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Resolutions and Rules for 2014

All ritual and routine of New Year’s Day aside, I ran across a few notes I jotted down sometime last year.  They were the “5 Rules of File Conversion.”  I don’t remember who wrote the original information – it might have been Joel Friedlander, but I’m not sure, so if the author of same happens to read this, let me know, and I will certainly post the information and a link to the full article.

Anyway, it dawns on me that these 5 Rules apply to Life in General:

1.  Garbage in, garbage out.  How true, how true!  If we ingest anything bad for us, whether food or information, it always comes back to haunt us.  Bad food impairs our health, turns into fat or artery-choking plaque, or escapes as noisome by-products (TMI).  Bad intel poisons our minds, and we regurgitate it to everyone we meet.  Humiliation usually follows both of these behaviors.

2.  Establish business rules.  This is having guidelines for daily living:  setting routines, schedules, and all other such mundane actions that help regulate sanity and enable us to handle the daily grind.

3.  Know your content.  Okay, so how well do you know yourself and your life?  Really?  Take stock of yourself and make sure you are, as Thoreau put it, living authentically.  Don’t try to pass yourself off as something you’re not, and, as per Rule No. 1, don’t pass along garbage.

4.  Have a plan.  Goals are wonderful things, but how are you going to achieve them? Make yourself a realistic road map.  The way-points are the small goals, the ones you know for certain you can reach, with the huge astronomical goal at the end.  It will take a while to reach that one, so you need rest stops along the way.

5.  Be consistent.  Apply all those other rules and review them regularly.  Life is full of change and you may need to bend/tweak some of the rules as your goals evolve.  Don’t throw your rules out.  They keep you on track, but be prepared for detours.

One other tidbit of wisdom was attached to this note:  Never assume someone understands your thoughts.  Amen.  I’d be willing to bet that 95% or better of people problems are the result of us not being able to read each other’s minds.  So, unless you have that gift, please don’t assume squat.  It doesn’t work.

Somewhere in Montana.

Somewhere in Montana.

Happy New Year!


[P.S.  If an ad shows up, I apologize. It’s WordPress keeping my blog free for me to use for now!]




Agents and Publishers After Self-Publishing

The following is a December 9, 2009 post reprinted with permission of Writer’s Relief:

After Self-Publishing:  How To Find An Agent And A Publisher For Your Self-Published Book

Often, writers e-mail us with variations on the same question: How can I get a literary agent for a self-published book?

Dear Writer’s Relief,

I self-published my book [enter number of months ago] and now I’m [A) Not happy with my publishing company or distribution B) Disappointed because I’m not getting any sales of my self-published book and/or C) Thinking of expanding my already successful efforts by getting a literary agent and a traditional publisher for my self-published book]. Can you please tell me whether or not I can send my self-published book to literary agents and editors?

While each author who has self-published is in a unique situation and there is no single answer for every writer, it is possible to submit your self-published book to literary agents.

If you do want to transition from self-publishing to traditional publishing, here are some tips for getting a literary agent:

Courtesy of Morguefile.

Courtesy of Morguefile.



1. Be as positive as you can be about your self-publishing experience. If you chose that route, be sure to demonstrate that your choice was deliberate, educated, and professional (hopefully it was!). You don’t want to come off as the kind of person who forgets to look before she or he leaps.

2. Emphasize the success of your book by citing sales, quotes, and media coverage, if possible.

3. Be sure you hold all rights to your book. You can’t offer publishing rights if you don’t own them.

4. Don’t expect to use your own cover art, title, layout, etc. When you transition to a traditional publisher, you need to be prepared to give up much of your autonomy.

5. Be honest. If you find yourself in serious talks with an agent, don’t hide your self-publishing history. Agents will look you up online.

6. Be prepared to remove your book from Amazon and other online retailers. If you sell your book to a traditional publisher, you don’t want to undercut their sales. You’ll need to think about whether or not you want to “freeze” your book sales before you attempt to get an agent or editor. A freeze will cut into your sales, but it may also demonstrate a firmer commitment to traditional publishing. Weigh the pros and cons before making your decision.

