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Should You Write a Book?

By Bill Pullen

 There’s a first time for everything!  You’ve all heard it.  Someone tells a story, and a person listening says “You should write a book!”  ……..and that’s what happened to me.

 I’d been blessed with an exciting career in hotel, restaurant and resort management throughout 52 years on three continents and in November 2015 a good friend said this to me again and it finally prompted me to do just that.   It took the better part of two years but I now have my first published book, “It Started at The Savoy,” a memoir about the variety of experiences offered by this time-consuming, yet fascinating profession involving many behind-the-scenes situations, considerable celebrity interaction, a stint with the Playboy organization and the managing of the only hotel in a tropical South American country.

 I was born in England before the start of the Second World War and a heroic figure of mine was Sir Winston Churchill, to whom was attributed the following:

 

          “Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with it is a joy and an amusement.

          Then it becomes a mistress, and then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant.

          The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude,

          you kill the monster and fling him to the public.”

In the early stages, I never envisioned what the entire project would entail.  I just started writing.  It made sense to do it in a chronological sequence, and it was fun.  I couldn’t wait to get into the multitude of memories that kept circulating through my head.  Obviously, this was the ‘toy and amusement’ part.  However, it did not take me long before I realized I needed help and some direction in what I was doing. I quickly realized that there was going to be a lot more to this than I had anticipated.  It was about this time that the ‘mistress’ part was transitioning to the ‘master’. There was no going back!  The writing was still fulfilling but it seemed like the fun aspect was getting closer to being a ‘job’.

After almost six months, the bulk of my memoir was virtually complete except for re-reading and continually cleaning it up.  What do I do next; editing, layout, and publishing?  Logically, these should be the next steps to move this process forward.

In Orlando, the University of Central Florida has one of the finest hotel schools in the world, the Rosen College of Hospitality Management, and I took advantage of this resource to ask one of the professors to critique my partial manuscript to see what kind of a reaction I would get.  Her response was positive, and she suggested that, although this type of book could never be a classroom tool, I should include some breakout pieces as ‘teaching moments’.  I took her advice and included several of these as “Keys to Success” as chapter breaks.

The end was in sight and fortunately, I never began this task anticipating it being a financial success.  It was, after all, done primarily as something to pass on to my immediate family and their heirs.  However, I did want to give it as wide an exposure as practical. The first thing we needed were collateral marketing pieces.

I drafted a brief synopsis and designed a single fold piece showing the front cover of the book, with the synopsis on the inside and some of the reviews on the back cover that we received after  early copies of the book circulated. To this we added business cards, custom bookmarks, both featuring the cover, and a 22 x 28 ad board for in-person presentations and book shows. With these in hand, I did some public library presentations and a local bookstore is keeping some signed copies on hand for local purchases. 

I am now in the process of contacting various book clubs to offer a personal presentation, as well as contacting some universities and colleges that offer comprehensive hospitality programs. I was delighted to hear that my hotel school alma mater in England, and the UCF Rosen College here in Orlando, have officially accepted my book for their libraries as ‘supplemental’ reading. 

From here on, I intend to continue to spread the word, try to figure out the monthly royalty payments, especially those from Kindle sales, and enjoy the ride in this whole new world.

 

                                                Journalism Teaches Crisp Prose

                                               Tom Bender

No one knows how to cut, cut, cut quite like a journalist. After 10 years in the newsroom, Tom Bender learned how to write lean copy, a skill he uses in his novel writing regularly. His experience as an editor, speech writer, and professor may also have something to do with his excellence in writing. But those years working as a journalist have stayed with him and even inspired the creation of the unforgettable reporter Morrison, the main character in Avenging Allison. This novel won First Place for Blended Genre in the 2018 Royal Palm Literary Awards.

While I was in college (the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign) I became the editor of my college paper and happened to spot the novelist James Jones in the campus drugstore. My interview of Mr. Jones led to my life in the writing business—as an editor at a community daily, as a speech writer, as a professor of communication in an MBA program, and, in retirement, as a novelist and editor.

