Friday, October 29, 2010

Trick-or-Treating Around the Web

I feel like a little kid today, running from house to house, saying "hi" to neighbors and collecting candy! But, no, I'm not physically racing around the neighborhood, just hopping around virtually. I'm at three different blogs today, writing about three different subjects:

1. For you writing-craft lovers, I'm deconstructing Friday Mornings at Nine at Blake Snyder's blog and showing how I used the beat sheet x 4 to structure that novel.

2. I'm blogging about "Women of the Round Table" and the necessity of getting together with our girlfriends over at Spirited Woman. (The post should be up by early afternoon.)

3. And I'm reflecting on the supportiveness of those family, friends and writing pals who keep us going when things get tough at Magical Musings, my second blog home. And there's a 2-book giveaway involved with that one!!

Hope to see some of you around the web with me...and I wish you all a Happy Halloween Weekend, overflowing with chocolaty goodness and other seasonal treats!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Poisoned Appletinis!

Happy Wednesday!

Just wanted to let you know that I'm guest blogging today over at Cynthia Eden's awesome site as part of her fun-filled, month-long Halloween celebration! My offering to the party? The Poisoned Appletini recipe (along with a couple of variations) that I used for the grown-up Halloween bash in Friday Mornings at Nine. Hope you'll stop by for a glass! (And, um, no...it's not too early for a drink. They're virtual, after all. :)

There's one other reason I have for wanting to kick off this midweek morning in a celebratory way: I just found out that According to Jane is a best single-title finalist in the Aspen Gold Reader's Choice Awards! So, see -- I was already looking for excuse to make a toast or two -- LOL.

And I'm sure I could dig up some chocolate to go along with those drinks...

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Scammers on the Loose

I have finally hit the big time. Bet'cha all didn't realize that "Brant Flakes" was prime blog real estate, did ya?! Yeah...me either. But just take a look at this new phishing scheme below. No, I'm in no way associated with "Sandra" or this scam (and I've sent the scammers an email saying as much), but if any of you get a message like this, please just delete it.

Many thanks to the friend who alerted me to this bogusness (reaching back to my '80s roots for that word, thank you very much :), and be assured that I will NEVER sell adverstising on my blog or have some "company" contact you on my behalf to sell you anything. I will, however, openly mock such foolishness:

From: sandra.sellers@ontime-ads.com
Date: October 17, 2010 8:36:34 AM MDT
Subject: Placing advertisements on marilynbrant.blogspot.com

Dear webmaster,

We, in Ontime-Ads, are glad to offer you payment on behalf of one of our clients for the publication of a small advertisement on marilynbrant.blogspot.com.

We would like to inform you that we are using a few advertising methods according to the selected website.

While reviewing your website I thought of a great way to advertise on marilynbrant.blogspot.com so it will fit it perfectly.

For full details please contact me at sandra.sellers@ontime-ads.com.

*If you have other websites which I can review for advertising please send me their URLs as well.

Sandra Sellers
Advertising Specialist

Aside from laughing, the only thing I can say about it is, "Wow. I am WAY more popular than I ever thought..." LOL.

BTW, Tech Review - TruXter got the same phishing message this summer, too, so I'm hardly the first.

Anyway, on to more fun news: I'll be blogging tomorrow (Monday the 18th) on Borders True Romance and giving away a copy of Friday Mornings at Nine!! Even if you already have the book, I hope a few of you will join me. It's my first time on Borders ;).

And I'd love to know what's going on with you all this week. Reading anything good? Looking forward to some fun TV shows? Any pre-Halloween festivities in the works? I just finished reading Cattitude by Edie Ramer and LOVED it!! And I'm gearing up for Halloween by window shopping for my candy. (I don't dare actually buy it yet or it'll be all gone by the 31st...really.) Trying to decide if I should go with Snickers miniatures, Almond Joys or the ever-popular Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Do you all already know what candy you're going to give out?!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Maureen Johnson's Manifesto

I have had SUCH a personal battle with this whole idea of "branding" that when I read this wonderful "Manifesto" by Maureen Johnson on the subject, I knew I had to pass it along. Many of you may have seen it already, but I so appreciated what she had to say that it's worth a repeat (or twelve).

