R.I.P. Kate Duffy

In case you don't know much about the publishing world, Kate Duffy, long-time Editor at Kensington Publishing, passed away this week.

Count me as another author whose first book was made possible by the remarkable Kate Duffy. She was a legend even then when she was at Meteor Books. I'll never forget my phone call from her after my book Summer's Fortune had been purchased.

She said: "Thank you for allowing us to publish your wonderful book. It's what romance books should be."

Even though I knew she probably said that to every new author, I was swept away by her words because they were what every writer wants to hear. Perhaps that's why she said them to me, uncertain new author that I was.

Kate was an amazing woman with a sharp wit and a low threshold for stupidity. She always had such good advice. For someone as highly placed as she, I was constantly surprised by how accessible she was.

Her passing is a shock. I thought if anyone could beat cancer, it would be she. Again, untimely death makes one realize how tenuous life really is.

From Publisher's Marketplace yesterday:

Kensington editor Kate Duffy, 56, died recently after a long illness. Among the many honors she received, Duffy won the Romance Writers of America's inaugural Industry Award in 1991. Her long career as a romance editor included serving as founding editor of Silhouette Books and founder of Harlequin's Worldwide Library imprint and Pocket's Tapestry Books. While at Kensington she established Brava Books. A memorial service will be scheduled soon.

Takeaway Truth

Kate, you touched many lives. You will be missed.

Fiction Contests

Here are a couple of fiction contests to start your week.

Winter 2010 24-Hour Short Story Contest

The WritersWeekly.com Winter 2010 24-Hour Short Story Contest is now open. The contest is limited to 500 entrants.

1st Place: $300
2nd Place: $250
3rd Place: $200

Entry fee: $5

Sign up here: http://www.writersweekly.com/misc/contest.html.

Writer's Digest 10th Annual Short Short Story Competition

1,500 words or less

Deadline: December 1, 2009.

1st Place: $3000
2nd Place: $1500
3rd Place: $500
4th - 10th Place: $100
11th - 25th Place: $50 gift certificate for Writer's Digest Books

The names and story titles of 1st - 10th Place winners will be printed in the May/June 2010 Writer's Digest, and winners will receive the 2010 Novel & Short Story Writer's Market and Agents, Editors, and You: The Insider's Guide to Getting Your Book Published. Plus, all 1st - 25th place winners will receive a free copy of the 10th Annual Writer's Digest Short Short Story Competition Collection.

To enter, go here.

There are so few markets for short fiction that contests can be a viable way to see how your work stacks up. Contests can also be rewarding.

Takeaway Truth

Someone has to win, place, or show. That someone may be you, and that's a good philosophy to adopt.

Under The Weather

From where did the expression, under the weather, come? I guess I could look it up, but I don't feel like it because I'm under the weather.

Actually, I've been struggling for 2 weeks now. I hate to say it, but ever since I took the flu shot, I've been, well, SICK. Within 24 hours of the shot, I had a sore throat, followed by massive sinus congestion, and all over body aches and pains.

This was the "regular" immunization, not the H1N1. The sore throat became the sore throat from hell. I did what the doctors say: drank plenty of liquids, took ibuprofen and meds for symptomatic relief. All of that meant I felt as if I were swimming in molasses every day which is why I haven't been blogging much this week, on either blog.

A few days ago, I thought I had it licked. Then yesterday, the cycle started again. Felt like hell last night. Went to bed early. Slept late. Got up this morning totally PO'd at the whole situation. I take allergy meds every day of my life, and I'm a fanatic about hand washing and using Purell after handling public items like shopping carts at the grocery store, etc. I shouldn't get anything. Ever.

Takeaway Truth

Sometimes, will power just won't power through the day when you have the crud.

Autumn Is Here

I know you must think I lead a rather tame life when I get excited over the arrival of a predicted cold front, but the predicted front actually moved into the Houston area early this morning.

I love cold fronts as long as they don't turn into blue northers. That's blue as in turning blue with cold, growing things freezing, and ice on the overpasses.

