Saturday, October 3, 2015

Scams – Writers (and others) Beware

Most of us writers are a solitary lot.

This perhaps makes us a little more susceptible to grasping at a seemingly friendly contact. Out of the blue, ‘literary agents,’ ‘publishers eager to thrust us into stardom,’ and ‘winner of best book in the world’ contests seek our books by hawking fabulous prizes. Somehow, there’s never a winner, and of course, there is that “small” entry fee.
Even the very savvy historical fiction writer Helen Hollick
has a tale to tell on her blog.   (Artist Svetlana Petrova)

My last blog post here was an innocuous poem from my even more obscure “Moments of the Heart.” Well, I got an e-mail from a certain "[name] Special Services, manager” (title in lower case!) offering for this little volume to be exhibited at the American Library Association's Midwinter Meeting & Exhibition in Boston. While the ALA Exhibition is legitimate, they also have an interesting sidebar on their website entitled “Fair Guide Warning.”

We have been advised that [name] Publishers has been soliciting paid listings in their publication, FAIR Guide, from exhibiting companies of the American Library Association Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits, and Annual Conference & Exhibition.
Please be advised that the American Library Association and Hall-Erickson, Inc. have no relationship or affiliation with this organization and does not recommend, approve or endorse any involvement or listing in the FAIR Guide on behalf of the American Library Association exhibitors.

I would not be surprised if my “solicitous” book advertiser is to be added soon. Whatever you do before opening the champagne for having been ‘discovered’ and plonking down any money: GOOGLE… My ‘new best friend’ turned out to be an outcropping of a widely scam-listed former vanity publisher.

Did I mention we are a solitary lot? Okay. Here's a little amusing aside (but related to scams):

     I Skype with a few relatives in Europe. It’s fun (as long as they don’t catch me in my jammies), and it doesn’t cost anything.
     The other day (yes, out of the proverbial blue), a young hunky 'Sargent' from Afghanistan asked to be in my contact list. (Or was it the ghost of a long-dead Boston portrait painter warning me not to keep writing about ancient curses?)  Oh, perhaps a Sergeant? Still, I didn't think so; way too young in any case. Press: Declined.
     The next day, a two-star general obliged...googled him, handsome man, much-decorated, taking over 3rd ID in SC. (Btw, with lovely wife.) Now, someone like that was more my speed. Sadly, Press: Declined.
     I could just 'hear' the airwaves rustling: "Ok, this lady has class…she wants a higher-up."
What do you know: Next, an honest-to-goodness four-star general requests to ‘meet' on Skype.
Googled him, and watched his very articulate testimony before the Senate on YouTube. Read his bio and saw photos (with lovely wife)!
     Against my lusting heart, I finally Googled "Skype+Scams."
     Well, well, well...How interesting (albeit not entirely unexpected).
     But I did learn that I can press “Profile.” Up comes the real URL of the 'requestor.' Then, there are two other lovely buttons: "Block" and "Report." Did that. Felt good.

     Except, now I don’t have anyone who wants me. Have I—with my suspicious heart—thwarted my late-in-life chance to have my own Nigerian Prince hanging around my neck (and my small - Scammers, read SMALL - bank account)?

So, once again, it's back to hugging my sweet Pasha
(who has his own blog and book, mind you).

Or, maybe I should publish a few more poems on here....

Thursday, October 1, 2015

A Breath of Fall

A Breath of Fall
A trifle longer just each day
it takes the sun to drink away
the morning’s dew from fading green,
the last rain’s puddles left between
the twining roots of the old trees.

But helping winds with their new breeze
try fooling the suspicious eye
and make us think perhaps that—why—
it is still summer. Must be so.
We only started it just--months ago.

 * * *

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Christoph Fischer's New Book


the sequel to


CONDITIONED dives back into the world of gardener Charles, his friends and the state of his mental health – one year on. We meet loner Simon and his battle with the outside world, co-dependent Martha and her abusive husband Clive, neurotic poet Catherine on the verge of getting married, Tony, who finds his strange brother Charles a challenge, psychic Elaine looking for a new direction in life and quirky widow Sarah Roseberg who has a go at sorting out all of their problems.

CONDITIONS (Book 1) aimed to sensitise readers and make them think about tolerance and acceptance. CONDITIONED (Book 2) wants readers to look beyond their attitude towards Conditions and examine what we all do and what we can do to overcome our challenges. The sequel is another snapshot of this circle of friends. Some will have improved their lives, others will not.

Read more on Christoph Fischer’s own Blog:

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Marty Essen's Endangered Edens

I am proud to present a 
Cover Reveal
of Marty Essen's new book:

This is the long-awaited follow-up
to Marty Essen’s six-time award-winning book,
Cool Creatures, Hot Planet: Exploring the Seven Continents
See my Review of it on my 'animal' blog -

Whether traveling with Marty and his wife, Deb, in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Costa Rica, and Puerto Rico, or going solo with Marty in the Everglades, readers will experience natures Endangered Edens in a way few others haveall while laughing and learning along the way.

