Seek and ye shall find …

After I blogged about the possibility of venturing into self-pubbing, I went in search of a past article that featured a “to-do list,” for all self-published authors.

In the past 12 hours, I’ve destroyed my office in search of the electronic and hard copy of this article, gave my dog good reason to wonder why the hell he chose to live with me, and gave my neighbors proof that “The writer” next door really has a few screws loose.

But it doesn’t matter because I found it!

The article, 8 Things Readers Want from Self-Published Authors, which was posted in the May, 2011 issue of Writer’s Digest, offers a “to do” list for the discerning self-published author, who wants to be taken seriously. I thought this relevant topic was worth sharing and reading again.

The top three to-do’s:

Hire professionals for editing, proofreading, and design.
Put most of your cost toward editing. That means, aside from development or content editing, you must eliminate all proofreading errors and typos if you want to be taken seriously. Evelyn Lafont also recommends using beta readers to put out quality work.
Hire a conversion house for clean e-book formatting. (By the way, TheGreenStudy offered that bit of advice in our discussion about self-publishing. Way to go!)

You may want to take a look at The “Self-Pub Is Crap” Debate, which served as the catalyst for the to-do list.

This time around, I’m making a copy to hang on my wall and I’m storing one in Google docs just before I clean up the mess that is now my office.

Enjoy.

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Ogling Marlon Brando’s biceps

When I was fifteen, I worked as a page in my town’s library. Like any typical teenager, I never thought the job would cultivate my deep love of books. All I saw was the opportunity to save up and buy a 10-speed bike that I drooled over every time I went pass the bike store.

But working at the library propelled me toward my love of reading—so did ogling Marlon Brando’s biceps.


Okay, let me explain that one. (Hey, he wasn’t always Superman’s father!)

My job as a page was to clean the books (yes, clean them), particularly those with plastic covers with a little soapy water. I also had to arrange the books in category order, which included alpha, and then numerical order, and basically keep the shelves neat and orderly for patrons.

Back then, libraries were different. There were rarely computers. The head librarian was the only one who had a DOS-word processor (yes, I’m really telling my age with this one) to look up books cataloged throughout the library.

Every book was cataloged and referenced in long wooden draws filled with typewritten index-size cards that displayed the name, reference number, and location of the book. I sometimes had to make sure the cards were in order.

It was a lowly job. Most of the time, I was in the back, sandwiched between rows and rows of dusty, seven-feet tall shelves, (which I also had to dust), and old books. But the experience served a deeper purpose for which I am forever thankful.

I worked after school Monday through Thursday. But as my unconscious love of books began to blossom, I found myself hanging around the library on my day off—reading.

I began to love the smell of the library, dusty, but with a Pledge-like bouquet and the sturdiness of wooden tables and chairs. (If you hit your knee against the table, you’d surely be reprimanded for yelling within the hallowed halls of silence.)

More importantly, I began to appreciate the smell of books. They smelled of knowledge, and escape—something beyond my ordinary life.

One day at work, I recall cleaning Marlon Brando’s biography, which contained dozens of pictures of him in various roles, “On the Waterfront, “The Wild Ones,” and the one that held me captive, “Streetcar Named Desire.”

Complete with a tight t-shirt, and cocky attitude, I fell in love with Stanley Kowalski and Brando’s biceps. I read his biography cover to cover. It’s no wonder I didn’t get fired considering I read the books, just as much as I cleaned them. But Kowalski was a sexy, flawed hero—one I wanted to read more about.

So, I did.

Tennessee Williams’ play “Streetcar Named Desire” was the first I read in its entirety. I remember checking it out of the library to finish at home. A 15-year old reading Tennessee William’s instead of “Teen Beat” magazine?

Unusual, right? I admit. I was a strange kid.

However, Brando’s biography and “A Streetcar Named Desire” was the beginning of my wonderful journey—one that I’m still traveling.

