Wednesday 30 April 2014

Book ~ "The Author Training Manual" (2014) Nina Amir

From Goodreads ~ Anyone can publish a book and become an "author" but if you want to become a successful author with a profitable publishing career, you need a clear, step-by-step guide to help you develop book ideas that sell. 

In "The Author Training Manual," expert editor and book coach, Nina Amir, reveals the exact process successful authors have used to create business plans and proposals for their books and teaches you how to view your ideas through the eyes of acquisitions editors and literary agents.

Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, plan to traditionally publish or self-publish, "The Author Training Manual" provides you with the tools you need to achieve your goals and become the author publishers want. Inside you'll find concrete steps, evaluations, sample business plans, in-depth training activities, editor and agent commentaries and much more - all designed to help you stand out, from the slush pile to the shelf.

I read a lot and was curious to learn more about the steps involved in writing and publishing a book.

The author starts out by explaining the landscape for published books.  For example, the average book sells 3,000 copies in its lifetime ... the publishing industry deems a book "successful" when it sells large numbers of copies (usually many more than 3,000 copies per year).  If your book is traditionally published, it stands less than 1% chance of being stocked in a bookstore.  The average nonfiction book sells 250 copies per year ... and nonfiction outsells fiction.  The average Amazon ebook author earns under $300 a year.  Having an "author attitude" is an essential characteristic to change your status from "aspiring" to "successful published author".

What follows is a step-by-step training plan ... the chapters are:
  • Author attitude - The essential characteristic necessary for publishing success
  • How to begin - Evaluate yourself and your book for success
  • Step 1 - Develop an "Author Attitude" and plan your success
  • Step 2 - Know what your book is about and why someone would want to read (buy) it
  • Step 3 - Analyze how many people really might buy your book
  • Step 4 - Compare the competition and discover if your idea is unique and necessary
  • Step 5 - Examine the structure of your book
  • Step 6 - Decide if your book's content matches your initial vision
  • Step 7 - Discover ways to brand yourself and earn more money
  • Step 8 - Weigh whether you are the best person to write this book ... now
  • Step 9 - Gauge if you make a good publishing partner or indie partner
  • The final steps
  • Samples
  • Training exercises
  • Index

If you are a budding author who wants to take it to the next step, you should check out this book.

Tuesday 29 April 2014

Free samples at - April 2014

A couple weeks ago, I had answered an emailed survey from SampleSource and there was a box of goodies waiting for me when I got home today.  This is the second box of samples I've gotten from them in the last six months.

Here's what I got ...

  • 3 John Frieda sheer Blonde lightening shampoo (8.3ml)
  • 1 John Frieda Frizz Ease shampoo (8.3ml), conditioner (8.3ml) and calming cream (5ml) 
  • 1 John Frieda Frizz Ease serum (4.4ml)
  • Aquafresh extreme clean toothpaste (18ml)
  • Hershey bar with whole almonds (43g) - the bar was tasty!
  • Quaker Harvest Crunch quinoa granola bar - chocolate nut medley (35g)
  • Snuggle scent booster (2 loads) - I liked these so much that I bought a couple bags of the lavender-scented ones.
  • Burt's Bees night cream (4.2g)

Looks like some fun stuff!

St. Louis Bar and Grill, Atrium on Bay, Toronto, ON

I spent the last day and a half at a pension and benefits conference downtown.  After it ended today, I had lunch nearby at St. Louis Bar and Grill in the Atrium on Bay.  I love love love St. Louis' wings and their dipping sauce. 

The last time Gord and I were there was in November 2012 and we didn't have a good experience.  I swore I'd never go back to this location.  But I thought I'd check them out today and hoped maybe we'd just gone on an off-night.

I ordered what I always order ... medium wings.

Monday 28 April 2014

Book ~ "Dog Spelled Backwards - an Unholy Mystery" (2013) Jill Yesko

From Goodreads ~ Private investigator Jane Ronson suffers from oppositional defiant disorder, the uncontrollable urge to punch first then ask questions later. 

When a rabbi with a shady past offers her a bag of cash to spy on a rival rabbi, Jane jumps at the chance to make what think will be easy money. To get her cash, Jane impersonates an Orthodox Jewish woman and infiltrates a black market kidney ring in Baltimore’s Orthodox community. 

