BookTV Panel Discussion on Publishing

BookTV LATFOB publishing panel


I missed the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books over the weekend, but I was able to catch a few interesting panels on BookTV on C-SPAN2, particularly this discussion on Publishing with Maris Kreizman @mariskreizman (Publishing Project Specialist at Kickstarter), Isaac Fitzgerald @IsaacFitzgerald (Editor, Buzzfeed Books), Oscar Villalon @ovillalon (Managing Editor, Zyzzyva Magazine) and Johnny Temple @AkashicBooks (Publisher & Editor-in-Chief, Akashic Books).

This video is worth watching several times.  Frank talk about the reality of publishing today. A great kick in the ass for writers (like me) who balk at self-promotion. Opened my eyes.

“Panelists talked about book publishing. Panelists included Isaac Fitzgerald, editor of BuzzFeed Books; Maris Kreizman, publishing outreach lead for Kickstarter; Josh Raab, founder of theNewerYork; Johnny Temple, publisher and editor-in-chief of Akashic Books; and Oscar Villalon, managing editor of Zyzzyva magazine.

Publishing Industry: The New and the Now was a panel from the 2016 Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, and took place at the Hancock Foundation building on the campus of the University of Southern California.” – BookTV C-SPAN2

To view the video, click on photo

Hawaii-Noir Mystery: 1950s Molokai & Murder

Mele Kalikimaka from the “Ninth Island” aka Las Vegas!


Will Zeilinger, Janet Elizabeth Lynn, Gillian Doyle, Border Grill, Forum Shops, Caesars, Las Vegas

Will Zeilinger, Janet Elizabeth Lynn & Gillian Doyle at the Border Grill, Forum Shops, Caesars, Las Vegas

Strange Markings cover, Janet Elizabeth Lynn, Will Zeilinger, Hawaii-Noir Mystery Two of my favorite SoCal writers, Janet Elizabeth Lynn and her husband Will Zeilinger visited Vegas recently to research their next noir mystery. Since my move from L.A. last year, I was eager to meet up with them to talk shop at my favorite lunch locale—the Border Grill inside the Forum Shops at Caesars.

Chatting over tacos, guacamole and tortilla chips, we shared info about Indie publishing and our latest projects. While they have each written their own novels over the last ten years, I am particularly fascinated in their collaboration on a mystery series set in 1950s Los Angeles about movie stuntman Skylar Drake, a former LAPD detective, who is dragged into the murder investigations. When they mentioned their trip to Molokai to research STRANGE MARKINGS (Skylar Drake Series, Book 2), I wanted to know more about their experience on the island.

I’m happy to share a brief story summary, the research trip, an excerpt AND a recipe for Pineapple Haupia mentioned in their book:


The Pacific breezes blow many things in from the ocean. This time its power, greed, and murder. At the dawn of the television age in 1955, Skylar Drake is called to identify the remains of a fellow movie stuntman found buried in a shallow grave. While there, he’s shown mysterious wounds and strange tattoos on two additional bodies.

A wealthy Bel Air matron sends her enticing niece to enlist Drake’s help in locating a missing nephew. The search takes him back to pre-statehood Hawaii where he stopped off on his way to the hell of the Korean War. Unexplained deaths, politics and superstitious locals turn the tropical paradise into a nightmare where nothing is what it seems and no one can be trusted.

Our Research Trip to the Islands

The novel begins in San Pedro, California. The clues lead to pre-statehood Molokai, Hawaii, 1955. Even after spending hours searching online, we found a research trip to the Hawaii State Public Library in Honolulu and the Molokai Public Library was a must.

Our first stop was Molokai and its public library, one of three places on the island that had AC and plenty of drinking water, both of which are in short supply on the island. We spent hours going through newspapers, telephone directories, and local magazines from the period. The librarian was more than helpful, pulling out old materials, blowing off the dust and piling them up on the table in categories. We were shocked that after 58 years, the town had not changed that much. Photos of the main street Ala Malama Ave. showed it exactly the way it looks now. The history of how the island’s ownership of the sugar mill switched between cattle ranches and crops was like a chess game and played an important role in the island’s development.

We took notes and Sugar plantation shack, Strange Markings, Hawaii-Noir Mystery, Janet Elizabeth Lynn, Will Zeilingergauged our exploration according to what was found in the newspaper articles. The sugar mill was in ruins but many parts of the interior and actual mill were intact. As we walked around the overgrown landscape, our original plot changed drastically, especially the Kapu (curses.) The locals believed the mill was haunted toward the end of its run.

