Holiday Gifts: Tees & Jewelry

Happy Holidays!

Today I'm featuring a couple of great T's for writers. The first is from my own shop The Write Way. It's in the iPod/Pad/gadget school of design thought. There are lots of other t-shirts for writers in the shop if this doesn't strike your fancy.


The iWrite Tee Shirt is only $17.99 when purchased directly from my shop. Today, CafePress is giving a special Cyber Monday sale with $10.00 off orders totaling $50. or more. With so many great gifts and PR products for writers, finding other things to buy shouldn't be a problem.

The shirt shown is a woman's style, but, guys, there are shirts there for you too.

Second Gift Idea

I love Typewriter Key Jewelry. These Cuff Links are great and so is the $24.99 price tag.

QA Create has a great selection of beautiful earrings, rings, cuff links, and pendants designed to appeal to those who work with words. Old typewriter keys are getting harder to find. Better get yours now.

Takeaway Truth

Happy shopping!


I've been publishing SlingWords since 2005. A few years into blogging, I started posting a Written Wisdom, usually on Sunday.

I've written well over 1,000 posts. Since 2008, 118 of these posts have been Written Wisdom, based on a wise or witty quotation.

Best of Written Wisdom

I decided to compile a "best of" from Written Wisdom using the platform. This book of excerpts will be printed in softcover, and I'll give them as Christmas presents to certain family and friends who, I think, will appreciate them. (I may offer them for sale to anyone who wants one. I haven't decided yet whether I have the time to undertake that kind of retail project.)

No End In Sight

I'm not ending Written Wisdom. Indeed, I've updated the graphic that accompanies each post and plan to continue indefinitely.

Today, my theme is, appropriately, Quotations. I'm sharing what Quotation Anthologist Terri Guillemets, creator of the, had to say about the subject: "Most collectors collect tangibles. As a quotation collector, I collect wisdom, life, invisible beauty, souls alive in ink."

Takeaway Truth

I'm also a collector of wisdom, life, invisible beauty, and souls -- all alive in ink, the old-fashioned liquid product and the new digital variety.

I'm a Beautiful Blogger

Back in the spring, I received an email from Randi Annette Shaw who writes for the love of Writing.

Randi was letting me know that SlingWords, this little adventure in writing that I publish, was selected as the winner of a Beautiful Blogger Award.

So why am I so late in bragging, uh, I mean, telling you about this lovely award? I guess because I received notification during one of my brief stays at home.

Late, Not Unappreciative

My mom had died in late January. I'd been traveling back and forth to the hospital all of January and sleeping on couches in the ICU waiting room. Then I spent the next few months mostly at her home with an occasional trip home to check on my family.

In other words, a lot of things fell through the cracks during that time. By the time I finished taking care of my mom's estate, it was time for my daughter's next orthopedic surgery. I won't continue in this sage lest you all begin playing the world's tiniest violin. Suffice it to say that this year was even harder than last year which was one of the worst of my life. Wow! Am I looking forward to 2011 and hoping that it will bring better times.

Memory Returns

Out of the blue, I suddenly remembered the Beautiful Blogger Award, returned to her site, and snagged the image to post here. You'll see it on the sidebar from now on. Again, Randi, thank you. I appreciate the recognition because I work hard at making this blog appealing in looks and content.

Takeaway Truth

Thoreau was right. Sometimes life really is too much for us, but, in the face of some events, simplify simply isn't the answer. Perhaps the only answer is to just put one foot in front of the other and keep moving, hoping that you're moving forward.

Review: In the Garden of Temptation

In the Garden of Temptation by Cynthia Wicklund
Kindle Edition: 448 KB
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
Language: English

Several weeks ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing author Cynthia Wicklund and subsequently reviewed her first published novel Lord of Always.

I bemoaned the fact that she didn't have another book coming out any time soon. Apparently, I wasn't the only one who wanted more from her, and as soon as possible! Cynthia listened to the pleas of her eager new fans and has made her books of The Garden Series available as eBooks.

Hard To Believe

Readers, you'll find it hard to believe, but these evocative, emotional romance novels made the rounds of editors and agents for years without capturing a contract. They came close many times, and Cynthia finaled in Romance Writers of America's annual Golden Heart contest for unpublished writers, but the end result was a stack of glowing rejection letters.

Strong Belief

However, writers sometimes believe so strongly in the worth of a story that they don't give up, and that's a very good thing for readers because In the Garden of Temptation is a gem worthy of a place on your keeper shelf.

Thankfully, eBook reader devices, like my Kindle on which I downloaded In the Garden of Temptation, Book 1 of The Garden Series, make the size of a keeper shelf immense. Let me tell you about this story.

No Spoilers

It's hard to tell what this story is about without revealing some neat twists, but I'll try.

Adam Stanford, Earl of Ashworth, is a man who is honorable and above reproach. He's always done the right thing. Then he meets the beautiful — and married — Lady Catherine Bourgeault, the beautiful, young wife of one of the most disreputable men in England.

Stunned by a passion and a love that no amount of conscience can deny, Catherine and Adam risk everything for a few moments of stolen bliss. Unknown to them, every event from their introduction to the consummation of their love has been orchestrated by Catherine's evil, demented husband for his own dark purpose.

When Baron Bourgeault finally springs his trap, Catherine is forced to break Adam's heart in order to save him. The baron whisks her away to his crumbling castle in the country. As he sinks deeper and deeper into his psychosis, Catherine knows that her life, and all she holds dear, may be forfeit unless the power of redeeming love can save her.

Charged Emotion

I read this book while I sat in the surgical waiting room last week. My daughter was having her third surgery in 18 months, and I was a basket case who could hardly take the slow movement of the hands of the clock. A two hour surgery turned into four and continued. If I hadn't had this book to read, I don't know what I'd have done. I can hardly believe that Catherine and Adam's emotional journey captured my attention sufficiently as to calm my nerves and give me brief respite from worry, but it did. I devoured the book.

Bottom Line

This is the second novel I've read by Cynthia Wicklund, and it's truly another winner. I can't recommend her books highly enough. She has a way with women characters and the knack for presenting them as likable and honorable even when they may not be engaged in honorable actions. I understand these women, and I like them.

Her talent with characters extends to men. In Lord of Always, she took an evil man and made him the kind of man we'd all want in our lives. In Temptation, she takes an honorable man and makes him behave dishonorably, but we don't care! We still like him. We understand how he is in the grip of a love he never expected to feel. We see his battle with his conscience. Despite what he does, he's heroic.

I'm off to purchase the next books in the series. Book 2 is In the Garden of Seduction, and Book 3 is In the Garden of Disgrace.

Of course, I'm going to buy the Kindle Editions, but you can get them in other formats or Kindle for other apps. By the way, if you want your own Kindle, just click here.

Takeaway Truth

Until next time, remember, a good book is a little vacation from the cares of life.

P. D. James & Detective Fiction

The other day I wrote about the latest Harris Poll on book buying statistics. That poll showed that mystery, crime, and thriller books were rising in popularity.

That reminded me of Talking About Detective Fiction by the talented P. D. James. If anyone knows something about the mystery genre, it's P. D. James.

Her book is a history of the detective fiction genre, and it's written in an easy conversational style. If you're into mysteries, this is a book you should read.

