Thursday, February 21, 2008

Author Interview: Literary Fiction Novelist Aram Schefrin

Aram Schefrin is the author of four novels. He is a pioneer in the new art of podcasting fiction, and all of his work can be downloaded from iTunes and heard in its entirety. Mr. Schefrin has been a musician – he has studied guitar with Carlos Montoya and writing for the musical theater with Steven Sondheim, and was the lyricist and lead guitarist of the jazz/rock group Ten Wheel Drive in the 60’s and 70’s. He now practices law in Rhode Island and Florida. He lives in Wellington, Florida with his wife, two dogs, four cats and three polo ponies. You can visit his website at http://www.aramschefrin.com/.

Welcome to The Writer's Life, Aram. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?

I'm a lawyer professionally, but I've always written. I spent some time writing for the musical theater under the guidance of Stephen Sondheim, and then in the late '60's I was the lyricist for the jazz/rock group Ten Wheel Drive, which some of your readers might have heard or heard of if they're old enough (thank God we're still on iTunes and on the web, so the group is reaching another generation or two). Ten Wheel Drive did an oratorio based on the story of Custer's Last Stand with a symphony orchestra at Carnegie Hall in the early '70s. The research for the lyrics for that got me interested in Custer, and I finally sat down to make a novel out of him in the early '90s. I've written three more since then.

Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it?

The book is a fictional autobiography of one of the 9/11 hijackers. It takes the story of the plot from its inception in Germany and Afghanistan to the moments before the hijacked planes took off. There were three reasons I wrote it, and I don't remember which came first. After I'd done my research - which I did for my own information - I realized that the story of how 9/11 came to be was fascinating and suspenseful and involved characters who interested me a lot. I also realized that what the public knew of the reasons behind 9/11 was less than minimal - and I thought it was important, for the future, that people understood the terrorists' backgrounds and motivations, in order to try to prevent another attack or at least to be able to prepare for it effectively. The third reason was that I thought people would be interested in the subject.

What kind of research was involved in writing your book?

After 9/11, I realized I knew nothing about the people who had done it and their reasons for doing it. I read quite a lot of the history of the region, on Islam, on al Qaeda, until I felt I had a handle on why 9/11 happened. But it was online newspaper reports that gave me the non-theoretical material for the book - information on the characters, the settings, events, etc. Particularly Florida newspapers, since so much of the buildup to 9/11 happened in Florida. While I was writing, I was thrilled to discover that if there was a fact or a detail I needed to know, with the right question to Google I could come up with it. Before the internet, this book - or any book using history - would have kept me in the library for two years.

How much input did you have into the design of your book cover?

I worked with a freelance designer. I gave her my ideas, and she rendered them beautifully.

Has it been a bumpy ride to becoming a published author or has it been pretty well smooth sailing?

Getting a publisher is hell - particularly these days, with so much product around and many publishing houses less and less interested in developing talent. With Marwan, there were unique problems. I submitted it in New York in 2003, only two years after 9/11. New Yorkers were still grieving, and they were very hostile to my book. They accused me of all sorts of terrible motivations - trying to profit from their misery, that sort of thing. One of the things they told me was that everyone already knew all about 9/11. Believe me, they didn't, and they still don't. By the way, the answer to your question depends on what you mean by published. All of my novels have been podcasted, and three of them are for sale as audiobooks. Marwan is the only one in print, so far, although another one will be coming out around April. So, to the extent you can publish in audio yourself (it costs next to nothing), it's easy to become a published author.

For this particular book, how long did it take from the time you signed the contract to its release?

Two months. AuthorHouse was very good with that.

Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/is is? If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?

I had an agent until a few years ago - John Ware. He circulated Marwan and one other book. He was a great editor and helped me immensely with that. He did not, however, place my books. He was not interested in working with the last book I wrote - I think it's my best, and he couldn't get with it - so we had an amicable parting. I think if you're looking for a publisher it's essential to have an agent. Obviously you don't need one if you self-publish.

Do you plan subsequent books?

Haven't decided yet. I have the ideas, but not the motivation right now. Anyway, I have a chance to get an opera performed, so that's what I'm working on at the moment.

Are you a morning writer or a night writer?

Definitely night. I can stay up all night writing. Like I am right now. But I'll write any time an idea comes to me.

If money was no object, what would be the first thing you would invest in to promote your book?

Spending a year in New York.

How important do you think self-promotion is and in what ways have you been promoting your book offline and online?

I used to believe talent was enough. I still think it's useful, and I think promotion (self and otherwise) helps (using PR people I think is better than doing it yourself, because they're not invested in your ego - that is, unless you happen to be a self-promoting genius like Truman Capote), but the best way to get a book off the ground is to know the right people. What I did offline was get the book to people I respected, and into local bookstores. Online, with Dorothy's help, I've built good websites for all my books and for myself, and of course I'm doing this virtual book tour.

Any final words of wisdom for those of us who would like to be published?

