Thursday, October 30, 2014

Scott Pinsker Visits on the Eve of Halloween

So on this eve of Halloween, I have an interesting little interview.  Scott Pinsker has authored the start of a series asking the question - is the Devil involved in a marketing scheme?  And which side would you be on if two men claimed to be the second coming of Christ?

It kinda gets you thinking a bit, doesn't it? 

Join me this evening in welcoming author Scott Pinsker to the interview table.

DAB:  Was there a point in your life that prompted your desire to write or have you always wanted to be an author?

SP:       Writing is a wonderful career option for introverts who yearn to be extroverts.  I guess what motivated me was a love of books – but also a dissatisfaction with books.  All authors hope to capture an emotion, or tell a story, in ways never before imagined.  We’re driven by this obsessive need to take a blank canvas – and then paint a picture of such poignant originality, others are inspired by it.

(And on a personal level, what better way to excise the demons in my head than to write about the Devil?)

There wasn’t one seminal moment that led me to be a writer, but a multitude of smaller moments.  I tried fighting it.  Lord, I tried fighting it!  But after the first few decades-or-so, I began to feel like I was constantly swimming upstream against the universal current, exhausting myself to stay some place I didn’t belong.

So I guess more than anything, I became a writer because I had exhausted all other options.

DAB:  That’s a good way to look at it.  What was the catalyst for this novel’s premise?

SP:       It was the extension of a bizarre thought-experiment: If the Devil was a real-life entity – and if the Devil’s primary objective was to win new followers – then what would be his marketing strategy?

As a publicist and marketing expert, I’ve worked with countless sports stars, singers and entertainers – everyone from troubled athletes to Saturday Night Live alums to various celebs-in-peril.  Most of the time, my job was to safeguard their reputations, rebuild their brand and monetize new opportunities.

But what if Satan was my client?  What if I was literally the Devil’s advocate? 

What would be the smartest strategy for the Lord of Darkness to activate new followers?

After toying with this idea, it soon became clear: All those horror movies have it wrong!  The Devil wouldn’t woo us with something as obvious as horns and a pitchfork… because it would be bad marketing.  Instead, a creature as old & wise as a 6,000 year-old Demon would recognize that very few people will do evil in the name of evil – but billions will gladly do evil in the name of good.

So what would be Satan’s best marketing strategy?

Why, it would be to pretend to be a savior.  And that’s what The Second Coming: A Love Story is all about.

DAB:  Bet you could find plenty of fodder for that marketing strategy these days.  Do you have a character(s) in your novel with whom you closely identify?

SP:       Oh, I closely identify with all the characters, God and Satan included.  In one way or another, every single character is a distorted exaggeration of something deep within me.  It’s not intentional, but sometimes I can feel my personality creeping in… 

Out, damned spot!

The Second Coming: A Love Story is a bit different, because every character is a modern retelling of a specific Bible character.  For example, Margaret Magdala is an update of Mary Magdalene – only instead of being a New Testament prostitute who sells her body, she’s an American attorney who sells her mind.  Each character is a rat trapped in a maze, searching for salvation, but heading down dimensionally different paths.

DAB:  Interesting!  Speaking of women, do you ever have difficulty writing from the point-of-view of a member of the opposite sex?

SP:       No.  I mean, as a guy, women continue to be a source of great mystery, intrigue and confusion(!), but I’m not writing from the point of view of women in general.  I’m writing from the point of view of one specific character, and the more I understand each character – be it a man, woman, gay, straight, old, young, etc. – the easier it is to wrap my head around ‘em.

I’ll give you an example: How would a woman react to meeting the Second Coming of Jesus Christ in a sleazy Charleston, South Carolina bar?  Scared?  Excited?  Titillated?  Beats me.  When it comes to the intricacies of the female mind, I’m the wrong fellow to ask.  (And how!)  Wouldn’t have a clue.

But I know exactly how Margaret Magdala would react: She’s haunted by a purposeless existence and an empty, emotionless heart.  (Margaret is often paired with another character named Peter who has the opposite infliction: As an addict, he feels and desires too much.)  Once you understand what makes your characters tick as three-dimensional, flesh-and-blood human beings, it’s not about male versus female, but staying true to each character’s personality.

DAB:  Who is your favorite character in your novel, and why?
SP:       There’s a satirical bent to the book that provided an opportunity to lampoon some of the biggest names in pop-culture, including a shock-jock-turned-conservative talk-show host named Nat Konrad, a slightly-senile cable TV personality named Matt Housinglaw, and an academic egghead who writes boring books that nobody ever reads named Solomon Basemath.

Skewering society’s so-called elites is always fun.

DAB:  That’s what makes life interesting!  :-)  How long did it take for you to craft this novel?

SP:       It took 15 long, tortuous years!  If I live to be 75, this book will have taken 20 percent of my entire flippin’ life!  In the immortal words of the great American philosopher Homer J. Simpson: “D’oh!”

I developed the initial concept in 1999 while attending law school in DC, and finished the initial draft a few years later.  But I was dissatisfied.  And so I continued writing and rewriting…

A ridiculous degree of research went into studying Christian theology, folklore and eschatology, and I’ve inserted hundreds of hidden clues and numerical symbols throughout the story.  But it was worth the investment, I hope.  And of course, a good portion of the 15 years was also spent developing the totality of the story arc: This book is the first third of a three-part trilogy.  (The sequel, Three Days Later: A Revenge Story, will be released in 2015.)

My intent is to offer readers the following transaction: In exchange for your time and attention – and Lord, nothing’s more personally precious than that! – I promise to give you something of immense value in return.  In fact, I’ll escort you on an idea-driven adventure that will challenge you, thrill you, piss you off and then make you smile.  

To me, writing is a solemn blood-oath between author and reader.  If both sides don’t benefit from the trade, then the transaction wasn’t successful.  Believe me, I worked VERY hard to ensure that you’ll be pleased with the transaction.

