Thursday, May 30, 2013

Think Bacon By: Karen Pilarski

Wisconsin is known for dairy and beer. It is also a well known fact that at the Wisconsin State Fair offers creative uses for bacon. The fair has had chocolate covered bacon on a doughnut sandwich.  I've never been a lover of fatty cured strips of meat. None the less people in my neck of the woods love crispy pieces of greasy heaven. My wonderful friends *Alicia and *Cathy are addicted to the breakfast staple. Alicia was having an icky type of today and I tried to cheer her up. Without thinking I blurted out "think bacon." She laughed as if I was joking. I was dead serious.

There is a saying that goes "bring home the bacon." Translated, it means bringing in the money. The money is the good bacon. When I'm mad at the world and just want to quit everything I think bacon. I need the bacon to pay rent, bills, food and the piece of crap van I'm still paying off. Not to mention student loans, clothes, and insurance. Lately it seems the bacon dwindles down as soon as it is brought in. Especially since the government seems to keep much of the bacon I make.

As any bad day survivor can attest it would be simple to tell someone off. Let the words fly out with a spray of spit to seal the deal. Sometimes the fantasy is better than the reality. At least in my head I wouldn't lose a job or relationship. Most of all I wouldn't have the anxious walking on egg shells feeling when around the person I yelled at. I'll save the sweet revenge scenarios for dreaming.

Think bacon when assessing a situation or person. There are individuals who just scream 'bad bacon'. Bad bacon personalities are the ones that are salty and cause high blood pressure. Bacon often leaves a greasy slick spot on a napkin or plate. Negative/jerky people leave their own slimy stain on the day. The nastiness can clog up a once good day and make it unbearable.

 How can eating the fat be avoided? Just cut the grossness away. My friends who are bacon addicts might recoil from this suggestion. If the fat is not minded than another option is to limit the bad bacon intake. I was advised that I should limit contact with several strips of bad bacon in my own life. I have been happier and the blood pressure has decreased. Be pleasant and kind to rude personalities. Nothing irks a crummy person more when the higher road is taken.

That doesn't mean there is a need to consume the artery thickening words fed. Often I am the bigger person. Many people may have family that is not tolerated well. The thought of them is similar to tofu to meat enthusiasts. For my Wisconsin peeps, light beer. Blah! Yucky individuals who are not interacted with on a professional basis but still have to have contact. It is perfectly fine to cut off that type of fat if it is bad. It doesn't make me or anyone else immature, just realistic. Frankly my cholesterol and blood pressure levels are high enough.

For my own sanity I choose to not consume that type of bacon anymore. I hope my clever antidote doesn't ruin anyone's plans for the upcoming fair or breakfast. Just remember when the day is miserable to think bacon.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Poker Chips and Slot Machines by: Karen Pilarski

Slot machines whistle and flash along a pattern of florescent light bulbs. People in fanny packs and visors choke on the smokey air. Scantily dressed waitress offer free drinks hoping for a tip. Here is a tip. Life is a gamble. All colorful chips can be placed on love, career or reputation.

Without a crystal ball it is hard to predict future wins and losses. A death grip clutches the dice of chance hoping to clean up nice. I wonder if luck isn't in the gambler's favor. Who picks up the pieces when the chips are down? Who steps in when pockets are pulled inside out and the shirt off the back is lost?

Everyone has had a streak of good or bad luck. Then there are the life gamblers who can't seem to catch a break. The perfect mate, job or lifestyle is slightly out of reach. It is as if a mirror was broken or an umbrella was opened indoors. There is a foolish feeling each time the linty quarter is placed in the slot machine or chips are placed on the table. Personally I have a sense of stupidity and hurt when no one is willing to give me the shirt off their own back.

I have taken a few chances on relationships. Often against my better judgement I put trust and faith on red for love. I'm not just talking about romance but friendships and family relationships as well. Sometimes the relationship was worth the risk and other times I lose my shirt. Mostly I lose my heart which is my most valuable asset.

