The return of Pig in a Poke … call for submissions!

Announcing  Pig in a Poke— a literary magazine of poetry and fiction. New and resurrected! Brought to you by Harry Calhoun, the publisher of the ‘80s underground magazine Pig in a Poke, and guess who? Little ‘ol me: fiction writer Trina Allen.

“The Pig” featured work by Charles Bukowski, Jim Daniels, Louis McKee, lyn lifshin, Judson Crews and many more.

This new literary journal in electronic format is looking for writers with passion — poets, storytellers, essayists and others. Harry will pick the poems and literary essays, and I will select the fiction.

I am now a Web master. Wow! I spent the last week learning how to use Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) to develop Web sites. I learned enough to start up Pig and a Poke and also find out how much I don’t know about CSS. I hope my first attempt at using CSS is successful. Let me know what you think. I’d love suggestions. I now know that the pages look different on PCs, laptops, and probably Macs. Let me know if the home page doesn’t look like the image above on your computer.

Go Pig!

I’ve also organized a fiction writing group for Raleigh area writers. I’m looking forward to the discipline the group will give me. Perhaps now I can post more often about my publications. I have a new story out in April. More on that next time.

I hope I have time for it all. Maybe sleep is overrated.

Domain Registry of America Scam

This post is a warning for anyone with a Web site. I received a deceptive notice yesterday from Domain Registry of America (DRoA). See image below. It made me so angry that I had to write this post about DRoA. The notice came by snail mail in an envelope with my correct name and address–which really ticked me off–and included a return envelope for payment. The notice looks like a bill and was written to scare me into changing my domain name registry: “You must renew your domain name to retain exclusive rights to it on the Web, and now is the time to transfer and renew your name from your current Registrar to the Domain Registry of America. Failure to renew your domain name by the expiration date may result in a loss of your online identify…”

I went to the Web site given in the letter: to find that the company offers “free” Web hosting for the lifetime of your domain. Free indeed! You can register your domain for only $30 for a year, with the rate adjusted to save if you sign up for three to five years. It is a scam. A scam that 50,000 Canadians fell prey to in 2003.

I learned from The Register that following an investigation by The Federal Trade commission, Domain Registry of America based in Ontario, Canada, was prohibited from making misrepresentations in the marketing of its domain name registration. Well DRoA is up to its old tricks and they obviously have my address.

There is no need for me to renew my domain name, and certainly not with DRoA. I have a Geocities Web site hosted by Yahoo. I pay a small monthly fee, but you can build a Web site for free through Yahoo with no need to pay for registering the domain name. Other sites offer similar free sites. I have no intention of switching. But this trick probably works quite well with people who have no clue how the Domain Name System (DNS) works.

DRoA have been fooling people since at least 2002, as the Domain Registry of America, of Canada, of Europe and of Australia. They’ve also used the names, Internet Registry of Canada, Domain Registry Services, and Registration Services Incorporated. There is even a site dedicated to “inform internet users of the continuing saga of ‘Registration Services Incoporated'”.

According to the site this company first started sending out fake domain renewal letters to domain holders, using information illegally harvested from various WHOIS databases (mainly the Tucows OpenSRS database) in 2002.
The DRoA Web site lists contact addresses for them in North America, England, and Australia.

New computer angst and bad writing

It’s been about two weeks since I’ve worked on my novel in progress. Not because I’ve been a slacker, but because I was forced to change directions, temporarily. About two weeks ago Harry’s computer crashed, at least we thought it did. He sat down to the blank screen of death and when he tried to manually turn it on–nothing. He tried unplugging it, but when he plugged it back in, his PC made a moaning whirring noise—not good. Turns out, it was his on/off switch. He decided it was more economical to buy a new computer than pay the hundred bucks to fix it. Since Harry works for IBM, he could get a refurbished PC for a little over twice what it would cost to fix his old one.

So what does my husband’s computer problem have to do with my NIP? The answer is in this question, “Do you want a new computer too?”


I didn’t even think about it before answering. Didn’t want to go through the hassle of transferring all my documents to a new computer—little did I know that was the least of my worries.

So, I sat waiting for Outlook to open so that I could read my e-mail, tapping my fingers on my desk top and reconsidering. My PC was slow. It had a 20 GB hard drive with 512 ram memory. My PC only had 5% free space and that was after I’d added memory cards a couple years ago to bump up the ram. Knowing that it was only a matter of time until it crashed, I backed up all my work regularly on memory sticks. I needed a new computer. Still, I waffled. Until Harry found such a sweet deal on two computers, I couldn’t pass it up.

I’m typing this post on a refurbished IBM computer with 71.8 GB of space! I have 78% free space as opposed to only 5 on my old PC. It is awesome. It took me only five minutes to transfer all my Word files (over 175,000 words) and pictures onto it. No problems there at all. File transfer is quick. Surfing the net is quick. Opening programs, booting up, all at record speed.

