"The universe is made of stories, not of atoms."
—Muriel Rukeyser

--Stephen Gyllenhaal, from Claptrap


I’m the lowest servant to the stars,
Slave to the leaves.

Everything escapes my cold breath.

My victories were never my own
Just mistakes gone wrong.

I put my shoulder to the thing
And it uncoils
               perhaps I’ll break like glass,
a billion faux diamonds
pulled into the undertow
                                             or worse,
               I’ll run the show.


...  What I discovered while reading Claptrap, though, is a poet in love with language, a love that shines at the heart of every poem. Mr. Gyllenhaal enjoys wordplay, which makes his writing fun to read. The poems are wide-ranging in their subjects—parenthood, family, and social justice among them—and style. Some are improvisatory, some painstakingly crafted.

Mr. Gyllenhaal’s poems are most often self-referential, anecdotal, and drawn from his everyday life. He expresses concern about his relationship with an openly antagonistic neighbor—and his noisy “5am” struggles with his garbage cans—and muses about the world seen through the windshield of his automobile while driving “down Wilshire Blvd./just west of Rodeo Drive.” Hollywood is Mr. Gyllenhaal’s town—the place where he lives and works—hence the subtitle—and Hollywood is a character in this collection.

No book making reference to Hollywood would be complete without making reference to its luxury-car culture, where a woman’s beauty is described, in the poem “Democracy,” as “all past benz/and maseratis.” Hollywood is also a town where wealthy locals are suspicious of a GMC pickup with a “rattling tailgate.” In “Photosynthesis,” the speaker’s suspicion gives way to envy for the young men in the old pickup when he reveals, “Oh, to be that kind of young again/when every oyster spreads its legs for you/and the nails you hit on two by fours/sing out your praise.

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Truly Excellent Writing [via David Angsten]


by Sam Buntz

“Thou art a soul in bliss; but I am bound
 / Upon a wheel of fire, that mine own tears
 / Do scald like molten lead.” – King Lear

The word “hope” has an oddly positive reputation in our corner of the universe: it is the stuff of greeting cards and political campaigns.  But the ancient Greeks knew better.

Hesiod relates the famous myth of “Pandora’s Box,” in which the first woman, Pandora, (much like Eve) unwittingly opens a box (actually, a jar in the original) containing all evils.  They escape into the world, save one—hope, which remains for humanity’s possession.  Contemporary readers often interpret hope as a boon left to console mankind, although Hesiod makes it clear that only evils were contained in the box, and goes on to deprecate hope later in his poem, referring to it as “empty.”  Friedrich Nietzsche provides the best comment: “Zeus did not want man to throw his life away, no matter how much the other evils might torment him, but rather to go on letting himself be tormented anew. To that end, he gives man hope. In truth, it is the most evil of evils because it prolongs man’s torment.”

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Be at the Next Author 101 University March 7 - 10 Los Angeles

Is your book written yet? If its not... do you know about the amazing benefits being a published author can bring to your business?

If your book is written, is it a bestseller yet?

If it is a bestseller, is it getting you the opportunities you'd dreamed of?

My friend, Rick Frishman has helped thousands of authors find the secrets they need to get their books published and make their dreams come true.  And he can help you too. 

For the last eleven years, Rick has put on an event called Author 101 University.

New and established authors from around the globe all come together in one ballroom to learn from some of the world's leading marketing and publishing experts.

Everyone has a lot of fun and most importantly, everyone walks away with what they need so they can grow their success as an author.

Come to Rick's next Author 101 University. Here's what can happen for you there...In one weekend, you'll:

* Connect with literary agents who want to represent you
* Get your new book published or your old book revitalized
* Make your book a bestseller
* Learn how to turn your online promotions into huge
  exposure (and sales)
* Transform your message into a mega success business
* Network with truly amazing people - Author 101 University
  consistently draws a great group

* And so much more...

