Billy Jean, Armadillo Queen – Book Review

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000026_00011]If you were a fan of Three’s Company and Alice in the 1980s, you’ll enjoy Billy Jean, Armadillo Queen.

billy_jean_armadillo_queen_megan_scottMarla arrives on the scene after a few personal setbacks. Accepting a job as a waitress in a character theme restaurant, she is transformed into Billy Jean, Armadillo Queen.

The staff ridicule, interactions and backbiting are reminiscent of so many situations where personality conflicts make spending time at work uncomfortable.

Donning her Billy Jean alter ego gives Marla a chance to ‘act out’ in ways that she’d never dare as her real self – with quick redneck banter laced with southern charm. Marla begins to realize levels of freedom that are startling and uplifting.

Marla’s journey is toward self-acceptance. She learns not give negative thoughts power and influence over her actions and decisions. Based on experiences in her own life, Megan Scott wrote Billy Jean, Armadillo Queen in two formats; as a stage play and as a narrative.

In both formats, the warring forces between Marla’s Light and Dark self-talk are entertaining and raunchily humorous.  The dialogue clearly demonstrates the energy and force that thoughts have over daily life and overall level of happiness.

Using laughter to teach such an important lesson is a lovely way to shine a light on a healthier way of thinking.

Connect with Megan Scott:right looking head shot

Buy the Print or e-books on Amazon
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Pixabay.com Member Spotlight

If you are an author, teacher, blogger, web designer, or any type of content creator, I recommend that you run – not walk – to Pixabay.com. It will quickly become your go-to place for powerful (and free!) photos, illustrations, vector graphics and video clips that pack a punch.

I interviewed a few Pixabay members to find out more about what makes this creative resource so enchanting.

Every interviewee had a story about rejected images. Universally, they took this as a challenge to produce and submit higher quality content.

For the curious, the links below explain Pixabay’s standards and image rating system.

Pixabay Image Quality Standards
Help decide which images get published

Pixabay Video Quality Standards

In each photo strip below, you will find the Pixabay member’s profile name and several samples of the type of work that they donate. Clicking on the photo strip or the link on their name, directs you to their Pixabay page.

Adina Voicu, Romaniaadina

Adina teaches foreign languages and literature. She works with students between the ages of 15-19. She uses images from Pixabay in some of her school projects and has donated over 2,000 of her own images to the site.

Pixabay is always open on Adina’s computer. She loves seeing what is new on the site, chatting with other photographers and seeing the feedback messages on her images.

“I live and breathe photography,” Adina says. “It is a way to get to know myself better.”couple-1008699_640

When asked about why she donates her images, she comments, “I have always shared things. What is more wonderful than sharing joy?”

In Romania, Adina lived under communist rule. ” We were not allowed to go abroad and knew nothing about the outside world. We only had two TV channels that broadcast about 4 hours each day. The electricity went off at 10 every night. Children were taught to fear their teachers and were punished for giving wrong answers.”
She remembers December 1989 – the revolution – like it was yesterday. “The first time I heard Michael Jackson on the radio. Wowww!”
“We live in a democracy now, but it is very misunderstood. There is chaos everywhere: in the medical system, the educational system, and with laws that change twice a year,” she says.
“I have been fortunate enough to travel. When I return, I try bringing home aspects from the more civilized countries.”
Pixabay and sharing images with people worldwide helps Adina feel connected outside of Romania. She hopes that this feeling communicates itself to the students in her life.

Venita Oberholster, South Africa
artst bee

Venita is an oil painter, vintage clip art designer and corporate Course Developer and Business owner of Step Across Training. She creates educational clip art and designs learning materials for South African school children.

“I really enjoy sharing my work with people all over the world. And I like getting positive responses from people who use it for personal or business projects. I hope that it will provide a platform for future graphic designers and for people to use for custom assignments. “science-1018806_640

“Pixabay has taught me the importance of high quality images and copyright principles. When I first started upolading images, it was disheartening because a good percent of them were rejected. However, I took this as a personal challenge to improve my standards.”