After college, I spent ten years in newsrooms. There’s a newsroom joke about writing: A cub reporter covers a fire and turns in this lead: “Firefighters caught a two-year-old baby tossed from a flaming third-floor apartment in the Essex building on Third Street Friday night, but were unable to save its mother, Mrs. Aleta Jones, who was heard screaming piteously as she perished in the flames.”

The news editor rejects this, and several more of the kid’s attempts as well, each time saying, “Cut.” Finally, the kid turns in this lead: “Dead.” (paragraph) “That’s what Mrs. Aleta Jones is.” (paragraph) “DETAILS TO FOLLOW.” The point of the joke is to get to the point. Hemingway apprenticed at the Kansas City Star, and learned to write crisp stories. Reading his prose as I grew up, and apprenticing in a newsroom as he did, I write lean copy, and delete stuff further as I edit. Is that good? I think so or I wouldn’t write so.

Don’t sweat the small stuff; get on with your draft.

Write like you talk.

Reading makes for good writers.

The lie? Don’t sweat the small stuff. I have found it not true that a good story can be drafted and later “fleshed out.” I have found that a story builds on its nuances, and, like a train, can be derailed.

You should write like you talk. I heard this first from a journalism professor at the University of Illinois. To my mind, nothing is more true. My voice is essential to me; otherwise, pretty soon, my characters begin to sound false. Consider, for example, introducing a character with a German accent; his or her remarks become a parody. An occasional turn of phrase that suggests that a character’s first language is other than English works for me, but only after I create the character’s speech in my own voice. So it is for other aspects of voice as well.

Reading is also essential. How can you play the piano without a sense of music? I can “hear” the good American writers whose books I read growing up—Faulkner: “Old Priam, reft of us sons”; Hemingway: “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”; Steinbeck: “Being at ease with himself put him at ease with the world”; many others.

I wish people would go to my web page, www.tombenderbooks.com. My son Jim works hard on it, and he’s a child of our time, a person who understands IT. The page is designed so you can read it spread out, on a computer, perhaps, or compressed into several columns, each of them readable individually on your mobile phone.

 

 

Marketing Tips from a Novice

By Guest Author, Karen Shughart

I’m new to this. My first two books, both non-fiction, were published years ago when there was no social media, no one self-published, the publisher promoted, and barely anyone knew what the word “blog” meant. I’d worked in public relations decades past, but the world is different now than it was then, and my marketing skills were obsolete.

So, when Cozy Cat Press released my first book of fiction, Murder in the Museum: An Edmund DeClerykMystery last spring, I panicked. I simply did not know how to promote my book in the multitude of ways that are available to authors these days. I had no social media presence nor a website. The learning curve was long and steep, and I had to convince myself that promoting my book wasn’t self-promotion, it was book promotion. No promo, no sales.

TAKE A DEEP BREATH

I took a deep breath. Rather than trying to do it myself, I hired someone to design and manage my website. My husband became my business manager,and we scheduled a book launch party.  I activated relevant social media accounts and began posting. I reached out to experts for advice:  a cousin, also an author, who is adept at using social media to promote her own book; a well-known blogger in my genre (Cozy mysteries); other Cozy Cat authors; a contact who steered me to Ladies of Mystery, a site where I now blog once a month.

Still, my first attempts at marketing were haphazard and time-consuming.  I had no time to begin writing the second book in the series and felt very discouraged. Were the books selling? Yes, thanks to living in a community that supports local authors and a widespread group of friends and family. And, I suppose, my erratic online social media postings were somewhat successful. But I was stressed and having no fun. Something had to change. I needed a plan.

