Friday, December 14, 2007

Finding the Foreword in the Past

Yesterday, I received the following plea-for-help e-mail:

Hello Ami,
I was looking for information on how to write a foreward for a book and found your article on "Foreword Thinking -- An Introduction to the Introduction". The last paragraph in your blog article stated, "Tomorrow, I'll discuss how to write one." (a foreward)....

I cannot find your example, and would like to read it, as a friend has asked me to write a foreward for her book. I have never done this before, and I want to to her justice. I thought I could find an outline to follow, but am having no luck. Can you help me? Thank you.

When I responded, I explained I was sorry she couldn't find the related blog article. The original post on foreword writing even had "Foreword" in the title, but it doesn't appear when one tries to "Search this Blog." I don't profess to understand such things.

Since I wrote the original post, Blogger was acquired by Google. For reasons that escape me, nothing in the blog that was written prior to the acquisition is searchable.

In 2005, when I wrote them, the posts on writing forewords received significant response. Quite a few people found themselves in the position yesterday's e-mail writer is now in -- pleased to be asked to write a foreword, wanting to do it justice, and unsure of how to proceed... Writing a Foreword for a book is even a topic on 43 Things. The prevailing theme, however, tends to be "I want to do this, but have no idea how to begin..."

For ease of reference to anyone interested, I reworked the related blog posts into a free article on Foreword Writing. I offer it to all future Foreword writers with my compliments and congratulations. Happy writing!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Taking the Reins

This past week, Newsday magazine published an article on riding that included an interview with Dr. Warson, and included a mention of "The Rider's Pain-Free Back."

Written by Caryn Eve Murray, the article discusses some of the challenges that face people who start riding when they are more "mature." What I especially liked, however, was how often those she interviewed mentioned that riding was a great way for their families to spend quality time together.

I have a dear friend who regularly bemoans the fact that her husband would rather sit and watch TV than do something -- anything -- with his family. He'll watch programs featuring sports he doesn't even like rather than get off the couch and experience his own life.

We've all heard that "no one ever laid on their death bed and said 'I wish I'd spent more time at the office'" spoken as a cautionary tale against workaholics. In the same vein, I believe that no one ever laid on their death bed and wished they'd watched more television or played more video games.

When I'm feeling the final minutes of my life ebb away, some regrets I may experience include:

I wish I'd spent more time learning to play the guitar...
I wish I'd learned to speak French fluently...
I wish I'd read all the books I wanted to read...
I wish I'd written all the screenplays I have in my head...
I wish I'd spent less money on things and spent more on travel...
I wish I'd worked more diligently to get my movies made...
I wish I'd spent more time riding...
I wish I'd played more with my child...

It seems to me that all regrets -- past, present, or future -- stem from choosing inaction over action. Sitting on the sidelines may seem like the easy road. But each life only has a finite supply of moments alloted. And inactivity, laziness, and sloth just leach those moments away.

I am grateful to Ms. Murray for favorably mentioning the book. And I am even more grateful to her for the reminder that every day is an opportunity for me to "Take the Reins" and fill my moments to minimize any regrets that might arise when those moments come to an end.

Friday, November 30, 2007

A Beacon of Bungled Privacy and Boiled Frogs

How do you boil a frog?

According to the old object lesson, you do not get the water bubbling and then drop the unfortunate amphibian into the pot. He will react to the unfavorable conditions, jump out, and save his life.

If, however, you put Froggy into the pot and then gradually increase the temperature of the water, he'll adjust, stay put -- and eventually croak.

Today, the Washington Post ran an article about Facebook's Beacon which posts user's online activities for others to see, share, and enjoy.

Touted as a means of using word-of-mouth to give "personal recommendations" to purchases, services, and entertainment choices, Beacon allows participating advertisers detailed information into the buying choices and browsing habits of Facebook users -- without their explicit consent. Often, without their knowledge.

There have been several instances, for example, of people who did their Christmas shopping online, only to have all of their purchases (including markdowns in price) show up for their friends' and families' perusal.

One man bought his wife a diamond ring for Christmas only to have her ask him "who the ring was for!?"

Not wanting to spoil the surprise, he asked, "What ring?"

Ooooooo, he had some 'splainin' to do!

It's Christmas, for crying out loud. Who wants their gift purchases broadcast to the general public? It's ridiculous.

