Savor the Moments

We’ve all had out moments. Good moments and bad moments, happy moments and sad moments, moments of triumph and moments of failure. I, for one, have had moments that I’m extremely proud of and moments that have caused me great embarrassment. Huge embarrassment. I’m pretty sure I wet myself in the outfield of my first Pee Wee league game and then again when I overdrank at a brothers-only fraternity retreat. Not my proudest moments.

Let’s face it, we’ve all shared “moments” with friends, relatives, neighbors, co-workers, classmates, casual acquaintances and complete strangers. Moments that vary on the emotional Richter scale from regrettable to forgettable to absolutely remarkable. A positive moment (a first kiss), might be something we reflect on for a lifetime while a negative moment—like falling asleep at a wedding ceremony for example—might be something to bury in the past forever.

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Recently while watching my favorite “guilty pleasure” television series, This Is Us, I could totally relate when Rebecca, trying to make sense of her dysfunctional mother-son relationship with Kevin, said, “It wasn’t all bad. We had our moments. I feel it in my soul; we had some really good moments.” Yes, it choked me up, I’m sensitive that way. I own it. Given that my own daughters have struggled with a strained relationship for most of their teenage years, I had just told each of them, individually the day before, “It hasn’t all been bad, you’ve had some moments that were good and fun.” This obviously explains the reason for the mistiness in my eyes that particular Tuesday evening around 9:55.

Sibling Moments
As a brother with three sisters, I’ve shared a million moments, both good and bad, with these three she-devils. At any given time, over the last 50 years, at least one of them won’t talk to me. We have shared sad and happy moments when we cried at each of our parent’s funerals and celebrated at all of our children’s births.

We’ve also laughed at crazy, funny, silly moments that only siblings get or can relate to. However, my favorite moments were fleeting conversations that were both deeply personal and genuinely heartfelt—the type of conversation that only a brother and sister can appreciate. . . even when they’re not talking years later.

When I asked my daughters what their special moments together were, they talked about playing with Barbies for hours on rainy days; the joy as they walked into an American Girl Doll store for the first time; the excitement of seeing Santa placing gifts under the tree on Christmas Eve, and a spontaneous Sunday afternoon at a Giants game. See, despite a lot of nasty cat fights, they have had their sweet and positive moments.

Parenting Moments
The tender, loving, magical moments of being a parent are like nothing else. It starts with the moment you first hold your newborn baby. Life-changing will forever be an understatement. I loved the moments of stand-rocking my babies to sleep while listening to a Marc Cohn or Kenny Loggins CDs. Don’t judge.

Developmental moments such as first steps, first words, potty training or riding a bike are hard to describe unless you’ve been there to experience them first hand. What are just as momentous are times of sadness, emotion, sorrow, frustration and heartbreak that can be difficult and painful, but all part of the parenting experience. The moment I became a father was the greatest moment of my life, twice.

Parented Moments
My dad was a 24-year U.S. Navy veteran, born and bred in the south. Although he was a man of few words, we had our moments. The teaching me to drive moment or the fishing and shooting guns back in Texas moments are irreplaceable.

Anytime I felt I made him proud of me was a moment that’s hard for a son to describe in writing. My mom, on the other hand, was a “moment machine,” always encouraging, supporting and willing me to succeed in school, sports—downright everything.

Sadly, because they both passed away so young, all I have are those deeply personal moment memories to hold on to and pass along to my kids.

Marriage Moments
Asking someone to marry you is a nerve wracking, sweat-generating moment as is the actual marriage ceremony. Finding out you’re going to have a baby and then actually having one (or more) is a life altering moment. Married couples have plenty of moments, some bigger than others and not all easy ones to navigate, but every marriage is full of them.

Sports Moments
Sporting moments, aka “Glory Days,” often stay with us men forever. We can tell you about a little league homerun hit 45 years ago like it was yesterday. I hit three when I was twelve, for whatever that’s worth.

