Author Archives: Tracy Beltran

About Tracy Beltran

I am a published author. Currently, Images of Betrayal, and Fate and Destiny, are both available on Amazon and at www.secondwindpublishing.com.

Virginia Slims and the Kool-Aid Man by Claire Collins

Oil of Olay’s ads in the late 70’s were so effective that I as a 7 or 8-year-old, thought I needed to use their product. From the commercials, women must all succumb to this horrible tragedy called “wrinkles” which made them look old. My mom got a sample size of the amazing beauty fluid and I used it until it was gone. She wouldn’t buy me a full bottle and over time I forgot to worry about wrinkles.

I was about 5 when my parents quit smoking. It’s hard to believe I remember so much of it so well since I was so young but it was pretty traumatic for me.  I remember lying on the floorboard of the car. Yes – seatbelts were optional back then, and I was very young since I could fit on the floorboard. Yet I remember clearly lying on the floorboard because I was trying to breathe. It was winter and both of my parents were smoking with the windows rolled up. Yuck. But I do remember that my mother smoked Virginia Slims.

I remember so well because they would include these totally cool and amazing Book of Days calendars with each carton of cigarettes. My mother always ended up with lots of extras and I was a voracious reader so she would give them to me. I think I memorized most of them. To me, it was just like getting a prize in a cereal box. That was strong advertising.

I began smoking at 15 and  smoked for 22 years. It’s been 3 years now since I quit.  I always did like that slogan: “You’ve come a long way baby”. Thankfully, all of that Oil of Olay has kept my skin very youthful looking and wrinkle free despite all of that smoking.

What advertising really impacted your life? Not just the ones that you remember, because we all know about the Kool-Aid man, OH YEAH! and that our bologna has a first name (It’s O-S-C-A-R), but the ads that really sunk in to your habits and life? What do you think about the images that children today are exposed to?

Claire Collins is the author of Images of Betrayal  and Fate and Destiny

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Stories to Scare the Young by Claire Collins

Claire Collins is the author of Fate and Destiny and Images of Betrayal.

His ears strained to pick up any strange noises in the surrounding forest. An owl called out asking who he was, but he didn’t respond. Each step brought him closer to the sounds he heard a few moments ago.

His father saw one when he was young, and enjoyed reliving the story as the young ones grew older. He believed his father, but he also wanted to learn about the legend himself. Part of him believed it was just a tale to scare the young, but part of him thought the lore might be true.

He crept forward, cautious not to disturb anything in the woods by his movement. If they were out there, he didn’t want to alert them to his presence. Dad said if they see him, they would eat him. He thought that if he saw them, the fright would scare him so bad that if they wanted to eat him, he wouldn’t be able to put up a fight anyway.

A flickering campfire, circled in by rocks glittered through the trees ahead of him. The air smelled strange, a bitter and musky scent wafted through the air from the fire. He crouched behind a tree, waiting. Watching.

A shriek of laughter split the air and he wanted to turn and flee, but his feet wouldn’t move. Two creatures ran up the hill towards the fire, their grotesque features displayed by the flickers of the flames.

Afraid, he spread his wings and took flight, anxious to get away as fast as possible. His father wasn’t just telling stories. He could barely breathe as his heart threatened to break free as he made his escape, flying into the air over the heads of the creatures,

It was true. Humans were real.

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Dear Emily

For nearly a year, I have had the opportunity to spend a large amount of time working on “Dear Emily: A Memoir ~ My Life in the Fine Stores”.  At the age of 89, Louise Thomas is a spunky woman of the world, living on her own in her beautiful home and taking on new challenges every day. She was also a trend-setter, paving the way for women in the executive world. Not only was her executive world male-dominated, but it was also largely family operated and almost always enjoyable.

Starting out in the department stores of New York in the 1940s, Louise experienced decades of social and economic change, not only in the evolution and decline of the fabulous shopping world, but in the world as a whole as she traveled across continents as a buyer and eventually for enjoyment.

The following excerpt from her memoir gives a glimpse of the New York department stores at their peak:

One April morning, a well-dressed lady stopped by the handkerchief department to purchase an all-over embroidered linen handkerchief for one dollar, asked to have it gift-wrapped, cashed a check for $100 so that she would have lunch money, and requested to have her full-length black mink coat sent to her Park Avenue address. She would be meeting a friend for lunch at Club 21. The temperature had risen which made her long coat a bother. Every detail was met within minutes, accompanied by a smile and a “thank you”.

Sadly, service like that doesn’t exist anymore. 