But not half as ridiculous as this comment on the whole bad-idea Beacon spotlight into the soft underbelly of users' lives:

“We know we don’t have a right to privacy...” says 25-year old Facebook user Tricia Bushnell. “Just because I belong to Facebook, do I now have to be careful about everything else I do on the Internet?”

I'm not sure what I find most unsettling -- the disturbing thought that a young person in America doesn't believe she has a right to privacy, or the unstated assumption that until this Beacon Bungle, Ms. Bushnell and others like her didn't think they had to be careful about what they did online.

Bushnell is quoted in a New York Times story on the matter . According to the article, in the past 10 days, over 50,000 people have signed a petition protesting the online tracking.

Facebook brushes aside the protests and complaints. "You hate it now," they say, "but in time, you'll learn to like it." They have no intention of doing away with Beacon. All they have to do is wait for the younger users to grow up with the idea of a Beacon shining in the private places of their lives.

-- Is it warm in here, or is it just me?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Great Expectations

A few weeks agom a reporter from Newsday magazine interviewed Dr. Warson regarding older riders. As Dr. Jim said, "it seems the baby boomers are starting to retire and want to ride before it's too late."

According to Dr. Jim, the interview went really well. The writer, Caryn Eve Murray, is a lady who just got into dressage after a 20 year layoff from riding. He said she was really good at asking the kinds of questions that people often have. He talked about ways for people to get in shape and build strength and flexibility.

As of right, the article on older equestrians is slated to run on Saturday, Dec. 8 - in the "ACT II section." We're looking forward to seeing it!

Monday, October 01, 2007

Between Projects

The first edit of the Major Project is officially off to the client. 4 days early and under budget. Yay! In two weeks, I'll meet with the Committee members at a Retreat in Harrisburg, PA, to go over the Project and solidify any editorial changes.

Sometimes working with a committee can be a nightmare. In this case, however, the client has been a dream to work with. They've all done their "homework," they've been appreciative of the effort that has gone into making the Project a reality, and they've been very professional in their approach to the process. I couldn't have asked for more.

So, for the next two weeks, I'm officially "Between Projects." The client may have two other Major Projects for me to work on, but nothing has been decided yet. I'm in no hurry to go looking for work right away, though. The first order of business is to CLEAN MY HOUSE. And barn. From top to bottom.

Since I began the Major Project, the interior of my barn has been completely redone. My studio is very close to useable. And my house is completely trashed. So, in the next two weeks, I only want to scrub, and sweep, and dust, and paint.

And write. Though I've been working and writing non-stop since May, there have been a few creative projects that have arisen which are begging for my attention, and which have had to be shelved for the time being.

One in particular is calling for action. In the early stages of a project, once I commit to it, I get a small spiral-bound notebook that I dedicate to the topic. I've begun carrying one around for the Fun Project, and it's filling up fast.

I guess it just goes to show that we are never truly "Between Projects." Instead, we do our best to juggle the things that interest us most and work on as many as we can at one time.

But first, the bathroom needs cleaning.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Connecting With the Experts

The other day I received an e-mail from someone who wanted some co-authoring advice. The e-mail began with some wonderful flattery about my work (always useful when asking someone for advice). The author then gave me a brief accounting of her experience in writing, ghostwriting, journalism, and publishing.

Then came the question:

Ok, I wanted to ask some advice. I want to write a book about [a very competitive sport]. Because the competition for this type of book is fierce, I want to ask a local [pro athlete] to co-author with me. For starters, I'm doing a newspaper interview with him.... and I want to ask him about co-authoring the book. The writing is no problem.... but I want to capture his philosophy on training (exercises, warm ups, getting into the zone, etc.).

Would it be best if I interviewed him at length, and then wrote the book myself... and asked him to write the forward? Or would that not be enough motivation to work with me? Just wondering if you have any ideas, tips or strategies... so I have a better chance at being successful.

Confusion about how to approach an expert, and how much "credit" to give an expert that helps with a project are common. There is no right answer, as every situation involving expert and author will differ. However, that didn't stop me from offering the following suggestions:

(First, I thanked her for her kind words about my writing and website. Kudos are always appreciated!)

To begin with, unless you are well-known (or known to some degree) as an expert in the field, you almost need the name recognition of an established competitor to sell a book on a competitive sport and lend it the cache and credibility needed to attract an audience. The more established the name, the more reliable the information appears. Therefore, the more salable the project.

