21 December 2014

Happy Holidays 2014




Hope you are all having a wonderful holiday season, filled with family, love & warmth!


I haven't posted on my blog for some time because of the move to Valencia, California from Dallas, Texas. As you can imagine....boxing and unloading boxes left our family a bit overwhelmed as I worked, and kids started new schools!

But we are starting to feel settled. Some photos are now on the walls. My home office is in working condition. Beds are put up and it looks like may have friends over for the New Years (our long time friends the Allens!)



Home Video Of  Day Before Move In Texas

2014 is soon leaving us, and to think all that has happened in twelve short months!

Sam is starting his own agency in shipping.....I got an order of 6 shows for AETN network to film by Spring...Aspen was play manager on Cinderella.....Jake finished is Dyslexia program....we moved across 2100 miles.....left our religion of a decade to seek a new path....said hello to new friends and goodbye when we moved.....



My wish for the New Year is:

My children to thrive and develop their talents in music, theatre and art. That they will feel at home in California.

My husband to have a profitable agency and continue to love what he is doing.

For my series of 6 episodes to lead to another season and to finally finish my 2nd book and to produce a movie.

A family vacation!!!! We need one! Maybe Brazil, Italy, London?

May all your wishes for 2015 come true!



XOXO

Melissa 



























14 October 2014

What I Wish I Knew Before Signing My First Book Contract






I will admit that I am not normally a lady with regrets, but this list is not about regrets as much as it is about lessons learned. I hope it will help save you time, money, and potential pitfalls on your publishing journey!


The number #1 lesson I learned had to do with an author's first contract. When I was a newbie and excited to see my book baby go out into the world, the contract started to feel like the golden ticket to finally realizing my long awaited goal!

But hold your pen, and put your savvy business hat on.

A great online resource to match up your contract terms and avoid paper gangsters is:
THE AUTHOR'S GUILD


The number #2 lesson I have learned is to get an agent! If you cannot get an agent, get a literary attorney to review your contract. You need someone who can actually broker your deal, and knows how to read a publishing contract. 

I skipped this step and went ahead with signing my  x on the spot. Turns out, I am not fluent in legalese. If you are not an attorney or agent then I would trust that you probably aren't either and learn from me. 

With an agent....
You can expect to share 15% commission of your book advance/royalties/earnings for the lifetime of the book with your agent. The publisher writes the check out to your agent and then your agent will take their percentage out and send your check to you! 


 List of agents that I would recommend are:

Jan Miller   (inspiring people memoirs & celebrity self-help)

Celeste Fine  (experts, celebrity, corporate)

Bonnie Solow (self-help/non-fiction)

Dana Newman (boutique literary agency)



The number #3 lesson would be on royalty rates. My contract used a term called, "gross receipts" which means the actual amount the publisher receives. The error I made is that I didn't use an ascending scale for higher sales as you see below. 


For hardcover books, you can negotiate these approximate rates:
10% on first 5,000 copies
12.5% on next 5,000 copies
15% on all copies in excess of 10,000 copies


The most popular royalty rate I've seen is based on the suggested retail price of your book, or list price.
If your contract is based on the wholesale price, or net then I would go to your agent to discuss this point. This is the amount the bookseller or wholesaler paid,  plus deducting out expenses. 
A great blog post on the breakdown of royalty calculations is from publishing attorney Susan Spann.



The number #4 lesson I learned is to keep your SUBSIDIARY RIGHTS (non print related).
What are these? These are the rights to make a film, a made-for-television movie on Lifetime, or television series based on your book. It is also merchandising and a slew of other things on top. Reserve 100% of these rights! 


So with our heels firmly on the ground lets move forward! It's easy to get swept away with  the glam when you don't have a baseline, so here are some reality checks.

Reality Check #1 Royalties are in the lower range of $2 per a book.

Reality Check  #2 How many books are you dreaming of selling? Do you have great expectations? I'll let these sales from my favorite ladies tell you: 




The Good from The Real Housewives Book Sales:

Bethenny Frankel's Naturally Thin: Unleash Your Skinny Girl has sold 200,000+ copies since 2009.
That means she probably made a ball park sum of 400k before paying her agent (minus 60K) and then taxes.

