Texas Heat

By 9:00 this morning, it was 103 degrees F. Whoa! Now that's hot, even for Texas. I could probably get my darling hubby to take a picture of me frying an egg on the driveway, but why waste a good egg?

Native Grass Is Tough Stuff

We have a mostly natural landscape of buffalo grass and wildflowers on our property. We mow only the area around the house so we don't get any nasty surprises from varmints or snakes.

Keeping up with mowing our property in the Hill Country is challenging, but not impossible because we have a "lawn tractor" as they are called. I always called these things riding lawn mowers. Sometimes I think James Dent was right when he said: "A perfect summer day is when the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, the birds are singing, and the lawn mower is broken."

Of course a broken lawn mower would mean the grass here would probably be thigh high by the time it was repaired.

One of these days, I'll have to get my hubby to take a picture of me bouncing around on our riding lawn mower. I'm kind of petite so if I bounce too high on the seat, the mower automatically disengages. Because of this, when I mow, it's usually a stop-and-go process.

Texas Weather

Up here, the days are hot, but the evenings cool to about 70 degrees which is perfect for sitting on the porch and looking at the stars. Although hot, June is delightful because of this. It reminds me of what Bern Williams said: "If a June night could talk, it would probably boast it invented romance."

Takeaway Truth

Enjoy the waning days of June wherever you may be.

Stay Informed: Google Books Case

Authors Need To Know

This is about the mass digitization and orphan works case involving Google and the HathiTrust, established by several universities. It's about an unauthorized "rights grab" with books declared "orphan works" because their authors could allegedly not be found and then those books being made public. In many of the cases, it was proved that the authors could be found quite easily with a simple search.

Be Aware

If you are a professional writer, you need to be aware of this court case and its ramifications. I received an email from Authors Guild regarding this, and I'm posting it here in case many of you are not members of Authors Guild. (In their email, they authorized forwarding. Feel free to comment here. If you'd like to comment on the post at the Authors Guild: http://tinyurl.com/nun33yd)

Authors' groups from Australia, Canada, Norway, Sweden, the UK and the US (including the Authors Guild and the Authors League Fund) and eleven individual authors filed their reply brief in the HathiTrust mass book digitization and orphan works case late on Friday. It's the final brief to be filed in the appeal of Judge Harold Baer's ruling last October that questions regarding HathiTrust's "orphan works" program were moot and that HathiTrust's other uses of millions of copyrighted books were protected by copyright law's fair use doctrine.

A summary of the litigation is here. Here's a six-sentence version for the time pressed: Several university libraries worked with Google to digitize millions of copyright-protected library books. The universities then placed these digital books in an online repository known as HathiTrust and permitted Google to keep a copy of each of the digital books it created. Although HathiTrust does not generally make those ebooks available, in the summer of 2011 it announced an "orphan works" program that would have allowed the downloading of books that the universities deemed "orphans" (books for which the authors cannot be found after diligent search). Authors and authors' groups sued to stop the program and quickly discovered that many of the so-called orphans were readily findable. HathiTrust suspended the program, promising to restart it after further review. Last October, Judge Baer ruled as above; the plaintiffs appealed the ruling.

From its opening page, the authors' reply brief focuses on the dangers inherent in HathiTrust's storing millions of unauthorized digital books in online servers:

While the Authors strenuously disagree with the contention that [HathiTrust's] uses are transformative, that debate is largely beside the point: no use merits putting millions of books at risk of widespread digital theft. One cannot fairly claim to serve the goals of copyright while jeopardizing the literary marketplace.

The place for this matter to be decided, the brief argues, is in Congress, where "common-sense" issues such as security can be dealt with. The authors point to the proposed Google Books settlement as providing just such a measure:

In their attempt to settle a separate lawsuit (the so-called "Google Books" case), The Authors Guild, Google, publishers, many of the Libraries, the NFB and groups representing the interests advocated by Amici participated in the creation of a settlement agreement that would have permitted certain of the uses that the Libraries claim are transformative, including indexing of the book database and providing access to the visually disabled users. That agreement, however, included critical measures designed to protect copyright holders and the market for their works including commercial-level, auditable security backed up by financial accountability. This type of security provision is not only vital; it is common sense. It is precisely the sort of provision that any sensible legislative approach to addressing the issues raised by mass book digitization would include.

