Characteristics of Successful Authors

I noticed something in rereading last week's series about authors and their unpublished manuscripts so I wanted to be sure and point it out to you.

Hardly any writer is an overnight success and sells his or her very first manuscript. Writing is a business involving:

1. a learned set of narrative skills - grammar, spelling, plotting, characterization, viewpoint, scene and sequel, etc. If you don't know the full extent of narrative skills necessary, do yourself a favor and study so you can learn what you need to know.

2. the desire to tell stories - I think if you've got the desire to do something, that is an innate form of talent.

3. business sense - You need this to network, market well, get the professional assistance needed (that's an agent), take care of the money aspects of your career, learn how to promote you and your writing if that's in your game plan.

4. persistence - You must keep plugging away until success is achieved.

These characteristics are what all these authors share in common.

Takeaway Truth

Do an inventory of your writing characteristics. How do you stack up? Room for improvement? If so, you know what to do.

Help U.S. Troops Overseas

Derek Johnson, Founder and CEO of Tatango, emailed me about a project he's working on to help our soldiers deployed overseas Connect With Their Loved Ones.

He asked me to spread the work, and I'm only too happy to help. Here's a press release from him:

With the help of Email Our, a charitable military support organization, Tatango has created an interface exclusively for military personnel which easily allows any service member deployed overseas to instantly update all their loved ones back home through text messaging. (Viewing the URL:

Additional Information

Tatango Blog Post
YouTube Announcement
Facebook Group
Press Release

How You Can Help

All of you who visit Sling Words can help by passing along this message to anyone you know that's part of the military or post this information on your own blog or website wherever it may be - twitter, facebook, MySpace, et al in order to reach as many military service members and their families as possible.

Takeaway Truth

Serving overseas, away from family, is lonely. Help alleviate the loneliness by helping soldiers connect with their families.

No Shortcuts

Quote for the Week

There is no royal road to the temple of melody, where St. Cecilia dwells. There is no short cut to the temple of the beautiful, where Apollo reigns as lord of the arts of color, form, and music. The eager aspirant for eloquence, or wealth, or wisdom, begins a long, long way from the excellence that crowns one's life-work.
Newell Dwight Hillis

Takeaway Truth

There are no bargains at the counter of success. Knowing and accepting this, commit yourself and your work to achievement. Surprisingly, you'll be happier and ahead of those with unrealistic expectations.

Unpublished Manuscripts: Summation

Don't you just hate it when you're half asleep and trying to write a blog post and you inadvertently click the Publish Post button instead of the Save Now? You end up with a post going out that's just a draft, and everyone thinks you're a real dummy when they get it in their RSS feed.

Oh, well, it's not the first time I've appeared to be less than the sharpest Crayon in the box. Probably won't be the last either. Now that I've deleted the earlier post and had several cups of coffee to wake up my sleeping brain, fixed Saturday breakfast of French toast for my darling husband, and perused the morning paper, I'm ready to finish the summation (nice lawyer-ly sounding word, huh?) of the past week's series on what authors do with unpublished manuscripts.

First, let me thank again all the authors who helped with this Special Report. I'm listing them with their respective website links in case you'd like to copy the list:

Jenna Black

Jim C. Hines

Jannine Corti Petska

Dale Thompson writing as Pat Dale

Mardi Ballou

Donna Maloy

Vicky Burkholder

Nancy Haddock

Susan Lyons

Jane Toombs

Judi Fennell

Jane Myers Perrine

Jamie Leigh Hansen

L. C. Hayden

P.J. Mellor

Maryann Miller

Lessons Learned

What did we learn from this representative sample of authors about what they do with unpublished work? They save it with the idea of revising or cannibalizing for a future work or just out of sentimental attachment because it was a manuscript that was a stepping stone to their first sale.

Storage? Just about all of the authors save electronically either on their computer, an external hard drive, older floppy diskettes, CDs, flash drives, or online storage offered free or for a small fee. These are all worthy ideas. However, the useful life of all these appliances is limited.

If you're saving on CDs, thinking that is a permanent solution, it's not. CDs are just pieces of plastic and are subject to physical corruption by heat, dust, humidity, and breakage. CDs are dependable only for a couple of years.

Hard drives can fail. Online storage can be lost for many reasons from server failure to power fluctuation to human error. Redundant systems are supposed to guard against this, but the expense of redundancy is increasingly prohibitive. If you opt for this method, be sure you inquire as to their redundancy.

Those who like a paperless environment won't like hearing this but a hard copy printed on acid-free paper is still the best long-term storage option. I'd be willing to bet that most authors who insist on a back-up hard copy saved in a safe place like a safe deposit box do so because they've already lost data in electronic failure.

Always save in a handy electronic way like a flash drive, CD, etc. for easy access, but keep a good quality hard copy too because if all else fails, it can be scanned to produce a digital copy should the need arise.

Probable vs. Possible

Now, is it likely that your house will burn down and your computer and accessories will go up in smoke? Is it likely a hurricane will completely destroy your home and all its contents? No, but I know of several thousand that experienced this a couple of weeks ago including banks that flooded. Is it likely an online storage site will be struck by lightning, catch fire, file bankruptcy, or any of the other perils of modern life?

Perhaps none of these scenarios is probable, but they are all possible. At this point, if you were watching television, you'd probably see a commercial for insurance because insurance is for the terrible possibilities of life.

Manuscript Insurance

Get yourself some insurance for your manuscripts, published and unpublished. Use convenient electronic storage so you can access it easily on a daily basic. Once a project is finished, make a permanent electronic copy or two. Save in two different places like a fireproof safe at your parents' home and a bank safe deposit box. Then print out a hard copy and save in the safe deposit box too.

Takeaway Truth

If you don't believe me, ask any museum curator. Despite our technological advances, acid-free (archival) paper, when stored properly, is still the most reliable source for long-term storage.

Tactical Advantage

You often hear news reports where tactical advantage is discussed. If you look up the word tactical in the dictionary, like I did, you'll find that it means pertaining to a maneuver or plan of action designed as an expedient toward gaining a desired advantage.

I wanted to know exactly what it meant because, in my work in progress, I have an ex-cop character who uses that phrase a lot. His past as a member of a big city SWAT (special weapons and tactics) team is very much a part of his personality even to the way he dresses so if he's in the woods, he dresses for the field.

5.11 Tactical Outdoors

I found 5.11 Tactical that offers the kind of clothes and accessories my character would want. That website can outfit you from head to toe in clothes designed to give you a tactical advantage whether you're in the woods or going to the golf course.

I say golf course because my husband loves the cargo pants like those offered on 5.11 Tactical. You know, the kind with loads of pockets.

Men and their pockets. They carry as much junk as women do except they carry it all in their pockets. Wallet, keys, change, cell phone, PDA, and, in the case of my husband, other stuff according to his activity du jour. When he heads for the golf course, he shoves extra golf balls in the expansive pockets. Fishing? A small case of lures.

I've Bookmarked the site so I can refer back for research purposes. I also plan to do a little holiday shopping there for my husband and our oldest son.

Takeaway Truth

Researching on the Internet can yield you solid information and great gift ideas too.

Unpublished Manuscripts: 5 of 5

Today is the last day of this Special Report. Tomorrow, I'll publish a recap with some more suggestions on how to store old, so far unsold, manuscripts.

Welcome today's authors: Jamie Leigh Hansen, L. C. Hayden, P. J. Mellor, and Maryann Miller.

Jamie Leigh Hansen is the author of Cursed, a Paranormal Romance coming from Tor, December 2, 2008. (ISBN-10: 0765357216 and ISBN-13: 978-0765357212)

How many manuscripts do you have that didn't sell?

