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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Twitter-ed

Twitter

I have done the unthinkable. I have signed up with Twitter.

So far, I am following the only two people I know. I am trying to remember who all has mentioned they're on Twitter. Every name I've inputted (but the two I'm following) does not exist in their database.

I don't know if I'll like Twitter. And more importantly, I don't know if I'm in over my head, but I'll give it a shot.

If you're on Twitter and would like to follow me, I can promise you two things:

• I have no idea what I'm doing.
• It'll probably be funny watching my brain explode in real time.

***

Facebook

I was going to join Facebook, but I read their terms of service and it said this:

By posting User Content to any part of the Site, you automatically grant, and you represent and warrant that you have the right to grant, to the Company an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, publicly perform, publicly display, reformat, translate, excerpt (in whole or in part) and distribute such User Content for any purpose, commercial, advertising, or otherwise, on or in connection with the Site or the promotion thereof, to prepare derivative works of, or incorporate into other works, such User Content, and to grant and authorize sublicenses of the foregoing. You may remove your User Content from the Site at any time. If you choose to remove your User Content, the license granted above will automatically expire, however you acknowledge that the Company may retain archived copies of your User Content. Facebook does not assert any ownership over your User Content; rather, as between us and you, subject to the rights granted to us in these Terms, you retain full ownership of all of your User Content and any intellectual property rights or other proprietary rights associated with your User Content.

They say they don't own your property, but it also says they can use, copy, etc even after you remove the content from their site. To me, that sounds like they still want to lay hands on it.

I think I'll pass for now. I want to join Facebook, but I don't want them playing footsies with my stuff.

Does anyone have any advice? Am I worrying about Facebook's ToS needlessly?

***

A second blog?

I am seriously considering spinning off my frugal blog posts into its own blog. The idea is still in the percolating stages, but I think there might be some substance to it. Right now it's a matter of: do I have enough time to devote to a second regular blog?

The audience for the frugal living blog is limited in this location. I can probably get a lot more readers if I place it with other blogs of its ilk.

I'd like to focus on money saving tips and country living stories. We'll see. It has a lot of potential and the idea is attractive to me.

Friday, February 27, 2009

ConDFW, part 3

I'm not going to dwell on the rest of these panels much. My notes are sketchy which means that the panels didn't use a clear cut punch list of items for discussion.

The panel on E-publishing: Dealing with the Internet was led by Priscilla Spencer, Michael Finn, Teresa Patterson, Kit O’Connell. What surprised me was that at least one of the panelists had only been traditionally published, still she was a major advocate for e-publishing.

The thing that was brought up loud and clear was that e-publishing was here to stay. It's not a fad or the domain of a fringe reading crowd. It's wholesale and spreading. The panel agreed that the generation growing up right now might grow up reading on an e-reader or i-phone rather than a print book.

There seemed to be huge interest on the floor. People wanted to KNOW about e-publishing. I was very pleased to see so much interest. It really deserved a longer, more in depth discussion on this subject.

***

One of the other panels was on Supernatural Romance. Other than the fact there were a lot of notable authors, this panel drifted off topic a bit and seemed to get stuck on where supernatural romance was shelved in bookstores and what defines romance. The panel consisted of Rachel Caine, Shannon Butcher, Sue Sinor, and PN Elrod.

There were a few aggravating minutes when a man from the audience asked if women were deluding themselves into believing in the fantasies portrayed in romance novels. Maybe I was tired and cranky that day, but I found myself doing an eye roll. Who believes stuff like this any more? And could he have been any more insulting to women?

This was an older man and I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that he was stuck in the old myth that women were reading romance as a substitute for what was missing in their real lives. But the other day, I realized that such misconceptions had far reaching repercussions.

What is it about people who make blanket statements about romance without having read widely in the genre? Things have changed so much in the past decade alone I don't dare call it the highly insulting moniker of "bodice ripper".

I don't mind people having firm opinions, but please do your research. Telling us about a romance novel you "heard" about fifteen years ago does not qualify you as a good judge of romance fiction. Read a couple dozen books published in the last couple of years and then we can talk.

The other day JK Coi was giving an interview on a radio program and it was obvious the interviewer knew nothing about the romance genre, insisting that "others" call it pornographic.

First of all, if you're interviewing someone, focus on the work, not the hype. Secondly, anyone who did their homework would know that romance spans everything from inspirational to erotica. The spectrum is so huge there is no way to categorize it as simply romance.

I write SF and fantasy with romantic elements. There's no bodice ripping and I even go the extra mile and include a plot. I'm such an anarchist!

