Saturday, February 27, 2010

Monday Writers Craft Online: When Someone Nicks Your Stuff

You write something good, and sell it to a newspaper. Next thing you know, someone has ripped off your work and posted it on their web site. What can you do?

I have blogged about this before but I'd like to revisit this as a friend is having similar problems. She asked me what advice I would give, so here it is...

1. Some people just don't understand it's rude to nick stuff. Plus, there are companies that have aggregated feeds, like Google News, that scour places of interest automatically. The best provide links to your page; nasty ones nick the article.

Either way, the first option is to write to them and tell them to remove your stuff. Look for the email address of the web master, CEO etc and send it off.

If that doesn't work...

2. Look up a contact number and call them. If there is no Contact Page, use MYNIC to look up who owns a or Malaysian domain or WhoIs for .coms or top level domain names.

A polite email or phone call usually works wonders. If it does not, try...

3. Make up a web page telling your story, and send that link to the web master etc. Bad publicity frightens most companies into doing the right thing.

4. Add a script that stops bots, spiders and other programmes from crawling your stuff automatically. Instructions are here. Note, however, that this usually means your pages won't show up in Google and other places automatically either.

4. Make a police report and call your lawyer.

As it costs a bomb to take a case to court, assuming you can afford a lawyer and find a court that understands this sort of problem, following through is not an option for mere mortals who aren't millionaires. Especially if the thief lives in a different country from you, and/or hosts their web site abroad.

However, this strategy can add spice to a followup email/call where you tell the thief to let your stuff alone and send them a copy of the report. Send it by fax if you can as faxes are read by lots of office staff who will all gossip - and maybe force the boss into behaving honourably.

Note. About fighting fire with fire... When the vets in Perak nicked my work the second time, I got really mad. For a few moments I really thought about finding a hacker and asking them to destroy that web site. I got over it a few moments later. Two wrongs may make you feel better but they don't make a right. Far be it from me to preach ethics, but when it's considered OK to destroy sites for one reason, it will lead to a situation where everyone considers themselves Almighty Online Arbitrators. And there's enough of that sort of thing going on already.

Hope this helps, and good luck!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Repost Friday: Kinky Tails

Want to know why cats have kinky tails? Check out this repost from February 2007...

Scoop's curly tailFriends from overseas (read: non-Malaysians) are always horrified when they see Scoop's tail looks like a corkscrew, and that Au's short little stubby tail waves at a permanent 45 degree angle.

Local friends don't make it any better because they delight in telling the urban legends that say these cats are victims of animal cruelty.

Depending on who's telling the story, innocent tourists are told a local ethnic group believes cats are so beautiful that they disturb the spirits of the dead if they walk over their graves. To prevent spiritual unrest, the story goes, this group go along breaking cat’s tails at birth.

I’ve heard this superstition being attributed to various Chinese groups, Malaysian Indians, and even Sarawak tribes such as the Iban, so it’s hard to know where exactly this story started. One thing's for sure, the teller always blames someone else!

In case you’re worried: local kitties may look like victims of unusual torture but they are born this way. In fact, it’s a local neighbourhood characteristic.

Malaysian, Singaporean and Thai cats have an odd gene that creates a kinky tail. Some kitties have long tails with a knob or kink at the top; others have a variety of shorter tails sticking out at odd angles.

Scoop’s corkscrew tail is unusually complex, and knowing this our old fuzzy is very proud of it. He curls his tail up when he’s interested in something and down when he’s relaxed. It’s a wonderful barometer indicating his mood.

If you see a cat with a kinky tail in the US or UK, chances are you are looking at a cousin of Scoop or Au’s. Please say apa kabar from us!


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

COT: Naughty Cat Club Kitties

Au and Target have been wild all day. They're jumping up and down on the table, the sofa and the bed. They're squealing their way up and down the stairs. They are wrestling on their rug, and on the sofa. They are WILD!

The laundry that was on the bed is now scattered on the floor. The papers that were on my desk are also on the floor. Oh, and the rug that was in the hall is now in my office.

Au and Target are living up to their reputation as members of the Naughty Kitty Club!

For more cats, naughty and nice!, check out Gattina who hosts Cats on Tuesday.

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Monday Writers Craft Online: Beat Stagefright

"How do we inspire our self and look confident all the time when we are in public? I can speak english but when i face people who speaks english better,i get nervous. My tongue get twisted and my pronountiation sucks at those times!"

When I speak Spanish (and it's pretty horrible Spanish) I am not embarrassed because I reckon that speaking someone else's language badly is better than not speaking it at all.

