Friday, March 25, 2011

This Bird Flew Away on a virtual book tour

Hello everyone.

In April, my new novel This Bird Flew Away will be on a virtual book tour. The schedule for the first phase of the tour is listed below.
Wednesday April 6th
Review and Author Interview at Butterfly Feet Walking on Life

Thursday April 7th
Review at Courtney’s Reads and Reviews.

Friday April 8th
Review and Live Chat at Author’s Book Corner.

Saturday April 9th
Review at A Mother’s Touch Bookshelf.

Sunday April 10th
Review and Author Interview at I Heart Reading.

Thursday April 14th
Review and Author Interview at BookBelle.

Friday April 15th
Review at Seeing Night Reviews.

Monday April 18th

Some of the subjects we'll be discussing include:
  • writing from the child's perspective
  • the reality behind the fiction
  • is this suitable reading for my daughter?
If you'd like to read some excerpts from the book, to get a taste beforehand, go to the This Bird Flew Away website.

I hope to see some of you along the route. 

Yours sincerely,


How to do a booksigning -- or smile, smile, smile no matter what

I recently held my first book signing for This Bird Flew Away at an independent bookstore here in the Charlotte Harbor area.

Everything was ready: twenty copies of the book, cards, giveaway bookmarks, a poster sized image of the book cover complete with cardboard stand, the video trailer primed on my lap-top, the lap-top fully charged, my favorite pen… nothing left to chance.

Or so I thought.

I’m going to assume you don’t have a publicity agent doing all these things for you. Like me, you’re a penurious promoter and it’s DIY all the way down the line.

As always when faced with a new venture, I spent hours researching all the available how-to articles out there. Most seemed written for established authors with publicists, a ready-made following and entry into the large book-chains. (As though they’d need a how-to.) Many were clearly written by someone who had never, ever done this, themselves. (Don’t you just love content articles on subjects the writer knows nothing about?)

Nowhere did I find the kind of article I needed: How to arrange a book signing and where you should hold one, when you’re a newly published author without a recognizable name, entirely on your own and with little to no budget, and once you’ve done so, how to pull it off. 

Recognizing a gap in the article market, I decided to fill it.

For the article, click here.

I hope you enjoy my slightly tongue in cheek look at book signings.

Yours sincerely,


Monday, March 7, 2011

Requiem for a Mastiff

Today a champion died.

March 7, 2011

Most of you never heard of him, or if you did, you knew him only as my pet, Dick.

In his prime, Dick weighed in at 252 pounds of muscle and good nature. Today, old at ten years of age, he could no longer pull himself to his feet. His great strength was finally spent. His breathing was labored. He refused to eat.

Too weak to rise, he’d lain on his bed since 10 the night before to 1:30 in the afternoon. He had a cast-iron bladder. Unwilling to soil our house, he felt great distress and gathered the last of his powers to get up. He managed to totter out to the yard for one final pee, only to fall down into the pool of his own urine. He was deeply embarrassed.

I could not get him up. For two hours, I brushed the ants and flies off him while he rested, brought him fresh water and raw eggs to build up his strength and waited until he was ready to try and walk again. Finally, with my encouragement and to please me, he struggled to stand. Once he was up, I slipped a bundled and knotted old sheet under his abdomen as a sling and helped him back into the house. He collapsed three times on the way.

He had an appointment with death at 4:40 that afternoon.

I had made that decision the day before. I should have made it several days before, but could not. You see, Dick has been with me from the second he was born, and an integral part of my life since. My congenial companion through all my travels (he loved a cross-continent road trip) and the muse, content to lie beside my chair through all my writing adventures.

My husband left work early, and between the two of us, we managed to help Dick, half suspended in a sling, to walk the twenty feet from the house to the van. A trip requiring fifteen minutes. It almost finished the grand old dog. And both of us by the time we lifted and hauled him into the van.

At the vets’ office, the doctor and his burly assistant came out into the parking lot to help us. We managed to slide a stretcher under the exhausted creature. The three men had a hard time to carry him. 

Once he was lowered onto the floor, Dick raised his upper body, searching for me. I slipped his blanket under his head and sat beside him, stroking him, comforting him as best I could. He was so ready to go.

The doctor gave him a powerful sedative. Within five minutes Dick felt nothing. The doctor asked me if I was ready. I was. He injected the fatal shot into Dick’s veins. His labored breathing ended in a long sigh, and he was gone, slipping quietly into death.

If this sounds like the most maudlin thing you’ve ever read from me, bear with me. This is a loss as grievous as any I’ve ever suffered, I admit it. 

Let me pull myself together and wipe away the tears; it’s not the loss I want to share, but the life.

Dick was a sterling example of this amazing breed of dog – the mastiff. 

I want to share some of my mastiff memories with you here. Requiem for a Mastiff (for the rest of this article and a collection of photographs of Dick, his ancestors and descendants, use this link.)

Sincerely yours,


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sometimes it's hard to be a woman

Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman …

And getting harder 

Patricia Schroeder who served as a Democrat in the US House of Representatives as Colorado's first Congresswoman, 1973-1996 is famous for the quote, “I have a brain and a uterus, and I use both.”

I would change that quote to “I have a brain and a uterus, and they are both mine.”