Then there is inspirational, sweet romance, contemporary, historical, time travel, Western, Regency, erotica and paranormal. There are also at least a dozen other subgenres I haven't mentioned, everything from hen lit to suspense. Romance is way too broad a genre to package neatly--which goes back to the panel discussion on why romance is shelved in such strange places.

The more I read romance, the more humbled I am when I encounter authors who buck the genre tropes and give us real stories with real relationships and a happy ever after.

I, a hard core SF reader hardly ever reads plain SF any more. SF romance is far more intriguing and has a depth (and sometimes ray guns!) that makes me want to read more.

**Sorry for going into soapbox mode, but two people griping back to back about things they never took the trouble to investigate annoys the heck out of me. JK handled herself beautifully throughout the radio interview though. I was very proud.

I walked away from the Supernatural Romance panel more frustrated than pleased.

***

The last panel was interesting. It was called Mythological Plotholes and it was hosted by Selina Rosen, Shanna Swendson, Mel White, Frances May and J.M. McDermott.

The panelists discussed which myths haven't been overused. Among the list were:

• Midrashic themes

• kelpies (one of my crit partners just finished a kelpie story!)

• naiads

• Aboriginal themes

• the lesser known Grimm's Brothers tales

• Sumerian vampires

The myth isn't nearly as important as the execution. It's how you tell the story that makes the difference, even if it's a well worn trope.

The topic of using myths from American Indian or Aborigines was discussed, but I'm afraid I didn't agree with the reigning wisdom from a couple of panelists. I think it was Mel White who said it would be more respectful to get approval from the governing chief or tribal leader when publishing work containing their myths. (I was sitting way in the back, but I think this is how she phrased it.)

While I agree that one should always write with respect to tribal myths, I don't think it's wise to seek approval. It sets a precedent whereby your work must be reviewed and deemed worthy (ie, favorable to the myth or tribe).

My other concern is that such a review is subjective at best. One tribal leader might think an author's work is sensitive and honest. Another leader might think it's subversive. Works by Rushdie, or Sherry Jones, author of The Jewel Of Medina come to mind.

I don't plan on writing Aboriginal or Native American myths, so it's not an issue for me. But I wonder how others feel.

Do you use such myths in your work? Would you feel the need for validation from the tribal leaders?

Just curious...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

ConDFW, part 2

The panel on Creating Weapons in SFF was probably one of my favorites. Panelists included William Ledbetter, Linda Donahue, Kerry Tolan and Mary Gearhart-Gray.

What I particularly liked about this panel was how gracious the panelists were to each other. Everyone got a chance to speak and they invited the audience to actively participate. Sometimes panels can be ego orgies, but this one was delightfully interactive. (lots of good karma)

I also appreciated that many of the panelists came from a scientific background giving them more credibility.

The workshop started with some really implausible weaponry (like the Star Wars light saber), but quickly moved on to potential weapons that would be good to use in SFF.

The panel encouraged writers to think outside the box and to extrapolate using modern technology. Some of the ideas that were thrown out on the floor were:

• Lightning weapons
--I did not know that such a thing was possible. Not currently feasible, but within the realm of future technology.

• Black hole generators
--I'd heard of the possibility of ships coming across minute black holes. Why not actually have a weapon that can create the phenomena--or its ilk.

• Plasma weapons
--used often in current SF stories, but still tres cool.

• Genesis machines
--you'll remember the Genesis device used in one of the Star Trek movies. The idea is to use something that was meant as a beneficial device and corrupt it in such a way that it becomes a weapon.

• Psychology
--my favorite. The ancient Greeks, Romans and Mongols, among others often used the "scorched earth (salted earth)" tactic, destroying their enemies and lands so utterly that nothing would grow there again. When word of the destruction reached other enemies, the people would rather capitulate than risk total annihilation. The psychology of fear is extremely successful.

• DNA identifier. Weapons that can only be used by specific DNA. People whose DNA can infect a specific host through genetic markers. Another good one used on Star Trek as well.

• The Trojan horse. An oldie but a goodie.

The panelists did a great job of presenting their information. What could have been a very dry subject was full of ideas and lots of questions.

Excellent!

***
I am not much of a techy. Ask anyone! But I go through a lot of pain to make sure the tech in my SF is believable. A lot of this is due to Greg who really stays abreast of all the latest weaponry and communications equipment. Where he finds this info is beyond me. Every time he gives me a suggestion, I have to dig DEEP to find any reference to this new tech. I'm beginning to wonder if he's secretly in Black Ops. LOL!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Meanderings

Holy moley! How many organizations do I belong to? This week I found out two of them still had the old email address. And now one of them won't let me update unless I can confirm it's me through my OLD email address. What a headache it's been.

I finally figured out the procedure they want me to use in order to allow me to change my email, but apparently it involves a dead chicken and a full moon.

