Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Hazel Moon Book Launch Party!




Last night the authors of Hazel Moon put on a very successful, one-of-a-kind book launch party complete with entertainment...singing, dancing, and acting as the multi-talented authors pulled out all the creative stops.



Be sure and take a look at the Hazel Moon blog for more information, pics, and videos.

http://hazelmoonlisaloriminneti.blogspot.com/2015/12/our-book-launch-party.html

As their publisher, this was also a hallmark of my publishing career. Having nurtured close to 20 promising project over a 20-year period, I've learned just how rare it is for any publishing project to sell more than a few copies.


 

Writing the book is the easy part. Today, even seeing your manuscript in print or as an eBook on Kindle, is only modestly challenging given today's online publishing digital platforms. Yes, the really hard part is finding an audience.



On that magical day last spring when I had the synchronous good fortune to run into author Lisa Minneti, I just knew she and her sister had what it took to find that audience. Nine months later, last night they proved that my faith in them was not misplaced.



Interesting though, if last night marked the end of Hazel Moon, it would have all been worth it. 

It is so so true...some things just aren't about money...  

Saturday, October 17, 2015

More Hazel Moon Door County Magic...



I've been writing my own books and publishing projects for other authors for over 20 years now. I have a personal tradition of finding a special place and time to celebrate the completion of a major project. The special place was Door County, Wisconsin, and the time, my annual pilgrimage to take in the spectacular fall colors that unfold in early October.





Not just Door County, though, my Mecca for writing, is the famous Leroy's Water Street Coffee in Ephraim in Door County. I do all of my writing in various coffee shops, usually near where I live, but on those special occasions that call for a premium blend location, if I can get to Ephraim, Leroy's is always my first choice.





After a 4-hour drive, when I arrived the writing gods were definitely stirred up. A storm front, more like a cyclone, was moving through the area and the sky was filled with raging, swirling winds and clouds made of fall leaves. Imagine a major snow storm only with leaves instead of huge snowflakes falling and filling the sky. When I got to Leroy's, thankfully they were open, and I found shelter from the storm. The only problem, the barista was planning to close in 30 minutes.






With no time to waste, I began finishing up the last edits to the Hazel Moon manuscript so that I could accomplish my pilgrimage goal, which I managed to accomplish, but then I remembered that a second editor had taken a studied look through the entire manuscript, had a proof copy of the book, and had found a number of areas and words and some grammar that needed attention. So, what's a determined and a touch OCD writer/publisher who needs to finish what he starts to do...what else, resort to bribery, I did!



After ordering a creamy, thick, rich chai latte, and made sure to tip the barista an amount she would take note of. Right before closing I went up to order another chai but this time told her about my 200-mile drive and how I always came to Leroy's to put the finishing touches on a book project. I gave her a business card promoting Hazel Moon and suggest she might be interested in reading it. When I could see she was interested, I pulled out a $20 and asked politely if she would mind staying open a little longer. IT WORKED!!



My next "bribe" involved a challenge asking her to put some latte art on my next coffee drink. Although not practiced in the art, she did make a valiant attempt and I tipped her again for the effort! An hour had passed, all the customers had gone, but I still hadn't completed my task to prepare the Hazel Moon manuscript for printing. While I was finishing up some chapter scene edits, I'd given the barista the proof copy of the book with the editor's edits which I needed to process before I could declare the manuscript DONE!



Desperate, I just came right out and asked if she had the time to assist me by reading the suggested edits so I could process them. The editor had an older copy of the book so I couldn't just open the page and find the paragraph, but what the barista did was to give the lead-in words, show me the edit, I used a "find" tool to get to the location, and within seconds often the edit was executed. There were times when what to do was more ambiguous and the barista, a college student, was more than capable of giving me a useful point of view. Some time later we'd gone through the entire manuscript and my mission was accomplished!!