Ivey's Department store, Downtown Charlotte, North Carolina, 1924

Another excerpt brings the reader into a world surviving under less security and less scrutiny.


Dear Emily,

I wish you could have been with me on Thursday, January 28, 1965. I did a full day’s work at the office in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and then caught an evening flight to Newark and a helicopter to Kennedy airport for an 8 a.m. flight to London. We were scheduled to begin our spring buying trip in Rome, but at the last minute, we were able to switch our destination from Rome to London to attend the funeral of Winston Churchill. 

To the strains of Handel’s “Dead March”, the cortège entered first Parliament Street and on to Whitehall. Here stood hundreds of veterans from the European resistance, French, Belgians, Dutch, Danes, and Norwegians. Their survivors dipped their flags to the man whose voice had brought them hope. Next, the procession passed a house with two outside lights burning, No. 10 Downing St, passed the statue of Nelson in Trafalgar Square, up Fleet Street headed toward Ludgate Hill where we were fortunate to have front row positions not far from the massive cathedral. Everywhere one looked, there were people and more people all with one purpose—to honor their fallen hero, their protector.

The cortège carried the flag-wrapped casket up the narrow street—no more than five or six feet from us. Behind followed the veil-draped Lady Churchill and her daughter, Sarah. They were riding in the Queen’s carriage on loan from the owners. The creeping carriage stopped immediately in front of us. We could easily have touched the carriage. It was that close. We were a block away from the cathedral.

Louise also gives us an idea of what happened to the glorious days of service:

Dear Emily,

Does it all make sense now? So what really happened to a fine institution, born in Europe, perfected in America, and all but extinct in little more than one century? There is no simple answer.

Louise’s account of her life in the fine stores, speckled with tales of her adventurous travel and insights into business, history, and day-to-day life during the past eighty years is presented as letters and pictures to her lifelong friend Emily. I encourage readers to settle in for a trip into the past as they read Dear Emily: A Memoir ~ My Life in the Fine Stores. I’m glad I took the trip. I now have memories of Louise and the fine stores that I will never forget.

See also: Woman Writes of How She Did it Her Way in Heyday of Downtown Business

~Tracy Beltran is the Administrator for Second Wind Publishing. She also writes as Claire Collins and her books, Fate and Destiny,  and Images of Betrayal are available from http://www.secondwindpublishing.com, as well as a variety of e-book applications, Amazon, and Kindle.  Grab a copy of Louise’s Dear Emily while you’re there.

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I Wish I Were a Cat by Claire Collins

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I want to be a housecat.

I mean really, is there a better life than to be a pampered fat cat?

Let’s think about this for just a minute.

I wake up from my early morning nap when I hear an alarm clock going off. When the human walks out of their room, I weave in and out of their feet trying to trip them so they can see the world from my point of view.

If they make it into the kitchen to start a pot of coffee, I’ll be right there yowling around their ankles until the noise penetrates their sleeping ears and they fill up my food and water bowls. Then the human can go away while I enjoy my breakfast and take my morning nap.

When I wake up, the humans have all left my house and I can sit in any windowsill I choose. I stretch out all of my feline muscles while my sharpened claws are hooked in the upholstery of the living room couch.

I take my early afternoon nap, eat some more, then go lay in a human bed to groom myself, making sure to lick away all of the loose hair and other nasties so I’m nice and clean.

Then it’s naptime again.  After that, I stroll across the kitchen counters and table, looking for leftover scraps or those yummy breakfast dishes the young humans leave when they go to school.

Then it’s naptime.

Around the time I wake up, humans return to my house so I lounge around on the floor like the good kitty they think I am.

Periodically, I’d need to use the litter box, and when I cover my mess, I’d get to throw litter all over the floor. What do I care? I don’t have to clean it up. Once a week, the humans will put fresh litter in there and sweep up my mess.

When I want to be stroked, I only have to rub my furry face against a human and I get instant gratification.

Of course, when the humans are home, unless I’m eating, using the litter box, or being rubbed, I will spend all of my time napping.

When they go to bed, I will spend my time playing. My favorite game will involve rolling a marble across the tile floor just outside the adult human’s bedroom.

Meow.

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Puppy Love by Claire Collins

Puppy Love

Puppy Love is a short story written by Claire Collins for the Love is on the Wind anthology.

Puppy Love

She slammed her fist on the desk.  If her computer crashed one more time, she wouldn’t be able to stop herself from throwing the whole thing out the window. Lisa pushed away from the heavy mahogany desk and left the office after rebooting the computer for the third time that morning. She carried her coffee cup, intent on infusing more caffeine into her system.  Passing through the living room from the office on the way to the kitchen, she stopped. A scratching noise came from the front door. The sound was accompanied by yipping.

