Review: Lost In Austen

This week I had the pleasure of watching Lost In Austen on DVD. This was the British mini series directed by Oscar winner Sam Mendes and written by Guy Andrews. This was one of the most popular offerings on British television in 2008.

In fact, it was so popular that they're bringing it to the big screen. Mendes won't be directing though he is the producer. Guy Andrews will be along for the big screen effort which is an excellent thing because this charming homage to Pride and Prejudice and Jane Austen herself is an absolute delight.


Jemima Rooper is Amanda Price who steps through the portal between her reality and the fictional world inhabited by the Bennet family. Elliot Cowan is the smoldering Mr. Darcy. Hugh Bonneville is paternal as Mr. Bennet.

Florence Hoath is Kitty Bennet. Alex Kingston is Mrs. Bennet. Morven Christie is Jane Bennet. Perdita Weeks is Lydia Bennet. Tom Mison is Mr. Bingley. Ruby Bentall is Mary Bennet. Christina Cole is Caroline Bingley, and Gemma Arterton is Elizabeth Bennet. Tom Riley is Mr. Wickham, and Guy Henry is Mr. Collins.

Story Line

Amanda Price is an ardent Jane Austen fan who has read Pride and Prejudice too many times. Saddled with a boozy boy friend who has no shred of romance in his soul, she longs for the genteel world inhabited by Elizabeth Bennet.

When Amanda finds Elizabeth Bennet standing in her bathtub one night, her world as she knows it changes. Elizabeth tells her she stepped through a doorway in her attic, a door that had never opened before, and ended up in Amanda's bathrub. Before you can say alternate reality, Amanda is trapped in Jane Austen's world of mannered courtship and matchmaking intrigue.

Of course, Amanda's presence changes the course of Austen's novel so the poor girl ends up trying to keep the story on course. I won't spoil the story. Suffice it to say that you'll be surprised. You really should see it. I don't know if it's generally available anywhere, but Net Flix has it.

Takeaway Truth

Like Kathy Baker's character Bernadette says in another favorite movie The Jane Austen Book Club: "A little Austen is better than no Austen." This movie is more than a little Austen. It's an affectionate homage that will enchant you and make you glad to be Lost In Austen.

Dave Barry's Solution: Website Sticky

I've been doing a series on Joan Slings Words, my other blog, about how to make your website sticky. That means how to drive traffic to your site, keep web surfers glued to your site, and get them to return often and bring their friends too.

I should have just told them to do what Dave Barry does. Take a trip over to his website. He's got the website sticky issue covered, don't you think?

Takeaway Truth

I'm headed out to get a sledge hammer.

Be Accountable For Your Writing

You say you want to write a book. Then you need to be accountable. Here's something to help you. Set up a graph to chart your word count. You can post it on your blog and be accountable to the world.

Get your word count meter at StoryToolz. Sign up is free at this site that's dedicated to "providing high-quality web-tools for authors."

They have tools other than ;progress meters so check them out.

Takeaway Truth

Good tools help writers become good writers.

Create A Plot

A lot of writers have trouble with plotting, and many consider plotting a novel an incomprehensible mystery.

Here's a book that may help you. Create A Plot Clinic by Holly Lisle. Yes, I'm an Affiliate for Holly. There's a link on the blog you can click to go to her book shop and order a copy. Trust me. The book is worth it.

It will help you create the plot for a novel, short story, or screenplay from beginning to end, even if you don't yet know what you want to write about. Here's the description of the book:

* Want to write fiction but don't know where to start?
* Do you have a stack of 30-page novels that have stalled?
* Are you stuck in the vast morass of your novel's middle?
* Don't know how to figure out your ending?
* Or do you have the whole first draft done, with the sinking feeling that something's wrong with the story, but you don't know what, or where?

Create A Plot Clinic will teach you to:

* How to choose and use your structure
* How to create story ideas from twenty fun, easy tools
* How to organize your plot before you write
* How to adapt it while you write
* How to fix problem plotting as you write the book and even when you're revising it
* How to deal with late, great ideas and your stubborn Muse
* And much more

Every tool includes a description, a demonstration, and an exercise. You may need three or four days to get a brand-new working plot in order if you're just getting started. However, if you've been writing for a while--or if you're determined--you can have enough plot to start writing your book in about a day.

