I picked the wrong “Magic” Pen

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If you watched the season finale of Once Upon a Time, the show is ALL ABOUT THE WRITER/AUTHOR… Yes, us struggling writers are FINALLY the “heroes”, only this guy is so NOT. (I’m sure the actual writers of the show LOVE this, and the fact that Issac, the writer is Jewish,, as am I and also the writer of OUAT, is equally an inside joke)

Now, he’s how MY life imitates art… or there is a SPY in my house taking notes…

In the opening of the episode the writer is asked to choose from several pens to decide if he’s THE author…Here is a pix of one of the pens that was on the desk in the show AND the exact pewter pen that is on my desk that I used to sign my books with!

Unfortunately, it wasn’t the “magic” pen, so now I know why my books didn’t make the best seller list, I CHOSE THE WRONG DAMN PEN!!

I can’t write with quill and ink anyway!

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First Class Male Review by Citizens Journal

1stClassMalesmallFINAL I have to warn you about this book.  Once you pick it up a start reading it is almost impossible to put down and it will keep you up reading way past your bedtime.  I have to use the classic phrase: it is a page turner.  The plot and characters are very unique in many ways and very comfortable in others.  I won’t spoil it for you so I will not talk about the story which features two very unlikely romantic lead characters.  One is a retired lawyer from the NY City DA’s office want-to-be author and the other a rural postmaster living the life he totally loves.

Raven West has the amazing ability to create love stories that involve conflict, mystery and suspense.  She brings her characters to  life and they are very much alive.  The relationships are always very romantic but remain on the excellent side of good taste.  The geographic locations and scenes come to life as the action unfolds and provide a vivid stage for the story to unfold.  There is suspense and drama set in New York City and up-state New York small towns”. – CITIZENS JOURNAL – Reviewed by David Stewart

Buy FIRST CLASS MALE at Amazon!

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A New Look for the Next Decade!

It’s been a long time since I’ve updated my professional headshot. The curls are natural, won’t say the same about the color! Looks great on the flyer for my book signing event on July 19. Maybe the start (or re-start) of my published book tour!

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If Fiction Authors ARE Fictional, How do REAL Authors Find Success?

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As fiction writers we see the world in a different way than most. We’re magicians in a land of skeptics; the court jesters who, for a brief moment, help the downtrodden forget how much they hate their rulers.

We create hope for the hopeless, unlimited possibilities where everything seems impossible. Even when our own reality is less than ideal, even the face of relentless obstacles and disappointments, we write on.

We’re not actors pretending to be someone we aren’t. We’re not copy-cats, or cogs, or cubicle dwellers content to live a “normal” day-to-day existence. We know, deep down, that we are unique, our talent is as exceptional as the words we put on a page, each and every one in an infinite combination of letters. We do this in the hope that someday, someone, somewhere will read our labor of love and validate our self-worth.

Which really sucks.

Yet, even in fiction, the epitome of success and reason to celebrate is being able to say “I’m published”.  Entire television series are created around fiction authors of fiction. The irony that there is an actual writer putting words in the mouth of the fictional writer doesn’t escape me. Nor does the fact that the fictional writer is a lot more famous and a LOT wealthier than the actual writer who created him escape me as well.

It probably doesn’t escape anyone else either that Nathan Fallion, the actor who plays the writer Richard Castle on Castle, not only has two mystery novels on the best seller list, but Castle also has a full fictional bio, Facebook page and twitter account. He’s a world famous writer who has never written a single word. Or that his fans who line up for book signings neither know, nor care. Except for the ghost writer who can’t tell anyone that he or she actually wrote the book.

So, he kills the phony actor-writer, which come to think of it would make an excellent plot for an episode of Castle!

On a recent episode of Bones, where the lead character receives a royalty check of $75,000 for her not-really-published novel and another gives his fellow scientists and friends a notebook with his completed written novel for them to read and critique, (because none of these brilliant scientist have an ebook reader?) Of course the book is awful, of course his friends lie to him about how good it is, and of course just as they’re about to tell him the truth, he announces that he’s just heard from a publisher (another brilliant scientist who doesn’t know about agents?) and that he, too is getting published. It seems that even fake terrible writers can get published if the real writer with real talent makes it so.