I've had one manuscript, a lot of partial manuscripts, that I've not even submitted. But even with a partial story, the pages and notes and files pile up. I save everything since pages can be easily ruined and files in outdated programs can become corrupt or inaccessible. My full manuscript is in the attic, with all its pages and a disk with the files on it. Two other good-size manuscripts were appropriated by my daughters, and I don't know where to find them. *LOL*

But I think even published manuscripts pile up the papers and files. I have binders and Rubbermaid tubs for each of my published books. Betrayed is on a shelf in all its various versions and from from Binder to ARC to finished copy. Cursed is mostly in a closet. *LOL*

My writing is all over my house. One of these days it would be good to have a large shelf of tubs I could access any time I wanted to. Filing cabinets don't work for me, so binders and tubs are perfect.

L. C. Hayden is the author of Why Casey Had to Die, a mystery from Five Star, and Bell Shaped Flowers, an inspirational to be released Fall 2008.

How many manuscripts do you have that didn't sell?

Four. I never tried to sell them. I took one out to see what it was like, and I’m glad I never tried to sell it. I just wasn’t ready.

Do you have them as a saved file? A hard copy manuscript? Or both?

This is way before computers (gasp! Did I just reveal my age???) so they’re all hard copies.

If hard copy, where do you store them?

Right behind my writing desk, I have four file cabinets. I have them filed under My Writing: Unpublished. So glad I have my own writing office here at home.

P.J. Mellor is the author of Drive Me Wild, Kensington Aphrodisia, January 2009, (ISBN 978-0-7582-2024-0).

How many manuscripts do you have that didn't sell?


Do you have them as a saved file? A hard copy manuscript? Or both?

I have at least SIX disks with my very first book on it - I was so paranoid in those days! I also found about 4 hard copies of it when we moved two years ago - and tossed them. Hey, I have MANY disks! I last counted two or three copies of each of the other unsold manuscripts (hard copy)- except the last two, which are only on disk - as well as at least one disk for each book.

If hard copy, where do you store them?

Anywhere I can find space! I have the remaining hard copies stored in the bottom of my storage closet in my office - and one boxed copy of that first book (I’m sure I would cringe if I re-read it now!) on the shelf in the closet of a guest room. I tell my husband paper makes for good extra insulation - along with fabric! - so it is serving a purpose.

Maryann Miller is the author of One Small Victory from Five Star/Gale.

How many manuscripts do you have that didn't sell?

Including short stories and screenplays I have over 30.

Do you have them as a saved file? A hard copy manuscript? Or both?

Some of the manuscripts are saved on disk, but there are a lot that are in hard copy only.

If hard copy, where do you store them?

The hard copies are stored in boxes in corners of my office and in the closet. If I had to use this closet for anything else, I would be in deep trouble. :-)

Many thanks to Jamie Leigh Hansen, L. C. Hayden, P. J. Mellor, and Maryann Miller for visiting today. Come back tomorrow for the summation.

Takeaway Truth

The talent of all the published authors who shared their thoughts this week is equaled by their generosity.

Unpublished Manuscripts: 4 of 5

We're nearing the home stretch in our series. Today's guests are Jane Toombs, Judi Fennell, and Jane Myers Perrine.

Jane Toombs is the author of North Of Nonesuch Anthology from Whiskey Creek Press, coming in November 2008, with print and electronic versions available at Amazon and Fictionwise.

How many manuscripts do you have that didn't sell?


Do you have them as a saved file? A hard copy manuscript? Or both?

I paid to have all three transcribed into electronic format by a person who does this for a reasonable cost so the hard copy has been destroyed. The closet in my writing room now contains far too many folders. I’m never going to get around to investigating the contents of them all.

I was lucky enough to have saved an old computer without internet access that had a port for old 51/4 floppy diskettes and one for 3 ½ floppy diskette so I was able to get two finished manuscripts transferred onto the smaller ones so they could be edited on a newer computer. Sold them both. Then I transferred everything I might ever use the same way, so I was able to get rid of all the big floppies which took up all the shelf space.

If hard copy, where do you store them?

In my closet I still have unfinished paper copies of six manuscripts I never finished for one reason or another, and probably never will. Can’t bear to throw them away.

Judi Fennell is the author of In Over Her Head, ISBN 9781402220012, coming from Sourcebooks, June 2009.

How many manuscripts do you have that didn't sell?

I recently sold my first book. Well, actually my first three books. Only one of them is written. I have four others that haven't sold, but two are part of a trilogy. I'm hoping to pitch them as my option. The other one was rejected by my publisher before I sold, but is still sitting on another editor's desk from months ago. The other. . . well, that's the book that goes in the drawer that no one will ever see. Oh, and I still have the hard copy of one I wrote when I was in 9th grade. Yes, I thought I was going to sell to Harlequin at fifteen. I don't think I ever even queried it.

Do you have them as a saved file? A hard copy manuscript.? Or both?

I save all of them as electronic files. I do that with each manuscript, tossing out the last version if I revise it. We have a fireproof safe in our house where I store the CDs. So much easier to save than paper.

If hard copy, where do you store them? The only one in hard copy is the one from 9th grade. And that, too, is in the safe: more for sentimental reasons than any prayer of publication.

Jane Myers Perrine, a 2008 Desert Rose finalist, is the author of Deep in the Heart, a September 2008 release from Steeple Hill Love Inspired.

How many manuscripts do you have that didn't sell?

10 (You don't want to know the number of proposals that didn't fly.)

Do you have them as a saved file? A hard copy manuscript? Or both?

I have the latest few saved on my computer and elsewhere. I have two very early ones in hard copy. The rest are gone, thrown away because they'd never sell without more work than I'm ready to spend. They were really horrible!

If hard copy, where do you store them?

In file folders on a shelf. Two don't take up much room.

Come back tomorrow for the last day of this special report when our guest authors will be: Jamie Leigh Hansen, L. C. Hayden, P. J. Mellor, and Maryann Miller.

Takeaway Truth

Certain themes are woven through all these authors' stories - persistence, saving what is written and using it again in some way, and saving manuscripts in hard copy sometimes if only for sentimental reasons.

Unpublished Manuscripts: 3 of 5

We're in the middle of our Special Report. I hope you are all enjoying it as much as I am.

Today, we welcome three other intrepid authors, Vicky Burkholder, Nancy Haddock, and Susan Lyons who will Sling Words and tackle the burning question: what do you do with manuscripts that didn't sell.

Vicky Burkholder is the author of Akashan'te from Cerridwen Press.

How many manuscripts do you have that didn't sell?

(Yet - still trying on a couple.) 11

Do you have them as a saved file? A hard copy manuscript? Or both?

Both - having had a hard drive crash, I always have a hard copy backup as well as backups on flash drives.

If hard copy, where do you store them?

I have a closet in my office with a special shelf just for them. The shelf is getting full. Some of them will never see the light of day. They're horrendous first efforts. A couple, I've used parts of in my works that did sell. Which is probably why I continue to keep them. I take the idea and parts of scenes or characters or something salvageable and reuse it. That way, they're not a total waste.

Nancy Haddock liked the idea of this little poll. "...what a great idea! Thanks for the offer to play!"

Nancy is the author of La Vida Vampire, out April of this year from Berkley Trade. The next in her popular series is Last Vampire Standing, also from Berkley Trade in May 2009.

How many manuscripts do you have that didn't sell?

Fulls and partials - 15-20

Do you have them as a saved file? A hard copy manuscript? Or both?

Some are saved as files, at least 6 as hard copies, and I've lost some.