Your dream doesn't have to be just a dream.    Learn More Here

ONE MINUTE MBA by Emily Stewart: The Economic Impact of Lord Of The Rings

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 75 years since J.R.R. Tolkien first imagined the inhabitants of Middle-earth. Tolkien said he originally wrote The Hobbit, with its adventures of halflings and goblins and elves, to amuse his children. He ended up writing a story that would last for generations, though, and the three-volume novel that followed — The Lord of the Rings — cemented his place in literary history. With more than 150 million copies sold, the trilogy is one of the best-selling novels ever, and today it stands as one of the highest-grossing franchises of all time.

The economic impact of Tolkien’s masterpiece is difficult to fathom, but the brand is obviously a goldmine. Today’s readers are as enraptured with the against-all-odds heroics of the hobbits as they were over 50 years ago. And New Zealand, home to the locations from Peter Jackson’s film adaptations of Lord of the Rings, has seen an explosion in tourism. (Jackson’s three movies grossed almost $2 billion worldwide.) Additionally, businesses from movie theaters and toy and game manufacturers owe Tolkien a debt of gratitude.

Check out the latest video from OnlineMBA.com to see the breakdown of the economic impact of this fantasy epic. With the arrival of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in movie theaters, the franchise doesn’t look to be slowing down any time soon.

Guest Post: Networking: a gift or a curse? by Nadine Maritz

Networking in general—whether via social groups, online or events—has always been critical to any business. These days, more and more articles emphasize networking—calling it the single most powerful marketing tactic in use today. So much so that most businesses claim that it’s one of the only ways to accelerate and sustain success.

Today I would like to discuss how networking has changed over time, give you some tips for successful marketing and talk about some of the pros and cons. I’m also going to share a few networking sites that have helped me grow as a writer and interact with others in this industry.

Previously, we had to physically go out and look for people to spread the word about the products we’re trying to sell, but nowadays we have these abilities at the tips of our fingers. This has turned the basic tenets of networking around. Today it’s not just about who you know but also who knows you, likes you and believes in your product. It’s all about how you come across, how passionate you are, how much you’re willing to give to fans and followers and how you deal with issues when you get little in return.

Networking today has many benefits, but it does come with its own set of problems:

Modern technology leads to faster and more widespread exposure. Writers now reach more readers in a day than most writers did in a lifetime a century ago. However, we also need to be aware that the greater exposure also exposes you to people who didn't like your work and are determined to let you (and everyone else) know about it.

Promoting yourself via online media has become an important requirement for acquiring an agent. Today it’s not just enough to just write the book, you have to be willing and able to flog it too.

Self-promotion is time consuming. Time which authors used to spend on writing now gets sucked up by marketing.

The relationships you establish on all the different social sites are an important tool for a writer, but it becomes increasingly difficult to meet the daily demands of such sites, which again leads to less writing.

If you don’t use your social media sites correctly or make mistakes, you run the risk of a public backlash which in return damages your brand.

Authors are now being judged not just by their writing but also by their actions and personalities online.

My tips for utilising all such sites to maximize the benefits and minimize the risks are therefore as follows:

Surround yourself with people who can help you achieve your goal whether it’s via online relationships, social groups or events, and make sure you maintain these relationships. These days publishing houses prefer you to already have a built-in following and an established online presence.

Be humble when it comes to dealing with fellow authors, publishers and agents. People are far more willing to help someone who wants help than someone who thinks he knows everything.  

Know that you will ultimately spend more time on marketing your product/book than you will in creating it.

Be approachable and honest, polite and professional. Remember that once it’s on the web it’s there forever.

Streamline your posts and comments. People don’t have time to read long explanations—they want to know in as few words as possible what it’s about and what makes it great.

Spellcheck. If you’re marketing your writing ability, make sure your posts are well-written and error free.

Don’t overexpose yourself. People get frustrated when you constantly bombard them with the same stuff.

Establish personal relationships. People invest in and support someone they know and trust, someone who can benefit them as a resource or help others succeed.

Try not to run your social media by using bots, this creates a distance between you and your followers that would more likely gain you a bad reputation.

Post content pertaining to your target audience; ensure that it is helpful, interesting and relevant.

Create a blog. This is fantastic exposure that allows your followers to get to know you and really feel connected.