I’d like to strangle him.

In a literary world where fake writers, 6 year-old kids, angst-ridden tweens and sexually frustrated color-blind hacks are achieving, literally overnight success, what do the real, talented, dedicated writers do?

We do what we’ve always done. From the first day we could talk, we told stories. From the moment we could pick up a pen, or a pencil, or type on a computer keyboard, we created worlds and characters and plots no one else ever thought of. We continue to make the magic, and pull a few more rabbits out of our hats whether or not there’s an audience to perform for. We continue to jest for those who remain to applaud. We’ll always create hope and dream of those unlimited possibilities where everything seems impossible and we will continue even when our own reality is less than ideal, even the face of relentless obstacles and disappointments…

… we write on.

 

 

 

 

 

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Break Free From the Herd and be Heard

cow[1]Before the publishing world was hit by the tsunami of digital and on-demand self-publishing, there was a certain amount of admiration and prestige associated with being a published author. Our family would congratulate us and brag to their friends about their mother, father, son, daughter, second cousin twice removed, whose name they would drop at any party right after “my (insert relation here) just published” a novel.

We authors had it easy. We wrote to and were rejected by agent after agent, until one day the phone rang and a contract would follow. Then, we sat back and waited while that agent submitted to and was rejected by publisher after publisher, until one day when their phone would ring and a contract would follow.

During those anxious times spent waiting and hoping, we also had the time to work on the next novel. And depending on how long that waiting lasted, the next and the next and the next.

And then, after that publishing contract was signed, the publisher would do their job of marketing, distribution, arranging book signings and book fair appearances, leaving us to spend those times in between events, to write the next novel, and the next and the next and the next.

How times have changed.

Today, authors need to spend just as much if not more time on the marketing and promotion of our work then we do actually writing.  Where once we were small number of cows out in the field easily noticed among the tall grass, we’re now just another one of the herd, trying to moo louder that all the other cows just to be noticed.

And the pasture is getting more and more crowded and it’s getting harder and harder to moo. So, we must find a way to break free and make sure that the rest of the herd won’t instantly follow. The dilemma is to discover where the exit.

There is no dearth of marketing opportunities out there. The key is knowing which one is legit and which might be a scam. If the service charges a fee, how much is too much and how do you know if you’ll see any results from however much you spend?

Here’s a list of guidelines that created that may or may not be helpful for your own marketing efforts. As far as paying for services:

1)      If you find a service you think might be beneficial, set a limit as to how much you can afford to spend on any 1 marketing plan and stick to it.

2)      Avoid web sites that describe themselves as “authors helping authors”

3)      Offers to review your book in exchange for reviewing their book. These aren’t necessary for a fee, but do you really need to be spending your time reading someone else’s books instead of writing your own?

4)      Internet radio interviews. The first one may be free, but there may be a charge for an archive of the show which is really necessary for people to find you.

5)      Contests that charge an entrance fee. (my personal bias)

6)      Unsolicited email offers that start with “Dear Author”

7)      Unsolicited email offers from sites you’ve never seen that start with “Dear.. your name”

These are just my top 7, but you get the point. Marketing opportunities will present themselves , just plan how much of your valuable time and hard earned money you’re willing to spend.

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Break Out of the Herd and Be Heard

cowBefore the publishing world was hit by the tsunami of digital and on-demand self-publishing, there was a certain amount of admiration and prestige associated with being a published author. Our family would congratulate us and brag to their friends about their mother, father, son, daughter, second cousin twice removed, whose name they would drop at any party right after “my (insert relation here) just published” a novel.

We authors had it easy. We wrote to and were rejected by agent after agent, until one day the phone rang and a contract would follow. Then, we sat back and waited while that agent submitted to and was rejected by publisher after publisher, until one day when their phone would ring and a contract would follow.

During those anxious times spent waiting and hoping, we also had the time to work on the next novel. And depending on how long that waiting lasted, the next and the next and the next.

And then, after that publishing contract was signed, the publisher would do their job of marketing, distribution, arranging book signings and book fair appearances, leaving us to spend those times in between events, to write the next novel, and the next and the next and the next.

How times have changed.