Lisa put her cup on the coffee table and opened the front door.  A blast of cold March morning air entered the house. Lisa shivered and wrapped her flannel shirt around her tighter. On the other side of the security screen, a little pile of fur looked up at her with doleful eyes. It wagged its tail.

“Look how cute you are,” Lisa said. “You must be lost.” The tail wagged and the dog scratched at the door again. A pink bow adorned the top of the dog’s head, tied securely into the mounds of soft, fluffy, white fur surrounding the inquisitive face. Someone took very good care of the little dog. Lisa couldn’t see a collar through the screen. It must be hidden under the layers of fur.  She could make a quick phone call and get back to dismantling her computer with a sledge-hammer in no time. She opened the wrought iron security screen.

Lisa didn’t know little dogs could be so quick. The dog bounded past her legs and straight into the house. Lisa’s cry of surprise didn’t stop the dog that leapt onto the couch and curled into a ball, her sad eyes watching Lisa.

“Okay, Pup,” Lisa crooned from the front door she still held open. “You need to go home. You can’t get comfortable here. Someone will be very worried about you.”

The dog tipped her head and listened, but didn’t bother to get off the sofa. Lisa let go of the security door. She took a step closer to the dog.

“C’mon girl,” Lisa kept her voice cheery. “Let’s go home.” She opened the screen door and pointed outside. The dog didn’t move. Lisa’s mouth quirked, maybe the dog wasn’t used to the soft approach. Lisa assumed she belonged to some little old lady, but maybe not.

“Down!” Lisa commanded. The dog’s ears came up, but she didn’t move. Lisa let go of the door again and strode to the couch. The dog crouched, and when Lisa got close enough, the little furball snapped at her. Then it barked. Lisa jumped back.

“Oh no, you didn’t just try to bite me, did you?”  The dog barked again, put her front paws straight out, her back end up in the air, and wagged her tail. Her little mouth opened and her head moved back and forth.

Lisa laughed. “Oh! You’re playing aren’t you?” The tail moved faster. Lisa extended her open hand, palm up, to the dog. She received a lick and a happy yip for her efforts. The dog wriggled on the couch as Lisa scratched around the furry ears, her fingers rubbing against the collar.

“I knew you’d have a collar on, you cute little thing.” Lisa smiled and pet the dog under her chin with one hand while the other lifted the heart-shaped tag hanging from the center front of the collar.

“Cuddles, huh?” Lisa eyed the little dog that barked and jumped with excitement when Lisa said her name. Lisa resumed petting the dog so she could grab the tag again and find the dog’s owner.

“Phone number on the back,” Lisa smiled at Cuddles. “I love responsible pet owners. That’s why I don’t have any pets. I don’t need the responsibility and you need to go home.”

Lisa wrote the number on the scratch pad on the end table by the couch. She peeled the paper from the pad and carried it to her office in search of her cell phone. Cuddles followed, her paws softly padding across the tile. With her pretty bow, trimmed hair, and clipped nails, Cuddles spent more time primping than Lisa did.

Her cell phone was charging on her desk. Tucking her feet under her, Lisa curled into her office chair and dialed the number. After the first ring, a recorded message came on the line.

“Utoh Cuddles,” Lisa looked at the little ball of fluff on the floor. “The number’s been disconnected. I guess your owner isn’t as responsible as I thought.”

Cuddles stood on her back legs, her front paws on the seat of the chair. Lisa scooped her up, putting the dog in her lap.

“I guess I’m going to have to call the pound to come get you. Your owner will probably call them when they can’t find you.”

Lisa moved the mouse on her computer to look up the number. The computer didn’t respond, the image of a partially created and unsaved design plan frozen on the screen.

She emitted a bad word under her breath. Somewhere around there, she had a real paper phone book, but she had no idea where it was. She picked up the phone again to call Information for the number. Before she could flip the phone open, Cuddles jumped from Lisa’s lap, barking furiously as she raced down the hall. Lisa unfolded from the chair and went after the dog. She arrived in the living room in time to see Cuddles scratching at the security door and barking. An angry-looking large man strode up the sidewalk. Lisa reached the front door before the man could rap his thick knuckles against the unlocked screen.

“Can I help you?” Lisa’s voice was firm even though she was shaking on the inside. The man was huge, at least six foot five inches tall and solid as a brick wall. His dark brown hair showed red highlights in the sun and sunglasses hid his eyes. His unshaven square jaw was set with anger.

