Drowning in a spreadsheet of words

Sometime ago, I volunteered to provide Killer Nashville with a word a day for their website. No problem, I thought. When I come across a word I think is interesting (or I don’t know the meaning of), I’ll add it to my list, then I’ll look up definitions and … wa la. I’ll round out the list by thumbing through books or, if I need more words, the dictionary.

Well, now that I’m almost finished with the task I see there would’ve been easier ways to’ve done it (much easier), but what’s done is done. Of course, I encountered many words I didn’t know. For example, did you know there’s a word for that fresh smell of the earth after a rain? Yep. It’s “petrichor.” That’s probably my favorite discovery.

While I did use my “jot words down” method, it became obvious the list wouldn’t be complete until sometime in the next decade if I relied sole only that method. For one thing, keeping up with all of those slips of paper–in the car, in my iPad, by the sofa where I read the newspaper, by my work chair … Therefore, I jumped straight where I was sent when I was a little girl and asked the meaning of something–the dictionary.

I began by looking up the words in a traditional, hard-backed dictionary and comparing that definition to an online one before composing one myself. Fumbling with the heavy book while balancing my laptop became too cumbersome, and the font in the book got smaller and smaller the longer I worked. I therefore abandoned the weighty volume for several online versions. Unfortunately, my increase in productivity by moving solely online was undermined as I was often distracted by fumbling with examples of LSAT, GRE, MCAT, and other diversions.

My favorite word-sources were the built in dictionary with my Macbook Pro, Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary and Thesaurus, and Your Dictionary-The Dictionary You Can Understand. I tried to used a “modern” American usage dictionary, but the profanity was too frequent to take it seriously.

After providing the definition, Dictionary.com presented a box that said “Abc is always a great word to know. So is xyz. Does xyz mean…” Then it would list two definitions. After I answered, another question popped up, over and over. Sometimes, I’d get so caught up in the quiz I’d forget to note the words on my spreadsheet. Oh, well.

Has doing this improved my vocabulary? Goodness gracious, I hope so. I probably won’t use many of the words in speech — it take all of my memory to remember the words I already know. But I think I’ll recognize them when reading and remember them when writing. I didn’t do the list alphabetically, though when I put it in alphabetical order to check for duplicates, there were less than a dozen because I’d either remembered the word or the definition I’d reworked. It was telling to examine my duplicate definitions to see just how close they were to each other. None were exactly alike.

It was an interesting project, but much more labor intensive that I’d have thought. I’m happy to help out Killer Nashville because the conference gives so much to the writing community. Remember registration is open and early registration ends March 1! I blogged about it a couple of weeks ago.

Back to my 366 words (it is leap year, you know).

~ Kay


Help Authoress become top writing blog

One of my favorite bloggers is the anonymous “Authoress” who contributes much to the newbie writing community. I’m doing my happy dance because her blog, Miss Snark’s First Victim, has been nominated as one of the Top Writing Blogs on eCollegeFinder.com.

It’d be so cool for someone I know (well sort of) to make the final cut . . . and we (you and me) can help her. All we have to do is VOTE HERE.  Daily voting is allowed through February 3rd. For our convenience, the renowned Authoress has the voting link in the sidebar of her website.

Why am I so gung ho to support this chick who doesn’t even share her real name with her minions? And what’s with the funky name of her website, you probably wonder. What’s that all about?

First things first. I endorse her because of the tremendous amount of time and devotion she gives to the online writing community, especially non-published authors. Remember that amazing contest back in December called The Baker’s Dozen? It was the one where a real, live agent actually read part of my book and gave me some notes, but ultimately passed on it. 🙁 Well, she’s the one who created and coordinated the whole thing. And she (and her friend Jodi) are the ones who picked my entry from five hundred to be one of sixty considered by thirteen agents bidding for the right to one week’s exclusivity to the manuscripts of these authors.  (What a convoluted sentence. In a nutshell: She liked me (my work). She really liked me!)

In addition, she has other contests throughout the year called “secret agent” where she’ll invite followers to submit their work to be reviewed by another real, live agent who is revealed at the end of the contest. Over two dozen agents have participated as secret agents in the past couple of years. (I don’t think they have to wear trench coats, but you never know.) At least six writers credit the secret agent contest for helping them find their agents. And, in 2010, the first year of the Baker’s Dozen, three participants ended up with agents. Not too shabby.