All this for $9.95 plus you get it immediately as a download. You can even try it free first. Seriously, this is one of the really good writing books.

Takeaway Truth

If you want to be a writer, then get the tools you need to teach you the narrative skills.

Life Hack

Here's a new term for you to learn. Maybe you have heard of life hack? A life hack is a productivity trick created and used by programmers to organize data and cut through the information overload.


The life part comes from a person's productivity, organization, and work processes. In other words, it refers to any area the hacker ethic can be applied, and that ethic is to solve a problem.

The hack part comes from hacking of course. Hackers have a long history with geeks and others in the computing community. In the beginning, the phrase meant hacking together quick shell scripts and command line utilities for use, for example, with email and RSS feeds.

Over time, the meaning of life hack expanded so that now it means anything that solves a common problem in a clever "out of the box" way. The term is used all the time in the blog world now, especially by those afflicted by too much info.


Though life hack was a phrase created by British technology journalist Danny O'Brien, in a presentation to the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference in San Diego in 2004, he never got his planned operational.

Since then, other websites devoted to life hacks have started. Merlin Mann launched in 2004 and Gawker Media, a blog network, launched in January 2005. Leon Ho launched in May of that year. Subsequently, O'Brien redirected his to Mann's

In 2005, the American Dialect Society voted lifehack, as one word, as Runner Up for the "most useful word of 2005," right behind podcast.

Takeaway Truth

I like the word lifehack. I could certainly use a few lifehacks to organize my data, and my life.

Self Acceptance

Quote for the Week

Stacey Charter
said: "There comes a time when you have to stand up and shout: This is me damn it! I look the way I look, think the way I think, feel the way I feel, love the way I love! I am a whole complex package. Take me... or leave me. Accept me - or walk away! Do not try to make me feel like less of a person, just because I don't fit your idea of who I should be and don't try to change me to fit your mold. If I need to change, I alone will make that decision. When you are strong enough to love yourself 100%, good and bad, you will be amazed at the opportunities that life presents you."

Wonderful quote, isn't it? If you, like me, are wondering who is Stacey Charter. Here's what I found on as posted by Stacey.

Hi I am Stacey Charter. Not famous though my quotes end up in places that say I'm famous. Cancer Survivor, divorce survivor, attack survivor and all around positive person. Still learning to love myself 100% and thrilled that others have discovered the little pieces of myself I've placed on line. And yes. It's really me and yes I really did write those quotes. And someday I'd love to write a book filled with quotes and stories and tears and laughter. Thanks for asking!

She posted her email address as staceycharter at if you'd like to know you like what she had to say.

Takeaway Truth

It seems to be a truth that we can accept anyone, with all their flaws, but the hardest person to accept is our own self.

Pull The Pins

It's celebration time here at Casa Reeves. My daughter had the steel pins removed from her foot yesterday. The doctor took what looked like a pair of vice grips and, slowly, steadily, pulled out the 4 inch pin first.

That sucker didn't want to come. It took a few minutes for him to twist and pull, but the pin finally came free. Though we'd feared the bleeding because of the blood thinners she's on to, we pray, dissolve the blood clot, it wasn't bad.

Next was the shorter two inch pin. It was easier. Out faster and no bleeding. Then she was put in the humongous boot that she'll wear for another 3 weeks. In 2 weeks she starts physical therapy.

So, we're still taking it one day at a time. Doing what the doctors (3 of them now) say, praying, and maintaining positive thoughts. We had a miracle in that the blood clot was discovered and treated in time. Surely we can contend with the continuing medication and treatment to come in the next few months.

Takeaway Truth

Healing requires patience. Miracles sometimes happen one day at a time.

Giveaway of the Day

Can you think of anything better than free stuff? I can't. That's why I'm spotlighting Giveaway of the Day. Every day of the week they offer, for free, licensed software you’d otherwise have to purchase, and you know how much software costs. They even give away Game Software.


