Friday, December 26, 2008

Over Eggnog - Networking for Blurbs

For the past few weeks, I have been trying to find famous people willing to give me a one-liner for the back cover of Oilspill dotcom. It is called a blurb and is immensely important as the browser in the bookstore, attracted by the cover, will then turn the book over for a quick description of the story and to see who likes it. This is all about credibility, but challenging when you’ve only been in the country a few years, without many contacts.

I have emailed a number of requests to local radio hosts and journalists. Richard Wolinsky, from KPFA’s Cover-to-Cover, has generously offered to read a galley proof. I have sent a request to Christopher Buckley (Thank You For Smoking, No Way To Treat A First Lady, Florence of Arabia, Boomsday and Little Green Men).

An aside -- I fantasize being interviewed on Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show, my favorite TV show, though I always thought he never interviewed fiction authors. Ironically, I am wrong, and this is how I discovered the immensely talented and hilarious Buckley.

I also emailed Erin Brockovich, who famously stood up to a multinational corporation in court. I am excited about hearing anything from her. Who knows?

Do you have anyone who springs to mind that I could approach such as an author, a media person, a political advocate? If so, please ask them if I can drop them an email. Keep me in mind when you schmooze over eggnog at your holiday parties.

Thanks for your help,

Good Writing,


Monday, December 15, 2008

The Elevator Pitch

I am sitting in SFO, waiting for a flight out to Baltimore. I will attend a conference for work (my other life), and will share, at every opportunity, my forthcoming novel, Oilspill dotcom. I realize that they will ask what it’s about, and I will only have a minute or so to explain.

This is called The Elevator Pitch, where you only have the time it takes for an elevator to travel a few floors, to tell your story. I’ve been working on mine for a while, but it still doesn’t come out of my mouth fluently.

Oilspill dotcom is a political courtroom confrontation wherein a multinational corporation tries to silence two young idealists, who level the playing field using a new emerging tool: the Internet.

It is a fictional drama that closely parallels the McDonald's libel case, which captivated England through the 1990’s.

It is a work in process and I will surely change it as I practice (I made about four changes just now!). I would appreciate any feedback or improvements that you might have and will share with you its evolution.

I will be home from the conference on Friday – in time for another blog!

Good Writing,


Saturday, December 6, 2008

"Own It, Then Let It Go."

It is late Friday night. I am driving home on the freeways and bridges that take me around San Francisco and over to the East Bay. I am tired. Physically it has been a long day. But more than this, I am tired mentally. This morning, for the first time in months, I sat down to write, to advance my book, be a writer … and I gave up.

Work is tough, plummeted by the economic downturn, but this is not the reason. I have shared with you my waves of doubts with regard to Oilspill dotcom: the title of my book, UK .v. US English, dialects etc.

There has been a burst of sunlight in this dark, cloudy week. My editor from England, Alison Walters read my blog, my frustrations and has kindly offered to help me finish the conversion from UK to US.

And now, driving home in the dark, I am listening to Writing Down the Bones, read by the author, Natalie Goldberg. Though her book galvanized me eight years ago, I am finding it tough to follow her voice reading and commentating. This is a tough judgment as I am comparing her to the actors and actresses that narrate audio books, utilizing their talents and professional experience to perfect each individual character (listen to Carrington MacDuffie reading Christopher Buckley’s Florence of Arabia – how do they not have Oscars for such performances!).

But it is tough to hear Ms. Goldberg, especially when you are tired, especially when you are cruising along the freeway. Just as I come off of the Bay Bridge, I see a mass of flashing lights: police, ambulances and tow trucks. The accident clears the tired fog from my mind and I hear a sentence from my audio book.

“Own it … and then let it go,” says Ms. Goldberg.

If I’m honest, I’m not sure what she’s actually referring to. But inside, I understand with clarity that she is talking to me. And she is telling me why I got stuck this morning; why I sat paralyzed before the computer screen.

I must let it go. I have finished.

When Alison returns my manuscript, I will accept her corrections and submit the manuscript.

Then I will move on: to the book cover, the reviews and blurbs, the plans for the launch. And I will allow myself to write again. Perhaps my next novel, Lost Heroes, perhaps something else.

