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Party of Four

While browsing through the iStockphoto offerings, I happened upon a photo of a famous West End restaurant, one that brought back memories of a previous trip to London. The Ivy is a restaurant popular with the theatre-going crowd, audience and actors alike.

The circumstances of my first visit were so perfect, it could have been a plotline right out of a West End play: two women strike up a conversation one morning over breakfast at a hotel. The older woman was at the hotel recovering from surgery, and I was there for a color conference with several clients. The woman reminded me of my grandmother. She had the kind of class you can’t acquire – you have to be born with it. We talk for an hour about this and that. Alone, with no family, she was happy to have the company.

While she and I talked, one of my clients stopped by the table to say hello, she looked a little dejected and when I asked what was wrong, she told us how she and two of her colleagues had wanted to dine at The Ivy that night but were unable to get a table. The first available reservation was weeks away.

I didn’t think I could help her. Earlier in the week I had bribed a few doormen at some of London’s more posh clubs. But my sense of it was that only an act of God or a recommendation from Sir Anthony Hopkins himself would be able to get my clients into The Ivy.

I looked at my dining companion and she smiled a slow indulgent smile. She picked up her cell phone, speed dialed and said a few words to the person on the other end of the line. Then she looked at me and asked, “What is your name, my dear?”

I told her. She nodded and concluded the call with my name and the words “party of four.”

She then smiled and told us we had a dinner reservation at 11:00 p.m. and told us whom to ask for. In the parlance of British slang, my client and I were gobsmacked.

I thanked our benefactor and asked her name. She politely sidestepped the question, rose and left the table like some regal grand dame.  And that’s exactly what she was.

photo: © istockphoto.com/onebluelight

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Spring is coming and I’ve decided to take a little break.    I’ll be back in April with the Daffodils.  photo: © istockphoto.com/marilyna

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Color is often used to describe changes in our physical and emotional well-being. A ruddy complexion means you might be burning up

Lady in Red

with fever but it could also mean you are flushed with excitement or anger. If your face goes white you could be about to pass out or experiencing an emotional shock or intense fear. You can be green with envy or just a bit queasy; yellow can mean jaundice or cowardliness. Feeling “in the pink” is good while Holly Golightly’s “the mean reds” in Breakfast at Tiffany’s is bad!

Color can also change our physiological and emotional states and that’s the very reason that changing color in our wardrobe or our personal space can give us a much-needed lift, emotionally and physically.  Blue induces a sense of calm and tranquility while orange encourages us to be more social. Need a dash of courage, try wearing red. Teal is a universal color that looks good on everyone. And when we look good we feel good.

So what does color say about you? First, look in your closet. If you notice a preponderance of one color, what does that – let’s call it your color intuition – tell you about yourself? Which colors feel right when you put them on? Is there one color that has been languishing in your closet for months? That’s your color orphan. Give it away!

Next expand your vision to your personal space. How many of your favorite colors, or versions of, have migrated over to and found their way into the most comfortable rooms of your home? This is another sign of color intuition at work.

Not sure you have a color preference or what you might be attracted to? Try this exercise. Visit the home furnishings department of your favorite retail store. Look at the kitchen and bath linens and accessories. These are usually grouped by color. Which color group are you drawn to? Which do you avoid?

Whether you’re a color maven or a newbie let’s take a quick look at what color says about you.

Red – is passionate, dangerous and sexy. It gives off one of two messages: Watch me! or Watch out!

Pink – is all sugar and spice and everything nice. It’s feminine and romantic.

Yellow – is the color of sunshine. Just as sunny days always lift our spirits, a dash of yellow induces cheerfulness and generates warmth and spontaneity.

Orange – is a color that combines the energy of red with the joy and sunny attitude of yellow. Frank Sinatra once called it the happiest color. When you wear orange you can say, “I did it my way.”

Green – is the most restful color for the human eye and is said to have a healing power. It symbolizes growth and freshness and creativity – it’s no wonder most traditional cures come from nature.

Blue – is associated with calm, tranquility and stability. Ever spent time contemplating the ocean or the sky and felt totally at peace? It also symbolizes trust, loyalty, faith and stability. And while it’s typically the favorite color of most men, women like it too. Light blue indicates softness while dark blue represents knowledge and dependability.