I wanted to become a writer to share a number of ideas. Not just one. I wanted to try to touch upon subjects that cut across a range of human experiences that people (women like me in particular) might relate to in some way. Not just two or three things that can be stamped with a single branded phrase, categorized absolutely and then hammered into the heads of anyone willing to stand still long enough to read it online or off.

I'd like to think we're all far more than products in an already over-commercialized world, and I love that those of you who usually visit this blog leave your real thoughts and ideas in response to mine. Like an actual conversation. THANK YOU!! I don't consider you "commenters," I consider you friends. And while I hardly blog frequently enough or controversially enough to gather a huge reading audience, I love that the people who DO visit have become people I've enjoyed getting to know in the 3-D world whenever I can, not merely in the virtual one.

ENORMOUS hugs of gratitude to each of you. Wish I could give you all a hot cinnamon roll this morning for being so wonderful, too. While I try to figure out how to do that, please take a peek at Maureen's post if you haven't seen it. I very openly agree with her, but I won't go into a blog-screaming hissy fit if someone else doesn't. I can understand the flip side, in moderation... Sometimes we don't want surprises. Sometimes it really helps to have a sense that what we're getting when we buy something won't be a total shock. That makes sense to me, too. I don't think branding is worthless, just that it's not everything. And it's hardly the only reason I'm online.

Anyway, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the subject -- both as writers who have to deal with this issue from a creation standpoint as well as readers who have to face all the brands and labels out there. Wishing you all a wonderful week!!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Three GREAT Days in St. Louis!

I had a fabulous time in St. Louis on Saturday, Sunday and Monday!! Still catching up, but I wanted to share a bunch of photos and thank all the wonderful people that made these events possible!

After I arrived on Saturday, I got to FINALLY meet in person my friend Susan McBride! In many ways, it was like we'd always known each other, and it was such fun to visit a few bookstores in the city with her and sign stock. Here we are at a really great Borders with bookseller David -- so nice!

The next day was "Wine, Wit & Lit," an event Susan had been organizing for months to benefit the non-profit organization Casting for Recovery (a post-treatment program for breast cancer survivors). So, we had wine tasting, appetizers courtesy of the Lone Wolf Coffee Company, raffle baskets, a silent auction and then a "speed-dating" event with the authors. It was delightful just to be a part of it and especially exciting to finally meet another online friend, Judy Merrill Larsen! She, Susan and I (pictured right) are all in the Girlfriends Book Club together, and I know I couldn't ask for a more supportive crew ;).

Angie Fox was another one of the authors in attendance. It was so good to see her again after meeting this summer in Orlando at the Kensington table during the RITA/GH dinner.

And I also got to meet author Jen Gauvain, her mom Colleen and fellow blogger Brittany Rochelle (from The Write Stuff :).

Mike Ward, on left, is a certified sommelier and certified specialist of wine, and he offered me a sip of one of Missouri's sweet wines -- very tasty!

Kiki Strecker from Lone Wolf, on right, REALLY won me over with her delicious pizzas...ohhhh, I want to go back to visit just for that!

This lovely lady to the left is Meg, the winner of my raffle basket!! She was so sweet ;). We had over 25 raffle and silent auction baskets just packed with goodies -- it was wonderful.

And here's a picture with many of us: Patti Hummert (next to me in white, on the left side of the photo) is the Missouri Coordinator for Casting for Recovery. In the rest of the front row, it's me, Susan McBride, Judy Merrill Larsen, Anne Milford and Jen Gauvain. In the back row, starting behind Patti, is Angie Fox, Jody Feldman, Bobbi Smith and Sharon Shinn. Thanks to everyone's combined efforts, we were able to donate over $1,100 to the organization, raised in less than three hours!

But that's not all I got to do on my trip. (It was action-packed, I tell you. ;) On Monday, October 4th, I got to be a guest on the show "Great Day St. Louis" and I LOVED IT!!!

