Archive | October 2013

It takes 5

I get compliments on my writing. I try not to get a swelled head over it, but since I work hard to get the writing right, it’s nice to know I’m on the right track. I have published my first novel (available for sale on Amazon and we’re working on getting a Paypal button installed so you can buy signed copies directly from me). I get “how did you do it?” questions. I get “where should I begin?” questions. I also get “So what do you think is good writing?” questions. I’m going to use my blog here to answer that last question over the next few posts.

I got the idea for this post as I was listening to today’s (It’s Tuesday 10/15/2013) Red Sox/Tigers game on the radio. Well, listening to the WEEI feed through my computer while watching the game on TV with the sound muted. If you know me, you know who my teams are, what the epithets are for the teams I don’t like, and that I think Joe Buck and Tim McCarver would best serve baseball by covering water polo. From underwater. Without air tanks. My sound feed was Joe Castiglione and Dave O’Brien, the Red Sox audio team. It occurred to me that Dave and Joe (and the legendary Vin Scully of the Dodgers) make the game come alive for their listeners.

I have a law degree, but before I went to law school, I got a Bachelor of Science in Education from UVM (Universatis Veridis Montis (University of the Green Mountains, to be correct) better known as the University of Vermont or “Groovy UV” back in the day:

charlie catamount

Mr. Charlie Catamount

Le vrai Charlie Catamount

Yup, we were the nation’s top party school for a bunch of years, now we are “public ivy.”


“Rally Cat”? How the hell did that happen?

Well, I graduated from the College of Education and Social Services in 1983. Now that my parents are gone, I can confess: I BARELY graduated. I almost didn’t have enough credits in a required teaching minor. Fortunately, the Assistant Dean, Art Cheney, liked me (his son Stuart and I used to commute to Shelburne Middle School together for student teaching. We had fun. We formed the Student Teachers Drinking Club with Stu’s roommate, Rick Cooley, his girlfriend, Lindsay Butler, and Kelly Woods, WHO, it turns out, went to kindergarten with me back in Brattleboro, VT. Small state, small world). Between my History and Political Science work at UVM and some of the courses I took during a semester in Australia, CESS essentially “knitted” enough credits into a Social Studies teaching minor with the caveat “don’t try to get certified as a Social Studies teacher.”  I didn’t. There was such a glut of teachers when I graduated that I couldn’t even get a regular teaching gig, just substituting. I ended up going to work in the financial services industry. There are people who are just BUGGED out of their minds that I have had licenses for professions that I’ve never used. Get your own or shut up.

But I digress.

As part of my student teaching (which was fun until the little buggers broke my wrist), I had to create a curriculum and teach. I shamelessly ripped off some of the exercises from my English teachers at Proctor High School. If you’re going to steal, make sure it’s quality material.

That’s a long way around to get to this point: part of good writing is being able to describe something with enough detail that your reader experiences it.


Human beings take in approximately 80% of their information visually. Especially when vegging out in front of the TV set.  The eyes do most of the work, it’s true, but there are other senses and sense organs that provide info:




Tongue/Taste. If you were a butterfly, you would taste things with your feet.


Nose/Smell. That’s Jimmy Durante’s nose. Too young to know Durante? How many times have you watched the “Frosty the Snowman” cartoon at Christmas? Yeah, he’s the narrator.

And finally…


Hands/Touch. Actually, any part of your skin can give you information about texture and temperature.

I had my kids pick a color. Then, they were to describe that color in terms of the five senses.

Try it: Get a pad and pen (we will get to my diatribe against Spell Check later on)

Pick a color. Any color.

Now, make five columns on the paper and put the name of a sense at the top of each column.

Now, under each column, write down how that color hits your senses. What does purple sound like (Say Prince and lose points for being unimaginative)? What does white taste like? Is it a simple single note taste, like vanilla  or is it more complex like…lasagna? Does orange feel like your favorite sweatshirt? “Wishing You Were Here” by Chicago sounds blue to me.

Make your lists and submit them in the comments. I really want to know what you guys do.

With a Little Help From My Friends, Part III

First things first: These Foolish Things was reviewed by author Deliza Rafferty and she gave it four and a half out of five smooches. Link here:

Deliza’s Review


She nominated Laura Linney to play Liz. I never considered Ms. Linney, but you know what? Deliza’s right.

Thank you, Deliza!

However, in the third and concluding part of our ongoing trilogy, “With a Little Help From My Friends,” we come to the last  (current) contributor to These Foolish Things.


In case you’re wondering, I’m Ringo. Legalogos, Susan Drover and our next “guest” make me look good. In his case, literally:

author photo

No, no. That is me. For real. Untouched.

I have gotten more compliments on that picture than any other picture ever taken of me. Every person who has seen it has remarked on it being a great picture. Every. Person. (Exhibit A, the cat, is unimpressed. Nothing impresses a cat)

2013-07-07 11.13.37

Christopher Gregson took that photo.

The author photo, unless someone’s writing under a pseudonym, is a powerful marketing tool. It may have little or nothing to do with the actual content of the book, but people can decide whether or not to buy/read based on whether or not they like the photo. This is something you really want to get right.  I’ve paid for headshots before this and it turned into something stressful and more about what the photographer wanted rather than what I wanted, even though I was the paying customer.  Not with Chris. He understood and he executed.

 This is Chris:

The Gregsons

And Marie, his lovely wife.  October 20,2012. They are both lucky people.

I have a small stack of Chris’s business cards in front of me and he bills himself as “Writer/Filmmaker.” Doesn’t have “photographer” on there, but well, clearly, the guy’s got a knack, you know? Look at this one:


Okay, yeah, same session, same subject, blah, blah, blah, but understand this: I generally HATE pictures of me (unless I’m hiding in a costume at one of the Gregsons’ Halloween or Oscar parties). I LOVE what Chris did for me (and Marie. She is his assistant and this was a FUN session).

Full disclosure: These ARE my friends, but my friends have marketable skills in various fields. Call it destiny, Law of Attraction (I brought them into my life), serendipity, whatever that brought them and their considerable skills into my orbit when I needed them. They are there. I pay them for their services and the results (marketing, graphic design, editing, and photography) are  fabulous.

Chris is a  working videographer/director. He has directed a great music video for singer Darci Monet:

“Go On” Darci Monet (feat. Debby Holiday and Levi Kris)

Disclosure: I’m in the background somewhere in the group shots. Eh, I’m not a singer

He also directs a wonderful cooking video series title “Dish It Out” with Tony Rocco Spatafora.

Gregson Films Youtube channel

Spats has guests come in like Charlene Tilton, French Stewart, and Sheena Metal (Queen of LA Talk Radio) and they cook, they gab, they have fun on camera.  From what I hear, those sessions are fun, too.

I can’t tell you how lucky I feel.

If you are in the Los Angeles area and want to talk to Chris about his services, he can be reached at

And Chris? Thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou

With a Little Help From My Friends, Part II

Again, the spam comments keep offering me Jets/Giants/Ravens jerseys and penis enlargement. All equally useful to me.


I don’t know for sure if this picture inspired an artist to draw her own version of a Beatles cartoon. I like to think so. I like to think I’m influential.

And the audio/visual version

With A Little Help from My Friends

I have told you about the design/marketing team I use to try to grab reader attention. There are more team members who deserve recognition.

In traditional publishing, if a house accepts your offering for publication, you will be assigned to an editor. Michael Korda, who edited Harold Robbins and Jacqueline Susann (I’ve read her “Every Night, Josephine.” His stuff? Not interested) has told tales of dealing with these parties; Robbins, he had to lock up in a Beverly Hills Hotel bungalow and give him a daily page quota to get the man to produce (who, according to Korda, changed the name of a character halfway through a book and refused to make corrections saying, “The readers will never notice the difference.” He was right, according to Korda). Susann would use different colored paper for each draft and then make corrections in eyebrow pencil. There were the days before word processing, Kids.

One of the aspects of self-publishing that gets overlooked and absolutely, positively SHOULD NOT is editing. You need a pair of eyes that are not yours to proofread at the very least, to make sure that you’re making sense (because sucking down 10 Red Bulls and staying up til 4 AM isn’t conducive to lucidity, even if you are typing 90 miles an hour) and that your work is GOOD. Marketably good. Worthy of someone handing over their hard-earned dollars (euros, loonies, drachmas, rupees, etc.) good.

Bottom line: YOU FUCKING NEED AN EDITOR, EINSTEIN. Even Donald Trump has an editor. A REPUTABLE one. When it comes to indie publishing, there are a shit ton of people who will try to part you from your money and sadly, they don’t have to try very hard. DO YOUR RESEARCH. Find out whether your candidate knows the difference between their, they’re, and there, what is an Oxford comma, when to use a semi-colon, or how to structure a damned sentence. I have PAID for books with errors in them so mind-boggling, I can’t believe someone got paid to create them and worse, SOMEONE ELSE GOT PAID TO LET THE FUCKER GO THROUGH.

I trust my editor. She has never had to lock me in a Beverly Hills Hotel bungalow (but I’d welcome it) and, nor has she had to try to read edits in eyebrow pencil (I am not making this shit up, I swear). I am an easy-going client. In fact, she’s heard, “Get off the damned horse! I need chapters back!” at least a couple of times.

sue and marina

Sue Drover and preferred partner in crime, Marina.

Susan Drover, my editor, and I met when we were undergrads at UVM (University of Vermont)  back in the early 1980s. I met her and Meredith Major Jeff (her horse) through a mutual friend at the UVM Horse Club. (She could tickle his nose and make him smile). We found ourselves in a couple of the same English classes (including sneaking out on mandatory movies in at least one of them. Sorry, late Paul Scofield, but your film version of “King Lear” was kinda gross). Sneaking out meant going back to her dorm room to put feet up on a lobster crate coffee table and listen to Jimmy Buffett (Je suis Parrothead and I happily passed it on to many, many people). I left school for a semester to try out January to June in Australia (It rocks, especially if you hate winter. I hate winter). Sue decided to pursue a Creative Writing degree (something UVM didn’t offer) at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, FL (Home of the Tampa Bay Rays aka the Tampa Bay D Bags. You want to suck up to me? Know which sports teams I despise and what epithets I use for them).

(Understand that the above advice about getting an editor came about through hard experience. I’d show you my scars, but I’m not about to drop trou and show anyone my butt. Unless George Clooney wants to see it. And then I’d blindfold him).

After years of frustration, I decided that the smart course was to get an editor and have another thrash at the material to make sure I hadn’t screwed it up. I’d also revised it a couple of times, so making sure things still made sense was a good idea.

Who better to turn to than a) someone I knew and someone I exchange WRITTEN communications with on a near-daily basis (Written is important. Why? Because you can’t see how well someone spells when he/she speaks, that’s why), b) someone I could trust to be perfectly, brutally honest with me as necessary (if you can’t take constructive criticism, or even non-constructive criticism, this is NOT your field. Opinions are like assholes: everybody has one and some people are one), and c) someone who would WANT the assignment.

My faith in Sue has paid off: one of the compliments I relish is “This is well-written” and honestly, if I hadn’t had her edit the material, I can’t be sure I’d be hearing that. Whereas an author might be inclined towards self-indulgence, a good editor will pull the reins on that nonsense and bring things back on track .

Sue has gone on to be an ongoing contributor to Horse & Driver magazine :

Her article is on Page 20, “The Inspiring NoMoe”

She’s also now available for freelance assignments. If you INSIST on poaching MY editor (a plague on your house), she is available for consult at

And Sue? Thank you so much for everything. (By the way, if you read this post on its original release date of 10/10/13 and just re-read it, you may have noticed some subtle differences. Yeah. Sue edited it).

With a Little Help From My Friends, Part I

First of all, side note: most of the spam comments I delete are offering me NFL jerseys from the Colts and the Giants. Really. Those are about as useful to me as the ads for penis enlargement.

And yes, I have invoked the Beatles. They are sacred. All of them.


If you know me and you’ve seen my first book (emphasis on FIRST), you’ve seen this:


I have gotten a lot of compliments on this book cover, but truthfully, the only credit I can take for its creation is going with Legalogos, Inc. and their graphic design genius, Tom Roskelly. He designed it.

I had had another idea in mind, sort of a collage/still life a la Audrey Flack’s photo-realism work.

Audrey Flack, “Chanel”

However, when I approached Diane Chubb at Legalogos about this, she had a better idea: let us design something.

And why not? Their graphic designer has won a boatload of awards.

He’s come up with great, simple, focused designs like this:


A Fibonacci seahorse.

Or this:


A tribute to a lady who loved her flip flops.

Since a rose plays a part in my story (I think of Liz Gardner as an Iron Rose), Legalogos decided it should be the symbol of These Foolish Things.

They were right.

Presently, they’re at work designing the cover art for the TFT sequel At Last.

Should you have a cover art project or other need for design/trademark/logo work:

You can see more of their stellar designs and get an idea of why it’s a great idea to have this team on your side.