March 31, 2008

How about that Adsense...

I know a lot of us use adsense to try to monetize our blogs. Of course according to the adsense TOS, we can't click the links in our own blog. So, being the curious person I am, I've been clicking the ads in your blogs just to see where they take me.

So far, everything I've clicked looks legit. The sites are clean and don't sound any computer alarms on my end.

I've had my ads sitting at the bottom of my page. Very unlikely to get a hit there. It's almost like I was hiding the fact that I have adsense.

Since I am a stay at home mom, and I would like to earn an income, I started looking into adsense a bit more. I read an interesting post about monetizing your blog on dosh dosh and they said to make the ads look like header/footer navigational links to get unsuspecting readers enticed to click on them. Now that is sneaky, so I did it.

Hopefully the little trick will work. If not, at least it's clean looking. When you guys start rolling in dough because of my experimental clicks, let me know.
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March 28, 2008

More Stuff Added on to the Blog...

You know me, I like to change and add to the blog occasionally. Okay, more than occasionally. I've known about this for quite some time, but I've only just gotten to adding it here: Add This. It's for social bookmarking and blog promotion. You should be able to see the drop down button at the bottom of my posts.

To get the button you have to create an account. They don't have a email verification process, so it's fast. They do require an email, user name, and password for registration. It is free--you know how I like free. The site provides usage stats also.

Adding the button to your Blogger blog is really simple. Add This gives you all the instruction you need for several blogging platforms. For Blogger, you insert the code in the template html so it will show on each blog post automatically.

Why do you need this? So people can bookmark your posts. The more you are bookmarked, the more readership you gain. We've discussed this before here mostly, but I discuss it a lot throughout the entire blog.

My next find came while I was playing around on the forum at AC. I came across a post about custom widgets. There's a pretty neat site called Sproutbuilder that lets you build and customize your own widgets. Note my new AC widget on the top right--it matches my avatar.

Sproutbuilder is still in beta. I have had some minor issues like slow loading and linking issues. I changed the settings to avoid using pop ups to link as a temporary fix. The slow loading is something I just have to deal with.

The site is super easy to use. You can begin building widgets instantly, but if you want to save and use them, you must register. Registration is typical: user name, email, and password. You do have to do email verification. The best part about it is it's free!

You can build calendar, news, video, and music widgets. Whatever you want to promote, you can make and have it be customized with your own photos, artwork, or designs. Pretty neat stuff.

The last two adds came from BlogCatalog. I used to have a visitor widget, but when I updated the blog it got deleted. I put it back on. They have other networking widgets available, like neighborhoods, communities, discussions, groups, and news. I chose visitors and communities. The communities widget lets others know where else you can be found on the web.

I know there is a lot to swallow here.

Have fun!
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March 26, 2008

Musing Clarity ©

I read through Sorrels piece again, I mentioned him previously. In "How to Start Smart" he has a section, Never the Same..., he says not to start a short story with the beginning. To avoid the mundane details of your character's daily lives.

Sorrels goes on to tell us to start the short story close to the end. Reader seduction, so to speak. Give the reader the goods in the beginning as a lure to read on. Spark interest in the beginning and entice with the promise that 'things will never be the same'.

So, obviously, I'm not starting at the beginning. I got that much right. I think there is detail, but I don't think it's mundane. I don't think things will ever be the same, especially between these two characters.

Continued revisions on draft one:

"Two years!" A familiar voice broke the dark silence. I threw my keys onto the sofa table, "Pam, you're awake?" I closed the door and reached for the light switch. "Don't turn them on!" Her voice gargled.

The room reeked of smoke. There was just enough moonlight peering through the blinds for me to see smoke hovering around her. I could taste it as if I were smoking myself. The dry, chalky remnants lingered in my mouth. I lifted the window and turned on the fan.

Moonlight streamed in and my eyes welcomed it. I glanced at the picture wall above her head. The pictures were cockeyed and some were missing. I looked back at her. I could see her pale face, her green eyes were red, glowing staring at me. "You've been with her for two long years."

She took a long drag off her cigarette. The cherry lit up her face. She looked young for her 45 years. Reaching for the ashtray, a piece of her long bleach blond hair fell from behind her ear. She smashed the butt into the tray.

