullards and sluggards. In a well-regulated world there should be no need of such a thing as patience."

A hundred years later and this still isn't a well-regulated world because patience is called for every hour of every day. Patience is needed in every facet of a writing career. If you are impatient in the beginning, the universe will teach you through waiting and more waiting.

Be at peace and learn how to wait patiently.

Takeaway Truth

There are no bargains at the counter of success. Make waiting a skill you possess and can use to your advantage. Time spent waiting can be time spent growing.

Website Highlights: August 2008

On August 1, my website was updated. Each page has new Written Wisdom along with other items.

The major highlights of the August update are:

Reading - Interview with Daniel Arenson, author of the fantasy novel Firefly Island. If you don't already know how to get your book in libraries, there's a short article How to Get a Library to Order that tells you what you need to know.

Writing - 6 Month Check-up for Writers

Wordplay, Subscription Newsletter
- Daniel Arenson Interview appears here along with a review of Flashback to the Golden Years by Ralph Neal Hanson. If you've wondered what kind of books Lulu is putting out, this is your chance to find out. There's also an article Hackberry Trees inspired by the two towering deciduous trees that shade my yard.

WIP - Either a short note about what I'm working on or what I've sold recently that I really enjoyed writing. (I make the designation because I sell writing just about every day of the month.)

Previously Published - Teaser for a feature article coming in September on how to re-sell rights.

Next update to website is September 1.

CHASIN' THE WIND: A No Spoiler Review

Chasin' The Wind by Michael Haskins

Hardback: 238 pages
Publisher: Five Star, Gale Cengage Learning
ISBN-13 978-1-59414-638-1
ISBN-10 1-59414-638-1
Copyright 2008

The cover of Chasin' The Wind has palm trees gilded by a setting sun and a boat, silhouetted on a patch of gleaming water. All else in the peaceful scene is darkness. The cover artist perfectly captured the essence of this book, the first Mad Mick Murphy Mystery, by Michael Haskins.

Set in Key West, the darkness beneath the bright surface of this tourist mecca is revealed in the opening sequence when Murphy, former globe-trotting investigative journalist, stumbles upon the near-dead body of his friend and fellow sail enthusiast.

Haskins has a lean, spare style that gives you the facts and paints a picture of the Key West known to its denizens but rarely seen by the tourists. Forget the glitz and glamor of the other odes to Floridian excess as seen in book, television, and film. Chasin' The Wind is the real deal. It's the bite of lime in a mojito, the festering, relentless antipathy still nurtured for Fidel, and the spray of salt in your face when you're on the water.

Mick Murphy is not some unrealistic super hero sleuth. He might be the guy you pass on the street. He's known tragedy, and he's haunted by the past. He probably isn't extraordinary in his beliefs: that loyalty and friendship are everything and that justice should be sought.

Haskins has created an intelligent sleuth, and you'll get a kick out of following Mad Mick Murphy from Key West to Cuba in Chasin' The Wind. You'll wish you could hang with Murphy in a seedy bar and share a beer while you wait for the next book in this promising new series.

Takeaway Truth

Small publishers are nurturing some big talent. If you're a reader, start buying some of these heretofore unknown authors on a regular basis.

A Complicated Man

I always find myself lost in the past on August 7 because it's my Dad's birthday. A couple of years ago, I wrote the post below which articulates the poignancy of this day. To accompany this bittersweet ode is a picture of my Dad when he was young and strong. He's in his Army uniform, and the picture was made in France.

Also pictured is his guitar which I keep in my study. When I lived in Japan, I bought this Yamaha 6-string acoustic guitar in its own case as a Christmas present for him many years ago. I think it was one of his prized possessions. Now, it's one of mine.

Joe Vernon Ainsworth

I never knew my father. Oh, I lived under his roof for twenty years, and I saw him more or less daily, but I never knew him. He wasn't an easy man to know. He'd been horribly, physically abused as a child by his mother's boyfriend. In today's world where you can drop a dime on such a monster, Child Protective Services would have taken him and his siblings out of that household. But it wasn't that way in Mississippi in the early 1920's.

I don't think anyone, even my mother who was married to him for fifty-one years, ever really knew him. I don't think he ever confided in anyone: "I'm lonely." Or, I'm scared. I'm depressed. Perhaps, if he had, his life might have been different. Though I didn't really know him, I know things about him and about the difficult journey life had been for him.

He was forced to work in the fields rather than allowed to attend school. Apparently, he seldom had kindness much less love shown to him. As soon as he was able, he left home to make his own way in the world though he never abandoned his mother and siblings and tried for most of his life to "buy" the love which by rights should have been his from birth.

He started smoking cigarettes at age twelve. Also at that age, he worked as a manual laborer building the bridge that spanned the Mississippi River between Natchez and Louisiana. Hard work and a day's wage were his badges of independence and manhood.

When he was twenty-three, he joined the Army and was shipped from Louisiana to Washington state where he was trained in construction. He and his fellow soldiers were the ones who would build the roads and bridges when the Allied Forces invaded Europe. The Army became the home he'd never known. He was taught hygiene and the importance of toothbrushes, clean, pressed clothes, and shined shoes. For the first time, he had friends, and fierce loyalty, already part of his makeup, became ingrained in his character.

When D-Day came, he was on the beach with death all around him. The next few years in Europe offered experiences he never forgot though he tried so hard to forget that eventually he forgot everything.

