2018 Writing the Rockies Conference promises something for everyone

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As I mentioned in last week’s post, An Adventure in Book Marketing, I will be sitting as a panelist at Western’s Alumni Roundtable at the Writing the Rockies Conference in July. There I said that was my next experiment in marketing, but to be honest, although copies of Delilah will be available at the book fair, run by Crested Butte’s Townie Books, I’m not expecting my sales to suddenly shoot up off the charts. Writing conferences, as a general rule, are not places where you sell a lot of books, but I’m exciting to be going and representing Westerns M.F.A. in Creative Writing program, (I’m actually representing both of my concentrations, screenwriting and genre fiction), for other reasons. What writing conferences are generally good for is making connections within the writing community, and Writing the Rockies is no exception. It seems Western, or maybe even the Gunnison Valley is especially prolific in this area, because you begin to feel yourself being pulled in to fantastic world of writing and publishing as soon as you step onto the Western campus. And the connections I’ve made at Western and at the conference have been very useful to me in some unexpected and surprising ways. Never have I attended this conference without coming away with some valuable new connections, some of which have turned into long lasting friendships, as well.

This year, it looks like they’ve got a great line-up, including fantastic opera workshop performance of Lottie Silks, with music by Jay Parrotta and libretto by Western Poetry and Genre Fiction student Enid Holden, directed by Ben Makino and Andrew Sellon, to go along with their infamous and very intense poetry symposium. They also have some not to miss Keynote speakers lined –up: Mark Todd, author and founder of Western State’s M.F.A. in Creative Writing Program, for the conference Keynote; award winning poets Ned Balbo and Jane Satterfield for the poetry Keynote; Kevin J. Anderson, author of over 140 novels, publisher at WordFire Press and a member of Western’s M.F.A. program staff for the publishing Keynote; Patrick Pexton, former ombudsman for the Washington Post for the creative nonfiction Keynote; and Emmy Award winning screenwriter, John Bowman for the screenwriting Keynote; and Michaella Roessner, published author and M.F.A. program faculty for the genre fiction Keynote. Other presenters in the publishing track include Darrin Pratt, Editor of the University of Colorado Press and immediate past president of the Association of American University Presses, D.H. Tracy, Editor of Antilever Press, and others.

In addition to their always informative workshops, sessions and panels, pitch sessions and manuscript critiques are available, their annual hike above Crested Butte will take place, three day intensive workshops, and full day seminars. Special presentations of Comedy is Hard, by Mike Reiss, directed by William Spicer; and Multitudes: An Evening with Walt Whitman by Kim Nuzzo and Valerie Haugen Nuzzo. Film screenings including How Murray Saved Christmas, by Mike Reiss and the highlights from the Crested Butte Film Festival with festival co-director, Michael Brody will also be available.

As you can see, Writing the Rockies is a conference promises something for everyone. I’m excited to be a part of it and I hope you will join us. This is the 19th year running for this wonderful conference and it grows with each passing year. This year the conference will run from Wednesday, July 18th through Sunday, July 22nd. The cost is $300 for the entire five day event if you register before July 1, and $350 after that date. The good news is, although the conference is fully open to the public, every student of Western’s M.F.A. Program in Creative Writing goes as a part of the curriculum, and there are scholarships available for alumni, K12 educators, and Gunnison Valley residents, as well as anyone else who wishes to apply.  You can sign up for the 2018 Writing the Rockies Conference or apply for scholarship here:

https://www.western.edu/writing-rockies-annual-conference

For more information contact:

David J. Rothman, Conference Director / 970-943-2058 / drothman@western.edu

Mark Todd, Conference Coordinator / 970-943-2016 / mtodd@western.edu

Michelle Wilk, Office Support Coordinator / 970-943-2163 / mwilk@western.edu

 

On a similar note, Western State Colorado University still has a few spots open for their low-residency M.F.A. in Creative Writing Program, which begins in July. If you have an undergraduate degree and you’re interested in persuing a career in writing genre fiction, poetry or screenplays or a career in publishing, their program may be just what you’re looking for. Low-residency means you must attend physical class on campus for two weeks each summer and the rest of the courses are online. (Remember, if you’re in the program, you get to attend the Writing the Rockies Conference as a part of the curriculum.) Their faculty consists of successful published authors, successful screenwriters, and distinguished poets. Looking at the successes of myself and my fellow alumni, I have to say they offer useful skills and knowledge that can be applied in the writing industry.

