Monday, November 5, 2018

Fantastic Holiday Gift Ideas for Writers

Is the writer in your life difficult to shop for? 

I’m not surprised. We're often a surly bunch, hunched at our computers, frowning at a blank screen, waiting for the perfect words to form.

What we writers would really like to receive—a brain full of million-dollar ideas and an extra twenty hours a week in which to write—is unfortunately not gift-able. There are gifts, however, guaranteed to make a writer smile anyway. Here are a dozen ideas for holiday gifts that will please the writer in your life, in no particular order:

  • Let’s start with the obvious. Does your writer have a personalized pen? If not, it’s high time he/she did.  They come in a full range of designs from casual to formal to flashy, and they’re priced to suit every budget. Having his/her name engraved is key!

  •  A writer can never have too many journals or notebooks in which to jot down bright ideas, agent recommendations, research notes or on-the-go poetry. These needn’t be expensive; nice ones have been found at craft and dollar stores. Journal-sized books (think 6” x 9”) that can fit into a purse or messenger bag would work best. There are specialty kinds to help generate writing ideas, too! I keep a collection of blank journals on a bookshelf and grab one whenever I’m off to another writers’ conference.

  • For a screenwriter or a writer whose favorite book has been recently made into a film, a movie theater gift card (e.g. AMC, Regal) is timely and perfect. (Just make sure the card can be used at a local theater before buying it!)

  • For the practical writer, an office supply store gift card (e.g. Staples, OfficeMax) is useful. Paper, ink, envelopes and other tools of the trade will be needed, so the risk of re-gifting is slim to none.

  • A writing poster serves dual purposes, decorating the writer’s space and providing motivation. These can be framed to impress the recipient even further.

  • Novelty office items, such as this Hemingway Pencil Holder (shaped like an old-fashioned typewriter), will thrill a writer as well.

  •  Two words: Laptop bags. For him, or for her.

  • Does your writer have business cards listing their contact, social media and website information? There are many inexpensive online printing companies that can provide them in time for the holidays.

  • If your writer is caffeine-dependent, as so many writers are (Guilty!), why not gift him/her a Writer’s Mug with a pound of his/her favorite coffee or a box of tea? Some mugs are witty, some joke, and others celebrate favorite books. Pick one that you know will make your writer smile.

  • Ernest Hemingway is credited with having said “Write drunk; edit sober.” What writer doesn’t love a bottle of his/her favorite sophisticated adult beverage? When in doubt, a good bottle of wine coupled with a writerly wine knick-knack will suffice. If your writer has a good sense of humor about the struggle, a bottle of Writers Tears Irish Whiskey packaged with some attractive tumblers will be well appreciated.

  • Writing gloves and scarves are an unusual fashion statement. I have and proudly wear my Wuthering Heights writing gloves in January, which are fingerless and fabulous for keeping cold hands warm.

  • Writing jewelry also makes a statement. Lockets or necklaces, such as Victorian Trading Company's lovely “Once Upon a Time” book pendant, are a lovely choice. Writer's bracelets are another. Jewelry that is customized with charms bearing the titles of individual published stories that maybe added to as time goes on are sure to thrill the receiving writer as well. 

  • If you’re looking to score extra points, why not put one or more of the above items in a writer’s tote bag instead of a gift bag? These come in a variety of styles and will be reused by your writer for years to come.

Have I missed anything? If you have better ideas, let me know in the comments below.

Have happy holidays!

"Bundle Gift" image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti/

Saturday, October 20, 2018

"Publicize This!" and "The Thief of Your Heart" Free eBook Promotions - October 2018

Get this for FREE 10/20/18 to 10/22/18
So I've finally stepped outside of my comfort zone by deciding to try Amazon's Free Book Promotion. Why am I outside? In short, I'm not used to giving my work away. I've read, however, that free eBook promotions help sales--a concept that seems counter-intuitive but is said to work, so I'm trying it out.

The idea is to raise the rank of my books on Amazon and hopefully ignite some sales of the print version of Publicize This! Promoting Your Group or Nonprofit on a Limited or Nonexistent Budget (left), which would be a fitting holiday gift for the friend or family member who is deeply involved in volunteer group activities. Just sayin'.