But I will finish with Oilspill dotcom: cast it into the hands of the publisher. Let the manuscript become the book. I have done all I can. I own it. Now it is time to let it go.

Thank you, Natalie Goldberg.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

What’s in a Name?

Some authors spend days or months agonizing over the title of their book and for good reason. How many of us have picked up a book caught by an intriguing title, or for that matter, passed over a book because the title didn’t engage us? How many of us have looked up a book that someone had mentioned or we’d read in passing, thankfully remembering the name?

The original title,, came to me pretty naturally. The novel deals with an oil company and the emergence of the Internet through a website that my protagonist creates, at a time when interactive website advocacy was non-existent. The website is what enables the heroes to stand up for themselves in court and battle a top legal team employed by the multinational.

The problem with this title is that it is a website of a company that cleans up … oil spills. The first time I put out an email telling the world about my book, I’m sure the company mentioned received quite a few hits on their website.

And so I changed the title to Oilspill Dotcom, but this surfaced as one of the doubts that I mentioned in my last post. Is Oilspill Dotcom, in particular Dotcom, a recognizable (and memorable) word? Would it confuse the customer, prevent them remembering it and knowing how to order or search for it?

So my latest idea (Alan Rinzler’s actually) is one word: Oilspilldotcom. I hope it is easier to remember, easier to visualize and even … memorable?

What do you think? I would love to receive some feedback. I have another week or so before I’ll need to make a final decision, but it’s a big decision. It’s all in the name.

Good Writing,


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Waves of Doubt

It must have been the fog.

The commute into the City was beautiful. Near the Berkeley marina the fog lay thick on the ground. I imagined walking serenely through the fields, rather than writing another grant application at work. Crossing the Bay Bridge, one could not see the water below. Only fog: thick soup-like. All that showed of the Golden Gate Bridge was the highest parts at each end.

The financial district, where I drop off my casual carpool passengers, is clear, but as soon as I head out towards the university, the fog engulfs me. Twenty minutes later, I am in the office. No one else will come in for another hour, maybe 90 minutes. There is plenty of time to spend editing my manuscript.

And then it hits me.

Is this the right name for the book? Am I right to be writing it in UK English? What do I know about book cover design? How am I going to get reviews when I don’t know anyone?

Most of the hour passes. I have not touched the keyboard, instead staring out into the fog. I should see a residential neighborhood with students scrambling for parking places and rushing to class.

This is perhaps the most difficult aspect of publishing independently. My wife will listen sympathetically and my friends’ in the writer’s group will give their opinion, but there is no agent to turn to, no publisher who has deeply invested through an advance and battled for the book on numerous acquisition boards.

I open my email. At the top of my inbox is a general email sent out a few months ago by Alan Rinzler, announcing his blog. I keep it there to remind me to visit it once a week. I first met Alan, when he graciously agreed to address our writers group, and we had all been impressed by his knowledge and experience that had begun at Harvard and has stretched over decades. Alan has worked closely with Toni Morrison, Robert Ludlum and Clive Cussler.

Enough said.

I make the appointment for a consultancy and prepare a presentation folder and topics, just as I would for a business meeting with a new foundation or potential donor.

I promise myself that I will ask succinct questions, then shut up, listen and absorb. We meet at his house and I receive an hour of his undivided attention. His answers are honest and clear: my mistakes clearly highlighted. I leave with mixed feelings. I have a lot more work to do on my manuscript before it is finished and I can send it in to the publisher. The UK English must be converted to America English, the title has been changed, and I have been told that no one is going to help me get reviews – I have to network, network, network.

There’s a lot to do, at a time when my work is demanding increasingly more from me. And a January deadline is now looking extremely optimistic (yeah, I know many of you, my writer friends, smiled when I’d declared a D-date back in September).

But my eyes are on the prize. I want to hold a book that is of the highest quality, in terms of story, grammar, punctuation, dialogue and dialect. I was reading reviews in the UK Self Publishing magazine this morning – a full one-third of those I read reflected on shabby grammar, spelling or page layout.

