Thursday, September 27, 2007

Cruelty to animals a pet cause (pun intended)

I agreed to join other members of the Blog Catalog community in writing an advocacy column today. Members are participating in an effort called “Against Abuse.” Each of us could select our own good cause. I chose advocacy for animals. Some of the stories I found are sickening.

Last week the Humane Society of the United States posted a news release about the death of a carriage horse in New York. The release noted, “The horse became spooked, broke free from its carriage, and ran into a tree sustaining fatal injuries. Carriage drivers blame a nearby street performance, which included drums, for causing the horse to become frightened and bolt. This is only one of several such incidents over the past few years.”

The city is addressing the problem, but it’s hard to understand how you can prevent problems when you have carriage horses in an area as congested as New York City. The release further noted, “Earlier this month, City Comptroller William Thompson released an audit of the agencies that regulate the city's carriage horses. The report showed that the horses live and work in inhumane conditions. They do not receive adequate shade or water and the agencies did not maintain required inspections and veterinary check ups.”

The sad fact is this is not the worst example of abuse. Whether someone is confining an exotic pet then setting it loose when the pet becomes too much trouble or engaging in dogfighting as in the case of Michael Vick, America like other countries has examples of abuse in abundance. Many of the examples are horrible. A puppy shot, wrapped in a blanket and tossed, still alive, into a dumpster. A horse mutilated with a machete, his front left shoulder nearly severed. What quality provokes a human being into harming the vulnerable?

The Humane Society says, “Cruelty to animals is strongly linked to interpersonal violence, including domestic abuse, sexual abuse, and murder. Nearly half of convicted sexual homicide perpetrators in a 1988 study admitted to abusing animals as adolescents.”

The Humane Society provides a wealth of information on the organization’s Web site. Visit the site and watch some of the videos that show animals rescued from dire circumstances. It’s a good lesson in the worst and the best of mankind.

(graphic courtesy of Blog Catalog)

Monday, September 24, 2007

Finding the book in you

So I had a meeting with an agent. I pitched a nonfiction book. The agent was positive about the idea. He asked for a proposal and gave me his card.

So I tried. But I couldn’t see the book in my head. And I couldn’t figure out what to do. I wrote about 100 pages. And I still couldn’t see the book in my head. So I dropped it.

I didn’t do the proposal. And of course I worried because I needed to come up with another idea. The agent is pretty high profile.

So then last week I’m doing an interview for a news story. Bam! I run head-on into the book I want to do. I started it and I could probably finish it in a week if I didn’t have a life otherwise. I connected with the passion that will enable me to do the actual writing--the endless hours of tapping the keys, revising, reworking and polishing. You gotta' love your subject, that's all there is to it.

Sometimes you just have to let the book find you—I think it’s a lot like falling in love. Look for it and it will never happen. Turn your back and forget about it and there it is.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Reality writer--what the writing biz is like

The video says it all.

Only thing I can add is thank God for the good editors I have--you know who you are.

Thanks to a fellow ASJA member for sharing this link.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Who loves ya, blogger? Here are my top referrers.

It can be so frustrating, this blogging habit. You pour your words onto the screen, diligently post, and sit there wondering who will read it. If readers loved me like my hound dog, I'd be writing on easy street.

My Creative Writer US blog seems to be at a plateau—maybe because there are so many writing blogs. I get thousands of unique visitors at Covering Florida each month. At Creative Writer US, I get 25 percent of the traffic I get at CF.

Covering Florida continues to grow in an amazing way, with increasing traffic in uniques and in page views each week. I post there daily, sometimes two or three times if there's breaking news, as I used to do here. But because I have to place my time where it counts, I dropped posting here to 3 times a week.

I do know who sends me readers—I have basic statistics on those. So here are my top 5 referrers for both blogs:

1. Google®—runaway tops, no contest (I still love Google, I admit it.)
2. Blog Catalog
3. BlogHer
4. Technorati
5. Various message boards, where people talk about what I write and post a link—these are diverse and no one stands above the other. Note: I don’t post on these boards.

I write the Creative Writer US blog because I love to write about my profession and it’s a means of sometimes writing about an author I wouldn’t get to write about otherwise. Book reviews and book publications are a very small market, one I can’t really afford to chase.

Here’s a “perplexion” (I know I made that word up)—both blogs have the same Google page rank, but CW US is ranked higher at Technorati. Go figure.

I’ve written about it before, but I’ll point it out again. The single most useful book I’ve found about blogging is J. S. McDougall’s ‘Start Your Own Blogging Business.’ What I learned from reading the book really helped boost my numbers at Covering Florida.