When we lived in Burgo de Osma, a village in the north of Spain, people used to crowd round me just to hear my horrible Spanish.

Knowing full well that "pala" can mean "stick" as well as "penis", I delighted them with "pala por andar" or "a stick for walking" meaning "walking stick". Turns out the translation is more like "push shovel".

Describing a washer in Spanish as "a metal circle thing with a hole that you stick between things when you're fixing stuff" was also a hit. My man in the hardware shop got that one in 1! This is probably because I trained him to understand me describing a funnel ("a plastic thing for dropping liquid into a bottle with waste") and a box knife ("a knife in a square plastic box for safety"). I'm telling you, a visit from me in that place was better than What's My Line?

Sure there's always room for improvement when you're speaking a foreign language, but hey, that's why you're standing there with your tongue tied and your pronunciation going to pot. It's cause you're practicing.

Some people suggest you calm your nerves by imagining everyone else is naked. I don't because I think it's rude to speak to people while shutting your eyes firmly against horrible visions of nudeness. I just go for it and know that each time I mess up it means I improve a little.

Three things that do help:

1. Rehearse set phrases. These give you time to think, and help you sound more fluent. For example, practice greetings, compliments, short answers to common questions.

2. Learn to take your time. The more you hurry, the more you stumble. Also, when you hurry your heartbeat goes up, which gets your brain chemicals going, which make you more hyper etc etc. Take a breath, force yourself to slow down. You will feel calmer for it.

3. Laugh. It's a stumble in communication not a crime! When you mess something up, laugh and say, "That sounded better in my head." or "I got so caught up in that sentence, I've forgotten where I started." Then breathe and go on.
Logomania by Ellen Whyte Book front cover image

As time goes by you will get better at speaking and the problems will lessen.

And of course buy Logomania! Then you'll know where phrases come from and how to use them, which is horribly impressive in conversation. Click on the image above for free sneak peeks, and then buy it at any MPH!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Repost Friday: The Fuzzy Terminator

Dog Talk is out tomorrow in the print version of The Star, Weekender. And here is a post originally put up on 20th January 2007. Au catches maybe 1 thing every 18 months and most of the time I can rescue and release the victim, so this is unusual stuff!
Au and his mouse
Here is Au, showing off a captured mouse. Our fuzzy terminator is currently lolling around on the sofa, cleaning his claws, and making plans for the day.

His colleague Scoop has decided one of my plant pots is the best place to snooze the morning away. As my marjoram seedlings died weeks ago, I don’t really mind – except that Scoop’s feet, tummy and chin are covered in bits of soil which he cheerfully dumps on the living room floor when he comes in! But that’s cats for you…

Have a good weekend everyone.

PS To win the Purina Cat Gift Basket, please send your pics to the Star:

Katz Tales
Star Publications
Menara Star
15 Jalan 16/11
Petaling Jaya 46350

Alternatively, email Please keep image sizes to a reasonable size so that the inbox isn't maxed out.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

COT: Au's Endorsement For Water Conservation Initiative

Here is Au with an important message about water conservation...

OK dis is a furry important thing: too many peepul are washing their katz. Dis is a waste of watur. Washing katz must be stopt!

If you want to wash stufff, be kleen and use your tongue. Soap is nasty. Watur is nasty. Don't be nasty. Be kleen!

Dis endorsemunt kums from the hart. De ham i haf been promissed is just a presunt from my gud frend. OK? And speeking of ham. WHERE IS MY HAM????

Note: The picture is of Scoop having a bath. We call this The Octopus Spread.

For more cats, check out Gattina who hosts Cats on Tuesday.

Now for the meme:
Water is precious, yet it is being wasted or poorly managed. You can help promote water conservation by sending on this meme. If you do, simply follow these rules:

1. Create a blog entry entitled "Water Conservation Initiative".
2. Post the Water Initiative Network's Water Facts in your post.
3. List 3 things YOU will do to save water.
4. Add in the photo above, or any photo you have taken of a waterfall, river or lake.
5. End with the line: "Find out more about water conservation and good governance by joining the Water Initiative Network on Facebook! Visit us here at: Water Initiative Network!

Tag 5 or more blog/FB friends. Be sure to copy the rules, okay?


1. Of every 100 drops of water on earth, 97 are too salty to drink, 2 are locked in ice and snow, and 1 is fresh water.

2. The daily requirement for sanitation, bathing, and cooking needs, as well as for assuring survival, is about 50 litres per person.