My novel might never become a bestseller (though it might!), but I’m going to be damn proud of it, and know I did the best I could.

Today is Saturday. I am sitting at a coffee shop on the East Bay ready to begin making the changes. The sun is shining – no fog.

Good Writing,


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Confusing People- What's It All About?

I understand that my Veteran’s Day entry last week succeeded in confusing people. That passage is not from the book being published in January, it is from the one that will come afterwards.

Oilspill Dotcom is a 60,000-word political courtroom novel, closely based upon the remarkable McDonald’s libel trial ( that took place in England in the 1990’s.

Oilspill Dotcom illustrates the power of the individual to challenge an economic empire, highlights the profit-driven practices of multinational corporations and challenges the belief that we are all protected by freedom of speech and the law. Moreover, this book celebrates the historical coming of age of the Internet.

Oilspill Dotcom falls into the genre of Erin Brockovich, The Rainmaker and A Civil Action. Along with some humor and sex, it is a novel with a political message of clear relevance to society today.

Below is a brief description:

The world is no longer defined by geographical borders, but by the actions of vast multinational corporations. Matt Fielding, a successful computer programmer, had never entertained such thoughts until his new girlfriend is suddenly arrested for libel against a huge oil conglomerate.

Separated from his burgeoning romance and stunned by the David vs. Goliath odds being played out in the British legal system, Matt harnesses his talents to level the playing field. For the first time in history, the Internet is utilized for grassroots advocacy and the attention of the world is drawn to an epic court battle between a billion dollar corporation and a few individuals who refuse to be silenced. Alongside the court case, Oilspill Dotcom humorously describes the transformation of a carefree yuppie, empowered first by romance and then by a genuine desire to change the world, one pixel at a time.

Yesterday, I received my manuscript back from my wonderful editor, and I am wading through her corrections and suggestions. More on this experience next week.

Good Writing,


Friday, November 7, 2008

Veteran’s Day: Tombs of Honor

At the beginning of the year, I took a three-month break from editing Oilspill Dotcom and wrote the first draft of a 90,000-word novel, They Returned As Heroes (tentative title). I wrote everyday for at least an hour and the story just poured out of me onto the page (well, into the word document). In recognition of Veteran’s Day, I would like to share a scene with you.

Mr. van Ness downs the rest of his cognac in one gulp and resolutely stands up.

“I want to show you something, Will. Come.”

We leave the club in his black, shiny Mercedes and drive about twenty minutes to the military cemetery in the Presidio. There are stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge, and I stare silently as we pass through the tall stone and iron gates. The cemetery, like most of the city, is built on a hill. Rows of white tombstones stand in perfect, military symmetry, each defined by straight grass borders, like a white and green chessboard. A huge flag blows in the wind as I follow Jane’s father to a section of graves.

“What do you think the average soldier dreads when he goes off to war?” His question is posed without him looking back at me.

I think for the moment. “Death, captivity, maybe never seeing his loved ones again?”

Mr. van Ness nods. “That’s about it. What about an officer?”

“The same?”

“Yes, but there’s something else. The officers see the young, fresh faces when they join the unit. Sometimes, if we’re embarking together, we see their parents, wives, girlfriends, and children. They hug and cry, while the family steals surreptitious glances at the officer, silently pleading: bring my boy home, my lover, my father.

“And a shiver courses through you. You are not God, probably not much of a soldier either. You know you cannot protect them, but still you swear a silent oath; to try and bring them back alive, as many of them as you can. Fuck the war, the politics, the drive to serve your country. All you want is to bring your boys back. You’d rather face a thousand of the enemy than one of these parents, wives or children at the funeral, or remembrance service.”

We stop by a tombstone and he crouches down, tenderly cleaning some dirt that has gathered there. I crouch with him as he takes a deep breath.

“The last time my wife entered my den was about fifteen years ago, Will. She shouldn’t have, but her motives were no doubt innocent. She found a small black notebook, almost full. I had written a list of names, mainly women. The names reappeared regularly and there was a column with dates and another with dollar amounts. She found a checkbook from a bank she was sure we didn’t use.