For more information: https://www.western.edu/academics/graduate/graduate-programs-western/graduate-program-creative-writing-low-residency-16 

 

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Interview with Author Mark Shaw

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Once in a while, we come across an author who makes us see things differently through their writing. Mark Shaw is one such author, whose writing has a ring of truth to it that makes readers see those he writes about as real people with complex stories, who opens our eyes and makes us see truths that were always there, just below the surface, but we didn’t see before. I had the pleasure of reviewing two of his books. As the Southern Colorado Literature Examiner, I reviewed Beneath the Mask of Holiness, the compelling biography of a true life monk torn between his love of God and his love of a woman. And here, on Writing to be Read, I reviewed The Reporter Who Knew Too Much, the true life story of journalist Dorothy Kilgalen, who was investigating the JFK assination, which I recently learned will be made into a movie or a television mini-series, and a follow-up book, which Mark plans to release this fall. I also have the privelage of reviewing his latest book, to be released in June, Courage in the Face of Evil, the story of a German Christian woman, Vera Konig, who spent eight years in the concentration camps and whose courage and spirit brought her and several others through the ordeal. I’m pleased to be interviewing Mark here today. I think you will find him and his writing as interesting as I have.
Kaye: What is the one thing in your writing career that is the most unusual or unique thing you’ve done so far?
Mark: No question that it is the Dorothy Kilgallen story, that Dorothy has “spoken” to me from the hereafter, guiding my research and writing of her story so that the truth may be told about what happened to this true patriot who gave up her life to print the truth about the JFK assassination. What an inspiration she is to young journalists with some many people saying to me, “I wish we had a reporter with integrity like Dorothy today.”
Kaye: So the buzz in the air is that the Dowdle Brothers, who brought us the Waco mini-series, have optioned for your book, The Reporter Who Knew Too Much. This book is the true story of journalist Dorothy Kilgallen back in the 1960’s, (I know I reviewed this book, but for the life of me I can’t find it to refer back to for refreshing the details). I think every author at some point dreams of having their story portrayed on film. Can you describe what it felt like, as an author, to learn that this deal was in the works?
Mark: No one, my agent, my publisher, me, anyone thought Dorothy’s story could be a bestseller but somehow the book touched the emotions of so many people with at last count, my having received more than 500 emails from people around the world who have gained a respect and love for her. At one point, I told my wife that even after having written 20+ books, this one has made feel like a real author, that someone my writing this book connected with readers like none before it. And when I learned that respected filmmakers like the Brothers Dowdle wanted to adapt the book to the big or small screen, it brought tears to me because every author does dream of this happening. Best of all, these men of integrity have the passion to tell the story of a reporter of integrity, the perfect match.
 
Kaye: You know Dorothy Kilgallen was a great journalist and sets an example for us as writers, but she also was a forerunner at a time when women were still struggling to be heard. Any thoughts on that?
 
Mark: In the day and age when Dorothy was attempting to position herself as a top-flight reporter, she faced quite a challenge because women were not supposed to ride in the back seat of a car, but BEHIND the car. But she never let that stop her, she worked harder than any of the men who challenged her driving ambition and she did so with integrity at every turn. This is why I believe she was truly the first female media icon, television star on What’s My Line, ace reporter, respected columnist, acclaimed investigative reporter, radio program host, author, etc. No wonder the New York Post called her “the most powerful female voice in America.” Dorothy certainly was that and a good mother to her children, as well who never saw her being a female as an obstacle, but in fact a true blessing.
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Kaye: In The Reporter Who Knew Too Much, you reveal facts that point to Dorothy Kilgallen’s death being a murder, along with an elaborate conspiracy and cover up. What originally led your own research in this direction?
 
Mark: Amazingly enough, I never intended to write this book but during my writing a biography of Melvin Belli, Jack Ruby’s attorney, a close friend of his said Belli told him, “They’ve killed Dorothy, now they will go after Jack Ruby.” I could not get this quote out of my mind and that led to researching Dorothy’s life and times and her death. Along the way, I believe she guided my efforts to secure the truth about what happened to her, her spirit being felt so many times when I wondered whether I could find that truth. She selected me to tell her story, that’s for sure so she can get the justice she deserves.
 
