Writers, You Got Some ‘Splainin’ to Do!

book index3

Source: Google Images/illuminationsmedia.co.uk

Afterthought

It wasn’t until well after I’d published my nutrition book in 2016 that I realized an important piece of the Chinese medicine puzzle was missing: an index. I assumed readers with no exposure to or background in Chinese medicine theory would clearly understand my book. It was written, after all, for the general public, I reasoned. It has occurred to me, however, that many of the terms and theoretical premises won’t jive with what most people know (hint: Western medicine). That means I need to add an index.

You Have Options

Not all is lost; an index, while time-consuming to create, can be easily and quickly added to your nonfiction work using MS Word, Adobe InDesign or several other software options. In addition to creating indexes, many of these options (see below) will help you with your writing process. Personally, I’m still a fan of Word; I prefer the wide open, blank page – similar to working on a typewriter (from my childhood school days) – to the more technical-slanted software, like Scrivener. I don’t like breaking up my book into pieces; I prefer to flow from one chapter to the next to maintain the rhythm of the story.

But I digress. 

Take Your Time

Nonfiction book indexes provide information on where the word, phrase or concept appear in your book (page numbers, chapter, etc.). This is the time-consuming part; you have to read through your book and choose the words, phrases and concepts that need to be included in the index. Luckily, MS Word is one of those helpful options.

“Microsoft Word comes with a built-in indexing tool that can automatically create an index based on the entries you choose. All you’ll need to do is use the Mark Entry tool to mark each word or phrase you want to add to the index. Terms in your index can point to specific pages in the document or cross-reference to other indexed entries.” Wikihow

And This Word Points to…

Choose key words and phrases but it’s not necessary to include every single example of a topic. And, according to a recent blog post from The Book Designer, you should “only make sub-categories when it’s important and related to the topic of your book or helps break up a large chunk of long page references.” This option would apply to my book since there are various phrases and words that fall into multiple diagnostic categories. Note: make sure the book formatting is maintained throughout the index.

The standard is to begin every index word with a noun. For example, in my recipe section I might find the term ‘roasted garlic’. In the index, it would be listed as “garlic, roasted.” Index words are not capitalized unless they’re proper nouns, e.g., David, Senator, Massachusetts.

Different But Important, Too

Another aspect to book writing (both fiction and nonfiction) is using a glossary. A glossary is a list of defined terms, not always alphabetized. I created an Indigenous tribe and language for one of the main characters in my fiction novel so it was necessary to define and show pronunciation of each word or phrase. A glossary is useful when there are words and phrases likely unfamiliar to the reader and can be included in both fiction and nonfiction works.

A Short List

The following are software options to help you with an index and writing in general: 

#microsoftword #scrivener #hemingwayapp #nonfictionauthor #googledrive #googledocs #bookpublishing #selfpublishing #writingfiction

The Long and Short of It

alphabet2

Vintage Alphabet Source: Google Images/pixiepaperstore.com

Growing up before the Internet and a digital world, my generation learned much via “the old-fashioned way” – like cursive and script writing. I have vivid memories of the Roman alphabet in upper and lower case bordering the chalkboards of my grade school classrooms.

Sister Rose de Saint Marie taught our second-grade penmanship classes and she was a typical hard-nosed teacher/Catholic nun. I religiously (pun intended) practiced my penmanship at school and at home. (Which is why, all these decades later, I’m still complimented on my handwriting.) There were two classrooms for grades 1 through 8 and penmanship was taught daily at least until sixth or seventh grade in our Catholic grammar school. I even remember the paper we used: solid lines on the top and bottom for the upper and lower parts of the capital letters and dotted lines in the middle for the lower case letters. 

This morning, as I filled out my student loan recertification document, I realized that a pen in my hand felt a bit strange. I don’t like that. I spend less and less time writing longhand, whether in cursive or script, unless I’m leaving a note to myself on my desk. When I do pick up a pen, I hesitate for the briefest moment as I reach into my deepest memory bank for that familiar sensory memory. It’s as if I’m forgetting how to sign my name with the characteristic loops and artistic flairs that have long been my mark. Losing my longhand skills means, to me, losing a sense of myself.

We are losing the personal touch, the individual-ness of each human, becoming less so as AI infiltrates our lives. Google is the answer to EVERYTHING, it seems. Can’t spell a word? Google it. Not sure if it’s a verb or adverb? Google it. The internet has short-circuited our ability to learn via sensory memory (touch, taste, smell, etc.) and in the process something very personal, unique to each of us, is lost.

“When I do pick up a pen, I hesitate for the briefest moment as I reach into my deepest memory bank for that familiar sensory memory.”

J.K. Rowling wrote the Harry Potter books in longhand and still writes that way. Imagine the difficulty in maintaining the pace of your writing with what’s whizzing through your mind as the story unfolds. How many writers today are even willing to attempt such an undertaking? Still quite a few, thankfully.

“A friend of mine who’s a film director turned me on to the Blackwing 602. What I like is that it sharpens to a really fine point, and it’s got a great feel to it that I just can’t describe. It’s like when you taste a really good wine or a cognac: You know it’s good stuff.”

Andre Dubus III, author of Bluesman and House of Sand and Fog

For me, the Digital Age provides too many shortcuts, too many quick ways around learning what we need to learn. Forget working out a math problem with a pencil and paper; now Brainly will do it for you. But what is lost in the process? We lose the concept of critical thinking; how to get from point A to point B. Working out a problem, like writing in longhand, allows our brains and minds to problem-solve, which translates into many other areas of our lives as we grow. We can’t afford to lose it or I fear we’ll lose some of our humanity.