I’ve written about certain gridiron moments from high school or college that helped define me as a player. The moment I crossed the finish line at the 2011 Chicago Marathon puts an immediate smile on my face, knowing what went into accomplishing that feat.

There is always a lot of determination mixed with sweat and countless hours dedicated to any serious athletic endeavor, however those irreplaceable moments that will last a lifetime override all the pain and agony.

Work Moments
Work is work, but I’ve had a few moments as a commission salesman that were memorable. Closing that first deal, closing that huge deal, or closing that brain damaged difficult deal were all moments.

Leaving one company and starting with another is a cautiously optimistic/nervous excitement moment. Often times, it’s the people we work with that help create a moment that for some reason makes me think of the brilliant television sitcom, The Office.

Valentine’s Day Moments
I’m no Don Juan, but I’ve had my romantic moments. In the third grade I gave Kelly Mullford a plagiarized poem passing it off as my own. Sadly, Dr. Seuss has a certain, easy-to-identify style to his writing.

In my early 20’s, I had my girlfriend wait just inside Macy’s in San Francisco while I ran to get the car during a torrential downpour. Along the way, I stopped to buy her a bunch of flowers from a street vendor. I was drenched when I picked her up, but the gesture won me mooches smooches.

As a husband and father of daughters, my feel good moment was seeing my wife and little girls faces light up annually when the florist annually delivered flowers to all three of them at the same time.

Moments are just that, a moment in time that has a lasting impact. A moment can occur in an instant, jiffy or flash. It can last seconds, minutes or hours. There really is no defined duration of time that constitutes a moment.

While it can be fleeting, it can also be immeasurable as a lasting moment forever burned into your heart and mind. The key is to never stop trying to create a moment for yourself or someone else.

While an article I wrote a few years ago encouraged my readers to appreciate the small things, I’m now here to tell you: Savor the Moments!

All About Book Publishing

“I have a manuscript but would NEVER pay to have my book published.” Those were the words of a young author in response to my mentioning to him that in addition to publishing this magazine, ALIVE publishes books too, but in most cases the author pays the front-end cost to have their work published.

While we still hear the sentiment expressed by this young author occasionally, it is really just a throwback from a bygone era when it was assumed that a handful of large publishing houses served as the gatekeepers in the industry. I say “assumed,” because unbeknownst to many, largely due to technological advancements, this is no longer the case, as smaller, independent publishing houses like ALIVE now compete, toe to toe, with better-known publishers like Random House.

In fact, what this author didn’t realize was that, had he chosen to submit his manuscript to us at ALIVE Books, assuming we approved his work, in as little as 90 days his book would have been in front of the same book buyers around the world as the current best-selling authors’.

The Three Paths of Book Publishing

There are three ways to go about having your book published: traditional, subsidy, and self-publishing. All three have advantages and disadvantages, and the path you take largely depends upon your reason(s) for wanting to see your book in print. Some authors simply want to see their work bound in a book format with the intention of sharing it with family and close friends; some have a desire to share a story or communicate an idea with as many people as possible, and some—the majority—have commercial success in mind, even if as only a “side benefit” of reason number two.

Path #1: Traditional Publishing

In the past, the traditional route was considered the only path. This is where the author begins the process by sending query letters—essentially a “sales pitch,” intended to capture the attention of a literary agent or publisher. The query letter includes a description of the proposed (or completed) work and the intended audience for the work, and some information about the author (a bio). The idea here is, if the author’s pitch is compelling, they will then be afforded an opportunity to have a publisher review the author’s manuscript, and if it is “good enough,” the publishing house may agree to publish the author’s work.

If one hopes to have their work considered by one of the larger, better recognized publishing houses like Random House or Harper Collins, it is essential that the author be represented by an experienced agent.

Unfortunately, this path is usually a long and unfulfilling process. Few authors “make the cut,” as most agents and large publishing companies are so inundated with queries that they reject all submissions they are unable to classify with 100% certainty as “marketable.”