Between Russian gangsters and double crosses, Jane is number one on everyone’s hit list. To save her life, she forms an alliance with a religious woman and confronts a family.

Jane is living with Don, her boyfriend who is a cop, and her dog, Archie.  Her cousin, Lenny, drops a bombshell on her ... she's Jewish, not Catholic as she had been raised to think.  The Rabbi who is helping Lenny discover his Jewishness has a job for Jane.  Rabbi Goldberg wants Jane to investigate the goings on of another Rabbi who is running a black market kidney ring and making some serious money at it.  Going undercover as an Orthodox Jewish woman, Jane must cover up her tattoo, take out her nose ring and exchange her leather and jeans for more subdued clothing.  As Jane investigates, she discovers that not all is what it seems.

This was the second in the series by this author.  The writing didn't seem as raw as the first one, Murder in the Dog Park, probably because Jane, though still cranky, has softened now that she is with Don.  Written in first person perspective, it was from Jane's point of voice.  There were a lot of Jewish references, which were explained, which I found interesting since I'm not Jewish.  Jerome provided some funny comic relief when he goes undercover with Jane as an Orthodox Jewish woman.  As a head's up, there is swearing and adult activity so I would recommend it for a mature reader.

Book ~ "Murder in the Dog Park: Bad Girl. Good Cop. Bad Dog" (2012) Jill Yesko

From Goodreads ~ Discovering a brutally murdered boy in a rainy dog park sends misanthropic private detective Jane Ronson on a journey through Baltimore's gritty underbelly.

Aided by a sexy cop, a bad-ass bull terrier and a cast of characters out of a John Waters movie, cynical Jane must use her computer-hacking and street-fighting skills to save her cousin from being framed as the killer.

While out walking her dog, Archie, Jane comes across the body of a dead child.  She calls the police, gives her statement to a police officer and figures that's the end of it.  Her cousin, Lenny, is a photographer and soon leaves some pictures for her to look at ... when she finally does look at them, she realizes Lenny has captured images of the child's murderer.  Because he has a history of being in the wrong places at the wrong time taking pictures, Lenny is arrested for the murder and Jane must do all she can to save her cousin.

This was the first book I've read by this author.  What had attracted me to it was because it was a mystery with a dog as part of the story ... two of my favourite things!  Written in first person perspective from Jane's point of voice, I found the writing style entertaining and raw.  As a head's up, there is swearing and adult activity so I would recommend it for a mature reader.

The characters are interesting and far from normal.  Jane is very anti-social and, with her computer skills like hacking, makes a living doing "research" for the more sleazy private detectives, etc.  Archie, her dog, is a hoot ... to him, nothing is better than eating garbage, snoring, farting and showering Jane with kisses right after he has licked him.  Lenny is an oddball who's passion is taking photographs ... sometimes when he's innocently taking shots of children, the parents think otherwise and he gets in trouble.

It was a quirky fast read.

Friday 25 April 2014

The Society of Beer Drinking Ladies Bevy 0004 event, Toronto, ON

Tonight I attended the fourth The Society of Beer Drinking Ladies bevy event.

A group of Toronto ladies passionate about all things craft beer. We enjoy great craft beer & awesome women togetherness the last Friday of every month. 

The tickets are $20 and that includes two beer tickets.  After that you can (and are encouraged to) buy beer.  A portion of the ticket and beer sales is donated to the Canadian Women's Foundation.

I just heard about this group this week and by then the event was sold out.  There were 150 tickets and they sold out in nine hours when they went on sale on April 11!  I kept an eye on the group's Facebook page and saw that some ladies were selling their extra tickets and I scored one (thanks, Laura!).

The bevy events start at 8pm (I got there about 8:45pm) ... after midnight, men are allowed in. 

It's held at different spots ... tonight it was at the Jam Factory Co. (Broadview/Queen Street E area).  It was a cool event space.

Hot Bunzz sold hot stuffed buns.  I didn't have any but they smelled delicious!

Thursday 24 April 2014

Braxton's Tap & Grill, St. Thomas, ON

I had lunch today at Braxton's Tap & Grill.