I don't have any wisdom. Just do the best you can.
Aram Schefrin's virtual book tour is brought to you by Pump Up Your Book Promotion and choreographed by Dorothy Thompson.
Leave a comment here and you can win a free copy of his book, Marwan: The Autobiography of a 911 Terrorist!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Page One Interviews Pump Up Your Book Promotion

Connie Briscoe of Page One interviews Dorothy Thompson and Cheryl Malandrinos of Pump Up Your Book Promotion, an innovative public relations agency specializing in online book promotion.

Find out what virtual books are really all about at www.conniebriscoe.com/virtual-book-tours-part-1!

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Interview with Contemporary Romance Author LaConnie Taylor-Jones

LaConnie Taylor-Jones, a native Memphian, is a health educator consultant and holds advanced degrees in community public health and business administration. Married, she is the mother of four and resides with her family in Antioch, California located in Northern California. She is also an active member of the Contra Costa Alumnae chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., the African American Community Health Advisory Committee, Black Women Organized for Political Action, and the San Francisco Area and Black Diamond chapters of Romance Writers of America.

You can visit her website at http://www.laconnietaylorjones.com/.

Welcome to The Writer's Life, LaConnie! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?

Hello everyone!! I’m a native Memphian currently living in Northern California with my husband and four kids. By trade, I’m a health educator consultant and an active volunteer with several social and community organizations. I started writing in the summer of ’03 and my debut novel, When I’m With You released in November ’07.

Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it?

When I’m With You is a story about the damage caused by an abusive relationship, how the person who’s abused suffers, how a person learns to trust again, and why one has to FFF: forgive, forget, and move forward.

The inspiration to write this book came from my experience as a health educator. For the last fifteen years, I’ve taught health education primarily to African American women in community-based settings. Oftentimes, before I can lecture on the risk factors associated with chronic diseases disproportionally impacting African Americans, I have to deal with the soci-economic deterrents women face. Unfortunately, abusive relationships top the list.

What kind of research was involved in writing WHEN I’M WITH YOU?

I had the wonderful opportunity to interview several women at length about their experiences involving domestic abuse. The one thing I learned is that if you’re not in that situation, it’s easy to say what you would or wouldn’t do. I walked away with a better understanding of their plight and the reasons behind many of the decisions they’ve made.

How much input did you have into the design of your book cover?

Absolutely none!! The publisher has total control for what the book cover will look like. However, I must say that I love what they came up with for this book!

Has it been a bumpy ride to becoming a published author or has it been pretty well smooth sailing?

The journey to publication was long and let me tell you, the road was B-U-M-P-Y!! It was a tedious voyage, but I never gave up on it!! After completing When I’m With You, I submitted the manuscript to sixty-eight agents. Eleven requested a partial, but afterwards, declined further interest. Finally in November 2005, I gathered the courage to submit the manuscript directly to six publishing houses. By the spring 2006, three of them had requested the complete and the rest is history.

For this particular book, how long did it take from the time you signed the contract to its release?

Thirteen months. Genesis Press made a contract in October ’06 and the book released on November 6, 2007.

Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/is is? If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?

Yes, I’m represented by Cheryl Ferguson with Ferguson Literary Agency.

Do you plan subsequent books?

My second book, When A Man Loves A Woman, will release on April 1st. I’m in contract negotiations for my third release, which hopefully will make the 2008 production schedule. Also, there are two other works-in-progress, so I plan to stay pretty busy this year.

Are you a morning writer or a night writer?

I’m definitely an early morning writer. I’ve found the best time for me to write is between one and six in the morning.

If money was no object, what would be the first thing you would invest in to promote your book?

God, I’d love to hire a top-notch marketing promotion company to help me put together a nationwide book signing tour.

How important do you think self-promotion is and in what ways have you been promoting your book offline and online?

In my opinion, self-promotion is one of the most effective promotion campaigns at an author’s fingertips. If you don’t toot your own work, no one else will. Also, with the increased popularity of the Internet, I’ve found on-line promoting to be an extremely effective marketing tool.

Any final words of wisdom for those of us who would like to be published?

The first tip I’d give is to prepare. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways: reading books from authors published in the genre you’re writing in, taking courses or workshops, entering contests, and if possible, speaking with published authors in your targeted genre. Once you have a workable draft of your manuscript, join a critique group and above all, accept constructive feedback. All of these things will help in the end so that you’re providing a quality product for agents and editors to review.

A couple of books I’d highly encourage writers to purchase are: Building Better Plots by Robert Kernen and Writing Novels that Sells by Jack Bickham.

Thank you for coming, LaConnie! Would you like to tell my readers where they can find you on the web and how everyone can buy your book?

They can visit my website at http://www.laconnietaylorjones.com/ and they can find When I’m With You at all the major bookstores and on-line at Amazon.com, Barnes and Nobles.com, Books-A-Million.com, to name a few.

Check out LaConnie’s website at http://www.laconnietaylorjones.com/ to see how you can win a $100 gift certificate to Amazon.com!

If you would like to comment, click here.

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Do You Believe in the Afterlife?

Linda Kay Silva, author of Across Time, most certainly does. Deborah is touring with us next month and she's written an article entitled "Beyond Past Lives" which is really really interesting. I love articles that make you think and that's why I'm passing the link on to you guys.