The authors' argument is summarized in the brief's three-page Preliminary Statement, which concludes:

It is not the place of the Libraries or Google to roll the dice with the world's literary property, subjecting it to a risk of theft and dissemination caused by an outside agent or even internal incompetence, such as the errors in the ill-conceived “orphan works” program that triggered this lawsuit. Far too much is at stake.

Oral argument on the appeal is expected to be scheduled for late summer or the fall.

Takeaway Truth

That's it. As a professional writer, stay informed.

Website Resource: Decrypt Links

I've got a great website resource for you today: DecryptLinks.

Using DecryptLinks, you'll never make a goof with a shortened URL again.

TinyURL, Bitly, and SmartURL are great for reducing long, complex, prone-to-break links. I use them all the time, but some people are reluctant to click on these links because they're not good for Web security. Hackers and scammers can use short generic links to hide malicious websites and downloads. You won't know the link is unsafe until you click it.

DecryptLinks to the rescue. Just copy and paste the shortened generic URL into the Decrypt box. The site will give you the long version of the URL so you will know where the link is going before you click it.

You can also use the website to check the accuracy of a shortened URL you have created to make sure it's still viable.

Takeaway Truth

It pays to be cautious when clicking links from someone you don't know.

Raw Material of Creativity

I'm curiously happy to be back in front of the computer again -- behind in chair, hands on keyboard and writing as fast as my fingers can key the words. I say curiously happy because doing this is my job. My work. My profession.

Most people dread going to work. I dread not being able to go to work because I feel as if I'm brimming over with thoughts and emotions that have no outlet.

Pablo Picasso said: "The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place: from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider's web."

Emotions mix with ideas and filter through my writer's brain. That's the raw material of all writing -- indeed, of creativity itself. Creativity is like a well that must be emptied so that fresh, clean water will flow in and renew the well.

Takeaway Truth

Writing is hard work -- hard physically, emotionally, and mentally -- but most writers wouldn't dream of doing anything else.

Review: Open Season by Archer Mayor

I'm finally back in the office with recently-read books to review. (There's nothing like hospital and doctor waiting rooms to give one time to read.

First up is Open Season, Joe Gunther Mystery #1, by Archer Mayor.

Book Details

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

File Size: 726 KB
Print Length: 320 pages
Publisher: MarchMedia (March 28, 2013)
Language: English
Text-to-Speech: Enabled
X-Ray: Enabled
Lending: Enabled
Cost: $.99

Blurb The Book

Lt. Joe Gunther of the Brattleboro, Vermont police force has a serious problem: in a community where a decade could pass without a single murder, the body count is suddenly mounting. Innocent citizens are being killed—and others set-up—seemingly orchestrated by a mysterious ski-masked man. Signs suggest that a three year-old murder trial might lie at the heart of things, but it’s a case that many in the department would prefer remained closed. A man of quiet integrity, Lt. Gunther knows that he must pursue the case to its conclusion, wherever it leads.

Open Season is the first of Archer Mayor’s twenty-three Joe Gunther novels, a series of gripping police procedurals set in New England, where small-town charm, stoicism and civility sometimes conceal brutal truths.

My Thoughts

Originally published in 1988 by Putnam, Open Season is now available for Kindle. With no computers, cell phones, social networks, and a hero who fought in the Korean War, Open Season reads like a recent "historical" rather than a contemporary novel because technology and a changing national conscience have drastically altered our culture.

Yet, this book is a compelling read, peopled with a likable detective and secondary characters who are more than small town stereotypes. Indeed, the book has a compelling premise and a chain of events that surprises and keeps you guessing. I enjoyed this police procedural immensely and look forward to reading the next one in the series.

Takeaway Truth

Excellent mystery creates an enjoyable reading experience with what is now a recent history setting. Don't miss it.

Evaluate Text Complexity

Handy website Lexile Analyzer analyzes and evaluates the readability of text whether books, articles, or other materials.

The software does this by breaking down the text and studying its characteristics, such as sentence length and word frequency, "which represent the syntactic and semantic challenges that the text presents to a reader."

The result is the text complexity, expressed as a Lexile ® measure, along with information on the word count, mean sentence length, etc.