"You know..." She grabbed a cigarette pack from the side table and began slapping it against her palm. "I've known all along." As she unwrapped the cellophane from the pack, crackling echoed through the room. Pam looked strait at me. One eyebrow shot up, "You thought the two of you were so smart--hiding the truck, meeting at bars, going to hotels--you must of thought I was stupid."

I waited to speak. A lump formed in my throat. I had to say something to sate her, to make things right, but what? She knows about Maura...

Maura is the bartender at my favorite hangout. She's smart, petite, with a nice rack, and a bubbly personality. The complete package. She never complains. She's always happy to see me. She makes me feel good. I love her.

Pam is my wife. Pam is the mother of my children. Pam is my anchor. My obligations lie with her. I cannot believe she knows...

Pam lit a cigarette. I cleared my throat, "Pam...I--I just don't know what to say." I moved toward her. She put up her hand. I switched on a light. She was huddled on the couch. Pictures of us lay smashed and torn on the floor before her. Blood pooled on the sofa beneath her feet. "Pam, you're hurt!"



...



I've added a little and cut and moved a bit of information. I tried to incorporate some of the suggestions from the comments. I also tried to work on the clarity by giving some information on Maura. I think I'm heading in the right direction.

I want to read up on using flashbacks. I think I could give the characters a little boost if I included some history. Perhaps that would round it out?
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March 24, 2008

In Fifteen Minutes... ©

My husband and I have a "joke" about time. Everything occurs in fifteen minutes. Especially computer and sleep time, but also yearly celebrations. We tell each other things like, "What, it's time to get up already? I just went to sleep 15 minutes ago." Also, "What do you mean you need to use the computer? I just got on 15 minutes ago." The big thing is when we have celebrations, "Enjoy this while it lasts. in 15 minutes it will be time to plan for the next one."

I bring this up because yesterday (Easter) just flew by. I got up before dawn to hide eggs, do the baskets, and prepare some appetizers to take to my sister's house. While I was waiting for everyone else to awaken, I played around on the computer.

After a whirlwind of a day, I was in bed by 9:30. Then 15 minutes later the alarm went off. I pulled myself out of bed and welcomed the new day.

I've read a few things about time flying by. I have my own issues with that phenomena. "It seems like yesterday..." A phrase that crosses my lips more often than not. This is also something I hear people say, followed by something like, "Boy, I'm showing my age..."

Seriously, where does the time go? I try to live life to the fullest. I try to enjoy every aspect of life. I drink in life, love, and being, like I've never drank before. But time, I think, is too short.

I guess I better get busy on my writing, the house chores, and cooking dinner; in 15 minutes it will be time for bed.

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March 23, 2008

Happy Easter Everyone ©

I'm up here waiting for the rest to awaken.
Do not let my motives be mistaken.
The Easter Bunny came before dawn.
Pretty soon all of the candy will be gone.
Baskets decorated full of grass and tiny toys
All adorning the hearth to bring many joys.
When the festivities are all over and done.
I will be sharing a nap with the little one.
Photobucket

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March 19, 2008

Drafting Out and Editing the Beginning ©

I've been reading a lot about the short story. Fellow blogger SWUBIRD also gave me a little direction that I needed more character development. Taking all things into consideration, I'm going to take the beginning drafts from my exercise experiment and fine tune over the next few Workshop Wednesday posts.

The Writer's Digest has a couple of Handbooks of Short Story Writing out. Each handbook is broken into chapters, actually articles that could stand on their own, written by individual authors. I've found some great information in these that I want to incorporate and try to apply.

In "How to Start Smart," a chapter under Craft and Technique, by Roy Sorrels, the beginning is everything. There must be character and setting definition that grabs a reader and compels them to move forward.

Sorrels goes on to say that you must tell the reader who the story is about. This must be done in a way that cues an image of the character in the reader's mind.

In draft one I chose to write in the first person. Sorrels says that developing character images from that narrative is difficult.

In another chapter, "What to Leave Out and What to Put In" by Kit Reed, cutting the fat and getting to the meat of the story is desirable. Reed says that you should think your reader knows what you know coming in, so going over on too much detail is not necessary.

