Serenity Prayer for Writers

Reinhold Niebuhr wrote The Serenity Prayer which was printed on plaques, books, cups, and other items a few decades ago. That little piece of writing has helped people endure everything from the daily grind to the desire for a shot of booze

A few years ago I took the thought of Niebuhr's Serenity Prayer and created my own Serenity Prayer For Writers. I usually print it on cards and send to writing friends. I also share it with online friends like you.

Perhaps this bit of wisdom will help you in the New Year when faced with bumps along the writing road or the road that runs through your personal life.

A Serenity Prayer for Writers © 2006 by Joan Reeves

God grant me the Serenity to accept rejection of manuscripts and the lagging sales of books over which I've sweated blood and wept tears; the Courage to revise and try again; and the Wisdom to know the difference between those that might fetch contracts and sales and those that need to be mourned, buried, and forgotten. Amen

Takeaway Truth

Let's ROCK 2013 and use each day effectively. Write hard. Live free.rtrt5r

New Year Thoughts

Tomorrow we'll all be gearing up for the annual bacchanalia known as New Year's Eve.

We women will be slipping into our slinky sexy party dresses, stepping into heels too high, and adding a bit more makeup to our faces.Men will be doing something similar so they'll look their best on the night that features a kiss at the stroke of midnight.Some of us will drink too much and stay up too late. Others will be reasonable and rational and will abstain from excesses of any kind.

All of us will wonder, when we open our eyes on January 1, what the New Year holds for us.I like to think of the New Year as a book whose pages haven't been written yet.

English poet Edith Lovejoy Pierce said: "We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity, and its first chapter is New Year's Day."

Takeaway Truth

If the New Year is an unwritten book and you are the author, then write hard. Live with joy. Live free.

Review: Simply Irresistible by Rachel Gibson

I spent most of the second half of December with one of the worst sinus infections I've ever had. That meant a lot of down time feeling too ill to do much of anything except watch TV or read. My choice -- always -- is to read, as long as I have the energy to hold a book or my Kindle.

When I feel lousy, I often want a comfort read. That usually means reading a book from my keeper shelf. Many of these books are older books. When I decide to re-read one of these, I always check the Kindle store to see if the ebook edition is reasonably priced. If it is, I buy it for my Kindle because I find that reading on my Kindle is much more convenient.

I was happy to see that Simply Irresistible (Book 1, Chinooks Hockey Team) was priced low. In fact, today, as I write this, the book is only $.89.

This book is simply delightful in so many ways. From the beginning, if you're a thinking woman, you may not like the heroine very much. On the surface, she seems to be vacuous -- as close to an Anna Nicole-type as a woman could possibly be. In other words, she's not the kind of woman most of us would want for a friend.

That's on the surface, and, as we all know, what's under the surface is what makes for an interesting story either in true life or fiction. What's beneath the surface of heroine Georgeanne Howard and hockey superstar John Kowalsky is what makes this romance a cut above the ordinary.

Ten years ago when they meet, Georgeanne is a woman looking for someone to take care of her because she can't take care of herself. That's what she's always been told so it must be true. Right?

Ten years ago John Kowalsky is the bad boy of hockey who drinks too much and sleeps around too much. To him, Georgeanne is just the latest in a long line of easy lays.

The night they meet changes Georgeanne's life. When she and Kowalsky meet again, they're each different, but one thing that hasn't changed is the instant attraction they hold for each other. But, Georgeanne has a secret that trumps mere desire, and she's desperate to keep that secret from John.

This novel is full of character growth, emotional angst, humor, and hot desire. I enjoyed the re-read so much that I also bought the other ebooks in the Chinook Hockey series for my Kindle and read them too while I was sick.

By The Way

As is my custom when I review ebooks, I give the Kindle Buy Links or the Audible Buy Links since I read most books on my Kindle or listen to them on my iPod or iPhone after purchasing from Audible. However, I'm certain every book I review is available at most ebook sellers, and audio books are also on iTunes so look for them on the platforms that match your ebook reading or your buying preference. (Click here to shop for your very own Kindle.)

Takeaway Truth

Re-reading a book is like visiting an old friend.

Don't Ride The Doom Train

That pesky Mayan Prophecy, inscribed in stone as shown at left, has probably created anxiety in many people. I guess if the world didn't end on the 21st, you are still around to read this blog post.

A lot of people ride the Doom Train. A whole bunch of them gathered in Bugarach since that French village is supposed to survive the apocalypse.

A lot of authors invest in doom and gloom. They have lifetime passes on the Doom Train, as I call it.

I'm rather certain that you've seen the latest "the sky is falling" articles. One in particular that has been posted to every author's forum I'm on asserts that Amazon is out to kill indies and predicts that only the big 6 publishers will rule the bestseller lists in the near future.

Every week, I see stuff like this. You probably do also. If you're already a bit depressed about declining sales, it's easy to buy a ticket on the doom train, and it's even easier to feel that you're going to fail no matter what you do. Or don't do.

(This article previously appeared in Writing Hacks, my subscription newsletter for writers. Subscribe today if you want to read articles like this as soon as they are published.)

Reality Check

Let me be your reality check so you can perhaps relax and embrace the New Year.

1. Yes, indies don't get the concessions and benefits they offer big traditional publishers. No, that doesn't mean you can't make a living as an indie publisher.

Sure, I suspect that Amazon and big publishers have some kind of mutually beneficial relationship. Since I'm not privy to their contracts, I don't know for sure. I do know that you can't let stuff like that sabotage your efforts. You're an author. You'll always be an underdog. Only the tiniest percent of authors are anything but underdogs. So just accept that going in and deal with it.

2. Yes, I believe that we indies fueled the demand for the Kindle just as I believe we indies are building the audience for audio books for Audible. No, they're not going to give us -- or at least the vast majority of us -- special benefits or breaks because there's no tangible benefit we can give Amazon in return other than continuing to use KDP.

