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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Rounding Out The Year

Happy New Year to my buddies on the other side of the world!

If there is one thing that I love about the internet, it's that I've made such good friends in places I will likely never reach. They're still there nonetheless and I live through them vicariously as they relate their day to day lives through email.

For the first time in years, Greg and I are going to a New Year's Eve party. Normally we stay home, but tonight we are going to brave the police and drunks. Hopefully, we will meet neither.

My friend, Mel puts on spreads the likes of Martha Stewart so it would be folly to miss it. I am bringing my Yakitori Chicken. (recipes to follow)

Did everyone have a good Christmas? I got two exceptional gifts on Christmas, both dog-related. A friend gave me a wonderful book called Old Dogs. If you are a dog lover or know a dog lover, buy this book. It will make you cry and remind you why we love these creatures.

Another friend gave me a (life-size) statue of a pug. I collect dog figurines and it fits nicely with the pack. The first thing I thought of when I saw it was the movie, "Life With Father". Does anyone remember the scene where Irene Dunne brings home a ceramic pug dog and tells her husband (William Powell) that it didn't cost her any money? Priceless!

Even though this was a very rough year on various fronts, it seems to be ending with a soft landing. Good food, good friends and good memories.

Below my recipe for Yakitori Chicken and Muqueca, a Brazilian dish I tried recently.

Yakitori Chicken, Japanese kabobs

6 Chicken thighs, deboned, cut into bite-size chunks
Handful of Green Onions, cut into 2-3 inch pieces
Bamboo skewers

Soak the skewers in water while you're preparing the marinade so they won't burn in the oven.

Marinade:
2/3 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 TBL of white wine
1 clove minced garlic
1 TBL flour

Cook ingredients in a small pot to boiling. Thicken sauce with flour, then coat chicken. Some people cook chicken immediately, but I like to marinate it for several hours.

Marinate cut up chicken for up to 4 hours. Don't forget to turn them. Skewer chicken bites and pieces of green onion and broil for about 10 minutes in a medium heat. You can also put them on the grill which would taste even better.


Muqueca (sometimes spelled moqueca)

This is a dish that is usually made with fish, but I prefer shrimp. Its other virtue is that it is very simple to make. (another requirement for me)

1 green bell pepper
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
Handful of cilantro
4 good sized plum tomatoes (seeded)
10-12 green onions
3 cloves of garlic (minced)
Coconut milk
Important: Please be sure that it is NOT sweet coconut milk, like the kind you use for drinks. Look for this coconut milk in the Oriental foods aisle.

Shrimp/Lime: most recipes call for a pound of shrimp, but I like a lot of meat so I usually use 1.5 lbs of shrimp. Remove shell and squeeze lime juice over the shrimp while you wait for the stew to warm up.

Chop up all the vegetables in chunks and process in a blender with half the coconut milk. Pour this part into a deep, wide pan. Process the other half of veggies with milk. Heat everything on medium heat until it comes to a boil. If you use raw shrimp, you can throw them into the pan. I like to cook them separately and throw them into the mix just before they get pink.

Simmer for about 20 minutes more or until most of the liquid evaporates. You should get a nice thick stew and the color should deepen while it cooks.

Season with salt and pepper, and cumin if you have it.

Serve with white steamed rice.

This is terrific on cold nights. Very hearty.

Enjoy!

Monday, December 29, 2008

A Fallow Year

This blog is still on holiday, which means I'm talking about whatever pops into my head. Scary, I know. We'll get back to regular programming in the new year.

***

The end of the year always brings me full circle both on what I've accomplished and what has yet to be done.

Sad to say, 2008 was a bust. A rare occurence for me. A lot of it was beyond my control but it doesn't make it any easier to bear. The endless cycle of eye surgeries REALLY sucked all the wind out of my sails. My lowest point was when the second surgery took me in the opposite direction and made my vision worse.

Not only was I despondent, I was scared.

