Monday, August 18, 2014

Writing & Prison - What they have in Common


By Ed Griffin

I started writing at the same time I went to prison as a volunteer teacher. This was in a maximum security prison in Wisconsin. I still had a lot to learn about writing, and a lot to learn about prison.  
            The main thing I did in prison was listen. The guys wrote little things and I praised them for their effort and made little suggestions. The men were happy that a teacher seemed to think what they did was worthwhile. After every class, one by one they said “Thanks for coming, Ed”
            One day a man stood up in class and started babbling about how it was the rocks on the shore of Lake Michigan that caused him all this trouble. It was their fault he was in prison.
The other guys said things like, “Come on, Rocco, we’ve heard this before. I was getting a little nervous. Rocco kept on and addressed the seven men in the class as if they were hundreds.
A young man in the back stood up and walked to the front. I knew his name was Brian. He took Rocco by the arm, and said, “Come on, man, I’m going to help you.” Rocco grumbled a bit, but sat down and was quiet. Brian sat right next to him. I knew that if I had trouble, these guys would help me out.
In 1988 my family and I moved to Surrey in British Columbia. I offered to teach in prison there. “Thank you for your offer, Mr. Griffin, but we have a complete college program in our prison.”
I was impressed. I knew that education was the true way out of crime and here was a prison that went beyond high school completion and offered men and women a change for a college degree. I thanked the official and said I would stay in touch.
A few years later the university program ended. What killed it? Complaints from some people said, “These convicts are getting a free college education and I have to pay a lot of money for my daughter’s education.”
One official I talked to claimed that the university was teaching things like history and writing when they should have had courses in welding and the like.
I called and volunteered again. This time they accepted my offer. I started teaching in Matsqui prison in 1991.
I always had a good size class. I knew that I wasn’t creating a lot of writers, but I was giving men a chance to do something creative. There was a saying, “When I write, I’m not in prison.” In other words they were carried into lands of mystery, fantasy, science fiction and so forth.
One man was a real writer, Mike Oulton. He was a person who gets a few ideas from a teacher and then takes off on his own. Mike was doing eight years in Canada for importing cocaine. He had already done two years in a Mexican prison. He, himself, was not a user. In fact he told you could never trust a junkie.
Mike and I decided to write a book about prison. I, the outsider, would be totally against prison, while he, the insider, would say that prison helped some guys. Our book would be called Inside-Out, the Story of Prison.
We were half finished with the book when Mike came up for parole. Everything looked okay until the morning of the hearing. His case worker reported that a cellphone was found in his part of a double cell. “It was hidden in a sock and Mr. Oulton used the cellphone to make drug deals.”
“It wasn’t even my sock,” Mike said. He didn’t say anymore because that would be against the con code of not telling on another person. However, everyone knew that Mike’s roommate was not to be trusted. Mike’s caseworker opposed his early release. Then something unusual happened. Mike’s previous caseworker stood up. “I know it’s impolite for me to comment on another caseworker, but this is a mistake. Mike has completed all his programs and has everything lined up for release, a job, a half-way house, and contact with a parole officer. We all know who the real guilty person is, but Mike will never say his name.”
The parole board rejected his early release and gave him a year and a half more in prison, at a cost to taxpayers of 50,000 dollars.
Mike said to me, “I’m rewriting my part of the book. I want to call the book Dystopia, the opposite of Utopia. Prison is a place where men are torn down but not put back together.”
What did I learn in my twenty-four years as a teacher of creative writing? That writing helps some people find out who they are. Writing brings hope to a place where there is no hope.
I went to prison every Friday morning. It was like I was standing by a river and men were floating past me. Occasionally I reached in and grabbed one man and worked with him but many more floated by. I knew in my heart that I should go upstream and find out why these men were floating down the river.

