Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Famous Brothers

The Gainfully Unemployed need to take some time off from career pursuits every now and then. So I went to Three Oaks, Michigan, to hear friends who make up the three-part harmony group The Famous Brothers perform at the Acorn Theatre.

Darren 2B Famous, Willie B. Famous and Ricky Famous Famous hail from Monkey's Crevice, West Virginia. They sing original and cover bluegrass songs in the vein of music from the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou and share brotherly banter. They're known for their clever lyrics and harmonious blend, which thoroughly entertained the crowd at the Acorn.

Check out The Famous Brothers on Fox 28 in Elkhart performing one of my favorites, 20 Ways to Kill You with my Swiss Army Knife or watch an older performance on YouTube here.

You can order their songs and CD on Listen to samples, including one from another favorite, "Yodel in the Valley," here.

If you're visiting the Harbor Country area, consider seeing a show at the Acorn Theatre. It's a unique venue offering a wide variety of entertainment in an eclectic setting, which includes a full bar and one of the nicest women's restrooms I've seen in a theatre. The quaint, quiet Three Oaks and surrounding towns are fun to explore, and offer many dining options, including Middle Eastern fare Cafe Gulistan and Swedish breakfast at Luisa's Cafe.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Monday Morning Quarterback

Note: Blogger had marked my blog as Spam (I think because I tried to have more than 5 tags for one post.) Sorry for any inconvenience.

Making mistakes...if only we could avoid doing that. Have you ever took on an obligation, accepted or quit a job, decided to move, or, referring back to last week's post trusted someone, and then regretted doing so? How many times have you thought "I wish I hadn't (or had) done ___________?"

Recent example: the pain specialist recommended medication for my foot. One dose made me so nauseated I could barely get off the couch. Felt like a zombie and couldn't focus. Perhaps I should have stopped taking it right then. But the doctor and an anesthesiologist friend agreed that the benefits would outweigh the side effects.

So I persisted for several more no avail. Finally I stopped taking it and am waiting to hear from the doctor about next steps. Do I now regret wasting days feeling awful and so getting very little accomplished? Yes. But I did it...because I accepted the advice of professionals and want my foot to stop hurting. Did I have doubts because I know there are medicines I can't tolerate? Yes. Did I think the drug was worth a try? Yes.

So how do you know when to trust your instincts and when to weigh and analyze pros and cons?

These articles recommend a mix of both approaches:

To Your Health Mental Health

I think you also have to weigh your instincts. Even if you think you're making a good decision, doubts may linger. If you ignore and push aside the doubts, they might come back to haunt you on Monday, after the game has been played. One idea consider is to discuss your plans with an adivisory board of friends, family and colleagues, and add their thoughts and opinions to the mix.

Sometimes it's hard to be sure you're doing the right thing. Only time will tell.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Who Can You Trust?

I relate the following tale to encourage you to think about your life and decisions you make. Those times when you aren't sure who to trust, who to believe...whether dealing with medical professionals, your kids, your spouse/significant other, friends, co-workers. How many opinions do you seek, how much research do you do before believing, before making a decision? When do you simply trust your instincts?

And if after information gathering you've been caught between opposing options, made a choice that seemed right but didn't turn out to be, or have been misled or even misinformed, how do you recoup?

Faithful readers may recall that back in September I had foot surgery (for hallux rigidus, arthritis in the big toe).

I chose the doctor, believed and trusted him because he'd been written up in the Chicago Tribune for just this procedure and he paraded several dancing patients in front of me as proof of his successes. He seemed confident that I was a great candidate, promised great results, and said that in a few weeks I'd be so happy I'd be kissing his feet.

Well, almost 7 months and thousands of dollars later (despite insurance), I am not happy. My "new" foot hurts more than the "old" one (which has the same condition). I can't wear any of my cute shoes, only certain sneakers or orthopedic-looking old lady shoes.

I thought I'd done my due diligence, taken enough time and thought to come up with a good plan. Yet the results aren't at all what I'd hoped and been told I'd receive. Which put me in the unenviable position of making reparations. So I followed up with Doctor #1 several times, receiving injections (in the toe), taking anti-inflammatories, etc. No change.

I just saw Doctor #2, an orthopedist who has worked with the Joffrey Ballet. He should know toes, right? He said he's not a fan of the implant. I could do nothing, or remove the implant, take bone from my hip (!), and fuse the toe. Fusing---arthrodesis--is a common procedure for this condition and is supposed to eliminate pain, but the toe will never bend. I might be able to wear up to a 1" heel. Despite research I've done about limitations after fusion, he said he's had good results...people have run marathons.