Teresa Giduice sold 40,000 copies of Fabulicious! since 2011.

Brandi Glanville's Drinking and Tweeting was a bestseller with 26,000 copies sold.


The Not-So-Good:

Let Me Tell You Something by Caroline Manzo sold 6,000 copies.

Melissa Gorga Love Italian Style only sold 8,000 copies.

Class with the Countess by LouAnn de Lesseps racked up 9,000 sales since 2009.

Leggy Blonde by Aviva Drescher didn't crack the Amazon top 10,000 in sales.



If you don't like them apples, and believe you will make a million dollars with your book then here is link to fuel your publishing dreams. 
7 Figure Book Deal For First Time Author  Tim Ferriss




Did anything surprise you in here? Let me know in the comments!

xoxo,
Melissa






10 October 2014

Potluck Easy Chip & Chicken Casserole



If you need something fast and easy then this potluck dish is a sure thing!

I have tried to modify it over the years to make it healthier, such as swapping for all natural ingredients.  Regardless, it is always a crowd pleaser!  
It is also a great for dish if you are not in the mood for cooking two days in a row - the left overs taste just as good next day!


Ingredients:


  • Rotisserie Chicken, shredded. 
  • 1 bag of Knorr Rice Chicken and Broccoli (prepared)
  • 1 Cream of Mushroom Soup 
  • 1 Cream of Celery Soup
  • 2 cups of chopped broccoli florets 
  • 2 Tablespoons of minced onion
  • Cheddar Cheese (about 2 cups)
  • Original Potato Chips, 2 cups crushed
  • 1/4 cup of Chicken broth or water

Instructions:

  1. Prepare the Knorr rice as directed on package. Add your minced onion to saucepan. 
  2. Shred chicken, and preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  3. Combine and mix together the chicken, soups, broccoli and water/chicken broth to 9x13 baking pan.
  4. Cover mixture with cheddar cheese to your liking or about 2 cups.
  5. Now add your crushed potato chips to top off your casserole.
  6. Bake uncovered for 25-30 min. or until chips are light brown and the casserole is bubbling on sides.



Easy Peasy!

xo
Melissa



28 September 2014

Crock Pot Gyros



This was an easy and new recipe for our family to try out this Sunday!

And I don't know about you, but with kids, trying new recipes can turn out to be a flop fast! I was nervous that these gyros might be a bit spicy for the kiddos, but nope - THEY LOVED IT!
Plus I caught my husband sneaking back to the crock pot for more of the shredded meat.

I know the left overs won't go to waste on this one! WHEW

For the ingredients I went to the Target Super center by my house (while shopping for some sexy fall boots) and found these flat breads in the deli section. I had never bought the Stonefire NAAN Flatbreads before, but I have to say they were so pillowy and super soft!! Will buy them again.







If you have these spices in your pantry you are half way there on your shopping list for this recipe.

Oregano, Chili Powder, Cayenne Pepper, Cumin, Salt & Pepper.






Add one red onion sliced, 2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil  & 1 cup of Water to your  Crock Pot....and at least 2 Tablespoons of Garlic minced (add more if you are a garlic fan) to your 3 lb. Pork Loin Roast.






Now set your Crock Pot to low for 6-8 hrs. and let the aroma whiff around your kitchen.
Next up is your homemade slaw to set in the fridge  or you can buy a pre-made mix bag of coleslaw. Your choice.





HOMEMADE  SLAW: All you need for the sauce is some plain greek yogurt 3 Tablespoons & 3 Tablespoons of Mayo. Add 1.5 Tablespoon Sugar and Apple Cider Vinegar.  Mix in some chopped carrots, green cabbage and cherry tomatoes.  Place in fridge to chill at least one 1hr  before serving.

TO SHRED PORK: I used two forks and pulled with the grain of meat.
Then I warmed flatbread, and topped the shredded meat with the slaw.



Let me know if you give this recipe a try, or make any alterations to it. Or leave a comment with your favorite gyro recipe!

xoxo

Melissa



14 September 2014

DIY Crayon Organizer



This weekend I made this crayon organizer for a church classroom.
But it would be perfect too as a teacher's gift - maybe for teacher appreciation week?  I think it would work great in daycares, preschools,  a homeschool setup and a homework station. 

