Privacy In Digital Age

I read an update on our privacy rights in this fast-changing technological world. I think the information is so important that I'm going to summarize it here, but please go to Kim Komando so you can read the full article.

Privacy's Slippery Slope

No one would argue that technology changes at warp speed in today's world. For the most part, that's good because it enables us to work more effectively and faster. However, this changing technology often means that it's easier to be spied on by government, big business, and even by hackers looking to steal your valuable private information.

This also means that court cases pop up when individuals think their rights are being eroded or when government thinks our national security is being eroded. There's no easy answer or resolution, but, as users of technology, we need to be aware of what's going on in judicial cases. If you feel threatened or at risk in any way, retain a lawyer with experience in handling these cases.

If you really want to stay informed about what's going on in the digital rights arena, go to Electronic Frontier Foundation, a watchdog organization on digital rights.

Why Know This

Knowing your rights is part of being a citizen. This information is also good to know if you're a writer so you'll accurately present what is possible in your plots. Readers should be aware of this so they'll know if what they read in a thriller is an accurate portrayal of what happens in real life.

8 Basics About Digital Rights

1. At your workplace you have no digital rights. That means NEVER use a company computer for personal business even if it's a one line tweet about something of no consequence. If you do, no matter how insignificant or trivial, you are granting your employer just cause to dismiss you without recourse.

Needless to say, courts have consistently sided with employers if it goes that far. You may think you can blog at home about how horrible your employers are, but you may suffer the consequences of your actions because it has been held that the 1st Amendment right to free speech does not protect you from your private employer; it protects you against the government.

2. If you're traveling and have left the U.S. and are returning to the U.S., authorized agents have the authority to examine your laptop or other electronic storage device, and they don't need probably cause or a warrant. Homeland Security power supersedes your 4th Amendment right that protects against unreasonable search and seizure. It's all about fighting terrorism and crime, and that's not necessarily a bad thing in today's world. I hate to say this, but sometimes, in order to stop heinous crime, there's a trade-off between what is desirable and what is realistically possible. Like I said, this is a slippery slope.

3. Police do need a search warrant to search your home electronic storage devices, like a computer, unless you agree to a search. If they have a search warrant, it must specifically state what they're looking for which, I believe, is the same way it works for a search warrant in a criminal case such as murder. They can't force you to divulge passwords unless they get a court order from a judge or grand jury.

4. Laws vary from state to state about smartphones which are also data storage devices. You may find your phone searched or seized. Everything depends on the state statutes. Read the full article by Kim Komando for more info.

5. Your cellular provider may be asked for subscriber information. That happened 1.3 million times last year.

6. Internet browsers and web service providers may be asked for the same thing. You agree to that every time you agree to a website's Terms of Service.

7. Credit card companies may also be subpoenaed for the information they have about you. You also agreed to that with their Terms of Service.

8. Surveillance happens much as you see it portrayed in movies and television. You can be tracked by your smartphone, by your vehicle that's GPS equipped, by your toll tag use, and even by your retail purchases when you use those courtesy cards pressed upon you by grocery stores and department stores.

Takeaway Truth

There are no easy solutions to the problems that confront us today. Since my husband travels a lot on business, I, for one, want his air travel to be as secure as possible. If that means government snooping into emails, phone conversations, etc. then that's something I can live with because I never want to see another day like 9/11.

Just One Look at Audio Books

I love audio books and listen to them just about every weekend when I drive from home to our Texas Hill Country retreat. They make the time fly.

Knowing how great they are for commuters -- whether to work each day or for anyone on a longer trip -- was why I wanted my books to be made into audio books.

Great Selection

I not only wanted them to be audio books, but I also wanted them to be affordable. I've spent a fortune on audio books in the stores, and I've always griped about the limited selection.

With Audible and iTunes, I discovered that you can find anything you want at very reasonable prices. In fact, Audible has a subscriber option where you can sign up at only $7.49 a month for the first 3 months, and you get to choose a free audio book each month. You can also cancel at any time. Now that's a deal!

My first audio book, Just One Look, was also my first ebook. You can listen to a very short sample on the iTunes sales page, but the Audible sales page has a much longer sample.

The audio book of Just One Look is read by talented Felicia Greenfield. She did an amazing job of bringing the characters and the book to life. In fact, I lost myself in listening to her performance, nearly forgetting that I knew the story because I'd written it!

(Of course, Just One Look, is still available as an ebook, and, later this year, as a print book.)

