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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Unpolished Book Publisher Needs Proofreader

I still don't know what to make of the chance meeting I had yesterday. I'm in the process of writing my first book and I'm exploring all of the options regarding book publishing, self-publishing, printing, agents, etc. Monday, at the Arabica Coffee Shop, while seated in one of the deep brown leather chairs near the front window, to my right plops down on the couch a young African-American woman.

On the table in front of us is Michael Larsen's "How To Write A Book Proposal," which I had collected from the library. This woman, who I will refer to as Ms. Brown, noticed the book and immediately commented, "Are you writing a book?"

I plainly replied, "Yes."

She leans forward and tells me that she's published two books - a poetry book that she published in 2005 and a self help book that she just published this past Friday.

Hmmmmm... you've got my attention.

I ran her through a series of questions about the publishing. The first book she self-published, the second she published through her own publishing company, which she formed over the last four years.

Ms. Brown went on to tell me that she teaches a writer's class at the local community center. Her class covers how to overcome writer's block, putting your story together and the ins and outs of the publishing world. It sounded like something I should probably get more info on.

We chatted for a while as she fiddled with the Internet, sent text messages and fielded a few phone calls.

Through the course of our conversation, I learned that Ms. Brown was only 26 years old. She had been working as an insurance agent for the last seven years, but had this dream of becoming a publisher, "because that is where the money is."

Before she left, Ms. Brown ran out to her car and retrieved a flyer for her upcoming writer's workshop. She said goodbye and sauntered out of the coffee shop.

Being a web savvy guy, the first thing I did was check out her website for Unspoken Words Publishing LLC.

Her site was built using GoDaddy.com's WebsiteTonight®, a product I had used over a year ago. It works. You get a basic site in a short period of time. All you have to do is add pages and content.

When I started reading the site, I was genuinely surprised at how bad it was. There were words used improperly, misspellings and sloppy mistakes like an extra space before a period.

Here, take a look. This is an excerpt from the Bookstore Page, which has the heading: About the CEO. On the page are her two books and descriptions of the books. Check this out... I've put in bold some of the gems.

Transformation by (Ms.) Brown is a book of poetry that will up left one's spirit. It is a must have book for young people trying to find their way, and feel their is no way out. In the book Transformation you will see the transformation of a girl turning into a young lady. In this book you will read about the trails she faced and the sin she had to deal with threw poetry . In the book you will read how she still turn to God in spite of all her sins. Transformation is a uplifting book that will help anyone see the end of the tunnel.
It gets better on the description for the second book. I haven't changed spacing or any of the words.

Taking the innocence from the sunshine is about a women fighting to take back her innocences that was stolen from her as a little girl back. Throught out the book you will see the trails she had to face such as fornication, abuse, abortion,neglect, drugs, and abandonment. No one understood her fight and the only release she had was poetry. In the book she comes to a crossroad, weather she will break all the rules trying to break a generational curse for her daughter, Or will she fight for her life and salvation?
When I was in Las Vegas, I ran an advertising agency for several years. One of the number one issues we had to deal with was proofreading. When something goes to print, it is too late. There is no turning back.

I always told our staff that we needed to have at least six eyeballs review the copy for grammar, spelling, punctuation, and most importantly - did it make sense?

After reading the two paragraphs above, it killed any interest I had in Ms. Brown's writing class or her publishing company. If this is how badly she handled her own work, what would happen to mine?

A publisher should be looking over your shoulder, not snoring at the wheel.

What I really started to wonder was what was in her books? How was the writing there? One could only imagine.

I could chalk it off to her being young, but this was just a sheer slaughter of the English language.

I'm half tempted to give her a call and offer my services as a proofreader and copywriter.

What do you think. Should I call her and help her or just let her go on her merry misspelled way?

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Blog Becomes RogerBlazic.com. I Now Have ONE Blog.

I had no idea what I was thinking.
After a year and a half of blogging, I've finally done it. I've named a blog after myself - RogerBlazic.com. This was no small journey to get to this point. It took me almost 40 blogs to arrive at just one.

When I started blogging in the beginning of 2009, I had no idea what I was doing. A friend of mine had suggested that I try setting up a blog on Xanga.com. I didn't know any better and followed her advice. Xanga is like Facebook for bloggers. It's more about being a community of primarily teens and college kids and them writing stories for each other. Most of the comments on the blogs are, "Ick, Ewwww, Kewl" or some other one or two word answer. You're lucky if the comments are not profanity, which was a rather common occurrence.

