Category Archives: Publishing

Writers’ Characters Build Character

From Linda’s Opinion & Pondering Page:

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There was a time when the notion of offering Character Education in our schools was opposed because so many people believed core ethical values, forming the foundation of an individual’s character, were developed in the home. I think we’re all leaning the same way on that now. We’ve realized the full responsibility and importance of developing good character can not be left to question. The school system has taken on a huge role in grooming the pillars of character; trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship, but I’ve learned through personal experience that a single library book, filled with life lessons, has the opportunity to influence and live closer to an individual, no matter the age, locale, ethnicity, or economic status, than a structured learning environment. Of course, that’s assuming “Johnny or Bonnie can read,” which is another issue to be discussed at a later date. Don’t get me wrong. I thoroughly enjoyed school; secondary, college, as well as, post grad work, but I can honestly say I learned more about life and how to continually groom who I wanted to be and became through the independent books I’ve toted around and read than any class I ever attended. Although I never ran away to join the circus like Toby did, situations characters found themselves in, be it a fictional or a nonfiction write, were puzzles to solve. How the characters involved handled precarious situations were lessons learned whether I chose to adopt or dismiss their methods. Not all lessons are the “do’s” in life. Ralph Waldo Emerson had lots to say about character, but the statement that sticks with me and probably the one most remembered by others is “What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matter compared to what lies within us.” And what character lies within us is grown and developed by those we come to know in reality or fiction while experiencing our gift of life. I feel a huge responsibility toward my readership when developing characters because I recognize people change when they read. Although I have authored numerous articles, short stories and a novel, I have this need to ping back and forth, between writer and educator. I’ve often wondered if abandoning educator would make me a better writer, but I’m not sure it’s possible to stifle the teacher in me. The call to educate might be too great. Someone once wrote “Character is what you are in the dark.” I believe that too. Honesty should happen whether anyone is watching or not. Values that denote individuals of good character have been roughed up over the years, some even abandoned, so it seems people have to be encouraged to differentiate between what’s good and what’s bad. But writing has definitely changed; evolved in many ways and not always in the best direction in my opinion. On occasion, I read a book where the lead character champions less than honest, less than kind, less than respectful, less than good all around and can still be perceived as coming out on top, based on new and lacking standards. I find that troublesome because those who are teetering or easily influenced, especially a young mind whose character is still developing, may adopt the darker dispositions of life because they have been glorified or celebrated in a published work. When I build my characters, it becomes a requisite for me to leave the light on for everyone who picks up a Bergman-Althouse story. Is that wrong? Is it limiting? Or, is it responsible writing? Or does it even matter?

Linda Bergman-Althouse

author of “Save Them All

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Calling All Authors

Hi, all…

I hope everyone’s having a great weekend.

Wanted to let you all know that I will be the guest on the Tuesday, Oct. 2 edition of Calling All Authors, a weekly radio show for authors, writers and readers in general that is heard exclusively on Global Talk Radio.com. Hosted by Valerie Connelly, Calling All Authors discusses issues and concerns that affect books and their creation from beginning to end. The conversation is always lively, interesting and entertaining. I hope you’ll tune in.

Calling All Authors airs Tuesday at 5pm ET, 2pm PT on Global Talk Radio.com. Valerie and I will talking about the career of James Garner, and again I hope you’ll join us.

Ed Robertson
www.edrobertson.com
edsweb.wordpress.com

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To Self-Publish or Not To Self-Publish

The debate still rages on the viability of self-publishing through POD (print-on-demand) outfits.

I recently weighed in on the topic.  Also of special note to those who have used iUniverse specifically, I discuss a fellow author who provides wonderful, in depth reviews of iUniverse titles and recently featured my novel, The Thief Maker. 

