Monday, November 24, 2008

One Piece at a Time

Today there are a couple of guys cutting down this huge tree in my backyard. It's in a really bad place, wedged between the garage and the storage shed. Any way that it chose to tumble it would hit something. That's why we called in the pros.

I was nervous about the whole process because I couldn't see this ending well. But I've become more optomistic as I've watched them take it down. One piece at at time. Sawing away at the smaller pieces and taking much care with the larger chunks.

It reminds me of writing my novel. It's a task that looks impossible. No matter where you start it seems like a bad place. But if you whittle away at it bit by bit, eventually the task is accomplished.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Goodbye Michael Crichton

Michael Crichton died of cancer November 4th at the age of 66. He's probably most well known for his book and subsequent movie Jurrasic Park. But he also wrote the Andromeda Strain, Congo, Sphere, and West World which were also made into films.

Even though he held a degree in anthropology and was a medical doctor he was also a writer. And, in fact, actually wrote novels while he was in medical school. For those of you out there who claim you don't have time to write, perhaps you should reconsider.

There has been no word as of yet how or if his death will affect the upcoming Jurassic sequel titled Jurassic Park IV: The Extinction. The film was slated for release in 2010. It seems that a Westworld remake is also in the works.

I love to watch the original Jurassic Park on a day when it's rainy with a little thunder in the background. My next rainy day I'm going to watch it in honor of Michael.

Monday, November 3, 2008

20 Agents Who Blog

Ever wonder how an agent's mind works? Then check out some of these agents who blog.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

5 Best Sites for Online Shopping




Want to save money on Christmas gifts? Then shop early and shop online. Here are a few of the best deals going right now.



  • Overstock.com-This is my go to site. Their shipping charges range from Free to 2.99. At the time of this post they have $1.00 shipping site wide. One of their best deals right now is a Wii Docking Station for 26.99 which is considerably less than the 109.98 list price. Make sure shop this site early. Quanitities are limited on many items.



  • eBay.com-You can get virtually anything on eBay. When searching select the free shipping option or the lowest price item + shipping. Be careful here. Don't be afraid to email the seller with questions and check out their return policy. If their rating isn't 100% read the complaints. If it's just slow shipping I don't worry. If it's a refusal to refund or a bad product I think twice. Don't forget to price check. Some of this stuff is higher than you can get it elsewhere. Oh, and get yourself an auction sniper.



  • Walmart.com-Did you know that you can order things from their site that they don't carry in the stores. Plus they'll deliver it to the store that you specify for free. If you're traveling out of town for Christmas you could order the gift and have it sent to your destination store. A family member or friend can pick it up for you and you don't have to worry about shipping it or lugging it on the plane.



  • Abebooks.com-This is the place to go for any book you can imagine. They have a huge selection of both new and out of print books. Another plus, they have free shipping on many of their books with no minimum purchase. I found an out of print book here that I'd been in search of for twenty years.



  • Zappos.com-It's not all about shoes anymore. Though you can certainly find plenty of them there. They now have electronics, jewelry, housewares etc. Plus, Zappos has free shipping both ways and a returns can be done up to a year later.

What are some of your favorite online shopping sites?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Mary Kate and Ashley's Influence


The Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen have a new book out. It's titled Influence and consists of interviews the girls did with famous people who have been an influence on the girls lives. It includes Lauren Hutton, Christian Lauboutin, and Diane Von Furstenberg among others. The book will also include some exclusive photos of the twins.

If you have a teen who grew up watching Mary Kate and Ashley this will make a great gift and is more affordable than their designer clothing line.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

My Favorite Writing Reference Books. . . So Far

It's hard to know which books to choose from the thousands of writing reference books available. As far as fiction writing is concerned, these are my favorites so far.



  • Immediate Fiction: A Complete Writing Course by Jerry Cleaver-I love this book. Mr. Cleaver lets you know right up front that writing is an acquired skill. If you can't sit at the computer and have perfectly plotted, perfectly formed manuscripts pour from the tips of your fingers that's okay. My favorite quote: "Letting yourself be bad is the best way to become good."
  • Fiction Writer's Brainstormer by James V. Smith, Jr.-James has great insights into the novel writing process. He revealed things that I'd never read anywhere else. And I've read a lot. James will take you through the process from choosing a salable idea to readability to submission.
  • Writing Realistic Dialogue and Flash Fiction by Harvey Stanbrough- This book is an absolute must for fine tuning your dialogue. It'll also help keep your writing concise.
  • Fiction Writing Demystified: Techniques That Will Make You a More Successful Writer by Thomas B. Sawyer.- Tom wrote many episodes of the popular series Murder She Wrote. He brings his experience as a screenwriter to fiction writing. If you want to know how to keep your reader turning pages, Tom will let you in on his secrets.
  • The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing by Evan Marshall- Evan will give you all the information you need to know about how to structure a novel. He is after all an agent and an author so he should know what he's talking about.
  • First Draft in 30 Days by Karen Wiesner- This book doesn't show you how to complete a manuscript in 30 days but it does show you how to outline and organize a novel in that amount of time. In addition, she reveals her method for planning your writing career. Excellent resource!
  • Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One & Never Lets Them Go by Les Edgerton-This well written book will strike a chord with every writer. Les tells it like it is in a down to earth tone. It feels as if he's sharing this information with a friend over coffee. When you get ready to get real, the you need to pick up a copy of this book.
  • Don't Murder Your Mystery [Agatha Award for Best Nonfiction Book] by Chris Roerden- Chris will walk you through all the mistakes that many writers make the first time out. If you want to produce a salable piece of fiction, mystery or not, this is a book that bears reading.

Like I said, this is the list so far. I find new ones all the time but these are the ones I've found most helpful. Leave me a comment and let me know what you're using. Who knows? You may have one that I need to add to the list.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Is Your Manuscript Pretty?

I had it pointed out to me that it doesn't matter if you write Pulitzer prize quality material. If it doesn't look good it'll never be read. Don't believe me? Fine, but can you afford not to? If your manuscript has lengthy paragraphs, say over 2-3 sentences per and not much dialogue then it's probably destined for the rejection pile.

I've heard from an eyewitness that agents and editors actually flip through your manuscript and may not read it at all based on the way the pages look. I've read that you should avoid large blocks of exposition but I didn't realize that it was because of the way it looks on the page I just thought it was because it'd bore your readers to tears. So you need to make it pretty. Leave plenty of white space and keep your paragraphs short.

I know I've harped on the Marshall Plan for Novel Writing a lot on this blog but listen to this. In a 400 page work an agent/editor will flip to page 100, 200,& 300 to make sure you have your turning points in place. Just as Evan Marshall tells us to do. He is an agent after all so he should know.

So add making a pretty manuscript to your list of things to do if you want to get published.

Monday, October 20, 2008

How to Shop for Health Insurance

Buying health insurance is a lot like buying a car. You can purchase your bare bones economy model or you can get a plan that's fully loaded. The question is are you driving a commuter car when you really need a 4WD SUV? Whether you've begun a new job or are shopping for private coverage there are a few questions to ask about your coverage in addition to the price of the premium.