DAB:  Tell us about the moment you received your first real fan correspondence.

SP:       I was contacted several weeks back by a Norwegian fan who tracked me down via Twitter, requesting an autographed copy.  How cool is that?  (I’m @ScottPinsker, by the way.)

DAB:  Very cool indeed!  When I write, I have particular composers and music that gets me in the mood for certain scenes and characters.  Have you ever written to music?

SP:       Sometimes I write to music.  When I’m trying to write something intellectual, my preference is for total silence, but when I’m writing something emotional, music is a great stimulant.

My two all-time favorite performers are Tori Amos and Iron Maiden, by the way.  (I keep waiting for ‘em to go on tour together, but they never do.  What gives?)  It’s probably not coincidental that Tori Amos and Iron Maiden both entered my life during my tumultuous teen-years and tri-polar twenties.  Music is like an emotional bookmark: Just one note can transport you to any moment of your life.  I like that, because sometimes an author needs to poke at his bloodiest scars to trigger a visceral response.  In gamer-speak, music is a cheat-code. 

So is alcohol.  Alcohol and music both heighten emotions and loosen inhibitions.  Sometimes, that’s helpful.  Sometimes it’s not.

DAB:  Never tried the alcohol route to writing, so I’ll take your word for it and stick to music. There's the eternal debate whether to outline or not.  What is your preference?

SP:       I prefer an open-ended outline, because an outline represents your best thoughts and sharpest observations – but only at that time.  Chances are that you’ll continue to be thinking about your story while you’re writing, and it would be folly not to take advantage of your own imagination.  If you ultimately think of something better, definitely include it! 

Outlines are helpful, but only as a starting point.

DAB:  Agreed.  How do you handle negative feedback about your novel(s)?

SP:       I’ve developed a healthy, mature, five-part process for dealing with negative feedback:

Step One: Thrash arms & legs
Step Two: Swear vengeance against all who’ve wronged me
Step Three: Sob inconsolably
Step Four: Booze & Buffalo wings
Step Five: Give kids a hug

(Interestingly, this is also my strategy for dealing with Tony Romo’s boneheaded interceptions during the football season.)

Negative feedback is always tough on an author, because it means you’ve failed in the transaction.  Yeah, we all know that opinions vary and you shouldn’t view negative feedback as a reflection of who you are as a person… but sometimes you and your work are intertwined.

See, this is why I wouldn’t want to be the President of the United States: In 1991, President George H. W. Bush had an approval rating of 90 percent.  That’s the highest ever recorded… which means that 10 percent of Americans STILL didn’t approve of him – and in a nation of 300 million people, that’s 30 million citizens who think you suck!  Hey, if the best you can ever do as president is have 30 million people hate you, NO THANKS!  I don’t even like it when my neighbor doesn’t wave to me in the morning…

DAB:  So we better not harsh your buzz, huh?  Of all your novels, which one is your favorite, and why?

SP:       Hmm… well, not just novels, but my four all-time favorite books are Richard Bach’s Illusions, Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, George Carlin’s Braindroppings and Frederic Bastiat’s The Law.  It’s an odd list, but what all of these books have in common is that they kind of stick with you, even after you’ve finished reading – and better yet, even when you disagree with the authors’ conclusions.  I like that.  It’s what I’ve strived to emulate in The Second Coming: A Love Story.

DAB:  Usually authors are also avid readers - what are you currently reading?

SP:       [Laughs] Truthfully?  My Brother Sam Is Dead by Christopher and James Collier.  I read to my two little boys every night.  Sometimes my book choices are self-indulgent; I’ll cherry-pick the library books that I loved as a kid, ‘cause I want my children to fall in love with ‘em too.  We’ve recently finished Judy Blume’s Fudge books, Beverly Cleary’s Mouse & the Motorcycle series, and The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster (which is a far cleverer book than I had remembered… I guess much of the irony flew over my 10-year-old head).  Sometimes these YA authors are awfully sly when it comes to the double entendre…

DAB:  Care to tell us what is next on your writing horizon?

SP:       Like I mentioned, The Second Coming: A Love Story is the first book in a trilogy.  I’m simultaneously writing the second and third books.

There are some really cool cliffhangers in The Second Coming and I can’t wait to reveal what happens next!

DAB:  Well keep writing then, but now’s your chance – give us the final plug for your novel.

SP:       If you love debating theology, politics and morality – or if you’ve ever stayed up late at night, trying to figure out why bad things happen to good people – then you’ve got to read this book.  It’s a playground of explosive ideas, but I must explicitly caution you: It’s not for everyone.  This book will make you think. 

Here’s the plot:

Two men claim to be the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.  Each claims the other is Satan in disguise – but
only one is telling the truth, and the reader isn’t told who’s who.  The United States soon splits along ideological lines, with Red America swearing allegiance to the conservative “savior” and Blue America (naturally) worshiping at the altar of the other.  A furious Culture War-turned-Holy War erupts, with both sides waging a win-at-all-costs marketing campaign to prove their savior’s supremacy.

It’s finally happened: Red America and Blue America are headed for Armageddon!

I’m a PR expert who has analyzed marketing trends and political brand-building strategies for, Jewish World Review and the Washington Times.  This is, I believe, the very first thriller about God vs. Satan written NOT just from a theological perspective, but from a marketing perspective… because unlike God, the Devil is a marketer.

…isn’t he?

Thanks again, Scott, for stopping by and sharing with us about your novel and writing process.  If The Second Coming:  A Love Story piques your interest, be sure and pick up a copy at Amazon on Kindle or paperback.

