One breath at a time

Monday we enrolled my precious mother-in-law in Hospice.

She’s had cancer for a couple of years and until recently had managed well and relatively pain-free. We knew she was deteriorating because she’d been eating less and less, and lately only pureed or baby food. But if she could have quality of life (no pain) we could deal with the inevitable. However, in the past couple of weeks the pain began. Then it got worse. She’s visibly declined in the past week. On Sunday, while we were visiting, she asked, “Do you think it’s time to call Hospice?”

Her husband died last year and Hospice was involved for the last five months of his life. They were a God-send.  Some people don’t understand the concept. They say it means we’re “giving up.” We’re not. We’re being realistic and opting for a comfortable end-of-life experience rather than doing anything to prolong life. We’re shifting the paradigm so health care comes to her instead of hauling her here there and yonder for doctors’ appointments and such. It allows her to stay in the comfort of her beloved home and avoid the travel and wait time associated with traditional care. She’s a retired oncology nurse. She knows the score and this is her decision. We have shown our highest respect for her by honoring and supporting her wishes.

In my opinion, Hospice is as much for the family as it is for the patient. When I volunteered for the organization, I was assigned to a patient but think I personally helped the families much more than I did my assignees. I’m not a medical person. There are medical people on the team — a doctor, a nurse, and a nurses aide — but there’s also a social worker, a chaplain, maybe a volunteer and whoever else is needed by the patient and the family. That’s what I love about Hospice. They are there to meet the needs of the patient and the family. They handle the “details” so we can focus on each other.

MIL lives about an hour away on an idyllic farm where Hubby and I were married ten years ago next month. She’s dearly loved by her church and community and will receive plenty of support from within. She has two sisters, one in in Alabama and one in Mississippi, who have committed to spending as much time as possible with her and her son in Arizona will be back and forth as needed. He has FEMLA time he can use. Of course we are here and she has a daughter here. She’d like to stay at the farm for as long as possible, and that’s our intent. FIL died there. It would be poetic if she could too.

MIL has a hard-wired DSL Internet connection and when I’m out there, I don’t bother with connectivity. All this to say, expect inconsistency in my blogging in the coming weeks. My writing time will be limited and blogging isn’t my only project. I’ve worked hard to maintain a reliable blogging schedule, but sometimes, damn it, life interferes. I’m not one to work out my issues on my blog (usually) so I try not to use it to vent or blow off steam. I don’t know, maybe I should…it might be more interesting.

I ask for your thoughts and prayers for my family, especially my mother-in-law, as we take it one breath at a time during this trying but oddly peaceful time.


Paradise Found

We returned yesterday from a week in Hawaii. The whole family went: Hubby, his mom, his brother and sister and their spouses. We rented an enormous house with a kick-ass view.

Our five-month-old grandson lives there—his dad is a Marine—and we got to spend some quality time with their sweet family. Here are a few pictures of our week in paradise.

The view from our rental house


North Shore Oahu







My stepson, The Marine, and family


Departure Day



I’m all jet-lagged and missing the magical ambiance of the islands, so this is it for today’s post. Have a good week.

~ Kay


Character Chat: Nan

Guest blogger is Nan Macomb, a character from my novel, DEATH BY GRAMMY


I probably shouldn’t be posting today. I went to a hair styling conference Monday and even though it’s been days, my feathers are still ruffled.

For those of you just joining the party, I’m a hair stylist. I have a cozy one-chair salon in the back of my home where I take great pride in seeing one client at a time. I’ve built a clientele where I take referrals only; I have a waiting list, and I only work Wednesday through Friday. Not a bad way to make a living!

Monday I attended a seminar at a new beauty school. I only went because the owner is a friend and she went to great pains to bring in this hotshot stylist from New York. I studied in New York and I can tell you it takes more than a NY zip code to make a stylist good, but this guy did have a reputation so I thought I’d go see what he had to say. I can tell you now, his reputation in Nashville, after this appearance, is anything but good.

First, he arrived thirty minutes late. He didn’t apologize. But he later told us if one of his clients was more than ten minutes late, he made them reschedule. Excuse me? What about traffic or emergencies? I try to run on time and build in a little extra time to give myself a little break and keep clients from having to wait. Also, if the client is well known he/she has more privacy. People will pay top dollar for this level of service. In the rare case where someone does run late, pushing me off schedule, I multitask—trimming one person’s hair while another one’s color processes—and everyone understands because it isn’t an every time kind of thing. So what was with him being late? What if the entire class had made him reschedule his appearance? How would he have liked that?