Read it at American Chronicle at http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/52684. Talented lady and she brings up some really cool points.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Garasamo "Gary" Maccagnone is the author of the children's book, The Suburban Dragon, the collection of short stores entitled, The Affliction of Dreams, and the novel, St. John of the Midfield. You can visit his website at http://www.garasamomaccagnone.com/.

Welcome to The Writer's Life, Gary! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?

I’m forty-eight and been writing since I was sixteen years old.

Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it?

Ten years ago, when I was helping to coach my oldest son Garrett’s team, his coach, Jordan Mitkov, explained to me that Garrett was a midfielder because he was a good person. He went on to elaborate that only a good person could play the midfield, a person who was willing to sacrifice and give up the ball to all the players on the team. That answer intrigued me. For ten years after I heard that, I wrote “St. John of the Midfield,” chapter by chapter in my head until it finally burned out of me.

What kind of research was involved in writing “St. John of the Midfield"?

It took about a week to check sources and to produce a time-line of events for the book.

How much input did you have into the design of your book cover?

I handled all of that on my own. Typically, novels with a sports theme are dripping with images of the sport. I went the other route. I wanted no images – just a humble little shiny black book with an old fashioned font. The book, like its main character, had to send a message.

Has it been a bumpy ride to becoming a published author or has it been pretty well smooth sailing?

Let’s face it, only technology has allowed writers like myself the opportunity to be published. For years, the doors to the publishing houses were closed, reserved only for tenured professors or big name authors. Like so many others, my road was bumpy, so much so that I gave up on writing for over fifteen years.

For this particular book, how long did it take from the time you signed the contract to its release?

The process took eight months.

Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/is is? If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?

I’ve never had one. I’m looking into it. In my early years, right out of WMU, I worked in the advertising business. I learned the business from the mailroom on up. Due to that experience, I understand a little about marketing.

Do you plan subsequent books?

Sometime next year, I’ll start writing my next novel. I’ll do a lot of reading for the next four months.

Are you a morning writer or a night writer?

I have no preference. I don’t sleep a lot, so often times I write during the middle of the night. My den is downstairs on the first floor far away from where every one sleeps.

If money were no object, what would be the first thing you would invest in to promote your book?

Television advertising is where I would invest the most. People have to see the product and get to know the author’s name.

How important do you think self-promotion is and in what ways have you been promoting your book offline and online?

Online, a number of major soccer web sites are promoting my books, the sites that get over twenty million hits per month. I’ve had press releases and chat room discussions held. Offline I’ve done radio and TV interviews. I’ll be a featured guest on a television show next week in Windsor, Ontario.

You can’t have an ego or conscience in this business. To be successful, one must self-promote, 24 hours a day.

Any final words of wisdom for those of us who would like to be published?

Get off your butt and start working on your dreams.

Thank you for coming, Gary! Would you like to tell my readers where they could find you on the web and how everyone can buy your book?

My web site is: http://www.garasamomaccagnone.com/ My books are featured on amazon.com
Thanks for having me.

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St. JOHN OF THE MIDFIELD VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR '08 will officially begin on Feb. 1, 2008 and continue all month. If you would like to follow Gary's tour, visit http://www.virtualbooktours.wordpress.com/. Leave a comment here and become eligible to win a free copy at the end of his tour! One lucky winner will be announced on this page on February 29!

Gary's virtual book tour is brought to you by Pump Up Your Book Promotion and chereographed by Cheryl Malandrinos.
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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Henri the Ghostest with the Mostest Interviews Paranormal Author Deborah Woehr!

How would you like to be interviewed by a ghost?

Today, Deborah Woehr, author of Prosperity: A Love Story, is interviewed by Henri de Montemorency, the Ghostest with the Mostest at http://www.henritheghost.blogspot.com/ and Disneyland won't be the same!

Deborah Woehr's virtual book tour is brought to you by Pump Up Your Book Promotion, an innovative public relations agency specializing in online book promotion. You can visit their website at http://www.pumpupyourbookpromotion.com/.


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Valentine's Day Special - Relationship Experts Answer Your Questions!

Rachel Greene Baldino and Judy Ford, authors of the self-help book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Enhancing Sexual Desire (Penguin, Dec. ‘07) will be stopping off at Long Relationships for part four of their their week-long stay to talk about increasing sexual desire and other relationship issues. Today’s discussion is, “What can we do this Valentine’s Day to create an intimate rendezvous with our lover?” Rachel will also be stopping off at TWL Author Talks and will be answering your relationship questions on a one-on-one basis!

Rachel and Judy are clients of Pump Up Your Book Promotion, an innovative public relations agency specializing in online book promotion. You can visit their website at http://www.pumpupyourbookpromotion.com/.


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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Exclusive Interview with Crime Fiction Novelist Marilyn Meredith

Marilyn Meredith is the author of award winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series as well as other novels. The latest is, Judgment Fire, from Mundania Press. Under the name of F. M. Meredith she writes the Rocky Bluff P.D. series, the latest, Smell of Death from Tigress Press. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, EPIC and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. She was an instructor for Writer’s Digest School for ten years, served as an instructor at the Maui Writer’s Retreat and many other writer’s conferences. She makes her home in Springville, much like Bear Creek where Deputy Tempe Crabtree lives. For many years, she lived in a beach community much like Rocky Bluff.