Author Bio:
A celebrity publicist-turned-author, Scott Pinsker has worked with a vast array of Super Bowl champions, Grammy-winners and entertainment icons, managing everything from crisis communications to film properties. His analysis of publicity trends has been showcased multiple times on, where he occasionally contributes as a marketing expert. His debut novel is The Second Coming: A Love Story. Learn more at

Saturday, October 25, 2014

How To Garner Reviewer Interest - Part Three

After spending the day with a house full of family, I'm a little late in the day with the third segment on what it takes to find reviews.  My apologies, oh patient authors!

Last week we talked about the myriad ways in which review requests end up in the trash bin - the highway, as it were.  From forgetting to include vital information in a request to not following the reviewers submission instructions, we covered a lot of tough ground.  So if you're still hanging with me, this week's entry is about how to get it right.

So join me as we explore part three in how to approach a potential reviewer - the right way!


The Right Way

So you’ve read this far.  Congratulations!  You’re one step closer to increasing the number of yes’s to your review requests.  There’s no reason to pile on and make your email an epic read – that’s what your novel is for.  When approaching a reviewer keep your request short and to the point.  Give each potential reviewer exactly what they ask for – no more, no less.  Remember, we get a lot of emails each day and the easier you make it for us, the greater your chances of acceptance.  Here’s what should always be included.

1.         Reviewer’s name:  Yes, it’s there on the blog site.  Guess what?  You may actually have to read through the blog a little bit to find the name.  It isn’t hidden on purpose, but it may not be as obvious as mine.  Check contact information.  Read all the way to the bottom of the submission guidelines.  It’s there.  Now use it and address your email request to an actual person.  Do not write a generic salutation like “To whom it may concern” or “Madam” or “Sir” or other such nonsense.  Personalize it like, “Hi, D” or “Ms. Bale” – start your request using a smidge of professionalism.  A little goes a long way.

2.         Your name:  It’s a good idea to state this in your first sentence and again at close.  Something like, “My name is Wendy Woman, author of Windy Woods, and…” sign off with “Sincerely, Wendy/Ms. Woman” – you get the drift.  If you start and end professionally, you show respect for yourself and reviewers.

3.         Book title:  Again, include this in paragraph numero uno similar to the example given for #2 above. 

4.         Word count:  If your request is for a digital eBook, then include the word count.  If for a print copy, then reference the page count.  A reviewer needs to have an idea of the time investment required, and word/page counts tell us this.

5.         Genre:  Thriller, Mystery, etc.  In a world of crossovers and subgenres it can be difficult to accurately classify your novel’s niche.  It may have elements of several categories, but try and focus on the main thematic element.  Is it something taking place in a galaxy far, far away?  Probably Science Fiction is for you.  Does it take place in a post-apocalyptic world?  Probably Dystopian.  Are the main characters teenagers/college aged dealing with teenaged angst and situations?  Young Adult.  Does it ask the question of who done it?  Mystery.  Fast-paced, high stakes?  Thriller.  Even if your novel has elements of romance, action, or mystery, classify it under one main heading and then you can choose the underlying classifications to further identify it, such as Romantic Suspense – a Romance novel with elements of Suspense.  The worst thing you could do is misclassify the genre.  As a reviewer, if I’m told a novel is a Thriller then I expect a fast-paced read.  If it ends up being plodding and drags, my review will reflect this perceived negative due to deviation from the Thriller genre’s norms.  But if this same book was referenced as say a Fantasy, I’d expect a more character-based journey and the slower or uneven pace would fit – therefore my review would not perceive this as a negative.  Simply put – KNOW YOUR GENRE – and know it well.

6.         Time frame:  If you have a hard and fast date or range for which a review needs posting (like a release party, tour, campaign), tell a potential reviewer this up front.  Otherwise, don’t even mention a time frame in any way, shape, or form.  If a hard and fast date is the case, always give a minimum of a couple of months lead time when you begin your email campaign.  This allows a reviewer to decide if they will be able to meet your deadline when considering your novel for review.  We really try to meet a hard and fast date if you give us that consideration.  Just don’t email a week or two before said date.  We may not even get to your email within that time, and if the date is already looming or passed it’s an automatic trash dump.  Conversely, if you are like most authors and have no established date by which you need said review, don’t say anything about a timeline – please!  Referencing you want a “timely” review goes back to the slap in the face moment mentioned earlier.  We try so hard to make our reviews timely – but timely to an author and timely to a reviewer are two very different things.  Authors are happy when a review is posted the following day or week.  Reviewers are happy when we post the following month (or two, three, four…).

7.         Book blurb/synopsis:  Sell the reviewer on your book.  Make it sound like something they’ve just gotta read ASAP.  Need help?  See the next chapter.  Again – don’t do the lazy thing and simply copy/paste a link for a reviewer to follow.  Trash bin!  Copy/paste your description/synopsis/blurb into the email body.  Make it easy for a reviewer to take a chance on you, an unknown indie, to want to read your novel.

8.         Subject line:  Keep it simple and just state, “Review Request” or “Book Review”.  Don’t get all flowery or funky or make the email subject line long and convoluted.  Anything longer won’t show up in a condensed line anyway.


Like I’ve already said – read each reviewer’s individual submission guidelines and follow them!  Some may ask for an excerpt or the first chapter in their instructions.  Include this in your email body.  Some may ask for your cover.  Remember to attach it.  Some may only accept print copies while yours is only available digitally.  Some may want everything submitted up front.  Most won’t.

So to keep it simple, here’s an example to consider:

Ms. Bale,

My name is Wendy Woman, and I’m the author of WINDY WOODS, book one of a planned four-part series.  This 72,000 word mystery follows twenty-four year old April Cameron as she explores the unnerving deaths of her parents and subsequent inheritance of a ramshackle manor she never knew existed – much less that they’d owned.  When April uproots from the urban jungle and transplants deep into Oregon’s wooded territory to restore the old place, questions multiply.

And danger increases.