If hard copy, where do you store them?

A few of the partials are in files, the fulls are bound with rotting rubber bands, and they are in boxes or plastic bins in the attic now. I was told I need to keep the hard copies of pubbed work, too, but storage is going to get old fast!

"Thanks again for the fun. I'll look forward to reading all the responses - and hopefully getting storage ideas!"

Susan Lyons is the author of Unwrap Me, coming from Kensington in October 2008. The ISBN is 978-0-7582-2853-6 if you want to order now from your favorite bookstore.

How many manuscripts do you have that didn't sell?

10 (yikes!)

Do you have them as a saved file? A hard copy manuscript? Or both?

Electronic file plus off-site electronic backup (though the research material is in boxes).

If hard copy, where do you store them?

I store the research material in boxes in my increasingly-cluttered home office shelves.

Tomorrow, Jane Toombs, Judi Fennell, and Jane Myers Perrine will Sling Words for us as they explore the issue of unpublished manuscripts.

Takeaway Truth

A published author is one who never gave up. Look at all the authors who have visited the last few days and see how many times they tried and were told no. Did they quit? No. They possess persistence. That is crucial to a successful writing career or to any career you name.

Unpublished Manuscripts: 2 of 5

I have a correction to the information from Jim Hines which was published yesterday. Jim's book Goblin Quest was published by DAW, not Five Star. I apologize for this mistake.

Today, I welcome Dale Thompson writing as Pat Dale, Mardi Ballou, and Donna Maloy to help us Sling Words. These three published authors will tackle the issue of what to do with unpublished manuscripts. Keep? Toss? Bonfire?

Dale Thompson writes mystery, suspense, and romance as Pat Dale. She's the author of a psychological suspense, Crossed Lines, out October 1 from Firedrakes Weyr Press.

Do you have manuscripts that didn't sell?

I have six other completed manuscripts, two of which I’m actively submitting as we speak, and four more that could be ready with a little more work. One of them is my first book, a massive 566 pages long. It breaks down into two books nearly equal in size but will probably only get published if I become well-known as a published author. One can only hope.

Do you have them as a saved file? A hard copy manuscript? Or both?

I have older versions of several of these in hard copy, buried low on one of my bookshelves - good only for historical review should I become another Mark Twain. LOL. The others are stored in my hard drive and on thumb drives. Now if I can only remember to put those things in my pocket if we ever have a tornado! Living here in Missouri, that is my worst fear when it comes to losing my work. That and fire. Thumb drives are amazing, I think, and so easy to use and store in safe places.

Mardi Ballou is the author of What's a Ghoul to Do?, A Fangly, My Dear story, e-released August 26 by Samhain Publishing with a print version coming soon.

How many manuscripts do you have that didn't sell?

Completed manuscripts? Two - and I'll add the word "yet" because, after much revision, there's one I'm trying to sell right now.

Do you have them as a saved file? A hard copy manuscript? Or both?

Both are saved files; I also have a hard copy of one.

If hard copy, where do you store them?

In a binder on a very dusty bookshelf.

Donna Maloy is published in romance, but her books are presently out of print. After pursuing and obtaining her MFA, she's again writing fiction of the paranormal persuasion.

How many manuscripts do you have that didn't sell?

Five full, a dozen partials and at least a gazillion in plot notes.

Do you have them as a saved file? A hard copy manuscript? Or both?


If hard copy, where do you store them?

Large file box.

Tune in tomorrow when our guest authors will be Vicky Burkholder, Nancy Haddock, and Susan Lyons.

Takeaway Truth

Hope springs eternal in an author's heart. We never really give up on a manuscript - even when we say we do. We all tend to view our unpublished creations as not only a learning experience but also as inventory.

Halloween Not Just For Kids

I looked at the calendar and realized that Halloween is just six weeks away. I love Halloween because I get to ooh and ah over the cute kids in their colorful costumes. When they ring my doorbell, I not only have candy (always my favorite chocolate bars - just in case I have any left over) but also have my camera ready so I can snap pictures of the tiny Luke Skywalkers and little Cinderellas.

What I especially like is the fact that the moms and dads who escort the little trick-or-treaters around usually wear costumes too. Costumed parents with a mob of little rug rats dressed up as their favorite character love to ham it up for the camera.

If you like joining in the fun, be sure and check out Halloween Costume Stores. They've got everything from Harry Potter to Superhero to Disney, from Movie Costumes to Sexy to Period Costumes - and everything in between.

Their costumes come in sizes for Children, Teens, Plus Size, and even Couples. Best of all, Fido and Fluffy can get in on the fun because they've got pet costumes too. With more than 10,000 items ranging from costumes to accessories to party supplies, HalloweenAdventure is a convenient, one-stop fun-shop.

Takeaway Truth

Halloween is a time when grown-ups can relive some of the fun of their own childhood. Get in the act, dress up in costume, and show your kids that you're not all work and no play.

Unpublished Manuscripts: 1 of 5

Welcome to a Sling Words Special Report. As I said in Saturday's introduction to this series, I'm confronted with piles of paper in a closet I need to de-clutter. These are hard copies of various drafts of unpublished manuscripts. I also have these unpublished manuscripts stored on hard drive, flash drive, and diskette. So why am I hanging on to the paper? Am I crazy or just a typical writer?

I decided to ask my fellow authors if they too had unpublished manuscripts languishing on a closet shelf, in an under-the-bed storage box, or in the back of a file cabinet drawer. Their entertaining answers are often insightful and created the content for this special report.

Popular Misconceptions

Now, if you're not a professional writer - or if you're a novice writer - you may think the publishing business is very simple. You write a story, the publisher buys it, the book comes out, and you repeat the process until you retire rich or croak. Whichever comes first.

Au contraire, mon ami!

Rarely does a writer sell that first manuscript. Most people write many manuscripts before they ever sell. Even after writers get published, they still get rejected.

What do authors do with a manuscript on which they have slaved - sometimes for weeks, sometimes for years - when that manuscript just doesn't sell?

Today, Jenna Black, Jim C. Hines, and Jannine Corti Petska tackle the questions I asked.

Jenna Black

Jenna is the author of The Devil's Due, coming November 25 of this year from Dell Spectra.

How many manuscripts do you have that didn't sell?

I have 16 unsold, full-length novel manuscripts. (And don't even talk to me about all the short stories!!)

Do you have them as a saved file? a hard copy ms.? or both?

I have saved files, and hard copies for most, if not all of them.

If hard copy, where do you store them?

They seem to pop up in the strangest places. They're in my file cabinet, in my closet, in my storage room/attic. (The latter I think are ones I never unpacked when we moved into my current house.) I'd probably have to tear the house apart to find a particular one I wanted, but it's not that hard for me to stumble on one by accident.

So I'd say that's a big no, you're not the only obsessive person who saves all this crap. LOL

Jim C. Hines

Jim is the author of Goblin War from Five Star.

How many manuscripts do you have that didn't sell?


Do you have them as a saved file? a hard copy ms.? or both?


If hard copy, where do you store them?

They're in an old milk crate in the office. Though at least one of them should probably be moved, preferably tossed into a bottomless pit where none shall ever look upon it again...

Jannine Corti Petska

Jannine is the author of Knight's Desire. Her Rebel Heart was a 2007 Aspen Gold Finalist.

I love polls. LOL.

How many manuscripts do you have that didn't sell?

I have about 15.

Do you have them as a saved file? a hard copy ms.? or both?

They were saved on disks, but when I bought a new computer several years ago, I went from using WP6 to MSWord, and they weren't compatible at all. So I am typing them into the computer as I rewrite them and submit.

