Planning Change

I've had a lovely vacation from blogging since Christmas Eve. I made myself stay away and devote time to family, and I must say I felt much less stressed and enjoyed the days immensely. I hope your holidays were just as pleasurable.

This is the week that I try to catch up on the loose ends. Most of you are probably doing the same. Of course, with my daughter having doctor's appointments each day, I'll be doing a lot of driving and reading in waiting rooms. Since I've just started the latest Jayne Krentz Arcane Society novel, the waiting time will be appreciated.

Tip For This Week

If you plan to make bold changes in the New Year, for example, dieting, spending less, saving more, working on a new project, then write down what you want to change. Put it on paper because the act of writing bridges the subconscious and the conscious.

The act of writing it down means you're making a commitment to change. Each day, write down your thoughts about this change - both the negative thoughts and the positive. Dig deep into your subconscious and discover whether you really want to do the work to make the change happen.

Takeaway Truth

There are strategies one can use to achieve virtually anything you desire.

Touring By Car

Every year at Christmas time, we sit around and talk about our fantasy Christmas holiday, something we've dreamed about for years. We fantasize about booking a flight to either France or Italy, two of our favorite places in the world, for an extended Christmas vacation. Instead of scheduling a tour bus, we'll reserve a rental car like Car Hire Italy and get our own set of wheels so we can come and go as we please.

Since we've seen the traffic in those two countries first hand, we have an idea of what we're up against. However, I think we can drive just as impulsively in our rental car as any of the locals. I mean, I grew up driving in Japan so I'm fairly adept at interpreting international road signs as well as weaving in and out of traffic at breakneck speeds.

Seeing a country by car, is ideal because you can stop at all the quaint places you see. If you need a snack or a rest stop, you don't have to wait for the bus to stop at the planned Auto Grill, a favorite roadside haven in Italy.

Takeaway Truth

One of these years, we may turn our Christmas European vacation into reality. When we do, we'll hire a car for the freedom from schedules it offers.

Manly Gift: Fight Tickets

Okay, girls, here's your chance for a last minute Christmas present that will knock a guy's socks off: tickets to Mayweather vs. Pacquiao fight.

We have two sons who are crazy about boxing. They never miss the chance to see a great match up, and that's what the Floyd "Money" Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao fight will be. It's going to be live, in Vegas, at the MGM Grand Arena on Saturday, March 13.

This is one of those memorable sporting events that you can get for the fight fan in your life through the magic of the Internet. Actually, it's not magic, but it is convenient to order from because they have a secure website (or you can order via their toll free phone) and they don't inflate the ticket price with service charges or connection fees.

Takeaway Truth

This is a gift that a guy will cherish and remember always.

Writing Contests With January Deadlines

Want to test your writing skills? Entering contests is one of the easiest ways to do this. I know a lot of you write, but you don't submit because you haven't developed the thick skin necessary to withstand the slings and arrows of rejection.

Grow Guts

Perhaps 2010 is the year to start testing your writing by entering contests? Trust me, just sending something in for a contest is an accomplishment. The act of showing your work, even to anonymous judges, requires intestinal fortitude that will help you attain the guts necessary to submit to an agent or publisher.

Growth Often Requires Pain

Get rejected. Break the ice. Lose your writing virginity. That's what it takes to become a pro writer. If you decide to contest, please know that some contests charge entry fees. If a contest that interests you charges a fee, make sure that the contest is credible and always announces a winner.

My Best Advice

You don't want to waste your time and money on a contest mill that exists only to line the organizer's pockets. Ultimately, only pay an entry fee if the contest is well-known, and you sincerely feel you have a shot at placing or winning.

How do you know you have a chance to win or place? That's what submitting and entering is all about. You'll learn whether your work is as good as you hope or as bad as you fear. Usually, it's somewhere in between, but you need to discover that for yourself. Then you write and write and write. Practice does make perfect.

Here are 4 writing contests with deadlines in January. Start today. Polish and get your work ready to enter. This is a doable goal.

Dixon-Ryan Fox Manuscript Prize

Deadline: January 20, 2010.

Award: $3,000.00

This is offered for the best unpublished book-length manuscript dealing with some aspect of the history of New York State.

The Ohio State University Prize in Short Fiction

Deadline: January 30, 2010 postmark.

Award: $1,500.00 and publication.

Note: Entry fee of $20.00.

Offered annually to published and unpublished writers, this is for collections of novella and/or short story collection manuscripts of 150-300 typed pages.

G.S. Sharat Chandra Prize for Short Fiction

Deadline: January 15, 2010.

Award: $1,000.00 and publication by BkMk Press

Note: Entry fee of $25.00.

This is offered for the best unpublished book-length collection of short fiction in English by a living author.

Annual One-Act Playwriting Contest

Deadline: January 31, 2010.

Award: Cash

If playwriting is your interest, this contest is offered to encourage playwrights to develop new plays for teen and family audiences and is offered by Tada Youth Theater.

Takeaway Truth

Sending your work out into the world requires courage, but only by doing so will you discover the truth of your words.

Wine: Bottled Poetry

Just this past week, my older son and I were talking about wine. I was relating how we had such wonderful wines when we were in Europe, but those wines weren't exported since they were for the domestic market only. Wouldn't it be wonderful, I said, if we could visit a French Wine Shop each week?

You see, my husband and I, indeed, our adult children too, have more than a passing fancy and interest in wine, described by Robert Louis Stevenson, author of Treasure Island, as: "bottled poetry."

Internet At Your Service

Since I'm such a savvy online shopper, I should have known that the Internet provided exactly the kind of wine experience I was describing. makes these wonderful, quality wines, straight from French vineyards, available directly to customers in the UK. Heretofore, these wines were mainly for the domestic market, but now, if you want a quality French Red Wine, you only need open your browser and point it to the Vinifera Boutique website.

How It Works

Obtaining great wines, whether red or a fabulous French White Wine is as easy as 1, 2, 3. The website explains it this way:

1. Each week an exclusive French wine is selected and brought from France to the UK.
2. The wine is offered for sale online for a limited time period. You should buy immediately.

3. Your wine is shipped directly to you within a week.

Vinifera Boutique carefully selects the wines from a chosen French vineyard each week. They choose different vineyards in order to showcase the wines from small, independent winemakers. When you find a wine you like, don't hesitate in clicking the Buy Now or Add To Basket button or you may miss out.

There's a clock on the wines offered for sale so you can see how much longer it will be offered. Fortunately, you can register on the website to receive updates so you'll know when a new wine is offered too.

Website Resource

For the wine fancier, the website is not only your entree into a French vineyard but also a treasury of information. Sure, you can view their inventory, but you can also learn about wine: the history, wines by region, grapes, and more.

The secure website shows testimonials from satisfied customers as well as a blog that offers an in depth discussion of wines. They also offer a downloadable wine guide in PDF format. If you've discovered a vineyard in your travels, you can suggest it to them, and they'll check it out. You just may see it as one of their selections in the future. Contact them by email, phone, fax, or use the online form.