Create a website. Publishers and agents require this in our time.

Attend writing and publishing courses if and when you can, talk to agents and publishing houses, participate in workshops, join writing organizations.

Bearing all this in mind, here are some good social networking sites that have helped me get to where I am today with my writing career: 

1. Google + was created to share details, photos etc. more like one would do in real life. There are circles, hangouts and other networking tools that enable me to get my stuff out there on an international scale. 
2. Facebook has become one of the modern ways to socialize and build relationships with people that are involved in the industry that I want to grow in. It’s imperative for me to spend time here assisting people with their goals and getting word out there about things I feel are important. 

3. Twitter has connected me with hundreds of people that are either on the same road as me, or further. 

4. GoodReads is a site specifically for lovers of books. You can comment and leave reviews on specific novels, create and join in chats about books and authors and, of course, add your book for review. 

5. Stage 32 focuses mainly on people in the film industry. I spend time on this site building relationships with the hope of getting my writing to screen one day.  

6. Figment hosts an online writing community where you can also connect with other readers and discover new authors.

7. YouwriteOn was established to assist new writers in developing their writing. It’s one of the UK's leading independent review exchange sites.  

8. Critters.org is an online critique group.

9. Fastpencil lets you self-publish and sell eBooks in various formats. 

10. #FridayFlash was designed to increase visibility for fiction writers. Post a piece of flash fiction (1000 words or less) onto your blog and tweet the link on Fridays. 

While these sites are all fantastic in their ability to build relationships and help fellow writers, they remain time consuming. It’s therefore important to set goals for yourself as a writer daily. Note what you want to achieve in that day—it’s the only way to stay sane and succeed. 

Nadine Maritz ( formerly known as Cloete) was born in 1981 in the heart of Johannesburg, South Africa’s City of Gold. A variety of influencing factors and individuals has helped shape her journey towards writing this her first novel. 

Nadine's Novel “My Addiction: My Gift; My Curse,” is a South African contemporary fiction novel that reflects on the relatable day to day livelihood of an Afrikaans vampire nurse that works in an old age home.  This is the first novel of a series.

The Lost Valentine to Re-Air on Hallmark Channel

The Award-winning movie
"The Lost Valentine"
to air on  
Saturday, January 26, 2013
9/8  c  
The Hallmark Channel

"The Lost Valentine,"
the award-winning, critically 
acclaimed movie starring
Betty White and
Jennifer Love Hewitt,
will air on Saturday, January 26, 2013 at 9/8 c on The Hallmark Channel.  The movie is based on the best-selling novel, "The Last Valentine" by author
James Michael Pratt.

In the film, a young and cynical female journalist (Jennifer Love Hewitt) learns love may transcend trials and time as she discovers a story that will change her life forever. When war separates lovers on their wedding anniversary Feb. 14, 1944 at LA Union Train Station, Navy pilot Neil Thomas makes a promise he isn't sure he can keep - to return to the train station safe by their next anniversary. For sixty years Caroline Thomas (Betty White) keeps her promise by waiting at the train station until her missing in action husband can finally keep his with the "lost valentine." The message and meaning shows romance and love can be real; worth fighting, and maybe even dying for.
The film was a collaborative effort between Hallmark Hall of Fame
in Association with Paulist Productions, Atchity Entertainment International and Ridini Entertainment Corporation.  It first premiered on Sunday, January 30, 2011, on the CBS  Television Network as a Hallmark Hall of Fame World Movie Premiere.

Billy Magnussen and Meghann Fahy in "The Lost Valentine"

The night it premiered, the movie was Hallmark Hall of Fame's most highly rated movie in four years, and won CBS-TV the night with over 15 million viewers tuning in. WATCH it Saturday, January 26, 2013, 9/8 c on The Hallmark Channel

L to R:  Betty White, Jennifer Love Hewitt and Sean Faris in "The Lost Valentine.

"The Lost Valentine" is one of the most loved Hallmark Hall of Fame movies.  Buy the Gold Crown Collector's Edition today at Hallmark.com  
The film is also available at

by best-selling author James Michael Pratt at


Video is incredibly powerful because it has the benefit of non-verbal communication, including your smile, to connect with people. Text is fantastic but it is essentially 'flat'
and video can help you to become a 3 dimensional author that people resonate with.