Purple – is a magical color. Leonard di Vinci posited that sitting in a purple light enhanced his meditative abilities ten-fold. I suppose that’s why we find a lot of purple in stained glass windows. It’s also a royal color full of wisdom and dignity. If you want to feel like “Queen for a Day” – array yourself  in purple.

Brown –is a masculine color. It’s also a classic neutral, as dependable as your morning cuppa joe. Various shades of brown, from espresso to latte, will give you a sense of stability.

White –symbolizes purity, cleanliness and simplicity. If you’re into classics and perfection – or “nights in white satin” – white is your color.

Black – says style, grace and elegance (and also lops off a few pounds without any effort). It is the color of the quintessential must-have dress for every woman. Want to make an entrance? Wear black with a dash of red, and watch heads turn.

photo: © istockphoto.com/anneleven

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In previous posts I have often drawn parallels between self-publishing and gambling or games of chance. Some gambles pay off better than others do. Take my most recent attempt at a Valentine’s Day public relations blitz. Strategically speaking, I thought my approach was fresh and the timing was perfect. But the media had other ideas when it came to Valentine’s Day features.

In fact, a quick Google search across the Internet seemed to yield surprisingly little that was new or fresh on the subject. Do we suffer from Valentine’s Day Fatigue I wonder? When did we exchange red for green and become so jaded in our attitude to love and romance.

Since I don’t use a clipping service, I conducted my own Google search on Any Color but Beige and found sparse “pick up” by the media. I think that this is an accurate reflection of media interest because no one called requesting further information or an interview. But I wasn’t ready to fold my cards that early.

I made several strategic follow-up phone calls to certain major media. This strategy produced some positive results: these editors requested copies of the book. Perseverance is the key. And that’s important to keep in mind when you’re out there pounding the pavement trying to generate interest.

What follows is list of the coverage Any Color but Beige received during Valentine’s Day week.

Newspapers (online)

The Focus Daily News in south suburban Dallas picked up the release in its entirety. So did The Milwaukee Community Journal and The Moscow Villager. Those three new communities now know about my book.

Radio

Here in Montreal, I was featured on 92.5 The Beat’s “The Brain Candy Podcast” with Shaun McMahon. It was my first time doing an interview at a radio station and it was fun and exciting, made even more so because of Shaun’s enthusiasm.

Book Signing

I was counting on a pre-Valentine’s Day upswing in sales. Chapters Bookstore had me positioned front and center next to a free coffee giveaway at Starbucks. It couldn’t have been more perfect except for the freezing weather that kept store traffic to a minimum. Given the conditions, I sold more than I thought.

What’s next?

I am going to play one last hand and contact the media once more to follow up on the books I sent out. And then I’m going to roll the dice on a cross-promotional sales strategy in March, one that links my book with colorful consumer products like paint, nail polish and hair care products.

Why do I do it you wonder? Spend all this time and money over and above my day job on a long shot of a book. On one hand I believe you make your own luck but on the other hand it’s perseverance that always pays off.

Meet the Author

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2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 14,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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I often find myself in new places for business and because I’m in and out of a city quite quickly, I don’t always have much time to spare. However, when I do get some downtime, whether I’m traveling for work or pleasure, I always do a bit of research before I set out to explore. I like to arrive in a place that I know a little something about, and I’m not talking about its tourist attractions. I’m talking about its soul, its character(s) and its culture.

There’s nothing more thrilling than the flash of recognition you get when you see or visit a place that has some significance  because you’ve read about it in a novel or seen it in a movie. There is a familiarity that arises from knowing a place’s “back story”. If you have that, you’re no longer visiting a stranger; you’re visiting a friend.

Let me give you a few examples of books and movies that can help you learn the back-story of specific places as well things you can do when you get there to enhance your experience.

Books

Barcelona – The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlo Ruiz Zafón. The novel includes hand drawn maps that trace the characters’ steps through plot twists and turns so you can follow in their footsteps.

India – A Suitable Boy, by Vikram Seth. This sweeping epic does a great job of breaking down the early formative politics of the country. Reading it will give you a better appreciation and understanding of today’s India.