“That evening she confronted me. We didn’t hold secrets from each other, financial or otherwise. Who were these women? Ex-lovers? Illegitimate kids? I roared back that it was none of her damn business, how dare she enter my den and I yelled other absurdities. We’d never raised our voices to each other like that and have never since. Totally out of control, total rage."

He points to the tombstone.

“My first sergeant, Pete O’Reilly. He died in my arms. The last words he heard were an oath from my lips to take care of his two young kids. Their mother received monthly checks from the bank, anonymous. When his oldest daughter was eighteen, she received a letter from the bank about a trust fund for her and her brother to pay for university tuition. The youngest graduated from Stanford a few years back.”

We move on to another grave. “His family’s all devout Catholics. I swore that they’d never know how he died. He’s buried here as a hero, and so it’ll remain.”

At another grave, he seems lost in thought, buried memories resurfacing. Then at length he turns to me. “Jane doesn’t know this, neither does her mother.” I nod, understanding the unspoken and he continues. “I worked in intelligence as well. I oversaw the recruitment and training of a spy network, of sort. Nothing glamorous. We gave the alcoholics and junkies money for booze and drugs.

“They gave us information, basic stuff like troop movement, nothing too significant. Crumbs. They were the dregs of their society and they knew little. But sometimes they knew enough to prevent some of our troops dying. If we thought we could use methods and intimidation to get more out of them, we never hesitated. If it saved one more life…

“I didn’t care, I could justify it. Not for the great United States, or for freedom and democracy, but to get my boys home alive. If this piece of shit’s confession could save just one of my boys, let him scream."

He took a moment to compose himself. “They were handled by Asians, usually Asian-Americans recruited over here. These people had it hard. They may have nothing to do with Vietnam, born thousands of miles away, in a different culture, a different language. They were doing their job as loyal Americans, no different from the rest of us.

“But they were seen as different. Yellow skin, slit eyes and they aroused all the wild fears and prejudices that permeated the white and black soldiers. They largely hung out together and felt betrayed.

“Then we returned home. To some we were heroes, but many felt uneasy, as they’d heard of the horrors we’d inflicted. For the Asian-American soldiers, it was twice as bad. In civilian clothes, they were just another immigrant, just another who looked like the enemy. They received no honor, no respect from their peers. Sometimes they were even rejected by their own."

He pauses again. I watch his warm breath escape as he exhales into the chilly air.

“There are two of these men still alive, physically at least. They’re both loners, pariahs. They’ve never held down jobs, never married. They wander the streets, allowing themselves to remember only enough to ensure they return to a hostel of sorts that feeds them and gives them beds. They are luckier than the homeless you talk about, Will. Their officer turned out to be a rich bastard who cares. Their tabs at the hostel are taken care of.”

There is silence and we stand up stiffly, both staring around. I search for something to say and put my hand on his shoulder. “You’re a good man, James, a generous man.”

He turns sharply and looks at me incredulously. His voice becomes sharp and loud. “I don’t do it for them! I do it for me! I do it so that I can live, so that I can continue. I do it to keep away the nightmares, to prevent the faces of widows and orphans staring at me at every turn.”

He begins to walk towards the car.

“You’re still a good man, James.” I shout after him, my voice shaking with emotion. He turns to face me. My arm sweeps in the cemetery and, with considerable effort, I steady my voice. “They all know who you are and what you did. They still think you’re a fucking hero. So do I, sir, even if I can’t understand it all.”

He stares at me for what feels like hours and I walk slowly towards him. He is breathing heavily; I see this even though the winter coat he wears. When he speaks, his voice is quiet, but steely.

“Find your boss, son. Find him and help him if you can: his brother too, if the poor bastard’s still alive.”

Sunday, November 2, 2008

A Hellava Time To Be Writing

A friend consoled me. “Bad luck really, what with the presidential elections and then the economy crashing. Who’s gonna have any time or strength to get into a novel?”

The really sad part was that, though quite aware of all that is happening around us, I wasn’t actually depressed before he said this. Our new President will be installed when my book is launched, and should generate an air of optimism (at least with half the population), but more likely, we’ll settle back into our ways pretty quickly.