Xanga is a network of blogs that were created by Amazon.com. You can advertise a book or CD from Amazon on your blog, but there were no other ways to monetize your blog. At the time, I had little or no clue what it meant to monetize a blog.

You'll find other blog networks connected to Xanga that all carry themes: Dollarish - Money, I like Food - Duh, Man Couch - Manly thoughts about women. I can't remember all the names. But they had a blog network for fashion, gamers, religion and a few more.

I had a blog on Dollarish, the financial blog, for a while, until I realized that I was pretty much the only blogger on that network. I had a blog on Revelife, the so-called Christian blog, which was really a coliseum where Christians were beaten up by atheists. If you wanted to spend all day writing defensive comments and arguing, that was the place to be.

I was getting into all of these different blog networks because I felt like I had to start a new blog every time I had a different thought that didn't seem to fit the last blog I created.

Then I discovered Blogger.com (where this blog is hosted).

My spawning of new blogs with every new thought reached epic proportions. Titles and new graphics popped up weekly. Everything I was doing required a new, unique blog. I was trading stock options, so I had a trading blog. I was trying to build a website, so I had a blog about that. I had friends in the military, so I had a military blog. My faith is important to me, so I had a religious blog. I like bitch and moan every now and then, so I had a blog for just that. Pick a mood or a thought and I had a blog for it.

My forte was creating very appealing header graphics (using Microsoft Word) for my blogs. I learned a lot of techniques from my ex-wifek, who was a graphic designer. All of the blogs had their own colors and fonts. I was more concerned about the look than the content.

One of my favorites was a blog called, "Blog Writing Maniac." For the header graphics, I married a typewriter carriage from an antique typewriter onto a computer keyboard. From the typewriter roller was a billowing cloud of smoke. It looked fantastic. Another colorful blog was Mr. Build-A-Blog, all done in Lego colors. It was a blog about building a blog.

Then there was "Lemonade 5¢" - a blog about turning life's lemons into lemonade. I would label the positive people as lemonade makers and the losers as lemons. For the lemons, I found a way to turn their bodies or heads into a lemon. Like I said, the graphics were great. And the content wasn't bad, either. But there was no plan to monetize any of the blogs, which is why I got into the blogging in the first place - to make money.

I had created a monster. With close to 40 blogs and regularly writing to 28 of them, I found myself forced into cranking out nearly 6,000 words a day, seven days a week.

Besides being clueless about the financial side of blogging, I had no inkling of the meaning of keywords, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) or marketing the blogs. I was creating massive amounts of content in some dark corner of the Internet and writing in such a way that no one would ever find me. Insanity.

It got so out of hand, I even created a blog that was a showcase of about 16 of the blogs, featuring RSS feeds from my favorite and most active blogs. Again, that was just a mess of text and pictures that had no purpose and would never make a dime.

By the summer of 2009, I was blogged out. Everything started to get dusty and eventually I walked away from the whole mess.

In January of 2010, my life was falling apart in Las Vegas and I started deleting everything I had done. In a way, I wish I had held onto some of the sites, just because the graphics were so fun.

What I've learned from that experience is that blogging is really about creating content that has some cohesiveness - fulfilling a niche in the marketplace. However, I've also learned that I have to be true to me. I'm a diverse person. I have many interests. Those interests are many of the same things that interest you - getting healthier, making more money, losing weight, toying with the stock market, spirituality, cooking, gardening, self help, social media, technology and topical ranting. I don't think you are a one-dimensional person, and neither am I. So, expect different, diverse dissertations coming from this blog.

Overall, my goal is to amuse, inform, educate or insult.

Plus, I've learned that personal branding - creating your own unique identity - is a key to success on the web. Readers want to get to know you. With layers of blogs in 20 different directions, it was hard to pin me down.

I've also cut down my Twitter accounts to just one. At my insane blogging zenith, I had 16 Twitter accounts, all different characters. I had a total of about 22,000 followers, but no one was really sure what they were following.

Now I have a direction - amuse, inform, educate or insult. It works. Hopefully, you will find something here that is worth checking out more than once or even subscribing to (RSS).

Besides all of the logical reasons for simplifying my life to just one blog and one Twitter account, today is a good day to switch to RogerBlazic.com - it's my mother's birthday. My mother passed away in 1996, but she always said I was a good writer. I'm not fancy, but I love to tell a story.

Happy Birthday Mom. Look, it's me... just me.

Update, June 27, 2011 - I now have THREE blogs (actually there are a few more that are dormant). This blog has been doing fantastic since I first wrote this article. I went underground and did nothing for five months, living in a state of deep depression. This blog became my therapy. In 90 days, I accumulated over 60,000 page views. No one was more amazed than me.