Another thing that irked me was when he said if a client got a call on her cell phone while he was working on her, he stepped away until she was finished with the call. He will not continue while she’s talking or texting. Of course I prefer they not be on the phone, but I don’t step away. How rude. If the call is important enough for them to take it during their appointment, I continue to work. If it interferes with my work, I tell them so they’ll know why I’ve stopped cutting or whatever I was doing to their hair and so they’ll wrap it up.

He acted like clients were disposable with no feelings or loyalty and maybe that’s the way it is in his world. But my clients are like family; some have been with me since I opened my shop. I know their children’s names and where most of them live. We have a connection. Many have shared secrets I’ll take to my grave. They invite me to their parties (and I go) and I visit them if they are in the hospital. I’ve celebrated their victories and cried during their sorrows.

This, this GUY…his whole attitude was just so, I don’t know, haughty. I trained in New York and I don’t act like that. If I did, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have my great client list. Breathe, Nan, Breathe.

I’ve ranted and raved about this all week and need to put it behind me. Maybe now that I’ve written about it I’ll be able to move on. Let’s hope so. I do feel better. Whew. I don’t need to go into the weekend obsessing over it.

Thanks for letting me vent.


Copyrights: A Basic Lesson

Remember I told you the Killer Nashville Conference had different Tracks for writing, getting published, forensics, and building a career? Milt Toby, an author and attorney from Georgetown, Kentucky, did a couple of outstanding sessions which I attended. One was on copyrights, the other contracts. They were so useful, I felt compelled to share my newfound knowledge on my blog. Today’s post is about copyrights. You’ll have to wait on contracts. 🙂

Maybe I’m not too bright, but I’ve never really known the difference between a copyright and a trademark.  Judging from the session’s participants, I wasn’t alone.

According to Dictionary. Com: A trademark is any name, symbol, figure, letter, word or mark adopted and used by a manufacturer or merchant in order to designate his or her goods and to distinguish them from those manufactured or sold by others. A trademark is a proprietary term that is usually registered with the Patent and Trademark Office to assure its exclusive use by its owner. It is a distinctive mark or feature particularly characteristic of or identified with a person or thing.  Think McDonald’s golden arches, for example. There’s a lot more of interesting information about trademarks I’ll cover soon. Today, it’s back to copyrights.

First, Milt cautioned us not to get caught up with terminology. Good advice since he had TEN rules of copyrights to simplify things. Are you beginning to catch on that copyrights are not simple?

Milt’s rule #1: Copyright means what it says. Copyright = the right to copy.

Copy means it can be Xeroxed, written, preformed dramatically, audio – anything that takes a work and does something else with it. The symbol for a copyright is ©.

It protects expression if it is:

  • Fixed – permanent or in tangible form (saved to computer, pencil or pen to paper)
  • Original – you came up with it
  • Creative – at least a little different from what’s been done before


It protects:

  • Literary works (books, manuscripts, articles, publications, etc.)
  • Musical works (musical compositions, lyrics, and scores, records, discs, CDs, etc.)
  • Dramatic works (Film and movies, stage plays, TV, choreography, audio, sound recordings, etc.)
  • Artistic works (Fine art, photos, prints, sculpture, diagrams, architectural works, etc.)


It doesn’t protect against everything. Among the things not protected are:

  • Ideas (unless they’ve been expressed and are fixed, original and creative. For example, ideas for a logo or ideas for designs.)
  • Facts
  • Anything in the public domain – this does not mean anything on the Internet!!!
  • Government works IF the government is the author (not a contractor)
  • Title and Characters (usually – they may be trademarked)
  • Protected works after the copyright has expired


To summarize rule #1 a copyright protects some things, but not everything. One’s goal should be to protect his/her own work and not steal another’s work.

Milt’s rule #2:  Something is mine; it isn’t yours. I’m the only one who can exploit it.

It is a basic principle of property law. I own a car. It’s my car. You can’t steal my car.

The same applies to something that is copyrighted. I write a book. It’s my book. You can’t steal my words.

A copyright is intellectual property.

Milt’s rule #3:  I wrote it, so it is mine…unless it’s not.

What? If I wrote it how could it not be mine? Well, there are a couple of instances (usually in non-fiction) when that might be the case.

  • Something created as an employee for someone else.  The employer would own the copyright.
  • When an independent contractor’s contract states WFH (work for hire), the employer would again own the rights.


This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But it’s important to realize an author who works for hire receives an up-front fee and would not be entitled to any royalties.

Milt’s rule #4:  You get what you pay for.   