The geniuses behind Giveaway Of The Day looked at how many sites and publishers offer free trial downloads, but they decided to go one step further and offer giveaway downloads. Each day they decide on a software title that will be their Giveaway title that day. The software is then available for download only for 24 hours. Sometimes they extend the offer if the software publisher agrees. Each download is absolutely free for the full, registered, legal version. The download is not a limited time trial or a stripped down version. It's the real McCoy.

What You Get

Like I said, you get the software product in all its full functionality, no limitations except for those specified in the Terms and Conditions. The download link stays on their website for the agreed upon period of time along with the review of the software product as well as information about other products from the software publisher who presents the giveaway title. This information stays active on the site after the Giveaway period is over.

What They Do

They pay the software publisher for the Giveaway license, and you get that only after you've downloaded a special verification program and agreed to the Terms and Conditions. This protects the interests of the software publishers so it's a win/win for the website's clients and the software publishing companies.

How To Participate

Subscribe to the website newsletter or RSS feed or bookmark the site and check it every day. Information about giveaways for the upcoming week is posted on the site, or you get it in the newsletter if you subscribe. When you're on the website, check out the Giveaway Ticker to see what’s hot on the site today.

Takeaway Truth

Quality software for free? Not that's a bargain we can all embrace.

The Right Knowledge of Rights

How's your knowledge of literary rights? Let's talk about the main rights to a literary work. This is basic information all writers need to know. Every literary work has two kinds of rights, and they're spelled out and divided up in the publishing contract.

Primary Rights

These are assigned to the publisher and they grant the right to publish and distribute a book in a specified geographical area, usually the country in which you live and the publisher does business. It's not unheard of though for an American writer, for instance, to publish in Great Britain and thus sell only those rights rather than North American Rights.

Subsidiary Rights

These are subrights like movie rights, paperback reprint, book club, audio, or large print. These are the ones with which most of us are familiar. Of course, there are myriad rights like foreign translation for just about any country you can think of. I've sold Scandinavian, Estonian, Latvian, Spanish, UK, and more. Then there are special edition rights, electronic, direct mail, and more.


I've written quite a bit about selling subrights since I've managed to do it rather successfully. (Check out The Archives on my website for more about this.

Selling subsidiary rights is like found money. Initially, it's revenue that's applied to your advance so you earn out sooner. With backlist, selling subrights is like an oilwell that keeps pumping up black gold.

Takeaway Truth

Guard your subrights. Be proactive in marketing them or getting your agent to do so. They're an asset for your future.

Art of the Short Pitch

When I was learning to fly, my instructor pilot taught me to always know these things when I called the tower, meaning the air traffic controller:

• who I was
• where I was
• what I wanted.

I needed to quickly and succinctly tell the tower these things so they could give me what I wanted. You see, when you're talking to the tower, you're doing so because you need something from them. For instance, you need to land or you need to obtain information from them. The bottom line is you make sure they know the three things above so you can get what you want.

What Do You Want

If you're a writer or some other business person, promoting yourself is a matter of promoting your name, your brand, or your product. Usually, you want to do all three. Learning how to pitch yourself/your product helps you do that. There are scads of websites as well as print articles you can read to learn this, and there are speakers you can listen to who will present their take on this.

My Version

This past week, the art of the pitch was practiced hundreds of times by writers at the Romance Writers of America annual conference as they tried to interest editors, agents, and other writers in their manuscripts and themselves. So here's my version of the pitch, a 15 Second Pitch process based on my pilot training.


In a pitch, you want to get across your identity. That's the who you are combined with what you do. In the case of writers, it might be: I'm Joan Reeves, and I write romance flavored with humor. Or, I'm Joan Reeves, and I write effective and entertaining advertising copy for clients who appreciate articulate presentation of their business or products.


Where are you physically located, in relation to what you do? Include this if the information enhances your pitch, for instance, you're pitching to someone in your local area. Local booksellers like dealing with local authors. Local businesses like working with local freelance writers. Use your location if it's an asset.

