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Friday, July 31, 2009

Prudent Penny Debut

Every Friday (more or less) I will post freebies, savings, or articles on frugal living. I subscribe to a lot of newsletters and websites that promote these freebies. I figure I might as well share what I find along the way.

I apologize now to my neighbors across the ocean because some links won't work for you since they are primarily meant for North America. But it doesn't hurt to tap on the links in case they do work for Europe or parts down under.

One tip before I go on: Most of these sites ask for an email address. I have not been inundated by one piece of spam, but to play it safe, I created a separate email box that I use specifically for all products I send for. It keeps my inbox cleaner and me more organized. Use Yahoo or gmail as an email host. They are free and easy to set up.

Here we go:

Coupon Book worth $30 for Febreeze, Cascade, Dawn, Mr. Clean and Swifter. I've gotten this coupon book before. It has some excellent coupons, especially if you find these products at the dollar store or on sale.

***

Free Sham-Wow Towels. Note: I had trouble getting into this site. Just keep trying and refreshing the page. It'll come up.

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Free ARCs from Random House. (Literary)

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Photographers...here's something you might like. Corel MediaOne Standard software. Free.

***

And the best for last...

Free Chocolate from Mars Candy. Every Friday from 9am (eastern) sign up for a coupon for a free bar of chocolate. This goes all through the September. But you can only sign up on Fridays after 9am.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Cartoons & Sore Throats

Rats! I think I'm coming down with something and I have a major deadline this week.

Why does that always happen?

It's all the more frustrating because this project is very time sensitive and it's a series of cartoons.
C-A-R-T-O-O-N-S!

I cannot draw cartoons. It just falls apart because I want to make the objects look realistic. And this particular project has to use cartoons. I wouldn't have taken on the assignment but it's payback for a special favor. See what happens when you ask for favors. Eventually, you have to pay up. With cartoons! Oy vey. I wish I had known ahead of time this is what she had in mind. But now I'm committed.

I have a lot of respect for cartoonists. It is an entirely different mindset from the realist illustrator. The average Joe doesn't realize just how hard it is to draw funny pictures.

For the last three days I've been scouring my books on cartoons and cartoon making. I'm doomed. Why couldn't she have asked for a nice dog portrait? I finished the final draft and after one more pass with my eagle eye, I'll email it to her for her approval. I pray she doesn't ask for too many changes--or a better cartoonist.

Somebody send some chicken soup and light a candle for me. And if you know any spells that will make me a better cartoonist--I'll take that too.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Swami Maria Strikes Again

Swami Maria has put on her swami hat once more so she can peer into the future.

Am I psychic?

[rolls eyes] Are you kidding?

My husband often swears (in colorful language no less) that I must be psychic. There's no other explanation for knowing such future events like market trends, fashion statements, and how I knew he went over budget on his latest toy.

Despite my cool swami hat, there's not a psychic bone in my body. That's right, folks. I'm a FAKE swami. (Please don't faint.)

My psychic powers are derived from something far less arcane (and sadly, kind of boring). My real gift is in observation. I am a profound student of human trending. I watch from the sidelines--sometimes for decades--and predict where the next step will take a particular trend.

This is why I'm so certain e-readers will take over. I would have one now if it weren't for the price.

But you're not reading this to find out something that everyone and his mother is parroting right now. You want to know what the next step will be and when.

So here are some predictions.

• Within three years, all college level students will be using e-textbooks. High schoolers will not be far behind.

When I was in high school, futurists predicted that our children would use handheld calculators. We laughed! At the time a calculator was the size of a hardback book and all it could do was simple math. It also cost more than $1000. (This was one thousand in 1970 dollars.)

Computers, barely out of the realm of science fiction at the time, took up entire floors of buildings, yet your average palm pilot today could out perform even the mightiest computer on the planet from 1971.

• Within two years, the dust will settle between a select handful of ebook readers. The big boys, such as Amazon and Sony will continue to duke it out. But the prize will go to the manufacturer that can create a non-proprietory format under $150.

How do I know? Think back to Sony's Betamax and JVC's VHS tape recorders. Betamax worked only on a proprietory format. JVC's machine was far more forgiving and willing to take on all makes of tapes. Sony, I suspect has learned its lesson. It will fight a hard battle not to make the same mistake twice. Still, greed is a big motivator and it's possible Sony has a CEO who did not look back before looking ahead.

It is highly likely the e-reader that will win the hearts and pocketbooks of the consumer will come from a small, maverick company. (Remember Apple? It came out of a garage and nearly disemboweled the competition. Had it been less expensive, it might have cornered the market entirely.)

Speaking of inexpensive products. A little company called Walmart has nearly commandeered entire markets using this principle alone. And they have a distribution system in place that is second to none.

• Advertising will be part and parcel of ebooks and eventually print books. Again, I'm making this prediction from history. Cable tv started out as a non-commercial format, yet today it is no different than regular programming. Advertising is the most practical form for subsidizing books. (I don't like it nor do I approve. I'm just telling you what has come before and what will come again.)

• Shorter novels will be more commonplace as the attention span and disposable time of the average reader diminishes.

• I also predict that serialized novels (and movies) will come back in vogue. Not only will splitting a novel up into smaller bite-sized segments be more profitable for the publisher, it will also be more convenient for the reader.

• And...and...

Oh, no! My crystal ball is growing dark again. But I'm sure you'll hear from Swami Maria again before too long.

Meanwhile, stay loose, be flexible, and look for opportunity everywhere.

Copyright © 2009 Maria Zannini -- http://mariazannini.blogspot.com/.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Party Hearty

Our little get together was a huge success. More people showed up than we expected. Aside from the dishes I made, nearly everyone brought a little something too. I have a lot of counterspace and tables, yet every square inch was filled to the brim.

At first, everyone stood around, a little timid perhaps, until I laid down the law. Everyone must have a drink in one hand and a plate of food in the other. As soon as people started eating, the din of conversation and chewing never ceased. I LOVE that!

We didn't know half the people who showed up. I knew they were our neighbors but we had never met yet. I just called them up and introduced myself and asked them to come over. And they did! Greg and I took turns visiting with everyone and showing them around the house. (This is why we never got a chance to eat.) We learned a little bit more about our neighbors, and I hope they got to know us better too.

Everyone loved Tank. He is big and brawny and a little intimidating but he is the perfect good will ambassador because he's so gentle and polite. Iko is Tank's counterpoint. The little rascal had to kiss on everyone.

The party was an enormous undertaking mostly because we had to finish some remodeling, but it turned out better than we expected. I am so glad we got to meet our neighbors. Maybe we can do this again some day. --after I've slept. *g*

Below some pics of the new floor and setting up for the party.