I got the inspiration from this amazing PIN on Pinterest from Spearmint Baby and decided to give it a go. Unfortunately, I didn't have many supplies on hand and needed to go shopping. I did wonder what would be the cost in the end, but I'll give you the deets on the cost as we go along ....


First, I went to Lowes and bought the pre-cut lumber piece (.75 in x 5.5 in x 24 in) and screws (8 x 3/4). Total at Lowes was $12.00.  







I decided to make 6 primary crayon colors.  I bought 7 GLOSS Kylon ColorMaster Cover Max spray paints  at Wal-Mart. Total at Wal-Mart was $26. 

If you have a collection of paint at home from other projects, this would be where your savings would add up! 






WHITE-for base
RED-Banner Red
ORANGE-Pumpkin Orange
YELLOW- Bright Idea
GREEN-Emerald Green
BLUE- True Blue


Then I used the cans of Nestle Media Crema I had in my in the pantry that was about to be thrown out. 

They were perfect because they had pull tab's!  No sharp edges! 

Of course, you could use any can you have around the pantry.





Next,  you'll have to remove the labels and the sticky residue glue. 
Removing the glue is EASY. 

Just fill a sauce pan full of water and add the cans,and heat on high. Let them get steamy hot. Then get a scrub brush and rub. The glue melts right off into the water.  

Another method is to use Olive Oil and rub it off, but that takes a lot of work!







Now you are ready to mark off your wood base. If you bought the same size of mine, I measured and marked every 2 inches.







Then I lined up the can seam with the pencil line on the wood base. 












Now I double check they line up all even. Then I hold the can while my husband drills them one screw in. 
Then we unscrew it { now we have a hole for when we paint the base } .

Next we let the cans dry and paint the base and cans. 




Next we let the cans dry and paint the base and cans. 





I found that it was best to paint them upside down. 






Let me know in the comments if have advice on spray painting or if you end up making one of these yourself !


11 September 2014

Gluten Free Taco Soup

Love Taco Soup like our family?

Well let me share our favorite recipe with you! It is slightly tweaked with ingredients that omit out the gluten and you can pick them up at any Target Supermarket or Sprouts grocery store.

Downside...yup it's slightly more to buy Gluten Free when you are comparing some of the ingredients side by side in price. Example: Campbell's Cream of Chicken Soup to Pacific brand it is almost double in dollar bills. However, it's just as yummy and healthier for you too - because it's missing the high corn fructose syrup (and of course the gluten).

The best part....its super fast & easy to make: 30 minutes!


GLUTEN FREE CHICKEN TACO SOUP


Ingredients:


Directions:

1. Add all your ingredients in your deep sauce pan and bring to a boil. Then reduce to a simmer for 30 minutes. 

2. Next serve and add your favorite garnishes.


Comment below to let me know if you gave our family Taco Soup a try, or tell me how you make your Taco soup at your home!

Melissa 

16 June 2013

DINING ROOM DECORATING

{Source: Tracery Interiors }

Sometimes it is hard for me to come up with the perfect "look" and "feel" for a space. (Staring at the room doesn't help either.)

Pinterest, has been my best decorating friend lately. A pin popped up on my wall that I instantly knew would be the solution to my current dining room needs. It came from the Southern Living Idea House 2012.

To see the video tour of the house click here.

I wanted my dining room to be casual, comfortable, pretty and timeless.

Check, check, check!

Plus, I could buy this room from Ballard's, and Ikea and not have to search stores for replicas (unless it's out of my budget)

Shopping List:

Ballard's Sofia Settee $1249

Ballard's Winged Chair $571.00 x 2 in Oatmeal Fabric

Next I'll need two side chairs...

Ballard's Gramercy Upholstered Chair $459.00 x 2

I did find chairs similar at World Market for $179.99 each Linen Hayden Dining Chair

Rug: Ikea TARNBY $99.00

Lantern: Ballard's Design Calisse 4 Light Lantern $349.00

The Southern Living Idea House Dining Room Editorial Picture
{Source: Southern Living}

In the editorial picture they took out the side chairs and replaced them with Ballard's Wood Plank Storage Benches $449.00 each.

Hope you are as inspired as me! New dining room on it's way....
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