That doesn't mean you should give up or be bitter. This is the best time ever to be a writer. You can put your work directly in front of an audience, and you don't have to meet some insane number of sales to keep doing that same thing. Most writers, if they're competent and savvy about marketing, can make a very good living doing this -- at least as good as they would make as a mid-list author with a publisher.

3. Yes, the Prime Select program is an attempt to maintain a majority stake in the ebook market. Amazon once had 90% of that market. Now it's more like 65% I think. No, that doesn't mean you have to enroll your book in Prime Select. For some, it makes sense. For others, it doesn't. Try it and assess the results for yourself.

4. Yes, Amazon will continue trying to enroll authors in Prime Select, i.e., giving only 35% royalty on India sales UNLESS you're in Prime Select. I think the other countries that have come online or set up that same way. No, you shouldn't panic. Be realistic. Are you such a household name worldwide that you're missing big earnings by not getting 70% royalties in India or Brazil or Japan? You can probably look for more restrictions like this as they continue their effort to corner the market.

Emulate Amazon

Amazon is always testing to see what will appreciably benefit their bottom line. You should be doing the same. Spend more time analyzing your marketing efforts from the book cover to the product description and less time reading the doom and gloom forecasts of every Chicken Little blogger. The sky is NOT falling. It may be darkening with thunder clouds so now is the time to seek shelter by making sure each of your books is the absolute best marketing package it can be.

Spend more time analyzing your promotion efforts. Learn how to use social media appropriately if you want to go that route. Learn how to increase your Name Recognition because that will pay more rewards than just about anything.

Takeaway Truth

In the end, the only thing an author can do to ensure success is write. Get more books out there. Don't put all your eggs in one basket. Put your books with all the ebook sellers if you decide to abstain from Prime Select. Promote your books on other ebook sellers. Build those audiences. And don't worry about what you can't control.

Nikki Lynn Barrett: T-Shirt Inspiration

We're sliding toward New Year's, but Christmas is still in our minds and hearts. Nikki Lynn Barrett, author of The Secret Santa Wishing Well, is visiting SlingWords today.

Nikki lives in Arizona with her husband and son. She's an avid reader, a dreamer, and loves everything about books. Nikki runs a book blog, an online used bookstore, and writes various genres of romance. When a storm is near, you'll find Nikki outside with her camera, snapping photo after photo. She said that her dreams of becoming a writer started when she was young, when she started writing books in one subject notebooks by the fifth grade. The Secret Santa Wishing Well is her debut novel.

You can find Nikki at her blog and on Facebook. Her book is available at the Kindle Shop and at Barnes and Noble.

T-Shirt Inspiration
by Nikki Lynn Barrett

Hi everyone! My name is Nikki Lynn Barrett, and I'm a newly published author. I love saying that, by the way. It's a great feeling and wonderful accomplishment. Indeed! I write in various genres, but I debuted with a contemporary Christmas romance.

Writer's T-Shirts

You know how shirts with sayings on them are popular? How many writers actually go out and look for them and would wear one? Here are a few lines on shirts that suit me as a writer.

You're wrong. I write.

Writer's Block: When your imaginary friends refuse to talk to you (Ah, yes, I know that one well!)

Advice for Writers: If a word escapes you, obviously you didn't have it properly and securely restrained.

I'm a writer. Everything you say or do may end up in my novel

Never wrong a writer. They get their revenge in print.

Being a good writer is 3% talent, 97% not being distracted by the internet (It's okay, you're supposed to be here on this blog today, reading these! *Wink* )

I'm plotting against you. I'm a writer, it's what I do.

Future Bestselling Author

What does not kill me ... makes a good plot point in my next book.

Those are just a few of the fun ones I've found. Would you ever wear one? What kind of writer saying would YOU like on a shirt?

While you mull over that question, here's a blurb for my Christmas Romance The Secret Santa Wishing Well.

The magic of Christmas has been lost to Jacob Winston. At the suggestion of his ill sister, Jacob takes a job as a Secret Santa at the mall, hoping to restore his Christmas spirit. Even that doesn't seem to work, until a special little boy ambles up to make a very special wish.

Cheyenne Jensen is struggling to raise her two kids without the help of her ex-husband who refuses to acknowledge his daughter's existence and doesn't provide for the son he does acknowledge. This Christmas is shaping up to be as heartbreaking as the last, until her son Ben's kind actions lead a stranger to them.

Ah, but it's Christmas time and the magic has begun.

When Jacob and Cheyenne meet, neither can deny their immediate attraction to one another. As situations arise that require they spend more time together, their feelings grow stronger and stronger.

With Christmas fast approaching, the pair learn what matters most in life. Now, if only they could ditch the ghost of Christmases past.Maybe this holiday will bring some wishes come true -- for everyone after all.

Takeaway Truth

Thanks, Nikki! Happy Holidays to you and all of the SlingWords readers!

Peace On Earth

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." ~ Luke 2:14 (King James 2000 Bible (©2003)

Takeaway Truth

Merry Christmas to all.

Review: No Easy Day

No Easy Day? Excellent title for an excellent account of an important moment of justice in our history.

This is for the audio book edition of No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden by Mark Owen with Kevin Maurer, narrated by Holter Graham.

For you ebook enthusiasts: No Easy Day, Kindle Edition

For hardcover enthusiasts: No Easy Day, Hardcover Edition

As is my custom when I review ebooks, I give the Kindle Buy Links or the Audible Buy Links since I read most books on my Kindle or listen to them on my iPod or iPhone after purchasing from Audible. However, I'm certain every book I review is available at most ebook sellers, and audio books are also on iTunes so look for them on the platforms that match your ebook reading or your buying preference. (Click here to shop for your very own Kindle.)