My brain functions quite well, though granted, I’d hardly be the first to know if it did not. Inside my brain lives my belief structure, the product of 58 years of experience, a lifetime of learning and observing the world around me, thinking, evaluating, weighing the possibilities, making decisions and judgments and finally forming conclusions. The great thing about my beliefs is that they are entirely mine. Private.

I have no right to inflict my beliefs on others

We are all free to believe that which best fits our lives. This is the fundament of all liberties. Even in the strictest dictatorship where my actions and speech may be curtailed, my thoughts and beliefs can still soar in freedom.

My brain belongs entirely to me.

My uterus also played a major role in my life, even more than my brain it sometimes seems. Two live births, one eight-month still-born birth and two miscarriages before it gave up and went into retirement. (hallelujah!) Throughout most of my life, from menarche at age eleven to menopause a few years ago, my reproductive system went on its merry way, driving the rest of me along the normal hormonal roller coaster ride of womanhood, surprising me by circumventing all attempts to control it through contraceptive means and landing me with not one, not two but three completely unplanned pregnancies. Yes, three. And two miscarriages after that.

But why is my uterus and what I do with it suddenly a public affair? All women need to be free to make their own choices.

My choices

As previously stated, three times in my life I found myself unexpectedly and undesirably pregnant, the first time at seventeen. Did I practice contraception? Yes. But in 1969, more advanced forms of contraception such as the pill had just come into common use, and in the conservative world of Medicine Hat, Alberta, these medical marvels were not available to unmarried women. Even diaphragms were prescribed only to women with husbands. Seriously.

That left only the more primitive barrier method of condoms. (Or abstinence, as so many are quick to point out. Sorry. Not an option. The reproductive system often overrides the brain. Hadn’t you noticed?)

Faced with what was truly a catastrophe, I had decisions to make. Granted, abortion was then completely illegal but not unobtainable. Dangerous yes, but more common than people want to believe.

I couldn’t, wouldn’t, didn’t. Not from fear, but from an instinct that wanted that child as soon as the shock passed, from a belief -- entirely my own – that disposing of my child was wrong. That is: wrong for me.

So I did not have an abortion, a fact for which both my daughters are far less appreciative than they should be. At least as I see it. This pregnancy put an end to my education (I hadn’t yet completed high school,) threw all my dreams out to blow away on the wind and set my life on a completely different, difficult and impoverished course.

My mother decided I should go to the Salvation Army Home for unwed mothers. The child would be placed for adoption and that was to be that. I refused. The following two weeks will always remain vivid in my mind. My parents were more concerned with what the neighbors would think than what would become of their child or grandchild. Even my first doctor’s appointment was made in a town two hour’s drive from ours. Oh, the shame!

Two weeks of violent argument, verbal abuse and offers of scalding hot baths, castor oil and other such old wives’ tales and I was ready to leave. Anything, I thought, would be better than the nightmare of home. I went to my boyfriend’s family.

Quicker than you can say ‘She’s knocked up’ I was to be married. Hurry! A month later, wearing a dress cleverly designed to hide the slight roundness of my belly, I married an unsuitable, equally immature husband. To no one’s surprise, the marriage didn’t last two years.

But in the interim, I was – you guessed it – pregnant again, despite the diaphragm prescribed for me. And that old myth: you won’t get pregnant while breast feeding... A lie!

We were broke, living on an allowance of $200 month. Yes, you heard right. He was a student at a technical college. I stayed at home with the baby. Again, the option of abortion came under discussion. Again, I wouldn’t.

And that’s how I came to be alone with two children by my nineteenth birthday.

I spent my days with my babies and cleaned offices at night. I lived in subsidized housing – a cinder-block complex full of single mothers and their children called ‘Quail Ridge’ by the City of Calgary and ‘Tail Ridge’ by the young men of the area. But at least corralling us single moms in one place meant we could easily form alliances and help each other. I babysat one woman’s children during the day, and she mine at night. Bartering was big at Quail Ridge. None of us had a nickel to spare.

Later, when my children were older, thanks to subsidized day care at an excellent facility that my little girls loved, I was able to enroll in a government program designed to get drop-outs like me an education. I attended the Alberta Vocational Training Center, a facility as dire as its name, and learned the skills to work in an office. It was a beginning.

Thank God for those programs. Without that assistance, I don’t know how we would have made it. Working for minimum wage eight hours a night and babysitting during the day was not a sustainable life style. Nor did it do more than provide the very basics. And an equal thank you to the Canadian medical system, because my younger daughter had health issues, and not unsurprisingly considering the burden and a less than optimum diet, so did I. By the way, I also received free contraceptives.

The third unplanned pregnancy came in my early twenties. I was working at a good office job and taking classes, two a week, at night, at university, earning my Bachelor of Commerce degree. The father, a man I’d known for several months, was not interested in a family, which does of course bring up the question of why he was wooing a mother of two in the first place. Irrelevant, I suppose. But he would, he promised, pay for the abortion.

I should add, at the time I was using an IUD – 99% effective, or so it was claimed. It was removed by a doctor once my pregnancy was confirmed. ‘There should be no complications,’ he said, but to this day I wonder.

For the first time, I did consider an abortion. I had struggled so hard and still had a long way to go. I would be alone with three children. Yes, I spent many painful hours considering my options. In the end, I went forward with the pregnancy.

Unhappily, the baby died at some point around the eighth month. Labor was induced and my would-be daughter, Beth, was born dead, as expected.