The trip through the west part of the island was dessert-like, flat, dry, red dirt and plenty of places to dump dead bodies. On the west side, tropical foliage with cliffs and beautiful beaches with crashing surf. We took a side road through hills covered with dense forest and large groups of birds fluttering and singing. After a short hike on the trail we came across an old rusty, abandon shack with saplings pushing against the dilapidated roof and bent sides. A perfect place to hide someone or something illegal perhaps?

The remaining two days on the island were spent interviewing the locals. Since we were out of our element and had some understanding of the layout of the island, we asked our usual question, “Where would you dump a dead body?” We discovered early on that people react differently. Some smiled and walked away, others didn’t even smile when they left. However, quite a few gave us cross streets, and specific building on the main street to check out.

Kaunakakai, circa 1950s, looks much the same today. Strange Markings. Hawaii-Noir Mystery

Kaunakakai, circa 1950s, looks much the same today.

The largest town is Kaunakakai, consisting of three blocks of mom and pop shops, a single traffic light, and one gas station. The population hasn’t grown very much since the 50’s, and the residents love their isolation. Air conditioning is reserved for the medical center, post office, and library. There are still many unpaved roads.

Molokai is a time capsule. The growth that occurred on the other islands has been restricted in Molokai due to insufficient water and electrical resources. Families still live near the water’s edge and fish for their living. The main street is still the gathering place for the latest news and gossip.

After Molokai we spent two days in the Hawaii State Public Library to get an idea of what life was like in 1955 Honolulu. We even found great articles about the Red Light District, the perfect place for Skylar Drake and his partner to drown their sorrows. We learned there was a large, well-organized group of locals opposed to statehood during this time, and politics under the provincial government in Honolulu was as crooked as it was on the mainland. Also, traditional Hawaiian music was mostly replaced with Latin music, and Huli-huli chicken was developed the summer of 1955. It went on to become a popular food item in Hawaii and the mainland soon after. How about that!

On our second day at the library, the librarian asked if we’d be interested in some of the legends, superstitions, and curses from that time. We spent the remainder of the day reading amazing stories, personal accounts, and research into the origins of many of them.