And when she’s not holding contests she’s hosting in-house critique sessions. Plus she has to line up the agents for all of her contests which means she must network like crazy. This is one busy lady and all of these projects are labor intensive.

As far as the title of her website, Miss Snark’s First Victim … Once upon a time, there was a literary agent (also anonymous–are we seeing a pattern here?) who invited unsuspecting wannabe authors to send her their queries to critique. Unlike the Authoress, who would probably be pelted with chocolate should she reveal herself, I’m afraid the terrifying Miss Snark was known as the devil’s agent. But, it seems, her advice was on the money, though tact and diplomacy were strangers to her.

However, when Miss Snark offered an invitation to critique queries for her web readers in 2005, Authoress noted no one seemed to respond. Not one for status quo, “amidst great trembling and fear,” she sent Miss Snark the first page of her current work in progress. Authoress stated on her website that Miss Snark wrote back asking if she could post the page with her comments on her snarly blog. Of course, the charming Authoress said yes. She even let Miss Snark change the names of her characters … to “the most ridiculous character names she’d ever seen.”

So the page was posted, and Miss Snark tore it to shreds. After her initial reactions (shock, self-pity, anger), Authoress had a metamorphosis which improved her writing, got her an agent, and led her to publication. Thus the result of being “Miss Snark’s first victim.” What a place of honor. It was almost an obligation to so name her blog.

After over two million hits, Miss Snark retired from her blog, but left it up for educational purposes. Most agents reference it in their “how to query” section–it’s that good.  The year after Miss Snark retired, Authoress started Miss Snark’s First Victim, a website and blog devoted to writers supporting writers in an honest but nice way.

And now this very blog has been nominated as one of the Top Writing Blogs on eCollegeFinder.com. When I voted, she was leading the pack, but I have a feeling the race has only just begun. Let’s help her win. VOTE HERE and vote daily through February 3rd.

Have a happy, safe weekend,
~ Kay
P.S. Here’s a self-portrait of the Authoress. Anybody recognize her?

My ABC’s of Writing

What makes a good writer?

  • Attitude
  • Beta readers
  • Creativity, Crit groups, Conferences
  • Determination
  • Effort
  • Flexibility
  • Gumption
  • Hyperboles
  • Imagination/Ideas
  • Judgment
  • Karma
  • Literature
  • Meditation
  • Nuance
  • Opinions
  • Patience
  • Quality
  • Rejections
  • Submissions
  • Tenacity
  • Undertaking
  • Vocabulary
  • Words
  • Xanax
  • Yearning
  • Zeal
Have a good one!
~ Kay


I’ve been hacked #%&@^$

So…I’m scrolling through Google Reader yesterday and I see a post in some foreign language I don’t recognize. Wait! It’s from my blog. What the …?

I deleted the post and hoped it was a one-time thing. (I’m such a optimist.) But when I checked this morning, another post, in the same language, which I think is Polish, was sitting there. And it’d already gone out to my subscribers … but today’s post wasn’t scheduled to run until between one and three. HUH?

I took several deep breaths, put my IT hat on, and started trying to figure out this problem. I opened a ticket with both WordPress (I use their application) and Bluehost (they host my website). While I wait for them to get back to me, I’ve taken matters into my own hands.

I know I have to sign in as an administrator to post, so I went to that page. Holy bamoly, there were over 300 people listed there. Most were listed as subscribers, but some as administrators. I only found one who it showed had “posted” but of course I deleted all of them. Then I started looking at the subscribers. Now these aren’t the people who signed up to have it come straight to their e-mail (I don’t think). Anyway, some of the names were perfectly normal but had a crazy e-mail address or the name was jumbled and the e-mail address was what looked like a legit g-mail address. Then there were the ones with both names and e-mail addresses that looked fine.

But, unless I recognized the name as someone who has posted a comment, emailed me or is otherwise known to me, I deleted it. I apologize if this offends anyone, but I’m shooting in the dark here trying to figure out how to clean up my website without taking it down and starting over. If you’d like to subscribe to receive in your e-mail, there is a place to do it on the right-hand side of the post under the heading “Subscribe by e-mail.”

In the meantime, I’m going to plug away to resolve this issue. If you get anymore non-English posts from me, ignore them.

~ Kay

Friends: They’re everywhere you look.