First the old caretaker – who looks and smells like a descendent of sasquatch – attempts to chase April off of the property upon her arrival.  Then the crumbling carriage house nearly goes up in flames.  A horse is brutally slain in it’s stall.  All events point toward the mad caretaker, but April can’t get rid of him.  Even the local sheriff won’t touch him.

The tiny town of Inderia, five miles from the manor as the crow flies, appears as if time stopped a hundred years before.  The inhabitants stare in suspicion every time April drives her shiny Honda CRV along the dirt-packed roads.  Or she tries to pay for goods with a debit card.  She’s the outsider and no one wants her to stay.

No wonder April’s parents neither spoke of the old place nor visited it.  She is sorely tempted to follow their example and leave.

Until she discovers the secret no one wanted found.

If you are interested in reading WINDY WOODS, I’m prepared to forward a Kindle version and anything else needed for a review.  Thank you for your time and consideration.


Wendy Woman

Here’s another format to provide food for thought:

Hi D,

My name is Wendy Woman, and I’d like to request a review of my upcoming novel.

Title:                Windy Woods – first in a series
Genre:             Mystery
Word Count:   72,000 eBook
Review Date:   Anytime during the week of January 16th for the release party
Synopsis:         Twenty-four year old April Cameron is stuck.  Regardless of age, the sudden shock of becoming an orphan is difficult to overcome – especially with secrets involved.  While exploring the unnerving deaths of her parents, April discovers she’s inherited  a ramshackle manor she never knew existed.  When April uproots from the urban jungle and transplants deep into Oregon’s wooded territory to restore the old place, questions multiply.

And danger increases.

First the old caretaker – who looks and smells like a descendent of sasquatch – attempts to chase April off of the property upon her arrival.  Days later the crumbling carriage house nearly goes up in flames.  A horse is brutally slain in it’s stall.  All events point toward the mad caretaker, but April can’t get rid of him.  Even the local sheriff won’t touch him.

The tiny town of Inderia, five miles from the manor as the crow flies, appears as if time stopped a hundred years before.  The inhabitants stare in suspicion every time April drives her shiny Honda CRV along the dirt-packed roads.  Or she tries to pay for goods with a debit card.  She’s the outsider and no one wants her to stay.

No wonder April’s parents neither spoke of the old place nor visited it.  She is sorely tempted to follow their example and leave.

Until she discovers the secret no one wanted found.

I’m prepared to forward an ARC in any eReader format if you can fit WINDY WOODS  into your reading schedule.  Thank you for your time, and I hope to hear from you.

Best Wishes,

Wendy Woman

See?  It isn’t difficult to put together a concise request that lays out the basic details of a novel.  You don’t need to write another manuscript to get your point across about your book.  You don’t need to brow-beat a reviewer or blow sunshine up dark places.  You don’t need to denigrate or conversely puff yourself up to get a point across.  If a reviewer specifically wants more than this, simply go off of their submission guidelines – follow a reviewer’s guidelines first and foremost. 

Otherwise, lean on the side of KISS – Keep It Simple, Silly!


Ta-da!  There you have it folks - and no, you can't make fun of my silly little blurbs.  I just threw those together right on the spot.  Hmmm, it might make an interesting story after all.  Now I'm intrigued.

While I'm off figuring out how to use these blurbs for another story idea, spend some time perfecting your email template for your next review request email blast.  Spend a little time up front to get it right the first time, and you might just find yourself with plenty of takers out there in cyberspace.  

Next week is the final installment, where I'll wrap up what we've learned thus far and what you'll need handy to be prepared for all of those reviewer acceptances.  Let me know what you think in the meantime.

Keep writing and I'll keep reading!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Eden Baylee Interviews Me!

Last month I had the pleasure of getting to know author Eden Baylee while conducting an interview with her for the blog.  Well this month she graciously interviewed me for her blog, and we had a rollicking good time doing it. 

So run on over to her blog to catch up with us as we talk about reading, writing, and life.  You'll probably find out more than you ever wanted to know.  Click here for more!

And if you would like to revisit her interview with me, check it out here.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Tragedy Marks the Past and Present in "Asylum"

This fall I've been plugging along through an assortment of novels in my TBR pile, hoping to finish before the Christmas season is in full swing.  The offering I have for you today is an interesting mix of mystery, history, and intrigue that I found to be an engaging read spanning the tail end of the 1800's into the 1970's.

So let's get right to it and delve into Kathryn Orzech's novel Asylum.

Book Blurb:
Some secrets are best kept hidden, their proof allowed to burn. Some doors are meant to remain closed. But when a young girl's curiosity becomes irresistible, the consequence can turn deadly, too fast—or smolder for generations. ASYLUM takes the reader on a wild ride between creepy and fun, weaving between a granddaughter's struggle to learn long held secrets and a grandmother as a young girl living the drama as it happens …

On an innocent day in 1899 with her father abroad, twelve-year-old Maggie Delito accidentally discovers a scandal so shameful and shocking it will forever haunt her life. The next day she’s locked in an asylum.

Secrets remain hidden for seventy five years until Laura Delito inherits ancestral assets, and her family’s mysterious past comes knocking. After sacrificing an independent career at the brink of success, she assumes control of Delito’s failing jewelry business while dealing with its ghosts. A strange old woman. Back-room betrayals. Cryptic messages. And a rare antique key that might unlock the truth, if only she could find it. As she pursues clues from Hartford and Providence to Italy and Morocco, she doesn’t see a lethal danger looming in an office down the hall.

My Review:
Margaret Rosa Delito reigns supreme over Delito, Inc, a family jewelry business that has spanned generations.  But lately the company has hemorrhaged cash at an alarming rate to the point where the business is facing collapse.  Before Margaret can discover the culprit or bring her beloved granddaughter in on the crisis, tragedy strikes.