My advice would be to keep the professional relationship with the pro athlete as amiable as possible. Make him look great in print, send him tear sheets of printed articles along with thank you notes for his contribution. Mention the book project you would like to do, and see if he would be interested in pursuing it with you once you have a publisher interested.

While you are maintaining the connection with the expert, develop a killer proposal for the book you intend to write and start sending it out to publishers.

(The best advice I can ever give any writer is to have a contract before writing a non-fiction book.)

In the proposal, tell the publishers of the way you intend to use the knowledge / experience / name / connections of the pro. Once you have a publisher interested, and contract talks begin, you can determine how best to bring in the expert competitor so things are mutually beneficial to all parties.

* You may want to have the book appear as if it were written by the pro, with you as a credited co-author. The book content would consist of his theories, techniques, and exercises, and would be promoted largely on his name recognition. You could split royalties, and both of you would be responsible for promoting the finished product.

* You may also want to appear as the sole author and include some nod to the expert ("With training secrets from Mr. Big Wig!") in the cover credits or byline. That way, most of the book would be your content, but the more technical stuff would come from the expert.

* On a related note, you could appear as the sole author of most of the content, but have a chapter or two attributed to the expert. His byline would appear as a contributing writer, and could appear both within the book, on the appropriate chapters, and on the cover.

(An example of what I'm talking about is the book "Photographing and 'Videoing' Horses Explained." Charles Mann is credited with the content, but videographer Stormy May contributed the chapter on videography. She is listed as an author on the cover. I edited the book and wrote a chapter, but I am hardly a horse photographer -- or a photographer of any kind. I'm not credited as an author on the cover because my name wouldn't have done anything to help move the book. My name does appear on the chapter I wrote, however.)

I would advise against interviewing the expert at length, writing a book based largely on his theories and experience, publishing it under your own name, and asking him to write the foreword. For starters, imagine if the situation were reversed, and someone published a book on your area of expertise under his or her own name. Not good.

Even without taking ethics into consideration, the fact remains that the book will stand a better chance of selling if the expert's name is prominently featured on it as a contributor or co-author. As the writer, you have an obligation to your book to make it as salable as possible.

Since the author who wrote me had published credits to her name, I told her I believed it shouldn't be difficult to get the expert interested in allowing her to pursue this project, with the understanding that if the proposal sells, then a working arrangement or collaboration of some sort may be in her future.

Regardless of an author's publishing credits (or lack thereof), remember: You could be a god-send to the expert who has something of value to contribute to his sport, but no means of getting his words out there. In my experience, we writers are very much in demand, and the experts are more than willing to allow us to guide them through the perils of publishing.

The Edit Continues

My Major Project is in the midst of the editing process. All requested changes have been made. Now, I'm going through all 100,000 words of the text and editing for continuity, format, consistency, and other nit-picky things. Yes, it's a wee bit tedious. But it's going smoothly, and I am very happy with the progress of the project. Yay! The end is, indeed, in sight.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Never a Dull Moment

Yesterday, reports of TORNADO sighting occured while Robert was in surgery. (He had adhesive capsulitis, "frozen shoulder," and -- in essence -- needed someone to jump on his shoulder so it would move.) While the shoulder manipulation was underway, and Robert was under, the aforementioned tornado made its appearance.

I was at Wal-Mart when they got on the loudspeaker and told us all to leave. Cassandra and I raced north, right on the edge of the storm, and arrived at the hospital to find the elevators out of service, and all the patients (including my rather looped husband) congregated in their wheelchairs and hospital beds in the lobby, 'cause that's the safest place to be -- away from the windows.

When we went to Rite Aid to have his prescriptions filled, the computers were all down so, of course, Nothing Could Be Done.

Amazing how dependent we are upon electricity, and how crippled we become without it.

We arrived home to find all trees up and mostly intact EXCEPT one. A big one. (Phone calls I hate to make to my contractor: "So, um, did you leave before or after the tree fell on your tractor?")

Damage is minimal, but flooding remains ever-interesting.

And, since power is present, work on the Major Project continues...

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

No More Biting Horses!

Not long ago, I had the privilege of interviewing Wendy Hilton Smith of Cornerstone Training Center and getting her to talk about how she trains a horse to stop biting.

I was impressed with how down-to-earth and low-key her approach to the biting issue was. Don't get me wrong -- a biting horse is a serious liability. I had a good friend whose daughter once nearly lost a key part of the female anatomy when their normally good-natured stallion reached over his stall door and bit her.

biting horse

Wendy agrees that biting is a serious matter. But she also believes that it's well within the average horse handler's abilities to deal with most biting problems. The key is knowing why the horse bites, and knowing what to do before the bite in order to minimize the problem and control it before it gets out of hand.