I will say blogging really lets me write what I want to instead of what I contract to write. That's a nice creative release in itself. And I know, from email and comments, that sometimes what I write helps others. That's always a good thing.

(©KayBDay/2007; all rights reserved)

Monday, September 17, 2007

The wild wild Web, where copyright is becoming an oft-repeated word

I read a post at a discussion forum—the author found a Web site had copied her content verbatim. She contacted the owner of the site, who basically told her to shove it—there was nothing she could do. The site owner did remove the content, however. In August, I wrote a column about a lawsuit filed by an author who took issue with a bad review of his book. The reviewer didn’t just bash the book; illustrations from the work were reproduced. The author had provided the book, so the case isn’t black and white.

In a perfect world, no one would lift your content without asking. But people do. One reason I added the ‘Copyscape’ banner to both my sites involves providing notice that I do check for copied content. Copyscape works beautifully to this end.

Technically, you don’t have to officially register a work to protect it. The U.S. Copyright Office Web site notes:
No publication or registration or other action in the Copyright Office is required to secure copyright. (See following note.) There are, however, certain definite advantages to registration.

Here’s the note referenced above:
Copyright is secured automatically when the work is created, and a work is “created” when it is fixed in a copy or phonorecord for the first time.

It is a good idea when you post to your blog or Web site to add a copyright notice, and it’s an even better idea to file the forms to protect your work.

And if you have your eye on sharp content written by another, ask before you lift. Chances are if you run a quality site, you’ll receive permission unless you’re asking a large commercial concern. And always, if you’re given permission, be mannerly and include a link to the site where the work was first featured.

There’s an excellent site explaining the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, organized by the Association of Research Libraries. This government act offers some protection for your Web content, and restricts use of your content to fair use guidelines, including the amount of content in relation to the whole work. Fine to lift a line or two when you’re reviewing a book or poem. Not so fine to lift the whole item.

Meanwhile, you can drop your URL in at Copyscape to see if your work is being used without your knowledge.


Friday, September 14, 2007

Frey owns up to this fiction: HarperCollins to publish ‘Bright Shiny Morning’

After imploding his career—profitably—with his alleged memoir, ‘A Million Little Pieces,’ James Frey continues his—profitable—success with the sale of his novel to HarperCollins. The book is scheduled for publication in summer, 2008. Jonathan Burnham, senior vice president and publisher at HC, said in a corporate news release, “James Frey is an immensely talented writer who has written a truly extraordinary and original novel, one of great breadth and ambition.” Gosh—sounds just like his first “novel” packaged as a memoir, doesn’t it?

American publishing knows no boundaries when it comes to making money. Remember Clifford Irving—faker of the Howard Hughes biography in 1971? Irving actually did time in a federal prison for his scam. Frey gets a new book deal and praise from his publisher.

The saddest thing about Clifford Irving is what makeup artists did to Richard Gere when filming the movie about Irving, ‘The Hoax.’ I literally could not even look at Gere, made up so poorly he brought to mind the image of Alfred E. Neuman of Mad magazine fame.

Well, we all have our ups and downs, I suppose. Can you fathom musings about my own success? What if I were to claim my next book has just been acquired by a mega-publisher who wined and dined me recently in New York, offering a $2 million advance for my brilliance in penning an account of my life as personal poet to Diana, Princess of Wales. I might tell you I include stories of our teatimes together. I might conjure how we shared everything —finger sandwiches, Earl Grey tea (loose leaf, of course) and even Prince Charles. And how when Di wanted a poem, I composed one on the spot. “Formal or free?” I’d ask—“a sonnet, perhaps?”

I confess she preferred free. I think I’ll use the pen name Jamie Frey for my “memoir.” Nonfiction, they say, is a great way to break out on the best-seller list, even if your book is as we say on the street, a pack of lies.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Facebook poem--because you asked

A poetry group I belong to at Facebook came up with a contest. Write a poem beginning with 'Face' and ending in 'Book.' I did that, but my poem is too long for the contest guidelines. I mentioned I'd written one, here at my blog and on Facebook. Well, that spurred curiosity. People have visited this blog in hopes of finding the poem, according to the keywords showing on search inquiries. Others have asked me by email and in person, "Where's the poem?" I usually don't place a poem on my blog unless it's been published. But this time, to make a few people happy, I'm sharing the poem here with you. It'll be part of my forthcoming collection, 'Notes from a Florida Village.' And naturally, it will be revised several more times because I have a red pen and my fingers itch.

