GATHERING MY FORCES (Why I relaunched my memoir) by Doreen (Dody) Cox


There have been several instances in my life when I’ve woken up from some stupor and realized that it’s time to take charge of something that is important to me. Instead of continuing to be swept along by events and conditions as they were, I’d gathered my own internal forces together in order to direct my own passage through the event. Such reversals are rarely done without the influence of others met along the way. Within this past year, my gathering forces converged and swept me into making some changes regarding writing and publishing.


Adventures in Mother-Sitting was my first published book. After my mother died, I threw my heart and soul into writing a memoir for family and friends, one that told our story. At the time that it was completed, it had only been six months since my mother had died. I wasn’t even online at the time, as I was not sure yet as to what direction to take beyond getting through each day. The world of publishing was foreign to me; I’d never heard the term “indie” author. And I hadn’t planned for the memoir to be published. But then I had an unexpected encounter with an old friend who had just published his memoir. He gave me the name of his indie publisher and the rest was history, or so I had thought.

I’m grateful for all the help that I received in order for Adventures to become a published memoir. It was important at the time that I honor my mother’s long-held wish: for me to write a book. But grief is a powerful force with which to reckon. Caught up in grieving and not knowing anything about publishing or promoting, I relied more on others than I did myself. I didn’t pick up my memoir again for a long time. I did set myself up to be online, but for a while, I merely did whatever I could to make it through my days. It took me over a year to once again feel my curiosity stirring, a surge that told me I was ready to tackle something new.

WhistlingDucks(Whistling Ducks perched on the dock by Dody’s Florida home)

Throughout that next year, I began to explore the world of promoting, signing up to be on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter plus some other writing sites. It was through my connections with authors on LinkedIn and Twitter, though, that I began to be educated. Tweeting became a lifeline, engaging me and connecting me with indie authors of all genres, some who wrote memoirs and others who wrote fiction. For the first time since my mother had died, I began to feel alive with excitement and purpose. Coincidentally, people were beginning to read Adventures and give me feedback on my story via reviews.

It had been easier to slip into a space of viewing my memoir only through my own eyes; that’s how it was for me after I finished writing Adventures. My memoir felt complete to me—family and friends gave me feedback that said it was. Even the initial readers gave it five stars. So I let it be. Truthfully, I really didn’t want to think about having to read the finished memoir much less do a revision. I didn’t even want to write a sequel about life after caregiving, as some had suggested. I wanted to move on with my life and continue to write, but this time, write fiction.

Because of my interactions with other authors and the fact that I was an avid reader, I began to pay attention to book covers. I’d always been drawn first to the cover of a book. If the cover caught my attention, I’d open it and read the first few pages to see if the author’s words engaged me. But I didn’t do that with Adventures. I was being like an ostrich, burying my head in the sand—it was a long while before I acknowledged an urge to take a good look at my memoir’s cover. Whenever I glanced at the cover, I’d only notice our smiles in the photo and remember the moment that this picture of Mother and I was taken. But I was gathering information, and concurrently, my inner force was stirring, preparing for the time when I’d recognize that the cover did not measure up to the quality I wanted readers to see.

This is what I’ve learned: writing is an art, and like all creative activities, it requires study and loads of practice. Writing a novel or a memoir requires different skills than those I’d used previously when writing technical manuals. In order to hone one’s skills for writing books, an open mind to hear feedback from readers and other authors is a key ingredient. I comprehended this while writing my first piece of fiction, a short story titled A Sacred Journey. It was gratifying to get feedback from others, especially from an author whose novels were favorites and whose writing skills I’d come to admire: Julia Hughes. It was very exciting to watch my story go through changes as I rewrote passages that came even more alive for me. The experience was exhilarating. When it came time for me to decide on a book cover, I chose carefully, exploring until my gut centered on Laura Wright LaRoche of LLPix Designs. After receiving such a marvelous cover from Laura, the comparison in quality to my memoir’s cover began niggling at me.


After my short story was published, I began working on a new story. I was over 10,000 words into it when the niggling thought regarding my memoir wouldn’t leave me alone. Laying aside the new story, I gave in to my gut feeling to flip through Adventures and grade my writing skills against what I’d recently learned. It did not surprise me to see that my memoir didn’t measure up to the level I wanted it to have, neither the cover nor the writing. I knew that the memoir told my story well enough to engage readers; their reviews told me so. But the writing itself no longer satisfied me.