The two men looked directly at me. “I’m Drake. Can I help you?”
Dolan stood right behind me.
“I’m Agent Miller, this is Agent Tanner.” They flashed their badges, “We want to talk to you Mr. Drake.” Miller looked past me and frowned at Dolan.
“I’ll just wait out…” Casey moved toward the door.
I put my hand on Casey’s shoulder.” This is my partner Casey Dolan, anything you have to say to me you can say to him.”
They shrugged and stepped inside. “Let’s go in your office.” I showed them inside, as sweltering as it was.
Miller put his hat on top of the file cabinet. Tanner kept his on.
“We are investigating the disappearance of a Mr. Ted Stone. You’re a known associate of his. Is this true?”
“Sure, I know Teddy. We worked on a few films together.” I sat back in my chair while Casey stood by the door, “His sister Florence and I used to do stunts for Prestigious Studios a while back.
Teddy started about a year later… you say he’s missing?”
“His sister reported him missing a year ago. Our records show you were one of the last people to see him before he disappeared.”
“You said a year ago?” I thought for a moment, “Yeah, that sounds about right. It was a war movie. There was a battle scene and we had to fall out some windows and off a moving truck like we’d been shot, y’know. This was before…” I stopped myself. They didn’t need to know about my law suit with the studio brass.
“Before what?” Agent Tanner asked.
“Before my last stunt gig with Flo.”
“And the victim?”
“Victim? I thought you said he was missing.”
“Just tell us about your last job.”
“Well, Teddy and I shared a dressing room. It was about midnight when we finished the night scenes. After we changed and dropped our costumes off at wardrobe, we left for breakfast. That was about two in the morning. I took the bus home, and I guess he drove. I never saw him again after that. Flo and I did a shoot at the studio the following month. She told me she was going to Washington to get married. That was that.”
The two agents took notes on everything I said.
Casey spoke up, “Do you mind if I ask what prompted this recent investigation?”
Miller put his pencil in his ear, “We found a man’s remains in the Arizona desert. Our medical people said he was buried for about a year, so we only have bones, clothes, few personal items and his wallet. There was nothing in it except for his SAG membership card.” He paused, “The Union said you worked with him. We found you in the phone book.”
Agent Tanner pulled a cellophane envelope out of his pocket containing the card. There was Teddy, staring back at me. “Yes, that’s Teddy and that is what he looks like.” I showed it to Casey.     He took a look and handed it back to Tanner.
“We’re unable to locate his sister, do you know her married name?”
I thought hard, “I don’t believe she told me. No. She never mentioned it. Flo just said she was leaving the business to get married and move to Washington.”
“The remains are at the LA County Coroner’s office. Since we can’t locate next of kin, we’d like you to stop by and ID what you can.”
I looked at Dolan. “What do you think?” He nodded.
*  *  *  *  *
We met them at the Coroner’s office and waited for the Medical Examiner to get back from lunch. Casey called the hospital, Bev had gone home. He called his house, no answer. “I’m not worried,” he said. His eyes said otherwise.
I hadn’t been down here in a long time. Yep, the same frigid air, smell of alcohol and bleach have never left my mind. The door swung open and Dr. Harold Logue came in wiping his mouth with a paper towel. I remember he always ate at the most inopportune times, “Hey Drake and Dolan, LAPD’s two best detectives. Nice to see both of you.” Logue was an old timer. We worked a lot of cases with him. He put his arms on our shoulders, “Sure miss working with you two geniuses. I could never figure out how you caught all the bad guys. These youngsters they got in here now are…” He stopped when he saw the young FBI agents standing by the wall. “Oops, sorry. No offense,” and shook their hands.
Agent Miller kept hold of Dr. Logue’s hand and said, ”We’re here to see the remains of Ted Stone.”
“Yes sure, come this way,” Logue said.
He had the bones laid out on the table, a complete skeleton. How was I suppose to ID the remains of Teddy from this?
“I don’t know if this will help you,” Agent Tanner said, “but here are the clothes we found, his accessories and wallet.”
The clothes looked like his. I knew him as a rather classy dresser when he wasn’t working.
“We found a hundred dollar bill hidden in the wallet.” Miller remarked.
“You can’t trace the bill?”
He shook his head, “We tried, nothing.”
I knew Teddy well enough to know he didn’t carry so much cash around. “He was a Las Vegas hound. We’d get paid. He’d go to Vegas and blow the wad, all of it – then come back broke. He was a real gambler and big with the ladies. I’m not surprised he had that much cash, but he seldom carried it around. He either banked it or lost it.”
“And the clothes?” Agent Miller lifted his pencil from his notepad to point at the clothing spread on a different table. Dolan and I spent time looking at what they found. “Shirt, tie, suit, vest, socks, pants. It was all there.”
“What about these?” Tanner asked.
On the counter was an assortment of gaudy men’s rings, a tie bar, gold cuff links, bracelets and a watch. We knew not to touch them. It looked like his stuff, but something didn’t seem right. I took another look at the clothes and jewels, but couldn’t put my finger on it.
I straightened up, “Seems like his stuff. It’s been a while.”
“How do you think he died?” Dolan asked Logue.
“You knew him Mr. Dolan?” Miller asked.
Casey crossed his arms and shook his head, “No, we never met.”
Dr. Logue picked up the skull. “Looks like he was hit in the head with a dull object. There are also a number of fractured ribs. I think he was beaten before being bludgeoned.
“Sorry Drake,” Agent Tanner said, “but we have to ask, where were you last summer?”
Wait a second, did they think I had something to do with Teddy’s disappearance?
“You’ll have to be more specific,” Dolan said. “Part of the summer both of us were on a special assignment in Santa Rosa in conjunction with the LAPD and Santa Rosa PD.”
Miller looked up from his pad, “This can be verified?”
Most of the people who could verify our presence in Santa Rosa are in witness protection, prison or dead. “Olivia Jahns out of the San Francisco bureau can vouch for our work in Santa Rosa.
“Yes, we know her. Great agent.” Tanner replied, “We’ll check on that.”
Miller and Tanner were already in the hallway when a light bulb went on in my brain, “Wait, I need to check something again.”
I went back inside with the other three in tow and looked at the clothes. “These are not Ted’s clothes. He never would have worn these.”
“How do you know?” Miller looked at his watch.
“Ted Stone never wore such a plain business suit. He wore tweed or pin stripes. never plain Jane stuff like this. And look. That’s a white shirt, Ted was a blue or gray shirt guy.” I moved to the counter and put on a pair of rubber gloves to pick up the cuff links. “Are these real rubies?”
Tanner shook his head, “No.”
“What about the other stones?”
“Nope and the tie tack and bracelets are all cheap gold plate.”
I tossed the cuff links onto the counter, “This isn’t Teddy. He wouldn’t be caught dead wearing this crap. Only the real McCoy for him. He had a reputation in Vegas. He needed them for insurance when he ran out of folding money.”
Tanner and Miller scribbled some more notes as I referred them to the jeweler in Pasadena that Teddy used.
“Could he have hit a rough patch and substituted fakes after pawning the real jewels?”
“No, never. At least not a year ago. Last time I saw him he was loaded with cash.”
“Well,” Tanner asked, “Who the hell is this guy?”
I hated to leave the cool, dead quiet of the Coroner’s office but Casey and I were starving. We headed for lunch.
The front doors were wide open when we arrived at Clifton’s Cafeteria. It looked like their air conditioner wasn’t working either. It was miserably hot, but we were hungry.
We got our food and sat quietly sweating for some time. “So where is Ted Stone?” Dolan asked. “and who’s the poor unfortunate fella on the table back there?”
“Maybe Teddy owed gambling debts. He could’ve skipped town and left a dead body for the gangsters to find in his place.” I swallowed half my glass of ice tea. “Well, whoever that was, doesn’t concern me or my business.”
Casey glared, “I do hope you’ll be more concerned about me if I ever go missing.” and took a big bite of his corned beef sandwich.
*  *  *  *  *
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Pineapple Haupia
pineapple haupia, Strange Markings, Hawaii Noir Mystery