Click here to visit Venita’s Artsy Bee Images website.

Steve Buissinne, South Africastevepb

“Across the world people speak in 6500 languages, but we all see in only one.”

“Beauty can be found in the most unlikely places.” – Steve Buissinne

Almost 12 years ago, Steve and his wife retired to a small farm in the Eastern Highlands of South Africa. He took with him his SLR camera and a developing interest in photography. “It is an inward-looking or egocentric pastime that developed into a challenging and interesting hobby that has a use to others at the same time.”

In 2013, Steve was searching the internet for photos that he could use on a website for a local firefighters association when he discovered Pixabay.He liked the interface and was inspired by the images. So much so that he decided to upload a few of his own.

Rejections became a motivation to improve. Since then Steve’s been working on his lighting and photo styling techniques. He enjoys working with food  and everyday items used in the home, ‘because they don’t move.’ To date, Steve has uploaded 325 images. One hundred and seventeen of those have received Editor’s Choice Awards.

“It seems as though there are thousands of cooking, health and well-beintax-468440_640g blogs that need images,” says Steve. “The most downloaded of my photos is one that is used in blogs about the prosaic and everyday evil – Tax.”

“I love the site and enjoy all aspects of it. Simon and Hans, have created a fantastic resource that is a privilege to be a part of.”

Now, Steve often plans photo sessions specifically for images that he will upload on Pixabay. “Since I joined Pixabay, photography has become more enjoyable.”

Thomas Breher, Germany
Thomas breher TBIT

Thomas is a freelance graphic designer and developer.  His company is TBIT Design. He first discovered Pixabay when it was mentioned in a marketing forum article.
“I frequently use Pixabay images on my blog and in projects that I design for clients. Since I regularly download images, I decided to donate my own. Pixabay is a community about mutual giving and taking,” comments Thomas.camera-lenses-946404_640
When he works with people who have specific ideas about images that they want for their job, Thomas sends them to Pixabay to help narrow down the choices.
His favorite aspects of Pixabay community are the comments and ratings. “And every few weeks I receive a small donation,” he says.
I can relate to the excitement that is felt when a donation comes in. The first time that I received one, I had completed a photography job for $150. Later that day, a Pixabay donation arrived in the amount of $1.50. The elation that I feel about that donation STILL has me smiling!
When thinking about making a donation to an image author, Simon Steinberger, simon profilePixabay co-founder and CEO says, “We have several image authors who are particularly active and who offer a lot of images. You could concentrate on them – they’ve definitely earned it! An example that comes to mind is Geralt. He is power creator.”
A note of caution: If you pop over to check out Pixabay.com, be prepared to spend a lot of time there. The site is so luscious, that you’ll never want to leave!
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The inspiration for this article came as I reached a personal Pixabay milestone. I made my 100th image donation on the website. 

Related article: Pixabay.com: A Powerful Free-Source for the Serious Blog, Tweet, Book or School

PBJ – Short Fiction – Family

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WriteOn Writing Prompt: In 500 words, tell the story of a chef who strives to create the perfect dish.
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He will be home in an hour.PBJ

Opening the thick, heat resistant door, I turn my head away from the blast that wants to scorch the beard from my face.  Peering inside the dark cavern, I nod with satisfaction as I see the delicate brown tones that cover the surface of my creation. Inhaling deeply, I smell its yeasty, sugary notes with hints of vanilla.

Out she comes to cool. I say as I slip on an oven mitt and pull out the hot loaf. The sound of my voice reverberates around the stainless steel surfaces of my workspace.

After some hunting, I locate the raspberry and loganberry preserves in the pantry with a satisfied, Ah ha!—this was an enterprise from last fall. My mouth grows moist just thinking the marriage of flavors that I accomplished with that particular batch.