I titled this blog post, More Hazel Moon Door County Magic, and for me the Magic involved the highly unlikely development that a coffee shop would stay open hours after they intended to close and that the barista and owner were of the frame of mind to honor the artistic intention of my project. But there was more Magic. The barista had a chance meeting with the owner a year or so ago. The Magic of Synchronicity drew them to the same place in Madison, Wisconsin, but their Connection was forged years earlier in the realm of astrology. The barista was born in the same year in the same month and nearly on the same exact day that the owner of Leroy's opened what has become an iconic cafe known around the world located in the scenic small town of Ephraim, Wisconsin in Door County.


 


The owner was desperate for a barista to help him keep the cafe open during the summer season and as fate would have it, the barista who was willing to set her plans aside and help me, was also touched by the owner's need and relocated to Door County for the tourist season. As far as I am concerned, walking into Leroy's is as close to stepping through the gates of heaven as human beings can come. I might also add that I consider what they both do, provide a cafe and provide the drinks as being among the most honorable professions imaginable.   



For any writers out there, I wanted to give you a feel for the passion that often swirls around any creative writing project. For those who write for their own pleasure, there is no plan to make money from their writing. Even for professionals, money is seldom the primary driver behind the process. Most writing projects involve a team who work together applying their gifts to the process and in the process close relationships often form. As is the case with most art forms, only a lucky few generate a substantial income from their creative efforts, but I can tell you from experience that the collaborative process can be more rewarding than any back-end royalties.    

  


Monday, October 12, 2015

The Making of a Book Cover...



Just over two months ago the quest for the perfect Hazel Moon book cover began in earnest with a magical shoot during a full moon, on a beautiful, warm, summer night right on Lake Michigan. Author, Lori Minneti, was the model for the cover then as well. The mood was mesmerizing and Lori, an accomplished actress, slipped right into the Hazel Moon character, Lady Luna, and the photographer captured some transcendental images. Unfortunately, that session did not result in a book cover, so we had to look for and found another accomplished photographer to help us complete the challenging task.


As you can see, during this shoot Lori Minneti (Lady Luna) was standing with a white screen behind her. The cover concept was based on bringing composite elements together involving a background, an enhanced moon, and Lori's shot extracted with a Photoshop tool from behind the high-contrast background of a white screen. During the initial series of shots, Lady Luna felt "off" and was having difficulty getting "into character" but after her sister, Lisa, suggested she remember back to the shoot on the lake, under the full moon, Lori was able to tap into her acting skills and put on the Lady Luna mask to continue the shoot.



Among the technical elements was a lighting system triggered by Larry's camera using radio waves. Larry creatively adjusted the intensity and used filters to finally come up with a lighting mood that simulated Lori being back-lit with soft moonlight. Larry's (Zamba Creative Studios) experience became invaluable when like the great Leonard Bernstein conducting a soloist, Larry used just the right words of encouragement, inflections, and gestures to get the best that Lori had to offer to the camera. Bravo Maestro Larry! Above, after a series of shots, and after tending to every strand of hair out of place, and touching up Lori's makeup, Larry would stop to make sure Lori and I were happy about results up to that point.


Lori brought a number of beautiful gowns she knew would possibly work for the cover shot, again drawing on her experience with costumes and characters as an accomplished actress. Costume jewelry and shoe options were added to a parasol and fan to build up the interesting elements in the shot. Lady Luna posed hauntingly while standing under a lamppost in an early scene in Hazel Moon (see excerpt below) and that scene became the inspiration for the cover.


All the while sister and coauthor, Lisa Minneti, managed to keep busy, every photo shoot needs a gopher, someone had to hold the fan for Larry, find whatever items were lost, get whatever Lori needed during the shoot, and help her change costumes. Also, Lori and Lisa were so close that even before she said anything Lisa could sense when she need a shout of support and didn't hesitate to jump right in to backup Larry's constant comments of encouragement and direction. I only mention this because it was clear to me how much of a team effort any involved creative project is with each member of the team contributing their unique talents toward achieving something so much greater than themselves.

 

Above is the creative team behind Hazel Moon, Lisa & Lori, and myself, the publisher from Heritage Press, Ric Bencriscutto. I came to the shoot to be there in case they needed my input on any related issue that might have come up.