The reasons people are scared of video are:

a) they hate their face, voice, looks
b) they don't know how to use the technology

But it is definitely worth investigating for the following

* Video search is increasing and you want to be found. Over 65% of search is now VIDEO and you can see videos on the front page of search rankings now.

* The technologies are here now! Google owns YouTube and is starting to use voice recognition software to make indexing video easier. This means you can rank in the video search engine for your keywords. 

* Book sales increase when people know, like and trust you. A human connection is much more easily made over video than text.

* Video can be the basis of your platform. Video blogging is  more popular then ever and it is quick and easy now with easy to use technology.

* Video drives traffic to your online hub, your author website or book sales site

* The demographics of video may surprise you. It's not just kids surfing LOLcats. Its adults 18-49 and 25-54.

* You have a chance to stand out and stay competitive in this market. Authors must use video as part of any book promotion plans. If you don't want your face online you should consider A VIDEO BOOK TRAILER, which is part of STORY MERCHANT BOOK MARKETING SERVICES.

We have an amazing new piece of technology that puts YOU into a professional interview setting all from your iphone or Ipad!  LET US SHOW YOU A SAMPLE OF HOW YOUR INTERVIEW WILL LOOK! IT'S DONE RIGHT FROM YOUR HOME! EDITED AND READY FOR PLACEMENT ON ALL OF YOUR BLOGS AND PLATFORMS WITHIN MINUTES!


Giving Mom’s Book Five Stars? Amazon May Cull Your Review

Harriet Klausner
Giving raves to family members is no longer acceptable. Neither is writers’ reviewing other writers. But showering five stars on a book you admittedly have not read is fine.

After several well-publicized cases involving writers buying or manipulating their reviews, Amazon is cracking down. Writers say thousands of reviews have been deleted from the shopping site in recent months.

Amazon has not said how many reviews it has killed, nor has it offered any public explanation. So its sweeping but hazy purge has generated an uproar about what it means to review in an era when everyone is an author and everyone is a reviewer.

Is a review merely a gesture of enthusiasm or should it be held to a higher standard? Should writers be allowed to pass judgment on peers the way they have always done offline or are they competitors whose reviews should be banned? Does a groundswell of raves for a new book mean anything if the author is soliciting the comments?

In a debate percolating on blogs and on Amazon itself, quite a few writers take a permissive view on these issues.

The mystery novelist J. A. Konrath, for example, does not see anything wrong with an author indulging in chicanery. “Customer buys book because of fake review = zero harm,” he wrote on his blog.

Some readers differ. An ad hoc group of purists has formed on Amazon to track its most prominent reviewer, Harriet Klausner, who has over 25,000 reviews. They do not see how she can read so much so fast or why her reviews are overwhelmingly — and, they say, misleadingly — exaltations.

“Everyone in this group will tell you that we’ve all been duped into buying books based on her reviews,” said Margie Brown, a retired city clerk from Arizona.

Once a populist gimmick, the reviews are vital to making sure a new product is not lost in the digital wilderness. Amazon has refined the reviewing process over the years, giving customers the opportunity to rate reviews and comment on them. It is layer after layer of possible criticism.

“A not-insubstantial chunk of their infrastructure is based on their reviews — and all of that depends on having reviews customers can trust,” said Edward W. Robertson, a science fiction novelist who has watched the debate closely.

Nowhere are reviews more crucial than with books, an industry in which Amazon captures nearly a third of every dollar spent. It values reviews more than other online booksellers like Apple or Barnes & Noble, featuring them prominently and using them to help decide which books to acquire for its own imprints by its relatively new publishing arm.

So writers have naturally been vying to get more, and better, notices. Several mystery writers, including R. J. Ellory, Stephen Leather and John Locke, have recently confessed to various forms of manipulation under the general category of “sock puppets,” or online identities used to deceive. That resulted in a widely circulated petition by a loose coalition of writers under the banner, “No Sock Puppets Here Please,” asking people to “vote for book reviews you can trust.”