Laura Delito feels like the proverbial fifth wheel when it comes to the family business.  After her father died when she was young and her mother remarried, Laura became the de facto heir apparent to a multimillion dollar business and family estate.  But until her grandmother's death, no one in the company took her or her designs seriously, neither her stepfather nor her boyfriend who together wield tight control in order to maintain their secret.  With the company's future on the line, Laura is left little time to grieve - especially after a strange, elderly woman shows up at her grandmother's funeral with the hint of a story and an ancient key holding a secret message.  But what the key opens no one knows - except one who will stop at nothing to ensure she never finds out.

Wonderful little mystery here, and I found it to be the perfect length at approximately 279 pages.  We open with the 1970's, what I will refer to here as the present day, and follow along with the events of the initial stages of the mysterious secret and into Laura's induction as owner and CEO of Delito, Inc.  As the story gets underway and we follow Laura's efforts to figure out what happened in the past and how that affects what is unfolding in her present, we are then whisked back to 1899 when young Maggie Delito's life takes sudden and tragic turns.

Throughout the story we move back and forth between the present and the past quite seamlessly, with proper delineation between Laura and Maggie's lives (and POV) so that it never feels jarring.  You sense Laura's struggle as she goes from a rather menial employee to controlling every aspect of an empire, making the tough decisions as she attempts to cement her position in both her own mind and the mind of the global staff.  You feel her frustration as she fights those who attempt to undermine her tenuous hold on the company as she seeks to unravel the problems and cut a new path.  You want all to be made right in young Maggie's childhood past when she is unjustly locked away because of something she was not supposed to witness, which places her in a position to witness even further devastation as she tries to unravel the mysteries of her new home.  The story is like multiple mysteries all wrapped up into one, and it was interesting to see how they all ended up tying together.

And yes, I'm purposely being vague here so as not to spoil any of said mysteries.

Good POV usage, as I mentioned before.  Showing is handled well, which keeps the reader moving along in both time periods as the mysteries unfold into solving the ultimate mystery.  Most of our main characters were fully fleshed out.

However, there were some murky motivations scattered throughout the story that left me feeling a bit muddled, probably part of the attempts at throwing in some red herrings (though the bad guys are easy to spot right away).  Some of Laura's supposed friends and people who were supposed to care about her did some pretty pathetic things to mess with her and were not held accountable, nor were their reasons for their actions enough to hold merit.  The whole ex-boyfriend thing seemed quite unnecessary and some actions were never explained or resolved.  The will reading was one of those that left me wondering why.  Again, I'm really trying not to give anything away.  Read the book to figure out what I'm trying to say and not say. :-)

I also thought it strange that young Maggie in the flashbacks, being a twelve-year-old from a well-known and highly respected family, acted a little too young in some ways, never questioning or trying to escape or even correct the false name when confronted with it.  At times, I had to remind myself that she was supposed to be twelve and not six.  The fact that she developed friends there who obviously knew she was there unnecessarily and yet never questioned or tried to help her in any way just kept me feeling unsettled.  But then we'd never have had the fullness of the mystery, I suppose - or the tragedy that marked the remainder of Maggie's years.

Overall, I enjoyed reading and discovering the truth surrounding the mysteries in Asylum and recommend it with four and a half stars.

Pick up a copy in paperback or eBook at these locations:

Amazon UK:

CreateSpace for paperback only:

E-book only —

Apple iBooks:
  search iTunes for Kathryn Orzech

Barnes & Noble:

KOBO Books:


Author Bio:
Kathryn Orzech, Connecticut native and seasoned world traveler, writes thriller and suspense fiction with a little romance and a hint of supernatural intrigue. The author's past experience as a jewelry designer helped form the characters and settings in Asylum. Kathy admits to being a news junkie with interests in geopolitics and history, society and culture, behavioral and earth sciences. She is working on a sequel to her psychic thriller, Premonition of Terror. Check out her website at

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Return to Ancient Rome in "The Will of Augustus"

I have always had a fascination with history, but I must admit that I've spent far too little time exploring the period of Ancient Rome and particularly the transition from a true republic.  But after reading Karen Powell's fictional account The Will of Augustus I figure it is high time I return to the historical period of the ancients.

So hop into the time machine with me and let's travel back to the house of Emperor Augustus and explore the realm of a dying republic and the accompanying rise of a dynasty.

Book Blurb:
Rome, as her uncle Marcus Septimius always likes to say, is unpredictable…

When Gaius Aemilius Papus falls out of political favour, his daughter Aemelia is sent against her will to join the Vestal Virgins in the hope of placating the Emperor Augustus.

Aemilia Secunda, an exuberant, unbiddable ten year old, must relinquish all ties with her family and devote her life to keeping the eternal fire in the Temple of Vesta burning, the fire that represents the soul of Rome itself. She must also remain unmarried and chaste. A Vestal who fails to do so faces the most severe of punishments: burial alive.

As Aemelia grows she begins to understand the unique power the Vestals wield. They move in the very highest circle of Roman society, can become financially secure through gifts and, unlike the rest of Roman women, are completely independent.

But just as Aemelia comes to accept her role as a Vestal, she finds herself enmeshed in a plot which is perilously close to the very heart of Roman politics and the issue of Imperial succession, where her very survival hangs in the balance.

My Review:
First thing I will say, it is important to understand some of the oddities of the Roman lifestyle prior to beginning this novel.  The period was an almost "anything goes" attitude, where incestuous relationships were commonplace and children were considered marriageable by the age of thirteen/fourteen, multiple partners of either sex, any age, and status - you name it, they did it.  Now before I scare you off, please note that these references are only hinted at or touched on briefly in very few scenes among The Will of Augustus.  I only mention this because this novel offers a somewhat accurate representation of those attitudes between the lines - but don't let it keep you from considering this interesting read.