Today, authors need to spend just as much if not more time on the marketing and promotion of our work then we do actually writing.  Where once we were small number of cows out in the field easily noticed among the tall grass, we’re now just another one of the herd, trying to moo louder that all the other cows just to be noticed.

And the pasture is getting more and more crowded and it’s getting harder and harder to moo. So, we must find a way to break free and make sure that the rest of the herd won’t instantly follow. The dilemma is to discover where the exit.

There is no dearth of marketing opportunities out there. The key is knowing which one is legit and which might be a scam. If the service charges a fee, how much is too much and how do you know if you’ll see any results from however much you spend?

Here’s a list of guidelines that created that may or may not be helpful for your own marketing efforts. As far as paying for services:

1)      If you find a service you think might be beneficial, set a limit as to how much you can afford to spend on any 1 marketing plan and stick to it.

2)      Avoid web sites that describe themselves as “authors helping authors”

3)      Offers to review your book in exchange for reviewing their book. These aren’t necessary for a fee, but do you really need to be spending your time reading someone else’s books instead of writing your own?

4)      Internet radio interviews. The first one may be free, but there may be a charge for an archive of the show which is really necessary for people to find you.

5)      Contests that charge an entrance fee. (my personal bias)

6)      Unsolicited email offers that start with “Dear Author”

7)      Unsolicited email offers from sites you’ve never seen that start with “Dear.. your name”

These are just my top 7, but you get the point. Marketing opportunities will present themselves , just plan how much of your valuable time and hard earned money you’re willing to spend.

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Break Free From the Herd and Be Heard

cowBefore the publishing world was hit by the tsunami of digital and on-demand self-publishing, there was a certain amount of admiration and prestige associated with being a published author. Our family would congratulate us and brag to their friends about their mother, father, son, daughter, second cousin twice removed, whose name they would drop at any party right after “my (insert relation here) just published” a novel.

We authors had it easy. We wrote to and were rejected by agent after agent, until one day the phone rang and a contract would follow. Then, we sat back and waited while that agent submitted to and was rejected by publisher after publisher, until one day when their phone would ring and a contract would follow.

During those anxious times spent waiting and hoping, we also had the time to work on the next novel. And depending on how long that waiting lasted, the next and the next and the next.

And then, after that publishing contract was signed, the publisher would do their job of marketing, distribution, arranging book signings and book fair appearances, leaving us to spend those times in between events, to write the next novel, and the next and the next and the next.

How times have changed.

Today, authors need to spend just as much if not more time on the marketing and promotion of our work then we do actually writing.  Where once we were small number of cows out in the field easily noticed among the tall grass, we’re now just another one of the herd, trying to moo louder that all the other cows just to be noticed.

And the pasture is getting more and more crowded and it’s getting harder and harder to moo. So, we must find a way to break free and make sure that the rest of the herd won’t instantly follow. The dilemma is to discover where the exit.

There is no dearth of marketing opportunities out there. The key is knowing which one is legit and which might be a scam. If the service charges a fee, how much is too much and how do you know if you’ll see any results from however much you spend?

Here’s a list of guidelines that created that may or may not be helpful for your own marketing efforts. As far as paying for services:

1)      If you find a service you think might be beneficial, set a limit as to how much you can afford to spend on any 1 marketing plan and stick to it.

2)      Avoid web sites that describe themselves as “authors helping authors”

3)      Offers to review your book in exchange for reviewing their book. These aren’t necessary for a fee, but do you really need to be spending your time reading someone else’s books instead of writing your own?

4)      Internet radio interviews. The first one may be free, but there may be a charge for an archive of the show which is really necessary for people to find you.

5)      Contests that charge an entrance fee. (my personal bias)

6)      Unsolicited email offers that start with “Dear Author”

7)      Unsolicited email offers from sites you’ve never seen that start with “Dear.. your name”

These are just my top 7, but you get the point. Marketing opportunities will present themselves , just plan how much of your valuable time and hard earned money you’re willing to spend.

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Can Visualizing Success Make It Happen?

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The other day I was in a convenience store and noticed a rack with several books on sale by an author I didn’t know. My first thought was “that will never be my books”. Then, my inner voice smacked me in the face (metaphorically, of course) and replaced that thought with a vision of my books being on that rack someday.