Takeaway Truth

I completely agree with Andre Simon, author of Commonsense of Wine: "Wine makes every meal an occasion, every table more elegant, every day more civilized." What a lovely way to become more civilized.

Appreciation: 12th Day of Christmas

I hope you've enjoyed this series of gift suggestions. Today is the last one. I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

On the 12th Day of Christmas, my gift suggestion to you is something that won't cost you anything except the price of a postage stamp, but it's more valuable to the recipient and to you, the giver, than anything you can imagine.

The suggestion is to write a letter to someone you really care about and whom you take for granted. Now is the time to show them that you care. You can make a list. Chances are that you may have a lot of people in your life that fits this description.

A letter to someone you love that tells that person what's in your heart is powerful because it requires you to really think and to express those thoughts and amorphous feelings with specific words.

It's easy to plunk money down and buy something. It's harder to try to tell someone how much you love them or, if the letter is to an employee or employer, why you appreciate and respect them.

Years ago, our daughter wrote a letter to her dad because she didn't have enough money to buy him something cool. In it, she told him specifically what he had done over the years that made her think he was a great dad and made her feel loved and secure. My husband still has her letter, framed and hanging in his study. He says it's the greatest gift he ever received from her.

Takeaway Truth

Gifts bought in a store wear out, break, and lose their appeal. A gift of words, spoken from the heart, can last forever.

Convenience: 11th Day of Christmas

On the 11th Day of Christmas, ask your true love for the ultimate in convenience: a Powermat.

Price Range: High at $100 and under. I've seen this going for $89.95 at some places.

This is the greatest gadget I can imagine because it takes the place of all those plug-in battery chargers for your wireless devices. Just lay it on top of a desk or counter, plug it in, and lay your wireless devices on it.

Using induction technology, the Powermat charges multiple devices simply by making contact with the mat. Traveling? Fold it up and pack it easily.

Takeaway Truth

Take advantage of the products that will lessen clutter and make it simpler to maintain other devices.

Fitness: 10th Day of Christmas

The 10th Day of Christmas finds me frazzled and tired from shopping, baking, meeting writing deadlines, and schlepping out in the cold rain. I need a good cup of tea or maybe a nice glass of wine. What better time to suggest a gift that will help you get in shape?

WII Fitness

I've been telling my husband for a while now that I need to find time to work out each day. Guess what he did? He gave me a WII Fitness Plus for our wedding anniversary. You see, we have an anniversary in December which means we end up with a combination wedding/Christmas present.

This is one exercise option that I might actually do on a daily basis because it's fun. You sync it to your WII game, jump on the board and you can run through the jungle, take up yoga or tai chi or any of the other dozens of activities. It's pretty cool. Plus, it keeps track of when you work out as well as any number of other private facts like your body mass index. No, don't ask, because I won't tell you.

Price Range

High at $99.99, but I think it just might be worth it.

Takeaway Truth

We writers sit all day pecking away at a keyboard. That makes for good prose but bad body shape. Find something that gets you moving that you'll do consistently. That's good for your energy level and your posterior.

Journals: 9th Day of Christmas

Quote for the Week

Motivational Speaker Tony Robbins said: "A life worth living is a life worth recording."

Today, we have Sunday's Written Wisdom as well as the 9th Day of Christmas Gift Suggestion. I'm going to be daring and suggest something rather mundane: a journal.

Now don't get writer's block just thinking about writing in a journal because keeping a journal is designed to help you live life better, not add stress to your world.

Journal, Not Dear Diary

A journal is:

a. a goal planner
b. a memory book
c. a day schedule
d. a tool to vent emotions
e. all of the above

Of course, the correct answer is all of the above. You can use it to write goals and keep track of them, to record events in your life, to make a daily to-do list, and to vent your anger or record your hurt or your happiness.

What Not To Write

Don't obsess about the same old thing until you're so bored you don't want to look through your own thoughts. What's the point of writing about how miserable you are because you can't lose 10 pounds? Don't focus on the same old BS. Instead, write yourself out of a rut.

Anything You Want

A journal can be a tool of self-exploration as well as a way to record things you want to remember. For writers, journals are places we can put down those random thoughts that plague us while we're in the midst of writing something else.

Best Time

There is no best time to do this. Do it on your schedule. Bedtime is a great time to dump all that negativity in your head onto paper and then turn the page. A clean page for tomorrow is like a fresh start. Then finish with a positive thought written on the clean page to represent your fresh start.

Mornings are good for writing what you want to achieve as well as dreams you may have had the night before. After lunch is a good time to reflect. In other words, any time is a good time to write in a journal.

Price Range: Low to High.

You can find journals just about anywhere from office supply stores, stationers, discount stores, and online. You can even use a theme book. You know, the black kind without a spiral. The price depends on the journal.

Simple ones. like the one shown here, are less than 10 bucks when purchased at The WriteWay, my CafePress shop. You can select from 3 options for the pages inside this journal.

This journal with the funny cover is from Sweet But Sassy and also comes with the 3 options for the inside pages.

You can get leather bound journals or other hardback journals if you want something a little more elegant. The important thing is to get a journal and use it to explore inner space. You just may find it's as effective as yoga in reducing stress and anxiety and giving you inner peace.

Takeaway Truth

I believe what Tony Robbins said so I'll repeat it. A life worth living is a life worth recording.

Manly Gifts: 8th Day of Christmas

Do you find it difficult to select a gift for the men in your life? It's not like we can wrap up a car a/c compressor and tuck it under the tree. On this 8th Day of Christmas Gift Suggestions, let's explore some ideas for the testosterone set. No neckties, aftershave lotions, or funky boxers allowed.

I won't even mention video games because if you live with a vid game freak, you probably know their particular brand of poison. These suggestions are more for the non-live-in male as well as brothers, sons, dads, and other male relatives to whom you give gifts.


Men like action flicks, at least those in my life do. Keep in mind that high body count, unrealistic action sequences, and buddy humor must be in the movie you select. Oh, some female eye candy is always appreciated too.

Some good choices are Live Free Or Die Hard, the new Star Trek movie, both Transformer movies, anything with Jason Statham, the first 2 Terminator movies, or Ninja Assassin. These are all good as attested to by my darling husband (and me). G.I. Joe might be a good choice though my husband found it as ridiculous as I did.

Cinema Gift Cards

We no longer stand in line for movie tickets. We buy a gift card for our favorite cinema and just swipe it at the machine to get our tickets. Saves so much time and hassle. With Avatar and Sherlock Holmes, both of which we're anticipating, coming out, a gift card would be appreciated.


Random technology inspired gifts are always appreciated from the iPhone replaceable covers to accessories for cell, computer, and iPod/MP3 players. Just no what gadget you want to accessorize and do an online search for items or visit your local Radio Shack or electronic department of a big box store.

Miscellany Of Gift Cards

You can get gift cards for virtually any business now: auto parts stores, electronics stores, clothing, food, music, etc. You name it, and there's a gift card sold for it. Go crazy and give a fistful of them.

Takeaway Truth

Shopping for men can be fun. You might also learn a thing or two about the male world.

