Sunday, January 31, 2010

Across the Great Divide...

... between men and women. More fun from my friend, Tracy Farr. And men wonder why we sometimes get in a snit.... Enjoy...

I would get up and do something, but everything’s done

So here I am, sitting on the couch on a lazy Saturday afternoon, thinking I really should get up and do something, or fix something, or paint something, but I can’t make up my mind what I should do, fix or paint.

And it doesn’t help that my wife is scurrying around trying to organize the magazines that will only get unorganized in a week or two. And I think she may even be doing a little bit of dusting.

It’s not every day I find myself with nothing to do, but it does happen. Mostly I take care of my goats, practice banjo a bit, I may fix myself a cup of coffee or maybe a bowl of ice cream, but there’s always something to do – except for today. Today my slate is clean, my page is blank, my To Do List is done and I have absolutely nothing on the agenda.

Okay, now she wants me to help her decide which magazines to keep and which ones to throw out. If she could just push that stack over here next to the couch, maybe I could help her, but she wants me to come over there – at a time when I’m putting enormous amounts of thought into figuring out what I need to do today, and I really should…

The truck. I need to check the oil in the truck. I don’t think it’s low or anything, but I did notice an oil leak on the ground the other day as I was pulling away from Wal-mart. But then again, that could have been someone else’s oil leak. In fact, I’m sure it was. And I’d hate to go check the oil now, considering the ground is all muddy, which means my feet would get all muddy, and I wouldn’t want to track a lot of dirt through the house, seeing that my wife is now vacuuming.

Boy, that vacuum cleaner is loud. It’s hard to get some good quality thinking done with all that racket going on. And she pushes that thing like there’s a time limit; like she put in her last quarter, and once that quarter runs out, she can’t do anymore. I mean she’s really working up a sweat. I wonder if she’s vacuuming like that to get her daily exercise in, instead of going to some gym or something. Well, I guess I might have to move, because I really need to figure out what I’m going to do.

Wait a minute, I remember – I was going to fix the leak under the house today. It’s not a bad leak, just some PVC that’s come apart, letting all the water from the washing machine flow out into our front yard. I went under the house about a month ago, saw that the pipes might come apart soon if I didn’t fix it, but I didn’t, because it looked like it would last a few more weeks. But now there’s water everywhere, and I would get under the house to repair it, but it’s too cold, and getting under the house during the winter is really nasty. I think it can wait until May, or maybe June. Water is good for the grass, anyway, so it can’t hurt too much.

Okay, she’s finished vacuuming, but now what is she doing? Ah, dishes. I thought about doing the dishes, but since our dishwasher is broken and we have to do them by hand, and I hate doing them by hand, I didn’t do them. I guess I’ll get back to washing dishes when I get around to calling the repairman, but this is the weekend and I doubt repair shops are even open.

Who wants to work on a weekend, anyways? I know I don’t. I much prefer sitting on this couch, maybe watching a movie or two, because I work hard during the week and I think that maybe I deserve some downtime. Some good quality, pick my feet off the floor, downtime. And I wish she’d stop flitting around doing all that work because she’s making me feel just a wee bit guilty that I don’t have anything to do and she’s…

She’s taking out the garbage. Big bags. Right out the front door, down the steps, through the mud, and it’s still a bit chilly outside, but she’s doing it anyway. I guess I could open the door for her when she…

Oh well, she’s already back inside. She doesn’t look happy. I wonder why?


Tracy Farr lives in East Texas with his wife, three children and some goats. To read more of his stories, visit his Web site

Friday, January 29, 2010

Let's Sanitize Everything

There must be something in the air that is making people over-react to things. First it was the school system in California pulling all the Meriam Webster Dictionaries because they contain words that are not age appropriate. Now a Virginia school system is taking a book off school library shelves for similar reasons.

Apparently a parent complained about sexual references in a version of Anne Frank's diary, and the response by the Culpeper County school system was to pull all copies of the book.