Haupia is a traditional coconut pudding served at Hawaiian Luau.

1-1/2 c. coconut milk
1/1/2 c. water
1/2 c. +2 TB sugar
1/2c. +2 TB cornstarch
1 c. crushed pineapple, drained

In a sauce pan over medium heat, combine coconut milk, water, sugar and cornstarch, stir until thickened. lower heat, continue to cook 5-10 minutes. Transfer mixture to 8-inch pan. Stir in pineapple. Refrigerate until set about 2 hours.

To serve, cut into 2-inch squares. Serves 8-1

*  *  *  *  *

Janet Lynn, Will Zeilinger, Hawaii Noir MysterAbout Janet:
About Will:

Mike Wallace Interviews Rod Serling (1)

“You are about to enter another dimension.
A dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind.
A journey into a wondrous land of imagination.
Next stop, the Twilight Zone!”


The Twilight Zone debuted October 2, 1959. A few weeks before the series launched, the Mike Wallace interview with Rod Serling discusses his career, family, censorship and his new venture as executive producer and writer of this now iconic television production. Today, I wonder how many only know his distinct voice and image from Disney parks featuring “The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror”.  This interview is a fascinating but all-too-brief look at the brilliant, insightful writer.


Special thanks to Paul Eres of Studio Eres Games for the YouTube video clip.

For writers, check out a series of posts at Go Into The Story by Scott Myers: ROD SERLING ON WRITING


 LVRWA-Michael Hauge Seminar

Story Mastery with Michael Hauge

WHEN: November 14, 2015 @ 9:00 am – 6:00 pm
WHERE: Sunset Station Hotel & Casino
1301 West Sunset Road
Henderson, NV 89014
COST: $75 LVRW members, $100 non-members

During this special, all-day seminar, Hollywood script and story consultant Michael Hauge, best-selling author of Writing Screenplays That Sell and Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds: The Guaranteed Way to Get Your Screenplay or Novel Read, will present STORY MASTERY – his unique approach to creating compelling fiction, and to eliciting emotion in your readers. Using clips from recent blockbuster love stories and romantic comedies, along with hands on exercises, Michael will help you strengthen your story concepts, plot structure, love stories, character development and pitching skills. Topics covered will include:

  • The primary goal of all story
  • The power of desire, need, longing and destiny
  • The essential conflict all characters must face
  • Turning plot structure from a complicated concept into a simple, powerful tool you can easily apply to every story
  • The single key to creating character arc and theme
  • Creating unique, believable and fulfilling love stories
  • Adapting your novel to film
  • The indispensable elements of a great pitch

If you want to elevate your fiction writing to the highest possible level, this event is a must.


  • $75 for LVRW Members with current RWA membership
  • $100 for non-LVRW Members

NOTE: If you are already an RWA member, you can become a local member of LVRW, the Las Vegas Chapter, for only $25. Get more information here. You can pay for this workshop via PayPal using the drop down below. If you wish to pay via check, please mail the check to:

Las Vegas Romance Writers
P. O. Box 371573
Las Vegas, Nevada 89137-1573

Be sure to include your name and email address with the check.