PLAN AND SCHEDULE

I decided to spend two days a week marketing and the rest of the week writing or doing other things I like to do. A weekly schedule, planned two months out, contains a list of tasks to accomplish for each day. These include press releases sent to local media outlets; inquiries to magazines and online sites that review books; bi-weekly posts on social media that include book excerpts, special sales and giveaways; links to or re-postings of reviews and to my blog and website; descriptions of characters; scenic photos; and a link to the outlets where the book is being sold.  I’ve joined multiple private and public Facebook forums for writers and others for authors and readers of Cozy mysteries.

Blogs relate to the writing process, research, marketing efforts, to name a few.  Facebook boosts, targeted to a specific demographic, have been particularly effective as an advertising tool, and they’re inexpensive. Calls to book stores, museums, gift shops, historical societies and libraries have resulted in enthusiastic response for selling the book and scheduling speaking engagements. An uptick in sales seems to be related to my efforts, and I’m feeling more confident. It appears that sticking to the plan makes a world of difference.

REMEMBER, ROME WASN’T BUILT IN A DAY

There’s truth to the old saw, “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” and it applies to marketing efforts by authors.

There’s always plenty to do, but what I’ve learned is not everything has to happen right now.

I’m going to write a quarterly newsletter and schedule an online blog tour. I’ll become a member of crime and mystery writers’ organizations and explore other options for advertising like Robin Reads, Books Butterfly and The Fussy Librarian. I’ll get better at Twitter.

During the weeks I was struggling with how to market effectively, I emailed my publisher, Patricia Rockwell, multiple times for advice and support. After reassuring me, multiple times, that I was on the right track, she advised, “Stop. Take a deep breath. Enjoy the ride!”  

About Becky Robins

Karen Shughart received a B.A. in Comprehensive Literature from the University of Pittsburgh and completed graduate courses in English at Shippensburg University.

 She is the author of two non-fiction books, and has worked as an editor, publicist, photographer, journalist, teacher and non-profit executive. A Murder in the Museum: An Edmund DeCleryk Mystery is her first work of fiction.

 Before moving to a small village on the shores of Lake Ontario in upstate New York, she and her husband resided in south central Pennsylvania, near Harrisburg, PA. For more information, visit her website: www.karenshughart.com.

 

 

 

MY OBEDIENCE TO AUTHORITY

By Don Canaan

For one hour I administered increasing electrical voltages to a young man with a heart murmur. I tortured him because he refused to correctly answer my questions. The power ranged from 15 to 450 volts.

Alternately screaming and crying in agony, he pleaded with me to let him go. Clad in a robe of obedience to my superior, I prolonged his suffering.

Finally the young man died and a child of the 1970s disappeared forever.

But I continued pumping voltages into his limp body - 300, 315, 405, until I reached the maximum of 450 volts. I felt he was attempting to fake us out - cheat us, my superior and myself. The room was opened. The young man, electrodes attached to his arm, lay slumped over his chair.

I killed him. I followed the orders of the researcher who had paid me to participate in an experiment. I had become the Gestapo interrogator - resurrecting the secret police mentality which lies dormant in our subconscious. But this was New York City in 1974 - not Berlin in 1934. I was just obeying orders.

This obedience to authority was not in jail, not in a concentration camp. It took place in a graduate psychology laboratory. The lab contained a realistically electrical shock generator. Its voltage switches were labeled in numeric increments and contained descriptive phrases such as "slight shock, anger, severe shock, "

My victim had been previously introduced to me as another volunteer - an unemployed actor. We were to role-play, according to the instructions of a graduate assistant. There was no danger, he said. Even though there might be some screaming, we were told to continue our role-playing as if nothing had happened,

The assistant escorted us into the laboratory and introduced us to the researcher. By means of a lottery drawing, I was appointed the "teacher," the actor as the "learner." Both of us were taken into an adjoining room. My partner was seated at a table facing a curtained window. We were told that the test's purpose was to ascertain whether the association of specific words with the correct choice of four alternative words could be learned and reinforced using electrical shocks.

While the electrode was being attached to my partner's arm, he told the experimenter that, as a child, he had been treated for a slight heart murmur. Our psychological proctor assured him there wasn't any danger and he need not worry.

