Thursday, July 31, 2008

Wizard financial What if tools - or what B has been doing for a year

We have been in Costa Rica for over a year. Working on "stuff." If you are a regular reader and you have not heard about my book, you must be blind, deaf and, well we don't use that other word in our house. But hubby has been busy too.

He loves the financial stuff (don't ask me) and wanted to learn some new programming language called Ruby on Rails (don't ask me) so he put something together.

Besides programming my Monkey Barrel Press website, he built himself a money, finance, investing, tooly website. For fun. Also, he is advertising my book on the side. (See, now how could you miss these subtle references?)


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - SOLD OUT

Okay - it was only the first shipment to them, but still.... I feel so popular!

Some Blog Luv for My Name is Not Isabella

A while back I participated in the 5 minutes for Mom Ultimate Blog Party and provided a giveaway. I just got the books out and one lucky winner was so happy, she almost kissed the mailman. Not that we condone randomly kissing public servants, but "My Name is Not Isabella" really is that good. You can read about this winner's reaction at her very cool PaperDoll Designs Blog.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

My Mom got Kudos

The other day I was playing around to make a mosiac from meme questions. You had to use the answer to search in Flickr. One of the questions was what High School did you go to? When I searched on Hadley Luzerne, a photo from the SALS 50th annual dinner popped up. And suddenly I was looking at my Mom.

She was awarded trustee of the year. I knew she had received the honor, however looking at her photo so randomly popped up on the internet was special. My Mom is now famous. And beautiful. Hi Mom!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - More Photo Playing around

So I found Big Huge Lab Flickr toys. This is a really easy to use site and I have been playing. I'll show you some more fun stuff I did over the next few weeks. But really, you could have more fun there without me. So go visit and play.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

ABC in the Kid Lit world....How many do you know?

I love the Kid Lit world. How fun is this? Really, go look at the awesome collection of kid book stuff.

Monday, July 21, 2008

My FAVORITE children's book and the spell it weaves

I mentioned that we read at bedtime. Every night. Each kid gets to pick (sometimes with a little re-direction based on time and sleepiness) one book. Usually Bella picks princess stuff. Or stuff with a leading character that looks like a 6 inch tall blond bombshell doll. This stuff has it's place, but once in a while I like to be entertained by the selection as well.

One night, I pulled out MY FAVORITE. The first book I bought myself with my money. Okay, money given to me by an Auntie right at the door of the mall as we all went in shopping. Together. But I made the purchase, I made the selection, I paid the cashier. I was about six years old and extremely impressed with myself. I even managed to get a pair of plastic high-heel shoes with the change. I still have the book.

So one night, I pulled out MY FAVORITE. That original book. The Lorax by Dr. Seuss. The kids were mesmerized. It is quite a bit longer than many of the books I read at night. I used funny voices. I read it dramatically. They got it. They loved it. You could hear a pin drop in the room while I was reading. No comments. No interruptions. No wiggling. Just rapt attention. It just shows the power of excellent children's literature. I mean, really, who can compete with the Doctor?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Just for Fun - Mosiac Meme

So while surfing through the Wordless Wednesday people, I found this lady, who did this Meme and tagged herself. So Tag, I'm It. It just looks too fun and random and artsy not to give it a try. And okay, it's not really wordless cause I gotta tell you how I got it.

a. Type your answer to each of the questions below into Flickr Search.
b. Using only the first page, pick an image.
c. Copy and paste each of the URLs for the images into fd’s mosaic maker.

The Questions:
1. What is your first name?
2. What is your favorite food?
3. What high school did you go to?
Hadley-Luzerne High School
4. What is your favorite color?

5. Who is your celebrity crush?

Adam Duritz (okay, not really crush, just wow that is one emotional man! And that's how I swinging today.)

6. Favorite drink?

7. Dream vacation?

8. Favorite dessert?

Chocolate Chip Cookies
9. What you want to be when you grow up?

10. What do you love most in life?

11. One Word to describe you.

12. Your flickr name.

Fos (okay not really, there was nothing under jen poco loco or jen fos, so I improvised)

The Mosiac:

The credits:
1. Jennifer, 2. Pizza Mau, 3. LAKE LUZERNE ROAD, 4. Autumn walk, 5. Perfect Blue Buildings..., 6. llibreria - bookstore - Amsterdam, 7. OIA, handmade houses, 8. 14th August 2007 / Day 226, 9. I Love New York, 10. Life, 11. The Sweet Talker, 12.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Night-time reading

There are an awful lot of books for kids out there. Every night we read to the kids. Usually it is me who does the reading. I am better at a calming routine and an actual exit from their bedroom before everybody falls asleep.