From Saturday, October 20th through Monday, October 22nd, you'll be able to download the Kindle version of Publicize This! Promoting Your Group or Nonprofit on a Limited or Nonexistent Budget for free. It's a beginner's guide for community and/or nonprofit groups who need to grow their membership, raise awareness of important issues, and solicit donations to advance their objectives—despite the fact that they have a limited or nonexistent marketing budget. Packed with practical advice, this brief and to-the-point book details specific steps that groups might take to make a simple marketing plan, compile a custom media distribution list, advertise group events, capitalize on post-event publicity opportunities, and generate ongoing word-of-mouth that furthers the group's overall goals. All it takes is "some dedication, a little targeted research, diligent collection of relevant information, and steady application of what is learned along the way." Quick and easy fundraising ideas are included, as well as samples of blurbs, announcements, a radio script, and other promotional pieces for modeling purposes. The print version is priced reasonably at $8.99 and is 80 pages long; the free eBook promotion is also V2, released July 7, 2016.

Get this for FREE 10/20/18 to 10/24/18
Additionally, my "dysfunctional romantic" Kindle Short Read, "The Thief of Your Heart" (right), will be offered free of charge for five days, from Saturday, October 20th through Wednesday, October 24th. It takes approximately fifteen minutes to read and is summarized thus: "On the eve of her wedding, Maureen takes a late night phone call from an ex who asks her to not marry her fiance and to reconsider him, despite his profession--home burglary." This short story originally published in The East Hampton Star in February 2007 and later re-published on Voca Femina in June 2009. I decided to offer it as an eBook to keep it permanently available and with hopes that readers might also want to try "Because," my hour-long Kindle Short Read, also advertised in the free eBook. "Because" came out on Kindle late last June (it's also in print).

Reviews on Amazon or on Goodreads, are always very much appreciated. I'd also love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

I hope you enjoy the books!

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

On Being Plagiarized

Plagiarism is no longer something that I can only sympathize about, because it happened to me. 

In early March 2015, I googled Rebecca Elsing Mudge Greensmith, the name of my eleventh great grandmother, looking for a transcript of her 1662 confession of witchcraft in Hartford, Connecticut. What I found instead was a link, seventh on the list of search results, to I Found a Witch in My Family Tree.

I’d written this article for Yahoo! Voices back in early 2012 while building my freelance writing business. For the effort, I was paid a nominal fee—so small, in fact, that it wasn’t worth my time. I’d taken the assignment, however, so that I could add the online behemoth to my corporate client list—the “value-added," to use a popular buzzword from the ‘90s. I didn't care for the way it was edited for publication, but at least I could then say that Yahoo! was a customer. When Voices folded and the article went offline, I felt glad.

Then, there I was, three years later, looking at my article's resurrection via repost on a blog called Not a syllable had been changed from the Yahoo! version; it was a solid copy-and-paste job. The only change, in fact, was my byline, which had been replaced with just “Editor”(ironic, given the absence of further editing). The timestamp confirmed that my article had been posted there for over two years.

Novice writers are inexplicably flattered when they learn their work has been plagiarized. They believe that theft implies value; the writing must be good, or it wouldn’t have been stolen. They don’t reason out that plagiarists are too lazy to write their own material and too cheap to pay a writer to generate it for them. Unfortunately, experienced writers know this all too well.

I wasn't anywhere close to flattered. I was downright pissed. I emailed “Editor” to say so. I contacted Yahoo! to report the theft. I posted the link to the blog on Facebook for my friends to see and shake their heads over. Some of them even posted snarky comments beneath my article, shaming the thief. Ultimately, these tactics worked. Within 48 hours, the article disappeared; “Editor” had deleted it.

So, what did I learn for this experience? In four short words, checking would have helped. I routinely use Google to bust plagiarism in the college courses I teach, but I’d never bothered to run copy from my own articles through Google’s search engine to see if anyone had scarfed them. Googling my own name wouldn’t have helped because my byline had been removed from the article. Running specific phrases or sentences through the search engine with quotation marks around themin this case, the titlewould have. If I’d done that, I'd have known much sooner that my prose had been pilfered.

Guess what I'll be doing going forward?