You can visit her website at http://www.fictionforyou.com/ or her blog at http://www.marilynmeredith.blogspot.com/.

Welcome to The Writer's Life, Marilyn. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?

I’ve been writing for as long as I could hold a pencil in my hand. Before I could actually write I drew pictures to tell a story. When I was a kid I told big stories about myself and family—maybe you might call them lies. I grew up during the 2nd World War. I told all my friends that my sister was a princess from Europe and her parents had sent her over to my family to care for her to keep her safe. Even my sister believed me and for years thought she was adopted. I wrote plays for the neighborhood children to be in, and when I was in junior high, I wrote and published a teen magazine that I sold to all my friends. After I married, for a long while my writing was confined to the PTA newsletter and plays for my Camp Fire Girls to perform. My writing became serious when I wrote an historical family saga based on my family’s genealogy. I did two, and they were my first published books.

Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it?

Smell of Death is the fourth in the Rocky Bluff PD series, and it evolved from the characters who inhabit the other three books. Though there are several returning characters, the main ones in this book are Officer Stacey Wilbur and Detective Doug Milligan. Besides the crimes in the novel, Stacey breaks her long-standing vow never to date anyone involved with the Rocky Bluff PD. When writing a series, one book just seems to lead to another.

What kind of research was involved in writing Smell of Death?

I’ve done several ride-alongs, and before one, I was invited to sit in on the change of the shift at the police department. When the officers learned I was an author, they began to tell stories—one of which appears in this book. Much of the rest was gathered from news stories and tales told to me.

How much input did you have into the design of your book cover?

I was able to make a suggestion as to what I thought the cover should look like, and I believe the artist capture my idea.

Has it been a bumpy ride to becoming a published author or has it been pretty well smooth sailing?

Oh my, it’s been a bumpy ride indeed. My first book was rejected nearly 30 times before I found a publisher. I’ve been published by two outfits that turned out to be crooks, and two of my publishers have passed away. Another publisher had so many difficult things happen in life that it interfered with the business at hand.

For this particular book, how long did it take from the time you signed the contract to its release?

It’s been only a little over a year—quite good for this industry.

Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/is is? If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?

I’ve had five different agents—none was able to sell a book for me. I’ve done better on my own. Of course my latest publishers are all small presses. If someone can find a good agent it will certainly help the process along. At my age, I can’t wait that long.

Do you plan subsequent books?

I have two more in this series completed and I’ve another series, the Deputy Tempe Crabtree mysteries which is ongoing.

Are you a morning writer or a night writer?

I write best in the morning, though I do edit at night.

If money was no object, what would be the first thing you would invest in to promote your book?

That one’s easy, someone to do the promotion for me!

How important do you think self-promotion is and in what ways have you been promoting your book offline and online?

Self-promotion is extremely important if you want people to know about your book. Off-line I always have a book launch in my home town. I attend mystery conferences and writers conference if I can be on a panel or be a speaker. I do library talks and book and craft festivals—once in awhile, a booksigning.

On line, of course this virtual book tour, lots of fun, and I belong to a lot of online groups where I talk about my book, do Internet radio programs, I have several blogs though I’m not as good about keeping them up as I should, I have a web page, and anything else I can think of or someone tells me about.

Any final words of wisdom for those of us who would like to be published?

First, make sure your book is edited by someone beside a relative or friend. Follow the publisher’s guidelines for submission. And never, never give-up.

Thank you for coming, Marilyn! Would you like to tell my readers where they can find you on the web and how everyone can buy your book?

My website is: http://fictionforyou.com/
You can go to my website to order Smell of Death by F. M. Meredith aka Marilyn Meredith either by pay pal or a mail-in order form—or of course from Amazon.com. If you prefer an e-book, you can purchase from the publisher:
http://www.tigresspress.com/

If you would like to comment, click here!

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Interview with Former "Dallas" Scriptwriter Camille Marchetta

Camille Marchetta has worn a lot of hats in her illustrious career. Not only is she the author of the new literary novel, The River, By Moonlight, she has two previous novels to her credit. She was also on the staff of the television series Dallas, produced Nurse and Dynasty, co-executive-produced Falcon Crest, and was a story consultant on Central Park West. She also co-authored two bestselling novels with Ivana Trump.

We asked her to join us today to talk about her scriptwriting days as there are a lot of aspiring scriptwriters out there who would love to hear about Camille's expertise in the entertainment industry and find out how they can do it, too!

Welcome to The Writer's Life, Camille. I remember the Dallas series well, as I was glued to the set to find out Who Shot JR? just like the rest of the world was. Can you tell my readers just what Who Shot JR? was all about and why everyone was just as addicted as I was?