The most likely candidates to have their work represented by established agents and then considered by major brand publishing houses are celebrities and personalities with well-recognized names (the Clintons, Trumps, Kaepernicks, and Kardashians) or authors who have already demonstrated—through previous subsidy or self-publishing success—that their work sells. The simple truth is, publishing is first and foremost a business and the days of “speculating” on unknown authors are long gone. The only relevant question any Madison Avenue publishing house asks about an author’s manuscript is: “How many books will sell upon release?”

For example, prior to January 2009, ALIVE Magazine’s fitness columnist was Lorrie Sullenberger, the wife of the now famous pilot, Sully, who successfully landed his plane in the Hudson River. Prior to the landing, had Sully approached one of the major publishing houses with a query letter about writing a book about his experiences as an airline pilot, it’s likely he would have received the typical response—a rejection letter.

However, by the happenstance of a flock of geese colliding with his plane and his subsequent artful skill in landing that plane, Sully became an instant celebrity. At the risk of sounding crass, Sully became a marketable commodity. He was offered a two-book deal by a major publishing house.

While traditional publishing provides advantages—namely brand recognition and the ability to have books placed onto the shelves of major book retailers and warehouse stores like Costco, the profit margin for authors on each book sold can be very thin indeed—miniscule, in fact. The big houses are betting on mega-volumes of units sold—preferably millions of books—so they are looking for authors that fall into just a few, select categories. First, they are looking for authors that have either proven themselves in a literary-marketing sense; ones who can re-produce work that will be eagerly snatched-up by their fans (the Grishams, Kings, Steels, Pattersons and Rowlings). Next, they are happy to publish the works of someone well known and currently popular; actors, sports stars and politicians for example; or anyone making news, like Sully, right after his remarkable landing.

In all these cases, if all goes as hoped, an author might earn thousands, tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. In some cases, where other media companies (film) become interested, millions can be earned by an author. And the publishing houses, of course, enjoy significantly greater returns in all these scenarios.

But what if you are chosen by a major publishing house and your book doesn’t sell in the thousands? In this case, there are a few other challenges associated with traditional publishing. One of the little-known secrets you rarely hear about is that major publishing houses will remove a book from circulation—take it “out of print”—if it fails to sell in significant quantities within a given period. Likewise, if a book fails to meet the publisher’s sales expectations, major publishing houses will sometimes demand that any “advances” paid be returned by the author. Ouch!

The sad truth is, unless he has already personally sold a few thousand copies of his work, or has the last name Kardashian or Clinton, authors like the young man mentioned previously will likely never see their book published. The only reasonable—and wisest—route open to this young author is self or subsidy publishing.

Path #2: Self Publishing

It is possible to self publish your book. The main advantage to self publishing is that you control 100% of the process. The main disadvantage to self publishing is… you control 100% of the process!

You will earn the highest margin of profit this way, but that is because you will be doing all the work yourself. The steps involved are numerous, and if your plan is to produce a quality product (your book) that sells well and sells enough copies to be commercially successful, you need a very large tool-box of skill sets.

Self publishing means that you will not only write your book, you’ll need to edit it, design and create the cover, design and format the interior pages, obtain the necessary ISBN and bar code, file your copyright, and obtain your Library of Congress Control Number. And then you’ll need to know where and how to have your book printed.

Assuming then that you want to sell your book with a hope of making a substantial amount of money, you’ll need to market it in some way. Remember, even though you will make the most money per book by publishing and marketing it yourself, in order to make very much, you’ll still need to sell a lot of books, and to do that, you’ll need to know how to make your book available through large online resellers like Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and to thousands of ancillary online wholesalers and retailers. Will you know how and where to make your book available to independent bookstores and libraries throughout the country and worldwide? Will you know how to re-format your book as an e-book and be able to make it available that way in the marketplace? Will you be able to create your own website, promotional materials, and press releases? In short, do you already have the knowledge, technical and artistic skills, connections and resources to truly “publish” and market your book?