7. Don’t mess with the system. Some writers have asked us if it’s possible to sell SOME rights to a publisher, but keep others for themselves. This is probably not going to happen. Publishers develop rigorous ideas about how they want to market, and for that reason they generally want control over nearly all rights. If you hold some rights and the publisher holds some rights, you will set yourself up as a competitor against your publisher.



Courtesy of Morguefile.

8. Don’t query with your bound, finished book; query with plain-old, 8.5 x 11 manuscript pages when necessary—as if the book had not been typeset and bound. Always follow agents’ submission guidelines.

9. If you’re querying literary agents for the first time with your project, it may be helpful to mention that. Some literary agents will suspect that self-published books are projects that failed to find homes at traditional publishing houses. If you’ve never queried before, your book may yet have a “freshness” factor worth mentioning.

If you’ve self-published a book, Writer’s Relief may be able to help with the submission process if you’d like to begin sending your book to literary agents. Visit to learn more.


Writer’s Relief, Inc. is a highly recommended author’s submission service. Established in 1994, Writer’s Relief will help you target the best markets for your creative writing. Visit their website at to receive their FREE Submit Write Now! newsletter (today, via e-mail), which contains valuable leads, guidelines, and deadlines for writing in all genres.

Chocoholics, and the Pursuit Thereof

One morning not long ago, when I rose and rushed out the door to take my car to the repair shop before work, I never imagined the curious problem that would be waiting for me at the studio.
Once I finally arrived at the studio, I put away my laptop and purse, having worked on promotional blurbs for my latest novel while the car was being serviced, and proceeded to organize myself for the day. I had inherited some miscellaneous office paraphernalia from my uncle, who had just closed down his frame shop after many years, and was integrating the items into our system. Among those items were magazine file bins I wanted to add to the counter at one end of the break room. That is where the problem came to my attention. A few tiny black pellets graced the tops of some of the existing bins, and a few more were on the counter top itself. Mouse droppings.
Our studio is a 1927 residence-turned-commercial building, and has had its share of small critter invasions over the decades. Most of that stopped during the years we had resident shop cats spending the nights inside; however, our last feline employee passed away several years ago, and it seems the mice had been biding their time. Last winter I found the remains of a Hershey’s Kiss in my office closet. A mouse had dragged it into the farthest, darkest corner of the closet and apparently was mauling it on a regular basis. I cleaned that up as soon as I found it, albeit with a smirk that another critter in the studio besides me had a passion for chocolate. No other evidence of the mouse occurred, so I assumed it had moved on.
And then today came.
I was concerned. The break room was originally a kitchen. We no longer have a stove in it, but we keep a microwave on one of the counters, and a full-size refrigerator for everyone=s use. I keep snacks set out for my employees B peanut butter cheese crackers, hard candies, granola bars, etc., any of which would make perfect mouse bait. Everything needed to be cleaned up and goodies packed into plastic containers. I opened the lower cabinet doors next to the sink and saw B a single mouse dropping. Several unrecognizable scraps of red and brown paper accompanied it. Frowning, I began pulling stuff out: containers, partly emptied boxes of food stuffs, unopened instant beverage cans, and paper goods. Nothing.
Red and brown. The box of Nestle Instant Cocoa packets was already opened. I always kept a few packets handy on top of the microwave. Looking inside the box, the destruction was plain as day. The upper layer of packets were completely shredded. This mouse had more than a passion for chocolate — it was obsessed. It had ignored peanut butter cheese crackers and granola bars and gone straight for the chocolate. Aghast, I pitched the ruined box and its contents, then finished emptying the cabinet. Behind large plastic beverage coolers I found traces of chocolate drink mix powder and a ton of droppings. Egad.
I spent the next two hours checking all of the cabinets, upper as well as lower. Anything suspect or not critical went straight into the trash. Anything that could be disinfected was. All loose food items went into sealed plastic bags or plastic storage containers. As best I could tell, the mouse, or mice, had only been in the one cabinet, and on the counter top of the unit on the opposite side of the room. None of the upper cabinets had any openings to them where a mouse could conceivably find passage, unlike the lower cabinets, so all edibles went up there.

Since I’m really not interested in maintaining another shop cat at this point in my life, I will likely need to lay traps. I would prefer the mice simply lose interest and move elsewhere, but as we seem unable to communicate, and I am unable and unwilling to share the space, there is no other choice. Hopefully once the first mouse bites the big one, the rest will freak out and flee. I hope. It sucks that I can’t have a bowl of Hersey’

photo courtesy morguefile

photo courtesy morguefile

s Kisses out.