If hard copy, where do you store them?

My hard copies are in two places. The originals are on shelves in my office, and a copy of each is at the other side of the house in my bedroom closet.

Thanks, Jenna, Jim, and Jannine. (How alliterative!)

Please visit Sling Words tomorrow to hear what Dale Thompson, Mardi Ballou, and Donna Maloy have to say.

Takeaway Truth

Authors seem to hang on to their hard copies. Perhaps we do this because it's tangible evidence that our time wasn't wasted. We created something that wasn't there before, something that started with an electrical impulse in our brain. Even though the manuscript didn't find a publishing home, we have proof with that pile of paper that our time was well used.

Changing the World

Quote of the Week

M. Elizabeth Dick said: I'm working to change my world, not the world.

What are you trying to achieve with your work? Are you trying to change your world in some way i.e. improved economic status, improved self-image, or what? Do you ever stop to think that you should have a goal in working,beyond the receipt of a paycheck?

Think about that for a moment because why we do something has great importance to how we feel about what we do. Are you working just to earn some bucks or are you working because you have a contribution to make to someone, somewhere?

Those who enjoy their work most are those who love what they do.

As writers, we must always remember why we are writing. It's because we love what we do. We are changing our respective worlds because of our contribution to the world of words.

Don't let tough markets, fierce competition, rejection, bad reviews, or any of that other garbage obscure your love of writing.

Takeaway Truth

Loving what you do and feeling it is important make the daily grind less of a grind whether you're writing books or articles or grinding coffee at the local java joint.

Inquiring Minds Want to Know

With full power restored and all my phone lines working, I've been trying to get back to normal in my writing, blogging, and life itself.

How Safe Is A Safe Room

Hurricane Ike made me realize that I've gotten lax in storm preparedness. When you live in an area prone to hurricanes and the tornadoes they can spawn, you should always have a safe room, or in the case of just about everyone I know, a safe closet where you can take cover when a warning is issued.

The closet should be in the center part of the house and not near any large expanse of glass, water heaters, furnaces, or anything else than can explode and kill you.

I Dub Thee Joan, Queen of Writing Clutter

Our designated closet is the one in my study which is chock full of all kinds of writing clutter from old keyboards to piles of manuscripts that never found a publishing home. I keep the hard copies in case I have to prove that writing is a career not a hobby. Or at least that's what I always tell my husband who wonders after 20+ successful years of earning income from writing why I feel compelled to hang on to those hard copies.

I looked at those piles of paper - some saved for years - and started wondering: am I the only obsessive person who saves all this crap? Or do my fellow published authors have manuscripts gathering dust in the back of some closet or under a bed?

Lightbulb moment! This would be a great subject for a fun blog post. So I asked around and got some very interesting answers. Enough answers to be a series starting Monday, September 22.

Sling Words Special Report

So visit Sling Words next week for this new series and see how other published authors deal with their unpublished manuscripts. You'll smile a lot, and you just might get some ideas for new storage solutions.

Takeaway Truth

When you think you may be slightly crazy, just ask around. You'll realize you're just normal.

Random Roundup for Writers

I enjoy Liana Brooks blog, especially her Friday Random. Since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery - which is nicer than saying I'm going to rip off her idea (Actually, I do admire and flatter.) - I've decided to occasionally do my own Friday Random and put my own spin on it.

Random Quote

Game shows are designed to make us feel better about the random, useless facts that are all we have left of our education. Chuck Palahniuk (1962 - ) in Invisible Monsters, 1999.

Random News

Jonathan Bailey of Plagiarism Today, a blog to which you should subscribe if you're serious about your writing career, has added a new page. Check out Copyright Myths if you're a novice or if you just need to refresh your knowledge about Copyright basics.

Random Giveaway

Over at Paperback Writer, you can register for a very nice giveaway.

Random Psychology

My peeps over at the PASIC (Published Authors Special Interest Chapter) blog 2 B Read have an excellent article on Self-Sabotage.

Random Agent FYI

Lori Perkins, Literary Agent and new editor for ePub Ravenous Romance, gives her take on how the economic slowdown affects writers.

Random Writing Contest

This one is a biggy. St. Martin's/Minotaur hosts it every year, but I just remembered it. My bad. Deadline is October 15, 2008. If you have a cozy mystery, get it ready to mail. Read more about Malice Domestic Writing Competition including all the rules.

Takeaway Truth

Is anything truly random or coincidental or is coincidence merely God's way of remaining anonymous?

New AT&T Terms of Service

Recently, I posted Cloud Computing at my other blog. In it, I advised everyone to carefully read the Terms of Service agreements for free websites and email services so you'd know exactly what privacy issues were at stake.

Yesterday, as an AT&T broadband customer, I received email notification of their revised Terms of Service. I just finished reading the long version of their new T of S. They're claiming the same Grant of License that is the trouble spot with the other web services, to wit:

11. a. Grant of License. AT&T and Yahoo! do not claim ownership of Content you submit or make available for inclusion on the Site or Service. However, with respect to Content you submit or make available for inclusion on publicly accessible areas of the Site, you grant AT&T and Yahoo! the following world-wide, royalty free and non-exclusive license(s) as applicable:

(i) With respect to Content you submit or make available for inclusion on publicly accessible areas of Yahoo! Groups, you grant AT&T and Yahoo! the license to use, distribute, reproduce, modify, adapt, publicly perform and publicly display such Content on the Site solely for the purposes of providing and promoting the specific Yahoo! Group to which such Content was submitted or made available. This license exists only for as long as you elect to continue to include such Content on the Site and will terminate at the time you remove or Yahoo! removes such Content from the Site.

(ii) With respect to photos, graphics, audio or video you submit or make available for inclusion on any publicly accessible area of the Site other than Yahoo! Groups, you grant AT&T and Yahoo! the license to use, distribute, reproduce, modify, adapt, publicly perform and publicly display such Content on the Site solely for the purpose for which such Content was submitted or made available. This license exists only for as long as you elect to continue to include such Content on the Site and will terminate at the time you remove or Yahoo! removes such Content from the Site .

(iii) With respect to Content other than photos, graphics, audio or video you submit or make available for inclusion on publicly accessible areas of the Site other than Yahoo! Groups, you grant AT&T and Yahoo! the perpetual, irrevocable and fully sub-licensable license to use, distribute, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, publicly perform and publicly display such Content (in whole or in part) and to incorporate such Content into other works in any format or medium now known or later developed.

Yes, you own the copyright, but by posting anything on a public area that AT&T owns, you are granting them the license to use it any way they see fit. There's one big glaring gaffe here. Publicly accessible area is not defined. Is the email system considered a publicly accessible area?

Takeaway Truth

If this doesn't bother you, then that's fine as long as you realize what you're doing. If it does bother you, then you are forewarned.

Final Thoughts on Ike

I want to thank everyone who took the time to comment on Sling Words or who emailed me. I appreciate your {{{huhgs}}}, prayers, and good thoughts.

In an attempt to get back to normal, I'm posting these final thoughts on Ike. Tomorrow, I'll return to my normal editorial calendar here at Sling Words. If I feel the need to say more about Ike, I'll post them on my other blog Joan Slings Words. There's always a link over on the right side of this blog if you haven't subscribed to the feed there yet or haven't bookmarked it.

Life Put Into Perspective

I am so very fortunate in that my home is undamaged. I suffered no flooding. The power has been restored, and as I write this Monday, Sept. 15, around 5pm, our power has returned and been on uninterrupted for a 24 hour period. Our landline phone is a bit wonky as are cell phones, but the DSL for my Internet is working fine. I've been able to make and receive calls.