Fortunately, everything finally worked out. My reading vision is better than it's ever been. But it kept me out of commission for weeks and sometimes months at a time. What reading and writing I could do was limited. And it cost me.

A whole year underground with little to do but blog occasionally and edit a couple of newsletters. Anything more extensive sent me to bed with an ice pack over my eyes.

It's not been my best year.

But handicaps have a way of making you stronger too. I listened more and pondered what was really important for me. It's not always what you think it is.

I have a feeling 2009 is going to be a year of motivation and change for me. I've rested enough. Put me in, coach. I've polished this bench smooth.

***

I-Needa-Name-Contest is still going on. Go here for more details.

Friday, December 26, 2008

On Your Mark: Shop!

I-Needa-Name-Contest is still going on. Go here for more details.

***

December 26th is the biggest shopping day of the year for me. Forget leftover Christmas ornaments and broken tree toppers. Concentrate on things you can use year round.

Snatch up all the red, gold and silver tissue and wrapping paper you can. Perfect for Valentines and anniversary gifts. Stock up on serving dishes, table linens, and paper products. If you have employees or lots of service people to buy for, after-Christmas is the best time to buy for them. Target and Wal-Mart mark all their "ready-made" gifts to half off. Great gift items: throw blankets, tool sets, flashlight sets, massage pillows. (By the way, the most popular gift with my employees was the tool set. Everyone loved them and they still use them.)

I scour grocery store shelves for holiday fixings. Bread mixes often go on sale as do holiday foods like fancy nuts in gift sets. If you're like me and can't live without cranberries, grab all the fresh cranberries you can. They freeze beautifully.

In other words, look beyond the season and stock up on the things you'll use year round.

I always take Greg if he's available because he's the perfect quarterback and opens a path for me in the crowds. Very handy.

See you at the stores!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Peek Inside

I-Needa-Name-Contest is still going on. Go here for more details.

***
Due to popular demand...a few pictures of the rooms I've painted so far. You'll notice I am back to using my "bold" color schemes. lol.

The master bathroom is probably the most stunning in deep rust red. I painted the kitchen/living area a warm taupe which works pretty well. There are more rooms that I've painted, but I'd like to wait until I have a few more things done, like blinds and new carpet before I show you those.

We had some friends over on the weekend. Mel, my friend with those unbelievable decorator genes gave me her stamp of approval. She saw the before and I think I impressed her with the after. And I did it all with color.


This kitchen has been a dream! I never knew cooking could be fun. In this picture you get a peek at the living area beyond. I should mention that both the living area and kitchen were painted in a gawd-awful dark brown. I couldn't wait to get rid of that. --I'll post some living room pictures at a later date.


Another view of the kitchen. I'm told it's a "professional" kitchen because of the appliances that live there. Good! I need all the help I can get.

A very nice ball and claw tub. Wish I had the time to lounge in it. The glass blocks to the right frame the walk-in shower with dual shower heads. Heaven!

This is the largest bathroom we've ever had. His and hers vanities. No more fighting for mirror space. lol. The doors you see in this pic go into a massive walk-in closet. That closet cinched the deal! A marriage saver for sure.
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I love my house! It took nearly a year to find it, but it was worth the stress and suffering.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Warm Fuzzies

It is a holiday week, so we'll return to normal programming in January. For now it's just you and me, and I'd like to make a confession.

I am not the swiftest to concede when it comes to upgrades in technology. Oh, I get into it eventually, but you'll never find me the first in line for any tech.

Yesterday, in a moment of weakness, Greg talked me into getting one of those high definition tvs. Puts hand to head....and weeps.

Don't get me wrong. It is beautiful. As sleek and sexy as they come, and the picture is so sharp--it takes your breath away.

umm...I don't like it.

(I'll wait while the techies out there cry heresy and burn me in effigy.)

I hate to admit this, but the picture looks so real, it's unnatural. I miss the soft fuzziness of my old tv. Weird, I know. Maybe it will take time to get used to it. Maybe I'm a low-def consumer in a high-def world.

