Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Whatever Happened...

When I'm writing a book, sometimes weird thoughts come back to me.  For example, I was thinking about the Tylenol case back in 1982.  Random people in the Chicago area took Tylenol for headaches but died, due to drug tampering.  Six adults and one 12-year old girl (the first victim) died from the drug.  The pills were laced with potassium cyanide.  It was surmised that the drugs were tampered with on the shelves, and not in the factory.  No suspect was ever found in the murders, but it prompted many over-the-counter drug makers to reinforce their packaging so it was tamper-proof.  They also developed the caplet, which was harder to taint.

One man was charged with extorting a million dollars from Johnson & Johnson to stop the poisonings.  He was sent to prison for extortion but was never charged with the poisonings.

Various copycat poisonings (270, actuallly) happened after that, which is just as scary as the original crime.  In 1983, Congress passed the 'Tylenol bill,' making it a federal crime to tamper with consumer products.  In 1989, the FDA gave manufacturers federal guidelines to make all such products tamper-proof.

The case was never solved, over 30 years later.

***

What if someone based a plot on that person who committed the crime.  He's killed once and wants to do it again.  This time, he's tainting something else.  And this time, he hopes to be caught, to get his name in the media.

Interesting concept.  Might have to develop this one.

Have an interesting day,
SweetTale Books

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References:
How the Tylenol murders of 1982 changed the way we consume medication
The Horrifying True Story of the 1982 Chicago Tylenol Murders

Monday, May 30, 2016

In Honor of Memorial Day

Thank you to all service members for your service.  

For some, it meant they gave all to keep us free and safe from harm.  I appreciate and honor you all in your dedication.



Thank you!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

It's Complicated

When someone says a relationship is 'complicated,' that usually means there are problems.  However, to me, it means they want to hide something and don't want to share.

I was talking to our neighbors.  They're hilarious people that just moved here from another state about a year ago.

They have a son who's still going to high school in that other state and graduates this month.  The mom kept her state residency for that state.  The dad, though, declared residency up here.  The parents both live here, but they have to keep a foot in both states for legal purposes for the time being.  They work in many states and travel a lot.  They also have ties to that other state.

The son got admitted to a state college in our state.  The college figured he was from out of state because of the mom.  So the dad called and explained that he's a resident of this state.  The college didn't understand how the mom was in one state and the dad was here.  The dad, unwilling to offer more, said, 'it's complicated.'

The college now thinks that the parents are going through a divorce, but they're one of the happiest couples I've ever seen.

It's hilarious, when you think about it.  Just know the next time you hear 'it's complicated,' get the facts.  My guess is that something is being hidden.  Remember that the next time you read that in a book.

Have a good day!
SweetTale Books

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Things You Never Want to Hear

Having three grown kids has given me new appreciation for communication.  It also has given me a lifetime of plot ideas. It also has given me a list of things I never want to hear.

I like to work while sitting on our bed, watching television.  I have the laptop on my lap, because it's the best place to work in the house.  It's the one place that's mine.

The kids know this, and when they all lived at home and had an issue, they'd give me the 'three corner problem.'  They'd come into our room, pass by three corners of the bed (I sit on the far left side so I can use the mouse on my right side) and stand in front of me.  The three corner problems also yield the phrases I don't want to hear.

Here are a few that make great phrases for a book, upping the conflict:

'I know what I'm doing.'
'It'll be fine.'  (It never is)
'I'll only be gone for a few hours--or overnight, not sure.'
'What's the worst thing that can happen?'
'Trust me.  I'm over 18.'  (YIKES!)
'I'm hiding out.  If the cops come...'
'Can I go to Mars?'  (and yes, I did hear this one, more than once)
'I'm ready to move to Iceland.'  (same kid as for Mars)
'Why do I have to get a job?  I got the degree, so I'm done.'
'I've learned everything I need to learn in my lifetime.'  (after our son's first day in Kindergarten)
'I'm back.  Here are the car keys.  I have something to tell you.'
'She cut her hair and tried to tape it back onto her head.'  (When my husband tried to watch our two-year-old daughter on his own while I went grocery shopping)

Life can hand you ideas every minute of every day.  Just when I think I've heard it all, I seem to hear more.

Have a good day!
SweetTale Books

Friday, May 27, 2016

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Remember the show 'Cheers'?  If you're too young, check out this Cheers Intro Song.

The show is centered around a bar, where the locals all know each other.  They get along, catching up on gossip and making plans.

One of my next books is based on that theme.  Everyone knows everyone else in the diner and in the town...until a good-looking stranger walks into the place. That's when things get interesting.  The book is called 'You'll Call It Home.'  Here's the cover:



I've been editing it over and over again.  But eventually, it'll be published.

What if the setting, though, were somewhere else?  What if it were some place undesirable?  Maybe like a hospital?  Or how about a jail?  Or, if you write paranormal, what about hell?