Takeaway Truth

I'm an avid reader. If you are too, discover audio books: another way to enjoy the books you love.


What a busy weekend I've had! Of course, my weekend started Friday with the arrival of daughter #1 and her family. We had such a good time, but that meant no time for blogging, writing, or any of my ordinary "writerly" activities.

Here it is Sunday evening, and things are settling down a bit. I must confess I'm exhausted from marathon bouts of Scattergories, Apple To Apple (insane the way we play it), and other board games and WII games. All the mass quantities of cooking -- for a very appreciative audience -- have given me a fridge full of leftovers along with contributing to the overall lack of energy.

Another 1 Year Milestone

Friday, I had planned to celebrate, with you, the 1 Year Anniversary of Romeo and Judy Anne (Book 2 of Texas One Night Stands), but our lovely daughter arrived sooner than expected and the post didn't get written.

I strongly believe Tom Peters was right when he said, "Celebrate what you want to see more of."

I want to see more of my romantic comedies available for readers who love to laugh while they read a story about two people who are made for each other but who just haven't discovered that fact yet. So I celebrate the anniversary of the publication of each ebook.

Let's celebrate together. I'm giving away 10 free copies of Romeo and Judy Anne. First come; first served. I'll use the time stamp on the email to determine if you receive a free copy. (Book 3 of this series, Forever Starts Tonight, starring Allison Platt who was introduced in Book 1, will be published in the fall/winter of this year.)

If you want a free copy, please follow these instructions:

1. Email me at Joan at JoanReeves dot com.

2. In subject box, put REAL LIVE PERSON -- RJA free offer.

3. In your email, tell me whether you want to receive a free copy for Kindle, Nook or Smashwords.

4. Also give me your registered email address for the ebook seller of your choice.

I'll send you a gift card for Romeo and Judy Anne.

Takeaway Truth

Thank you to all who buy my books. I appreciate your support and look forward to giving you more wonderful books in the future. 

3 Websites For Free Books

Readers, I'm going to list 3 websites where you can find free books listed. So get your mouse ready to click.

Writers, if you have a book that's free, I'll give you the details on how to get your book listed on these 3 websites.

Media Bistro App News & Reviews

The Editors of Media Bistro pick a few free eBooks every week.

Readers, the best way to keep up with these books is to subscribe.

Authors, to submit your book, email your pitch to appnewser at mediabistro dot com.

Books On The Knob

This website offers bargain books, free ebooks, and book reviews for Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Sony, and other ereaders and tablets. They also offer games, music, technology and computers occasionally.

Readers, there are a lot of books listed and they range from cookbooks to erotica. There's something for everyone.

Authors, visit the Subscribe/About/Contact page and scroll down to "Authors and Publishers" to find out how to get featured.

Digital Book Today

Readers, this website is all about Kindle. Thrifty Thursday is when they feature the Top 100 Kindle Books to Download for Free.

Authors, they offer free and paid promotion opportunities. Visit Join Our Team to learn more. Scroll down to #12 to get your free book on their free books list.

Takeaway Truth

It's easy to feed the reading habit -- and discover new authors to love -- when books are free.

Take A Break & Prevent RSI

I could be the poster child for bad work habits. Years spent typing at a computer have taken a toll on my body. Now I spend a lot of time trying to make better habits like taking frequent breaks to stretch. I also spend a lot of time at the chiropractor and the massage therapist.

Before you get twisted into a pretzel, take a tip from me. Make prevention part of your daily routine.

I just downloaded Workrave, a free program that helps in the recovery and prevention of Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI). The program alerts you to take "micro-pauses, rest breaks and restricts you to your daily limit."

This particular program works only on GNU/Linux and Microsoft Windows so if you operate a Mac, look for a similar app. There are several on the market.

With Workrave, you set your preferences, including timers. When the timer goes off, an image like the above pops onto your screen so you can take a break.

Takeaway Truth

Make technology work for you by reminding you to take care of your physical energy.

8 Ways NOT To Write A Book

I'm cranky today, and I'm sharing it with you.

8 Ways NOT To Write A Book

1. Twitter

2. Facebook

3. Email

4. Pinterest

5.Volunteering to Guest Blog, judge a contest, etc.

6. Telling your friends and family: "Sure, you can come visit a week or so" – and they all take you up on your invitation.

7. Scheduling contractors to work in your house rather than wait until the book's finished because you're tired of the non-working lights in the bathroom and other issues.