Sure, my back fence is laying on the ground. Not a tree in my yard is undamaged. There was no meat of any kind and no bread at the store, but I got a jug of milk and a dozen eggs. I even found a gas station this afternoon and was able to gas up our 4-wheel drive vehicle. Everything that is out of the norm for me is just a minor inconvenience. There is no way I'm going to complain about any of that or the price of gasoline or the slow traffic or anything. I feel inordinately lucky and blessed.

Here in the Houston-Galveston area and all the way over east to Port Arthur and Orange, others are faced with these shortage problems: power, water, gasoline, dependable phone service, a clean place to rest and regroup, and food. This entire area is faced with massive destruction and debris and loss of homes and businesses.

Governments Working

The photograph above of a local Chevron station with a pump island flattened to the concrete illustrates some of the problems with obtaining gasoline. Some stations may have gas, but, without electricity, it can't be pumped. Stations without gasoline can't get their tanks filled unless the power comes back on. Gasoline and the other shortages must be addressed immediately.

Local, state, and federal governments are responding as quickly and as efficiently as they can. The people in need are at their rope's end so tempers are short. There will be emotional meltdowns but hopefully not many. If everyone on both sides of the distribution line can be a little more patient and a little more compassionate, all will benefit.

The latter set of problems - loss of homes and businesses - will impact peoples' lives for a long time to come. There just aren't any easy answers or quick fixes for this situation.

If you'd like to see some of the photos from my local newspaper, visit Houston Chronicle.

Changed Landscape

It's hard to believe that lovely Crystal Beach, a setting I used in one of my books, on the Bolivar Peninsula, a ferry ride away from Galveston, is simply not there any more. Bolivar Peninsula is now 3 islands. Galveston looks to be a muddy coastal plain beyond the seawall.

Learn From Ike

If you are in an area that is in harm's way or an area that may flood, learn from this storm. Make plans for the next. Consider purchasing flood insurance if there's any likelihood your home or business may be damaged by rising water. Make a plan to secure your important papers and photographs some place that won't flood. Give if you can - money or goods according to what is needed and what you can give.

Takeaway Truth

The only good that ever comes from something bad is the knowledge you gain from the experience that enables you to survive and to make changes to ensure your future.

Just What Every Parent Needs

When our youngest started driving, I worried constantly about her. Not because I thought she was a bad driver but because I knew the Houston-area has a few million cars on the road each and every day. It was all these other people behind their respective steering wheels that worried me.

The most excruciating times were when I couldn't reach her because either her cell phone battery wasn't charged or she was in an area where the signal was too low to receive or send. If only I'd had access to GPS Tracking, I probably wouldn't have as many silver hairs in my blond head today.

You can track anyone or anything Live with the PT-10 GPS tracker. You can actually watch the transmission on your computer screen as it happens. Plus, it works anywhere in the world.

I'm thinking this might be a great gift for my husband who likes to escape to the deer woods every year. I'm also going to tell my sister-in-law about it because her husband, my brother, just bought mountain property in Colorado. No worries about where he is if he doesn't show up for dinner with this little tracker.

Takeaway Truth

Technology can help reduce some of the anxiety of modern life for parents and for spouses of adventurers.

Ike: Death on Trees

I live in an area noted for pecan trees, the state tree of Texas. Sadly, pecan trees don't do well in high wind. At the end of my garage is a pecan tree that's probably over 100 years old. It's kind of gangly and is the home for 2 squirrel nests that I'd love to get rid of because squirrels are a constant nuisance for us. The tree is huge in height and girth though not excessively leafy nor is it well-branched.

The photo is of a tree near a roadside state park, an area full of native pecan trees. They and most of the pecans in this part of Texas suffered during the hurricane that hit Saturday.

Takeaway Truth

For every tree that dies, plant at least one and nurture it. I intend to do so.

Smart Web Consumers Analyze

Writers know they need their own website, but, often, they don't know how to make that happen without signing up for a cookie-cutter site through one of the popular services. Sure, you can get a free site just like you can get a free blog, and there are many sites that offer this service.

Be Unique

However, you probably want something a bit more distinctive than the common templates used by the majority of people. If that's the case, then you need to own your own domain so that you own the site. Then you can design the site any way you want it.

You probably know this, but you haven't taken that step because you don't know which web hosting sites are reputable, dependable, and affordable. Worry no more because I know a website that takes the anxiety out of choosing website hosting.

Site Rates Web Hosting

On the main page of, you'll find a listing of the top 6 web hosting providers with their monthly fee and some significant facts about each that you need to know. Then you can cruise over and read some of the articles to learn the basic information you need to know about domain names, websites, and web hosting. The site makes it easy, even for non-technical users, to compare various web hosting sites.

Takeaway Truth

If you need your own website as part of your career plan, educate yourself so you'll know exactly what you need, where to get it from a reliable web hosting service, and how much it will cost.

Interview: Terry Odell, Author

Reprinted from The Website of Joan Reeves, (READING Page & WORDPLAY, the subscription newsletter) September 2008

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

Readers, Terry is the author of Finding Sarah, What's in a Name?, Starting Over, Hidden Fire, and When Danger Calls.

Here's the information you need in order to ask your local library to order Terry's books it if it hasn't already done so or to purchase them from your favorite online source: visit Terry's website and click on the book that interests you. In her final comments, she also lists some of the places where her books are sold.

Terry Odell: Romance With a Twist~~of Mystery

Website: & Blog:

Now, let's begin with the Standard 10 Questions.

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

Terry Odell: About five, although I'd written two other complete manuscripts before my first was accepted. I never had any aspirations to be a writer; I sort of fell into it by mistake and enjoyed it enough to keep at it.

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

Terry Odell: Having people tell me they couldn't put my book down. I want to be taken to another world when I read, so it's gratifying to know I can do that for others.

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

Terry Odell: I suppose it would be that with a small press, I'm responsible for so much marketing and promotion. I'm not all that comfortable 'selling' myself.

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

Terry Odell: That people think I'm 'different' or 'special' because I've published some books. Or if it comes up that I'm a writer, they say, "Oh, are you famous?" or "Have I heard of you?"

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

Terry Odell: I always write the stories I want to write. Maybe when I have a multi-book contract with deadlines, I'll feel differently, but I just like telling stories about people, pushing them to make them face situations they weren't aware they could handle when the book starts. Of course, these end up being 'tough sells' because they don't necessarily fit the mold. That's why a small press can be very nice; they're not restricted the way the bigger houses seem to be when it comes to taking a chance on new authors. There seems to be a lot of 'sameness' in the bookstores these days.

Joan: What do you love about your career?

Terry Odell: Working at home, no office hours, no need to get dressed for the office.

Joan: What do you hate about your career?

Terry Oell: Nothing. There are things I'd rather not have to do, like spending money and time on promotion, but I'm still new enough that it's all fun. If it wasn't fun, I'd quit. But I do miss being able to read for pure pleasure -- the internal editor is hard to turn off. It takes a much 'better' book to make me forget I'm reading these days. And I haven't yet been faced with writing to a deadline, so there's not a lot of external pressure.

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

Terry Odell: I'm assuming you mean 6 figures in front of the decimal point, right? I can't see that happening to me, but I'd probably buy two tickets on an extended luxury cruise.

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

Terry Odell: If you're a writer, you'll write. It's not an 'overnight success' business -- and it's a business, so writing a fantastic book is only a fraction of the process. BICFOK (or, BICHOK as I've also seen it.) Develop a thick skin. It's not you, it's not your work, it's all about whether a publisher thinks they will be able to sell it to the bookstores. And READ.