If they knew my name in one of those places, I'd be thinking I was having a rotten life.  But, for a book, that would up the conflict.  Interesting concept, no?


Have a good day!
SweetTale Books

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Some Days It's Better to Stay in Bed

Some days things don't just work out like planned.  For us in the real world, that's not fun, and we'd rather stay in bed.

But in the plotting world, those days are the most interesting days.  They go so wrong (the worse the better), that the character would love nothing better than to skip out of their life and go on vacation somewhere.

That's the best way to create conflict in a book.  Make a character's life unbearable.  See where they turn to get out of their situation, even giving that new place another flaw they have to overcome.

In the end, everything will resolve and they'll be much better off than in the beginning.

I wish real life were like that.  If someone were writing my days like an author writes a book, I hope they have a goal in mind for rotten days.

Does anyone else feel like that?  Wouldn't it be weird if we WERE just characters an author played with, giving us conflicts that just happen?

There's your next sci-fi/fantasy plot, waiting to be written.  :)

Have a good day!
SweetTale Books

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Cool Things About Alaska

Since my characters seem to come from all over the place and usually places I've visited, I decided to have one of my characters come from a place I've never been to.  Alaska.  What a beautiful spot for this character to live in, don't you think?

Thus, I did a bit of initial research on Alaska.

This is what I found (references below--and yes, I like Wikipedia).  Most of the following is from history.com:

  • Nickname(s): The Last Frontier; Land of the Midnight Sun

  • Motto: North to the Future

  • Tree: Sitka Spruce

  • Flower: Forget-me-not

  • Bird: Willow Ptarmigan

  • Date of Statehood: January 3, 1959

  • Capital: Juneau

  • Population: 710,231 (2010)

  • Size: 664,988 square miles

  • Largest of United States: The state of Rhode Island could fit into Alaska more than 420 times.

  • Alaska is bounded by the Beaufort Sea and the Arctic Ocean to the north; Canada's Yukon Territory and British Columbia province to the east; the Gulf of Alaska and the Pacific Ocean to the south; the Bering Strait and the Bering Sea to the west; and the Chukchi Sea to the northwest.

  • People have inhabited Alaska since 10,000 BCE. A land bridge used to extend from Siberia to Alaska. Migrants followed herds of animals across it. Of these migrant groups, the Athabaskans, Aleuts, Inuit, Yupik, Tlingit and Haida remain in Alaska.

  • Russia controlled most of the Alaska territory from the late 1700s until 1867

  • Purchased by U.S. Secretary of State William Seward in 1867 for $7.2 million, or about two cents an acre. Called Seward's Folly. Critics thought the land had nothing to offer.

  • Gold found in Alaska in 1890s. Many prospectors and settlers flocked to the area.

  • During World War II, the Japanese occupied two Alaskan islands, Attu and Kiska, for 15 months.

  • Alaska contains 17 of the 20 highest peaks in the United States. At 20,320 feet, Mt. McKinley is the tallest mountain in North America.

  • Alaska has roughly 5,000 earthquakes every year. In March of 1964, the strongest earthquake recorded in North America occurred in Prince William Sound with a magnitude of 9.2.

  • The most powerful volcanic explosion of the 20th century occurred in 1912 when Novarupta Volcano erupted, creating the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes in Katmai National Park.

  • The temperature dropped to a record -80 degrees Fahrenheit at Prospect Creek Camp in 1971.

  • The Trans-Alaska pipeline was built between 1974 and 1977 after the 1973 oil crisis caused a sharp rise in oil prices in the United States.

I also wanted to put a town west of Anchorage.  But there are no real roads to the location.  People have to fly.  Thus, my character is from Anchorage.

Here's a map of Alaska, and you can see where Anchorage is.  It's in the lower center.  Juneau is on the right, in the part that's on the main nation of Canada.



Reference:  University of Texas, Austin Library

-------------------------------------------------
References:
Trans-Alaska Pipeline System
Prince William Sound
GoogleMaps of Alaska
Alaska (history.com from the History Channel)
University of Texas, Austin Library


Have a good day!
SweetTale Books

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Productivity Problems?

I stumbled across this article this past week:

6 things you didn’t know were making you less productive [infographic]

In this article, it talks about how we're all overworked but less productive.  We work more hours but get less done.  I can see how this happens, because I'm living that problem (at least that's how I perceive it).

Here are a few things I found in this article.  I also take it a bit farther.  Are you guilty of any of these?


  • Writing out a list of things to do takes time.  Some people spend HOURS on writing a to-do list, wasting all that time.  I also get phone calls from my kids (or emails) whining about how they have no time to do things, but they waste over an hour calling or writing pages and pages in the email about how much they have to do.  Ridiculous, if you ask me!
  • Multitasking.  I'm guilty of this and nothing ever gets done right if I'm doing this.  But I've decided in this world, we're constantly bombarded with interruptions that we have no choice but to multitask.  It's making me more and more ADD in the long run, where I can't concentrate for very long on anything, always waiting for some other interruption.
  • Saying yes to everything. (My hand's up--GUILTY!).  I take on things I don't know how to do, just to please others.  I hate it, but do it anyway.  Why?  I have no idea.  But that's another interruption in my production.
  • Working through breaks.  I do this all the time--eating while working.  I usually end up eating more because I'm not watching what I'm eating, but thinking about work.  Since I'm multitasking, I don't get my work done well.  Frustrating!