Self publishing is an option if you’ve written a book. . . and then again so is building your own car if you want to travel. . . but sometimes just being the driver—or author—is a more logical choice.

Path #3: Subsidy Publishing

The final path of publishing is subsidy publishing. Years ago this was considered a second rate method, supposedly used only by desperate authors whose work was not “good enough” or had been rejected by traditional publishers. It was implied that authors who chose this route were having their work published merely for the sake of bragging rights, as in, “hello, my name is Joe Smith, and I am an author.”

The fact is however, many highly successful writers got their start this way, and in light of the realities of the traditional or self publishing routes, this is the most logical, effective, and affordable way for any author to have their work published.

To be sure, there are a plethora of subsidy publishing companies to be found online, most of which offering a menu of various services designed to get your book published. Most have low cost options to start, but just like in self publishing, the more they do for you, the more it costs.

One of the major disadvantages of online subsidy publishing companies is their absence of personalized, customized service. Looking at it from their perspective, because they function and compete solely in the very crowded online universe, they have designed their services with that in mind, so they often limit authors to “A, B or C” cover template options for example, or “Gold, Silver and Platinum” packages, each with narrowly defined options. And in most cases, these services are automated, whereby the author’s work is pushed into a pre-existing format—what could be called the “cookie cutter process.”

Finally, another very important consideration when considering subsidy or self publishing companies online is their ability—or, more accurately, lack of—to market and promote the author’s book. While most of these publishers offer a variety of services, they most often are limited to very basic, simple things, like providing the author with a stack of postcards, or to writing up a “professional” press release. Some will even claim to include a website, which is really just a page on the web that displays the author’s work, with no functionality included.

The fact is, while web-only based publishing services can publish an author’s book, they are limited in what that entails. You won’t be meeting with their art director or designer, for example, to discuss one of the most important marketing elements of any book —the cover; nor will you be able to select a font style from a vast collection of options for the text of your book. And while these online companies claim to offer marketing services, the fact is, they only offer a thin veneer of “marketing-like” resources at best.

Lastly, there is one other type of service to be aware of—authors who have self-published their own book(s) who now advertise themselves as a “publishing company.” While these individuals may have navigated their way though the maze of requirements listed previously so as to get their own book(s) listed on Amazon, this type of service is often akin to someone who wins a case in traffic court marketing themselves as a lawyer. If the first book they published was their own, they may be qualified as someone who can guide an author in the self-publishing process, but they are hardly a publishing “company.”

The Author’s Publishing Quandry

Does all this sound a bit hopeless? Are you beginning to wonder if there are any viable options available to the author who wants to have their book not just published, but effectively and successfully marketed as well?

Let’s get something out of the way, right from the beginning: Regardless of the reason that an author has for wanting to have their book published, the only reason any publisher will agree to take on an authors work is if they believe it will be a profitable venture; plainly stated, the goal is to make money—period.

Large commercial publishers are banking on a proven track record or an author’s “celebrity” status, while online subsidy publishers are just interested in having the author pay to be published in a “cookie cutter” process, and are ill-equipped and will do little, if anything, to help market, advertise or sell books for an author.

An Alternative Answer

After thinking about this dilemma, it occurred to us that with our vast experience in magazine publishing, we could create a kind of “hybrid” publishing company that not only publishes an author’s work, but does so in ways that meet each author’s unique needs and situation; and one that also market books in ways that are truly effective yet affordable.

Enter, ALIVE Book Publishing, where we provide what no online publishing company can—a one-on-one, face to face relationship, every step of the way. We consider every publishing job we undertake to be a unique partnership, so we work with our authors and their projects in a hands-on, individual way. One size does not fit all with ALIVE, so we don’t have set formulas for the projects we accept. We even sometimes even invest more in the project than the author because our ultimate goal is for the author’s book to sell successfully.