Taking this to heart, what if I maintain my first person account through Jess, cut the fat, and make Pam and Jess my protagonists? Maura will be secondary, almost an afterthought.

Original First Draft:

"Two years!" A familiar voice broke the silence of the moonlit room. I closed the door behind me and reached for the light switch. "Don't turn them on." I threw my keys onto the sofa table,

"Pam, you're awake?"I could see her huddled on the couch. The room reeked of smoke. I sat down across from her. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I could see her more clearly.

"You've been with her for two long years."She took a long drag off her cigarette. The cherry lit up her face. Her eyes were red, almost glowing. I waited to speak. She reached for the ashtray and piece of her long bleach blond hair fell from behind her ear. She smashed the butt into the tray.

She grabbed a cigarette pack from the side table. "You know..." She slapped the pack against her palm. "I've known all along." Slowly she unwrapped the clear cellophane from the pack. The crackling noise echoed throughout the room.

Pam looked strait at me. One eyebrow shot up, "You thought the two of you were so smart--hiding the truck, meeting at bars, going to hotels--you must of thought I was stupid."

Revision:

"Two years!" A familiar voice broke the dark silence. I threw my keys onto the sofa table, "Pam, you're awake?" I closed the door and reached for the light switch. "Don't turn them on!" Her voice startled me.

I could see her huddled on the couch. The room reeked of smoke. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I could see her pale face, her green eyes were red--almost glowing.

"You've been with her for two long years." I watched her take a long drag off her cigarette. The cherry lit up her face. She looked young for her 45 years. Reaching for the ashtray a piece of her long bleach blond hair fell from behind her ear. She smashed the butt into the tray.

"You know..." She grabbed a cigarette pack from the side table and began slapping it against her palm. "I've known all along." As she unwrapped the cellophane from the pack, crackling echoed throughout the room.

Pam looked strait at me. One eyebrow shot up, "You thought the two of you were so smart--hiding the truck, meeting at bars, going to hotels--you must of thought I was stupid."

I waited to speak. A lump formed in my throat. I had to say something to sate her, to make things right, but what? She knows about Maura.

She lit a cigarette. I cleared my throat, "Pam. I--I just don't know what to say." I stood up and moved toward her. She put up her hand. I turned on the light.

Pictures of us lay smashed on the floor near her. Blood pooled on the sofa beneath her feet. "Pam, you're hurt!"







I think from my revisions and additions you can tell that Pam is a 45 year old, green eyed blond, who is angry, depressed, and a chain smoker. Can you picture her? Is there enough detail so far? I'll keep working on it...


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March 14, 2008

Shortstop Friday

This will be a shorty today. I built another Squidoo lens. (I'm still working on it so don't be too critical.) This one is for Conda and Kathy and the Freerice site they have promoted in the past. I just love that little game. I've probably donated a billion grains of rice so far.

I added a little you tube video that goes along the same theme. There's a feed the hungry site that all you have to do is click and food will be donated. Now that site does have sales stuff on it, but the proceeds are supposed to go to the charities. The video is really heart wrenching so be sure to have a tissue handy.

I hope everyone has a great weekend!


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March 12, 2008

My Muse is an Elusive Devil ©

Recall from last Workshop Wednesday, I posted an excerpt of the beginning of my short story along with an exercise I was determined to take on. The exercise is to write 5 titles, outlines, beginnings, and endings.

I don't have a title yet (but I'm going to have something, anything, by the end of this session). I don't want to relay the outline because I may change my direction. So here's my beginnings. As a reminder, here is the first draft:



"Two years!" A familiar voice broke the silence of the moonlit room. I closed the door behind me and reached for the light switch. "Don't turn them on." I threw my keys onto the sofa table, "Pam, you're awake?"

I could see her huddled on the couch. The room reeked of smoke. I sat down across from her. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I could see her more clearly. "You've been with her for two long years."

She took a long drag off her cigarette. The cherry lit up her face. Her eyes were red, almost glowing. I waited to speak. She reached for the ashtray and piece of her long bleach blond hair fell from behind her ear. She smashed the butt into the tray.