(Note from Joan: For you who aren't writers, BICFOK means "butt in chair, fingers on keyboard." BICHOK is "butt in chair; hands on keyboard.")

Joan: What would you like readers to know?

Terry Odell: Now, that's a loaded question! That I'd love to hear from them. That digital versions of books save trees and reduce our carbon footprints. That small publishing houses produce quality work, but readers have to make the effort to request the books from their book stores and libraries if they don't like to order books by mail. Finding Sarah took Second Place in The Lories for Romantic Suspense. What's in a Name? is a Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence finalist and also a finalist in the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense, and in the Aspen Gold (Heart of Denver Romance Writers). My Cerridwen press books are available from the Cerridwen press websites, from All Romance eBooks, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.

Visit my website, Say hi.

Joan: Terry, thanks again for sharing these thoughts with us and best of luck with your writing.

Readers, join us next month when L. C. Hayden will be our guest of honor.

Ike Damage

As of the moment, the day is overcast with intermittent wind and rain. Ike has moved on. We were lucky and came through Hurricane Ike with minimal damage. Lots of tree branches down, a couple of gutter downspouts ripped away, and the back fence flattened except for a concrete bench in my flower bed. I think the bench may have saved the new row of pittosporum planted a few months ago.

No broken glass. No boat from my neighbor's driveway through my dining room window. No injuries. Also no power.

Electricity went off at 1:55AM amidst what sounded like a hail storm against our bedroom windows. Chunks of bark, leaves, tiny branches. All swirling together in an assault of our windows. All that wind didn't even puff the curtains so I guess the windows are sealed well and hurricane shatter proof up to a certain wind speed.

Unfortunately, from Clear Lake where we formerly lived, east to Seabrook and Kemah, west to Friendswood and Pearland, and south to League City, Dickinson, LaMarque, Texas City, and Galveston Island did not fare so well. If you can donate to the Red Cross or Salvation Army, please do so. There is going to be tremendous need as a result of the damage done by Ike.

Since it took forever to load this picture of my flattened fence, I won't load any more though I went out and snapped pics of snapped trees - some quite large - downed street signs, smashed electric signs, streets covered with debris. Check my other blog in case it loads photos easier.

Our generator is chugging away with our fridge, a fan, a TV, and a line for this computer plugged in. I'm signing off for now since we need to conserve the gasoline for the generator so we can run our fridge enough every 24 hour period to keep the food from spoiling and so we'll have cold water and ice. Don't know if we'll be able to get any more gasoline for a few days.

Probably won't be back on until tomorrow for a short period of time unless we get power back - which isn't likely.

Hope all of my fellow writers in the affected area came through the storm also.

Takeaway Truth

As long as you and your loved ones survived without injuries, anything else can be fixed.

Ike In Photographs

6:30 PM

Looking down my street. Clouds have moved in rather quickly. Wind speed wavers between hard enough to whip a hat from your head to desultory.


Another hour passes. Now it's about 7:30 PM. Looking across the street from the end of my front sidewalk at the sky. Clouds are boiling. Wind whips mostly from northeast then abruptly changes. Beautiful but scary because of what's causing this amazing color display.




The situation is changing as rapidly as all those clouds in the earlier pictures. Lots of wind. I can hear it since my study is at the front of the house. We have a lot with several trees. Most of the time we like that. But when a storm comes, trees are the last thing I want near my house. Especially the giant pecan tree, aka, my hurricane anxiety, at the back corner of the garage.

We still have power and Dish satellite much to my surprise. My husband keeps coming in and telling me to wrap it up and shut everything down so I guess I will. I've set this to publish shortly after midnight.

I'll check in tomorrow morning if I have power. Going to watch the Armageddon Report which is what I call all the talking heads out in the flooded streets trying to become the next Dan Rather.

Take care. Stay safe.

We Don't Like Ike

I drove through my neighborhood a couple hours ago when the sun was just starting to be obscured by clouds. Snapping pictures is somewhat of a hobby of mine. A few wise people have prepared in advance as my husband and I have.

Waiting for Ike

We’re all waiting for Ike's impending visit and hoping he'll not be an obnoxious guest. Of course, none of us like Ike. At Casa Reeves we've battened down the hatches, got the yard and patio stuff stowed in the garage, filled gas cans, and checked out the generator. We have ignition! We're here to shelter in place as the talking heads on TV are fond of saying.

Of course, when I awoke this morning, I knew we were in for it. I've been through so many hurricanes and typhoons that I've lost count. One thing I know is that peculiar color of sky at dawn when a storm is coming.

I'm southwest of Houston in a golf course community. The golfers were out on the greens until an hour and a half ago. We've had a breezy morning, sunshine, and lots of humidity. About two hours ago, clouds started piling up. It's eerily still now and overcast.

Prudence vs. Procrastination

Some in the neighborhood have boarded up. Others haven't even bothered to take in pot plants, door decorations, or anything. I'm going to be really upset if some neighbor's pot plants end up flying through the big fan window in my breakfast room.

Unfortunately, we never got plywood cut for the windows in this house. We intended to have that done when we moved in. About 7 years ago. Ah, the evil demon Procrastination. Actually, we were told that the windows would withstand hurricane winds up to 150 mph, but nothing withstands a flower pot flung by a gale force wind.

If you visit my other blog Joan Slings Words, you can see more pictures and read about the last hurricane that hit the Houston area in 1983.

I'll continue to post on both blogs as long as we have power. I computed the amperage and/or wattage of necessary electrical stuff to see what we could run from the generator if worse comes to worse. Unfortunately, the computer ended up below fridge, fans, and an electric fry pan.

Of course, we may be lucky and not lose power. I'll just go get my rose colored glasses while I wait and see.

Takeaway Truth

I wish good fortune to everyone threatened by this storm. Stay safe. Hopefully, we'll all survive unscathed.

How Long To Write Book? Answers, Part 5

Today brings the last part of this series. I hope you've enjoyed it. I know I have.

Our last answer is provided by Paula Roe

Paula is the author of Boardrooms and a Billionaire Heir, a Silhouette Desire released in May 2008. Paula invites you to visit her website and Down Under Desirabelles.

Hmmm.... There are many variables that go into writing a book.

What you're writing. To build author brand, category authors are encouraged to have at least two books out a year, whereas single title authors are on the shelves longer and so get longer to write.

How you're writing. Are you are a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid? Do you even know your process? If you're gradually learning about how you write (and for each book, that may be different) then this will impact on your time. If you take a day to plot your story prior to writing it, you may be a faster writer than one who's a pantser, someone who discovers the story as
she writes.

Your home life. Authors are single, divorced, married, with a dozen kids, with none, retired, empty nesters... the list goes on. Some can get up at 4am each morning and write until lunch. Some have to fit it into school hours, around first and/or second jobs, or at night when the kids/husband are asleep.
Your creative self. Sometimes life happens (death, divorce, tragedy, job) and you can't write. A multi-published author once told me when she's thinking of a deadline, she always adds one extra week for each of the kids, one for the dog and one for her mother.

What your publisher wants.
There are only a set amount of slots per year that have to be filled and some authors are so prolific (like Nora Roberts and her alter ego JD Robb) that they have to cross genres to get their stories published. Some (like Presents/Medical Harlequin author Melanie Milburne) cross category lines to find the slots.

What I'm getting at is there's no such thing as an average author any more than there's an average person. For me, my editor wants two books a year, which is pretty scary since my first published book took around six years to write, on and off! And suddenly I'm required to write two a year?