And, best of all, ALIVE is uniquely equipped to market and advertise an author’s book like no other publishing company because we are the only publisher with multi-media marketing and advertising tools, and the expertise required to put real power into a local book launch.

A Word About Printing On Demand—“POD”

POD is a smart, efficient and fast method of book production used as an alternative to, or in conjunction with, traditional offset printing methods. POD books are digitally archived and printed individually as they are ordered (on demand). This is the process we use at ALIVE Book Publishing.

Up-front productions costs are low, and because books are stored digitally and then printed and shipped in as little as twelve hours from the time of each order, books are, in most cases, always listed as being “in stock” by retailers.

Although POD books are produced quickly, there is no obvious difference in the appearance or quality of books produced in this way, as compared to books produced in traditional, offset printing methods. Book buyers have no way of knowing if the book they are purchasing is coming from a POD digital archive or from a traditional, offset-produced book inventory.

Another advantage of the POD component is that authors can inexpensively launch a “pilot study” version of a book into the marketplace and then easily make modifications to that book, if needed.

Our “Hybrid” publishing services can include a combination of POD and traditional, offset production methods, along with a good mix of marketing and worldwide distribution of an author’s book. ALIVE has a vast and powerful array of optional marketing components, all designed to provide the author with a comprehensive, effective and powerful initial book launch, into both the local and global marketplace.

What Does ALIVE Publishing Do?

The typical services we provide for all authors includes personal advice as to the overall concept of the book project; a custom cover design; layout and formatting of the book’s interior pages; the determination of the best price for the book; obtaining the required ISBN and bar code for the book; filing for a Library of Congress Control Number; and POD set-up of every book.

We then advertise all our authors’ books in the Ingram Book Catalog, reaching every bookstore and library in the country. This is THE catalog book retailer use to choose what books they will sell in their stores. We also list all our authors’ books through major online distribution channels like Amazon and Barnes and Noble, as well as throughout an established network of over 35,000 wholesalers, retailers and booksellers in over 100 countries.

We are also able to provide comprehensive editing and formatting in all e-book formats, and we offer a wide variety of marketing and advertising options. We create and run display ads in ALIVE Magazine; create professional, fully-functional order-fulfillment-capable websites, and can produce professional videos for online and TV. Oh yes, and we also have a professional public relations specialist available to work with our authors, also on a face-to-face basis.

Putting it All Together: What Does it All Mean?

While advances in technology have radically changed the publishing landscape to the point where anyone with a computer and a credit card can become a published author, as I noted earlier, this is not going to be enough if an author wants to successfully break into the book market.

If everyone on the planet already knows who you are, you might consider having your book published via the traditional path. If you have all the skills and resources to go it all alone, self publishing may work for you. If you’re only interested in a tiny, short-lived yet possibly expensive ego boost, go ahead and send your manuscript into “the cloud,” and hope for the best.

But if your goal is to be serious about your book project and its chances for success, I suggest you elicit the aid of and partnership with a local publishing company that will be as serious and careful about your project as you are—ALIVE Book Publishing.

Email (eric@alivebookpublishing.com) or call me today at 925-837-7303 for a free, confidential, one-on-one appointment, and tomorrow you may be well on your way toward having your book published!

The Littlest Angel

As part of my “Let There Be Light” series of articles, I plan to introduce you to my thoughts and views about the benefits of music and graphic arts enrichment programs, in addition to sharing knowledge about theater companies that specifically are tailored towards ameliorating the needs of our communities’ children. I’m going to start first with a local company that is near and dear to my heart and whose facilitators I have known, reviewed, and with whom I have witnessed incredibly positive results in the children they have mentored and instructed over the past 15 or more years.