Using a manuscript as an example, think of it as a bundle of sticks. Each stick is a right and all are the owner’s property and the owner has the right to sell them. The bundle can be sold lock, stock and barrel or piecemeal. In other words, the owner (author) or the author’s representative (agent) could sell each stick (right) separately to different buyers: hardcover, softcover, reprint, e-books, serialization, book-club editions, foreign rights, audio, movie, etc. Or the author might sell a few rights here, a few there and hold on to others. Or, (s)he might decide to sell everything to one buyer, but, if so, that buyer should pay more because the value is greater when it includes multiple rights.

There is a natural discrepancy between seller and the buyer. The seller wants to get as much money as possible for selling the rights and the buyer wants to pay as little as he can to buy them. But isn’t this the case with any transaction?

Milt’s rule #5:  Taking without permission is stealing.

Didn’t we learn this in pre-school? In the world of copyright, this is called “infringement.” Infringement is a violation of federal law. Big fines (or maybe even prison) could be involved. Enough said.

Milt’s rule #6:  What’s fair is fair.

“Fair use” is a defense to a claim of copyright infringement. It excuses the fact that the person broke the law. Huh? It doesn’t mean stealing is okay. It just means it is defensible. An example would be a book reviewer using a brief passage from a book as a part of his review. The problem is there’s no specified limit on how much is fair use. It’s a gray area. Another example would be when someone’s work is used in a parody. The safe thing is to get permission.

Law on Fair Use is complicated and fact specific.

One thing to remember: Copyright law goes both ways.

Milt’s rule #7:  Nothing lasts forever.

According to the US Constitution, Article 1, Section 8: Congress shall have the power “To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their writings and discoveries.”

In 1790, a “limited time” was fourteen years plus one fourteen-year renewal if the author was alive. Folks didn’t live very long back then.

For anything created after January 1, 1978, the span of the copyright is the life of the author plus seventy years.

Pretty much anything created before 1923 is now in the public domain.

It’s safest to assume anything else is protected by a valid copyright.

Copyrights may be willed to survivors. I’m in the process of updating my will now. Hummmm….

Milt’s rule #8:  Public Domain does not equal the Web

It’s a common misconception that anything on the Internet is free for the taking. Not! Remember infringement is a federal offense. (Rule 5)

In Rule 1 we learned once something was fixed (saved on computer, written down, etc.) it was protected by copyright. That doesn’t mean the copyright is registered with the copyright office in Washington, D.C.  The work is still protected by copyright even if it isn’t registered but if someone steals it and you sue them, you’d most likely only get actual damages. Had it been registered, you might also have gotten statutory damages.

Here’s the problem. The copyright is for the work as it was when it was registered. So, it’s probably best to wait until it’s finished because there’s a charge each time you change it and can you imagine the nightmare of updating the copyright every time you changed your work? Heck, it’s hard enough for me to keep track of my most recent copy of my manuscript!

Registration needs to be in a timely fashion—usually within three months of publication.

Register at U.S. Copyright Office. There’s lots of additional information about copyrights, including a fee schedule, on this website as well.

Milt’s rule #9: No ©, No Problem.

© is required for works published before 1978 – without it the work ended up in public domain. After 1978 works haven’t lost copyright protection if they didn’t have the © on them. It doesn’t hurt to add it because if it’s there and someone steals your work it proves the theft was willful.

Milt’s rule #10: There are no “copyright cops”.

  • You have to protect your own work. No one (except maybe your publisher) will protect the rights in your work.
  • How do you know your work has been stolen? Good question. Set up searches like Google Alerts. You can do this for pictures too. So be extra careful when you find an image you want to use out there in cyber land. The owner can find you and demand payment if it isn’t public domain. This happened to someone I know from an online writing group. Seriously! And this applies to Facebook, Pinterest, and all the other social networking sites too, FYI.
  • Copyright protection starts the moment a work is “fixed” in a tangible form – registration is not required to create copyright.
  • Timely registration with Copyright Office in Washington is necessary to file a federal copyright infringement lawsuit (either before the infringement or within three months of first publication)


Whew! That’s it for copyrights. After the lecture, I went to the registration desk where I loitered networked between sessions. I enthusiastically told another writer about the copyright workshop I’d just attended and he actually checked my beverage if choice. He didn’t think it possible I could get excited about something he opined had to be mundane (even though he wasn’t present). Well, here’s his his second chance to learn something about copyrights.


Thanks again to Milt Toby for sharing this information with me.