“A pen is a much more primitive instrument. You feel that the words are coming out of your body and then you dig the words into the page. Writing has always had that tactile quality for me. It’s a physical experience.”

Paul Auster, author (https://www.standoutbooks.com/writing-longhand/)

Writing longhand is a form of sensory memory and connects us to each word in a story and the story itself, as a whole. It fortifies memory and the ability to spell, to slow us down enough that we get the story on paper without too many revisions. We become more deeply engaged in our stories.

“Studies have shown that writing (and rewriting) information in longhand is one of the most effective ways to retain new information; this is apparently because writing the old-fashioned way stimulates a part of the brain called the reticular activating system, or the RAS.”

Fred Johnson, at https://www.standoutbooks.com/writing-longhand/ (and yes, he “Googled” this information)

How does this affect our language skills? Think of it this way: in the West we use forks, which require only three fingers; in the East, where chopsticks are used, five fingers are required. Dexterity is directly related to brain activity, information processing and retention. These, in turn, directly affect our ability to communicate.  

Laptops may allow for the collection and storage of information – but on the laptop, not in our brains. Efficiency is nice but LEARNING and RETENTION are more important. So in the best interest of humanity – pick up a pen or pencil and have at it.

Deepen your writing, deepen yourself.

#longhand #writing #writeinlonghand #romanalphabet #thewritinglife #author

A quick post-script (11/4):

I was so enamored with the thought of getting back into longhand I purchased some sleek cedar-scented graphite pencils. What a joy to use! Brought back some nice childhood memories… and inspired me to write this little ode to pencils:

The Poetry of Pencil

Smooth charcoal, cedar scent

a cherished childhood of homework spent

writing and re-writing until perfection or corrections attained;

Mathematical problems, grammatical errors

erased with ease;

Sharpened stylus dulled with use,

scratching numbers and letter in columns and rows,

learning my ABCs and 2+2s.

Watch Your Tense and Don’t Be Passive or Reactionary in Your Writing

passive voice

Source: Google Images/yoast.com

This week’s post topic came about after (once again) reading grammatically-challenged articles online. I automatically proofread everything these days – every article, book or online missive. I can’t help myself (thanks a lot, Catholic grammar school nuns). What I find all too often are: 1) multiple tenses in one sentence (make up your mind); 2) passive voice (MS Word or Ginger Software can help with this); and 3) a reactionary style of writing, where the protagonist is responding to something or someone instead of taking action.

your tense must make sense!

No matter what you’re writing (blog, book, article, etc.), it’s important to maintain the correct tense in each sentence and avoid the passive voice. FYI – each tense has its own passive voice, created by using a form of the auxiliary verb, to be (am, is, was, are, were, will be, etc.).

In a recent blog post from The Book Designer, I found this very mistake at the top of the article:

“One way to do this is by learning what passive voice is, how to find it, and eradicating it from your writing.”

I discovered the errors the first time I read it. Do you see them? Read it again, with a bit of change:

One way to do this is by learning to learn what passive voice is, how to find it, and how to eradicate eradicating it from your writing.

The author also began the sentence with “one way” and proceeded to list three ways (in reference to grabbing the reader’s attention). This is how I would write the sentence, with correct tense and active subject/verb:

“It’s important to learn what passive voice is so you can find it in your writing and eradicate it.”

Boom.

Don’t Be Passive, Be Active!

Passive voice in sentences is when the subjects (protagonist, antagonist, etc.) are acted upon by the verbs instead of the other way around. Active writing is when the subjects are proactive, not reactive. Active writing makes for stronger, more interesting characters and an entertaining read.

One example of passive vs. active writing:

Passive: My laptop was stolen.

Active: Someone stole my laptop.

Once you learn the difference between active and passive writing, you’ll find it easy to maintain active sentences (unless passive is necessary in a character’s dialogue). Ginger software, for example, can teach you how to avoid the passive voice and in the process you’ll become a better writer.

Better for you, better for your readers.

#writing #fiction #nonfiction #grammar #gingersoftware 

Find Inspiration With a Vision Board

vision board1

Source: Google Images/https://www.google.com/www.lisareneejohnson.com

Last night I watched a movie titled “The Women” starring Meg Ryan and Annette Benning. Meg Ryan’s character was a designer who worked at her father’s firm. Long story short, he eventually let her go and she decided to start her own design firm. What’s the first thing she did? Started a vision board, of course. Using time-lapsed video, you can see her adding ideas and inspirations to the vision board: colors, sketches, the name of her business, etc. I know movies love to show how everything always works out for the protagonist but real life isn’t always so rosy. A vision board, however, is realistic and doable and helps one stay focused.

Vision boards can be inspirational and help us stay focused and reach goals. Years ago, I created my first vision board after realizing that lists never worked out for me. To be honest, it didn’t go well; perhaps I had too many goals going in too many directions. Or maybe I didn’t put the board together quite right (if there is a ‘right’ way). Could be any number of reasons why my goals on the board didn’t materialize. Seeing one in the movie inspired me to try again. Perhaps I was too worried about a specific order of the pictures and phrases; maybe I need to be more random with placement.

So I’ll give it another shot. I’ll focus more on the ideas and goals rather than the placement. I tend to get distracted by the orderliness and lose sight of what’s important – the goals to be accomplished.