8. Doing stupid stuff like planting 32 shrubs because you bought them (foolishly thinking you'd have the book finished by now! -- and they'll die in the heat if you don't get them in the ground so you end up at the chiropractor and massage therapist every week thereafter while they work to make the agony in your back go away so you can sit at the computer again. Not that I'm confessing to this stupidity but....

Takeaway Truth

Writing a book takes focus. If you are missing your self-imposed deadlines, maybe you need to prioritize your time, back away from some things, and make better decisions – as I've been forced to do.

Collage It: Free Fun

I'm always working with photos and other graphics. I put together collages of holiday pictures, graphic signs for my websites, and trying different looks for book covers.

Collage It is a free software I've played with before. It's for Mac and Windows and enables you to automatically create a Collage.

You can browse your picture files, select the ones you want -- up to 200 -- and with a few clicks of the mouse, pop them into one of many templates. You can arrange them where they're lined up or at angles for more visual interest. There are several templates to choose from. You can also create a poster, for instance, of all your book covers.

Takeaway Truth

Have a little graphic fun with this free app.

Thoughts Determine Outcome

I've been semi-glued to ESPN since last Thursday because The Open, commonly called The British Open, has been underway.

I'm the world's worst golfer, but I love watching the tournaments with my husband. He's the real golfer in the family. No matter how hot the weather, he'll hit the golf course every chance he gets.

Watching the professionals, it's interesting how they can play so well until something happens -- maybe a bad shot puts them in a bunker or the rough, maybe someone they're playing with gets an eagle and leaps ahead in scoring -- then they fall apart. I often wonder what a golfer is saying inside his head when those moments occur.

The great Bobby Jones said: "Golf is a game that is played on a five-inch course - the distance between your ears."

I think that's true, and I think it's true for golfers and for just about everybody.

We all play a game of some kind. Mine is writing. What's yours? Regardless of what you do in life, you're playing your game on that same five-inch course -- the distance between your ears.

Your thoughts can determine how well you overcome challenges, how well you deal with adversity, and how well you persist. In fact, your thoughts program you to win or lose, much as a golfer's thoughts program him or her.

Takeaway Truth

What are your constant thoughts? Do they set you up for success or failure?

Review: My Man Pendleton by Elizabeth Bevarly

My Man Pendleton by Elizabeth Bevarly is utterly delightful -- especially Pendleton, the hero of this book.

Initially, you may just feel that Kit, the heroine of this book, is a spoiled brat who has nothing to complain about, but look deeper. Even rich girls have insecurities and vulnerabilities.

Kit has a huge vulnerability. She doesn't think anyone will ever love her because past experience has taught her that all a man sees are dollar signs when he looks at her. Therefore, she has armored herself with cynicism that may prevent her from recognizing love when she comes face to face with it.

Enter Pendleton, a hero worth the title. He has his own agenda and a hilarious method of dealing with corporate bureaucracy and with the spoiled heiress.In fact, you'll find yourself grinning when Pendleton is on the scene.

I know it's hard to feel sorry for a woman who has, it seems, everything, but Kit is as insecure and nervous as any girl who ever owned a lipstick.

(As is my custom when I review ebooks, I give the Kindle Buy Links 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. Click here to shop for your very own Kindle.)

Takeaway Truth

A good book is the least expensive form of great entertainment. Try an ebook today!

5 Best Shows On Summer TV

Seldom has summer been such a treasure for TV viewers. In fact, television has surpassed theatrical releases for great storytelling.

I had some free time last night about midnight *g* so I caught up on some of my DVRd programs.

Everyone raves about Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and all the other HBO and Showtime series so I don't need to add my raves. Besides, those aren't some of my faves. Guess I'm just weird.

Here's my list of 5 of the best shows on television this summer. What do they all have in common? Great characters, stories, twists, and turns. In other words, great writing.

1. Falling Skies -- love, love, love it. I've always been a SF fan, and this series pushes all my buttons. Great acting, great characters and relationships, surprising twists -- all of which mean great writing from the show's creator, show-runner, and writing staff.

2. White Collar -- been around the block a few times, but still delivers. In fact, the first two episodes this season have been even better than before because of the characters and their growth arcs and the surprising turn of events.

3. Burn Notice -- still one of my favorite shows. After this many episodes, the show is still stellar. Writers would do well to study the character growth exhibited by burned spy Michael and his gunrunning girlfriend Fiona. Some of the best secondary characters of any show.

