For some reason I can add sidebars, but not new posts. Please check back later. I have been working on a variety of things including switching my blog soon from this one, which was set up with my now-defunct West Wisconsin Telcom account. I hope to have my new blog through Gmail up soon. I will provide a link and announcement when I've got everything straight. 7/2/11

Friday, August 29, 2008

The official start to fall

I always think of Labor Day as when fall officially starts! Have a safe and happy weekend.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Author Michael Schein is an example of good marketing

I met Schein at the San Francisco Writers Conference and we keep in touch. I recently got an email from him with the good news that his book, Just Deceits: A Historical Courtroom Mystery, is scheduled for release next month. You can read about it in more detail at his web site,, where you can also pre-order it.

Schein knows how to use his writers’ network by keeping us informed about his writing and by clearly asking us to let others know about his book. Writers can no longer hunch over their typewriters, not worrying their pretty little heads about selling their books. We all have to pitch in, market our books, and support other writers in their marketing efforts.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Recently read: Philip Kerr’s A German Requiem

This is the final book in the trilogy published as Berlin Noir. It takes places several years after the war has ended, but before the division of Berlin. The protagonist, Bernie Gunther, who we’ve followed through the earlier years, heads to Vienna to find the killers of an American. Vienna has more food, more warmth, and more buildings standing than Berlin, but the horrors of the war still exist in the minds of all those involved in the conflict. No one, not the Germans, not the Americans, not the Viennese, not the British, and certainly not the Russians, can be trusted. This book, like his others, is well worth reading. It examines life in Europe as Nazism fades into the preliminary warnings of the Cold War.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The update from the Bat Cave

Last week we had all sorts of visitors, including welcome ones such as my cousin Jean, her husband Steve, my aunt Barb, and unwelcome ones such as a constant stream of Big Brown House Bats (as opposed to the other variety, Little Brown House Bats). Part of Sunday’s post-dinner entertainment was participating in a Bat Removal. Once our welcome guests left on Monday morning and Carl headed to Madison, my father and I had many chances to perfect our humane Bat Removal techniques. These included using a dust mop to safely trap one on the floor, and a large pitcher to trap one hanging on a lower wall. Father worked the doors and I worked the removal tool, and each bat flew off into the daylight, confused but alive. By Tuesday morning, I’d contacted our pest control firm and signed up for a Bat Eviction. Special one-way doors are installed where the bats are entering. The bats can fly out, but can't get back in. We have now been bat-free for three days and it was well worth the cost!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Contests and events in The Money Corner

Image from

As August winds down, autumn contests and events are winding up! Be sure to scroll down to The Money Corner to check for September deadlines.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Recently read: Laura Lippman’s What the Dead Know

I first started reading Lippman when I was spending a lot of time consulting in Columbia, Maryland. Everyone was so excited about having a local author writing about Baltimore and the rest of the state (one of her books is even set in Columbia). Although I like her series with Tess Mongahan, I find her other thrillers far more gripping. This one is about two sisters who disappeared in 1975 and the policeman and family who never forgot them. One of the sisters turns up 30 years later after a hit and run accident. Lippman does a fine job creating strong and intriguing characters, from the vanished sisters themselves to the social worker and young cop who are pulled into the contemporary case. And as ever, the social and physical environments of Baltimore are integral parts of the novel.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Teaching ESL (English as a Second Language)

Years ago I was a literacy volunteer in Madison, and I asked to be assigned to the ESL section. As a result, I tutored a woman from Shanghai who was a neuroscientist in her 50s (at the time, I was only in my 30s). We became good friends, and are still in touch although she’s lived in California now for more than 10 years. Many of my friends are teachers, and a number of them teach ESL. Recently, I connected with Eric Roth, an ESL teacher and writer in Los Angeles. Roth has a Web site that’s an excellent source for ESL teachers as well as ESL learners Even if you aren’t interested in ESL but love words and reading about people doing things that benefit their community and beyond, visit his blog at and his Web site for information on his publication, Compelling Conversations.

Monday, August 18, 2008

More thoughts on self-publishing and print-on-demand

Some traditionally published books . . .