Le sigh...

Am I the only one to feel this way?

***
Don't forget I have a contest to name my new blog series on frugal living. Deadline is 1-9-09
Go here for details.

Friday, December 19, 2008

I-Needa-Name Contest

Today I have a contest. But you'll have to work for the prize. LOL.

I have many NEW books to give away. And I am giving them away--for a price.

Cue danger music: Ta…Ta…Tum

Some of you may remember that I've talked about starting a new series next year on saving money and overall frugal living, but I have yet to decide on a cool name for it.

Names I've considered:

Frugal Fiend
Thrifty Thursday (which will only work if I do this on Thursdays.)
Cheapskate Central

Those are okay, but I am open to suggestions. Send me YOUR idea for a great name for my new blog series on saving money and the one I like best will win one bodacious boxful of books. International readers, I will ship overseas, but it will come by a three-legged tortoise so if you win, it might take a while to reach you.

Deadline is 1-9-09

Here are the rules:

• Enter as many times as you wish.
• Post a comment with your title idea on any blog post from today until 1-9-09. Be sure to label in caps: ENTRY.
• If there are duplicate winning names, the person who entered it first gets the prize.
• I am the sole judge, so your entry must appeal to my weird sense of humor.
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The Prize: A 5-pack of assorted romance, paranormal and crime novels to one single winner.


And here's a bonus prize.

If you are a regular reader of my blog and you send a NEW PERSON over here to enter this contest, tell him to give you credit by adding: Sent by (your name)

If his entry wins, the person who sent him over here also gets a prize.

Tell your friends. Tell your neighbors. Tell anyone who likes to save money to enter this contest for a chance to win bunches of books.

I will announce the winner on 1-10-09.

Enter early and often. Operators are standing by.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Pick Me

I'll post about my contest late (LATE) Friday because I have so much going on right now.

In the meantime, go over and take a survey at Samhain where readers get to name their top ten favorite Samhain books. If you've read my book, Touch Of Fire, or just like the extra cool cover, give it a mention on the survey. ~~~thanks!

Here's the link.
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And come back late Friday and help me out with a new contest.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

What You Really, Really Want

I'm going to have a contest.

But...

My camera is 300 miles away right now so I can't show you a picture of the prizes.

So...

We will do the contest starting Friday.

Meanwhile...

Tell me what you want for Christmas. Forget the politically correct, and selfless acts of virtue. Tell me what you really, really want. What's your deep, dark, totally selfish desire?

If your favorite someone could give you anything in the world, what would it be?

And if you want to up your chances on getting said gift, leave the comment box to this blog open on your computer. Who knows? Maybe Santa will take a hint.




Woof!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Markets

Thirteenth Biannual Poetry Card Contest hosted by SPS Studios

Deadline: December 31, 2008
1st prize: $300 * 2nd prize: $150 * 3rd prize: $50
In addition, the winning poems will be displayed on our website.

Please read the following, then scroll down to submit your poem.

Poetry Contest Guidelines:
Poems can be rhyming or non-rhyming, although we find that non-rhyming poetry reads better.
We suggest that you write about real emotions and feelings and that you have some special person or occasion in mind as you write.

Poems are judged on the basis of originality and uniqueness.

English-language entries only, please.

Enter as often as you like!

Poetry Contest Rules
All entries must be the original creation of the submitting author. All rights to the entries must be owned by the author and shall remain the property of the author. The author gives permission to SPS Studios, Inc. to publish and display the entry on the Web (in electronic form only) if the entry is selected as a winner or finalist. Winners will be contacted within 45 days of the deadline date. Contest is open to everyone except employees of SPS Studios and their families. Void where prohibited.

***

Aurealis

Aurealis is looking for science fiction, fantasy or horror short stories between 2000 and 8000 words. All types of science fiction, fantasy and horror will be considered, but we do not want stories that are derivative in nature, particularly those based on TV series.