I’ve always been intrigued by the flavor that comes with recognizing some encounters as serendipitous. Two events happened concurrently with my dissatisfaction. The first was a four-star review that honored the story itself yet offered suggestions to clean up the writing. I took notice of those suggestions because I’d noted them myself while perusing my memoir. The second was what I consider to be a prominent serendipitous encounter with an indie author whose novel I’d just read. It wasn’t just that the story in Crooked Moon moved me so deeply—it was the high level of skill with which this author wrote, particularly the dialogues between characters. I wanted Adventures to measure up to the high standard of writing that I’d noted in this novel and in the subsequent novel I’d read by this exceptional author. Could I write as vividly, take a reader as deeply into my mother-sitting story as this author had taken me into hers? I wanted to try but was hesitant to even begin.

It was the unwavering encouragement from Lisette Brodey, Crooked Moon’s author, which stoked my spark into a flame for the revision of Adventures in Mother-Sitting. She became the wind beneath my wings; I’m convinced that my mother gave her an angelic nudge from heaven to help me. Even before my part-time GED teacher job ended for the summer, I cracked open my memoir to begin putting into practice all that I had learned.

The storyline itself did not change. I deleted some redundant passages, particularly ones that were too detailed with regard to my care of Mother. I also refined some of the more poignant experiences that I’d had relative to our changing relationship. I’m told that the descriptions of those are more vividly expressed in this new version because of the way that I’ve learned to craft my words. There were two chapters regarding my spiritual focus that just didn’t fit in the memoir. I removed them though didn’t toss the chapters away. They’re in a separate file because I felt that the chapters were well-written and convey my outlook on spirituality quite succinctly. Also, I’ve been learning to temper my habit of writing long, lofty sentences. This style is great for writing prose, but not appropriate for this memoir. I’d like the reader to stay with me in the story, not go off with me on some tangent.

Reading through Adventures and doing the revision was one of the most meaningful experiences of my life. It was intensely cathartic for me, taking me back through the experiences I’d had while taking care of my mother. It brought back the joy, the richness embedded in our final few years together. I’ve just completed the upload to Amazon and am ecstatic for what I’ve accomplished.

Midway through the rewrite, an unexpected gift came from Charles Roth of CMRdesign. He created the loveliest book cover. Using the same photo that was on the initial book, Charles skillfully removed the birthday confetti that was draped over our faces, leaving an observer to focus only on our joy. Every time I look at the new cover of Adventures, my heart expands, reminding me that the love shared between my mother and me still remains. This new cover from Charles is priceless—I’m deeply grateful.


In concert with my decision to rewrite Adventures, a surge of desire to become my own publisher set in—I’d done my homework. Making this change in direction happened accordingly. Honesty and respect is a great policy. To this end, Charles came to my rescue once again. The logo for Whistling Duck Books is exquisitely designed—I love looking at it. Every morning when my local whistling ducks wake me up, I think of Charles and this striking logo he designed, one that reflects my decision to follow my heart’s desire.

New_Color_WhistlingDuck_logo 2

I’m thankful to many authors I’ve met in the stream for their friendship, their example, and their support of my efforts. My connection with these wonderful people adds such richness to my life, personally and as an author. In particular, I’m immensely grateful to Lisette Brodey and Julia Hughes, authors extraordinaire, for their unwavering guidance, helpfulness, and encouragement. It is my hope that readers will find that this second edition of Adventures in Mother-Sitting is written in a way that invites them to step into my story with me. Although it’s a hard one to experience, the story is one in which compassion, humor, and love overshadows every tough moment.

 * * *

After a somewhat convoluted career path in various business-related and mental health endeavors, Doreen (Dody) Cox has settled into a later-in-life passion: writing. Her first book, Adventures in Mother-Sitting, is a memoir of her three years as a full-time caregiver to her mother, coping with dementia. It has just been released as a second edition. A Sacred Journey is a short story with themes inspired by her love for nature, curiosity regarding spirituality, and respect for dignity in death.

Dody resides in Florida and is a part-time GED teacher of multicultural students. The class is held offsite in one of her favorite places: a library.



Adventures in Mother-Sitting




Carol Rose is an award-winning author of contemporary romances. She has written twenty books, including Always and Forgotten Father. Her books have won numerous awards, including a final in the prestigious Romance Writers of America Golden Heart Award.