“Just as well,” said an insensitive nurse who had been unpleasant and angry from the time she learned I was unmarried. It was not just as well. It was a bitter, sorrowful event. In spite of the difficult circumstances, I wanted that child with all my heart. The nurse did not press charges when I punched her in the face.

In my thirties, stable and remarried, I wanted another child, a child born to a mother and a father. I wanted that stick to turn blue and think, oh wonderful! Not, oh hell, what am I going to do? Twice I conceived and twice I miscarried, once at 12 weeks and once at 14 weeks.

Apparently my uterus had decided enough was enough. My brain came to agree with it and told my body to have a tubal ligation.

So now, here’s my stand on abortion

My decisions were my own, based on what felt right for me. I do not judge the choices others may make. I’ve held the hands of women close to me while they made this difficult and painful decision, accompanied them to the clinic, cared for them and comforted them afterwards. But these were all early pregnancy abortions.

If an abortion is deemed necessary (for whatever reason,) in my opinion, it must be done as early as possible, preferably in the first eight weeks, before the nervous system is functioning and certainly never later than the twelfth week. To me, that is the line in the sand. 

I am decidedly opposed to late term abortions and consider them a savage act that should be against the law. The idea of partial birth abortions -- in fact abortion is not the right term here. Let's call it what it is: the killing of a newborn -- this is beyond my imagination. How such an act can be considered anything less than wanton murder, let alone legal, let alone a medical procedure is truly disgusting.

It is my personal opinion that abortion rights have gone too far. While I am in agreement that no woman should be forced to continue a pregnancy and deliver a child against her will, there must be a point at which we say 'too late.' Many, in fact from my research I found most abortion providers draw the line at the first trimester, or 12 weeks. Only a few perform late term abortions. If I were in charge of the world, I would stop the practice.

But I also accept there may be exceptions where a late termination is deemed appropriate. I can’t think of one off- hand, but then my knowledge of medicine is superficial at best. Severe birth defects subjecting the child to a short life of misery and suffering? Perhaps. Another touchy area, here. The mother’s life is at risk? Certainly. 

The usual reasons given: a victim of rape or incest – surely such pregnancies can be terminated at the early stages. 

I believe the life and welfare of those already living, the mothers, must come first. For this reason, I remain neutral in the face of early pregnancy terminations. In other words, if you can’t get it together to do what you feel you must by eight weeks, twelve at the extreme outer limit, you should have your baby. If you can’t provide the child a decent life, there are many who would love to adopt, as just one option.

So, with that proviso, color me pro-choice. Which means I am for the right of others to choose for themselves, not pro abortion.

But what I am really is 'pro' birth control and the accessibility of birth control to all women. Such a program would obviate the need for abortion to a large degree. Abortion is, and should be considered a secondary choice, to be used only when other methods fail and the situation and conditions require the woman make that decision.

And her decision it must be, and remain. 

This article is about reproductive rights and choices, not the ethics of abortion. Across this land, the rights of women to decide when and how to avoid pregnancy and deal with pregnancy are under attack. The emergence of the authoritarian, patriarchal state is not a figment of the imagination. Come with me on a cross-country tour of laws, tabled legislation and downright bizarre and frightening proposals.

Thank you for reading this article. It is long; it is disturbing and it is an emotionally charged issue and the culmination of several weeks of research and painstaking writing. Still, it is important that we all understand what is happening, and what is at stake.

Sincerely yours,


Friday, February 18, 2011

The Restaurant Trade -- equitable employers or sweat shops?

It's a job but is it a living?
"You work three jobs? … Uniquely American, isn't it? I mean, that is fantastic that you're doing that." —President George W. Bush, to a divorced mother of three, Omaha, Nebraska, Feb. 4, 2005
Much of the world laughed at these words, but the sad truth of today’s economy means this is reality for many: multiple part-time jobs. In these trying times when jobs are scarce and the jobless plentiful, any kind of employment may be seen as a godsend for those trying to keep body and soul together.

The restaurant trade is a labor intensive industry and most, due to the nature of the work and often grueling schedules required, suffer high staff turnover and are always hiring. Or so it seems.

Do they offer a reasonable solution for those desperate for work – any work?
What’s it like, working in a restaurant these days?

This writer decided to find out. Come with me as I join the legions of workers in the restaurant trade.

For the purposes of this article, the restaurant industry does not refer to the five-Michelin-star establishments where dinner bills are tallied in the hundreds, but the ho-hum- everyday-every-city restaurants, the national chains such as, Outback, Olive Garden, Chili’s, Applebees, Ruby Tuesday, Denny’s, Red Lobster, Hooters – those restaurants that dot the American landscape. In fact, in most suburban areas, the corporate chains make up 95% of dining out choices, at an average cost of $13.99 per plate.

The myth

According to Tom Emmer (Republican candidate (unsuccessful) for the office of Governor of Minnesota,) minimum wage legislation for the restaurant trade should be removed as “some wait-staff are making $100,000/year in tips,” and the money saved could be used “to stimulate more employment.”

Let’s leave aside if such a lofty income is probable or even possible for the moment, and the question of how removing minimum wages might create more employment – which beggars the imagination – or how it would do anything other than increase the profitability of the corporate restaurant entity, and take a look at what tips mean to the restaurant industry.

What happens when you leave a tip for your server in a restaurant?