I parked in the back and went in through the back door.

It's a big restaurant.

 I sat in the back section (by the back door).

It would have been nice to have more natural light.  There were a few windows but for some reason the blinds were closed.

I was told their their burgers were good ... so that's what I ordered.  I got mine with mozzarella cheese and bacon but without lettuce or onions.

Jumbo the Elephant Monument, St. Thomas, ON

While I was in St. Thomas today, I checked out the Jumbo the Elephant monument.

Jumbo (1861 – September 15, 1885) was a 19th-century male African bush elephant born in the French Sudan (present-day Mali).   He was eventually exported to a zoo in Paris, France, and then transferred in 1865 to London Zoo in England. Jumbo was sold to P. T. Barnum, who took him to America for exhibition in March 1882.

On September 15, 1885, P.T. Barnum brought his circus to St. Thomas and its biggest draw was Jumbo the Elephant. Promoted as "Lord of Beasts", Jumbo was the largest elephant (his height, estimated to be 10.7 ft in the London Zoo, was claimed to be approximately 13.1 ft by the time of his death) ever to be shown to the public and had been a star attraction for 15 years.

After the show, Jumbo was being led back to his private boxcar by his keeper, Scott.  Meanwhile a train flagman left his post to get a better view of Jumbo. That fateful move cost Jumbo his life as an unscheduled train came into the yard unaware that a huge elephant was on the tracks. Scott got Jumbo to run, hoping to have Jumbo run between two boxcars but it was too late.  Such a sad story :(

Jumbo was struck and killed and the train that struck him was turned over and derailed. Jumbo's skeleton is now in the Museum of Natural History. The hide was reconstructed, stuffed and preserved by P.T. Barnum and can be seen at the Barnum Museum at Tufts College, Medford, MA.

A life-size statue of the elephant was erected on Talbot Street in 1985 to commemorate the centennial of the elephant's death.

Jumbo and I

Railway City Brewing Company in St. Thomas brews Dead Elephant Ale, in recognition of Jumbo's connection to St. Thomas's railway history.  Gord likes this beer so I stopped off at the brewery and picked him up a dozen.  How often does one get to say that they have 12 dead elephants in the truck of their car?!

Comfort Inn, St. Thomas, ON

I had a couple seminars and one-on-ones to conduct last evening and this evening for a client in St. Thomas.  Rather than drive back and forth (400km ~ 4.5 hours each day ...  in the dark heading home), I spent last night at the Comfort Inn.  There are not a lot of hotels to choose from in St. Thomas and the Comfort Inn is the only chain I could find.

The staff at the desk when I checked in and out were friendly.

I got the king bed room with a two-person jacuzzi ($10 extra). I used the jacuzzi last night and was in it for about 1.5 hours ... with bubble bath and my Kobo ereader.  Yes, I love bubble baths!

A continental breakfast was included ... boiled eggs, waffles, scrabbled eggs, sausages, bagels, muffins, fruit, cereal, yogurt, etc.   I had an 8am conference call this morning so grabbed some yogurt and toasted a bagel and took them back to my room.

The breakfast room

There are no restaurants within walking distance as this hotel on the outskirts of town (there are tons of restaurants downtown).  I had brought some microwave popcorn and popped it in the microwave in the breakfast room (it was a couple doors down from my room) instead of supper last night.

Parking is free as it WIFI (it was quick).  The rooms are nothing fancy but my king bed was comfy.  Surprisingly there are no mini fridges or microwave ovens in the rooms (there's room for them).  My room was stuffy and the a/c was noisy so I slept with the window open to get some cool fresh air (I was on the second floor so felt safe enough to do this).

Checkout is 11am but I was able to push it to 1pm if I needed it (I left just before noon).  That was appreciated since I didn't have to be at the client's site 'til later in the afternoon.

I'd stay there again the next time I'm in St. Thomas.

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Book ~ "Getting Waisted: A Survival Guide to Being Fat in a Society That Loves Thin" (2014) Monica Parker

From Goodreads ~ Monica Parker bridges the divide between serial dieter's survival guide and memoir, taking readers on a hilariously funny yet bumpy ride from chubby baby to chunky adult. 