This software is free, but you do have to register. For information, read the documentation on the Lexile website.

Takeaway Truth

This is an excellent tool to help you analyze your own writing to make sure it's suitable for your target audience.

Twitter Help Trio

Here are 3 tips to help you manage your Twitter account.


This app enables you to delete ALL your Tweets. You may wonder why you would want to do that rather than just delete the account and create a new one. The main reason is that you lose your Tweet URL so if you set it up with your name, that's gone. You also lose all your followers etc. Using TwitWipe just removes the tweets but keeps everything else.

The process isn't instantaneous and may take a day or overnight so be patient.

44 Twitter Hashtags for Writers

This webpage explains hashtags for the novice and gives a list of the most popular ones used by authors.


This webpage defines hastags and also allows you to enter definitions.

Takeaway Truth

This trio of tips will help you navigate the Tweet universe quickly and efficiently.

How To Create Self-Confidence

Do you have the confidence to write a book or create something from a vision in your brain? Answering that question can be as difficult as answering the question: “How do I know he – or she – is the one?”

The Big Picture

Let's look at the big picture. The late Arthur Ashe, as great a human being as he was a tennis champion, once said: "One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation."

How much confidence would Eli or Peyton Manning have in their ability to win football games if they sat around drinking beer and watching TV instead of attending football training camp?

Athletes know the value of preparation. Preparation is why golf pros hit hundreds of golf balls just about every day as well as lift weights and run. It’s why Venus and Serena slam tennis balls around every day. Look at any professional athlete and see how they prepare to compete.

Let's break down what Arthur Ashe said. To be successful, you must have self-confidence. To be self-confident, you must prepare.

To write those sentences in a pseudo mathematical formula:

Preparation = Self-confidence

Self-confidence = Success

Therefore, Preparation = Success.

Now, ask yourself, are you prepared? What have you done to lay a foundation? You can apply this to any endeavor, not just writing. Substitute the words or phrases that speak to what you are trying to achieve in asking these questions.

Have you prepared by learning your craft? Have you mastered grammar and the narrative elements necessary to tell a story? Have you learned how to write a synopsis? Have you sufficiently studied the body of work from past and contemporary writers?

Have you practiced your craft on a consistent basis to develop a good work ethic? Have you completed at least one manuscript? Have you written enough to know how long it takes you to write a manuscript?

Have you studied the business end of your chosen career? Do you understand contracts so when you're offered one you'll always read it before signing? Do you have a working knowledge of the standard contract clauses? Have you obtained agent representation? Have you joined professional organizations to educate yourself about your chosen career and also to take advantage of benefits they offer?

Takeaway Truth

Preparation is a process of building a foundation of belief in your ability to achieve. That foundation is called self-confidence. In the end self-confidence makes you believe in the inevitability of success. Your success.

Like Sands In An Hourglass

No this isn’t a lead-in to an old soap opera. This is how the first 6 months of the year have slipped away like sands in an hourglass blown into oblivion.

Yep. In a couple of weeks, the first half of the year is gone. Kaput. But, we have 6 months left to get our respective acts together and achieve some of our goals.

In other words, now is a good time to review what you did the first half of 2013 and plan for the next half of the year.

10 Review Steps

1. Set up a bank account just for your self-employed income and expenses. With banks competing for customers, you should be able to set up a no-cost checking account easily.

2. Set up an accounting record of all your expenses. This can be an accounting journal or just a spiral notebook. Decide on the Expense Categories you need like: Office Supplies, Postage/Shipping, Internet, Cell Phone, Website, Professional Dues, Market Research (that's books, magazines, etc.). Each month list what you pay so you have a cumulative record of all the expenses in the various categories.

3. Do you have all your receipts for the above expenses categorized and files away so you can produce them if you're audited? A simple file is a #10 envelope labeled with the expense name and the receipts inside.

4. Analyze expenses versus income and see how you’re doing. See if you can do better.

5. Do you have any income due you that you haven't received? If so, do you need to send an invoice or perhaps a reminder of some kind?

6. Do you have a calendar or planner or something on which you record the hours you work and on what project you work? If you're an aspiring writer, this is especially important if you file a Schedule C in order to show a tax auditor that this is not a hobby for you. This is a profession in which you're seriously trying to get established.

