Thursday, December 31, 2009

Special People of 2009

I'd like to thank the following people for contributing to the overall well-being of my blog in 2009. Your support, guest spots, interviews, commentaries have inspired and motivated me to be a better writer and a better person. Best to you all in 2010. See you in the bookstores.

Happy New Year.

93.1 CFIS-FM
A. F. Stewart

Aaron Lazar

Alexandra Sokoloff
Angela T. Pisaturo
Anjuelle Floyd
April Pohren

Bob Zumwalt

Carol J. Garvin
Carol Percer

Carola Dunn

Cathy Stucker

Charles Jacobs
Cherley Grogg

Christopher Hoare
Chuggin McCoffee
Diana Lopez

Dave Elbright

Ernie Johnson

Gary Presley

Helen Kitson

J. Kaye Oldner
Janet Reid

Jerry D. Simmons
Jo Ann Y. Hernandez
Jo Linsdell
Joe Moore

Joel Huan

John Kremer

Judith Marshall
Karen and Robin
Katherine Swarts

Kathrine Neff Perry
Keith Pyeatt

Mark David Gerson
Marta Stephens
Martha Engber
Maya Reynolds
Meg Westley

Michele Lee

Michael Geffner
Nancy Holzner
Nancy Wise

Nerine Dorman

Pat Bertram

Pat Brown

Penny C. Sansevieri
Phyllis Zimbler Miller
Reg Feyer

Sandhill Book Marketing

Selene Skye

Teresa Mallam
Theytus Books
Toni McGee Causey


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

J.Kaye Oldner Book Blog

My article on reviewing self-published authors is being aired at J. Kaye Oldner Book Blog today. Stop by and leave me a comment or question if you like. Always glad to hear from you. Thanks.

Happy New Year, Everyone!

Monday, December 28, 2009

John Irving on Writing

Most of you already know I'm a big John Irving fan. For your viewing pleasure, here's a talk he did on writing, courtesy of:

Mike's Writing Workshop & Newsletter: Novelist John Irving on Writing

Meanwhile, my MIL and I weren't in the mood to go visiting with the rest of the family today (it's mighty cold out) so we're keeping the home fires going. I'm working on my Omatiwak manuscript while Grandma's doing up the dishes.

Beginning January 5, 2010, Phyllis Zimbler Miller will host a Ask PZM column here on my blog and answer any questions you have on marketing, networking and blogging. Subsequent columns will appear every 5th day of the month throughout the year. If you have a question you need answered, contact me at cluculzwriter at yahoo dot ca. I will forward your question. You have the option of remaining anonymous or having your name made public. It's entirely up to you.

January 30th, an article I wrote specifically for J.Kaye Oldner will air on her blog. It's titled: A REVIEW - The Steppingstone to a Self-Published Author's Dream.

Happy New Year, everybody.

ps. Yesterday I forgot to mention Pretty Boy, the kitten my DH rescued last winter. Sorry Pretty Boy.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

CHRISTMAS: Pets and freezing!

Over the past ten years, we've rescued 6 cats; 4 are still with us. Summer people go back to town in September and leave their cats behind. Why? I have no idea.

Buster was born in the bush and was extremely wild when we rescued him in '99. He was our lone pet for about 6 months. He brought home Tigger when she was 5 weeks old. We lost Tigger in August.

Bandit, the dog came to us in 2001, just before we got Tigger. He adopted all the cats. Garagee joined us in in 2005. She and Buster fought regularly the first few weeks. Not sure who won, but they're both still here. These days, they ignore each other.

Fluffy is our latest member. We rescued him this spring and have been feeding him regularly. We named him Fluffy for obvious reasons. About three weeks ago, during an extreme cold spell of -30 to -40, he finally came inside to stay.

At night we locked Fluffy in the rec room so Buster wouldn't be tempted to clean his clock.

My BIL and his wife are sleeping in our rec-room for the holidays. At night we leave the basement door down to the rec room open so they can make their nightly visits to the washroom. The joys of being a senior.

Two o'clock Christmas Eve morning, Fluffy started crying and scratching at the patio doors. Our bedroom is in the loft with no doors, and his scratching and crying grew louder and louder. We stuck our heads under the covers, but that only worked for about an hour.

Around 3 AM, Buster went down to the living room to investigate. Next thing we heard was hissing and growling. I yelled for Buster to get back to bed. Thump, thump, thump, up the stairs he came. Fifteen minutes later, they were back at it.

My husband took the first shift and slept on the sofa with Fluffy, while I kept Buster in bed with me. Fluffy slept with DH during twenty minutes increments, whereupon he was back at the patio, scratching. Every twenty minutes, I'd heard scratch-scratch, MEOW, then "Fluffy, it's okay. Come here buddy."

At 5:30 DH and I switched places. I stayed awake and soothed Fluffy's fears until 7 o'clock. Fluffy then went downstairs and slept.

Christmas Day, whenever DH or I wanted to succumb to our exhaustion, we reminded each other that we rescued the cat and probably saved his life. A little sleep depredation was the least we could do.

Sometime between Christmas Day night and Boxing Day, one of my family members went outside to have a cigarette. DH woke Boxing Day morning to the front door ajar by one foot. Whoever went out, didn't shut the door properly and Fluffy must have clawed it open. The water dish at the top of the stairs to the basement was rock-solid frozen. DH immediately began stoking the fires. Within an hour, the temperature inside the house rose to (7C) 45F.

We roasted Grandma in front of the fire until she was thawed out.

Yes, Fluffy was gone.

After the fires were burning strong, DH and I followed Fluffy's tracks for an hour. We didn't find him and finally gave up. Fluffy returned on his own around noon.

Hope you all had as wonderful a Christmas and were enshrouded with much love and happiness. Or was your Christmas even more adventurous than ours? Any tales to tell? We can't possibly be the only crazy people out there?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Monday, December 21, 2009

MIKE GEFFNER, Interview with award-winning professional writer

Michael P. Geffner has been a professional journalist for over 30 years. He's won awards for both column and feature writing from the Associated Press Sports Editors and been acknowledged 7 times by the annual Best American Sports Writing anthology.

 I met Mike Geffner last year when I joined his writers group: Mike's Writing Workshop. It didn't take long to realize that this was a man on the go, never taking long before he was onto another project. In addition to being an award-winning writer and social media professional, Mike is the founder/creator of the Writers Helping Writers groups on Facebook. The inspired Word: Passionate Readings of Poetry & Prose in New York City, Mike's Writing Workshop (on Yahoo, Ning, and Facebook), Mike's New York City Writers group, and Mike's Writing Newsletter. 

Our interview:

** How do you keep all that you do separate?

I guess I’m a pretty good juggler. LOL. Actually, I have so much energy for what I do that it’s incredibly easy for me to do a lot and to do it all and the discipline to maintain the lines between them all.

The key for me is constantly making “To Do” lists, virtually every day, and forcing myself through sheer will to follow those to the letter. So, in one day, I might set an hour or more aside for my newsletter and blog (, 30 minutes to moderate all my writing groups, two hours to do my own writing, and so and so forth.

** What do you like the most of all the things you do?

At this point in my career – having been a professional writer over 30 years – I most enjoy helping others reaching their writing goals. I love being a mentor, a teacher, a coach. And it really makes my day to get an email or letter saying that something I said helped someone get a first story published or make a lot of money.