I decided to revive another dormant blog, Las Vegas Tips. I'm piddling with it right now. But it will have tips and tricks to enhance your stay in Las Vegas.

The new blog is, The Life And Times of Roger Blazic. This blog is more of a journal or diary. I figure that some day I won't be here anymore and I want my daughter and friends to know my stories. I have millions of them and there are new ones cropping up every day.

Enjoy the two other blogs... they're all linked to to each other and to this blog, so if you go there and don't like it... you can come back here.

Life And Times Of Roger Blazic

Las Vegas Tips

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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Spending The Day With 87 Year Old Edward

At 8:32 AM I arrived at the Arabica Coffee Shop on E. 185th St. and LaSalle Ave. on the eastern border of Cleveland. I had planned on settling into one of the comfy leather chairs on the stage riser near the front entrance of the coffee shop and re-writing a few articles I had worked on all night.

Instead of working, I became engaged in a conversation with 87 year old Edward seated to my right on a leather love seat. We've been talking for two hours and we're still talking. We just managed a break in the conversation as Edward's bladder needed tending to before mine.

It's now 10:42 AM and I've been up for 24 hours and 10 minutes. I have to do something about my irregular sleeping habits. In fact, I have no sleeping habits. I just go until I collapse in my La-Z-Boy chair. I think I've slept in my bed once in the last two weeks. The cycle continues. Up for 24 to 36 hours, collapse. Up for another 24 to 40 hours, collapse. There is a pattern, but it isn't a good one.

In the last 24 hours, I've written about 7,000 words on four different articles and I'm still writing. It's in my blood. I can't stop.

My time with Edward has been very enjoyable. He gave me a brief rundown of his stint in World War II as a U.S. Air Force MP - stationed in England and also in France.

"I loved England and the English people, When I left England, they gave me this ring." he remarked in a steady voice while pointing a shriveled shaky finger at me.

Wiry Edward added, "Those people in France, they're funny people. I didn't like them."

He's mentioned that he loved the English and didn't care for the French about eight times. Sooner or later I guess I should tell him that I believe him.

I'm half Hungarian and Edward is a full-blooded Hungarian. That conversation led us to discussing the old Hungarian neighborhood in Cleveland. It centered around Buckeye Road. That's where all the Hungarians were before and after WWII. My grandfather owned a butcher shop down there.

Over the decades the neighborhood has changed. It's a hideous ghetto now. My grandfather's butcher store is only a shell of what it was fifty years ago. The windows are gone, the plumbing has been stolen for scrap. When my Aunt Betty lived there in the 1970's, twice she found dead bodies in her front yard. The neatly trimmed yards and pristine white fences of a past generation are gone. Crack houses reign.

After a rest in our conversation, I began to think about how funny it is the way older people think.

I mentioned to Edward that I had lived in Las Vegas for the last 15 years. Edward immediately responded, "Yeah, Las Vegas. People go there to gamble. Right? They gamble. And they try to win? That's what they're doing there, they try to win? Isn't that what they do there, trying to win?"

Well, Rainman, I guess that would be a logical outcome to gambling, "Try to win. Yeah. Try to win."

I can't think of a time when someone would want to take the other side of that bet. "Lose. Yeah. Try to lose. Loser, loser loser. Yeah. Try to lose." I don't think anyone in history has ever taken that position. But it seemed like a possible option with Edward. I'm not sure why. I'm just rolling with my retired railroad worker companion and he's in charge.

I told Edward that I was a former stand-up comedian. Our conversation shifted from his distaste for the French to all of the great comedians of Vaudeville and the early days of television. For the next hour and a half, we scrolled through a litany of every great comedian or comedy act since 1925.

The names kept flying: George Burns, Lucille Ball, Milton Berle, The Three Stooges, Laurel and Hardy, Rich Little, The Marx Brothers, Jonathan Winters, Jack Benny, Red Skelton, and a couple dozen more.

Every time we came up with a new name, Edward would chuckle and shake his head donned with a blue Cleveland Indians baseball cap. Chief Wahoo smiling his approval back at me.

One of the most amusing parts of our conversation was when we were talking about how people dress these days. He was telling me how thrilling it used to be to see a bare ankle of a woman on the beach. "Nowadays, you see everything. Yeah, you see everything," Edward kept repeating.

Then, out of the blue Edward blurts out, "Do you know Larry Flynt?"