Sensible Tekkie Gift: 7th Day of Christmas

Oops. I've fallen a day behind due to more family medical issues. Oh, well, you know what they say about the best laid plans of mice, etc. Today's gift is something you'll wonder why you never bought before. It's the Genius Surge Protector, designed with common sense and functionality in mind.

Price Range: Medium at $29.95

I've recommended this before and will continue to do so because I think it's a great gadget. The slots on this power strip are arranged so you can actually plug in all those oversized sockets. The 6 plugs are offset at a 45º angle so there's no plugging in one cord and having it block two other slots.

This is another great product I got from Kim Komando. Simply fabulous. Where does she, or her staff, find all these goodies? Give as a gift or get for yourself. You'll like it.


* Fully adjustable sockets
* Expands from 13" to 18"
* 2160 joules of surge protection
* Surge and ground LEDs
* 6 ft power cord
* Power switch with 15A reset
* Keyholes for wall mounting

Takeaway Truth

Sell a better mousetrap, or, in this case, a surge protector power strip, and the world will beat a path to your website.

Flat Panel TV: 6th Day of Christmas

You may see my recommendation for a flat panel TV as a Christmas gift to be a bit prosaic or even uncoventional, but the price of these babies has been reduced so much that they're definitely a viable gift. Though it's the 8th day of Christmas, don't feel you have to give eight of them.

Price Range

On my modest scale, they're in the Wow! category, but there are models available at less than $200.00 regularly. Some stores or even offering bonus gift cards for buying and online retailers can be found that give free shipping and deep discounts. Even the big ones are half what they were a year ago I think.

When my husband started making noises a couple of years ago about wanting a big TV, I just rolled my eyes and went along with his wishes. No big deal. However, once I saw some programs on the LCD flat panel, I was quickly won over.

The clarity and resolution is amazing. Even a smaller 19" like the one we got for my daughter's bedroom is remarkable. It makes television viewing enjoyable again, and watching movies on a TV like this is better than the cinema experience which now comes with idiots with cell phones surgically attached to their ears. Or so it seems.

How To Choose

If you want to get a big TV, then measure first so you know you get the right size TV for the size room in which it will be viewed.

Every HDTV has an optimal viewing distance that's determined by the screen size. Get your tape measure and a calculator.

Check the printed info for the TV you think you want. It shows the diagonal screen size or the width is often given for flat panel HDTVs. If you go to a store to shop, take your tape measure with you and measure it yourself.

Formula is: diagonal screen size multiplied by 2 and also by 3. The result is a distance range that works.

For instance, if you want a 40 inch TV, it's 40 x 2 = 80" and 40 x 3 = 120 inches. That's a range of about 6 and 1/2 feet to 10 feet, and that's the area from the TV where your seating should be arranged. Luckily, that's within the scope of most rooms.

Takeaway Truth

Television has come a long way since the black and white behemoths of your grandparents' youth. You'll be surprised how enjoyable watching one of the new HDTVs can be.

See In The Dark:5th Day of Christmas

What do writers and readers need? Glasses with tiny LED lights embedded in each side of the frames. Lighted Reading Glasses are probably one of the best gifts you can give or request.

Price Range: High at $89.95, but, I suspect, worth it!

My husband always sighs with exasperation when he asks if I'll be up reading. I say, "Just for a few minutes." He turns out the light and grumbles. If he gives me these for Christmas, he won't have to grumble any longer about book lights that bounce light all over the room.

I found these several months ago on Kim Komando's site and held on to the link so I could make sure my darling husband accidentally saw them too.

These glasses allow you to illuminate your reading material regardless of how dark the room may be. You can use one light or both. The batteries are replaceable. These reading glasses come in red, black or tortoise color and with strengths of 1.50, 2.0 or 2.50.

Takeaway Truth

Bedtime readers (or writers) will really enjoy something that will keep harmony in the relationship without having to give up their habit.

Say Thanks: 4th Day of Christmas

Here we go with my suggestion for the 4th Day of Christmas, and it's not 4 Calling Birds. Give appreciation to a soldier stationed far away from home. It won't cost you even a penny, and it's easy to do.

Quantifiable Results Of Kindness

Scientists have done studies where brain function and hormone levels are measured after giving something to someone. They were surprised to find that the act of giving something to someone else is quantifiable, thus measurable. Receiving a gift releases all kinds of good hormones.

Not Just The Recipient

Guess what? Not just the recipient benefits from an act of giving. The same physiological changes are induced in the giver as well. Give to feel better.

Price Range: Free!

Visit Lets Say Thanks and follow the easy procedures to send a thank you card to a soldier. You can't pick out who gets it. All you'll know is that you may just make someone's day, in a very good way.

Takeaway Truth

Give appreciation to someone who really deserves it. You'll feel good, and so will the person on the other end of the kindness transaction.

Books of Quotations: 3rd Day Of Christmas

Quote for the Week

T. Guillemets said: "Most collectors collect tangibles. As a quotation collector, I collect wisdom, life, invisible beauty, souls alive in ink."

(On the 3rd day of Christmas, I apologize for my non-edited draft that was published this morning. I was waylaid by decorating yesterday and today, and I have the sore, aching muscles to prove it!)

Actually, this 3rd Day of Christmas is Sunday, and that means it's Written Wisdom day. The quotation above is the gift suggestion for today: shop for a great book of quotations. Look for a book that represents a broad spectrum of people who are quoted with quotes in a lot of subject areas.

Here are a couple of suggestions. Price Range: Low

1001 Funniest Things Ever Said. I like quotations, and when they make me laugh, I really like them and tend to use them in writing and conversation.

The Girl's Book of Positive Quotations uses a practical, theme-based arrangement. Each chapter begins with a one-page reading on topics such as Friendship, Self-Confidence, Risk-taking, Helping Others, or Adjusting to Change. That's followed by related quotes by women as diverse as JK Rowling, Helen Keller, and Kelly Clarkson with hundreds more from every walk of life.

Takeaway Truth

An anthology of quotations is a must have for every writer, indeed, for every non-writer too.

Save on Writer's Christmas Ornament

Hey, everyone! I've been getting sales reports on the Christmas Ornament I featured as a must-have for writers. If you want it, save some money by going directly to my shop The Write Way where it's only $7.99.

If you go to the main page at Cafe Press and buy it through the Marketplace, you'll pay $12.00 because, I guess, they tack on more so they have a bigger cut.

Takeaway Truth

Save wherever and whenever you can.

Keyboards: 2nd Day of Christmas

On the 2nd Day of Christmas, your true love - or whomever - sent to you. . . . a keyboard to make your writing life easier.

Here are a few suggestions that address the issues most common to those who sit at a computer all day. I'll give one example and a place to buy it, but just use the name of the keyboard or its descriptive phrase as a search string if you want to try to find it cheaper.

My Money Scale

For all the gifts suggested, I use the following scale:

0 to $20.00 is low.
$21.00 to $40.00 is medium.
$41.00 to $100.00 is high.
$101.00 and above is someone really, really loves you.

Reduce Mouse Abuse

Price Range: Medium.