In recent days, I’ve fallen in love with producing performance poetry events. It’s called The Inspired Word (check it out on Facebook: and I’m hoping to grow it into something so huge that poetry makes a comeback.

Call me a dreamer, but that’s what I believe. And if you don’t believe you’re dead in the water.

** Sportswriting seems to be your big love, but have you ever thought of fiction writing? If not, why?

Actually, sportswriting is NOT my first love. It’s just something I fell into. Fiction was my first love. I started out my writing career wanting to be a novelist or short story writer. In fact, in the year after college, I’d read over 300 short novels!—books by Hemingway, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Conrad, Joyce, Camus, Tolstoy, etc., etc.

But someone I trusted told me the best way to make money as a writer at the beginning is to do journalism and that once I made it in journalism, I could branch out to writing novels. Except it didn’t turn out that way. For one reason or another, the novel thing never happened for me. I lost my desire to do that entirely and instead became a journalist covering sports for The Associated Press, The Sporting News, The Village Voice, and Details magazine, among many other places, however evolving into the type of sports journalist that writes stories in a way that focuses on what makes the athletes tick, rather than on the sport he or she plays.

I write in the creative nonfiction/new journalism genre, using fictional techniques of scene building to tell a true story, and I’m extremely proud of the fact that the compliment I receive mostly is, “Mike, I don’t know a thing about sports, but I really loved your story.”

That’s exactly what I’m trying to achieve.

The way I see it, I don’t write about sports, I write about people.

** How do you go from interviewing the likes of President Nixon and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to owning and running a very active Mike's Writing Workshop besides producing a popular newsletter?

I love building writing communities. I’ve been doing that in real time for nearly 20 years, arranging writer gatherings at cafes and bars in Manhattan. But in March of 2001, I was so frustrated trying to find the right community online—they were hosted either by snarky teenagers or preachy writers with virtually no pro experience—that I simply decided to start my own, Mike’s Writing Workshop on Yahoo (  And from a membership of one—ME—it’s grown to a group of nearly 10,000 writers. I still find that amazing. It goes to show you that if you build something of value, people will come.

** What stopped you from becoming the next Howard Cosell?

I never wanted to be a Cosell. Never aspired to be a TV or radio broadcaster. I know that some young journalists use writing merely as a platform for broadcasting careers, but that was never me.  I only wanted to write. And that’s all I’ve ever done.

** Who were your mentors?

I didn’t have any early on. I don’t know if that was my fault or that no one around me was willing to help.

Later in my career, after I achieved a bit of success, I had a mentor who taught me about selling myself, which is something that didn’t come naturally to me. He was a retired salesman for The Wall Street Journal, a man in his 60’s named Al, and his words of advice continue to resonate for me. He taught me to see myself as commodity and that I could market myself with traditional sales techniques.

** You've made a name for yourself, Mike. Do you find your reputation a hindrance, a gift or a little of both?

Having a good reputation helps get work. So that’s good. But one problem I’ve encountered over the years is having too many writers wanting me help them than I can feasibly handle. It saddens me actually. I truly wish I could help everybody.

Without exaggeration,  I receive around a dozen emails from people wanting me to read their novels, poems, resumes, short stories, pitch letters, etc. Obviously, I don’t have time for all that. Plus, I absolutely hate offering opinions. I don’t want to be in a position to deflate someone’s spirits by telling them I didn’t think their writing was very good. Who am I to judge anyway? Maybe I’m wrong.

I don’t want the power to hurt an aspiring writer. My thing is to motivate, inspire.

** What do you think is the biggest mistake new writers make today?

1)      Not networking enough. Hobnobbing with the power brokers in publishing will get you more decent paying work than all the resumes, cover letters, query letters, and whatever else put together. This is a lesson I learned fairly late, but I DID learn it.

2)       Writing for free too much and for too long. People get so addicted to seeing their words so easily published that they forget to make a career of it, to keep moving higher and higher.

3)      Not shooting high enough. Rejection is a scary, painful thing. And as Freud said, human beings tend to move away from these things and instead gravitate toward safety and comfort. Problem is, safety and comfort are pure death to an artist. Play it safe and shoot low and you’ll not only accomplish little but you’ll get paid nothing or close to nothing.

4)      Not putting everything they have into studying the craft. A lot of people talk a good game, but when push comes to shove, do little to get better. You must never stop learning. I’m still trying to get better and I’m 30-plus years in.

5)      Focusing too much on online writing and not trying hard enough to get into print, be it magazines or newspapers. Online writing opportunities are so abundant these days that it’s incredibly easy to get published. That’s a good thing. But the bad thing is that most of these sites use aspiring writers’ desperation to see their words published as nothing more than a scheme to fill content. You should get used to having your writing edited and having strict deadlines and having enough fear that your adrenaline rages. In other words, challenge yourself to be better.

Two online sites I'd strongly recommend: and

My advice to young and new writers is this: Develop a clear strategy: Create goals as well as deadlines to reach those goals. Attempt to make more and more money per story.  Learn how to negotiate for better payments. And attempt to write for things that have greater and greater circulation.

** Where do you find the industry headed?

I know this: EVERYTHING is changing! After that, I haven’t a clue, other than to say that probably everything or close to everything will be online eventually. And unless online sites figure out a way to make more money doing what they do, it doesn’t bode well for writers making a decent living.

Just look at The Huffington Post. Great site, great business model (especially in these tough economic times for traditional media), but the writers freelancing for them DON’T MAKE A PENNY.

** What's it like writing in New York City? I bet there's no place like it. Do you think NYC has influenced your writing?

I know of no other life than living in this city, since I’ve been here since Day One.

For sure, the publishing action is right here. Almost all the major publishing houses, both in books and magazines, are here. It certainly makes it easy to meet with editors and network.

** It’s been great talking to you, Mike. Any new ventures in your future? Where do you think you’ll find yourself in 5 years?

Other than my Inspired Word events, I just started Mike’s Writing Workshop on Ning ( ). And I love it! It’s sort of like a Facebook for writers. Very interactive. A slew of great apps. It’s a great way for writers to talk and share.

In five years? Who knows? My guess is I’ll still be juggling like a madman.

Thanks, Mike

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Interview with Book Marketing Expert PENNY C. SANSEVIERI

Penny C. Sansevieri, CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc., is a best-selling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert. Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the most cutting-edge book marketing campaigns. She is the author of five books, including Book to Bestseller which has been called the "road map to publishing success." AME is the first marketing and publicity firm to use Internet promotion to its full impact through The Virtual Author Tour™, which strategically works with message boards, blogs, ezines, and relevant sites to push an authors message into the virtual community and connect with sites related to the book's topic, positioning the author in his or her market. To learn more about Penny’s books or her promotional services, you can visit her web site at To subscribe to her free ezine, send a blank email to:

Penny successfully authored her first book, The Cliffhanger, which was released in 2000. After a strategic marketing campaign it soared up the ranks at and held the #1 spot for three months*. *best selling book within San Diego.

Our interview: 

-- Penny, what led you into the marketing and promotional business?