Her husband and she married when she was only nineteen and he was barely twenty-one, proving that early marriage can make it, but only if you’re really lucky and persistent. They went through college and grad school together. She not only loves him still, all these years later, she still likes him—which she says is sometimes harder. They have two funny, intelligent and highly accomplished daughters. Carol loves writing and hopes you enjoy reading her work.

Time to chat with Carol!

What part of writing a novel do you enjoy the most? The least?

I am a word freak and I love the characterization in writing. I write romance because relationships are most vital to me. I am, however, plot-challenged. This part is vitally important to how stories unfold, but I rely a lot on my critique group to assist me with this.

Some authors, like me, always write scenes in order. But I know some people write scenes out of order. How about you?

I’m also a consecutive kind of person. I like order and writing scenes in sequence is most natural for me.

Is it important for you to know the ending of a book before you write it? The title?

I need to know the ending of my books before I can functionally plot them out. If I don’t have this in sight, I tend to wander astray. Not a good thing.


How important is the choosing of character names to you? Have you ever decided on a name and then changed it because it wasn’t right for the character?

I love names. I actually gave my two daughters four names each—in addition to their surname. I’m still apologizing for that. I tend to name characters early in the process and sometimes they come to me with names attached. I don’t think I’ve ever changed a primary character’s name, probably because I’m so focused on these in the first place.

Have you ever written characters that you truly despise?

This is a tricky issue, but I have to say no. Not that all my characters are nice, upstanding folk without personal issues. Nothing could be further from the truth. I just happen to find people fascinating, even in their imperfections. We all have needs and wants and challenges. My awareness of this is probably tied in with my other profession of therapist.

What do you like best about the books you read? What do you like least?

My favorite books are those written by word people. I like words and I’m fascinated by good—not to say literary—use of language. I have a doctorate, but I never wanted to write, nor do I like to read, academic works. I’m told that I’m told that I’m picky about characters being accurately depicted. I also like fiction that makes me laugh. It’s a weakness of mine that my husband is very grateful for—my love of laughter.

Do you allow others to read your work in progress, or do you keep it a secret until you’ve finished your first draft? Can you elaborate?

Yep. I have a critique group that reads—and gives strong feedback–on every book, chapter by chapter, as I go along.

Are you an early bird writer or night owl? And do you have any must haves like coffee, chocolates, wine, music or something else?

I’m a morning—not to say early morning—writer. I can write at night when I have to, but it’s not my preference. I like writing at my desk in the office I share with my husband. My half of the room needs to be uncluttered. Clutter distracts me. I like flowers and candles. They’re just nice, but I don’t always have these when I write. And water. I drink a lot of water. Go figure.

How would you define your style of writing?

Not long ago, I spoke with a marketing person about this and really struggled. We finally came up with the word “snarky.” I don’t think of myself this way, but I’ve come to realize that I naturally tend to be sarcastic and ironic. Sounds mean, but I never intend it that way.

A lot of authors are frustrated by readers who don’t understand how important reviews are? What would you say to a reader who doesn’t think his or her review matters?

This is frustrating, but I don’t think readers realize how important reviews are, especially to indie writers. Our ability to advertise is based on reviews. On the writing side of this, I like knowing readers’ responses to the characters and situations I craft. Even if it’s not favorable, I still want to know. On the other side, really appreciative reviews have brought me to tears. Yes, readers. We writers want to hear what you think.

Where do you live now? If you had to move to another city/state/country, where might that be?

My husband grew up in western New Jersey—the really pretty part. We love going to New York City. I’m a city girl through and through and I love visiting lots of cities, but NYC is my favorite. I currently have a daughter finishing her ER residency in Brooklyn, so going to visit is a wonderful coming together of good things. Naturally, I’ve lived my whole life in the hot South and my husband tells me that I’d die in the cold. (I think I’d like to try.)

What’s your favorite comfort food? Least favorite food?

Pretty much anything sugar. Gonna be honest. I love cheesecake with every fiber of my being.

What’s the coolest surprise you’ve ever had?

When looking through some financial accounts one day, I realized one credit card had a huge balance of which I was unaware. When I called him about this, my lovely husband confessed that he’d found a low-interest card and borrowed a chunk on it. He then invested it in account that would make more money. This was even more of a shock because he and I had always taken joint responsibility for our money. Then he told me this money was to buy me the sports car after which I’d always hankered. Made me cry. I’d always driven boring four-door family cars to this point, but he promised me that from then on, I’d always have a car after my heart. You should see what I drive now.