.

Iko: Not quite sure what all the fuss is about.



My biggest worry was that I wouldn't have enough chairs. I asked a few of my friends to bring folding chairs if they had them. No one ended up on the floor so I guess we had enough.




Setting up the dessert table for the party. As usual, EVERYONE descended upon us at once so I never got to take pictures once we got the food out. I wish I had. It was a sight to behold.


Bedroom Floor BEFORE




Bedroom Floor AFTER




Iko trying out the new floor for size. I don't remember if I mentioned this: Notice the tail? There's a possibility this is why the puppy was tossed away. Rotties' tails are always snipped and this one wasn't. Iko made out okay though. He'll never know a sad day in his life.

Copyright © 2009 Maria Zannini -- http://mariazannini.blogspot.com/.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Even Hermits Throw Parties

We'll start The Prudent Penny next Friday. Right now I am still behind the 8 ball trying to get Saturday's party ready.

Why is it that parties are fun for other people, but not the hosts? By the time I select the menu, cook the food, wash dogs, mow, weed, and clean the house to spotless perfection I think I will be too tired to lift my head. And that's not counting the bedroom floor we put down this week too.

People will walk around saying, boy that Maria sure is a slow moving slug. That is the laziest woman we've ever seen. Look at her. Her face just fell into the chili con queso.

***
The house is coming along pretty well. I LOVE the new floor in the bedroom. It is so elegant and beautiful. Greg did a wonderful job as always.

Other than a few more paint jobs in the lesser used rooms, I think that's about it for remodeling the house. The rest of our projects will probably be outdoor ones.

***
We have a boarder on our front patio. I recently moved my potted lime tree in there to get it out of the scorching sun. A robin redbreast made a nest and is sitting on three spotted eggs. I'll have to take pictures soon. She flies off as soon as I walk out there. But I should be able to take a picture of the little eggs.

***
Iko update: I can officially say that Iko has not had an accident in the house for well over a month, so I guess he is definitely potty trained now. It didn't take too long. Of course, if you're in the middle of puppy training, it feels like a lifetime.

The only evil thing he does now is chew up fabric. Every puppy has his "thing". Some like paper, others plastic or wood. Iko likes cloth. He has destroyed two throw pillows and my favorite comforter. Now if I walk into a room and he's near a piece of cloth he RUNS. I still haven't cured him of chewing my good stuff, but it's getting better. Either that or I'm running out of stuff.

Other Iko news; The end is near for Iko's little nuggets. I'll probably take him in to be neutered in a couple of weeks.

That should give Tank a good laugh.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Free Book

Technically, I should have posted this Friday, but the deadline for download is Wednesday, 7-22.

It's an Oprah favorite. But I downloaded it for the little wiener dog on the cover.

Heroic Measures, by Jill Ciment

It's FREE until Wednesday 10:59 ET. You have to join Oprah.com, but it too is free.

***

I should be doing a proper blog post, but I am in the planning stages of a big shindig this Saturday and there is bunches to do.

Our latest project is a brand new wood laminate floor for the bedroom. Greg finished it today. It looks gorgeous. I'll post some pictures next week when I get the chance.

That should be the last big project for the year until we fence all six acres. That's good. We're both beat and the break will be most welcome.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Markets

Story Contest: Past Loves Day 2009

Deadline August 16.

No entry fee.

Nearly everyone has memories of a former sweetheart. Write your true story of an earlier love, in no more than 700 words. Tell us about someone whose memory brings a smile or a tear, or both. What did she or he mean to you? In particular, how did that person's presence in your life change you, and what do you still carry with you? Your story may be heart-warming or humorous. Just tell it as if you were talking to a good friend.

First Prize: $100 Second Prize: $75 Third Prize: $50 Honorable Mention(s)

Winning stories will be posted (anonymously, if requested by author) on the website.

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flashquake

flashquake is an independent, quarterly, web-based publication that focuses on works of flash fiction, flash nonfiction (memoirs, essays, creative nonfiction, humor) and short poetry.

flashquake is a quality paying venue for literary writers, and we award stipends to all chosen contributors in each category. We reserve the right to withhold some or all of the stipends to be awarded depending on the quality of the work submitted.

flashquake defines "flash" as prose (fiction or nonfiction) of less than 1000 words in length. However, we admire brevity and will receive shorter works favorably. For poetry, our maximum limit is 35 lines per poem; prose poetry must not exceed 300 words in length.

We accept submissions in each of four categories:
Flash fiction
Flash nonfiction — (memoirs, essays, creative nonfiction)
Poetry — (free verse, prose poetry)

We're open to almost any type of writing within those categories. Specifically, we're looking for original work with fresh ideas and strong, clean, concise writing. We will consider reprints of previously published work, as long as the author has retained all rights. We want to see pieces that readers will think about after they've finished reading them.

***
Anniversary News

40 years ago today, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon.

Obituary News

Frank McCourt, author of the Pulitzer Prize winning, Angela's Ashes died Sunday 7-19-09 at age 78.

Angela's Ashes was a remarkable novel and Mr. McCourt had a remarkable life. RIP Frank McCourt.


RIP Walter Cronkite, 92, who also died this past weekend. He was the US news anchorman everyone trusted, back when journalists reported the news instead of slanting it. If only journalism could return to unbiased reporting.

Henry Allingham, the world's oldest living man and the last surviving British veteran of WWI died at 113 years old on Saturday, 7-18-09.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Winner!

And the winner of Touch Of Fire for this week's blog comments is Sherri.

Congrat, Sherri!

Sherri, email me at writingweb AT argontech DOT net with your physical address. Thanks!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Muse Murdered In Cold Ink

What a week it's been. I am so glad I did Lynn Viehl's Left Behind and Loving It tour. She had some terrific posts and great guests as well. If you haven't been to her site, please make the pilgrimage. You'll thank me later.

I'll announce a winner tomorrow from those who commented this week to win a print copy of Touch Of Fire. But I did promise another announcement for today.

Starting next week Killer Campaigns will no longer continue on this blog. What I plan to do, most likely in the fall, is put every post on a document file or on Scribd and offer it as one neat package to anyone who's interested.

But wait, there's more.

Along with the existing Killer Campaign posts already on this blog, there will be new, never before seen posts too. I'm also thinking of doing some step by step tutorials for brochures and business cards. These will be offered as separate files.

Taking the place of Killer Campaigns on Fridays will be The Prudent Penny, my all time favorite money saving tips. When available, I'll also post links for free books, magazines and goodies as I find them.

Monday Markets will continue as before and in between there will be more (mis)adventures while we turn our home into a homestead. I hope you'll visit regularly.