Thank you for inviting me. It's always fun to talk about Dallas. It's incredibly confusing, even to me who was there, but what is usually referred to as the "Who Shot J.R.?" episode was the last one of Dallas' second season (I think there were 13 seasons in all). It was the cliff-hanger, so fans had all summer to wonder who had shot the guy. It was a great episode, with anyone who had ever had a grudge against J.R. vowing vengeance in almost every scene. There were a lot of suspects, believe me. The show was a big hit by then, and a kind of mania seemed to take over, with the tabloids exploiting the story, the bookies taking odds, the office getting broken into, and bribes being offered to cast and crew and production staff. I've never experienced anything like it, before or since. People just loved that show. Part of the reason why was the glitzy glamour of the Ewings and the huge quantities of oil they seemed to control (there was a shortage at the time it went on the air), but I've always believed its appeal went far deeper than that. Underneath all the melodrama, there was something very real about the family dynamic, and I think the audience related to that on a vast scale. And somehow, in that classic cliffhanger, we managed to hit the right balance of drama, suspense, and FUN. By the time the show went back on the air in the autumn, it had passed from hit to mega-hit to myth. Who actually shot J.R. was revealed in the fourth episode of that season.

Would you say that was the beginning of nighttime soap opera?

The first nighttime soap, as I recall, was Peyton Place, in the 60s. That, too, was a big hit. But certainly the form had long been out of use in this country by the time Dallas came along. It wasn't created as a serial. I think it wasn't until Sue Ellen became pregnant that the writing staff realized there was no way to finish off that story in one episode. It had to go on – at least for 9 months (or the television equivalent of it). CBS was at first reluctant, but finally gave its consent. A very wise decision, as it turned out.

How did you get the position of working for a show that will go down as one of the most watched shows of the era?

My agent, Lynn Pleshette, had sent a spec script of mine to David Jacobs, who also happened to be a client of hers. He liked it, but since he wasn't able to get me an assignment on the show he was then story-editing, he promised he would hire me the first chance he got. And he kept his promise. When CBS Okayed a mini-series based on David's pilot for Dallas, he gave me one of the scripts to write. After that, I joined the staff in the first season as story-editor.

I am aware there were other scriptwriters involved in that season of Dallas. What role did you play? Were you ever in disagreement with the other writers?

For the couple of years I was on the show, I was the story editor. Arthur Lewis, the executive-story editor, the producer, Leonard Katzman, and I were the entire writing staff. We would work out storylines together, take turns writing scripts, and use freelance writers for every fourth or fifth episode. Of course we all disagreed, and a lot. That's the fun of story meetings. But the disagreements never got nasty. We all liked and respected each other too much for that. In the room, Leonard Katzman had the final say; but of course we had Lorimar and CBS executives to contend with. Though, the more successful we got, the more they left us alone to do as we wished.

David Jacobs originally created the idea of the series. What was he like and was he hard to work for?

I only worked with David on the mini-series and found him to be very kind and generous and totally supportive of my work – though he rewrote my entire script. But that happens all the time, and often has to do with production changes. By the time I joined the staff, David had moved on, to create and produce Knots Landing.

Larry Hagman who played JR Ewing often was portrayed as the man most people would love to hate; but off camera, he was known to play practical jokes to lessen the tension caused by filming schedules and highly emotionally charged scripts. Did you ever see any of these practical jokes in action?

Yes, I did. Larry and Patrick Duffy, who played Bobby, were both great practical jokesters and tried constantly to out-do one another. They were a lot of fun and hugely responsible for making Dallas such a happy show to work on for all of us involved with it.

Do you think you would ever return to scriptwriting and why or why not?

Of course I'd return to scriptwriting if an interesting enough project came along. I grew up loving film and television, as well as books. No matter what the form, I love writing.

What can you tell aspiring television scriptwriters about the business so that they can be more prepared going into it?

Imagine this: you spend weeks, sometimes months of your life working on a script; you do the best job you can; in fact, you think you've done a pretty good job. Full of pride, excitement, expectation, you turn it in – only to find out that a huge number of people (the producer, production company executives, network executives, etc.) think you've missed the goal -- by an inch, by a few feet, by a mile, it doesn't matter -- you've missed it. It's like giving birth to a child, presenting it to the world, and instead of praise for the perfection of your baby, what you get is a litany of its failings. It hurts. Always. That's when, if you really want to be a television (or film) writer, you have to step back, take a breath, remind yourself that there's no way on earth you could have delivered the ideal script they've been carrying around in their heads since long before you began writing. You were destined to disappoint. It's not your fault. Also, their concerns are different from yours. You want to create a masterpiece. Sure, they'd like a masterpiece too, but one that's brilliant -- their way, not yours, and will earn them a lot of money too. Your job, as a paid writer, is to give them what they want. So, lick your wounds, try to make sense of their (sometimes conflicting) notes, and look for a way to rewrite the script that will both protect its integrity and meet their needs. It's not always possible, but a professional writer has to try.

Thank you for the interview, Camille.

Thank YOU. Talking about Dallas has brought back a lot of happy memories.

If you'd like to learn more about Camille Marchetta, visit http://www.camillemarchetta.com/.

If you would like to leave a comment, click here!

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Monday, February 04, 2008

Author Interview: Marvin L. Zimmerman, Author of THE OVUM FACTOR

Marvin L. Zimmerman is 58, father of one son, Eric, who is 7 and married for 20 years to Maisie.