Stories do not have to be explicitly Australian, although we always like to see some with Australian characterisation and background, provided the local element is not merely a self-conscious insertion into a standard plot.

***

Agent News from the OWW list group

JOHN PARKER, UK literary agent formerly with MBA, has launched the new Zeno Agency in partnership with John Berlyne. Interests include 'inparticular Science Fiction and Fantasy': authors who are following Parker to Zeno include Ian Mcdonald, Roger Penrose, Justina Robson and Iain Sinclair.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

News You Can Use

Dear Author is beginning a terrific series on how to open ebooks into the various machines that are currently on the market. The biggest drawback to ebooks is that many manufacturers narrow its e-reader to select formats.

Some of you might be old enough to remember the Betamax vs VHS wars when video cassette recorders first hit the store shelves back in 1975. For a history lesson, go here.

Thank you, Dear Author, for one of the most helpful posts I've come across. The more we educate, the better our choices.

By the way, I am a faithful reader of Dear Author and I can tell you it is one blog I never miss. They always have interesting content intermixed with reviews, interviews and publishing news.

Recently, I'd been given that very nice "I love your blog" award by three different people. (Diane Craver, Sandra Ulbrich, and Marianne Arkins) I'd like to pass that on to Dear Author for all their dedicated work on behalf of our crazy business.


I love your blog, Dear Author.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Stark Beauty

No Killer Campaign post today. A good friend of mine died suddenly and we are still reeling from the shock. He was my age and in better shape than any two people I know.
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I leave you with a photo of our acreage in semi-tropical Southeast Texas. We've had the occasional freak snow, but never like this. It's beautiful, yet fleeting. It'll be 70 degrees this weekend and all this will be a memory.
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It seemed apropos for my friend who loved photography and took many such pictures of his own.
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Rest in peace, Richard.




Thursday, December 11, 2008

Fire Safety

My husband, Greg, is among other things, a Fire and Rescue Incident Commander at his chemical plant. He's always sending me photos and videos about all sorts of disasters, not only to keep me informed but so that I understand what he does.

Because of their graphic nature I can't post most of these items, but this one is a sobering reminder for all of us. With so many friends and neighbors in our kitchens during the holidays, I thought it was appropriate to share.

Herein is a Public Service Announcement on fire safety. Please be careful in that kitchen.



video

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Tic, Tic, Tic

Sorry to be late with today's post. Internet problems again. Argh!

***

The Kindle is still making headlines a year later. There's talk of a version 2.0, and other manufacturers are jumping in with cheaper alternatives.

And the chatter I'm hearing is even more interesting. People want multi-purpose tools. The I-Phone is coming in as a strong contender. It's got everything! Email, internet, reader, music player, GPS, and of course, a phone.

Again, the price is prohibitive. But it is getting closer to being cost effective, especially in a mobile society.

This brings me to the other debacle facing the publishing industry—getting people to read. I hate to be the bringer of bad news, but you are not going to change the habits of an entire society just because you buy them a book for Christmas.

I don't think force feeding books to a somnambulant public will work. You have to instill desire first. Rowling swept a world. Dan Brown riled millions to read. And Meyers made teen girls swoon for vampires. The one thing that sets them apart from the rest of us is that they got people who didn't ordinarily pick up a book to read theirs.

The publishing industry is hurting on two very different fronts. They, like every other industry is reeling from a burdened economy. They are also operating on an absurd business model whereby booksellers can return what they don't sell. Add them together and, well…you can see where we landed.

But there is a third variable in this equation. People aren't reading like they used to. The reasons are complicated but I think I can break it down to simple terms. Today's society is far more mobile and faster paced than it was 30 years ago. We are not the same people we were then. Tastes have changed. Life is faster and instant gratification is expected.

So how do you solve for that equation?

Firstly, books have to be aligned to tastes. Knowing the pulse of the public is nonnegotiable.