Our story opens with a young girl, Aemelia Secunda, attending the funeral of her beloved father.  But she does not stand with her mother, older married sister and children, or her ever-loving uncle.  She must remain apart, unmoved on the surface as the funeral pyre dissolves the features of the man she once called papa - for she is no longer merely a member of a single family unit but a representative of the people before the great goddess Vesta.  Therefore, she must withhold the appearance of favoritism from any and all who claim lineage with her.

Not difficult to do with her cold and heartless mother, who never forgave her youngest daughter for living when Aemelia's twin brother died at birth.  But her mother's own twin, Aemelia's uncle Marcus Septimius, is another matter entirely - especially when he notices the developing beauty peeking around Aemelia's childhood visage.

Leap back several years prior.  Aemelia is a reckless youngster living a privileged life among the lesser of Roman nobility, unstained by the pressures of the world around her or by the political wheel threatening her family life.  Her mother barely tolerates her presence, but her sister, Marcia, father and uncle more than make up for the love denied her - until the political factions press in too close and disrupt her carefree life.

In order to appease Emperor Augustus and secure higher rank in the government, Aemelia's father - under duress - marries off fourteen-year-old Marcia to a young man whose family has strong ties to the emperor.  However, within a year or two, guards are again on their doorstep and escorting her father away to the emperor to answer for questionable associations.  Aemelia's mother once again steps in and through her own machinations, forces Aemelia into accepting a covetous honor - to be named as a Vestal Virgin and spend her life chaste and unmarried while serving as the people's representative in the house of the goddess.  Over the next ten years, Aemelia's forced servitude becomes both a blessing and a curse - and what she sees and experiences changes her in ways she could never foresee.

As far as the overall story goes, I enjoyed reading The Will of Augustus, seeing the daily life of a Roman citizen through the eyes of a child who grows into a woman, the government machinations, family dynamics, and how the smallest steps and decisions can alter so many lives.  There was a period between about 55% and 83%, however, where the story lagged and bogged down with very little of significance happening until picking up and speeding to the end.  The ending also makes it feel as if there is more of the story to be told and makes me wonder if a series is planned (though there is no reference to that possibility).  If it were to become a series, I'd be willing to consider reading the next offering just to see what happens with Aemelia and how she copes with the changes resulting from the trauma.  I really wish the last 17% of the book had been extended and more fleshed out and the slow and uneventful period in the middle condensed.  Perhaps it would've helped the ending not feel quite so abrupt.

The story was told in Aemelia's point-of-view and it was nice to see her thought processes grow from childhood to adulthood.  Good telling instead of showing for the most part kept us following along by her side throughout the story.  However, editing and formatting need some desperate attention.  There was a constant appearance of missing words like 'to, and, but, was,' etc., or duplicate words like 'let them let' and the like.  Also a few tense shifts occurred as if scenes were originally written in present tense then changed to past tense and back again yet not catching all of the necessary wording changes to correct the tense shift.  In regard to formatting, continual pages popped up where the left-hand margin pressed in to the middle of the page and left huge areas of white space along my Kindle.  Sometimes it was only a paragraph or two while others were page after page of this problem.  Extra spacing between paragraphs and hard returns in the middle of a sentence revealed themselves on occasion as well.

If not for the editing and formatting issues, I'd have given four stars to The Will of Augustus for the mostly interesting storyline, but with these issues I'll have to settle with three stars.

If Ancient Rome tickles your fancy, pick up a copy through Amazon US or Amazon UK.

Author Bio:

Author of 2 contemporary novels, 'Catching the Light', 'If Susie Said Jump', both published by Harbour Books. This is my first foray into historical fiction. Educated Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge University. Work at York Minster.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

How To Garner Reviewer Interest - Part Two

Hello again, dear readers, and welcome to part two of our exploration on how authors can find reviewers for their novels.

Last week I discussed the varied differences in expectation between authors and the reality of the life of reviewers.  We looked at what reviewers go through and how we decide on what books to accept into our never-ending TBR piles.  I told you there's the highway (automatic deletion) and the right way (consideration) to approach reviewers when asking them to review your novel.  So guess what we're going to talk about today?

The highway.

Yes, those far too numerous requests that end up being an automatic trash dump.  Reviewers receive so many of these over and over again that we just want to bang our heads against a wall and end it all.  It's all about professionalism and setting the right tone from the greeting to the close.

Remember, you're a published author now - a business - so treat it as such in all respects.

So if you want to know what you and countless others might be doing wrong when approaching reviewers, this post is for you.


The Highway

1.         The genre:  It’s glaringly obvious when an author sends me a request to read romance that he/she hasn’t taken the time to read my blog review page.  I make it very plain that I’m not interested in reading straight romance, erotica, or horror.  My favorites are thriller, mystery, and suspense followed by occasional fantasy a la Lord of the Rings.  I’m willing to try most genres, but an interesting sounding thriller will always take precedence over YA.  Always check a blogger’s reading likes and dislikes.  We put lists on our sites for a reason.  Don’t waste your time or a reviewer’s by sending flat-out romance to a thriller enthusiast!

2.         Book title:  Missing.  Yes, missing.  Happens more often than you think.  If a reviewer has to spend a bunch of time searching through a five page email trying to discern something that should be in the first paragraph, it’s pretty much going in the trash bin.

3.         Author name/pseudonym:  Yep, missing yet again.  Often!  You’ve no idea how frustrating it is not to have any idea to whom you’re corresponding.  I even try to figure it out from the email address – sadly many are just cutesy ones with no sort of identifier.  If you’re going be an author, create an author dedicated email that is easily identifiable – and remember to reference your name at least once in your email, even if it is only at the close.

4.         Book blurb/synopsis:  Excluded – seriously!  Many authors simply place a link to the novel’s purchase page or back to their website and expect reviewers to click on a link from an unknown person.  Nuh-uh.  Not happening.  Then again, sometimes the blurb is just too darned uninteresting.  This most important element is too often left to chance.  Some use their sales synopsis while others write up loooong and convoluted descriptions that don’t really say anything.  I’ve even seen where someone will have their book blurb and then another section to state what the book is really about.  Seriously?  If you need to describe your description, something’s wrong.  Where’s the element of excitement?  The tension?  The stakes?  Stay tuned for how to write a strong blurb – coming to a chapter near you.