When the shoot was over, we all sat down at Larry's conference table and went through the 300 shots one by one as Lisa noted the photos by number that any one or all of us agreed had potential. Slowly that number was reduced to 10 which were starred, and then finally a single standout that Larry quickly put into a background so we could all agree that was going to be the cover. Above is a short video of our fantastic Lady Luna model in motion!


It's been about six magical months since our dream have a novel published based on chapters Lori & Lisa had written over the last eight years, inspired by stories and experiences of their friends and family, began to slowly become a reality. Soon Hazel Moon will be published and then Let the Marketing Begin! Above Lisa is holding a business card that directs someone to their blog. The stories in the blog are almost as wonderful to read as the magic in the book, so we're hoping to attract a loyal blog following as these blog posts continue to share the unfolding Real Magic in all of our daily lives!


Book Excerpt from Chapter 2  - Lady Luna under the Lampost



A CAPRICIOUS WIND from the ominous storm slammed the heavy door behind them as the girls scampered back to the Camaro, each holding a black umbrella embroidered with the funeral parlor’s name and logo.
Forcing the shifter into first and about to speed off, November froze after seeing a vision from another era—a woman draped in a long, black cloak covered in elegant scalloped beading and silk buttons, holding a frilly parasol and perched under a lit lamppost. She pulled the stick out of gear and abruptly jumped out, handing Angela her drink.
Oblivious to the rain, she ran to the light under the lamppost and the mysterious woman standing there.
“Luna!”
“Moonlight Star…I know I’m late, but you know it’s my nature to be naughty.”
November stood there in awe…Luna’s voice as sweet and intoxicating as a Champagne truffle. She added a polished curtsy, worthy of a member of a 19th Century French Court. An amber glow danced around her olive skin and coffee-with-cream eyes. Turning her head to the left, Luna held her chin with two forefingers, striking a fetching pose, the glow from the lamppost casting her in a cocoon of light.
“Where have you been?” November petitioned, her heart now a useless lump in her throat.
“There will be plenty of time to chuckle over my amorous misadventures…tonight is all about you and your destiny…after all, this is the Eve of the Hazel Moon.”


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Bestselling Book Idea Transferred with a Kiss...





http://heritagepresspublications.blogspot.com/2015/08/when-your-story-talks-to-you.html

Back in August I posted a story about the remarkable coincidences/connections to the Hazel Moon story. Taken all together, it did seem as if the story was Talking to Us! Today I was listening to NPR and author Elizabeth Gilbert was being interviewed about her book, Big Magic, in which she shares similar stories of the magic, the storytelling fairies, the writing pixies who can surround a book project with surreal levels of inspiration.  

http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2015/09/23/elizabeth-gilbert






Elizabeth had been considering developing a plot where a mousy mom working at a big company has her life turned upside-down when her boss orders her to a strange land on a dangerous mission. When her personal life got complicated, she abandoned the project. Months passed and she found herself at a book signing, kissed the author, and two years later the second author ended up writing a book based on her exact idea and they never talked about it!!!!!!



http://hazelmoonlisaloriminneti.blogspot.com/2015/09/hazel-moon-magic-at-peabodys.html




At an LGBT fund raiser last Friday night author Lisa Minneti learned that the man responsible for the design firm where she works, Peabody's Interiors, Jon Schlagenhaft (Jon on the right in the pic), though having lived an extraordinary life as a gifted member of the LGBT community of professionals, never had his story told in a biography. I was present when Jon's parents described his remarkable emergence as talented designer while growing up. He went on to found his own design firm and purchased Peabody's just before a tragic accident when he and his business partner, and partner in life, were killed in a plane crash.

Elizabeth Gilbert, author of "Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear." (Timothy Greenfield-Sanders)

The phenomenon Elizabeth was trying to describe in her NPR interview came alive and began poking us on the shoulder, offering us the chance to tell Jon's story either as a book or by modeling one of the Hazel Moon characters after Jon. The Inspiration...the Magic was palpable...



I'll keep you posted if anything comes of the impulse we're both feeling to tell Jon's story! Now, if only I could get the charming author team of Lisa & Lori Minneti to seal the writing contract with a kiss!