Detective Fiction Morphs

I like what she had to say: "What is surprising is not that the detective story has altered but that it has survived, and that what we have seen since the interwar years has been a development, not a rejection, followed by renewal."

She goes on to hold forth about the realism inherent in contemporary crime fiction, taking into account the scientific and technological advances that have changed the face of detection and therefore must change detective novels. Ms. James thinks that the increased emphasis on environment/setting in crime stories and a more explicit rendering of sexually-based scenes within the stories makes the novels closer to mainstream fiction.

Blending Genres

I think she's right. The lines between genres are blurring so that it's difficult to say this novel is a detective novel but this one over here is a mainstream (general fiction) title. Thirty years ago, writing a cross genre novel was the kiss of death. Only Dean Koontz consistently wrote these books that blended mystery, science fiction, thriller, and usually a strong romance element.

Anyone else did it at the risk of not selling the book. Conventional wisdom then said that booksellers simply didn't know where to stock books like this. Did they put it in general fiction, horror, science fiction, mystery, or what? Therefore, publishers didn't want to publish them because it would be hard to sell in sufficient quantities to make the project profitable.

Truth About Readers

Readers don't care so much about labels. They care about good books. They know what they like, and they're willing to pay good money for it when they find it. One good thing about doing online shopping is that a reader can search for the kind of book that rings her chimes by entering keywords that describe her interests.

Takeaway Truth

The ability to search by keywords may be one of the reasons why online book buying keeps growing.

3 Ways To Give Thanks

Today, across America, people gather with loved ones to feast and to give thanks. Admittedly, the giving thanks part seems to take a back seat to the feasting and football viewing.

Here are some tips that might help you restore the meaning of Thanksgiving: 3 Ways To Give Thanks.

1. Say thank you. Make a point to thank each person as they help with the day's festivities. I don't mean a quickly muttered, "Thanks." I mean to look them in the eye, touch their hand or their shoulder or hug them, and tell them why their presence in your home means so much to you today.

Then tell them, "Thank you, for being here, for helping, and for being in my life. You make me a happier person." Or words to that effect. You know what's in your heart so just speak from the heart.

2. Give thanks. Before everyone dives into the food at the big meal, tap your glass to get everyone's attention and announce that you want to give thanks aloud and offer the opportunity to everyone else to do the same. Say what you're thankful for and let each person have their say around the table.

3. Get a journal just for Thanksgiving. Ask each person to write a few words in the journal before they leave. Don't forget to ask the kids too. Even the tiniest tots know what made them happy, and their parents can write that for them.

Whether the remarks are a simple "Thanks for the food." or an essay on the closeness of family, you'll learn to treasure the journal if you make it an annual tradition. Each year you'll love looking back on feasts of the past, and your regular guests will enjoy seeing how they change through the years.

Takeaway Truth

I give thanks that so many of you read this blog. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Judge a Book By Its Cover Contest

I'm proud to be a member of the Houston Bay Area Chapter of Romance Writers of America, sponsors of an annual contest to recognize the best in book cover design.

The 2010 Judge a Book By Its Cover contest, commonly called JABBIC, is now open and ready for submissions.

What's different about this contest is that it's open to not only those published with traditional publishers but also to authors who are with small presses, or even self-published. Yes, there's a lot of good art out there on self-published books though some think that it's still heresy to say that aloud.


JABBIC recognizes outstanding graphic design in that all-important first impression: the book cover.

Grand Prize: A full-page color ad in the April 2011 edition of Romance Writers Report, the official magazine of Romance Writers of America. The ad will feature the winners in all six categories. This is big! Full-page color ads aren't cheap, and they bring a lot of exposure to an author's book.

Winners will be announced on February 10, 2011.


The categories include:

Contemporary Series


Single Title

Romantic Suspense

Science Fiction/Fantasy/Paranormal

Sexiest Cover.

Here Come The Judge

The Judges are booksellers who know what good covers look like. This year, they are:

Borders Books

A Novel Place

Barbara's Books

Beth Anne's Book Corner

Ever After


Katy Budget Books

Jane's Paperback Swap'n'Shop

Murder One

The Island Bookstore


Romance World

Temptation, the Romance Bookstore

Rosemary's Romance Books

More Info

To find out more information, visit Houston Bay Area RWA. The left sidebar contains a box with JABBIC links. To enter, simply browse to the JABBIC site. The entry system will walk you through the process of entering your contact and book information, paying, and uploading your cover electronically.

Takeaway Truth

If you think your book has a great cover, then enter JABBIC. You just might win recognition for your book and for the artist who did the cover.

Meet Maryann Miller

We're having coffee this morning with Maryann Miller, a woman who's written columns, feature stores, short fiction, novels, screenplays and stage plays.

Maryann Miller has won numerous awards including being a semi-finalist at the Sundance Institute for her screenplay, A Question of Honor.

More recently she placed in the top 15% of entries in the Chesterfield Screenwriting Fellowship with the adaptation of Open Season, the first of a mystery series that will debut, in hardcover, in December from Five Star Cengage/Gale.

It's All In The Details

Title: Open Season
Author Name: Maryann Miller
Publisher: Five Star Cengage/Gale
ISBN: 10: 1594149151

You can visit Maryann at her website or her Amazon Author Page or her blog It's Not All Gravy.

You may converse with Maryann by email: maryann at maryannwrites dot com.

Ice Breakers

Good morning, Maryann, and welcome to Sling Words! Let's get started with some fun questions. Of Tess of the D'Urbervilles or the movie Pretty Woman, which do you prefer and why?

Maryann: Between Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles or the movie Pretty Woman, I would have to pick the movie. I want to kiss Richard Gere when he shows up with the carriage, and that song. Oh my gosh, I can't get it out of my head now. "Pretty woman, walking down the street...."

Joan: How appropriate since this is the 20th anniversary of that film!

What's your TV guilty pleasure? Why?

Maryann: Okay. I'll admit it. I love to watch football, although it has lost some of its appeal since the glory days of the Dallas Cowboys. My daughter once said, "Call me for the huddle." Need I say more?

Joan: Name a book, any genre, that means a lot to you and tell us why.

Maryann: At the top of my all-time favorite book list is Of Mice and Men by Steinbeck. I learned more about developing characters from this book than any other. I also love Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird because in it she gives writers permission to just write without worrying about perfection in the first draft. For me it is important to turn the editor side of my brain off when I am first creating a scene and just let it come the way it wants to. Later I can beat it into shape.

Joan: Name a book that you were forced to read in school that you think was a time waste and please tell us why.

Maryann: I absolutely slogged through Ulysses in school and hated every minute of it. I know it is a classic and all well-rounded readers should love the classics, but that is not one that even flirted with my list of books I enjoyed. When I read, I need boundaries. Periods. Commas. Paragraph indents.

Joan: Boundaries! Well put. What an excellent definition of grammar. I may use that quotation in Grammar for Grownups, my online serial that's being published on Joan Slings Words, my other blog.

Inquiring Minds Want To Know

Joan: How long have you been working at your craft? Please tell us something about your first published book, the journey from the idea that you wanted to write a book to finally writing one for which you received a publishing contract.

Maryann: If you count the fact that I started writing when I was eleven, I have been working on my craft a looooong time. My first published book was Coping With Cults, a nonfiction book for teens dealing with destructive cults. I got that gig based on my years of journalism experience, and the book was not what I thought my first published book would be. It was more of a job than a book from my heart, but it paid a few bills and was fun to research and write.