What was your favorite year of school? Why?

The year I graduated with my Ph.D. in counseling. It was my favorite because I never had to go back to school again.

What music soothes your soul?

I’m a fifty-six year old woman who drives a snazzy yellow sports car way too fast and the music blaring from the speakers isn’t classic rock. I like most current music, just not a lot of rap. Not typical by any measure.

What simple pleasure makes you smile?

Sounds cheesy, but I really like spending time with my husband. He makes me laugh and although we married young, I’ve learned a ton from being with him.





Amazon Author Page




MUSIC & MYSTERY – Guest blog by RJ McDonnell

The purpose of this blog is to show you how I relate my series theme to specific marketing and plotting efforts in hopes that fellow writers will find an idea or two that will help build readership. Most of these concepts apply to standalone novels as well.

I write a mystery series that features private investigator Jason Duffy, who worked as a club musician for 10 years before earning his PI license. Although he’s handled a diverse range of cases in his first few years of private practice, I focus exclusively on the ones relating to the music industry in the Rock & Roll Mystery Series.

Writing about music can be tricky business. In an ideal world most of my readers would be fans of the music I write about, enabling me to share insights that expand their understanding of one of their passions. Had I started my series when I was a child, that ideal might have been achievable. Rock & roll had a much more homogeneous audience during the American Bandstand era. Granted, there were those who favored rock and others who preferred Motown. But most radio stations of that period carried everything that appealed to a young audience, and most radio listeners were not inclined to abandon their favorite channel when a less desirable tune came on the air. Today, there are 51 subgenres of heavy metal alone. Music fans have grown accustomed to highly specialized programming.

For that reason I try to focus on common areas of the music business and the day-to-day life of musicians rather than attempt to capture the mindset and topical preferences of particular subgenres. In addition, I always try to include unique or cutting-edge plot elements to spark the interest of readers who are not fans of the genre portrayed.

For example, my first novel, Rock & Roll Homicide, featured a half-US, half-UK heavy metal band. Had I opted to delve into the inner workings of one of those 51 sub-genres, dropping clues that would be clear only to fans of that music, I would have alienated most of the readers I was trying to attract. Instead, I focused on a record company with an unhealthy tie to the Russian Mafia. The novel was written about 10 years after the breakup of the USSR. While the outline was being formulated I met a man at a college alumni association function who just closed an electronics manufacturing business in Russia because half of his UPS shipments were being hijacked. Prior to that day I had never heard of the Russian Mafia. The bent-noses of the Borscht Belt aspect of the book got a lot of attention in the pre-e-book era, enabling me to get placement in stores across the US. The fact that Rock & Roll Homicide has been on two Amazon Top 100 lists ever since June of 2014 tells me the subplot has held up well over time, even though the Russian Mafia is getting more exposure today than its Italian predecessor.


The 2nd book in the series, Rock & Roll Rip-Off, featured an emo band that failed to live up to expectations on its first album. I wrote the book on the assumption that most of my readers would be unfamiliar with the genre. Rather than spend time trying to get them to like or even connect with emo, I focused on something of interest to all music fans. The industry was forced into a sea change on how it made its money as a result of pirated MP3 files. Many record companies were struggling to stay alive. There was no money to give a high potential band a second chance after failing to gain traction on its first try. The rip-off noted in the title occurred to fund a record company executive’s bribe, which could have happened in any genre.

The whodunit was the unique element in that book. The reader learned in the opening that one of the members of The Tactile Tattoo engineered the rip-off. Careful clue analysis was needed to figure out which one. This is the darkest novel in my series. It’s also my least favorite. And, it’s the only one to win a Mystery/Thriller of the Year Award. Go figure.


The next novel, The Concert Killer, is my favorite. A serial killer tried to shut down the concert industry by dropping bodies at venues throughout California. The concerts featured a variety of different genres. From a series arc perspective we saw an extension of the sea change mentioned above. Since pirated downloads cut heavily into album earnings, musicians now earn most of their livelihood from concerts. The Concert Killer built a dam across that earnings stream. Concert-goers stayed home in droves. The novel climaxed as the killer was about to expand his territory to a national audience.