3. Reducing shower time from 20 mins to 8 mins saves up to 360 litres of water per shower.

4. A small drip from a faucet can waste as much as 75 litres of water a day.

5. Two thirds of the water used in a home is used in the bathroom. To flush a toilet, we use up to 9 litres of water.

6. Water-efficient toilets and washing machines are good ways to save water.

7. A low-tech way to save water is to form the habit of turning on the tap to low flow and turning it off when the water is not needed.

8. Non-revenue water (i.e. stolen or wasted water) constitutes 36% of water 'used' in Selangor, Malaysia, and this raises the cost of water for everyone.

9. Water supply infrastructure cost billions of ringgit. This money could be spent in more useful ways.

10. Large areas of forests are cleared to make way for water supply dams to accommodate our soaring demand for water. These forests and their wildlife represent our natural heritage.


1. Fix the leaky pipe in the loo downstairs.
2. Use the Save cycle more often.
3. Try to convince my neighbours not to have their maids wash their cars every darn day.

Find out more about water conservation and good governance by joining the Water Initiative Network on Facebook! Visit us here at:!/group.php?gid=282587736385&ref=nf

I'm tagging:

Homeschooler Fun In The Sun
Homeschooler Alicia
Nature lover Mizzy, Kancing Itu Buntang
Cat Pal Anya and Kareltje
Bath Hater Dennis and his Diary of Destruction

If you want to keep in touch with updates, here are some simple ways:
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Monday, February 15, 2010

Monday Writers Craft Online: Get It Published

Aini sent this email question last week, "I love creative writing and had sent a few short stories to the local magazines.But none got published. I'm dissapointed. Not sure whether it's because my simple english or because i don't use bombastic words. I hope you could give some useful tips."

This email reminded me that I sold some short stories a few years ago and I forgot to put that on my writing credits. I sold 2 short stories to Singapore Womens Weekly and Malaysia Women's Weekly. And I have some more to sell so maybe this is the time to go looking for some new clients. Thanks, Aini!

Anyways...This is the 6th of a series of pieces talking about publicity issues facing bloggers. Funnily enough I was going to write about ways and means of talking print publications into mentioning your blog. Apart from the short story issue, the two topics have quite a lot in common. So here goes...

1. The market for short stories is tiny so editors tend to work with people they know. To get known you need to sell a story. Yes, chicken and egg. If you write an excellent story, you will probably get published. Write one that's OK and you won't, because there are thousands of others out there who will do better.

The same goes for press releases or approaches for publicity by bloggers! Everyone has a blog, so you need to stand out.

To get the attention of the editor, your story idea about your blog (or your short story) has to be original, fun, different. And it must suit the style of the publication and the audience that publication woos; if you run a fashion blog, write to a fashion magazine. If you write romance, don't waste your time writing to a sci-fi mag.

2. Check your spelling and grammar. What you write on your blog is your thing. You can go for the absolutely proper styles, grammar, spelling etc or you can be like me and just write it down and shove it out. It's up to you.

BUT submitting stories and press releases is a different ballgame alltogether. Editors don't want to waste their time with people who don't fine tune their work. They think "sloppy language = sloppy work". As there are others out there who are painstaking and enthusiastic, make sure you avoid "dissapointed" and write "disappointed", ensure English has a capital E etc.

3. Style choices. Short story telling is creative but if you want to get published, you need to think in a businesslike way; same goes for getting someone to write about your blog.

When writing a story or press release, the easiest thing is to develop the tone that works for you or the story, and sell it to someone suitable. What's harder but more profitable is to look at a publication, analyse the style they want, look at the sort of stories they like, and then write something to suit.

Next week: how to get over stage fright and that "oh god, my English sucks" feeling when presenting your work.

Want to keep Au and Target rolling in cat biscuits and rost chikkun??? Check out my books below and buy them as gifts for friends. Click on the images above for free sneak peeks.

Katz Tales by Ellen Whyte Book front cover image

Logomania by Ellen Whyte Book front cover image

If you want to keep in touch with updates, here are some simple ways:
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Friday, February 12, 2010

Why There Is No Year Of The Cat - Repost Friday

Gong Xi Fa Cai! Wishing you a prosperous, healthy, happy, lucky New Year. In honour of The Year Of The Tiger that starts tomorrow, there will be an extra article in The Star Weekender. It's a crossover piece that links Katz Tales and Dog Talk. Print version only so if you want to read whether cat people are more intelligent than dog people, you've got the buy the paper.