4. The Closer -- back to close out this great series with a bang! The series opened two weeks ago with its final 6 episodes, but, smart producers that they are, they're spinning the secondary characters off into a series of their own called Major Crimes. I'd noted last season that Lt. Rader was undergoing a personality enhancement, and the new series, which she will headline, is why. Can't wait to see her and the gang in Major Crimes.

5. Longmire -- fabulous new mystery/police procedural series set in Wyoming and based on the Longmire Books by Craig Johnson. Robert Taylor is excellent as Sheriff Longmire, and how great to find Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica aka Katee Sackhoff as a Deputy on the show. Also has the fabulous Lou Diamond Phillips as a main character -- inspired casting.

Takeaway Truth

If you want great viewing, don't go to the movies. Just turn on your television. 

"Hair's" Looking At You, Kid

One of my favorite musicals of all time was the irreverent rock musical Hair. Performed for the first time in 1967, it finally made it to the big screen in 1979, but, by that time, the country had changed. Disco had pushed rock aside; hippies were on their way out. Wall Street greed was sneaking in the back door.

I know every verse of that song in the musical that I call a love anthem about hair. If you're familiar with the musical, you know the one that talks about "... gleaming, steaming, flaxen...."

Why, you're probably wondering, am I talking about hair?

Probably because I was thinking about getting some new photos made. I use an old one on just about everything. The only problem with photos though is that I change my hair style about every six months. So you wouldn't recognize me anyway by my photo. I'm simply not one of those women who wears the same hairstyle their entire life. I like change.

I was thinking about all this today because I made an appointment to get it cut. I've been wearing it rather long for about a year -- a world record for me. Usually, I cut it short and decide I really want to grow it long. It gets long, and I wonder why I thought that was a good idea so I cut it short again.

That's what happened today. Hot weather and long hair just don't make for a good marriage in Texas. Whack. Now it's short again. But not too short. You know? I really like it. No regret at all.

Takeaway Truth

To paraphrase some very wise, but anonymous, person: "Life is an endless struggle full of frustrations and challenges, but eventually you find a hair style you like."

3 Steps To Successful Marketing

A knowledge of marketing will help you in your effort to sell anything from books to widgets. Here are 3 Basic Steps To Successful Marketing.

(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.)

1. Get noticed.

The world must find you. Have a blog and a website. Guest blog. Join writer's groups. Write book reviews and post on the major booksellers' websites. Find an aspect of Social Media that you can comfortably work. Network your friends and family. Word of mouth from readers who like your books is priceless so work on creating that.

2. Establish credibility.

You do this with your ad copy, i.e. every written text about your book from your Book Description and Biography to your book cover. Reviews can help but you won't get reviews unless you get readers. Everything should shout PROFESSIONAL, INTRIGUING. Your book should be indistinguishable from one published by a big NY publisher. That's your goal with everything you do in producing your book package.

3. Make sales.

Never give a reader a chance to say no. In other words, don't let anything on that book page confuse them or make them pause and think or turn them off.

If you're uncertain about how to go about any of these steps, I always advise writers to find an author whose books are similar to yours and who is achieving the level of sales you want. Then spend a lot of time analyzing what they do: their book pages, bio page, and what they do.

Takeaway Truth

Learn from someone whose career is what you'd like to emulate.

Science of Smell

I've always been fascinated by the sense of smell. Perhaps that's because it's our most primitive sense. The heroine of my newest book -- to be published next week I hope before my next batch of houseguests arrives for the summer -- is a perfumer. She designs fragrances for clients.

Scents and Sensuality is a much expanded and changed version of an older print book published quite some time ago. The inspiration for the heroine's occupation was research I'd done, for my own amusement, into the science of smell.

I've been so interested in the subject that, while expanding this book into an ebook edition, I've simultaneously been plotting another book dealing with the same subject. This all goes to show that nothing can make you lose focus on a work in progress like the idea for a new book.

Facts About Smell

Did you know that we breathe in pairs. Inhale. Exhale. There are only two times in our lives that are exceptions to this rule: our first breath at birth and our last breath at death. That profound observation was made by Diane Ackerman in her excellent book A Natural History of the Senses.

I love this book. It's beautifully written and factually correct. I've read the book many times, and I'm pleased to see it's available as a Kindle book as well as print editions.

Every time we breath, air passes over our olfactory sites. In any given day, that's usually more than 23,000 times in which odor molecules flood our bodies, often triggering vivid memories of a time when we smelled a particular odor. When I smell Youth Dew by Estee Lauder, I instantly think of my mother. When I smell the ocean, I'm carried back to Japan where I had a house overlooking the East China Sea.

