Wednesday, June 26, 2013


Yes, I’m a writer and most of you who read this blog may be writers too, so I must explain that I’m not advocating talking instead of writing. I’m encouraging talking over not-talking. Action might speak louder than words, but words have the power to change lives, too.

About a year ago I wrote a blog post titled, WORDS THAT SAVE LIVES, based on a magazine article I’d read. The author cited studies that showed children who were talked to, and read to, by their parents, were more likely to succeed in school and in life than those who were not.

A more recent article on the subject points to a study that the more words a baby hears before the age of three the higher his I.Q. will become. However, here’s the shocking thing: words heard on television or other media actually have a detrimental effect.

“Okay,” you say, “but what can you talk about when the little one is staring at the lights, kicking his feet, or falling asleep?” The answer is, it doesn’t matter. The very fact Junior is hearing words, even if he doesn’t know what they mean right now, plus the obvious attention of his mother or father is beneficial.

Later, bed-time reading can be a nightly ritual, but children should be talked to any time of day, all day. What to talk about? Children love stories, and they love real stories even more. All families have moments when interesting things happened, so tell them where their grandparents lived, the interesting things their uncle did when traveling, the jobs their great-aunt took to earn money for college. Family stories should be shared to keep the child in touch with her past, as well as improve her vocabulary.

My husband’s aunt was a schoolteacher in a logging camp in Oregon in 1913 and she never failed to tell of those adventures whenever children were around. Those stories led to the memoir I wrote about her, THE GREEN BOUGH. However, you don‘t have to put your stories into a book. Just talking about them may make your grandchildren smarter. Of course, if you do put those real or made-up stories into print, that’s good too.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


A while ago, I wrote a blogpost announcing that I’m an Introvert, and now I’ll add another insight about my character. As I’ve long known I was an Introvert in a land of more Extroverts, I also realized long ago that I’m an Optimist instead of a Pessimist.

Part of my optimism comes from my upbringing. Although my family was poor, we children were raised with smiles and encouragement. I didn’t let our status bother me. I knew I would be all right in the future, if I just did the right thing and worked hard.

And so it proved. I’m not a millionaire, but I own my own home, have savings in the bank and traveled to some foreign places. I have enough, and someone once said that “happiness is knowing when what you have is enough.” Recently an article reminded me of another good reason to be an Optimist.

The 2002 book Bringing Down the House told the true story of how six MIT math geniuses mastered Blackjack card counting and took Las Vegas for millions. The math pros didn’t win many hands and the casino edge over players is slight, but the MIT crew used a system that gave them a two percent edge. It was enough, provided they played awhile. The lesson is, even with the odds only slightly in your favor, over time you will win.

What does that have to do with Optimism? A chart with the article showed that from 1850 to 2010 the economy, and, especially the U.S. real GDP (Gross Domestic Product) per capita, rose upward in an almost unbroken straight line. Adjusted for inflation, it went from about $3000 to over $60,000 in those 160 years. What happened during that time?

1. We fought nine major wars.
2. Four U.S. presidents were assassinated.
3. 675,000 people died in the flu epidemic.
4. Ten natural disasters killed at least 400 people each.
5. 33 recessions lasted an accumulated 48 years.
6. The stock market fell at least ten percent 97 times.
7. Annual inflation exceeded 7% in 20 separate years.
8. The words “economic pessimism” were used in newspapers 29,000 times (according to Google).

And yet, our standard of living increased 20-fold.

Yes, bad things will happen, and like the MIT students, I may lose a lot of times, but the long-term odds are in my favor.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


Many others have written about this, but I’ll put my two cents in just in case my blog post reaches a new writer who hasn’t heard about it yet. What’s the scam? Last year PENGUIN BOOKS, now RANDOM PENGUIN or PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE, paid $116 million to buy Author Solutions Inc, the worst vanity publisher in the country, which charges thousands of dollars for publishing services which ought to be free or very cheap.