Economic fears make people feel vulnerable and without hope. With disposable income rapidly shrinking, consumers may well hold back from buying new books. Why not cut corners and go to the used bookstore or the library?

Oilspill Dotcom is about feeling vulnerable and disempowered. It’s about facing a huge machine that is greedy and without care. It’s about multinationals, not Wall Street, but there is a clear connection. Perhaps the actions of my lead characters might help inspire others to reach above a feeling of helplessness. If Oilspill Dotcom says anything, it is that an individual can make a difference, even against a rich and powerful system.

I have spent the last week schlepping a 700-page book around. 1001 Ways to Market Your Book by John Kremer seems jam-packed with ideas and stories gleaned from real life experiences. I’ve barely made a dent in the book and it’s left me feeling daunted by the prospect of marketing myself. I’m not afraid or shy to put myself out there; it’s just working out where to start.

Perhaps I should take heed of Mr. Kremer’s warning at the beginning of the book: “Don’t go overboard and dilute your efforts by trying to do everything at once.” I’ll continue reading and fastidiously make what is fast becoming a very long list of ideas.

To help prevent myself from feeling overwhelmed, I will already take one particular piece of his advice and focus on establishing myself locally. For the first three months I will focus on selling and marketing in California, and particularly in the Bay Area.

As a wise Chinese sage once said: Even the longest journey begins with a single step.

Good Writing, and good voting on Tuesday!


Sunday, October 26, 2008

“Yeah, I’ll Get By With A Little Help From My Friends...”

There are very few of us for whom writing is a social event. More likely, after barely an hour into a social engagement, we are surreptitiously checking our watches, and thinking about the next chapter we’ll write as soon as we can escape.

There are people who write together. There is a group called Shut Up & Write, in which I believe you can join a particular table at a particular time and place, and sit in silence writing. I hear it can be quite productive. But for most of us, I think, the issue is finding the time to write, and we do it best alone.

For the last ten years, I have always had something to write, even if I didn’t know that prior to whipping out the laptop. A good writer writes and s/he also reads – again something that’s usually done solo.

But humans are social animals, and writers are a subspecies of humans. Evolution seems to dictate that we come down from the trees and join writer’s groups. I am blessed to have spent the last two years in the Berkeley Writers Circle ( It is an informal group that meets weekly and gently critiques the work that different members present. The only real rule is for the criticism to be constructive and so far we seem able to express honest feedback without anyone throwing his or her coffee in someone’s face.

We’ve set a structure that the group amends from time-to-time, but the main thing is we are there to help each other and that we enjoy each other’s success and improvements. I think we find a comforting level of legitimacy from sharing an evening a week with other obsessed people who also spend a ludicrous amount of time scribbling and typing. It is a group where you can introduce yourself as: “My name’s John and I’m a writer,” and there is no embarrassed spouse or parent standing next to you who feels compelled to say: “He’s also a lawyer/doctor/lunatic.”

Ironically, I am writing this entry in the Borders in Emeryville, CA, where it all began. Well kind of. Truth is, I was the only one who turned up that first night, and felt pretty stupid gazing desperately at people who glanced at the red and white sign I had on the table.

But today the group generally has 6-12 attendees, and we find willing speakers to address us. We even have visitors who have come to learn how we work and there are other groups that have splintered off from us to concentrate on a particular genre or work differently.

I believe we all need to climb a psychological barrier, to be able to share our desire to write, to get published, to express ourselves, to tell a story that we believe has to be told. Writers groups can provide all this. They have the potential to implode and the wounds can be deep, even terminal, to one’s writing career. But I believe they are essential to help a writer define him/herself, to stand up and announce: I am a writer!

To the members of the Berkeley Writers Circle, past and present: You have helped me nurture this identity, this self-respect, and helped me believe in my work despite the rejections.

You have also helped me make Oilspill Dotcom a better story and a better read. I only hope I have helped you do the same.