My childhood dream was to write fiction, and while I moved in the direction of newspaper and magazine work to earn a living, I always had a fiction project that I would work on when I got a chance.

Joan: The book about which we're talking today was what number book for you? 1st, 3rd, 7th?

Maryann: Open Season is my 14th published book.

Joan: Tell us something about this particular book: how did you come up with the title; do you have a 1 sentence blurb or log line to tease readers?

Maryann: The title for Open Season came to me when I thought about the killer stalking victims, much like a hunter will stalk game. I didn't want to call it Hunting Season, and I remembered that there is an open season of hunting for some game. Perhaps hunters will make the connection. This is the first book in a series, and each title will include the word season.

I don't have a one-sentence logline, but two: Set against a backdrop of racial tension and deadly force controversy in Dallas, Open Season introduces Sarah Kingsly and Angel Johnson, homicide detectives who are unlikely and unwilling partners. When people start dying in area shopping malls, the detectives find themselves up against a killer who has his own race card to play.

Joan: Are you also publishing for eBook readers, and, if so, how did you make that transition from print to eBook?

Maryann: I have three books available for eBook readers. Friends Forever, Play it Again, Sam, and One Small Victory. I put Friends Forever and One Small Victory up on Kindle and Smashwords myself, and Play it Again, Sam was published by Uncial Press as an e-Book a couple of years ago.

I have had an e-reader for almost ten years and am thrilled that e-books are finally getting so popular. I think having books available in paperback, hardback, audio and electronic is a smart way to go. All readers have a preference, and this way we can cater to them all.

Joan: If they made a movie of your book, who would be cast to portray the characters?

Maryann: I work in a community theater and all the players here are clamoring to be in the movie for Open Season. I also have a good friend who wants to play the lead in One Small Victory. If that should ever get made, I would love for my friend to get the role. She is an incredible actress and would be perfect as Jenny. Maybe I could be cast to play her mother. We have done mother/daughter roles before.

Joan: What keeps you going when you get rejected?

Maryann: Rejections were harder to handle when I was younger and just starting my journalism career. Now a rejection is barely a blip on my radar. What is that saying about a tough old newspaper woman? I do think it benefits a writer to toughen up just a bit and remember the work is getting rejected, not the person.

Joan: What's your favorite oh, darn, I got a rejection food and/or drink to soothe the savaged ego?

Maryann: If I do feel a need to soothe my ego after a disappointment, some triple chocolate fudge ice cream sure comes in handy.

Joan: Who are your writing influences?

Maryann: I am constantly invited to grow as a writer when I read wonderfully crafted books such as The Help, Mystic River, The Black Horse, and many others that have passages I read over and over because of the use of language. I also enjoy books by Laura Castoro, Crossing the Line, Icing on the Cake. Laura is a wonderful writer, and she is so willing to share her expertise. She has been a good friend and supporter. I also have some writer friends who have persevered against physical challenges and life challenges, and they are my inspiration.

Joan: What are you working on now?

Maryann: Right now I am trying to finish the second book in the series, Stalking Season. It's close, just a few chapters to go. I am also sending queries to agents for the humorous memoir I finished this year. A Dead Tomato Plant and a Paycheck is based on a humor column I used to write when I was known as the Erma Bombeck of Plano, Texas.

Joan: What do you now know that you wish you'd known when you started?

Maryann: Now I know how to separate the work from my ego, and it would have been helpful to be able to do that in the beginning. In newspaper and magazine work the rejections can come swift and heavy, and I really had to work to make myself send out another query when I'd get a rejection. Now I am much more pragmatic about it. Already I have received seven rejections on the memoir, but I have a list of agents to try and a new query goes out the same day I receive a "no thanks".

Joan: What's the best thing about writing?

Maryann: One of the things I love most about writing is the magic that happens on the paper or the screen when the writing is going well. Some writing sessions I start out with a rough idea of what I want to happen in this particular scene, then one of my characters surprises me. Sometimes the surprise is much better than what I had planned and I almost want to stand up and cheer.

Joan: What's the worst thing about writing?

Maryann: Editing and rewriting. Need I say more? Bring on the chocolate.

Joan: Do you have writing goals? If so, would you share some with us?

Maryann: New York Times best-seller list. Pulitzer Prize. National Book Award. Academy Award for the screenplay for Open Season. Seriously, I was just reminded in another interview that it would be good to have One Small Victory available in paperback, so that is one of the goals I would like to accomplish soon.

Joan: What advice would you give someone just starting out?

Maryann: One of the main things I like to share with new writers is the advice, "never give up." More success stories evolve out of tenacity than talent, and too many good writers give up when the marketing gets too difficult. It is also important to read and write and read and write, and not necessarily in just one genre or category. You learn a lot about craft by reading many different books and paying attention to what makes them engaging.

Joan: What's the one thing no interviewer has ever asked you about that you'd like to discuss here?

Maryann: My garden and how much working around growing things feeds my soul. I think all artists need to feed the creative spirit within and it needs to be daily nutrition. I get mine every morning.

The Last Word

: Is there anything else you'd like to tell us about anything?

Maryann: I just want to thank you so much for this opportunity to share my story with your readers. It is always so much fun to do these interviews, and I hope the readers enjoy this time together.

Takeaway Truth

Until next time, remember, a good book is a little vacation from the cares of life.

Holiday Gifts: Bitchin' Journal & Mug

I'll freely admit to having a rather odd sense of humor, but here are a couple of inexpensive gifts that just scream career writer to me. Of course, if your particular career has a lot of frustration and trials, then these gifts fit your particular ring of hell also.

First up is the Fabulous Career in Bitching Journal whose cover says: Ask me about a fabulous career in bitching.

If you've been a professional writer longer than a month, then you know why this journal would make a great gift for a writer. Sometimes, it seems that all we do is bitch about the state of publishing, book sales, editors, agents, readers, and more. In fact, sometimes it seems that there's no good news about writing so why do we keep on doing it?

Next, we have the Unstable & Bitchy Mug. I'd laugh at this even if my husband gave it to me! In fact, we women tend to laugh about things like this because we have a great sense of humor, and we can take a little kidding.

Of course, we like to give our friends gifts like these because we also know that writing as a career makes us all a little crazy at times. Yep. Being unstable and bitchy is all part of my mystique.

P. S. My artist daughter designed these and sells them at one of her CafePress shops. Wonder if she had anyone particular in mind when she was creating these amusing gifts?

Takeaway Truth

A gift that makes you laugh is a gift that lifts your spirits every time you look at it. It just may help you keep your sense of perspective amidst trials and tribulations.


Quote for the Week

This is the week of Thanksgiving. Most of us in the United States have planned our day as meticulously as the American military planned the D-Day invasion.

We know who will be invading our homes. We know what we'll serve the troops. We know that the entertainment won't be the USO but football on TV. We know that R & R will be required after the big meal, and we know that the kitchen will look like the aftermath of a bombing run.

Still, with all that, we embrace the holiday and eagerly look forward to it each year. Most of us will say a prayer before we dive into the turkey and dressing. Many will go around the table and say that for which they're thankful, as we do.

Perhaps we'd all do well to think on these words from the late President John F. Kennedy. "I think as we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them."