I've brewed a fresh pot of coffee and am headed to the covered patio to enjoy my java and the blustery wind and rain which began falling about 6:30 this morning. The temp is a cool 68 outside, and it's a beautiful wet fall day here in Texas.

Of course, this same cold front must have passed through Colorado yesterday because my younger brother called from his mountain and said the temp was 31 at midday and a blizzard was in progress. I don't know if it was a real blizzard or a blizzard in his flatlander eyes since he's lived on his mountain less than a year.

I think I'll take a drive up north of town on the weekend and see if the leaves are turning yet.

Takeaway Truth

Sometimes you really can see summer turn to autumn in Texas if the change is accompanied by wind and rain.

6 Basic Blogging Rules

If you're just starting a blog or reinventing one that hasn't been successful, here's something important to remember. Needlepoint it on a sampler (yeah, right) or print a sign and hang it over your computer.

Laying a good foundation ensures success and longevity. A good foundation means having a plan.

1. Set up an editorial calendar that says when you will blog. M, W, F? T, Th? Th, Sa, Mo, or only every Wednesday?

2. Decide on set topics you will cover. That makes everything so much easier. Example: Every Monday: your Work In Progress if you want to cover that. Every Tuesday: maybe a good website resource that represents your niche. Every Wednesday: maybe something in the news about your niche. Every Thursday: a book you're reading. Every Friday: maybe a story from your personal life.

The topics depend on your niche where you want to establish your blog.

3. Decide whether your blog will be strictly professional or contain personal elements, and if personal, how much do you want to reveal. Be very careful.

4. Don't EVER reveal personal information about yourself, your children, or family that would enable someone to easily locate where you live.

5. In the beginning, for every blog post you write, write another and schedule it for a date in the future.

6. If you can only write 2 or 3 blogs a week, make sure one appears on the weekend. There are many less blog posts on the weekend so you have a greater chance of attracting attention than during the work week.

Takeaway Truth

Make a commitment to excellence and consistency in keeping with the time you can make available for blogging then follow through.


Quote for the Week

"All those golden autumn days the sky was full of wings. Wings beating low over the blue water of Silver Lake, wings beating high in the blue air far above it . . . bearing them all away to the green fields in the South. "

That description of autumn by Laura Ingalls Wilder is what I thought of today when my husband and I went out for our daily walk.

Ducks in a not very precise V formation flew overhead. We could hear their calls that sound like a peculiar whistling quacking kind of sound. They were what are commonly called, at least in this area, Mexican Whistlers. I guess they were on their way to their winter vacation grounds south of the Rio Grande.

By the time we'd logged a mile, another flight of ducks appeared in the sky. I don't know what it means that the ducks are already headed south, but I read in the paper that our first cold front of the year should appear Tuesday.

I'm excited. I like cold fronts because they mean we can turn off the air conditioning for a few days. Maybe a week if we're lucky!

Actually, autumn is almost on a par with spring in my hierarchy of favorite seasons. Autumn is the respite from summer's fierce heat. It's the time when we can again enjoy gardening, when we can catch our breath and spend more time outdoors.

I can't imagine a world in which the seasons are unchanging. Though many think that we have perpetual summer here in the Houston area, that's simply not true. Our seasons are just more subtle sometimes.

Takeaway Truth

Each season has its own special beauty, and autumn is the richest hued of all.

Dropping Hints The Modern Way

I was catching up on my newspaper reading this morning and had to laugh at a letter to a well known advice columnist. The poor letter writer wanted to know what to do about her romance challenged husband. Goodness, I know how to answer that one: drop a hint the modern way so he'll buy you one of the gorgeous seiko diamond watches. (That's Seiko. Forgot that capital S.)

Modern Way

Today, hint dropping is easy. You just leave your computer on with the BlueDial.com website page displayed on the monitor. Then you ask him to fetch something from your computer desk. Some men are a bit oblivious so you might have to do this a few times, but eventually even the most romance impaired man will get the hint that his sweetie must like those watches or she wouldn't spend so much time looking at them.