But Bars really rocks the house. I have to say that they love his reading more than mine. He is so animated in his style and a mad ad-libber. For those of you who know him, understand it when I say that he is practically a kid himself. He has never lost his sense of play. This is something I love about him. It is also something that frustrates me when it comes time to decide between a piggy-back marathon or the dinner dishes.

But his reading style leaves me awed and inspired. Although, I do like it when the kids actually sleep before 10 pm!

Monday, July 14, 2008

100th Post - 100 Things (You saw it coming)

It seems that everyone does a "100 things about me" post when they reach the 100th post. I knew that this day was coming, but have been putting it off. 100 is a big number. I guess when you realize that you have written 100 posts, it should not seem so daunting. However, those 100 posts weren't all about me. They were about me and other stuff. This is supposed to be about me. Well, I will give it a shot and see where it goes.

  1. I was born during a late spring (mid-March) blizzard in the Adirondacks of upstate New York.
  2. My maternal grandmother walked from her work to the hospital in open toe shoes.
  3. This is something she has done before (open-toe shoes in the winter).
  4. She is less crazy than you would think and has always been my biggest fan.
  5. Every thing I hear about my maternal grandfather is glowing.
  6. He was an Irish shanty boy in mill-town, youngest of eleven kids. They were hooligans. Today that means juvenile delinquent.
  7. His brother grew up to be the Chief of Police.
  8. He grew up to play minor league baseball.
  9. In Nova Scotia, Canada.
  10. He was a slow runner (by baseball standards).
  11. He also put himself through college after being married and having a daughter (my mom).
  12. He was away from home in Massachusetts during the week, only home on the weekend.
  13. One weekend he came home and my Mom had stitches across her nose. She dropped the glass milk bottle when they used to deliver it straight from the farm.
  14. She still has that scar.
  15. The next weekend, she had a dislocated shoulder.
  16. He thought that she might be being abused.
  17. She wasn't, just the Rogers grace and accident proneness. Unfortunately, it is hereditary.
  18. He later was the local gym teacher/coach. Many Many Many stories about this.
  19. He was a tough disciplinarian.
  20. He was a marine and he and his brothers served in the Pacific during WW II.
  21. My maternal grandfather died one month after I was born.
  22. He was on his way to work when his car was struck by another driver.
  23. When he was hit his heart basically did an over-pump.
  24. I am told that he should have died on impact, however due to his outstanding physical condition, he didn't.
  25. He was 50 years old and in excellent physical condition.
  26. I am much younger and not.
  27. He regained consciousness at the hospital, however his aorta had lost all elasticity due to the stress of the over pump and couldn't pump blood adequately.
  28. Today they may have been able to use a plastic replacement piece.
  29. The whole town attended his funeral. I saw the newspaper clipping.
  30. The four corners where he was hit is one of the most dangerous in our town.
  31. They finally got a traffic light about five years ago.
  32. I am not sure if it helps.
  33. My mother was 25 years old when she heard the news.
  34. My mother still cries when people talk about him.
  35. My mother still flinches whenever the fire siren goes off and someone isn't home.
  36. A few years ago the school built a new gymnasium and named it after him.
  37. Over 20 years after his death.
  38. The fact that I never got to know him is something that makes me very sad.
  39. My paternal grandparents were always there as I grew up as well.
  40. My grandmother is a Polish farm girl from Deerfield, Massachusetts.
  41. She was the oldest girl in a family with ten kids.
  42. Her parents were immigrants.
  43. They had a farm.
  44. One time my father played a Garisson Keiler tape from Lake Wobegon days about the slaughter of the pigs.
  45. It talks about the respect the farmers have for the animals.
  46. She made him turn it off. She said it was too real.
  47. It is a fantastic piece of literature/storytelling/oratory.
  48. She also attended Deerfield Private Academy for boys.
  49. A very posh WASPY school.
  50. They let the locals attend.
  51. She talks about going home from school to change to work clothes and then running like hell to get through town to get to the fields without being seen by anyone.
  52. She was the ONLY one of her siblings to graduate from high school.
  53. I remember one year that she received a card from her older brother and was so happy to see that he had signed it himself. He never learned to read.
  54. From what I understand her life was rough.
  55. Her mother cheated at cards.
  56. Her mother enjoyed setting sections of the family against each other to watch the drama.
  57. The brother whom she was closest too was killed in his teens.
  58. He was struck by lightning while bringing in the horses during a storm.
  59. His name was Charlie.
  60. My grandfather's name was Charlie.
  61. My uncle's name is Charlie.
  62. My grandfather Charlie was from Gloucester, Massachusetts.
  63. He had a two-year college degree from Wentworth Institution in Boston.
  64. He was working as a handyman at the school when my grandmother was working there too.
  65. At one point he brought a carload of his "city" friends up to visit.
  66. Grandma had a lot of sisters.
  67. They played baseball in the backyard.
  68. After the fourth sister hit the fourth home run, she asked "want us to take it easy on you boys?"
  69. My grandfather worked for Niagara Mohawk, the power company.
  70. My grandparents wound up moving to upstate New York for his job.
  71. My grandmother didn't know anyone and was the only sibling that left the Deerfield/Greenfield area.
  72. I think that this was rough on her.
  73. She only speaks Polish on the phone to her sisters.
  74. One time, they had a Hungarian boy refugee in town, 16 years old and no English.
  75. They brought him to my Grandmother because she spoke Polish.
  76. Polish is NOTHING like Hungarian.
  77. That boy is my Godfather.
  78. My grandfather bowled.
  79. My grandfather was somewhat progressive, open to new ideas.
  80. My grandfather chewed gum constantly and clicked his dentures.
  81. My grandfather had the liveliest, brightest blue eyes.
  82. The last time I saw him was on a visit back east. During my stay he had had an episode and was in the hospital. I stopped on the way to the airport and as I peeked my head into the room, he said "There she is." Like he was waiting for me.
  83. The last thing I said as I left was "See you next time."
  84. He was cute even in old age.
  85. He had a private, intelligent sense of humor that was somewhat obtuse. As he got older it became more private and obtuse.
  86. I see that trend now happening to my Dad.
  87. It will soon happen to me.
  88. I grew up in a really small town.
  89. My dad owned the local pharmacy.
  90. My mom worked as a librarian until I was born.
  91. My mom was also my girl scout troop leader.
  92. I was in girl scouts until I graduated from high school. I know, kinda lame since I didn't get that many badges, etc.
  93. But I got to go to Bermuda in ninth grade with the girl scouts. How cool is that?
  94. I also taught myself to pogo stick, stilt walk and kinda unicycle when I was a kid.
  95. And I broke my left arm, my right wrist, cracked my ribs, needed staples in the back of my head, and broke my left leg. Remember #17.
  96. I graduated salutatorian of my class.
  97. I went to a small but good SUNY (Geneseo) school where I got suckered into taking physics.
  98. I went to grad school at another SUNY (Binghamton).
  99. I got a job at a IP start up in Silicon Valley and moved there in 1996.
  100. Met husband, had three kids, quit job to do the stay at home thing, it's hard, moved to Costa Rica for a while to see what that was about, published a children's book, write this blog and now you are caught up.