Like with the emergence of the Russian Mafia in Rock & Roll Homicide, The Concert Killer featured a cutting edge element. Unlike its predecessor, this cultural phenomenon won’t get hot until later this year when the US begins exporting liquefied natural gas for the first time. I’m hoping it gains the same kind of lift that Rock & Roll Homicide experienced in June. One of the advantages to being an indie author is that we don’t have to limit our windows of opportunity to the six week shelf life afforded most traditionally published authors at chain bookstores. Theirs is a “do or die” situation where failure to sell five to ten thousand books in that period usually results in a parting of the ways with the publisher. The indie route enables us to build a platform before jumping into those shark-infested waters (or opt out altogether).


The Classic Rockers Reunion with Death saw a major convergence of the story plot and the series arc. Jason’s father, Jim, is a retired San Diego Police detective. He opposed Jason’s career as a musician from day one, supposedly because of working too many musician OD cases. In this novel, Jason’s estranged Uncle Patrick from Pennsylvania asked for help after his former bandmate was murdered a few weeks before a reunion show for his ‘60s club band. Jason filled in for the slain rhythm guitarist as they prepared for the classic rock show. A 40-year family feud between Jim and Patrick played out while the murder was investigated.

My favorite part of writing that novel happened while researching the venue for the climax, which took place at the Scranton Cultural Center (formerly The Masonic Temple). I was given a two-hour tour of the ten story facility that was built in the late 20s by the Masons, and continues to serve as a Masonic Lodge. I was shown secret passageways, hidden staircases, spaces below stages, and enough intriguing architecture to inspire a Dan Brown novel. I used a “best of” selection for the climax, and saw a nice return from incorporating that fact into my local marketing efforts. I think it’s important to look closely at thematic and marketing possibilities after completing a novel’s first draft. Then, try to develop them during the editing process.


My 2014 release, Diamonds, Clubs, and Rock & Roll, also featured classic rock music. I did that for two reasons. First, it took place at an undersea club that was part of a resort for billionaires and millionaires. Demographically, classic rock fits better than any other genre considering that most people accrue wealth over time, and classic rock is popular with the 50+ crowd. Second, I wanted to bring Uncle Patrick to San Diego and needed him to work undercover with Jason in the club’s house band. I’m thinking about starting a second series that features Uncle Patrick and felt that the additional exposure would help ensure crossover among my readers.

The music got a boost from an alternate source in this novel. When live music was not playing in the club, the sound system was synched to a holography show on the floor of La Jolla Cove.

Songs like “Barracuda,” “Octopus’s Garden,” and “Yellow Submarine” were synched up with what was happening outside the club and sometimes inside the plot.


I’m a firm believer in the benefits of cross marketing. As a former band manager and musician, I do all that I can to bring a back stage pass to each murder mystery. My best newspaper exposure came from a library/bookstore tour AFTER I started bringing my guitar and PA system to the events. On site book sales quadrupled and feature articles appeared in four newspapers. The idea of including live music came after reading a social media post by a cozy mystery author who did knitting demonstrations during her tour. Authors with a particular theme would do well to brainstorm as many ways possible to engage readers with similar interests either in person or online. Hopefully, one of those ideas will help you chart in the Top 40.

Many thanks to Lisette Brodey for inviting me to pen a guest blog at her Writers’ Chateau. I am a fan of her novels, and of the effort she puts into helping her fellow writers. Hopefully, one of the marketing tips that I shared today will help you too.


Thank you, RJ! It’s been a pleasure having you back at my writers’ chateau! I hope readers will check out your wonderful books, starting with a free copy of Rock & Roll Homicide.

(Links below)

Rock & Roll Homicide (FREE)

Rock & Roll Rip-Off

The Concert Killer

The Classic Rockers Reunion With Death

Diamonds, Clubs, and Rock & Roll

RJ’s June 2013 Writers’ Chateau Interview



Shaye Mann is a former comedian turned trial lawyer, and now author of the novel The Executive Graveyard. Born and raised in New York City, Shaye migrated west to follow his passion of exploring the mountains and canyons of the Southwest. Shaye currently lives in Phoenix, Arizona, with his wife and three boys, He spends his free time hiking, writing, reading, and following his beloved New York sports teams. 


Time to chat with Shaye!

What is your latest book?
Right now, The Executive Graveyard is available on the market and I’m currently working on a legal thriller called “The Privilege.” I can’t wait until it’s finished! I’ve been excited about it since I conceived of the idea several years ago.


You’re a former comedian. Although you’re not writing funny books, has your talent for comedy helped your writing in any way?