To writers and creatives: do you have this problem as well? Our minds tend to be in overdrive much of the time so a vision board might be ‘just what the doctor ordered.’ Can’t hurt; if nothing else, it can bring new perspectives to your life and perhaps clarity as well. And with all those creative thoughts whizzing about, clarity would be a good thing. Let a vision board help turn your life in a better direction!

I’m old-fashioned and I like to touch the items for my board (there’s that tactile learning common in artists). If you prefer a digital version, there’s a template at PicMonkey. If you need help changing your thoughts, this site will help you create the vision board you need. Don’t focus on perfection, focus on what inspires and motivates you to reach your goals. Visualize them, then put them on your board.

Get creating!

#visionboard #create #writers #makeacollage #positiveaffirmations #inspiration

You Can’t Copy That…

David_LaAccademia Florence13 (2)

Michelangelo’s David, Florence, Italy (my 2018 trip)

Important to Repeat

I’ve written about copyright issues in several previous posts yet the how-to-protect-your-work articles continue to show up in my Inbox. That means it’s an important part of publishing any works, written or otherwise, including photos. Social Media abounds with photos people have taken whether they’re professional photographers (think National Geographic) or not. I’m guilty of saving many beautiful photos that struck me just right in the moment; however, I never used them in any of my written or artistic work. That would be copyright infringement.

According to attorney Matt Knight of the Sidebar Saturdays blog, we have to be careful using others’ photographs as they may contain someone else’s copyrighted or trademarked work. That can be any item or person or logo somewhere in a picture. For example, you photograph a friend while at an art museum with a famous painting in the background. While you can probably share that photo with friends to show off your visit to the museum, you can’t use it in any type of commerce situation (that means where you would profit from the picture). 

A Long List

In the U.S., copyrights give exclusive rights to “use, reproduce, and distribute” your creative works. When discussing copyright issues, many people first think literary. But protections extend far beyond that. Matt Knight writes:

“… copyright protection also extends to paintings, photos, maps, drawings, charts, lithographs, sculptures, globes, stained-glass windows, pottery, jewelry, labels, wallpaper, furniture, toys, buildings, and fabrics. Photos contain many of these items.”

Whew. What a list!

Copyright Tidbit

Here’s a little breakdown: any work created on or after January 1, 1978, copyright protections last for the LIFE of the creator PLUS 70 years. If no one knows when the artist/creator died, then it’s 120 years from the date of creation of the work. After all that, the work enters public domain and can be used by anyone for commerce or personal reasons. You can check out Matt’s blog for the rules on works created prior to 1978.

What can’t be copyright protected? Plenty. Here’s a short list from Matt’s blog: “Titles, names, short phrases, slogans, logos, inventions, facts, ideas, and procedures.” Still have to be careful, as trademarks may exist with any of these. Always smart to check first, with the Federal Copyright Office at copyright.gov.

More Legal Protections

Fair Use is a rather complicated part of copyright law; I’m not an attorney but you can read more about it in detail here

Trademarked products are also protected. Trademarks are often thought of as brands (Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Geico, etc.). If the trademark is used in commerce (like the three I listed), they can be used in perpetuity (like the three I listed). Matt writes:

“Trademarks can be words, symbols, slogans, logos, packaging, colors, figurines, toys, sounds, scents, or combinations thereof.”

Basically, you can’t use something trademarked by someone else because it causes confusion of ownership “as to the source of the goods.” And you can get into a lot of legal hot water for it. It’s not worth the risk, even with all the gazillion photos and creative art works all over the Internet. Watermark or sign your work to protect your creations. If you’re still not sure how to do this, check out this page from the late (what a loss to our community) Joel Friedlander at The Book Designer. Or on Matt Knight’s blog, Sidebar Saturdays.

#copyright #copyrightinfringment #watermarks #trademark #sidebarsaturday #joelfriedlander #thebookdesigner #worksofart #michelangelo

Privacy and the Fourth Amendment: Will They Soon Become Extinct?

video surveillance2

Source: Google Images/protonvpn.com

Recently I read an interesting but unsettling article in the Guardian about Amazon’s Ring and how it is “the largest civilian surveillance network the US has ever seen.” (Cringe) It’s a good piece of investigative writing to read, especially for any aspiring investigative journalists out there.

WE’VE GOT OUR EYE ON (ALL OF) YOU

Here are some highlights of this well-written, informative article (some are direct quotes):

  • 1 in 10 police departments can now access Ring videos of privately owned homes without a warrant. Once that content is released by the owner there is no way to revoke access or control how the content is used or shared by law enforcement.
  • Ring doorbells, according to this article, “pose a serious threat to a free and democratic society.” 
  • Since April 2021 (some law enforcement agencies have had a relationship with Ring since 2018), there have been more than 22,000 individual requests for video access.
  • “Ring cameras are owned by civilians [and] law enforcement are given a backdoor entry into private video recordings of people in residential and public space that would otherwise be protected under the fourth amendment.”
  • “Ring blurs the line between police work and civilian surveillance and turns your neighbor’s home security system into an informant. Except, unlike an informant, it’s always watching.” (bold added for emphasis)

“Ring is simply not compatible with a free society”.  –  Max Eliaser, an Amazon software engineer.