Well I started out in publicity and marketing but in corporate America – then I was laid off and then the company that I went to was shut down, so twice in once year I was out of work. I took it as a sign and started AME, then it was called Author Services – I eventually changed the name, incorporated and 10+ years later, here I am…

-- The Cliffhanger, your first novel held #1 spot on Amazon for three months. What an accomplishment. Have you expanded on the strategy you used back then for books you'll have published today? Or does the same efforts work today?

Actually the key to that success was creativity. The strategy was really a postcard mailing that hooked into a current story (the Presidential race of 2000), but the key was being creative.

-- Can you tell us about Candlewood Lake?

I’d love to… Candlewood Lake was born out a story my mother told me after my father passed away. They met at Candlewood Lake in Connecticut – after he died I wrote this book as a sort of tribute to how life was “back when” --- there is nothing in this story about them, that’s not what this was for, but more to highlight this tiny part of the world where people lived and loved. The story actually follows three kids who grow up and how the lake shapes their lives, the choices they make (not all of the good) – and the tragedies that befall them during their lifetime. I’ve had readers tell me it’s a page turner, I hope so!

-- You're wearing a lot of hats: CEO, author, book marketing expert, and media relations expert; which one is your favourite? And why?

Actually I would have to say book marketing expert – I get to brainstorm new campaigns with authors and our marketing team. The brainstorming and creative piece is always my first love – and yes, I love writing but it all starts with an idea….

-- How did Author Marketing Experts, Inc., come about?

AME is a long held dream of mine that I fell into quite accidentally. I was interviewed once for a magazine piece on being an entrepreneur and I said that I was never an intentional entrepreneur, meaning that I never woke up one day and said “I want to be self-employed” – candidly I was terrified of the idea but when given no other choice I decided to take the leap. So I started gradually, first doing consulting, then partial campaigns, then full programs. Now we have staff and books on the bestseller list – it’s hard to believe!

-- You had a dream and that gave birth to AME. Have your hopes and your expectations come true? Are you content with how far you've come, or are you aiming even higher?

Yes and yes – I am always striving for more but I have to tell you, if someone had said to me 10 years ago when I was down, depressed and without a job twice in the same year that I would be doing this for a living, I never would have believed them. This company has exceeded anything I thought I would accomplish with it. Do I still aim higher? Yes I do. Why? Because as an entrepreneur we must keep striving, when we decide to settle, we become accustomed to what is and we stop striving and stop achieving. That’s half the fun of being self-employed, the achievement and drive for more is what makes us unique!

-- Penny, most days I feel under pressure and consequently am looking for ways to lesson my work load. You're adding to yours, and producing your newsletter every month. How do you do it?

I know, it’s insane isn’t it? Just when I think I can’t add more, I do. The problem is that when you do what you love, it never feels like work. One of my favorite quotes is: “Do what you love and you’ll never work another day in your life.”

-- Can readers expect another fiction novel by Penny Sansevieri any time soon? And if so, how do you find time to write?

Yes, and I’ve been writing it for over a year now. Want a hint on what it’s about? Well, it’s about being in publishing and it’s a *lot* of fun to write! When do I find time? I always tease my friends and say “I write during my downtime, between the hours of midnight and 3am…”

-- With all the assistance you provide writers in today's tight marketplace, why do you suppose some writers still fail to get published?

I think we just have a tough time sticking with something. I mean let’s face it, finishing a book takes effort, focus, and commitment and there’s no guarantee it’ll get published and/or even read so it’s a challenge really. I mean (and especially these days) we have to juggle a lot, job, family, other personal and professional commitments and often I find that authors don’t have the time to get to know their marketplace or go to a writer’s conference to network. I think one of the biggest reasons that authors don’t get published is persistence and asking the right questions.

-- Thanks so much for sharing your time, Penny. In closing, can you share what the future may hold for Penny Sanevieri? And AME?

Well, we continue to strive to be the best in our marketplace. Seven+ years ago I saw the writing on the wall as it related to traditional book marketing and publicity so I began to invest a lot of the company’s equity into the expansion of our Internet department. A lot of folks thought I was crazy to do that. Now, here we are, years later and the Internet is the new “black” – it’s the hottest (and best) way to market a book. I hope to always be able to stay ahead of the curve….

Thank you, Penny. It's been a pleasure.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Interview with Blogging Expert CATHY STUCKER

As the Idea Lady, Cathy Stucker helps authors, professionals and entrepreneurs build the businesses of their dreams. Cathy is the author of several books, audio programs and other information products, and she has more websites than we can list here. Sign up for Cathy's free IdeaLady Insider newsletter at, access her resources for authors and publishers at and learn where you can find Cathy online at

After I published my first novel Dead Witness, and I'd read all the books available, books like Jerry D. Simmons and John Kremer wrote or recommended, I began this blog. I followed their advice closely, and that helped. Then one day I discovered a link to Cathy's BloggerLinkUp, and blogging successfully took on a whole new meaning.

Please welcome my next guest Cathy Stucker, and if you have any question, no matter how simple it may sound to you, ask away.

Our Interview:

-- Cathy, can you tell us a little about your background up to creating BloggerLinkUp?

My “real life” career was in the insurance industry. When I got laid off in 1994, I decided to follow my passions and create my own job as an author, speaker and consultant. I set up my first website,, in 1998, and there was no stopping me after that!

Although I still do speaking and consulting, much of my focus these days is on developing passive income streams so that I am not just trading hours for dollars. That means creating products and blogging, among other things. You can see more about what I’m up to at

-- Apart from being a writer, marketeer, and all round expert on online business, what lead up to you creating BloggerLinkUp?

I have always seen the value in placing my content on other sites and blogs, and thought it should be easier. I set up BLU so guest posters and bloggers could find each other without a lot of hassle. In other words, I created BLU because I wanted to use it!

-- How do you juggle your time? Do you follow a strict schedule, or just wing it? Does it even fizz you how organized you are?

Lists, lists and more lists! I set goals and objectives every day. Some days are more productive than others, but I make an effort to accomplish something every day. I also have an email accountability partner. I email her every work day with a list of what I accomplished that day. Because I never want to say, “I didn’t do anything today,” it motivates me to get things done.

-- Me, and a lot of other bloggers think of you as an expert in the field. How long and what process did it take to become so knowledgeable on blogging?

I started blogging in 2004, but didn’t get serious until 2006. That is when I jumped in to learning WordPress and how to promote a blog. The best way to learn how to do anything, in my opinion, is to do it. Just start blogging and learn as you go. It is highly unlikely that anything you do will make your computer explode, so it’s safe. ;o)

-- What do you see as the biggest mistakes bloggers make?

Giving up too soon. When they do not get instant results (e.g., millions of page views and thousands of dollars a month) within a month or two, they lose interest and quit posting. It takes time to build a following and a volume of content that will draw the search engines. If you want to be a successful blogger, commit to posting an average of at least three times a week for at least six months. Also commit to doing things to promote your blog, including optimizing it for the search engines,
posting to social networking and bookmarking sites, doing guest posts, etc.

-- What's the easiest way to find one's theme? Is there a mind map we can should concentrate on?