She grabbed a cigarette pack from the side table. "You know..." She slapped the pack against her palm. "I've known all along." Slowly she unwrapped the clear cellophane from the pack. The crackling noise echoed throughout the room.

Pam looked strait at me. One eyebrow shot up, "You thought the two of you were so smart--hiding the truck, meeting at bars, going to hotels--you must of thought I was stupid."



Draft 2:

Jess pulled into the gravel driveway and killed the lights. As he rounded the curve he noticed a light in the front room. He gripped the steering wheel tightly and closed his eyes. "Crap!"

He killed the engine and grabbed his briefcase. As he opened the door he caught a whiff of his jacket. Maura's sweet scent, he inhaled deeply and sighed.

Jess stepped out onto the gravel. It crunched beneath him. Maybe she's sleeping, he thought. He placed his brief on the seat and slid off his jacket. He held it to his nose and smelled it, then threw it in the cab.

As he stepped onto the porch he fumbled through his keys for the door. It opened. Pam stood there with her arms folded across her chest. Their eyes met. She had been crying.

"Two years!" Her voice cracked. Tears welled up in her eyes. "I can't believe you could do this to us." Jess reached for the screen door, it was latched.



Draft 3:

Maura slid her arm across the bed. Jess bent over and traced his finger down her spine. "I have to go." Maura pushed herself up and slid near him.

She wrapped her arms around his neck. He moved in closer and she brushed her lips against his. "Please don't leave." Jess pressed his lips to hers and kissed her. "I gotta go!"

Maura stood up. The moonlight lit up her milky skin. She pressed her body against his. "You work too much." Their eyes met. "Are you seeing someone else?" Jess laughed.

"You know I only have eyes for you." He knelt down and grabbed his shirt off the floor. He kissed her belly and slowly stood up. "My pager went off. There's a problem in shipping. I have to go."

"Well, at least let me make you some coffee." Maura started to put on her robe. He stopped her. "No, you go back to sleep. I'll call you in the morning."



Draft 4:

The full moon lit up the gravel drive. Pam sat in darkness of the porch waiting. She took a drag off her cigarette and exhaled. The smoke circled through the leaves of a nearby oleander. She watched the smoke dance in the moonlight until it was gone.

She sighed and took another drag. Tears built up in her eyes. "I'm not going to let him see me cry!" She pressed the palm of her hands across her eyes.

Jess's truck pulled up. The lights were off. Pam sat up tall on the bench swing, crushing her butt into an ashtray. She pulled her hair behind her ears and wiped her eyes once more.

Slowly and quietly Jess closed the truck door. He walked lightly up to the porch, but the gravel shuffled up beneath his feet. "Damn gravel," he whispered to himself.

"No need to be so quiet!" Pam's voice startled him. "What are you doing out here?"
"Waiting for you."
"Oh...I had to work la..."
"Two years!" Pam exploded.



Draft 5:

Maura slid a key into the glass door. The latched hesitated and clunked when it released. "They really need to fix that." She pulled on the handle and ran in; dropping her bags on the floor. An alarm beeped echoing through the empty room. She opened a box on the wall and killed it.

She picked up her bags and walked throughout the bar turning on the neons. The jukebox kicked on. Maura glance over to it, "Aerosmith! Never too early for that."

The door opened. "Is it too early to get a drink?" The familiar voice startled her. "Jess, what are you doing here? Shouldn't you be working?"

"I just had to see you, babe." Jess walked toward her. She flung her arms around his neck and kissed him. She whispered softly, "I missed you last night." He kissed her again, "Now, how about that drink?"






Now, I'd like to throw a draft title out there. Something I've been tossing around is The Betrayal. I think that's been used before though. It sounds very familiar to me. But it fits rather nicely, I think.

How about Betrayer or Seducer? Perhaps one word titles are too short. Wicked Heart? Would that work? I don't know. Callous Betrayal? Well that's 5 titles, but I think I may come up with 5 more before I make a decision on it.

Continued next Workshop Wednesday...








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March 10, 2008

Backlinks: The Chains Part Three

In Backlinks: The Chains Part Two, we talked about stats and I discussed the tracker Who Links to Me? At the end I mentioned another site I was looking into. The site is StatCounter.