Secondly, books need to fit the lifestyle of the public. The avid reader is always going to buy. Instead, spend your promotional dollars on the occasional reader, the one who only picks up a book because her friend told her it was worth her time. Those are the consumers who will add real revenue. (We'll discuss where to find the non-avid reader in a later post.)

Lastly, don't hang on to the old ways because that's the way it’s always been. Life doesn't work that way, and neither does growth.

Which leads me to an article that was in the news yesterday.

I was deeply saddened to hear that the Chicago Tribune Newspaper filed for bankruptcy. The Trib was my very first adult job, so it has a very special place in my heart. I learned a lot from my first real coworkers and managers and that experience made me the manager I am today.

Newspapers, much like books, are suffering a similar fate. It's easier and cheaper to read online. Where is the impetus to buy the paper?

It was painless for me to switch to ebooks, but I hated to give up my newspaper despite its flaws. That was my morning constitution and comfort. I would get up before anyone else, have my little breakfast and read contentedly. Now like most of my other reading, it is simply more convenient and practical to read online.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Markets

Win up to £150.00 in the Jacqui Bennett Writers Bureau short story competition. Make real money from your writing.

Go to their website and study the three photos, and then write a story based (as loosely as you like) around one. Let your imagination run riot - the images alone should inspire you. Remember to state which photo your story is based upon when you submit it (you can get a larger version to print out or save on your computer by clicking on the smaller ones).

First Prize: £150 - Second Prize: £50 - Third Prize: £25

You can submit a story in any genre - humorous, romantic, thriller, horror etc. - and on any theme. It can be written with either adults or children in mind. You could try a short story with a twist in the tail, a spooky ghost story, or something entirely different - it's up to you. Alternatively, you may submit the opening pages of a novel.

1) All work must be unpublished and should not have been previously submitted to JBWB for critique.

2) Length: 2,500 words maximum (submissions exceeding this length will be disqualified).

3) Closing Date: 31 December 2008.

4) Entry Fee: £4 per entry.

5) Entries should be sent as an email attachment (or in the body of the email itself) to: competitions@jbwb.co.uk. Please confirm in your email that the entry fee is on its way or that you have paid by credit card.

Alternatively, send hard copy of your story, plus entry fee, to: 87 Home Orchard, Yate, South Gloucestershire BS37 5XH England. Please note that feedback is not available on hard copy entries, only on entries emailed as a Microsoft Word attachment.

6) The winners and runners-up will be announced by the end of January 2009 and will receive the appropriate prize money. The winning entries will be published on the JBWB website.

Further runners-up prizes may be awarded at my discretion. Good luck!

***


This one is a little 'different'. --I don't make these up. I just report them.


She Nailed the Stake Through His Head: Tales of Biblical Terror

Seeking short stories for the Dybbuk Press anthology She Nailed the Stake Through His Head: Tales of Biblical Terror (working title).

What I'm looking for:
Short stories primarily, ideally between 1000 - 12000 words. All stories must be based in some way on Biblical stories. Actually have a familiarity with the Bible. I may consider poems if they are particularly good but I hate 99% of all poems I read. This is primarily a horror anthology so the creepier the better. In many of these stories, you really don't have to work too hard to make them horrific.

What I'm NOT looking for:
Normally this is the place where I say that I don't want any vampires, werewolves or ghosts but if you can stick a vampire into a King David story or put zombies in Ancient Assyria then I actually want to see it.

Format: Attach as either a .doc or an .rtf. DO NOT send .docx attachments. All .docx attachments will be deleted unread.Pay: $50 advance against equal share of royalties to be paid out no later than publication.

Reading Period: December 1 - December 31, 2008. All stories submitted before December 1 will be deleted unread! And yes, I do mean BEFORE December 1. I might extend the deadline for after December 31 if I don't find enough stories to fill an anthology (I'm shooting for between 8 and 12. I can go as low as 7.) I'm putting out the call for stories now because I want interested parties to write their stories and revise them before submitting them. I don't want trunk stories with cover letters trying to explain why your vampire is a Christ figure.