Did you know the money you leave as a gratuity actually goes toward bringing a large percentage of the restaurant’s workers up to minimum wage? That’s right.

Here in Florida, the labor law as applied to restaurants is worded like this:
“An employee who regularly receives tips as a part of his or her pay also receives, under federal and Florida law, a minimum wage of $4.23/hr. In order to have this exemption from the minimum wage apply, the employee must regularly receive more than $30 per month in tips, and be allowed to keep all of his or her tips. The tips plus wages combined must add up to at least the $7.25 per hour minimum.”

(In perspective: The minimum wage of $7.25 per hour means I would have to work 27 hours just to pay my electricity bill for January of $193.00. My home (mortgage, insurance and taxes) requires my earnings of another 124 hours each month. My little car, costing me $150 month needs all the fruits of my labor for 21 hours. I would work 2 hours in order to purchase one meal in the restaurant in which I work.)
However, in the realm of the corporate restaurant, practice is otherwise.

Servers are required to enter their tips into the computer system for each shift and a portion goes into the ‘tip-sharing pool’ to be shared with those staff also deemed ‘tipable,’ such as the host or hostess, the food runners who assist in serving, the bartender, the ‘expo’ (quality control person who gives final approval on each dish before it is served.) All of these positions are considered tip-earning and paid only the base of $4.23 even though they do not directly receive gratuities from the patrons.

Yes, that 15-20% of your bill you so generously leave in appreciation of good service does not rest in the pocket of the hopefully smiling server, but supplements the restaurant’s employee costs across the board.

(In case you were thinking "well don't claim all your tips, then," consider this. In every restaurant there are sections more popular than others, and assignment to the better sections is based on your performance -- which is measured by your tips to sales ratio. So if you don't claim all your tips in order to put some in your pocket, you will find yourself working the four tables right beside the kitchen where nobody wants to sit and is unhappy if placed there, making less money anyway. Yes, sir, they got you every which way.)

Did you know?
Neither did I.

Meet lmmartin, hostess

Follow the link below to share in my adventures as a hostess in a local restaurant, part of a national chain. 

I hope you enjoy this inside view of the labor practices of the restaurant trade. It only cost me a few weeks of hard work, and two very sore feet.

Sincerely yours,


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

What makes a writer?

Recently, I began asking myself what makes a writer. When does someone who dabbles in words earn the right to say "I'm a writer?"  These days, we're overrun with the products of a myriad of would-be's and wannabe's. Where is the line, and what does it take to truly be a writer?

Here are my thoughts on the subject:

By strictest definition, the term writer applies to anyone who writes. Period. Even a grocery list has a writer, after all. 
Therefore, anyone who jots down words can call themselves a writer (and often does.) These days, everyone fancies themselves ‘writerly’ and we seem to have more writers than readers out there.

Why is this?

We are a species of compulsive communicators; this much is sure. Should a naturalist from another planet do a documentary about us -- a la National Geographic -- we’d likely appear nothing more than a huge flock of birds all screeching at the top of our lungs. A huge gaggle of gabbers.
Our drive to communicate has much to do with the success of our species. That’s why we developed language, and since the invention, we have been driven to share our thoughts and often, to record them for posterity. Throughout human history we’ve told stories, made speeches, given sermons, and we’ve written it all down. 

Oh how we write! Letters, essays, journals, stories, books of all sorts. We’ve amassed knowledge in written form in great libraries, lost them, and written them all again – many times over.

No sooner does a human have a thought than he is driven to share it.

It’s what we are.

First, what is it we are attempting to do when we sit down to write? 

That's easy. We want to communicate. But what are we communicating?  What is it that makes a writer in the full sense of the word, as opposed to just someone who writes?

Is it our ideas?

We all have ideas, but I once read that if we have even one original idea in our lifetime we are so exceptional – and the metaphor escapes me, the chances are so astronomical. Despite all the feel-good pop-psychology telling us the opposite, our views, experiences, opinions are unlikely to be unique. Yes, yes, I know. We are all individuals and as such own a perspective entirely our own. If that were enough to be a writer, the planet is littered with writers. Seven billion of them.

I found an interesting quote addressing this ego-driven idea.
“The proliferation of mass graphomania among politicians, cab drivers, women on the delivery table, mistresses, murderers, criminals, prostitutes, police chiefs, doctors, and patients proves to me that every individual without exception bears a potential writer within himself and that all mankind has every right to rush out into the streets with a cry of "We are all writers!" The reason is that everyone has trouble accepting the fact that he will disappear unheard of and unnoticed in an indifferent universe, and everyone wants to make himself into a universe of words before it's too late. Once the writer in every individual comes to life (and that time is not far off), we are in for an age of universal deafness and lack of understanding.” -- Milan Kundera
The very idea we are so special, so unique, so distinctive, exclusive, one-of-a-kind is the one thing we share with every other single person in the world.

No, our ideas are not enough to make us a writer. On the other hand, it’s impossible to be a writer without ideas.

But how many of us express ideas that are truly our own?

Do we give thought, analysis, evaluation, study opposing views, and  come to a considered conclusion? Not many. Most of us regurgitate the unexamined product of our programming (and yes we are programmed and very skillfully, too) without thought. We echo the words of our heroes sans question.

 Is this writing? (I mean real writing.)

I don’t think so.
Is it how we express our ideas?