To be successful as a blogger you need a topic for which you have passion. If you are going to write at least a few posts a week, you need to be interested and excited about your topic. To attract an audience (and make money) you need a topic that also interests and excites a lot of other people. It can be difficult to find the right topic and angle that excites you and draws an audience, but it is rewarding.

-- What you say about getting your traffic from different sources makes total sense, but could we step back a second. Could you take us through step by step on how to get links to our sites? Manually? There are so many new bloggers who don't yet understand the lingo.

There are lots of ways to get links. Link to your blog from your social media profiles, bookmark your best posts on sharing sites such as Digg, Delicious and StumbleUpon, publish guest posts on other blogs and websites and link from them, comment on blogs, post to forums, and look for linking opportunities every chance you get. The more links the better. However, stay away from things the search engines don’t like, such as buying links.

By the way, one way to build links that lots of bloggers do not think about is by linking to other blogs. Linking to other blogs in your posts is useful to your readers, and the bloggers you link to will discover your blog when they look to see who is linking to them. That can be the beginning of a beautiful friendship (to steal a line from “Casablanca”).

-- Let's say Mr. Blogger has followed your advice, joined the networks, Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon, etc, and his numbers rise from 10 a day to 100? What's stopping him from receiving 1000 hits a day?

Nothing. Keep doing more promotion, and give it time. The search engines generally do not deliver much traffic to new sites, but once your site is several months old (assuming you have built a solid site with good, meaty posts) you will see traffic increase, sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly.

-- Most of the blogs I visit are creative writing related. Many are fun, informative and reviewing, but not necessarily unique. Yet one is receiving 1000 hits a day and the others aren't even close. Can you speculate on what might be happening?

The busier site may be doing more promotion (e.g., linking and bookmarking) or better Search Engine Optimization (SEO). For example, if you know what terms people search for, you can write posts about those subjects, using the exact terms people search for. That makes it more likely that your blog will rank well with the search engines.

As an example, a little research with the Google AdWords tool shows that “write a novel” is searched for more than twice as often as “writing a novel.” So you might want to title your blog post, “Write a Novel in Three Steps,” rather than “Writing a Novel in Three Steps.” And “write your novel” gets very few searches, so, “Write Your Novel in Three Steps,” would probably not be a good title choice from an SEO perspective.

The blogger getting many more visitors may also be forming more relationships with other bloggers. One of the great things about bloggers is that we love to work with other bloggers. When you form alliances with other bloggers, you all benefit. You can guest post on each other’s blogs, comment on posts, link to each other and other things that build awareness and traffic.

- Thanks for your time, Cathy. I can only imagine how busy you must be. Before we go, is there anything you want the rest of us to understand about blogging that we don't cover in the questions above?

Remember that blogging is about building relationships—with your readers and with other bloggers. Don’t look at it as a “get rich quick” scheme, but over the long term blogging can make you successful. Oh, and have fun! If you see blogging as just one more thing to check off your to-do list, you won’t experience the joy that comes from being part of an online community of writers and readers.

-- Thank you, Cathy. Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Interview with Book Marketing Expert and Author JOHN KREMER

John Kremer is an acknowledged expert on book publishing and marketing. Besides being the owner of a publishing company (Open Horizons in Taos, New Mexico), he is the editor of the Book Marketing Tip of the Week newsletter.

John is the author of a number of books on publishing and marketing, including 1001 Ways to Market Your Books: For Authors and Publishers (6th Edition), The Complete Direct Marketing Sourcebook, High Impact Marketing on a Low Impact Budget, and Celebrate Today. He has also designed the Do-It-Yourself Book Publicity Kit, Book Publishing Reports on CD-Rom, and Book Marketing Mini-Book series.

He has been interviewed by or featured in The New York Times, USA Today, Playboy, Scientific American, Chicago Tribune, Bottom Line/Personal, Sharing Ideas, Writer's Digest, DM News, Games, Foreword, Publishers Weekly, Gift & Decorative Accessories, Book Business, Booklist, Children's Book Insider, Freelance Writers Report, Los Angeles Reader, and many other publications as well as more than 200 radio shows around the country. Online publications include Marketing Sherpa,, Small Press Blog,, Principled Profit, The Writing Life, and more.

Our Interview:

** I know about your accomplishments in Publishing and Marketing, but what's your background? How did you end up an expert in these fields?

I became an expert by doing. I started by helping a friend market his product in the toy and gift field. Then started my own publishing company. As I established that company, I found a big lack of information on how to market your books. So I created that information.

** You've had to keep up with the rapid changes in the industry. How do you do that and find time for all aspects of your career: newsletters, courses, workshops, not to mention your book projects?

I work hard and play hard. If you organize your time, you can usually get a lot done, both in research and in doing. I try to balance those two activities along with operating a business and responding to customers. It's always a challenge, but stick to your priorities and you'll be okay.

** Did you always want to be a marketing guru? Who mentored your love for this business? Or did fate intervene?

I did not always want to be a marketing guru. But I have wanted to be a writer since the 8th grade. I didn't really have a mentor in this business, at least not a personal mentor. I have had many mentors via reading books.

Most of what I've done and become has been in response to what people have asked me to do. When someone has a question, I have a new blog post, ezine item, chapter for a book, or a new speech.

** I think I read it in Forbes Magazine that it isn't about how smart you are, but who you surround yourself with. Have you always been surrounded by like-minded people? Or did you have to learn the hard way, by making mistakes?

I surround myself with good people via reading books, reading magazines and newsletters, attending conferences, and lately, of course, visiting great websites and following useful blogs. I try not to learn by making mistakes (although I have done plenty of learning that way, alas).

** Book marketing, writing, publishing, writing, promos, publicity, to name a few, what's your favourite hat?

My favorite hat is writing. After that, I enjoy consulting and speaking. I love sharing what I've learned and experienced with others. I like helping people.

** Recently, Charlie Rose interviewed Peter Kaplan, former EIC of the New York Observer. He had some exciting things to say about ebooks, publishing and the future of communications. Do you share that excitement? Why?

I've always had excitement for publishing in all its forms. I loved all the book publishing changes that have occurred over the years: the growth of short-run book printers, the rise of independent distributors, the formation of associations for indie publishers, the new books and services that have come out to help new authors and self-publishers, the Internet, print-on-demand technology, ebooks, and the multimedia formats that will be the true future of publishing information and entertainment.

When the Internet first started becoming a fad back in 1994, I gave away those ubiquitous AOL disks just to get people online. The Internet has made it possible to reach people all over the world and target the people who would really be interested in your book. The Internet has done more than anything else to level the playing field for new publishers and authors.

** New writers today face unexplored facets of publishing and many of them won't survive because they can't keep up to the changing times; even those who would otherwise be destined to be literary greats. Do you think that's true? And if so, what can they do to change that sentence?

I think the changes in today's world has made it more possible for a new author to stand out, to reach his or her audience, and to sell tons of books. But, if you are not interested in learning everything you can about building relationships online, you will fall by the wayside. That would be sad, since it is so easy to build relationships online and reach far more people than any author ever could before.

** What makes a good marketeer? CEO? Or publishing giant?

All of marketing, publishing, and managing really boils down to one thing: creating and nurturing relationships. If you can do that, you can be successful in writing, publishing, and selling your book. And creating relationships, in turn, boils down to one thing: making friends.