I was led into the adjoining room with the impressive "shock generator." I was to administer a sample word association test to be followed by the real test. During the sample test my partner answered most of the word associations correctly. The punishment shocks administered did not approach dangerous levels.

During the actual test, many of the answers given were not what the researcher was looking for. As I increased the voltage to 75 volts, I heard brief yelps.

For each incorrect answer I increased the voltage by 15. At 120 volts he started to complain verbally. As we reached 150 volts, he demanded to be released from the experiment because his heart was starting to bother him.

At 285 volts a scream of agony pierced the wall separating us, yet I continued the test from the printed card in front of me. The experiment had turned out to be a facade - a blind to observe and videotape my reactions. I was the subject of the experiment.

An innocuous two-line classified ad in New York magazine requested participants for a City University of New York psychology experiment. It paid $3 for the volunteer's time. I called that phone number for an appointment destined to affect my life.

Afterward, I realized that if I could subjugate myself to a cause, then given the right circumstances, most people would probably do the same.

This experiment was a repeat performance of Stanley Milgram's 1960 Yale University experiment. During that experiment, the participants were not told they would be role-playing and the shocks were not real.

The results were similar. Sixty-five percent of the subjects kept administering shocks up to 450 volts. Sixty-five percent potential Hitlers, Eichmanns and Mengeles. Sixty-five percent who could and would bend with the wind in the name of a cause.

Must we repeat history to learn its lessons?

 

 

 

Your Plymouth Rock Was Not My Plymouth Rock

By Don Canaan

On a humid September Wednesday, I was on a New York City subway car hurtling toward the Lower East Side.

The air-conditioned car was delightful, unlike the stuffy subway car in which I used to travel to school many years previously. It seemed as if many of those trains were identical to the original subway cars that traversed the line in 1905, one year after the Interborough Rapid Transit Company commenced its initial run. This ride was so comfortable that I dozed off.

I found myself-walking the streets of the Lower East Side. But all was different. The people were speaking Yiddish and Italian, not English or Chinese. The streets were filled with people, wearing early 20th century garb, pushcarts and horse dung punctuating the street. As I turned the corner onto Orchard Street I saw my refection in a window. I was dressed just as they were dressed.

My mindset was the 21st century, but the surroundings said 1905. I was in the neighborhood in which my immigrant grandparents lived after arriving from Europe. I do not know how that happened, but it did.

Sure it was the neighborhood and the tenement that I wanted to see. But it was the facade of 97 Orchard Street approaching middle age in its 42nd year not its present age at that site. I wanted to visit the Lower East Side Tenement Museum at 97 Orchard Street. But instead of a building bordered by automobiles parked on both sides of the street, I saw wall-to wall humanity trying to escape the hot and putrid conditions inside their miniscule apartments.

Years later, the city would force owners to improve conditions for their tenants. More than 200.000 people (mostly immigrants) lived in tenements located in the square mile surrounding Orchard Street.

In my head I knew that for many years, until it was converted into a museum, the five-story 97 Orchard Street tenement had been a blighted-decayed shell of history. But in 1998, concluding that the museum was the best site in the United States from which to interpret the urban, working class immigrant experience, President Clinton and the U.S. Congress designated the site as a National Historic Area affiliated with the National Park Service. And 97 Orchard Street was also been designated a National Historic landmark and featured property of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Like other early tenements, the building contained 20 three-room units with no heating, lighting and for many years, indoor plumbing or running water. And during its history, it housed as many as 7,000 immigrants from 20 foreign lands.

In 1867, New York City started to enact legislation to improve tenement conditions. Those regulations prompted the landlord of 97 Orchard Street to install gas lines; running water and interior flush toilets. By the early 1900s, he had also transformed the building's entryway, dressing it up with tile floors, burlap wall coverings, pressed metal ceilings and oil paintings.

The laws also called for increased air and light in the apartments. Landlords blanched at this provision, but eventually complied by cutting windows in the walls that connected rooms in the apartments.