In the meantime, I want to post a little story I wrote that ran on Romance Novel TV. It's one of my favorite posts. I hope you like it too.

***

Murder Your Muse

I’m a heathen. I freely admit that. So when I say I murdered Seamus, my muse, and chucked his body behind the dumpster of my local Kroger grocery store, you’ll understand that I never felt any remorse.

Yeah, the cops were surprised too.

But let me tell you, killing that sucker was liberating.

I’m always amused at how some writers stroke their muses, build altars to them, cherishing them as if that magical muse-alicious essence controlled the fate of the next great RITA winner.

I will give you the benefit of the doubt and assume your muse is better behaved than mine was. Sure, Seamus was useful when he wanted to help me. The guy was gorgeous, taunting me with that swishing kilt, whispering sweet promises of inspiration. And when he didn’t deliver, he’d blame me for not listening properly.

I’ve tossed out boyfriends for less cheek, so why was I going to take this from him?

One day, as I waited for Seamus to show up (yes, he’s deserted me a few times), I realized if I was going to get anywhere I’d have to do it on my own. I couldn’t wait for him to bring me inspiration, so I sat at that keyboard and lined up my characters in a row.

“You, hero! State your purpose.”

“You, klutzy alpha heroine! Why are you giving in so easily to Smiley over there?”

This interrogation went on and on until I worked out all the kinks. Within a couple of hours I had a perfectly credible scene with no saggy middles and a crackling good segue to the next chapter.

Guess what? That wasn’t so hard.

I discovered that inspiration comes from within and I didn’t need a crutch (even a handsome one) to hang all my hopes.

I wiped the sweat from my brow, knowing I had delivered a kick-ass turning point in the story, all without the help of Seamus.

And then here he comes, all six foot six, two-hundred and thirty pounds of him, swaggering to the lilt of his own tenor singing voice. “Maria,” he croons. “My spicy little Spanish flower.”

That’s when I decked him.

My heart lodged in my throat when I realized he wasn’t breathing. I poked his firm buttocks with my toe. He didn’t move a muscle.

Dead. Dead as last year’s Xbox.

I wish I could say it bothered me, but it didn’t. Seamus had helped me through some rough patches, especially in the beginning when I was just starting out, but lately he had been wearing out his welcome.

Countless times, he had come home drunk, tired, or ill-tempered. Deep down, I knew he was seeing another writer. Maybe he was giving her all his good stuff. All I knew was I wasn’t getting any. And you know how well that goes over.

So I dragged him behind the dumpster and left him there. I would have gotten away too if I hadn’t lingered, mesmerized by his beefy bare ass in the moonlight.

That’s when the cops arrived. They were ready to haul me away when they heard a groan coming from behind the dumpster.

I should have known. You can’t kill a muse.

At least he didn’t hold a grudge. The last I saw of Seamus, he was walking hand in hand with a perky little crime photographer.

***
Fast forward six months. In this morning’s paper there’s a picture of that cute photographer beaming in front of a packed auditorium. Seamus is in the background grinning like a love-sick hyena.

Apparently, she’d won a Pulitzer.

Damn muse.

***

Copyright © 2009 Maria Zannini -- http://mariazannini.blogspot.com/.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Killer Campaign: Volunteerism

I think of all the marketing venues available, volunteerism is the most useful, yet the least understood.

Call it New Age fandango or remnants of my radical youth, but I deeply believe in Karma. I believe that what goes around comes around. Maybe not right away--and maybe not even in this life.

I believe what you do in this world (either good or bad) affects those around you directly or indirectly.

Negativity is a cancer, and if you go out of your way to spew poison, it poisons you as well as your victim. But good Karma, particularly the stuff you do when no one is looking, replenishes your soul in ways you can never realize except in retrospect. And for a writer, it pays dividends.

It wasn't very long ago when I decided to make writing a profession. It was a ludicrous idea. Even my husband, ever the supportive soul, gently asked if I wasn't spitting in the wind this go round. He knew I had a penchant for lost causes. And to make matters worse, I started from the dung pile.

I had never written fiction before and I had funny writing quirks, telltales that hinted English was not my first language. To correct my deficiencies, I joined a writers' critique group and lurked on the accompanying forum where I could read and reread the endless discussions on craft.

It occurred to me that the lessons I was getting for free were acts of kindness, good Karma paid forward by the published veterans in the group.

Now, I was savvy enough to understand that some of those veterans were only offering their help when they had books coming out. They would come out of lurkdom just in time to pitch their latest, answer the prevailing discussion question and then dissolve into the fabric once more.

But there were others; people who truly did want to help and teach, people who gave of themselves without any conscious expectation of reward.

These writers gained both my respect and admiration.

As I immersed myself in more activities, such as conferences, live writer groups, and crit partners, I witnessed more of these good Samaritan acts, and I promised myself that I would reach out to others wherever I could in whatever capacity I could. I wanted to be an active participant in the writing community. They had given me so much, and I always pay my debts. But where to start?

I have an advertising background, so I used that as my springboard, but that doesn't mean I haven't done my share of putting out chairs, baking cookies, or simply handing out name tags. There is no such thing as a task beneath your station.

Does that mean people remembered my name or my face? Did they Google me and see that I had a book out? Probably not, but maybe I made someone's life a little easier that day. Maybe the fact that I stopped to chat with a newcomer changed her mind about giving up writing all together.

The truth is, most of the time we don't know how our actions affect others.

A couple of years ago I was at an out of town conference and completely lost (my usual state of being). This very kind lady, who was doing nothing more than putting out swag, took the time to help me orient myself in this strange hotel. I thanked her kindly and went on my way. But I met her again only a couple of hours later when she was giving a workshop on craft.

As soon as it was over, I stopped at the book room and bought one of her novels. I didn't have to do it. I wanted to do it.

At a different conference, a young man joked and teased throughout his talk on craft. I was so impressed with him, I stopped him after the session and asked if he'd let me interview him for my website. We chatted for several minutes and then he begged me to wait a moment while he rushed back for his box of goods. He not only gave me two of his books, but one of his doodles (which I still have).

You bet I bought more of his books. Even now, whenever I see his name, I wish him nothing but good Karma.

You do not have to be a big name author or even published to volunteer. Volunteerism is made up of little steps. It's the accumulation of these steps that not only raises your credibility within the publishing community, but also embeds you in the center of the action.

I learned more about local writers, the events in our area, and the future of our writing group as a whole when I volunteered to put out a quarterly newsletter.

Networking is a natural offshoot of volunteerism. I have met so many wondrous authors, editors and agents simply because I was at the right place at the right time. Who cares if the only thing in my hands was a tray of glasses or a chair? I was there.