“Yeah, you can help me by giving me back my dog.” He spit the words out, putting his hands on his hips and tipping his head.

Lisa held her hand on the lock, ready to flip it closed if the man made an aggressive move. She looked down at Cuddles. The little groomed dog with her pink bow, a spray of fur spreading out from it, and her playful personality belonged to the gruff man on her porch? Lisa imagined that someone like him would own a more suitable pet, like a rabid pit bull.

“What’s her name?” Lisa wasn’t quite willing to give this man the dog without knowing for sure that she belonged to him.

The man shifted on his feet and looked around before studying his shoes. “Her name is Cuddles.”

Lisa smiled at his embarrassment. Not so tough now, are you buddy?

“I’m sorry,” she said sweetly. “What did you say her name was?”

The man looked directly through the screen even though he couldn’t see her through the holes in the thick metal. “Her name is Cuddles. Happy now? Can I have her back, please?”

Lisa pushed the door open and Cuddles ran out. The man scooped her up with one hand, holding her wriggling body against his chest while she licked his face. His other hand held the screen open. Lisa leaned against the door frame.

The man’s face softened and he smiled, his teeth in an even row except for one on the side which was just crooked enough to keep them from being perfect.

“Cuddles, you’re a bad girl. You aren’t supposed to leave the yard.” He spoke softly to the dog, seeming to forget Lisa was watching. He stopped smiling, his face turning in her direction.

“Why do you have my dog in your house? I’ve been hunting all over the neighborhood for her.”

Lisa crossed her arms over her chest, holding the flannel shirt against her. “I didn’t let her in. She let herself in. I called the number on her tag. If you had an updated number on there, you would have known exactly where to find her.”

The man looked down at the dog. “Yeah, I need to do that.” He spoke softly again for a moment, then his voice turned to steel. “Well, thanks for letting her in, I guess.”

Without waiting for a reply, the man turned and walked down the sidewalk, tucking the little dog inside his jacket as he went.

Lisa’s house returned to normal for the rest of the day. Early the next morning, scratching and barking at the front door stopped her on the way to the kitchen to make coffee. She opened the door. Cuddles greeted her with a bark before sauntering into the house and getting comfortable on the couch.

“The sun isn’t even up yet,” Lisa said to the white fluff on the couch. “Why me?”

The little dog didn’t answer, only yawned and stretched. Anticipating the knock on the door, Lisa started the coffee pot before going to the bathroom to shower. The dog followed her. Lisa put her outside of the bathroom door and shut it. She didn’t even get the water turned on before Cuddles started howling in a pitiful little voice from the other side of the door. Lisa threw the door open and the dog trotted into the room, watching every move Lisa made. The man could arrive at any minute. Lisa turned to the mirror. A shower could wait. He wasn’t that important that she had to be clean and fresh to give him back his dog. She splashed cold water on her face so her green eyes didn’t resemble Christmas. Then she combed her long straight auburn hair into a ponytail.  She was sitting on the couch in a pair of lounge pants and an oversize sweatshirt with a cup of coffee in her hand and Cuddles curled up in her lap when the knock came at the door.

“C’mon in,” she said as she opened the doors. “Your runaway is on the couch.”

He didn’t wear sunglasses since the day was starting out overcast. His brown eyes had a guilty look in them.

“Thanks. I thought I found where she got out and I fixed it. Guess I better look again.” He entered the house and Lisa shut the door behind him. Cuddles jumped around at his feet.

Lisa resumed her position on the couch. “Maybe this time you should give me your name and number and I’ll call you if she shows up again.” She handed him the paper and pen from the end table.

He scribbled on the paper. “I’m going to watch and see what she does the next time I let her out. She probably won’t bother you again.”

Lisa waved her hand in dismissal. “She really isn’t a bother. I actually like her.”

The man handed back the paper and Lisa read his name and phone number. Ben Welsh. He stood in the center of the room, the little dog watching her from the safety of her owner’s massive hand.

“I do have one question though,” Lisa said. “Why does a big ole’ guy like you have a Pekingese? I would think you would want a big manly kind of dog.”

Ben’s eyebrows went up. He laughed. “What? Are you saying my dog isn’t ‘manly’?”

Lisa grinned. “Cuddles isn’t exactly a masculine name either, but the pink bow in her hair really screams feminine. I’m guessing she’s your wife’s dog and you keep getting elected to fetch her.”

Ben’s smile faded and his eyebrows dipped to a frown. “She’s a Peekapoo, not a Pekingese and I’m not married. She was my mom’s dog.”

“A Peekapoo?” Lisa asked. “Does your mom live around here?”