Kaye: The investigation was actually reopened due to compelling information which you brought forth through your research. Now, there’s been follow-up research, and the results are found in Denial of Justice: Dorothy Kilgallen, Abuse of Power and the Most Compelling JFK Assassination Investigation in History. Are you at liberty to talk about the findings? 
 
Mark: I continue to fight for Dorothy’s rights as the victim of a homicide to the extent that I fired off a ten page letter to the NY DA’s office demanding they re-open the investigation into her death based on new evidence that will be in the follow-up book to be released this fall after my new book, Courage in the Face of Evil is released in June. In the follow-up book, there is new evidence regarding Ron Pataky, the chief suspect in her death, additional details about what happened in the townhouse where Kilgallen lived on the day she died from her butler’s daughter, shocking new information about the JFK assassination never revealed before and admission by Dorothy’s daughter to the effect, “My mother was murdered.”
 
Kaye: Dorothy Kilgallen was investigating several possibilities of conspiracy in the JFK assassination, and it seemed she was getting close to uncovering something big regarding this. You also presented a few theories on why Kilgallen might have been murdered, and by whom. Are we any closer to answering any of those questions now? 
 
Mark: Yes, the shocking information about the JFK assassination in the new book will indicate what Dorothy learned that made her even more of a threat to those who were complicit in JFK’s death. This material has never been published before.
 
Kaye: How does a book get optioned? Can you tell us how it worked for you? Did you send in a copy of your book with a cover letter to pitch it? Or did somebody read your book and call you up out of the blue to say they wanted to make a movie out of it?
 
Mark: Drew Dowdle told me he heard about the book from a friend and then listened to the audio version before telling his brother John about it. They contacted me about the rights and then I connected them with Frank Weimann, my literary agent in NYC. The deal took sometime to complete because they were finishing up WACO, a terrific if disturbing series, but finally it was completed. I had a glass of champagne with my wife to celebrate.
 
Kaye: You have extensive research into this project. You have a major investment in the book, and now you will get to see it played out on screen. Who would you like to see cast into the leading role? Who do you envision as Dorothy Kilgallen?
 
Mark: On the Dorothy Kilgallen Facebook page, followers debated who could play Dorothy and among the selections were Nicole Kidman, Cate Blantchett, and Sally Hawkins. I’ve said all of these would be terrific but wish that Meryl Streep was a bit younger since she’s as feisty as Dorothy was.
 
Kaye: Your next book, Courage in the Face of Evil will be published in June. What about this story attracted you? 
 
Mark: This is a very disturbing yet inspiration book based on a true story as chronicled in a Holocaust diary kept by a German Christian woman who was a true angel of mercy at Ravensbruck Concentration Camp. The theme, so relevant these days since there is so much hate in the world, revolves around how love may overcome hate when human survival is at stake. More about the book may be learned at Mark Shaw: Courage In The Face Of Evil .
 
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Kaye: Your books, especially the recent ones, seem to focus on defending people, on justice and injustice. Is this true?
Mark: Yes, certainly, I defend Dorothy’s rights as a victim to get the justice she deserves and in Courage in the Face of Evil, I defend the main character’s decision to trust the enemy, a Nazi prison guard, so as to save the life of a little Russian orphan who will be killed unless the guard saves her. I’ve done this with other books as well, for instance, in the Melvin Belli book, I even defended Jack Ruby because he did not get a fair trial. In fact, Dorothy believed this to be true as well as will be documented in “Denial of Justice.” My defending those denied justice comes from my days as a criminal defense lawyer since everyone deserves a fair shake, even an assassin like Jack Ruby.
Kaye: I know research is a big part of your writing. Due to the fact that you write biographies, it has to be. But I have to ask, how did you find Vera’s story? (You did an amazing job with it, btw.) How much did you have to add or take out from her journals?
Mark: Years ago, I was contacted by the daughter of the woman whose story I tell in “Courage in the Face of Evil.” I was able to read the diary and was captivated with the story, the raw emotion, the bravery, the determination to survive, the willingness to save lives no matter the danger. Capturing “Vera’s” voice was the key and except for the final 5% or so of the book where I added material based on what the daughter told me “Vera’s” intentions were regarding the prison guards after the war, the account is absolutely true.
And now for a fun question:
Kaye: Which author/screenwriter/poet, dead or alive, would you love to have lunch with?
 