I'm going to try to work on this, but sometimes, it's just not feasible to carve out a chunk of time to just work.  Between the kids, my husband, and the dogs, I can't get a break.  LOL!  As I sit here writing this, Webster (our Frenchton) is whining for me to pet him.  Interruptions and multitasking seem to be my way of life.

Have a good day!
SweetTale Books


Monday, May 23, 2016

Southern Sayings

I love the south.  I'd love to live there again, and miss the heat and the people.  So many of my stories take place in the south, well at least, south of here.  Most of the country is south of Green Bay, WI, so south takes on a whole new meaning when living here.

When writing about Texas, for example, I like to throw in southern sayings.  I've found a few websites that include southern sayings that just crack me up.

Here are a few examples of ones I found.  The weird thing is I heard all these examples growing up in Pennsylvania!  My parents were from PA, so they must've heard someone from the south and used these phrases, themselves.

From 40 Southern phrases explained:

Catawompus (means sideways)
Cain't Never Would (means you never will if you don't try--also 'Can't never tried')


If you don't stop that crying, I'll give you something to cry about! (my dad used to say this ALL the time)
Hotter than blue blazes.
Quit your piddlin' and get to work! (that means quit wasting time and get to work)

From Southern Sayings Page
Barking up the wrong tree. (you are wrong)
Don't bite off more than you can chew. (attempt what you can accomplish)
Don't count your chickens until they hatch. (first know the results)

COW LICK- hair standing out on one's head.
HOLD YOUR HORSES- (be patient)
PIDDLE- waste time, doing nothing
SPRING CHICKEN- young thing
WORRY-WART- one who is annoying

From 15 Southern American Sayings That Will Amuse Brits:
All get out: You’ll hear this tacked on the end of a variety of expressions, and it means “extremely.” “She’s as smart as all get out” or “It was as loud as all get out”. Its origins are unknown. Brits might say “like/as anything” in similar situations—“He’s as fast as anything.”

***


So when I write things from the south, sometimes I throw in sayings I've collected through the years.

One that I'm pretty sure came from when I lived in North Carolina is a 'buggy.' It means grocery cart. I used that tidbit after we lived there and my friends in the new location would just laugh at me.  I also use 'clicker' for remote control.  Supposedly, that's southern speak?

Gotta love the south, though.  I truly miss it!


Have a good day!
SweetTale Books
---------------------------------------------

References:
40 Southern phrases explained
Funny Southern Sayings, Expressions, and Slang
Southern Sayings Page
15 Southern American Sayings That Will Amuse Brits

Sunday, May 22, 2016

I'm a Binge Doer

I'm a binger.  Not bing-er, but I binge doing things.  I binge eat.  I binge watch television series on Netflix.  I binge clean.  Yes, and I even binge write.

According to the Internet (and yes, everyone knows everything HAS to be true on there--major eyeroll), binge eating is a mental disorder.  What about bingeing on a lot more than just eating?

I look at it this way.  I binge when I want to.  I can stop when I want to, too.  I think alcoholics say that, as well.  But in this case, it's true.  I have proof in various aspects of my life.. I just go through phases when I'm on a roll for certain things, and writing, for example, is one of them.

As for writing, I'm in a lull right now.  I can't seem to find the right place to work without being bugged, since my old laptop is dying a slow death.  I have a newer laptop that I use downstairs, but it's heavier, so working upstairs while sitting on our bed is tougher (that's my favorite place to write because I can see out the side window and watch our neighbors down the street).

Are you a binge doer?  Do you find that you go through periods where you can't get enough of doing something, but later, you can't be bothered?

I'd be curious to know if I'm alone.

Have a great week!
SweetTale Books

Saturday, May 21, 2016

I'm Rooting for the Pantser

It seems there's a division in writers who are usually in one or another camp.  There are the plotters (they outline the entire book before they write, every detail and every scene) and there are the pantsers (they write by the seats of their pants, or, in other words, don't plot out the book first).

I'm, personally, rooting for the pantser, since I am one.  I don't understand plotters one bit.  If you're going to outline the entire book in a small book of outlines, why not just write the thing to begin with?  Why bother outlining?

To me, it's obvious if the book is outlined first.  There's usually little to no creativity or imaginative writing.  The dialogue can seemed forced, because it's not fresh or thought of at that moment.  The writer knows the entire book forward and backword, so it becomes more drudgery than enjoyment to write that book--or so it feels to me.