Fortunately, if you're a freelance writer, location isn't much of an issue because the entire world is your client base. I've written for clients in Canada, Germany, England, Italy, Japan, and Australia.

What You Want

What you want is to promote yourself, your brand, your product, or your business. However, what you want should always be viewed as what you want to give because that's what you want to do for the person receiving your pitch. You want to give them something, and in return you'll get something you want.

Sometimes what you want to give may be information that will help them in some way. After all, that's what most blogs are all about: they give information to the reader. So the What You Want should be a win/win for you and the person receiving the pitch.

If I'm telling a potential client who I am and where I am then what I want is to give them the information that I can write effective copy for them and provide them with excellent content that will help promote their business or product.

Always Mutually Beneficial

If I'm talking to a librarian at my local branch, then I'm telling her the who and the where and the what I want might be that, as a local working writer, I can provide a presentation for the library on novel writing or Internet writing or publishing one's memoirs or on any number of topics since I've done them all. That's a benefit for me because I get exposure and a chance to promote my name, books, and brand. It's a benefit for the library because it gives them something to give visitors to the library.

Radio WIFM

I can't remember who the motivational speaker was (maybe Brian Tracy?) who said most people listen to radio WIFM, What's In It For Me. Everyone you talk to wants to know what's in it for me? A good read? Information? Something to help them promote their business whether that's a library, a commercial product, or a bookstore.

Takeaway Truth

Spend some time working on your 15 Second Pitch, and it may lead to more than Warhol's 15 Minutes of Fame.


Quote for the Week

After spending most of last week with my daughter in the hospital, I was reminded of what movie mogul Samuel Goldwyn said: "A Hospital is no place to be sick."

I bunked on the, well, I guess you'd call it a cross between a studio couch and a built-in window seat. Since I'm on the petite side, I fit comfortably into the vinyl covered niche. Therefore, one would think I managed to sleep quite well.

I slept as well as my daughter which means that neither of us slept unless you count the odd minutes between someone popping into the room to take her temperature or her blood pressure or her IV or to ask if she was all right or to draw 10 tubes of blood at 4 AM or to again take her vital signs or to mistake her for another patient who was supposed to have some god-awful test done or because the shift changed and the new crew wanted to make sure she knew their names.

Sheesh! From ten at night until five in the morning, every hour on the hour, someone was waking her (and me) up.

All kidding and bitching aside, I appreciate the fact that she was getting excellent care, but I wonder why they don't realize a patient needs sleep too.

Takeaway Truth

If you want to sleep, don't stay in a hospital.

Texas Till I Die

We made it to Saturday. What a week! What a month! What a summer!

I'm so thankful not to be at the hospital, the med lab, or the doctor's office this morning. My daughter and I are chilling, cruising the Internet, and doing a little retail therapy.

I was shopping one of her online boutiques Texas Guys & Gals and ordered one of these Ringer Tee Shirts with her Texas Till I Die design. Only $16.00 so I thought I'd recommend it to you if you also love the Lone Star State.

Takeaway Truth

I love online shopping because you can get original designs that, like they say on TV, are not found in stores.

Another Opinion On Newspapers

A couple of days ago I posted What's Wrong With Newspapers and received a comment so insightful from Harl Delos, writer of Canthook, that I asked him if I could run his comment as a blog post.

I wanted to do this because a lot of people don't read comments, and his was simply too good to miss. Harl agreed and added:

You've reminded me of another takeaway truth: beware of the "DWT"s. Not the DTs, that writers are stereotypically associated with, but the DWTs: Doing the Wrong Things.

I spend too much of my time writing comments on others' blogs, instead of writing guest blogs. What's worse, I don't even post the commentary on my own blog. (I just now posted this essay on my own blog, with a couple of trivial changes to provide context.)

Samuel Johnson had something to say about that: "No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money."

In my defense, though, I did make an even more general post about this sea change on my blog yesterday: Cash In Your Stocks, Quit Your Job, BYOB, and Get Horizontal! It's quite applicable to writers as long as you realize that writers are manufacturers of copy.