Suddenly, it was July 13, 1918. Newsboys hawked their wares, shouting the news of the Great War. It was just four years after my father, Louis Swerdlow, was born on nearby Eldridge Street, and just a few months before my grandmother, Fannie, would die during the Spanish Flu pandemic.

I'm about to visit the Orthodox Jewish Rogarshevsky family from Telz, Lithuania. They moved into the 325-square-foot apartment at 97 Orchard Street in 1910. The father, Abraham, and mother, Fannie, lived in that tiny three-room apartment along with their five children and orphaned niece.

I silently enter the apartment as the family sits Shiva, mourning Abraham's death from tuberculosis on the previous evening at 11. Because the Sabbath started on Friday evening only minimal funeral arrangements could be made. (Shiva is the Jewish rite of mourning.)

Because the Sabbath is considered a day of rest, Abraham's body could not be moved and Sabbath candles were not permitted to be placed near him. The body was not touched until 20 minutes after death. And after his death a window was opened so that Abraham's soul could escape. The window was immediately shut so that the soul could not return.

Fannie continued to live in her second floor apartment until 1941 even though there were just a few other tenants in the building when it closed in 1935. She then moved into an area housing project.

And when the Rogarshevsky apartment reopened as part of the Tenement Museum, visitors were invited to make a "Shiva call." Visitors learn about many of the rite's aspects, such as the seudat havra-ah, the traditional mourning meal of eggs, lentils, roll, and other round foods representing the circle of life.

Abraham's death was not the only tragedy that the Rogarshevsky family would endure. Visitors to the museum will learn what happened to Fannie and her family after 1918. The Rogarshevsky family showed great strength despite the obstacles and the poor conditions they faced and, as is true of all of the families represented at the museum, their story serves as an example to all of us.

Visitors also learn about the significance of the landsmanshaftn, associations of immigrants from the same hometown, as well as the practice of medicine during the early 20th century.

David Jacobson, consultant to the project and the Executive Director of United Hebrew Community of New York (the largest Jewish burial organization in the United States) stated, "When someone died on the Lower East Side, the whole neighborhood came to a halt. When the body of the deceased was carried out of the building, the shops closed down and everyone came out onto the street to pay their respects and to follow the funeral procession."

Wash Gjebre, a 1935 immigrant, who lived with his parents at 97 Orchard Street, observed, in a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article dated May 1, 2005, that rumors had circulated in Europe that the streets of New York were paved with gold. "When I got there I found out three things: First the streets weren't paved with gold. Second, they weren't paved at all. Third, I was expected to pave them."

The East Side Tenement Museum Visitor center is located at 108 Orchard Street (at Orchard and Broome). Additional information is available by phone at 212-431-0233 or via e-mail at testm@tenement.org. The museum's web site is at htpt://www.tenement.org

 

 

Film: The City Hitler Gave to the Jews

By Don Canaan

“Prisoner of Paradise” is the startling true story of Kurt Gerron, a beloved, well-known German-Jewish actor, director and cabaret star in Berlin during the 1920s, who co-starred with Marlene Dietrich in the film classic The Blue Angel, and who sang "Mack the Knife" in the original production of "The Three Penny Opera."

He later was forced to direct the Nazi propaganda film, "The Fuehrer Gives a City to the Jews." Gerron's story, as documented in Malcolm Clarke and Stuart Sender's "Prisoner of Paradise."

In 1933, Gerron fled Germany and eventually settled in Amsterdam. After the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, he was captured and sent to the Theresienstadt concentration camp, outside Prague, where he was ordered to write and direct the pro-Nazi film; a staged documentary intended to convince the world that Jews were being well treated in concentration camps. Eventually, he, as well as his cast, was sent on the last transport from Theresienstadt to Auschwitz, where they were killed upon arrival.

Gerron had previously been invited to Hollywood, where his friend Peter Lorre was starring in films, but Gerron, naive and vain, turned down that invitation because he wasn't offered a first-class steamer ticket to America.