If you want to look up your Year of the Tiger horoscope for free online, I suggest you check,, and

In the meantime, here's a holiday repost.

Originally posted on Saturday, February 17, 2007

Au fast asleepLegend has it that when the Lord Buddha decided to name the years, he summoned all the animals in the land, and told them anyone wanting to have the honour of having a year named after them would have to take part in a race. As Lord Buddha decided on a cycle of 12 years, he announced only the first 12 to cross the line would be chosen.

The cat and the rat who were best friends both decided they wanted a month named after themselves. Discussing the race that evening, the cat reminded the rat he was a heavy sleeper. The cat therefore asked his friend the rat to waken him in the morning in good time for the race. The rat agreed but then had secret second thoughts.

The rat realised that his chances of being among the first twelve animals to cross the finish line would be better if the cat didn’t take part. So the next morning the rat crept away without waking his friend.

The rat being exceptionally clever realised his chances would be even better if he could hitch a ride from one of the faster competitors. Looking around, rat decided to approach the ox whom he knew well.

The kindly ox allowed the rat to sit on his shoulders during the race. When the race started, the ox ran as fast as he could, with the little rat cheering him on all the way. Then, a little before the end of the race, the rat jumped off the tired ox’s back and ran quickly across the finish line. As the rat was first, his year is the first in the cycle, and the ox is second.

The cat slept throughout the morning, missing the race entirely. He only woke up when the other animals came back, celebrating the rat’s win and announcing the ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and boar had also made it into the first twelve.

Looking at the triumphant rat, the cat lost his temper. He jumped up as fast a lightning and ran at the rat who squeaked in terror and ran off as fast as he could. From this day on the cat and the rat were fierce enemies – and the cat never managed to get into the zodiac.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

COT Au Is Comfy

It's hot. In fact, it's darn hot.

It's too hot for cats to walk about on the pavement without burning their toes.

It's too hot for cats to go walkabout on the roof.

It's too hot for cats even to lie in bed!

So Au has taken over the dining room table. He's dragged the fruit bowl out of the way, kicked a box of chocolates to the side, piled the newspaper clippings into a comfy stack, and is now flumped right underneath the fan.

Au knows how to get comfortable.

If you want to keep in touch with updates, here are some simple ways:
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For more cats, check out Gattina who hosts Cats on Tuesday.


Monday, February 08, 2010

Monday Writers Craft Online: 3 Publicity Do's And Don'ts

Are you running a blog and looking for some publicity? In this 6 week series I'll be talking about common issues that are worth thinking about. For basic interview tips, checking legitimacy, whether you can approve pre-publication copy, and the pros and cons of email interviews, check the weeks past...

3 Publicity Do's And Don'ts

1. Organise way in advance. If you tell a journo you need them to turn up tomorrow, they will already have made other arrangements. Rule of thumb: contact people at least 3 issues before the one you would like to be in.

2. If you don't pay for it, you don't get to decide what goes in and when it goes in. What you can do is to make your publicity work along topical themes that encourages journos to put it in when you prefer: like pointing out the Christmas recipes in your cookbook in an August launch that will get you December coverage, etc.

3. Advertisers get an edge of non-advertisers. If you really need to be in print, paying for ads works.

1. Forget to hand out press releases on paper and a CD with the text and nice pictures. The easier you make it to put out your stuff, the more likely it will be used.

2. Forget to write your contacts on all your press stuff. Your name and telephone number must be on each page so people can contact you five minutes before the deadline for that "extra something."

3. Ask journos to RSVP for a press conference or publicity party. If they say they'll come they probably will, however, the schedule changes when other things overrun their time, if a VVIP doesn't show up on time (COMMON!) and also according to "what's hot". Just try to make sure that your parties/speeches etc are hot!

If you want to keep in touch with updates, here are some simple ways:
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Saturday, February 06, 2010

Katz Tales Competition Winners

Congratulations to the winners of the Katz Tales Competition!

It was tough to make a choice but we managed. Here are the winners.

The 3 First Prizes go to:

I like Katz Tales because..
it gets me feline the warm fuzzies;
it provides purr-fect reading bliss;
KatzTales is paw-some! -- write a sequel, please?
Wong Ee Lynn, Rawang, Selangor.

Scoop, Au, Target, Whyte -
Mystic felines - no? You don't like?
Prowling, pouncing late at night,
For fans at their web site!
John Loh, Penang

I like Katz Tales because you think like a cat, live like a cat, but aren't a cat.
Thavamalar, Batu Caves.