Sure, it's nice to hear someone say thanks, but it's more meaningful if that person lives each day as if he means those words, as if she truly appreciates you and what you do. Don't do lip service to thanks, and then, the rest of the year, ignore contributions from others or, worse, be angry and live with an attitude of ingratitude.

Takeaway Truth

Actions speak louder than words.

Growth of Digital Book Sales

Recently, I read this quotation in my Authors Guild Bulletin that came out this past summer. (Yes, I'm behind on reading my professional publications.)

"By the end of 2012, digital books will be 20-25% of unit sales, and that's on the conservative side. Add in another 25% of units sold online, and roughly half of all unit sales will be on the Internet." Mike Shatzkin, CEO of Idea Logical Company, said that in the Wall Street Journal, May 21, 2010.

Digital Sales: Estimates Too Low

Methinks Mr. Shatzkin is seriously undervaluing the growing popularity of eBooks. In the 2009 Association of American Ppublishers report showed that sales of eBooks had surpassed audio book sales. In fact, the eBook sales were up 176.6%.

Then, in the 2010 report, Audio Books rebounded, but in the Downloaded category. Those increased 4.6 percent over 2009, but the physical Audio Book sales continued to fall.

The eBook sales for January-August 2010 represented $263 million, compared to $89.8 million, shown in the January-August 2009 report I linked to in the previous paragraph. This was a 193% increase over the same period last year.

Extrapolating, in 2009, eBooks showed a 176.6% increase. In 2010, thus far, they show a 193% increase.

Takeaway Truth

With the kind of growth exhibited by eBooks in the last 2 years, it's entirely possible that they alone may represent close to 50% of published books sales in 2 years.

Cheap Printer Cartridges Resource

As a writer, I go through ink and toner like a whirlwind through Tornado Alley in the spring. In fact, for writers and other print intensive vocations and avocations, keeping your printers running can, well, run into big bucks. I'm always looking for a dependable source of cheap printer cartridges so I'm happy to pass along this resource tip.

Ink & Toner Resource

Whether you run ink jet or laser, you can keep your printers humming, at a low price point, with You see, they're a resource you'll want to bookmark because they offer the lowest prices for ink and toner that I've seen.

No wonder thousands of customers use their site and save from 50 to 70% off on printer ink. It's a no-brainer because they guarantee satisfaction, and they ship quickly. They're cheap enough that you can stock up so you're not running out of ink when you're trying to print an important project on deadline.

User Friendly In The Extreme

On the main page, you'll see a drop-down menu with brands of the most popular printers from Apple to Xerox. Just select your brand and a page opens with all the printers listed. Find yours, click it, and a page will open showing you a picture of the printer and listing the inks or toners it runs along with the prices.

I run 4 printers. I was surprised that I could get toner cartridges for my Brother laser at a third of what I pay when I buy one at a popular big-box office supply store. (You probably know the one I mean.) That's a tremendous savings for me.

Bottom Line

Their printer cartridges are guaranteed to perform flawlessly or you get your money back. They've got all the major brands, and they also offer refill tanks if you go that route. Low prices, convenient service, great guarantee! What's not to like?

Takeaway Truth

Running a business means keeping an eye on expenses. Decreasing the cost of printing just makes good sense.

3 Ways To Make the Most of Photos

Next week is the big feast day. There will be plenty of photo opps when family and friends gather to devour the golden brown turkey, dressing, boat-loads of gravy, token veggies, and to-die-for desserts.

Here are 3 Ways To Make the Most of Photos.

1. Resize Images Easily

Resize your photos the easy way so you can share them online, print them, use them as your desktop wallpaper, or whatever you want to do with them.

Sure, any photo editing software will accomplish this, but you have to do it one at a time. What if you have a dozen you want to upload to your website. One at a time equals time suck. There's an easier way to enlarge or shrink in multiples.

Image Resizer is a small byte program, and it's free. It works with most version of windows. You just right click on a group of photos or on a single one, select Resize Pictures, and a window opens with preset image sizes based on web usage. You can always click Advanced if you need a custom size.

This app automatically makes a copy of the photo for resizing so your original is saved unless you select to resize it too.

2. Make A Panorama From Regular Photos

What better way to capture the Thanksgiving table with all your friends and family than to combine regular photos into a panoramic image? CleVR Stitcher, an Adobe Air application, does this.

This app automatically combines several photographs into a panoramic image, and all you do is drag-and-drop the photos into the window on CleVR Stitcher. This app is that easy to use, and it's free though you must have Adobe Air downloaded first, which is also free. This works with Windows and Mac.

Note: If you plan to try making a panorama, make sure every photo you take has the same baseline. For instance, a shot of everyone around the Thanksgiving table might use the line of the table top as a baseline.

3. Have Fun With FX

If you like a little humor with your holiday photographs, try some special effects. BeFunky is one of my favorite sites that offer fun effects for photos. It's free and super easy to use with a wide variety of things you can do to photos. Make them cartoons or strut your inner grunge or add some Mick Jagger lips. Your imagination is your limit.

Takeaway Truth

If a picture is worth a thousand words, what's a Pop Art photo of your guests worth? Priceless.

Latest Stats on Genre Books

The latest Harris Poll is out. Some of its findings may surprise you. According to the results of a poll conducted with 2,775 adults in the U. S. Responding, mysteries, thrillers, and crime novels have taken a commanding lead over romance sales.

Actually, I don't know how much stock to put in this since the poll reflects answers from readers who filled out the survey online. I don't know how the respondents were led to the survey. As far as I can see, the value of the poll is in question because the only real way to know what outsold what is by tracking bookstore sales.

Having said that, I'll report their findings from last August, wherein 80% said they read at least one book in an average year, and 80% said they'd read a novel or nonfiction book in the past year.

Food For Thought

Since many of the founding ladies of romance now write mysteries, thrillers, and crime novels, I find the growth and popularity of these books rather amusing. These multi-published romance novelists have branched out into other genres and their readers have followed. Other readers who wouldn't be caught dead reading a romance novel have also bellied up to the genre bar and embraced these talented authors who are a major influence in the bestseller mystery lists.

Harris Poll Results: Fiction

48% of fiction readers said they read mysteries, thrillers and crime novels

26% read science fiction

24% read literature

21% read romance novels

11% read graphic novels in the past year

8% read Chick-lit

5% read western

Harris Poll Results: Nonfiction

31% read histories

29% read biographies

26% read religious and spirituality books

17% read political books

16% read self-help books

14% read current affairs

12% read true crime

10% read business books


Those who responded to the poll in the 18 to 33 age group are more likely than other age groups to read literature (42%) and graphic novels (18%).

Those 65 and older are more likely to read mystery, thriller, and crime novels (61%) and westerns (9%).

Gender Based Stats

Statistics based on gender aren't surprising. Women are more likely than men to read:

Mysteries, thrillers, and crime novels — 57% women to 39% men

Romance — 37% women to 3% men

Chick-lit — 12% to 4%

Religious books — 30% to 21%

Men are more likely than women to read:

Science fiction — 32% men to 20% women

History books — 40% to 23%)

Political books — 25% to 10%

Business books — 16% to 4%

Takeaway Truth

Conventional publishing wisdom has always held that readers don't follow an author to a new genre. That's why they always required a different name for a writer who began working in a different genre. Maybe that's another aspect of the publishing biz that's becoming obsolete too.