Takeaway Truth

In my book, heroine Amanda Whitfield educates the hero about smell. It's a fascinating subject. I'll share more about the science of smell next week.

Battle of the Browsers

I've always used Firefox for my browser, but with the last upgrade they did, I had major problems. I was locked out of some of my apps and links. After some digging around, I discovered a simple solution. The upgrade had changed my View option to Full Screen which locked out the Toolbar and a host of other things.

Since I never use Full Screen, I was stumped as to what to do. I spent a couple of hours browsing help forums and finally figured out the problem. Simple fix, but the time wasted was something I could ill afford to lose.

Easy Solution, But Still In A Snit

Thoroughly disgruntled at Firefox and the whole situation, I rebelled and downloaded Google's Chrome. I had resisted adding another browser, but I thought the time had come to explore my options. For once, I wasn't disappointed.

Chrome seems to move much faster in loading apps than Firefox which has slowed over time. I find Firefox still faster than Internet Explorer which I don't use unless I absolutely must. Interested in Chrome, I decided to do some research and see how a tech analysis would rate it compared to the other browsers.


I found Browser Wars, an article in PC Magazine, was a coherent and easily understandable analysis of the major browsers. I think you'll find the article which compares Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox, Opera, and Chrome interesting too. Some of the lesser known browsers are discussed, and a handy comparison chart is given.

Takeaway Truth

We all resist change, but, often, when we bite the bullet and try something new, we find it's an improvement, or, at the very least, another good tool to have at our disposal.

Days Without Sunshine

That wise philosopher Steve Martin once said: A day without sunshine is like, you know, night."

Well, Steve-a-reno, you must never have spent a week in Houston during a rainy spell! We've had a solid week of gray, rainy skies, and no sunshine at all.

The St. Augustine grass in the yard has become ghillie suits for the gazillions of mosquitoes that are hatching after all this rain.I hate to grouse about too much of a good thing after we had such a terrible drought last year, but, honestly, enough is enough!

Takeaway Truth

John Ruskin wrote: "Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather."

Hmmm. Needless to say, Mr. Ruskin didn't ever travel to Houston either.

Review: Where Are They Buried by Tod Benoit

I just finished reading Where Are They Buried (Revised and Updated): How Did They Die? Fitting Ends and Final Resting Places of the Famous, Infamous, and Noteworthy by Tod Benoit on the way home tonight.

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.)

Visiting Cemeteries

The enormously-long title perfectly describes this entertaining nonfiction book. Some may think the book is a bit morbid, but I found it endlessly fascinating. Maybe that's because my mother was a genealogist who taught me that cemeteries were pretty interesting places.

You see, I grew up in Louisiana where above-ground tombs were rather commonplace. It's the high water table that makes in-ground burial not an option in a lot of towns. So as a child, I tromped through cemeteries while my mother wrote down dates and read epitaphs aloud. I learned to appreciate tomb art and architecture which, for wealthier "residents" had been commissioned from the most important architects and artists of the particular generation.

Yet, the poorest "residents" had grave ornamentation that touches the heart. I remember marbles embedded in a century-old plain square of what looked like baked clay tile that marked the grave of a child.

It may sound macabre, but I've visited cemeteries in lots of cities and small towns -- and in countries to which I've traveled. Because of my early exposure to the history inherent in the cemeteries where my ancestors are housed, I never considered a burial ground as spooky or creepy or even depressing. In fact, there's a certain peaceful quietude to be found in a cemetery.

Fascinating Book

When I saw Tod Benoit's book, I knew I had to read it if only to satisfy my curiosity about whether Jim Morrison was really in his grave in Paris. Benoit gives the myth of Morrison according to conspiracy theorists. Whether or not he's in the grave in Paris in the Pere-Lachaise Cemetery is up for debate. Regardless, the grave draws a million visitors a year, and, I understand, most Parisians consider it bothersome. (I'd have gone if I'd had time when I was in Paris.)

From Aaliyah to Warren Zevon, from Buddy Holly to Kurt Cobain, from rappers to Elvis, from Lombardi and Tom Landry to Walter Payton, Lou Gehrig, and Shoeless Joe Jackson, from Heath Ledger to Marilyn Monroe, from Truman Capote to Norman Mailer, this book covers all who were significant in their respective fields of endeavor.

The book gives a short entertaining biography of the person's life, tells how they died, sometimes gives the epitaph, and tells where they're buried, with directions on how to get to the grave site. Although the names in each category aren't listed under the chapter headings, there is a clickable Index in alphabetical order.