The Freedom to Transcend Mediocrity

A significant amount of conversation at the 2013 American Glass Guild Conference was dedicated to defining what makes a piece of artwork successful, and to the nature of autonomous pieces.

Independent or Autonomous?
Autonomous panels of art glass are stand-alone artworks. They are conceived without particular regard for any specific location or architectural setting. They are concerned primarily with an immediate viewer and the lighting required for them to transmit the intended effect upon the viewer.
Antique Jewel_Sm Dtl_26May2013 Unlike other media, art glass tends to “manage” the space it is in. It often utilizes the surrounding space and available light to broaden its impact, taking possession and control of more than its immediate position. In that respect, it does not require those elements, and some wondered if it might be more appropriate to use the designation “independent” rather than “autonomous”.

What makes a panel a successful piece of art?
How does it journey beyond its simple inherent value and functionality? Some would say a mark of success is the ability to transition from a gallery setting to an architectural one. If a panel loses none of its impact or message from being installed, then it is a strong solid concept.
However, some panels are designed to never be so installed. They are so self-contained as to eschew repurposing. They can never be anything other than autonomous in the most basic sense of the word.
The greater mark of achievement seems to begin with the initial concept, the birth of the idea, and the manner in which the artist approaches it. If there is no serious thought to the approach there is rarely a result that transcends mediocrity. Perhaps one of my college professors had it right: if something is worth taking time out of your life to make, then take the time to do it the best you can. Give the expenditure of your time respect and it will be evident in your finished work.

The Issue of Galleries and Serious Artists
Virginia Raguin, noted historian of the glass world, made an excellent point that many artists tend to be oblivious to, that the whole “gallery” system is a recent concept, only about 150 years old. Galleries are mainly responsible for creating demand for “originality.” They engendered society’s desire to be familiar with the artists as much as, if not more so than, with the artworks produced. In her terms, galleries sell “the expressiveness of the artist.” A comment was made from the crowd that Patrick Reyntiens, another highly respected glass artist, has admonished those working in glass to “. . . show the world you are an artist first . . . don’t just work in glass.” Many heads nodded with agreement. The consensus appeared to be that a serious artist is not media-specific, but explores and experiments throughout life, and the maturity of technique, style and knowledge resonate in the work produced, whatever the medium. The creative process is life-long. True success is measured in terms of all the pieces made, each transcended by the next improvement, until the light radiating from the piece is the one that also shines from within the artist.

In Remembrance of Honor and Obligation

Memorial Day. For most of us, this is a long weekend heralding summer and the outdoor activities and tasks associated with warm weather. It is a national holiday, with virtually all governmental offices, and a fair amount of retail businesses, closed for the day.

Most of us will fire up the grill, burn some burgers, crank up the tunes, throw back a few brews, maybe splash in the pool if the weather cooperates, or play a little softball. A few will forego all those leisurely moments to attend to the true purpose of the institution – remembering the fallen soldiers of the Civil War, and decorating the graves of all who have gone before, soldier or not.

In this Sunday’s Parade magazine, Joe Kita interviewed Harvard president Drew Gilpin Faust (author of This Republic of Suffering) GeoRClarkMemplaza_Sm_26May2013) in an article titled “War and Remembrance.” The article reminds us of the enormity of the Civil War: the revised estimate of individual loss of life during that conflagration now stands at 750,000 – three-quarters of a million Americans who fought and were killed on their home soil. According to President Faust, approximately half of those killed were never identified and never returned to their families or hometowns. Their deaths “without dignity” (due to the unparalleled carnage of the battles) appalled those left behind. Decoration Day seems to have arisen spontaneously and simultaneously at a number of locations, to “. . . restore the dignity of those lives, underscore the contributions that had been made, and in some way ratify how important the courage and sacrifice had been.”