Certainly, a facility with language is a necessity. One needs a decent vocabulary and the ability to use it.

Which brings up my favorite complaint.

A writer must have a strong grasp of the skills of writing. It amazes me how many not only sit down and write without any idea of construction, style or grammar, but publish the outcome!  Run-on sentences, lack of paragraph structure, poor grammar, no punctuation or poorly used punctuation, lack of consistent tense, shifting in point of view, improper conjugation of verbs – need I go on?

Can a lawyer practice without understanding the law? Can an architect design a house without knowledge of basic engineering? Can a doctor heal without studying anatomy?

Why then, oh why, do so many decide they are writers without a grasp of the tools of the trade? If you want to be a writer, then learn how. There are many, many places to do so.

Learn that a sentence has a subject and a predicate. And only one. Understand that a paragraph deals with one idea, one point of view, one speaker and when that changes, you need a new paragraph. That’s a start.

It’s not enough to gush out words. If they’re unintelligible, what’s the point? If reading your work is tedious, requiring great effort to understand, boring -- or worse having no voice, no point of view, no skill, no one is going to read it.
With considerable amusement I followed a forum  on Hubpages that asked: “Which is more important, grammar and punctuation or ideas?” Many argued that style and construction were of no importance in our modern world, and as long as you were understood, who cared? In fact, they were the majority. I went to read some of their work. I didn’t stay long. No matter how brilliant they thought their ideas, what they produced was babble. Insult intended. Don't ask me to give attention and thought to something scribbled off with no effort.

Have a little pride in what you do. You want to be a writer? Learn the ropes. Don't dash off any old thing and hang it out in the public eye. Use those tools anyone with any pretensions of being a writer should have at hand.

I’ve been a writer my entire life. I teach; I coach and I edit. Here I am with fifty years of practice to my name and I still keep three books beside my computer:
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Grammar: Writing, usage and style
I use them often. I do not rely on spellcheck, or Word (which can’t even recognize a sentence.) I've studied the mechanics of writing for years, and I'm still learning.

A writer must know how to write. That’s the first rule, and while it may be bent from time to time, it can never be broken.
Is that it? All we need is an idea and the skills of language? No, there’s much more.

  • A voice.  All good writers develop a voice, a style of writing, a tone recognizable as his in everything he writes. (I should add I don’t speak of ‘content’ writing which has no soul; after all, computers are competing with humans to do that. I speak of writing of artistic merit.) Real writers do this, but no one can say exactly what it is, where it comes from, how one gets it. It just is. Perhaps it's a case of some having the gift…

No, I don’t think so. I think the voice develops with practice, with a body of work. It’s unconscious, most likely, but grows as our experience and facility with writing does. I think it’s born of confidence. My favorite hubbers here have it. I can read their work and know immediately who wrote it.

They are not those who write in encyclopedic style, nor those writing what amounts to ad copy, though if they did write in those formats, it would still be their voice. There is a flavor to their work that defies description and this is what makes their words writerly.

  • Style. Part of voice, maybe, style also comes to a writer with practice and experience. Some writers just have a special touch, a way of turning a phrase, the use of simile, metaphor, vivid word usage that leaves us feeling satisfied, knowing we’ve read a real writer.

The development of style relies on having that necessary grasp of the tools of writing, without which it is an attainable goal. Sentence structure and how to vary it, the development of a certain rhythm, pacing and its usage, word selection and finding just the right one -- we’re right back at the last section. Without the skills …

“But I write naturally,” says the one who believes the term writer belongs to anyone who puts words on paper. And now we’re back to ego.” I’m so special and what I have to say so original and important, the rules of writing don’t apply to me.” Yes, it’s true some writers write outside the normal boundaries, and successfully, too. But understand, they do so with a full understanding of writing. They haven’t done this because they don’t know any better – they can break the rules because they are so skillful, they make it work.

Oh for the love of humanity, you cry, will you stop belaboring the point?

Okay. I hope it has been taken.

There’s one thing left to discuss. An absolute necessity.

A writer needs to use his soul.  A writer must write with honesty, with empathy, with understanding. A writer must write from deep within himself, must express that inner vision that speaks to the reader and finds common ground within that reader.

Which means what? First, write truthfully.  If you’re writing from your fingertips only, your words will be nothing more than that – superficial, empty, vacuous.  If something has moved you enough to write about it, then you must have feelings on the subject. Use them. Express them.

After all, your truth, your honest reactions – that is what the reader wants to share. 

We are trying to communicate, are we not? 

Sincerely yours,


Friday, January 28, 2011

CNN documentary -- Selling the girl next door

January 23, 2011 Aired at 8 PM EST

CNN’s Amber Lyon investigates teen trafficking in America

CNN’s investigative reporter, Amber Lyon hosted a documentary entitled “Selling the girl next door.”
According to their press releases, this broadcast would:
“Selling the Girl Next Door takes viewers into the world of underage American girls caught up in the violent sex trade. Hundreds of thousands of girls under the age of 18 are ensnared into lives of prostitution annually, according to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Many are runaways or “throwaways” trapped in “the oldest profession” by pimps who sell them using modern sales and marketing techniques.
In a year-long investigation, CNN correspondent Amber Lyon reveals the devastating realities of the business of underage sex – speaking to a young teen runaway sold online from a Las Vegas hotel, the men that obsessively seek Internet sex connections, and women long into careers as sex workers who were trafficked as teens or children.”
Did this program live up to the promise?