Friends — and I’m talking girlfriends here — have always been an important part of my life. As an adult, I’ve seemed to categorize them into one or more categories: work friends, play friends, Hubby’s friends, couple friends, tennis friends, dance friends, etc. And those are just the current ones. If we pan backwards, we’ll find friends from my childhood and college and from every city I’ve ever lived.

I had a large network of friends in the Alabama city where I lived until shortly after I turned forty. Some I worked with; some were tennis partners. I met some by serving on the boards of multiple non-profits. I found friends at church and in a couple of social clubs to which we all seemed to belong. Several of us were in a group of close to a dozen who met pretty much every month to celebrate someone’s birthday. I finally moved and left those friends behind but, they stayed in my heart unlike any others. Even though I’ve lived in Nashville as long as I lived in that city, and I don’t see them that often, I still consider them my closest friends. Maybe because we were younger–I was in my 20’s and 30’s–and I grew up with these women.

Another pool of friends for me has been my college sorority. Sure, I knew I’d make friends while in school, and I stay in touch with a few of them, but the real surprise has been the not only the quality, but the quantity of friends — literally hundreds —  I’ve made with women from their teens to their nineties, as an alumna members of the organization. Naturally I’m closer to some than others, but when I meet someone and we click, it’s not unusual to find we have this bond as well. Go figure.

The world wide web gives us a whole new way to make friends — the Internet. A writing partner from upstate New York is planning to come to Killer Nashville and stay with us. She questioned that I’d just open my home up to someone I didn’t know. (Those suspicious Yankees!) But I did know her. We’d communicated a kot online and I liked her a lot. I’ve met quite a few people in the writing world via the Internet. Some I’ve met through their blogs, others through online classes, and still others through sites where writers gather like Agent Query Connect, Absolute Water Cooler, and Query Tracker. Some I’ve clicked with, others not. It always amused me when I make a new online friend and she’s from the Nashville area.

The point is, it doesn’t matter where we make our friends. It just seems important to most of us to have friends. In fact, twenty-nine-year-old Rachel Bertsche has written a book about making friends. Rachel moved to Chicago with her new husband a couple of years ago, leaving her girlfriends behind in New York City. She missed not having best friends nearby. So she decided to find some by having a friend date each week through 2010 and blogging about it. Her blog, MWF Seeking BFF, was such a hit she’s continued it AND she wrote a book about her girlfriend dating experiences. NO, it isn’t just a collection of her blogs. It’s behind the scenes stories.

I’ve been following her blog for over a year. I don’t remember how I found it. The first time I left a comment (Okay, okay. I confess. I don’t leave a lot of comments either!), she sent me a brief e-mail thanking me for reading her blog and leaving the comment. Now, in Blogging 101, we were taught to answer comments on the website, but to take an extra step and email the commenter? That was a first for me. Do I e-mail people new to my blog when they leave comments? You bet your voluptuous bottom I do.

Anyway, Rachel’s blog is clever and cute, and her book came out a month ago today. You can get it from Amazon here. She’s gotten an amazing response for any author, much less a debut one. She’s been reviewed in People Magazine, Oprah … I’m seeing her name and book everywhere. It’s distinctive cover makes it hard to miss.  

Why, Monday I was still trying to wake up while perusing The Tennessean and there it was on the cover of The Living section of Nashville’s largest daily newspaper. Since I was pretty sure Rachel hadn’t seen it (she’s in Chicago, after all) I squealed and jumped up and down for her. Fully awake by then, I e-mailed her telling her the news and offered to mail it to her.

Check out my friend, Rachel’s website, or better yet, buy her book. Let me know what you think. And while you’re at it, where’s the oddest place you’ve ever met a friend?





Censorship. Piracy. Copyright Infringement.

What dreaded words!

It’s an interesting day in the online world. It’s gone black. At least part of it has.

For the first time in its over ten-year history, Wikipedia is unavailable today. It’s joined by several of the blogs I read daily as well as WordPress and other reference sites I use all the time. Their blackout is to protest pending legislation in the House of Representatives and Senate: Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA).

As is often the case, the intent behind the legislation is good. It’s just poorly drafted. It’s meant to stop copyright infringement which is a good thing. If When I publish a book, I don’t want someone stealing my words. However, the way the bills are written could cause serious damage to the free and open Internet, according to Wikipedia, a free online dictionary. It goes on to explain:

“SOPA and PIPA are badly drafted legislation that won’t be effective at their stated goal (to stop copyright infringement), and will cause serious damage to the free and open Internet. They put the burden on website owners to police user-contributed material and call for the unnecessary blocking of entire sites. Small sites won’t have sufficient resources to defend themselves. Big media companies may seek to cut off funding sources for their foreign competitors, even if copyright isn’t being infringed. Foreign sites will be blacklisted, which means they won’t show up in major search engines. And, SOPA and PIPA build a framework for future restrictions and suppression.”