Conversation Hook

Of course, you can hook him like a wide-mouth bass if he asks about Blue Dial. Just say: "Blue Dial has a great rep for offering only genuine, new, best quality watches. No knockoffs or fakes. Their low prices are as genuine as their watches. Plus, they offer free sizing and shipping to the lower 48. Their policies are clearly stated on their secure website. You can contact them by toll free phone or email, and you can track your purchase online."

P. S.

Be sure and print a picture of the one you like best and leave it laying where he can't miss it, like on top of the TV remote control.

Takeaway Truth

Sometimes Cupid just needs a little help. Fortunately, that's easy with the Internet.

Web Reading And Writing

A lot of writers think that if you can successfully write for print publication, then you can write for web publication equally well. However, what they haven't picked up on are the differences between the two. Lack of knowledge about the differences may keep someone from succeeding at web writing.

Online Reading

Online reading is more tiring to the eyes. People who read online actually read differently than if they were reading something printed like a book or newspaper. When reading online, one doesn't usually read every word. The eyes skim across the presented text, picking out the most interesting part and reading that. Therefore, the text must be formatted a little differently as well as be a little different in content.

5 Web Writing Rules

1. Don't write flowery prose. Web readers visit a website for something specific usually. Give them what they came for. Make it creative and interesting but don't get bogged down in detail and extraneous description or the reader will just move on.

2. Don't write like you're giving a lecture to a college class. Save those big vocabulary words for faculty teas and use the words everyone else uses. In other words, keep the tone casual as if you were having a conversation with someone.

3. Don't create huge long blocks of text. Write short paragraphs.

4. Break up the flow of text with Subheadings.

5. If possible, give bullet points or numbered lists. Short lists are best.

Takeaway Truth

Whatever format you use in writing, always give something of value that helps the reader in some way.

Write For $.00216/Word

This morning I saw a writing job posted that caused my mouth to drop open in shock. Since I can't close my mouth until I get all my gasps of incredulity voiced, I decided to blog about it of course.

Please, please don't take jobs like this. It's hard for me to believe that some poor desperate schmuck would actually sign on to do this job.

Project Summary: Looking for 200 original articles focused around keywords / phrases that will be provided to the winning bidder. Each article should be approx 325 words written for SEO purposes.

Your Writer Guidelines:

-article length= roughly 300-325 words
-3-4 paragraph format
-I will provide a keyword that you will work into the title, as well as twice within the body of the article
-All content MUST be 100% unique, I'll be checking articles through copyscape.
-correct use of English language is a MUST and writing must make grammatical sense. If your command of the English language isn't impeccable do not waste your time
-Payment is $0.65 per article.

-Must be able to write about the same topics repeatedly in new and interesting ways
All work should be 100% error free
- Must by 100% original and pass Copyscape
- Great researching abilities
- Be creative and come up with entertaining and informative article
- Outstanding communication skills
- Able to follow exact directions
- Provide about 10 articles per day
- All rights to the articles belong to me
- Articles will be reviewed within 24 hours prior to payment
- Experience with SEO article writing

Takeaway Truth

File this under: WTF.

Jennifer Schuett: Hero

Take a close look at this police artist sketch. That's what this blog post is all about. This sketch was created for wide dissemination so I think I'm okay in posting it here, and I didn't see the photo on The Houston Chronicle website where I checked after reading the article by Harvey Rice in the September 11, 2009, edition.

This is important. Please read on. You have my permission to forward this blog post, reprint it on your own blog or do whatever to get this news out. Use it in its entirety so others know you have my permission to post it.


I like the term hero to apply to men and women because the feminine version, heroine, seems to lack the spirit of the male appellation. That's why I'm calling Jennifer Schuett a hero rather than a heroine. She has stepped forward, revealing her name and showing her scars, in order to find her assailant.

Needs Our Help

Please visit The Houston Chronicle to read her story, view the video, and read the description of the man who has walked the streets, a free man, for 19 years since attacking Jennifer. After reading this, you'll probably find yourself wondering, as I did, how many more children and women he's probably attacked.