Ben gently rubbed the silky fur on Cuddles’ ears. The dog closed her eyes, her chin resting on Ben’s arm that held her.

“A Peekapoo is a mix between a Pekingese and a Poodle. My mom died last week. I live three blocks behind you. I brought Cuddles home two days ago. My sister was taking care of my mom after she got sick, but my sister has a Rottweiler and he didn’t like Cuddles much.”

Lisa didn’t speak for a moment. She couldn’t think of a word to say to the big man holding the tiny dog.

“I’m sorry,” was all she could manage. It didn’t seem enough.

Ben looked up at her. “It’s okay. Really. Mom had breast cancer and it was too far along when they discovered it. She was really sick and in a lot of pain at the end. I’m grateful her suffering is over.”

Lisa studied him for a moment. Although he was in pain, his eyes were dry and accepting.

“Well, maybe Cuddles will get used to your home and settle in soon.”

Ben shrugged. “At least she keeps coming back here. I spent a couple of hours yesterday going through the neighborhood calling her name until I heard her in here barking. Today I just came straight here, hoping she did the same thing.” He turned and placed his hand on the knob. “Anyway, we’ve taken enough of your morning. I’ll let you get back to whatever you were doing.”

Lisa laughed and rose from the couch, placing her coffee cup on the table. “All I’m doing is fighting with my computer. I want to work and it refuses to let me.”

Ben’s hand dropped from the doorknob. “What’s it doing?”

“It keeps locking up when I try to use this new program I installed.” She glanced over him and lifted on eyebrow. “Why, are you a computer tech?”

Ben laughed. “No, actually I’m a tow truck driver, but I know a thing or two about computers. I dabble in repairs in my spare time. I don’t really want to drive a truck forever, so I’ve been taking classes for a couple of years.”

“If you can fix this thing, I might actually get some work done. In trade, I’ll become your permanent dog sitter if you ever need one.”

His eyes sparkling, Ben agreed with a nod. “You’re on. I bet I can fix it in less than five minutes.”

“We’ll see,” Lisa laughed as she showed him to the office. He handed Cuddles to Lisa as his fingers flew nimbly over the keyboard accessing parts of the computer Lisa didn’t even know existed. In just a couple of minutes, he rebooted the computer and loaded the dreaded program. It started up much faster than it used to. Ben moved so Lisa could sit at the desk with Cuddles in her lap. It effortlessly opened her latest room design without a hiccup or glitch. She moved around a few items and added others and it still performed perfectly.

“So what are the designs for?” Ben asked.

“I create office layouts to utilize space effectively. See here,” Lisa pointed to the reception area on the screen. “They used to have the front receptionist in this doctor’s office too far away from the front door. The patients would have to go clear across a usually crowded room and then go back across the room to find a seat. With the new plan, the receptionist is closer to the front door and the waiting rooms are divided. There’s a play area for children over here.”

She used her mouse to point at a different location. “This office has several different specialists. Some deal with mostly elderly patients and others deal with children. With the new layout, the patients are separated instead of all being lumped into a large room, and the nursing assistants open a door directly into the appropriate medical suites. I was working on the designs in my old program, then they came out with an upgraded version that just didn’t work right at all, but it seems to be working great now.”

Cuddles was curled up in Lisa’s lap, sleeping. Lisa absentmindedly rubbed the dog’s soft ears as she spoke to Ben.

“Well, I need to go home and get to sleep,” Ben said, looking at the sleeping dog. Lisa stood, lifting the furry bundle and handing her to Ben.

“You haven’t slept yet? Has she been missing that long?” Lisa asked.

Ben shook his head. “I work nights so it’s past my bedtime. I let her out when I get home before I go to sleep.”

Lisa nodded. “That explains why she’s been showing up so early.”

With a final good-bye, Lisa walked Ben and Cuddles to the door. She watched as he climbed into an enormous truck parked in her driveway. Then she went to take her morning shower and get to work.

The next morning, her visitor was back. Lisa let Cuddles in on her way to the coffee pot. The knock on the door came this time before she made it back to her room to comb her hair and splash water on her face. She stopped in the living room, glancing down at her flannel pajamas before she sighed and opened the front door where Cuddles was already doing her happy dance and barking. So he would see her in her pajamas. No big deal. She could just give him the dog and he could go home and go to sleep. She picked Cuddles up and unlocked the door.