The book has been printed in more than one edition, and the one in question is "The Diary of a Young Girl: The Definitive Edition. A spokesman for the county said the school system will use an alternative version of the diary that does not contain such references.

As I said in my commentary about the issue with the dictionary, this is a lot of unnecessary furor. The Diary of Anne Frank is a book of particular historical and social importance, and when teachers are using it as a reference book, I am sure the focus is on something other than sexual encounters. The diary chronicles the life of a young Jewish girl who hid from the Nazis from July 1942 until she was arrested in August 1944. She died in a German concentration camp.

The parents who object to the sexual references in that book are probably the same parents who let their kids watch prime time television, which is filled with sexual references. So it is okay to watch a couple "getting it on" on Desperate Housewives, but it is not okay for a student to learn that rape is a part of any war, or that soldiers take advantage of young prisoners?

I don't know what the sexual material is in the book. All I remember from reading it is the plight of this teenage girl, the courage of the family that helped her, and the atrocities of that war and those concentration camps.

That is what students today should remember long after reading the book. And parents should talk to their children about the sensitive subjects instead of trying to sanitize everything the child reads.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Purifying Merriam-Webster

I guess it is a sign that the economy must be getting better because people are now focusing on other such important issues as what words are in the dictionary.

This morning I read about a school district in California that has pulled all copies of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary from its shelves and formed a committee to study all entries in the reference book to determine if it has "age-inappropriate" words.

They'd better have a large committee. One report I read said that there are over 147,000 entries in that dictionary. That's a lot of scrutinizing. I hope someone brings them pizza and soft drinks to keep them fortified.

Apparently this all started when a student stumbled across the entry for "oral sex" that had the explicit definition. His parents were horrified that his young, tender eyes saw that definition and demanded that the school board do something. Some families are supporting the school's actions and say it's up to the district to do everything it can to shield children from explicit language.

Okay, how many of you did not EVER go to the reference section of the library to see what kind of titillating words you might find? Or how about those issues of National Geographic that showed half-naked people?

Let me see your hands..... I thought so.

Seeking out that kind of material was a natural rite of passage for children, along with playing "doctor" and all the other inquisitive things we did. Would we get in trouble if our parents caught us? Absolutely. Did it harm our little psyches? I don't think so. At least not for most of us.

Did our parents rush to ban the National Geographic from the library? Of course not. How absurd.

Monday, January 25, 2010

One of Those Days

This has got to be one of the craziest Mondays for me in a long time. Had to take our Miracle cat to the veterinarian hospital this morning to get the plate taken out of the leg he broke last spring. The site had started getting infected, and I guess in the midst of all that went on when he got the break repaired, I missed the part about removing the plate at some later time.

Orca does not like the cat carrier. Nor does he like the truck. Nor does he like the hospital. All of which he let us know in endless yowling. Not mewing, which is a soft sweet sound cats make, but yowling, which may burst eardrums in five counties. The minute I walked in the hospital with him, the receptionist said, "Orca's here." Then I heard that echoing from the back as the doctor and the tech spoke up.

The Winnsboro Veterinary Hospital is a place where "everyone knows your name." Especially if it is Orca.

But that is only one piece of my crazy Monday. I have to go back to town later today to get the tire put back on my car, which is why I was driving the truck this morning. Had a flat on Saturday, so I had to leave the tire at a local tire shop for repair. Of course, it wasn't open this morning when I took the cat in, so that means an extra trip to town.

Then there are all the errands I have to do that I couldn't do Saturday when my tire went flat. After a good Samaritan helped me change the tire Saturday, I nursed the car the 7 miles home on that silly little thing the car company said was my spare, and the car hasn't moved since.

My normal Monday routine is to stay home. In the mornings I update, the online community magazine where I am Managing Editor, and the rest of the day is relegated to taking care of things that were neglected all weekend. And maybe I even get a little work done on my latest book.

