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.