Mark: No question here, Ernest Hemingway.
I want to thank Mark for chatting with me about your books. I’m sure it will be quite exciting to see one of your books put on film. Whether they make it a movie or a television mini-series, it is really quite a treat. Be sure to catch my June 1st review of Courage in the Face of Evil, a gripping and compelling book. can learn more about Mark Shaw and his books here: http://www.markshawbooks.com/ 

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“Stress: How Stress Affects Your Life and How to Manage It”: Basics for Stress Management

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Stress: How Stress Affects Your Life and How to Manage It, by Dr. Christine Rose, provides useful information which could be life changing if utilized. The book provides a basic overview of stress and its effects on the human body, and several methods of dealing with stress.It covers the different aspects of stress well. It tells readers what stress is, how our bodies respond to stress and why they respond that way,  and what the effects of stress on the body are, as well as how it might be controls to make us happier and healthier readers.

Dr. Rose neither talks over, nor talks down to, her readers, but uses layman’s terms that are easy to both read and understand. The suggested methods of managing stress are not new, but they are practical and effective. I give Stress: How Stress Affects Your Life and How to Manage It four quills.

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Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs at no charge. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


“Banker Without Portfolio” or Writer Without a Story?

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I think Banker Without Portfolio: The Ugly Truth Everyone Needs to Know, by Philip P. Gbormittah is meant to be inspirational. Certainly, Gbormittah proclaims his love of Jesus loudly and attributes the little success he has had and all of his upstanding morals to the grace of God, but it doesn’t really stand up to scrutiny. The author makes himself out to be altruistic and morally unblemished, praying for God to meet all of his needs, but after a decade at a banking institution, to still not have received a raise in grade and income makes it seem as if his prayers aren’t really being answered.

The book cover is misleading, or perhaps misrepresentative of the true content, since this memoir is written by an author whose skin is a different color than that on the cover photo. Gbormittah might be missing out on a huge opportunity here, for had he played up his discrimination in the work place as an issue of color in today’s market, he might have had a best seller, even without improvements in writing style.

On the last pages, the author summarizes, “My love life suffered. My nuclear family relationships suffered.” But I have to ask why we didn’t see any of this throughout the story? It wasn’t until almost half way through the book that we learned he was married, and we never get to meet his wife or get a description of her.

Discrimination in the world of high finance is the theme, but the two dimensional character we get here doesn’t allow us to really care about the injustice of it because the character doesn’t feel human, and that’s bad because he is a real character. Although the story is about the author’s professional life, to get a glimpse of his personal life would have made for a more well rounded character, who we could actually care about. Let us meet the wife instead of just hearing about her? How did he feel toward her. We don’t know, because Gbormittah doesn’t allow readers to be privy to this information.

We don’t get to see him as a loving, indifferent, or abusive husband. He could be any of them, and it might have made a difference in how much we readers are willing to invest in the character, how much we care about what happens. The only side of him we do see a little of is his professional side, how he interacts in the workplace, and even then we’re only allowed a small glimpse. But even then, the majority of what we know, we only know because we are told, rather than shown, these things.

As it is, Banker Without Portfolio: The Ugly Truth Everyone Needs to Know does a lot of telling us what happened, but very little showing. There is lots of conflict, but very little resolution and no reason for readers to care. I can only give it two quills.

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Kaye gives honest book reviews and she does not charge for them. If you have a book you would like reviewed contact Kaye at kayebooth[at]yahoo[dot]com.


Looking Back Over 2016

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This will be the last reflective post of the year. Next Monday’s post will find us in 2017. For my writing career it has been a slow take off, but I’ve seen progress. In July, I completed my Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing. With emphasis in both genre fiction and screenwriting, and two completed novels, Delilah and Playground for the Gods Book 1: In the Beginning, two full feature film scripts and one comedy series pilot script in hand, I eagerly jumped right in to get my feet wet in either the publishing and/or screenwriting industry. I began submitting my work to agents, publishers, and competitions like crazy. I received mostly rejections, as expected, and although I still haven’t found a home for either novels or scripts, I did manage to find a home for two poems and two short stories. Not too bad. While the poems, Aspen Tree and Yucca! Yucca! Yucca!, appeared in print, (in Colorado Life (Sept.-Oct. 2016) and Manifest West Anthology #5 – Serenity and Severity, respectively), my short story,  I Had to Do It was published on Zetetic: A Record of Unusual Inquiry, and my not so short, short story, Hidden Secrets was published on Across the Margin.