Today, however, that normalcy was blown all to... well, you know where it went.

And to top it all off, all I really want to do is take a nap.

How about you? What do you do when your plans get all messed up?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Will we ever get it right?

Yesterday I read a news report that thousands of victims of the earthquake in Haiti are trying to leave the capital city of Port-au-Prince because they are starving to death waiting for food and water to get to them. Residents of a nursing home are slowly dying on a street just a few miles from the airport where relief supplies are stacking up.

As I read that news story I couldn't help but think of Katrina and the thousands of of people huddled in the Dome in New Orleans waiting for food and water to get to them.

In both cases, there were/are legitimate reasons for some of the delay. Ships cannot get into ports filled with debris. Planes cannot land at airports that have been damaged, and local governments cannot take charge if they have been decimated. But some supplies are getting through in Haiti, just like they did in New Orleans, and still people wait and die waiting.

It shouldn't be a complicated matter to get a couple of trucks, load them up with supplies and take them to the people. Yet poor management and bureaucratic red tape hold things up for days.

Remember the buses that sat empty during the evacuation before Katrina because nobody was authorized to drive them. Then after the storm hit, relief was painfully slow because information did not go through the proper channels.

Something similar seems to be happening in Haiti.

The other day I saw a news report that showed food had been delivered to the capital city in Haiti, but was held there for hours before the authorities there would release it. A reporter asked why they were waiting, and the spokesman shrugged, saying something about needing official direction.

Here's some official direction. How about forgetting about red tape and focus on the quickest way to get relief to the people. Don't be so married to a disaster response plan and procedure that you don't know what to do when part of the plan is literally blown out of the water.

I know there are disaster response plans on all levels of government. I was part of one when I worked for a hospital as a chaplain and we had procedures and protocols to follow in case of a catastrophic disaster. But the bottom line in our response was - the patient and patient needs come first. Respond to the people and take care of the chain of command later.

So it boggles my mind that people can stand around, waiting for direction, and not grab a key to a truck and head out with some food and water.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Men are not perfect... says who?

Here is some more humor from my friend Tracy Farr. All the feminists in the room need to get a grip. Enjoy....

It has recently come to my attention that there may be a number of things that we men do that drive "our women" absolutely bonkers. I'm not exactly sure what good can come from knowing these things, but I put it before you, nonetheless.

The Toilet Paper Roll – It is possible that there are some women who get upset when their man uses the last bit of toilet paper and doesn’t replace the roll. I got this impression after Colleen in Virginia said, “Is there anything worse than sitting down only to see an empty cardboard tube?”

Yes, Colleen, there is: Discovering the roll is empty only when you’re ready to get up!

So guys, if you’re willing to nip this problem in the bud before it really becomes an issue, my advice to you is this: Never use the bathroom at home. Go to a neighbor’s house.

Master of the TV Remote – According to Angela in Florida, she hates it when her husband “hogs the television remote and we have to watch the same old crap every night (cops, mobsters, hunting, investigation shows or army junk).”

Well, Angela, you don’t expect him to watch Oprah or “Sex in the City,” do you? That would cause even more problems.

Guys, if you are aware you have a TV remote fetish, my advice to you is this: Hand over the remote for longer and longer periods of time in order to break free from the constant responsibility of being in charge of the television. Start off with a second or two, and eventually build it up to about 60 seconds. That’s about as long as a commercial. Then, let your wife be in charge of the remote during the commercials. I guarantee that’s a win-win situation.

Oh Where, Oh Where is His Underwear – One of the things that drives Janice in Chicago absolutely nuts is when her husband, “leaves his underwear in the middle of the floor.”

Okay, Janice, I hear your frustration, but don’t you agree that leaving his underwear in the middle of the floor is much better than leaving it in the refrigerator? And he could, you know. He goes over to the fridge to fix himself a ham and cheese sandwich, remembers that he hasn’t changed is underwear in awhile, then absentmindedly stuffs it in the crisper just so he can have a hand free to grab the mayo. Yes, oh yes, I believe that could be far worse.