I never did that, but I know I made a difference for some guys. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Why did I start Romance Me! Radio?

by L.C. Giroux

My sister would tell you it is just one more step in my plan for world media domination. But no, that wasnt actually it. Romance Me! Radio started as a podcast about romance where I planned to talk about new romance book releases but also ways to incorporate more romance into our real lives. Book boyfriends will only get you so far. It has evolved after too many conversations that began with My audiobook is out! Now how do I promote it?

If you look around there is no really good way to promote audiobooks. Listeners of audiobooks certainly read the amazon reviews that are included on audible.com but an audiobook has added elements that you wont hear about in an e-book review, the narrators voice being the biggest but not the only one. Production quality comes up, even how a book translates to audio is a factor. Excess dialogue tags can be deadly in audio.

With Romance Me! Radio, I hope to fill the gaps. Listeners of audiobooks may well read reviews but we already know that they like to hear their content. A podcast is the perfect medium to reach them. Podcasts are available on all the devices they already listen to their books on and can be enjoyed while they are doing all the things they do while they listen to their books. Podcasts are free and format agnostic (they dont care where you buy your books)

In trying to explain my idea to my scientist husband the best analogy I came up with was early MTV. You know, before it was nothing but reality shows. In the early days, the record companies created videos as promo tools. Mostly they just sat there never used. MTV came along and said we can take those and build a cable channel around them. Everyone thought they were nuts until The Police and Michael Jackson, along with a slew of other artists, had some of the biggest albums of their careers based on the popularity of their videos. Im hoping Romance Me! Radio can do that for romance audiobook authors.

Currently I am featuring audiobooks from authors who are working with readaromancemonth.com. After August is over, I will kick off September with week long intensives with a new author featured each week. For this period I will have an interview with the author, a first chapter excerpt, and possibly an interview with the narrator of some of that authors books. The goal is eventually to have a half hour weekly podcast where listeners can hear more about all the different aspects of the books they love.

You can find show notes and other information about Romance Me! Radio at www.romancemeradio.com You can listen to podcast there or subscribe through iTunes at: http://bit.ly/1pPKEL4

If you are interested in discussing how you can work with Romance Me! Radio contact me at romancemeradio@gmail.com


Owner, Podcaster








Saturday, August 9, 2014

How a New York Times Bestselling Author Switched to Being Self-Published

SWITCHING HATS: HOW I WENT FROM BEING A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR TO BEING SELF-PUBLISHED
It was 1983. I’d just moved to New York City from California with my two young children, my typewriter and no child support.  I needed to find work – pronto – or we’d all starve. At a party I was approached by an attractive flight attendant who confided that she moonlighted as a call girl. She tried to recruit me, with promises of big money. I passed.  I wasn’t that desperate.  

I signed with a book packager instead. I kept the wolf from the door in those early years by churning out teen romances for small five-figure sums and even smaller royalties. But you’ve got to start somewhere and 

I’m proud of the part I played in helping launch the successful Sweet Valley High series, even if my name is nowhere to be seen on any of those titles. It was decent money and, more importantly, I could count on a monthly income. My kids and I didn’t go hungry.  I didn’t have to sell my body to pay the rent. And writing those books was instrumental in honing my craft. By that I mean the most basic skill of stitching together a beginning, middle and an end.

I was nevertheless thankful to go on to bigger and better things. With my first adult novel, Garden of Lies, I found a wide audience and my name was on the cover. It enjoyed a 12-week run on the New York Times bestseller list. This despite the fact that I’d been warned by publishing veterans that green-colored book covers don’t sell. (The way I saw it, that only meant my green-colored book cover would stand out from the pack.) I was too na├»ve then to know my early success wouldn’t simply continue to grow. I failed to factor in the vagaries of publishing, the economy, or the human factor (I was married to my agent then, whom I subsequently divorced).

What I envisioned as a steady upward trajectory was a roller-coaster ride instead. Corporate mergers, industry shifts, recessions, the musical chairs of editors coming and going – I’ve seen it all. Finally, it reached a point where I could no longer subsist on my royalty income.