For more information and where to email submissions, go to the blog.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Doggie Doors

Marianne Arkins, my fellow dog lover and frugal friend is going to start running "Tightwad Tips" on her blog. Go over there and read today's post.

I will probably start my Cheap Tips as a regular series in January. It should be fun. Maybe we can start a trend!

Marianne also mentioned her dog, Dakota, and how they have to put him out to go potty. I thought I would make our doggie door experience the topic of today's post.

Many years ago, we had a terrible house fire. Two of our five dogs died in that fire. We were devastated, but it galvanized us so that we never faced such a tragedy again.

Our house was well sealed. Being winter, we kept most of the dogs (and kitty) in, but left two of the Samoyeds outside. Sammies are nothing but big white fur coats. The cold is their element. But we left the short coated dogs inside that night.

We only went out for a quick bite, but when we came back we were surprised to find the outside light off and when we looked inside the only window with the blinds open, it was strangely dark--too dark.

It was hard to find our keys in the dark and a horrible feeling came over me. I yelled at Greg to hurry. We bolted inside and I was just about to enter the kitchen where we kept the dogs that night. Greg grabbed me and threw me away from the door. "Wait!" he yelled. He felt the door and pushed me back. "It's hot."

At this point I was panicking. "What difference does that make? We have to get them out!" He pushed me away again and warned me that if smoke billows out to stay low. He opened the door making sure we were both out of direct exposure. As soon as we opened the door the fresh air reignited the fire.

We fell to the floor and started feeling for the dogs and cat. One by one we dragged them out. Kitty revived almost as soon as we got him out, but the three dogs were unconscious. We gave mouth to mouth resuscitation to them, while the neighbors called the fire department. Those wonderful men were there almost immediately. The paramedics took me and the one dog that was still breathing to the vet. The other two never regained consciousness.

It's been more than 20 years and this story still bothers me.

Anyway, the point of the story is that it forced us to make some changes in how we design a house. Greg gutted that kitchen and put fire resistant sheetrock. All the wiring was put inside conduit. And we also put in a doggie door.

Today, our present house is even more insulated and tighter than any other home we've had. It had a very expensive doggie door, but it was too small for the Tankster. So we had to put in a mongo-size one for the mongo-size dog.

One of Greg's friends saw pictures of the door and asked him: "Aren't you afraid of someone crawling into the house through that?" To which he replied: "Uhh…you've met Tank haven't you?" Big doggie doors mean BIG dogs. I don't know too many people that would be willing to take a chance with a Rottweiler. And God forbid should you ever meet his mama. I'm meaner than the dog.
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Our current doggie door is the best quality we could find. It's a double flap door, which gives it double insulation. The dog goes through a little tunnel to get out and never lets cold air in. We had to order it online since no one local carried it, but it's the best door I've ever seen. It's called Security Boss.





From the outside






From the inside. The doggie door is located in my studio. You can see Tank halfway through the door. A small dog would probably fit in the tunnel. Tank...just his head. LOL!


I don't know if you can see this. When Greg built the base on where the doggie door was going to sit, he signed Tank's name and paw print. Should anyone years down the road decide to remove the door, they'll know who used it. :o)

Friday, December 5, 2008

Killer Campaigns: Buttons

You might wonder why I'm listing paraphernalia like buttons, magnets and pencils separately. It's because for the most part they appeal to different audiences. In my continuing research on available promotional venues and their assets, I've found that certain objects are going to work better for one audience over another.

Back in the late 60s and early 70s, I stuck buttons on my jackets, shirts and school bags as if it were armor plating. I was a kid and not yet having an identity I was desperate to create one. LOL!

Buttons became a perfect outlet for me. I was shy back then--no REALLY. And I relied on the smart remarks and common slang of the day to say what I couldn't say out loud. I also discovered it was a great way to break the ice because people were always reading what I had on.

Buttons aren't nearly the fashion statement today that they were back then. Still, occasionally seeing a particularly clever caption is fun to see. And using them to shout out your book can be useful.

