Friday, December 22, 2006

Registrations now open

This year I attended the Muse Online Writers Conference. It was a huge success with over 1000 presenters and attendees taking part in this innovative way to network with people across the industry.

Registrations are now open for the Muse Online Writers Conference 2007, which will take place from October 8 through October 14. If you are serious about your writing career, don't let this opportunity pass you by. Click on the link and register today.


Monday, December 18, 2006

Do toy manufacturers hate parents?

If you are the parents of small children you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. Why is it that toy manufacturers place their products in packaging more secure than Fort Knox?

When the child unwraps her first new toy all she wants to do is rip it open. Being the smart parent you are, you manage through kicking and screaming to convince her to open the rest of the gifts under the tree first. Big mistake, because it will take you at least half and hour to release the contents of each gift from its packaging.

Now, when I was a kid (oh gosh, I sound like a grandmother), there were two flimsy twistie ties holding the contents inside a box which had a single, thin piece of tape on one end. Today, removing the tape is the easiest part of the process. Both ends of the box are now secured with packing tape which is stronger than anything you can buy at Staples. You are forced to wade through piles of presents, torn wrapping paper, and bows in order to get to a pair of scissors or a pen knife to slice through it. Of course, some manufacturers don't bother with the tape; they use an adhesive on the box which works so well that you are guaranteed of losing at least one fingernail as you attempt to pry the edges of the box apart. Amazingly enough, the glue leaves no room to wiggle in the thinest knife to help you open the box.

You have this sense of accomplishment after finally getting into the darn thing. That soon fades when you pull the cardboard insert out of the box and find each of the half a dozen items is secured with no less than three wire cable ties, plastic film (to hold down the doll's hair) which is sewed into the back of the insert, and any small accessories are inside a separate plastic piece glued to the cardboard.

I have to admit I don't know if the cable ties are fastened by hand or machine, but if people are involved I can just imagine all the fun they are having as they twist the ends in opposite directions and often tie them in a knot. "Let's see them undo this one," I can hear the factory worker saying with an evil grin. Just when you think you have figured out which way the twistie ties go, you find you have actually turned the ends so the product is even more secured than before. After cursing, you undo what you did and start over.

I guess if untwisting the ties was the end of it, I could handle that...but it's not. After the cable ties are unfastened you still have to pry them off the tiny black plastic pieces with holes that they thread the cable ties through. Since these ties are not made of plastic, when they are twisted it causes bends in the wire which are all but impossible to pull through the little holes in the plastic pieces. So for a while you straighten out the little wire cable ties and hope you have worked out enough of the kinks to be able to pull them out...but you haven't. Cursing once more, you start yanking on the darn things so hard you think you will break the toy. When that fails to result in success, you break a pair of scissors cutting the wires because who knows where in the heck your wire cutters are at the hour when your kids forced you out of bed to open gifts.

Once you get all the cable ties off, you are almost done. The plastic film which secures the hair inside the box - I guess dolls don't like to have bad hair days - can be carefully removed by cutting through a bit of the string that holds it to the box. If by chance you cut one bit of hair off the doll's head however, your child will proceed to toss herself on the floor, kicking and screaming, until you agree to glue it back on somehow.

And then you come to the last piece of the puzzle - the plastic holding all the little accessories into the box. I don't remember dolls coming with so many accessories when I was a kid. It could be because I preferred hot wheels cars to all the dolls my poor mother bought trying to convert me into a real girl, but Barbie came with a pair of shoes, a purse, and studded earrings. Nowadays, in addition to all that stuff, Barbie, Bratz, and any other popular doll comes with no less than six tiny accessories which serve no purpose other than to cause parents grief when they are lost five minutes after they are extracted from the box. And since it is a labor of love which removes them from their packaging, you would think the manufacturers would put a carrying case inside.

You see, when you remove the plastic holder from the box you think you are home free. But here is where they get you - the plastic is actually not one piece, it's two. One piece fits into the other and they are taped together with some skinny tape which is almost impossible to cut. If you are lucky enough not to find tape holding both pieces together, then you can be assured there will be tape running across the inside to hold all the little accessories in place - as if they could go anywhere.

So after half an hour of listening to the pounding noises of your child jumping up and down in anticipation, and screams of, "I want to play with it now," you can move on to the next toy which will take you another half an hour to extract from its packaging.

Kind of makes you want to buy nothing but socks, don't it?

Enjoy your holiday!

Labels: , ,

Monday, December 11, 2006

My Latest Article

Hey gang,

My article "Bust through Holiday Stress and Keep Writing" now appears on the Writer2Writer site. Here is the link -

I hope you'll check it out and let me know what you think.


Labels: , ,

Friday, December 01, 2006

Bye, bye NaNo. See you next year.

Well NaNo is officially over. There were over 12,900 winners. I was not one of them, but I am still thrilled at what I did. The NaNo site posted the official word count for 2006 at 982,495,939. Wow! That's a lot of words. I checked out some of the word counts for the winners and was surprised to see how many surpassed the 50K goal by another 50K.

As for me, I pounded out 15,181 words, and I am darn proud. I think it took me over eight years to get the same amout written for my first novel. And I am still excited about what I will do with this novel over the next few months. My plan is to finish it by December 31. A lofty goal with Christmas coming, but I figure if they can hold NaNo during the month of Thanksgiving and Black Friday, then I can try to complete my novel during the busiest time of year.

My first attempt at NaNo turned out to be a great experience and I can't wait until next year. I think I'll start planning now.