Barbara Cartland Lives On

When my daughter was thirteen, she discovered Barbara Cartland. Previously, she'd read the scary books from R. L. Stine, but, suddenly, she discovered Ms. Cartland's courtship novels replete with manners and rather innocent sexuality.

The prolific Ms. Cartland lived the lifestyle of a fairy-tale princess, complete with chauffeured cars, an English mansion, and lots of pink silk frocks and cute little lap dogs. She lived the glamorous life of a the cinematic version of a romance novelist to the ripe old age of 99.

What She Said

She was like most writers I know in that she was incessantly curious and was always writing. She once said: "Writers are a curious breed. We all suffer from the same disease – the extraordinary and mysterious need to put words on paper. I write everywhere – on the Tube, at parties, in the bath (a habit I was pleased to discover I share with Agatha Christie). Scribble, scribble, scribble. Of course, these days, it’s more tap, tap, tap, but still …."

Her Gift

And, oh, how she did scribble and tap away. By the time of her death, she had published 722 novels, most of them romance, and many of them still being published. This month, her very first novel, Jig-Saw, will be published again. She was only 19-years-old when it hit print the first time.

A lot of people think if you write fast and are prolific, then you write garbage. I think all of Ms. Cartland's fans would soundly decry that bit of philosophy. They probably adore those novels as much as my daughter does. All of her copies of Barbara Cartland books — tattered and rather ragged — have a place of honor on keeper shelves.

Takeaway Truth

Good authors never die. They live on in the pages of each book they wrote, waiting for each generation to discover them.

Holiday Gifts: Posters & Postcards

Starting today and continuing for the next 5 Mondays, you can look forward to some holiday gift suggestions for writers.

If you are a writer, consider these for your writing friends. If you want to be on the receiving end, print this out and leave it some place conspicuous so your family will find it. If you belong to writing organizations, you might consider listing these suggestions in your newsletter.

As I was writing the blog post about the Holiday Ornament for Writers last week, I received an email from Ryan Lewis, Operations Manager for 826 National. Ryan asked if I'd mention 826 National Store, a family of 8 non-profits dedicated to helping students ages 6 – 18 with creative and expository writing, as a place for writers to shop.

(I'd love to say Ryan sent along a lovely sample of gifts that writers would like — after all, who doesn't like free stuff—but that's not the case. He merely wrote a nice letter and asked.)

826 National

After I checked out 826 National, I was excited to give this worthwhile group a nod of approval. They were founded in 2002 by author Dave Eggers and educator Nínive Calegari, and they help more than 24,000 students in eight U.S. cities through programs including after-school tutoring, field trips, in-school visits, and workshops.

Ryan Lewis said: "Their mission is based on the understanding that great leaps in learning can happen with one-on-one attention, and that strong writing skills are fundamental to future success."

Each chapter offers drop-in tutoring, field trips, workshops, and in-schools programs — all free of charge — for children, classes, and schools with particular interests or particular needs. They're committed to supporting teachers, offering services and resources for English language learners, and publishing student work.

Hey, I'm all for any group that supports reading and helps young people write better. The 826 National Store offers a lot of products that writers would love, from print items to tee shirts and more. What caught my eye were two items that tickled my funny bone.

The That Thing You Are Writing is Awesome! postcards. I love those! I want those for me and to give to a friend. They're going on my gift list if only so I can hang one above my computer. I don't know of any writer whose ego isn't always in need of a boost.

The Are You Absolutely, Positively, and Wholeheartedly Ready to Publish Your Novel? poster with a flow chart-type checklist is not only amusing but also actually offers good advice.

You might be interested in some of their books, such as, The Secret Miracle: The Novelist's Handbook. Edited by Daniel Alarcón, it contains dozens of interviews with authors about the writing process. All writers like to know how other writers do it.

Visit their website and check out all the products designed to appeal to writers. I'm sure you'll find something you'll like.

Takeaway Truth

Writers, buy a cool gift and support young writers with a purchase from 826 National Store, knowing that your purchase will be used to buy supplies, train volunteers, and print publications, all in support of the thousands of students who pass through their doors each year.


Quote for the Week

Our youngest is having surgery again this week. In case you're keeping count, this is the third one in 18 months. I quake with fear. I try to keep a brave front. Yes, I believe what Michael Pritchard wrote: "Fear is that little darkroom where negatives are developed." So I work to keep the fear at bay lest it takeover my brain. I'll just be glad when she comes through this one.

Takeaway Truth

All prayers for her full recovery are greatly appreciated. I've been praying a mental rosary even though I'm not Catholic. It comforts me and helps keep the fear at bay.

Holiday Gifts for Writers: Ornament

Every year during the holidays, I blog about gifts that may tickle a writer's fancy. This year I'm starting earlier so you can shop earlier. I'm also limiting these gift suggestion posts to once a week.

Sling Words and my other blog will each contain gift suggestions that writers will love. Just before Christmas, I'll post a summary here of the gifts featured on Joan Slings Words, and vice versa.

So, writers, get your clicking finger ready to fill those online shopping carts.

As is my custom, I'll kick off the Gift Ideas with the Writer's Christmas Ornament which I designed. I sell it at The Write Way, my Café Press shop for writers. I think it's really neat, not because I designed it, but because it celebrates the written word. If you like the holiday design, check out the other items that have it.

Ceramic Holiday Ornament

This is a perennial favorite at The Write Way where you'll also find T-shirts, coffee mugs, journals, bags, and more designed by a writer (me) for writers.

Writers need a holiday ornament that celebrates their gift to the world. This porcelain ornament comes in round and oval, shown above, and it's perfect for writers! Get one for yourself and one for a friend! 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 passion for words.

3 Ways To Clean Hard-to-Clean Things

Welcome to Thursday3Some.

Continuing my tips to help writers get their homes ready for The Holidays, here are 3 Ways to Clean Hard-to-Clean Things. You know, those things we just kind of pretend don't need cleaning.

What do you need? A plain ordinary Swiffer and a few minutes each day.

Swiffer To The Rescue

1. Clean mirrors with a Swiffer. I discovered this because I'm height-challenged since I'm on the petite side of life. Take a couple of paper towels and tuck them around the Swiffer instead of using the Swiffer cloths. Spray Windex or something similar on the paper towel covering. A few swipes up and down, and the mirror is clean in a matter of seconds.

2. Clean window blinds with a Swiffer. Use the Swiffer cloth. Close the blinds in one direction and Swiffer them using long strokes from top to bottom or bottom to top depending on which way they're closed. Then close them the other way and repeat the process.

This works great to keep the dust off on a weekly schedule, and it takes only a few seconds. Of course, if you haven't cleaned your blinds in a year, then you'll need to take the Swiffer duster and go between each and every slat. That will take anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes depending on how large the window is. Once cleaned though, you can easily maintain them with a weekly swipe of the floor Swiffer.

3. Clean windows with a Swiffer. Again, use a paper towel covering. Open the drapes or pull the blinds all the way to the top. Spray your favorite window cleaner on the paper towel and a few up and down strokes on the glass will have it sparkling.

Takeaway Truth

Holidays should be fun for everyone, including writers. A few minutes a day will make your house sparkle and give you the peace of mind needed to write beautifully.