2016 has been a pretty good year for Writing to be Read. The revamping of the blog site was completed in March, I’ve managed post things on a fairly regular basis, we were honored with guest posts by my friend Robin Conley, and my visits and page views have risen, with almost 2000 visitors and over 2,500 page views. Looking at this, makes me feel pretty good about the blog, as a whole. Another good change is the addition of screenwriting content, which I believe has drawn a larger audience by widening the scope of the content.

13595804_10208551605339796_604487774_nThe top post of 2016 was my book review of Simplified Writing 101, by Erin Brown Conroy, which is an excellent tutorial on academic writing, including writing advice that every writing student should know. After that, the reflective post Writing Horror is Scary Business would be second in line. Other popular posts include my four part Making of a Screenplay series,( Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4), my Tribute to My Son, and What Amazon’s New Review Policies Mean for Writing to be Read. More recently, my ten part series on publishing, Pros and Cons of Traditional vs. Independent vs. Self-Publishing gave me the opportunity to interview some awesome names in the publishing industry: self-published authors, Jeff Bowels, Tim Baker and Art Rosch; traditionally published authors Stacia Deutsch and Mark Shaw; independently published author Jordan Elizabeth; and children’s author Nancy Oswald, who has published under all three models; as well as Caleb Seeling, owner of Conundrum Press and Curiosity Quills Press – with the final installment summarizing the conclusions made from those interviews. Snoopy Writing

Many of my posts were reflections of my own writing experience. These included: Why Writing is a Labor of LoveFear is a Writer’s Best FriendI’ve Come A Long Way, BabyWriting the Way That Works For YouCreating Story Equals Problem SolvingWhat’s A Nice Girl Like Me Doing Writing in a Genre Like This?; Acceptance or Rejection – Which Do You Prefer?; A Writer’s Life is No Bowel of Cherries; Write What You Know; Discouragement or Motivation?; What Ever Happened to Heather Hummingbird?; How You Can Help Build a Writer’s Platform; and Why Fiction is Better Than Fact.

2013-03-16 Ice Festival 014Sadly, I only attended two events that were reported on, on Writing to be Read in 2016 – the 2016 Ice Festival in Cripple Creek, and the 2016 Writing the Rockies Conference in Gunnison, Colorado. What can I say? I’m a starving writer. This is something I hope to improve on in 2017 by attending more events to report on. One possible addition to the 2017 list that I’m very excited to think about is the Crested Butte Film Festival. The details are not ironed out yet, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed.Fear of Laughter

Screenwriting content included this past year seemed to be popular. In addition to my Making of a Screenplay series and Writing Horror is Scary BusinessWriting to be Read also featured Writing Comedy for Screen is a Risky Proposition, and a book review for Hollywood Game Plan, by  Carole Kirshner, which I can’t recommend highly enough for anyone desiring to break into the screenwriting trade. Robin’s Weekly Writing Memo also included several writing tips that could be applied equally to literature or screenwriting.

Another project I’m particularly proud of is my ten part series on publishing, Pros and Cons of Traditional vs. Independent vs. Self-Publishing, which I just finished up last week. In this series I  interviewed nine professionals from within the industry to get the low down on the three different publishing models. My interviews included self-published authors Jeff Bowels, Tim Baker and Art Rosch, traditionally published authors Stacia Deutsch (children’s books) and Mark Shaw (nonfiction), and independently published YA author Jordan Elizabeth. To balance things out a bit, I also interviewed children’s author Nancy Oswald, who has published with all three models, Clare Dugmore of Curiosity Quills Press and Caleb Seeling, owner and publisher at Conundrum Press.

bottledOne of the great things about doing book reviews is that you get to read a lot of great books, in with the okay and not so great ones. In addition Simplified Writing 101, my five quill reviews in 2016 included Jordan Elizabeth’s Runners & Riders, Mark Shaw’s The Reporter Who Knew Too Much, Nancy Oswald’s Trouble Returns, Carol Riggs’ Bottled, Jeff Bowles’ Godling and Other Paint Stories, Janet Garber’s Dream Job, Art Rosch’s Confessions of an Honest Man, and Mark Todd and Kim Todd O’Connell’s Wild West Ghosts. I don’t give out five quills lightly and every one of these books are totally worthwhile reads.