Frequent reaching for the mouse strains the neck/shoulder/back complex of muscles and can send them, and you, into spasms of pain. This keyboard is one solution. The Ergonomic Multimedia Keyboard with Built-in Optical Trackball comes in USB or Wireless versions. The USB is $79.95 and the Wireless is $99.95.

Use the onboard trackball to reduce strain on those muscles.

For Writers In The Dark

Price Range: Low to Medium

I work at night a lot, but I hate to turn on a lamp because I don't want to wake the rest of the household who are all light sleepers. An illuminated or backlit keyboard is the solution. You can find several options on the website.

Cold Hands, Warm Typos

Price Range: Low to High

My hands get awfully cold in the winter. I find a lot of women have this problem. The solution is a heated wrist pad ($19.95) or a heated keyboard like the V8WK001 Heated Computer Keyboard ($55.40).

Takeaway Truth

Write better by working smarter with better tools.

Ornament For Writers: 1st Day Of Christmas

On the first day of Christmas, your true love - or someone - sent to you. . . a Holiday Ornament designed just for writers.

In the interest of disclosure, this Christmas Ornament For Writers is designed by me and sold in The Write Way, my Cafe Press shop.

My Price Scale

All suggestions will follow this general pricing structure:

$0 to $20.00 - Low
$21.00 to $40.00 - Medium
$41.00 to $100.00 - High
$101.00 to Sky's The Limit - Wow! Someone really loves you!

Just For Writers

Price Range: Low.

Sales of this porcelain ornament usually don't start until December, but this year, orders were being placed in early November. This is a perennial favorite in The Write Way where you'll find T-shirts, coffee mugs, journals, and more designed by a writer (me) for writers. Each item was created to please writers and to be used to promote their writing and their careers.


Writers need a Christmas ornament that celebrates their gift to the world. This porcelain oval is perfect! Get one for yourself and one for a friend! Handmade oval ornament of high quality porcelain. It measures 2.3" x 3.25" with red ribbon included for hanging.

Takeaway Truth

Be proud of what you do. Love what you do. Celebrate your contribution of words.

Christmas Gifts For Writers

As I reported on my other blog, I've had undependable Internet service since before Thanksgiving. That's why my Christmas gift suggestions for writers, which normally starts on Dec. 1, has been delayed until today.

12 Days of Christmas

Starting tomorrow, for the next 12 days (Dec. 4 - 15), I'll give gift suggestions keyed to what writers want or what they would like. We writers are easy to buy for if you know where to shop. I've looked around and have a selection of gifts whose prices range from low to high, so there's something for every budget. Remember though, you, the writer, must drop the hints to the appropriate people in your life.

Dropping Hints

1. Leave the blog open so it appears on your monitor screen. That way your significant other or kids may happen to see it when they come to bother you - uh, I mean - to ask you when dinner's ready.

2. Print out the blog. Make several copies and leave them lying about.

3. Have conversations that begin with: "I was reading SlingWords, my favorite blog, the other day and saw this wonderful gift idea for writers. It even included the URL." If your loved ones are hint resistant, wistfully add, "I wish I had that."

4. Heck. Just order it for yourself and put a tag on it from the one who should have bought it for you in the first place.

Takeaway Truth

Gift giving is easy when one knows what to purchase.

Kindle Test At Community College

Houston Community College has been running a pilot program using the Kindle instead of printed textbooks in some of their English and philosophy courses.

Local Paper

I learned about this from the Houston Chronicle, Fort Bend Edition. I was amused by the remarks attributed to professor Doug Rowlett, Ph.D., Instructional Design Coordinator/English professor. In the article, Rowlett described the Kindle this way: "The e-ink (electronic paper) technology works like an Etch-a-Sketch device."

Maybe the toy connection is why we writers like to embrace gadgets like the Kindle. I mean, I loved my Etch-a-Sketch. I even watched a program last week on toys that told how that cunning little device works.

The rest of the article gave the basics of how the Kindle works. All you Net denizens know this so I won't waste time on those specs.

At the end of the semester, the students involved and the teachers will render an analysis to see if the Kindle should be made available for other classes. Apparently, some conclusion has already been reached since they already plan to make Kindle available for science classes next semester.

Takeaway Truth

I hear the death knell sounding for hard copy textbooks. The strained backs of students, past and present, will thank you.

Football And Life

Quote for the Week

Football can dominate the Thanksgiving holidays to the extent that dinner is built around half time in a lot of homes. I know we usually have the Dallas game as soundtrack to the festivities. There are pro games and college games, and, here in Texas, high school playoff games that color our lives.

Then, there are movies about football and football players like The Blind Side starring Sandra Bullock which we saw yesterday. I've thought a lot about that movie, but I'll talk about it more in a bit. For now, here's the quote for the week which is inspired, of course, by football.

Joe Namath said: "Football Is an honest game. It's true to life. It's a game about sharing. Football is a team game. So is life."

What Broadway Joe said is what the movie is all about: life being a team game. The movie is great entertainment and touching because it's a true story. It also emphasizes the point that we all need a team in life to help us through the dark times. The amazing thing about the story of Michael Oher is that this amazing young man doesn't seem to have any bitterness in his heart for the events of his early life.
Says Oher: "I don't dwell on anything. I'm not going to feel sorry for myself because I didn't have a place to stay a lot of time.

Mr. Oher said: "It is what it is. We've got to go through some things in life. Take it and run with it." That doesn't mean he's forgotten all that he endured. It means he won't allow it to define himself as a person.

The other fascinating thing about the story of him and the Tuohy family is that timing played such an important role in what happened. If he hadn't gone to the school with the family friend who was trying to get his own son into the school. If he hadn't been forced onto the streets. If he hadn't been at that bus stop that snowy evening. If the Tuohy family hadn't been driving by. If he'd worn a coat rather than a tee shirt and shorts.

If, if, if. So many things had to align for Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy to see this kid who needed a coat. The Tuohy family stopped and brought him inside their warm car and out of the weather. How many saw him and didn't stop?

Today, Michael Oher has a bright and prosperous future. No one gave him that. He created it with help from a family that just couldn't stand to see a kid on the street without a coat on a cold, wet night. I'm always reminded of what some wise person said: "Coincidence is God's way of remaining anonymous."

Michael Oher knows that life requires team effort. He says he can't pass a homeless person on the street without digging into his pocket and offering money because: "I know how hard it is."

Be sure and see this movie. It'll make you cry, not because of cheap sentimentality, but because of the truth it hammers home about the struggles so many are faced with. You'll cry for what Michael endured and cry again for his triumph of the human spirit.

Takeaway Truth

We should all strive to be MVP on the team game of life. Who knows what differences we could make and what we could contribute if we just remember to protect and support the team?


On this day of Thanksgiving, I'd like to quote William Shakespeare:

O Lord that lends me life,
Lend me a heart replete with thankfulness.

I'm thankful for all of you who read this blog. I hope I occasionally reach the lofty goals I have set for SlingWords: to entertain, educate, and enlighten.

Takeaway Truth

May you enjoy the opportunity to reflect on a life that is, I hope, blessed in many ways.