Ben stood on the other side smiling. “Aha,” he exclaimed as he came into the house, oblivious to Lisa’s apparel. She stood at the front door watching his excitement as he continued speaking. “She’s not getting out where I thought she was. She’s so little that she goes under the fence. I saw her this morning. I tried to grab her before she got through, but it didn’t work. By the time I got around and in the truck, she was already running through yards in this direction.” He stopped and took a breath, his eyes scanning over Lisa’s attire.

The corner of his lip quirked. “Cute jammies. The little snowmen are a nice touch.”

Lisa didn’t smile. She crossed her arms over her breasts. The cold outside made it apparent that she wore no supportive undergarments under her pajamas. “Can you let her out just an hour later? At least then I could get a shower in and be dressed before I had visitors.”

Ben’s eyes lifted back to her face. “Sorry. I think I’m going to take her out on a leash until I can get around the bottom of the fence where she’s been digging to get out.”

Lisa nodded. She felt bad for snapping at him and she was disappointed that she wouldn’t see Cuddles or Ben anymore. She didn’t know what to say. They stood awkwardly for a moment.

“Tell you what,” Ben said suddenly. “I don’t have to work tonight. To thank you for putting up with us so early in the morning, how about if I take you out to dinner?”

“I’d like that.” Lisa looked at the tiny bundle curled up in Ben’s arms. “And to be honest, she can come visit me every morning if she wants to.”

Cuddles never again showed up at Lisa’s door first thing in the morning. Instead, she arrived in the afternoons and she brought Ben with her. It wasn’t too long before Lisa would wake up and Cuddles would be sleeping in the bed between Ben and Lisa. Ben landed a job with the design software company that Lisa used to do her room layouts. He showed them how to work out the kinks in their upgrades. The company became incredibly successful and took Ben along with them. Several years later, Ben, Lisa, and their three young children mourned when they woke up one morning to discover that Cuddles had passed away during the night. They spread her ashes over Ben’s mother’s grave.  On the way home from the cemetery, Alice, the oldest child who was named for Ben’s mother, leaned from the backseat. Her face looked from one parent’s tear streaked face to the other.

“Mom?” she asked. “Tell us again how you and Daddy met.”

Lisa smiled through her tears.

The End

Happy Valentines Day!

I hope it’s full of love.

Here’s my Valentine’s day gift for you.

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Winston-Salem NC Bookmarks Festival

I am ecstatic that I will be at the Bookmarks Festival in Winston-Salem, NC tomorrow, Saturday September 11. Along with me will be my colleagues and friends, Lazarus Barnhill, Suzette  Vaughn, and Laura Wharton. Barnhill’s bookstore will be sharing the booth with us.

B0ookmarks Festival

Barnhills Books, Wine, Gifts, Art

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A Book and A Blog

Whenever it’s my turn to blog, I’m always in a quandry. Do I talk about my latest work? Do I lament on how difficult it is to be an author? Do I take the flip side and discuss running a bookstore? What about taking a stab at the merits of running a publishing company?

And then I noticed that I get to follow  J. B. Kohl’s post about Barnhill’s. http://secondwindpub.wordpress.com/2010/06/09/barnhills/

Ha! What fun! I am in the unique position of actually meeting many of the Second Wind Authors face to face. There are 26 Second Wind authors in our little family, and at least 2 more in the wings currently. And that doesn’t include the 12 authors who won a place in the “Mystery is in the Wind” anthology. I’ve met 10 of the authors in person.

In February of 2009, I came from Phoenix AZ to Winston-Salem and met up with Norm Brown, Chris Husom, Lazarus Barnhill, Mairead Walpole, Suzette Vaughn, and Dellani Oakes.  This is all of us together: Facebook I’m the one on the bottom right. I write as Claire Collins, but my real name is Tracy and I manage a bookstore in Winston-Salem, NC called Barnhill’s. You can read more about it in the newspaper article about us that came out today.

J. Conrad Guest has the pain and pleasure of being the very first author to ever have a book signing at Barnhill’s. Ladies, he’s tall, good-looking, and funny. Call me and I’ll put you in touch…

Lucy Balch was gutsy enough to jump in right before our grand opening. She got to hang out with a masseuse and a winery and we sat in the back room and pigged out on Burke Street Pizza because we were all starving.

J. B. Kohl came to visit during the first day of our Grand Opening. Everything was just crazy around here that day. I was worried that I had neglected J.B and her friend but they both had a great time.

JJ Dare was supposed to have been part of our original group, but she came down with Strep throat right before we all met. Someday soon she will make it up to see me.

I was going to go up and meet Sherrie Hansen for an event at her beautiful bed and breakfast, but I wasn’t able to get up there.