In addition to Marty’s entertaining stories, Endangered Edens also features more than 180 stunning color picturesmerging the genres of wildlife photography, adventure travelogues, and environmental education into one unforgettable book.

Endangered Edens - both the eBook and print versions - are to be published on January 8, 2016.

However, if you want to get in line for your edition now, it is available for pre-order on Amazon:
Just go to Marty's Amazon Page: Marty Essen - Author Page

To wet your whistle, Marty has sent me a couple of photographs from the book;
and it's no wonder he is excited about it.

"Knock, knock."
"Who's there?"
"Marty Essen."

If that had me me, I would have said,
 "See you later, Alligator."
And then taken off at top speed

Not Marty. That man's no armchair adventurer.

Just look at this photograph... Remember the Book's Title? This says it all.

Thank you, Marty Essen,
for allowing us a glimpse into your
Edens on this Earth - 
albeit Endangered ones.
If only we were wiser and a lot more appreciative 
of this precious world of ours.

Check out Marty's exciting blog:

Friday, September 11, 2015

Lest we Forget

My writer-friend,

Diana Wilder,

wrote a blog piece about 9/11
that brought tears to my eyes.

Please, take a moment to read it; lest we forget.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

The Continuing Travesty against Humanity

The latest exodus of desperate men, women and children from their devastated homelands breaks my heart. They have risked everything, not knowing where—if ever—their journey will end. For some it does so quickly. On a dusty road. In a ditch. In the water. It ends there, ignobly, because now they are dead.

 Living in America has perhaps numbed me to this continuing plight of the displaced. I feel safe here (perhaps naively), but at the moment, I simply trust I am.

When I watch the determination of Eastern refugees trying to escape into a better life, I can’t but remember—even seventy years later—how it was after the war for my young East German mother trying to outrun Russian tanks rumbling up our street (we had already been bombed out by the English). I still ask, how did this young woman manage to keep herself and her infant alive? Having married “a foreigner” as my grandparents called my Austrian father (they had a hard time understanding his accent), she decided it was time to head back to Austria where I had been born three years earlier. She didn’t even know if her husband, necessarily in the German Army—or else—was still alive).

It took her (and me, a mere babe in 1945, with Mutti only twenty-three years old) three weeks from a bombed-out railway station in Leipzig to Graz (via overcrowded cattle cars) where my father’s mother wasn’t too keen to house her “foreign” daughter-in-law (ill-perceptions go both ways, don’t they). Still, we made it across the relatively well-managed German camps—being processed, carded, fed, and deloused along the way. Thereafter, we found housing on a small farm (with an out-house), and in a castle (with an out-house). To this day, I often thank Mr. Crapper for his invention allowing me to be a civilized, albeit oftentimes thoughtless, human being.

In today’s world, however, these refugees seem to have no proper way-stations; certainly they encounter little sympathy to their horrendous plight. Has Hungary forgotten its own fight of 1956 for freedom from the Soviet yoke? I remember my school (close to the Austrian/Hungarian border) being converted to a first haven for Hungarians as they crawled or jumped by any means across the Russian-ordered barbed wire fences.

And now, once again, Austria has opened its border to the plight of human suffering. It’s a really small country. Granted, there are rumblings among its own people about having to absorb the continuing influx of refugees—some of whom are not exactly shy to “scam” the social system. But on the whole, it is where a desperate flight ends in a comfortable, dry cot and a warm meal for a people who haven’t had either in a long, long time.

Isn't it time the world has finally grown up enough to end such inhumane suffering?
How long do we think we have to get it right?

Friday, August 28, 2015

Too Old to Fall in Love? NEVER!

Well, I just did (imagine, at my age), with Dmitri Hvorostovsky, a hunky Siberian Baritone - together with millions of other music lovers.

Hvorostovsky & Kaufmann   (From Don Carlo -- Beautiful!)

(Please, wish Dmitri well. He is valiantly battling a brain tumor.
If there is such a thing as cosmic justice, he must beat it.)

Sept. 5 -- Good News - visit Dmitri's official website:

Having grown up in Austria with music everywhere, I became a veritable hermit after moving into the (lovely) countryside of Arkansas. While I am happy here writing my novels, the things I most miss are my former seats at various opera houses of the big cities I have lived in.

At first, there was Vienna followed by the Chicago Lyrical Opera. A seat in Boston's Symphony Hall assured me concerts with Pavarotti et al. Then came a center box at the Met - company-owned, mind you and administered by me through my boss of - you guessed it - Italian extraction.

During the New England winters, I couldn't give those 12 center-box seats away. Hence, when they were in danger of going unused, I jumped into my sporty little Opel and, braving sleet and snow, drove from New Hampshire to NYC. Was it worth it? You betcha! Despite getting three speeding tickets one night (in three different states - oh, well, I won't have to worry about that anymore now that I drive a Volvo!)