This was the third Navy SEAL memoir my darling hubby and I have listened to. Ripped from the headlines doesn't begin to describe the drama of this first-person account from Mark Owen, a Navy SEAL who participated in the mission.


Holter Graham is an accomplished actor that you've probably seen in movies, television, or on stage. He's narrated many books and brings his experience and talent to No Easy Day, breathing life into this memoir.

About The Book

Owen gives background information about what it was really like in Iraq and about the daring rescue of Captain Richard Phillips in the Indian Ocean. He takes you from the mountains of Afghanistan to the thwarted efforts to bring Osama Bin Laden to justice until finally that priority mission was accomplished.

Owen gives a step by step narrative of the assault he and the other handpicked members of the 24-man team accomplished. Many times, it seemed like Mission Impossible, but these highly-trained, dedicated operatives did accomplish it at great risk to their own lives. The assault didn't go perfectly, but it probably went as well as could be expected given the unpredictability of Fate.

Again, I felt humbled by the dedication and service of these remarkable men. If I were ever kidnapped and held hostage, I'd want a "Get out of Hell" card from these guys.

Takeaway Truth

Highly recommended to anyone interested in the truth of what's really going on "over there," this excellent account of a seminal moment of justice in our history is spell-binding.

Christmas Gifts #7: Amazon Kindle

I woke up this morning, and the world was still here! In case you procrastinated on Christmas shopping while you waited for the Mayan Prophecy to unfold, you may be needing a fast present. Or maybe you just want to get something to celebrate the continued existence of the Earth.

Amazon has you covered.

Since I blogged abut the NOOK HD deals yesterday, it's only fair that I give the Kindle Family equal exposure. Plus, you can get the Kindle of your choice delivered by Christmas if you order within the next 37 hours.

Even though I have a Kindle, I really lust after the Kindle Paperwhite. That's the one with the built-in light. I do most of my leisure reading in bed at night. I have a Kandle, a Kindle Book Light designed for the Amazon Kindle (also fits Sony Reader and other eBook readers), but I use it so much that I'm constantly having to replace batteries.

From a low of $69.00 for a basic Kindle to a high of $499.00 for the Kindle Fire HD 8.9" 4G LTE Wireless (a tablet) , you can get a Kindle delivered in time for Christmas.

Takeaway Truth

Seriously, my Kindle has enabled me to read far more than I ever had before. It goes with me everywhere.

Christmas Gifts #6: Nook HD Tablet

This Holiday Gift Suggestion is a choice between the new Barnes & Noble Nook HD and Nook HD+ tablets.

This holiday season B&N introduced 2 highly rated tablets for digital reading: the NOOK HD™ and NOOK HD+™. Rated as  best-in-class devices, they received glowing reviews from CNET, Engadget, and Gizmodo, and others. The NYT wrote "NOOK HD is the one to get."


Display quality is one of the most important aspects of a tablet. NOOK HD has the best screen resolution of any 7” tablet on the market. Weighing only 11.1 ounces and only 5-inches wide, NOOK HD fits in the hand, and is designed for long term reading and portability.

For those who want to read on a larger format, NOOK HD+ offers a full HD 9-inch display. Weight is 18.2 ounces, the lightest full HD tablet ever. The fully laminated display reduces glare and provides excellent viewing angles making shared viewing better.

NOOK offers NOOK Profiles so that each family member who shares the tablet can have their own age-related content while being locked out of more mature content. Both devices have long battery life and expandable memory slots.

In case you didn't know, B&N is working with Microsoft to bring more readers to NOOK Books. The new NOOK application for Windows 8 will extend the reach of Barnes & Noble’s digital bookstore by providing one of the world’s largest digital catalogs of e-Books, magazines and newspapers to hundreds of millions of Windows customers in the U.S. and internationally.

NOOK partnerships with retailers like Target, Best Buy, and Walmart in the U.S. and John Lewis and Blackwells in the UK, are helping to grow the NOOK audience and increase the market share of NOOK ebooks.

Takeaway Truth

If you've thought about adding a NOOK device, there are special incentives so now is the time to buy.

Giving Away Audio Book of Christmas Romance

Hi, I'm SO sick with this miserable cold so I'm taking the easy way out.

Please visit Readers Guide To Epublishing. I'm guest blogging there today and talking about holiday decorations.

Make a comment for chance to win the audio book edition of my Christmas Romance Nobody's Cinderella.

This book is available at most ebook sellers too if you prefer to read rather than listen.

(Cinderella proved that a pair of shoes can change your life! Guess that's why most women love shoes?)

Takeaway Truth

Make a comment and maybe you'll win! Happy Holidays!

Christmas Gifts #5: Writers Love Stuff

This Holiday Gift Suggestion is for "stuff." Ah yes, "stuff" that entertains or makes life easier or just makes you smile.

Audible Gift Membership

This is so affordable and is an instant gift in case you're running out of time. Gift Memberships start at $45.00, or you can give a gift of a single audio book. (I have 7 available in case you need some suggestions. *g*)

Writer's Ornament

This ceramic ornament is available in oval or round. It's pictured on the near right sidebar. The wordage also appears on a sweatshirt in The WriteWay that has gift and promo items for writers.

Maid Service

Okay, kids, I hope you're reading the blog today. I desperately want cleaning assistance! Consider giving the woman you love at least one day of maid service. Molly Maid and other franchise companies like them are nationwide. Get a gift certificate today.

Takeaway Truth

Hurry. Only 8 shopping days until Christmas or just make this a New Year's Gift. One of these years, if I get any busier and/or slower, I'll be giving New Year's gifts rather than Christmas presents. *LOL* Happy Holidays!

Being Sick

I haven't blogged in a few days. In case you haven't figured it out -- I'm sick.

I made it through my appearance on Authors Corner Talk Show and continued working on my the book I'm publishing next week and got the Christmas tree and decorations up and bought most of the presents and made all the food gifts and ....