I appreciate the care they're taking to keep my profile secure, but there must be an easier way. Poor chicken.

***

My niece has stepped up and is going to help me promote Touch Of Fire to the 20-25 year old group. The girl is definitely going in my will. LOL!

***

The wildlife in my neck of the woods is amazing. I'm afraid I'm going to have a very hard time keeping chickens. There are so many birds of prey. And vultures! I had no idea they were so big. So far I've seen hawks, owls, vultures, coyotes, deer, llamas, road runners, rabbits, the usual cows, horses and donkeys--and my neighbor's guineas. Still haven't seen the lions yet, but maybe someday I'll tag along with my neighbor and visit the lion lady.

***
Stop by tomorrow for my next installment on ConDFW.

Monday, February 23, 2009

ConDFW, part 1

I really liked this con. It was laid back, easy to navigate and despite the crowds, there was still sitting room at all the workshops I attended.

SF and fantasy junkies are loyal attendees. Many of the people I'd seen at FenCon in years past were also at ConDFW.

I think the thing I like best about the small cons is that I get a lot inspiration from my fellow writers. While the bigger cons I've attended were better in the educational sense, the small cons are better at stoking the creative juices. There's more of an interactive mojo going on as opposed to the lecture format of bigger cons.
Booth Babe, Diana


Perhaps the one drawback to this con is that some of these panels could have gone on for two hours and we still would have only scratched the surface. The panel on space weapons was one that felt too short. That hour flew by and people still had their hands up asking questions and making observations. I am not techy in the least, but I do have an inner geek when it comes to how things work, especially when it comes to spaceships and weaponry.

The dealers room, where you can buy anything from books to t-shirts had the usual assortment of goodies. Twisted Links had the most outstanding booth due in large part to Diana, the booth babe. (Their words, not mine.) She was awesome in her leathers and tattoos. This picture doesn't do her justice. Her outfit from Saturday was even more fabulous, but I didn't bring my camera that day. I swear to you she stopped traffic everywhere she went.

Twisted Links had the coolest jewelry and chain maille. It was beautifully made. You can visit their website for a close up of their jewelry.


Twisted Links booth
.
Con DFW was very inexpensive for three days of panels and parties. And I'm sure someone is going to ask... I never go to the parties. I'd like to, but they always happen at night and I can't drive after the sun goes down.
.
I have to make mention of something Shelley Munro had on her blog the other day about authors being rude. Most everyone I met at the con was lovely, but there was one panel author who I found particularly offensive. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot. The author definitely lost a sale with me.
.
Perhaps the most enlightening thing I heard at the con was the acceptance (gasp!) that epublishing was here to stay. Imagine that. This was another panel that flew by with people still asking questions even as the new crowd started to pile in. I'll talk more about this in the next post.
.
There was even a panel on paranormal romance. Mercy! Could it be that the old bastion of SFF is finally beginning to understand that romance and SFF are not enemies?
.
Stay tuned Rocket Rangers for more news about the weird and wonderful world of SFF in Dallas.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Preempted Schedule

I think I'm going to preempt regular programming this week and give you some con highlights. This weekend I went to ConDFW, a SFF writers conference.

It is small, intimate and quite festive. This was my first time to ConDFW. The cost is very cheap and the guest of honor this year was none other than Jim Butcher.

I've seen Jim Butcher at FenCon, but he's even more wildly popular now. The line for his autograph stretched out to the hotel lobby. I love Jim's books, but I'm not standing in line for anyone's autograph---unless he's autographing a check for me. *grin*

The show ends today. I wanted to attend more of the workshops, but I was on a very tight schedule this weekend since I had actual writing jobs to complete. Still I was glad I got the chance to hear some of these authors speak.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Killer Campaigns: Organization

Okay, so today's post doesn't reflect an actual promotional venue, but I am learning the hard way that a writer must learn to pace himself and plan ahead.

I have a hard time saying no to people. Yesterday alone, I had FIVE people write me asking for favors. Two wanted critiques, one wanted some artwork done, and the last two asked for help promoting their books. This is on top of other favors that have been piling up.

I might be able to accomplish each of their requests, but it's not going to happen right away. I get home so late at night that all I want to do is crawl into bed. This leaves me with trying to help them out during the weekends. You guessed it--the same weekends I save for writing and working my side editing jobs.

Today's post is not about promotion per se, but how to organize your promotions.

I started out very organized but that began to disintegrate after I moved to the new house. I'm telling you, that commute is a killer! Some days it takes me two hours of bumper to bumper traffic.

But I will give you the snapshot of my marketing plan.

The first thing I did was break it down (using my original list on Killer Campaigns) and selected the items that I thought I would be comfortable doing.