Publishing is changing rapidly, and that what used to be called the “Vanity Press” field is now a viable and respectable way to get readers for your words. Here are a few things I’ve learned from my own research and from authors I know who have gone these routes:

Learn as much as you can about the various avenues and companies. Read their web sites as well as Google them to see what writers who have used them say about them. Some I know are iUniverse at and Lulu (print-0n-demand) at

Get professional help. You-niversity has a class on this topic. Check it out at

You will have to market your books—this is hard work and one many writers shy away from. It is, nevertheless, a fact. Some of the many sources for help are Joan Stewart’s and Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s (this writer/teacher even uses the same blog layout as I do!). Be sure you have the time and expertise to do marketing and promoting. Otherwise, your friends and family will be your only readers.

A good source of information is See my posting on July 13, 2008 formore details about this site.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Morning rituals

My dew-drenched zinnias with this morning’s sun lighting them up.

When my friend Susie was visiting from Ethiopia, we did our yoga together each morning on the deck, a practice I’ve continued since her visit. This morning, as I turned my head toward the porch during my spinal twist (Supta Parivartanasana), the sun broke free from the hill enclosing my valley and lit up my zinnias.

I’ve been doing yoga in the morning for more than 35 years, whether I have time only for a 3-minute sun salutation, or can do a full-blown sequence concluding with meditation. I think it’s important for everyone, no matter what, to have some sort of morning ritual that signals your brain to start the day. The ritual can expand or contract to fit your schedule. Often it can be something you have to do anyway. For example, Carl controls his diabetes in part through exercise. His morning ritual includes taking the dog on a 4-mile walk—a form of meditation for both of them. Sharpie meditates on the bunnies and chipmunks hiding in the brush.

The reason I believe the morning ritual is important is that it truly does kick your brain into gear. After I’ve done my yoga, I can sit at my computer and words just pour out of me. I’ve been struggling for months with the ending to a short story, and after yesterday’s yoga, I immediately wrote the perfect conclusion. Carl carries a voice-activated recorder in the pocket of his walking clothes. Often, he thinks of the perfect solution to a work problem, or exactly what he needs to say to his colleague. Sharpie’s brilliant barks are recorded, too.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Recently read: Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens

I love both these writers although I’ve only recently started reading their works. I like their senses of humor, and this book is hilarious. First published in 1990 when neither one was a Big Name, it is well plotted, funny, irreverent, and magical—just my sort of book! The subtitle of the novel says it well: Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch. My favorite characters include two good buddies (a fallen angel and a demon) who have gotten hooked on the amenities of life on earth, a private in the army of witch-hunters, a middle-aged medium, the Satanic Nuns of the Chattering Order, and a Father (actually, there are several fathers, but I prefer the pipe-smoking one). The earth is heading toward Armageddon, the Four Bikers of the Apocalypse are riding toward England, and somehow the Antichrist has been misplaced.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Humber School for Writers

Located in Toronto, the Humber School offers a post-graduate correspondence program in Creative Writing. Acceptance to the program includes submitting writing a sample according to strict professional standards. One of the things I like about the Humber program is that the school requires prospective students to meet high standards—a good sign in this era of colleges and universities dumbing down their entry requirements, classes, and grades to get the most number of students. Once accepted, students work on their novels, books of short stories, volumes of poetry, or works of creative nonfiction with individual faculty members. For people serious about their goals, whether in writing, academia, or the professions, going the easy route is never wise. The Humber School sounds as if it is well worth your time and money, plus the school even has a literary agency established to help graduates in finding publishers. What a great benefit! For more information, visit

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

More thoughts on memoirs

One of the most famous of English-speaking memoirs is the Diary of Samuel Pepys. Written in code from 1660 through 1670, Pepys never intended it to be published. It is from his chatty and intelligent daily entries that we know so much about life in London during the Restoration of King Charles II, the Great Plague and the Great Fire.

This blog by Jerry Waxler is about memoir writing: I recommend checking this regularly for those of you who are writing memoirs (or thinking about writing them). Waxler shares aspects of memoirs through example, discussion, and practical suggestions. He also provides writing prompts at the end of each posting. I believe one of the many reasons to write your memoir—whether it’s one brief segment of your life or your life as a whole—is to put things in perspective. Years of unresolved conflict with a co-worker might tempt you to omit the whole sorry sequence, but, as Waxler points out in a posting this summer, you were changed because of the experience and therefore, it deserves acknowledgment. And who knows? Your memoir, like Pepys', may contribute to the historical record of future generations!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Recently read: Beverley Nichols’ Down the Garden Path

This book, written in three weeks in 1932, is MAGNIFICENT. Nichols was a well-known writer who hobnobbed with the other British and American literary elites of the 1920s and later. He wrote a lot—from magazine articles to novels (six of ‘em), children’s stories, memoirs, plays, and six books detailing his adventures creating gardens in his homes in England.