StatCounter logs visitors to your site, blog, or pages. Most of us are familiar with blogrush, which shows you the clickthroughs you are getting on particular articles through blogrush. Who links to me? Tells you who's linking to you. Feedburner is good for some statistic action also.

All of that's great, but I want to know a few other things. How am I being found? What keywords are working and which aren't? Like most of the tools I mention here, StatCounter is free for the basic service; if you want to log more, you have to pay.

Along with a page view counter you get keyword analysis, which tells you what people are searching for to get to your site. Popular pages tells you which pages people are hitting on the most. Entry sites tells you which pages they come in at, whether its the home or another page. There's a lot of other more complicated stuff you can use, but I'm more interested in the keyword statistics.

Unlike Who Links to Me? You have to register this tool and set up an account. I think it's more geared toward those selling through their site. But some of the SEO information is useful for the web writing aspect.





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March 7, 2008

Protect Yourself from Plagiarism ©

Lately you may have noticed I've been changing up the blog again. Widening the margins, playing with html, adding an index. Hey, it's a woman's prerogative.

One of the latest things I found hopping around to different blogs is Copyscape. Copyscape is a plagiarism deterrent tool. I saw the badge clicked it and checked it out because I'm just curious that way.

Notice the © symbol next to the title? The html for it is & copy ; of course the spaces have to be removed between the &, copy and ; for it to work for you.

You may have also noticed the pink banner and the little badge:

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Now for the badges, banners, and a variety of choices for your blog, go to COPYSCAPE to get your code. The basic stuff is free, you know how cheap I am. With the free service you get 10 lookups for your pages per month. For unlimited lookup service you must pay.

For Blogger users, once you pick your individual page badge, copy it and go to "Customize." Click the "Settings" tab. Hit "Formatting" and scroll down to "Post Template" and paste the code you picked up at Copyscape there. Remember to save your changes.

Now every time you go to create a new post you will see the badge in your blogger editor. You can keep it at the top of your post or hard return it to have it on the bottom.

You may also want a banner for your main blog page as I did. For inserting one there, go to the "Layout" tab and select "Add a page element." Select the "HTML/Java Script" and paste your selected banner code there. You can keep the banner on the side, on top or bottom of your posts.

Using Copyscape is easy. You just copy the address for your blog page from the URL and paste it in the block on the main page at Copyscape. Hit search and you will see if your page has been copied anywhere. You can then check the page to see if there is a link back to you for credit.

Pretty useful tool and a good deterrent against plagiarism.

As the Internet grows it is important that we protect our work. Would you leave your house without locking the door? You should consider your efforts here the same as you do your home and protect them.

March 5, 2008

Unleashing the Muse ©

I've been reading a lot of stories. Not only on the blogs, but at AC and a few other forums I visit. The most appealing are those that touch reality. I can sense the truth of the story. I can relate to the character and the scenario that surrounds them.

Taking that into consideration, what makes a good story? Is it making real life into fiction? How do you do that?

I took creative writing in college. We were often given exercises to draw creativity out from within. Use your imagination, the prof would always say. Use words to bring your characters to life...

Now, I know my writing has leaned more toward the help/guide/how-to genre. Especially what I submit to AC. What I log here has been what I'm learning as I try to grasp the marketing/promotion faction. But I want to touch on my creative side--tap into my Muse...

So, I've been doing some spring cleaning, just as fellow blogger Conda has suggested. Her post Spring Cleaning Tips inspired me to hit some shelves in the laundry. One project I tackled was a box of papers. Most of it I threw out as the stuff was junk. Amidst the junk, I did find a short story I wrote a long, long time ago.

The story is about a man that has an affair. Common, I know. There are three main characters: the man, the wife, and the mistress. The story is true.

I want to work on this story here every Wednesday. For the blog, I'm going to tag it as Workshop Wednesday. I'll be using some short story exercises to try to bring the story out of it's dust laden origin and make it a shining star.

I'm also testing some of these writing books I've got shelved before me to see if they're worth a grain of salt. Most of these books say to start with an idea. Check! I've got that pinned down. I've even got a rough draft to work with!