To use a credit card, please go to the website:

On Not Writing by Joe Hewitt [Reposted]

On not writing

I love being a writer. I love writing. Most of all, I love having written. Past tense. As in, I finally put my butt in the chair and produced pages. Sometimes it is hard to get there. Now, with the demands of social media to “build a platform”, book-writing hours are threatened more than ever. My platform seems to be evolving into one of helping other writers keep up with the latest news about the industry, which includes highlighting new authors, new books, new social media trends. Despite many years in publishing, I’d rather leave teaching to the those who love to teach–those writers who methodically break down plots, characterization and theme. Like Diana Gabaldon (Outlander), I’m an instinctive writer. I can’t explain how I do what I do, let alone teach my writing skills to others. But I can relate to the challenges of putting that butt in the chair.

Today, I read another great post on Medium — a community blogging site where I have stumbled upon some wonderful, fresh new voices.  Enjoy Joe Hewitt‘s frank blog post about struggling to write!

“Success is an indefinable term… “


I have been in this writing game for a long time. Over the years, I have taken extensive notes from workshops given by authors who have spoken at the Orange County Chapter of Romance Writers of America

Today’s quote is from best-selling author, Jayne Ann Krentz

“Success is an indefinable term, a fleeting, ephemeral thing, a ghost. The more you chase it, the more remote it becomes. But the writing originates somewhere inside yourself. You can nurture it, control it, experiment with it. It’s yours and yours alone. Take your true satisfaction from inside yourself, not from the outside world.” 

To Be or Not To Be: Reissuing a Novel

With the rise of Indie publishing, authors are able to re-issue their back list of books that have the rights reverted to them from the original publisher. I’m one of them. Some of those older books of mine had great editors. Others didn’t. I refuse to disclose which ones required more editing. But I will say a book published by a major New York publishing house does not mean it can be formatted and uploaded to Amazon without a second look. Or third.

1997 That Wilder Man, Harlequin Temptaion

Original cover of That Wilder Man (1997)

So the rewrites begin. Historical novels don’t have the same issues as contemporary novels that will be outdated. Not may be. Will be. I have heard arguments for and against updating a book for re-issue. There are readers who couldn’t care less when the story takes place as long as it is a great read.  Others refuse to read an older book. Believe it or not, most literary agents reject manuscripts set in the 1980s and 1990s, claiming “publishers aren’t interested because readers won’t buy them.” (No need to raise a hand to dispute this claim.  This was my experience querying over 100 agents for LOSING LISA:Intuitive Investigator  Series, Book One.)

The questions to ask are: Do you have a legion of fans who would object to changing a favorite book on their Keeper shelf? If so, you might leave well enough alone. However, I recall a much-loved, award-winning author whose early works were reissued by her NY publisher. Her fans were thrilled. Newer members of my writers’ organization had not read the author when they bought the re-issues. One book, in particular, was met with criticism because the hot good-old-boy hero was a chain-smoking, beer-drinking reckless driver with a volatile temper. Of course, this character evolved by the end of the book but he didn’t turn into a saint. The Bad Boy image was not only politically incorrect (driving while drinking!) but the “It” factor had become an “Ick” factor.  If the author would have been willing to update the story—I do not know whether or not she had the option—would editing have wrecked the book? I think so, but that’s just my opinion. I wasn’t offended by the chain-smoking, beer-drinker when I read the first edition. Re-reading it years later, I am aware the story takes place during the time when that behavior was acceptable.

Reissue - That Wilder Man (2015)

Reissue – That Wilder Man (2015)

Another question an author needs to ask: Is this older book representative of my current style and quality of writing? If not, do I rewrite it? When I read my earlier books, sometimes I cringe at the head-hopping points of view or awkward transitions of scenes. Other times I am pleasantly surprised that I could still hold my head up with pride of authorship.  If you aren’t sure, if you feel you are still too close to your book to know if it needs work, hire a freelance editor to check it.  Then, if it requires extensive rewrites, have it professionally edited afterward. This should go without saying but, hey, I’m saying it.

Last but not least, a big pet peeve with readers is buying a book, assuming it is new, only realize they had already bought and read the earlier edition! Don’t make my mistake. I did not intentionally try to fool the public by omitting the word “re-issue” in the book description. I assumed I had covered that point with the two publication dates and two copyright dates in the book details. Wrong.

Whether you are a reader or a writer, do you want an older book rewritten to be politically correct or let it reflect the era in which it was originally written?


HeartsAndHeroesGroup3DBoxSet_1400pxI am happy to announce THAT WILDER MAN (reissue) is in the new HEARTS AND HEROES box set with the award-winning contemporary romance authors, Patricia Thayer, Mindy Neff, Sandra Paul and Lyn O’Farrell.

 Available now on for 99¢!