For nearly 15 years now, Marvin has been Publisher & Editor of INMR Quarterly Review - a publication in the field of transmission and distribution of electrical energy, with 20,000 readers worldwide. He is also Chairman and organizer of the WORLD CONGRESS OF INSULATORS, ARRESTERS & BUSHINGS - a bi-annual technical conference and exhibition which takes place in selected cities throughout the world.

Marvin received his Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry and went on to complete his M.B.A in international business (1972). Before starting INMR, he owned a small consulting firm specializing in international marketing. During this time, he travelled extensively throughout the world, visiting over 50 countries on all continents. He was also for many years a teacher of International Business at two of Canada's largest universities - McGill and Concordia.

Marvin's parents are both Holocaust survivors who managed to flee Poland just before the arrival of the Nazis. He was born in Salzburg, Austria shortly after the war finished and emigrated to Montreal, Canada while still a child.

The Ovum Factor was written in Rio de Janeiro as well as the Amazon during the three-month period between October to December 2006. The images and experiences written into the plot of his novel are based on firsthand exposure to the jungles and rivers as well as visits to the Indians living there.

All his life, Marvin has been an ardent environmentalist and lover of the natural world. The plot of this novel is in many ways his reaction to the desperate situation faced by the planet as a result of humanity's unrelenting focus on growth without constraint. He wrote The Ovum Factor to help remind readers that our future ultimately depends on protecting the natural world as its survival depends on us.

You can visit his website at http://www.theovumfactor.com/
or his blog at http://www.marvinzimmerman.blogspot.com/.

Welcome to The Writer's Life, Marvin! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you've been writing?

I’m a 58-year old publisher of a technical journal in the field of electrical energy. I am from a marketing business background and I have been writing fiction now for only about 18 months.

Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it?

The plot of my first novel, The Ovum Factor, came to me in a dream I had ten years ago, I woke up my wife and forced her to listen to every element of the story, including the title that I also clearly remembered from the dream. She agreed it was a compelling story and we both went back to sleep. The next day, having recounted the dream that night, I remembered it clearly.

But my life took some unexpected turns as we moved to Spain from our home in Canada and I became a first-time father at the age of 52. Also, my publishing business was growing rapidly with many additional demands on my time and energy.

In 2006, I went to Brazil on a business trip and something hit me. That was where the story in my dream was intended to play out. I made a commitment to myself to go there later that year to finally write the book that came to me in my sleep a decade earlier. By September 2006, I was living in Rio de Janeiro and traveling to the Amazon to get background information for my novel. By January 2007, the novel was completed and ready for editing.

What kind of research was involved in writing The Ovum Factor?

Because the book has many scientific angles, there was extensive research conducted mainly through the internet. Being a chemist, I was able to quickly assimilate these facts and apply them to my story.

Apart from the science, which is extensive, I also spent several months living in Brazil where most of the book takes place. Smelling, feeling and experiencing the jungle during the day and at night played an important role I cannot overestimate.

How much input did you have into the design of your book cover?

A little – but I left this work mainly to those who know this field best. I’ve learned to focus where my skills are greatest and to rely on others where these skills may be wanting.

Has it been a bumpy ride to becoming a published author or has it been pretty well smooth sailing?

I cannot imagine a first time author, whose name is not already a household word, having a smooth time becoming published. The publishing industry almost guarantees that. For me, too, this has been a difficult and demanding ride.

For this particular book, how long did it take from the time you signed the contract to its release?

Approximately 8 months.

Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/is is? If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it's necessary to have one?

I have no agent at the moment. In my view, it is not necessary to have one but it’s certainly helpful, depending on who that agent is.

Do you plan subsequent books?

I am now almost finished my second novel, The Last Noble Truth.

Are you a morning writer or a night writer?

I write whenever I feel inspired. This seems to be separate from any particular time of day.

If money was no object, what would be the first thing you would invest in to promote your book?

Probably I would take out advertisements in selected magazines, whose readership parallels the target profile of people who would find my story of special interest.

How important do you think self-promotion is and in what ways have you been promoting your book offline and online?

Unfortunately, with virtually all the publishing industry’s budget going to support their established stable of authors, self-promotion for a first time writer is critical. I have relied mostly on the web – the great equalizer – to get my message and unique storyline circulated widely. I have even produced a 3 minute trailer to promote the book:



Any final words of wisdom for those of us who would like to be published?

Never lose your most important asset – your self-belief. If you give up on yourself, why would anyone else give a damn.

Thank you for coming, Marvin! Would you like to tell my readers where they can find you on the web and how everyone can buy your book?

The Ovum Factor is available at book retailers and also at popular web sites for purchasing books such as Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. (www.bn.com) Please visit the novel’s home page: www.TheOvumFactor.com for more details or for help in finding where to buy the book.

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THE OVUM FACTOR VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR '08 will officially begin on Feb. 1, 2008 and continue all month. If you would like to follow Marvin's tour, visit http://www.virtualbooktours.wordpress.com/.

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Marvin's virtual book tour is brought to you by Pump Up Your Book Promotion Virtual Book Tours at http://www.pumpupyourbookpromotion.com/ and choreographed by Dorothy Thompson.

If you would like to leave a comment for Marvin, click here.