  • You'll know what your deductible is up front. Let's say it's $500.00. Is that per person covered or is that for the entire family? If you have a procedure that isn't covered by your insurance company and you pay for it out of your own pocket does that count toward your deductible? Better to know now than later.

  • Perhaps the insurance company has specified providers in it's network. What happens if you're on vacation and have to use a provider that's out of network? Or if you simply chose to use an out of network physician? Will they pay an out of network physician anything at all or will you foot the entire bill?

  • Do I have to precertify my visits/procedures? Many times you will need to get your doctor's visits precertified. Even if your doctor refers you to another doctor it may need to be precertified. The burden of precertification is on the physician but you've got to let them know that it should be done. Many times you're required to contact the insurance company within hours of an emergency room visit as well, so check your fine print.

  • What's my limit? Just because you have insurance it doesn't mean they'll pay indefinitely. Some of them have very finite limits on the number of hospital days, doctors visits and/or a yearly dollar amount that they will cover.

  • But my doctor said I needed physical therapy, massage treatments, surgery, shots etc. No matter what sort of treatment your doctor recommends, that's no promise that your insurance will pay for it. Make sure it's covered!

  • When your spouse has insurance as well find out how this will affect your coverage. Some companies will act as a primary for you with your spouse's insurance as secondary and some will only act as secondary for you if you have other coverage.

  • If you're shopping for secondary insurance make certain that it will indeed cover the amounts your primary doesn't cover and not small fraction of that amount.

  • What are your copay amounts for regular visits vs. specialtists? What if you just pop in for a B-12 shot and don't see a doctor? Once you hand over your $20 it can be hard to get back.

The most important thing to remember about insurance is that you need to tailor it to your situation. If your spouse has great coverage and this will only pick up the co pays and secondary amounts then your coverage needs will be different than if you were shopping for primary insurance. Evaluate your needs, don't be afraid to ask questions. Don't get stuck with a 15 passenger van when all you needed was a Hyundai!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

LBYM: 10 Tips for Frugal Living

The current state of the economy has people wondering how they'll live within their means much less below them. Here you'll find ten tips to help you if you're trying to curb spending or save up for the little luxuries like electricity and water.


  • Check out http://www.freecycle.org/ This is a fabulous and fast growing non profit movement. You simply sign up with a group in your area and add a post when you are either looking for something or have something to get rid of. The only catch? It has to be free and you have to pick it up.

  • A lady by the name of Amy Dacyczyn has become something of a legend in LBYM circles. She produced a newsletter in the 90's titled The Tightwad Gazette. In the newsletters she came up with all kinds of money saving tricks that she used herself plus tried out those suggested by readers. The newletters have been compiled into a book of the same name and it's still available for sale. In the true spirit of being a tightwad try to get it used on Amazon if your library doesn't have one available.

  • Check out the LBYM board at http://www.motleyfool.com/ You don't have to pay a subscription fee or even log in to read what's posted there.

  • You know that infomercial you just saw for the Fluidity workout, Proactiv solution, etc? If you really need it, you can probably get it cheaper on eBay. Check it out before you dial 1-800-I was really bored when your flashy infomercial hypnotized me.

  • Borrow a cup of sugar from your neighbor. No, I don't mean you should become a bum. You should definitely pay them back but don't jump into your car and use a gallon of gas if you just need a couple of eggs, a box of mac and cheese or the proverbial cup of sugar. Politely ask your neighbor and pay them back after you restock.

  • Schedule your normal Saturday errands for after work. After all, you can go to the dry cleaners on Thursday or pop into the hardware store for a gallon of paint after work and save another trip.

  • Have a potluck party with your neighbors or friends once a month instead of eating out. You'll have lots of fun and save a ton of money.

  • Clear out your rented storage unit. If you were actually using that stuff you'd have it at home. Evaluate what you have and get rid of those things that aren't either special or useful. Keep only what you adore.

  • Don't buy whatever flips your lust button. If you see something at the local chain store, rest assured, if you don't pitch it in your cart and take it home, chances are good it'll be there the next time. Trust me, your junk drawer will thank you.



Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Author Interview: Marilyn Harris Collins



I had the opportunity to visit with Marilyn Harris Collins about her career as an author of non fiction books. She's the author of several books for Acadia Press. Her most recent work, Write History Right details how to capture stories from your family, town, church or civic group and organize them into book format.

MP: When writing non fiction do you outline before you begin?


MHC: I use a timeline covering the scope of my book as my "outline." Obviously, I start with the first event and end with the last, including backstory. I continually add to the timeline as I research the book. There is added value to a timeline other than keeping the story on track. Natural chapter breaks will appear. From this you can readily tell if you have too much information on one topic, not enough on another. This is a good time to assign an estimated word count per chapter -- thus the entire book. An overall project schedule will begin to take shape judging on how many words you can write a day plus adding time for research, site visits, interviews and so forth.

MP: What is a normal workday for you when you have a book in progress?


MHC: After I walk the dog, help my husband pick out a tie, I take a quick coffee run. When I set the coffee on my desk and turn on the computer, my day begins. I work until mid to late afternoon. Sometimes I could back and work late into the night - if I'm on deadline or the writing is going really well.


MP: About how long does it take to finish a first draft?

MHC: After several trial starts and stops, once I get started it takes me about three months for a first draft, another three months to get a workable final draft. This does not account for the prelude to writing - research, interviews, collecting visuals, and some tearing out of my hair!


MP: How many revisions do you normally do?

MHC:There are probably 100 ways to say the same thing. I keep making minor tweaks to the last minute trying for that one last, best way to bring the reader into the story. I find rewriting valuable beyond grammar checks and choice of words -- the story and my purpose for telling it becomes more clear. I learn more about myself as well as the subject as I go along. The book means more to me at the end than at the beginning.


MP: What is the most difficult thing about writing non fiction?

MHC: I suppose the most difficult part about writing nonfiction isn't finding the truth to tell - but in bringing that truth alive for the reader through the characters, setting, and conflicts of the time. I want the reader to "be there." Creative nonfiction ploys allow the writer to use more dialogue, explore inner feelings of the characters, and provide a very realistic setting for the book. Another difficult part of writing nonfiction is finding the arc for the story when you have to deal with facts as they happened. This takes some skill.

MP: What are your top three reference books for writing non ficiton?


MHC: I have a bookcase full of how-to writing books that I've been absorbing for years. However, I found no books for writing history per se on the American market. So, I wrote Write History Right as the user-friendly guide for anyone planning on writing a history of their town, region, family, church, school, and so forth. I found two books invaluable in setting up my publishing company:
Dan Poynter's Self-Publishing Manual, Para Publishing, 2007
The Well-Fed Self-Publisher by Peter Bowerman, Fanove Publishing, 20077

MP: How do you feel about critique groups?


