Thursday, October 8, 2015

No Small Potatoes – Greeting Card Message in a Bottle!

Back in the 70s I wrote about a hundred different greeting cards, some of which were unlike anything anybody had seen on card racks during those years. Cards back then were sweet and sentimental or mildly humorous. You wouldn’t have been able to find a sarcastic card no matter how hard you looked.

My ideas included more than just sarcasm, though. I created genres that never before existed – Pregnancy AnnouncementsCongratulations, Daddy cards – Grandparent AnnouncementsHappy Birthday Twin cards – all of which I sent to 100 different greeting card companies. 

Every single one of those greeting card companies rejected my ideas. Every single one.

The reason?

Well, most of them didn’t respond at all, but for those who sent more than the generic, “sorry, we can’t use your material at this time” note, I received, more than once, this comment, “We have no market for these kinds of cards.”

Not one of those companies recognized that I was creating the market. Ironically, at the same time I sent those messages, two women from New York, where I was living at the time, created a line of sarcastic greeting cards that eventually garnered a lot of attention. A couple of years after I moved back to Illinois, they appeared in People Magazine, which showcased their sarcastic line, Bittersweet, a company they had created a couple of years before the article came out. Oh, well.

Because I knew nothing about advertising (no Internet back then either), I tucked away my messages. In the 90s I decided that my messages might fare better inside bottles. But again, with no advertising expertise and no Internet knowledge, I floundered and reluctantly put them aside again.

Inspiration and prompts, however, sometimes come from very strange sources. Because when Mr. Potato man appeared on the Steve Harvey Show, he lit a flame inside me that incited and invigorated me to rethink my Message in a Bottle idea. You haven’t heard of Mr. Potato man? He puts messages on potatoes and sends them out anonymously for people willing to pay $10 + postage and handling to get their message read – on a potato! I know. I seem jealous. But in my defense, last month Mr. Potato Man made $20,000 – from potatoes! 

My first thought (after I shot upright and thought, HOW)? Where are my bottles and messages? 

So I rummaged through the garage, grabbed my bottles and corks, listed all my messages and made them easily accessible so that I can put them in a bottle when 2,000 people request my services (positive thoughts, please) this month.  

Want to visit my new business and read some of the messages? Just click the logo below!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

How to Use Commas for Three or More Words, Phrases, or Clauses

So often, I see a number of people omitting the last comma before a conjunction, because somebody somewhere changed the rules one day and said it was okay to omit it. The argument for omitting the final comma is that the word, “and,” is supposed to suffice for the omission, but as I note in examples posted below, that supposition doesn’t always work.

Most of the time, readers can easily understand sentences written without the added comma, but sometimes the sentences make no sense – or they are hilarious – so in a comedic sense, the omission of that last comma could, if intended, be humorous.

Some punctuation rules have to change to accommodate changing times. The comma usage rule, however, is not the same type of rule as the omission of the second space after a period. Arguments continue over whether or not to press the space bar once or twice after typing a period.

In the days before computers, when everyone used typewriters, the rule was to press the space bar twice. The reason was because it allowed for easy reading; the reader would temporarily pause before heading on to the next sentence. 

When computers were invented (YEARS ago) inventors factored in a reasonable space between sentences, allowing typists to press the space bar only once. 

So let’s end the argument right now about whether or not to press the space bar once or twice after a sentence. The answer is – if you still use a typewriter, press the space bar twice; if you use a computer, press the space bar only once (caveat – some fonts and font styles, including italics, cause letters to space unevenly, and in those cases, adding an extra space after a period might look better).

Now on to the question of whether or not to place one last comma in a series of three or more words, phrases, or clauses. I found a great example in the following sentence, showing why we need to use commas appropriately (found on in the Grammar Section on Commas):

Incorrect: The street was filled with angry protestors, shouting spectators and police. 

(Leaving out the last comma makes it look like the police were shouting, too.)

Correct: The street was filled with angry protestors, shouting spectators, and police. 

(Makes it clearer.) 

I found another more humorous example on Stack Exchange (also located on wikipedia):

Sentence: To my parents, Ayn Rand and God.

Correction: To my mother, Ayn Rand, and God.