Sorry for the long awkward sentence, but it was too illustrate what a constant race I've been in with hardly a moment to catch my breath. Darling Hubby came down with a cold/respiratory infection on Tuesday. I kept fighting the good fight, but I finally succumbed yesterday. Now I have it: the sneezy, itchy eye, running nose, sore throat thing.

So today's quotation is from dear old Anonymous who said: "Three reasons why I hate being sick: 1. I can't smell anything 2. I can't taste anything 3. I have to keep blowing my nose!"

I'll add a #4: my throat hurts so much I can't even sleep -- which is why I'm up blogging instead of fast asleep! Stick a fork in me -- I'm done. That wise Anonymous also said: "Being sick and having a nose ring sucks!"

Takeaway Truth

All I can say is thank God I do NOT have a nose ring. I can't imagine how miserable that situation would be!

Meet Maria Sutton: My 43 Year Journey To Truth

Today, my guest isMaria Sutton, author of The Night Sky: A Journey From Dachau to Denver and Back which, called, "...a book of many parts, all fascinating." Her nonfiction book has 45 5-star reviews on Amazon.

Maria's memoir, The Night Sky: A Journey from Dachau to Denver and Back, was born in the barracks of a German military command center, which had been converted to house Europe’s Displaced Persons after WWII.

Maria immigrated to America in 1951, and, at age 13, overheard a conversation that the man she had been calling “Dad” was not her biological father. Her book is the culmination of her 43-year quest to find her biological father who disappeared shortly after her birth in war-torn Germany.
Now, with her book a reality, Maria Sutton is an author with a book to promote. Like many of us, she has an idea of what she wants, but how does she make it happen? Please welcome Maria Sutton who will tell us how she got what she wanted, and how all of this began so long ago.

My 43 Year Journey To Truth
by Maria Sutton

Every writer wants to have an attention-getting quote from a New York Times bestselling author on the back jacket of his or her book because it translates into sales. I’ve read more “how to become a best-selling author” blogs than I care to remember and pretty much knew the tricks of the trade, so when my book was being finalized for printing, I began a quest to get that awesome sentence to proudly point to the world that if an NYT bestselling author recommends my story, it’s got to be a good one.

It didn’t take me as long as I thought it would to find just the right author. Within a few days, I came across Eric Wilson, author of Fireproof, Facing the Giants, and Flywheel. He had been on the NYT list for three different books, and he had a special interest in Eastern European history. I couldn’t go wrong with this selection, so I brazenly sent him an email requesting a review. After all, the worst that could happen was a rejection, something to which I had become accustomed. To my utter disbelief, Eric accepted my request. Elated, I sent him my book, and then nervously awaited his review. The longer I waited, the more frantic I became—what if he hated my story? I would be ruined.

Within a few weeks Eric sent me a message, stating his review had been posted on Amazon. A few clicks later, I found the 4.5-star rating. His comments stated he gets many requests from authors wanting reviews and rejects most of them, but my request caught his attention because he wanted to know how 43-years of dry research could be turned into an interesting story. I breathed a sigh of relief: He thought I had done a near-perfect job of it.

How I Got To Where I Got

I should back-track to how I got to where I got. I am a fast writer, so when my friends told me I had to write this story, I did– nd whipped it out in a record four-month time period. Just as I was getting ready to send it out to Literary Agents who handled memoirs, a little voice inside of my head warned me to get my book critiqued. I luckily picked an Ivy-leaguer who was a published author. Expecting him to say my book was the best one he’s ever read, I reeled when he sent me his comments.

In essence he said it was a great story, but that I was nowhere in it and readers would want to know what kind of person would search for someone for 43 years, and why. This was quite a set-back. How was I going to make a boring person like me interesting, and how could I put myself in the story? After struggling with the format for several weeks, I remembered the many years of the front-porch conversations I had with my mother while she gently rocked in her creaking rocking chair as I sat on the tattered sofa, pad and pen in hand, writing the miniscule clues she inadvertently let slip—the clues that eventually led to finding my father.

It took me a year to re-write the book and another year to get it published. Looking back, that was the easy part. The hard part is that marketing is a never-ending job, but it has been exciting. I’m amazed at the number of organizations and people who have tracked me down through my publisher, inviting me to Author Readings/Discussions, radio interviews, book clubs, luncheons, and dinners.

My critic was right: People are going to want to know what kind of person never gives up until they find what it is they are seeking. If you’re curious about me or how I solved the mystery, please visit my website Maria Sutton The Night Sky to learn more about my journey to truth.

Takeaway Truth

Maria's book, The Night Sky: A Journey from Dachau to Denver and Back is available in local libraries, bookstores, and major ebook sellers like Amazon and Barnes&Noble.

Ebook Stats Reason To Rejoice

T'is the season to be jolly, but it seems that the majority of ebook authors, especially those who are indie published, aren't very jolly. Why? Because just about everyone is out shopping instead of home reading. Sales are declining -- ask any indie author, and he or she will gladly moan about the downward spiral.

Print Book Sales Rise

This is the season that book buyers hit the stores for glossy print books chock full of photographs. You know, the so-called coffee table books that get stacked on that piece of furniture and are rarely read. The books on the NYT bestseller's list sell well too -- usually by people who don't know a particular person's reading taste but who know that the person reads. Therefore, a NYT hit is the perfect gift. Right? Well, not usually.

Reality Check

Sales are cyclical. There are always peaks and valleys, and a literary Death Valley usually begins the week of Thanksgiving and stretches to just past New Year's. Take heart. Sales will begin to pick up after Christmas when all the proud new Kindle, Kobo, and Nook owners begin filling their devices with ebooks.

Market Share

Another reason to take heart is the continued growth of ebook sales according to a new BookStats joint report from the Association of American Publishers and the Book Industry Study Group. That study, released back in the summer, revealed that digital books were the "dominant single format" in adult fiction.