Europe was like a new world to him. He seems to have had an affinity for languages and easily picked up French and German. He had girlfriends which was no surprise because he was a handsome young man. His pictures from that time always remind me of the young John Wayne.

One of his best friend's was shot by a sniper. He carried his buddy all the way back to headquarters and ruined a disc in his back. As a result, he suffered back problems his entire life.

In London, he had a deja vu experience that puzzled and unnerved him. I have a faded framed print my mother bought in a dime store when I was a kid. He told me the picture was of a cobblestone street in London. He knew the street. In fact, he'd never forget it.

When he'd been in London, he'd walked that street. He knew exactly what lay around every corner of that street. He saw it in his mind and described it in detail to his buddy who was walking with him. When they continued following the lane, the street scene was just as he'd related it. Of course, his friend thought he had been there before and was playing a joke. Back then, hardly anyone knew about deja vu. I'm pretty sure most people kept their mouths shut about weird ideas like that.

The framed print was of that street with an archaic building spanning the street and connecting to another building. I look at the old faded print sometimes and think about my dad.

When he was older and Alzheimer's already had sunk its tentacles into him, he told me of how they cleared mined airfields in Europe. He told me of things that had happened in the war that he'd tried so hard to forget. For all that he was a big, burly man, he had the sensitive soul of a poet. Childhood abuse and the horrors of war changed him, and he could never be rid of those nightmares.

He worked in road and commercial building construction using what he'd learned in the Army. He was a perfectionist when it came to his work. He helped build airbases and interstate roads in Louisiana. One of his last jobs was building high-rise dormitories at Northeast Louisiana State University, now called Louisiana State University at Monroe.

He loved sweets probably because he'd never had any as a child. He liked good jokes, Jackie Gleason, funny movies, westerns, and music. Music was his true love. He could pick out any tune he heard either on our piano or on his guitar. Playing his guitar and singing the songs of the depression popularized by Jimmy Rodgers and Hank Williams were his way of dealing with the mean blues when they overtook him.

His lifelong cigarette habit resulted in emphysema and two heart bypass surgeries, and still he couldn't quit.

He was not easy to live with because he didn't know how to show the deep love he felt. He had that stiff southern male pride and a hair-trigger temper. He emulated the way he'd been treated when he was a child. I firmly believe a man deserves to be remembered for his best acts so I try not to dwell on the worst of him. I saw him give the best of himself to my daughter when she came along. I forgave him for his failures where I and my brothers were concerned long ago.

As Alzheimer's overtook him, he finally was able to forget. I looked into his faded china-blue eyes, and saw...nothing. It was like looking in the windows of an empty house. I had a dream shortly after he was diagnosed in which he came to me. He was young and handsome and carried one of those old-fashioned suitcases. I asked him what he was doing, and he said he came to say goodbye. That he had to go and was happy to be able to do so. I think in his heart, in his mind, he left. I hope he found peace. Years later, his body surrendered.

So, wherever you are, Daddy, happy birthday. Be at peace.

Writer's Digest: Great Resource

I'm a believer in education. Maybe it's because my grandfather always told me: "Learn something new every day." He practiced what he preached. He read a great deal and tried to learn a new word each day. So it's natural that I urge writers to always add to their skill set, to read widely, to study other writers, and to learn as much as they can about the business.

Dollar for dollar, Writer's Digest is probably one of the best resources a writer can tap into. You can get a free email newsletter with links to their website where you can find some great articles about the art, craft, and business of writing.

The latest issue landed in my Inbox this morning with a link to an interview with Sandra Brown from ThrillerFest 2008. Read on down and you'll see you can get the entire 2007 Writer's Digest magazine on CD-ROM for only $14.95. Now that's a bargain.

Subscribe to their free Writer's Digest Email Newsletter today.

Takeaway Truth

I offer the same kind of info on my website and here on Sling Words, but I think it's good to read how different writers present the same subject matter.

We're all different in our attitudes and personalities so it follows that we differ in our approach to learning. Something that may resonate with me might not ring your chimes at all yet something another might write on the same subject may make you slap your forehead and shout, "So that's how it's done."

Someone Stole My Blog Post

Passing off another writer's work as your own is plagiarism. Plagiarism is stealing.

A well-known spam blog has stolen a post I made at my Performancing blog entitled Be A Happy Hooker, which is of course about writing compelling hook sentences. Hijacked it in its entirety down to every comma and period.

I immediately contacted the blog owner via Comments, the only way I've found to communicate with this blog. I've demanded they remove my post. I've also contacted Technorati where I found the link early Monday morning. (Imagine my surprise when I saw my work on someone else's blog!) I let the people at Performancing know also.

Then I went to my friend Jonathan Bailey of Plagiarism Today. He directed me to the Stock Letters he keeps on his site to help victims file copyright infringement claims with the proper authorities according to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

Jonathan's site is a treasure trove of information and gives the procedure to follow when you find your blog posts etc. are being stolen.Thus, I've contacted that blog's host and am writing letters to the major Search Engines also.

If the copyright infringer doesn't remove my post within 72 hours, you'll be reading more about this, and I'll be mailing those letters.

If you're wondering why I don't name this scum, I don't want to send traffic his way. But I will be naming names if he or she doesn't comply.

Takeaway Truth

We are all on a slippery slope in this digital age. We should all do what we can to ensure the integrity of copyright, even if that means we have to take action over what some may view as trivial issues.