Webster Kuswa's book "Sell Copy", a couple of decades ago, pointed out that you can write highly valuable copy with no more effort, perhaps less, than that, ahem, "masterpiece" that sits unpublished in the bottom of the closet. It's highly worth reading, even though it's out of print (and you can buy it for as little as 35c, used, on Amazon.)

I know I'll be looking for the book Harl recommended. In the meantime, here's Harl's comment on What's Wrong With Newspapers.

Harl Delos Says

About 30 years ago, the automakers were in big trouble, losing market share to imports, and the joke was that US automakers had begun to emulate the Japanese; so far, they had started by serving sushi in the company cafeteria.

About the same time, USA Today came out, and many local newspapers changed to meet the new competition. Yes, using better paper and full-color printing made sense, but the big change, the bad change, was that they turned themselves into McPapers, devoid of content.

As a former newspaper owner, I screamed, but nobody was listening. Local newspapers, I said, should play to their strengths. They need to beef up local content. Instead of a newspaper of 150,000 circulation, they needed to publish 5 newspapers of 30,000 circulation each, each doing a better job of covering local news, like schools, etc.

Before WWII, newspapers were published on a 40" web - which meant the newspaper was 20" wide. By 1970, newspapers were to a 34" web, and working towards a 32" web. Today, they're on a 24" web.

When you print a narrower web, it means you print fewer square inches per minute, and press runs are longer and more expensive. A 40" web, producing a tabloid, is about the same size as today's broadsheet newspaper, and but it is cheaper and faster to print. Why does faster matter? Because it lets you print 5 community newspapers instead of 1 city newspaper.

Our current economic mess isn't just a normal recession; we've also got a sea change happening. Materials are more expensive, and computer-controlled machinery is cheaper. That means it makes more sense to produce custom products for each customer, less sense to mass produce something that fits nobody very well. Instead of being a wage-slave to a 5000-man factory, tomorrow will see people working in bedrooms, garages, and barns, in enterprises of 20 or fewer employees.

Smart businesses are going "high touch" and succeeding. Newspapers are dying because paper, ink, and gasoline are much more expensive than electrons, and the product isn't worth the premium cost; it's worth far less.

Weekly newspapers are still doing OK, because they're "closer" to their readers, and local stores (whose advertising pays most of the cost) can easily adjust to readers getting their ads on Tuesday instead of Thursday.

So yeah, you've hit *this* takeaway truth on the button. And as writers, we need to apply that same takeaway truth. When we figure out what makes our writing really *valuable* to readers, we thrive. When what we produce is just a time-killer while the waitress brings us eggs and coffee, we're going to go hungry.

Takeaway Truth

Explore Canthook by Harl Delos for more insightful comments and food for thought.

What's Wrong With Newspapers

While I was at the hospital with my daughter, I had plenty of time to catch up on my newspaper reading. I'm a lifelong newspaper subscriber, but sometimes I don't have time to do more than scan the headlines.

Newspaper Habit

Once, I enjoyed reading the newspaper from front to back. I read everything from the news to sports to business to entertainment. Sometimes I even scanned the ad pages, looking for oddities like weird personal announcements.

I can't remember the last time I did this. I began to wonder if it was my lack of time that had made my newspaper reading decline or was it something else.

Things Change

As I read the extended coverage of the Michael Jackson event, I reached a rather startling conclusion. I don't read the newspaper much any more because it's nothing special. I can get the same coverage online or on TV. Gosh, I hate making a statement like that, but it's true.

Death Spiral

For the first time, I really looked at the newspaper in my hands. When had it shrunk so much? The width and length of the pages are barely more than a countertop giveaway paper. The thickness of each daily paper is about the same as a countertop periodical. The Sunday edition is larger because it's packed with glossy advertisements, though even those are much fewer than a year ago.

Mistaken Identity

The real problem though is that the newspaper has lost its identity. Formerly, it was a source of "real" news. Now, it's a source of "reel" news, kind of like a print version of Entertainment Tonight. Even the way articles are written has changed. Now, they read as if written by a high school kid, complete with the syntax and vocabulary used by that group.