This post turned out not to be so much about me, but more about the people who formed me. The people I grew up knowing so well. So in a way, it is about me. Maybe someday I will write another list more about me and my life, although I am pretty sure that will wind up focusing on my husband and kids. Ain't that the way it goes.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Barenaked Ladies business model

I have spoken before of my love of the Barenaked Ladies. They are musically gentle, lyrically comical, occasionally high-energy and Canadian. While this is a great combination, they have only had a few mega-hits here in the States. Also, with the changes in the recording industry and having a large band, they don't seem to I am not sure if they have a million dollars. Okay, they probably do, but it just doesn't go as far as it used to. Even macaroni and cheese has gone up.

They are on the forefront of doing it themselves. They started as an indie band and they have returned to their own label. They sell their music over the internet. Here is a quote about it I found:

".....Having come full circle from the days of their homemade indie cassette, the little indie band that could have returned to self-rule with Desperation Records…albeit on a grander scale.

“Desperation Records and Barenaked Ladies Are Me,” Page explains, “are about forging new relationships with our fan base - online, in concert and on their stereos. It's the fans who make our music and the lives we lead possible, so we're trying to get the music to them in innovative ways.”

But here is the BRILLIANT thing that they have done. They have initiated an annual fan outing. Once a year, they do a cruise. It seems like a typical cruise idea (beautiful destination, on board activities, way too much food), except with performances by the band and some other bands they pick (at least I think that they pick them). They call it Ships and Dips. I think someday I would enjoy this.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Haiku Friday - In the dumps, perk me up

Haiku Friday

Feeling a bit down
Living in my bubble
So far from the States

If I were at home
That is the Bay Area
I would go Blogher

I could visit stores
Show off my book to the world
Everyone might buy

My market is tapped
Here in Costa Rica land
But it's beautiful

Bet you don't feel sorry for me, do you? Still, it is hard to promote from here. I feel overwhelmed by all the internet options. I feel scared to make phone calls. Cold call, Cold mail/promo to stores? Blog reviews and buzz? What will help the most. The train seems slow in starting. Will it ever get up to full speed? And will I be driving?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Writing exercise - description of kid in the airport

This is something I wrote while waiting for my plane. A description of the time and place from an observer. I think it makes a story. I just wanted to share.