See Below:

http://davethenovelist.wordpress.com/2007/08/19/the-verdict-on-self-publishing-and-the-thief-maker/

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Some more kind words about Thirty Years of The Rockford Files

My thanks to Steven Thompson for this review:

http://booksteveslibrary.blogspot.com/2007/04/thirty-years-of-rockford-files.html

and to Blogging Authors for this review, which was picked up by a number of sites, including USA Today:

http://asp.usatoday.com/community/othervoices/default.aspx?bbPostId=CzE1N3e5NZxgPB4vpD0UWd0xxBAkjLcQmP5cTB2Udo9cSpCmO&req=blogburst&tag=news

Ed Robertson
www.edrobertson.com

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Book Reviews: Following The Fugitive and The Fugitive Views and Reviews, Vol. One

The 2006-2007 television season marks the 40th anniversary of the fourth and final season of The Fugitive (ABC, 1963-1967), the landmark series starring David Janssen as Dr. Richard Kimble, a man wrongly convicted of his wife’s murder, who barely escapes an unjust death sentence when the train carrying him to his scheduled execution accidentally derails. Amidst the confusion, Kimble slips away, and soon he embarks on a desperate search for the real killer—a mysterious one-armed man—while also trying to avoid the detection of law enforcement officials nationwide, including the implacable police lieutenant Philip Gerard (played by Barry Morse), whose relentless search for Kimble becomes an all-consuming obsession. After four years of thrills, chills, and near misses, the running finally stopped for Kimble on August 29, 1967, when our hero coerces the one-armed man into confessing during the concluding moments of the historic two-part final episode (Part One aired the previous week, on August 22, 1967).  The Fugitive finale remains the third most-watched television episode ever, capturing 72% of the American viewing audience that night, a figure topped only by the final episode of M*A*S*H in February 1983, and the “Who Shot J.R.?” resolution on Dallas in November 1980.  Marking the occasion of this anniversary season are two new books on The Fugitive. While the volumes are similar insofar as they focus primarily on the review and discussion of episodes, each goes about the material uniquely enough so that they truly complement each other.

First up is Following The Fugitive: An Episode Guide and Handbook to the 1960s Television Series (McFarland, 2006), a fans guide to the series meticulously compiled by Bill Deane.  An acclaimed Major League Baseball analyst and statistician who has written several books and hundreds of articles on the sport, Deane is also a devoted fan of the Fugitive and—disclosure here—one of many people I met by way of Rusty Pollard, whose excellent monthly newsletter, On the Run, served as a network for Fugitive watchers worldwide in the days before the Internet. Besides sharing an interest in baseball, I came to know Bill as a scrupulous keeper of facts related to The Fugitive (no surprise, given his background), and his book certainly reflects that care.

Originally published as a hardbound edition in 1996, Following The Fugitive is not a behind-the-scenes history with interviews—but then again, it never proclaims to be one. Deane does purport, however, to have compiled “the most accurate information” about the series in terms of episode details. On that count, he may be right. Following The Fugitive is a thoroughly assembled program guide featuring the kind of information that fans of The Fugitive crave, including detailed plot summaries; indices of episode writers, directors, and guest actors; complete lists of every name assumed, occupation taken, locale visited, and injury sustained by Richard Kimble during his four seasons on the run, plus a host of interesting factoids and offbeat observations about the show.

In many respects, Following The Fugitive is precisely the kind of factual “bible” that television series routinely put together today to ensure continuity from season to season. For example, the book points out discrepancies as to the date given for the night Kimble’s wife was murdered, as well as the manner in which she was killed. But it also notes lots of fun things, such as the similar surnames of Kimble’s love interests in both the very first episode (“Welles”) as well as one of the very last (“Wells”). Deane does this all with great diligence and an overriding sense of fun. As a complementary companion to, say, The Fugitive Recaptured, it’s well worth the investment.

The same can also be said for The Fugitive Views and Reviews, Volume One: Analysis and Critique of All 30 Episodes of Season One (1963-1964) (Wasteland Press, 2006), an offshoot of the Yahoo! discussion group of the same name, which also spawned a popular radio program devoted to discussion of The Fugitive. Two of the book’s authors, Bob “Bobbynear” Nearenberg and K.J. “Kitty” Batten, co-moderate the Yahoo! group, while the third, Ken Ardizzone, is a longtime group member and contributor. All three co-host Talking Fugitive, heard twice monthly on Internet radio station KSAV.org.