This is the first of his gardening books, and it describes a cottage garden that a king would covet. Now, this is not an ordinary book about composting and getting plants to winter over. Nichols has a wonderful, witty sense of the ridiculous, a sensitive appreciation for the important things in life, and is a master of the written language. Reading his description of how he greeted his garden each weekend upon his return from the workaday world in London, and his discussion about planting hundreds of bulbs, literally changed my way of viewing chores. Nothing in Nichols life was a chore as long as he had a garden. I’m no gardener, but as is the case with all good writers, Nichols’ writing transcends the topic and provides inspiration beyond himself and his subject.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Check the facts before you forward

When you get those forwarded emails about how antiperspirants cause cancer, tales of “true” acts of heroism or villainy, “verified” requests by deposed royalty needing donations, a “true” story about some hot issue like immigration or a candidate’s religion, check the facts at before you forward these “true” items on to all your friends. Even if the email swears the information has been verified by a “lawyer” or came from a newspaper, check it out yourself.

It’s not only that the emails might have a virus, but Americans are seeing a lot of downright lies being perpetrated. Don’t play into the hands of people and organizations with harmful agendas. Check things out, not only through Snopes, but also through traditional media. As an educator and a journalist, I’m bothered by the growing numbers of people who base their opinions on who shouts the loudest on talk shows and which videos get the most hits on YouTube. Let’s at least monitor our emails for factual content.

One thing I often do is sign email petitions on behalf of causes I believe in. These usually reach my in-box via organization newsletters and alerts—I’ve signed up for them, so I know they are valid. Sometimes I’ll receive a petition request to sign that’s forwarded by a friend whom I trust. I sign those, too, as long as I agree and as long as it’s an organization or web site that I recognize as legitimate.

And, of course, forwarding a good joke or hilarious photos (I’m very fond of cute animal pictures) is always fun! But “truth” isn’t the issue in those emails.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Web sites to visit

Love quotations? I do. I use this site often: Another good one is Bartlett’s Quotations at

The online dictionary site for Merriam-Webster also has word games, crosswords, and podcasts at

Check here for inspiration, humor, and making art journals. See

When you need a Zen moment, read some of Whitman’s essays at

And finally, when you’d like to see how the rest of the world dresses, this is a fun site to skim through:

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Recently read: Donna Leon’s Fatal Remedies

I love these books revealing Commissario Brunetti as he quietly goes about his work of keeping Venice safe. In this one, he and his wife, Paola, must look at their mutual values and their differing ways of acting on those values. Sex tours to the Orient, tainted medicines, toxic families, and political machinations are all present and accounted for. We get to follow Brunetti as he walks the back alleys and rides the vaporetti (water buses) of this glamorous and sinking city.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Bas Bleu: a reader’s dream

We are book addicts. Between the three of us, we support local chain bookstores like the Borders in Eau Claire and the Barnes & Noble in Woodbury. We also shop at our local independent bookseller, Bookends in Menomonie. We buy books through the Internet—Amazon in particular. And, not least, we buy from catalogs such as Daedalus Books. One of our long time favorite catalogs is Bas Bleu. This book seller bills itself as the champion of odd little books. We have discovered so many wonderful reads through their selections and recommendations. For example, one of my recent finds through Bas Bleu is Beverley Nichols’ delightful gardening books (more about him later in his own posting). To check out Bas Bleu and to request your own catalog, see

Friday, August 1, 2008

More calls for submissions: A Cup of Comfort

Shown is a recent volume, A Cup of Comfort for Sisters

A Cup of Comfort is a series of anthologies containing inspiring true stories. Upcoming volumes include A Cup of Comfort for Fathers (submit stories by August 31, 2008), A Cup of Comfort for Parents of Children with Special Needs (submit stories by September 30, 2008), A Cup of Comfort for Dog Lovers II (submit stories by December 15, 2008), and A Cup of Comfort for the Grieving Heart (submit stories by February 1, 2009). The web site has detailed guidelines for each volume, as well as tips for having your story accepted. For more information, see