Harlequin Rebranding

Harlequin, the keeper of the kingdom of contemporary romance, always has a finger on the pulse of the reading public which is a polite way of saying what all writers know: accounting determines what publishers do. It's been this way for about 20 years - ever since conglomerates started acquiring publishing houses.

No Surprise

In the case of Harlequin, Torstar is their parent company, and the only goal is to make money from publishing books. No surprise there. So Harlequin is in the process of rebranding the Silhouette and Steeple Hill lines.

Actually, for the last 10 years, Harlequin has been revamping their lines by combining some, making some European only, and deleting other lines completely.

Farewell Silhouette

This latest change means Silhouette Books and Steeple Hill books will now be Harlequin books. True, they always were, but the branding on the covers will now reflect that.

Of course, they stated in their press release that: "...the emotional, compelling, exciting stories offered in Desire, Special Edition and Romantic Suspense are not changing. Nor is there a change in the number of titles we are publishing in these lines."

They go on to say that the rebranding "will ensure that these series benefit from the promotional resources dedicated to the Harlequin brand and will strengthen the Harlequin consumer brand as the market leader in romance fiction.”

Takeaway Truth

Traditional paper publishing is in fight or flight mode.

Meet Elaine Raco Chase

This morning I'm having coffee with one of my dearest friends Elaine Raco Chase. Elaine has the distinction of being the first real-live author I ever met. We've been friends since the night I sneaked into a meeting of the Houston Bay Area chapter of Romance Writers of America of which she was President.

I wrote about Elaine's online class recently so you can click over if you want to find out what her class is all about and how she teaches.

Elaine's Backstory

Since 1978, Elaine Raco Chase has been a published writer. In the United States alone, she has over 3 million books in print. She's also been published in 27 countries and 17 languages.

Two of her romance novels: Special Delivery and Video Vixen were Dell Publishing's all time bestsellers. She's had seven number 1 romance bestsellers. Although she proudly writes category romances and mysteries, she's also published non-fiction: Writing the Amateur Detective Novel for Writer's Digest Books, which garnered her an Agatha Christie nomination. She edited Partners in Crime (Signet), a short story collection, which received several nominations in the mystery field.

Since 1980, Elaine has taught creative writing classes at conferences and for colleges in the U. S. and Canada. Prior to moving back to northern Virginia, she completed teaching her course in Writing Mass Market Fiction at Miami-Dade University. All of her books, some of which were optioned for television and movies, are available on numerous websites including

If you'd like to email Elaine about her books or to obtain information about her fiction writing classes, contact her at elainerc at juno dot com.

Fun Questions To Break The Ice

Joan: Let's talk about which you prefer to reference in your teaching – a book or the movie/TV version made from the book?

Elaine: Since I started my career in radio and TV, I prefer TV and use it in teaching. Why? It's a 360-degree teacher: main characters, settings, dialogue. You can learn a lot, both positive and negative.

Joan: You know, I agree with that. I've used movies in workshops I've given because I find not everyone reads a popular book, but just about everyone sees a movie made from the book.

What's your TV guilty pleasure? Why?

Elaine: Soap Operas. Great for watching characters interact.

Joan: Name a book, any genre, that means a lot to you and tell us why. (Feel free to mention more than 1.)

Elaine: I have a lot of favorites, but when I want a comfort read, I head for Erle Stanley Gardner...honest. I've loved Perry Mason since I was 12!

Joan: Name a book that you were forced to read in school that you think was a time waste and please tell us why. (In school, because that means dead authors, and we don't want to hurt feelings. Again, feel free to mention more than 1.)

Elaine: J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye, because I was not, and never would be, Holden Caufield!

Inquiring Minds Want To Know

Joan: How long have you been working at your craft? Please tell us something about your first published book, the journey from the idea that you wanted to write a book to finally writing one for which you received a publishing contract.

Elaine: I started writing full novels in 1978. Previously, I was a producer/director/writer of TV commercials and radio programs. I sent my first romance off to Harlequin in Canada and received a 6 page rejection letter, telling me how great it detail...but they had just contracted their first American Author (Janet Dailey) and wasn't sure how that would go over. I then went to a writer's conference (totally not for fiction, but what did I know) met an agent, and she sold Rules of the Game in 2 days.

Joan: Let's talk about your transition from novelist to writing teacher. How did that come about?

Elaine: When my publisher would send me on a book tour, it always turned into more about how to write (or how I wrote) than just an autograph session. When I moved to Daytona Beach, I did an autographing at a college there, and they asked me if I wanted to teach. I gave it a try, and I've been teaching at colleges/universities and for adult ed since 1980. Won a few outstanding teacher awards to boot.

Joan: Tell us something about the way you teach and what you bring to the role of teacher.

Elaine: As I tell my students, I write exactly the way I teach. It's current information, and I'm blessed to have numerous contacts with agents and editors over the years. It is not traditional teaching.

I've also been brought in to teach 5th— 7th grade in Virginia, Texas, and Florida because that age group hates to read and write. So I come in, make the traditional teachers a bit annoyed when I say start the day reading cereal boxes or the comics, but by the end of the course, the kids (even the boys) are reading, writing and loving to create characters.

Joan: Have you dived into publishing for eBook readers? If not, what's holding you back?

Elaine: I'm just starting to do this. Time, I think, is the issue.

Joan: Yes, I often say if I had 48 hour days that I could accomplish everything I want to do.

Do you have any under the bed books? If so, how many, and what do you plan to do with them?

Elaine: I do. I have 3 books. Who knows, one of these days. . . .

Joan: What do you see as the biggest challenge facing authors today?

Elaine: I don't think the challenge has changed—write a brilliant book, with gripping characters and a great plot. It doesn't matter if the characters are human, zombies, werewolves or whatever!

Joan: Who are your writing influences?

Elaine: I don't let anyone influence my writing. I do like to hear (about) women of my age (61) who are flourishing in any career venue.

Joan: What are you working on now?

Elaine: The working title is A Rare Medium, Well Done. I'm halfway through this sexy suspense novel set in Atlanta.

Joan: What do you now know that you wish you'd known when you started?

Elaine: That publishing is just as wacky as working in television!

Joan: What's the best thing about teaching?

Elaine: The renewed excitement in my own writing.

Joan: What's the worst thing about teaching?

Elaine: Nothing so far.

Joan: What's the best thing about writing?

Elaine: Creating compelling people.

Joan: And the worst?

Elaine: The solitary job of it.

Joan: Do you have writing goals? If so, would you share some with us?

Elaine: I wish I did. I once hung 12 rolls of wallpaper just as an excuse not to write. My brain was stuck.

Joan: What advice would you give someone just starting out?

Elaine: Write brilliantly—and make sure you'd buy your own book for $30!

Joan: What's the one thing no interviewer has ever asked you about that you'd like to discuss here?

Elaine: I've been asked every question in the book including do you have a trapeze over your bed?. . .so. . . .

Joan: Is there anything else you'd like to tell us about anything?

Elaine: Be flexible, and don't write what you know. How boring is that!

Takeway Truth

If you're looking for a writing teacher who has walked the walk, look no further than Elaine Raco Chase.

Exclusively eBooks

Over on Joan Slings Words, I'm starting a serialization that may be of interest to many of you. My latest online serialization project is the result of my quest for knowledge about digital publishing and ebooks. I've been immersing myself in eBook culture ever since I bought my Kindle back in the spring.