Facebook, Wall to Wall

Face love like war, daughter,
and gird your vitals with more than simple trust.
There’s much to be gained by watching dogs—the male
shows, snared by scent, then mounts and goes his addled way.
The female receives, often willingly, and once she’s done
needs only her litter, and those for only a little while. Dogs,
you see, have mastered the artifices of love, and it worked
because we have lots of them lifting a leg on corner hydrants,
barking at the moon and waking neighbors, chasing cats
and overturning trash or perhaps stealing a sandwich
right off your lunch table. There’s no love war between dogs.

But here’s the truth. With men, there’s war aplenty,
even when you’re skirmishing with the best of them.
And if you’re not doing battle with the best, walk away
like a warrior sated, do your nails or climb a mountain.
Open a bottle of wine, read some poems and close the book.

—Kay B. Day/copyright Kay B. Day, all rights reserved.
From the forthcoming collection, ‘Notes from a Florida Village’

Monday, September 10, 2007

Author Cheryl Snell hits home run with manuscripts—twice

Visit links noted below to learn more about Snell's work.

Most authors are glad to get a contract for one book. Cheryl Snell can celebrate getting two, and one of those contracts is a double deal, so technically, she hit three home runs.

Snell says it was hard to find a publisher for her novel ‘Shiva’s Arms.’ In an email interview, she wrote, “It took awhile. The first publisher I sent the manuscript to accepted it, but wanted me to cover half the cost of publication. It was a reputable company, as it turns out, but I thought co-publishing was the same as working with a vanity press, so I passed. The next company went belly-up before the book could even be edited. The third time was the charm however (cliché or not), and Writer’s Lair Books offered me a two book deal.” The novel wasn’t her only charm. Pudding House Publications, a well-regarded publisher of poetry chapbooks, picked up Snell’s manuscript, ‘Samsara.’

Right now, Snell is planning author events, hoping to reach out to readers in different ways.

“An online campaign is one way to cast a wider net,” she says, offering other authors a tip for a good resource. “Felicia Sullivan, the editor of Small Spiral Notebook, has a good online marketing how-to at her site. She has a suggestion or two about using video. I noticed that Out of the Book Films recently sent a thirty minute video of Ian McEwan’s book around to bookstores, and caused a bit of a stir. An authorless author event could supplement the traditional readings nicely, I think. And, of course, I like the idea of a blog book tour.”

Asked what inspired her novel, Snell points to geography. “It began as an effort to record my husband’s stories about growing up in Bombay. Pardon me, Mumbai. We’d been talking about the nature of nostalgia—I swear! But as soon as I put pen to paper, my characters began to run amok, to take on a separate reality. I was dragged along in their service. Didn’t Flannery O’Connor remind us that the novel is an art form, and when you use it for anything other than art, you pervert it? The novel’s set-up—American girl marries into a traditional Brahmin family—is drawn from my life, but I am not Alice, although I know her very well.”

Her successes will bring demands aplenty, but Snell doesn’t foresee obstacles to her writing. “I’m pretty rhythmical in my work habits. I always say that if inspiration wants to find me, I’ll be at my desk from 9 a.m. to noon. Well, O’Connor might have said it first.”

Learn more about Cheryl Snell’s books and her work at these sites:
Blog for Snell’s novel, ‘Shiva’s Arms.’
Publisher site, Writer’s Lair Books, for Snell’s novel, ‘Shiva’s Arms.’
Publisher site, Pudding House Publications, for Snell’s poetry collection, ‘Samsara.’
Literary site for Alsop Review, where Snell is book reviews editor.

Please visit Covering Florida for our essay about Patriot Day, in honor of those who died at the World Trade Center September 11, 2001.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Is Big Biz manipulating you on the Web? Meet Digby, figurative sister to LonelyGirl15

Marié Digby came across as a budding musician, naïve in the ways of the music world. Her apparently ‘homespun’ performances have been viewed more than 2.3 million times on YouTube, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal. Imagine all those other budding musicians who, hearts full of goodwill, cheered Digby’s success in signing with a major record label. Imagine all those same budding musicians’ emotional responses when they learned Digby’s innocence was carefully marketed. She actually signed with Hollywood Records in 2005. Echoes of LonelyGirl15 should be sounding in your psyche right about now.