I should be depressed, right? But I’m not. Here’s why (besides the fact that my current husband is wonderfully supportive in every way). While I was floundering in traditional publishing, along with a bunch of other authors like myself, a revolution had been taking place in the digital world. Indie publishing had arrived and it was no longer the back alley of publishing but a place where you could proudly hang your hat. Opportunity was knocking and I took heed. 

Bones and Roses, the first book in my Cypress Bay mystery series, is the answer to the question I’d asked myself back then: What would you write if you were on a desert island? If there were no publisher/editor expectations to be met?  I’ve always been drawn to the mystery genre and even penned a teen series in the 1980’s titled Who Killed Peggy Sue? I enjoyed reading mysteries and realized I would write one for the fun of it even if I never saw a dime from it. It was thrilling to me that even I didn’t know whodunit till halfway through the writing of the first draft! 

Writing the book was the easy part. The biggest challenge was when it came time to wear my publisher’s hat.  I was such a newbie I barely knew the meaning of SEO. But I’m a quick learner and one of my strengths is knowing what to tackle and what to delegate. At the suggestion of an author friend I signed with INscribe Digital to distribute Bones and Roses.  They have expertise and relationships with the various e-tailers I couldn’t hope to replicate on my own.
Next up, cover design. After pursuing some dead ends I hired the peerless Mumtaz Mustafa, who’d done the covers for several of my backlist titles, to design kickass covers for Books #1 and #2 of my Cypress Bay mystery series. She did an awesome job, as I knew she would. I ended up with two covers any publisher, traditional or otherwise, would be proud of.  The lesson is this: You get what you pay for.  Book design is not an area in which to skimp. Go with the best you can afford.

Editing is another must.  I’m smart enough to know I’m my own worst editor, so I hired a team of professionals, Samantha Stroh Bailey and Francine LaSala of Perfect Pen Communications. They’re both authors themselves, so they came at it from an authors’ perspective, and it was great to have two pairs of eyes. I highly recommend them.

For digitizing I went with Polgarus Studio. Jason from Polgarus delivered in a record two days and did a great job at a great price.

With the approach of my pub date I knew I needed some marketing muscle, so I hired a whiz of the biz, Lauren Lee, with whom I’d worked in the past.  She guided me through the shoals and did online outreach while I did my part in becoming more active with social media and blogging. Hiring someone to assist with marketing and promotion isn’t essential if you yourself are adept at that kind of thing, but I’m a beginner so for me it wasn’t optional. I’m smart enough to know that word-of-mouth only works if you get the word out to begin with.

Now that the book is out there, only time will tell if the proverbial wolf will return or if its banished for good.  But I’m hopeful. Either way, I’m doing what I love without having to sell my body or my soul.    

* * *

New York Times bestselling novelist Eileen Goudge wrote her first mystery, Secret of the Mossy Cave, at he age of eleven, and went on to pen the perennially popular Garden of Lies, which was published in 22 languages around the world, and numerous other women’s fiction tiles. Bones and Roses is the first book in her Cypress Bay Mysteries series. She lives in New York City with her husband, television film critic and entertainment reporter Sandy Kenyon. Keep connected with Eileen at her website, www.eileengoudge.com.


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Six Authors Learn to Work Together to Create a Summer Lovin' Series

Summer Lovin’ Series

What do you get when you combine six authors, a laptop, and a stack of ideas as high as the Rocky Mountains?  A brand new Summer Lovin’ continuity series set it the Canadian Rockies, of course!