We all discover our love of books and writing in a unique way, perhaps through our parents, or a contest, or just the fact that we need an escape from the every day.

However you discovered your love of books and writing, take a moment to remember. It’s a good feeling, which I believe helps to strengthen our love of the written word, and hold on, even when things like rejections and revisions get in our way.

TGIF: Writing, Finding Nemo and Richard Gere

Do you ever noticed that after a four-day workweek (that happens because of a holiday on Monday), you’re exhausted because you’ve crammed five days of work into four?

Since Labor Day, I’ve been trying to catch up and it has taken me until today to feel like I’ve accomplished something. Thank goodness the next big holiday isn’t until Thanksgiving (I can’t include Veterans Day because I don’t have off). I’ll be almost normal by then.

Anyway, Happy Friday!

The weekend is looking good. I have my writer’s group on Saturday. If you haven’t joined a group, think about doing so. It’s the best thing you can do for your writing career. I belong to an amazing group: Romance Writers of American-NJ Chapter (NJRW). I look forward to each meeting because I know we’re going to learn something different or we’ll learn to look at things in a different way. Our program this Saturday is on pitching your book and honing your PR skills to promote your work.

Finding Nemo 3D hit the big screen, and although I’m not a huge animated movie lover (I do love Toy Story though), I’m thinking about seeing Finding Nemo, particularly since I never sat through the original one. I may go with my daughters and grandson. Watching my grandson juggle those huge 3D glasses on his little nose is worth the price of the movie!

I really want to check out Arbitrage, the new thriller starring Richard Gere and Susan Sarandon. Of course, I’ll be taking mental notes. Something may trigger an idea for a book.

I loved them in “Shall We Dance” and their on-screen chemistry is great. Jennifer Lopez also starred in the movie and played the dance instructor. This clip is one of my favorite scenes in the movie because they danced the sexy tango!

Hope you have something good planned—even if it’s just kicking back and relaxing. Whatever you do, make sure you leave time for you.

See you Monday.

The Words: another lesson (and reminder) about integrity

Over the weekend, I saw the motion picture, “The Words,” starring Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana, Dennis Quaid and Jeremy Irons.

When I first saw the coming attractions at, “The Expendables 2” showing, I knew I had to see it. The movie tells the tale about a writer who, at the peak of his literary success, discovers the steep price he must pay for stealing another man’s work.

I’ve heard the lukewarm reviews from the critics. However, I rarely listen. I tend to lean on the side of what I want to see, as opposed to what’s being touted as the next best thing. After all, the opinions are largely subjective—as are literary reviews.

Personally, I loved the movie. Anything that features a typewriter, computer, library, books, ink, pens and thoughts, hooks me. It’s the kind of movie with which all artists, particularly writers, can relate.

I wouldn’t dare spoil the opportunity for you to see this movie for yourself. But I will tell you a line in the film that really had me thinking. One of the characters (the soon-to-be disgraced publisher) told the soon-to-be disgraced writer, “You’re not the only author who has done this kind of thing [plagiarized].”

I thought about that comment and wondered how many amongst the greatest writers of our times have put their names on someone else’s works? For starters, I know that William Shakespeare’s, work had been questioned.

Now here’s a little more food for thought:

As a struggling, unpublished writer, would you take a potential literary masterpiece that fell into your hands without anyone knowing, and put your name on it? If so, would you be able to live with the consequences?

In a nutshell, “The Words,” is a thought-provoking journey that will make you ponder your life as a writer and the possible “what if.” I certainly did. Go see the movie and then tell me what you thought.

Television commercials and the abnormal dependency on their power

It’s Friday. It’s been a long week and I need to ramble a bit. So, here it goes.

Last night, I’m clicking through the channels and spot Old Navy’s back-to-school commercial featuring Jennie Garth, Jason Priestly and Luke Perry from the ‘90s show Beverly Hills 90210.