Guys, if leaving your underwear all over the house really drives your woman to the point of madness, there’s only one solution: Find a comfortable pair and never take them off, forsaking all others, till death do you part.

The Speed Racer – Now here’s an unusual story: The one thing that drives Janet in Virginia over the edge of marital bliss is that her husband “drives too slow. Just ask the kids.”

Well, Janet, I would, but I don’t know your kids, will never know your kids, and I have no desire to ever ask them about your husband’s driving habits because I couldn’t bear for them to corroborate that their loving father drives like a granny. It’s unthinkable. It’s absurd. I even hazard to say that male genes do not flow through that man’s jeans.

Guys, if anyone ever compares your driving to that of a mild-mannered toothless grandma who thinks man was never meant to travel faster than a good walk around the block, then my advice to you is this: Give away your keys to someone who thinks the speed of light is too slow, and don’t you ever get behind the wheel of an automobile again. If you must satisfy your need for speed, watch NASCAR and take a quick nap.

Telephone Etiquette – Donna in Texas says she’s pretty happy with her husband, except “he hangs up the phone without saying ‘bye.’ He also corrects my grammar and he drives very aggressively.”

Well, Donna, I can see why you could get a little bit snippy about the grammar thing and never hearing “bye” at the end of a phone conversation, but you’ve got a man who knows how to punch holes through traffic jams and will always get you to where you’re going before you’ve even left the house. So, what do you want? More perfection?

Guys, if your telephone skills are a bit lacking, but you drive like a World Federation wrestler, here’s my advice: Throw the other guy out of the ring in the third round and pound him with the chair. The audience will love it.

Well folks, there it is. Take it for what it’s worth. As for me, I think it’s best if I change the subject.


Tracy Farr lives in East Texas with his wife, three children and some goats. To read more of his stories, visit his website at

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Farewell to Robert B. Parker

As a fan of all the great stories penned by Robert B. Parker I am really saddened about his death.

Not only did I enjoy his stories, which were never intended to be great literature, only a good romp, I learned a great deal about how to write. As did many other writers.

Here is a great article about Parker that includes tributes from Dennis Lehane and Robert Crais, and a wonderful quote from Harlan Coben taken from a 2007 interview with the Atlantic Monthly. "When it comes to detective novels, 90% of us admit he's an influence, and the rest of us lie about it."

Early on in my career, an editor suggested I read Parker's novels to get a sense of concise writing and the best dialogue for the mystery genre. This was at a time when I thought it would be really clever to find alternatives to the dialog attributive "said."

My editor pointed out that all my attempts to be clever only emphasized the attributive and took away from the dialog. Parker, she pointed out, rarely used an attributive and when he did 90 percent of the time it was "said." Not "exclaimed" "growled" "muttered" "interjected" or any of the other words some of us used to consider clever.

Parker also rarely used an adverb to modify the attributive, putting the essence of how the line was delivered into the actual line. If a character was angry, the dialog reflected the anger. My editor challenged me to do the same, and there are times I give myself a refresher course and read another Parker novel.

We who have long respected and enjoyed his work will miss him terribly. But a little part of me is happy that he died at his computer doing what he loved. Not a bad way to go.

Writers--- were you influenced by Parker's writing?


photo credit: Robert B Parker in in 2006. Photograph: Chitose Suzuki/AP

Monday, January 18, 2010

Could We Find a Middle Ground?

The state of Texas is in a flap about curriculum content for social studies and science classes.

At issue is whether new social studies textbooks should include information about the religious influences on people who had historical significance. All of us who even faintly remember our American history know that religion and religious beliefs played a large role in history. That is an undisputed fact. Some members of the Texas State Board of Education want the textbooks to include information such as a the fact that during the Constitutional Convention Benjamin Franklin called on the delegates to utilize prayer as they considered how to build the framework of the constitution.