Point Break 1Of course, not all books get a five quill rating. Other books I reviewed that I recommended with three quills or more include three short story anthologies: Chronology, Under a Brass Moon, and Cast No Shadows; two poetry collections: Suicide Hotline Hold Music by Jessy Randall and Walks Along the Ditch by Bill Trembley; Escape From Witchwood Hollow, Cogling, Treasure Darkly, The Goat Children, and Victorian by Jordan Elizabeth; Dark Places by Linda Ladd; Chosen to Die by Lisa Jackson; Wrinkles by Mian Mohsin Zia; Full Circle by Tim Baker; The 5820 Diaries by Chris Tucker; The Road Has Eyes: An RV, a Relationship, and a Wild Ride by Art Rosch; Hollywood Game Plan by Carol Kirschner; Keepers of the Forest by James McNally; 100 Ghost Soup by , and A Shot in the Dark by K.A. Stewart. I also did two movie reviews: Dead Pool and Point Break.

I feel very fortunate to have had Robin Conley join us with her Weekly Writing Memo and her guest movie reviews. The useful writing tips in her Weekly Writing Memos covered a wide range of topics including critiquing, using feedback, ways to increase tension, Relatability or Likeability?, 3 Types of Plot, story research, what to write, making your audience care, world building, handling feedback, writing relationships, establishing tone, editing, word choice, How to Start Writing, endings, queries, Parts of a Scene, making emotional connections, the influence of setting, Building a Story, Inciting Your Story, movement and dialog, Writing Truth, time, Overcoming the Blank Page, Networking, character names, theme, set up, cliches, parentheticals in screenwriting, horror inspiration, and Learning to WriteRobin’s guest post movie reviews included Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Batman vs. Superman, Miss Perigrin’s Home for Peculiar Children, and The Neon Demon13624744_10104024218870042_2001375168_n

I am thankful for Robin’s valuable content and am glad that she will still be contributing Memos on a monthly, rather than a weekly basis. Although I was sad to lose her weekly content, I am happy for her as she moves forward in her own writing career and I wish her well in her writing endeavors. For those of you who looked forward to her weekly posts, you can catch more of her content on her own blog, Author the World.

2016 was a great year for Writing to be Read, even if it was kind of rough for the author behind the blog. You readers helped to make it a good year and I thank you. Now it’s time to look ahead and see what’s in store for 2017 Writing to be Read. I mentioned some of the things I hope to achieve above: more posts pertaining to the screenwriting industry, and coverage of more events throughout the year are two of the goals I have set for my blog. I also plan to add some author, and hopefully, screenwriter profiles into the mix. I had good luck with author profiles during my Examiner days, and I think they will be well received here, as well.

I also hope to bring in some guests posts by various authors or bloggers, or maybe screenwriters, just to give you all a break from listening to me all the time. I believe Robin plans to continue with Monthly Writing Memos, which will be great, too.

I look forward to all the great books that I know are coming my way in 2017, too. The first reviews you have to look forward to are a short memoir, Banker Without Portfolio by Phillip Gbormittah, a YA paranormal romance, Don’t Wake Me Up by M.E.Rhines, a Rock Star romance, Bullet by Jade C. Jamison and a short story, How Smoke Got out of the Chimneys by DeAnna Knippling.

Happy New Year

I hope all of you will join me here in the coming year. Follow me on WordPress, or subscribe to e-mail for notifications of new posts delivered to your inbox. Have a great 2017 and HAPPY WRITING!


Pros and Cons of Traditional vs. Independent vs. Self-Publishing (Part 5): Interview with Traditionally Published Author, Mark Shaw

 

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Those who remember traditional publishing prior to the digital age, recall an industry which was not easy to break into, but with persistence, it could pay off with large advances, and a contract from one of the “Big Five” publishing houses. Your publisher took care of the rest: editing and proofreading, cover and/or illustrations, publicity and marketing. In many ways, it is the same today, but one thing self-publishing and independent publishing have changed, is that they showed traditional publishers that authors were capable of doing their own promotion and marketing. Today’s authors, it seems, are now expected to carry the weight for these tasks no matter which model is chosen.