I’ve also met a new Second Wind Author, Laura Wharton. Her book , “The Pirate’s Bastard” will be out by the fall.

So to everyone else… what are you waiting for? The invitation is open to have a book signing at Barnhill’s! Maybe this September, you can all come down for the Bookmarks Festival?

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…Who are you?

A couple of years ago when I was nearing the reality of being published, I had to make a decision about what name I would be published under. I knew it wasn’t a good idea to publish under my own name. I had a corporate identity and a family to think of. My real world and the fantasy world around my writing didn’t mesh. I borrowed from my maternal great grandmother Tereasa Clair (who I was named after) and her husband Guy Collins and I created Claire Collins.

As Claire Collins, I… she… we (?) wrote Images of Betrayal, and Fate and Destiny.

We started Seeds of September and planned to finish it last summer but then that whole real world stepped back in and I took a hiatus from writing. Somewhere along the way, I had stepped back from writing so far that I decided I would never finish my third novel, not to mention the six other novels jostling for position behind it.

Along the way, my fantasy writing world became my real world when I gave up my corporate job and 9 to 5 employee life, packed up my house and family, and moved to North Carolina to manage Barnhill’s Bookstore.

We hit our grand opening last weekend and now I’m settling into this whole new life. I think part of this new life includes Second Wind Publishing and Seeds of September, but if I do, I’m going to write under my own name instead of my alias.

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A Book Store is Born

Hello! I am Tracy Beltran, Manager of Barnhill’s Books, Wine, Art, and Gift store in Winston-Salem North Carolina. You may also know me by my author name of Claire Collins. My work with Second Wind Publishing since it’s inception has been a lot of hard work but worth every moment I’ve spent with the authors and the readers.

And now, this relationship with Second Wind has allowed me to branch out and open a bookstore and it’s a dream come true for me. When other little girls were having tea parties, I was using my vast collection of books to start a library in my bedroom and I would loan my books to my younger sister this way. The golden look look books were labeled with check out cards and I would hold her stuffed animals hostage if the books were late being returned.

In college, I worked in the library. In February, I resigned from my position in Phoenix, packed up the family, and drove across the country to come to Winston-Salem and be part of Barnhill’s. I don’t regret that decision at all, even when we were supposed to be open on March 1, and now it’s looking more like March 20 or so. Who knew getting permits and revamping a 104 year old building would be so time consuming and difficult?

So that’s where I’ve been lately. You can follow the progress here: http://onlyatbarnhills.com/ and here: http://onlyatbarnhills.wordpress.com/

I have boxes and boxes of Second Wind Publishing books, and they are truly beautiful to hold and read. (When are you guys going to come visit me and do booksignings? Do I have to beg?) I have to remember that they are stock and belong on the shelves. Soon, they will be nestled among the bestsellers as well as other independent publishers. Speaking of which, if you are an independent publisher, email me: Tracy@onlyatbarnhills.com

We will also carry art from local artists and gift items including jewelry. Stop by and see me if you get a chance.

Tracy Beltran – Barnhill’s Manager

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A Word… or Two

I use Microsoft Office Word 2007 to craft my novels in. It’s user friendly and it has features over the older versions that I just love such as smart spell check.

A fellow author asked me a couple of questions about why Word takes curvy quotation marks and apostrophe’s and makes them straight. I had no idea why it did that but a quick find and replace fixed all of those buggers. Then, we wanted to know why it happened in the first place and how to stop it.

So, here are some helpful tips:

http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/msoffice/?cat=3

The annoyances

Behavior How to turn it off
#1: Word creates a hyperlink when you type a Web page address. Go to Tools | AutoCorrect Options and select the AutoFormat As You Type tab. Under Replace As You Type, deselect the Internet And Network Paths With Hyperlinks check box and click OK.
#2: Word changes capitalization of text as you type it. A host of settings can trigger this behavior. Go to Tools | AutoCorrect Options and select the AutoCorrect tab. Here, you can deselect whichever check boxes govern the unwanted actions: 