National Book Awards

Since 1950, the National Book Awards Ceremony and Dinner have been held each year. They are this country's highest literary prizes. Awards are given to recognize achievements in four genres: Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Young People's Literature. Winners are selected by a five-member, independent judging panel for each genre. A cash prize of $10,000 and a crystal sculpture are presented to the winners.

This year, the winners of the 60th Annual National Book Awards were announced Thursday. A round of applause to the winners.


Let The Great World Spin by Colum McCann


The First Tycoon (Biography of Cornelius Vanderbilt) by T. J. Stiles

Young People's Literature

Claudette Colvin by Phillip Hoose


Transcendental Studies: A Trilogy by Keith Waldrop

Takeaway Truth

I can always tell how stressed, time-pressed, and tiring my year was by counting how many award-winning books I read. This year, the tally is zero.

Give It Up For Romance

Romance writers have to be feeling pretty smug about now. During this recession, sales of just about every genre of fiction and nonfiction suffered except for romance.

The NYT reported several weeks past that "sales of romance novels are outstripping most other categories of books...." Further, they said that Harlequin Enterprises reported 4th quarter earnings that were up 32% over the same time period last year.

We romance writers and readers have always known that romance fiction is the best entertainment at a price point that's affordable regardless of the economy. Today's romance fiction is well-written with good characterization, good plotting, and features the kind of committed relationships most of the civilized world wants.

Oldest, Shortest Formula For Novel

A lot of critics of romance fiction (who usually have never read an actual romance novel) say that romance writing is formulaic. I guess they're correct in that the oldest formula in the world for a novel, any novel, is: an appealing character struggles against great odds to achieve a worthy goal. Romance writers hit that "formula" the way the Babe, Hammerin' Hank, or Barry Bonds applied wood to a fast ball.

Takeaway Truth

Popular fiction may be denigrated by the few, but, fortunately, it's appreciated by the millions. I write it. I read it. I adore it.

Don't Compare

Quote for the Week

I'm trying to go through mountains of printed material in an effort to clean up my office. I jot things down and print things out and lay them aside to use in the future. Consequently, I end up with bits and pieces of stuff floating around.

Today's quote is one such example. I don't know from where the quote came, but it's lying here. I've read it several times and had saved it because I thought it was full of wisdom.

Richard Bausch offered this wisdom.

"Don't compare yourself to anyone, and learn to keep from building expectations. People develop at different rates, with different results, and luck is also involved. Your only worry for yourself should be did I work today? Be happy for the success of your friends, because good fortune for one of us is good fortune for all of us.... You will never write anything worth keeping if you allow yourself to give in to petty worries over whether you are treated as you think you deserve, or your rewards are commensurate to the work you've done. That will almost never be the case, and the artist who expects great rewards and complete understanding is a fool."

Takeaway Truth

Heed this good advice, and you'll be saner, more successful, and much happier.

At Ft. Hood, Day Is Done

(Click here to listen to TAPS.)

Yesterday, the memorial service honoring the fallen at Fort Hood concluded with the playing of Taps. The bugle notes of this melancholy tune always touch me. Today is Veteran's Day, and I found myself thinking about the ceremony yesterday and about Taps. Who wrote that melody? Who penned the lyrics?

Butterfield's Lullaby

Officially known as Butterfield's Lullaby, Taps is also called Day Is Done because of the lyrics of its second verse. It's always played by the U.S. military during flag ceremonies and funerals, usually on a trumpet or bugle.

Rest Of The Story

Though Taps was once thought to have been composed entirely by Union Army Brigadier General Daniel Butterfield, commander of the 3rd Brigade of the 1st Division in the V Army Corps of the Army of the Potomac, that theory was laid to rest in 1977 by Russell H. Booth in his magazine article Butterfield and Taps.

In the article, Booth wrote that an earlier form of the Taps melody, which Booth called Scott Tattoo to differentiate it from several other nineteenth century bugle calls known as Tattoos, was published in musical notation in an American military manual, published in 1835 by Major General Winfield Scott. The Scott Tattoo itself was probably derived from other earlier military bugle calls whose origins have been lost in time.

Butterfield's Contribution

In any event, General Butterfield, in July 1862 at Harrison's Landing, Virginia, in the midst of the Civil War, wanted a new bugle call. According to Booth's article, he knew General Scott's manual, and he knew how to sound bugle calls so he probably knew what is now being called the Scott Tattoo. History shows that he requested help from a bugler in adjusting the pitch and timing of notes for a new call.

The new song replaced the traditional French bugle call that signaled lights out. Oliver W. Norton, of Erie, Pennsylvania, was Butterfield's bugler and the first to sound the new call. Within months, Taps was used by both the Union and Confederate armies.


Originally, Taps was instrumental only. Over the years, several people have written lyrics to the melody. Of those, I think the first lyrics, written by Horace Lorenzo Trim, fits best. The first line of the second verse gave rise to the other familiar name for Taps, Day Is Done.

Fading light dims the sight
And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright
From afar drawing nigh,
Falls the night.

Day is done, gone the sun
From the lakes, from the hills, from the run
All is well, safely rest;
God is nigh.

Then goodnight, peaceful night;
Till the light of the dawn shineth bright.
God is near, do not fear,
Friend, goodnight.

My heart is heavy with sorrow for those lost at Fort Hood last week and for those lost in wars far from home. I knew some of you. I thank all of you for your sacrifice.

Takeaway Truth

For veterans and for those on active duty, may God bless and keep you and your loved ones. Day is done.

A Lifetime In A Day

Quote for the Week

"Life is short. The day is long." That's what Harl Delos, one of my frequent readers and commenters said in a recent post on his blog Canthook.

This thought held resonance for me as I read the newspaper accounts of the tragedy at Fort Hood this week. Life truly is short, and we never know when the end may come.

Yet, the day is long and offers us a chance, every minute of every hour, to offer friendship, to live with joy, to help others, to mend fences, to celebrate life, to work toward a worthy goal, to grant or request forgiveness. Each day, take the opportunity to make your own personal universe better.

Takeaway Truth

At the end of a day or a lifetime, can you take comfort and be at peace, knowing that you did what you could to leave the world a better place?

Hold Tight by Harlan Coben

I picked up the paperback edition of Hold Tight by Harlan Coben last week. I've been reading nothing but nonfiction lately so I needed a fiction fix. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of starting it when I was riding home from the high school art competition on Saturday. Big mistake.

As a result, the family had leftovers Saturday night because I didn't want to put the book down. Even worse, I stayed up all night to finish it because once I was on that accelerating train, I couldn't put it down even though the subject matter, parental fear about the many things that can destroy a teen's life, isn't one of my favorite things to read. There's just too much crap in real life that can entrap a teen and destroy lives so it's not my idea of a fun entertainment.

Pushed My Buttons

I'll confess the book pushed my buttons beginning with the back cover quote from the New York Times: "A thriller for the Google era." Yep. That did it. Ring up the sale. I like technological thrillers and mind-expanding ideas, and I usually learn something from them.

The interesting thing is that the book is a slow build. Sure, it begins with a hook that's just plain good writing. That leads to a horrific scene that let's you know real fast what you're in for yet it's nowhere near as graphic as any of the TV shows dealing with forensic evidence and crime scenes.