A positive image superseding a negative one.  For a moment, I could actually see my books for sale in the display, and I thought “why not?”

If there really is such a thing as positive thoughts creating a positive reality, then this was definitely a perfect example.  

I believe that I’m a good writer. Not because I wrote three novels, but because I read all three novels. More than once. I have full confidence that my stories are exceptional, and that the time I spend agonizing over every little word that I write will somehow be recognized by millions of readers one day.

I started singing,badly I’ll admit, a song from Funny Girl “I’m the greatest star, I am by far, but no one knows it.

Once I replaced those negative thoughts with the positive ones, a strange thing happened. I checked my Smashwords account and discovered 31 Ebooks had sold in a week, another 6 one day later! I had actually broke the 900 mark!  

Then, I received an email from a literally agent I had sent my book proposal to several months ago that she was very interested in representing me for Undercover Reunion and possibly the next two novel works in progress as well!!

Maybe this positive thinking idea really did work. Then again…

I remembered another best-selling book called the “Secret of Attraction”, wherein the theory is that if you send out positive energy to the universe, it would “attract” positive things in your life. The problem with this theory is that it goes against basic physics that states just the opposite. Or more precisely, opposites attract.  A common magnet validates this theory. So, based on reality, if you throw out positive energy, what attracts is the opposite… negative results.

When we buy a lottery ticket, there is a certain amount of time to dream of the what if. That time between the purchase and the dropping of those balls, the world is wide open to imagine so many possibilities. Then, the inevitable happens and not one of our numbers comes up. But we spend yet another dollar, or two, or five just for few more days of hope and dreams.

We imagine all those lovely possibilities.

So, as I looked at that rack of books that were written by someone else and imagined those were mine, and all those lovely possibilities, I went home and booted up my laptop and started writing. Even if it is only this blog. Even if only 154 people read these words, taking action was so much more gratifying than sitting and hoping and quoting some old song.

Positive thoughts are great, but positive actions are so much better! Dreams come true with a great deal of hard work and a bit of luck. The only real positive energy is the action that we take based on those positive thoughts. Buy that lottery ticket. Send your resume to that perfect job you want. Go to conferences, network, email, write blogs, re-tweet, contacts and follow everyone to build your fan base. Don’t just sit around sending positive vibes into a black universe that has no interest in your dreams. Make those dreams reality!

So, keep dreaming, keep hoping and if it helps, keep praying. But most of all…

Keep writing.

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How Do You Come Up with Ideas for a Novel?

When you introduce yourself as an author, the second question you’ll probably hear most often, after the inevitable “are you self-published?” is “how do you come up with ideas for your novel?”. Setting aside the first question for now, my response is how do I not come up with ideas for my next novel?
           
For those of us who are cursed with an overactive imagination, stories, characters, plots and themes exist in every second of every minute of each and every day. Take a walk on the beach on a beautiful sunny California day and stop, along with many others, to watch the surfers ride and get wiped out on the waves. While there have been hundreds of stories about the surfing world, what I noticed was the one guy, slightly balding, looked like was maybe 45 or 50 in a solid black wet suit, surf board by his side, doing stretches before joining the younger crowd.

I began to think of story of an aging baby boomer who, in his day, was king of the beach, and now could only gaze at his passing youth riding the waves he could only remember. Perhaps he was still king of the surf, I didn’t see him get into the water. Perhaps he was contemplating hitting the water and showing everyone how it was done. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.

Sitting outside a Paris café with my daughter watching a very odd elderly woman as she drank coffee and lit a cigarette talking to herself in French and English and some landguage neither of us understood. I told my daughter that the woman had been a spy for the French during World War II and was captured and tortured by the Nazi’s, so her mind was gone. Or, perhaps her mind was perfectly fine and she was only pretending to be a bit crazy because she was still working as a spy and it was the perfect disguise. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.

There are only a small handful of plots; Romance, boy meets girls, boy loses girl, boy finds girls again and they live happily ever after. Of course nowadays it could be boy meets boy, or girl meets girl, but the idea remains the same. Murder mysteries; someone dies, one or several find out who done it, etc. And while the number of core ideas may be recycled over and over ad nauseam, what follows , it the writer has even a smidgeon of imagination,  can introduce take readers to characters they want to know and care about and travel to worlds that are, literally, beyond their wildest imagination.