In our interview , Wendy explains 5 different ways to defuse a biter. She also tells how to recognize the signs of a horse that wants to bite, and discusses what to do if the horse crosses the line and actually bites you.

Cornerstone Training has released the audio of the "No More Biting Horses!" interview, only available as an MP3 download online. Those who take advantage of the offer will also receive a complementary "No More Biting Horses!" e-book as a .pdf download (a $19.95 value). (I'm a big fan of free books!)

I am pleased to be able to work with such wonderful trainers as Wendy and her husband Steve. I am honored to be a small part of making this information available to the people (and their horses) who need it. I can't help but think what a great world this would be if there truly were "No More Biting Horses!"

In Other News

Work on the Major Project continues. The last few content holes are nearly all plugged, and work has begun (albeit s-l-o-w-l-y) on kneading, massaging, and otherwise walloping things into a shape that is as meaningful to the end user as it is to the Committee of Creators.

The rest of this month and all of September is earmarked for the First Edit and all the accompanying joys.

The highlight of the month has been watching the steady improvements in our Barn Reorganization. All the stalls were dismantled and the barn was emptied. Then tons of sand was brought in and -- today -- concrete poured over the non-stall portions.

The studio has also been leveled and electrified. A small deck is currently being installed. How wonderful it will be to actually have a place to work! It can't happen soon enough. I've discovered that the dining room table makes a mighty poor workspace.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A Nation of Non-Readers

A recently released AP Poll(with an accuracy rate of plus or minus 3 percent) found that one quarter of all American adults read no books last year!

As a writer, this is brutal news.

True, there are others on the opposite end of the Reader Spectrum. One woman polled read approximately 70 books last year -- more than one a week. She's an older woman, with arguably more free time to read. She comes from a generation that was taught the importance of reading for one's self, envisioning the printed page in the mind's eye, and making up one's own mind.

What will become of this and future generations who do not find the same joy and value in the written word?

Reading occupies an entirely different set of mental muscles than watching a movie, watching TV, or playing video games. Reading is an engaged activity that allows two different minds -- the writer's and the reader's -- to meet without an electronic interface.

Reading allows one to connect with others on a cellular level. Through their writing, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Xenophon, William Shakespeare, and the Apostle Paul, for instance, are alive and well in this day and age.

Reading enables us to wrestle with others' ideas and learn from history.

But, according the this recent poll, one in four don't read.

They work.

They probably watch.

But they don't wonder enough to find out why.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

What if Mike's Right?

"MailMax" is a local paper distributed to homes throughout Berrien County every Saturday. The tab-sized paper is filled entirely with ads and columns. It's not a newspaper. It's an ad delivery vehicle.

Still, everyone I know reads Pat Moody's "Moody on the Market." The column begins on the front page, below the fold, and usually continues on to two inner pages.

The paper's tagline is "Michigan's Great Southwest," and Moody, the Executive Vice President of the Cornerstone Chamber of Commerce is an apt spokesperson for the area. His column generally consists of information about local movers & shakers, businesses coming in and going out, and other developments of note.

To Moody, all development is good. He writes rapturously about the Harbor Shores development which will boast a Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course -- but only by annexing part of a park that was deeded to Benton Harbor, one of the poorest cities in the state, nearly 100 years ago, and by developing what was once wetlands.

Moody is also careful not to rile the Powers That Be in the area.

His column on why the local airport should, in essence, be publicly funded in order to privately benefit Whirlpool Corporation was a keeper.

And he is practically the only person in the county who has nothing but good things to say about Lakeland Community Hospital -- a political powerhouse with an "alleged" history of telling the local daily paper how much space it wants reserved on the front page above the fold for a story of their choosing, and of informing doctors that they need to order more tests such as MRI's and CAT scans on a higher percentage of their patients if they wish to remain on staff.

Don't get me wrong. I read Pat's column. I like to keep up on what's going on, and he does a good job of keeping the public informed. His writing is usually sprinkled with lots of bold words, intended, no doubt, to help the reader zero in on what's really important. In print, Pat is rarely coy, or cutting, callous, or cruel. But every so often, the veneer slips -- as it did this past week.