Cathryn Fox kicked things off on July 7th with CRASHING DOWN, the first of six stories with each book releasing two weeks apart.  “I must say, I’m very excited about the entire series.  Not only do we have characters making appearances in each others’ stories, and a beautiful mountain resort as the backdrop, these books have everything readers love in the New Adult genre: love, sex, angst, betrayal and pain.  I’ve written over fifty books and I’m often asked which is my favorite.  It’s a hard question to answer, but I must say CRASHING DOWN is at the top of the list.  I didn’t hold any punches with my tortured hero, Noah.  I let him act the way any twenty-one year old emotionally wrecked guy would act, and I really hope my readers come away loving him as much as I do.”
Available at:


Audra North followed on July 21st with LOSING IT, and here’s what she has to say about the collaboration. “I was so excited when Cathryn and Jan invited me to be a part of the Summer Lovin’ series. Not only did I get to collaborate with two writers whom I already knew and loved; I got to know new authors, as well! It’s funny, because I thought of our group a lot as I was writing my story, LOSING IT. The heroine, Emery, is afraid to get close to others because she has a lot of trust issues. As a result, she doesn’t have any friends, and her life is pretty lonely. Definitely not like the fun, chatty group of authors in the Summer Lovin’ series! Luckily, Ryan, the hero, teaches her how important it is to open up and let others in. It can lead to wonderful opportunities!”
Available at:

Renee Field showcased  LOVING LIES on August 4th.  “It’s so cool that the Summer Lovin’ series is a mix of Canadian and American authors.  It truly gives us a unique flare when it comes to writing new adult romance. With our diverse backgrounds, ranging from marketing, nursing, journalism, editing and finance, we all bring something new and unique to the table, and I can honestly say it’s been a pleasure to brainstorm, and work with these talented ladies. There wasn’t a diva amongst us, and when we ran into scheduling conflicts, we were all willing to make changes to accommodate each other. While writing LOVING LIES, I fell in love with Blake, a young man just finishing his university degree and trying to find his way in life while making it rich only to discover that love and life’s lessons have a way of derailing those set goals.”
Available at:


Jan Meredith releases on August 18th with TAMING TESS.  “Collaborating with these wonderful women on the Summer Lovin’ series had been a blast as well as a blessing. You never know when or how you’ll meet someone who will become important to you. You could be next door neighbors, or live hundreds of miles apart, but if Fate wants you together, she will find a way and you may as well sit back and enjoy the ride. Cathryn and I met during NaNoWriMo in November of 2012 and became critique partners and although we’ve never physically met, we’ve become great friends. In TAMING TESS, Tess travels from Nashville, TN to Canada, and Stone Cliff Resort to escape her past only to find a former soldier from Montana with a wounded soul searching for a moment of peace. What they find may change their life forever.” 
Available for Pre-order on Kobo:                                                                                                             

Lilly Cain follows on September 1st with SURVIVING NIKKI, and the series came at just the right time for her to return to daily writing. “New Adult is a breath of fresh air; it’s jumping back into writing without a parachute! When we first talked about writing the series I found the whole thing fascinating – how we could write our own books yet tie them together with theme and setting. I couldn’t wait to get started on SURVIVING NIKKI. And it’s been fun, meeting some new authors and working with a few (Cathryn, Renee and Sara) who I’ve known for a while. Doing what you love is so good and it shows in the end product.”
Available for Preorder on Kobo:

Last but not least Sara Hubbard releases SAVING SULLIVAN on September 15th.   “Speaking of diva’s,” Sara says, “There is one member in the group, (who’s name we shall not speak of, but it starts with a C!) that insisted I change the name of my heroine because she didn’t like it. I didn’t mind, because the book was so much fun to write, sneaking bits in to match up with the previous plots and falling in love with my hero. Since four of us have known each other for a while, writing together was comfortable, but I’ve found great new friends in Jan and Audra. It’s been an experience to share laughter over the Internet in a group where despite our distances and our different backgrounds we share a commonality in the love of romance. And now I get to share SAVING SULLIVAN, a story that I love, with everyone else!”

Available for Pre-Order on Kobo:

Please sign up for our facebook page where we’ll be holding contests and talking about our series.  https://www.facebook.com/SummerLovinNewAdultRomance

For more information about the Summer Lovin’ authors please visit their websites!