With pantsers, they might know the ending and the beginning but don't know much in between.  They let the characters actually take over and write the book, so to speak (yes, the author is still typing it in, but they're in the heads of the characters as they write).  It's more fresh writing, because even the author doesn't always know how it's going to end.

I've tried plotting out a book.  But about the second paragraph, I've gone off the outline and in a new direction.  It's as exciting for the author as the reader as to what will happen next.

So for those of you who are plotters, good luck, but I'm not in your camp.  I just ask that you don't beat me up or you'll damage my creative muse that seems to be very moody.  Just know that us pantsers love being free from the confines of that blasted outline and love the feeling of not knowing what's next.

Have a great week!
SweetTale Books

Friday, May 20, 2016

I'd Like Research for 100, Alex

I've had various conversations with family members where I've pulled in information I've stumbled upon through research for books.  It's fascinating to give that information to the person.  They usually ask, 'how do you know this?'  When I tell them I had to research it for a book, their expression turns to either disgust or disbelief.

Hey.  I worked hard for that research.  I learned a lot, and they just ignore me?  Eh.  Their loss. LOL!

What about in books that you read or write?  Can you tell if extensive research has been done?

Here's what I like to do.  First, I look at the area where I'm researching, and get a feel for the culture.  I read local blogs, local news stories, and even look up the cultural differences any way I can.  When people complain about local ordinances, I consider that a blessing, because it gives my story conflict.

Then, I look up the history of the area or the situation at hand.  I also look at geography and weather for that area.  If it's prone to tornadoes, for example, you can bet that threat's always on the horizon, since that will give the story depth and more risky situations.

Here's an example of what I found about Haiti when I wrote the book 'Voo Do Love Me' which was the second in the Extreme Travel book series.  I just put down information as I got it, so some of it may not be categorized well.  However, each of these notes could be used as a conflict/plot point.




Research is fun, actually.  If you're a writer, take the time to look into the area you're writing about.  If you're a reader, you'll be able to tell if a writer took the time to actually do a bit of background for the book or not.

Have a great week!
SweetTale Books

Thursday, May 19, 2016

One Note and Plotting

A friend of mine called me a week or so ago and told me about this great product called One Note.  I've worked with it before, and consider it to be like sticky notes.  You can write what you want on the note, and post it on your desktop, for example.

She uses it to create her plots, putting all plot points in one place.  It's a great idea if you like that type of thing.  Since I'm a pantser and pretty much think of things in scenes, it probably won't work for me.  But I do write down key scenes and work toward those.  However, I use Microsoft Excel for that, so I can have different worksheets for different information.  One for the scenes, one for character information (like descriptions, ages, personalities, names, etc.), and one for any research.  I use Excel so I can do simple math, like if someone gets on a plane and has to travel 20 hours, what time will it be when they land in that new timezone type of thing.

But if you need something quick that's visually easy to handle, try One Note.  It comes with many computers these days, and really is easy to use.

Have a great week!
SweetTale Books

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Percy and Larry--or How to Market a Book

The Tale of the Percy, the Purple Hippo and the Larry, the Lime Gecko


Sometimes, I just have to go outside the box to get my brain working more creatively.  So indulge me while I tell a little story I just made up about the purple hippo and the lime gecko and marketing.  Enjoy!


 It was Percy, the purple hippo's third birthday.  He invited all his friends to the party, but no one came.

Except for the Larry, the Lime Gecko.





Larry wasn't very nice to Percy.  He made fun of his color, his size, and even his nose.  Larry kept a frown on his face all the time.
Larry slithered into the backyard, where all the party balloons and the clown waited for the guests.  "This is a rotten party," Larry said.

Percy sighed.  "No one else came, so it's just you and me."

"What's good here?  Should I just go home?"

"No."  Percy knew he had to sell the party, to make Larry stay.  If not, Larry would slither away and talk badly about Percy's lacking party.  "This is a great party.  I'm just waiting for the rest of my friends to come by.  We have a clown, cake, and even pin-the-tale on the lion."  Percy pointed to each of the items.  "If you win any of the games we have, you'll get a special prize.  It's the best prize in the whole world, but it's a secret."

"Best prize, eh?"  Larry's frown deepened.  "I don't think you have anything.  This party's lame."

Percy was on thin ice.  "Not at all.  I can guarantee everyone will want to be here."  He ushered Larry to the clown.  "Show Larry what you can do."

The clown chuckled, and made Larry a few balloon animals, painted his face, and even made him laugh.

"Pretty good," Larry said.  "So that's your hook to bring people in.  Put the clown out front.  He'll make the kids come here."  He leaned closer.  "You have to market this party or all the kids will think it's lame."

"I see."  Percy thought for a moment.  "Next, we have a few games.  I like the pin the tail on the lion."  He pointed to the real lion in the corner.  "That's my uncle.  He loves this game."

"Do not," the lion barked.  "But I have to do it.  It's my job."  The poor thing rolled its eyes.  "Just know if you hit it, I'm going to be good and angry.  I might even roar."