No longer do you find journalism. Now you get introductory paragraphs that are laughable because of the purple prose. You get entire sections of the newspaper aimed at a target audience of 18 - 25 year olds, but the bean counters calling the shots at newspapers don't realize that this target audience does NOT subscribe to newspapers. In fact, they rarely read newspapers.

Takeaway Truth

Newspapers are dying, not so much because of the Internet offering free news, but because they've lost sight of what makes them special.

Home, Sweet Home

Quote for the Week

American writer Ann Douglas said: "Home is an invention on which no one has yet improved."

Oh, how heartily I agree with Ms. Douglas.

After spending several days and nights bunking in my daughter's hospital room, we were both thrilled to when the doctor said she could go home. She's in her bed watching the DVRd programs she missed, and I'm in my bed trying to recover from the raging respiratory infection I picked up at the hospital thanks to frigid air conditioning, little food, and no sleep.

The hospital was really nice, and the staff was wonderful. Adina said the food was great, and it did look good. But, I swear, it was cold enough to hang meat without fear of decay.

Thank you, everyone, for your calls, emails, comments, and prayers. It's wonderful to be home.

Takeaway Truth

I'll end with another quotation. This one from Robert Montgomery. "Home, the spot of earth supremely blest. A dearer, sweeter spot than all the rest."

Scariest Week of My Life

I was answering my friend Bill Crider and decided to just post what I said here. I'm home to shower and change while Larry stays at hospital with our daughter Adina.


The blood clot was found in time. Thank God for Ultrasound. Deep Vein Thrombosis in right leg below the knee and above the surgery site. Adina has been on IV pain meds since admission on Wednesday so the pain management has improved so I don't have to watch her sob in unbearable pain. They started injections of Lovenox, a blood thinner, in the stomach the day she was admitted.

Last night they added Coumadin, an oral med of blood thinner. If all goes well, she may be released tomorrow. We'll continue the Lovenox injections for a few days in conjunction with the oral med which she'll be on for at least 3 months.

We've had cardiologists and hematologists as well as her orthopedic surgeon and the admitting doctor so we've got acquainted with some of the great physicians at the hospital.

Adina will have a blood test every week for as long as she's on the Coumadin. There's a long regimen to abide by including wearing a medic alert bracelet so we're all getting educated. Later, when I'm not as exhausted, I'm going to post an important message about DVT. It's for everyone but especially for young women.

Takeaway Truth

They say you can't go days on end without sleeping and eating, but that's not true. You can, but you will feel incredibly exhausted. I'm off the get some shut eye before I head back to the hospital.

Family Emergency

My daughter is in the hospital. I'm out of reach until further notice.

Thanks for any and all prayers and good wishes.

Best Laid Plans Derailed

I've been away. This is the first time I've had so many non-blogging days since I started Sling Words in early 2005. I was so busy packing up my daughter and me for our summer in Junction, Texas, at the Texas Tech campus that I didn't even have time to post a farewell blog.


This was to be the first semester of my daughter's post grad campaign. This is the same daughter who had surgery in early June. Things seemed to be progressing well during her recovery.


Unfortunately, pain bloomed Monday night, and it grew worse and worse. We were up all night, watching the deer feed below the ranch house where we were staying until dawn brought the realization that we needed to get back to her doctor pronto.

Fabulous School

The people at Texas Tech were simply wonderful. Karen Lopez in Admissions was completely understanding and supportive. Robin Germany, the professor teaching the digital photography class offered to work with my daughter via video conferencing since my daughter has such a clear focus on her project and is so goal oriented. That way my daughter won't lose her semester credit. Of course everything depends on the doctor's report.

I packed us up. Closed the house, and drove like a bat out of "you know where" to get us home. Now we're waiting for the doctor. I'm worried. There's a lot that can go wrong with the bone grafts and steel pins holding her foot together. I try really hard not to let my writer's imagination get a toehold in my brain.

Waiting is hell.

Takeaway Truth

A writer's imagination is the key to hell.