Friday, September 29, 2006

Just Write News for September 29, 2006

Cathy Scott Appearing On Oxygen Network
Vegas author Cathy Scott will appear on the Oxygen Network (Las Vegas Cox Channel 55) on Monday, October 2, in the show Snapped: Sandy Murphy. In her book Death in the Desert, Cathy wrote about the sensational Binion murder, for which Sandy Murphy and Rick Tabish were initially convicted. Cathy spoke to my writing group just as Murphy’s retrial began. Based on her research, she told us, she predicted Murphy would be acquitted. In November 2004, Murphy and Tabish were acquitted of the Binion murder. Was Murphy a gold digger capable of murder, or a convenient patsy? Read Cathy’s book and see what you think.

Visit Cathy Scott’s website at

Shield Law Opposed
Should reporters have to identify their sources? Most journalists and writers say no, insisting that whistle blowers and insiders will hesitate to come forward unless they can be assured of anonymity. Judith Miller went to jail rather than identify her source for the Valerie Plame story – the story she never published. (It’s worth noting that Robert Novak broke the story and skated right through the whole mess, unscathed.) Vanessa Leggett served the longest sentence of any American writer for failing to turn over her notes on a murder case she was investigating for a book. At the time of Leggett’s arrest, part of the problem was that she was a freelance writer judged not be a “journalist,” and thus exempt from protections afforded to recognized journalists.

The senate proposal to shield writers is going forward despite objections from Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, who worries that such a law would encourage leaks jeopardizing national security. Personally, I think that if our government can listen in on us without our permission, laws bolstering freedom of the press are a no-brainer.

Speaking of the First Amendment
Philip Meyer wrote on a disturbing statistic in USA Today on September 27, 2006. In a recent study, 55% of high school students said the First Amendment goes too far in granting rights. Meyer didn’t discuss what percentage of Justice Department employees feel the same way.

Janet Fitch Publishes Second Novel
Janet Fitch, author of White Oleander, has just released Paint It Black. So far reviews are mostly positive. I hope this incredible author overcomes the Second Novel Curse.

Mitch Albom and Starbucks
Fans of Mitch Albom (Tuesday With Morrie, The Five People You Meet in Heaven) will be happy to hear they can sip their lattes while perusing his new book, For One More Day. On October 3, 2006, Starbucks will enter the bookselling business with Albom’s latest release. Albom himself might be coming to a Starbucks near you – he’s scheduled to appear at eight stores. Starbucks has already made a splash with music, so books are the logical next step. I think I’ll pass on the Albom – the last time I stopped in Border’s coffee shop to satisfy my need for caffeine, I spilled my $3 cup of joe all over Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee. Since I was raised by responsible people, I paid for the book. I managed to make it through the Native American genocide, but don’t think I could slog through another sugary Albom book.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Prompts This Week

· “I’ve failed!” Tammy cried. “All my life I wanted to be….”

· Do you like the Strip, or do you avoid it at all costs?

· Tell us what you think of the expression, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

· “Tell me again,” purred Natalie, “about the time you shot Franklin Mugg.”
Joey leaned forward, eager to tell his story. “It was like this, doll, he was….”

· Pets: More bother than they’re worth, or irreplaceable companions?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Writing News

Janet Evanovich just released a new book, but it doesn't feature Stephanie Plum. She talks about her creative process in How I Write -- Secrets of a Bestselling Author.

The film adaptation of James Ellroy's book Black Dahlia hit the screen recently. Ellroy's story is anchored around the sensational 1947 murder/mutilation of a young woman in Hollywood. The movie is garnering mixed reviews.

Christopher Paolini self-published his first book, written when he was 15. Eragon went on to be picked up by Knopf and Paolini has since released Eldest, the next book in the series. A movie version of Eragon is scheduled for release December 15. Not bad for a 23-year-old.

On Friday (09-15-06) USA Today reported that the Federal Communications Commission ordered the destruction of a study critical of monopolistic media ownership. Fewer media outlets = fewer points of view. Do we really want to have our news single sourced?

Last week USA Today also reported on another troubling new trend -- product placement in books. The headline for their September 11, 2006, story: "Authors strike deals to squeeze in a few brand names." Writers striving for specifics -- it's not a car, it's a Ford; he didn't smoke a cigarette, he smoked a Marlboro -- might be the perfect target for marketers keen to get their products out there.

The journalist credited with coining the phrase "Dust Bowl" has died. Bob Geiger was 103. Geiger refused to take all the credit for the two-word description that came to characterize one of the darkest times in American history. He said an editor added it to one of his 1935 stories.

Writers and journalists throughout the world continue to be jailed, attacked, and killed. People who think that writing's major occupational hazard is paper cuts might be shocked to learn that in 2006, 53 journalists and 17 media assistants have been killed (figures from Reporters Without Borders).

Turkish novelist Elif Shafak faces jail time for writing about a unpopular version of 100-year-old Turkish history. According to USA Today, "It is a criminal act in Turkey to back the view that forced marches to the Syrian border that killed up to 1 million Armenians should be considered genocide." What else, exactly, would we call that?


Since I didn't get a chance to post the prompts last week, I'm posting a double dose of prompts today. Last week I found out that my 80-pound Lab mix has colitis. When I got home last Wednesday, my house looked like a felony crime scene. I'll spare you the nitty gritty details, but suffice it to say that I spent more time wearing rubber gloves than I really cared to. And on that note, here are the prompts!

· Summer was over, but Jim didn’t care. The fall meant nothing to him because. . . .

· The desert stretched for miles in every direction. Stan’s flat tire had stranded him along the barren highway, and he sighed with relief when he saw a car approaching. Then he noticed the car….

· Liz was never a morning person, so waking up at 0500 was grueling. As she struggled to wake up, all she could think was, “Why did I ever agree to….”

· Tell us about a visit you’ve made to a national park.

· What sports do you enjoy?

· The ship skimmed across the water, heading to….

· What’s the most helpful writing advice you’ve ever received?

· Buzzards circled the field, waiting for. . . .

· Senator Blandings never meant to run a dirty campaign, but he felt he had no choice after his opponent, Grant Black, revealed that. . . .

· When Carlos _______ Sammy, he worried about . . . .

Thursday, September 07, 2006


Blogs are:

a) A great way for writers to display their work
b) The electronic equivalent of a bathroom wall
c) A medium that gives the average person a voice
d) The latest time waster for both readers and writers
e) All of the above.

In my opinion, “E” is the correct answer. While many people make good use of our newest information medium, many more people post garbage. You know what I’m talking about – sites like the one I found devoted to studying the jet contrails that dot the Las Vegas sky. (It’s a conspiracy and is melting the ozone, in case you’re interested.) Many blogs are nothing but collections of poorly written ramblings by people who regard punctuation and correct spelling as optional. Yesterday’s USA Today carried a letter to the editor describing all bloggers as “fly-by-night” and ignorant of basic journalistic principles. (Yes, I sent a response to the editor about that one.) If you’re looking to read (or write) a blog, here are some examples of good blogs:

Ink Thinker by Kristen King is chock full of good advice for those us doing our best to hammer out a living at the keyboard:

Denise Kincy chronicles her life as writer on A Writer’s Journey:

For moms who are also writers:

Although I’m focused on blogs that address writing, I’d like to hear about good blogs on all subjects. What blogs do you find are worth your time?