For example, I can't see myself doing chats. Every time I'm in a chatroom for someone else I constantly lose the connection. To add insult to injury, it doesn't help that I'm not a chatty person by nature. Chat rooms are just too impersonal for me. I want to get to know the people I'm talking to and you can't do that with the micro-speak of a chat room.

But I ADORE writing articles and guest blogging. It takes quite a bit of preparation, but I get a lot mileage out of my articles and posts, so that goes first on my list.

I also weigh the costs, both in time and money. I did very little advertising for my book. But I will admit, I was snookered into doing an advert that was not what I thought it would be. The price was relatively cheap. It'll get a lot of exposure, but the promoter did a very poor job of explaining how the ad would look. If I had it to do over again, I would put the money elsewhere.

Let me break down how my marketing plan looks.

• I listed EVERY promotional venue I could think of. (see my original post on this)

• I checked off the things I either would like to do, or were easy to do.

• Made a list of all my writing friends for potential guest blogs or announcements on their blogs.
--This is deceiving. While I have a lot of friends, I don't ask everyone to help promote my book. Not everyone has a blog or forum that is amenable to book promotion. For example, I have some friends who just blog about personal stuff. They might have an audience, but I would feel self-conscious using their personal blog as my platform. God bless those friends who waved their blog pom-poms on my behalf. Almost all of them did it with no request from me.

• Budget. I wrote down how much I was WILLING to spend on promotion. It was a very small dollar amount, and I scrutinized every penny.

• Calendar. I did a month by month schedule for the ebook. Sadly, I have failed miserably with the print book. I am getting my keester in gear now.

• Pacing. It all comes back to pacing yourself. A calendar helps. I've set up Microsoft Outlook to send me regular reminders of when I'm supposed to do what.

And I keep doing favors for people in the hopes that good karma will return to me in the months ahead.


So how do you plan your marketing schedule? Do you schedule your events far in advance or are you more by the seat-of-your-pants kind of promoter?



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

Find it on Amazon.
 

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

More For Less: Big Ticket~Little Money

When it comes to finding the best price for big ticket items, it pays to do your research.

When we bought our last tv, we had already scoured all the local ads in the newspaper and visited a couple of showrooms to see if this was indeed what we wanted. We also did some intense internet surfing. The entire process took several weeks.

We are never in a hurry to buy anything. Over the years we've developed another rule along with the $50 Rule. We almost never buy a big ticket item on the same day we decide we need it. At the very least, we let the deal sit for 24 hours unless we are sure that it is the lowest price available and we are ready to buy.

Waiting 24 hours gives us a chance to think things through and it also allows us to double check to see if it really is a great price.

Above all else, never let a salesperson rush you into a sale. Trust me. If it's a big ticket item with a terrific price, the salesman will give you the 24 hours and honor that price the next day.

Back to research. Did you know there are entire sites dedicated to finding the lowest prices for any item? This in itself takes time, but when you consider you could be saving several hundred, if not thousands of dollars, it's worth the investment in time.

Here are a few to try that I found particularly helpful.

New Egg
Shop Local
Deal News

When we were shopping for our hi-def tv, we jotted down all the qualities it had to have along with the price it listed for at each store. The price spread was staggering.

On top of this even the sale price had to be scrutinized. What might seem like a great price on the surface could be for a slightly lower end product. The product code is the key. It will be the same no matter what store or e-store you buy the merchandise. When comparing prices, make sure it is for the exact product.

For me, this is where the headaches come in. One item may be almost identical to the other one. Sometimes you have to dig to get down to what the differences are—and then decide how important they are to you. It all comes down to doing your homework.

It's worth it. Don't settle for the first price you see at a "discount" store and assume it's the best one you'll find. And don't be afraid to haggle.

I am not a haggler by nature, but I do know the most I'm willing to pay for something.

A few months ago we had to buy an enclosed trailer. The price spread was anywhere from $4000 to $10,000 for the size and style we needed. The problem was I only wanted to spend $3500.

We were in a bit of a hurry since we were in the middle of moving, but we had already narrowed our search down to one of two trailer lots. Now it was just a matter of who could give us the best deal.

The salesperson at lot B gave us a price of $4850 on a very nice trailer with every feature we needed. He had us at a slight disadvantage because we really needed the trailer, and it wasn't too inflated a price (compared to the other lots).

On this go round, I was the one with the checkbook and I used that as my trump card. I told him flat out that $3500 was my limit, all the while making wifey-like innuendoes that suggested I was ready to look elsewhere.

Guess how much I paid for that trailer? $3500. Greg still brags about that. And I still love that trailer. I'm glad Greg talked me into the bigger one with the drop down ramp and the double axle. We've used the heck out of that thing.