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Friday, February 01, 2008

HOW TO WRITE FOR THE COMPLETE IDIOT'S BOOKS: INTERVIEW WITH RACHEL GREENE BALDINO & JUDY FORD

If you haven’t been living under a rock, you’ve had to have heard of the phenomenal Complete Idiot’s Guides under the Alpha Imprint by Penguin Books. There’s The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Being a Model, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Learning French, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting Published (one of my favorites); now there’s a wonderful new book out called The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Enhancing Sexual Desire by Rachel Greene Baldino and Judy Ford.

Rachel Greene Baldino was born in Berkeley, California in 1967 and grew up in Iowa City and upstate New York. Her mother, Judy, is a retired editor, and her father Robert, a professor emeritus of French.

Her first publication (as Rachel Nora Greene) was Inanna and The Land of No Return: A Poem. It appeared in Parabola magazine (August 1979) when she was nine years old. It was based on her maternal grandfather Samuel Noah Kramer's translations of ancient myths about the powerful Sumerian goddess of love.

In 1992, Baldino took a writing class taught by Melanie Rae Thon, who introduced her to the late, much missed, brilliant short story writer Andre Dubus. For several years, Baldino had the honor of participating in the Thursday night writing workshops that Dubus hosted in his living room in Haverhill, Massachusetts.

After earning her MSW from the Boston College Graduate School of Social Work in 1997 and working in a methadone clinic, Baldino published several articles in The New Social Worker, a national trade journal for social work students and recent social work school graduates. In 2000, White Hat Communications (the same press that publishes The New Social Worker) brought out her first book, Welcome to Methadonia: A Social Worker's Candid Account of Life in a Methadone Clinic.

In 2005, after providing counseling to individuals, couples and families in a community-based outpatient mental health clinic, Baldino published her second book, The New Age Guide to Loving Simply: Eliminating Drama from Your Intimate Relationships. That book went out of print only a year or so after publication due to the dissolution of its original publisher. But it lives on (in a slightly modified form) in cyberspace, where it was re-released as an e-book in 2006 by Fictionwise.com with a new title: Loving Simply: Eliminating Drama from Your Intimate Relationships.

Baldino has also written online and print articles, including a series of relationship columns for SixWise.com, a health and wellness website. She is a member of The Authors Guild and the National Association of Social Workers (NASW).

Rachel Greene Baldino lives with her husband and their two children in Massachusetts. You can visit her website at http://www.rachelgbaldino.com/.

Judy Ford is a nationally recognized family counselor, best selling author and inspirational speaker whose expertise is in empowering individuals and families. She has dedicated her life to family healing and wholeness. Her "Parenting with Love and Laughter" workshops have been attended by thousands of parents.

She is also the author of nine bestselling books: Wonderful Ways to Love a Child, Wonderful Ways to Love a Teen: Even When it Seems Impossible, Wonderful Ways to Love a Grandchild, Wonderful Ways to Be a Family, Wonderful Ways to Be a Stepparent, Expecting Baby, Between Mother & Daughter, Getting Over Getting Mad, Single, and Painting the Walls Red. You can visit her website at http://www.judyford.com/.

A quite impressive list of accomplishments by both ladies.

So, how does one get into The Complete Idiot’s Guide Books? Do we need an agent? Is it a simple matter of sending them a proposal (handy dandy link is on their website telling you what they need)? And, the most important question of all, would we stand to make any money off of these books?

Ahh…great questions.

Today, we interviewed the ladies to get their input on these and other questions we had about The Complete Idiot’s Guides.

Welcome to The Writer’s Life, girls. Tell me how did the two of you hook up?

We met through the wonderful literary agent, Andrea Hurst: http://www.andreahurst.com/.

Both of you are accomplished authors. Do you think that it helps when you’re both on the same level of writing?

Judy: I had a wonderful experience working with Rachel. She’s become a friend even though I’ve never met her in person. Our writing styles complement each other. She’s smart, thorough, and quick. She can write a paragraph in the time it takes me to write a sentence. I could not have written this book with out her. It’s been a great partnership and I’m proud of the work we did together.

Rachel: I don’t know if I am on the same level as Judy, but I learned SO much working with her; I can’t even begin to put it into words. She is an amazing person and her writing style is so warm, positive, friendly and inviting. I sometimes get overly clinical (and a tad dry!) in my writing style, and Judy ever so gently helps me bring out my warmer side.

Tell us about the book you two co-authored The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Enhancing Sexual Desire. What message are you trying to get across with this book?

So many things – but mainly the message that sex – indeed life! – is meant to be fun and enjoyable, and that sex is the way that loving, committed adult couples “play” with each other. People get so busy and stressed out. They sometimes forget to make their relationships with their loving partners a top priority. Speaking of stress, they even forget that sex is a phenomenal way to relieve stress! Our book reminds couples to create time and space for each other as a way to enhance not just sexual desire, but every other aspect of their lives together as well.