What? You don’t think my books are funny? Okay … you’re right, I’m writing crime fiction. But yes, my background in comedy has been invaluable. A good comedian picks up on the little things, the nuances of life and then creatively exaggerates their description to entertain others. So, from doing stand-up, I’m almost trained to find those nuances. Since they’re often the little things about life, or descriptions of characters or places, they only serve to enhance my writing.

Is your recent book part of a series?

No. It seems like everyone in the publishing industry thinks writing a series is the way to go. And they’re probably right, from a business standpoint. But to me, writing is about being creative and entertaining and the thing I love about stand-alone books is that each one requires a new, unique idea. That has always excited me as a reader, and now it excites me as a writer. That’s not to say you won’t see recurring characters but right now, I have a bevy of ideas for books and each one is it’s own entity.

How did you choose the genre you write in? Or did it choose you?

I’ve always been fascinated with the way intricate crimes are solved. The use of the intellect and deductive reasoning to solve puzzles with limited pieces, is something that still intrigues me. So I love writing and creating those kinds of stories.

I hear you have some very exciting news! Can you share it with us?

Yes, thank you. I just saved 15% on my car insurance with Geico! Sorry Flo.

What else have you written?

Notes for my kids to skip school, classified ads, bad checks.

What do you think some of the greatest misconceptions about indie authors are?

That we aren’t good or talented writers because, for one reason or another, we didn’t obtain a publishing deal. Some of the best and well-known writers started out this way and with all the changes in the publishing industry, with ebooks and print on demand, I anticipate we’ll see more and more talent deliberately pursue their careers as independent artists.

How often do your characters surprise you by doing or saying something totally unexpected?

Not very often. If they do, I get worried that maybe I don’t have things figured out as much as I should. First thing I do for each character is make a laundry list of personality traits, and things that may have happened in their lives that may shape what they are on the page. Some or most of that won’t necessarily end up in the book but it allows me to get to know each character intimately. And once I know who the character is, I write their scenes with their actions being what a person in their shoes would do and say next. And so, if a character were to do or say something totally unexpected, I’d be concerned that maybe I don’t know the character as well as I should.

Some authors, like me, always write scenes in order. But I know some people write scenes out of order. How about you?

This is going to be strange but for my first book, The Executive Graveyard, I started by writing only the scenes involving Wyatt Orr, the protagonist. And I did that because I had trouble with what my subplot(s) would be, and so rather than fighting a form of writer’s block, I wrote what I had already figured out. And once that was done, things magically started falling into place. I hope not to do it again, but for The Executive Graveyard, it worked out well.

Is it important for you to know the ending of a book before you write it? The title?

The ending? No. I don’t yet know the ending of the The Privilege. I have some ideas of what it may be, but I won’t make a decision until I get there. The title, however, is extremely important for me to know early on. If I have a good working title, I can start to envision the book and the cover, and it adds to my excitement. And that pushes me harder to get it written!

Some writers edit excessively as they write; others wait until a novel is finished to do the bulk of the editing. How about you?

Both. I’m nuts with editing. I did about seven drafts of The Executive Graveyard before I hired a professional editor to help me finish the manuscript. I hope not to need seven rounds with The Privilege, but I will definitely hire a professional editor when I’m ready. Readers deserve a well-polished, professional book and even though I’m an indie author, I feel an obligation to provide that.

Over the years, many well-known authors have stated that they wished they’d written their characters or their plots differently. Have you ever had similar regrets?

None whatsoever.

How important is the choosing of character names to you? Have you ever decided on a name and then changed it because it wasn’t right for the character?

It’s paramount. I try and choose names for characters that will help the reader envision a certain character. And of course, if I have, say a killer, and I want it to be difficult to figure out who it is, I might be inclined to give the character a name one wouldn’t normally associate with a hardened criminal. So the saying “What’s in a name?” means a lot to me. And yes, in The Executive Graveyard, I did change a character’s name because the first name I gave the character just wasn’t right.

Have you ever written characters that you truly despise?

Of course, that’s my job! Writing crime fiction or murder mysteries, if you don’t write characters you truly despise, then it’s probably not good enough.

Authors, especially Indies, are constantly trying to understand why some authors sell very while their talented fellow authors have a hard time of it. It’s an ongoing conundrum. What do you make of it all?

If you can find out for me why that is, I would be ever so grateful. I wish I knew. But it goes to show you that there can be a market for just about anything. And that’s why the best advice for writers is to keep writing. And with that comes the next question…

Do you have any advice for first-time authors?