Friday, September 18, 2015

More Hazel Moon Magic at the Peabody's LGBT Soiree...


video




This evening I was invited by one of my Hazel Moon authors, Lisa Minneti, to attend an LGBT fundraiser hosted by her company, Peabody Interiors. I showed up a little late for the shindig having almost gotten lost in the rain--no GPS. Lisa was supposed to show people around and put in plugs for Peabody's, in general grease the socializing wheels, but enthusiasm and interaction spontaneously exploded as soon as a good number of LGBT benefactors showed up!  (Karen Valentine below with Lisa)




Among those attending were members of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, an organization of gay men who dress in nun drag and provide meaningful service to the LGBT communities where they have chapters. As the spokesperson, Karen Gotzler, for the Milwaukee LGBT chapter informed the group, the need is great as LGBT members of the community still suffer discrimination and hardship at unacceptable rates.



 
 

On display were the paintings of Ramon Pablo Vidali and among his collection were a group of now iconic canvases depicting artistic renderings of members of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.



The first item of Hazel Moon Magic involved the fact that the head of Peabody's found out about Lisa's book and offered to host a book signing soiree on the same lush level as the LGBT affair! While walking around, one of the first people Lisa met just happened to be a twin and an interior designer--JUST LIKE HER! The ladies shared stories about the magic of having a twin...how close they were to their twin sisters, and yet how different they could be. Then, Lisa ran into several former colleagues who, upon hearing about her book, volunteered their considerable gifts to the cause of finding a wide audience for Hazel Moon! 



Then, for those of you who've read the book or read my publisher's blog, remember how November had an apartment above a funeral parlor...well, Lisa met one of the attendees and learned he had an apartment over a funeral parlor and he invited her to come there to take a look!

All in all, it was another magical night of unlikely Hazel Moon Magical Connections!!


Purchas Hazel Moon

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Feeling the Hidden Hazel Moon...




As you know from the previous post, November... I mean author Lisa Minneti (I get confused sometimes) found herself acting out a scene from her story when she slipped down a slope and hurt herself on a partially buried lamppost, the post also connecting to the story through a key Lady Luna scene. Later that day, the Eve of the Hazel Moon festivities continued to unfold at the Lily Lake Resort in Walworth County in Wisconsin. What we did not see all night because of persistent cloud cover was the above Hazel Harvest Super Moon.



Author, Lori Minneti, along with her partner, Dave, an Elvis impersonator, entertained the resort/restaurant crowd to the delight of everyone who attended. Dave is so authentic, he appears to be channeling the spirit of Elvis. Lori's perfect pitch voice is delivered professionally, but her true gift is how she sells the song using her considerable acting skills and engages the crowd, often bringing individuals out onto the dance floor or dancing to Dave's singing like a '60s Go-Go Girl...the same can be said for Dave's gift for engaging the crowd...before, during, and after the show.




Here's Lori as Marilyn Monroe.




And as Ann Margret.






As charming and as entertaining as Lori & Dave's show was, the Hazel Moon had something more in mind. As Lori & Lisa's publisher, I couldn't let the actual night of the official Hazel Moon, around which the book was centered, pass without presenting them each with the first proof of their book, Hazel Moon. They had no idea I might have printed any copies because we were all waiting to have Lori on the cover, so it was a complete surprise!





Without pushing the book on anyone, people began to notice and within minutes folks were asking where they could buy the book. The next thing we knew, one of the ladies there walked up to Lisa and said she was part of a book club and definitely intended to have her group read Hazel Moon when it was her month to host the club. Let me add that this book club specialized in supporting local writers, which I found admirable and I suspected was rare as well.





Several times during the night people mentioned how even though the Hazel Moon wasn't visible because of the cloud cover, they all felt the magic of the moon's influence. For example, the book club person had played an especially energetic set earlier that day and gave the upcoming full moon the credit! 

The entire night was both magical and unexpected. Author Lisa Minneti above joined in adding to the night's entertainment by playing her harmonica, an instrument featured heavily in Hazel Moon.



I'll finish this post by reporting that I distinctly got the impression the Hazel Moon project had taken on a life of its own...it was like the book wanted to find an audience so it could share the story and messages embedded in the tale and was using the authors, the publisher, and anyone else in the immediate vicinity to accomplish that cosmic goal. 