5.         An “honest” review:  Let me make this as clear as I can.  Telling a potential reviewer that you seek an “honest” review is like telling them that all of their reviews up to yours have been less than honest.  You couldn’t wound us anymore than with a statement like that.  We reviewers work hard to keep our opinions straightforward without any outside influences.  Saying you want an “honest” opinion is a HUGE slap in the face.  Just DON’T!

6.         A free book:  Umm, you’re asking me to review your novel.  Of course you are going to give me one.  Stating in a request that you are offering a free or reduced price book basically tells a reviewer how little you know about how the review process works.  It projects an unprofessional image.  I’ve even had authors who, once I’ve accepted their novel for review, simply send me the link to buy their book.  Ain’t gonna happen!  Understand this, if you didn’t already – if you’re requesting a reviewer to spend their personal time to read and write a review of your novel, a free copy is expected.  End of story.

7.         I’m new:  So quick question – would you ever say you’re new to a potential client while in your day job?  I didn’t think so.  It immediately places doubt in the mind of said potential client, and they’re likely to move onto a more experienced employee or firm.  Saying you’re a new author does the exact same thing.  Don’t ever short-change yourself in this manner.  You may have been writing novels for five minutes or five, ten, twenty years and just now decided to take the plunge into the realm of indie publishing.  Approach a reviewer with confidence and project a professional image regardless of how long you’ve been writing.  You’re a legitimate, certified, bonafide author now!

8.         Listing accomplishments:  Good rule of thumb here – if you’ve won a novel writing award for this particular book or a previous novel in your publishing quiver, a reviewer would love to know.  If you’ve won awards for poetry, journalism, employee of the month, etc. (in other words, anything outside of novel writing) don’t mention it.  It won’t mean anything to most reviewers.  Sorry, but that’s the cold truth.  If an accomplishment has absolutely nothing to do with novel writing, leave it out.

9.         Other reviewer excerpts:  Emails pile into my inbox incorporating excerpts of other reviews a particular novelist has received.  It’s always nice to celebrate when someone gives you a glowing review, but share these with family and friends – not potential reviewers.  Better yet, put them up on your sales channels!  It goes back to that thing in number five about avoiding outside influences.  This isn’t going to help you and in fact could hurt in the long run.  Reviews are subjective – the opinion of the individual reviewer.  We really don’t care what someone else thinks of your novel.  Keep repeating this to yourself until the desire to include unnecessary fodder in requests diminishes.

10.       Links, links, links:  UNLESS a reviewer has specifically requested website links to include in your initial correspondence, don’t include any.  None.  Most of us won’t even click on them.

11.       Attachments:     Once again, UNLESS a reviewer’s guidelines specifically state to do so, do not include your book cover, author image, eBook or PDF file as an attachment with your initial email request.  When we want them – if want them – we’ll ask.

12.       Reviewers submission instructions:  Self explanatory.  You just didn’t read them.  Reviewers put instructions up to HELP you and to save everyone time.  Read it.  Do it.  If you choose not to, shame on you because your request is heading for the trash bin.  This leads me to another thing – repeat after me.  Always check to see if a reviewer is currently accepting reviews.  Again.  Always check to see if a reviewer is currently accepting reviews.  A third time.  Always check to see if a reviewer is currently accepting reviews.  Most reviewers will reference if they’re not currently accepting reviews when the reading pile gets too big.  If a reviewer has closed submissions, abide by this please.  It’s a huge time-waster to send requests to reviewers who have closed acceptance.  You’re just another great, big “delete” if you do.


This segment was short but hopefully not too sweet.  It's just the cold, hard truth most of us need to hear from time-to-time.  You want to know what's really ironic about these don'ts I've shared with you?  I closed out accepting anymore reviews for 2014 on August first, posted it at the top of the review submissions tab on my blog, and every day I still get additional review requests.

It really is amazing how many authors never take even a smidge of their time to check one simple thing.  I get that sometimes we as authors feel that sense of desperation creep over our minds.  I get that it takes far more work to market than most of us ever dreamed when we decided on indie publishing.  But never forget to treat your writing as a business and maintain a professional image and demeanor in regard to said business.

And if you ever need a hand to hold or a shoulder to cry on (digitally speaking, of course) touch base.  I'm always willing to help a fellow indie author with advice or encouragement - provided you bring your own tissues to the table.

Stay tuned then next Saturday when I'll discuss with you the right way to submit a novel review request to a potential reviewer.  Until then, happy reading and writing!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Interviewing Author Marc Weingarten

Our author interview today brings an interesting twist.  Once a stand-up comedian in his own right, comedy club owner, and all-around entertainer, Marc Weingarten decided to take all of his life experiences and make the transition into novel writing.  So join me in welcoming this author to the blog to discuss his writing process and the release of his debut novel Cape Comedy.

DAB:  Was there a point in your life that prompted your desire to write or have you always wanted to be an author?

MW:   When I was seven-years-old I had an epiphany I was supposed to write novels. Of course, you need to have some sort of foundation from which to write. I mean, at that age what was I supposed to write about? Fifty Shades of Itsy Bitsy Spider?

DAB:  That would be an interesting children's book!  Where do you come up with ideas for your novels?

MW:   Ideas are spiritual in nature. As a comic, I trained my mind to question behavior and retain the state of mind I had when I was a child. If you're able to stay in question mode, ideas are gifted to you.

DAB:  Do you have a character(s) in your novel with whom you closely identify?