I love people watching. Lucky for me, sitting in the airport for 3 hours is a good opportunity. I can see agitated ladies, chilled out hippy travelers, and retirees. Mostly American vacationers heading back to the US. A guitar player has set up with a chair, an amplifier, a copy of his cd and his hat out. The sound of his acoustic guitar echo on the airport terminal. A little Motzart (ah….Motzart) a little Led Zeplin and a lot in-between.

What has been most interesting is watching a group of American teens. Probably about thirteen. Made up of about half black students and half white students. They didn’t mingle. And the white kids looked more dorky, like they were trying harder. There was one boy in particular that made me think. I remember him from my school days. He is a little sloppy and he has a big pimply nose. He doesn’t walk cool, he lopes. He probably actually reads and he likes sci-fi or fantasy books. He sits a little separate from the rest of the white kids. He seems to have manners. He is probably not the most popular kid of the bunch. This boy watched the guitar player for a while and then stood and finally made his way over. He pulled his wallet from his jeans and left a dollar. He loped back to the rest of the group and sat. He seemed satisfied with himself, for thinking of giving the guy a buck, for being grown-up enough to do it, and that it was done. I believe he will grow up to be a good man. I wish I had given him more respect when I was in high school.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - I am in AMAZON - I mean really there

I mean you can order my book and they will send it to you.

I feel like I have arrived.


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

How do I publish a Children's book - my thoughts on the process

Recently, one of my readers sent me an email asking some advise in this book world. I highly admire anyone smart enough to ask questions of people that are a little bit (or a lotta bit) ahead of them on the curve. Being pretty new to everything, I did my best. To further confuse you all, I am Jen, she is Jenny. With her permission, this is the interchange:

Her email: Hey there Jen!
I have 3 main concerns right now about my manuscript and the publishing process. Here are my questions:
1. My book is about our dogs. I won't bore you with detail, but since we brought our pups home about 16 months ago it has been a roller coaster ride, to put it nicely. Max and Molly have so many quirks, and as therapy for myself I wanted to introduce our dogs in a picture book. My story is more of a "meet and describe" type story, not a plot-based story. Ideally, I wanted to do a series, this being the first and then start doing plot-based stories. Do you think this is acceptable, or would most publishers frown at this type of story?
2. I have always been artistic, so I thought about illustrating myself. I bought some resource books, and am willing to put in the time and effort. I think the problem is, for EVERY PAGE of my book, I have specific visions of the illustration. If I decide I can't handle this, do hired illustrators do what you want, or are you at their mercy???
3. I looked into some publishing companies, but now I'm intimidated by their costs. How did you decide to publish the way you did? Are any of these companies legit? (Author House, Xlibris) Isn't there a way to publish at no cost to the author??? Or is that just for the best-selling authors?
Ok...I know I have more questions, but I'll stop here! I'm sure I've overwhelmed you enough already! Thank you SO MUCH for your time, and any advice you can give!!!

Okay, now for my words of wisdom.

Hi Jenny,
Sorry this took so long to get back to you. You asked fundamentally and philosophically difficult questions. The book business is a little snobby. Not quite wine-snob snobby, but close. While I am by no means an expert, let me explain how I see it.

There are essentially two/three ways to get published.
1)Submit and get accepted to a major/minor publishing house. There are many roads into this as well:
-get an agent (need to impress them with your work)
-attend book stuff/conferences/shows, etc. where editors speak and make contacts so that you can submit directly to them (need to impress them with your work)
-find publishers that publish similar stuff and submit to them (this is called unsolicited submissions or the slush pile (need to impress them with your work)

These are all pretty difficult until you are already famous and desirable. But there are stories of it happening. It takes A LOT of perseverance to do this. Some authors submit to upwards of 100 publishers before being considered. Some submit to one and get accepted. Some never get considered. It depends on how brilliant your stuff is, if you hit the right person in the right mood and luck.

If you get in this way, you probably get an advance and then some royalties after you have earned out your advance. (i.e. $2,000 advance and 3% of list to commence after the $2000 is earned). If you go this way, you will still have to do alot of your own marketing, but you will probably have assistance and guidance from your publisher. And if you don't do the art (or they don't want your art) they will pick. You have no say in illustrator, look, feel, etc.