August 10, 1990

Jennifer was only 8 years old. She was taken during the night from her bed by a man. He cut her throat after raping her. Then he dragged her to a deserted field. She regained consciousness as she was being dragged over the rough ground. Smart girl that she was, she knew he thought she was dead so she kept her eyes closed.

He threw her naked body on top of an ant bed and walked away, leaving her for dead. Jennifer was a tough little girl with a will to live. She lay there, bleeding and too weak to move or call out, but she hung on. The next day, a group of kids playing nearby found her.

She survived. The wide scar on her throat and the scars all over her body from the ant bites attest to her ordeal and the strength of her spirit. Now, she's brave enough to tell her story and let the public put a face to her horrific ordeal in hopes of stopping the man who did this and making him pay for what he did.

What's Happening

Back in 1990, DNA technology wasn't advanced enough to get results from small samples. Now it is. The trace evidence on her bloody clothing and a man's tee shirt, found by police near where she'd been dumped, can now be tested for a match, and that's happening even as I write this.

Doctors had told her she would never speak again because her larynx had been cut. They were wrong. She's not only speaking, but she's telling the world what happened. Once a suspect is found, DNA evidence will tell the rest of the story.

Jennifer is working toward a degree in criminology. She wants to help crime victims because she certainly knows what it feels like to be one. She credits Dickinson, Texas, police detective Tim Cromie and FBI Special Agent Richard Rennison with getting the FBI lab to retest the clothing.

Why Post This

I'm writing this blog post, not because this is such a compelling story though it is that, but because we are an extremely mobile society. We move a lot. We vacation. Jennifer's assailant may still be in the Houston area, but he may not. Maybe he's in Montana now or Maine or Mexico. Who knows where he is? Also, who knows how many he has assaulted and/or killed? Men like him don't stop until they're off the streets or dead.

The purpose of this blog post is for everyone to see the sketch and to know Jennifer's story and to know that this man, if he's still alive, needs to be brought to justice. Jennifer's story was scheduled to air yesterday on America's Most Wanted.

Go to the Chronicle's website. Read the story. Watch the video interview with Jennifer. Study the police artist sketch. If you knew this man then or know him now, call the FBI at 713-693-5000.

Takeaway Truth

The Internet audience is a big one. Spread this blog post far and wide. Someone, somewhere, is bound to have known this man.

Career Advice

Quote for the Week

Katharine Whitehorn, in Observer, 1975, said: "The best career advice given to the young is: Find out what you like doing best and get someone to pay you for doing it."

Work, these past few months, has been more fun than work despite the long hours and the volume of work. I absolutely love what I do for a living. Times like these make me know that I made the right choice. When you love what you do, work is never work.

Sure, there are times when I feel as if I couldn't pull another word from my brain. There's associated paperwork and administration responsibilities, if you're successful, just as there are in other careers. All in all though, writing is often sheer joy. Or should be. If it's not, take a step back and see what's stealing your joy away.

Takeaway Truth

If you work in words, always hold tight to the love of writing that got you in the business in the first place.

Writing Contest for Office Max

I just received an email from Office Max. They're sponsoring a contest. Write A Review, and you might win up to 10 grand.

This might be interesting if you want to tell them what you think about a product. Look at it as a writing challenge or assignment.

Takeaway Truth

Someone is going to win. Might as well be you, right? Write!

Are You The Best?

Every now and then I have to remind myself of a simple truth that I learned while driving along the ever-busy FM 1960 corridor, a Farm to Market road that is one of Houston’s busiest thoroughfares.

As I drove, I seemed to catch every traffic signal on red so it was no surprise to find myself stopped at an intersection by the Methodist church. Impatiently, my fingers drummed the steering wheel, and my eyes darted around, looking for something more interesting than the tail lights of the car in front of me.

The message on the marquee in front of the red-brick church caught my attention.


Wow! If you cannot be the best, then be your best. It hit me with the force of a two by four between the eyes then.


Think about that aphorism. Have you ever heard people grumbling about someone higher on their career food chain? Have you done it yourself? Have you ever stopped to think that, yeah, maybe Nora or Stephanie or Patterson or fill-in-the-name-of-your-choice, is the best in their field, but that’s okay. You can be your best. No one can be the best Joan Reeves except me. No one can be the best you except you.