The 3 Second Prizes go to:

I like Katz Tales because it's a great read that leaves me that warm fuzzy feeling inside. I sense a purr in sight.

I like Katz Tales because it is my best "medicine" for laughter and which makes Saturday my most favourite day.
Tan Mui Lian, Tampai, Johor Baru

I like Katz Tales because it never fails to warm my heart, perk me up, make my day, and bring a smile to my face!
Nurul Akma Mohd Jamal, Petaling Jaya, Selangor.

Winners will be contacted by Monday.

Katz Tales by Ellen Whyte Book front cover imageLogomania by Ellen Whyte Book front cover imageLooking to buy a present for someone? Buy Katz Tales: Living Under The Velvet Paw for animal lovers and Logomania: Where Common Phrases Come From And How To Use Them for people who loooove words or just want to improve their English. Click on the images for free sample chapters and more.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Repost Friday: Bad, Bad, Person

Au on the stairs
When Au asked for biscuits on Sunday evening, I discovered we had none in the house. It was an awful moment. There was Au, sitting on the stairs, saying meow? in a friendly voice. I confessed and apologised. Au smiled, thinking it a good joke. Then, when he realised I really meant it, he drooped.

Au lay on the staircase, looking at me pathetically. How, his eyes said to me, could I have done such a thing? How was he, he said pathetically, a lovely and loving little cat, going to survive the night?

I offered cat food from a foil packet, tuna for people, and his all time favourite ham, but Au wanted something crunchy.

Luckily we were rescued. Our neighbour Umi who lives across the street feeds strays in her back garden. She donated some biscuits to Au who ate them with a satisfied crunch!

Since then we've stocked up on biscuits so the crisis is over. Au has forgiven me but I still feel guilty. I'm a bad, bad person...

That was a repost from Tuesday, May 01, 2007.

Katz Tales is out in The Star newspaper Weekender section tomorrow. Print version only so you have to pick up a copy. We'll also be announcing the winners of the Katz Tales competition!

If you want to keep in touch with updates, here are some simple ways:
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Tuesday, February 02, 2010

COT Bed Pig

This picture was taken yesterday at 11AM.

Target got up at 6 for breakfast, was back in bed by 620 and then rolled about in luxurious comfort until 1115 - at which point he got up, stretched and demanded lunch!

I was forced to get up at 745 and work but Target took the Kuala Lumpur Thaipusam holiday. I want to be a cat! They get to take all the holidays...

Also wishing all Hindus a blessed Thaipusam.

For more cats, check out Gattina who hosts Cats on Tuesday.

If you want to keep in touch with updates, here are some simple ways:
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Monday, February 01, 2010

Monday Writers Craft Online: Email Interviews Pros And Cons

Are you running a blog and looking for some publicity? Over the next 3 weeks I'll be talking about common issues that are worth thinking about. For basic interview tips, checking legitimacy, and whether you can approve pre-publication copy, check the weeks past...

This week I'd like to talk about pros and cons of email interviews.

First the pros...

#1 An email interview gives you more control over the things you say. You see the questions all lined up in advance, and have time to think about and polish your answers.

#2 If you are nervous at an interview and stammer a lot, emailing your quote means there is less likelihood of your being misunderstood and misquoted. When you write your replies the journo will cut and paste whenever possible (because we are lazy and love shortcuts at work just like everyone else!)

#3 If you want to talk about something that you were not asked, you can add a sentence or two at the end with your point, and you may be able to get that bit in too. That means more space and more publicity for you.

#4 If you're good at giving quick good quotes, then an online interview takes less time and effort than a face to face interview. Plus, we will remember you and ask you for more quick quotes anytime we're stuck!

The cons....

#1 Most of us speak one way and write another. Journos learn lots of writing styles, so they can appeal to many markets. This takes time and training.

Most people are competent but not skilled writers. Even really good bloggers sometimes freeze over an email interview. Online comedians come off sounding like academics, great fun mums sound like hanging judges...

If this is your problem, ask if you can talk on the phone for a few minutes and have the journo quote you instead so that you sound right.

#2 You don't get a feel of what the journo is thinking. When you talk to someone, you can tell whether you are "getting along" or not. And if your answers are too long, too short, or whatever. Over email, you don't get this sort of interactive feedback.

The best way to deal with this is to answer all the questions to the best of your ability as quickly as possible. And offer a phone interview "to clear up any other questions you may have"... Then give them your number.

NEXT WEEK: 3 Publicity Do's And Don'ts

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