The rise of digital and self-publishing also brought about a rise in publishing scams, designed to take advantage of aspiring authors and empty their pocketbooks. In the 1990s, when I began writing, they called them vanity presses.An author would send in their work and receive a very favorable response, praising their work and offering to publish it for a fee. As the author moves through the publishing process, the fees keep adding up. Today they are called subsidy publishers. As with traditional publishers, subsidy publishers hold the rights to the book, although the author is paying them to publish it.

So far in the series we’ve heard from self-published authors, Jeff Bowles, Tim Baker and Art Rosch, and we’ve heard from traditionally published author Stacia Deutsch. Join me today to get more of the traditionally published POV in my interview with author Mark Shaw. Among his 25 published works are books I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing as The Southern Colorado Literature Examiner: The Mask of Holiness, a biography of Thomas Merton, and Stations Along the Way, a biography of former Hitler youth leader, Ursela Martens. In addition  to being a traditionally published author, Mark is a literary consultant and entertainment attorney, so he knows of what he speaks.

Kaye: When did you know you wanted to be an author?

Mark: I’m a former criminal defense lawyer and I never considered being an author until I covered the Mike Tyson rape trial for CNN, ESPN, and USA Today. I believed Tyson was denied justice and so I wrote my first book, Down For the Count.

Kaye: Would you share your own publishing story with us?

Mark: I was able to find a literary agent to represent the Tyson book and he found a traditional publisher. I had enjoyed the writing process and the book sold well so I looked for new subjects to write about and within a few years I had published several traditionally published books. Looking for a theme to weave through new books, I landed on “justice denied” and the last four or five I have written including my latest “The Reporter Who Knew Too Much: The Mysterious Death of What’s My Line TV Star and Media Icon Dorothy Kilgallen,” are symbolic of the type of books I write. Sometimes I have to pinch myself that this book will be my 25th since I never had any formal training as a writer but I’m blessed that people have enjoyed the “stop and think” aspect of the books and continue to praise my body of work.

Kaye: What do you see as pros and cons of self-publishing?

Mark: As noted in my book about the publishing process, “How to Become a Published Author: Idea to Publication,” as long as it’s what we call “traditional self-publishing (no subsidy publisher) then okay, but the career of any writer who uses a subsidy publisher where they pay to have the book published (Dorrance, iUniverse, Trafford, AuthorHouse, XLibris, etc.) is doomed with many who have come to me for consulting telling horror stories of losing their life savings, their homes, etc. Subsidy Publishing is the absolute kiss of death and so many writers fall prey to subsidy publishers that promise the moon and end up with boxes of books in the basement they can never sell since libraries and most bookstores won’t touch them. This is unfortunate since aspiring authors can use a combination of Create Space and Ingram Spark to publish a book with very minimal cost and this traditional self-publishing method is a badge of honor and libraries and bookstores will be interested in purchasing and stocking the book.

Kaye: What do you see as the pros and cons of independent publishing?

Mark: There seems to be confusion as to what this term means but as long as it doesn’t include subsidy publishing, I’m all for it.

Kaye: What do you see as the pros and cons of traditional publishing?

Mark: I encourage writers to try the traditional publishing route by using query letters and book proposals and a good strategy for landing a literary agent or publisher and if that doesn’t work, then use traditional self-publishing. The advantages of traditional publishing include the publisher paying for all aspects of the publishing process, editing, layout, cover, etc. without the writer putting up a cent but most importantly traditional publishing includes distribution (my new book has Simon&Schuster distribution) which traditional self-publishing lacks since the author must do the distribution. One disadvantage these days for a first time author is that unlike ten years ago, many traditional publishers will not do much toward promotion and thus the author is expected to do the major part of the work.

Kaye: How much does the non-writing work, (marketing & promotion, illustrations & book covers, etc…), that you must do yourself vary between the different models?

Mark: You are talking about completely different subjects here. With marketing and promotion, regardless of the method of publishing, an author has to understand that he or she must be the guiding force behind book publicity. With illustrations and book covers, etc. traditional publishers will handle this task while the author of any traditional self-published book is responsible for handling these matters and there are several outstanding consultants who can help with this tasks. Again, writers should stay away from subsidy publishers many of whom produce inferior books that cause problems right away with the authors’ reputation.