Good Writing,


Saturday, October 18, 2008

Editors: The Eyes of Eagles

I have two regrets regarding A Gardener’s Tale, my first published novel. My first, as previously mentioned, was working with a publisher who set too high a list price, and the second was not having the book professionally edited. I knew I should have, but I had no spare cash and a number of good friends who seemed pretty good and willing to help.

Everyone makes mistakes; the trick is to learn from them next time around. Having written Oilspill dotcom in the Queen’s (or UK) English, I decided to seek an editor from across the pond.

Online, I found the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP), a professional organization based in the UK at, and sent a letter to about 20 editors who stated in the site that they work with fiction. About eight of them replied and sent me samples and, honestly, they were all impressive.

I don’t recall exactly why I chose Alison Walters above the others, but so far I have no regrets. I do remember that she was very clear about how much it would cost and how long it would take. I also liked that she sees this as a partnership and that it is not acceptable for the author to relinquish responsibility.

The goal of the editor is to point things out objectively, to see the manuscript with a detachment that the author can’t possibly have. I don’t even know if Alison likes my story or if she likes my writing style. There is no preaching in her work; she is simply trying to help me make my work better.

Most impressive so far has been her visualization of the timeline. She noticed that my main characters were having sex to an Alanis Morissette album that only came out a couple of years later. I think that only the most astute of readers would have picked this up and it wouldn’t have necessarily saved me from an embarrassing blunder. However…

… In one scene, my protagonist, on entering a restaurant and seeing a vibrant young crowd, tells us that he is sure their intense discussions are not about Dennis Bergkamp (one of my favorite soccer players) having a goal disallowed in Arsenal’s (my favorite soccer team) game that weekend.

Alison noticed that I have this scene taking place in 1992 and Dennis Bergkamp only joined Arsenal in 1995. She then suggested that I take an incident from an Arsenal game in the spring of 1992 and even supplied me with a link to a match report.

Speaking as a dedicated soccer and Arsenal fan, this would surely have been an unforgivable blunder; my credibility shot. Thanks, Alison!

Oh, and for those of you looking for a good editor, Alison’s professional email is:, but hey, get in line!

Good Writing,


Saturday, October 11, 2008

Choosing A Publishing Company

It all depends upon the motives behind your decision to publish with a Print-on-Demand (POD) company. If you are planning a memoir that is directed at family and friends, a selective circulation, your criteria would be different than someone who plans to sell thousands of his/her books and make a profit, and/or getting noticed.

What do I mean by getting noticed? If you don’t have a way “in” (a friend in the book business) to the conventional route, then you can make a splash by intensively marketing your book and hopefully be noticed by a publisher or agency, who see market-tested results.

Christopher Paolini (aged 16 or 17 then) and his parents took six months out to travel the country and market his self-published Eragon, the first of a tremendously successful trilogy. I understand that The Kite Runner only received an interest a year after it was launched when the book was picked up by a number of book clubs. There are numerous other examples. Either your sales make a splash (one expert judged this at 5,000 copies sold in the first year), or you show through your marketing efforts that you have media value (i.e. – marketing potential).

If your goal is to get noticed, then I believe the list price of the book is critical. Xlibris published my first novel, A Gardener’s Tale, and they did a great job in producing a physically attractive book – no complaints. My downfall, I believe, was that the list price for the paperback novel on is $24. Would you pay that price for an unknown author (however good)? While I eagerly await each new John Grisham book, I would not pay that amount for his latest paperback.

My research, based on this criteria, narrowed it down to two companies: iUniverse and Booksurge.

I was particularly impressed with the former: their promotions, a book about how to go through the entire process including book promotion, and a number of awards and benefits that you can strive for. This includes the important incentive of having your book on the shelves of your local Barnes & Nobles.

Booksurge also has a number of benefits. They allow the author to set the price of the book (the lower list price, the smaller the royalty per book) and they have a solid marketing support including an ongoing webinar series with marketing experts which are all complimentary to their authors. Booksurge’s lowest list price for Oilspill dotcom is $13-$14 – Oilspill dotcom is just under 60,000 words – and this, as I mentioned, is very important to me.