If you are looking for a quick-get-noticed marketing scheme, volunteerism isn’t for you. It's long term and there are no guarantees for reward. But volunteering in and of itself is extremely rewarding.

Looking for ways to volunteer? Try some of these.

• If you have a specific talent, use that first. For example: If you have a day job as an accountant, offer tax tips. Lawyer? Explain contract legalese. Baker? Blog about your expertise. (Foodie novels seem all the rage now.)

• When you join a writers' group, ask the group's president how you can best help. Some of the things our group always needed was someone to greet members, make coffee, take meeting notes when the secretary was out, collate handouts, or stack chairs when the meeting was over. There is always something to do.

• Most conferences have a link for people who want to volunteer. All you have to do is sign up and show up. Most of the time it will be grunge work, but you will definitely be in the thick of things.

• Help your peers. Host a launch party for a new author. Critique query letters and synopses.

• Have a blog? Share information. Don't assume what you know is common knowledge.

• Ezines: If you're not submitting, see if the editor is looking for slush readers.

• Handy with desktop publishing? Offer to do a newsletter for your group.

• Book Clubs: Offer to host a meeting at your place.

• Moderate chat rooms, contests and online workshops.

Volunteerism is the most gratifying of any self-promotion you can do. It might not pay you back in immediate sales, but your credibility will be golden, and you can't buy that for any money.

For more articles in the Killer Campaign series, go here.

***

Remember that I will choose one winner from this week's comments for a print copy of Touch Of Fire. Winner will be chosen this Sunday, July 19.

Copyright © 2009 Maria Zannini -- http://mariazannini.blogspot.com/.


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

Find it on Amazon.
 

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Killer Campaign: Podcast Interviews

I've generally seen podcasts as audio short stories, but the podcast interview is gaining momentum. Last year, I would have been hard pressed to recommend them because what few I'd listened to were nothing short of painful.

The audio was bad, the editing was uneven and the chemistry between the interviewer and the interviewee felt awkward.

Then I discovered KS Augustin and Radio Free Bliss. At the time, 'Kaz' and I were casual online friends. She being of the techy persuasion, she was my go-to person whenever I floundered in the muck and mire of the cyber world.

I had listened to a few of her past interviews and I loved her relaxed interviewing style and the high quality of her audio.

Eventually, (Read: Finally) she asked me to be a guest on her show. I was too shy to ask to be interviewed. Note: Mistake #1. If you want to be interviewed, don't wait to be asked.

It was supposed to occur last week, but if you read this post, I was otherwise occupied with a relentless alarm system I couldn't shut off. So we rescheduled it for this week.

While we're waiting for that to occur, let's talk about podcast interviews, sometimes called blog talk radio, as a source of FREE promotion.

Podcast interviews are unique in that it allows the visitor a little more insight of the author as a person. In this day of online personas, we sometimes forget that there is flesh and blood behind all the cyber chatter. An audio interview allows us to hear the person behind the book.

Is s/he lively, serious, intelligent-sounding or playful? A good interviewer will bring out the best and most becoming side of his guest.

Like blogs on the internet, a talk blog or podcast must have personality and appeal. Aside from the quality of the audio, you as the guest want to feel welcomed and comfortable.

I once listened to a podcast interview where the interviewer talked more about himself and HIS book than his guest's. He then had the audacity to denigrate the author's genre. He honestly looked the fool for trying to grab the limelight.

The interviewee had the grace and cahonas to stand her ground and redirect the interview back to her book.

There will be times when there is no way to foretell how an interviewer will behave. Your only two options will be to either walk away from the show or salvage what you can.

When planning for a podcast, do your homework.

• Gather a few candidates, podcast shows that would welcome you and your genre

• Listen to several podcast interviews before contacting the show's host and ask yourself:

~ Does the host make the guest feel comfortable?
~ Are the questions phrased clearly?
~ Is the audio of good quality?
~ Is the overall feel of the show positive or fun?

When contacting the show's host, ask about:

• Is he familiar with your genre or work?

• Will the host interview you if you are not traditionally print published? Some will not interview e-pubbed authors, most will not interview self-pubbed authors. Ask to be sure.

• Process. What goes on behind the scenes?

• Will he send you questions so you can prepare ahead of time?

• Turnaround time. How long is it between recording and publishing the podcast?

• Do you have any control over edits?

If you enjoy talking to people, you'll probably like talk radio. Like any other speaking engagement you want to be sure you're in good voice and you are relaxed and prepared.

Tips for during the interview

• Keep a bottle of water with you

• Give yourself plenty of time to chat with the host ahead of time so you both feel comfortable with each other.

• If the show's host has given you questions for the interview, don't read your answers off your cheat sheet. You want to sound natural.

• Lock your children and pets in another room, better yet, another house.

• Schedule your interview for a time when you are freshest. (Ironically, the one I'm doing with KS Augustin had to be scheduled to suit the time difference between us since we live on opposite sides of the globe.)

• Relax and have fun.

While doing my research for this post, I was surprised to find just how much goes on behind the scenes before an interview is ever recorded.

I decided to ask KS Augustin a few questions about what goes into preparing for an interview and what sort of guests she welcomes on the show.

MZ: What qualifications (and equipment) would a potential interviewee need if they wanted to be on your show?

KSA: To be on my show, Radio Free Bliss, you really need a PC, a Skype "handle" (name), a headset/mic, and be a genre author (sf&f/horror/romance), and not vanity published. Oh, and speak English. (That's my own personal deficiency, unfortunately.)

MZ: Audio and video show a slightly different side of the author in that the audience can hear or see the author. In podcasts, do you think the interview is less successful when the interviewee has a poor speaking voice or manner? I know I get a little distracted when I hear a lot of verbal quirks. Does it detract from the overall quality of the show or do you do a lot of editing?

KSA: Oh dear. You've stumbled across my secret. As writers, we're used to putting down words, reading them over, editing them, reading them over again. When you're being interviewed, you just don't have this luxury and, as a result, you lose the comfort of a standard way of operating. In addition, a lot of people find interviews very stressful and that, by itself, can lead to a heightened use of "um"s and "er"s in their speech.

I'll admit I do a lot of editing. My editing time to recording time is often 3 or 4 to 1. So if the final product is, say, 45 minutes long, that means I've often spent two-and-a- half to three hours editing it to normalise the sound levels and get rid of most of the "verbal quirks", as you put it. Other than that, I think people will forgive a lot if you have something interesting to say.

MZ: Is there anything an interviewee can do to come off well on radio?