Pat, it seems, does not well tolerate those who disagree with him. Here's the opening salvo of this week's column:

It would appear that I have finally worn out my welcome as author of the Moody on the Market column here in MailMax. At least that's the case with Mike B. of Benton Harbor. Mr. B. recently left me quite a bitter voicemail message saying, in essence, that it's time for my Pollyanna World to cease and desist. I have transcribed the message so that nothing can be taken out of context. See if you share Mike's take and let me know if it's time to turn the column over to him. Here, word-for-word is his message:

"Hey, Pat, um, I read your column every week. Um... you should change it to, like, Pat Moody's Fairy Tales, and maybe, um, start the column out, "Once upon a time..." Drive around this area and see how many houses are for sale... how many lots are for sale... how many businesses. Go to Bridgman and see how many businesses are out right now."

"Mike" then names two businesses that have shut their doors. He doesn't get their names quite right, and Pat editorializes about it. The column continues:

"And in St. Joseph, Three Oaks, Galien. I mean... I don't know how you can say this area's getting better when they're building houses... houses... houses... and condos... and nothin's sellin'... and there's -- I've never seen so many houses for sale in my life. It's probably ten times what it was last year for sale, and all my friends are moving out of this area.

"There's nothing for kids to do any more -- All they're doin' is building houses and condos where things used to be... and, I mean... this is a... It's like Fairy Tale World you're living in about how great this area is.

"And, ever since the riots, my insurance has tripled... and my house... I mean it's... I don't know. I think you, um... I'd like to write a column for MailMax myself and write about the businesses that are going out and I'll bet it'd be ten times as long as your column. Well... You have a good day, sir. Bye."

Pat wraps things up with:

Mike is clearly not a happy camper, and doesn't appreciate it if I tell you about good things happening. He'd rather this column be about the bad things.

He tells people how to contact the publisher if they agree that "Mike" should get his own column... Then he leads off the next paragraph reporting that a local business has closed!

From a writer's point of view, I found the tactics used to discredit "Mike" and to belittle his concerns most interesting. For instance:

* Transcribing, word-for-word, a voicemail message. Really, now. How many people would come off sounding learned, literate, and well-spoken if subjected to seeing their voicemail messages in print?

* Deliberately including "verbal fillers" such as "um," and "I mean," which are routinely excised from most transcription.

* Transcribing words phonetically ("nothin's sellin'") in order to make the speaker appear boorish and uneducated.

* Putting words in the mouth of his "opponent." Contrary to the column's opening lines, "Mike B." never says that Moody has "worn out his welcome," or claims that it's time for his "Pollyana World to cease and desist." What I read simply sounded like a man who wonders why he doesn't see both sides of an issue addressed -- and is frustrated by what he considers to be a consistently skewed approach.

* Inserting editorial comments and question marks as parentheticals within the text of the transcribed message to call "Mike's" veracity and accuracy into question.

Writing & presentation aside, however, as a Berrien County resident, I find it most interesting -- and most telling -- of all, that Moody completely ignored the meat of "Mike's" concern.

Because what if Mike's right?

Drive down virtually any road that receives MailMax distribution, and you'll not only find houses for sale, but you will also find acres and acres of subdivisions on what was once farmland.

Agricultural acreage, some still planted with corn, bristles with signs announcing Development! Commercial! Estates! Lots Available!

Century farms are up for sale. While they await their inevitable dissection by developers, they are unwelcome, anachronistic oases of green surrounded by a sea of "McMansions."

I see the point of Mike's questions as I look out my window.

Less than half a mile away, multiple condo units are going into what was once a business. At the same time, the house across the street has been for sale for over a year. And the 40 acre parcel that borders the north side of our property is for sale at a rabidly inflated price. "For Sale" signs sprout in yards instead of "Yard Sale" signs.

Shouldn't there be some sort of Grand Plan? For instance, if you put 100 homes on what was once 20 acres of farmland, where are those kids going to go to school? Will enough be added to the tax base to pay for the additional buses, teachers, police officers, and firemen required?

Corn and cows don't need much infrastructure. They also don't need "second homes" or "vacation homes."

This area of the country has been an agricultural community for over 100 years. The farms, vineyards, and orchards were more than just part of the county's charm -- they stocked the county's kitchens. But as the farmland dwindles, so does our self-sufficiency. We become reliant on others to provide what was once readily available.

I don't have a pie-in-the-sky view of rural life. But I do share some of "Mike's" concerns.