"Cool."  Larry pulled on a blindfold, was spun three times, and aimed for the lion.  He kept trying and trying, finally sticking it into the lion's mane.  The lion let out a huge roar but didn't hurt Larry.  Larry ripped off the blindfold.  "There's your scary part.  Have the clown tell the others there's danger and risk."

Percy shrugged but went to tell the clown.  When he returned, Larry was eating the cake.

"Great cake.  It's your happy ending.  Tell the clown to describe this party like a book that people have to read.  You'll have more guests."

Percy talked to the clown once more.  The clown described the party to all the kids on the block, who just had to see it for themselves.  Lots of kids came to the party, eventually filling the backyard.  The party was a success.

"Selling this party was fun," Percy said to Larry.  "But how did you really do it?"

"Word of mouth is the best marketing.  Having the clown tell everyone made a few people come.  The more that came, the more the word got out.  I need a nap.  Great party."  And with that, Larry left the party.


Have a great week!
SweetTale Books

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Best Curds This Side of the Street

Speaking of bold marketing!  There's this bar in our small town that always has interesting posts outside on the marquee.  This week, they have the following:  'Best Curds This Side of the Street.'  (Note:  Curds are small pieces of cheese, that's usually dipped in batter and deep fried.  It's a Wisconsin thing, I think?)

Now it'd be hilarious if they were the only place that served food on that side of the street.  But not more than two doors down is a tiny bar and grill.  I told my husband that there's going to be a food war on that street, but he didn't understand--the bar and grill is that tiny.

Is that what marketing strategy should be?  Should marketers of books, for example, be saying their book is the best book around, to be refuted by trolls on Amazon with bad reviews?

Marketing, or so I've heard, is to make someone want your product and feel as if they have to have it.  The bar with the best curds is telling the consumer they'll never get curds as good as theirs if they shop on that side of the street.  But if they go across the street to the restaurant there (and there is at least one there, too), it might be better.  I suspect they're limiting themselves to who serves the best curds.

I'm thinking their marketing might be cute, but might need to be expanded to 'best curds in the Green Bay metro.'  Proving it might be an issue, because taste is subjective.  But who's to say they're not the best curds?

Thinking in this line of reasoning, I'm tempted to market my books as 'best sweet tale books around' since they're under the SweetTale marketing arm.  No one could refute that.  Right?  Maybe I need to go back to the drawing board and eat a few cheese curds to find out more.

Have a great week!
SweetTale Books

Monday, May 16, 2016

I'm Calling from Technical Support

Have you ever gotten those phone calls from 'Kevin' with an Indian accent?  He starts out with 'This is Kevin from technical support...' and goes on to say Microsoft's products are infected.  You have to do something to clean your computer, because they can tell, from where they're sitting, that you might have an infected computer.

It's a scam call.  I've gotten so many of these, it's ridiculous.  I usually stop them when they say they're from technical support.

Um...what company's technical support?  Oh.  Right.  They don't HAVE a company.  They also don't have any way to access your computer.

I got two of these the other day.  I usually argue with them and ask them how they sleep at night being so evil (no kidding...I've gotten so many of these, I tend to get a bit upset).  So finally, I decided to take another tact.  On the first of the calls, I asked the guy 'if I told you I had Linux, what would happen?'  I never said I had Linux, but just asked the question.

The guy stopped and said, 'we dialed a wrong number.'  He couldn't wait to get off the phone.  I told him to never call me again, yada, yada, yada.

Within an hour, I got another call from the same company.   I just hung up because my husband had come home and I didn't want him to hear how I treat this company.

I wish I were as creative as this guy, though.  It's a great listen, and some day, I'm going to aspire to what he said.




(Disclaimer: I shared this from Youtube. It's a Ted Talk and I intend no harm by sharing it.)

Have a great week!
SweetTale Books

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Résumés and Pitches

One night this past week, I spent over two hours on the phone with our youngest daughter.  She found the 'perfect' job and needed to update her résumé.  She didn't know where to start.

I took a look at the job description and helped her tailor her résumé to that job, specifically.  I made sure that the future boss would have all his job needs met, just from what she put on the résumé.

How did I do that?  I taught our daughter how to think like the boss.  For example, what would he want to see on the résumé first?  What would strike him the best, that she was the most talented for the job, or had what he needed?

I also told her not to worry about the interview.  He needed her more than she needed him, since it would just be for a summer job.  Why did I do that?  From years of being nervous in interviews.  I found if you go into an interview knowing you're very valuable to the employer, he's going to see you as valuable.  It's shown in nonverbal ways, to put him at ease that you know your skills and will give him a great product when you're done.

This theory is the same when applying it to pitches.  The pitch could be what you write on the back cover, for the blurb, or what you say when you send a query letter or when you meet the agent or publisher for the first time.  Know that you're the only one who can write that particular book with your voice, and it's unique enough that it'll sell.

Good luck!