To give you a point of reference, in 2008, ebooks captured .6% of the trade market, and two years later, in 2010, ebooks took 6.4% of that market (that was 110 million of the 2.57 billion books sold).

GalleyCat quoted from the BookStats report: "In 2011, ebooks took 30% of net publisher sales." That's all publisher sales!

What This Means

Rather than declining, there are more books sold now than ever. Ebook sales will continue to grow, but people will still read print books. More books will be read -- print and digital -- and that's a very good thing.

With every ebook reader sold, the demand for ebooks will increase. The really great thing about this is that readers have access to a lot of different kinds of stories. Where once publishing houses decreed what readers wanted, i.e., historicals set mostly in England in the Regency era, no hero who's a rock star, or no "chick lit" books, in the indie ebook world, you find stories that you really want to read.

don'to romances that who or anywhere but is niche-oriented fiction and more and more people will use ereading devices that are sold, the bigger the demand for ebooks of every type.

Takeaway Truth

Don't be discouraged. Selling successfully is a marathon, not a sprint. To quote another aphorism: a rising tide floats all boats.

Christmas Gifts #4: Contest Entry

This Holiday Gift Suggestion is just for authors. Give yourself an entry or ask Santa for an entry to the JABBIC. That's Judge A Book By Its Cover, the contest that honors great book cover art. It's open to traditionally published books as well as indie published.

Sponsored by Houston Bay Area Chapter of Romance Writers of America, the JABBIC is a great way to draw attention to your book. The winners are posted on the HBA RWA website which draws thousands of viewers every month, but the big prize is being featured in a full-page color ad on the inside front cover of the April 2013 Romance Writers Report, the official publication of Romance Writers of America where it will be seen by the thousands of members of RWA as well as by agents and editors.

What Previous Winners Say

"I love the JABBIC. What a great way to promote your book! Winning the JABBIC was not only a huge honor, it gave me a boost in sales. I actually got emails from booksellers letting me know they reordered my book after seeing the ad in the RWR. Another big perk of winning was the opportunity to honor my publisher, who does a fabulous job on covers. Thank you, Houston Bay Area RWA." – Christie Craig, author of DON'T MESS WITH TEXAS, 2011 JABBIC First Place Winner, Single Title, who has been selected to emcee the 2013 RWA National Award Ceremony.

"Winning the JABBIC has proven a low-cost, high-visibility way to introduce my books and my brand to readers and booksellers. I highly recommend this contest to all my author friends!" - Colleen Thompson, author of TOUCH OF EVIL, 2010 JABBIC First Place Winner, Romantic Suspense

"JABBIC is not only easy to enter, but a fun contest as well. The publicity I received from my covers winning and finaling was substantial. It's a contest I'll enter every year!" - Donna Grant, author of DANGEROUS HIGHLANDER, 2010 JABBIC First Place Winner, Historical

"I even noted books to order in again, that I haven't had in stock for a while." –JABBIC Judge Margaret Bell, Intrigue the Romance Bookstore.


Entry Deadline: Entries must be received by January 15, 2013

Entry Fee: $15

Eligibility: Published in 2012

Enter: The cover of your book or novella published by a traditional house, ePublisher, POD or self-published during 2012

Entry Format: Electronic files (JPG or GIF) only

Categories: Contemporary Series, Single Title/Mainstream, Historical, Romantic Suspense, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Paranormal, Sexiest Cover, Young Adult and Inspirational

Judges: Booksellers in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia.

Top Prize: Winners will be featured in a full-page color ad on the inside front cover of the April 2013 Romance Writers Report.

FMI, entry form and rules, visit contest website: or contact Contest Coordinator Leslie Marshman at: judgeabook at hbarwa dot com.

Takeaway Truth

Give yourself or a friend an entry fee for a gift an author will truly appreciate.

Best Comment Ever From An Author

Authors are familiar with reader reviewers who rake the author over the coals because of something a character said in the author's book.

Did you ever get a review like that and want to tell the reviewer that you don't hold that opinion? Your character, who is a disgusting reprobate does, which is why he's possibly the villain of the book?

You authors out there will appreciate what S. M. Stirling, author of The Tears of the Sun said: "There is a technical term for someone who confuses the opinions of a character in a book with those of an author. That term is idiot."

Takeaway Truth

Okay. Let's give Mr. Stirling a round of applause. Heck! Let's make it a standing ovation!

Review: Classic Westerns, 26 Zane Grey Novels

When I was 13 and haunting the public library one summer, I discovered Zane Grey western novels. The very first one I read was East of the Pecos, and it thrilled me. It had action and adventure, horses which I loved, and told of an Old West where men were men and women were glad of it. The novels had a strong romance subplot -- at least strong according to my newly-minted teen-hood.

That one book had me scouring the section where his books were shelved. I can't remember how many I read. Each thrilled me as much as that first one.

When I bought my Kindle a couple of years ago, I spent days scrolling through the lists of free books and low-priced ebooks. Imagine my delight when I came across this little gem, Classic Westerns, 26 Zane Grey Novels with Active Table of Contents, a collection of 26 of Zane Grey's most popular novels and with a Linked Table of Contents. I grabbed it, and started reading.

I have to admit that I was totally surprised that the stories still captivated me. I'd thought I might find them as stale as an episode of Gunsmoke on TV Land. Not at all. The stories are still compelling plus I love the American West history in each.

After I'd read the first book in this collection, I visited the Texas Ranger Museum in Waco, Texas. Walking through the museum, I realized how accurate were Grey's portrayals of the men who brought law to Texas and to the history of nineteenth century America.

Takeaway Truth

This collection is wonderful, and it's worth far more than the modest price. The books are delightful in every way and make one understand why the western, the only true American art form, was so popular in television and movies for so long.