** When asked what he feared, Bill Gates said it was the fellow in his garage coming up with the next best thing. Do you ever fear that kind of unknown competitor?

I have no competitors so I fear none. I don't do anything unless it's the best. If you're the best, you really have no competitors. Now I might be deluded in how good I am, but I will do my darnest to get you to share in my delusion. If you can define how what you do is better than what someone else does (whether your book is bigger, shorter, better, more entertaining, or whatever), then you can sell your book to an audience eager for what you have to offer.

** You've accomplished a lot, John. Are you content with your dreams? Or are you the man who will never stop?

Never content. Always doing something more. Will stop five days after I die. But what I create will go on for a long, long time still helping people, educating them, entertaining them.

-- John Kremer, author of 1001 Ways to Market Your Books ( and developer of the Ten Million Eyeballs Internet marketing program (

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Interview with Marketing Expert JERRY D. SIMMONS

Jerry D. Simmons, Author, Publisher, Speaker, is a 25-year veteran of New York publishing with Random House and the former Time Warner Book Group, retired as VP, Director Field Sales. 
Over the years he has worked on books written by such bestselling authors as:

Robert Kiyosaki
James Patterson
Sandra Brown
Nicholas Sparks
Nelson DeMille
Michael Connelly

He has also worked on such multi-million copy bestselling titles as:

The Bridges of Madison County
The Celestine Prophecy
Presumed Innocent
The Lion King
Rich Dad, Poor Dad
Along Came A Spider
Absolute Power

Jerry’s sales division generated hundreds of millions of dollars in book sales across the United States and Canada.

He is the founder of  HYPERLINK "" which offers free articles on marketing and publishing. His newsletter TIPS for WRITERS from the PUBLISHING INSIDER is read by writers in over 24 foreign countries. He also launched the free marketing platform  HYPERLINK "" which introduces emerging writers to a global audience.  

His book, WHAT WRITERS NEED TO KNOW ABOUT PUBLISHING is described by the #1 New York Times Bestselling author Sandra Brown as “The good, the bad, and the ugly aspects of book publishing, told in a straight-from-the hip manner. New writers take note.” 

Jerry speaks around the country and his articles have appeared in Writers Digest and across the web. He spends his time writing, teaching, and speaking with writers about the importance of understanding the marketplace for selling books. His focus is to help writers become successfully published authors by educating them about the business of publishing and sharing the secrets of the largest booksellers and publishers in the world.
* * * *

- Your newsletter has changed my life and a lot of others', I'm sure. Back when I was struggling to find my niche as a writer, having your newsletter in my inbox made all the difference. How did your newsletter come about?

That is a very nice thing to say and I’m grateful for your wonderful comment. The newsletter was born out of a need that I saw once I left New York and began working with writers who were trying to understand the business and how to succeed. It’s a real labor of love and I try to keep it different by offering the latest topics from the world of book publishing along with commentary and a brief explanation of what it all means to them as individual writers and authors. It’s grown tremendously and at the present time I have readers in over 24 foreign countries. 

- How does a young man go from Sales Representative for Random House to Warner Communications for 23 years to campaigning on behalf of new and unpublished writers everywhere? Was that planned or did fate intervene?

Fate brought me to this point, I retired and took a couple of years off to write my book, then one day was asked to speak to a writers conference which lead to more speaking engagements and eventually the web site and newsletter. I’d like to say this was all planned but it wasn’t, I’ve been drawn to this point with my focus to provide truthful information about the business and how writers can become successful authors. My biggest thrill is helping those who are having trouble with maneuvering the industry and trying to make good publishing decisions.

- You actually worked on titles such as To Kill a Mockingbird and The Lion King? What a contrast. How did your experience differ?

The market for each title is different, obviously, the key is to position a title appropriately in the market. For example, it’s vitally important to create a niche within each category for every single book. It’s best when an author does the research on their own rather than let the publisher handle that, however it varies. Publishers promote books in what we called “an inch deep and mile wide” meaning we published to every category. The key to selling titles is finding that special niche that is “an inch wide and mile deep” which means finding that exact spot where the title has the best chance of reaching an audience and selling copies. There are plenty of business books but the importance is to distinguish your book within the business category. That is the key to successful book selling. To be successful you need a keen eye for titles and the ability to distinguish between the competition.

- Could you explain what Nothing Binding does and how it came about?

Nothing Binding was initially intended to be a social networking site for writers, authors and publishers. This again came from author requests during several writers conferences where I was being asked to provide a platform where information could be shared. It hasn’t quite worked out that way I intended since it has turned into a site where editors and agents browse for the latest entries and search for potential products for their list. It’s free and I’d love to see more writers and authors create profiles, you just never know who is going to be browsing and who might read your writing.

- What do you think is the greatest challenge facing writers today: young and experienced?

Making good choices on how to market and publish their manuscripts. Good decisions are spawned from information and the more a writer understands the business the more successful they will become. Success is defined in many ways and it’s not about becoming a celebrity or bestselling author, it’s about finding an audience for your writing, learning how to expand that readership, and sell more copies with each successive book. Do that and you will be considered a gold mine for publishers.

- Jerry, what do you think is the best thing to happen for today's writers?

The future lies in the upcoming trend toward digital book sales. That doesn’t mean print books will go away, it means that finally there will be another delivery system for content. Digital will offer many more ways to reach an audience and it will become less and less important how you publish and who you publish with. The key in the future will be the quality of the writing and ability to market effectively to your audience.

- Do you think there's any truth to the Internet being our generations' oxymoron? The Internet is the best thing to happen for authors since the book was invented. Successful authors are ones that have learned how to create a space for their writing where it can be viewed by millions of readers. I believe the best is yet to come and there are no real secrets to success, it’s timing, creative marketing and an unwillingness to give up.

- You've face the ugly part of book publishing for more years than I can imagine, yet you don't seem to have lost your excitement for it. How do you keep the faith? Is there enough good coming out of the industry to balance the bad?

I have a real love for books and writers and a passion for teaching others how to make good decisions. Nothing gives me more pleasure than helping writers understand the business of publishing. It’s fun, I love reading new manuscripts and still get a thrill out of seeing the final published book. It gets in your blood and frankly, I can’t imagine doing anything else.

- To name a few, what are three things writers need to know about Publishing?

(1) You have to follow your heart and dreams, there is no substitute. (2) The more information you have the better decisions you will make and that will save time and money. (3) Rejection is part of the business, you must learn to be patient and never, ever give up. Timing plays a big role and you need to keep trying so eventually the timing will be on your side.

- Jerry, thanks for the interview, I know how precious your time must be. In closing, if you had only one minute of breath left to say something about publishing, what would you say?

Every writer has a unique ability to tell a story. Based on their own personal experiences, educations, environment and development. There is an audience for everyone, the trick is finding it. If you are passionate about writing then write! Content is king!

Sandra Brown, #1 New York Times bestselling author, says, “New Writers take note. Told in a straight-from-the-hip manner. Simmons speaks from years of experience, as well as with a genuine caring for the would-be-published writer.”