After much internal angst can I do this?!! I slayed those doubt demons and proved I could write under contract and deliver on time. My second book was contracted on synopsis in December 2006, and I handed in the complete at the end of July 2007. As I don't writing during school holidays nor after 2.30pm, I calculated that this book was written in about 18 weeks, a story written from scratch, mind you, not one I had as backup under my bed.

I recently handed in my 3rd book. After taking about 6 weeks to get the first three chapters and synopsis right, I gave myself two months for the other 40,000 words, which I handed in on time. Now I've taken to pre-preparing as much as I can - mainly GMC charts and plot sketching, which is drafting stuff up on a whiteboard chapter by chapter, using cause and effect.

This has taken me about three days, which has saved me about three weeks in floundering with "what happens next?" Then I take about a month to polish the synopsis and 3 chaps before I submit it. And, wow, this process feels so right that I'm hoping to have it complete by Christmas.

Takeaway Truth

More often than not, I've found generosity to be a hallmark of successful people. I hope you'll visit these authors who took the time to share their respective work ethics with you. Buy their books or request your local library to stock the books. If you're uncertain as to how to get your library to do that, visit my website. On the Reading page, there's an article describing the process.

How Long To Write Book? Answers: Part 4

Welcome back.

Our first guest author today is Jacqueline Seewald.

How long does it take to write a book? Not that long. It's the rewriting that takes forever.

In the case of the Inferno Collection, I got the original idea when I was taking a symposium at Rutgers in the library science program. The featured speaker was a Princeton librarian who was discussing inferno collections and how banned books were handled by librarians. I thought to myself that here was the perfect framework for a mystery novel.

Anyway, I ended up writing what I consider to be a unique novel. However, it was many years and a lot of rewrites before I actually sold it. I was delighted when Five Star/Gale published my novel in June 2007. And now it is coming out from Wheeler in a large print edition in September 2008, this very month!

Sharon Ervin

Sharon is the author of Murder Aboard the Choctaw Gambler, released in 2008, and six other published novels. Our four children were still at home when I wrote my first novel. In order not to neglect husband or kids, I limited my writing to from 5:30 to 7:30 a.m., six days a week. The first draft took three months and was 378 pages of brilliant prose. Polishing ... continues. The problem is, writing is a learning process. Each new discovery has to be incorporated into an old manuscript. Twenty-six years later, I'm still learning.

I once asked Jack Bickam, author and writing teacher extraordinaire, when he knew a book was complete. He said he never felt certain. As he drove to the post office with the final draft of the Apple Dumplin' Gang, he was mentally revising, almost turned the car around to rework a scene. A glance at the ready-to-ship manuscript prodded him to mail it, regardless. He advised that an author make a book as perfect as possible, then bite the bullet and send it.

That first "brilliant prose" I wrote never sold. Happily, others did.

How Long To Write Book? Answers, Part 3

Welcome back. Get a cup of coffee and get comfortable. Here are today's answers to that pressing question above. One of our guest authors today is from the Five Star Authors list. Welcome, Jim Ingraham.

Kate Douglas

Kate is the author of the Wolf Tales series. You can find out more about her books on her website of her other sites: and

I write two novels and two novellas a year for my Wolf Tales series, although I did three and three the first two years of my contract.

It takes me about eight weeks to write a novel (80,000 words) and four to six weeks for a novella (30,000 words), but I spend a lot more time thinking about the story before I actually sit down to write. And, of course, all those wonderful thoughts go right out the window when I’m actually into the story!

Of course, along with the actual writing, you have to remember time for any revisions, plus the copy edits and page proofs, not to mention promotion. Writing is often the easiest part of this job!

Michele Ann Young is the author of The Lady Flees Her Lord, to be published by Sourcebooks in October 2008.

I think "depends" is right. For me I think about six months for a romance, for my end of it, would be about how long it takes. By that I mean, for me to feel happy with the story and before sending it to my agent or editor.

The Lady Flees Her Lord, coming out in October, certainly took around that length of time. I could definitely take longer, but that would be all on the self-editing side, you know, fussing. Getting the plot down and the characters set and getting to the end seems to work well at the sixth month mark.

I am, of course, hoping that as time goes on I will get faster.

Jim Ingraham

Jim is the author of Remains To Be Seen, published July 18, 2008, by Five Star.

I spent more than ten years writing my novel Remains To Be Seen, published July 18, 2008. I took time off every once in a while to write short stories for Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. Total writing days on the book were probably six years. Another novel, Sahara Dust, took about three years. My novel A Capacity for Evil took about two years.

Tune in tomorrow!

Introducing My Dymo

A while back I wrote a blog post about some essential office accessories everybody needs - especially writers. One of the things I mentioned was a Dymo Label Maker. I would be lost without mine. I use it on everything that needs to be organized from file folders to 3-ring binders to shelves in my office supply storage closet.

Over the weekend, I made labels for each satellite TV remote. (If I'd done it before, it wouldn't have taken us all afternoon trying to figure out which channel each TV had to be set to in order to receive satellite service.)

With the back-to-school frenzy in full swing, what better time to get your kid organized. The Dymo Label Maker can help identify their lunch bag, books, sports gear, gym clothes, music, and more. In fact, I bet just about everything in a student's life could be organized better with one of these handy, dandy label makers.

I know teachers love them. I gave my daughter one and she got her art classroom organized in nothing flat with labels on the storage cabinets for each class period, labels on the shelves in the supply room, and labels on her wall of art display.

If you run out of ideas for organizing, just click the link above and visit their website. You'll find great ideas about how to use the label maker in ways you may not have thought of before.

Takeaway Truth

A little organization goes a long way in helping kids - and mommies - with their daily tasks.

How Long To Write Book? Answers, Part 2

Welcome back! Today, we have more answers just for your ears, or, rather, eyes, from published authors about how long it takes to write a book from conception to submission.

Angie Fox

Angie is the New York Times Bestselling Author of The Accidental Demon Slayer.

Great question! The Accidental Demon Slayer took me five months to write, but that was quicker than usual for me. An editor wanted to see it so I put in some double writing sessions toward the end. Usually, a book in six or seven months is comfortable for me. That's how long I took with The Dangerous Book for Demon Slayers, due out in May 2009.

Glynnis Campbell aka Sarah McKerrigan

Glynnis Campbell aka Sarah McKerrigan writes stories to keep you up all night. As Sarah McKerrigan, she is the author of Danger's Kiss, ISBN 0-446-61887-X, published May 2008.

I get this question all the time, and you're right - it depends. I've feverishly written a novella in three weeks, but I've also dawdled over a book for five years.

Generally, the answer I give (which seems to approximately coincide with my contracts) is it takes about the same as a baby - nine months. Sometimes, the baby surprises me and comes early. Sometimes I muse about the baby for months before the actual pregnancy begins. But generally it's about nine months to deliver that beautiful, bouncing baby book.

Jamie Leigh Hansen

Jamie is the author of Cursed which will be published in December 2008.

For Betrayed, I began writing it August 2001. I wrote 150 pages, realized something important about my heroine's character and deleted them all.

April 2002, I began again at page one and wrote 425 pages by September 25, 2002. I entered the Dorchester contest and got the results the summer of 2003. Based on the results, I needed to rework the beginning, and the story changed from there. From July to December 2003, I was mainly in the hospital with my family. Husband's surgery, my broken leg, and our daughter's brain tumor.

January 2004 to April 16, 2005, I wrote page 1 to 425. I included old stuff but rewrote new and revised old so much. It (ended up being) a totally different story. I submitted to Natasha Kern two months later, signed with her 3 months after that. Then I worked with a freelance editor, and we went over it 3 times (pages 1- 425). Then 3 more times with Anna Genoese at Tor. Then copyedits and first pass pages. The book was completely done and never touched again after August 2007. Six years.