Shirley Hailstock: I Think I'll Do Brain Surgery Today

I'm so pleased to welcome Shirley Hailstock, a wonderful author and a past President of Romance Writers of America, to SlingWords today.

Shirley, a bestselling, award-winning novelist, is the author of over twenty-nine novels and novellas. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Chemistry from Howard University and a MBA in Chemical Marketing from Fairleigh Dickinson University. (In other words, she's not only a talented author but also one smart lady!).

Shirley left her job in the pharmaceutical industry and is now a full-time writer. In addition to being a past president of Romance Writers of America, she's also a former officer of Women Writers of Color. She lives in New Jersey with her family.

I'd also like to mention that Shirley has a Christmas romance, The Christmas List, available. You can find Shirley on Facebook: (Please go and Like her page.) Or, you can email her at shirley dot hailstock @ comcast dot net.

Now please welcome Shirley Hailstock!

I Think I’ll do Brain Surgery Today
by Shirley Hailstock

I think I’ll do brain surgery today. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I have a vacation coming up. I’ve seen a lot of heads, some with hair, and some without. I know I can do it. I’ll astound the medical community, they’ll pay me a lot of money and ask me to speak at the American Medical Association, where I’m sure to walk away with the highest award in the field.

This is exactly how beginning writers think when they decide to write a book. They’ve read a lot of books. They know what they like, and they have a few unaccounted-for minutes. They’ll knock off a bestseller between lunch and dinner this afternoon.

Unbelievable But True

In no other profession other than writing would a sane person even consider doing what I’ve outlined above. If you really wanted to be a brain surgeon you’d study for years, learn all aspects of the human body; determine how each function of the system works with the other and how outside forces such as drugs and environment can influence the inner workings. Yet when you want to write a book, all thought of education and study are rendered unimportant. You just sit down and start writing. Anybody can do that, right? Wrong!

Much To Learn

While writing is essentially a self-taught profession there are many things to be learned and many decisions to make as a writer. First, what do you want to write; genre fiction, mainstream fiction, non-fiction, screenplays, documentaries, etc.? This leads us into jargon. Every profession has its own language and its own alphabet (POV, HEA, SASE to point out a few). Right away it will send a signal that you’re an amateur and haven’t done your homework if you don’t understand the language and know how to use it.

In our case let’s assume you’re planning to write genre fiction. Which genre and which sub-genre? This is another decision. In romance fiction you can write historical, paranormal, contemporary, category, suspense, erotic and others. In mystery there are cozies, true crime, or police procedurals among others. Science fiction has alien worlds, and franchises like Star Trek and Star Wars books.

Now that the decision of what to write has been made (contemporary category romance) are you ready to write? No. Have you read the guidelines of the particular area you want to write in? Have you read the books that are currently being released in this area? Reading in the domain you want to write sounds obvious, but how often have you heard people say they don’t read the kind of books they write, or they don’t read at all?

Begin With Reading

Well, here’s the place to begin the study. Reading is part of the learning process, part of the study of the genre. Read the current books, analyze them. Find out what is happening in them. Uncover the plot ideas inherent to the line. Are there a lot of family stories or stories built on family values? Are the characters all blue collar? Or white collar? Do the books have subplots? Is the plot more than boy meets girl? How much back story is shown? How far into the psychological makeup of the characters do they delve? How many love scenes are in the book? Are there books without love scenes? The questions go on and on. This means reading one book is not enough. You need to read enough to know them inside and out.

More Decisions

At this point you’re ready to start, but you have more decisions to make. What is your story about (plot) and who are the people (characters) that will tell it? There are many writers who begin with the characters and an equal number who begin with the plot. And there are many ways to start a book. You can layout character worksheets and write down everything that is significant about the main characters and major secondary characters before you start. Some people keep this information in their heads while others write it down. Do whatever works for you. I like to write it down.

As to the plot, I also outline it. This can be a detailed outline or a sketchy one. Again, do whatever works for you. If you’re new to writing and this is your first time working on a book, you might want to try both methods or make up one of your own. Remember this is not brain surgery, at least not yet. We’ll get to that.

The outline is for your use only. It’s a guide to get you from page one to page two to page three and onward to “The End.” You can even use the outline to write the synopsis (another of those undefined words that go with the jargon of the industry) before you write the book.

Ready? Yes!

Now you’re ready to write.

What happens during the writing process? You get confused, lonely, hate the book and characters, want to throw in the towel or go read someone who already knows how to write. At this point it’s time for reinforcements. Go to a chapter meeting, attend a conference, find a critique partner, try a contest, attend workshops and talk to other authors. Return to your book renewed and enthusiastic about the outcome. But keep writing.

Earlier I said if you really wanted to be a brain surgeon you’d study for years. In writing, you’ve studied the market and picked your genre. To be a brain surgeon, you learn all aspects of the human body. In writing, you’ve developed your plot and character. To be that surgeon, you determine how each function of the system works with the other. In writing, you’ve read the guidelines and learned the jargon. To be a brain surgeon, you learn how outside forces such as drugs and environment can influence the inner workings. To be a writer, you’ve attended conferences and found a system of feedback. Hopefully, fame and fortune will follow.

Congratulations doctor, you’re now a brain surgeon.

To the aspiring author, congratulations! You're now a writer.

Win A Copy Of The Christmas List

Leave a comment and be entered in a drawing for a free download of e-book ,The Christmas List, a story about an architect who must help an injured tennis player. Assisting him is his guardian angel, a thin teenager with an agenda of her own.

Takeaway Truth

Thanks, Shirley, for taking time from your busy schedule to visit with us today! Happy Holidays!

Christmas Gifts #3: AlphaSmart NEO 2

In this world of laptops and tablet computers, it may seem off for me to be recommending an AlphaSmart as a great Christmas gift, but hear me out. Actually, the AlphaSmart is now marketed as the NEO.