A superficial examination of the surface of a much greater problem

That’s my considered opinion.

Once again, like the FBI’s “Innocence Lost Campaign” this so-called in-depth investigation deals only with the most visible elements of a dark trade. We are told for the thousandth time, this problem affects mostly “runaways” and “throwaways.” In other words, the victims themselves are partially to blame for their own victimization.

Yes, in my experience many of the victims have deep underlying problems, but to suggest the child trafficking trade which gobbles up hundreds of thousands of children every year affects only those who are already at risk and on the streets is to deny both the scope and the organization of a much greater industry. Of the victims I’ve worked with, most were not runaways, not street kids – they were taken. Until we recognize this basic truth, we will never begin to deal with this growing threat to our children.
Please, if you have not already done so, take a moment to read the hub, “The Rape Trade” linked here for your convenience, before reading further. The scope of child-trafficking extends far beyond what you’re led to believe

The Rape Trade -- child prostitution
Another FBI/local law enforcement agency initiative has recovered a number of child-victims of the sex trade. This time the media took notice. But some of the information given left me uneasy. Here's why.
waiting, waiting, waiting...
Welcome back.

Now you understand this is a multi-tiered industry, and individual pimps and their victims, those for sale on the internet and on the streets represent only one facet of a burgeoning and highly profitable business.

Further, I take exception to the headline “teen trafficking.” The most insidious aspect of child trafficking is that the true victims of this hidden trade are far younger than that. And for all the obvious reasons, there is no overt advertising on the internet, no pictures, no headlines of “new booty in town.” 

Certainly communication exists, but according to those involved in the difficult attempt of ferreting out pedophiles, it is all in code. It is completely underground and involves children as young as infants and up to puberty.

Worse, it is widespread.

I am currently in correspondence with a now-grown mother of six who was prostituted out at the age of five. Is she an anomaly? Sadly, no.

For those that live long enough to pass puberty, the next step is the internet, the streets and a pimp. “Teen trafficking” is old for the child sex trade.

Having said all this, I want to commend Ms. Lyons for an excellent expose of the on-line trafficking of underage girls. What she fails to see is that many, possibly most were not runaways or throwaways, but survivors of a much earlier exploitation.

With all this in mind, let’s take a look at what she found.

For the full article, click here:   CNN documentary -- Selling the girl next door

Thank you for reading,

Sincerely yours,


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Bird in the Hand....

The doorbell rang while I was chopping vegies, getting ready to make supper.

“Back,” I said in my firmest tone, trying to peel two mastiffs from the front door. One thing about mastiffs, if they don’t want to obey, you’re not going to make them. Four hundred pounds of dog doesn’t move without cooperation, and when it comes to doorbells, they know their job. They have to see who it is before you do. Just in case. If you try to tell them otherwise, you’re only displaying your stupidity, but they won't hold it against you for the future.

So I squeezed in between them, opened the door just wide enough for me and peered out.

Already dark as night, this being January and the streets of North Port having no lights, all I saw were headlights on the street. Clearly something big. A large van.  I flicked on the flood lamps just in time to make out UPS as it drove away.

I looked down and found the small corrugated shipping box between the doors.

It was here. My book!

Yes, the long awaited moment had arrived. I grabbed the knife from the cutting board, carefully sliced the packing tape and held the first copy of This Bird Flew Away in my hand.

For months I’d dreamed of this moment. “Wait until you hold it,” said my friends who’d been there before. My sister suggested it would be something like having a baby. Without the pain, she added, though I think that’s debatable.  Lots of painful moments involved in the two years of producing this book.

In the writing, there were passages that ripped out my heart. There were times my fingers danced along the keyboard on automatic while I hauled long buried memories from somewhere deep and dark inside, and tears coursed down my face with the struggle.  It had to be honest. It had to be real.

But there were profoundly joyous times as well. Bria, my heroine, is gutsy, strong-willed, stubborn, smart and so sure she’s always right. She’s scrupulously honest with the reader, but a world-class liar to those around her. She makes me laugh.  I know her so well and she’s as real to me as anyone else in my life even if she is a figment of my imagination. But the real joy I found in Bria was the time spent building the teen-age version of her with my granddaughter. Paige, sixteen at the time, spent many an hour sharing what she felt the girl’s feelings would be, how she might react and even how she would speak. Through Bria, my granddaughter and I grew closer. Priceless!

Then there’s Jack, Bria’s beleaguered guardian. The eldest son of a domineering father with four younger brothers, a homely man, inept with women, morally principled and well-intentioned, he knows nothing of girls and even less about how they work. I love him, too. Sometimes stuffy, often lost, strongly guided by his moral compass, he means well and we watch him walk deeper and deeper into the mire that we see forming beneath his feet, but he does not-- not until it's too late.

And Mary, the mother figure to them all, living a lonely life within the confines of her Irish-American community, who gives Bria her first stable home and in turn, is rescued by the girl.

They all live.  Now I hold the chronicle of their lives in my hand. What started as a dream, as all my stories do, grew into a few strings of words on my computer screen, then a large mass of words in a file, was worked and reworked, edited by the talented Kathryn Lynn Davis and reworked again, has now matured into this beautifully produced book.