Cursed, out in December 2008, had 50 pages written the fall of 2002. I worked on it again spring and summer 2005, January to August 2006, January to May 2007. Not quite finished over 120k words. With input from my agent and other sources, I rewrote and heavily revised the book from July 2007 to Feb 2008. 118.8k words. Heather Osborn cut 20k words; we did the copy edits and first pass this summer. It's out in Decemer. Six years of chunks.

So, from concept to publication, each of my books has taken about 6 years because even when I'm not working on it, it's in my thoughts, processing and percolating.

Tune in tomorrow for Answers, Part 3.

How Long To Write Book? Answers, Part 1

In last Saturday's blog post, I posed the question: How long does it take a published author to write and edit a book to completion? The wonderful authors of the Published Authors Special Interest Chapter (PASIC) of Romance Writers of America responded with wit and wisdom. Here are three answers.

Alexis Morgan

Alexis is the author of Dark Warrior Unleashed and The Mammoth Book of Vampire Romance, both available now, and Darkness Unknown coming from Pocket Star, Feb. 2009.

I usually allow four months for a book of 90K words. I write 35 pages per week, aiming for a 380 pg manuscript. That works out to about 12 weeks of actual writing time. Then I add on a month for editing, working on books in production, and the little surprises life hands us once in a while.

Kimberly Killion

Kimberly writes Sexy Medieval Romance and is the author of Her One Desire which is on sale now and Highland Dragon, coming in 2009 from Kensington.

I have had one wild experience that might apply to the infinite question: "How long does it take for the average published author to write and edit a book?"

The first book (my ‘University’ book) took 2 and a half years. I had a lot to learn and, sadly, it will never see the light of day. The second book I wrote, Highland Dragon, which comes out in October 2009, took me a year. So I was indeed getting faster.

The third book I wrote, Her One Desire, which actually came out before the second (long story), took me a meager three months. Why so short a time period, you ask. Well, that was the deadline I was given by my editor at Kensington. So, how long does it take to write a book? It depends on the given deadline.

Allison Brennan

Allison is the author of Playing Dead, coming September 30, 2008.

"It depends" is a great answer!

My books take 6-10 weeks to write and 2-4 weeks to revise. But that's sort of deceptive because I'm usually churning ideas and plot problems and scenes around in my head for months or years.

For example, in 2001 after the birth of my son, I wrote 300 pages on a book I was calling The Copycat Killer. I wasn't that serious and got bored with the story, though I loved the premise. I wasn't serious about my writing back then, just sort of fooling around while watching television over the summer.

Fast forward two years. I had become very serious about writing, wrote four complete manuscripts that didn't sell. I brought out The Copycat Killer and thought, hey, this isn't bad . . . until I got to chapter three and realized everything past chapter two had to go. 280 pages . . . delete.

I rewrote the book with the same characters and premise, just different, and it took me five months (while working full time.) That book became The Prey, my debut novel.

So did that book take five months? Eight months if I add in the three months I wrote the garbage? Or nearly three years between when I wrote the first chapter and the last?

My Seven Deadly Sins series I conceived in the summer of 2003, before I sold anything. I just (now) sold the series, and the first two books will be out in 2010. I had 100 pages of the first book, but I knew then I didn't have the experience or honed talent to write the story I wanted, not at that time. Now, I feel like I can do it. I suspect the first book will take me 10 weeks to write. But I've been thinking about the characters and conflict and story for five years. Does that mean it took me five years to write it . . . or 10 weeks?
Playing Dead, my latest release, I wrote in four weeks, and then it took me four weeks to revise it. I couldn't get started. I had no idea how to put what was in my head on paper and make it work. So I procrastinated and fretted (and had personal crises at the time, which didn't help!) and ultimately when it clicked in my head, I was able to write it very quickly. But that was about three months of writing and rewriting the same three chapters over and over . . . and then they didn't even stay!

Pleasure of Writing

Quote for the Week

In her book of essays, Personal Pleasures, published in 1936, Rose Macaulay wrote: To move among this bright, strange, often fabulous herd of beings, to summon them at my will, to fasten them on to paper like flies, that they may decorate it, this is the pleasure of writing.

You may never have heard of Emilie Rose Macaulay who was born in 1881 and died in 1958. Shortly before she died, she was named a Dame of the British Empire. Emilie, as she was commonly called, was an English novelist who published more than 30 books, most of them novels. The most highly regarded of her novels was The Towers of Trebizond, published two years before her death.

She's remembered by critics and scholars because she was one of the few "significant English novelists of the last century to identify herself as a Christian and to use Christian themes in her writing." Her writing was described as having a mystical sense and a richness.

I think that richness of expression is plainly evident in her comment, quoted above, about one of the main pleasures of writing - creating fictional characters.

I guess all writers feel as if the people we create are members of a fabulous herd of beings, created by our fancy to intrigue and entertain us.

Takeaway Truth

To you, what is the pleasure you find in writing? Discover this and it will sustain you in the face of disappointment and rejection.

How Long Does It Take To Write A Book

One of the nice visitors to Sling Words and a frequent commenter is Liana Brooks aka Just Me. She posed a question on her own excellent blog the other day. "How long does it take for the average published author to write and edit a book?"

My answer? It all depends. I'm not equivocating. It really does depend on various factors. Here's a list of some of these factors. Feel free to add your own factors to the list.

Your Process

How much time are you devoting to the writing? Be honest. Is it a full-time effort you approach with as much dedication as going to 9 - 5 job, Monday through Friday? Or is it something you do in the evening, after the kitchen is cleaned and the kids are tucked in bed? Do you realistically only put in one or two hours a week or maybe half a day Saturday?

It makes a difference because, despite notes and outlines, most full-time writers exist in a weird state of consciousness with the story ever-present in our heads. We don't have to consult our notes to discover the color of a character's eyes or the reason the villain hates the hero because we hold the length and breadth of the story in our brain, and that makes 99% of all the story information readily accessible.

Uh, Where Was I

When you don't work on something every day, it takes you longer to immerse yourself in the fictional world with its fictional people that you've created. If you only work on the manuscript once a week, then I guarantee you it takes you longer to get into the story than it does someone who works every day - even if that's only an hour every day. You'll spend a lot more time wondering, "now where was I."

None of us live in a vacuum. When you're writing without a contract, your writing time is dictated by the other demands of your life. Do you have a job outside the home? Are you a full-time, stay-at-home mom responsible for every fraking thing? Are you healthy? Are you taking care of aging parents? Are you on the volunteer hit list for school, church, and charities?

Simmer and Stew

Another factor to consider is how much time you, personally, need to assimilate and internalize that which we've written? How much time do you need away from the story in order to go back to it and see it objectively?

What seems to be a constant is that if you're not under contract, a project can stretch to infinity. And beyond. However, if you have a contract that specifies the final manuscript must be delivered by a specific date, even the slowest of us manage to get it in on time.

This is such a fascinating subject and one that a lot of writers, published and unpublished, wonder about. We want to know if we're doing it right - as if there were any such thing.

I posed the question to a bunch of writers who have credibility in this area: the members of the Published Authors Special Interest Chapter. Many of the PASIC members took the time to respond. I'll be posting these comments in a series of posts starting Monday. Be sure and Bookmark Sling Words so you won't miss any.

Takeaway Truth

I'm a firm believer in modeling successful people. See how someone in your career is achieving what you want to achieve and see if their method works for you.