Then the story unfolds with increasing tension as a normal man copes with situations beyond his experience. A novel is characterized by rising motion, and this certainly can be described that way. You get locked into this man's emotional agony, and you root for him to save his kid.

My Only Quibble

I'm not a big fan of coincidence which figures prominently in the book. I know the author was reaching for the subtlety of "6 degrees of separation" rather than coincidence. The average reader probably saw it as "6 degrees." We writers are just a more critical bunch, a fact which I wish wasn't true since it takes away some of the pleasure of reading.

You'll like the normal relationships expressed by the husband and wife who "star" in the book, and you'll be glad it's them going through the parental trial by fire, not you.

Takeaway Truth

Nothing beats a good book for engrossing entertainment, and Hold Tight is certainly that.

Enid Bagnold & National Velvet

The book National Velvet by Enid Bagnold was probably responsible for more girls wanting to ride horses than any other book that comes to mind. The late Ms. Bagnold in her autobiography titled simply Enid Bagnold's Autobiography had something great to say about writing as a career.

Who wants to become a writer? And why? Because it's the answer to everything. To "Why am I here?" To uselessness. It's the streaming reason for living. To note, to pin down, to build up, to create, to be astonished at nothing, to cherish the oddities, to let nothing go down the drain, to make something, to make a great flower out of life, even if it's a cactus.

Takeaway Truth

That's pretty much it in a nutshell.

Keeping Writing Contemporary

I'm fascinated by some of the things you can do with technology. In writing. I think we need to stay up on the latest technologies so we don't make dumb mistakes in our plotting. There are all kinds of communication devices as well as ways of hiding information in today's world.


Steganography is the art/science of creating hidden messages so that only the sender and the recipient can read the message. A recent episode of the TV series Bones featured steganography as a plot device.

Actually, this isn't a modern day invention. The word is from the Greek meaning concealed writing, and the first recorded use of the word was by Johannes Trithemius in his Steganographia in 1499. His work was a treatise on cryptography and steganography and was disguised as a book on magic.

The way it works is that the secret messages appear to be something else entirely, i.e., pictures, articles, or some other mundane text. Old school ways were to use invisible ink between the visible lines of a private letter. If you were a kid into reading kid mysteries, you know you dip a pen in lemon juice and writ on paper. You can't see the writing until you apply heat to the page. That was similar to the principle used in the movie National Treasure where a treasure map was on the back of the Declaration of Independence.

If that gets your imagination working and you want to learn more about steganography, watch the lecture. It's fascinating.

Takeaway Truth

A writer must write for the culture in which he/she lives. Even the world we inhabited 10 years ago is far different from today.

Titles With Panache

I enjoy reading through my different writers' publications and seeing who is publishing what. Here or a few titles that are so intriguing or weird that they make me want to read the book.

The Pleasures And Sorrows Of Work by Alain de Botton is kind of an adult version of Richard Scarry's kid classic What Do People Do All Day. The author said that he wanted to explore a subject that most novels overlook. people who go to work. Most novels deal with people who are in emotional upheaval.

The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows would be on the short list for an award for the longest and oddest title should such an award be given.

The winner of the British Prize for the Oddest Book Title of the year would have to be The 2009-2014 World Outlook for 60-Milligram Containers of Fromage Frais by Philip M. Parker. That certainly sounds like exciting reading, doesn't it?

Last but not least is Yoga For People Who Can't Be Bothered To Do It by Geoff Dyer. Of course, I already have a couple of books on yoga that I can't be bothered to read as well as 2 or 3 DVDs on the subject that I can't be bothered to watch.

Takeaway Truth

Titles matter. Great titles cause readers to take note, and that leads to book sales.

Here's A Trick That's A Treat

If you've been at a big box store Customer Service Returns counter lately, you've probably seen big signs that say "No Returns On Any Halloween-related Items." Even if it's not opened, most of these stores won't let you return a costume. Even costume exchanges aren't allowed I presume.

Different stores have different policies on what they will or won't accept back. If you're like me, and most other shoppers, you never read that Return Policy sign until you're standing in line at the Refund counter. A lot of unpleasant surprises happen while in that line. Is there anything more upsetting that realizing you can't even get an in-store credit for some expensive item you bought and then had to return because it didn't fit or didn't match or you just changed your mind?


Make it easy on yourself. Visit They have lists posted of what can be returned to the store and what can't. Actually, the website is a resource with some good advice about costume purchases. Read it before you buy for a costume party or Halloween event. They can help you get the costume that's right for you, and it can be one that's timeless. Some costumes can be worn over the years because they never really go out of style.

Takeaway Truth

The Internet can help you make the most of your spending dollar in even when it comes to buying fancy dress costumes.

Digital Rights Management

A few days ago on my other blog, I reviewed a new Internet product that writers might find useful. One of my readers commented and recommended My DRM (Digital Rights Management), leaving a link to a video on YouTube.

I think this may be something a lot of writers, artists, and musicians would be interested in. Of course, in the end it's practically impossible to protect your work completely, but I guess it makes us feel better to try.


This is an Internet site where you can sign your multimedia with invisible and inaudible ID in order to claim ownership of it. You can also add hidden comments into the signed multimedia files.

Digital Rights Management

In case you don't know very much about DRM, here's the gist of the subject. DRM is a generic term for access control technologies that can be used by hardware manufacturers, publishers, copyright holders and individuals in an effort to place limitations on the way digital content and devices are used.

Generally, DRM describes any technology which inhibits uses (legitimate or otherwise) of digital content that previously had not been envisioned by the content provider. It usually doesn't refer to other forms of copy protection which can be circumvented without having to modify the file or the device, i.e., serial numbers or keyfiles. It also can refer to restrictions associated with specific instances of digital works or devices. Music production companies like Sony, Apple, etc. us DRM.

As with anything designed to limit use, DRM has its plaintiffs as well as its defendants. Those in favor of it say it's needed to protect copyright holders from unauthorized duplication of their work else the term starving artist will be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In This Corner

Those opposed to it, for one example, the Free Software Foundation, say the word "rights" shouldn't be used because it's misleading. They want you to use the term "digital restrictions management." They think copyright holders restrict use of copyrighted material in ways not covered by existing laws, nor should such restrictions be covered by future laws.

Climbing On My Soapbox

Of course, all of us who create from our imaginations and depend on the resulting work to provide a living for us think those people don't know what the heck they're talking about. What they're really saying is just work your butt off for X number of years in writing books, music, etc. then just give it away to whoever wants to copy it for free, post it for free, turn around and make income off it some way that cuts the artist out completely.

I guess our only recourse would be to go on welfare if we can't make a living doing this or to just quit doing it and go get some other job since we can't earn a living from our words, art, or music.

Analog Hole

All of the popular DRM systems are eventually defeated some way or other because of the inevitable analog hole aka analog loophole. That's a term made popular by some of the members of the Motion Picture Association of America during legislative advocacy hearings in 2002.