And that’s were the good news ends. This is an IBM PC, so it came with Lotus SmartSuite. Sorry IBM, but in my opinion Lotus Word Pro is an inferior knock-off of Microsoft Word. I refuse to use it. Likewise, Microsoft Outlook far exceeds Lotus for e-mail use and storage. So I loaded my Microsoft Office onto the new PC, no problem took about 3 minutes. However, I lost all my shortcuts and the default smart tags were driving me crazy until I turned them off. It’ll take a while to get my Word back the way I like it. Irritating, but still minor in exchange for the faster speed.

Downloading Norton 2008 yesterday was not minor. It was a three hour process. It took me that long to download all the updates I needed for my computer to be compatible with Norton. When Norton install gave me the message that I needed Windows XP Service Pack 2 before it could finish installing, I visited thinking I’d spend only a few minutes. Was I wrong. My “new” refurbished PC did not qualify for the Windows XP SP2 update. I had to install other updates before I could install Service Pack 2 and then download Norton. By the time I was done, it was three hours later.

I should ‘a paid a pro to load my entire hard drive onto my “new” computer. As Samantha Jones said on Sex and the City, “Should ‘a, could ‘a, would ‘a.” Next time I buy a new computer—probably when hell goes through an ice age—I’ll know better. On the other hand, I saved hundreds of dollars by spending my own time updating the refurbished PC.

One good thing that came as a result of my “new” PC is that in the process of organizing documents to move, I read through some of my old work. I also deleted a lot of unnecessary files. Why was I keeping ten drafts of a story? A first and last draft is probably all I’ll ever need.

Okay, so here’s where the bad writing comes in. I understand why I’ve earned 135 rejections. As I discussed in a previous post I’m a better writer, now, than I was when I earned all those rejections. And, my query letters for some of my early work sucked, big time. I tended to summarize and ramble, not hook the reader. (My stories still tend to ramble at times, but I’m working on it).

I cringe at the query letter for my first novel that I sent in 2002. It begins
I want you to be my agent. I know you represent women’s fiction, contemporary issues, and horror genres of fiction, and I think you would be the perfect agent for Within, because it is all three.

Not, “I would be honored if you would represent me,” but “I want…” I am embarrassed to have sent that query. I have stopped looking for an agent/publisher for that first novel. I realize the writing is awful. I had written an autobiography and then tried to fictionalize it. It didn’t work—duh, that’s not how you write fiction. Writing that first novel did help me to learn the art of writing fiction, though.

Here’s part of an equally bad query letter that I sent to an editor in 2001 for a chapter of the novel as a stand-alone story, Within. It is five single spaced paragraphs long. No greeting, btw, the letter just starts. Needless to say, the chapter didn’t get published.

When Kari walked into the doctor’s office Mom and Dad looked very serious. “Kari you have spherocytosis. It is a hereditary blood disease,” Dad told her. “That is why you’ve been sick lately. Your mother has it. That is why she had her spleen removed when she was nineteen.” Kari felt a weird emptiness in her stomach like she was riding a roller coaster. Her hands were sweaty. She knew she was scared. Kari knew her mom had a scar on her stomachf rom her chest to her navel.

This is from “Spherocytosis,” which is a chapter from the novel, Within. It is a true story of an adolescent hero. The story is set in Florissant, Missouri. Kari and her eight-year-old sister are diagnosed with spherocytosis, ahereditary blood disease. The disease and surgery to have her spleen removed are described from Kari’s thirteen-year-old perspective. Kari is a true hero. Kari is the oldest of five sisters. Kari’s mother is “sick” from apersonality disorder, paranoid schizophrenia. Kari and her younger sister take over the caregiver roles of their younger siblings. Kari’s youngest sibling is born in this chapter. …

The letter went on for three more paragraphs like that. Why not just hit the editor over the head. It would probably be less painless. Wow! I’m laughing so hard at myself right now I’m crying. Talk about repetition and wordiness and telling, not showing. I didn’t notice “a hereditary” in the second line and three glaring spacing typos in just the first two overly long paragraphs. The writing in the chapter isn’t any better than the query. It is not surprising I wasn’t getting published.

I’ll end this post with part of the last paragraph from the horrible “Spherocytosis” query letter.

I have taught middle school for thirteen years, currently in North Carolina. I have a bachelor’s degree in education from the State University of New York, where I graduated Summa Cum Laude. I have a master’s in Reading Education, also from SUNY Cortland. I have written math and science curriculum for Orange County School district in North Carolina and DeRuyter School District in New York. I have …

Gad zukes! I have … I have … I have … learned a little bit since 2001. Notice I didn’t list a writing class in my credentials. Should ‘a, could ‘a, would ‘a.