Chapter Headings

Gen-X Standouts
Baby Boomer Icons
Senior Memories
Sports Heroes
Television & Film Personalities
Original Women
Greats of Literature, Philosophy, & the Arts
Heroes of Rock & Blues Music
Popular Music Icons
Famous Personalities & Infamous Newsmakers
Notable Figures from History
Appendix: How to Find Where Someone Is Buried

Takeaway Truth

Like the epitaph on the tomb of Mel Blanc, the man of 1,000 voices, says: "That's all, Folks!"

Storm Protection For PC

This has been a week of rain, rain, and more rain plus a few power outages that make being online a rather risky proposition.

Ever since my router blew out a couple of years ago in a storm, I've made it a habit to turn everything off and unplug from power during these storms. Routers like the one I have a a tad expensive, and I don't want to blow up another one. So I haven't spent a lot of time online as you can tell by the absence of daily blog posts.

Today brings another day of stormy weather (feel free to hum along at this point) so I thought I'd post about how to protect your PC and your data from damage caused by sudden power disruption.

Most Dangerous Time

The most dangerous time for the power to go out for your computer is when it's booting up or shutting down. If the power is cut during those two events, it can not only fry your computer but also the processing system and possibly other software linked to startup.

If you're working on a laptop, you have a battery – and hopefully, it's charged, so you have time to finish the startup or closing, and then go through the proper procedure to shut everything down.

If your on a desktop, you should have the same time if you've been smart and bought what is commonly called a Battery Backup.

Uninterruptible Power Supply

A battery backup is more properly called an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS for short). Everyone who depends on a computer needs one of these. I've used UPS's for years, but I never plugged the router into it – until the storm killed the router that time.

Depending on the kind of UPS you have, you'll have X amount of time to finish the exit process or the boot process then go through the shut down procedure or to save data and close open apps then shut the PC down. Every crucial expensive piece of equipment should be plugged into a UPS which is then plugged into a wall.

Buy The Right UPS

The longer the battery operational life; the more expensive the UPS. So judge the individual options with that thought in mind. Also, you need one with enough open outlets to plug in, at minimum, your PC, monitor, router, sound, and maybe your printer.

Some UPS units have opposing rows of outlets with one side for battery backup and surge protection and the other for surge protection only. I've been using the APC brand for years and have never had a problem with any of them. The one I've got resembles the illustration above which is a APC BE550G Back-UPS ES 8 Outlet 550VA 120V. This one is less at $55.00 than the one I bought a couple of years ago.

Proper Usage

The UPS is used to protect your equipment during booting and closing and to allow you to save data, properly close programs, and properly turn the equipment off during a sudden power outage. It is not to power the computer for a long time – unless you pay a huge amount for one.

Once you've got the UPS installed and everything plugged into it, make it a habit to always turn off your PC if you are leaving for more than a few hours. That way if the power goes out, you aren't draining the UPS to keep what's plugged into it powered.

If I'm to be gone overnight, I turn everything off including the UPS then I unplug from the wall outlet. If left on, I suppose the UPS could conceivably drain itself just by giving the warning beep that alerts you to the fact that the power has been disrupted. Of course, that would probably take a couple of days, but here in hurricane country, that's always a possibility. (By the way, it's good to have a UPS for an expensive flat panel TV also.)

A UPS is another expense, but your monetary investment in computers and other electronics is probably significant. I checked out the APC page on Amazon. Prices range from $45.00 to about $300.00 and up. Saving a system and data at a cost of less than a hundred dollars isn't bad.

Takeaway Truth

Protect that investment with a good uninterrupted power supply. It might just save you a lot of money and grief later.

How To Give A Kindle

I've been asked several times about how to give a Kindle as a gift. I mean ordering one from Amazon, not buying one at a retail outlet.

Designating your Kindle purchase as a gift means the device ships unregistered, ensuring future content purchases such as books, newspapers, magazines, and blogs will be charged to the appropriate account.

Advance Set-Up

However, if your lucky recipient knows they're getting a Kindle from you, they may want everything set up from the get-go so they can just charge the Kindle and start buying books.

To set up account information and register the Kindle to your recipient before he/she receives the kindle, you will need to know these things:
  • e-mail address to be used on Amazon
  •  password credit card and billing address of recipient in order to set up 1-Click payment method and other information that he/ she wants to use in the account.
Chances are you won't know this nor feel you can ask unless the recipient is a family member, so sending it unregistered and letting the recipient set up the best. However, if you have all this information, and the recipient wants it all set up in advance, there should be no problem in doing that.