If you wrote the first sentence, readers would deduce that God was one of your parents (yes, I’m fully aware of the argument that God is the father). By changing the word, “parents,” to the word, “mother,” your sentence makes even more sense.

However, separating three items with commas may not always provide enough clarification. From Stack Exchange, we find the following sentence: 

He currently lives with his wife, a ferret, and a cat who thinks she is a ferret. 

The implication is that “his wife” is a ferret. Also, as one commenter in the thread beneath the article noted, the word, “currently,” causes the reader to wonder if his wife is only temporary. So in addition to placing commas correctly, we need to also look at the structure of our sentences. Do our readers understand what we’re trying to convey?

Ambiguous writing jeopardizes our credibility as a writer. Some people argue that if the sentence or phrase can be clearly understood with or without the comma, we can choose to leave it out. But why force our readers to work so hard at understanding our work? If our goal in writing our blogs, articles, or books is to express ourselves eloquently, the best way to help our audience understand our words is by using them correctly. We need to follow the rules of grammar or learn how to restructure our sentences so they will make sense to our readers.  

In addition to writing coherently, I’m also a believer in continuity in writing.  If a writer posts a series of three words in one sentence and leaves out the comma, but then several paragraphs later leaves in the comma, readers may note the inconsistency. The saying, “when in doubt, leave it out,” doesn’t, in my mind, apply to commas.

For more on English and grammar rules, please visit

Friday, August 28, 2015

Is Your Blog Mobile-Friendly?

Most bloggers use either a computer or a laptop to compose their blogs, books, articles, and screenplays. Rare is the person who uses a mobile phone to write his or her blogs. So if all you ever use is a computer or laptop, do you have any idea how your blog looks on mobile devices?

And if somebody runs a Google search for something you’ve written on your blog, would anybody be able to find your blog?

If your blog is not phone-friendly, what people see when they visit your blog might not be what you want to present to them. If you’re racing to your phone to pull up your content right now and you’re not happy with the results, don’t worry. You can change the way your blog looks by following the instructions I’ve linked below.

Here most of my blogs and what they look like on mobile devices (fortunately, I’m happy with the results):

So are you ready to take the Mobile-Friendly Test? Just click the link and if your blog is not mobile-friendly, follow the instructions offered in the Mobile Guide, the Get Started section, or the Documentation section to fix the problem.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

What is Meant by High-Concept Stories?

You’ve been reading guidelines for story submissions and you come across one that asks for, “High Concept Stories.” How do you create one? Where do you begin?

Jeff Lyons, guest poster at Writer’s Digest’s The Writer’s Dig, hosted by Brian Klems, answers that question for you. Lyons is a story editor and story development consultant at Kensington Entertainment, Burbank, CA, who also teaches story structure and story development through Stanford University’s Online Writers Studio. His publishing resume is lengthy, so he is more than qualified to help us understand what editors mean when they ask for High Concept romances, mysteries, popular fiction, and more.

Here is a link to help us all understand what editors want when they request high-concept stories – 7 Qualities of High-Concept Stories

But wait! There's more, because in that blog, Lyons directs you to other helpful articles, one of which is 7 Ways to Create a Killer Opening Line For Your Novel (written by WD contributor, Jacob M. Appel).

So if you’re curious about what high-concept means and you want to improve your chances of getting published by incorporating a high-concept scheme into your writing, click 7 Qualities of High-Concept Stories. And click some of the other links in that blog.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Caitlyn Jenner, President Obama, Weird Illinois, National Crazy Day, Murder, and The Case of the Humanoid Alien

Over these past few weeks I've been busy resurrecting an old blog that I've neglected for quite a while. My original intention in creating Your Blog Connection was to promote other bloggers, but what happened as a result of promoting that blog was that I got enmeshed in a paid-to-blog site that provided links to web sites that sometimes appeared to be scams. I refused to write those types of blogs any longer. 

As a result, I lost out on a lot of paid blogging jobs, but the pay was dismal anyway, so parting ways was no big loss. 