  • This surveillance “dragnet indiscriminately captures everyone” – this means children as well people of color/sex/race and “class-based inequities when it comes to who is targeted and labelled as “out of place” in residential space.” 
  • With the development of facial recognition technology, many experts are concerned of its use with Ring regarding racial and gender biases. In the past, Amazon has sold their facial recognition technology to law enforcement but placed a one-year moratorium on it (due to pressure from civil rights groups and AI researchers), which expires in June 2021.

NOT THE EYE YOU HOPED IT WAS

On a slightly more positive note, an article published by NBC reports police say “cute little videos but little evidence.” Based on an NBC interview with police in Winter Park, FL, the police department there hasn’t made a single arrest as a result of Ring videos.

Ring promised that neighborhoods would be safer with their product (they claim burglaries are reduced by 50 percent). “But an NBC News Investigation has found — after interviews with 40 law enforcement agencies in eight states that have partnered with Ring for at least three months — that there is little concrete evidence to support the claim.”

Hmmm….

WASTE OF TIME OR DANGER TO OUR PRIVACY?

Most of the time, officers reviewed videos of “racoons and petty disagreements between neighbors.” Still, every move you make, every interaction you have outside your house, in your neighborhood, is watched by Ring and maybe at some point, law enforcement. 

“Thirteen of the 40 jurisdictions reached, including Winter Park, said they had made zero arrests as a result of Ring footage.”

I agree with the Guardian article and its concerns about privacy and Fourth Amendment violations. Where do we draw the line between people’s privacy, safety and catching criminals in the act? How much of your privacy are you willing to sacrifice for what may be a false sense of security and safety? While Ring may deter B&Es (burglary, essentially), it certainly won’t deter rapists, white collar crime, even homicides unless a perpetrator is caught on a neighborhood camera. What are the odds? What if you have neighbors who racially profile people who don’t live there? 

I have a feeling we’ll be discussing and arguing these issues for some time. I, for one am not willing to give up my privacy and my freedom to move about undetected and undeterred. Time will tell which way the pendulum will swing on this issue. If we lose that freedom, what goes next?

#fourthamendment #privacyrights #ringdoorbell #amazon #neighborsapp #fightingcrime #civilrights #freesociety

At A Loss For Words

Exif_JPEG_420

Van Gogh’s Sunflowers – my rendition

I’ve been negligent of this blog for some time now – mea culpa. It’s our busy season at work and at the end of each day I’m exhausted. “Gettin’ old ain’t for sissies” is a phrase of wisdom, indeed. That and I’ve been at a loss for words as to what to write. I’ve covered so many topics these past five years I’m wondering if I’ve got anything left to share. 

Creation Comes in Many Forms

I haven’t worked on any of my writing projects but I have picked up painting again. It all started at work with a co-worker who is an amazing artist and calligrapher. She does all of our signs BY HAND. At first, I used to stare at them wondering whether they were pre-printed by the company. The symmetry in her calligraphy is impressive. So I started thinking about the two paintings I did a couple years ago – one landscape, one abstract (neither was very good but we all have to start somewhere). I decided to take a creative slant to my work apron (many co-workers sport a variety of artistic designs) but I wanted to design something no one else had so I drew and painted what is called a Chinese blue-green dragon (Xiao Qing Long). Next to the dragon is the Chinese character for “good fortune.”

It woke my long-dormant creative juices and I’m now planning on painting some aprons for co-workers I like. While at Michael’s (the art store) last week to buy a sharpie for work, I noticed an array of adult paint-by-number kits of various pictures: Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, his Starry Night, and a few others peppered with general landscape pictures. I chose Van Gogh’s Sunflowers (work in progress above) because it’s one of my favorites – and he’s one of my favorite painters. If only I’d known then what I’d gotten myself into!

The project is quite detailed and after five nights of  2-4 hours of painting (teeny tiny slithery shapes) I’m still only about 1/3 – 1/2 done. Basically I stop when my neck and right hand are cramped from sitting in one position for too long.

But I persevere.

Find A Different Canvas

In an old post (Dec 2016), I wrote:

As writers, we are artists whose canvas is the mind of the reader; our brushes are the words we use to create the story. Some paint a broad picture while others paint a smaller, more narrow picture.”

Since I seem to be at a loss for creating something for the canvas of readers’ minds, I have picked up a brush and am creating something else, something just as good, on another kind of canvas. It is creation and creativity that are most important; those of us who write or paint or create in some way must because it is who we are and it drives us. So I have to stop knocking myself for not writing. Perhaps it’s time to step away and indulge my creativity via other channels.

If you, too, are at a loss for words with your writing, step away and create something else with a different form of art/media. At some point, the writing will call you back.

#writers #painting #VanGogh #creativity #creativejuices #livecreatively

Online Data and Data Mining: A 21st Century Gold Rush and the Extinction of Privacy

Encryption your data. Digital Lock. Hacker attack and data breach. Big data with encrypted computer code. Safe your data. Cyber internet security and privacy concept. Database storage 3d illustration

Source: Google Images/datacenterknowledge.com

Let me begin with a scary statistic: 80% of our online/digital information has been hacked at some point. That includes private information (name, residence, phone, financials, travel, etc.), medical (records, insurance, etc.), and DNA (Ancestry, 23andMe, etc.).

A Miner’s Paradise

I’ve received more than a few emails from holders of private information (Experian, Equifax, Google, etc.) stating that my personal information may have been hacked. For the Equifax breach I was provided with a link in their site to inquire whether my personal data, including my SSN, was compromised and available on the Dark Web. It was. And likely still is. Once our personal information is stolen there’s little to no chance of protecting it ever again. Privacy and protection go down while our vigilance goes up in a never-ending spiral.