I've had an AlphaSmart for about 10 years. It runs on 2 AA batteries that seem to last forever. It's extremely lightweight. I can carry it in my purse. It's rugged. I can throw it around without fearing it will shatter or get its electronic brain messed up. When I turn it on, it opens to the file I last worked on. When I shut it down, I don't have to save or jump through any hoops. Push the button, and it's on. Push the button, and it's off.Plug the cable into my computer, and it empties itself into whichever program I opened to receive the text.

It's a no-frills, text machine that allows you to empty your brain without backtracking to edit. It is absolutely ideal for fast, rough-draft copy.

AlphaSmart Current Incarnation

Now this fine little machine is called the NEO 2. It's perfect for all writing needs, and it's a low-cost,  go-anywhere writing tool.

At only $169 from the NEO site -- check Amazon, etc. for bargain prices. I've seen them as low as $15.00 on eBay -- the NEO connects directly to your PC, Mac, or compatible USB printer. It has an incredible 700 hours of battery life, using 3 AA batteries, or get the NEO 2 Rechargeable that gives up to 200 hours of use between charges. Both versions contain a backup lithium battery to keep data secure.

You can get options too if you want them. Now they have a discount on the site so check it out.

Takeaway Truth

A lot of writers have trouble jusst writing. They like to tinker with the words as they go along. That slows the process tremendously. Using an AlphaSmart NEO will train you to write fast and write prolifically. Then you can edit away once you've got the words done and transferred to your computer.

Flashbacks: Handle With Care

Mention rules, especially to a bunch of writers, and you get one of two reactions.

Some will wag their heads sagely, and say, "Yes. That's right. There are rules about writing, and you must follow them."

Others will brandish their fists and shout: "Rules? We don't need no stinking rules."

Now, here comes the shocker. Both groups are right. Writers should follow rules. Writers should ignore rules. The trick is to know when to do each.

How To Write A Flashback Scene

(This article previously appeared in Writing Hacks, my subscription newsletter for writers. Subscribe today if you want to read articles like this as soon as they are published.)

Rules say to use Past Perfect and relate the scene.

The storm had hit on a Sunday. I had been crying because Jack and I had been fighting. The wind had shattered the windows, spraying glass everywhere, but Jack had flung himself over me. That's when I had known that he loved me.

Let's break that rule. Rather than depart from the story, create a transition into the world of the flashback scene by starting out in past perfect then going to the present time of your story, tell what happened as if it were present time, then end the reminiscence in past perfect and go back to the normal tense you'd been using. Same example. Oh, and 3 is the magic number here.

The storm had hit on a Sunday. I had been miserable for a week because Jack. Jack and I had been fighting. (3 past perfect verb sentences)

The wind shattered the front windows, spraying glass everywhere. Jack flung himself over me. (Simple past tense, which is how most stories are told, for however long the scene lasts. In flashbacks, when you switch to simple past, passages are usually much longer to make them justify this flip-flop of verb tenses, but that's just another rule.)

That had shaken me. That's when I had known that he loved me, and, in that same instant, I had known that I loved him. (Back to the past perfect to end the flashback with 3 past perfect verb sentences.)

Takeaway Truth

I encourage you to learn the rules. I prefer to call them tools in your writer's tool kit. Then learn how to break those same rules, when to break them, and why you're breaking them. Rule breaking just adds more tools to your writer's tool kit.

Christmas Gifts #2: Give A Massage

Oh, my aching back! Have you ever said that? Chances are, if you spend a lot of time in front of the computer, you've felt that aching back, aching shoulders, arms, and hands. Working at a computer is about the worst thing you can do to the human body no matter how ergonomic you try to be.

This Christmas, give yourself or someone you love the gift of a massage. Trained therapeutic massage therapists can be found in just about every community -- large and small.

Visit Massage Envy and check it out. My daughter gave me a Massage Envy Gift Card a few years ago. After two sessions, I subscribed to a membership. But that's not required. You can do it a la carte and give gift cards or buy them yourself one at a time

By the way, just in case you wonder, I get no remuneration for my Christmas recommendations. I just recommend what I think are perfect gifts for writers -- and just about everyone.

Takeaway Truth

You'd be surprised how a massage will untie those knots in your muscles. In fact, I can't think of anything better.

Embrace Christmas

Joan Winmill Brown said: "Christmas! The very word brings joy to our hearts. No matter how we may dread the rush, the long Christmas lists for gifts and cards to be bought and given -- when Christmas Day comes there is still the same warm feeling we had as children, the same warmth that enfolds our hearts and our homes."

That warm feeling we had as children is what we all need to remember when we get caught up in the frenzy of the "must do" that characterizes much of the holiday season.

We must decorate the yard. We must put up the Christmas tree. We must decorate the house. We must buy the presents and wrap them. We must attend the holiday parties. Must ... must ... must. The list seems endless at times, doesn't it?

Takeaway Truth

Don't dread -- anything. With every day that passes and every "must do," rejoice. Life is short. You don't want to look back and wish you had enjoyed it more.

Review: Fresh Fruit Quick Breads by Joyce Middleton

December is here and brings with it all kinds of celebrations from now to New Year's Eve. This is the time that most of us pull out all the culinary stops. So I'm reading cookbooks.

I love to cook -- and eat -- so I'm always looking for new cookbooks. With my Kindle, I'm no longer limited to the number of cookbooks that fit on the shelf above my kitchen desk.

As is my custom when I review ebooks, I give the Kindle Buy Link because I read most books on my Kindle. However, I'm certain every book I review is available at most ebook sellers so look for them on the platforms that match your ebook reading device. (Want your own Kindle? Click here.)

Today, I want to tell you about a really good cookbook: Fresh Fruit Quick Breads (In the Pantry Quick Breads) by Joyce Middleton.