I couldn't help but feel it was just more Hazel Moon Magic...



And...the Hazel Harvest Super Moon finally came out the next day, which was what motivated me to put this post together!
 
 

A postscript ending the actual night of the Hazel Moon, Saturday, arriving home after a long drive through fog and mist, just before pulling up to my driveway, two beautiful deer loped in front of my car, looked at me, and continued on. I'd never before in all the years living there, have had that happen...




Saturday, August 29, 2015

More Hazel Moon Magic Mischief...



 

I just got this email from one of the Hazel Moon authors, Lisa Minneti:

This morning a very "November" thing happened! I was walking my dog Jake and a black dog followed us and was playful and then when we were on a slope Jake bolted, I let go of his leash, and landed on my side and cried out in pain! I either bruised or maybe cracked a rib, but the weird thing is when I was on my side I came face-to-face with a black lamppost lying on the ground, uprooted...it was crazy. Both dogs came to my rescue and soon the owner of the black dog arrive on the scene!!

 
 
I knew the Hazel Moon Magic Mischief Machine would have another surprise for us today, of all days...the rising of the 2015 Hazel Moon and a Supermoon at that!!! Just two days ago, the story's Camaro turns up parked right outside of the cafe where I was meeting with author, Lisa Minneti, to go over our final edits. Now today, a scene happens to Lisa right out of our book when November, walking on a slope, slips on something she wasn't expecting underfoot and hurts herself badly...OMG!!!!

Here's the scene:


SONNY ARRIVED FIRST on the scene and quickly began administering first aid. Hunched down on all fours, he was doing what came naturally, licking November’s wound, her clothes stained with bright-red fresh blood, quickly turning a deep maroon as it hit the air and ran down her leg.

What do you do when someone upsets you? Flip them off, if you’re Italian you might give them the chin flick, but if you’re Angela Gonzales you’ll let out a she-devil scream, which is exactly what she did.

Taking a shortcut on their way back from the checking out the carnival rides, it all happened so fast. It could have been foul play as the freaky carny burnouts were capable of anything, but in fact November took a nasty accidental spill on the slick grass and moss-covered rocks leading to the injury. Seeing the blood, Angela’s shriek of terror traveled to the turrets of the Tampax Stage, pressed on to the Carburetor Stage, before echoing back to the scene of the crime.
 
And the lamppost Lisa mentioned seeing, that caused her fall, another key scene in Hazel Moon is where Lady Luna first appears, standing like a statue under a lamppost in the rain holding an umbrella. 

Here's that scene:


A CAPRICIOUS WIND from the ominous storm slammed the heavy door behind them as the girls scampered back to the Camaro, each holding a black umbrella embroidered with the funeral parlor’s name and logo.

Slamming the shifter into first and about to speed off, November froze after seeing a vision from another era—a woman draped in a long, black cloak covered in elegant scalloped beading and silk buttons, holding a frilly parasol and perched under a lit lamppost. She pulled the shifter out of gear and abruptly jumped out, handing Angela her drink.

Oblivious to the rain, she ran to the light under the lamppost and the mysterious woman standing there.

“Luna!”

“Moonlight Star…I know I’m late, but you know it’s my nature to be naughty.”

November stood there in awe…Luna’s voice as sweet and intoxicating as a Champagne truffle. She added a polished curtsy, worthy of a member of a 19th Century French Court. An amber glow danced around her olive skin and coffee-with-cream eyes. Turning her head to the left, Luna held her chin with two forefingers, striking a fetching pose, the glow from the lamppost casting her in a cocoon of light.

“Where have you been?” November petitioned, her heart now a useless lump in her throat.

“There will be plenty of time to chuckle over my amorous misadventures…tonight is all about you and your destiny…after all, this is the Eve of the Hazel Moon.”


In a few hours I'll be going to a Hazel Moon festival where author Lori Minneti will be singing, entertaining a crowd gathered to celebrate the full rising of the 2015 Hazel Moon. I can only imagine what Magic might happen under those feisty moonbeams!!