Every story begins with one question; what if? Where it goes from there, and how that story is told is what makes this work, if one would call it work, the best job there ever is. W

Which just gave me an idea for a story of a writer who….

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Technology is Robbing Authors of Our Immortality

handwritingPick up a pencil. Right NOW pick up a pencil. Or if you prefer a pen, if you can find one, and write you name. In script.  If you remember how.

Now, look at your signature. The name you wrote is probably shared by millions, but the way you wrote it is unique and special and no one else in the entire world can write your name the way that you do. It’s yours alone.

Now, on your keyboard, or your laptop, or whatever device you’re reading this right now, type your name.  Use whatever font, size or color you want, it won’t matter because all those millions who shares your name can do the exact same thing in the exact same way. Electronically typed, your name is indistinguishable millions of others and what makes that name truly your own is gone.

Your signature contains a small piece of your personality, a tiny microscopic atom of your very soul that flows from your brain down your arm, to your hand and fingers, through the instrument that writes the word onto a piece of paper. For an author, their signature scrawled on the face page of your book is forever inscribed on the first page of our book.

Artists sign their paintings; chisel their name in sculptures made of marble, or glass, or bronze. Their unique signature tells the world that their creation is theirs and theirs alone.  For as long as that piece of art exists the artist’s signature, and in a way the artist themselves, lives on for eternity.

But you can’t sign an ebook.

There was a time, not that long ago, that bookstores would hold book signing events for authors. There would be lines of fans waiting for a chance to see the creator of the worlds that existed within the covers of the books they carried with them for the author to sign. Each signature, a unique, individual part of that authors personality that each fan took with them when that brief moment in the presence of the author had passed. That signature would last many years, sometimes long after the author had also passed on.

But those days are long gone. Bookstores are vanishing, and book signings are vanishing with them. The birth of the ebook was the death of personally signed books.

With every new technological advancement, we are moving further and further away from personal contact. We don’t hear other’s voices, we read text messages. We don’t interact at social functions, we “go to meetings” on webinars, or video conference. We are so desperate for physical contact there is now a new cottage industry of paid “huggers” those who will cuddle with you for a price.

Our new “social media” is anything BUT, and we’re all jumping on the anti-social bandwagon.

Why write a letter when an email will do? Why take the time to shop for that perfect card , sign your name and hand write the address when it is so much quicker and easier to send an ecard?  Why buy a book when you can read electronic texts, one that looks exactly like the other, lacking any personality or uniqueness.  We are becoming homogenized clones, losing our individuality and uniqueness to the technological cyber world.

Text all looks exactly the same no matter who the writer. One book looks exactly the same as another. Words on a computer screen, ipad or cellphone are cold disconnected and distant. There was a reason we used to cuddle up with a good book, now we pay to cuddle up with a perfect stranger.

As authors, we must strive to keep that very special part of ourselves alive. On one hand, we want to sell as many books as we can, whether they are hard copies or ebooks. I recently sold several copies of Undercover Reunion to one of the organizers of Arundel – 17, an annual Man from U.N.C.L.E. convention which takes place in Sussex, England. Although I was unable to attend the event in person, I printed labels with the organization’s logo, signed each one and mailed it to her to put on the front page of the books.

I sent a few extras in the event that other attendees wanted to purchase the “signed” book. Each label was personally signed by me. Knowing my signature, a tiny part of me, would be traveling across the ocean to attend a convention, I was very careful to make each letter look a bit like the author who could not attend in person.  It felt wonderful!

Now, pick up that pen write your name. Then look at your signature. That very unique individual signature that represents you and only you and write it again. Now, imagine you’re sitting at a table, a stack of your best- selling novel on your left and a huge line of fans in front of you waiting for you to give them that unique part of you that only you can give. Your signature. Your first edition will be passed on to their children and grandchildren and even if it ends up at a garage sale or a used bookstore, it will always have a part of you that flowed from your hand through the pen onto that page.

That is immortality.

And it is what we have all lost because you can’t sign an ebook.

Now, I need a hug.

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