MHC: Belonging to a writer's group is very important to me and to my work. My advice is to join the right group for you. My group, Northwest Arkansas Writer's Guild is for published writers. Just as other specialty groups are for romance, mystery, sci-fi writers, and so forth - the level and purpose of our critiques are tailored to our needs as a group. Our group is excellent because: a) members are all published and provide critiques toward that end, b) our size is small - 12 to 16 members, c) we share mutual trust and support, d) are flexible to help each other on current projects, and e) we have fun and there is no jealousy.

MP: What's your best piece of advice for a new writer?


MHC: Many wise words have been directed to writers over the years. After all those are said and read, I offer this: I have a very inquisitive mind - I'm interested in almost everything and see a good story around every corner. And I want to write it all! This can be not only overwhelming, but can keep me running in so many directions I don't accomplish as much as I could if more focused. I like writing magazine articles at the same time I'm writing a book (or maybe two). They add variety and supply constant deadlines. Not everyone likes to juggle multiple plates over their head at once, but I do. So, my advice is know your own personality and find ways to make your quirks and skills work for, not against, you.


Learn more about Marilyn Harris Collins non fiction books at http://www.writehistoryright.com/

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Halloween Candy: The beginning of the end

photo courtesy of Flickr


Halloween can mean the beginning of winter weight gain. You start with the leftover candy, segue into fall baking, Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas cookies and candies, the grand Christmas feast and finish it off with a Superbowl party.

But, Halloween candy can be okay if you watch what you're doing.



  • Eat Tootsie Pops instead of Tootsie Rolls. I know those cute little rolls only have 13 calories to a pop's 60. But realistically the pop will last lots longer. And who are you trying to kid? You'll never eat just one Tootsie Roll.

  • Eat Peanut M&M's instead of regular M&M's in the Fun Pak size. You'll save 50 calories a bag.

  • Choose Milk Duds over a fun size Milky way and save 50 calories.

  • Have a treat size of Twizzlers instead of raisins and you'll save 55 calories.

Don't take this as permission to sit and snack as you write. I you're going to splurge just have one or two servings after that, step away from the pumpkin. I also advocate purchasing candy that you don't like (Skittles, YUCK!) and not overbuying just because it's a bargain. With a little planning you can put off the weight gain until the PTA Bake Sale!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Author Interview: J.A. Jance


I did a little research before this interview and found out some fascinating things about J.A Jance. Did you know that the first book she wrote was a true crime novel? Did you know it was 1200 pages long? (No it didn't get published.) Did you know that she doesn't plot all of those amazing twists and turns in her novels but lets the story devolop as she goes along? If you want to learn more read on.



MP: What's a typical workday for you?



JAJ: I get up, have coffee, answer e-mail, read the papers. Go to work. I work longer hours the closer I get to a deadline. I also work longer hours when I'm editing and need to keep the strings of the story straight in my head. Starting a book is always harder than finishing one.



MP: How long does it take to write a first draft?




JAJ: Three to six months.



MP: How many revisions do you normally do?



JAJ: I revise some every day, going back over the most recent material rather than going back to the beginning. Otherwise, I would end up with a very polished beginning and the book would NEVER be finished.



MP: Has your process changed since you became a full time author? If so how?



JAJ: I used to have to write before I got my kids up and ready to go to school and before I got me ready to go sell life insurance. Now the kids are raised and I don't have a day job. Writing is my day job. I usually start with a crime and write until I figure out who did it and how come.



MP: Do you talk about your books when you're in the process of writing them? If so who is the lucky person?



JAJ: My husband reads as I write and helps talk me off the cliff when I run into trouble.



MP: How do you feel about critique groups/first readers?



JAJ: I've never belonged to one primarily because, when I was starting writing I had small children and a full time job. In other words, I could belong to a critique group or I could write. I chose to write. Having a critique group of other unpublished writers may be a good social outlet, but it seems a lot like the blind leading the blind. But again, that's probably unfair since I was never part of one. Actually, I attended one once. Someone complained about a continuity problem in my second book and told me that never would have happened if I had had the manuscript read by a critique group. But, of course, by then I was working on my FOURTH book. My critic, by the way, died without his first novel ever seeing the light of day.



MP: What are your three favorite writer's reference books?



JAJ: I don't have three favorites. I don't have one favorite.



MP: What advice would you give to new writers?



JAJ: When I bought my first computer, the guy who installed my word processing program fixed it so that, when I booted up, these are the words that flashed across the screen: A writer is someone who has written TODAY. Those were words I clung to back when I was an unpublished author and those are words I cling to today. Writers write regardless of whether or not they are being published.
Her latest Ali Reynolds novel, Cruel Intent will be in stores December 2008.


Tuesday, September 30, 2008

5 Tips for Finding Time to Write

When you're working from home it's easy to let the laundry, lunch dates and the Lifetime channel cut into your time. If you're intent on writing a salable novel it's even tempting to scrub shower grout. It's not that you don't want to write it. It's just that you're scared. Scared that you'll either fail miserably or have an off the chart success on your hands. Get over it! It's time to bite the bullet and write your novel, short story, family Christmas letter or whatever you're working on.

If you want to find time to write try these tips.

  • Before you can find time to write you need to get real with yourself about how you're spending your time now. And it doesn't even require a stint on the Dr. Phil show. There's a great tracker at mindtools.com. Yeah, it's a pain but if you'll fill it out for a few days, I guarantee you'll find time you didn't know you had.

  • A friend of mine has great success with an egg timer. When she begins a task, whether it's writing or house cleaning it helps to have a deadline. If you know you only have to devote ten minutes to folding laundry it'll fly by.

  • Make a weekly menu. HUH?! You heard me. How much time is wasted at your house deciding what you'll have for dinner, making extra trips to the store during the week for forgotten items or going out to eat. You'll not only save hours every week, you'll save a lot of money too.

  • Set goals. Okay you've heard this one before. Me too. But, you can't just say, "I'm going to write a novel next year." Create a timeline. When will you have it plotted, how many pages a day will you write, how long will you give yourself for rewrites? Hold yourself accountable.

  • If you can't write at home go to the coffee shop, library or park. I wrote one of my best pieces in the waiting room of a tire shop. If you suspect you'll be waiting somewhere for awhile take along your laptop or a good old yellow pad and a #2 pencil. Or you could spend your time looking at outdated issues of Field & Stream.

If you've got any timesaving tips for writers let us know about them. We need all the help we can get!!

Monday, September 29, 2008

10 Minute Workouts for Writers

If you're a writer chances are you spend most of your time at your desk, the dining room table or down at your local coffee shop pounding away on your computer. Even if you do make it to the gym three times a week it may not be enough to counteract all the time spent sitting. So why not give ten minute workouts a try? If you'll do them throughout the day you'll be more alert and productive throughout your workday.

These are my top 5 ten minute workouts for writers:

1) If the weather is nice take a ten minute walk. Just walk as quickly as you can for five minutes and then turn around and come back.