Your Blog Connection, the blog that promotes your blog, has kept me busy lately – ever since I put out feelers to members of one Facebook group asking them if they wanted me to promote their blogs. What a great response I got! So I've been busy collecting questionnaires, writing blogs about their blogs, and promoting them on Google+, Twitter, and Facebook.

But I've also managed this past month to squeeze in a few other blog posts on some of my other blogs. If any of the following titles interest you, please click the links to read them:

Illinois may have its weirdest governor yet!

Help for anyone who advertises on Craigslist!

That's the question media want Obama to answer! And I give my opinion!

July 21 - National Crazy DayThe Lighter Side of the Moon Child

Don't forget to visit Your Blog Connection for the latest showcased blogs. Also if you want me to showcase your blog, request the questionnaire from me at Please be patient though, because a lot of bloggers are ahead of you awaiting their turns to be promoted.

Thank you for visiting!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Writing Contests 2015

Every month several writing sites around the web post contests for writers. You may want to enter some of them. Whether you’re a wannabe, a newbie, or an established writer, writing contests can help you publicize your writing and establish your name. Though many writing contests require a fee, some are free. And because so many of them exist, prizes vary. 

Maybe you’re interested only in name recognition or maybe you just want to know if your writing is capable of winning a prize. Whatever your reason, entering a writing contest could result in a win. And while one win may not seem like much, as a contest winner, you can add your wins to your resume. And who knows – one win may lead to another and then to another. 

WARNING! Make sure you read the contest guidelines and follow the directions. Some people have lost simply because they didn’t follow the rules. If a poetry contest, for instance, requires you to write a poem with less than 24 lines and your poem exceeds 24 lines, even if the poem is Maya Angelou beautiful, you will lose, because you didn’t follow the rules.  So pay attention to what is asked of you in each contest.

Here are several contests broken down into various categories.








Hope you found the list helpful. 

Thank you for visiting!

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Guilt of an Online Writer

For just a moment, I want you to go back in time, to the days before the Internet. As a published writer, you laboriously sent query letters to publishers and agents and waited sometimes as long as six weeks – or longer – to hear from those agents and publishers. And you waited. And you waited.

Always, in the back of your mind or sitting in front of you – on paper – was that next book, that next article, or that next screenplay. As you finished one project, or even before you finished your current book, article, or screenplay, you directed your attention to a new one.

You frequented your local library or book store to purchase and read your favorite authors. Occasionally, you might even send a letter to your favorite authors. But never once did you expect those authors to read your material. You probably wouldn’t have even asked. Most writers back then wouldn’t have considered writing, “Enjoyed your work. Now read mine.”

And yet, as we fast forward to today, the message seems to be that if you write online, you must also read everyone who reads you. This task can become daunting and can cause a lot of guilt if we just want to write for a living. The number of people who call themselves writers has proliferated to the point where anyone who posts a comment considers him- or herself to be a writer. If thousands of people comment on your work, must you then comment on each of theirs? And if you don’t comment on theirs, does not commenting constitute a betrayal of sorts? By not commenting on their material, are you jeopardizing your own future?

I think of Stephen King and J. K. Rowling – just two examples of prolific writers who have fans that number in the millions. Can you imagine writing to them in Blog Land? Yeah. “Um, hi, Stephen King, I just read your book and now I want you to read mine” (multiply that comment by at least a million commenters). Who would expect Mr. King or any famous writer, for that matter, to comment on anything an unknown, fledgling writer wrote?

But that’s the problem. We aren’t famous. Nobody knows us - well, except maybe for a select group of other writers who want us to read their blog posts and articles and where the relationship is consensual. Even famous bloggers, like ProBlogger, Darren Rowse, can’t possibly comment on every blogger who posts a comment on his site.

So what do we unknown writers do – we write, we read, we comment – and we feel guilty if we can’t get to everyone who reads and comments on our work. I guess that’s the price we pay for not yet making it to the “Writers Readers Love To Read” level. But we’ve learned one Golden Rule – don’t beg people to read our work! We can, however, plaster our posts all over Facebook and Twitter and hope that somebody finds us amusing, delightful, informative, profound, or any of the other adjectives people use to compliment amazing writers.

For some of my latest posts, I’d like to direct you to the following:

Thank you for visiting!

Image by click on morgue file


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