The Fugitive Views and Reviews is, as its complete title suggests, a collection of critiques of the first 30 episodes of the series. What makes the book (and by extension, the Yahoo! group and radio program) stand out from all other Fugitive forums is that it approaches the series not as a show that has been in circulation for over four decades, but as if it were airing on television for the very first time. Episodes are discussed one at a time, in the order in which they were broadcast. Analysis of any and all aspects of the series—from the characterizations of Kimble and Gerard, to Kimble’s relationship with his family, to sociological issues such as Kimble’s motivation for helping people, or the portrayal of women on the series—is limited only to those episodes that have been “seen” and discussed at that point. In the case of this volume (the first of four projected Fugitive Views and Reviews books), conversation does not exceed that which is known beyond the first season of the series. It’s an interesting perspective, one that succeeds in putting a fresh spin on what might otherwise be considered well-tread ground.

All three authors contribute reviews and opinions for each episode, with Ardizzone pulling double duty as the book’s editor. He does a yeoman’s job paring down the numerous member responses for each episode into a readable form that also maintains the flavor of the discussion group. While some observations may seem far afield, that’s also part of the fun. When it comes to favorite episodes or favorite TV series, there are no right or wrong answers. More to the point, the passion that all three authors have for The Fugitive is clearly evident and makes for lively reading.

The Fugitive Views and Reviews also features results from various polls of the discussion group’s members on topics relating to the first season, including Favorite Male and Female Guest Star, Most Suspenseful Scene, Favorite Villain, Favorite Heroic Figure, and Most Heartbreaking Moment to Date. Like Following The Fugitive, The Fugitive Views and Reviews is a book that definitely belongs in the collection of any serious Fugitive fan.

Ed Robertson

www.edrobertson.com

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Portraits in the Dark Now Available Through Locus Online

Portraits in the Dark is an award-winning collection that has received stellar reviews from both readers and professional reviewers alike. Get your copy today to see what all the buzz is about!

—>
My book, Portraits in the Dark: A Collection of Short Stories, is now available through Locus Magazine Online, one of the best online sources for Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror.

You can purchase the book and support Locus Online by clicking on the bookseller links under the title listing.

Taken from Locus Online: Your purchase of books through Amazon.com and Amazon UK links (click on titles or covers) helps support Locus Online.

Also, if you live in the Maryland/Washington D.C. area, you can also purchase the book from the Barnes and Noble in White Marsh, MD and the Barnes and Noble in Towson, MD. It is currently in stock and available at those locations. If you find that they have sold out of the books, please consider ordering more and help put Portraits in the Dark on more book store shelves throughout the country!

Click these links to purchase through Locus Online: http://www.locusmag.com/2007/Books05d.html.

and

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0595392806/locusmagazine.

You can also read past reviews of the work at the amazon link above, as well as at:
Portraits in the Dark web site: http://www.portraits.bravehost.com.

http://www.writersgroupblog.wordpress.com

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Reading, writing, and arithmetic

Earlier this week I attended a writer’s meeting and Thomas F. Monteleone was the guest speaker. It was an intimate crowd of about 15-20 people and we all listened intently as Mr. Monteleone spoke about his experiences in publishing. He is a science fiction and horror author, and he has published over 20 books.

He was very funny, giving insight in a way that many of us could relate to, whether published or not. One thing that he talked about was the way things work when it comes to advances-after the first one.

The example, as I remember it, was if you receive an advance on a first book–say $100,000*–and it doesn’t become a bestseller, then the advance on your next book is determined primarily by the sales of the first. So if you sold 20,000 books, the next book is expected to sell at least that much and then a few thousand more. Your pay will be determined by that figure, so say $40,000.* Makes business sense, though I have to admit that it’s not something I really thought about. It seemed to me that advances were based on how much the company felt the specific book would make, not necessarily on past sales–unless it was a best seller. Good to know.