We also knew what we didn’t want to write when we set out to write The Complete Idiot's Guide to Enhancing Sexual Desire. We didn't want to write a medical treatise on libido. That's already been done and done well by people with plenty of expertise in the medical aspects of human sexuality. We are not medical doctors. We are therapists, and both of us happen to have been trained as clinical social workers. And, as social workers, we were trained to look at the "whole picture" of a person's life in order to get the clearest idea of how best to help them. So, if a couple were to come in for treatment in this area, we would certainly want to know about possible physical causes (and to refer to a medical doctor if necessary), but we would also want to know everything else that is going on in that couple's life, in terms of their stress levels, their self-esteem, the general "hectic-ness" of their lives, how much time they are devoting to their relationship with each other right now, etc. Because as it turns out, problems like low sexual desire usually have multiple causes, and it is only by taking a careful look at all aspects of a couple's life together that any real and lasting solutions can be found.

And that's essentially why we wrote this book. Does it contain the most up-to-date information on the medical and physiological causes of and treatments for a low sex drive? Absolutely! But our main focus (especially given our primary area of expertise as social workers/therapists) is the emotional dimension of how and why sexual desire ebbs and flows over the course of a long term monogamous relationship, with a specific focus on self-esteem and role that self-esteem so often plays in the sexual desire of both men and women, but especially in women. That is, people who feel good about themselves, who feel comfortable in their own skin, and who have learned a wide variety of ways to celebrate their sensuality and sexuality are often the ones who are capable of experiencing the greatest level of sexual desire. So that is what we focus a great deal of our attention on in The Complete Idiot's Guide to Enhancing Sexual Desire: finding lots of wonderful ways to feel sexy as a great pathway to feeling more desire for sex!

Where did you two get the idea to write it?

We were invited, via our literary agent Andrea Hurst, to submit a proposal to the acquisitions editor. Andrea and her clients have worked with this particular editor on many, many projects.

Did you have an agent for this or did you submit to them yourselves?

Rachel: I had queried Andrea about something else. She passed on that project (a different relationship book), but then she invited me to submit a proposal for The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Enhancing Sexual Desire instead, which I gladly did! The proposal was accepted; Andrea introduced me to Judy, and at that point, we both came on board as co-authors.

Tell us about the submission process. It states on their website that you can send a proposal to them. Does this mean you don’t have to have an agent?

That’s true! You do not need an agent to write a Complete Idiot’s Guide! I don’t know the percentage of proposals they accept that are unagented. For that kind of information, you’d need to speak to someone on their staff. As with most publishers, it is probably helpful (though again, not necessary!) to submit via an agent, simpley because they receive many proposals, and they know in advance that the agented proposals have already been reviewed by one person with literary experience who knows what publishers are looking for in general.

How long was your proposal?

Our proposal was about 12 pages long (per their request); though I am sure the page lengths vary from proposal to proposal. A writer’s best bet would be to follow the submission guidelines on the website exactly: http://us.penguingroup.com/static/html/cig/submit.html.

How long did it take for them to accept your book?

Since ours was a “requested” proposal, it did not take long at all; maybe a couple of weeks. However, I think this may be unusual.

How long did it take from the initial acceptance to the time your book was actually released?

The book contract came together at the end of 2006 and the book was released at the end of 2007, so exactly one year.

How many revisions did you have to go through?

Too many to count! Writing, as they say, is rewriting! There were revisions all along the way, and then many more revisions when the editors reviewed it and made their comments.

How are your books distributed? Are they available all over the country?

We are very fortunate that Penguin Publishing Group (the owner of the Alpha imprint under with these books are published) is a very old, established publishing company. Their distribution is worldwide, and the book is available (either in stock or by ordering it) in all brick and mortar bookstores and all online retail outlets.

How is the publisher to work with? Did you have any arrgg moments?

They were very helpful, very professional. The editors were fantastic and incredibly thorough. We were honestly very pleased.

What are the odds of someone else getting into their publishing house?

We don’t actually know. This would be an excellent question to put to them. Since we don’t know how many proposals they receive, we can’t give you a well informed answer about their acceptance rate.

Does it help to have a platform to get an acceptance?

Absolutely. It helps to be an “expert” or at least a very knowledgeable person in the area in which you want to write a book for this series.

Do they set up a book tour for you or do they leave it to you?

No book tour was pre-arranged for us, but that is something that may vary from author to author. We are very happy to be doing this virtual book tour through Pumpupyourbookpromotions.com!

What is your best advice you can give someone who would like to be published by them?

Polish your proposal to within an inch of its life and then ask a trusted friend to proofread it before you submit it. (This holds true no matter where you are submitting.) Also, be sure to have the right kind of platform or expertise for the kind of book you are submitting. And always be open and receptive to editorial advice and the idea of making changes. Don’t be too “married” to your words. They have a great team of editors, and if those editors make suggestions regarding ways to change your work for the better, it is a good idea to listen to them.

Thank you for coming, girls!

The Writer's Life is proud to sponsor Rachel and Judy on their first virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book Promotion. If you would like to visit their official tour page to learn more about these interesting ladies, click here.

If you would like a chance to win a FREE copy of Rachel and Judy's book, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Enhancing Sexual Desire, leave a comment by clicking here. One lucky blogger will be announced at the end of their tour on February 29 at
http://www.virtualbooktoursforauthors.blogspot.com/!

We wish Judy and Rachel much success with their virtual book tour!

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