Then came my happy San Diego days. The Opera House is one of the great venues for world-renowned singers these days. I heard Beverly Sills, Dame Joan Sutherland, Luciano Pavarotti in the eighties, and many other wonderful singers over the next decade.

Sherill Milnes still holds a special place in my melodic heart. When he sang the reviled Baron Scarpia, I even felt Tosca could have been a little nicer to him (instead of stabbing him to death).

Then, one of my highlights was a concert given by heartthrob Placido Domingo. That man has such charisma it is palpable from the first moment he comes onstage. The pricey ticket was given to me by my then boss Chris and his lovely wife Eloisa (was it they thought I was a good employee?).

As I sat there, wondering if the exorbitant price was worth it, I concluded YES. A resounding, heartfelt YES.

At a Boston concert, several times at the MET, and even in San Diego, I was privileged to hear Luciano Pavarotti. The world is poorer for having lost him.

And now, that I am (quite happily) ensconced in the foothills of the Ozarks writing novels, I do miss the excitement of live performances.

Although, with my new super-duper computer, I discovered YouTube - and with it the virtual world of Opera!

And then, we have a young German tenor - Jonas Kaufmann.
Equally hunky, sexy, and quite extraordinary.

What did I tell you?
(He reminds me a bit of a young Placido Domingo - perhaps it's his rampant locks.)

To fall for him would be robbing the cradle. 

However, as they say, in music and literature, there are no boundaries.

Levity aside, why do we become "enamored" with artists, be they painters, singers, musicians or - yes - even writers?

It's because their artistry elevates us to a higher plane of "being human." So what, you say. Aren't we special anyway? Followed the news lately? Mostly, a sad, sad example of our supposed culture.

Therefore, celebrate the artists who inspire you! Who show you there is beauty. It can be yours too. But only if you're willing to embrace it.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Starving Artists

They talk about “starving artists.” Well, in these paranoid times, this old saying has taken on a totally different meaning.
Like many of us writers, I get so engrossed I don’t dare to stop, not even long enough to fix a salad. Ah (I say looking into a woefully depleted refrigerator), how about that rubbery thingy aptly named String Cheese…
Good thing I am not writing on a laptop lounging on a tropical beach (don’t I wish). It took a paring knife together with my chicken shears to get the blasted wrapper removed from what turned out to be truly/awfully, stringy.

In the end, it was easier to unscrew a bottle of cheap wine!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

KU - Bowing to Industry Pressure or Smart Move?

Debates over Amazon’s new kindleunlimited Program where authors get paid by pages read are as heated as the presidential campaigns.
Late in July, I decided to put KHAMSIN, The Devil Wind of The Nile, into it as a test since it had sold woefully few copies through other channels. I was pleasantly surprised how well this saga of Ancient Egypt was being read. And while a few follow-on sales of the sequels were nice, they weren’t enough to buy me a camel.
So, I decided to put the entire series into KU's free-reading program. All four books will be available as soon as the novels are removed from my other channels, likely within the week - plenty of time to start reading Book 1 now (that's a hint). The next action/adventure novel in the Legends of the Winged Scarab - Book 5 - is in the works. Hold on to your camels, people, because it's going to be a bumpy ride!

What is certain in this uncertain fluctuating self-publishing business is: Your marketing plans must fluctuate with the trends; one must not be afraid to try out new things. And, if something doesn’t work, one needs to change it.
Time will tell. Better yet, a growing number of readers and followers and, with it, more reviews, would be most splendid and welcome results.
Do I need to say: Pretty, please?
* * *
Of course, the books are still for sale, both for Kindle and in print at 
Amazon-USAmazon-UK and all other international Amazon stores.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Christoph Fischer has a Condition - And it's Electrifying

My Review of Christoph Fischer's


     Only too often, readers seem to insist on a neat package to put a book to rest. Give them murder, car chases, gun fights, and sickly-sweet endings. Then they can forget the name of the author, forget the title…they’re done. Next!
Luckily, there are writers who won’t let us off the hook so easily. I have followed Christoph Fischer’s writing for some time now, so I am already a fan. But with Conditions, he truly challenged me. It wasn’t a question of IF I would like it, but what did it bring out in me.
     Granted, not much seems to happen on the surface. The fascination with the story are the subtleties about the interactions between Charles’s diverse friends, all with their own quirks, their own problems, but most importantly their own support of a friend who tries as best he can with a “condition.”
     The writing, while subtle, brings out intense conflicts among them. The book, like life itself, doesn’t end in a neat package. Instead, to me, it made me wrangle with the one overwhelming condition that wove Charles’s friends together: Empathy.
     It made me wonder: Would I have it in me to be such a supportive friend to someone with a “condition”? I am ashamed to admit: I am not sure. The question haunts me.
     With me, Christoph Fischer achieved his goal: he made me think real hard about Conditions.