People who wear their religion on their sleeve and think everyone else should, too, are pushing for those facts to be included. They are also pushing to include the Christian belief of creation versus evolution in the science textbooks.

People who are a bit wary of those people, and maybe rightly so, don’t want any mention of religion in textbooks. They believe that if it is written that George Washington was a Christian, that somehow that is endorsing a particular religion. Some of these people also believe that the mention of a religion is imposing that religious belief on students.

How absurd is that? If I tell you I am a Christian does that mean I am saying you have to be a Christian, too?

An integral part of educating young people is to encourage a broad world view and critical thinking. A Christian, Muslim, atheist, Buddhist, or Jew should be able to read about another religion without feeling threatened. And if a threat is perceived, then maybe that says something about the person doing the reading.

Hopefully, there is a middle ground between these two groups on the Board and this issue will be resolved in such a way that it benefits the students, not a faction.


As always, I am open to another point of view. What do you think about this issue?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Dinner anyone?

The other day when it was really cold -- about 20 degrees, which is really cold for East Texas, a flock of doves found something good to eat out in my yard.

I was working and happened to look out the window and saw the birds. At first I thought there were only a handful, but when I really stopped and watched for a while I saw that there were probably twenty to thirty birds out there. Counting was a challenge since they kept moving around so much. That made it hard to get good pictures, too. That and the fact that I was taking the pictures from inside.

I finally got a few shots and went back to work. Then when I glanced outside again, I saw that the doves were gone and a bunch of sparrows and finches were happily feasting on whatever was left out there. It made me think of ancient dining customs where the important people -- royalty -- ate first, then the rest of the people got the leftovers.

It's always fun to discover the parallels between human and animal behaviors. We are more alike than what we think.

Friday, January 15, 2010

I'm feeling real secure over this

According to a news story in the New York Times, an eight year old New Jersey boy is subject to extra scrutiny from TSA agents when he flies because his name appears on a "selectee" list.

Najlah Feanny Hicks said her son, Michael Hicks, a Cub Scout who travels often with his family, has had to go through extra security screening for most of his young life, receiving his first invasive pat-down at the age of two.

The "selectee" list contains around 13,500 names of people who are subjected to higher levels of security screening at airports, a larger group than the government's official no-fly list.

Apparently the boy gets extra pat downs at airport security because he shares the same name as someone else who was already on the list.

This is just another example of the absolutely ridiculous approach to airport security that creates havoc for travelers. This blanket approach to restrictions -- no liquids, take off your shoes, stay in your seat for the last hour before landing -- may be making us safer, but I don't know for sure. I haven't seen any reports of how many possible terrorists have been caught since these restrictions went into place.

And what possible benefit to our safety was there in frisking a two-year-old boy just because his name was on a list? Not because there was something in his background, or his family's background to raise alarms. He just has the wrong name.

I also wonder why the child's name can't be taken off the list? Is the list cast in stone?

What do you think? Is this a necessary precaution?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Dreaded Words

Here is another excerpt from my latest book, A Dead Tomato Plant and a Paycheck. This segment is from the chapter What’s For Dinner? Or, Mutiny of the Midgets. Enjoy...

There are certain words and phrases in the English language, dirty words aside, that are guaranteed to disrupt the otherwise peaceful existence of any mother and drive her to the brink of insanity. Paramount in this area are the words, "What's for dinner'?"

At our house, this question was always asked at the most inconvenient times – at lunch before I'd even had a chance to mop up the soggy Cheerios from breakfast, occasionally during dinner the night before, and once before I'd even had my morning coffee.

Approaching me before coffee, by the way, had to be the epitome of curiosity, courage, and stupidity. I barely breathe before my morning caffeine, let alone answer a question, and the kid who was brave enough to tread where no others had ever trod was putting his life in jeopardy.

When the kids came home from school the first words out of their mouths would be, "What's for dinner?"