At the end of November of 2017, I was invited to review a rehearsal in a children’s theater program entitled “The Littlest Angel,” written and directed by Stephanie Lauck for the Theater Performance Workshop (TPW) which routinely performs in the Danville Village Theater. The artistic director and founder of this program is Jeff Seaberg, who has been directing, writing, and teaching children in the theater arts for the past twenty-six years, at least fourteen of which have remained exclusively in Danville. Prior to that, he spent ten years in El Cerrito managing the Contra Costa Civic Theater and did their drama campaign for ten summers. When he moved to Danville, he asked the CCCT director, Kathleen Ray, if he could conduct their program in this geographic area. She agreed and he began an afterschool program during the school year and a summer camp during the summer.

The afterschool program is a class that meets twice a week, Tuesdays and Thursdays, after school from 3:30 to 4:45 pm. According to Mr. Seaberg, “We do completely original custom-made productions that we have written ourselves. That’s why we call it the Theater Performance Workshop.” Jeff works with his partner and personal assistant, Stephanie Lauck, on these shows. “For example,” says Mr. Seaberg, “if we discover that some of our students have special talents such as singing, or instrument acuity, or gymnastic ability, we will write shows that incorporate the natural talents of our young people.” He will often actually write a part specifically suited to the talents of a particular child or the children in the show. One could call this theater, tailor-made theater. This seems to be one of the reasons why this program is so popular with the children, because it becomes very personal to each and every child involved and helps play to their natural talents and helps to encourage the formation of unknown talents. Jeff Seaberg continues, “For eight weeks we meet twice a week, we do all the basic nuts and bolts, do monologues, script auditions, do auditions, cast the show, block the entire show. The children memorize their lines and rehearse their part.” Depending on how booked the Danville Village Theater is (located at 233 Front St. in Danville), they may rehearse there for a time or in a separate teaching facility located in the Hap McGee Park complex. After about eight or nine weeks of rehearsal, they do five performances over a one weekend time span. They begin with a school matinee on a Thursday night, followed by 7:00 pm performances on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, including two 2:00 pm matinee performances.

Stephanie Locke actually began her exploration of theater arts at the Village Theatre in Danville when she was ten years old, under the direction and instruction of a very well-known children’s theater director at the time, Sonja Lawson. “Sonja (says Stephanie) was incredible. She did musicals. Miss Lawson was my inspiration and she gave me the inspiration and satisfaction to love theater. This was at a time in my life when I really hated school, the reason in part, was because at the same time I was diagnosed with dyslexia. When you have a disability in school it makes it hard to make friends, it makes it hard to keep your grades up, and it really brings you down. Putting me in theater totally brought me out of my shell. I made friends who were much in the same situation. I soon discovered that life is not always as difficult as we might perceive. I even had friends who discovered at ten years of age that they were gay and they couldn’t handle school any better than me. I stayed with the Danville program until I was about age fifteen. When I was twenty-four, I met Jeff Seaberg and he hired me to assist him in this program.”

Over a ten-year period, Jeff and Stephanie estimate that they have graduated over 2000 students who have participated in an accumulation of seventy or more shows. Further, the company has an average rate of return of approximately 50% to 60% of students every year. One girl has been in over twenty plays. As the student’s abilities and expectations grow, Jeff and Stephanie expand and enhance the parts they play to further engage the growing talents of each child. Having the ability to create custom tailored shows sets this theater apart as a great learning place over many other theaters which produce the typical shows. In addition, many times it is difficult to encourage boys, as they, on occasion, are not into dancing and singing. Mr. Seaberg deliberately makes his plays “boy friendly,” by creating a “super hero show, aka/the Captain Cool Show,” every year. In other words, according to Jeff’s motto, “It allows the kids to fit the skin they’re in.” Also, I tell parents that “this is not a star making program, it’s an experiential program.”

If you have a child, grandchild or young person in mind who you feel might benefit from such a program as this, contact this organization by calling (510) 517-1336 and start the conversation. The cost to participate in this program is very reasonable starting at approximately $425 for the TPW (Theater Performance Workshop) afterschool program, and up to $520 for KAOS (Kids Acting On Stage),which is a summer two week program. Children between seven and fourteen need no prior experience is in theater. The summer program takes place over a two week period, in which the children do a full play and make a mini movie. The school runs from nine o’clock in the morning until 3:30 in the afternoon, Monday through Friday.