Have a great week!
SweetTale Books

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Cool Site on Common English Errors

When you hear 'I could care less,' do you cringe?  What about people who mix up compliment and complement?

If you've always wished you could find a one-stop place to find a definitive answer on what people are doing wrong in their writing or speaking, go here:

Common Errors in English Usage

I've used this so much, it's crazy.  Great site!

For the problems listed above, it's 'couldn't care less', and compliment is saying something nice about someone.  Complement means matching or completing.

It's a great site for writers.  Use it.

Have a great week!
SweetTale Books

Friday, May 13, 2016

Aspiring, much?

I have a friend with a high school aged son.  The son is about ready to graduate (in about a month), and doesn't know what he's going to do out of high school.  He figures he'll stay home for a year to find himself.

His real goal is to write books.  When the mom told me that, I groaned.  It's great that the kid wants to write, but you can't make a living off writing books, especially right out of high school.  I know...some people do it, but the odds of making it at all are very very slim.  It's kind of like a kid going to Hollywood, figuring they'll be a star in the first week.  Doesn't happen 99% of the time.

Then the mom explained how the kid had figured out a whole series of books in a genre other than romance.  His aspirations just became doable, in my mind.  Why?  Romance authors are too numerous and it's very difficult to get noticed.  It's said not to put books in the romance or mystery genres when publishing, because that's just throwing your book away.  I know...all of mine are in those genres.  UGH.

Needless to say, I told the mom to encourage the kid to go to college and get a degree in writing.  It will help him in the long run.  There are numerous good programs out there, some taught by leaders in their field, such as famous writers.

So if you have aspirations to write, do it.  Just make sure you can support yourself before you give up your day job.

Have a great week!
SweetTale Books

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Home Page Stress?

Are you stressed out by the number of links on your browser bookmark bar?  If you're like me, you put the most important things on the bar, right below the tabs, so you can find things fast.  But a lot of things are important, so it gets cluttered.

I have a solution--two actually.  I just started using one of them, and man, it's cleaned up my browser experience!

I use Google Chrome and other browsers (like Firefox, Mozilla, etc.), so I think the first of these options is best if you use something other than Chrome.

Start.me is a product that's pretty fantastic.  The basic product is free.  Just go to start.me (that's the URL you put in the browser window) and you'll be allowed to sign up, free, for the basics.  You can include a nice background, cool widgets with links, and organize it so you don't have everything on the bookmark top bar.  I also make this my 'new tab' page, so every time I put in a new tab, it shows me my startup page.

This is what mine looks like:



I can make the icons small or large, or whatever I like.  Very cool!

There's another product called iChrome, that's an extension for Google Chrome.  It's very similar.  Our daughter uses that and loves it.

So clean up your browser act and destress yourself.  You'll thank yourself later.

Have a great week!
SweetTale Books

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Writing Southern Dialogue

Like all authors, I have some reviews on my books that make me just scratch my head.  One such review dinged me because my characters that were born in Texas didn't have a southern twang throughout the book.

Here's my rebuttal:

* It's difficult to read an entire book filled with people talking 'southern.'  That would not only include idioms used only in the south, but missing 'g' sounds on most gerunds and present participles (-ing words), but also using the dialect of just that culture.  For example, which is easier to read for an entire 400-page book:

1)  I'm going to go to work now, and am taking the car.

2)  I'm-a fixin' to haul off to work and am takin' the car.

3)  I'm gonna go to work now, and am takin' the car.

Yes, that second one is considered to be the most 'southern,' but to most Northerners, 'fixin' doesn't make sense.  However, they use that term a LOT in Texas.  So I opt for the third one, but don't make ALL the -ing words missing the final 'g' so it's a little easier to read.  If the reader sees an entire page missing the final 'g,' it'll be tough for them to read.


* I've been to Texas a few times in my life.  Not EVERYONE speaks 'southern' there, with a twang.  I even asked one taxi driver about it, figuring he'd know more than anyone else about this, since he dealt with the public a lot.  He said he rarely heard southern accents.  Granted, it was near a big city (San Antonio) where many tourists came to visit.  But my guess is that the dyed-in-the-wool southern accents that were tough to understand came from people who were sheltered from outsiders in their lifetime.

So the next time a reader decides to ding a book for not being tough to read...I MEAN full of southern speech, just know the author may have a reason for it.  They're also making it easier you for you to read.


Have a great week!
SweetTale Books

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Cerulean Skies?

I have a friend who would love to write a book.  She started and got to about page three.  She keeps re-editing those pages, over and over again, just to make sure.  They're entirely too over-edited, and it shows.  The pacing is really slow and she describes, in detail, every single thing in the surrounding area.  She even describes the sky as cerulean.

Cerulean sky.  That's not a normal color to think about.  It would stop me dead in my tracks.  What about you?  Would you know what color that is, off the bat, or would you go look it up?

I looked it up.  Turns out, the true color for cerulean blue isn't a definite color.  I checked on Wikipedia and Simple English Wikipedia (I know...people don't trust those sites, but it does have its merits and I like it).