If I allowed myself to become bitter and jaded I would never take a risk again.  In Vegas the rule is the house always wins. In life that is not always the case. If I believe in myself and take chances then I always win.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Underdog By: Karen Pilarski

The Underdog

By: Karen Pilarski

Underdogs are the ones who are not expected to win or not the ideal choice. I have often felt like one in my lifetime. My twin brother and I were born on a snowy January morning in the late 70's. We were quite premature. I weighed a mere four pounds. My brother weighed more and was also born first by a minute. I joke that he was selfish and hogged the womb. I was very sick and put in an incubator while my brother was taken home. I wasn't expected to live. Somehow against the limited expectation, I survived. My first victory under my belt! 

 Growing up I still had mountains to climb. Due to my premature birth I was late in my development.  Amazingly I learned how to do the normal things infants and children do, just later than others my age. The notion is funny now since I feel I was late to do many things like go to college, get married, learn to drive amongst many milestones.

  My family consisted of five brothers and three sisters. My father often said to the boys, especially my twin, that he would be a doctor or lawyer. The girls were treated like caregivers. It was a female's lot in life to babysit and clean. No one told me I could be those things. Nor did I think much concern was given to what the girls would become. Needless to say there wasn't much expectation for me. Boiling in my blood was the ambition to become more than a babysitter.

 Due to development issues I also had emotional issues. I would cry easily or scream for no reason. My father certainly didn't have patience with me. Looking back, I ponder what child doesn't actually do those things? Teased and bullied by my brothers, my esteem was often lower than the ground. I felt dumb and ugly. I struggled in math and reading. In the fifth grade my academics and outlook changed. I had a wonderful teacher named Mr. Mansfield who encouraged and believed in me. My grades and esteem shot so high it poked holes in the clouds.  

In high school, math was still a sore subject. I failed algebra more than once. The teachers always said I tried very hard. That is one attribute I admire about myself. Even if the odds are not in my favor I try my best. I managed to pass math with a 'D.' That was a hard earned 'D.' During high school I didn't make the cheerleading squad. In true form, I went back and tried again. I made the squad and even was promoted to captain! 

 Four years after high school I started college. See what I mean by late in life? Timid, unassertive I began my studies at a college. I struggled in math and semantics. My hardworking power proved useful because I was successful in those courses. I took a news writing course. The teacher observed something special within me. She took me under her wing and let me fly. She made me editor of the college newspaper and was like the mother I never had. She mentored me and taught me how to be a reporter, editor and teacher. Most valuable was how she taught me to overcome the underdog status. 

Despite the lack of expectations of a few, I now have a master's degree. My work has been published. Big achievements for a newborn not expected to make it past a few breaths. Finally, I have a passion for writing so hot it burns not to do it. From time to time I may fall under the underdog status. Especially, as I attempt to stand out in a competitive job market. With a cheering section and hard work, other people’s past expectations, doesn’t matter. I expect to win because I am my own ideal choice.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Lost Weekend By: Karen Pilarski

This weekend I felt young again. On Friday night I went to a work function. During the event I felt lost and depressed. I was seated with the higher ups and didn't talk much. My colleagues were sitting at the other end of the room. Just a semester ago I had graduated. Six months later and still in the same place (physically and emotionally) and I felt stuck. I made small chat with my colleagues as I was getting ready to leave. A friend and I invited some girlfriends over to my apartment for some drinks. We giggled and talked about love, sex, work and all sorts hot topics. Between the sips of wine we munched on Andes Candies and Peppermint Patties. Tipsy and less inhabited we acted like college students. Close to midnight my girlfriends left and I passed out at the computer desk. Ironic thing was it was a throw back to college.

 In the morning another friend contacted me to go to the mall and meet up with another friend. We went around the mall and gossiped like we were back in high school.

That evening my brother, his boyfriend and my sister invited me to go to the mall again and out to dinner. It is funny how family and good friends can make you act ten years younger. My brother's boyfriend borrowed me a book that was a compilation of people's journals and diaries. After each entry there was a section called "My adult self." The now adult would explain the behavior or give an update. When I was a teen I didn't journal. If I had, I would have been mortified. As I was skimming the book in the car my brother was blaring songs from the 80's.