Whoa. Just bring in Shannen Doherty and it’s a homecoming. (By the way, Gabrielle Carteris, who played Brandon’s (Jason) stalker/admirer, Andrea Zuckerman is in another Old Navy commercial, still stalking I might add.)

In addition, Old Navy’s campaign reunites Mayim Bialik and Joey Lawrence, former siblings in the show, “Blossom.” Another ’90s show.

Are these actors planning comebacks? Are there any fall shows on tap featuring them? On the other hand, the snarky me thinks, they need money. (But who doesn’t?)

Okay, now the old brain really starts to rattle.

We all know that hundreds, maybe thousands of actors and actors have graced (should I use that term, loosely?) the small screen doing commercials before making it big.

I wanted to recall some of the famous faces who did commercials prior to their big break. So, I did what I love doing almost as much as writing: I Googled.

I ran across an article from Woman’s Day magazine, which featured 12 Old Commercials Featuring Now-Famous Stars. Very cool article with video clips.

Most of the commercials listed were a surprise, and quite cool to watch. However, I do vaguely recall Bruce Willis in a Seagram’s commercial.

Okay, so I refer back to the Old Navy commercial with the Beverly Hills 90210 gang, and start to realize (for the hundredth time) how embedded this medium is in our society. So much so, that even actors can’t get away from them.

For actors, commercials are a paying gig, something to add to a resume, and a means for celebrities to get one’s feet wet or come in from grazing in greener pastures.

Television commercials may promote a wide variety of goods, services and ideas, and influence what we consume, and how we behave. But they clearly possess an abnormal power to satisfy the need for celebrity types and athletes (can’t forget them) to stay in our lives for years, decades, centuries. Hmm …but then again, there are reruns.

Enough rambling. I’m going to Old Navy. Enjoy your weekend.

Why Olympian medalists and writers could be BFFs …

While enjoying the 2012 Olympic games, and all the wonderful achievements, I became a little nostalgic and in serious need of inspiration.

So, I decided to do some digging to find out what type of history was made on August 8.  Immediately, I was reminded of two events: the 1984 Olympics Games in Los Angeles, which I watched with intensity, and the achievements of one Olympian in particular, Carl Lewis.

On August 8, 1984, Lewis won his 3rd (200m) of 4 gold medals in the Summer Olympics.  I remember being glued to my television, watching history unfold as my two daughters (then, ages 4 and 2) sat nearby, playing. 

I didn’t answer the phone or the door because at that moment, nothing was more spectacular than watching Carl cross that finish line. I didn’t want to miss a moment. I wanted to celebrate his victory because I know what it’s like to want something so bad, you can see it in front of you.

Some of his other achievements during that Olympic year include:

  • August 11, 1984 – Carl Lewis duplicates Jesse Owens’ 1936 feat, wins 4 Olympic track gold metals
  • August 6, 1984 – Carl Lewis wins 2nd (long jump) of 4 gold medals in Summer Olympics
  • August 4, 1984 – Carl Lewis wins gold medal in 100-meter dash at LA Summer Olympics

Wow.  He was fierce. Dedicated.  And probably, at times felt very much alone.  Sound familiar?

Every four years, I look forward to watching the Olympics.  It’s a sort of “kindred spirit” period for me. Through the games I learn about people who know firsthand, what it means to sacrifice a life considered “normal” to pursue their destiny and their dreams. Many of these fantastic athletes negate friends, family, relationships, movies, books and yes, dessert, to stay the course that may lead them to Olympic gold, silver or bronze.

If not for the Olympics, we may have never heard of the obstacles and challenges experienced by Olga Korbut, Nadia Comăneci, Mary Lou Retton, (also a 1984 winner), Katarina Witt, Shaun White, Usain Bolt,  Michael Phelps,  Rafael Nadal, Gabby Douglas, Sally Pearson and Florence Griffith Joyner (affectionately remembered as Flo Jo).

While the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles was filled with controversy and boycotts, it was still an inspiring and memorable event. And the issues surrounding the games, didn’t take away from the achievements of those who competed. In the end, it was still a testament to those athletes who—day in, and day out—pour their souls into their craft—their calling.