KSA: A lot of people say to have notes next to you, but I've had that backfire as well, because reading something from a page can change the pacing and tenor of an interviewee's voice. If you're not used to reading out loud, it tends to sound a bit "dead". I tend to give my interviewees a list of questions but then add that there'll also be a 20% improvisation factor, where I'll just throw out some questions related to something interesting they've said. In this way, I try to add a bit of dynamism to the interview, even though the interviewee may be prepared and have notes there beside them.

I don't worry about long pauses between questions or anything like that because I can just edit them out. And I always "over-record". That is, I'll record 45 to 50 minutes of audio for an interview I cut down to about 35 minutes. That gives me some flexibility in cutting out extraneous bits (usually my own cracked observations). Remember, the interview is about the author, not about you, so leave your ego at the door.

***
The verdict?

Podcasts are a good choice if you like to speak in public while still in your pajamas. And the price is right too.

Here are a few to look into.

Radio Free Bliss
Writers in the Sky
Blog Talk Radio (which seems to host many radio shows under one banner)
Reading and Writing Podcast
Writers Cast

Stay tuned for my first podcast interview coming soon.

Hmm…I wonder if I can do the whole interview in my Daffy Duck voice.

For more articles in the Killer Campaign series, go here.

***
Remember that I will choose one winner from this week's comments for a print copy of Touch Of Fire.

Copyright © 2009 Maria Zannini -- http://mariazannini.blogspot.com/.


Want to get a whole book with this information FREE?

Click on the cover and it should automatically pull up a blank email. In the Subject Line, type in: Punch List. I'll send you the ebook as soon as the request reaches me. It will arrive in PDF format.

Note: If your browser doesn't support the auto-send, email me here.

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

Find it on Amazon.
 


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Killer Campaigns: Trading Cards

Day 3: Left Behind & Loving It

Trading cards leave me with a mixed reaction. On the one hand I trip over myself collecting beautiful pieces of art no matter how large or how small. And I have an absurd preoccupation with advertising collateral, so putting your characters on trading cards sounds right up my alley.

But what about the acid test? Will it compel a passerby to look at your book or your website? Does it MOTIVATE a complete stranger to buy?

Probably not. But what it can do is rouse fangirl or fanboy interest in a series. If you're running with a series, trading cards may be the perfect venue to not only reward loyal fans but to create a buzz.

My first thought is that trading cards would be perfect for the YA crowd. Kids and kids at heart love to collect this stuff. But let's not forget the geeks among us, who adore all things unique and unusual. And of course, the true fan, who will collect anything from their favorite authors.

When you think of trading cards, think about the original baseball card. Typically, it has the image on one side and stats on the other.

And this is where all the fun begins. This is where you can tell fans how tall the hero is, his hair color, his hobbies, where he lives, and how many demons he's killed so far--which gives you the option of updating the cards from book to book. You can also include facts you may not have been able to put into the book.

The Art

The most important part of the trading card will be the art. But it doesn't have to be a Frank Frazetta painting to make your card a hot collectible.

When interviewing an artist, ask to see his portfolio or check out his website. You can also search for freelance artists on the web. Search under: freelance artist jobs and you'll find several job banks such as Artisan Talent. Once you contract him and settle on a price, give him the best description you can so he can create your character's portrait.

I caution you that hiring an artist can be expensive. One of my friends used to work through a website that specializes in YA art. The last time I checked, prices began at $150 for one image and went as high as $400 per image. You might be able to find cheaper artists but often times you get what you pay for, so always make sure your contract with the artist is clear and you really like HIS style.

Most artists will offer a few thumbnails, small sketches of what the piece might look like. Here is your chance to discuss poses, backgrounds, and facial features. If you like this artist's portfolio, trust him to do something wonderful with the ideas you've given him.

And speaking as an artist, I advise you not to micro manage. Most artists (and this will be in your contract) will allow you only so many changes. After that it starts to cost you.

Something less expensive

You can also use one of the many stock photo databases that usually charge a small fee. If you're handy with Photoshop, you can do a lot with a base image.

Bear in mind, that these images are there for anyone to use, so if you don't modify yours significantly, you're bound to see its twin somewhere else along your journey.

A few sites to try for stock photos:

Free Digital Photos
Free Photos
Dreams Time
Morgue File
And what if you have a zero dollar budget for trading cards?

Not to worry.

With a little Googling I found the two sites below. One creates South Park-like characters, (not to my taste) and the other creates traditional looking characters. I really had fun with that one.

South Park Studio

Hero Machine (I played around with this one and it works well, except for the fact it doesn't allow you to save it as a jpg. I had to do a screen capture and bring it into Photoshop. Still, it might serve well as a base of ideas.)

Obviously, if you want your characters to look like the ones on your cover or want a more painterly style, you'll have to hire an artist. One note: Careful with copyright issues. If you don't own the rights to the image on your book cover, your artist will have to create something different, yet similar in style.

Using a good character art program might be a cheap and easy way to bring your characters to life without breaking the promotion budget.

Tips for creating your trading card:

• trading cards are typically 2.5 inches by 3.5 inches
• Use full color
• Opt for a fancy border which you can find in any clipart book.
• Label the card with your character's name on the front and the series or book name.
• On the back, list pertinent information and trivia about the character and where he fits in the book.
• Don't forget to include the villains
• Have fun with your images. Try different poses, head shots, shadowed faces, and any iconography that identifies the character.

Trading cards are still fairly uncommon in the promotion arena, so it has a certain level of novelty to it. They can be printed on cardstock or placed on your website so fans can print them out themselves. You can also turn them into art files (jpgs or tifs) and put them on your web site so fans can download them as desktop wallpaper.

You can get a lot of mileage out of trading cards. I hope you get the chance to try them.
For more articles in the Killer Campaign series, go here.

***
Remember that I will choose one winner from this week's comments for a print copy of Touch Of Fire.
Copyright © 2009 Maria Zannini -- http://mariazannini.blogspot.com/.


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

Find it on Amazon.
 


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Killer Campaign: Marketing Calendar

Day 2: Left Behind & Loving It
This is a topic that is generally discussed at the beginning of the year, but that doesn't mean we can't be mavericks and create a marketing calendar this very minute.

A marketing calendar is your datebook for every event and promo task you give yourself throughout the year. Need to design a bookmark? Jot it down. Want to do a book signing? Call your local bookstores and commit yourself to a date. Did someone email you to do an interview. Set the date and put it in ink.

Every time you have a job specific to promoting you or your book, record it either in print or electronically. This serves two purposes

• It keeps you focused on the tasks at hand so that everything gets accomplished in a timely manner.

• The goals you set reinforces your long range writing plans.

A marketing calendar reveals the big picture as well as the steps you took to get there. Your planner can be as defined or as flexible as you need it to be. The key to a successful calendar is creating one that keeps you moving forward in whatever guise it takes.