Just remember that everything is negotiable. You don't have to fight with the salesperson. All you're after is a happy medium, a price you both can live with.

And do your homework. Good reconnaissance is your best armor.

Other More For Less posts

Monday, February 16, 2009

Markets

Appalachian Holiday Hauntings

Publication date: November 1, 2009

Word count: 1000 to 3000 words

Payment: three-cents per word plus contributor copy (one-cent per word on reprints)

Format: Attached RTF or Word Document file. (do not copy and paste into email body)

• No simultaneous or multiple submissions
• No explicit language or sexual content (this project will be in regional school systems)

Deadline: September 1, 2009 (do not inquire on status of submission until after this date)

We are looking for traditional Christmas ghost stories set in the Appalachian region. Think Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol with an Appalachian backdrop. However, given this example, we want to make sure you understand that stories may be set in any time frame, including the present.

We are not interested in tales that disrespect or alter the religious aspects of the holiday.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

I Touched a Sony

Today, I fondled my first Sony e-Reader. Lord, help me, it was goooood!

I am not sorry I fingered its smooth gray lines. I don't deny I pressed and poked every button on it's face. I was shameless in my covetousness and unrepentant of my lust.

Greg noticed my unnatural desire for this slim and lightweight slice of technology. "Would you like me to buy it for you?"

My eyes went glassy as my focus turned to tunnel vision. "No," I whispered. "Not yet."

But soon, my lovely. Very soon. There are quite a few new products coming down the line, but the Sony has been at the top of my list from the beginning.

This e-reader was at Sam's Club. If that doesn't denote that the e-reader is now commonplace, I don't know what does.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Recycled Book Into a Purse

No Killer Campaign post today. I got home so late night I didn't have time to do research.

Instead I will leave you with a cool project using an old book cover to create a purse. I'm not much of a girly-girl, but this was kind of cute.

Sorry I couldn't embed the video. You'll have to open the link to see it.

Happy Friday the 13th, everyone!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Ride Out The Storm

My head hurts. I was going to post this on Saturday, but that's Valentine's Day for heaven's sake. I'm not going to dampen anyone's spirits on that day.

From Joe Nassise at Genreality:

• In 2004, there were roughly 1.2 million books in print.
• 80% of those books sold fewer than 100 copies.
• 98% sold fewer than 5000 copies.
• Only a few hundred books sold more than 100,000 copies.
• About 10 books sold over a million copies.

Read the rest of the post here.

***

And from Mark Terry, read his post on being paid by the word.

When you break it down by word, it makes you wonder if it's all worth it. Most authors I know make a few thousand here or there. Very few (that I know personally) break the 50k mark.

And I worry about the lucky few who make more than that because now they are under the gun to deliver or else.

Publishing isn't known for its generosity or giving second chances. And it has a very short attention span. There's always some new shiny author out there waiting in the wings.

Let's do the math. If you make 3 cents a word for a 100,000 word novel, it comes out to…$3,000.

Still want to write? Even the poverty level (yet professional rate) of 5 cents a word is only $5,000.

I'm not trying to dissuade anyone. I just hope people understand what's at stake and know that they'll be investing an ungodly amount of time to reach that golden ring.

A lot of writers say that they do it for the love of writing. All that is well and good, and more power to you for following your bliss.

I know none of this is news to the authors who've been doing this for a while. They know what they bring home. And I thank them for opening my eyes to reality.

Unless you already have a stable income coming in, writing is at best a side gig.

I wish I could say these guys were wrong, but they're not.

And to completely cool your jets: It's been reported nearly everywhere by now that HarperCollins will begin layoffs. They posted a 6.4 BILLION dollar loss. It has since closed its Collins division.

Okay, so it's not pretty out there. But people still want to read. And we still want to write.

Nothing lasts forever--including upheaval.

Go forth and write. We'll get through this.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

More For Less: Valentine's Celebration for under $30

Since this weekend is Valentine's Day, I thought I would talk about how to celebrate without busting your budget.

It doesn't matter what the occasion is, if you want to make an impression, it's all about what you put into it. If you dash off to the 7-11 for a box of cheap chocolates and half dead flowers you might as well give her (or him) the $30 you spent.

But you can spend that same thirty bucks and make it an evening to remember. Here's how.

Guys:
Instead of long stemmed roses, buy a little potted plant of tea roses. They used to be about four bucks at our local Walmart. They last for years and she'll have something to remember you by long past the holiday.

Go to the BEST chocolate shop you can find and buy a small box of four chocolates. In a pinch, Godiva will do. Average price: $10

Make a card. Yes. Make it. If you have a computer and printer, half the work is done for you, but I've gotten some beautiful hand made cards from Greg. He always adds a love note from our current dogs too. (That always makes me smile.) Believe me, the homemade cards are much more precious to me than the store-bought ones.