Given that mostly preteen and teenagers might take advantage of the button, I would suspect that the most productive use of the button might be for YA novels. I've collected a few buttons for romance and SFF books, but most of them will stay in my collection box because I just don't sport them anymore.

I do remember two particularly smart-looking buttons that I kept aside. There was one serious problem with both these very nice buttons. One had a clever saying, ostensibly about the novel. The other was a tagline the author probably used as her signature statement. But neither one mentioned either the author name or the title of the book.

All that clever marketing and they left out the most important things.

If you use buttons, give them a purpose. There isn't much room for a lot of copy so get to the point. And somewhere, even if it's in small print, list the author name, book title or the author's website. The button is there to perk interest, but it also has to do a job--promote you.

I still see buttons and magnets at some of stores catering to kids so I imagine it's still a good bet for attracting the younger crowd.

To make it profitable for you:

• Keep the copy short

• Somewhere, even if it’s on the back, make sure your name or your website is listed prominently. When someone asks where that saying is from, you want the wearer to be able to tell them.

• Nice bold colors in the background draw the eye.

• Fonts with clean lines and thick bodies make it easy to read at a distance.

• Always make sure the style and copy on the button resonates with the book you are promoting.

Buttons are a novelty and I think they are best paired up with funny novels or any YA tome.

There is a place for them. Just don't forget to tell them your name.



Want to get a whole book with this information for $2.99?

Find it on Amazon.
 


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Recession-Proof

I feel terrible. I know many of you may think I am totally ignoring you. I am not.

My internet provider is obviously cousins with the state lottery because I never know from day to day and sometimes from hour to hour whether I will get connected. Service has been so dicey that when I do get on, I race to answer the emails that are urgent and hope I can get to the rest later.

So my sincere apologies for being absent.

This post is being written on the fly--typing it in Word and uploading it from an undisclosed location. I will also copy and paste all the blog posts I've missed from you guys in the past few days onto a Word document so I can read them later.

Meanwhile…the other purpose to this post is to strike back at all the Grinchy economic news we've had lately.

Adversity is where I shine. Give me a challenge and I will find a way to succeed. That's not an idle boast. When things are tough, I am energized.

In the US, we are officially in a recession. Big Whoop. That is not a big deal.

If you've been poor—and I have been—you learn how to make things stretch, last, and do double duty.

So today, I'd like to give some tips on how the Zannini household functions.

• Bulk buys
Things that do not expire--like paper towels, toilet paper, plastic wrap, etc. I buy in bulk. I don't have time to clip coupons and such, but I do scan the store specials. If I see a favorite item go on sale, I buy as much as I can store.

True story: Wal-Mart beat me at my own game. For many years at the end of Christmas, Wal-Mart would discount all their holiday paper towels to half off. Well, paper towels are paper towels. I don't care if there's a snowman on it. I would buy them by the case! They lasted me all year and I didn't have to worry about buying more until next season. But Wal-Mart and their tricksy inventory ways figured it out and they've since greatly reduced or stopped carrying entirely holiday-themed paper goods. If your stores still carry them, buy them by the case. It's the best savings of the year.

Want to save more money? Use cloth napkins and kitchen towels. Not as convenient, but more money saving.

• Read online
I love my newspaper, but you can get the same news online and for free. Want coupons? You don't have to rely on a paper for that either. Just Google 'coupons'. There are a lot of places that will put you on their mailing list and send you coupons to your in-box.

• Shop garage sales and thrift stores for furniture
I actually have better luck with garage sales, but I know people who get fabulous stuff from thrift stores. All it takes is a good eye and a little elbow grease.

I've bought name brand solid wood furniture for as little as a dollar. I strip, sand and refinish them to new quality. As long as the piece is solid wood, there is no reason you can't restore it to its former glory.