Even apps are information-sucking black holes in the technology universe. They mine data from various levels of access they have to your phone. Even your flashlight app can be selling the data it gathers about you. Apps provide a false sense of convenience; using a web browser like Duck Duck Go is a better choice because browsers can’t access as much of your personal information. Sure, it might take a bit longer… we’re all in such a hurry we don’t take the time to think about the consequences of our actions, no matter how well-intended.

Protect, Protect, Protect

It now takes an extraordinary amount of time and effort to protect our online lives. The to-do lists written by experts in the fields of security and technology are long and arduous to complete. I’m researching some of this information while I write this post and the sheer volume of information I could read through is overwhelming. I simply don’t have the time or the wherewithal (but I’ve included some links below if you do). I decided some time ago that the Digital Age seriously complicates our lives more than it simplifies. We’re tricked by marketing into participating because it provides some measure of ‘convenience’. I miss a simple no-tech/low-tech life and I may go back to one at some point in time as I tire of the endless onslaught of technology and security threats (but no rotary phone again, please, once was enough).

Say Bye-Bye

As we have become ever-connected to everyone and everything on the planet, privacy is going the way of the dodo bird. Data mining companies like Google, for example, are representative of the no-stone-left-unturned gold rush for our information. Data is the new oil and data mining companies are raking in millions by selling us out to marketing companies – and who knows who else – that can personalize ads and suck us in even more.

Pulling Back on the Reins

In an attempt to rein in some of this rampant data mining, a lawyer from Massachusetts is suing Google for search results containing his name and information. Matthew Sandofsky filed the suit in the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts. He claims that Google and similar companies “violate the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) because employers and landlords can use the search engine to learn about a potential employee or tenant.” His argument is that Google should be considered a consumer reporting agency “because it doesn’t ensure the accuracy or privacy in what information it collects and shares about people.” He wants the Court to decide whether Google needs our permission before producing search results (which he refers to as “reports”) and ensure the accuracy of the information.

Would you want Google or some other data mining company to first ask permission to produce a result of your information? Would you want them to make sure the information about you is correct and current? I’m thinking we’re heading that way anyway, since more and more people want to have more control over their online data. Maybe it will make us safer. Maybe it will only make us feel safer. 

I don’t know if his lawsuit has any teeth but I’m very curious what the District Court will decide. Since so much personal information can be gleaned from Google searches (I ran my name a few years ago and got 96,000 hits), I’m thinking that privacy laws and laws concerning data mining and access need to catch up with technology – and fast. I’m beginning to think that the only way to protect privacy is to just shut it all off – online, apps, etc. Walk away. And that may be what some will do if these breaches continue to worsen (and they will). Others will pare down to the bare necessities of digital life.

Ask yourself these questions:

What technological conveniences can or will you live without? How do you protect yourself, if at all, online?

Resource links: 

  1. NPR Article
  2. MA Lawyer sues Google
  3. Norton article
  4. Pew Research

#cybersecurity #besafeonline #datamining #google #duckduckgo #strongpasswords #solarwindsbreach #cellphonesecurity #androidsecurity #iphonesecurity

This Pandemic and The Ridiculous Debate of Constitutionality

tenth amendment2

Pulling My Hair Out (Almost)

I can’t take it anymore. If I hear one more idiot or ignorant MAGA supporter scream about the “unconstitutionality” of COVID quarantines, wearing of masks, closing of businesses, etc. in protection of the people, I’m gonna scream. I’ve tried on several occasions, unsuccessfully, to explain to some folks that nothing about how this pandemic is being handled by both state and federal governments is unconstitutional.

I’m not a lawyer or a legal expert but let me try to elaborate:

the tenth amendment says it all

First and foremost, public health falls under police powers of each of the states. It was written into our federal constitution in the Tenth Amendment, in our Bill of Rights:

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States, respectively, or to the people.” 

In other words, “the Tenth Amendment reserves to the states all powers that are not granted to the federal government by the Constitution, except for those powers that states are constitutionally forbidden from exercising.” (The Free Dictionary)

Nowhere in the federal constitution does Congress have the authority to regulate any local matters (individual states) in regards to health and safety. 

With isolation and/or quarantine, however, that falls within the purview of the U.S. Surgeon General (with permission from the Health and Human Services Secretary):

isolation and quarantine

Source: https://www.ncsl.org/research/health/public-health-chart.aspx

Police powers were reserved by the federal constitution for states to use when it was necessary to preserve the common good. States are constitutionally allowed to pass and enforce the following: “isolation, quarantine, health, and inspections laws to interrupt or prevent the spread of disease.” (See source referral above.)

So that’s it in a constitutional nutshell. While people in other countries are plodding along in survival mode without all the whining and griping, Americans continue to piss and moan about individual freedoms being more important than the health of our communities.

Only healthy individuals can make up a healthy community. This is but a short-term sacrifice for long-term success. Viruses have been around longer than man and will be here when we’re gone. In the meantime, let’s make a promise to ourselves, our families, our communities: to do whatever is necessary to get us past this pandemic darkness to the light at the end of the tunnel.