Digital publishing is exploding, and authors can benefit. If they know what to do. Everyone wants to know how to publish this way. The major writers' organizations are conducting surveys about the subject. In fact, just before I wrote this, I completed a survey from Authors Guild about eBooks.

Pay It Forward

What's the use of knowledge unless it's passed on? Every Wednesday, I'll post about eBooks, everything you always wanted, and needed, to know about eBook business, eBook readers, in other words, everything exclusively eBooks.

Let's call it Everything You Always Wanted To Know About eBooks But Didn't Know Who To Ask.

Oh, that's quite a mouthful, isn't it? I think I'll sum it up with this title, Exclusively eBooks with the uber-long title as a subtitle or tagline. Does that work for you? It does for me.

Each Wednesday you can look for a chapter about eBooks– writing, formatting, file conversion, promotion, and anything else I can discover about the subject that might help you.

I hope you'll join me next week for the first chapter of Exclusively eBooks*

*Everything you always wanted to know about eBooks but didn't know who to ask

in which I'll discuss the major eBook Retailers and/or Publishers. Perhaps I can clear away some of the confusion about eBooks and digital publishing.

Takeaway Truth

The future is bright for writers who brave this new world of publishing. Let me help you as you follow this virtual yellow brick road.


Quote for the Week

Let's talk about the weather! Oscar Wilde said, "Conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative." But I don't care.

The weather we've had this past week in Texas is stunningly autumnal. Our fall season is so short that I make a point to take note of it lest I believe autumn bypassed us here in the Lone Star State.

We had rain. We had wind. We had temperatures dropping into the low 50's and even, a few nights, the high 40's. Ah, autumn is here. Don't blink. It'll be gone before you know it, and we'll all be wearing shorts and tee shirts again.

Takeaway Truth

Jessica Savitch was right when she said: "News events are like Texas weather. If you don't like it, wait a minute."

Love That Signature Red

At the recent Texas Mushroom Festival in Madisonville, we bought all-day tickets to the wine tasting. For a mere $10, we got to sample wine all day long and received a commemorative wine glass to boot.

I took a card from each vineyard that participated, and on the back I made notes about the wines I liked best. I liked some of them so much that I'm going to blog about them.

Today I'd like to tell you about the Signature Red from Red Road Vineyard & Winery, described to us on the day of the festival as a soft merlot.

We all liked the Signature Red. It was smooth and very drinkable. Really delightful. I couldn't believe how low priced it is on their website ($12), but this is a young vineyard so they're trying to get their foot in the door of a highly-competitive Texas wine market.

Red Road Vineyard & Winery

Located in Naples, Texas, east of the Dallas area, Red Road Vineyard is on I-30, 40 minutes southwest of Texarkana and an hour from Longview.

Physical address: 405 Front Street, Naples, Texas 75568
Phone: 903-897-9353
Email: RRVW105W at and be sure and sign up for their newsletter.
Wine tasting offered: yes.

Red Road is a family operation that started in 2000 when they Grove family planted grapes as a family project. What started as a hobby became their obsession. They expanded their vineyard in 2003. Today they have Cynthianna and Delaware grapes as well as Linior and Blanc du Bois and other varieties on 10 acres. They've got expansion plans that call for more acres and more grapes.

I wish they were closer to me, but I can always shop on their website where they have all their available wines listed. Contact them to order. I highly recommend the Signature Red, of course, or drop by for a wine tasting in person. Their hours are posted on the website.

Takeaway Truth

Texas wines have grown in quality over the years. I'm comfortable saying we are the new Wine Country. Sample some today.

Natural High: Help Someone Get Published

How would you feel if your advice helped someone get published?

I'll go on record and say that next to getting your own publishing contract, there's no better feeling in the world than helping someone else be able to sign on the dotted line of a publishing contract.

I think this is why so many working writers like my friend Elaine Raco Chase end up as teachers of writing. I guess my blogs are my classroom.

Next week, I'll be publishing an interview with Elaine, a best-selling author who now teaches others how to write mass market fiction. So be sure and drop by on Tuesday for her interview.

The Giver Also Receives

For me, there's great satisfaction in knowing that I helped someone—whether it's by answering a simple question or pointing them to a source of information or helping them master a skill.

I still remember how excited I was when I made that giant leap from aspiring to published. I remember word for word what the New York editor said when she called me that January day several years ago.

Wisdom Grows From Mistakes

There's an old saying: "A rising tide floats all boats." Simply put, If you succeed, I succeed. In the long run, we all win. What's the use of experience and knowledge if not to pass it on?

I've been told I have wisdom, and I always laugh when I hear this because I've learned that wisdom comes from enduring bad experiences and learning from them. I've certainly had some bad experiences.

Takeaway Truth

You'll never live long enough to experience everything you need to know so learn from other people's bad experiences and mistakes. Then pay it forward.

3 Ways Writers Can Survive Holiday Cleaning

Welcome to Thursday3Some.

We're in the month that begins the holiday rat race or as we call them: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Eve.

Just having those 3 holidays in the next 8 weeks is stress enough what with the cooking, cleaning, gift shopping and giving, and the partying. So I thought I'd share with you some of the secrets of getting all these tasks done without going completely insane.

At the same time, I'll give you some tips on how to maintain your productivity as a writer and your sense of perspective as a human being.

Make Executive Decisions

As a writer, you have to be organized and set priorities in order to accomplish your work and achieve your goals. Take that executive decision-making ability and apply it to cleaning the house.

1. Examine your house and decide what really needs to be cleaned.

Will the entire house be viewable during the holidays or just certain rooms? This may sound lazy, but I exist in a plane where time is extremely limited. If you also have that problem, then the solution is to clean only what will be seen by others. Give the unseen portion a "lick and a promise" as my Mom would say. That means pick up all the clutter, clean anything obviously dirty, and ignore the rest.

2. Enlist the entire family in the holiday cleaning project. Don't groan. Just sit them all down for a family meeting and tell them what needs to be done. Tell them that if everything is done on the promised date, that you will reward them with something they really want. Yes, I believe in bribery when it comes to getting the family to do chores.

Devise a list of rewards that might range from a new video game to dinner out at a favorite restaurant to. . . . Hey! You know them best. Make a list of rewards in advance. Then ask them which jobs they want to do. With a reward in mind, you should have no problem getting volunteers.

Grab a calendar and schedule the task and the person responsible on your calendar so that what needs to be cleaned will be done. If you start now, you can do the deep cleaning in stages. By the week of Thanksgiving, you should be finished. Then it becomes a matter of just keeping everything clean until after New Year's. Maintenance is much easier than the initial cleaning.

3. Prioritize. Postpone if necessary and possible. Take a good hard look at the writing that must be done during these next 8 weeks. Even if you're not a calendar/day planner kind of person, now is the time to use one or both.

Plot out your writing schedule as carefully as a book is plotted. Take on only the writing that can't be postponed so you don't find yourself in Deadline Hell when a 25 pound turkey needs to be brined and pumpkin pies need to be baked.

Takeaway Truth

Holidays should be fun for everyone, not just for a writer's spouse and kids. Take steps now to give yourself the time to enjoy this holiday season.