Italian Love Notes

Valentine’s Day is around the corner: yet another reason for consumers to rush to the shops with mad looks in their eyes, searching for just the right card, box of chocolates, bouquet of flowers, or bottle of sparkling wine. But why? Does anyone remember why we celebrate Valentine’s Day at all?

Saint Valentine was a Catholic priest in 3rd Century Rome. He conducted secret marriage ceremonies for Roman soldiers who were denied the legal right to marry. Because of this, his name became synonymous with love. Valentine was eventually jailed for his actions. While in jail, the good-hearted saint allegedly fell in love with his jailor’s blind daughter and cured her blindness. Just before Valentine was executed on February 14, in the year 270, it is said that he wrote the girl a love note signed, “from your Valentine.”

Eventually, the Pope named the 14th of February “St. Valentine’s Day” and ever since, Valentine’s Day has been considered a day to celebrate romantic love. The practice of sending love notes to one’s true love on Valentine’s Day became hugely popular around the world. Sadly, most of this heart-struck lore has been forgotten with time and even poor Saint Valentine’s name has been corrupted.

Many people walking down the street today actually believe the day is called “Valentime’s Day.” With an “M”. It’s heartbreaking. Nevertheless, what people do know for certain is that if the 14th of February rolls around and they don’t have red roses and a dinner reservation to share with their beloved, all is lost.

Valentine’s Day is a great opportunity for everyone to shake off the “After Christmas Blues” and celebrate love and friendship. Sparkling wine is a natural choice. In honor of an Italian saint, why not make merry Italian-style? There are so many options from which to choose. What a perfect occasion to get acquainted with some of Italy’s best bubbles.

Franciacorta is Italy’s beautifully crafted version of champagne. The Italians use the same grapes and the same methods of production as they do in the Champagne region of France. We don’t see a lot of Franciacorta here in the USA so it’s easy to forget how good it is. Like a little secret the Italians prefer to keep to themselves, 98% of Franciacorta production is consumed within Italy. And who can blame them? Franciacorta is delicious and on a par with the best of the best in Champagne. Ask for it by name at your favorite wine shop and be prepared to be delighted.

Good Franciacorta retails at about $40 and up. Like champagne, it is a gorgeous lemony color with tiny, persistent bubbles. Toasty flavors of brioche and roasted nuts envelope the palate and are rounded off by a touch of baked apple, creamy butterscotch, and perhaps a hint of minerality at the finish. Impressive indeed.

For an offering that is lighter and less pricy, you could try an Italian Prosecco, which retails from $7.99 and up. Prosecco is always tasty and festive with bright aromas of pears, golden apples, and acacia blossoms. It is a favorite at every gathering and perfect for a special, romantic tete-a-tete.

For a splash of color, you may want to try something off the beaten track, a sparkling red Lambrusco, retailing from $12.99 and up. Lambrusco is an Italian original: fruity on the nose with aromas of red fruit, rose petals, and green geranium. It’s dry on the palate with an engagingly soft, bubbly mousse. Lambrusco is a terrific “food wine” to accompany charcuterie, cheeses, and your favorite Italian dishes. Why drink the same old wines when you can have an authentic Italian wine experience?

Don’t forget about dessert! Moscato D’Asti and Asti, which retail at $12.99 and up, are delicate and youthful with aromas of sage leaves and rosewater. The palate is lovely and mild, with lightly sweet flavors of white peaches and a hint of mandarin. They pair effortlessly with fruit-based desserts like apple pie or a fruit tart, and are guaranteed to bring a smile to your face and to the lips of your beloved.

Make Valentine’s Day special this year. Delight your loved one with something different and original. Let the romance flow. Get creative. Go Italian!

Happy Valentine’s Day. Cheers!