And that it is. My publisher, Black Rose Writing, has done a fabulous job of the cover and the interior design. The pages feel substantial; the binding is top quality. Most gratifying, they allowed me to produce the cover art, pick the font and the layout.  To say I’m pleased with the quality of the outcome is an understatement.

With pleasure, I checked the book very carefully one last time and emailed my approval. Tomorrow, it goes into production.

In a few days, it will be available to those who registered on the website, and to all who visit there in the future.

Soon it will be posted on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and all the usual places for everyone to share.

But today, it’s still a private pleasure, as I hold this first copy in my hand.

Sincerely yours,

Postscript: The next day, I took This Bird Flew Away out for lunch to meet friends. Here's a photograph of the great occasion. Now be aware, this is one of the few times I've ever published a real image of myself. Yes, that lovely, elegant-looking, cultured lady you've come to associate with my name is an avatar. Some people have pen names. I have a pen image. Why? Privacy -- mine and that of some of the girls from the past, girls I worked with or fostered. 

Anyway, I'm the one in the black glasses. The other lady is my dear friend, Sharon. And the fellow in the back is a total stranger sitting at the bar. The place is our favorite local hangout, Joe Cracker, in Port Charlotte, Florida and if you're ever fortunate enough to be in the neighborhood, I recommend the coconut shrimp. PS They also make a mean margarita.  


Friday, January 21, 2011

A Case of Ne-ne-ne-nerves

It has to be nerves. There’s no other explanation. 

Well there is, but I don’t like it, so we’ll ignore it. 

Did I ever tell you about The Voice? Yes, I believe so, in my blog on making my first video. But it was just a passing allusion, not the whole picture. This isn’t something I talk about often, but  I’m passing through a trying time and need to share.

Besides, it’s my belief we all have one. A Voice, that is.

You know what I’m talking about. Whenever you embark on a new venture, when times are tough, when you feel vulnerable, sometimes when you’re really happy, or sad and blue, when you’re taking those first few steps in a new direction full of insecurity The Voice shows up.

The Voice lives inside my head. She – for she is definitely female – is a nasty-minded, over-bearing, soul-destroying harridan. Unlike any other personae in my life, She knows exactly which buttons to push to destroy any possibility of happiness, potential confidence or even simple contentment.  I don’t know where She came from, or when, for I cannot remember a time when The Voice wasn’t there.

The Voice is a bully. The Voice is mean. The Voice is destructive. If I had to spend any time with a human being who spoke to me the way The Voice does, I’d simply have to kill them.  Justifiable homicide.

For example, just the other day I was getting ready to go out. I looked at myself in the mirror and thought, “Hey, I still look good, even at fifty-eight.”

“You need to lose ten pounds. Your belly is round as a beach ball,” said The Voice. “And your teeth are still crooked and you have a bad overbite.  Look at the lines around your eyes, not to mention the bags under them. And your jaw-line has jowls like a mastiff. You sure are getting old. No one likes old women. Your life is over, you know. Finished.  And don’t you think that dress is a little young for you? Who are you kidding walking around in a short skirt.”

“I have good legs,” I answered, my pleasure diminishing and my mood plummeting.

“Oh maybe once you did.” The Voice sneered at me; I could tell by Her tone. “But the flesh isn’t firm anymore and look at those spider veins around your ankle.  Won’t be long before you’ll be wearing support hose like all the other old women. When will you start acting your age? Do you know what a fool you’re making of yourself?”

As rebellious as any adolescent, I wore my short skirt out of sheer spite, but The Voice haunted me and not even the view of my long, well-muscled legs in the glass door nor any number of surreptitious admiring glances could dismiss Her words. Or regain my simple pleasure in my own self.

The Voice is a miserable bitch.

Lately, The Voice has been completely out of control.

As is only natural -- I hope -- I am nervous about the release of my novel, This Bird Flew Away, my first publication in over thirty years, and the lead novel in a series of three. I’m published by Black Rose Writing, an independent publisher, and I’ve worked really hard on the promotion and publicity necessary to get a book out there.  As the time draws near for the book launch my stress mounts.

No one loves my stress as much as The Voice. Sensing my vulnerable state, She moves in for the kill.“You’re going to be a laughing stock, you know. No one’s going to buy this drivel you’ve written.”

“But the reviews have been good,” I argue.

“Who cares about those guys? They’re not the important reviewers.  They wouldn’t even look at a stupid book, published by a small press and written by a nobody.  And don’t forget you are a nobody.”

“I’ve had over one hundred advance readers and they like the book.” 

“What else are they going to say, for crying out loud? You’re such an idiot. Of course they said nice things; they would hardly do otherwise. They all thought it was trash but didn’t want to hurt your feelings. Face the truth for once in your stupid life. No one will read it.”

“The website has had 25,500 visitors in five months. That means people are interested in it.”

The Voice cackles out a mean laugh. “People surfing about the web just stumble on the site. It means nothing. Anyway, I’ll bet that number’s a mistake. The counter is wrong. The proof will come in sales and no one is going to buy it.”

“Yes, they will,” I say, but my heart isn’t in it.

“Hundreds of thousands of books are published every year. For God’s sake, you know the stats. Most of them sell less than one hundred copies. And you think you’re so special, you’ll be the exception. You?”