During the course of the informal meeting, Mr.Monteleone asked me, and a couple of others, why I we write. My answer was because I have to. Even when it’s frustrating and I feel like my head is full of the worst prose imaginable, I love writing. I didn’t always want to be a writer–when I was younger I had no idea that it could be a career–but it is what I do. Unlike other industries, the business side does not really bother me. There’s the art, and then there’s cold hard math. I separate the two when writing, but it is still there and eventually one has to make money if they expect to continue doing what they do without having to do something else as well.

It can be a very sobering thing, knowing how much art is eventually boiled down to monetary figures. There are a number of factors that can influence how well a book does or doesn’t do. For instance, the guest speaker told us how he sent a book of his to a different publisher that offered him a great deal of money due to the success of his previous works. Once the book was published, they didn’t do what his former publisher did. Practically no promotion, and the book didn’t sell as it should have. Promotion, marketing, is the (perhaps unfortunate) difference between a good book going unnoticed and one becoming a bestseller.

When picking a publisher for your work, it seems important to know their track record and how they treat their authors rather than how much money they can give you. A hard lesson to learn and a catch 22 of sorts, maybe, since most authors don’t know who will publish their work and when they will be paid next; $100,000 goes a long way, compared to $40,000. But who’s counting, right?
Nancy O. Greene
author of Portraits in the Dark: A Collection of Short Stories.
The author is available for book clubs in the Maryland and Washington D.C. area, and online book clubs.
Her book is available in stock for purchase from the brick-and-mortar Barnes and Noble in White Marsh, MD at The Avenue as well as the B&N in Towson, MD at the Towson Circle. It is available for order at all brick-and-mortar booksellers worldwide and online at Amazon.com, iUniverse.com, and others.
Read more reviews and excerpts at the web site here.
The Writers’ Block.

*The $40,000 – $100,000 figures are used here as examples for a first-time author advance, taken from the guest speaker’s example for a bestselling book. Through research, while figures vary widely depending on the expert source, I’ve found that the average first-time author advance is $3,000 – $15,000. These amounts can be lower if the author is picked up by a small press and higher if the subject matter and author are considered highly marketable.

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Writing Television History: Which Shows to Write About

I recently completed a virtual tour for my book Thirty Years of The Rockford Files, a behind-the-scenes look at the making of The Rockford Files (NBC, 1974-1980) – an important show in the history of television, as well as an important chapter in the life and career of Emmy-winning actor James Garner. An interviewer for a writer’s website, noting that I’d also written a history of Garner’s other landmark television series, Maverick (ABC, 1957-1962), asked me if there were any criteria I looked for in determining which television shows I wrote about, or whether I simply picked shows or actors I happened to like.  

It was an interesting question, and I thought I’d share my response with you.  

If you’re thinking of pitching a book on a particular television show, or a kind of television show, it helps to think in terms of (1) how it changed television when it was originally on, and (2) how it continues to shape television today. Rockford Files was the first show to introduce humor to police and private detective shows, which paved the way for shows like Magnum, p.i. and Simon and Simon in the ’80s, and Monk and The Closer today.


Rockford was also one of the first shows to comment on social issues and controversial news stories within the confines of episodic television – a device Dick Wolf has since perfected for the past 17 years with the various Law and Order shows. Plus,
Rockford was the show that put David Chase on the map as a writer and producer. In fact, a character Chase introduced in a
Rockford episode from 1977 later served as the inspiration for Tony Soprano, the central character of Chase’s hit series The Sopranos 

In the case of Maverick, Maverick was a show that changed Westerns, just as Rockford changed private eye shows. Maverick was also the show that made Roy Huggins a major player in the television industry. Roy Huggins created and produced Maverick; he also created The Fugitive, 77 Sunset Strip, and The ABC Movie of the Week, all of which changed the face of television. Besides co-creating Rockford Files and producing the pilot and the show’s first season, Roy produced many hours of television for Universal Studios throughout the ’60s and ’70s, including such popular shows as Run For Your Life and Alias Smith and Jones, as well as acclaimed miniseries like Captains and the Kings, based on the best-selling novel by Taylor Caldwell, and one of the first successful miniseries in TV history. Roy also mentored people like Stephen J. Cannell, who under Roy’s tutelage went on to become one of the most successful producers in television history. So that makes Maverick an important show beyond its place among TV Westerns, and Rockford Files an important show among private detective series.    