Every other year I might have gotten a "Hi, Mom" first, but I quickly learned not to let my emotional security hinge on whether or not that happened.

I can remember thinking how simple it would have been had they all waited until everyone was home and sent one delegate to ask the question instead bursting into my office every hour on the hour. Or I could have called a family conference and made a general announcement. Or made a recording and left the tape player handy so all they had to do was push a button to hear what was on the dinner menu.

Sometimes I’d decide it would be a terrific idea for them to be surprised once in a while. But when I suggested that they just wait and see, they’d act like I just invited them to experience Chinese water torture. And maybe it was agony for them not to know. They were pretty good at devising all sorts of sneaking-and-peeking games that usually left me with fallen bread, sticky rice, and an almost uncontrollable urge to scream.

It probably wouldn't have been so bad if I thought they were asking because they really cared about what I'd expended so much time and energy to prepare. But it was terribly deflating to be asked that question for the fifth time in a row and have to hear for the fifth time in a row, "Ugh! I hate stew."

Monday, January 11, 2010

Tough Day at the Office

Well, actually, I wasn't in my office much today as this turned out to be the Monday from hell, which actually started last night when a pipe broke. I thought we had lucked through this recent deep freeze in Texas without a mishap, then late last night the water pressure suddenly dropped as I was doing dishes. Ooops.

Went outside and there was a geyser coming up through the slats in the deck. Broken pipe. And this despite the fact that I had worked hard covering all the pipes. What I hadn't done was crawl under the deck, as this one had been covered and wrapped real well last year.

We don't have a shut off valve for that side of the house only, so I had no choice but to turn off the water to the entire house. Now we are living like we are camping in a desert somewhere. Filled buckets and jugs. Drink sparingly. Use a little water in a glass to brush my teeth. Shower? No. Warm water in a pail to sponge off with.

Then this morning our cat was sick again, so we had to take her to the veterinarian's. Still not sure what is wrong with her.

After taking care of household issues, I was late turning on my computer and had just started the update on, when the power went off.

We have a lot of power outages here and they are normally short lived. So I thought, okay, I can live with this. Just a half hour break and I will be back at work.

Here it is four hours later and I am scrambling to get a few things accomplished before the plumber shows up to fix the broken pipe. At least I hope he shows up. Pretending that I am at camp is fun for a day, but loses it's appeal after much longer than that.

So, how has your Monday been?

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Hang in There

I just got my first official rejection of my newest book, A Dead Tomato Plant and a Paycheck. This is the humorous memoir I have been working on for about six months, and I recently finished the first draft and a proposal. The next step was to start sending queries to agents, which I did early in December.

The other day, I received a response from the first agent on my list with a pass. Interestingly enough, her response had a few typos. Hmmm..... Maybe it is just as well. So now, the query is out again. Attacking the marketplace is the best antidote I have found for the "rejection blues."

That same day, I received a message from my grandson that he had just been turned down by another publisher. So we could do the "poor me's" together for a while until I told him to just hang in there and send it out again. Or maybe send it out again and just hang in there.

In sort of a serendipitous moment, I just found this charming post on the Guide to Literary Agents blog written by by Abhijit Dasgupta, executive editor of India Today magazine, In the post, titled The Tale of My Novel, Two Agents, and Three Continents, Dasgupta chronicles his attempts to acquire representation in an enjoyable read. Not only is it funny and insightful, it also stresses the importance of not giving up.

Hear, hear. Tenacity is still the greatest strength a writer can have in this challenging world of publishing.

What do you think? How often do you consider quitting, only to bolster your muse and get back at the keyboard?

Thursday, January 07, 2010

More On E-Book Rights

This issue of e-book rights to previously published books and who owns them has been a hot topic on blogs, and a really informative post was written by Kassia Krozser on the Booksquare blog. She points out that the flap over the move by William Styron’s heirs to license the digital rights of his books to Open Road Integrated Media, a new digital publishing company headed by Jane Friedman, who previously worked at Harper Collins is all about money.