Montreal – Forensic anthropologist Kathy Reichs sets many of her thrillers in Montreal. I sometimes half expect to bump into her character, Temperance Brennan in one of the many settings she describes.

Movies

Rome – Roman Holiday. Follow Audrey Hepburn as she hops on the back of a Vespa with Gregory Peck to see the sights in Rome. Fall in love with both the city and the guy.

Paris / France – French Kiss. Follow Megan Ryan and Kevin Kline from Paris and Province to the Cote d’Azur in this delightful little comedy.

New York – When Harry Met Sally. For me this is the best way to live vicariously in New York.

Having read a book or seen a movie about a place gives significance to the sights in the places you visit. It makes the experience that much richer. But you can also enhance your experience once you are there.

Here are five fun things you can do.

1)    Take a class in a “native” subject. Take tango lessons in Buenos Aires, cooking classes in Bologna and an Ikebana class in Tokyo.

My attempt at Ikebana

2)    Attend a cultural event. Attend the local symphony, a dance performance or a concert given by local talent in a club or a restaurant.

3)    Take a tour. It’s a quick way to get an overview of a place, after which you can pick and choose your favorite spots to go back to and savor on your own.

4)    Treat yourself. Travel can be stressful process at the best of times: standing in long check-in lines, losing your luggage or just getting oriented. Book a massage, facial, or a wash and blow dry at a local hair salon. It lends an air of “normalcy” to a place, and it makes you feel better no matter what situation you’re facing.

5)    Sample the local cuisine. Always make it a point to try one local dish, whether it’s pizza in Naples, poutine in Montreal or antelope in Africa.

Finally as a way to relive the experience once you return home, bring back a music CD of an artist or group that you heard while visiting a place. If the music isn’t live, but piped in through a sound system in restaurant or played on the radio in a taxi, go ahead and ask the waiter or taxi driver about the singer or group. They are happy to tell you about the music to promote their country’s talent.

Once home, you can become an armchair traveler and let the music transport you back in time and place to experience those magical moments again and again.

What the teacher did

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I used to think that one could only be “beamed” up to another place and time using a Star Trek transporter but I was wrong. Music has the ability to do that too. And I’m not talking about nostalgia or even memories – I’m talking about being moved to another dimension – in this case, my past.

The other day, while listening to Radio Canada in French (RDI), I happened to hear a song that instantly transported me back to my childhood. The song that did it? An old Gospel spiritual – “Dem Bones”, also known as “Dry Bones.” As I sang along, building Ezekiel’s skeleton one bone at a time I was suddenly nine years old again. I could see Mom sitting on the couch surrounded by four children (the other three wouldn’t arrive for a few more years). She was singing to us. Dem Bones.

All Together Now..

My mother sang to us every night − either as a form of entertainment or as a way to get us to fall asleep − from her own version of The Great American Songbook.

These songs fill my head from time to time, a melody here, a familiar strain there, and I’m not talking nursery rhymes or “Wheels on the Bus.” No, Mom gave us rousing renditions of the songs that meant something to her, and each one of them came with a story.

“Que Sera, Sera” (Whatever Will Be, Will be)

“Mom, Mom?” we’d ask. What are we going to be? And she’d reel off a list of fantastic careers that left us slack-jawed and wide-eyed.

(You’ve Got) “That Magic Touch”

When she sang it, she substituted our last name for the word “magic”. It made it our song.

“Malafemmena”

This song tells the story of a bad woman with a beautiful face. The woman with the beautiful face was her of course. As for the rest, she was nothing but good.

“Swinging on a Star”

We all asked for jars to catch moonbeams.

“He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands”

The story or lesson here was you had better be nice to everyone.

“Sha boom Sha boom” (Life Could Be a Dream)

Mom called this the “happy song.” The first few bars are in a language we never understood, but were so fun to sing. Whenever I’m in a good mood I always sing this song.

“Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head”

This was the song she reserved for the days the dog ate our homework or we failed to make the basketball team.

As I sang along to Dem Bones, I wondered how many mothers today sing to their children − real songs with special meanings that their children can carry with them for the rest of their lives, the songs they will call on when they are happy or sad, scared or spellbound. The ones they will still hear even when she’s no longer around to sing them.

Photo: © iStockphoto.com/Necip Yanmaz

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