The KMOV/CBS studio is located in downtown St. Louis and was a fascinating place to visit. My husband and son were along with me on this TV adventure, so the three of us enjoyed watching the view of the set from offstage and the entire LIVE show... It's a very pretty, comfortable and versatile set -- they have a kitchen area off to the left, a relaxing sofa in the middle, a round glass table with raised chairs (where my interview took place) and a counter space for doing crafts and other activities to the right.

Kindly helping me out with the mic I needed to wear and with the muffins I brought was Sammi -- a very nice producer (pictured far left), who did a million little things behind the scenes during the hour and a half we were there. Sitting in the middle is Matt Chambers, one of the terrific hosts of "Great Day" and so gracious to all of us, especially to my son and husband, who had tons of questions. Matt spent a lot of time between breaks and after the program ended just talking to the guys and telling them things about the show. And then there was the absolutely warm and charming Carol Daniel (right), whom I just loved meeting!

I'm indebted to Carol for putting me at ease right away and making the interview process run so smoothly. She was such a pleasure to talk to, and she somehow managed to make me forget that I was on the air in front of thousands... It really felt as though I were having a mini coffee date with a friend ;).

If you'd like to see the 4-minute clip, I've embedded it below. (Hey, aren't you proud of me for learning this new techno skill?! Only took me 3 years to figure it out -- LOL.) And on the subject of live events, I'll be giving a free presentation at the Grayslake Public Library tomorrow night at 7pm. If you happen to be available and are within striking distance of northern Illinois, please join us. There will be chocolate!

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Culminating 'Friday Morning at Nine'

It's here! It's here! The very last of the "Friday mornings at nine" leading up to Kensington's official release of the book!! Whoo-hoo! The on-shelf date for the novel was, of course, on Tuesday -- and I have photographic evidence to prove it! (Thank you, Borders and B&N, for being so nice to me when I visited and took pictures like a geeky girl. ;) Loved seeing the cover out at my local Borders!

Look right! There's Friday Mornings at Nine on the B&N "New Fiction" table! (It was really there in that lovely corner spot, too...made me smile. :-)

And look left! There it is on the shelves! (Sick of my pictures yet? Sick of my obnoxiously frequent use of exclamation points? No? Good, 'cuz there are more of both!!)

Here are the books IN OUR HANDS at the store! The dear and wonderful friend accompanying me is Sarah, btw, one of my real-life morning coffee pals, who's also featured in the fun "coffee date with the author" at the end of the novel. (Admittedly, we meet on a different day and time than the women in the story and, also, we rarely talk about choosing men other than our darling husbands -- we are both actually quite fond of our spouses -- although there are days that can try a wife's soul...LOL.)

And, yes, in case there was any doubt, we really did stop for Godiva chocolates! The whole book-release experience was so exciting, it just makes me want to give away something big...like a car or a beach house or, maybe, endless free downloads of a novel I wrote and rewrote over 4 years... Thankfully, my publisher decided to do that for me (!!) and, through tomorrow (October 2nd) they're giving away FREE ebook downloads of my debut novel, According to Jane! (I don't even have a working e-reader, but I downloaded a copy anyway. :)

To continue the party, please visit me today on Magical Musings, where I'm celebrating a little more and talking about persistence in the face of frustration. (Who hasn't been there, right?) Also, I'm not the only one having a bash around the Blogosphere. My awesome friends in Seekerville are celebrating their 3rd birthday with a HUGE event! TONS of prizes -- seriously, like 70 of them over the course of the month. These are WILD women! They KNOW how to party. Don't let that whole "inspirational author" thing fool you...

Finally, I'm headed to St. Louis for a long weekend of excitement and fun! After almost a year of email conversations, I'll get to meet my wonderful friend and fabulous author, Susan McBride, in person at last!! It's thanks to her that I'm involved with the Wine, Wit & Lit fundraiser on Sunday and, on Monday, she's the reason I get to visit "Great Day St. Louis" to talk about my new book on TV. So, it's going to be a few busy, thrilling days, but I'll be back soon -- with MORE photos and MORE exclamation points! -- as well as tales of my first trip to St. Louis since about 1995...

May you all have a terrific weekend!