Make dinner. Recipe follows at the end of this post. Total price: $15

Send the kids to grandma. Watch your favorite romantic movie at home and I promise you will be sleeping in each other's arms all night.

Ladies, if you're the one doing the planning:
My hubby's not much into plants, but he does love chocolate—especially good chocolate. Like the list above for guys, I can't stress enough how important it is to get the best. When we lived near Grapevine, TX, there was a chocolate shop called Schacolad. It was so sinfully good. I swear we would close our eyes and savor each decadent bite.

Pretend it's your first Valentine's Day. Remember how hard you tried to impress each other back then? You put on makeup, nice clothes and even perfume. Same idea. The goal is to show him how important he is to you.

Help him cook. In our house, Greg is the better cook. But he doesn't like to clean. (I think there must be a bylaw about cooks not cleaning. I don't know.) On days when we cook together, I chop up the veggies and do the clean up, while he does his thing with the pots and pans. We spend the evening together, talking, making jokes and maybe slipping in a glass of wine. Life is good.

Kids: We don't have kids, other than the four-footed kind. If you're used to doing things as a family, include the kids. But if you want just a few hours with just the two of you, I'm sure the kids won't mind being elsewhere. They hate it when you get mushy in front of them. *grin*

Other FREE things you can do with each other:
• full body massage, complete with oil
• take a bath together
• read to each other (really, it's more fun than you think!)
• go for a walk in the woods (easy for us since it's just out the door.)

Valentine's Dinner

You know me. It has to be fast and it has to be easy. This is a dish I like to serve.

Baked Salmon with cilantro

1 lb fresh salmon
¼ cup butter
½ bunch cilantro
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp rosemary
¼ tsp celery seed
Salt and pepper to taste
1 lemon

Salt and pepper the salmon. Mash the butter with the minced garlic, rosemary, and celery seed, then dot the fish with the mix. Finely chop the cilantro and layer on top. Put fish in heavy aluminum foil and squeeze the fresh lemon over the entire fish. (I like LOTS of lemon. *g*) It gives new meaning to the term: lemon butter.

Wrap completely in aluminum foil and bake for about 30 minutes or until fish is flakey.

Wild Rice: I use Uncle Ben's. If you want to go cheaper, fluffy white rice is just as good.

Asparagus: Steam asparagus until tender. Drizzle with butter and salt to taste.

Dinner rolls: I'm not much of a baker, so I almost always buy commercially made croissants. If you bake your own, this will be even cheaper.

Average cost for ingredients in north Texas:
Salmon: $10
Asparagus: $2 a pound
Croissants: $1.30
Wild rice: $1.92

Total cost: Around $15 without wine.

That's it! Go forth and create a Valentine's Day you both will remember.

Other More For Less posts.

***

I don't normally blog on Thursdays, but there will be a post tomorrow.

It's gloomy though. Thought I'd warn you first.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Markets

Tor.com Name That Zombie Caption Contest

We here at Tor.com love us some zombies, and judging from your comments and our webstats, a lot of you love zombies, too. And so it is with great pleasure that we announce the inevitable Tor.com Name-that-Zombie Caption Contest.

How do you play? It’s easy. All you have to do is come up with your best caption (50 words or less) for the zombie photo above, and post it as a comment in reply to this post. Our panel of judges will evaluate all of the entries, and our favorite one will be chosen as the winner.

Not writing-related, but it does look fun.

***

CONduit XVIII: Chronicles of CONduit Fiction Contest

All entries must be postmarked or electronic entries time stamped as follows:

Novella - April 30, 2008
Short Story - May 15, 2008
Flash Fiction - May 15, 2008

• The competition is open to any amateur or professional writer.

• The entrant will be considered a professional if he has previously sold a story or has been awarded a prize of $50 or more in any short story competition. A person employed in the publishing industry, regardless of his job title or responsibilities, will be considered a professional for the scope of this competition.

• The entry cannot be previously published. For purposes of the competition, published is defined as: having appeared in a publication, including zines and web sites.

• The entry must be the original work of the author.

• Writer must be at least 18 years of age or have the written permission of parent or guardian to enter.

• The entrant must complete the Official Entry Form and sign the statement acknowledging the terms and conditions of the contest.

• Membership in, attendance at CONduit XVIII is not required for submission.

• There is no entry fee.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Around The Blog Block

I wanted to point you to a few blog posts I have read of late and haven't had the time to discuss.

The first is Marian Perera. Marian always has thought provoking content. She's on my keeper list, a very special list of blogs that are must-reads.

On January 10 she posted: Do writers deserve to be published?