Friday, December 11, 2009

Interview with Urban Fantasy Author NANCY HOLZNER

Nancy Holzner grew up in western Massachusetts with her nose stuck in a book. This meant that she tended to walk into things, wore glasses before she was out of elementary school, and forced her parents to institute a “no reading at the dinner table” rule. It was probably inevitable that she majored in English in college and then, because there were still a lot of books she wanted to read, continued her studies long enough to earn a masters degree and a PhD.

She began her career as a medievalist, then jumped off the tenure track to try some other things. Besides teaching English and philosophy, she’s worked as a technical writer, freelance editor and instructional designer, college admissions counselor, and corporate trainer. Most of her nonfiction books are published under the name Nancy Conner.

Nancy lives in upstate New York with her husband Steve, where they both work from home without getting on each other’s nerves. She enjoys visiting local wineries and listening obsessively to opera. There are still a lot of books she wants to read.

You can read Deadtown’s first chapter here.

- Nancy, thanks so much for being here today. Can you tell us what DEADTOWN is about?

Thanks for inviting me, Joylene. It’s a pleasure to visit your blog. Deadtown is an urban fantasy novel set in an alternative version of Boston. Three years ago, a virus turned two thousand Bostonians into zombies. The former quarantine zone has become Deadtown, a city-within-a-city that’s home (by law) to Boston’s paranormal community. Shapeshifter Vicky Vaughn lives there, along with her vampire roommate, her teenage zombie sidekick, and her on-again, off-again boyfriend Alexander Kane, a workaholic werewolf lawyer.

Vicky kills other people’s personal demons for a living, demons of fear, guilt, and revenge. When one of her clients is horribly murdered, Vicky must face a bigger, badder demon—one from her own past—to protect the city.

- What prompted you to write Deadtown?

I’d been a fan of the urban fantasy genre for a while. For people who aren’t familiar with that genre, it’s contemporary fantasy that’s set in the modern world (usually an alternative version of a real city) and features magic and paranormal characters. Urban fantasy has a fast-paced plot, lots of action, some humor, and often a touch of romance.

Anyway, I was reading more novels in that genre than any other, so when I was looking for a new project, I thought I’d give urban fantasy a try.

The idea from the book came from several sources. I’d noticed an agent complaining in a blog post that she disliked the phrase “so-and-so wrestles with his own personal demons” and wondering who else would wrestle with your personal demons besides you. I thought, “What a great premise!” and started to think about a character who was a professional demon exterminator. I also drew upon my background as a medievalist (the novel’s background mythology comes from the Mabinogi, a collection of medieval Welsh legends) and my knowledge of Boston, where I went to college. With those ingredients, the story began to come together.

- Can you tell us a bit about Victory (Vicky) Vaughn?

Vicky is one of the Cerddorion, a race of shapeshifters descended from the Welsh goddess Ceridwen. She can change into any kind of sentient creature, and she gets up to three shifts per lunar cycle. Usually, she chooses what she shifts into, but sometimes strong emotion can force a shift. (For example, as a senior in high school, Vicky’s older sister Gwen got stage fright and shifted into a mouse.) Among the Cerddorion, only females have shapeshifting ability; they gain it at puberty and lose it if they give birth. Gwen chose motherhood, but to Vicky, carrying on the family legacy of demon-slaying is her calling. This makes her a little wary of relationships.

Vicky can be a wisecracker. She’s also brave, loyal, and resourceful, and she has to deal with the effects of bearing the mark of the Hellion that killed her father. She gets into trouble sometimes because she’s always first in line to rush in and try to make things right. Alone, though, she’s sometimes unsure of herself.

- How long did it take you to write Deadtown?

I wrote the first draft in about three months. But, as every author knows, revisions are where the real work begins. I spent probably twice as long on the second draft as I did on the first. Then I set the manuscript aside for a little while, came back to it, and did the final polish in about two weeks.

- Who are you, Nancy? How did you become a published novelist?

I’ve always loved books. I majored in English in college, then went on to earn a masters and a PhD in the same subject. I started my career as a medievalist, teaching Old and Middle English literature to university and graduate students. After several years, I left academia and became self-employed, working as an editor, corporate trainer, and author of nonfiction books. About seven or eight years ago I got the writing bug. I took a couple of online classes, joined a writing group, and wrote one novel, which I then put away because it wasn’t ready for publication. The next two novels I wrote sold.

- What was the hardest part about writing Deadtown?

Finding the time to spend on it. Because I write full-time now, I spend the work day writing nonfiction, and I focus on fiction during the evening and on weekends. All that writing means that sometimes I feel like I’ve run out of words at the end of the day, and the hardest part can be digging down to find the energy to switch to my current novel. It’s worth it, though. When I get my second wind, it’s great.

- Are there other genres on your horizon?

I published a mystery, Peace, Love, and Murder, in August with Five Star Press, which puts out hardcover books for libraries. That was fun, but looking forward I’m going to keep writing fantasy. I’d like to continue Vicky’s series, and I have an idea that I’d like to develop for a second series.

- What would you like your readers to gain from reading Deadtown?

Fun. I set out to make Deadtown an entertaining, fast-paced read. From the reviews I’ve seen so far, readers are definitely getting that out of the book. But I think there’s also another level to the book, one that raises questions about identity and what it means to do the right thing.

- Working on anything else? Can we look forward to a sequel, maybe?

A sequel will follow in about a year. Its title isn’t finalized yet, but this novel picks up a couple of months after the ending of Deadtown. Actions that Vicky took in the first book come back to haunt her (literally) and she travels to Wales to get further training. There, she meets a distant relative who . . . well, let’s just say he’s the black sheep of the family and he’s up to no good.

- Any advice you would like to give new writers?

Read. Read everything you can get your hands on. Read classic literature and best sellers. Read the kind of book you want to write, but read outside your genre, too.

Join a critique group so you can get other people’s opinions on your writing, and also so you can learn to read, analyze, and strengthen others’ writing. Learning how to critique well will make you a better writer.

Be persistent, and be patient. This is a slow-moving business, and expecting quick results shoots you in the foot. When you’ve finished a novel and you’re shopping it to agents or editors, start a new one. Write every day. Don’t expect that you’re owed a book deal, but don’t give up, either.

Question from Justin: Are you enjoying marketing it? Is your publishing house doing most of the prelim stuff like bookmarks, media release, and posters?

Overall, it’s a lot of fun. I’ve enjoyed reaching out to other authors and book reviewers and appearing on blogs like Joylene’s. I’ve met some really cool people. I probably underestimated the amount of time it would take to promote the book, but I’m learning. As long as I give up on sleep, I should be OK. J

My publisher printed up a batch of advance review copies and sent them out to reviewers. They’re currently including Deadtown in an Ace/Roc Holiday Giveaway at the Dear Author blog. And I’ll be appearing on the Ace/Roc and Penguin USA sites next month. So they’ve been doing a lot to help raise my visibility. (But I’m having bookmarks printed up myself.)

They call it Deadtown: the city’s quarantined section for its inhuman and undead residents. Most humans stay far from its borders — but Victory Vaughn, Boston’s only professional demon slayer, isn’t exactly human…

Thursday, December 10, 2009

How to Write Blog Posts When You are Blogging to Market a Novel

The Net is full of fascinating people, and one of them is Phyllis Zimbler Miller. Please welcome back Phyllis Z. Miller, marketing expert and author of Mrs. Lieutenant. 