Meet June Shaw

This morning I'm chatting with June Shaw, author of the Cealie Gunter mystery series which features a spunky widow who “thinks” she wants to avoid her hunky ex-lover so she can rediscover herself.

However, he keeps opening Cajun restaurants in all the places Cealie travels, and she is so bad at avoiding tempting dishes and men. Most readers describe her books as fun. That's probably FUN in capital letters!

Her Backstory

June lives along a lazy bayou in south Louisiana surrounded by her large family and loved ones. She says she was surprised when Publishers Weekly and other reviewers gave Relative Danger, the first book in the Cealie Gunther series of humorous mysteries, excellent reviews.

When Deadly Ink nominated the book for their David for Best Mystery of the Year, June couldn't believe it. If you've read her books, you won't have any difficulty in believing the accolades.

Book & Author Details

Here's the information on June and her book so you can get your own copy.

Title: Relative Danger (also available in Kindle Edition
ISBN: 1-59414-531-8
Standard Print Hardcover Publisher: Five Star/Gale-Cengage; Large Print: Wheeler

You can catch June Shaw at her website or her other favorite web hangouts like Facebook.

If you want to email her, you can use this addy: jushaw at bellsouth dot net.

Inquiring Minds Want To Know

Let's get the conversational ball rolling with some fun questions.

Joan: What's your favorite morning beverage and your evening beverage?

June: I drink coffee during much of the day. At night I often have a light beer. (Hey, I live in south Louisiana!)

Joan: Do you have a TV guilty pleasure?

June: I always watch the N.O. Saints play football, and view games at home, normally with only my squeeze Bob. I wear one of my Saints’ shirts and get my Saints’ cap and gold pom-poms ready on the coffee table. Any time they make a touchdown, I toss on my cap and grab the pom-poms and start cheering and kissing anyone who happens to be in the room. Then I set the cap and pom-poms back on the table to wait for the next score.

Joan: What about it appeals to you?

June: Cheering for a team that was an underdog for so many years, and getting excited. My children and grandchildren think I’m so funny. In the past, friends often said I was more entertaining than the game.

Joan: Name a book, any genre, that means a lot to you and tell us why.

June: Thorn Birds meant a lot. That book drew me in and did not let me stop reading, and now years later I can still think about it and immerse myself in some scenes in my mind.

Joan: Name a book that you were forced to read in school that you think was a time waste and please tell us why. (In school, because that means dead authors because we don't want to hurt anyone's feelings.

June: The Light in August: It was full of stream of consciousness, which was horribly boring.

Joan: You've been writing a long time. In fact, one could easily use, as a headline for your story, "A Lifelong Dream Leads to Success." How long have you been working at your craft?

June: Wow, what a long journey. An extended version of it was published in the October issue of The Writer in an essay I wrote: "Forget Her Writing Dream? Not an Option."

I’ve wanted to write since I was fifteen but kept busy with school and married young and had five children in six years. I became a widow when the oldest was eleven, finished a college degree, and started teaching in public schools. Then I tried to write. I only had time to read or write short pieces, so I eventually sold a couple of poems and essays.

Seeing my name in print and getting paid for writing was exciting. I read about how to write screenplays and tried some. One aired on a channel for the arts and another did well in contests, but producers wanted me to move to L.A. I wouldn’t. A female producer suggested I try novels. The idea for Relative Danger came from one of the scripts I’d once written.

Joan: The book about which we're talking today was what number book for you? 1st, 3rd, 7th?

June: I don’t remember, but it certainly wasn’t my first. Or second. Or third. Those were for practice. I know that now but didn’t at the time.

Joan: Tell us something about this particular book. How did you come up with the title, and do you have a 1 sentence blurb or log line to tease readers?

June: Relative Danger has a dual meaning, as do the other books in this series. In this book, no one is certain for a while about whether the victim’s death was accidental or a murder.

My sleuth Cealie Gunther becomes a substitute teacher at her motherless granddaughter’s high school to help discover whether a custodian fell in the auditorium or was murdered, making a killer decide someone Cealie loves may become the next victim.

Joan: This book is one you also made available for eBook readers. How did you make that transition from print to eBook?

June: I sold Relative Danger to Five Star/Gale-Cengage first, and they published it in hardcover. I then sold mass market reprint rights to Harlequin, and they put the book in paperback. Neither publisher owns e-book rights, so I’ve recently put the book up on Kindle and at Smashwords.

Joan: Do you have any "under the bed" books? If so, how many, and what do you plan to do with them?

June: I do but don’t know how many. I hope to revisit some in the future to make them better and try to sell them.

Joan: If they made a movie of your book, who would be cast to portray the characters?

June: I am so glad you asked! Cealie would be Bette Middler. And the hunky ex-lover she tries to avoid is Sean Connery. (Sure wish they’d be looking for projects now.)

Joan: What keeps you going when you get rejected?

June: First I need to mope for an hour or two. But I know that almost everyone has some work rejected, so I remember that and go on.

Joan: What's your favorite "oh darn I got a rejection" food and/or drink to soothe the savaged ego?

June: Chocolate works just fine and sometimes a margarita.

Joan: Who are your writing influences?

June: Janet Evanovich is the author whose work I wanted to emulate. I love the humor and romance in her mysteries.

Joan: What are you working on now?

June: I'm waiting for the release of Deadly Reunion,the third book in my series which comes out in July. Here's a quick blurb for it: "What if you go on a class reunion on a cruise ship in Alaska—and people die?"

Since I sold that book, I’ve started writing a book about my mom called Nora 102 ½: A Lesson on Aging Well." My mother Nora passed on last year at that age. She was amazing! The Tonight Show with Jay Leno invited her and me to be on their show when they read that she was 102 and still coming to line dance lessons with me. Her attitude and spunk made everyone around here tell me I needed to write a book about her. So I am.

Joan: Good for you. I helped my mom write her memoir, and I published it for her two years ago. She passed this year, and I'm so grateful that I had that time to work with her and discover her as a person, from a child to a just married World War II bride, not just as my mom.

Joan: What do you now know that you wish you'd known when you started?

June: I thought I could just sit and write. I had no idea of the amount of promotion most authors have to do.

Joan: What's the best thing about writing?

June: I love creating people and their lives. What comes out on my computer screen often amazes me. I love the creativity.

Joan: What's the worst thing about writing?

June: Sitting alone to keep writing is tough, especially when you stay with something a long time and have no idea whether it will sell or not.

Joan: What advice would you give someone just starting out?

June: Persist. If you want to write, do it because you enjoy it. You probably won’t sell everything you write, so you need to love the creativity, just like all people who paint won’t sell all of their paintings. They do it for enjoyment. Read in the area that you want to write. Read more. And write. And read more and write.

June: Do you have any particular advice for a writer wanting to publish?

Don’t give up. It took years from the time inspiration struck for me to want to write. I didn’t have time because of my job and large family. I became a grandmother and took my aging mother in to live with me—and then I finally sold a book. And then another one. And another.

Keep at it. Love what you do.

Joan: Do you have any final thoughts you'd like to share or is there anything else you'd like to tell us about anything?

June: Yes. Writing is fun and exciting. And getting published can take your breath away. Those of us who like to create people and places are blessed. Enjoy your talent. And good luck! I’ve love to know about your successes.

Takeaway Truth

Until next time, remember, a good book is a little vacation from the cares of life. Enjoy one today.