Sunday, January 29, 2012

Why I don't have an iPhone

We were talking about computers at Sunday School a week or so ago. This is a senior class and most of the members said that not only did they not have a computer, but that they had no desire to get one.

One woman said she had one, but only used it to Skype her grandson, who is in the military.

The rest agreed this was a legitimate reason to break down and buy a computer. Someone suggested e-mail as another incentive.

"Oh, I'd rather write a letter or call," came the objection.

With stamps now at 45 cents each, I have to assume these people have more disposable income than I do. Or they are more efficient than I am. I write letters, of course, but as soon as I put one in the slot at the Post Office I think, "Dang! I forgot to mention ..." Fill in the reason I wrote the letter in the first place. Which necessitates writing another letter to convey the missing information.

This is akin to our trips to the grocery store. Invariably, we come home with three bags full of foodstuffs only to discover we forgot the milk that was the reason for our going in the first place.

So I e-mail. That way, immediately after I hit "send" I can write another e-mail with "forgot to add" in the subject line. And it doesn't cost me another 45 cents, either.

Yes, I have sympathy for the Post Office, but there were people who had sympathy for the buggy-whip manufacturers, too, when automobiles came along.

I think I am fairly computer literate. I can create simple web sites, upload a file to Youtube, and format a book on CreateSpace. I Tweet (about once a month because I really don't have a lot to say) and have a Facebook account.

But when the Sunday School class's conversation turned to iPhones and iPads, I had to admit I was lost. I have a cell phone, but rarely use it. It took me a year to figure out how to delete old messages and another six months before a someone showed me how to lower the volume. I text, but I could walk to the person's house and deliver the message in the same length of time. I watch the ads on TV and wonder aloud, "How do they do that?" as people go from games to movies to news to finding a restaurant with a sweep of their index finger.

So here I am, a geezer with one foot in hi-tech world and another in the Land of the Luddites.

I can't help but wonder what technology will have today's baby boomers bumfoozled 20 years from now.

As does the old "technology" bewilder and frustrate our actual babies -- take a look.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Do you need an agent?

At what point does an author decide she needs an agent?

Some writers find an agent with their first book and build a long and happy relationship. Others may find at some point in their career that the relationship is no longer working and part ways.

And some do very well working directly with the publisher, putting that 15% fee in their own pocket.

Quinlan Lee of Adams Literary talked to my chapter of RWA (Romance Writers of America), Carolina Romance Writers, at our last meeting. As an agent, she was well-qualified to discuss the advantages of working with an agent.

Agents, she said, become your advocate, working tirelessly to manage your career, provide support and negotiate rights to your work.

An agent doesn't just sell your book. Her job is to license the rights to your work in the U.S. and abroad. That includes audio and electronic versions, film, TV and merchandise, permissions and subrights, and theme park rights.

Theme park rights? Just think of the new Harry Potter theme park at Universal Orlando.

If you are fortunate, you have been offered a contract. One writer friend told me her first contract was four pages and five years later, her most recent contract was 14 pages long. The reason for the additional length is the ever-increasing and confusing world of electronic publishing. You can find an intellectual property rights attorney who sees you as another one-time client, or find an agent who will be with you for the long haul.

An agent will keep you from making mistakes. She knows editors personally and she knows what they are looking for. You might or might not know that Publisher X has lost interest in paranormal and is looking for World War II stories. She won't waste your time or hers by querying.

In the event that you get several offers for your book, she can sift through them and guide you toward the one most advantageous to your budding career. It might not be the largest advance, but it will earn you more over the book's life.

How do you find an agent that is right for you? Lee suggests attending writers conferences and writing groups, checking the AAR website and referrals from other authors. Look for an agent who has a knowledge of the market, a good reputation in the industry, a passion for her work and a commitment to your work.

Lee concluded by telling us what an agent looks for in a writer. "She should make us laugh, make us think, and make us want to turn the page," she said. Clients agents avoid taking on are "too needy, too greedy and too speedy."

Lest you wonder at the added expense of paying annual dues to a writers' group, I can asure you that the advice I got at this meeting alone was well worth it.

Before I stop, a gentle reminder that the 2012 Carolinas Writers Conference will be held in Wadesboro, N.C., April 13-14. Registration fee is only $20 in advance What you learn might be priceless.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

It is all over for another year: the shopping, the wrapping, the baking, the decorating, the cards and the carols, the family visits...

Of the above list, the last is my favorite. We enjoyed having the grandkids for a few days between Christmas and New Year's (accompanied by their parents, of course). I had baked three kinds of cookies and two kinds of fudge. Needless to say, what they didn't eat went home with them.

Before they came, Jim and I asked ourselves how we could entertain an 11-year-old boy, almost 14-year-old girl and almost 15-year old boy. And, as in previous visits, the worry was needless. The cousins entertained themselves quite well.

Our big excursion was to Carolina Place Mall so they could spend their Christmas loot. In their case, it was books (yay!) and games.

On the following day, when someone suggested we go Allen's General Store's petting zoo, I thought they were too old -- but we couldn't drag them away! Woody the llama was a favorite. The clerk said Woody had never taken food from anyone's hand, but both boys proved her wrong.

When we got back the oldest boy asked if I'd teach him to sew. That was a surprise, but we dragged out the old machine that I hadn't touched in 10 years. I had to remember how to thread it. My son Rob made a video of me telling them how to do this, and how to feed the material through -- not pull it! The bobbin winder had frozen up, which Rob thought he could fix, but they rigged a temporary solution with Jim's electric drill. Too funny, but it worked. The boys got into it so much that I sent the machine home with them along with the cookies and fudge.

That left a space in my bedroom, so I decided to rearrange it. I ended up cleaning out my dresser drawers and tossing a lot of unused "stuff."

Then I took down the decorations. I'm still finding a few here and there that I forgot, and I like my candles in the windows so much that I may leave them there until Jim starts complaining about the electric bill.

And that, my friends, is why I haven't blogged in three weeks.

I wish everyone a very peaceful, healthy and blessed New Year.