Surfing the Net

It’s been awhile since I had time to post an entry to this blog. I’ve managed to start work on a short story loosely based on the events of the past month, but otherwise I’m in survival mode — see previous blog entry. Life happens. Parents — who you thought would live forever — pass away unexpectedly. Furnaces need to be replaced. Cars get banged and need fixing. Doctors want to be paid.

So I decided to write an entry on the effects of stress on the mind, behavior, and the body, including its effects on the immune system and cancer. I learned that tumors grow faster in experimental animals subjected to stress than they do in unstressed control animals. But soon after I started researching the effects of stress, I realized that there were so many that I’d better wait until I had time to write a coherent blog entry on why I’ve been existing in an zombie state.

So I did what I always do to take a break, I started surfing the Net. I decided to post some of the stuff that I found interesting in my brief excursion into current science.

I read that global warming will hit the poorest the hardest. So developing countries that don’t burn fossil fuels or create the environmental crisis will suffer the most. Even global warming is discriminating against the poor. But then I read that total destruction of forests may cool Earth. So maybe global warming is not a problem. What, global warming could make Earth spin faster. My head is spinning faster.

Then I read new thinking about the death of sunlike stars and how old stars could be masquerading as youngsters. I feel old. So I take a break from astronomy and decide to do some reading about health.

I learn that smokers take more sick time than nonsmokers. Well, duh! Who wouldn’t guess that. But then I read about this study that shows that cigarettes may protect against Parkinson’s disease. Should I take up smoking? Might help with my recent stress.

So I surf on and read that attempts to cleanse illicit drugs from one’s body by taking large doses of niacin can cause life-threatening reactions. Bad news for all those marijuana smokers out there. I guess I better not try to use drugs either, to counteract my stress. Perhaps I’ll try food instead. Yes, I found a recipe for healthier pizza. Who knew that cooking pizza longer and hotter could increase the antioxidant activity in the pizza ? Now I’m hungry and I’m no where near an oven. Oh well, back to work.

Effects of climate change tallied up
Increased drought, flood and disease ‘will hit poorest hardest’.

Climate change is having an impact now on our planet and its life, according to the latest installment of a report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). And the future problems caused by rising seas, growing deserts and more frequent droughts, all look set to affect the developing world more than rich countries, they add.

Total destruction of forests predicted to cool Earth
Large-scale deforestation — long fingered as a contributing factor in climate change — could cool Earth, say the researchers behind one of the first attempts to model the phenomenon at a global scale.

Global warming will make Earth spin faster
Of all the possible ways in which climate change could affect our planet, this is the most bizarre: as the oceans warm up, Earth will start rotating a wee bit faster, reducing the length of a day.

New thinking on the death of sunlike stars
Chemical reactions during formation of stardust could help solve mystery
When stars like our sun die, they bloat to become red giants and then eject gigantic clouds of gas and dust into space. Increasingly, however, scientists found themselves at a profound loss to explain how exactly dying stars could blow away these clouds.

Galaxy’s ‘wunderkind’ stars may actually be old pro’s
‘Young’ stars that seem to have formed impossibly close to our galaxy’s supermassive black hole could in fact be ancient interlopers merely masquerading as youngsters, a new study claims.

Patterns: Smokers Take More Sick Time Than Nonsmokers, Study Says
Smokers take more than a week more annual sick leave than nonsmokers, a new study suggests.

Do coffee and cigarettes protect against Parkinson’s?
People with Parkinson’s disease are less likely to be smokers and coffee drinkers than their healthy siblings, according to a study of family members. The finding adds to a growing body of evidence that some substance in tobacco might protect the brain against this devastating neurological disorder and sheds new light on coffee’s effects on the disease.
Researchers say the study provides new evidence that the causes of Parkinson’s vary. They also stress that the negative health effects of smoking far outweigh any protective effect the substance might have against this neurodegenerative disease.

Not-So-Artful Dodgers: Countering drug tests with niacin proves dangerous
Attempts to hide illicit drug use by taking niacin have landed four people in Philadelphia hospitals over the past 2 years, two with life-threatening reactions to high doses of the nutrient, doctors report.

Niacin, also known as vitamin B3, plays roles in digestion, hormone production, skin upkeep, and nervous system maintenance. Because the vitamin promotes fat metabolism, doctors sometimes give niacin in large doses to people with high concentrations of cholesterol and triglycerides. That property has led some people to believe that niacin can also cleanse the body of illicit drugs, particularly marijuana.

Crusty Chemistry
Want to make a piece of pizza healthier? Try using whole-wheat dough. Give it a full 2 days to rise, and then cook the tomato pie a little longer and hotter than usual. That was the recipe shared last week by researchers at the American Chemical Society meeting in Chicago.