The Big Picture

Where do you want to be in 12 months? In 5 years? In 10 years?

No one is going to see this but you, so here's your chance to dream big. This is where I set the horizon line and decide what I want to accomplish and when.

That's the easy part. *g* But it serves a very important purpose. In order to get where you're going, you need a bird's eye view of your road map.

The work begins when you break it down and write out the steps required to make it to your benchmarks--the actual calendar.

If you find you can't plan that far ahead, break it down into goals you can manage comfortably. Last year, I had several major eye surgeries that knocked me out of the picture for months at a time. I still had a book to get out so I carved out only the most important duties I felt were necessary.

No matter how big the challenge you set, it can be accomplished in bits and batches. That's the beauty of a calendar. It keeps you on target and on a timeline.

There are a couple of formats you can use to build your calendar. If you prefer the feel of paper in your hands, buy a standard office calendar, sometimes called a wall planner. You can buy them with or without dates so you can start your planning at any time of the year.

You can also build your own calendar with a template using Word. Google also has a calendar if you prefer to work online.

I prefer to use Microsoft Outlook for my calendar. Not only can I post detailed information for each day, it can also set reminders for you--something I use a lot. I don't know about you, but I need that poke in the ribs.

When we talk about marketing planners, we're focusing on those things that will broaden, enhance and promote our work and brand.

What Goes In

Your calendar might include things like online classes, advertising or book signings. And you'll find the closer you get to your book's release the more jam packed your calendar will be.

A page from my calendar for the last week of April 2009 had me:

• guest blogging nearly every day of that week to coincide with Touch Of Fire's release.

• scheduling articles to appear in two different ezines

• showing up early at my local writers' group to mix and mingle

• Advertising on The Romance Studio

• Updating my website

• Making sure I had a worthy topic or guest blogger on my blog for every day leading up to the book's release

• Giving totally different interviews to two highly trafficked blogs

I could (and should) have done more, but I had a full time day job and a long harrowing commute everyday. What I accomplished in that week was nothing short of Herculean. I checked that calendar regularly and my reminders would start popping up days and sometimes weeks before the actual event or task was due so that I'd be prepared.

So what is considered calendar material? What do you put on your to-do list?

Everyone will be different, depending on personality and style. For instance, despite my brave show, I'm painfully shy. If you look up the word 'introvert', you'll see a picture of me in dark sunglasses (hiding behind a BIG dog).

For this reason I prefer to work behind the scenes whenever possible. I'll take the limelight if I have to, but it's not my preferred method for promoting myself.

The bird's eye view for my marketing plan for 2009 includes only the things I'm comfortable doing. For instance, you won't catch me holding chats. They just don't work for me. But I adore writing articles (my first love) and I like being helpful, so I find myself volunteering a lot. (We'll talk more about this on Friday.)

This Killer Campaign series began from the overview page of my marketing calendar. I listed every promotional event or venue I could think of, and then I whittled it down to the things I thought I could do well.

There's no law that says you have to do a book signing, but if it's something you truly enjoy, use it to your advantage.

The other thing I place on my marketing calendar is Continuing Education. Even though it may not directly affect your promotional efforts, I've found classes, workshops, lectures and participating in forums greatly expands my networking circles. I've made good friends from these encounters. They've not only invited me on their blogs and groups, but they've also introduced me to other well known authors and editors.

I edit the newsletter for OWW, Online Writing Workshop for SF, Fantasy and Horror. That was a direct result from networking through a writing forum. My favorite part of that job is interviewing and getting to know some fascinating authors, editors and agents.

It's definitely been worth my time and it's something I enjoy doing.

To give you an idea of the kind of tasks I gave myself for 2009, here's a truncated list of items from my marketing calendar (in no particular order). Most, I've already implemented, a couple are on the launch pad.

• interviews
• send out ARCs
• contests
• guest blogging
• hosting guest bloggers
• contributing to forums on a regular basis
• advertising
• website
• update blog
• contribute regularly to forums
• create a newsletter
• join MySpace, Twitter
• give a lecture
• take a class
• go to local conferences
• volunteer at local writers' group
• order business cards
• podcast
• hold a live workshop
• book launch party

So how about you? What would you put on your marketing to-do list?

For more articles in the Killer Campaign series, go here.

Copyright © 2009 Maria Zannini -- http://mariazannini.blogspot.com/.


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

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Killer Campaigns: Business Cards

For those of you new to the Killer Campaign series, this is a set of posts that analyze promotional venues for writers. I've been doing this for about a year, but this series will draw to a close soon. (More on this later in the week.)

I've been an artist and art director for nearly 30 years so I know my way around the world of advertising. I'm also a shameless skinflint when it comes to spending money for promotion and advertising, so I always try to point you in the direction of the most cost effective methods I can find.

In cooperation with Lynn Viehl's Left Behind and Loving It virtual workshop tour, I am putting up an entire week's worth of Killer Campaign posts. Also this week, anyone who posts a comment from now through Saturday is in the running for a print copy of my post-apocalyptic fantasy, Touch Of Fire.

Tweet or Follow this blog and earn extra entries for the book drawing. (be sure to let me know in the comments that you Twittered or Followed.)

On with today's workshop.

***
Killer Campaigns: Business Cards

When faced with the decision on where to spend my advertising money, the first thing I invested in was business cards. While many of my peers prefer bookmarks, I think business cards make better business sense.

• Business cards are universally accepted.

• Your wallet has compartments specifically sized for them.

• People don't feel that you are 'selling' to them when you hand them a card.

• Business cards make perfectly acceptable bookmarkers.

• You can offer information and gorgeous art in one little package.

• And most importantly…business cards are CHEAP!

You can get them free at VistaPrint if you use their templates, or for very little money if you upload your own design.

So what should you put on your business card?

For the purposes of this post, we will discuss the promotional business card.

My promotional card uses the cover art for TOUCH OF FIRE. The only information I put in is my website, blog and email address. I'm trusting that the cover will be enough to draw people in. I haven't been disappointed so far. It is a stunning cover!

If you have a book out, by all means use the cover art as the background for your card. You want to achieve consistency when it comes to your promo collateral. The more often people see your cover, the better your recognition factor.

At this point, I will warn you that some cover art does not translate well once it's been reduced to business card size.

If it turns out your cover has too many details it stands to get muddy-looking once it's shrunk down. Do the next best thing and crop the image to its most essential elements. This will give you the recognition factor you want without destroying the sharpness of the original.

What if you don't have any cover art yet, but you want to start promoting your next book? Or what if you have many books out and want to promote your brand?

When starting from scratch, remember that less is more. You don't have a large canvas to work with so you want to make sure you have only the most essential information. On the same token remember that you are promoting your book (or brand). Be bold and be consistent. Consistency is the key to good branding.