I found these entry:  Cerulean (from Wikipedia) and Cerulean (from Simple English Wikipedia)

From that page, it seems that it can be a range from light blue to dark blue, with the main color being a blue like what's in the American flag (or close to it).

The point is this...if you write 'the sky was cerulean,' realize that not everyone's going to understand what color that truly is.  It's better to describe it in terms the reader would understand, IF you feel the need to describe it.  Since I'm always up against the problem of 'too many words,' personally, I'd put, 'it was a gorgeous day outside, with not a cloud in the sky or a worry in her heart.'  One sentence, and not a word about the color cerulean, which is up for debate.

Have a great week!
SweetTale Books

Monday, May 9, 2016

Series of Books on Amazon

My friend, Diane, emailed me about how series of books are presented on Amazon.  Here's what I'm talking about, from her series of Amish romances:

Dreams of Plain Daughters


Here's part of it--as much as I could fit on this page.  To see the rest to the right, click on the link for Dreams of Plain Daughters.


See how it's laid out?  To the right, it tells the customer which in the series they haven't bought yet.  Very cool!

From what I understand, this isn't automatic.  You have to ask Amazon to do this for a series of books.  I have a bunch of series of books, so I'm going to have to construct a few emails to them to ask if they'll do this for mine.  I might wait until the series is done for the Three Cross Faith books.  I'm working on the last one right now, and it's a doozy!

Have a great week!
SweetTale Books

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Saturday, May 7, 2016

The Oxford Comma

I've been seeing a lot of posts and things from writers and editors that make me question reality.  The one that bugs me the most is the sentences missing the Oxford comma.

What's that, you say?  I'm so glad you asked!

Whenever an author writes about three things in a row, the first two should have commas after them.  It's that simple.  But more and more I'm seeing just the first item with the comma, and the second comma missing.  If you don't use that second comma, then the last two items are considered to be together, or part of the first item.



******************

Here's an example:

I had eggs, milk, and toast.  

So they had three separate things.

Without the comma:

I had eggs, milk and toast.  

Thus the milk was ON the toast, because they're paired together.  Yuck.



******************


Another example:

Specially marked tables are reserved for disabled, elderly, and pregnant women.

Without the comma, you have:
Specially marked tables are reserved for disabled, elderly and pregnant women.
Yikes.  Elderly pregnant women?  See the difference?


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And one more:

My passengers included skunks, James, and Susan.

Three different things--skunks and James and Susan.

Without the comma:

My passengers included skunks, James and Susan.

This time, you have skunks named James and Susan.  Do they stink?

******************

See why the Oxford comma is MORE than necessary?

Have a great week!
SweetTale Books

Friday, May 6, 2016

Yummy Chocolate Chess Pie

This week, I'm making chocolate chess pie (for Mother's Day).  It has nothing to do with chess, but a LOT to do with chocolate.  Can't go bad there, eh?

I'm basing my recipe on this web page:  Chocolate Chess Pie II from All Recipes

I make 4 small pie shells from this recipe.  Here's the recipe from the website:


Ingredients:

1 1/2 cup sugar
3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 eggs
1 can (5 ounces) evaporated milk
4 tbsp melted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
Unbaked pie crust  (I made homemade, using one 9-inch dough for one pie)


Directions:


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Put the pie dough into the shells.  To make a nice border, I put circles of colored dough on the edges.  It turned out like petals of a flower.
  • Mix sugar and cocoa together, then beat in the eggs.  Add milk, melted butter, and vanilla and mix well.
  • Pour into four unbaked pie shells.  Cook for 40-45 minutes or until set.
  • Let cool before serving.  Great with whipped cream on the top!

Pictures: 

Here are the cut out petals.  I put food coloring in the leftover dough.  Because of the butter, it turns out almost marbled.  I used a decorating tip to make the circles (the bottom is a tiny circle).


Here's the finished product. I made one with just pie dough (not colored--in the back, on the left) so you can see the difference.



Sometimes, the top 'breaks' and sinks.  Not to worry...it still tastes good.  It's almost like a brownie pie.


And here's an up close 'flower.'
YUMMY!  I like whipped cream on the top.  :)




Have a great week!
SweetTale Books

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Plots, Plots, Plots

An old school teacher of mine celebrates his birthday the same day I do.  Thus, we send cards and funny emails to each other.  He's in his 70s, lives with his wife in PA, and an overall nice guy.  He said I'm the only one he knows that shares his birthday.