Sure. Follow your dream and put pen to paper. Now is the best time in history to do that. Can’t get a publishing deal, you can always self-publish. That also means you’ll have full control over your book. And as long as you’re willing to deal with sleepless nights, maybe on … say a park bench, you’ll be fine! But seriously, so long as you’re willing to market and promote yourself, it’s a worthwhile venture.

Can you tell us about your road to publication?

It took me ten long years to write and edit the book. I pitched it to a bunch of agents and had a fair amount of interest. But I realized that it could take a very long time, to get an agent and then a publishing deal. And even then, it could be several years until your book is printed. So, I decided that I couldn’t that long and grabbed the proverbial bull and published it myself. I haven’t looked back.

There are so many conflicting opinions out there about everything related to publishing: e-book pricing, book promotion, social media usage etc. How do you sort through it all to figure out what works best for you?

Trial and error, and lots of (sometimes horror) stories from other authors. I’m a part of several author groups on Facebook and if there’s an issue I need help with, I’ll call on other members for advice.

Please, tell us about your experiences with social media. What are your favorite and least-favorite parts of it?

I use Twitter and Facebook. I’m not a big fan of Facebook, but I do like Twitter. I like the creativity required to fit a message into a small box (140 characters). I don’t, however, like the fact that it isn’t easy to see your efforts translate into book sales!

Do you have any grammatical pet peeves to share?

Not really pet peeves but I’m a big fan of the comma and semi-colon. I think the semi-colon is highly misunderstood and deserves a wider role in American literature!

How much research was involved in writing your book? How did you go about it?

A ton. I had to study police procedure, and park procedure since The Executive Graveyard takes place in Zion National Park. I had to have my landmarks correct, and my descriptions on target. I also needed to learn the interplay between the various law enforcement agencies. I visited the park numerous times and interviewed as many rangers, employees, and local law enforcement as I could. In the end, one of the local Sheriffs read the book, and posted a review on Amazon expressing how accurate the interplay between the various agencies was. That was very gratifying.

Is there a question I haven’t asked you that you would like to answer? If so, what is it?

Okay, how about: Do you think there’s anything special or unique about your voice or your writing? The Answer is yes. I try to include a life message in each of my works, something that the reader can take and apply to his or her daily life. The Executive Graveyard has a life message, something I think all of us overlook and take for granted. Is it earth shattering, or something you never knew before? I’d say no. But to read and enjoy a story, and then be able to apply what you’ve read to your own life is very special. So I strive to achieve that in each of my works.

Do you allow others to read your work in progress, or do you keep it a secret until you’ve finished your first draft? Can you elaborate?

My wife is the only one who reads or hears about each chapter as I write them, and that’s because she’s too impatient to wait until the book is done! Otherwise, I don’t want anyone reading piecemeal work since he or she won’t know where I’m going with the story. Thus, their input won’t be of much help and if they don’t like it, I could see that playing head games with me and affecting my confidence. So, no.

Have you received reactions/feedback to your work that has surprised you? In what way?

I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the feedback I’ve received for The Executive Graveyard. I mean, I’m confident in myself and I know The Executive Graveyard is an excellent story. But I guess I always thought there’d be plenty of critics eager to pounce. So far, that hasn’t happened, but I’m sure it will at some point. Trying to thicken my skin…

Do you write anything besides novels? Care to share?

Jokes and legal pleadings. In fact, some judges have considered my legal pleadings a joke, but those are stories for another time!

Do you dread writing a synopsis for your novel as much as most writers do? Do you think writing a synopsis is inherently evil? Why?

Oh God yes!!! That gave me fits when I was pitching to agents.

Do you have any advice to a new author if they asked you whether to pursue the traditional route to publishing or to start out as an independent writer?

Pursue the traditional route. Being an indie author is very challenging and I think all of us, deep down, wish we had a big publishing company behind us. Do everything you can to get an agent and publishing deal. The good thing is that, if you can’t, there’s a whole indie underworld filled with us writers just waiting for you to join us. You’re always welcome here!

Are you an early bird writer or night owl? And do you have any must haves like coffee, chocolates, wine, music or something else?

I’m definitely a night owl. And I have three wonderful boys whom I love to death. But I need there to be quiet in order to write so it’s usually after they’ve gone to bed. Since their ages are 12, 10, and 6, my writing time seems to be getting later and later these days!