Wow. She posited a great argument. The rise of the internet has given way to a proliferation of wannabe authors, both good and bad.

There has to be a way to choose, and the only reliable way I know of is going to a reputable publishing house where experienced editors can vet the project.

Self-publishing is still useful, particularly for nonfiction projects, but if you want to gain a following, you have to use the venue that will funnel your work into the most reader hands.

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I really felt for Emily Veinglory. Her book cover shares the same stock photo as Lois McMaster Bujold. Ouch.

This has always been my greatest dread when it comes to cover art. The only way around it that I see is if the stock photo people can license photos for 3, 6, or 12 months at a time. At least give the person who's using that art to let her book shine for a few months before the next person comes around.

In the yellow page business, stock art is very common. What they do is govern that the same art won't appear on the same or facing page. This way you don't keep seeing the little plumber guy on all the plumbing ads.

For what it's worth, I liked Emily's cover better.

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And one of my Yahoo groups is talking about "selling yourself". Many people have chimed in and said that they hate playing the part of salesperson. One bright soul spoke up and said that the best salesperson is the one who doesn't act like a salesperson. I said much the same thing here.

You're not selling. You're informing the world about a unique product and inviting them to try you out. If you treat your book like it was a used car, not only will you feel like a salesperson, but you'll also be perceived as one.

The other thing that came out in the discussion was that the average author might need a good five years before she's well known. Whew! That's a relief! There's still time for me.

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I haven't discussed this publicly, fearful that I might be labeled habitually broken. Since November 2007 I've been suffering with what one doctor diagnosed as sciatica. The pain is so severe I have been unable to sit for more than 10 minutes at a time. If that doesn't interfere with writing, try it for a couple of hours and see how you do.

Stretch, he told me and it will fade in a couple of months.

Fast forward to July 2008 when my knee (on the opposite leg) gave out. I'd been compensating for my left leg (the supposed sciatic leg) and placing all my weight on my right.

My joint was so inflamed that I was reduced to using a cane--which wounded my ego something fierce.

Turns out that sciatica was actually ischial bursitis. And the bum knee is degenerative arthritis. The bursitis he can help, but only surgery will help the knee. He says the damage is still in its early stages. I should be able to live on steroids for quite a while before they stop helping, then I have to consider replacing the joint. Super bummer!

I will not lie. I am the WORST abuser to one's own body that you will ever find. I have run with cattle, been kicked by giant birds, carried near my own weight in feed and hauled more brush and dirt than any woman should. I am tough. But evidently I am not invincible. So I'm paying for it now.

I should have listened to my mother. She was always telling me I was too little to be doing those kinds of tasks. She said this abuse was going to come back and haunt me. -sigh. Moms really do know best.

Oh well. Modern medicine is improving all the time. Maybe by the time I need that new joint there'll be even better stuff out there. For now, there is cortisone.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Killer Campaigns: Signatures

I have a special fondness for passive promotion. Gentle reminders like book marks, bumper stickers or linky love are like little nudges. I can choose to notice or ignore them.

And email signatures must be the easiest, cheapest and most passive promotion there is. But they can be annoying if they're not properly controlled.

Many authors use banners in their sig line. I love banners, particularly animated banners (as you can see at the top of this blog). The problem with banner sig lines is that they can be intrusive so I'm always wary about adding them unless I know the person on the other end will appreciate it.

Much as I love banners, they slow my computer down a lot. When I was on Verizon FiOS, it meant nothing. That thing was so fast, you could throw a dozen gorillas on it and it wouldn't notice the extra luggage. But now that I rely on satellite, every kilobyte of memory takes a chunk out of my operating speed.

If the banner negatively impacts my working speed, chances are good it will negatively impact me as a consumer too. My modus operandi is to give readers as few reasons as I can -NOT- to get mad at me.

For this reason, I limit using my banner sig.

Die-hard promoters will disagree with me here. Do what you think is best for your situation.

My choice is to keep my sig line clean. For my intimate friends, my sig line has my first name and blog address. For colleagues and business people, I let my email default to the full sig line with name, Facebook link, blog link, and a link for Touch Of Fire.

When in doubt, try to imagine yourself on the other end. This is how I reached my decision. 

Here's my checklist: 

• Easy to read font. Nothing screams 'needy' like a busy font, which may or may not be recognized by the recipient's email program.

• Keep the links down to a minimum. Are you really going to read someone's laundry list of links and awards?

• Remember that if you're on a list group and on digest, you won't see all those pretty banners.

• If you do use banners, keep them small. I've seen some humongous ones come across. It just makes me grumpy as it struggles to appear on my screen.