The term created its own controversy after those in the industry started abbreviating it to "a. hole." you can probably understand the allusion without my explaining it. Now they call it analog reconversion problem or issue which doesn't roll off the tongue nearly as easily.

What Is It?

The analog hole is a fundamental vulnerability in copy protection for non-interactive works in digital formats. Those works eventually must be converted to a human-perceptible form, that's analog. Once in analog form, it's easy to then digitally recapture the work.

Back To The Soapbox

Would you go to your local Walmart and shoplift a book or a CD or DVD? Of course not. That's stealing.

If you go to a website and download a book or album that's posted there without the content creator's permission, then that's stealing too. You're taking food from the mouth of some hard working artist somewhere. Recognize that and teach it to your children.

Takeaway Truth

To earn from artistic efforts, the general population needs to respect the time and hard work spent in creating products from nothing but their imaginations and the energy in their brains. Recognize that copying without permission is stealing.


Quote for the Week

English poet and humorist Thomas Hood wrote:

No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds, - November!

Though that may describe much of this country in November, Texas is an exception to that bleak commentary.

On most days, the sun shines brightly in a sky the color of a robin's egg. I saw a couple of monarch butterflies flitting around the blooming lantana this past week, and most of the trees still possess their leaves. Of course, the pesky hackberry by the driveway is doing its best to carpet the stretch of concrete beneath it, but, then, it molts something or other the year round.

Fat doves that escaped hunting season cheerfully peck around my patio. The family of bluejays is still in residence, and millions of blackbirds land in the trees lining the block at least once a day. Those I could do without. Their raucous noise disturbs my writing enough that sometimes I have to go outside and clap my hands to get them to move on down the street to another clump of trees.

Takeaway Truth

Ideally, we'd all winter in Hawaii, but I've never been able to afford to do that so I'll take Texas in autumn and winter over any other state you can name.

High School Art

Today I'm at an art competition for high school students. My husband and I are assisting our daughter, the art teacher who's still on crutches. We loaded up the sculptures, paintings, and drawings and made the trek to a high school far north of Houston.

The quality of art produced by these kids is simply amazing. Of course, when our daughter was in high school, she also amazed us with her talent. She was a state winner in sculpture so she knows how important it is to kids who want a career in art to do well in the competitions.

This one is the first of many that we'll attend between now and next spring. Sometimes I feel as if I've never left high school since I've spent so much time at one since our daughter's surgery has made it difficult to get around.

Takeaway Truth

They say kids keep you younger. I guess that's true if you stay involved in kid activities and surrounded by hundreds of them. 

Let's Rodeo!

Fall may be upon us, but, here in Texas, a lot of people are thinking about next spring. Kids are readying their animals to compete in the Houston Rodeo & Livestock Show, and adults and kids alike are thinking about an equally important aspect of the 2010 rodeo. Tickets to concerts at the Houston Rodeo!

Yep, it's time to start deciding which of the world-class entertainment acts you want to see at rodeoHOUSTON because tickets are already available for some of the acts like the teen crush Jonas Brothers and 2009 GRAMMY winner for Best Country Male Vocal Performance Brad Paisley. Perennial favorites, and multiple GRAMMY and CMA winners, Brooks & Dunn will be there too.

What Makes Houston Rodeo Special

Since I live in the Houston area, I know all about this annual event. Let me tell you what makes it so special. You get the thrills and chills of one of the biggest rodeos in the world, but you also get to see the most popular entertainers of the time.

After the day’s rodeo events conclude, the arena is cleared away and a unique rotating stage is moved to the center of the ring. That's when it's time to sit back and be entertained by acts usually found only in Vegas or touring and performing to sold out venues. We're talking country, rock, hip hop and Latin.

Check out the website to see who's being booked and on which dates. If you're like me and have been to the rodeo in the past, you know that they have something for everyone regardless of your musical taste.

From the tween crowd pleasers like Miley Cyrus to traditional country music by George Strait; from hard rocking Bon Jovi to the sensual sounds of Beyonce; from ZZ Top, that little Texas band beloved by all, to Maroon 5; the Houston Rodeo is the biggest party in Texas, and you're invited.

Scoring Tickets

Getting tickets for the performers you want to see is easy. Go to the TeamOneTickets website, a BBB Accredited Business that's COMODO Hacker Proof protected, and take a look at the line up of entertainers. You can purchase online or call using their toll free phone number.

Read their policies and their guarantee regarding your ticket delivery, and you'll get peace of mind that you won't miss the big date. They've been in this business since 1979 so they know what they're doing, and they know how to make sure they satisfy the customer.

You can select the entertainer you want to see, the date you want, and the seat you want. For the chance to see these stellar acts, the ticket prices are quite reasonable I think. There's usually a price that fits every budget, but the great thing is that no matter where you sit, you get a good view of the stage. Remember I mentioned that rotating stage? That ensures that everyone gets to see the entertainment from every angle.

Takeaway Truth

I've been to the Houston Rodeo, and it's Texas-size fun. It's also an event that makes for family memories and laughter.

A Nag Ram, A Rag Man, Anagram

Have you ever thought about creating a pseudonym to use in your writing? If so, a neat way to do it is to create an Anagram from your name.

Anagram Defined

When a noun, the word means a word or phrase formed by rearranging the letters of another word or phrase. The verb form is anagrammatize, meaning to rearrange letters in such a way. Anagram has Greek roots: anagrammatismos. Ana meaning up, again, back, new plus gram meaning letter.

Anagram Website

The website is neat. You can plug in your name and get a list of anagrams. The example they use on the home page is an anagram of Clint Eastwood: Old West Action. How very appropriate.

Anagrams of SlingWords include World Sings and World Signs. Go check out some anagrams of your names, blog titles, and such. You may find inspiration for a new blog, book title, or pseudonym.

Takeaway Truth

Words provide endless fun for writers.

Blogs Beget Publishing Contracts

The phenomenon of blog writers getting book contracts seems to have turned into a trend. Now there are literary agents who monitor popular blogs and keep tabs on the blog's consistent traffic numbers. Apparently, the thinking is that successful blogs have built-in audiences that will buy books. According to publishing insiders, every publishing house is paying attention to successful blogs.

Blog To Book

From blog to book is something I think you'll see happen more often as time goes by because publishers and agents see it as, if not a slam dunk, at least a good bet with content already in place. All that's needed is layout, artwork, and, voila, you have a book that has legs, if not wings.

Christian Lander, publisher of Stuff White People Like, is a good example. His humor blog was turned into a popular book by the same name in 2008.

Takeaway Truth

You never know where a path may lead.

Writers Must Monitor Licensing

Recently, I wrote about Fair Use, the concept of using certain material for review, research, critique, etc.

What I want to relate to you today is not about Fair Use per se, it is about the need for writers to monitor what is done with their work, i.e., Fair Use, as well as how licensing agreements are executed.

A couple of years ago, Jon Krakauer sued Houghton Mifflin Co. and RR Donnelley & Sons Co. He alleged that they had infringed his copyright for the best-selling novel Into Thin Air. They had contracted with him to reprint several thousand copies of an excerpt from his novel to be included in a ninth-grade textbook. Instead, they reprinted more than a million.