  • Correct Two Initial Capitals
  • Capitalize First Letter Of Sentences
  • Capitalize First Letter Of Table Cells
  • Capitalize Names Of Days
  • Correct Accidental Use Of Caps Lock Key
#3: Word inserts symbols unexpectedly, such as trademark or copyright characters or even inserts an entire passage of text. Go to Tools | AutoCorrect Options and select the AutoCorrect tab. This time, find the Replace Text As You Type check box. Either deselect it to suppress all replacements or select and delete individual items in the list below it.It might make sense to keep the feature enabled and selectively remove items, since the list includes scores of common misspellings that are actually nice to have corrected for you.
#4: Word superscripts your ordinal numbers, such as 1st and 2nd. Go to Tools | AutoCorrect Options and click the AutoFormat As You Type tab. Deselect the Ordinals (1st) With Superscript check box and click OK.
#5: Word converts fractions into formatted versions. Go to Tools | AutoCorrect Options and click the AutoFormat As You Type tab. Deselect the Fractions (1/2) With Fraction Character option.
#6: Word turns straight apostrophes and quote marks into curly characters. Go to Tools | AutoCorrect Options and click the AutoFormat As You Type tab. Deselect the Straight Quotes With Smart Quotes check box and click OK.
#7: When you try to select a few characters within a word, the highlight jumps to select the entire word. Go to Tools | Options and click the Edit tab. In the right column under Editing Options, deselect the When Selecting, Automatically Select Entire Word check box and click OK.
#8: When you type three or more hyphens and press Enter, Word inserts a border line. Go to Tools | AutoFormat and select the AutoFormat As You Type tab. Deselect the Border Lines check box and click OK.A similar option exists for inserting a table, but it’s generally not going to sneak up on you: When the Tables check box is selected, typing a series of hyphens and plus marks before pressing Enter will insert a table (with the hyphens representing cells). You can turn off that option if you think you might stumble into an unwanted table insertion.
#9: Word automatically adds numbers or bullets at the beginning of lines as you type them. There are two flavors of this potential annoyance. First, if you start to type something Word thinks is a bulleted list (using asterisks, say) or type 1, a period, and some text, it may convert what you type to bulleted or numbered list format when you press Enter.To prevent this, go to Tools | AutoCorrect Options and select the AutoFormat As You Type tab. Then, deselect the Automatic Bulleted List and/or Automatic Numbered list check boxes and click OK.A related aspect of this behavior is that once you’re entering automatic list items, pressing Enter will perpetuate it — Word will keep inserting bullets or numbers on each new line. To free yourself from this formatting frenzy, just press Enter a second time, and Word will knock it off.
#10: When you type hyphens, Word inserts an em dash or an en dash. If you type a word, two hyphens, and another word (no spaces), Word will convert the hyphens to an em dash. If you type a space before and after the hyphens, it will convert them to an en dash.To disable this feature, Go to Tools | AutoCorrect Options and select the AutoFormat As You Type tab. Deselect the Hyphens (–) With Dash (-) check box and click OK.

Bonus fixes

Word may cause your users some additional grief in various other ways besides automatic behaviors. It goes a little something like this:

User: My document if full of weird code stuff and my pictures are gone.
Culprit: Field code display has been toggled on.
Solution: Suggest that the user press Alt+F9 to restore the display of field code results.

User: I’m seeing gray brackets around a bunch of my text.
Culprit: Bookmark display has been enabled.
Solution: Go to Tools | Options and select the View tab. Then, under the Show options, deselect the Bookmarks check box and click OK.

User: I’m typing and everything in front of the cursor is disappearing.
Culprit: The evil Overtype mode has been activated.
Solution: Go to Tools | Options and select the Edit tab. Then, under Editing Options, deselect the Overtype Mode check box and click OK. (It might be quicker to double-click OVR on the status bar, if you can point the user to it.)

User: Everything’s gone, all my toolbars and menus and everything — there’s nothing here but text.
Culprit: The user has landed in Full Screen view.
Solution: Direct the user’s attention to the Close Full Screen View button at the bottom of the window (depending on the version) or tell them to press Alt+V to display the View menu. They can then select Full Screen to turn off that view mode and return to familiar territory.


Accessing the options in Word 2007

All the settings we’ve discussed here are accessible via the Office button in Word 2007:

  • To get to the AutoCorrect dialog box, click the Office button, select Word Options at the bottom of the menu, and choose Proofing from the pane on the left. In the pane on the right, click the AutoCorrect Options button, and Word will display the AutoCorrect dialog box containing the AutoCorrect and AutoFormat As You Type tabs.
  • To get to editing options, click the Office button, select Word Options at the bottom of the menu, and choose Advanced from the pane on the left. Word will display Editing Options at the top of the pane on the right. In that section, you’ll find the When Selecting, Automatically Select Entire Word check box and the Use Overtype Mode option. If you scroll down to the Show Document Content section, you’ll find the Show Bookmarks check box.
  • The successor to Full Screen view in Word 2007 is Full Screen Reading view. Users shouldn’t get stuck there, but if they do, the Close button in the upper-right corner of the window will take them back to Print Layout view.

~ Claire Collins

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