How CAN you say this area's getting better when they're building houses... houses... houses... and condos... And nothin's sellin'... All they're doin' is building houses and condos where things used to be.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Baby Braden's Song

A dear, dear friend had twin boys on July 12. One week ago, I attended her "Meet the Babies" shower, where I held sweet little Braden for several hours while he slept. On Wednesday, he died. Braden Michael Roberts was three weeks old.

Some things in this world make no sense at all.

My heart just aches for the family. In times like these, there is nothing anyone can say or do. There will always be a Braden-sized hole in their lives.

Several years ago -- before I had a child -- a song about how precious a little baby is just "dropped in." It came to me, music, lyrics & all, in its entirety in a matter of minutes.

Yesterday, I sang a new version at Braden's funeral. It's strange how changing only a few words intrinsically alters the meaning of something.

Braden's Song:

I held heaven’s littlest angel
In my arms.
You looked at me and suddenly
I knew angel-charms.
And I thank you, Lord,
For sending me this precious child
And letting heaven’s littlest angel
Visit for awhile.

1.) When you laughed, I heard music.
So I know
You are where you belong --
Your voice must be raised
In the heavenly choir –
For with each breath you took
I heard angel song.


2.) Everything about you was a miracle.
Your smile
Lent my heart angel wings.
I never knew
Until I met you
All the love and the joy
Such a little angel brings.

Dear Lord, I pray,
Show me the way
Other angels have flown.
Include me in Your plans,
Help me understand
You took your child back home.


c. Ami Hendrickson

My heart goes out to that family. I hope I never hear that song again.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Why I Do What I Do

This will be the third straight week of clocking over 50 billable hours on one project. I'm near the end of the Rough Draft phase of a major project I'm doing for a Major Client. All day, every day, is spent at the dining room table / work desk.

(I work there, because it's the only seat in the house that has a good view of the pasture. Occasionally I can see Theo wander into my field of vision.)

I'll be glad when the Rough Draft work is done, and I can regroup before pushing forward with the First Major Edit. The good news is that this project is moving along quite nicely and -- dare I say it? -- appears to be slightly ahead of schedule. The bad news is that because of the very tight deadline, I really have time for nothing else.

Of course I'd like a day or two off. Who wouldn't? But I'm absolutely NOT complaining. I am thrilled to have this job. Not only is my client wonderful to work with, but I love having the privilege of being able to do what I do.

That's why I was gratified to read Wendy Hilton Smith's blog on her ongoing progress with Murphy, her Extreme Mustang Makeover challenge horse. (Wendy and her husband, Steve, are both competitors in this year's Mustang Makeover Challenge)

In today's post, Wendy talks about why she does what she does:

It’s made me remember how much I love horses, how much I love to teach them and take my time with them, to build their confidence slowly and progressively.

When you do this for a living, there is always the clock breathing down your neck. The customer wonders why you aren’t riding their horse yet, and why they aren’t neck reining yet, and why the horse isn’t absolutely perfect after 60 days of training. Then you remember why you got into training horses in the first place: because you love horses. It’s easy to forget that. I will be forever grateful to Murphy and God for reminding me of that.

That, in a nutshell, is why I do what I do -- Love. I love it! I love being able to take a jumbled mess of words and organize them into something that speaks to people. I love working with experts in their fields who truly have something of value to say. I love helping people look at their words and working to find the best way to make those words sing.

Wendy's right. When you do something you love for a living, the clock is always "breathing down your neck," because clients are on a schedule and a budget. But that's part of the fun and the challenge of doing anything well. And every once in awhile, a project comes along that reminds you of why you do what you do.

Weird Weekly News

Just in case you were wondering, it is not illegal to have sex with somebody that's been dead for a week in Wisconsin. Bleah. Grave robbing is frowned upon, though.

And if you work for a dentist, it's ok if he implants fake boars' tusks and takes pictures of you while you're under anesthesia. You can sue him, but because he's a "kind-hearted, fun-loving man," and you're the idiot assistant, he can do anything he wants to you with impunity.

Things that make you go "Hmmm.....Eeewww."

And now -- back to work!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Once a City...

Scientists have discovered traces of a city that existed at Alexandria at least seven hundred years before Alexander the Great arrived and the city was founded in 332 B.C.

What was once a city is now part of the sea floor in Alexandria's harbor. But samples of dirt extracted from the sea floor contain remnants of an older settlement that may have flourished there as far back as 1000 B.C.