How to Write Blog Posts When You are Blogging to Market a Novel  

Publishing a non-fiction book will usually make it easy for you to write a blog dedicated to your book.  The non-fiction subject of your book and related topics can provide ample blogging material.

For example, if you wrote a book on cooking low-fat diets, you could post one low-fat recipe a day along with insider tips to ensure the recipe turns out well.  Or if you wrote a book on new social media platforms, you could write each post about one new social media platform and probably never run out of new posts.

The problem of writing ongoing book blog posts really presents itself to fiction writers.  If you’ve written a romance novel or a mystery novel, what are you going to write about in your blog posts?

With a little imagination (and you are a fiction writer, aren’t you?) you can come up with interesting posts for your book’s blog.  Let’s look at some examples:

You write a novel that takes place in 1970 during the Vietnam War.   Because the Vietnam War plays an important role in the novel, you could write posts about historical events that took place during that era or historical events that led to that era.  And you could write about the military today fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan and about military families back home.  There’s no need to mention your book in every post; the overall context of the blog is about your book.

Now let’s stretch our imagination farther.  You write a mystery novel about a series of medical-related murders.  You could write posts about deaths that were not murders but were actual medical mysteries.  You could also write posts about new hospital procedures that are being implemented to reduce medical-related deaths.  And you could write posts telling the family of hospital patients what to look for in suspected medical malpractice.

What if you’ve written a children’s picture book about family members learning to get along?  Children are not going to read your blog and their parents aren’t going to read your blog aloud to their children.  You could write posts about parent-child issues; if you’re not an expert, you can quote other experts.  You could review other children’s picture books on similar topics.   You could write posts about children’s literacy issues.

The truth is that you can cast your imagination net far and wide for subjects on which to blog.  Just remember that every few posts you should mention your book in connection with that post.  For example, if you were writing a post about children’s literacy issues, you could mention that a specific second-grader in your book could read long words but not short words and that her teacher suspected dyslexia.

Or you could quote an entire (short) scene from your novel to illustrate a point you’re making.  And, yes, it’s okay that people reading your blog may not know who the characters and situation are.  If you choose an appropriate scene, most readers will be able to understand the context of the excerpt.

Fiction authors should be as active as non-fiction authors in the use of blogs to market books.  Give your blog readers interesting and well-written posts, and they will read your blog and hopefully buy your book.

Phyllis Zimbler Miller (@ZimblerMiller on Twitter) has an M.B.A. from The Wharton School and is an Internet business consultant whose company website has lots more useful advice like this.  Information about her novel MRS. LIEUTENANT is available at and you can download her free report on “Power Marketing’s Top 3 Internet Marketing Tips” at .  You can also download a free report on fiction blogging written with author Carolyn Howard-Johnson at

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

NANCY HOLZNER, author of Deadtown

Please welcome Nancy Holzner, author of the newly released DEADTOWN. Nancy's coming back for an interview on Friday for an interview.

They call it Deadtown: the city’s quarantined section for its inhuman and undead residents. Most humans stay far from its borders — but Victory Vaughn, Boston’s only professional demon slayer, isn’t exactly human…

Vicky’s demanding job keeping the city safe from all manner of monsters is one reason her relationship with workaholic lawyer (and werewolf) Alexander Kane is in constant limbo. Throw in a foolhardy zombie apprentice, a mysterious demon-plagued client, and a suspicious research facility that’s taken an unwelcome interest in her family, and Vicky’s love life has as much of a pulse as Deadtown’s citizens.

But now Vicky’s got bigger things to worry about. The Hellion who murdered her father ten years ago has somehow broken through Boston’s magical protections. The Hellion is a ruthless force of destruction with a personal grudge against Vicky, and she’s the only one who can stop the demon before it destroys the city and everyone in it.

DEADTOWN is full of dangerous magic and populated with characters so realistic, they almost jump off the page. I loved this book. Nancy Holzner is a master of characterization and I’ll be buying her next book the moment it hits the shelf.”

Ilona Andrews, New York Times bestselling author of MAGIC STRIKES


DEADTOWN is fresh and funny, with a great new take on zombies.”

Karen Chance, New York Times bestselling author of DEATH’S MISTRESS

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Interview with Horror Author MICHELE LEE

It's my pleasure to interview Michele Lee today. You have to check out her site to appreciate what an incredible writer this woman is. If you have a question on writing, blogging, publishing, anything related to the business, now's your chance.

Michele Lee writes horror, science fiction and fantasy from the relative safety of her haunted house in the oldest section of Louisville, Ky. When she isn't writing she reviews for The Fix, Monster Librarian, Dark Scribe and her own review blog, BookLove. When not thinking, reading or writing books she gardens and cares for her autistic son, precocious daughter and her #1 fan, her husband.

  • Appearance: Conglomeration 2010, April 9-11, 2010

  • Appearance: Yet Unnamed Generic Horror Event that is NOT Horror Day 2, TBA

  • Interview: The Metal Crypt with BadSlayer & Grimm

  • Interview: On Horror and Writing with Jodi Lee


  • April 2008, Honorable Mention in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future contest

  • - Michele, how did you get started? What's your background in writing?

    Growing up writing was always sort of “my thing”. Most people knew me as a constant reader, which as I grew up began to transition to writing. At first I wrote horrid, copy cat stories largely centering around Mary Sue-type characters. Then in high school I got into a series of classes (Freshmen and Senior English and Latin all four years) with a teacher who not only encouraged me and expected a lot from me, she also was an avid contest-enterer which finally gave me a reason to push my writing out of muddling about and trying to connect with a reader.

    I won a few essays and writing contest thanks to Mrs. Willis, including a Latin storytelling contest, where I wrote a myth-like story entirely in Latin. (I couldn't repeat the feat today, but I am incredibly proud of myself for that particular accomplishment.) And thanks to another high school teacher, my theater teacher Mr. Prince, I also learned to always explore new kinds of writing and storytelling, when he offered a play writing class and my plays ended up performed my final two years of school. Both teachers helped turn a hobby into a passion.

    Once out of high school I knew I wanted to write genre fiction, but my tastes went through a lot of maturing and without the direct guidance I meandered aimlessly a bit, not sure what to do. That was the last large step toward being (or trying to be) a professional writer that I had to take, learning how to motivate and shape myself.

    - Might as well get the subject of genres and labels over with. Why horror and S/F? Ever dabble in mystery or romance? Thinking about a change in genre in the future?

    First, why not? Who doesn't love Star Wars and The Princess Bride? Of course there are people who don't. But I'm not sure I understand them.

    I love all fiction that speculates, which includes mystery and romance, because they all come initially from a what if. It might be “What if you were trapped on a hostile alien planet?”, “What if you found a portal to a magical world?”, “What if your high school sweet heart was murdered and you were the one who had to find the killer?” or “What if you had to marry a man you didn't love because your family made you?”

    I like exploring all kinds of what ifs. I have written and been published in the horror and science fiction fields. I have a few fantasy stories that have been well received but haven't found a homes yet, and this past summer I released an erotic romance novelette centering on a riding stable I wrote for fun as a free serial.

    The plot comes first and then I sit and wonder what genre it should be, which comes down to which aspects of the story should be the strongest. It's all about the approach to the story, because most stories exist outside genre boundaries and just translate into reader and marketer expectations.