I was delighted to find this cookbook because Quick Breads seem to have fallen out of favor with the new crop of bakers. Quick Breads' smaller cousin -- the muffin -- has taken over as the most popular quick and easy "bread" to bake.

That's a shame because a quick bread loaf is easy to make, beautiful to look at, and delicious to taste. I have fond memories of the quick breads my mom baked in loaf pans or bundt pans: banana nut, pumpkin raisin, and cranberry orange. I still make those three, but I was delighted to try new recipes from this book.

Joyce Middleton makes a good case for bringing the quick bread back to popularity. Her cookbook offers the basic information needed to understand the easy science behind quick breads, clear step by step directions on the fundamentals, a linked Table of Contents to help you leap to the recipes you want to try, and excellent recipes that give delicious results.

I was particularly taken with the Peach Cobbler Loaf -- my darling hubby loves Peach Cobbler so anything with that in the name had to be tried. This week I'm baking the Orange Chocolate Chip Bread. Just the name of that makes my mouth water.

Takeaway Truth

Fresh Fruit Quick Breads (In the Pantry Quick Breads) by Joyce Middleton is a good choice for amateurs and experienced bakers. Get a copy and start baking. Your family and friends will appreciate you and the results.

Friday Chuckle For You

We made it to the end of the work week. Let's laugh and celebrate. My friend Frank emailed me a whole bunch of jokes. These were the ones that tickled my funny bone the most.

1. Ladies, if a man says he will fix it, he will. There's no need to keep reminding him every 6 months. (That is SO my husband!! But don't tell him I said that.)

2. My mother-in-law is coming. I had to clear out half my closet so she could have a place to hang upside down and sleep. (Doesn't remind me of anyone personally, but I thought it was a hoot.)

3. NASA's robot Curiosity landed on Mars. Early pictures show no sign of ESPN, beer, or porn. This makes it very clear that men are definitely not from Mars. (I'm still laughing at that.)

4. I want one of those jobs where people ask: "Do you actually get paid for doing this?" (Yes, like the host of Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, or a judge on Food Network's Chopped, or any of those jobs where you basically hang out and eat.)

5. When someone says to me: "You look familiar. Where have I seen you before?" I like to respond with: "Do you watch porn?" (I don't think I'd ever be brave enough or brazen enough to do that, but it sure is funny.)

6. I tried exercise but I was allergic to it. My skin flushed, and my heart raced. I got sweaty and short of breath. Very dangerous. (And that's why I don't exercise between Thanksgiving and New Year's. After all, no amount of exercise will kill all the calories in holiday meals and Christmas goodies.)

Takeaway Truth

Friday is here, and I've accomplished so little -- but I've been well-fed with Thanksgiving leftovers! Have a great weekend. See you tomorrow with a review of what I've been reading this week.

Adversity by Nancy Goldberg Levine

This morning, I'm welcoming a new friend, Nancy Goldberg Levine. She and I became acquainted earlier this year, and I learned about her personal battle as well as her writing challenges. Her topic today is adversity, and, trust me, she knows too much about the subject.

Who Is Nancy Goldberg Levine?

Nancy writes sweet contemporary romantic comedy, and she has two ebooks available in her Practically Perfect Heroes series: Mr. Short, Dark...& Funny (Practically Perfect Heroes)and Mr. Tall, Tan...& Tasteless (Practically Perfect Heroes).

Presently, Nancy is hard at work on the first book of a new series: Sweeter Than W(h)ine. Nancy is also the author of more than 60 short stories and Tempting Jonah, her first full-length romance novel which was published by a small press but is now out of print.

As you can tell by the titles of her ebooks and her series, Nancy has a heck of a sense of humor. She invites you to visit her blog, Laugh With Me. Find her on Twitter @NancyGLevine.

by Nancy Goldberg Levine

Lately, I’ve been reading (or listening to) books where the characters go through plenty of adversity and give their all to finally reach their goal of justice, finding the killer, etc. I’ve also had plenty of adversity myself and have been thinking about it since life intervened, and I got laid off from my day job.

Looking For The Silver Lining

Sometimes, I find that I have to make a negative into a positive. Okay. I’m laid off. I know I’m going back, I just don’t know when. That should give me more time to write.

Since last November, I’ve had to turn a lot of negatives into positives when real life began intervening in a big way. I was halfway through Sweeter Than W(h)ine -- which at the time had a different title, wasn’t a comedy, and the hero had a different profession -- when my computer crashed. I lost everything. I didn’t have a flash drive, or a hard copy. Luckily, my co-workers bought me a flash drive, and I now have hard copies too.

Later, that fateful month, I had knee surgery. The operation was a success. The next day I had a scheduled physical therapy, and I went to sleep. And stayed asleep for five days. I discovered later that the doctors didn’t know if I would wake up. Fortunately, I did finally wake up. I learned that I had pneumonia and had almost died.

Fast Forward

One year later, and I’m doing better. I finished Mr. Short, Dark...& Funny (Practically Perfect Heroes),which began life as 2 short stories that got rejected. (More adversity.) I turned the 2 stories into a book and re-titled it.

Mr. Tall, Tan...& Tasteless (Practically Perfect Heroes)had a similar story. It was originally a novella that had also been rejected. (There's that adversity again.)

After recovering from surgery, I went back to work in May. While I was off though, I had more time to write and explore Indie Publishing. I worked on my existing stories -- expanding and retitling them and in October, published both as ebooks.

But that old adversity just won't leave me alone as is evidenced by the recent layoff. Of course, that means I'll have more time to write. (Looking on that bright side has become a habit.)

What about you? Have you ever had your real life intervene on your writing life? What did you do to turn a negative into a positive? The first 3 people to Comment win copies of Mr. Short, Dark...& Funny (Practically Perfect Heroes).

Takeaway Truth

I hope you'll support Nancy -- and her delightful off-kilter sense of humor. Leave a comment; win a book. Or buy a copy of either of her books.