I got up at 3:30 a.m. this morning to roast and grind sunflower seeds, hazel nuts and peanuts into nut butter.

My wife fully appreciates the delicacies that I bring home from work—food that ends up on $1,000 plates and rates the highest Michelin stars.

My son, turns up his nose at these things. He’s been known to spit them out—to the great horror of anyone looking on. He knows that it hurts my feelings. His typical response is, “Daaad, I know!” He rolls his eyes at this point. “You told me over and over that you’ve spent your entire career perfecting your craft. But I don’t like that fancy stuff!”

So here I putter, in my kitchen at home, in between shifts at the restaurant, making the world’s best peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

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Here’s a musical giggle to go with the PBJ theme.

Peanut Butter Jelly Time song by Chip-man & The Buckwheat Boyz

Marooned – Short Fiction – Scifi

Marooned Short Story coverI held you as you grew in inside my life-giving waters. I dreamed for you before you could dream. Every new sound, smile and movement was recorded upon the tender organ beating within my breast. I am the keeper of your origins and the name on your tongue when your last breath has been taken.

***

The Brilliant One. He was named thus for the persona he elected. Black wool dress pants with creases so mean they could cut through turbulent air. A long overcoat, crafted from the same materials, scratched and abraded at his neckline and cuffs. These micro irritations served as constant reminders of a fact that very few people knew. He was not the only one.

A Teacher. The best and brightest minds were sent to him for training. He was the man with wild, wiry hair that reached toward his shoulders. He joked that when the brain worked at full capacity, it would produce so much heat that the follicles at the top of one’s head would burn away.

A Mind Like No Other. He had the tools of technology at his disposal but preferred, instead, the scrape and scuff of chalk on board and the compact binder that fit in the palm of his hand. Upon the page of every fresh notebook, he taped a photo of her. The binder and chalkboard went with the persona and recorded information that others raced to comprehend.

He Agreed. When the choice among billions came down to one, he nodded. He understood.  He would represent them all. A hold out. For the blink of a cosmic eye, he would continue recording his thoughts and equations.

Beauty and Beast. It was a surprise to observe what the mind does when deprived of all human contact. Guilt clutched at him with cold, bony, claw-like talons.  Every day, he stared, as if mesmerized, at that thing of massive beauty that revolved beneath his window. Illuminated and glowing against her blanket of dark emptiness, her silent cries reached him, causing the talons to tighten.

Eyes Closed. The reoccurring dream was a further surprise. When all the thoughts of humanity and the universe were open to him, it was his sister to whom they ever returned. Алина. His  twin. They’d lost her when she was 10. Chernobyl had been their childhood home. He knew, without a doubt, that her mind had been greater than his.

Musings. Perhaps the expiration of humanity had occurred on the day of Chernobyl’s disaster. He’d helped put off the inevitable. He was a temporary patch on dam with fatal cracks that ran too deep. No one but him was left to wonder if she might have been the key that could have changed the outcome.

***

“Mama.”

Author’s Note: The muse for the this brief fictional tale is video imagery from the YouTube music video – ‘Marooned’ by Pink Floyd. The writing prompt theme, “Marooned,” came from a weekend writein challenge on the website writeon.amazon.com.

Boost Your Business with a Book

Are you an expert in your field? Do you want to increase the quantity and / or quality of your customer base?  Would you like to expand your service offerings into paid speaking engagements?  If you answered, ‘yes’ to any of these questions, writing and producing a book (e-book or print) may be worth some serious consideration.

Below is an excellent video series that outlines how to organize, compose and write your business boosting book.

Reason for Writing – Target Market – Diane O’Connell – Video Series

Targeted Subject Topics – Manuscript Organization – Blogging – Diane O’Connell – Video Series

Share Your Expertise – Storytelling – Diane O’Connell – Video Series

Research & Statistics – Diane O’Connell – Video Series

Publishing a book is not an endeavor to enter into casually. With the ‘relative ease’ of self-publishing, there are more than a few ways to go terribly wrong and end up sabotaging your business growth efforts.