I find it interesting that Homer mentioned the exact location in the Odyssey, written sometime between 800 and 600 B.C.

Even more interesting is a comment made by Jean-Daniel Stanley, a coastal geoarchaeologist for the Smithsonian Institute's National Museum of Natural History.

Though the area might have once been a thriving ancient haven, "Virtually nothing is known of the people who would have lived there," says Stanley.

Life... Death... Hopes... Dreams... The million little things that drive us, challenge us, madden us, motivate us, and shape us -- gone. Once a city. Now virtually unknown. Lying dormant on the seafloor while modern refuse piles up on top.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Thoughts on Book Reviews

I received a note from Dr. Warson today informing me that the first review of "The Rider's Pain-Free Back" was posted on -- and that it was a good one.

So, I wandered over and read it. The person who wrote it explained why she bought the book and what she liked about it:

Good book!, July 23, 2007
By S. Shore - See all my reviews

I bought this book pre-order and it arrived very quickly. The author knows his stuff. I am an x-ray tech by trade, so nearly everything I read was understandable to me. He wrote the book so everytone could understand it- medical terms were explained, and there was an extensive glossary of terms. I got the book because my husband suffers badly from back pain and is an avid rider. I occasionally suffer from back pain- usually from doing too much sitting trot. The author was very complete in his assessment of the rider and even the type of horse they should be riding. Fortunately my husband and his horse are a great match, me and my horse aren't so good, but with some work I think we will be OK. The author also went through a series of stretches and also treatment options from traditional to alternative. I found it a very interesting book with a lot of information for anyone who is interested in riding. I even loaned it to my chiropractor who said he would probably get a copy because he treats riders as well.

(In case you're wondering, no, I don't know the person who wrote the review!)

Lately, I've been thinking about reviews. I wanted to find out more about a particular movie, so I read some online reviews. Unfortunately, this resulted in me finding out less about the film and more about the people who both loved and hated it.

Reviews are a tricky thing. They can usually be divided into several camps:

* Rabid Fan
* Angry Malcontent
* Fair and Balanced

From a writer's point of view, when reviews start coming, at first you think you want the Rabid Fans to write. But you quickly discover that Rabid Fans are nearly as bad as Angry Malcontents. Their agenda is so transparent, that it casts serious doubts on the validity of the review.

Though I'm happy that the review on casts a very favorable light on Dr. Warson's book, I'm even happier that its in the "Fair and Balanced" camp. They can be difficult to come by, and they're worth their weight in gold.

In Other News

Work on The Major Project continues. I'm clocking over 50 billable hours on this project every week. My dining room table is my "for the project" office and workspace. From it, I can at least see Theo out there in his pasture, even if I don't have the time to ride him!

A development exec has asked to see "Unknown Soldiers," one of my screenplays, and is considering developing it into a graphic novel. That would be fine by me. I just want to see it in my lifetime. If I have to see it on the page before I see it on the screen, you wouldn't hear me complain. Further bulletins as events warrant.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Earn a Million Dollars by Not Watching TV!

According to a recent article by Jeffrey Strain on, watching television will cost you over $1 million in your lifetime.

Interestingly, the same article referenced a study that concluded it would take about $1 million for Americans to give up television.

The original study was actually concerned with pervasive opinions about race in America. It concluded that those in the majority have a significant disconnect with those in the minority.

I would argue that anyone who requires $1 million to turn off the TV also has a serious disconnect problem.

A storm in 1992 took our our cable. It was a blessed wake-up call to the staggering amount of time I was wasting watching television, and the equally staggering amount of dreck I was willing to put into my head.

We haven't had a TV since.

Our "TV" is an early 1980's console model that belonged to my Grandfather. It has 13 channels, and tubes. The screen has a ding in the center of the glass from an unfortunate run-in with a drill bit that fell out of my hands while I was putting up a curtain rod.

The TV is connected to the DVD player. It's a glorified movie screen -- and, with the aforementioned "ding," not a great one. In closeups, the ding generally manifests as a sizeable blemish on the leading actor's nose.

Ironically, we actually have cable. It's how we get our high speed internet access. But it's not hooked up to the TV. If I don't have time to watch the movies I want to, how would I ever find the time to watch TV?

In this day of high-speed lives, with people complaining about a chronic lack of time, kids growing up in daycare, a society that is increasingly inured to violence, and millions of dollars a year spent on health concerns brought about by a sedentary lifestyle, I find it amazing that TV even exists.