Another option is the easiest of all: send an Amazon Gift Card.

Want your own Kindle? Click here.

Takeaway Truth

A Kindle, or any ereader for that matter -- and there are a lot to choose from -- is a great gift for any occasion.

Enduring Life's Stormy Weather

I found myself humming the song Stormy Weather today. My mother loved the song, but she liked the Lena Horne rendition. Me? I prefer the version by Etta James because it's in the same throaty styling as Ms. James's famous hit At Last, one of my all time favorite songs.

Anyway, all that aside, I'm thinking about stormy weather because so much of the country has been suffering from devastating storms during the past week. I guess it was only natural that Texas come it for its share of meteorological grief.

Bad Weather Disrupts 

"There is little chance that meteorologists can solve the mysteries of weather until they gain an understanding of the mutual attraction of rain and weekends." Arnot Sheppard is the source of that funny, but true, quotation. At least, it seems true because bad weather seems to occur on the weekend when you've planned an outdoor party, or on the holiday where a massive fireworks show or a trip to an outdoor concert is planned.

Stormy Weather In Your Life

When the weather outside is bad, we can take cover indoors and still enjoy the day. What happens when the storms of life befall you? Where do you take cover then?

Even though most of us have family and friends who want to shelter us from the fallout of storms, to a great extent, we have to weather the storm by drawing upon our strength more than theirs. You see, if you want to achieve something spectacular in life -- and that can mean something many would consider simple, but to you is spectacular -- you'd better anticipate the storms of life.

No one ever sets out to achieve a monumental goal and then proceeds step by step without interference, conflict, and challenges. The storms of life will descend upon you the minute you decide to do something special. Challenges and barricades are inherent in the quest for goal achievement.

It's like Frank Lane said, "If you want to see the sunshine, you have to weather the storm." Many have said the same thing in their own particular way. You can't get the reward without overcoming the challenges -- without fighting the dragons that guard every step of the path to the magnificent reward.

Weathering The Storm

You just have to set your mind to your task. Focus on what is at hand and what you can do today to achieve the goal at some future tomorrow. Do what lies before you right now. Do have a game plan as to how you'll handle adversity. Do have your own personal network that helps you bounce back when things don't go your way. Do be resolved to move forward. Do persist.

Always remember what William Alger said, "After every storm the sun will smile; for every problem there is a solution, and the soul's indefeasible duty is to be of good cheer."


You must have Faith -- that's Faith with a capital F.  To me that means belief in yourself, in your right to achieve, in your ability to achieve, in your ability to stay the course, in your ability to endure -- all while enjoying the journey.

The great Mahatma Gandhi said this about Faith: "Faith is not a delicate flower which would wither away under the slightest stormy weather."

Takeaway Truth

Gandhi also said: "If patience is worth anything, it must endure to the end of time. And a living faith will last in the midst of the blackest storm."

Review: Blood Sport by Judith E. French

Recently I read Blood Sport by Judith E. French. This was my first suspense novel by Ms. French. I've read many of her romance novels. This book was quite a departure from her work in the romance genre, but she pulled it off as adeptly as a master criminal in a caper flick movie.

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. (Although I bought this book, it doesn't designate that when I go to the book page so I don't know what's up with that.) Click here to shop for your very own Kindle.

About The Book

The story of serial killer hunter Jillian Maxwell is filled with taut suspense and peopled with well-drawn characters. It's creepy and spooky and will make you wish you weren't reading it at night, alone, in a darkened room. It's all about the human monsters that we suspect travel the highways and byways of life. As you read, you keep rooting for the victims, hoping some hero rides to their rescue.

If you've ever watched any of the documentaries about serial killers, you'll recognize that Ms. French did her research. If you're addicted to the ID cable channel, you'll realize the story about these evil killers is spot on.

Thumbs Up: Get The Book

There are only a couple of instances in which I think Agent Maxwell acted against her characterization, but I'll leave that for you to judge. All in all, this is a top notch thriller that should please any fan of the genre. The sub-plot of a blossoming romance is believable and doesn't detract from the suspense at all.

This book has been out a while, but it has only 1 review in which it was panned for format errors. That was the fault of the publisher who put the book up, not the author. I didn't encounter the same errors the previous reviewer noted, so I suspect that the publisher had someone try to correct the errors. The errors that were present in the Kindle edition I read did not prevent me from enjoying the book. Don't let it deter you either because the book is well-done.