Random House, where some of the work was originally published, saw an opportunity to cash in on works that have already earned a tidy profit and attempted to block that effort. Thank goodness the courts ruled in favor of the heirs.

As J.W. Coffey (Redheaded Celt) so aptly put it in her comment on this blog yesterday, everyone, except the ruling judges, forgot about the original contracts for those books that had no mention of electronic rights. Which is another point that Kassia makes. People can have all kinds of opinions about this issue, but legally, the "work" belongs to the author.

If you have the time and inclination, check out the Booksquare blog and the insightful comments left there.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

E-Book Controversy

Last Friday, Markus Dohle, chief executive of Random House, sent a letter to dozens of literary agents, writing that the company’s older agreements gave it “the exclusive right to publish in electronic book publishing formats.”

This action was taken after the family of William Styron, author of Sopie's Choice and other classics, decided to pursue electronic editions of his works independent of Random House. An article in the New York Times business section written on December 12th, outlines the position of authors and their heirs, which basically says that the rights to electronic versions belongs solely to them.

As a counter-point Jonathan Galassi, the president of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, wrote an op/ed piece for the NY Times stating that the electronic rights should be shared due primarily because of the contributions the publishing house made to the final product through editing, production, and marketing.

Those are both interesting articles that illustrate just how much advances in technology have changed the scope of publishing.

My earliest contracts with NY publishers specified what rights the publisher was buying and for how long. Of course, those were before people thought e-books were going to amount to anything, so that was not specified. The material was copyrighted in my name,
not the publisher's, so the rights were still mine.

My latest contracts from 2008 specified that the company was buying the hardback rights only and the author retained the rights to paperback, electronic, digital and all other ancillary markets. I did have to agree not to pursue any of those other avenues for a full year after the hardback version came out.

When it comes to most publishing contracts, they are more like a licensing agreement than an outright sale. Since those contracts entered into in the 50's with some of the authors mentioned in the story didn't specify that Random House was licensing all rights, it is obvious to me that those electronic rights belong to the author and/or the heirs.

And as compelling as Mr. Galassi's argument is that the publisher deserves more compensaion for the money expended for editing, production, marketing and artwork put into the original publication, it doesn't have a legal basis. Plus, let's not forget that the publishers more than recoup those expenses considering the typical royalty split with the author.

The most important point that seems to get lost in considering who should get the lion's share of revenue from a book is the fact that there would be no book without the author. The marketing departments of publishing companies treat books like product only, forgetting that creative output is different from any other productive output. It's not like making cars, or computer chips, or tortilla warmers. Nobody else could write Mark Twain's books or William Styron's or yours or mine.


What do you think? Is Random House just trying to make a land grab?

Monday, January 04, 2010

Post-Holiday Thoughts

Perhaps you have had enough of holiday related blogs and are just ready to put the whole holiday experience to rest and forge ahead with everything you have to do in 2010. On one level, I'm ready to do that, too. I have some plans for my writing that entail setting some goals and working toward them, so I need to focus on that.

However, there is still a part of me that is a little sad to see it all go away -- all the fun and frivolity and excitement that seems to surround us from Thanksgiving until New Years.

Yesterday, I took my tree down and put all the decorations away. I did that with mixed emotions. On one hand, it was good to have that major chore over and done with, but on the other hand I will miss the lights and the glitter of tinsel. And the hand-crocheted tablecloth I received from my sister this year does not look nearly as nice with a spring centerpiece as it did with the reds and golds of the Christmas centerpiece.

One thing that will remain, however, is the wonderful feelings that the holidays evoked. We had such a good time with family visiting. We had great leisurely meals, sharing the latest news from everyone; walks down the road on a crisp sunny afternoon to meet the neighbor's donkeys; card games that went on and on in a tournament fashion; and lots of goodies.

We also exchanged gifts, and there were some wonderful things given and received, but for me, the greatest gift was the time spent together. Things will wear out, but this will never lose its magic.