Now comes the tough part, the process. Should I do excerpts? Put the whole shebang on a post and edit the post with each exercise? Just do the exercises and post a finally?

I don't know if I want to put the whole thing out there just yet. It needs some work and I don't want to embarrass myself. Excerpts might work for now along with exercises.

I guess I'll just start this and see where it takes me.



The exercises are coming from Turning Life Into Fiction by Robin Hemley. I want to concentrate on this book because the title says it all. I'm not following the exact order of the exercises, I've never been one to follow directions.

Since the story is a draft, I'm going to start in the chapter about revisions. I may end up trashing the whole thing, but we'll see where it goes.

An emphasis is made about structure.
  • Stories tapped from memory can be too episodic--got it.
  • Don't relate various episodes from life and call it a story--okay.
  • Make it cause and effect, it doesn't have to be obvious but it has to be there--sure.
  • Give the story direction.

Some suggestions are made about giving the story five different titles, five different beginnings, five different outlines, and five different endings. Holy guacamole I've got a lot of work to do.

To start off, I don't have title one yet. I want to wait on that, I think. Here is the first bit of the story:

"Two years!" A familiar voice broke the silence of the moonlit room. I closed the door behind me and reached for the light switch. "Don't turn them on." I threw my keys onto the sofa table, "Pam, you're awake?"

I could see her huddled on the couch. The room reeked of smoke. I sat down across from her. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I could see her more clearly. "You've been with her for two long years."

She took a long drag off her cigarette. The cherry lit up her face. Her eyes were red, almost glowing. I waited to speak. She reached for the ashtray and piece of her long bleach blond hair fell from behind her ear. She smashed the butt into the tray.

She grabbed a cigarette pack from the side table. "You know..." She slapped the pack against her palm. "I've known all along." Slowly she unwrapped the clear cellophane from the pack. The crackling noise echoed throughout the room.

Pam looked strait at me. One eyebrow shot up, "You thought the two of you were so smart--hiding the truck, meeting at bars, going to hotels--you must of thought I was stupid."

Over the next week I'm going to try to rewrite this beginning five times. Should the man's name come out early like hers? Is it moving too slow? Does the scene work? Should the lights be on?

Continued on Wednesday...



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March 3, 2008

Summertime Memories and Plans


I've been thinking about summer. The other day my husband and I were discussing the feasibility of our yearly vacation. We may have to shorten our trip to a long weekend instead of the week we usually take. The girls will be disappointed.



The last few years my in laws have joined us. We all have a fine time playing on the beach and enjoying down time together. Their being there has advantages beyond family bonding time; they can babysit!

If we go, I don't know that we'll bring the boat. In spite of the desire to fish off shore, the last three years we hauled it there only to have it sit in the parking lot. Which is really sad to say. There would either be rain or small water craft advisories keeping us out of the water.

Last year we did get to take it for a cruise down the channel. We drove through this beautiful water community. Those houses were amazing.



A funny thing happened to us while we were on that short cruise, the boat decided it did not want to run at full power. So we just putted along the entire time.



When the vacation ended we took the boat out on the lake to troubleshoot it. That sucker ran like a bat out of hell. We determined that our salt water fishing rig only likes fresh water.

I guess the same goes for boats as it does for people: There's no place like home!

In all reality, I could make my home at the coast. The boat may not like it, but who cares what the boat wants. There's nothing like the feeling of sand between my toes. I feel so alive when I run into the water and jump the waves.

Imagine how great it would be to comb the beach everyday. Think of the treasures the girls and I could find. I could even get one of those metal detector things to help me find riches beyond my wildest dreams!

I guess there would be a down side or two. The humidity is unbelievable. Sand pretty much gets into everything regardless of what you do. Groceries seem to be more expensive there too.

Well I can fantasize if I want to.

I wrote an article about Port Aransas a while back: Port Aransas, Texas: A Fall or Winter Vacation Destination. I've been thinking about other articles on the subject. Perhaps I could write a series of articles pinpointing hot spots, fishing spots, night life...That article is general and covered a broad topic call for content that AC asked for in their newsletter.

Now the wheels are turning. How inspirational!


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