MW:   There's a little bit of me in almost every character in the novel ... even the tragic ones. I think after 31 years of living the life inside the culture of the comedy world I'd experienced all the blessings and the curses. The accumulation of characters take on traits that in the aggregate cover the entire realm of that world and the highs and lows indigenous to it.

DAB:  Were there any characters you found difficult to write?

MW:   None of the characters were difficult to write about. I know them all ... I am them all. Even the one that speak "Spanglish."

DAB:  It must get noisy in your head at times.  Do you ever have difficulty writing from the point-of-view of a member of the opposite sex?

MW:   I love women. I love being in love. My preference has always been to engage women in conversation more than men. In fact, I honestly believe I know more about women than most men do. I can't tell you how many times in my life men come to me for advice about the women in their lives. I should host my own radio show. So, no, I don't have difficulty writing from the opposite pov.

DAB:  Tell us about a typical day in your writing world.

MW:   I write best in the morning. A typical day of writing for me is I like to get up early in the morning ... 5:30 or so ... and that's when I do most if not all of my writing. I love the quiet. There's no clutter from the day. My voice is always ready to rock-and-roll in the morning. It gets pissed after about 10:30. I understand how to indulge it. So I do.

DAB:  What kind of research practices do you utilize for writing?

MW:   In the writing of Cape Comedy very little research was necessary. I lived the life I wrote about for some 35 years. But in my second novel, AVIOLET END,  I chose topics I knew nothing about (Marine biology and the Bible Code) so I had to do a massive amount of research. I actually hated the process of writing this novel because of that. But the idea itself was so compelling it forced me to write that which I didn't know. Somehow, I managed to do it without therapy.

DAB:  Writing itself can be very therapeutic.  Have you ever experienced writer's block?

MW:   I always experience writer's block. Every day I write. But it's because I'm so anal about my writing and I want every idea and every word to be perfect. I won't accept mediocrity. It's a battle but I trust my creativity and am committed to endure.

DAB:  The trait of any successful author - endurance!  When I write, I have particular composers and music that gets me in the mood for certain scenes and characters.  Have you ever written to music?

MW:   No. I won't write to music. I need quiet. However, in Cape Comedy music plays a significant role in that certain song lyrics inspire my detective. Also, I use the music of various artists to create a mood for the reader. In certain instances, I'll stop writing and play the song for me. If it's a haunting song, like Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me" I'll play it and sing to it a few times until I feel the sensuousness of the song itself. I don't necessarily do it to inspire my writing, but more because I want to elevate my feelings.

DAB:  There's the eternal debate whether to outline or not.  What is your preference?

MW:   No. I can't outline at all. I never know what I'm going to write. I allow for it to come out of me and trust my process will fill a blank page. When I finished the book it freaked me out. I couldn't believe I'd written a novel from nothing more than an original idea ... no direction ... no advance ideas about characters ... no outlines. I can't write with fences or calculated direction.  I'm a passenger that trusts the driver even if the driver has no clue where he's going in the moment. I trust he'll find the way ... and, to date, he always has.

DAB:  Ah, a fellow pantser.  How do you handle negative feedback about your novel(s)?

MW:   Great question. I've edited my novel from beginning to end at least 20 times. Before I ever sent it out to my first literary agent, I knew I'd opened myself up to the world of rejection. So, I embraced the mindset that criticism can make my novel better. I just needed to be able to distinguish honest, constructive critiques from jealous ones. I used the process of rejection to better my work. Over time, the rejections got better and better and better to the point where lit agents were starting to request entire manuscripts. Then, I had the upper hand and got discretionary about what was best for me as opposed to being a slave to the process. Even though I signed with a lit agent, self-publishing was a better route for me.

DAB:  Well welcome to the indie world.  Usually authors are also avid readers - what are you currently reading?

MW:   I won't read another novelist. Not now ... not ever. I have a very strong sense of my voice from my years of doing stand-up comedy and I don't want anyone else's creativity to creep in. Weird, I know. But that's me!!!

Thank you, Marc, for joining us here at the blog today and offering up your unique perspective on taking life experience and translating it to the written word.  Readers, if Cape Comedy sounds like something to tickle your funny bone, you can pick up a copy on Amazon.

Author Bio:
For thirty-one years, Marc Weingarten has lived the comedy life. With a range of experience unparalleled in the industry, Marc might be the only person with a resume that includes owning a comedy landmark, writing and talent coordinating a late night network television show, producing some of the biggest live comedy events in the country, headlining major venues as a comic, writing material for other comics, and co-founding what is arguably the most prominent comedy recording label in the country. And now, with the release of his first novel, Cape Comedy, it's not a stretch to refer to him as one of America's true comedy pioneers.

At 26, Marc became the youngest comedy club owner in America when he and his partners bought the historic Ice House in Pasadena, California. During that time, Marc developed working relationships with some of America's most prominent comedy stars, agents, producers and network executives. That lasted four years when he sold his interest in the club and joined legendary L.A. disc jockey Rick Dees, who asked Marc to develop and produce The Rick Dees Comedy Concerts. That association led to seven sold-out shows at such venues as the Universal Amphitheater, Pasadena Civic Auditorium, and Long Beach Terrace Theater. Such stars as Jay Leno, Howie Mandel, Brad Garrett, Ellen Degeneres, Bill Maher, Kevin Nealon, and Louie Anderson were featured in Marc's productions. Marc went on to create the nationally reknown Sooper Bowl of Comedy, and has been a voting member of the GRAMMY's since 1997 for producing the albums of George Lopez, Richard Jeni, Bobby Collins and Jeff Wayne.

Other comedic credits include opening for Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald, the Little River Band, and Count Basie and his Orchestra, regular appearances on NBC's Wacky World of Sports, and staff writer and talent coordinator for ABC's Into The Night starring Brad Garrett.

Whether performing, writing, producing, or being on the cutting edge of discovering America's next comic star, the dominant thread linking all these experiences is laughter.  Visit his website at