In explaining its purge of reviews, Amazon has told some writers that “we do not allow reviews on behalf of a person or company with a financial interest in the product or a directly competing product. This includes authors.” But writers say that rule is not applied consistently.

In some cases, the ax fell on those with a direct relationship with the author.

“My sister’s and best friend’s reviews were removed from my books,” the author M. E. Franco said in a blog comment. “They happen to be two of my biggest fans.” Another writer, Valerie X. Armstrong, said her son’s five-star review of her book, “The Survival of the Fattest,” was removed. He immediately tried to put it back “and it wouldn’t take,” she wrote.

In other cases, though, the relationship was more tenuous. Michelle Gagnon lost three reviews on her young adult novel “Don’t Turn Around.” She said she did not know two of the reviewers, while the third was a longtime fan of her work. “How does Amazon know we know each other?” she said. “That’s where I started to get creeped out.”

Mr. Robertson suggested that Amazon applied a broad brush. “I believe they caught a lot of shady reviews, but a lot of innocent ones were erased, too,” he said. He figures the deleted reviews number in the thousands, or perhaps even 10,000.

The explosion of reviews for “The 4-Hour Chef” by Timothy Ferriss shows how the system

Timothy Ferriss
has evolved from something spontaneous to a means of marketing and promotion. On Nov. 20, publication day, dozens of highly favorable reviews immediately sprouted. Other reviewers quickly criticized Mr. Ferriss, accusing him of buying supporters.

He laughed off those suggestions. “Not only would I never do that — it’s unethical — I simply don’t have to,” he wrote in an e-mail, saying he had sent several hundred review copies to fans and potential fans. “Does that stack the deck? Perhaps, but why send the book to someone who would hate it? That doesn’t help anyone: not the reader, nor the writer.”

As a demonstration of social media’s grip on reviewing, Mr. Ferriss used Twitter and Facebook to ask for a review. “Rallying my readers,” he called it. Within an hour, 61 had complied.

A few of his early reviews were written by people who admitted they had not read the book but were giving it five stars anyway because, well, they knew it would be terrific. “I am looking forward to reading this,” wrote a user posting under the name mhpics.

A spokesman for Amazon, which published “The 4-Hour Chef,” offered this sole comment for this article: “We do not require people to have experienced the product in order to review.”

The dispute over reviews is playing out in the discontent over Mrs. Klausner, an Amazon Hall of Fame reviewer for the last 11 years and undoubtedly one of the most prolific reviewers in literary history.

Mrs. Klausner published review No. 28,366, for “A Red Sun Also Rises” by Mark Hodder. Almost immediately, it had nine critical comments. The first accused it of being “riddled with errors in grammar, spelling and punctuation.” The rest were no more kind. The Harriet Klausner Appreciation Society had struck again.

Mrs. Klausner, a 60-year-old retired librarian who lives in Atlanta, has published an average of seven reviews a day for more than a decade. “To watch her in action is unbelievable,” said her husband, Stanley. “You see the pages turning.”

Mrs. Klausner, who says ailments keep her home and insomnia keeps her up, scoffs at her critics. “You ever read a Harlequin romance?” she said. “You can finish it in one hour. I’ve always been a speed reader.” She has a message for her naysayers: “Get a life. Read a book.”

More than 99.9 percent of Mrs. Klausner’s reviews are four or five stars. “If I can make it past the first 50 pages, that means I like it, and so I review it,” she said. But even Stanley said, “She’s soft, I won’t deny that.”

The campaign against Mrs. Klausner has pushed down her reviewer ratings, which in theory makes her less influential. But when everything is subject to review, the battle is never-ending.

Ragan Buckley, an aspiring novelist active in the campaign against Mrs. Klausner under the name “Sneaky Burrito,” is a little weary. “There are so many fake reviews that I’m often better off just walking into a physical store and picking an item off the shelf at random,” she said.

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photographs: Phil Skinner/Atlanta Journal Constitution, Drew Kelly for The New York Times