2) Take a ten minute dance break. Put on your Boogie Shoes and Do the Hustle or the Achy Breaky Heart. You'll have a smile on your face and have energy to spare.

3) Do ten minutes of yoga. Pull up this YouTube video for a ten minute session of standing balance poses.

4) If you have something more strenuous in mind try this 10 minute interval training video also courtesy of YouTube.

5) Dust off your treadmill/elliptical/mini-trampoline and go for it in ten minute bursts. Who said you can't use it if you're not working out for an hour?

If you're not inspired by any of these options there are some great 10 minute workout videos available. You can check them out at my Amazon store or click the links below. Whatever you do make sure to take a 10 minute workout break at least every couple of hours.


10 Minute Solution: Blast Off Belly Fat

10 Minute Solution: Fat Blasting Dance Mix

10 Minute Solution: Rapid Results Pilates

10 Minute Solution: Tone Trouble Zones

Friday, September 26, 2008

How William Shatner Can Make You a Better Writer


Okay, so maybe he won't personally make you a better writer but his shows will. When you're writing a novel there has to be conflict, conflict and more conflict. Plus, you've got to keep more than one ball in the air (substitute subplot) at one time.


If you're ever stumped in your fiction writing put on an old episode of Star Trek. Not only did Captain Kirk have the Klingons imminent attack to worry about he also had a ship full of Tribles or was stuck on a planet and the transporter was down and some green woman was coming on to him. If you don't have the DVD's of Star Trek CBS supplies them free of charge here http://www.cbs.com/classics/star_trek/


If you're not a Trekkie then try out Boston Legal. I caught an episode the other night. Not only did they have a court battle going on Alan was pitted against an old love whom he still had feelings for, Denny was having impotence problems and his inventive ringtones were continually going off in court, and he was having problems procuring a cheerleader uniform from Shirley which he felt certain would solve the matter. And they wrapped it up in an hour.


So, if your novel seems droopy in spots catch an episode of Star Trek and let William Shatner show you the way to maintaining suspense. Just stay away from green women unless you're writing scifi.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Agent Interview: Evan Marshall, The Evan Marshall Agency


Evan Marshall owner of The Evan Marshall Agency reveals his pet peeves, thoughts on electronic readers and self publishing and a word of advice to new writers in this interview.


MP: I know that you don't like receiving novels that have a hero named Evan or manuscript submissions on pink perfumed paper. Can you share your top five pet peeves regarding manuscript submissions?


EM:

1. When it’s a type of book I don’t handle, like a children’s book or even nonfiction. Writers must to their homework when approaching agents, or they’re wasting everyone’s time, including their own.

2. When the cover letter tries to educate me about what the public wants, and why this book fits the bill. I hope that as an agent I have a pretty good idea of what the public wants. Let the book speak for itself.

3. When the cover letter says the book is designed for fast, easy reading or is “dumbed down."

4. When a manuscript reads more like an extended synopsis—showing rather than telling.

5. When a manuscript starts with tons of backstory and explanation, instead of launching right into the action.

MP: How do you feel the recent explosion of self publishing has impacted the industry?

EM: Self-publishing is an exciting development for writers, but many self-published books are of inferior quality and sell poorly. Every so often a self-published book is extremely successful and a traditional publisher picks it up. I would say this is the main impact of self-publishing: that these “gems” are given a test run that proves their appeal.

MP: Do you think electronic readers such as Kindle will increase the demand for books?

EM: Yes, I do. I know a number of people who now read more on their electronic readers than they did with traditional printed books. Anything that pulls in more readers is a good thing.

MP: Are there specific writer's conferences that you normally attend? Do you still do sessions on The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing at conferences?

EM: I don’t attend as many writers conferences as I used to, since my client list is very full and time is at a premium. But I sometimes attend the conferences of Romance Writers of America and Romantic Times BOOKreviews (as you can see, I handle a lot of romance!). I haven’t done sessions on The Marshall Plan® in a while, but I receive a lot of requests and may start again soon.

MP: When you're looking at taking on a new client is their writing the only important thing or does their ability and willingness to market themselves play a role as well?

EM: Yes, a savvy, aggressive promoter is quite attractive to me—and to publishers. Many writers have reached success largely through their own marketing efforts.

MP: What's your best piece of advice for a new writer?

EM: Target one genre of book—the one you most like to read—and read heavily and constantly in it to see what other writers are doing and to think up ideas that haven’t been done. Focus all of your efforts on selling in this genre. Don’t jump around.

If you'd like to learn more about Evan Marshall's Template Generator or his views from an authors stand point take a look at these articles:

Author Interview: Evan Marshall
Software Review: The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing Template Generator

Book Review: Making A Literary Life by Carolyn See

I've got to say this book had a huge impact on me as a writer. It's not so much about the technical aspects of writing as it is about pursuing the literary life you've dreamed of. And she does it with a generous sprinkling of wit while hitting home with the blatant truth. For instance, she tells us "Your girlfriend, boyfriend, or spouse will put up with this writer-talk for weeks, months, or even years, but none of them will love your for it. Your writing, to them, is like a case of genital herpes. It's possible for them to love you, but they'll have to overlook the writing."

She's divided the book into three parts. Part One tells you how to find your voice and genre. It also sets you on a path to writing a thousand words a day, five days a week for the rest of your life. Part Two is more about the mechanics of writing. But it is served up with a healthy dose of wit Part Three will guide you through the publication and marketing of your first book.

This isn't your typical regimented, chart driven, writing book filled with exercises, bullet points and side bars. It's more like having a conversation with the author. I can say this because I had the pleasure of speaking to Carolyn See and she is as charming in her book as she is to speak to.

One thing she insists on is that you write Charming Notes to someone in the publishing industry five days a week. Not to ask for anything but to simply share your appreciation of them. I'll admit that I was completely freaked out the first time I sent one of these notes out into the world. (On my personalized stationary as Carolyn suggested.) I was pleasantly surprised to receive letters from Sue Grafton and Janet Evanovich within the first couple of weeks. Since then I've not been afraid to approach any famous author and speak to them. After all they're writers just like us.

Thanks for the inspiration Carolyn!!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Author Interview: Evan Marshall


Like many of us Evan Marshall has more than a full time day job and still manages to find time to write. He's also president of the Evan Marshall Agency and a software designer. Wondering what his creative process is? Read on:
MP: How long does it take you to plot a new novel?

EM: It takes me a solid month to plot a mystery, with all the twists, turns, and surprises to my satisfaction.

MP: After it's plotted how long does it take to write it? Do you find that it's easier/faster to plot/write subsequent novels?

EM: Writing the novel takes me approximately four months. Unfortunately, plotting never gets easier, because like many writers I’m always trying to top myself, come up with something fresh and different my readers will like. One thing that does help is the novel-writing system I devised some time ago—The Marshall Plan®—which I have presented in The Marshall Plan® for Novel Writing and several other books, and which I have just released in software form. The program is called The Marshall Plan® for Novel Writing Template Generator. It does the heavy plotting/structuring work for you, so that you’re free to be really creative in your story.