Copyright Infringement is a Federal Offense (See Rule 5) so here are my References:

Milton Toby’s Slide Presentation and lecture for Killer Nashville: Copy Rights and Wrongs: Milt’s 10 Rules of Copyright August, 2012

… and his references:

  On the Web:


In print:

  • Author Law A-Z: A Desktop Guide to Writers’ Rights and Responsibilities, Sallie Randolph, Capital Books Inc. (2005), ISBN 1-931868-26-3
  • The Copyright Handbook, Stephen Fisher, NOLO (10th ed. 2008), ISBN 13-978-1-4133-0893-8
  • Copyright Companion for Writers, Tonya Evans-Walls, Legal Write Publications (2007), ISBN 978-0-967579-9-4


Character Chat – Emma

Guest blogger is Emma Morgan, a character from my novel, DEATH BY GRAMMY


Hello everyone,

It’s hard to believe it’s after Labor Day. The girls are back in school and I’ve settled into my routine of morning carpool and afternoon extracurricular activities. This year the girls are taking dance and gymnastics (same days, same place thank goodness) so I have enough time for a hot yoga class at a studio around the corner with ten minutes to spare.

Hot yoga. Have you tried it? Nan and I have been yoga enthusiasts for years and Loralee has joined us when she couldn’t come up with a good excuse not to. But she always complained through the whole class and came close to getting all of us kicked out on more than one occasion.

I discovered hot yoga by accident when I went with Josh on a business trip to Washington, D. C. in February a few years ago. I asked the concierge if there was a yoga class nearby and mentioned I didn’t want to walk too far in the cold. He referred me to a hot yoga class, which, until then, I’d never heard of. I simply hadn’t been paying attention because we already had hot yoga in Nashville.

Anyway, I took a cab three blocks to the upscale spa where the yoga studio was located. (Yes, I took a cab. It was really cold!) I rented a mat and towel, got a briefing on the differences between hot yoga and the traditional yoga to which I was accustomed and found a spot and began to stretch. It felt like I was outside in the middle of August in Tennessee. The temperature was in the high nineties, I’d guess, and it was also humid. Very humid. They said it was only 55%, but it felt more like 80% to me.

Intellectually, I know going from cold to warm to cold doesn’t make one more susceptible to illness, but that was the first thing that crossed my mind—that’d I’d surely get sick being so hot after having been so cold. But, then the class started and I got out of my mind and into my body and the rest is history.

Yoga of any kind is great for reducing stress and fatigue, increasing flexibility and strength, and improving the balance between mind, body and spirit. But I noticed new sensations as I slid into the poses in this class. My stretches were deeper and when the class was over I felt like I’d gotten a better cardiovascular workout than normal. I mentioned this to the instructor who explained the heat kept the body from overheating and protected the muscles to allow for deeper stretching. She said it also detoxified the body and opened the pores to let toxins out and thinned the blood to clear the circulatory system, which increased heart rate. That explained why I felt like I’d had a better cardiovascular workout. I was hooked.

I tried to get Josh to go back for another class that night, but he’d made plans to wine and dine. Besides yoga’s not his thing. But as soon as I got back to Nashville and discovered there was a hot yoga studio on our side of town, Nan and I were there in a flash. She wasn’t as crazy about it as I at first—then she learned you can burn between 500-900 calories in a 90-minute hot yoga class, depending on body type. She had us signed up for three classes a week.

So, now I go with her and I go two afternoons a week while the girls are at dance and gymnastics. If you’ve not tried it, I highly recommend it. If you have tried it, let us know your opinions on the subject.

Nan will be the guest character blogger next week.





Did you know?

At the recent Killer Nashville conference I learned lots of cool things. With sessions like Real Criminal Minds: An Overview of Forensic Psychology; Stories from the street: True Tales from the Officers and Private Detectives Who Lived them; and Household Items That Can Be Used To Kill, how could one not learn a thing or two?

Do you, for example, know the difference between a rescue dog and a cadaver dog? A rescue dog searches to see if anyone is left and can actually become depressed if they don’t find anyone alive. In disasters where there were thought to be no survivors, rescue personnel have been known to lie in the rubble to be “found” in an effort to preserve the dog’s psychological well-being. Cadaver dogs work off of a scent and usually only search for one person at a time.

I knew blow flies (those little green and blue iridescent insects aka carrion flies, bluebottles, greenbottles or cluster flies) gravitated to decomposing flesh and organic matter. But, I didn’t know they will start to collect when someone is dying according to Dr. Bill Bass, Forensic Anthropologist and creator of “The Body Farm.”

Dr. Bass opened the conference with a presentation about the explosion of a fireworks factory that killed sixteen people (I think)–complete with photos. We were warned it wasn’t for the faint of heart (or stomach) and what did I do? I sat right smack on the front row where I kept my hands over my eyes (or my mouth) during much of his session. There were a couple of times I thought I might actually have to slip out, but how does one slip out from the front row, right in front of the speaker? Let’s just say I was one happy camper to move on to other sessions about things like contracts and copyrights after that one!

Stay tuned because I plan to do several posts on things I learned at this year’s conference.

~ Kay