“I’m not listening to you anymore,” I whine, covering my ears which is a pretty silly thing to do under the circumstances. I repeat my new mantra. “My book is good. It speaks to many people. I did a good job. Lots of people have read it and they like it. It will be a success. I will work hard to make it so. My book is good…”

“Shut up! That won’t work.” The Voice turns up the volume. “You’re a failure. You’ve always been a failure. Remember the time --”

“Go away,” I scream.

“I wish I could,” The Voice shrieks back. “Who wants to share a head with someone like you? But I can’t go away.” 

“Why?” I am ready to beat my head against the wall.

“Because,” says The Voice, “I am you.”

“No. It can't be so.” I want to cry. “Why are You so mean to me?”

“It’s for your own good,” The Voice says in a way that sounds strangely familiar, though I can't tell you why. "I'm only trying to protect you from yourself."

"Oh," I say, wondering if She speaks the truth.

That’s the story of The Voice. She has been my constant companion for the last few weeks. It must be nerves.

That other explanation, the one I ignore? I am losing my mind. There, I’ve said it.

You too have A Voice, don’t you?

Sincerely yours,


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Oh, no! How to recover your hijacked email account.

Oh, no! 

On January 17th, I dragged myself from my nice warm bed, tottered into the kitchen in search of that necessary cup of coffee, and as is my habit, turned on my computer to review my emails.

These days, I have a fairly busy inbox. Not only is my novel, This Bird Flew Away scheduled for release on the 27th which requires a fair bit of correspondence, I’m doing my own promotion, and that’s become very demanding. I also have a family and friends who keep in touch. I edit for new writers and there’s lots of back and forth there.
Did I mention I’m not a morning person? Getting into gear is a long slow process
But this morning, I awoke with a shock.
User name and/or password incorrect.
Now what? My still foggy brain stalled for a moment, trying to comprehend. 

I tried again.

Same result. I hadn’t made an input error. 

Like tens of thousands of other unsuspecting people of that morning alone, my email account had been hijacked. But I didn’t know it – yet.

No, it wasn’t for another hour and a half that fact became evident. Not until after I’d gone through the lengthy process of regaining access to the account. Not easy.

Google states they take your privacy and security very seriously, and to prove it, they’ve instituted a sort of merry-go-round guaranteed to have you gnashing your teeth.

Necessary, I suppose, but still annoying, like so many of those other things done for our own good.

For step by step instructions on how to recover from such a paralyzing blow, go to the full article published on hubpages:  Oh, no! How to recover your hijacked email account.
What they did 

Perhaps you, like me, are now asking yourself but why, why would they do this. What a good question.

The answer became apparent as soon as I got access to my emails (see full article,) around three and a half hours into my day. Every single contact in my file received the following message:
"I know this might be a surprise to you but I am sorry I didn't inform you about my traveling to Scotland for a Seminar.

I need a favor from you as I've misplaced my wallet on my way to the hotel where my money,and other valuable things were kept and

I will like you to assist me with an urgent loan of $2,500 U.S Dollars to sort-out my hotel bills and get myself back home.

I will appreciate whatever you can afford to help me with and I promise to pay you back as soon as I return home.

Lynda M Martin
author of This Bird Flew Away"
Now, I still don't get this. There are no instructions to send money, no emergency contact number or address, no way for anyone to do anything except send an email back. Which many of you did (thanks.)

Any possible benefit would only accrue if they managed to keep control of my email account long enough to enter into correspondence with someone, without me finding out about it. If there's a moral here it's check your email account regularly. Move with all speed if something is wrong.

But the very sloppiness of the whole think reeks of amateurism. It smacks of someone making mischief just for the twisted pleasure of creating trouble in a stranger's life.

After all, if I was going to Scotland (my birth place and where I have relatives I can turn to if desperate) trust me, I'd probably write about it and you'd all know. And wouldn't I be unlikely to leave a few days before my book is released? Nor am I the kind of person who'd ask relative strangers to send me money -- in case the situation every comes up again.

But to those of you who did react with best wishes, regrets you weren't able to help, who tried every avenue to contact me, even as to setting up a thread on Hubpages, thank you. It's nice to know so many cared.
The consequences

This has been a grave injury to my business, to my reputation and my pride.

Every contact got this message, including agents who had rejected me, publishers I'd been in correspondence with, and even a Senator and his wife who I'd met at a Christmas party. The Senator was very involved in combating child abuse and had sent me contacts in the government to help with my research. Ye Gods, even the government got a copy of this!

It took me two days to contact everyone. I first, sent out a blanket email to all addresses explaining the situation:
"Any email from me requesting a loan is spam and a fraud. I am not in Scotland. I am not broke. I am fine, safe and sound at home where I've been all the time. Lynda"
But we all know what happens to blanket emails. They go to Spam. So I've literally had to write to hundreds of people individually and tell them the whole saga.

Worst of all, all my emails dated before January 17 are now lost irrevocably. 

There are people who wrote to me wanting editing, people I was editing, people who wrote to me for help in dealing with sexual abuse issues, people who wrote wanting interviews or to highlight my book and the list goes on and on. 

All I can say is here's the situation. If you have anything outstanding with me, please contact me.               

I hope none of you ever go through this, but if it does happen, I'm happy to share with you all I've learned.
Sincerely yours, 

For step by step instructions on how to recover from such a paralyzing blow, go to the full article published on hubpages:  Oh, no! How to recover your hijacked email account.