Just like writers.

To Carl Lewis and Olympians past and present, I salute you. Maybe one day we can shoot the breeze, talk shop.

To writers enduring rejection letters, submitting your work, revising your manuscripts, and waiting to review your first or fiftieth galley, I applaud you. We’ll get there.

An Affair to Remember: I Met Joe Black in Australia and he became my Bodyguard

If you haven’t guessed from the blog’s title, I’m a movie nut.

Okay, let me start over. (Remember, confession is good for the soul.) I’m a movie fanatic. I’m a movie fanatic. I’m a movie fanatic.

Ahh …just breathe. But hold on, there’s more.

This condition has been perfected over the years. When I was a pre-teen, I kept a notebook (five one-subject brown notebooks to be exact) of all the movies I’d ever watched, rated them and noted (with stars, in ink) whether or not I would watch them again.  My records were so meticulous that Siskel and Ebert, now Roeper, would be jealous. Yeah, I know no life. (Hmmm …I wish I knew where my old notebooks were.) 

But later on, I discovered that I wasn’t alone. For most of us, movies—like books—are a means of escape. Movies often deliver messages, influence behavior, spark reflection and literally change lives.  

Now, that’s a powerful medium.

I also find that movies serve as a vital and (wonderful) source of information and research. I recently blogged about my favorite fictional heroes and heroines of the silver screen who influence my writing. However, there are a few movies that also get me in the mood to write romance. They have a way of continuing to make me believe in happily ever after. (I also have to keep a box of tissues nearby.)

I tried to limit my list to the top 27 movies for writing romance and I can’t tell you how difficult that was.  Why 27 movies?  Because everyone always does the top 25, and I wanted to stay below 30. 🙂

So, here’s my list of favorite romantic movies. Each are special and have had an influence on my writing, and in some respects, my life. Perhaps there’s a few here on your list of favorites. If so, tell me about a favorite scene or line or why you could watch it over and over again.

  1. The Way We Were, Robert Redford, Barbra Streisand
  2. Somewhere in Time, Christopher Reeve, Jane Seymour,
  3. Australia, Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman
  4. An Affair to Remember, Cary Grant, Deborah Kerr
  5. Bridges of Madison County, Clint Eastwood, Meryl Streep
  6. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton
  7. The Mask of Zorro, Antonio Banderas, Catherine Zeta Jones
  8. Sabrina (remake) Harrison Ford, Julia Ormond, Greg Kinnear
  9. Someone Like You, Hugh Jackman, Ashley Judd, Greg Kinnear
  10. Legends of the Fall, Brad Pitt, Julia Ormond, Aiden Quinn
  11. Meet Joe Black, Brad Pitt, Claire Forlani
  12. Love Jones, Larenz Tate, Nia Long
  13. The Notebook, Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams
  14. The Bodyguard, Kevin Costner, Whitney Houston
  15. The Wedding Date, Dermot Mulroney, Debra Messing
  16. Romancing the Stone, Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner
  17. A Walk in the Clouds, Keanu Reeves,Aitana Sánchez-Gijón
  18. The American President, Michael Douglas, Anette Bening
  19. Message in a Bottle, Kevin Costner, Robin Wright
  20. The Wedding Planner, Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Lopez
  21. Pretty Woman, Richard Gere, Julia Roberts
  22. Sweet Home Alabama, Josh Lucas, Reese Witherspoon, Patrick Dempsey
  23. You’ve Got Mail, Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan
  24. City of Angels, Nicholas Cage, Meg Ryan
  25. Ever After: A Cinderella Story, Dougray Scott, Drew Barrymore
  26. Hitch, Will Smith, Eva Mendes
  27. Out of Africa, Robert Redford, Meryl Streep

Uh oh it’s only the beginning of the week and I feel a movie weekend coming on. Better go stock up on popcorn. 😉