#staysafe #coronavirus #tenthamendment #billofrights #publichealth #livestrong

 

 

Write for Magazines and Get Paid Too!

nat geo travel_istock

La Jolla, California, USA – September 16, 2011: National Geographic magazines taken in a studio. Source: pixabay.com/istock

be a bigger needle

It’s a subject I’ve come back around to several times over the past few years. These days, competition for publishing articles in the digital world is both astounding and depressing; a writer trying to get his/her articles published online is like the proverbial needle in the haystack. Only the haystack is now steroid-sized and the needle ever more microscopic. You need to be the bigger needle.

not all the same

Magazine readers (like me) are an entirely different audience than people surfing the web. Sure, there’s an occasional overlap, but not much. To me, printed publication readers are more patient, more likely to read as a relaxing pastime, and probably more educated or white collar. If we writers don’t find a way to get our articles into printed publications, that’s a whole different audience whose readership we’re losing.

There continue to be many faithful magazine readers, just as there are faithful readers of the physical book (I’m one of those on both counts). While the online life is definitely for the younger generations, many older folks have smartly adapted, even succeeded, online. 

Think about it: your articles in those printed publications will increase traffic to your blog, increase your number of followers, even help you build a fan base or at the very least better connect with other writers. It’s a win-win situation. Do you keep an updated bio on hand? I do, and I tweak it from time to time as my experiences increase. This is an amazing opportunity for magazine readers to find out more about YOU.  

you gotta start somewhere…

Gigs can pay as low as $.10 a word up to $2.50 a word, depending on the magazine and/or your storytelling skills. These gigs can also help you get other writing gigs, as editors routinely communicate, maybe even socialize, with each other. Wouldn’t you love to be the topic of discussion at one of their business meetings or social gatherings? I certainly would.

Use previous blog posts as a basis for a magazine article; use that magazine article as a basis for a future blog post. In a previous post, I wrote about turning your blogs into a book (and vice versa). Once you pick up steam, there’s no stopping. It’s also a path to book deals, partnerships, maybe even speaking engagements.

other options

Trade magazines don’t pay much (if at all) but it’s good exposure if you have knowledge to share in one of these publications. Then there are custom publications like Costco or Sam’s Club, maybe a local bank or insurance agency. Get creative (after all, you’re writers, for heaven’s sake) and make a list of magazines/publications that interest you. Check out their query criteria, then go for it. Nothing lost, only gained – regular gigs, quitting the day J-O-B, earning a living while freeing up your schedule, increased traffic to your blog, etcetera, etcetera.

What are you waiting for?

#thewritinglife #author #nationalgeographictraveler #blogging #selfpublishing #writeformagazines #costco

The Rise of Yellow Journalism in the Digital Age: What Writers Can Do About It

A Bit of History

It’s ironic that what began as a feud for readership and sales between two newspaper giants in the late 19th century has become commonplace practice for reporting so-called “news” on social media. Hard to believe it all began with Joseph Pulitzer (for whom the most prestigious award in Journalism is named, ironically), who purchased the New York World in 1883. Pulitzer used a sensational style of reporting for his stories and crusades against political corruption and social injustice to win the largest newspaper circulation in the U.S.

Along came William Randolph Hearst in 1895, who purchased a rival newspaper, the Journal. Hearst’s determination to be number one led him to outdoing all his competitors, including Pulitzer’s New York World,  in sensationalism, crusades, and Sunday features. Hearst stole a cartoonist from Pulitzer, which created a rival picture series that drew so much attention that the term yellow journalism was born.

Yellow journalism and the yellow press are American terms for journalism and associated newspapers that present little or no legitimate, well-researched news while instead using eye-catching headlines for increased sales.” (Wikipedia)

Yellow Journalism Lives on social media

Following the recent siege of the Capitol in Washington, D.C., prompted by both disinformation and misinformation peppered with a deluge of yellow journalism news bytes all over the Internet, I couldn’t help but notice how readily many had accepted what they read on social media sites. TMI, or ‘too much information’  – or more aptly – disinformation, prompted such an outburst as to endanger the lives of people and our political system at its core.

“Fight it but don’t ignore it, show it for what it really is: a pathetic attempt to manipulate the truth for the sake of ratings, attention, or personal and political agendas.”

As writers, reporters, and journalists, there is an obligation to maintain the integrity of our words. In a previous post, I cautioned writers and speakers to use words carefully as they have the capacity for great power. In that post, I also wrote: “Write from the compassionate heart, support a peaceful co-existence and community goals, stand your ground without being divisive.” This phrase rings more true now as we face a pandemic, interference with our voting rights/system, and an incoming/new Administration, all susceptible to SM disinformation.

end yellow journalism!

The sheer volume of the 24/7 news cycle is overwhelming. At what point do we say ENOUGH? Are we even able to filter it all? (Of course not.) Or must we choose to step away from the constant download of so much disinformation? Is it possible to discern the true news from the false?

Yellow journalism must not, can not, should not, replace words written with integrity. Fight it but don’t ignore it, show it for what it really is: a pathetic attempt to manipulate the truth for the sake of ratings, attention, or personal and political agendas.

Pledge to maintain the integrity of your words. Promise to use your power wisely. Stop yellow journalism in its tracks.

#journalism #writers #yellowjournalism #politics #tellthetruth #twitter #instagram #democracy #fakenews #stopyellowjournalism #writewithintegrity

The Digital Project

Source: iStock photo/Pixabay

I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up

Four weeks ago, I sustained injuries from a fall at work to my right shoulder, low back, and left hip. I then missed days here and there from the pain. I stubbornly tried to keep working in a modified status but that didn’t help and the pain worsened. I’ve been out for almost a week now and am finally healing. I’m catching up on sleep, reading, and all-around relaxing (that one took awhile to become reacquainted with).