Doctor #1 then said I could have a fusion with no bone needed from my hip. Or try a pain specialist. Or wait longer, because it can take a year to heal.

So who to believe? How many more doctors should I consult? What to do? For now, I've decided to see a pain specialist...stay tuned.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Should I Self-publish?

Many people have suggested self-publishing as an alternative to selling to an NY publisher. (Others have suggested e-publishing...which perhaps I'll address at another time.)

First, a question, fellow readers: how many self-pubbed novels have you bought? My guess is zero or less than a handful.

The Pros:
1. You will get to hold a copy of your book in your hand, see your name on the spine and show it to your friends and family.

2. According to my research, self-publishing often works better for non-fiction. I am considering self-publishing a non-fiction book I'm working on with a friend. We wrote a proposal and got this feedback from a couple of big agents: great proposal, great idea. But you have no platform.
Platform means you're already well-known and highly established in your field, via the Internet, TV/radio, print media. My Web site gets a fair number of hits, but not enough (yet?) to equal a platform. My co-author and I haven't yet decided whether we want to try to build one.

3. If you work hard enough, and spend enough time/money/energy on promotion/publicity, you can probably make a little money.

The Cons:
1. It's not called a 'mass market' novel for nothing. In today's world you still need mass market distribution, availability in bookstores, any publisher support you can get to grow readership and sales. Most self-publishers I've researched charge extra for each service/benefit you'd receive from a traditional publisher.

2. I'd have to hand sell almost every copy. Sure, someone could stumble across it amidst the zillions for sale and buy it, and these days you can get an ISBN number via various self-publishers so you can sell your book in online 'stores.' Sure, my mom and some of my friends would buy my book. But though I know a lot of people, it could take a year to sell even 1,000 copies, which isn't very many to the agents and editors you might want to represent or buy your next opus. And if I'm spending that much time self-marketing, when will I write the next book? Some self-publishers offer various types of marketing packages, with separate fees for each type of media. These can run into the thousands of dollars.

3. It seems that anyone can self-publish almost anything. There is almost no vetting of quality or marketability, though some sites will evaluate your manuscript...for a fee. Traditional editors/agents won't buy or represent you if they don't love your work and see $ dollar signs when they read it, because they are putting their reputations on the line. Just because you and your best friend think your manuscript is amazing doesn't mean it is.

5. Only a VERY few self-pubbed novels are are picked up by an NY publisher.
But then, someone wins the lottery every week...

6. Will you get reviewed if you self-publish? There are hundreds of traditionally published books out every month competing for increasingly limited review spots in major newspapers and magazines. Sure, online sites can review more books, but how will yours stand out if they do?

The jury's still out on this topic...

For good news about self-publishing, see:

More Self-Publishers Hit the Big Time in Publishers Weekly

The Lace Reader in Publishers Weekly

On the other hand,

SFWA has this to say here

Tess Gerritsen's thoughts

And agent Nathan Bransford offers his pros and cons, with lots of reader comments.

Interested in self-publishing your Great American Novel?

Wikipedia says

LifeTips on self publishing

Check out these self-publishers:




Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Are You The Next American Star?

I deviate from my Thursday posting schedule about my adventures among the Gainfully Unemployed to promote my sister's new venture. She is CEO of The Next American Star.

TNAS is the biggest, boldest talent competition ever, where the best stars of today and tomorrow come to work and play on a world stage for up and coming artists. Performers sign up and post videos, pictures and Backstage Interviews so fans can learn about them and vote. If you register, you'll get up to 5 votes per day, and one 'supervote' that counts for five, for a total of 10 votes per day. Your Votepod will tell you how many votes you have left. If you choose not to register, you get one vote per day.

Voting starts today for semi-finalists ing the regional Young Adult Rock Season 1 competition. The best bands will play at TNAS's House of Blues Concert in Chicago in late May. Proceeds will benefit Starlight Children's Foundation.

Artists and fans can win prizes. The top fan each week of voting wins a $150 Target Gift Card for themselves and a $150 gift card for the band/artiste they supervoted for the most. The top fan is the fan who uses the most votes during the week. If there is a tie, there will be a drawing to see who is the Top Fan for the week. The top fan for the entire voting period will win a $500 COACH Gift Card.

Lots of new content and competitions will be coming soon--including a video competition to be the hosts of TNAS's daily show.

So check out TNAS, and vote now, vote often!