• get creative with Christmas decorating
I stole this tip from a friend of mine. She bought these really tiny picture frames, then photocopied and reduced favorite family pictures and put them inside. It is so warm and personal. She decorated a small tree and put it in her elderly mother's bedroom. The poor lady has Alzheimer's. Since these are all very old pictures, it is a constant source of comfort for her because they are from a time she still remembers.

That's all for now. I'll post some more tips as the weeks go by. Who knows, maybe I'll make it another series. How does 'The Frugal Friend' sound? I'll give it some thought.

Another Killer Campaign post tomorrow. For those of you new to this blog, Killer Campaign posts are where I discuss potential promotional venues.

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Remember, if I don't answer you right away it's because I am in limbo.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

On Series and Linked Books

Agent Scott Eagan gave some pretty good advice last week on sequels and series and I thought I would repeat it here.

He said that he sees a lot of trilogies come across his desk from new authors--a big no-no.

Speaking for myself, I understand why an author would create more than one book in a series, but I have never pitched a book as a series.

The reason should be self-evident, but if you read Eagan's post he spells it out for you. Basically, a new author is a big risk. If you don't yet know how the first book will do how can you possibly take a chance on a series?

Yet, I know dozens (yes, dozens) of author friends who insist on writing and selling their novels as a package.

When I set out to write a story, I usually have a couple of other story lines on the backburner. This is my seed material for sequels. If the first book sells, I can then concentrate on the next project in the series.

As an early writer, I did write a sequel to my first novel. The advice I got back then is that after you finish your first novel, you should immediately begin the second. Like many other people, I thought that meant writing a sequel to the story line I already knew so well.

While that's not necessarily a bad thing, it does leave you thinking that now you have to pitch both (or more) novels to the agent. And that's a misconception--at least for the new novelist.

Pitch only one book at a time. If it's marketable, you'll get your chance to pitch the succeeding ones.

Scott Eagan had an excellent suggestion on how to pitch your subsequent books. Instead of writing them as a series, write them as linked books. Using the same characters as your original novel, write each succeeding book as independent novels. This way if your first book doesn't inspire a contract, your next book might.

For the whole post on this topic go here.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Update

I am without an internet connection--AGAIN. My blog posts are already scheduled to go out Wednesday and Friday, so no worries there, but if I haven't answered your emails--that's why.

Meanwhile, don't forget to visit Angie James' blog for Holiday Hell. Today is Day One. Lots of prizes. Lots of chances to win.

Markets

Today we have one market and some agent news.

There's so few markets that will take SF poetry. Here's one you can try.

Starline
Official journal of the Science Fiction Poetry Association.
Query: SFPASL at aol dot com
Marge Simon, Editor
1412 NE 35th
St.Ocala, FL
34479

*****

The Lyons Literary Agency has a new address as of today. This agency handles true crime, mysteries, thrillers, and literary fiction. Although this address has been posted on the web, be aware that they only accept queries online.

Lyons Literary LLC
27 West 20th Street,
Suite 1003
New York, NY
10011

And

Jenny Rappaport, formerly with L. Perkins has opened her own office.

From her website:

Only email queries are currently accepted. Please send your email to queries@rappaportagency.com. Be sure to include the world 'Query' in the subject line, and your contact information in the body of the e-mail.

Jenny primarily represents science fiction and fantasy, horror, young adult fiction, and romance, along with a few select nonfiction titles. In science fiction and fantasy, her tastes are very broad, but be careful for cliches. There's so much wonderful material out there to explore that every fantasy novel doesn't need the stereotypical elf, dwarf, and farmboy-turned-world savior, all of whom start their adventure in a bar with tavern wenches. Regarding horror, she prefers the darker, psychological side of things, and she very firmly does not like splatterpunk.

She represents all types of young adult fiction, but her favorites are the ones that fall into the SFF or horror genres. Regarding romance, she is only looking for historical romances and paranormals (contemporary or historical). She also handles a bit of women's fiction, and is always a sucker for a very good historical novel. Literary fiction is difficult to place with us.