I decided to attend to some digital projects to keep me busy (and seated in one place):

project number one

My first digital project is based on a Xmas gift I received early. I wanted to wait until Xmas morning but the gifter stubbornly wouldn’t let me and I couldn’t understand why until I unwrapped it: an HP printer/copier/scanner. I didn’t realize it was a scanner as well until I read the box more closely. I was excited; for years, I’ve been wanting to digitize all my family and personal adventures photos (over two thousand).

Now I have the opportunity – and the time – to scan the photos onto my computer and then to a cloud account where they’ll be safe and easily shared with family members. It’ll probably take until mid-next year (at least) but I’m excited about not having to drag a large storage bin full of photo albums around with me anymore. I’ve been taking them with me everywhere for the last thirty-plus years. Digitizing those photos is going to be a huge space saver. I love the idea of lightening my load, of letting go of items that are no longer relevant or necessary.

I’ve never understood why more people don’t do this. If you live in an extreme weather area (ex: Tornado Alley in the Plains region), digitizing your photos is a must-do to protect your family’s heritage. If you haven’t done this, it might be a good digital project for you, as well.

project number two

My second digital project is related to my last post on preserving one’s Digital Assets. Taking my own advice, I downloaded free legal documents (Last Will and Testament, Health Proxy, Power of Attorney, etc.) the other day from a website that offers free downloadable forms in Word format (pdf docs cost $ and I can edit the Word docs to my needs). You can find the free forms at http://www.freeprintablelegalforms.com (did I tell you they’re free?). Downloading was easy; now I have to sift through my digital information (passwords and their accounts) and my assets to decide what goes where, who gets what, etc. It’s a sobering experience, as I wrote in a blog post last May about writing your own obituary:

“I attempted this exercise once and found it difficult to decide who got what (if anybody actually wanted any of my crap to begin with, they have enough of their own), to parcel out my “stuff” to people, some who aren’t in my life all that much and others who are. It actually scared me, as if I’d suddenly gotten a glimpse of the universe, less me.” Excerpted from Skills Building: Write Your Obit May 6, 2019

a digital project for ebook authors

Here’s a big question to those writers who have self-published eBooks – are they safe or not? I recently read an article in The Book Designer email I receive weekly written by a female author touting the so-called ‘benefits’ of e-Books being pirated (wtf???). She actually wrote that the one benefit of having your e-Book pirated (illegally downloaded for free by persons not legally allowed to offer it) was that it created word-of-mouth advertising and that, in and of itself, is good business for your book. Her point was that people who would download the pirated, free version were not likely to pay for your book to begin with – is she serious?

In my opinion (remember, I’m an expert on that), this is a naïve attitude lacking in principle. Why anyone would or could support book piracy AT ANY LEVEL is beyond me. Is that kind of word-of-mouth advertising worth losing royalties or credit for your work? If piracy is good for books, then where do we draw the line? Do we draw any line? I realize it’s an uphill online battle to protect your work.

~ Which is why it’s paramount in these crazy times that you get your Digital Assets in order. NOW.

~ If you’re a writer, you’re not too young or too old to do this. Preserve your works, your memories, the history of YOU.

#DigitalAssets #WriterBeware #MestengoBooks #intellectualproperty #fictionwriters #nonfictionwriters #ebookpiracy

Writers: In These Covid Times, Are You Prepared For The Unthinkable?

Source: estateplanninglegalcenter.com

Thinking of the Unthinkable

It’s a topic I’ve covered on two other occasions (first post; second post); now we’re in a pandemic and I’m once again compelled to share important information for all the writers out there. We’re living in unpredictable times and no one can afford to be arrogant or in denial about the unthinkable: not surviving a Covid infection. I won’t bore or scare you with statistics, or with probabilities; Covid is a real infection, a real threat. Writers, you must get your Digital Assets/DA (aka intellectual property/IP) in order, just in case. 

So I ask you:

If it comes down to it, what will your writer legacy be?

Is this a conversation you’ve even had with loved ones or yourself? Procrastination will only draw out what could become a painful situation for your family. It’s vital you prepare for what may come. Just in case.

I wrote this in the second post on DA: “In this new digital world, our lives are complicated by our dependence on many devices, each with its own password and accessible only by you.” Your first step is to take inventory of all your intellectual property, both completed and unfinished works. Are your files backed up and easy for others to locate in online folders or another organized system? Now is a good time to get it all organized.

Your Legacy to-do list

The following is a reiteration of a list (that is by no means finite) from a previous post; while it may be time-consuming at first, you’ll probably be glad to do it because it’s also an opportunity to clean out any works you know you won’t finish.