MP: Do you talk about your novel while it's in process or keep it close? If you share it, let us know who the lucky person is.

EM: I keep it very close. I find that no matter how much a story element might excite me, I can never quite convey it to other people, and their odd looks or well-meaning discouragement takes the wind right out of my sails. So when friends and family ask me what my book is about, I smile and say, “I don’t want to spoil it for you.”

MP: Do you have a group of first readers or a critique group you share the edited manuscript with? If not, how do you feel about critique groups in general?

EM: No, I have never worked with first readers or critique groups. The first person to see my manuscript is always my editor. I think critique groups can be quite effective if members are truly knowledgeable about each other’s chosen genre; otherwise, they can do more harm than good.

MP: How many revisions do you generally do before you're satisfied with the finished product?

EM: Once my manuscript is all down, I finally allow myself to print it out, and this is when the heavy editing starts. I do one extremely rigorous edit—changing things, moving things around, reinforcing elements, making everything consistent, planting additional clues—and key in all of these changes. Then I print out again and do what I call my medium edit; this most closely resembles the traditional manuscript edit. I key these changes in, print out again, and do what I call my cosmetic edit. Here is where I look for repeated words, overuse of adjectives or adverbs, and scenes that run too long. I keep editing and printing out until I literally can find nothing I want to change.

MP: What sort of marketing do you do for your books after they are published?
EM: Most of my marketing is done via my email lists and website. I find that the Internet is the perfect way to reach mystery readers.

MP: Other than The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing and it's attending Template Generator, what are the top three writing books on your shelf?

EM: It’s hard to pick favorites, but three that were very helpful to me early on were Structuring Your Novel: From Basic Idea to Finished Manuscript by Robert C. Meredith and John D. Fitzgerald; Guide to Fiction Writing by Phyllis A. Whitney; and Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Davd King.

MP: What's your next project?

EM: My next project is the third book in my new series, the Hidden Manhattan mysteries. The first book, Death is Disposable, is already out and I’m proud to say it has received wonderful reviews. The second book, Evil Justice, will be out in December. The series features Anna Winthrop, a New York City Sanitation garage supervisor with an eye for solving murders. But that’s all I can tell you now. I don’t want to spoil it for you. ; )


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Biggest Loser: 5 tips for WAHM's to Compete

All around the country office workers are setting up their own version of The Biggest Loser and the pounds are flying off. But what about us Work at Home Moms and Dads? Well you can do it too, even though you're usually flying solo. Here are 5 tips to get you started.

  • People who work at home have networks of friends and family the same as everyone else. Send out an email to all of your contacts and ask people to participate.
  • Either decide on a diet that everyone will follow or ask each individual to outline what lifestyle changes they'll be making.
  • Go to Qlubb.com or Yahoo groups and set up a site for all participants.
  • Have everyone to post measurements and weight. (Measurements are crucial because the inches may fall off faster than the pounds.)
  • Set a time frame for the competition.

There you go, you're own Biggest Loser competition and you didn't even have to leave home!

Software Review: The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing Template Generator

How would you like to write a novel that is so well crafted it grabs your reader by the throat, shoves them up against the wall and doesn't let go until they've finished it? If you're going to write it you'll need to plot and as I pointed out a couple of weeks ago plotting ain't for weinies.

While I was in the midst of my plotting angst I was fortunate enough to receive a copy of The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing Template Generator. I had used Evan Marshall's book to guide me in targeting a genre, determining word length, and number of scenes/characters. I had actually written my plot in the form of a word document instead of writing everything out on the scene cards he provides and thought I had it covered.

When I received the Template Generator and started plugging in my plot I found out differently. Using Evan Marshall's software program forced me to really think about some things that I hadn't realized were issues. It helped me to identify the need for two additional subplots and helped me to fill in some gaps in my story that I hadn't seen before. The program is easy to use and I can guarantee that I'll be using it to plot from now on.

Here's what Evan Marshall had to say about The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing Template Generator:

MP: The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing Template Generator is a natural extension of your books. Can you tell us how it came into existence?

EM: Ever since my first Marshall Plan® book, The Marshall Plan® for Novel Writing, came out ten years ago, I have received mail from writers asking if the system is available in software form. The system does lend itself perfectly to a computer program. Once I started to think about converting the system into software, I knew exactly how I wanted it to be, so rather than hire a developer, I took several years to teach myself how to program, and created the software myself. And it’s exactly what I wanted it to be—a program that helps you answer some key questions about the novel you plan to write, then generates a “template” or detailed plot structure for that novel, with the proper number of viewpoint characters, the idea number of scenes, and all of them in their proper place and order. It really works! And there’s no other program like it.

MP: Most of us are either left brained or right brained. Writing is definitely a right brain activity. How difficult was it for you to switch to the left brain activity of programming?

EM: I thought learning programming would be a nightmare, but I love it, because it’s actually more right-brain than people think. I found creating the software—deciding on its design, its look, keeping it clean and simple but effective—was extremely creative. I’m working on two more exciting new programs now.

MP: How long did it take to complete the software?

EM: All in all, about four years.

MP: What's your favorite aspect of The Template Generator software?

EM: That you can keep changing your mind about any number of elements—word length, number of viewpoint characters, whether to include a romantic thread, whether to make your antagonist visible or “invisible” (as in a mystery), and so on—and the program automatically readjusts your template. This feature makes it very easy for a writer to try out different ideas to see what works best.

MP: Do you recommend that people purchase The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing in addition to the Template Generator? Why or why not?

EM: The program is designed to stand completely on its own, so that it’s not necessary to read the book, but for people who want to reinforce some of the ideas in my system and read more deeply, it can’t hurt.

MP: Where can we purchase The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing Template Generator software?

EM: At my website: www.marshall-plan.com. There you’ll find a detailed explanation of the program and what it does, with numerous screen shots.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Author Interviews Coming Up

We've got some author interviews coming up in the next few weeks. Here's a short list of who you can expect.

  • Evan Marshall, author, agent, software designer
  • Pat Carr author of Death of a Confederate Soldier
  • Stephen R. Donaldson author of the Thomas Covenant series
  • Marilyn Collins author of Write History Right
  • Radine Trees Nehring author of the To Die For mystery series
  • J.A. Jance New York Times Bestselling Author

And lots of others. If there are any questions you have for these authors or any authors you'd like to hear from leave a comment and I'll see what I can do.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Myibay Auction Sniper and the Hotel Tower of Terror



I recently started to seriously collect Disney pins. I've got a few that I've purchased in the parks over the years but I decided that I wanted to focus my collection. So as I mentioned earlier I chose the Hollywood Tower of Terror event from 2004.

I also promised I'd show some of the pins. This great example is a Limited Edition of 500. It came in a black box with HTH on the cover in silver. This is a photo of the actual pin that I purchased from eBay. It's in immaculate condition and the photo doesn't do it justice.

The pin is based on the artwork of Eric Robinson a piece entitled "Lightning Strikes Twice". How do I know all of this? Because I looked it up on www.pinpics.com . If you're planning on collecting Disney pins this site is invaluable.

Also, as I've said before you'll need an auction sniper. My choice was Myibay Auction Bid Sniper. This tool allows you to enter your maximum bid, shut off your computer and go to bed. It will only bid in the increment necessary for you to win. It's very simple to use and they offer a free thirty day trial. I got mine from download.com and it's available for both Windows and in Firefox for Mac users. After the 30 days this simple to use program is only $12.95 with free updates for life. Best of all you don't have to give your credit card info up front. The trial is really free!!

Anyways, if your looking to do some serious bidding on eBay and need an auction sniper you should really check it out!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

School House Rocks! Still Going Strong

Photo courtesy of sodahead


I made the decision to buy the School House Rocks! dvd for my daughter when she was in elementary school. She was learning her mulitplication tables and after a few frustrating sessions I thought If only she could watch School House Rocks!. That was how I learned my own multiplication tables since it was conveniently aired between my Saturday morning cartoons. So I found the dvd and bought it for her. She had lots of fun watching it and it helped her learn her multiplication tables as well.

Last week I was telling my daughter, who is now a teen that I was thinking of introducing a bill to Congress. This was directly after the little incident with the telemarketer. She asked if I knew how to do that. I can find out I replied. You can always watch School House Rocks! she suggested. And she's right. School House Rocks! will even tell you the stages a bill goes through to get to Congress.
So I was poking around the net today and came across some cool puzzles and games that are based on the School House Rocks! series and thought you might be interested. You can download them for free. I also found out that some kids are producing it as a play for their school programs. How fun is that?! I'm just glad that one of my childhood favorites hasn't gone the way of Heckle and Jeckle. Don't know who that is? Well it was this cartoon that aired back in . . . . . never mind.

Anyways, they have the School House Rocks! soundtrack on CD and I'm thinking it'll make a great Christmas gift for anyone with kids in elementary school. They can just pop it in and they'll learn without even realizing it. If you've moved on to iPods or MP3's I've yet to find a place to download the album. If you know of a site then leave it in comments.

In the meantime, ROCK ON!!




Friday, September 12, 2008

How to Reduce Junk Mail and Telemarketing Calls

Are you sick of all those credit card offers and junk mail you're getting? How about those annoying telemarketer calls? Well here's some information to help you get off all of those lists.

  • First go to www.donotcall.gov and register all of your phone numbers. Include cell numbers and don't forget the kids numbers as well. The registration is now permanent. If you don't want to do it online you can call the registry at 1-888-382-1222
  • To reduce unsolicited mail you can contact the Direct Marketing Association at PO Box 643, Carmel, NY 10512 or print out an online form at www.dmaconsumers.org/cgi/offmailinglistdave. You have to print the form off and mail it in. It takes quite awhile but will stop some of the random mail that is sent your way.
  • Every year companies that you do business with such as insurance, loan instituions, and phone companies will send you a privacy policy. Don't pitch it! They often give your information to third party marketing companies. The privacy policy will contain a toll free number so you can opt-out of receiving any offers from those companies.
  • When you order online you are often added to mailing lists. If their is a comment box on their registration form specify that you do not wish to receive mailings. Sometimes they will have boxes giving you the option of receiving mailings. These boxes are often prechecked so make sure you uncheck them.
  • Keep in mind that any time you sign up for a drawing you are putting yourself on a mailing/call list. Make a note on the back of the form that you don't wish to be included on their mailing list if the prize is too good to pass up or ask if you can give them an email address instead.
  • Contact he four major credit bureaus and opt-out of the credit card prescreens that generate all of those credit card offers. You must do this for every name you are receiving offers for. Experian, Equifax, Innovis and TransUnion have joined together to create a website to make this easy. Just go to www.optoutprescreen.com and fill in the information. Check whether you wish to opt out for five years or permanently and send.

You'll have to do this everytime you move or change phone numbers to keep your junk mail to a minimum.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Plotting: It Ain't For Wienies






If you've decided to write a novel then you'll be needing a plot outline. Don't like outlining you say? It stifles creativity, you say. Well perhaps you're a little like me and the thought of plotting a novel scares the daylights out of you. Well, get over it. If you'll take the time to plot your novel you'll have a much richer book and it won't stifle your creativity as much as it will focus it.

These are the first steps I went through after I had an idea what my novel would be about. I hope you find them helpful and please share any plotting tips the you have in the comments. We need all the help we can get.




  • In order to plot a novel you really do have to take the time to decide on a genre and read several books from that genre. I chose romantic suspense and I've got to say my favorite romantic suspense author is Brenda Novak. The woman can plot like nobody's business. I know you're ready to write the darn book now while your Muse is calling. Tell her to go out for a spa day and pay attention.

  • Notice who the publisher is, what the book length is and if possible look up their submission requirements. Google Rules!! Then break down one or two novels by scene. No need to create a spreadsheet. Pen and paper will do. How many per scenes per chapter and per viewpoint character? At what point do we see the major complications come into play? Brenda appears to be a Marshall Plan kind of girl.

  • Okay, so that will give you a book length and genre. I used The Marshall Plan to help me determine the number of scenes needed, number of viewpoint characters and where to insert major complications. I'll admit that I've had the book for awhile and it scared me to death the first time I read through it. It seemed like it was too detailed so I did the NaNoWriMo thing which was a great experience but not very structured.

The Marshall Plan isn't the only book I studied. Yes, studying. You know, like you did in school. Because, contrary to what you may think writers aren't some cosmically gifted group who plop down in front of the computer and start spitting out perfectly worded, perfectly plotted masterpieces. They've studied and sweated and learned their craft.

I'll put up some reviews of the plotting books I've studied and what I've gotten from them. In the meantime, gird your loins and wade in. Figure out your genre, target publisher/agent, and target page length.

See, I told you this isn't for wienies!


Thursday, September 4, 2008

Interview with the Author: Barbara Youree


I had the pleasure of interviewing author Barbara Youree. Her latest book, Courageous Journey is a narrative non-fiction book about two of the Lost Boys of Sudan. Her book details how Ayuel and Beny, who were ages 7 and 9 when their villages were bombed, survived and came to America after spending 14 years in refugee camps.

MP: You began your career as a fiction writer. How difficult was it to switch to non-fiction?

BY: I find little difference in writing this type of narrative nonfiction and fiction. My fiction, which is always set in a foreign place or an historical time, has always required research. The 2 big problems in writing Courageous Journey for me: 1) getting the guys to reveal their emotions and enough detail to round out the story. The last year they told me it was just too hard at first. Then they started sharing more. 2) Two of the minor personages in the story suddenly (at the last minute!) decided they didn’t want their stories or pictures in the book. I hadn’t anticipated that and should have talked to them all along instead of just hearing their stories from Ayuel & Beny.
MP:What is your writing process?

BY: The idea for a story starts in my head and often stays there working its way to the fore for months or years. That’s where the arc of the story begins. Then when I start writing and doing research, new ideas come to me. I either write or work on publishing or marketing from 4 to 6 hours a day.
MP: How was writing this book different from your fiction books?

BY: Writing Courageous Journey was deeply personal and emotional. I’ve come to really love these guys and their friends, as well as other Americans around the country who know them. It is a very exciting adventure also.
MP:Some authors believe that belonging to a critique group is a good thing, others disagree. How do you feel about critique groups?

BY: I couldn’t write and get published without my writing critique group. They support me in every way—through all the disappointments and successes. They tell me honestly when they don’t like one of my characters (when I do), so I can change them, what works and what doesn’t. It’s important to find a group where you fit, where everyone helps each other and you all grow together. Avoid any group where you detect jealousy, where someone dominates the conversation, or people don’t take their contribution seriously.
MP: Are you planning a new project? If so, what will it be?

BY: I’ve had an idea to write a YA book set in first-century Greece about 2 young men who race in the Olympics for over 10 years. After two trips to Greece, the outline and characters started coming into focus. When I started researching the time period, I discovered Nero was about the age of my characters, the Jews had been run out of Rome by Claudius and were settled in Corinth. St. Paul just happened to spend 2 years in Corinth at that time (49-53 AD), so that’s where my characters live. I am putting all the historical folk in the mix. It will be titled Race for Glory.
If you'd like to learn more about Sudan and the Lost Boys you can check out Barbara Youree's blog Sudan Faces.
All proceeds from this book will be donated to charity.







Tuesday, September 2, 2008

So You Want to Write a Novel

Okay, so my first question is, ARE YOU NUTS??!! The correct answer is yeah, maybe a little. Writing a novel is akin to painting the exterior of your house with your kid's watercolor brush. It's going to take a long time, you're to going miss spots and you've gotta have a plan or you'll never finish it.

That being said, I'm nuts too because I'm about to start a novel and it's not the first time. My friend and I decided to do the NaNoWriMo thing a couple of years ago. We wrote furiously and at the end of thirty days had each produced a novel length work. Note that I said novel length. I say this because it wasn't actually a novel.

Come to find out No Plot is a problem. But, that being said, I'm glad I did it. The experience taught me that I could write that many words about one thing and not all of those words were bad. It also taught me that outlining is my friend. Possibly my best friend.

I'll be posting about my foray into plotting/outlining a novel over the next few weeks. Feel free to share your plotting tips here in comments. We'd all like to hear about them.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Telemarketers or Terrorists?


You may be on the National Do Not Call List but that doesn't mean you won't get call from telemarketers. Charities, political candidates and places you do business with can still call you to solicit funds or to sell you other services. Since most of these calls are outsourced you never know what you'll get into.

You can imagine my shock when I answered the telephone yesterday and was told that it was my bank calling. The young man informed me that several million credit card accounts had been breached and my bank wanted to send free credit reports to my house so I could review them and make certain that everything was okay.

So he freaked me out a little. Okay, he freaked me out a lot. He asked permission to transfer me to his verifier so they could make certain the reports would get to the correct address and they'd sign me up for an identity theft protection program. Thank goodness for that transfer. It allowed me to gather my wits.

When the young lady came on the telephone I knew that I wouldn't give her my address. If she was my bank she should have it. Correct? I also knew that if there had been a breach I wouldn't have to sign up with a service to get free credit reports and I could access my account online to check for errors.

The first thing she wanted to do was record the call. But I asked her why I should have to sign up for a service if the bank was at fault. She had no plausible answer but went into her hard sell pitch. I hung up the phone and contacted my bank. After being passed around a bit I did find out that the company who called me was associated with them and were marketing a product. Not because of an imminent danger but because they wanted to sell stuff.

I asked that my bank put me on a do not call or mail list for marketing purposes. I called the company back who had called me and requested to speak to a supervisor and filed a complaint about their intimidation tactics. I was assured that the sales person had acted of his own accord and would be reprimanded. But I'm not so sure.

The long and the short of it is, no matter what they tell you on the phone you've got to have a little breathing space. Get the name and number of the person calling you and the name of their company. Request information in the mail or via fax for your review. Don't ever let them push you into a corner or scare you into something that you'll regret later.

When you receive those privacy notices once a year in the mail from companies that you do business with call their opt out number and you can be removed from calling and mailing lists. To become part of the National Do Not Call Registry go to https://www.donotcall.gov/ and don't forget to register your cell phone number. This registration will never expire.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Famous Flyers




I guess everybody is on a budget these days, even celebrities. P. Diddy is now flying commercial because of the high cost of fuel for is private plane. I was just wondering if of you have ever been on a plane with a celebrity.


My claim to fame is that I rode a commuter flight from L.A. to San Francisco with Anthony Anderson once. What?!!! You don't know who Anthony Anderson is? He's the guy Steven Segal chained to the grill of his Dodge in Exit Wounds. I'm really beginning to worry about you people.


Anyways, if you've ever been on a plane with someone famous leave a comment. I'd love to hear about it.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

What are you blogging about?





You know how you meet somebody and they ask you what you do? Then you tell them you're a blogger. What kind of a reaction do you get? Most of the people I meet move back a couple of steps like it might be catching. Anyways, I thought I'd share what I'm blogging about and you can feel free to post links to your blogs in the comments.


My evil twin, Esmerelda, blogs about pop culture at the Connie Talk news blog. It's a sassy mix of politics, entertainment and whatever else catches our attention.


I blog about being the parent of a teenager over at Parent Juice. We're just a group of parents talking about the ups and downs of raising a teen these days.


My blog Ozark Travel Tips. is all about traveling in the Arkansas, Missouri, and Okalhoma Ozarks.


And of course, I blog here at What You See.


Here's some of last week's offerings:
















Don't forget to leave a comment and let me know what you're blogging about.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Bulldogs and Bobbysox

Photo courtesy of Flickr


My mother was a product of the fifties. She'd often told me stories of wearing three or four cancans and them being fluffed so high that she couldn't see over the dashboard of my grandfather's truck dash when he would drive her into town. So it should come as no surprise that upon entering first grade I was presented with a pair of saddle shoes to wear for my first day of school. Saddle shoes were perfect fifties wear, not so great in 1971.

I'd gotten up early, excited because I'd be riding the bus with my best friend, Trish. I went into the kitchen before it was daylight and had coffee with Mom and Dad. My coffee was mostly milk and sugar with just enough coffee in it to make the milk turn color.

When it was time to dress I put on my new red plaid dress and had Mom fix my hair in what we called a half and down. Basically half of my hair was swept into a ponytail using one of those ponytail holders with huge knobs on the end and the other half was left down. I was all ready to go for my red patent Mary Janes, which were the only shoes I ever wanted to wear, when Mom stopped me.

My sister and myself were both presented with a shoebox. I took mine with some reluctance, after all, my red shoes were perfect. When I lifted the lid and saw the black and white saddle shoes I could have cried. How could anyone wear such an ugly shoe?

I tried everything to get out of wearing those shoes but Mom was so excited about them nothing would dissuade her. I told Mom that they were rubbing my heel and was presented with a pair of bobbysox instead of the thin lacy ones I'd planned on wearing. The sight of them with my red plaid dress was almost more than I could bear.

"These are the ugliest shoes I've ever seen," I crossed my arms over my chest and stuck out my bottom lip. "They look like bulldogs." I told her, as that was the ugliest creature that my six year old mind could come up with.

Then she did it. My mother told me the only lie I ever remember her telling me. Ever.

"Don't worry. No one will notice. Nobody ever looks at your feet."

It's a wonder the woman wasn't struck dead on the spot. Even at six years old I didn't buy that one. But I did have to wear the bulldogs to school. And I was the only kid in the entire elemetary school who was wearing saddle shoes. I'm pretty sure that everybody looked at my feet. I wore the bulldogs a few times before I grew out of them to keep the peace but stuck with my red Mary Janes as much as possible.

Looking back now I can only imagine how hard that morning must have been for my mother. Saddle shoes represented the same level of coolness for her as my Mary Janes did for me. I can only imagine how difficult it must have been to locate them in the seventies. All I can say is . . . . . sorry Mom.

If you'd like to find out where you can buy socks, bobby or otherwise check out Hanes.com You can read more great back to school stories on Parent Bloggers Network. Or find out what's going on with other parents of teens at Parent Juice.


Friday, August 22, 2008

Are you ready for Digital Television?

February 18,2009 is the day that the nation makes the big switch over to digital signal. When I heard about it I wasn't thrilled. My first thought being that I'd have to figure out how to hook up another box to my television set. I already have my satellite, dvd, vhs and surround sound hooked up to it so where will another one fit in? My next thought was that this was just a ploy to sell me more electronic equipment that would be outdated and need to be replaced in six months. So I did a little digging and here's what I learned:

  • It's our fault that we have to make the switch. They need the analog bands to beef up the services for those mini computers we call cell phones. Plus they need it for emergency services as well.
  • If you're already hooked up to cable or satellite you're okay. Most of the cable and satellite providers are taking care of the switch for you. Even if you have a non-digital television you should be okay. (You can call your provider just to double check.)
  • Anybody that's using an antenna will need a converter box. (All you RVer's our there take note)
  • You can get a $40.00 coupon for a converter box at www.dtv2009.org or call 1-888-DTV-2009. They are allowing two coupons per household and have 25 million coupons available. Incidentally, you can buy a converter box for $40.00 so all you pay is sales tax on the thing. It's practically FREE!
  • It's a green thing to do because now the stations are using energy to send both analog and digital signals.

If you'd like to learn how to hook up your digital converter there's a great video at MonkeySee. Just click on this link http://www.monkeysee.com/video/search?search=dtv

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A Hairy Dilemna

I know what the proper attire is for a wedding, a funeral, a birthday party for a three year old, a job interview with Donald Trump, St. Patrick’s Day, and tea with the queen. All the fashion mags keep me up to date on the latest couture for those occasions.

What I really need help with is what to wear to get a great haircut. I want a Desperate Housewives mixed with Sex in the City style. Not Everybody Loves Raymond meets Happy Days. I know I’m a mom in small town on the outside, but inside, I’m Raquel Welch.
I’ve had so many disappointing cuts I almost gave up hope. I spent a lot of time debating whether I should shave my head and go with a wig or grow it really long and wear a bun. Then I figured out that the type of haircut I get reflects whatever I’ve worn to the salon. Using that information I’ve ruled out a few items of clothing on my own.

Sweats with banded or elastic ankles are the worst possible thing to wear. Not only do they make women look like lumpy trolls, all they will buy is a cut that looks best when hidden under a baseball cap. I look really bad in a baseball cap. Save the lumpy troll pants for scrubbing the grout in the shower.

Anything screen printed or appliqu├ęd with birdhouses, apples, pumpkins, or teddy bears wearing vests etc., comes in second. My daughter calls them teacher clothes. They translate into a bob with bangs for me. I hate bangs. My mom used to cut them for me, crooked, usually the day before school pictures.

Yet, I frequently walk out with thick, perfectly straight, poke me in the eyeball length bangs. Even when I explicitly state that I don’t want them. I’ve finally resorted to telling the hairdresser up front, “I don’t mean to be bitchy, but if you give me bangs, I’m not paying.”. It’s worked so far. I just get the bob, with no bangs.

Ankle length skirts and sensible shoes may result in what I call electric bangs, which are far worse than the poke me in the eye kind. Electric bangs are those that are teased a foot higher than the actual scalp. They are wispy and see through like a spider’s web. Because they require so much hairspray to stay aloft, they may also, like the web, trap small insects.
In spite of all these failures, I decided to give it one last try before going all Britney Spears and shaving my head. I went into my closet and hauled out my spiky heeled boots. The ones that get stuck in between the boards on the front porch if I don’t tiptoe. I pulled out a silky top my twenty-something daughter had cast off. Jeans and a cute jacket topped off the look. I almost wished for a tattoo.

When I got to the salon I parked my green Hyundai out of sight. No need to give them any ammunition to cut that bob again. Trying to walk like I wore high heels everyday I sashayed inside. When I meet my stylist I managed to bluff my way into a pretty good cut with the almost long enough to tuck behind the ear bangs.

It’s closer to Friends than Desperate Housewives. But I’ve been stuck with Happy Days for so long I’m not complaining.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Ebay Addictions and Auction Snipers

I recently joined the rest of the human race and set up an account on Ebay. I'd been putting it off because I knew I'd spend too much time and money if I did. But, I experienced a power surge which damage my inverter card. I'm not tech savvy but my IT guy says it makes the screen on my laptop light up. He found an inexpensive one on Ebay and here I am. In trouble.

You see, I have a weakness for Disney pins. I have a good friend who travels there several times a year and she's a pin addict as well. Since there doesn't seem to be a twelve step program around for us we've worked out a few ground rules for collecting the darn things.

  1. Pick something specific to collect. I'm starting with the 2004 Event pins for Tower of Terror from Disneyland. She's a Figment fanatic. That'll help you avoid buying any thing that trips your trigger.
  2. You've definitely got to set a budget and stick to it. If not your kids will be barefoot and hungry before you know what hit you.
  3. If you're gonna buy on Ebay, you've got to have an auction sniper. As I told a non-collector friend it's kind of like your own personal hit man. It will bid for you in the last seconds of the auction. (More about finding a sniper later.)
  4. Make sure you've got somewhere to display them so you can enjoy them. They'll do you no good in a drawer collecting dust.

As soon as I get a pin or two in I'll share some photos with you. By the way, what do you collect?