This video explains the difference between Traditional Publishing vs. Self Publishing

Publishing Options – Traditional vs. Self Publishing – Diane O’Connell – Video Series

The webinar below explains the complexities of interior page layout and design. It discusses what makes a book look like it has been professionally designed vs. a DIY project.

interior design

Under the Covers Book Page Design by Michele DeFilippo

Like any product that one would take to market, a book has production costs at the front end and distribution and marketing expenses once it’s complete. A savvy business person will know when it’s appropriate to do the work yourself and when its time to hire an expert.

The following is a list of the most common (and wise!) areas to plan for investment in your book project.

Cover Art
Editing 
Interior Page Design
Marketing / Website Set-Up

Below are a few resources for editors and cover designers.

Editors

Editorial Freelancers Association (1,100+ members) has a sort function that simplifies identifying the editors who match your search criteria.

Bay Area Editors Forum

Book Expo America

5 Tips to find the right professional editor for your book

What type of editor do you need?
*Content Editing helps with the overall organization of your material
*Copy Editing is fact checking
*Line Editing is the nuts and bolts of sentence and paragraph structure and punctuation.

Cover Design & Designers

cover design

 

 

How to Make a Basic e-mail Signature for the HTML Impaired

How to Make a Basic e-mail Signature for the HTML Impaired

If you have a product to sell – if you are a performer or an artist – or if you just want to find more clients then a custom e-mail signature can help grow your business.  An e-mail signature is a stylish, effective and non-intrusive way to announce to the world (or at least the people you communicate with via e-mail) an abbreviated bit of your business story.

If you enjoy the do-it-yourself approach to marketing and technical ‘computery’ stuff doesn’t send you screaming for the hills, this article will show you the steps necessary to add flair to your online communications.

Disclaimer: I am not a programmer or an HTML expert. The information below was obtained through trial and error. The steps are for the e-mail program on your home computer. (Many of them will apply if you wish to customize the signature on your smartphone or cloud based e-mail program such as gmail or yahoo, but every platform has its differences and particularities.)

sample sig

html code only

1. Seeing the code. Once you learn what goes where, you can do a search for other types of HTML code that will do even fancier things. The graphic above shows a sample custom e-mail signature along with the code that is used to generate it. The first line of the signature “Samantha B. Jones” in the purple box, corresponds with the first line of HTML code. In the HTML purple box, notice that <b> means ‘bold,’ <font size=”4″> is the size of the font, and <face=”Times New Roman,” is the font type.

2. Basic Design. Simple is always a good rule of thumb. Think about the most effective e-mail signatures that you have received. Which ones invited you to click further to learn more and which ones turned you off?

alternate design

3. Write the Code.  Here is the code for the design above. Copy it and begin to play around with it. *The items that I highlighted in green are areas where you can customize it and where you need to provide links to online images or your websites.

<img src=”http://www.link to online image“>
<font size=”4” face=”Arial Black” color=”maroon“>My Awesome Company Name</b></font><font size=”1“face=”arial“><a href=”http://www.link to website“> visit my website </a>
<BR><font size=”1” face=”Lucida Console“>Subtext #1|Subtext #2|Subtext #3 <BR><p>
Express yourself here<BR>
<i><b>italic bold text here</i></b>

(I included Arial Black and Lucida Console as these are other fonts that are generally recognized by ‘most’ electronic devices.)

4. Test the Code. Copy and paste your code into an HTML viewer to see if it works.

This is the one I use – http://htmledit.squarefree.com/

html editor

Another option is to insert the code into your e-mail program, then send yourself multiple e-mails until you have it just right.

5. Insert the HTML code into your e-mail program.

The screen capture image shows Thunderbird e-mail, but the names and steps for other e-mail programs should be ‘roughly’ similar.