  1. Do you have a Paypal, Google Pay, or any account, in addition to personal banking, with monetary value? Who will have access if you die? What happens to the money? Whom will you designate as your beneficiary? Who will you appoint as your Literary Executor?
  2. What about personal and business email accounts, blogs, and podcasts? Personal and business websites? Do you want them up and running for people to read your when-you-were-a-breathing-starving-artist work?
  3. Do you keep a list of logins and passwords to all of your online accounts? Make sure your designated Estate attorney has the most recent copy on file or at least your computer password so s/he can access the document.
  4. What electronic devices do you own that need a password for access? Do you have a laptop, smartphone, tablet, DVR/Tivo, Ring, or a home burglary system? How many apps do you access from your phone? Does anyone else have the access code for your phone so they can access the apps?
  5. Do you bank online? What about mortgage payments, investment banking, utilities, airline, or other memberships? Which memberships automatically renew online? You’ll need to spell out which to cancel and which to keep active for your heirs/estate.
  6. Do you have any Social Media accounts like Facebook, LinkedIn, or YouTube? Any accounts with e-commerce sites like Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, Ebay, etc.? Check the policies of these companies regarding access by another person. You’ll need to legally designate someone if you want that person to clean up your online life.
  7. How much of your work is unfinished? Do you want someone else to finish it? Or would you prefer your Executor/Executrix just heave every incomplete project, every potential novel/poetry book/best-selling short story into a shredder? What will you do with the work you have completed? Who gets the royalties? Who will do the marketing to keep the sales going?
  8. Do you have translations of your book? Movie deals? Audio books? Who will oversee these if they become options after your death? Who will make the decisions about maintaining and growing your work after you’re gone?
  9. Will you leave the option to own, sell, or operate your business and control your intellectual property up to your heirs? Or will you decide so your heirs don’t have to? One option is to designate a micro-publisher to oversee your work so that royalties will be properly paid to your heirs.
  10. What about cleaning up your personal information collected by those data-mining companies? If you think it won’t matter once you’re gone, you’re wrong. Someone could use your identity and gain access to your intellectual property and online life, and then your hard-earned money. This can affect any heirs you designate and their ability to oversee your IP or pay any monies owed. Many sites mine all sorts of personal information; you will likely need to join now to have access to your personal information and request they delete it. 
  11. You need to be concerned with writer scams popping up all over the web offering unauthorized copies of authors’ books or scamming writers out of money. Writer Beware is one of many sites that track predatory sites and unscrupulous people trying to steal our IP. Make sure all is good before passing it on to the heirs.

It’s a sobering experience to think of your life in these terms, but in the long run you’re doing your family or loved ones a favor by setting it down on paper. A Writer’s Legacy, Part 2, January 15, 2019

#covid19 #coronavirus #intellectual property #digitalassets #bookAholic #storytellers

Lessons From Creating An Online Class

Udemy Course

Udemy Course

I can’t believe I finally figured it all out…

Update: this online class is no longer available but the information may still be of help.

Learning the Basics of Chinese Dietary Therapy is live on Udemy. It only took three to four months but I persevered and now, hopefully, I will reap the rewards of my hard work. Putting this class together was much harder than anticipated. Maybe it’s partly due to the fact that I’m feeling farther and farther behind on technology; it takes me so much longer to figure out stuff.

What I did first was upgrade to MS Office 2019 after facing several frustrating issues with my old limited-ability software. It was a good decision that followed getting Windows 10 uploaded to my older laptop (which I bought refurbished over six years ago – wahoo Toshiba!). Now it runs like it’s almost new and I can’t believe how much faster it is, nevermind enjoying the perks of the new software. 

The Devil’s in the Details

I gained a new appreciation for the detailed work involved in creating each slide in PowerPoint (13 sections with 6-15 slides per section); that alone took around two months. Thankfully I had already done several live seminars and had my book in a PowerPoint presentation. Breaking it down into doable sections (per Udemy’s instructions as to font size, etc.) took a greater attention to detail and I became frustrated more than once through the process. Once the slides and sections were completed I had to go back and narrate/voice-over each slide as well as create an intro page for every course section (see above).

Sounds easy, right?

Except….

Lesson After Lesson

I learned a valuable lesson during the narration process. I learned that my voice changed with my mood so I had to re-record some of the slides because I didn’t like what I heard (it was easy to tell when I was in a bad mood or a good mood). Some had to be re-recorded because I spoke incoherently (it didn’t seem so when I was recording).

We all think we sound normal, articulate and intelligent but hearing oneself in a recording, over and over again, gave me insight to how much I had to focus on these aspects: speech pattern, enunciation, timing (moving from one sentence or paragraph to the next), word usage (avoiding big or difficult words), context, word emphasis, etc. There is definitely a rhythm to narrating that must be learned over time, with experience (which I need more of).

Once the narrations were completed, I had to save each section and every slide as video/mp4; this took several hours over a course of several days. It was the main reason for my technical upgrades, because my old software couldn’t save the .ppt as video and the old Windows system took too darn long.

Once that was done, I had to go into my Udemy Instructor Dashboard and download each section, one by one and complete their checklist of requirements. In addition, I had to download any section-related documents in .pdf – this was the easiest part since I already had what I needed from the seminars. From there, I submitted the class for review and awaited approval. In less than a week, the class was approved and went live online.

Whew

All I can say is, at this point, I’m glad it’s done. The only extras I’ll need to add in for an upgraded version are in .pdf and won’t be difficult to do. The hardest part is behind me but I’m glad I did it. A challenge accepted and completed. One more adversity ticked off the list.

Lessons learned and shared so someone else can have an easier time with it.

#chinesedietarytherapy #chinesemedicine #onlineclasses #udemy #nutritiontherapy #teachonline #fiveelements #healthyeating #wholefoods

Coming Full Circle

Home1

Source: Pixabay

In a scene from the movie Forrest Gump, there’s a famous line Forrest says after he stops running: