Sunday, December 18, 2011

December's SCRIBE Media Magazine Is Out

Your new SCRIBE! Media Magazine Basic, for Associate members of AmSAW, has just been released. Check out all the news, writing tips, and other offerings today's busy writer can't do without. And for even more inside information, plus freelance writing gigs, book-and-magazine markets, agency and publisher updates, and all the e-mail contacts you could ever hope to find, upgrade to Professional membership. You can get the inside edge on your competition for only 16 cents a day!

Check us out today. And let us hear from you. We're always ready to help.

Copyright 2011   AmSAW

Monday, December 12, 2011

How Can I Keep Focused on My Writing?

We recently received a question from one of our members:

Q: I have trouble staying concentrated on one project.  Do you have any advice on how to keep from jumping from one idea to another? - T-X

We turned to our president, D. J. Herda, for an answer to your question.  Here's his suggestion:

A: You can stay focused on a project instead of jumping from one idea to another in one of a couple ways.   One is to create an outline, either numbered chapter-by-chapter or point-by-point, and keep writing on that chapter or point until you're finished.  Then go on to the next chapter or point.  A second way is to set up a deadline, just as you'd have if you were a reporter working for your local newspaper.  Give yourself one hour, for example, in which to write everything you can about your subject.  If you deviate from the subject or dawdle, you'll miss meeting your deadline and could get fired!  Either one of these methods should help get you on track and keep you there! - D. J. Herda

Copyright 2011   AmSAW

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

New eBook Release of Fahrenheit 451

Science fiction writer Ray Bradbury has finally overcome his longstanding aversion to digital books and authorized an ebook edition of his most famous novel, FAHRENHEIT 451, which Simon & Schuster released Tuesday. The ebook deal comes as part of a new publishing agreement brokered by Bradbury's agent Michael Congdon with S&S that includes all English-language print and digital formats of FAHRENHEIT 451 in North America, and also includes English-language mass-market rights in North America to Bradbury's THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES and THE ILLUSTRATED MAN, both of which will be reissued in March. The ebook edition of FAHRENHEIT, originally published in 1953, will be priced at $9.99.

"It's a rare and wonderful opportunity to continue our relationship with this beloved and canonical author and to bring his work s to new a generation of readers and in new formats" said publisher Jonathan Karp in the announcement. "We are honored to be the champion of these classic works." In a telephone interview, Congdon explained that there was an "opportunity to make a new license" for the rights to FAHRENHEIT 451 (Ballantine published the original hardcover edition, while S&S had published the paperback from 1962 onwards) and there was "no way to make new license with anyone that didn't include ebook rights."

The agency then approached Bradbury and explained that any new deal involving the rights to FAHRENHEIT 451 could not go forward without digital rights as part of the package, and "he was willing to go ahead and sign the contract," Congdon said.

While Congdon wouldn't comment on specifics, he says the deal was for "a very significant sum of money." S&S was one of six interested parties who had the chance to bid on the new rights package, "all of whom had, one way or another, some relationship with Ray. If there was a way to grant rights to all six publishers, we would have. But you can't. There's a great deal of admiration for Ray in the publishing industry, which made our job a lot easier."

Congdon said there may be ebook editions of THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES and THE ILLUSTRATED MAN, but they are under an existing license with HarperCollins, which has so far "honored Ray's decision not to have ebook editions." With FAHRENHEIT's ebook publication, Congdon acknowledged "a door has obviously been opened" for HarperCollins.

Copyright 2011   AmSAW

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Amazon Signs 'Game-Changing' Publishing Deal

Guru Deepak Chopra has become the highest-profile author yet to sign book deal with Amazon.  The self-help author has found yet another key to spiritual enlightenment: become the latest in a string of big name authors to sign a deal for megabucks with

Amazon has moved aggressively into publishing over the last year, signing major writers including bestselling self-help author Timothy Ferriss and actress and director Penny Marshall – the Marshall deal for $800,000 (£500,000), according to reports – and launching a phalanx of new imprints covering everything from romance to science fiction, each move a further blow to an increasingly nervous community of traditional publishers. This summer it hired former chief executive of the Time Warner Book Group Larry Kirshbaum to run its New York imprint, and Kirshbaum has now clinched a deal for a memoir from Chopra, author of bestselling self-help titles ranging from The Ultimate Happiness Prescription: 7 Keys to Joy and Enlightenment to The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success.

Sold for a sum reported to be higher than $500,000, Chopra and his medical professor brother Sanjiv Chopra's Brotherhood: A Tale of Faith, Big Dreams and the Power of Persistence will tell how the pair arrived in the US in the 70s with no money, looking at how they fulfilled their dreams today. Literary agent Robert Gottlieb, who negotiated the deal, called it "a game-changer for the publishing industry".
The Guardian

Copyright 2011   AmSAW

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Thie Day in History: Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Sharing a birth date with another of the world's most popular literary figures, Fyodor Dostoevsky, is an American pop icon, Kurt Vonnegut Jr.  Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, on November 11, 1922, Vonnegut was the youngest of the three children of Edith and Kurt Vonnegut.  He is the author of numerous novels, including Cat's Cradle (1963), Hocus Pocus (1990), and Timequake (1997).  

Vonnegut's family is of German descent, and both of his parents spoke German in their home, although they refused to teach the language to their son.  Vonnegut was born at a time after World War I when many Americans still considered Germany to be evil.  Vonnegut said, "[My parents] volunteered to make me ignorant and rootless as proof of their patriotism."

Vonnegut's vision of the fantastic as it occurs in everyday life was influenced by a series of tragic events as a young man.  His mother committed suicide on Mother's Day in 1944 while Vonnegut was home on leave.  He survived the bombing of Dresden, which killed nearly everyone else.  He lost his sister, Alice, to cancer within hours of her husband's death in a train crash.  As a result, Vonnegut’s fiction shows an author struggling to cope within a world of tragicomic disparities, a universe that defies plausibility, and whose absurdity becomes food for reality.

When Vonnegut completed high school, his father forced him to go to college to study biochemistry against his son’s will.  Vonnegut wanted to be a journalist.  He said, "[College] was a boozy dream, partly because of booze itself, and partly because I was enrolled exclusively in courses I had no talent for."

Before long, he found himself failing most of his classes when providence struck.  Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, offering Vonnegut the perfect opportunity to escape school and join the military.

In December 1944, Vonnegut was captured by the Germans at the Battle of the Bulge.  He was imprisoned in a slaughterhouse in Dresden, Germany, and forced to work in a factory that manufactured food supplements for pregnant women.  Allied bombers attacked the city on the night of February 13, 1945, setting off a firestorm that burned up the oxygen and killed nearly all of the city’s residents within hours.  Vonnegut and his fellow prisoners survived because they slept in a meat locker three stories belowground.  When they went outside the following morning, they found themselves among few people left alive in a city that had burned to the ground.

Following the war, Vonnegut began publishing fiction about the dangers of technology, but since his work contained elements of fantasy, he was quickly labeled a science fiction writer, and his works were not taken seriously.  He said, "I have been a sore-headed occupant of a file drawer labeled 'Science Fiction'...and I would like out, particularly since so many serious critics regularly mistake the drawer for a urinal."

It’s easy to understand the sci-fi label.  Vonnegut’s first published novel, Player Piano, depicts a fictional city called Ilium in which the people have surrendered all control of their lives to a computer named, ironically enough, EPICAC, after a substance that induces vomiting.  The Sirens of Titan (1959) takes place on several different planets, including a thoroughly militarized Mars, where the inhabitants are controlled electronically.  

Although obvious sci-fi venues, the super-real settings of Vonneguts fictional worlds serve primarily as a metaphor for modern society, which Vonnegut views as absurd to the point of being surreal, as well as a world peopled by the hapless human beings who struggle against both their environments and themselves.

In Player Piano, the protagonist, Dr. Paul Proteus, revolts against the vacuous emotions of a society in which the people, freed from the need to perform any meaningless work, lose all sense of purpose.  Proteus joins an underground movement dedicated to overthrowing the computer-run government and takes part in a failed revolution.  Although he is imprisoned at the end of the novel, he has triumphed in regaining his humanity.

In God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater; or, Pearls before Swine (1965), Vonnegut introduces one of his most endearing characters in Eliot Rosewater, a philanthropic but ineffectual man who tries to use an inherited fortune for the good of humanity.  He soon learns, though, that his generosity, his concern for humanity, and his attempts to reach out to his fellow human beings are looked at as madness by a money-conscious society.  The novel takes pot shots at everyone, including organized religion, suggesting that the keepers of the faiths use religious doctrine to justify and maintain their power over others.

While writing these early books, Vonnegut kept trying to work on a novel about the bombing of Dresden.  Finally, in 1967, he published Slaughterhouse-Five (1969) about a man named Billy Pilgrim who experiences the bombing of Dresden and loses his mind, thinking that he has been transported to a planet where time no longer exists.  

Vonnegut said, "[I knew] after I finished Slaughterhouse-Five that I didn't have to write at all anymore if I didn't want to...I suppose that flowers, when they're through blooming, have some sort of awareness of some purpose having been served."

Slaughterhouse-Five was published at the height of the War in Vietnam, and antiwar protestors saw the author as a hero and a powerful spokesperson.  Vonnegut called the work an anti-war book, although he downplayed its influence on society, saying, "Anti-war books are as likely to stop war as anti-glacier books are to stop glaciers."  He has since become one of the most popular guest lecturers at universities across the country.

Kurt Vonnegut said, "We would be a lot safer if the government would take its money out of science and put it into astrology and the reading of palms...only in superstition is there hope.  If you want to become a friend of civilization, then become an enemy of the truth and a fanatic for harmless balderdash."

Vonnegut suffered irreversible brain injuries following a fall at his home and died in Manhattan on April 11, 2007.

Friday, September 30, 2011

It Happened in History: Daniel J. Boorstin

Daniel J. Boorstin
It's not often that a member of academia breaks out of his field to become a best-selling author, but it happened just that way for Daniel J. Boorstin.  He was born in Atlanta, Georgia, on October 1, 1914.  Raised in Oklahoma, he was graduated with honors from Harvard, studied at Balliol College, Oxford, as a Rhodes Scholar, and earned his PhD at Yale.

Boorstin taught for years at the University of Chicago, and he has held many teaching positions abroad with stints at the University of Rome, the University of Geneva, Trinity College, Cambridge, and the Sorbonne.  He was also the twelfth Librarian of Congress.

When President Gerald Ford nominated Boorstin to the position in 1975, the Authors League of America supported him, although the American Library Association objected because he "was not a library administrator."  The Senate confirmed the nomination without debate.

During his term as Librarian of Congress, Boorstin established the Center for the Book to encourage reading and literacy.  He also spearheaded what became a 10-year project to completely renovate the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress, restoring the main building to its original 1897 condition.  After retiring in 1987, he was named Librarian of Congress Emeritus.

Boorstin's books have been translated into over twenty languages and have won numerous awards. The Americans: The Colonial Experience, the first in a trilogy of books, won the Bancroft Prize.  His follow-up, The Americans: The Democratic Experience, won the Pulitzer Prize; and his third, The Americans: The National Experience, won the Francis Parkman Prize.  Boorstin is one of only a few people to have won all three awards.

The author's other works include The Creators, The Discoverers, and Cleopatra's Nose: Essays on the Unexpected.  Boorstin has won Phi Beta Kappa's Distinguished Service to the Humanities Award and the National Book Award for Distinguished Contributions to American Letters.  Daniel Joseph Boorstin died of pneumonia on Feb. 28, 2004.

Copyright 2011   AmSAW

Friday, August 19, 2011

Patterson Writes HOW MANY???

Who in the world could possibly imagine writing 26 books in 3-½ years?  That's what James Patterson and his team of coauthors will be producing for Little, Brown.  The publisher recently announced that James and his writers will create 13 adult novels and 13 children's books that will be released through 2014.  So if you're struggling to get your first or next book done, just ask yourself, how would James Patterson do it?  Maybe you'll get a fresh idea or two.  (Like paying several hundred thousand dollars in return for earning several million?)

Copyright 2011   AmSAW

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

"Sorry, I Thought I Loved You" Gets Five-Star Review

Sorry, I Thought I Loved You

by Michielle DJ Beck
Reviewed by Don Bacue, Executive Editor
International Features Syndicate


  Following a foreword by Marcus A. Lindemann putting codependency and relationship addiction into perspective, the book, Sorry, I Thought I Loved You, delves into the lives of a woman by the name of Michielle DJ Beck.  I say “lives” because, although married for the first time at the age of 17 and divorced for the fifth time at 34, she experienced different aspects, different generations, of codependency with each of her husbands.  In fact, one of few things she seems to have had in common with them was her realization that something was wrong.

Not that she could put her finger on it, of course.  She was nowhere near that far enough along in understanding her obsession with relationships.  But she knew that she was different, that she didn’t fit in the way others did.  That, of course, merely made her increasingly despondent and racked with guilt.  What was she doing wrong?  Why was she failing her spouses?  Or, more realistically, why were they all failing her?  In between her five marriages, she suffered similar fates with countless other relationships that never reached the altar. 

But where did it all begin?  And how did Michielle finally claw her way to emotional freedom? 

“It all started early,” Beck writes, “ – as early as I can remember – and it only got worse as I got older.  Finally, after many long and confusing years I stumbled, completely by accident, onto a path of research and self-discovery, and today I can finally put a name to the main problem that has tormented me since my earliest memories: I am a codependent relationship addict.”

After reading everything she could find on the subject and talking with professionals in the field, she knew she had a hard, long road to recovery ahead of her.  The guilt and shame she felt for not having taking action sooner proved to be a menacing roadblock along the way.  So, too, did her fear of sharing her new self-discovery with others.  In time, though, she came to a universal realization about codependency addicts.

“They only know that they are unhappy," she writes, "and they think a relationship of some type will make them happy again. When it doesn't, they are lost.  They think: ‘Well, I guess I just need a different relationship. That must be what's wrong!’  So they leave their relationship, and they go and find another one, only to repeat the same pattern – a pattern which I finally succeeded in breaking, but only after many years, much effort, and a totally unexpected and unsolicited epiphany, which I promise I'll share with you in a later chapter.”

Obviously, Beck went on to break the chain of addiction, but the legacy of dependency lives on.  In fact, after reading her fascinating and hope-inducing work on her life’s struggle to regain a sense of normalcy, I realized that I once shared her addiction.  Several broken relationships and failed marriages later led me to my own painful epiphany: I had to change what was broken inside me before I could ever find true happiness with someone else.

How much easier it would have been if, 25 years ago, I’d had Sorry, I Thought I Loved You to guide me through my own tribulations.  And just how many other people are there who could benefit from this inspirational and eye-opening tale?

Take my word for it, this is a five-star read from start to finish.  Complete with chapter-ending “What the Therapist Says” interpretations and suggestions to put into use PLUS a very impressive “Resources” section.  Pick up a copy today.  And change your life around for good.

Five stars.


Sorry, I Thought I Loved You
by Michielle DJ Beck
Chipmunka Publishing (Great Britain, 2011)
Paperback, $21.00
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Sunday, February 06, 2011

"They Call Me Doc" Gets Five-Star Reviews

A Fantastic Journey, by William James "Dare to dream..."
Review of They Call Me Doc: The Story Behind the Legend of John Henry Holliday (Paperback) ***** 5.0 out of 5 stars

As an author, I am intrigued with the writing skills set into this book. D. J. Herda has created a wonderful journey into the historical past to bring the character of Doc Holiday to life. This is good... no, this is a great work.

A Masterpiece of U.S. Western Culture, by Gabriela Sbarcea
Review of They Call Me Doc: The Story Behind the Legend of John Henry Holliday (Paperback) ***** 5.0 out of 5 stars

"You see when a man loses his woman to another man, it is a serious matter. When a man loses his horse to another man, it is unforgivable. But when a man loses his gun to another man, it is inconceivable."

D. J. Herda , in They Call Me DOC, revives the Wild, Wild West through one of its most famous gunfighters, gamblers, and prominent figures, John Henry Holliday, also known as DOC.   His voice is alive, vivid, to the point where you think he is sitting in front of you at a table in the dusty old Coral, giving you an account of his entire life over a glass of whiskey.  You laugh and cry with him and want the story to go on forever.

This is the very first book written since Gone With The Wind that enticed me to learn more about a highly controversial time, place, and people in U.S. history, where the conflict between North and South lynched mercilessly many innocent lives and divided a nation.  Those were the times that nurtured John Henry Holliday, the young man who overcame gruesome health and circumstantial obstacles to become a dentist and use his agile mind in many more ways than one. The southwestern mentality and take on life are powerful and well grounded in the fundamental principle that when the law fails to provide justice, the man steps forth.  "The code of the West took precedence over the laws of mere mortals.  We had `right' on our side."

But Western justice, guns, and gambling are not entertaining without a "darling whore."  Kate, Doc Holliday's love, is a woman of substance, a fact that proudly defies the hazardous prejudice attached to one of the oldest occupations in human history, prostitution.  There is so much more to this woman than the legend portrays, and D. J. Herda, I mean the DOC, does her "right" by telling us the truth, the formidable nuances of her life and his, that no other source has ever managed to provide to us before.

Oh, by God, I wish the DOC had lived longer!  Happy reading!

And from Salon magazine, a reader e-mailed:

I just finished reading your book "They call me Doc" and I just wanted to thank you for writing the best book probably ever written about this great misunderstood man. I love the way you wrote it. It was as if Doc was talking to me through the whole book. I posted it on my facebook page also because everyone that is interested in the history of the old west needs to read it. John Henry Holliday was a good man that was forced into the life that he lived and you brought that out really well. Thanks again for writing this great book.

Copyright 2011   AmSAW

Saturday, February 05, 2011

It Happened in History: William S. Burroughs

William S. Burroughs
One of the most influential authors of the Beat Generation was born on Feb. 5, 1914, in St. Louis, MO.  Besides being the grandson of the wealthy inventor of the mechanical adding machine, William Seward Burroughs was one of the founders of the Beat movement that included Neal Cassidy, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and others.  Burroughs is best known for his realistic novels about drug addiction and drug culture, including Junky (1951) and Naked Lunch (1959).

Burroughs studied English literature at Harvard, which was a calving ground for many of the writers who took their place in the Beat hall of fame.  He did graduate work in ethnology and archaeology and worked a variety of jobs during World War II.  He was a plain-clothes detective, exterminator, advertising copywriter, factory worker, bar attendant, and waiter.

While drifting from job to job, he met Lucien Carr, Jack Kerouac, and Allen Ginsberg in New York City around Christmas 1943, shortly after Ginsberg began studying at Columbia.  Burroughs impressed them with his scholarship, as well as his sardonic sense of humor and the reserved poise that often comes with a wealthy birthright.

Older than the others in the group, Burroughs took on the role of father figure and mentor, encouraging Kerouac and Ginsberg in their attempts to write fiction and poetry.  He felt a special affinity toward them because they were kindred spirits, dreamers, fantasizers.  He said, "There couldn't be a society of people who didn't dream.  They'd be dead in two weeks."

Early in his writing career, Burroughs collaborated on a humorous sketch with a Harvard classmate, Kells Elvins, and on a short Dashiell Hammett-style novel with Kerouac, but publishers rejected both works, and Burroughs began to doubt his own literary talents.  His continuing search for an identity led him to seek out the criminal elements in society.

Hoping to fit in with a "community of outlaws," he began buying stolen goods, including morphine, and in 1944, he became addicted to the drug.  In 1947, he moved in with Joan Vollmer, another member of the group around the Columbia campus, and she gave birth to their son, William S. Burroughs, Jr.  Joan, too was an addict, making Benzedrine her drug of choice.  The couple moved to New Orleans, Texas, and Mexico City in order to obtain their drugs more easily.

In the spring of 1950, Elvins visited Burroughs in Mexico City and talked him into writing a factual book about his drug experience as a "memory exercise."  Burroughs set a daily schedule and mostly kept to it with the help of daily injections of morphine.  He finished the project in December and titled his book Junky.  He sent the manuscript to Lucien Carr in New York.  Finally, Ginsberg obtained a copy and was able to get the book published as a pulp paperback in 1953 under the pseudonym "William Lee."  The cover sported the lurid subtitle, Confessions of an Unredeemed Drug Addict.

On September 6, 1951, Burroughs accidentally killed his wife at a party while attempting to shoot a martini off her head with a pistol.  He was stoned, and the bullet penetrated her forehead, killing her instantly.  He was taken into custody and charged in Mexico City with criminal imprudence.  His parents took over the care of William Junior and brought him to their home in Florida. 

Released on bail, Burroughs left Mexico and traveled throughout South America looking for a drug called yage.  His letters to Ginsberg describing his experiences in the cities, jungles, and mountains of Ecuador and Peru were collected in a volume later published by City Lights as The Yage Letters (1963).  Burroughs thought the pieces would interest the same readers who had made Aldous Huxley's The Doors of Perception (1954) so successful.

After Burroughs left South America, he settled in Tangier, where he found he could live cheaply and obtain the drugs he needed for his very survival.  His wife's death created in him a type of literary urgency.  He felt that he had been possessed by an invader, "the Ugly Spirit," who controlled him at the time of the accident and maneuvered him into a lifelong struggle, "in which I have had no choice except to write my way out."

In 1957, Kerouac visited Burroughs in Tangier and began to type the hundreds of handwritten pages of Burroughs' new book, which Kerouac titled Naked Lunch.  Afterwards, Burroughs said he was "shitting out my educated Middlewestern background once and for all.  It's a matter of catharsis, where I say the most horrible things I can think of.  Realize that--the most horrible dirty smelly awful niggardliest posture possible...."

Burroughs continued to work on the book until its publication in 1959, thinking of it as a picaresque novel narrated by his alter ego, "William Lee."  His biographer, Ted Morgan, understood that Burroughs shared the "New Vision" of the writer as an outlaw, creating a "literature of risk."  The compression and urgency of Naked Lunch in "the fragmentation of the text is like the discontinuity of the addict's life between fixes....For Burroughs sees addiction as a general condition not limited to drugs.  Politics, religion, the family, love, are all forms of addiction.  In the post-Bomb society, all the mainstays of the social order have lost their meaning, and bankrupt nation-states are run by 'control addicts.'"  

After leaving Tangier in 1957, Burroughs traveled to London to enroll in apomorphine treatment--still banned in the U.S.--for his drug addiction.  The treatment failed, and he slipped back into his more familiar ways.

Burroughs found the English literary scene to be terminally depressing.  "England has the most sordid literary scene..." he said.  "They all meet in the same pub.  This guy's writing a foreword for this person.  They all have to give radio programs, they have to do all this just in order to scrape by.  They're all scratching each other's backs."

Burroughs published several more novels, including Queer, which he wrote in 1951 but wasn't able to get published until 1985.  The book shared the same protagonist as Junky, but the homosexual subject matter--although handled honestly--was considered in poor taste and kept the book from being published at the time.  

Burroughs kept a daily journal with three separate columns in it.  In one, he wrote what he was doing.  In the second, he wrote what he was thinking.  And in the third, he wrote what he was reading.  He carried with him notebooks, news clippings, and photographs, as well as scissors, paste, and a tape recorder--all of which he considered part of his writing tools.

"In my writing," he said, "I am acting as a map maker, an explorer of psychic areas...a cosmonaut of inner space, and I see no point in exploring areas that have already been thoroughly surveyed."

In his later life, Burroughs moved to a small two-bedroom cottage in Lawrence, KS, where he lived with his cats.  He took up painting and collage, turning out abstract works of art characterized as expressive surrealism.

Devoted to truth in all the arts, Burroughs said, "So cheat your landlord if you can and must, but do not try to shortchange the Muse.  It cannot be done.  You can't fake quality any more than you can fake a good meal."

William S. Burroughs died in Lawrence at 6:50 p.m. on August 2, 1997, from complications of a heart attack he had suffered the previous day.

Copyright 2011   AmSAW