Then there’s the whole James Garner factor. Garner is a bona fide television icon. Maverick was the show that made Garner a household name. Jim is one of the few actors whose audience spans three different generations. Baby Boomers remember him as Bret Maverick. People who grew up in the ’70s and ’80s know him as Jim Rockford. Young people today know him as Grandpa Jim on 8 Simple Rules. To enjoy that kind of longevity, and to have that kind of broad appeal for so long a period of time, is a pretty remarkable thing.  

Those are the highfalutin reasons. But as we writers know, if you’re going to pitch a book, any book, you also have to think in terms of marketing.   If you’re going write a history of a classic television series, it’s wise to choose one that is either still widely shown in syndication, such as Gunsmoke, The Twilight Zone, The Andy Griffith Show, Magnum or I Love Lucy, or at least widely available on tape or DVD. In the case of Rockford Files, I had both things going for me. Plus Rockford is also a show like Lucy or Andy Griffith in that it has never really left television. Reruns of
Rockford have played constantly all over the world for over 30 years. From a marketing standpoint, that tells a publisher there’s definitely an audience out there that is potentially interested in reading a book about the history of The Rockford Files. If you can come up with ways of reaching that audience above and beyond traditional bookstore sales, you stand a good chance of convincing a publisher to publish that book. 

Ed Robertson 

www.edrobertson.com

edsweb.wordpress.com   

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Book Review: The Literary Galaxy of Star Trek

It’s been said before, but in many respects the original Star Trek really was the perfect television show. On the one hand, between all the fist fights, phasers, time traveling, villains (be they Romulans, Klingons, or Khan), not to mention Captain Kirk’s weekly love interest, Star Trek delivered all the action and adventure a viewer could ever want. Yet at the same time, there was almost always some sort of lesson or message at the end of each episode. It was a show that really did work on a number of different levels, one of the few American television series to transcend its own medium and become part of literature itself.  After all, literature is that which binds us from one generation to another. We write about it, talk about it, and allude to it until it eventually becomes permanently etched in our culture.

That’s certainly the case with Star Trek. In the 40 years since its original network premiere, Star Trek has spawned a horde of original novels, memoirs, reference guides, magazines, articles, web sites, movies, radio and television series, memorabilia, and, of course, annual fan conventions—not to mention the sheer number of scholarly books that have used Trek as a vehicle to explicate science, physics, biology, philosophy, religion, ethics and other fields of study. All of which speaks to the unique form of literature that is Star Trek.
Star Trek not only is a form of literature, it’s always been rooted in literature. Richard Matheson, George Clayton Johnson, and, of course, Harlan Ellison were among the notable sci-fi novelists who wrote for the Original Series, while all five Star Trek series are replete with classic motifs. It was only a matter of time before someone came along to discuss the various literary themes in the Star Trek canon.

Enter James Broderick and The Literary Galaxy of Star Trek (McFarland, 2006) a fun book that “explores specifically how Star Trek makes use of some familiar stories and themes in Western literature,” from the journey of the hero found in The Odyssey and Beowulf, to the mythic Old West originated by Owen Wister in The Virginian, to America’s fascination with gangsters and mob culture as personified by The Untouchables.  Each theme-based chapter introduces a classic play, novel, epic, short story or motion picture screenplay whose influence can be seen throughout the Star Trek universe. Hamlet, Ulysses, Paradise Lost, Moby Dick, Pygmalion, Dracula, Alice in Wonderland, Scarface and The Pit and the Pendulum are among the various works explored by Broderick, a professor of English and journalism at New Jersey City University. 

The Literary Galaxy of Star Trek is an interesting read. Broderick has certainly done his homework, and unlike most academic treatments of popular TV series, his book is refreshingly non-linear. “The chapters can be read in any sequence,” Broderick notes in his Introduction, “following whatever impulse is motivating you when you pick up the book.”  The chapters are short in length, but long on insight and chock-full of examples from Trek. Broderick also includes two handy appendices listing the literary works discussed and the Star Trek episodes and films that allude to them. 