But if I am honest, what swayed me was the decision by to only list POD books published with their own subsidiaries. I had almost signed with iUniverse, when I had dinner with the author, D. Patrick Miller (My Journey Through the Plant World) and heard of this controversial decision. owns Booksurge, and I cannot see any chance for success of a POD book without the ability to sell on the biggest virtual bookstore. Whenever I hear about a book that might interest me, I go to and check out the reviews and the price.

So, I made my choice, and I will share with you in the coming months, the ups and downs of working with Booksurge. But for now, the next stage was finding a professional editor to help lock down the manuscript…and that will be the subject of my next blog entry.

Until then – Good Writing,


Saturday, October 4, 2008

Thank You George W!

I honestly never thought that I would thank George W for anything. I’m sure I know him pretty well as, even though we’ve never met, I do compulsively watch The Daily Show and the Colbert Report. Could Jon Stewart ever have anticipated that George W would sponsor this struggling left-wing author? Would Stephen Colbert be deemed too cynical to consider a Republican President from Texas seeing the obvious social value of Oilspill dotcom?

But I need to give him credit where credit is due – and that credit came in the form of a check from the Treasury earlier this year, urging me to spend it and stimulate the economy. All this occurred while I was trying to work out how to find the money to invest in marketing my own novel, when I am barely finishing the month, paying the bills, feeding and clothing the kids and putting gas in the car (note - at the time of writing this entry, it will be cheaper to buy five copies of Oilspill dotcom than fill your gas tank – and the novel takes you to London, whereas a tank of gas can’t even get you from San Francisco to LA).

Perhaps it is a message from God. I know George W and friends like to keep church and state separate, but maybe this can be defined as divine intervention. Perhaps the exception can be made when it comes to patronizing the arts.

What is particularly impressive is that George W would chose to sponsor a novel that exposes the abusive power of multinational corporations. Even more open-minded is the fact that this is an oil company. Good for you, George W – you answer to no one!

So, thank you for making my book possible, Mr. President. I guess I should send you a complimentary copy!

Good Writing to All,


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Rejections, Rejections: The Road to Print-On-Demand

Every author has gone through rejection, its kind of a rite of passage. Stephen King, John Grisham, Upton Sinclair… the list goes on. But for how long can you go on receiving such letters? How many depressing seminars can you attend about the state of the book publishing business?

And then there comes a time that the writer wants to…write. To return to what he or she loves best; to give oneself up to an evolving story, to feel the energy of creative forces, to tell the story that is burning within.

It’s the near misses that hurt the most: the request to see more of the manuscript. Even more so, the requests for exclusivity, 6-8 weeks when you do not approach other agents, and they seriously consider your business potential. Then there are the agents who talk up the foreign markets, the movie potential, and, of course the triumphs and lifestyles of their successful authors.

I’m not blaming the agents (except those who rejected me, of course!). They are a product of the market they function in. The entire book business is in decline and we are desperately in need of more J.K. Rowlings' to ignite and sustain a generation excited to open a book.

But not many of us can or will write the classic, the once-in-a generation, the book whose name is casually rolled out to a group of nodding friends. Many of us write for success, for recognition of our toils, our obsessions, for the knowledge that others are engulfed in a world we created.

I write for change. I have completed four novels, and each deals with transformation: of people who seek to better themselves or right the wrongs around them. My last two novels are about social injustices (Oilspill dotcom – the powers of multinationals, and They Returned As Heroes about the way we treat our war veterans). The use of the pen (I have one somewhere) and keyboard to effect social change is an exciting ideal for me, a huge incentive for my writing.

So I am motivated; I have sent submissions for Oilspill dotcom to about fifty agents either side of the Atlantic (Oilspill dotcom is based in the UK). I have edited and edited it, read it through twice to a very supportive Berkeley Writer’s Group and now written another novel in a 100 day ‘break’ I took from editing and marketing Oilspill dotcom. And I have my next story all lined up.

So it’s time to move on. Oilspill dotcom will be published by a Print-on-Demand company and I will give 6-9 months to marketing it and trying to ‘get noticed.’

Thank you for noticing me. Most of my blog entries will deal with choosing and working with the Print-on-Demand company, with editors, with creating marketing plans and such like. Until then…

Good Writing,