Here are some tips to get you started.

• Graphics: If the cover doesn't exist yet, browse one of the many stock photo libraries and pull a few images that tells your story well. Remember my earlier warning about too many details. You're going to shrink the image down to a 2 x 3.5 inch space. Look for a clean image. Practice shrinking it down to see what it will look like in its Lilliputian state.

If you prefer something sans art, use color and theme as your graphic. Dark novels such as horror or mystery might rely on dark or bold color schemes. Young adult fiction is smashing with spring-like colors. Let your core audience dictate your color palette.

• Fonts: Simple, please. Make this your mantra. Try not to mix fonts too much, or at the very least keep the font in the same family to give your layout a nice uniformity.

Display fonts, those typefaces with a lot of personality are best used for your name and the book's title since they are usually set larger than the copy. Regular copy should stick to a nice clean font with a little weight for best readability.

• Color: Keep colors complementary. When you use two colors at opposite ends of the color wheel it makes each color brighter. That's important to remember because on a small canvas like a business card, legibility is crucial.

• Layout: Art and text orientation can be either horizontal or vertical. I've seen it set diagonally too, but I didn't think it was too successful. Try your layout both ways before committing it to cardstock.

• Information: If there's one area that people often run into trouble, it's placing too much information on a card. A business card is a teaser. It's an introduction and a taste of what you offer. You don't have to cram a lot to get a lot out of it.

If you really feel you need to say more, there are oversized business cards and fold-over business cards. Or you could print your info on both sides of a standard business card.

For traditional purposes, all you really need to include is your name, book title, blurb, website, blog and an email address. I don't recommend putting in a phone number or a physical address because you will be giving this card out to EVERYONE. Play it safe. If you really want a particular person to have your number, write it down on the back.

As a matter of fact, you stand to make your card more meaningful if you actually write something on it before handing it to someone. Cards that are written upon are less likely to be thrown away.

A business card is the cheapest, most useful tool you can place at your disposal. Leave them everywhere and spread your name.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments. For more articles in the Killer Campaign series, go here.

Copyright © 2009 Maria Zannini -- http://mariazannini.blogspot.com/.


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

Find it on Amazon.
 


Saturday, July 11, 2009

Keywords & Content

I've been in a pensive mood lately. I've been mulling quite a few topics such as the future of publishing and the transitory existence of anything posted on the web.

Sure, our cyber words are there forever, but unless someone sees them, they are read and forgotten within days.

What keeps them alive are search engines. I get a lot of hits for old posts strictly because Google has them listed prominently.

Keywords are so very important in blog posts. If you want people to look you up, learn to title your posts with specific language so search engines will pick you up. My most active post titles are posts about dogs, remodeling, and when I mention authors and agents by name and link. Brand names also raise your visibility. Link a lot and you'll find yourself higher in search listings.

The other very important thing I've learned is that web crawlers read the first paragraph of a landing page. If you're not saying anything important within the first few sentences, the crawlers will move on to other blogs/websites, searching for key words.

Publishing futures: (Ironically I did a post title with that name and regularly get a lot of hits for that too.) It's an unsteady market all the way around. Right now I have two stacks of print books on my nightstand as well as at least a dozen ebooks in a folder on my desktop. All of them were FREE. I have not bought a new book in almost a year. All of them were either gifted to me or were given away at a conference.

Ironically, the one set of books I did win, I never received. I won't embarrass the author by mentioning her name, but if you offer a giveaway, you need to deliver.

Anyway, the point is, where are authors making their money? Maybe it's because I hang with other authors that I've come to know where all the free books are, but I don't even try to compete. Most books are given to me. Some perhaps because people hope I will review them or mention them on this blog. (BTW, my reviews for books and movies also get a lot of hits from search engines.)

Before I got into writing, Greg and I would visit Barnes & Nobles weekly. We hardly ever left without a new book a piece. Now I have more books than I can read and all of them were free.

The majority of my non-writer friends no longer read. Of those that do, I notice most like fast reads. This makes sense in our fast paced world. While I sometimes enjoy the rich, deep novel, such as Sarum, by Edward Rutherford, most times all I can manage is a quick fix, so I read novels I can finish in a couple of sittings.

When I go garage saling, the books I see most often are romance and mysteries. Twenty years ago, science fiction novels were common in yard sale finds. Now, they are few and far between. Fantasy has replaced sf and vampire heroes are the popular favorites.

You can tell a lot about public consumption by seeing what's sold at garage sales. I generally start seeing new fiction in garage sales about 6-8 months after its debut, so it's been a pretty fair barometer on trends.

Most of my author friends are midlisters or debut authors. I have not seen ANY of their work at garage sales or flea markets and that troubles me on several levels. It means we as a group are not reaching the casual reading masses, only the fringe of voracious readers.

If it was hard to make a splash in this pool before, it's even more difficult now.

***

Friday was the day from hell. Nothing worked right, my computer connection was slow and a half dozen people called or emailed me for favors.

To top it off my security alarm wouldn't stop beeping.

You would have to know how sensitive I am to noise to understand how debilitating this was for me. My headache was so bad I was actually nauseous. Still, I couldn't rest until I found a way to stop the beeping. I had to take pictures of the wiring box and email them to Greg so he could tell me what to disconnect. Still nothing worked. I found out later there was a secondary backup battery that kept the darn thing running. Unbelievable!

I had scheduled to do a podcast interview with KS Augustin that night, but the incessant beeping was loudest in the room where my computer lives.

--Kaz, I'll write you in a little bit to see when we can reschedule.

Friday was a bust from morning to night. Oh, and the icing on this trouble cake...while I was busy trying to locate the source of that incessant beeping, Iko chewed up my favorite bed comforter. I made him think about his sin while sitting in his crate. The heathen never uttered a peep--he knew he was in trouble.

On the bright side, next week is a special week on this blog. I contacted Lynn Viehl to be included in her Left Behind and Loving It series. Next week, we will have an entire week of Killer Campaign posts followed by an announcement on Saturday.

Copyright © 2009 Maria Zannini -- http://mariazannini.blogspot.com/.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Iko at 3 Months

Thought you might like to see the little monster now that he's grown a little. Just like a naughty little boy, he runs under the bed whenever it's time to go into his crate for nap time.

Sometimes we call him Peachy (from The Man Who Would Be King) because he is so confident he can outwit Tank. He can't, of course, but he tries. No matter how death-defying his stunts, he always ends up in my arms or Greg's. He loves to be cuddled.


Thursday, July 9, 2009

Making a Hole Disappear

I'm still on vacation which I guess is a bit of a stretch since it's only a vacation from this blog. We have been tackling one project after another around here. Since I'm not blogging, it's only fair to show you the fruits of our labors.