It should come as no surprise that the Web, considered for so long by writers, artists, musicians and others as a frontier where all have an equal playing field, is being utilized as a resource by big business. It was only a matter of time. I listened to a publishing agent at a conference recently as he described the use of MySpace and viral emails to promote a forthcoming title. And there’ve been many articles about writers reviewing their own titles, under a pseudonym of course, on sites like

Most of us like to think the person we read about or admire is exactly who we believe him or her to be. Truth is, in life as on the Web, that may not always be the case. The best tactic is to think for yourself rather than buying into talent just because others have. A certain bias is created in group adulation, and it works in favor of the person seeking your admiration. Sites like YouTube and MySpace are an advertiser’s dream—a low budget path to big budget profit. It should come as no surprise that big commercial outfits, just like those of us in our own small corners on the Web, have come to see the light.

As for Digby, she makes me think of Britney Spears for some reason.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Kim Addonizio’s new novel makes a gritty world shine

Kim Addonizio’s work first engaged me when I read her poems. There are gems in her collections, poems that just stop you cold. Poems like “Therapy,” “The Divorcee and Gin” and “Mermaid Song” should become classics—they’re like a favorite song replayed, instantly winging into your world like exotic little birds catching your eye. Her new novel My Dreams Out in the Street: A Novel is equally engaging.

The book is one part mystery, one part love story and one part epic. Addonizio creates a character we might bump into on the street—Rita Jackson. Rita is down on her luck, a scavenger, a survivor. At 13, she witnessed the murder of her mother and as a young woman, her husband disappeared. She moves from shelters to corners in public parks to seedy hotels to a married man’s bed, perpetually homeless and confidently desperate. She’s always looking for Jimmy, and she’s always on edge. Addonizio gets into Rita’s head with passages like the following:
Now anxiety was with her all the time, even when she got drunk; when she slept, her dreams were full of vague problems she worried over, trying to fix whatever it was, not able to figure out what was wrong. Her dreams were inhabited by specters. Or wolves. They looked like dogs but they were wild. She would be running from them, and then come up against the dread certainty that there was something worse up ahead, and she’d stop cold in her tracks, and the fear would drill into her.

Rita’s journey yields encounters with others who are homeless, with cops, detectives, and managers who run flea-bitten hotels. She is an empathetic character, but one we are constantly shaking our head over as well. Her redemption lies in finding Jimmy, her husband whom she still loves, and in solving the riddle of why, after a nasty argument, he didn’t come back to her. Running parallel to Rita’s story is Jimmy’s story, and we slip into his thoughts as he remembers the wife he left. Whether the two will meet again, coupled with the way Rita and Jimmy feed off one another despite their separation, is the mystery that keeps the reader turning the page. Add in a sub-plot involving Rita witnessing a murder and fleeing thugs, and the tension just gets tighter.

Addonizio’s latest novel is a binge read of a book; close the covers and you miss Rita, her shortcomings and virtues all rolled into one. The book deserves a wide audience—here’s hoping it achieves widespread success long overdue this talented author.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Yes, Virginia, there’s a place for you on Facebook even if you’re over 40

Last week I was on the phone, talking business with a meeting organizer. She’s younger than me. When I told her I had a Facebook page, she giggled. I told her age doesn't mean much to me. I forget how old I am; most days I have more energy than I did at 20 because I don’t keep the late (often rowdy) hours I did then.

My older daughter, a grad student at a Florida university, actually talked me into doing the Facebook page. I’ve already had lots of fun (her friends have become mine in many cases), but I’ve also discovered two interesting poetry groups, a magazine group, an animal lovers' group, and linked up to several other freelance writers. There's even an over 40 Facebook group. A daily newspaper reporter did an interview with me about my Facebook experience, and the story was in the business section Monday.

Major publishers use social networks to promote their book titles ahead of the title’s release date. Journalists like me use social networks to glean quotes for articles, to dig up stories, and to stay on top of trends. When my new book comes out, my page will be the first place I announce the release. I’ve already turned up two stories I’ll write, based on my interaction within this social network. I also post links to stories I've written for magazines, Web sites and newspapers.

I wrote an earlier article here at Creative Writer US about a poem inspired by my Facebook experience.

I’ve received virtual plants that grow and bloom over a period of several days, and friends have gifted me cyber-beers and a cup of coffee.

So even if you’re over 40, you can still have fun and benefit professionally by using social networks like Facebook.

Related links:

Florida Times-Union story by J. Elliott Walker about Facebook

Creative Writer US column about Facebook poem

My article at The Writer, ‘Networking with Other Writers’, for my column ‘Web Savvy’