Kaye: Do you recommend traditional publishing for today’s aspiring authors, and why or why not?

Mark: Absolutely but writers must proceed with a well-developed strategy such as the “10-Step Method” outlined in “How to Become a Published Author.” There are no shortcuts possible here and most writers don’t want to put in the hard work necessary to secure a literary agent so their chances of securing a publisher are optimized.

 

I want to thank Mark for sharing his thoughts with us.  Also, I’m excited to be reviewing his latest book. Be sure and catch my review of The Reporter Who Knew Too Much on November 25, right here on Writing to be Read. To learn more about Mark Shaw or his books visit his website.

Don’t miss next Monday’s post and my interview with independently published YA author, Jordan Elizabeth, and get her thoughts on today’s publishing industry on Writing to be Read.

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A Tribute to My Son

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Wednesday the 21st is the 8th anniversary of the death of my son, Michael Daniel Lee Booth. Since his death, September has always been a pretty difficult month for me. His birthday was the 9th. He had just turned nineteen when he took his own life. I relate well to the song by Green Day, “Wake Me Up When September Ends”, but of course, I can’t sleep the whole month away. It’s just not practical. So, instead I try and find some way to cope by honoring him in some way.

 

Since his death, I’ve talked a lot about how I want to write a book that will tell his story, and mine too I suppose, or at least the story of how his death affected me, and changed my life. When I first began thinking about it, I referred to it as a memoir, but it has to be more than that because there are so many others his death affected. I keep putting off writing it because I’m not sure I’m ready to dredge up all the memories that writing his story would bring. Some of them are still so painful it seems as if they only occurred yesterday.

 

For a long time after Mike died, it seemed that he was the only thing I could write about, and many of those writings will eventually be incorporated into the book. For now though, I’d like to make this blog post in honor of him, and share with you the eulogy I wrote. I stood up and read it at his funeral with tears streaming down my face, my heart breaking inside of me. People said it was brave of me to get up there and read it in front of all those that attended his funeral, and there were a lot. But for me, it was just something that I had to do. After all, I am a writer and he was my son.

mike-zaar

 

Michael Daniel Lee Booth

 

When Mike Booth said, “I love you”, it was forever. And when he called you his friend, you knew you could depend on him to stand by you, no matter what.  He loved to try new things, to explore and to learn.  He had a love for life and for all that he held sacred.  Mike strove for excellence in all that he did, and lived by a code of honor that was extremely tough to uphold.  His Christian upbringing was intermixed with Hindu and Buddhist beliefs to make up the tapestry of his own personal belief system that was disciplined and unyielding.  When he made mistakes, Mike was harder on himself than anyone else ever could have been. 

 

When he got mixed up with the wrong people and things, he made some poor choices.  He did not deny what he had done, but instead stood up and accepted the punishment that was given to him.  He tried to make amends for his wrongs and was on his way to accomplishing that goal.  He expressed great sorrow for his errors, and inflicted emotional punishment on himself over and above what the law could ever require of him.

 

He had a strong will and could accomplish anything that he set his mind to, including learning to speak Japanese and perform martial arts skillfully, all on his own.  Mike had a love for Japanese culture and he could have lived off of green tea and sushi.  His knowledge and skills were gladly shared with those who wished to learn.  Mike had a love for nature and enjoyed all kinds of outdoor activities, including skiing, hunting, fishing and hiking.  His imagination was endless and he created stories and drawings that reveal a talent far beyond his tender youth.  

 

Mike was so much to so many people; a loving son, a dependable big brother, a doting little brother, a respectful grandson, a loyal friend and a devoted husband. He loved his dog, Zaar, who was a companion and loyal friend to him.  Mike was sensitive, and hurt so easily and so deeply, yet he was too strong willed to ever let it show outwardly.  Only through his writing, can we glimpse the love that he embraced or the pain that he felt.   When he loved, he loved with all of his being.  Mike was fun loving and enjoyed spending time with those that were important in his life.  He had beautiful curls and the most wonderful smile that could light up my heart whenever I saw it.  Mike turned 19 three weeks ago.  He had a whole life ahead of him.  He was much too young to be called home to God.

 

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