    - You're a prolific writer who's been writing for 10 years; you must know yourself pretty well by now. Is meeting your schedule of 2-3 K getting easier? Have you ever suffered from writer's block? How do you get over it?

    This has been a horrible year for my writing. Well, not entirely because my zombie novella Rot came out this year and has been received very enthusiastically. But there have been a lot of personal distractions and upheavals in my life this year which have made it hard to focus on the writing and actually sit and get it done. I thought that when both of my kids were in school there would be more time for writing, but somehow it hasn't turned out that way.

    It's not getting easier, especially when I get into a rut of feeling dismal about progress so far. The thing about writers is sometimes we can look at our accomplishments and be proud of ourselves and sometimes we think we should be in a better place (more sales, higher profiting sales, more critical acclaim) and get hard on ourselves for not pushing harder. It's real easy to forget that timing and chance are a big part of going from writing to published.

    It's this feeling of discouragement and frustration that sometimes leads to Writer's Block. In my opinion Writer's Block is primarily a lack of enthusiasm for the project, or for writing in general. There are days when you don't want to sit and try to make the words come out, and sometimes we all just need to take a break to recharge a little.

    It's important to me that I remind myself that I'm a reader first, that other people inspire me with their stories and art. If I didn't love the whole process of the story, the way it comes together whether I'm reading it or writing it, I couldn't keep doing this. I don't think anyone could.

    So to get past Writer's Block I take a few days to read, or catch up on movies. I reread favorites, or browse Then when I'm not feeling as dismal I sit down and I force the issue with the story that's troubling me. Sometimes that means rambling about it to my husband, or to myself, writing my thoughts down and trying to get to the bottom of what I need out of the story and why I'm not getting it. And sometimes I have to just remind myself that the important thing is to get the first draft out, and rambling, weak and really bad bits can and will be edited out later.

    You're an advocate for bringing Autism to the public's eye and distilling stupid notions like "lack of spanking" causes autism. You can't fix all those ignorant claims. How do you maintain a balance and keep your sanity? Is that where writing comes in?

    I do channel through a lot of emotions, like rage and sadness and frustration by attaching my emotions to the characters in my stories, even if their stimuli isn't the same as mine. It helps the emotions, and therefore the agitation, feel like they serve a purpose (other than irritating me.)

    Mostly I just try to stay away from people like that. Many times you can't change their mind, no matter what. My family, my son and myself aren't helped at all by me being agitated over what someone said online, or even how someone else lives their life.

    Having my own “space” helps. I can rant, lecture and snark all I want on my blog and get my opinion out there without getting wrapped up in flame wars and trolls who just like to start trouble. Because you never know whether someone really believes that sort of thing, or just claims to to get attention via fighting.

    My 5 year old daughter gives me enough of that kind of behavior, and she I can help to be more open minded and intellectual.

    - Can you tell us a little bit about Rot? Where did you get the idea? What drove you to write this novella?

    I didn't used to be a fan of zombie fiction. It all seemed the same to me, even more derivative than the thousands of romance books I saw my aunt and grandma read as a kid. (They are huge category romance fans, the kind who buy every Harlequin book each month. I always loved that they were always reading and there were books everywhere at their home. But I don't understand the single-minded nature of their reading tastes.)

    Then I read an anthology called History is Dead, edited by Kim Paffenroth and I realized that zombie fiction could be new, even if the fans didn't realize it. Not long afterward an online friend joked on her blog about herding zombies for their milk. The concept of Rot just came to me in a flash, with the visual of a line of zombies being led around on light “daily activity” walks around the manicured grounds of a nursing home.

    A friend of mine is badly diabetic and over the years has spent a lot of time in long term care facilities, namely nursing homes, even though he's only in his early thirties. The nursing home visual came from my experiences visiting him in building that look perfect, but are really very disturbing inside.

    It was important to make Rot disturbing, because I think zombies have lost their disturbing over the years. They aren't really scary anymore, now they're like supernatural action movies instead. So I paralleled the feelings of all those people, even my friend, being shut away out of more active people's lives, almost as if they were inconveniences, into the plot of Rot.

    A lot of elements came together, including my desire to write a really emotional, but still completely masculine, male lead. Again, I wanted to show that men in horror don't just have to be the rough and tough caveman style emotionless defenders.

    - Who were your mentors when you were starting out, Michele, and why?

    My direct mentors where the two teachers in high school who encouraged me to take my fiddling and try to do something with it. And, believe it or not, Ann Rice. I only met her once, at a signing for Servant of the Bones. While she was signing my books I asked her if she had any advice for aspiring writers and she said “Courage! Don't let anyone else tell you what to write or how to write it.” And she signed my book with “Courage!”

    I know that's not the traditional idea of mentoring, but it did turn out to be a great piece of advice.

    Since then I haven't had much luck with mentors. My college creative writing professor told me I'd be a great writer if I stopped writing genre stories, which clearly showed me he wouldn't be much help to me.

    Since then I've developed a lot on my own, in part because of bad luck, and in part because I do write so many genres and most people tend to be more traditional than I am and they don't always know what to do with me.

    - Have you ever reviewed anything that stood out as outstanding or ahead of its time?

    Without a doubt Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow. Its a strong, very visual werewolf novel, written in verse. It's a beautiful story that boils writing down to the absolute vitals (it proves that not all parts of a sentence are needed to tell a strong story.) It's dark, but the horror genre almost completely ignored it.

    Also Polly Frost released a collection of SF/F/H short stories called Deep Inside that were very explicit in nature, but also extremely smart. There was a deeper meaning to them, beyond the sex scenes. But from what I've seen a lot of people didn't bother to look past the explicit nature of the stories (or maybe it was the blurb from Ron Jeremy that made them nervous.)

    I've read some real stinkers, and a lot of good but not spectacular fiction, thanks to my side career reviewing. But I've also been lucky to read some amazing, clever tales that changed how I thought about things and encouraged me to write better myself.

    - What do you think is the biggest mistake writers make today? New or old?

    I think the biggest mistake all authors make comes down to confidence, either having too little or having too much. Dealing with someone who always needs their back patted and to be complimented is exhausting. I understand the need to be reassured that you aren't just imagining that you have a good book, but constant is the key word there.

    Likewise some authors, whether they mean to or not, come off as self important. Constantly posting links to buy your work, or links to reviews (unless we're talking about your personal blog, Twitter feed or message board, because then you should post those things. But not on general boards where people gather for a wide array of discussion.), constantly inviting people to fan you on Facebook, or putting everyone you have a positive interaction with on you news mailing list—whether born out of a desperation to find an audience or believing that you're just that important it turns readers and fellow writers off.

    New authors do it more often, but experienced authors do still fall into that trap.

    - Do you have any words of encouragement for those yet to be published?

    Do your best and keep trying to make your best better. Because if you're in it because you love writing, the craft and improving your own skills then, despite the difficulty of luck and good timing, you will be published.

    - Thanks for taking time to be interviewed, Michele. It's been great talking to you. Before you go, are you working on anything new? Any plans for the future?

    I am currently working on a high/urban fantasy novel that has been a lot of fun to write. As for future plans--well world domination of course.