Broderick’s book is not your average Star Trek companion guide. Then again, Star Trek is not your average television series. With the Original Series now on TV Land, it’s worth picking up The Literary Galaxy of Star Trek to keep up with the host of literary themes in the Star Trek universe.

Ed Robertson
www.edrobertson.com

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Barry Morse: Remember with Advantages

Most television audiences think of British actor
Barry Morse
as either one of two characters: Lieutenant Philip Gerard, the man obsessed with capturing Dr. Richard Kimble (David Janssen) in the classic TV drama The Fugitive (ABC, 1963-1967), or as Professor Victor Bergman in Space: 1999 (
ITC, 1975-1977), a show that remains hugely popular among sci-fi viewers throughout the world. And while those two particular roles remain important to Morse, they also represent just a small fraction of the hundreds of other different characters he’s brought to life on stage, screen and television in the course of his 70-year career. Morse’s vast body of work in the theatre covers everything from Shakespeare and George Bernard Shaw, to Gore Vidal and A.R. Gurney, to his own critically acclaimed one-man show, Merely Players. He’s also appeared in a host of television shows in the U.S., the U.K., and Canada, including such classics as The Twilight Zone and The Untouchables and groundbreaking miniseries like The Winds of War, War and Remembrance, and Sadat. I first came to know Barry Morse in the early ’90s, when I interviewed him several times for my book The Fugitive Recaptured. He’s a marvelous storyteller with uncanny powers of recollection, great warmth and compassion, and a cheeky sense of humor (no surprise there, folks… he is, after all, veddy, veddy British). He’s also as refreshingly down to earth as any actor I’ve come to know. Talk to him just once, and he’ll make you feel as though you’ve known him your entire life. That’s part of the fun of Remember with Advantages, Morse’s memoir of his long career in stage, film and television, which he co-authored along with Portland-based author/playwright Anthony Wynn and Canadian writer/artist Robert Wood. In many ways, it really is like catching up with an old friend… an old friend whose life and career, as Oscar and Emmy winner Martin Landau writes in the book’s Foreword, “is a virtual history of the twentieth century, through the peaceful periods and the wars, the very beginnings of television, his vast experiences in film, and his beginnings and enduring love affair with the theatre in England, Canada and the U.S., [and which] deserves to be read by everyone on the planet, theatre folk and civilian alike.”

Barry Morse and his book will be the subject of our next two editions of Talking Television with Dave White, the program I co-host along with Dave White on global radio station KSAV.org. This Tuesday, May 1, beginning at 11:00 pm ET, 8:00 pm PT, we’ll talk live with Wynn and Wood about their work with Barry, which in addition to Remember with Advantages includes writing and staging many theatre productions featuring Morse over the past decade, including Bernard and Bosie, a two-act play (written by Wynn) based on the correspondence of George Bernard Shaw and poet Sir Alfred “Bosie” Douglas. Throughout the program we’ll also play excerpts from an hour-long interview Dave and I recorded with Barry earlier this spring from his home in London, England.  

Then next Tuesday, May 8, also beginning at 11:00 pm ET, 8:00 pm PT, we’ll play the interview with Barry Morse in its entirety. As you might imagine, because the name of the program is Talking Television, much of our conversation with Barry focuses on his work for the small screen, which dates back to the very first television broadcasts originating from the BBC in the mid-1930s. But we also touch on topics ranging from his work as a stage director to his predilection for all things George Bernard Shaw, from his fluency in many languages to his penchant for American accents. (Long before Hugh Laurie on House, Morse was the first British actor to play an American character on an American network television series, which he did for four years as Gerard on The Fugitive.)

Talking Television is a weekly 90-minute call-in program that discusses all aspects of television. We stream live every Tuesday night, but if you should miss our live broadcast, all of our shows are available 24/7 on the archives page at KSAV.org. I hope you’ll join us for both our programs on the career of Barry Morse. They promise to be a fitting tribute to a distinguished actor who has entertained so many of us for so many years.

Ed Robertsonwww.edrobertson.com, edsweb.wordpress.com

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