The company, which includes iUniverse, Author House, Xlibris, Trafford and others, targets inexperienced writers who want to self-publish but need help. The fees ASI charges are bad enough, but these authors get no promotion for their work, and therefore sell few, if any books. WRITER BEWARE, and other publishing watchdog groups, have warned about using ASI, but many beginners are still unaware of the risks. Now, with the (former) prestige of the Penguin name, these neophytes might think they’re getting published by a large company, when in fact, they are not.

Why did Penguin buy ASI when it could have used those millions to offer better royalties to their authors? Some think it was because ASI, which had been in business for years, had a mailing list of new writers that Penguin wanted to use.

Others say that Penguin saw the money ASI was making on the backs of the uninformed, and wanted to get a share of that. As Gail Ryan commented recently, “They’re happy to be unethical as long as they make a buck.” And another, “To hell with decency if there is money in dealing with the devil.”

Besides using the Penguin name, ASI has added more tricks to its arsenal, which are designed to further fool the unwary. 1. They use fake-informational websites to offer advice, which then only recommends Author Solutions companies. 2. They use social media to profile “publishing consultants,” who are actually ASI employees. 3. They require authors to provide testimonials about how great ASI is before they will publish their books, even when said authors have already paid the fees.

There are hundreds of horror stories by authors complaining about ASI publishing without permission, incorrect royalty statements, failure to pay royalties, harassing phone calls, and books with errors made by ASI, which the authors had to pay to correct.

“How do they get away with that?” you ask? Let’s hope they won’t for much longer. There is a class-action lawsuit against them for deceptive business practices already. Yet, public outcries are still necessary to halt the seemingly never-ending flow of uninformed writers who fall into their trap. So it’s up to us who are aware to spread the word. As for Penguin, why would anyone want to deal with them when they so blatantly allow this scam? I won’t. I don’t work with unethical people.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013



Last week I mentioned the finalists in the Daphne du Maurier Awards sponsored by the Mystery/Suspense chapter of RWA. I specifically pointed out that it appears five books out of the thirty-one finalists were self-published, which I think is a very good thing.

This week the finalists for RWA’s Rita Awards were named and, as I mentioned a year ago, the 2012 finalists were all from Big Publishing Houses. This year, 2013, there was one slight change. Although there were no self-published books among the finalists, four were from Montlake Romance, Amazon’s relatively new romance publishing imprint. Considering the size of the parent company, I suppose one can’t call it a “small publisher,” but, in my opinion, it’s a good thing when different publishers show up and the Big Five don’t walk home with everything.


In the interest of publicizing my newest romance novel, THE ITALIAN JOB, I’ve been asked to provide some Blog posts and one of them was to list my ten favorite movies. As I said in that post, among the hundred-plus in our DVD collection, I have a list of forty favorite films, so choosing only ten was hard. Although I didn’t intend to be even-handed, I ended up listing five comedies and five dramas.

The most recent was THE FUGITIVE released in 1993, twenty years ago. I won’t say, as others have done, “they don’t make ‘em like they used to,” but in fact it’s true. Thanks to the ability to produce astounding special effects these days, movies rely more and more on images at the expense of character and story. But then, I’m a writer, and must rely on character and story because they haven’t figured out yet how to make a bomb explode in a reader’s face. (But, given time, they might some day.)


I’ve also written in my occasional blog posts about correct grammar. I cringe when I see word mistakes in books, magazines or newspapers. Yet, in spite of a wrong word in the first song in the show, MY FAIR LADY is my favorite musical. What word? It’s when Prof. Higgins hears Eliza Doolittle’s Cockney accent and laments to his friend, Col. Pickering, “Why Can’t the English learn to Speak.” And the word is “hung.” No educated Englishman - certainly not a professor of the language, would say, as he does in the song, “By rights, they should be taken out and hung.” Of course, the word should be “hanged.” A man might have “hung” his clothes, but people are “hanged.” However, Lerner and Lowe were writing a song, not dialogue, and the word needed to rhyme with “tongue.” I forgive them. (But don’t let it happen again.)