Anyway, he sent me this recently:

Today's generation daughter texts Dad on MODERN MARRIAGE WEDDING ANNOUNCEMENT 


"Daddy, I am coming home to get married, soon. Get out your check book. LOL I'm in love with a boy who is far away from me. I am in Australia , and he lives in  Scotland . We met on a dating website, became friends on Facebook, had long chats on Whatsapp, he proposed to me on Skype, and now we've had two months of relationship through Viber. My beloved and favorite Dad, I need your blessing, good wishes, and a really  big wedding! Lots of love and thanks, from your favorite daughter. Lilly"


-------------
 Lilly's Dad's reply (also texting)... (Dad has it all together)
"My Dear Lilly, Like Wow! Really? Cool!  Whatever! I suggest you two get married on Twitter, have fun on Tango, buy your kids on Amazon, and pay for it all through Paypal. And when you get fed up with this  new husband, sell him on Ebay! 
L.O.L. Daddy"!

Cracked me up!  I sent it to a writing friend and she wrote back, 'there's a plot for ya.'  Too funny!  Can you imagine a story based on this?  Hilarious!

Thanks for the idea, Nan!

Have a great week!
SweetTale Books

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

A Reminder--Mother's Day is Coming Up

First, the answer to yesterday's puzzle:


...was LIGHTHEARTED.  Did you get it?


-----------------------------------------------------------
Here's your reminder.  Mother's Day is coming up.  Don't have your mom around or in town?  Then find someone who helps you out and honor them.  My mom's in PA, and my mother-in-law is in NC.  I'll send flowers, but since I don't have anyone else here in the Midwest that I know, I'll send well wishes to my friends who are moms.  And to some, I'll send empathy cards, since their kids have 'issues.'  LOL!

So this is your reminder.  You still have time to get your mom or a caregiver/helper something special to honor them on Sunday.  Don't forget!


Have a great week!
SweetTale Books


Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Fancy a Cool Game?

I've been addicted to games on my Nook and my phone.  It's driving me nuts, but for some reason, I just have to play.

The latest?  Rebus by Blosphorus.  It's free on Google Play.  I even went so far as to play more than once, record my answers, and put them on my website.  Pathetic?  Yep.  I know.

So if you're playing that game, and need some cheats, I have a bunch of answers here (at least 190...probably more by the time this goes live):  Rebus Answers.  I'll keep adding to it, I'm sure.

Here's one I made up.  See if you can figure it out:



Enjoy your week!

Have a great week!
SweetTale Books

Monday, May 2, 2016

Drama, Drama, Drama

Having adult children is a trip.  Our middle kid (the redhead with attitude daughter) has been dating the same guy for about two years now.  We really like the guy, and he's become part of the family.

Our son is taking his time but is chatting up a girl in Georgia.  He even went to see her last fall, under the guise of attending Dragoncon.  They're really good friends but think they'll never date since they're so far apart.  However, he did tell me he's been talking to this other woman online, who fantasizes about him.  Um...I told him to run away from that one.  Probably some guy who lives in his parent's basement..

Then there's our youngest.  She'd never been out on a date until this week.  Some guy in her class asked her out.  They went out and had a good time, apparently, even though she thought she'd made a LOT of mistakes.  He asked her out again.  He even called her cutie.  She's over the moon and I get hourly (sometimes) emails about what to wear on these dates,  how to interpret the signs, and is it too early to put 'in a relationship' on Facebook for a status.  Um...three dates doesn't quite cut it.  They finally went out again...but this time, he was all hands.  Thus, it's over.  She'd had it with him.  What a quick relationship, but I heard ALL about it.  I believe next time, she'll be a little wiser...and maybe learn karate.

And here I thought early childhood was tough.  UGH!  For all you new moms out there, keep them young as long as you can.  Carseats are great restraints because once they start becoming independent, there's no holding them back.  LOL!

Have a great week!
SweetTale Books

Sunday, May 1, 2016

May Day! May Day!

It's May Day.  What's that, you say?

Young whippersnappers never heard of May Day?

May Day is a day of celebration.  My mother used to celebrate it in school when she was a kid.  It was a day to have picnics, string ribbons around the may pole, and to dance and sing.  It was also a public holiday. 

That holiday was started on May 1, 1886, because of a strike of over 200,000 (some references say 300,000) workers across the nation.  They were fighting for an 8-hour work day.  The strike became a riot, and some people were killed from dynamite thrown at the police.  Many of the instigators began the fight in Chicago.  Eight anarchists were convicted of conspiracy.

Because of this riot, Labor Day was created.  We now celebrate it in September, but it was formed because of the strike that began on May 1, 1886.  

Mayday is also used as a life-threatening distress call.  The reason they use 'Mayday' is for the following reason, from the reference What Does Mayday Mean?:

"Mayday got its start as an international distress call in 1923. It was made official in 1948. It was the idea of Frederick Mockford, who was a senior radio officer at Croydon Airport in London. He came up with the idea for “mayday” because it sounded like the French word m’aider, which means “help me.”
Interesting.  And here I just thought of May Day as a day closer to spring, and thought Mayday was connected in some way.

Have a great week!
SweetTale Books

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References:
History and Origin of May Day\
The Bloody Story of How May Day Became a Holiday for Workers
The Brief Origins of May Day
Wikipedia 'May Day'
What Does Mayday Mean?