Takeaway Truth

Read Blood Sport by Judith E. French, and you'll be hooked by the author's skillful plotting and characterization.

Cool Research Tools

Whether fiction or nonfiction, a book's credibility is tied to accurate research. Here are some amazing online research tools.

(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.)

Historic America

Chronicling America helps you search America's historic newspapers pages from 1836-1922 or use the U.S. Newspaper Directory to find information about American newspapers published between 1690-present. This website gives you access to Historical Newspapers and is made possible by the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP), a partnership between the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Library of Congress (LC).

This project is a long-term effort to develop an Internet-based, searchable database of U.S. newspapers with descriptive information and select digitization of historic pages. Please see or for more information on program guidelines, participation, and technical information.

National Day

TheUltimateHolidaySite is one you need to remember. If you blog or freelance write, chances are you're always looking for topics. A good source of inspiration is this listing of holidays and National (whatever) Day. For example, today, May 31, is National Speak In Complete Sentences Day. There are many sites that list these national days, but I particularly like this one.

Geographic Locator

Need to know what's in the area about which you're writing? Waymarking is a great resource for finding everything from businesses to landmarks around the world. (Thanks to Kim Komando who mentioned this in one of her newsletters.) Search thousands of Waymarks by category or location to find out what interesting landmarks are near you or the geographic location about which you're writing.


Need to know something about weather or weather data try WeatherBase or WeatherResearch. If you need historical data about weather, the National Climate Data Center is excellent.

Basic Reference Books

Once, every writer had a thesaurus and a dictionary on his/her desk. I still do. However, many people use those references included with their word processing software. For more complete and more complexly rich sources, try these: and or the two at which I like. One great thing about online resources is that you can hear the pronunciation.

Takeaway Truth

If you get a fact wrong, believe it or not, someone out there knows the correct information, and they will feel a zeal comparable only to that of a reformed sinner in their desire to let you, and the entire world, know that you got it wrong.

Independence Day

America's beloved humorist, Erma Bombeck, once wrote: "You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets "iffy," and the flies die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism."

Takeaway Truth

Happy 4th of July.

Growth of Ebooks

A couple of months ago, Publisher's Weekly published The March of Ebooks about the most recent Bowker Report on the growth of ebooks.

These facts jumped out at me.

In 2010, ebooks held a 2% share of the dollars spent on books which amounted to 4% of units sold. The disparity between dollars and units is due to the lower price of ebooks compared to other print formats.

One year later in 2011, ebooks had risen to 7% of dollars and 14% of units.

The increase in ebook sales came at the expense of hardcover sales, according to the Bowker report.

In 2009, hardcovers had 46% of the market. In 2010, hardcovers had 42% of the market. In 2011, hardcovers had 39% of the market. This downward trend continued until this year when ebook sales surpassed hardcover sales.

According to reports from mid-June, for the first quarter of the year -- and for the first time ever -- ebooks brought in more revenue for publishers than hardcover books.

Mass market paperback sales continue to lead over ebooks, but everyone is wondering how long that will last.

Ebooks & Genre

Another aspect of the Bowker report is the impact of lower priced ebooks on various genres.

The highest percentage of ebook sales is in the mystery/detective genre. In 2010, ebooks accounted for 6% market share. In 2011, that increased to 24%. Unfortunately, the unit gains didn't mean an increase in dollars spent because of the lower price point. That boost for ebooks sales came at the expense of print formats.

Next most popular was espionage/thriller. In 2010, that held 4% of sales. In 2011, that increased to 15%. Nearly every genre showed a similar trend.

Takeaway Truth

The times they are a changing, and, in digital publishing, they're changing at warp speed.

Summer Rain

I love soft summer rain. Precipitation in summer has a different personality than the same liquid falling from a winter sky.

When I was in the local grocery store in the small town near our weekend home, everyone was discussing the possibility of rain. I heard several people say they were praying for rain, and others chimed in that they were too.

There's something so genuine and honest about people in rural America. I know they weren't just being social by saying they prayed for rain. I'm convinced they really did.

I don't know if it was in answer to their prayers, but we had the most wonderful rain. It was as if the entire sky was filled with a fine mist that flowed -- not threatening, just a lovely soaking rain.

One of my favorite poets, Langston Hughes wrote: "Let the rain kiss you. Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops. Let the rain sing you a lullaby."

Takeaway Truth

 If you get lucky enough to have a lovely summer rain, enjoy every raindrop.