We all know the old saying; you can’t judge a book by its cover. This is true. However, how much importance do you place on your book cover design?

It’s the single most important piece of marketing you will ever do. And I’m guilty of it every day. If I see a book with a dull cover, I have a hard time picking it up or getting into it. Your cover doesn’t have to be conventional, it can be unique, but make sure it’s attractive and pleasing to the eye. Otherwise, you could be sitting there a year later with no sales thinking, “Maybe I should change the cover?”

Do you have complete control over your characters or do they ever control you?

I believe that if you ever have complete control of your characters then your novel will end up stale. Part of writing is to develop a character and watch as they live their lives and in my case, wreak havoc of others’.

Do you miss spending time with your characters when you finish writing them?

No. Characters are like Doritos, “crunch all you want, we’ll make more.” When I’m done with a book, it’s time to start another story and create new friends

A lot of authors are frustrated by readers who don’t understand how important reviews are? What would you say to a reader who doesn’t think his or her review matters?

I don’t press people for them, and I don’t tend to use reviews in marketing the book. The problem is the perception out there that not every review is genuine. But I want as many reviews of my work as possible because they are extremely important. And so, I would say the following: Would you stay at a hotel or eat at a restaurant if Yelp or Trip Advisor had it rated very low? Probably not. Well those ratings are from customers. The same applies to books. Our work contains blood sweat and tears, and if you enjoyed it, or if a story resonated with you, by all means please share the word so others can have the same experience. You can’t deny that when you look at a book online, you look to see what others have said about it. Ultimately, reviews will drive sales.

Do you know anyone who has ever received any auto DM on Twitter (with a link) who was happy about it?

God no. They should get rid of it altogether, or only allow messages actually typed by a live person. I mean, what do attractive women looking for sugar daddies send in their automated DM: “Thanks for following me. Can you take me shopping for some expensive new threads tonight?” Let’s get rid of it.

Where do you live now? If you had to move to another city/state/country, where might that be?

I currently live in Phoenix, Arizona. If I had to move it would be to Hawaii.

Trains, planes, automobiles, or boats?

Who were John Candy and Steve Martin, for 200, Alex.

What’s your favorite comfort food? Least favorite food?

Love Sloppy Joe. I hate anything that’s green.

What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?

My three boys. They’re loving, precious, and supportive. I couldn’t ask for better kids.

Have you ever played a practical joke on a friend? Ever had one played on you?

You’re asking a former comedian, and one who loved sketch comedy? My pre-lawyer life was essentially daily practical jokes! I’ve had a few played on me and I’m afraid to share them here!

What are the most important traits you look for in a friend?

Compatibility/sense of humor. I prefer one on one to being in a group. So I look for friends that are like-minded, good, compassionate people, with warped senses of humor. Life has so many challenges that you have to be able to laugh at just about anything. There’s very little that I take seriously.

If you could have one skill that you don’t currently have, what would it be?

I’d love to be able to print money.

What might we be surprised to know about you?

That I hated English, grammar, and writing in high school. I’m sure my teachers, wherever they are, are shocked that I’m writing novels!

What music soothes your soul?

Are you looking for “Old Time Rock and Roll”? I’m a rock and grunge guy. I used to work in the music business (for Sony Music and Capital Records) and went to a lot of concerts. I love grunge and alternative rock. Put on some Pearl Jam, 311, or Collective Soul and I’m good. But, having grown up on Long Island, my absolute all-time-favorite artist is Billy Joel.

What was the most valuable class you ever took in school? Why?

Negotiations. It’s not just what I do for a living as a lawyer, but it’s the one skill you utilize every day, with just about everybody.

If you are a TV watcher, would you share the names of your favorite shows with us?

I am, and there are four shows that I absolutely love and can watch endlessly. Taxi, The Honeymooners, Seinfeld, and Curb Your Enthusiasm.

What’s your favorite film of all times? Favorite book?

Favorite film is a tie between Running Scared with Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines, and Back to School with my comedy idol, Rodney Dangerfield. My favorite Book is either The Poet by Michael Connelly, or The Partner by John Grisham.

Have you ever walked out of a movie? If so, what was it?

The most recent one I walked out of was the End of the World, with Seth Rogan and all his friends. I love comedies and enjoy Seth Rogan’s work but I found that one unwatchable.

Do you have any guilty pleasures?

Ben & Jerry’s Americone Dream. But don’t share that with Phoenicians, it’s not always easy to find!