With our nation – actually the entire world, in such a state of turmoil, of flux, we can ill afford not to remember how it came to pass that we have the freedom and flexibility that we do, that we daily take for granted. People died on our behalf. They didn’t die only for themselves or their immediate families. They died knowing that their sacrifices paid for the rights of future generations to keep their freedom and flexibility. The cost was unimaginably high to us who are alive today, to us who think nothing of how this country – of how this life might have been otherwise. And this is how we repay that incomprehensible sacrifice, by taking a 3-day vacation and not even taking a moment of silence to honor the dead whose effort Abraham Lincoln described as having hallowed the very ground they stood on beyond anything the rest of us could ever give in return.

Mr. Faust puts our obligation very neatly:

“…the present is a product of the past, and the extraordinary actions that individuals have taken on our behalf . . . it behooves us to try to carry on their commitment, their belief in this nation . . . to dedicate ourselves to the propositions that were at the heart of what those men did and died for . . . ”


Momentum in the Blogosphere

Adobe Photoshop PDFAfter writing the first book, life happened, and the marketing for it was put so far on the back burner, so to speak, that it virtually never happened. That is a blow to any author. A year later, I am now able to take some of the steps that should have happened from the get-go, mainly securing spots on reviewer blogs. In that same time frame, I set up accounts on various social media sites, and started learning about them. That opened the door to making some good contacts, and to making a lot of new friends as well!

My best luck with finding good bloggers has been through Goodreads so far. I met Irene, of Reenie’s Book Blog, through that site, and she was the first to feature “Speeding Tickets.” She did a giveaway for me as well.

As of today, Laurie’s (Non-Paranormal) Thoughts & Reviews is showcasing me and the book: You may want to check out the interview section, and see what other books she talks about while you’re there. I had a good time answering the questions, and Laurie was great to work with.

Book Review bloggers are a huge part of today’s marketing for authors. They provide a terrific service to readers by giving them a chance to learn about books and authors that they might otherwise only be exposed to on a shelf, and for that I thank them, every one!

Reaching out into the Ether

file0001130641378Another day, another adventure in the digital world. It’s bad enough that we struggle to learn all the different protocols for the various social media that we have anxiously chosen to dive into in the pursuit of building a network of people whose passions runs to the written word, and in my case, also to quilted fabric and two-wheeled transport of the motorized kind. Trying to figure out how to connect websites and blogs for promote your writing can drive you crazy.

I don’t know html or any other digital language — in that, I am quite illiterate. I need a far more sentient computer, one that already knows how to do everything I need to have done, so that all I have to do is place a request. Star Trek, please — any day now! I need “Computer” and a replicator. Oh well, maybe in my next life? Somehow I don’t think they’ll be available this year.

Blog Tours are the new standard for today’s author. They’re wonderful, if you can incorporate all the links and code and what-not. So far, I’ve not been able to master that, and it’s a serious problem. I have found that I can manage simpler levels of connection, and that’s a fine start, but at some point I will need to do the other, and for that I may need to find someone to set it up for me. It’s part of the cost of being out there. Today’s self-publishing is touted as being so easy to do for virtually nothing, but the virtual world has its own costs, and they do add up, one step at a time. If you’re just starting into this author business, make sure you set aside as large a budget as you can for advertising. You’ll need it.

For those of you who like to read blogs with great book reviews, you might want to try this one: Reenie’s Book Blog. She’s also hosting a giveaway from yours truly this week. Check it out before the 28th.

Learning About Yourself Never Stops

“You’re never too old to learn.”  “Never stop learning.”

We all enjoy learning something new, especially if we reap some type of benefit from the knowledge.  Fortunately that is more often the case than not, learning things that are positive in nature.  If we were inundated with negative lessons, chances are we’d still be in the Dark Ages, because it would be so much safer not to learn anything at all.  That concept is mind-numbingly depressing.

Today I learned a little bit of something about myself as a writer.  A blogger from the Canadian side of the border reviewed my book “Speeding Tickets.”

She enjoyed the read well enough, but she also pointed out something about some of my characters that I hadn’t quite picked up on.  The two main characters are middle-aged, single people, but they apparently don’t “act” their physical ages.  Hmm. Well, I certainly had to think about that one, and you know, she was right.  They don’t act like some people I know over 50.  My hero and heroine act the way they feel inside, which is young and sometimes brash.  They are also naive at times, despite their life experiences.  Why?  It’s because they are still finding their way in the world.  Life has handed them tough lessons, but they have had enough positive lessons to stay interested in living and learning.  No matter how old they grow, their minds are going to stay curious, and their hearts are going to beat a little harder.