In "Getting Waisted," Monica begins every chapter with a diet she committed to and reveals how much weight, money and self-esteem she lost, then she tells how much weight she gained when she fell off the wagon. After all, "no one tells a short person to get taller or a tall person to get shorter but fat people hear about their bodies all the time." 

From Living Large in a size zero world to jumping into the dating pool without causing a tidal wave of angst, Monica learns that when you stop buying what the diet-devils are selling and start liking yourself, life is far more rewarding. When Mr. Right appears out of thin air, will she run back to the catalogue of Mr. Wrongs out of fear? 

Readers will laugh and cry as she realizes that while she thought it was her body that was in the way, it was really what she kept in her head that needed adjusting. Ultimately, "Getting Waisted" is an inspirational look at life through society's warped fun-house mirror, but Monica's reflection tells the real tale: everyone is always under construction and we are all flawed, chipped, and dented, but that doesn't mean we're not interesting, vital and sexy.

Monica was born in Glasgow, Scotland.  Her mother was an Austro-Hungarian Jew who escaped Austria during the Nazi invasion.  Her father was a "musty" fifty-year-old virgin Englishman.  It wasn't a love match ... they married, did it once and her mother got the British residency she wanted.  They would spend years living together and apart, depending on convenience.  When Monica was ten, the family moved to Toronto where her mother eventually became a dressmaker.

This is Monica's story of being a larger woman who was always trying to lose weight so she could fit in and be accepted.  When she was an adult, she worked in her mom's dressmaking shop and eventually became an actress, writer and producer in LA.  Each chapter begins with a diet she had tried (such as Dexadrine, Fen Phen, bananas and milk, Jenny Craig, receiving injections of urine of pregnant women and more), how much it cost her, how much weight she lost and how much weight she gained ... and the details of what was happening in her life at that time.

I enjoyed this book and liked the writing style, which I found honest and entertaining.  Monica's story was funny yet sad at times.  She seems like the kind of person you could sit and have a cup of tea or a glass of wine with and have a great time talking and laughing.

Tuesday 22 April 2014

Tabby cuddling

I was going to check Morgan's glucose level a few minutes ago and found him and Crumpet on the futon in our spare room chillin' and catching some rays.

Crumpet and Morgan
Crumpet and Morgan

Do you think I disturbed them to stick a needle in the vein in Morgan's ear to draw blood?  No way!!

Judge & Jury, Burlington, ON

I had a meeting this morning in Hamilton (about 45 minutes away) and stopped off for lunch on my way back to Toronto at the Judge & Jury in Burlington.  It's been a while since I was there.

It was busy so I sat in the bar area.

I always get wings and with a side order of mac 'n cheese there.  Alas, the mac 'n cheese was taken off the menu about six months ago.  So instead I got a half order of garlic bread with cheese and wings with medium sauce.

Monday 21 April 2014

Book ~ "Soul Models: How to Step Up When You'd Rather Give Up" (2014) Angela Daffron and Elizabeth Bryan

From Goodreads ~ "Soul Models" is a collection of stories proving that, when we use our challenges to fuel actions that make a difference for others, we feel valued, discover our purpose and live happier, healthier lives.

This book shares the extraordinary journeys of both ordinary people and famous figures who have witnessed or overcome incredible hardships, like loss, depression, illness, abuse, bankruptcy, and everything in-between. Instead of giving up, they "stepped up," they founded non-profits, wrote bestselling books, or simply helped those in their path. Most of them started out with fewer advantages than most in fact, many had "much" fewer yet their stories prove that compassion is the key to overcoming any challenge. In "Soul Models", these extraordinary people have come together to offer advice and solutions that will empower readers with all they need to live a more fulfilling, happier life.

"Soul Models" touch the hearts, minds and souls of everyone they meet. They are the role models of today, transforming personal challenges into positive change that helps others. "Everyone can be a Soul Model!"

This book has 26 stories written by famous and not-so-famous people.  Each had a tragedy or hardship in their life that they had to overcome or they wanted to help others overcome hardships ... and then they turned it around into something positive.