• Taglines after your name are nice (and brand-worthy). When you find a good one, hang on to it and use it everywhere. (I can see that'll be a post for another day.) *grin*

• Create default sigs for your email. Microsoft Outlook makes it very easy. It's why I always use it. I like easy. It uses fewer brain cells.

If you do nothing else for yourself, sit down right now and create an email signature that points to your website and blog, and/or your latest book.


You are saying brilliant things, right? That means people are going to want to follow you home. Be sure to leave bread crumbs. 



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

Find it on Amazon.
 

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

More For Less: Household Thrift

My buddy, Mike sent me a link to the UK's Daily Telegraph. Apparently, frugality is fashionable all over the world. It only took a recession for everyone else to figure it out.

If frugal living is new to you, welcome. Glad you could join our very exclusive club.

Below a few of my favorite tips from the clippings Mike sent me.

• Boost the flavor of corn on the cob Add 50g (about 2oz) powdered milk to a pan of boiling water before you put in the corn. It will make the flavor sweeter and fresher.

• Keep squirrels away from bird feeder by greasing the pole with petroleum jelly. The squirrels will slide straight off, leaving the birds to eat in peace. Poor squirrels.

• Resize a shrunk sweater You can often bring a 'downsized' sweater back to full size again with baby shampoo and warm water. Fill a basin with warm water, squirt in some baby shampoo, and swish once with your hand. Lay the sweater on top of the water and let it sink on its own and soak for 15 minutes. Gently take your sweater out without wringing it and put it in a container, then fill the sink again with clean water. Lay the sweater on top and let it sink again to rinse.

Take the sweater out, place it on a towel, and roll the towel to take out most of the moisture. Lay the sweater on a dry towel on a flat surface and gently start to reshape it. Come back to the sweater while it is drying to reshape a little more each time. Your patience should be rewarded with a full-sized sweater.

Geez Louise, where was this tip when Greg shrunk my favorite sweater?

• Use flip-flops to remove pet hairs from the carpet – put it on your hand and scrape. (Ed. Note) You can also use a rubber glove.

--given my circumstances, I am ALWAYS looking for ways to remove pet hair from everything!

Other More For Less posts

Monday, February 2, 2009

Markets

I was reading Marianne's blog the other day and she mentioned looking for a market for a short romance she had on her desk.

So I looked around and found these. The first two are UK markets.

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YOURS is always looking for good articles and short stories, but before you send them in, please download the appropriate PDF on the guidelines page.Every submission is read but we receive more than a hundred manuscripts a month and are able to publish only one or two short stories and articles per issue.Please allow up to six months for reply and enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope if you would like your manuscript to be returned.

• 100-150 word synopsis
• Accurate word count
•Your full name (and real name if you write under a pen name) address, and phone number.

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Scarlet Magazine
Warning: Explicit material

Got a talent for writing sexy stories women can lose themselves in? We’re looking for erotic stories.

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SORMAG (Shades of Romance)

SORMAG is published bi-monthly. We are a magazine that caters to the readers and writers of multi-cultural literature. This is a great vehicle for getting exposure for your name, your web site and your books.

New writers are especially encouraged to submit their work. We also welcome submissions and inquiries from published authors.

They also accept nonfiction about the writing life.

Pay: (On the low side it seems.) $20 a pop.

***

I found this one through my buddy, Carol Burge.

Love Stories Magazine

The overall theme should involve short stories of Male/Female love and romance. These stories may be contemporary, historic, inspirational, paranormal, or any other theme as long as love and romance are the main thrust of the story. Story length should range from 3,000 to 5,000 Words.

ALL STORIES MUST CONTAIN WITHIN THE ATTACHED DOCUMENT, A STORY SYNOPSIS PROCEEDING THE BODY OF THE WORK.

Payment: I couldn't find any payment info on these guys. If anyone has any information on what they pay, shoot me an email and I'll update this post.

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Mini-Moan: I find a lot of information not only from the blogs I read but the linky-love they give others. The well's been dry lately. Maybe people are still recovering from the holidays. I scan more than 300 blogs and there hasn't been too many shout outs or check-this-out links. That's sad.

I try to mention people when I can. As a matter of fact there would have been far more posts on this blog in the past week had it not been for my very hectic schedule lately. I've bookmarked the really interesting posts I've read on the blogosphere lately so I can discuss them later.

If you've read a blog post somewhere that's noteworthy, give it a shout out. I love to find new people and forums. Many of us do.

***
Addendum: Oooh, and Angela James posted some of my very favorite intel! Free breakfast at Denny's.

"America, you're invited to enjoy a free Grand Slam breakfast On Tuesday, February 3rd, from 6am to 2pm at Denny's.

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And if you don't have Angie's blog on your reader, you're missing out. She always has good content.