The romance may be a tad on the “safe” side, but that’s where the characters are at in the moment.  I also didn’t want to spell things out for the reader.  Personally, I like to have my imagination teased into action.  The sequel is in the finishing stages, and believe me, things will definitely not always be “safe” with these two characters.

Yep.  My mother could read this, and so could my older teenaged nieces.  It’s not so much the age of the reader, nor is it having a story that verges on “sweet.” It’s not even strictly chick-lit — older men have told me they enjoyed the story.  It’s more about life lessons, and the inherent joys and risks of learning to share one’s life with another person.Romance Rides on Two Wheels

The Big Bang of Creativity: Art vs. Craft

terry_painting_body_of_doveThis argument is as old as the hills, almost.  Older than the debate of crispy versus crunchy, or almonds versus coconut candy bars.  We’re talking art versus craft, and that one is going to keep ruffling feathers as long as humans are part of the equation.

My assertion is that all art begins with craft, or rather, handicraft. The manipulation of materials by our hands (the very source of the word “manipulation”) creates objects that serve a purpose. That purpose may be the most simple, straightforward function, but it is still a purpose. That the results transcend the essential purpose is what begins to constitute “art.”

There is no lofy, elitist, clear-cut distinction of the essence. There is only a distinction in the level of transcendence of that essence. The more the result rises above the mundane essential purpose, the more it becomes an artisitic statement. Whenever the result begins to reflect the personality of its maker, beyond the barebones functionality of the object, we have art.

Art surrounds us, is part of us. We are all capable of it, on some level. Most of us will never push our creativity enough to go beyond the label of handicraft, but some will. Some blessed few have that spark within that explodes into wondrous results that transcend our wildest expectations. And for that, we are all richer. Our lives are better for the exposure to that vibrant explosion of self. And we should all be challenged to push ourselves because of it, because all of us have our own sparks. Like fireworks, they will result in a dazzling array of different explosions of beauty, so go forth and light up your inner night sky!

Unreasoning Fear is the Real End of the World

2012-12-29 14.32.56Life as we know it could very well end in a few days.  It won’t come with a natural disaster of Biblical proportions, though.  It will come as a result of human outbursts fueled by fear and naïveté.  That is profoundly sobering and, sadly, completely preventable.

“Paranoia runs deep…into your life it will creep…it starts when you’re always afraid…”

— From the song “For What It’s Worth” — written by Stephen Stills, recorded by Buffalo Springfield in 1966, with the single released in 1967.

The lyrics of that old protest song seem disconcertingly apropos today.  As a nation, we seem to be afflicted with a paranoia that threatens far worse than the isolated horrors it purports to stem from.  Emotional reactions have blinded us to other aspects of reality, to things we cherish and take for granted that are in just as much jeopardy, and in our rush to save ourselves from one sensationalized thing, we may lose everything.

We seem obsessed with attaining ultimate control over that which is inherently uncontrollable.  There is so much we have no control of in life, and likely never will.  It is not possible to legislate morality or sanity, yet there are those who keep trying.

Heinous acts of violence come from unstable people.  But how do you recognize and differentiate the truly disturbed from the momentarily over-stressed?  Mental illness is not something to be taken (or diagnosed) lightly.  We barely have any understanding of it, and are scarcely beyond the days of institutionalizing and warehousing those individuals operating outside the norm of daily acceptable behavior.  People who are deeply disturbed need extra help and attention.  That being said, we must take great care not to create or to reconfigure classifications of illness that encompass too much in this frantic attempt to over-protect ourselves quite literally from ourselves.   We must not label and imprison marginally troubled souls who would otherwise not deserve such treatment.  Paranoia lashes out at anything that makes it uncomfortable.

Let us pause, take a few cleansing breaths, and consider our actions with compassion and clarity.  Life, by its very essence, is the overcoming of one risk after another, however small or great.  It is not about the noble fight, but merely using our intellects to survive ever more successfully.  Let us not survive as a species at the cost of all that makes us human.

“Fear is the little mind death…” – From the iconic sci-fi novel, Dune, by Frank Herbert

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