What about you? What are your best memories from this year?

Saturday, January 02, 2010

No Thanks, I've Had Enough Coffee

Since I'm sitting here on a Saturday morning with nothing more interesting to write about than all the work I have to do today -- and who cares about my dusting and vacuuming and laundry -- I've decided to post a column from my friend Tracy Farr. This is one that appeared a couple of years ago on but the humor is timeless. Enjoy....

Let’s engage in some meaningless small talk. I’ll start by saying something totally cliché and you respond appropriately. Of course, I must tell you that I’m not going to listen to a word you say. Instead, I’ll be thinking of something totally different and will change the subject when you’re finished. Then again, I may not even wait until you’re finished. Are you ready? Here we go.

Boy, it’s starting to warm up a bit, isn’t it? I myself prefer cold weather. I once slept in a tent when it was 18 degrees outside just to be able to say I did it. Of course, you can’t do that with a cheap tent and sleeping bag. Nosirree! You have to have the expensive stuff and hope “the boss” doesn’t find out how much you spent on it.

And if you want to know how I got away with buying the top-dollar stuff, then buddy, let me tell you: I got away with it by saying I was in training to climb Mount Everest. Of course, I wasn’t sure at first if the Everest story would work, so I had a Plan B just in case. Plan B stated that I needed the equipment for an expedition to Antarctica to study Emperor Penguins. I was pretty positive that story would work (everybody loves penguins), but luckily I didn’t have to use it.

And what kinds of food would I take on an expedition to Antarctica? I’m not exactly sure, but I guarantee I would never go anywhere without several jumbo-size bags of Peanut M&Ms.

I could eat Peanut M&Ms all day. There’s something about those almost-round, multi-colored blobs of chocolate-covered nuts that I just cannot resist. I once ate an entire 10-pound bag of Peanut M&Ms at one sitting and didn’t even realize it until they were all gone and I wasn’t quite feeling well. After several days of rehab, I was better – but the craving is still there. Once a Peanut M&M junkie, always a Peanut M&M junkie.

Sled dogs would probably love Peanut M&Ms, but it’s best not to give them any. And how do I know this? Because I used to be a card-carrying member of the North American Sled Dog Association. I didn’t exactly have a sled dog, or a sled, but that’s beside the point. I had the North American Sled Dog Association Membership Card, and that meant I was in the club.

Speaking of buying things on credit (which we weren’t, but I might as well bring it up now because I just put a gazillion dollars worth of camping equipment on my Master Card), I was thinking about having my body cryogenically frozen when I die. Maybe in a thousand years someone will come along, wake me up and cure me of whatever killed me (unless it was being hit by a truck, then I guess I’m just out of luck). But if I’m going to be held responsible for a thousand years of interest on a gazillion dollars of credit card debt, them I’m having none of it. Just box me up and drop me in a hole.

Some people prefer to be cremated instead of buried, but I haven’t made up my mind yet. There’s something to be said for being placed in the ground from which we came. But having my ashes exploded in a fireworks display has its appeal, too. Either that or maybe I could have my ashes painted into a portrait of myself. My kids would hate it, but Aunt Edna in El Paso would hang it over her fireplace until the day she died. And then it would probably be bought in an estate sale for $3.95.

What a testament about my life. Here one day, gone the next, and not even worth the price of a Happy Meal.

Does that sound like I feel sorry for myself? I certainly hope not. I can’t complain about my life. I’ve bought expensive camping equipment, I’ve hobnobbed with sled dog racers, and I’ve eaten more than my share of Peanut M&Ms. All in all my life has been pert near perfect.

Now, what were we talking about? That’s right, the weather. Boy, it’s starting to warm up a bit, isn’t it?


Tracy Farr is a teacher living in East Texas who drives a school bus for the fun of it. In his spare time he plays the banjo, but never on Thursdays. You can read more of his stories at