This is the lowest cost entry into the publishing world. And one of the hardest to get through the first door. There are many, many resources about this path. Many suggest trying to write for Children's magazines first to get your feet wet.

Initially I tried this route. Some of my earlier (read not so good) attempts were submitted to the slush piles. No bites. Some tries at magazines. No bites. It is an over saturated market and they are really looking for things that will sell and hence make money.

2)Self publish 2a)The "easy" way is through a self-publishing organization such as Authorhouse, Xilbris, etc. I do not believe this is a good way. It just looks bad. They own your ISBN number (that is the 13 digit number on the book along the bar-code probably starts with 978). And it is really poo-pooed in the industry. If you were writing a book on crocheting steering wheel covers for tractors that had a very specific audience/market that you could easily tap into, ebooks and this type of self-publishing MIGHT make sense. Children's books do not really make sense unless it is just for your family and friends or ego.
2b)My route. Start your own publishing company. This is FAR more costly upfront. I really believed in my book "My Name is Not Isabella" and felt it could and would sell if done right (read content, art, construction, marketing, sales and distribution channels, etc. etc. etc.). And my husband believed as well. I did a lot of research. I did a lot of reading. And then we set aside a big chunk of money for me to try this. About a mid-level car. AND if I am lucky and sell all that I had made in this first print run, I may make $1-2K profit (before taxes). But if I can sell more, it gets better. If we get a second title, it gets better. It is probably a five year path to a profitable company that can afford to pay me. And it is learn as you go.
Going this way, you still fight the "self-published" label. My analogy is that they look at you like "OH yuk! Win-a-box," and you have to convince them to try it, it is really good. Some don't even try it, I mean wine in a box? Some try and don't like. Some try it and love it. It is a slow process. Ultimately my goal is to become a small independent publisher with a catalog of about 10 books a year. Then I can be one of those snobs. But this is a long way off.

So now that I have depressed you, let me answer your specific questions:
1) I don't know. I don't know what most people are looking for. I am sure that there are kids books about dogs. Some are fantastic and some are not. I am sure that there are many more about dogs that don't get published. Dogs could be good, lots of people have them. Dogs could be bad, lots of people write about their dogs. This is a classic, my pet/kids are so cute, I will write a story about them theme that pervades self-published stuff and can be what gives it a bad name. But if yours has a nice spin, an unusual thing, or is extremely well written, it could fly. Do your research. Go to B&N or the library and look and see what there is. Or search through Amazon.

Also, I strongly recommend you join a writer's critique group. Strangers, while being polite, can be an awful lot more honest than your friends and family. There is one that I have used online called Critique Circle. You get a free account. You critique other people's stories for credit. When you have enough credits, you can submit your own piece for critique. Look at some of the stories and critiques offered before you start.

2)If you think you can do the art, fantastic. This is not my area of expertise - I am, um, not. If you self-publish and hire, artists may or may not follow direction. It is an individual working arrangement subject to the personalities and contracts involved. However, if you find an artist that you like, I suggest you give them some latitude. Remember they may have some even better ideas and you should NOT be locked into it being YOUR dogs, but something that will appeal to a wide audience.

3)Hopefully the rant at the beginning gave you some idea about this. It is complex and there is not an easy answer.
So overall I would suggest you:
Join Critique group for your writing
Think about what you want out of this (fame, ego stroke, artistic outlet, etc).
Get Famous so you can do anything you want.
And then.........

Mention my wonderful book.

Hope this helps some.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Mine Sweeper - the Movie

Waldo found this one for me. It's hysterical.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Family of Librarians

I may or may not have mentioned before that I come from a book family. A librarian family. We got librarians coming out our ears. My Great Aunt Joan was one in Syracuse, New York. My Mother was at the Luzerne Library. Her cousin Dana studied it, before turning to more lucrative employment. Dana's daughter (my cousin) is right now a librarian in upstate New York primary school(okay, technically she is actually on summer vacation).

Lots of librarians. Lots of love of books.

What a great way it was to grow up, what a great family to be a part of.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Haiku Friday - Gym Today!

Haiku Friday

I have a mission
Going to join the gym today
Even if it kills.


Wish me luck. I really need to start exercising, eating better, taking care of myself. You know the drill.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

My First Review at The Reading Tub

As I may have mentioned, I have been sending out book packets in hope of reviews, awards, recognition, fame... you know.

Well, My Name is Not Isabella has it's first review. It is at The Reading Tub and you can follow the link to see what wonderful things have been said about the book.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - Not Now Mom, I'm Busy

Web Pages referring to this page
Link to this page and get a link back!