I was a bit taken aback at how joyfully he asked the question.

"I like Larry Flynt. He's a cocky guy," Edward stated.

I nodded agreement.

"Yeah. Have you seen his magazine? It's $12.00."

"No, I haven't seen a Hustler magazine in about 30 years," I replied.

"It comes with a DVD," Edward added.

Frankly, I found this twist in the conversation to be a bit odd. But I'm a trooper and I can run with it.

Our brief foray into the world of Larry Flynt ended quickly and we were back naming comedians: Dom DeLuise, Godfrey Cambridge, Sid Ceasar, Bob Hope, Ed Sullivan, Lenny Bruce.

Yes, Edward knew about Lenny Bruce. "Wasn't he a real dirty guy?" This coming from the local Hustler magazine and DVD expert. 

Edward loves John Wayne, too. "You know he smoked four packs a day. But boy could he act."

Edward started the morning by telling me that he walked the half mile from his home to the coffee shop so he could relax.

He has a physical therapy session at 1:30 PM and he got here to wait for his ride at 8:30 AM. Hey! He's 87 and he has all the time in the world. He likes to walk and he likes to relax.

"I gotta get my exercise. Some people are just lazy. They need to exercise," Edward grumbled.

I nodded agreement and kept pecking away on my white iBook.

One of the things I noticed about my conversation with Edward is that it has unfolded in pieces. It is as if we found a handful of topics where we have common ground or common interest and we've placed them on a Lazy Susan. We talk about one topic for a few minutes and then give the Lazy Susan a spin and go back to a topic we've already discussed. This process has repeated itself, a number of times.

Over the course of going on four hours, Edward has told me that he fell down on a rainy day at 10:30 in the morning on his way to lunch on May 4th. He separated his right shoulder and tore ligaments in the shoulder. On June 8th, he had surgery by a specialist who works on football players to repair his ligaments. He goes to physical therapy about three times a month and he exercises at home. Today, he managed to wait five hours at the coffee shop for his 1:30 PM therapy session.

Not all of this information came at once. We progressed from topic to topic on the Lazy Susan of common ideas, he's relayed bits and pieces of his fall on May 4th and everything that has happened since. And I'm the one with ADD. At 87, he can talk about anything he wants. He's earned it.

We had a brief break from our conversation when Regis, a communications installer, stopped by for a cup of coffee and a toasted sandwich - taking a seat to Edward's right and directly across from me and the coffee table between us.

This new conversation rambled around a bit before we hit on customer service - what is good and what is bad. It struck a nerve with Regis. He gave both of us the lowdown on all of the bad service restaurants and coffee shops in the area. Regis is the type that writes letters to CEO's and managers and gets people fired. He got a Starbucks employee launched a couple years ago for her snotty attitude. He seemed rather proud of the accomplishment. Damn. I agree.

Regis was on his way and Edward sat quietly as I wrote this blog post. I never told him that he was my protagonist.

Life in the Arabica coffee shop rolls along at a slow pace. There aren't as many customers that come here as I thought there would be. The constant whir of the air-conditioner emanating from the back of the coffee shop is occasionally married with the grinding and gurgling of cappuccino machines. Life goes on. Another coffee drink goes out the door.

Traffic outside the large storefront windows on E. 185th St. steadily hustles by. Early morning sun has dissolved into afternoon shadows.

Who knows when I'll leave today. I might order another double espresso over ice and try to work on my other articles.

Although, I've been up for about 26 hours now and I feel my mind and body starting to slowly fade. No amount of caffeine can get me through this.

My phone rings. Another bill collector. I hit ignore. I'm at the Arabica. Life is slow and I really don't care what the rest of the day will be. 

I may just have to find something to eat for lunch and head back to where I am staying and try to get some sleep.

Edward is gone. His friend showed up to take him to his therapy session. Before Edward left, he reminded me that he won't be here tomorrow, but he will be back on Saturday. "See you then."

Over the last five hours, Edward has taken me on an enjoyable journey through the past. Neil Young produced an album about 36 years ago with the same title. I don't think Edward knows who Neil Young is. It doesn't matter. I don't like the French, either.
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UPDATE May 16th, 2011 - The Arabica was sold to a new owner. The nice leather couches are gone. I guess the previous owner took them. There is a dumpy couch that looks like it was a reject from a yard sale where the big leather sofa used to be. The place doesn't even smell like a coffee shop. I walked in and walked out. I haven't seen Edward since. But I hope he's OK, and still pissed off at the French.

Related article: How To Make Money In A Black Neighborhood

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