In Thunderbird, go to “Tools” > “Account Settings,” then insert your code in the ‘Signature text’ box. Once you click on ‘Save,’ you can write a new e-mail and send it to yourself to test any links or images that you’ve included.

Thunderbird tools

For Outlook, go to “Tools”> “Options”> “Mail Format” > “Signatures

There you have it – the basic steps to begin creating an enticing e-mail signature.

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Additional Articles & Resources

http://www.emailsignature.com/cloud

http://www.digitechbranding.com/pages/email-signature-HTML-programming.html

http://smallbusiness.chron.com/corporate-email-signature-guidelines-10520.html

http://www.xink.io/news/email-signature-format-101-dos-donts/

http://www.xink.io/news/email-signature-format-101-dos-donts/

http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2010/02/04/the-art-and-science-of-the-email-signature/

https://support.office.com/en-us/article/Add-Facebook-and-Twitter-icons-to-your-email-signature-7b9fc0f6-1c25-45cc-8eae-dab15b78cf08?CorrelationId=d7474074-b1b6-45cc-a0b5-67804a173033&ui=en-US&rs=en-US&ad=US

Search YouTube for “How to create an e-mail signature in YOUR PROGRAM”

Positive Gifts from the County Go Beyond Doctors and Medicine

It can start as a cry at a higher than normal pitch, a raging fever that won’t come down, bruises that appear for no reason. A parent, consumed with worry seeks out help. The Pediatrician makes a preliminary evaluation and orders more tests.

Then the moment arrives…words, delivered with professionalism and care from the doctor;  everything has changed for the family and the child with the difficult diagnosis.

For nearly 300 families in Nevada County (California), these experiences are part of their story. But that’s only the beginning. A new reality sets in—one that involves long drives to special care units at UC Davis, San Francisco or Stanford and physician specialists, dieticians, nutritionists, social workers and rounds of medication.IMG_1555-web

Maryellen Beauchamp has a special connection with these families. She is Nevada County’s Public Health Nurse Case Manager for California Children’s Services. 53 webCalifornia Children’s Services is operated by the State of California. Over 80 years old, it has an office in every county. Maryellen acts as the conductor in an orchestra that encompasses multi-faceted medical assistance for children with severe health issues. These issues can range from growth plate or skull fractures, endocrine, neurological, orthopedic, and metabolic disorders to Cerebral Palsy, Muscular Dystrophy and premature infants.

This type of work comes with a heavy weight and knowledge that is often difficult to leave behind at the end of the day.  On her desk, Maryellen keeps several inspirational quotes that remind her to remain grounded. One of them reads; Today, I am fortunate to have woken up. I am alive; I have a precious human life. I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others, to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. –H.H. the XIVth Dalai Lama

Maryellen recently had the opportunity to incorporate something important into her program—a sense of positive empowerment for her young clients. It came in the form of a beautifully illustrated book, Toby Bear and the Healing Light.  It is the story of a stuffed bear who teaches a sick child the power of affirmations, meditation and visualizations in the healing process.

Toby Bear and the Healing Light was created by author, Lisa Boulton while undergoing cancer treatments, as a gentle way to help children going through difficult illness. Boulton enlisted photographer and artist Lisa Redfern to create the photo-illustrations. “I wanted the story to feature local people, places and businesses as a way to express my love for our community and for the outpouring of support and caring that I received when I was sick,” says Boulton.SNMH Approved 12-14-12

Maryellen says, “I like that the story features Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital—the place where the journey with California Children’s Services begins for many of our families. It is also a plus that the Nevada  County Public Health Department could partner with the local women who created the book.”

As Maryellen puts it, “You can’t get well with doctors and medicines alone…it takes the right attitude to make it all work.”  She’s excited about the books because she plans to give them as gifts to the age appropriate children in her program. “It is a positive message and gift from Nevada County Public Health Department to the children (and their families) who need it most.”

Read more about this topic at The Union.com.

Toby Bear and the Healing Light

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