7. Get a jump on doing the end of year organization and de-cluttering by doing it twice a year. Now is the time to clean out research materials, file cabinets, pending files, and the office closet. Shred the stuff that needs to be disposed of. Donate office equipment like old PCs, cell phones, etc. to a charity that can use them. You get a tax deduction, and the charity gets merchandise to resell.

8. Look at your goal list for this year. Have you achieved some goals? Have you abandoned others because they don't fit your needs or your career? Have you discovered something else you'd like to achieve the last half of the year? Update your list.

9. Plan on learning something new. Is there an Internet service or software you've wanted to take advantage of but knew you'd have to set aside time to learn the process? Now's the time to do that.

10. How's your skill set? Do you possess all the skills you need to successfully accomplish your stated goals? If not, what do you need to learn or perhaps un-learn? Now is the time to schedule time to do that.

Takeaway Truth

Last, but not least, is a review of your happiness quotient. How happy has your career made you so far? Are there things you don't like about where you're heading? Now is the time to analyze and figure out what to do to change things.

QR Codes: Regular or Dynamic

By now, you've all heard of QR Codes, that is Quick Response Codes, those black abstract-looking cubes you see popping up on all kinds of print matter and websites.

First designed for the automotive industry in Japan, this matrix barcode is an optically machine-readable label "that is attached to an item and that records information related to that item. (Click here to learn more about QR Codes.)

The QR Code system has moved outside the auto industry because of its fast readability and greater storage capacity compared to standard UPC barcodes. They're used on websites but they're very useful on business cards, bookmarks, and other print media because the QR code can not only point to a website but also contain information -- sometimes a lot of information.

There are many websites that offer the QR code reader app for you to download as well as the ability to generate QR Codes. The one I use primarily is Kaywa. The website has FAQ and videos to instruct you, and it's all user-friendly.

Just register for a free account to begin. Your generated codes will be stored in your account. Then decide whether you want a "regular" QR Code or a Dynamic code.

Dynamic QR Codes are changeable. If you create one and need to change the information it points to, you just log onto your account, click on it, edit, and confirm. The very same QR Code will instantly lead to its new destination, with no reprinting necessary.

Takeaway Truth

Use your imagination and try putting information in a QR Code in your next promotion.

Curve Balls

The lovely and talented Carrie Underwood said: "You never know what curve balls life is going to throw you and there's no way I can predict anything or make any assumptions about what the rest of my life is going to be like."


Gosh, I hate to even tell you about all the life crap that has come down the pike in the last several weeks. If I did, you'd think this black cloud hovered over my head and followed me everywhere.

After 2 weeks of federal jury service preceded by 6 weeks of cleaning out clutter, packing and moving stuff I should have got rid of, I thought life was calming down. I was wrong.

We did get our house up for sale. Then the surgeries commenced. Two were scheduled; one was emergency. Fortunately, all my loved ones came out okay. Post-op visits start this week, and I'm the driver.

First though, I'm off to visit my brother who is on enforced rest for two weeks after his surgery. He's an outdoorsman who is not used to "taking it easy" so he's not a happy homebound patient at the moment.

I'm going to visit him a couple of days to keep him company and hopefully adhering to the doctor's orders then I'm back for post ops.

Takeaway Truth

Sometimes when life throws curve balls, you just have to step into the pitch, swing, and hope for the best.

Still On Planet Earth

I'm b-a-a-a-a-ck! I've been so absent that you probably forgot my existence, but I'm still doing time on Planet Earth.

Chalk up my absence to packing to move and getting a house ready to sell. As if that wasn't enough stress, add in the jury summons for Federal Court that arrived in early May.

Yep, I was on Jury Service for the longest two weeks of my life. I would say it was the most exhausting time I ever spent, but that distinction goes to the time I spent with my daughter in the hospital when she suffered surgery complications.

Still those 2 weeks were so tiring that I was able to write zero words and too tired to keep up with email, Twitter, etc.

Long Story Short

Yes, I know, too late to make this long story short, but, here goes. I'm back and doing my best to catch up. It will take time, but I'll eventually answer all the email, publish a new issue of Writing Hacks for subscribers, honor my guest blog commitments, and finish my next book, Cinderella Blue. So don't give up on me.

Takeaway Truth

Real life has a way of undermining one's best efforts.