We went to a local restaurant where the clientele was of the older age range. We thought it was funny we were the only younger people there. We laughed at a few toupees and conversations overheard. In typical form, my siblings quoted movie lines to each other. This habit annoys anyone who is not related. Afterwards we cruised the mall. All of us angered the sales people with our loud laughter and antics. As we walked around I forgot about my actual age and just enjoyed being around people who were like me. Carefree, amusing and energetic. Somewhere between the pretzel stand and gaudy cell phone covers cart I let go of myself. The smell of sprays of perfume and freshly baked cookies lingered in the air. I allowed feelings that were brushed aside to surface. I felt angst, jealousy, happiness, sorrow and longing. I didn't need to express it, just allow the feelings to wash over me.

On Sunday, My sister invited me over after he went to work. We watched old  movies such as "Sixteen Candles" and "Trains, Planes and Automobiles" and "13 going on 30." During the movies and dinner I thought about being carefree. Even though there is stress and hard times upon me, it is nice to cut loose.

Those movies dealt with friendships, family and acting unlike yourself.  I took the messages of the movies to heart. I just can't be stuffy, professional and put together 34 year old Karen at all times. This past weekend I managed to live out my childhood, teen and early adult years. In the safe company of those who knew me best, I tore down the facade and acted free.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

How Do I Market And Write? There’s Not Enough Time! By: Rachel Thompson

Please welcome a talented, amazing and honest author named Rachel Thompson as guest blogger.  

Rachel Thompson aka RachelintheOC is a published author and social media consultant. Her three books, A Walk In The Snark, The Mancode: Exposed and Broken Pieces are all #1 Kindle bestsellers! When not writing, she helps authors and other professionals with branding and social media for her company, BadRedhead Media. She hates walks in the rain, running out of coffee, and coconut.


 One of the most difficult aspects of writing is marketing our work while writing our next work. One of my favorite quotes from screenwriter Ryne Pearson addresses this: ‘How do I get people to buy my book? Write another.’
Many authors struggle with these questions daily:
o    How to write and, at the same time, get our work out there?
o    What’s the line between self-promotion and building a following?
o    Which social media channel is most important?

Let’s deconstruct.
This is everybody’s issue with everything and will be till the day we die. So…get over it. You can’t possibly be in all places at all times so you must prioritize (even we women who multi-task constantly know this).
If you have four hours per day to spend writing, spend half of it writing (not tweets) and the other half marketing. And do I mean spamming links on social media ‘Buy my book! Like my page!’ No. If that’s how you’re using Twitter or Facebook, you’re not only selling ineffectively but, you risk people blocking you for annoying them.
I also recommend learning how to use desktop applications like Hootsuite – connect all your social media accounts in one place, schedule in some stuff, live interact when you can. Social media is not a free ad platform; it is, however, a wonderful opportunity for you to build relationships and form connections with readers.
Part of developing your platform on social media is targeting readers. Too many authors start on Twitter or Google+, join author groups, and then promote their books to other authors. Authors are great – we are a wonderfully supportive community. But readers are your target audience. So are reviewers and book bloggers.
Use the Search function to find your demographic, then follow and interact with them!
I generally share an excerpt or review snippet once a day (more for a promo) – and I don’t always use a link. Put the link to your book on your bios everywhere: Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Goodreads, etc. It’s just as easy to say ‘link on bio’ and risk someone not bothering, than spamming links constantly and losing potential readers or advocates.
The easiest way I’ve found to target readers quickly is using ManageFlitter. They have a free version for unfollowing but the paid version is extremely useful for following and scheduling. Type in a keyword (i.e., #bookclub) and any account or tweet with that term comes up. And you can follow 100 all at once using their ‘Fast Select’ button. Easy, quick.
Many authors are afraid of social media because they feel it’s bragging, too self-promotional, or is not worth their time – all valid concerns.
Social media is what YOU make it. I personally feel every author should have a presence on, at the very leastTwitter and a Facebook page (you’re not allowed to use your personal account for sales or business purposes, although many people do it). Google+ is kind of a pain but if you want to be seen on Google’s search engine, increase your Google ranking and/or Author Ranking, it’s essential.
Goodreads is already important but will become increasingly more so now that Amazon has purchased it. It’s easy enough to open an account – connect your Facebook credentials and you’re in. Find friends from social media or email. Join some book clubs – not to promote your own work, but to build relationships.
Keep in mind that with the time you have, you want to build relationships that will lead to sales.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. How do you fit in writing and marketing in limited time? Please share!
  Buy Now : A Walk in the Snark * Mancode: Exposed * Broken Pieces

Broken Pieces

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