Imagine how much space would be opened up if no room in the house was arranged toward the Television Shrine!

When I tell people that we don't have a TV, they often don't believe me. More times than I can count, I've been asked, "Then what do you watch?" without the least trace of irony.

Frankly, it would take a lot more than a measly million for me to bring a TV back into my home!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Extreme Mustang Makeover Blogs

The Mustang Heritage Foundation is holding an intriguing competition for horse trainers.

100 Trainers. 100 Mustangs. 100 Days.

Early in June, 100 pre-selected trainers got their fresh-off-the-range BLM Mustangs (by lottery -- no choosing which horse they received). On September 22, those trainers will meet at the Will Rogers Equestrian Center in Fort Worth, TX, in a competition to see who has done the best training job. The Mustangs will be auctioned for adoption afterward.

Some of the trainers have started blogs on their involvement in the project:

* Cornerstone Training (Steve and Wendy Hilton Smith)

* Rockin N Ranch (Ted Noland)

* Bar T (Jimmy Thomas)

Here's a complete list of the 100 competing trainers.

While the Mouse is Away

... The cats have been playing.

Yes, I'm back. I swear -- I go on hiatus for the teeniest little bit, and all sorts of screws go loose. I logged on to post about the Mustang Makeover today, and --

lo and behold!

I was locked out of MY OWN BLOG! For some unknown reason, my blog had been flagged as a Spam Blog. (Mind you, one of the last posts I made several months ago did, indeed, use the word "spam." Because I had over 200 comments to one blog post and -- you guessed it -- not ONE of them was legit. So I disabled that little gizmo. As if I have the time to go through and remove 200 crap posts every day. Yeesh!

I DID, however, receive something recently that looked as if it came from me. It had my e-mail address on it, AND the picture from my Blogger Profile. If I didn't know who I was, I'd have certainly thought it looked legit. Good Lord. There's a special circle in hell for spammers...

So -- anyway -- since it appears that I can't stay away for any length of time, I guess the BlogWorld and I are stuck with each other.

My Life So Far

Been very, very busy lately:

* Got Theo (the Wonder Percheron) started under saddle (thanks to attending a great clinic by Cornerstone Trainer Steve Smith here in Coloma, at the end of May)...

* Am in the middle of a major project for the United States Hunter Jumper Association...

* Taught a 4-week Writer's Workshop in April...

* Completely updated and redesigned the Muse Ink writer's resource site...

* Been working as a story consultant for a feature film in development at Vineyard Productions...

* Was a featured speaker for Authors Access on "Ghostwriting, Co-Authoring, and Collaborating...

* Celebrated my 19th wedding anniversary this past Tuesday...

* And much, much more!

Also, July is the official release date of The Rider's Pain-Free Back. The book was excerpted in the May and June issues of EQUUS magazine -- something I found quite exciting.

So -- things haven't stopped here. Full speed ahead. And NO SPAM, please. This is a vegetarian establishment!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Thoughts on Online Price Changes

It's true, I haven't been posting lately. The plan was to phase out the blog because of time constraints. I'm still planning on changing to a subscription-based blog / newsletter at some point in the near future, but that won't happen right now.

I just read the most interesting article about changing the prices of books in shoppers' baskets. And I had to share.

The author tells how he selected a fairly obscure book that he wanted to buy, and put it in his online shopping cart. He waited a few days to complete the transaction. When he came back to check out, he discovered that the book has increased in price by about 50 cents.

Intrigued, he did a test, selecting several books and putting them in his shopping basket. A few days later, three had dropped a bit. But NINE had increased. Hmmmm... One book had gone up $75 in price! And the price increase had nothing to do with the publisher!

It's an interesting article. Well worth reading.

In other news, I received a very nice note in my e-mail In box today from someone who found the earlier blog post on shoulder-in and shoulder-fore useful:

I am an English editor/indexer [living in Scotland] and I am compiling an index for a book about training exercises for horses. [I am also a judge of show ponies.]

It is a few years now since I judged dressage competitions and I was interested by the use of the term 'shoulder-fore' and its comparison with a 'shoulder in'. Imagine my interest when I googled these terms, got through to your blog and read your mention of Podhajsky's "Complete Training of Horse and Rider" as I had just looked them up in my copy and have the book sitting on the desk in front of me!

Anyway, thank you for this description - I will now index the terms as two separate movements!

Best wishes


Always nice to hear when someone has found something useful!