Included are the stories of:
  • Christy Turlington Burns - founder of Every Mother Counts, a campaign to end preventable deaths caused by pregnancy and childbirth around the world
  • Candace Lightner - founder of MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving)
  • Caitlin Boyce - founder of Operation Beautiful
  • David Copperfield - founder of Project Magic to help children and adults overcome diabilities
  • Gary Sinise - founder of the Gary Sinise Foundation with a mission of honouring U.S. defenders, veterans, first responders, their familes and those in need

If you like the Chicken Soup for the Soul books (and I do), you probably enjoy this one.  It's inspiring to see what just one person can accomplish.

Sunday 20 April 2014

Roasted Chicken

When I was reading 501 Amazing Uses for Salt, Vinegar, Baking Soda, Olive Oil and Lemons, I found a recipe for a chicken breast marinade that sounded good and easy.

I planned on having a whole chicken for supper this evening and figured the marinade would work with it ... and it did.

The chicken has been marinading since yesterday.

I didn't have red wine vinegar so used  apple cider vinegar instead.  I combined the ingredients ...

Cat nappin'

Crumpet and Morgan had the right idea this afternoon ... they were napping together on the futon in our spare room in the sun.

Crumpet and Morgan

Saturday 19 April 2014

Stout Irish Pub, Toronto, ON

After Gord and I saw Arrabal, we walked to Cabbagetown and stopped in the Stout Irish Pub for supper.  We like pubs and have never been there before (we rarely go to that area).

Wanna play a game?
We sat in the bar area

The beer menu is quite extensive.  It's great because it's all craft beer ... no big name brands.  Gord love love loves craft beer so was in heaven!

"Arrabal", Panasonic Theatre, Toronto, ON

This afternoon Gord and I saw Arrabal at the Panasonic Theatre on Yonge Street.  We were in the middle of the "F" row.

Gord had seen a preview performance in February during a lunchtime performance and wanted to see it.  I initially balked because it sounded really political but he really wanted to see it so I went with him.

Arrabal, an exciting World Premiere, is an explosive story told entirely through dance and the music of multiple Academy Award winner Gustavo Santaolalla (Brokeback Mountain, Babel) and his band Bajofondo. 

Using a modern tango dance vocabulary never seen before, director Sergio Trujillo (Jersey Boys, Memphis) and choreographer Julio Zurita create a dramatic vision that is emotional, sexual and powerful. 

With a book written by Tony Award nominee John Weidman (Contact), follow Arrabal, our heroine, in this coming of age story as she enters the underground world of Buenos Aires’ tango clubs and discovers the violent history that took her father and disrupted a nation. Arrabal is based on the true story of the political violence that threatened to destroy Argentina in the 1970s. With a live band and performers direct from Buenos Aires, experience the sensual beauty and political intrigue that is Arrabal.

The performance is 90 minutes with no intermission.  Before the play started at 2pm, you could have tango lessons on the stage.  At the end of the play, the audience was invited up on stage to dance.

I thought it was just okay ... it's not my kind of play, I guess.  Gord enjoyed it more than I did and is considering about seeing it again (once was enough for me).

There was no talking or singing ... they expressed themselves through their dancing.  I've never been to the ballet but it's how I imagine it would be.  The music by Bajofondo was excellent (especially the violin player, Javier Casalla).  And the actors could really dance!

I didn't really know what was going until I read the playbill afterwards.    Here's a summary from the Globe and Mail:

The virginal heroine Arrabal (Micaela Spina) is being raised by her grandmother (Marianella). Her father Rodolfo (Julio Zurita) is one of the desaparecidos, a dissident who was arrested by the ruling military junta and made to disappear when Arrabal was an infant.

El Duende (Mario Rizzo) is the trickster who magically orchestrates Arrabal’s meeting with her father’s friend El Puma (Carlos Rivarola).  Puma and his wife, Berta (Veronica Alvarenga), run a dilapidated tango bar, where her father once worked, and which is the set for the show (some audiences members get to sit at tables on the stage).

Puma can’t get up the courage to tell Arrabal what actually happened to her father.  It allows Arrabal to have adventures – good ones like meeting the handsome Juan (Juan Cupini), and bad ones, like being seduced by Juan’s ex-girlfriend Nicole (Soledad Buss).