Flying High Or Stuck

We all spend so much time agonizing over trying to be the best writer or accountant or artist or mom or whatever. Inevitably we feel dejected because someone else is, we think, better. They get better breaks. They make better money. Or you obsess about catching up with someone who started out at the same time as you and now has a high-flying career while you’re stuck in the rank and file.

Attempting The Impossible

Unfortunately, too many of us spend vast amounts of time trying to be the next Bill Gates or Stephen King or Martha Stewart or whatever the flavor of the week is. Wouldn’t all that energy and time be better spent in trying to be the best you? You with your voice, your style, your personality, your skills, your experiences is indeed an original. No one can be that person better than you.

Takeaway Truth

Forget about being the best. Just be your best.

Obtain Images Legally

A lot of times in writing for the Internet either your personal blog or business writing, you find yourself needing to illustrate with an appropriate image. Just take a look at this stunning photograph of the Australian Outback which I used to prove my point simply because I found it compelling.

Professional writers always make sure they are legally authorized to use the images they select. They don't just cruise the Internet, right clicking on everything they see then storing the stolen images on their computer.

Legal Use

Stolen images? That's right. Unless you have permission to use an image, then you've stolen it. That's what copyright is all about. The person who created the image owns the rights to it.

There's no need to fret though if you know how to go about obtaining legally authorized art for your illustration purposes, and the artistic creators want you to use their work IF you credit them with it.

Obtaining Art

1. Take your own photographs. They're yours, and you can embed a copyright on them if you wish.

2. Ask permission from someone when you find an image on their site that you like.

3. Purchase images from any of the hundreds of Stock Photo websites that offer images as low as free if you just follow the artist/photographer's terms of service follow the $1.00 to subscription plans that offer you unlimited usage.

Stock Photo Sites



StockXChange where I found the photo above, Roadside Assistance Required.




These are just a few of the many sites where you can obtain images. Registration is usually free. Be sure and read the terms of services and follow them. I like to credit the artist/photographer by embedding a credit line in the image. If possible, I also send an email to the person who created the image to thank him/her for allowing you to use it. I've met some really nice people from all over the world in doing this.

Takeaway Truth

People engaged in the arts get paid very little and are often taken advantage of by those who take their work without offering any compensation or even the most basic expression of thanks. Don't be guilty of doing this. Obtain your art legally.


Quote for the Week

Douglas Pagels, author of These Are The Gifts I'd Like To Give To You said: "Sometimes it's important to work for that pot of gold. But other times it's essential to take time off and to make sure that your most important decision in the day simply consists of choosing which color to slide down on the rainbow."

That's what I'm trying to do today: jump onto a sunbeam and slide down the rainbow.

Takeaway Truth

Happy Labor Day, one and all.

Writing For Page Views

Today, I just want to direct you to my post on Joan Slings Words because I think, if you're interested in freelance writing, you need to read this.

There are a lot of sites that tell you they will pay you for content you upload. That pay ranges from Pay Per Click to Pay Per View, but it all means pretty much the same thing.

If you've wondered whether this endeavor was worth your time, read my post on JSW.

Takeaway Truth

We're all in this together so when one writer learns something, she/he should share with others.


Did you read about the woman who was fired for sending all caps emails?

If you've been sending emails since the dawn of time, you know that's a big "no no." However, as irritating as it is, I don't think it should be grounds for firing an employee. Shouldn't she first have been taken aside and told that's "just not nice" to format emails in that manner?

I don't know the details, but I do know that she who laughs last is the one who filed a lawsuit for unjust termination and collects a few grand. Yep, the court found in her favor.


I've found that most people who use all caps in emails are one of these:

(a) too lazy to use the shift key; the flip side of this are the people who use all lower case. That irritates me just as much; e e cummings may have gotten away with it, but that doesn't mean you can.

(b) not proficient at keyboarding

(c) senior citizens who have come to email late in life and don't know the "rules."

Takeaway Truth

Be nice to people who don't follow established protocols. Either guide them gently or ignore the issue.