When we bought this house we inherited a hole in the wall. --literally. We guessed the previous owners had installed an aquarium which would be visible from both the entry on one side and the den on the opposite side.

We preferred the original design of the house with a full wall at the entry and a built in bookcase on the den side. But how do we put back what was destroyed?
.
Enter remodeler extraordinaire, Greg.

I was afraid we were going to have to tear down the bookcase and rebuild it since I saw no way to repair the huge gaping hole right in the middle of the bookcase. Not only did he fix it better than new, you can't even tell it was even repaired.
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Follow the photo history and see for yourself.



I know it's not much to see. I thought I'd at least show you the way Greg braced the underside so he could rebuild the wall on one side and the bookcase on the other. I am really proud of the way it turned out.



Tank supervising the final patch job. He gave us his paw of approval.



The wall is sealed and textured. This is the first coat of paint. At first, I planned to repaint it white, the way it was originally, but you know me. Must have color. So I went with a soft tan that had a hint of yellow for warmth. It's a very soothing color in both daylight and incandescent light. I wanted visitors to feel warm and cozy when they entered our home.

I think we accomplished that.



Believe it or not this seemed the more difficult project of the two. While the bookcase was more structurally challenging, getting the painted texture to match on the opposite wall really tested my abilities. I'm pleased with it though, as I am with the color. I chose Oat Straw made by Behr Paint.

By the way, if you've got a paint job in your future, I highly recommend Behr. I love the one coat coverage. This paint is excellent!
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PS The chair and desk are two of my previous projects. I bought them both for less than $50 and refinished them back to their original glory.


On to the other side...the dreaded bookcase.
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This is what we started with. A hole. A big hole. Do we tear it down completely or can it be saved? After Greg scraped away the rough edges to see what he had to work with, he felt certain he could restore it with a little ingenuity and magic.

I supplied the magic. Imagine me, dancing naked around a fire chanting for seamless corner joints and a streakless paint job.

Umm, on second thought. let's not go there. I don't want you to have nightmares.



It's starting to look like its old self again. I have a bookcase once more.


Patched, primed and painted. Now we wait for it to dry to a hard finish.



Here's the finished bookcase. Can you tell it ever had a hole smack in the middle of it?
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This was a real work in progress with lots of stops and starts in between. People who have seen the before and after in the flesh can't believe it.
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Heh...neither can I, and I was there. LOL.
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I am not a very handy person. And Greg can tell you some embarrassing stories about me and my insane klutziness. But I am a faithful go-fer monkey and try to learn what I can when I watch him work. Some of this stuff is a little complex, but once you see a project down to its skeleton you have a much better understanding on how things work.
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I always enjoy the projects we do together. I feel so inspired. The next time I do another project post, I'll show you a project I normally do on my own. Refinishing furniture.
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Copyright © 2009 Maria Zannini -- http://mariazannini.blogspot.com/.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Happy Birthday, Greg

I'm still on vacation but I wanted to do a quick post to wish Greg (the better half of this dynamic duo) a happy birthday.

I won't divulge his age, but in the year of his birth, a First Class letter was mailed for .03 cents. A loaf of bread was .18 cents and the price of gold was $35 an ounce.

Greg's father bought their 2-story home in Chicago for $7,500.

Below a few pictures of baby Greg. You'll notice back then we were all in black and white.

Baby Greg and hunky cousin, Richie. To top it off Greg's dad was eye candy too.

I guarantee you, this is Greg's natural state. He never stopped being a little devil.

He cleans up good when forced into it. LOL



A man not to be trifled with...especially when he was wearing his six-shooters.

Dapper Greg. Man about town.


The Great Escape: My favorite story about Greg came from his mother. She said when he was a baby he was constantly escaping her grasp, so she breathed a sigh of relief when they finally bought a playpen. Crafty devil that he was, he would stick his leg out and dragged himself and the big heavy playpen (furniture was made of real wood back then) over to the sofa, and used the couch as a step to climb up and over the top of the playpen.

Happy Birthday to my escape artist! You got away from everyone but me.


Copyright © 2009 Maria Zannini -- http://mariazannini.blogspot.com/.

All photos are copyrighted and cannot be used without expressed permission.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Freedom

Because Freedom isn't Free.



To all my US friends, Happy Fourth Of July!

Friday, July 3, 2009

DogZZZZ

For pet lovers only.

DogZZZZ beds.

Greg sent me this link. Prices range from $85 to $105 for dog beds. They also do custom covers with your dog's picture.

It was worth going to the site for the talking dog alone.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Is Beauty Worth The Money?

If you're young and attractive, go ahead and skip this post. Save it on your computer and look at it in twenty years. Only then will you understand what this is all about.

I've worked in an industry where beauty is synonymous with selling. There's a blog I follow that makes my point. The blogger mentioned running into Miss Snark and they gaze admiringly at her (potential) client. It's an old post, but one that still sticks in my craw.

For the full post go here. But the piece of conversation I want to point out is this:

"Wow," I said. "She's hot."

"Yeah, Chuck," Miss Snark said. "That's what we like to call platform."

I almost choked in grief. Not because I find it unfair, but because the majority of humanity lives on the veneer of vanity. We idolize beautiful people. We put them on tv and the internet--and sign them to book contracts.

This young woman, whoever she was, may very well be all that and a milk shake, but what about the thousands of other writers, the ones without a physical "platform"?

I'm not crying in my beer over this. This has been the way of things since the first monkey groomed the better looking monkey just so they could make little monkeys.

It just makes me irritable that we give more value to beauty than to real talent. Sure, we have our Susan Boyle's and Paul Potts's, but it's because the unlovely give such outstanding performances that the world is forced to recognize them for their superior accomplishments.

Please feel free to disagree with me if you want, but tell me: Have you ever bought a book because the author was beautiful? Even if some people do, exactly how many books does that sell?

Are beautiful authors worth more than less attractive authors? Are they more gifted, articulate or credible?

It is human nature I suppose to adulate the beautiful--to make celebrities out of people who happen to fit nicely into tight fitting jeans.

But beauty doesn't last forever. Today's god or goddess will be just like the rest of us before they even realize what's happened.

I often think that's God's little comeuppance for our arrogant youth. As for the publishers who pay that kind of money...that looks like yet another chink in publishing's armor.

There are so many other places that monetary premium could be used to revive sales rather than dump it all on one pony to win.

***
For some reason, Blogger is not posting my articles when I have them scheduled. I have one more scheduled for Independence Day (USA) and then I will be on the road for a while.

When I get back, I hope to have a special week of posts, so please come back and check on me.