Writers need to monitor the results from contracts to make sure the licensing activity is that to which they have agreed. This is one of those situations where you know what to do, but you don't know how to precisely go about it. If you're a big name author, high up on the food chain, it's easier because you have an agent and probably legal representation who can follow up on these issues.

For midlist and below, this is a DIY project that may be next to impossible.

Takeaway Truth

It's not enough to be a good writer. One must also be an astute business person as well.


Quote for the Week

This is the week that ends with Halloween. Ghosts and goblins, princesses and ninjas, and a good assortment of other pop culture-based costumes will appear on doorsteps everywhere and cry the words that strike delight in most adults' hearts: "Trick or treat."

Of course, if we're talking real fear, let's look to what Arthur Conan Doyle said: "Where there is no imagination there is no horror."

Horror writers everywhere depend on readers having an imagination. Of course, what Arthur Conan Doyle said is why I don't watch horror movies or read very many horror novels: my imagination is simply too vivid and all-encompassing.

Recently, I wrote about Horror on my other blog. I should have included this quote by J. M. Barrie: "A house is never still in darkness to those who listen intently; there is a whispering in distant chambers, an unearthly hand presses the snib of the window, the latch rises. Ghosts were created when the first man awoke in the night."

In this country, Halloween, as most of us know it, is for kids to dress up and get candy. Lots of candy. No bump in the night for the little ones. At least I hope not. It's not nice to scare little kids.

Takeaway Truth

I think we all agree with Steve Almond, "Nothing on Earth is so beautiful as the final haul on Halloween night."

Does Email Promtion Help?

Writers who have been in the promotion trenches for a long time have a lot to teach business owners who are thinking about using email or email newsletters to promote their product and/or their businesses.

Valuable Clutter

I reached this conclusion as I reread articles from last winter's Authors Guild Bulletin. You see, we're in the 4Q of the year so it's time to start clearing out the clutter of accumulated magazines and newsletters that still arrive in my mail box. Don't get me wrong. I like these hard copies because I can read them at my leisure instead of on the computer monitor. I like to stack them on the bedside table for reading in bed.

Of course, I hang onto them for most of the year too. I like to refer back to them and again read the particularly good articles. The subject of one such article is what I want to talk about today.

Email Newsletters

If you're an author, or you're in business, chances are you either publish an electronic newsletter, or you're thinking about publishing one because the buzz is that it helps sell books or whatever product in which you have a vested interest. At the very least, you think it may help fix your name, product name, or business name in the minds of the reader.

Authors Guild Also Wondered

Authors Guild, of which I'm a member, also wondered if email newsletters helped so they did a survey and published the results in last winter's Authors Guild Bulletin. (I'm always pushing membership in the Authors Guild because I think they do great work on behalf of writers. If you're eligible for membership, please join us. Tell them I sent you. *g*)

Survey Says

More than 2100 working writers responded to the survey. About 40% of them said they either use email newsletters or compile email lists in order to promote their work. In fact, two thirds of the respondents think using some sort of email promotion helps, but another third don't know if it helps or not.

Like most authors can tell small businesses thinking about doing an email campaign of some sort, you do a lot of stuff - everything that comes down the Internet pike - hoping it makes a difference and will give you some definable benefit, but you never really know whether any of it really works.

What Writers Can Teach Businesses

Some writers say they can see a rise in their ratings on Amazon after sending an email to coincide with the release of their latest book, but those writers seem to be the minority. I suspect the writers who can verify an increase in sales in relation to an email newsletter are the already big selling authors.

Most writers don't see any increase yet they keep sending out into the electronic ether with the thought that they are promoting their name. They look upon the effort as laying a foundation and building upon it. Eventually, payoffs will result.

Best Campaign

Sending emails or newsletters is wasted effort if the recipient just hits the delete key. The result you want is for the recipient to open the email or newsletter and to read it. How do you achieve that?

1. Don't make the newsletter nothing but an advertisement for your book or product. Just like a good book, your mailing must have a hook that makes the recipient read on.

2. Think of the recipients and what you can give to them. Entertainment? Education? Escape from reality? Contest prizes? You want to think of who they are, how they live, and what they need. Then give that to them in your newsletter.

3. Don't wait until you're famous to get something going. Cindi Myers aka Cynthia Sterling started publishing her Market Newsletter long before she herself was published. Most romance authors know her because of that email newsletter, and so do editors and agents because of her information gathering from them. Start early in order to build an audience for your information.

4. Never email anyone who has not requested information from you. If you plan on an email or an email newsletter, make sure they know you're gathering their addy for that purpose. You want to befriend people, not alienate them with what they'll consider spam.

Takeaway Truth

Promotion via email is something that can work for any author, even those who would rather walk barefoot over broken beer bottles than speak in public.

More Copyright Talk

When I posted Let's Talk Copyright, I promised another post about more issues dealing with the complex issue.

What Can't Be Copyrighted

You can't copyright an idea or a concept or theory that has not been expressed in a permanent medium of some sort. You can only copyright the way you express those elements in a fixed medium like a book, photograph, work of art, song, etc. Nor can you copyright a title. That's why you see so many various works with the same title.

If a work has a copyright that has expired, thus making the work now in public domain, then it's up for grabs by anyone and can be used without restriction. If you're looking for something that can be used, do a public domain search.

Fair Use

Even if a work is copyrighted, and the author and/or the licensee are the only ones who have the right to make a copy, not all copying is prohibited. What allows copying by others is covered by a legal concept called Fair Use which I discussed on my other blog.

Briefly, Fair Use allows limited copying for teaching, reporting news, scholarship, literary criticism, or research. Fair Use is used as a defense when someone has been accused of infringing copyright. It is not a law or a right that anyone has. Usually, whether someone has exercised Fair Use or infringed on a creator's copyright is decided by a trial.

Poor Man’s Copyright

If you've never heard this term, it's probably because no one in today's world mentions it any more, and that's probably because everyone realizes it's no kind of legal protection.

Back when I first began writing, I remember hearing a published author speak who told how her engineer husband used Poor Man's Copyright to protect his work. She said that might be something an author could do if worried someone would steal their work before it was published.

The way PMC worked was that you put your work in an envelope and mailed it to yourself. When you received it in the mail, complete with a postmark on the envelope, you shelved it, unopened. The thinking was you could produce the work, sealed in the envelope, and the postmark would attest to the fact that you had created it on a date prior to someone who had stolen it and published it on a later date. Pretty lame, huh? Back a couple of decades ago, a lot of unpublished, aspiring writers did this. For some reasons, those who aren't published are very fearful of having their work stolen.

Work For Hire

Many writers sign contracts wherein they do not retain copyright in their names. The copyright holder is whoever hired them to write the work. This is called Work For Hire. These are the contracts you should not sign unless:

1. You get paid a good chunk of change.
2. You don't care whether your name is associated with the work or not because you don't see your career growing in that direction.
3. You need the money so much that you can't afford to turn the deal down.

Takeaway Truth

Copyright ownership is a very big issue for a writer. Make sure you have a solid grasp of copyright basics, and always understand contract clauses.