In a nutshell, this legislation is more about control than about piracy.

Do I really think, if these bills pass, I’ll have to go back to looking up words in a heavy dictionary and trekking to the library to do research? No. Well, no more than I do now. But I don’t want to make things more difficult for these sites and I sure don’t want to make it more difficult to maintain my website. I’m about as apolitical as they come, so I seldom jump on the bandwagon. But is important to my industry. I have to speak out and tell readers how they can contact their congressmen to express your opinions.

My friend, Cat Woods, did a thought provoking blog on the topic this morning. Check it out.

To learn more visit American Censorship.

Many thanks.

~ Kay






Killer Nashville — Best Deal Out There

I realize it’s mid-January and Killer Nashville isn’t until late August (24-26), but if you register now, you can get a break on the already reasonable tuition. So, what are you waiting for?

Early Bird Registration is $160 through March 1. Then it goes up $10 until May when full tuition of $180 kicks in. Still, $180! Have you seen how much some of these conferences cost? This one is all day Friday, all day Saturday and until noon (or later) on Sunday. They have a pre-conference mystery trivia contest on Thursday night. The best part, for those of us who are unagented, agent and/or editor pitches are included in the tuition, not additional.

You do have to pay extra for things like manuscript or marketing plan critiques, a wine tasting event and the guest of honor dinner, but if you’re on a budget these are things you can live without. And, if not, they are conveniently available at reasonable costs.

They also have a crime scene staged by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and it is so cool. There’s a body (not a real one, of course), and blood, and crime scene tape, and lots of clues. Whoever comes closest to figuring out “who dun it” wins a prize. Last year it was tuition to this year’s conference. Not too shabby.

Another unique quality is Killer Nashville offers five different learning tracts to meet the wants and needs of diverse interests and experience levels. They are: Writing, Publishing, Career Management and Promotion, Forensic and Fan Track. You can float back and forth among them.

In the years I’ve gone, there have been famous authors, not-so-famous, but published authors, wanna be authors, and people who just wanted a cool place to get in from the August heat and humidity.

There’s lots more information on the website: Killer Nashville. Check it out.

~ Kay

Musical Books

This is the LINK to the u-tube clip I tried to post on Wednesday. I’ve given up on trying to download it. When the kids come home, I’ll get them to show me what I’m doing wrong. This has gone viral, but on the outside chance you haven’t seen it … it’s too cute not to share. It’s less than two minutes.


The Joy of Books

I hope you liked it as much as I did. Happy weekend.

~ Kay

Oh, well. Technology wins. Again.

I’m not dumb. In fact, I’m rather bright if you go by things like IQ and business success. But, technology keeps getting the best of me.

I saw a cute u-tube clip I wanted to post today. Now, I’ve posted clips before, though always ones I’d seen on other blogs or social media sites. No problem. But, today, no go. So … I decided to download it from u-tube myself and do it that way. Wouldn’t work.

I’ve been fooling with the damned thing for over an hour. Even resorted to going to “help” and reading the instructions, but I still can’t get it to download and it’s time for me to go to tap. So, no cute clip; no clever blog post. Sorry, folks. Maybe Friday.



Comments and Spam

What’s with all the blog spam lately? I went months with hardly any and now I’m drowning in it.

Yes, I want comments. I love comments. And some of the spam reads like legitimate comments. But if the comment is from someone I don’t know and the user name OR the e-mail address is weird, I leave it in the spam folder. Approving it would only invite more spam, I fear.

As is, I’m deleting pages and pages (20 comments at a time) of spam a week. Because there are so many, I only scan these comments. If I inadvertently delete a legitimate comment, I apologize. Please e-mail me at the address on the blog and I’ll approve you to leave comments.

And here’s another strange observation. When I delete spam, it seems I get lots more spam back. If I don’t delete it, my spam folder seems to jump to a certain number then keep about the same number of comments in it. What’s with that?

Is anyone else having excessive spam issues? Does anyone have a good idea of how to eliminate it? I’ll send a gift if you do. I’m desperate!

~ Kay