Shot on location in Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam and Prague, "Prisoner of Paradise" follows Gerron's career and remarkable odyssey, offering a unique perspective on this extraordinary period.

 Reluctant at first, Gerron, who had been hand-picked by the Nazis, who knew of his fame in pre-Hitler Germany, ultimately immersed himself into the work to create a tinsel-town paradise from appalling circumstances, while knowing the terrible realities of life inside the camp.

Gerron's 115-minute 1944 film, much of which has disappeared, reveals Terezin, a camp populated by Europe's Jewish elite, as a utopian vacation resort. The film referred to the inmates as, "Jews who would be missed." During the filming, the selected prisoner-actors are seen wandering, laughing, playing in the public park, playing sports, attending concerts and eating chocolate cake, while off-camera the machine-guns of hundreds of Nazi guards remain pointed at them.

About 35 minutes worth of scenes have been found, many of which appear in "Prisoner of Paradise."

Clarke told reporters: "It is very demanding to make a film as that one on the emotional level because it is a so sad history. It is difficult to forget, in front of each image, that all these smiling children, all these people, were sent to Auschwitz as of the moment when the film of Gerron was supplemented."

He said Gerron, although a German Jew was politically naive. "He didn't really care about what was happening," Clarke said. "He was a guy who was obsessed by work. We use the expression in the film 'fiddling while Rome burned.'"

Gerron was criticized by some Jews in the camp for agreeing to make the film, but he was advised by others to do whatever it took to survive. "I understand why he did it," Clarke said. "Everybody in the camp knew the Russians were on the way (and) there was a professional reason. He loved to direct and here was a studio offering a movie. The problem was the studio was the Nazis."

 

Co-Writing a Mystery by Karen Shughart

by

f anyone had told me I’d someday be co-writing a mystery with 21 others, I’m not sure I would have believed them. Writing a book with so many authors seems like it would be an impossible endeavor. But that’s just what happened when some of us who are affiliated with Cozy Cat Press agreed to take on the project. It wasn’t the first time Cozy Cat has done this. A couple years ago they published Chasing the Codex, but that was before my time.

Since this was a first experience for me, I requested to take a chapter in the middle of the book. I wanted to read what the others had written before it was my turn, so I chose an early October date. As it turned out, I was assigned to write Chapter 13. Good omen? Bad omen? Who knew. We had a week to write our chapters, and I must admit that my initial excitement turned to fear as I contemplated the task before me.

When I told some friends about the project, one of them asked if we, as a group, had met to discuss the plot and characters. We hadn’t, we live throughout the US and Canada, soeven a conference call would have been a challenge.

One of our most experienced authors volunteered to write the first chapter, and what a chapter it was! Glory Lockhart, the widow of a slain police chief, meets Tom Rankin on a blind date at a county fair and after winning her a large stuffed bear at the shooting gallery, he invites her to ride the Ferris wheel. At the end of the ride Tom is slumped over dead, shot in the back.  Thus, the beginning of Wheel of Death.

By the time it was my turn a lot had happened to Glory and with the investigation into Tom’s murder, and I was increasingly anxious about how I was going to follow in the footsteps of the 12 talented authors whose chapters preceded mine. Then, I took a deep breath and told myself that if they could do it so could I. One morning I awoke with an inspiration. As a teaser I’ll tell you it has something to do with Ludwig Bemelmans’ book, Madeline, you know, “In and old house in Paris…. In the middle of the night Miss Clavel turned on the light and said something is not right.” I wove that into my chapter and completed it in just a few days.

Despite differing styles, we managed to create an exciting full-length mystery. Our publisher, Patricia Rockwell, pulled it together by writing the last chapter and editing it, and the finished product is a charming Cozy with lots of plot twists, interesting characters and a great ending. As I look back, the project was a lot of fun, and, as it turns out, Chapter 13 was a good omen and just the right chapter for me.

 

 

 

 

 

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Don Canaan

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