Authors Life, Books, Editing, New Releases, novel, Publishing, Writing

Review: THE WRITER’S ZEN by Jessica Reino


Front Cover

Based on Jessica Reino’s widely viewed and successful monthly Twitter chat with writing novices and successful authors, The Writer’s Zen is a tool for writers to use during their own journeys from concept to publication and the many different ways to get there. It will help writers stress less during the creative process and find a writing routine that works best for them on their way to publication. Jessica uses her experience as an editor, author, and a senior literary agent to explain the paths that a writer can take to writing success.

Anyone who desires to become a successful author must read this book.

My Take:

Whether you have ever dreamed of being a professional author or are already on your way, THE WRITER’S ZEN is designed to help you explore alternatives to make the most of every opportunity. Best of all, it’s told in a friendly, conversive way offering advice based on the author’s wealth of experience as an author, editor and senior literary agent. Reino presents the various aspects of becoming successful regardless of the author’s background, prior writing experience, or prior knowledge of the publishing industry. She also exposes the changing nature and challenges of the digital age to old paradigms, including self-publishing and using social media in book marketing. As the title indicates, there is a Zen-like balance to be struck and a would-be author’s quest that goes well beyond the hard work and self discipline of harnessing basic composition skills in telling a story or expository, subject-based non-fiction writing.

There is something for everyone, and I highly recommend this book for anyone who aspires to write, whether it is a story, a text book, or the next great novel.

Author Bio:

Jessica Reino is a literary agent and multi-genre author. She enjoys spending time with family and friends, developing new stories, and helping other writers achieve their goals. She is a member of the The Editorial Freelancers Association, The Women’s Fiction Writers Association, and The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
To learn more about Jessica, please visit her author website and be sure to connect with her on Twitter @JNRlitauthor where she hosts #thewriterszen monthly chat. Get THE WRITER’S ZEN at Amazon or Pandamoon Publishing.

Books, Editing, Publishing, Writing

Becoming Thuperman Coming FEB 2017


So, I can’t tell anyone the exact date of release just yet because BECOMING THUPERMAN has not yet passed through the critical milestone of substantive  edits. But I can say that the final sub edits were submitted yesterday to Pandamoon Publishing and copy edits should begin in the next couple of days. Copy edits usually take a week, then proof reading and a final-final read through. All that should take about a week and a half. Also the book will be on Pre-order very soon. You do the math.

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During the substantive phase of editing for BECOMING THUPERMAN, Jessica Reino, my editor, served as a sounding board for fleshing out some ideas that became part of the mystery element of the book. It was through this collaboration, something that is a hallmark feature of the Pandamoon Publishing creative community, that the story became much stronger than what was presented in draft.


My best friend and publicist, Christine Gabriel is releasing CRIMSON MOON, the next installment in the Crimson Chronicles on the same day as BECOMING THUPERMAN. She is nearly done with her book’s editing. So we are definitely on target to release two book in one day at Pandamoon Publishing. Both Christine and I are Alpha Pandas, part of the initial class of authors signed. We’ve seen lots of change and growth over the past four or so years since we were signed. And I can say the quality of stories and the finished product has never wavered. Our publisher continues to attract great talent and product incredible reads.


CRIMSON MOON continues the mystery and intrigue surrounding a strange Midwestern forest and its paranormal inhabitants that began in CRIMSON FOREST, Christine Gabriel’s bestselling, award-winning, debut novel.


BECOMING THUPERMAN is about two 8-year-olds, a boy and girl, who share vivid imaginations and burgeoning superpowers. Over the course of a week of one summer their world changes dramatically. The pair become little league baseball pitchers and an effective crime fighting duo, while puzzling through a mystery that will continue into the next book of the series and beyond.

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BECOMING THUPERMAN is an urban fantasy that takes place mainly in the real world portion of the special universe introduced in FRIED WINDOWS. Although the characters are unique to this series (for the moment, at least) readers may expect some overlap of characters as both series continue. And in my next series, WOLFCATS, which debuts in the fall of this year from Pandamoon Publishing, is more of an epic fantasy. It begins to tell the historical past of the Inworld, the fantasy universe described in FRIED WINDOWS.


The other book coming out this month from Pandamoon, HELLO WORLD by Alexandra Tauber & Tiffany Rose is launching on February 21st. It is about crusading hackers in a not so distant future that is dominated by computer technology.

Lots of other stuff coming soon as well. In my next blog post we’ll mention some of those books and feature a few of the recent Pandamoon Publishing releases from the genres of sci-fi/Fantasy, Mystery/Suspense/Thrillers and Women Fiction/Romance.


A Pretty Cool Day In Florida


For almost two years now I’ve been associated with Pandamoon Publishing, first as an author and more recently as a publicist. At times the latter role requires more effort and schedule juggling than the former but it is one of the few times since receiving a degree in marketing from the University of Texas in the early ’80’s that I have actually done something related to my studies. That’s kind of cool.

Aside from working on my next book(s), there are eleven more under contract now, I have had occasion to work with a diverse group of fellow writers. Personally I think all of them are more gifted than I am. A few of them have been fooled into thinking I’m as talented as they are. I’m good a creating illusions. Until yesterday, though, I had never actually met any of the other authors, other than chatting with them online. That isn’t to say I don’t know these people and over the past couple of years we haven’t become friends.

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The Pandamoon stable of authors is approaching two dozen and continues to grow. The publisher is expanding its editorial and marketing staffs to handle the bandwidth of all those new books. For a relatively small and fairly new kid on the publishing block we are making some waves and gaining attention. And a lot of that has to do with the effort and coordination between the marketing team and the authors. One of the success stories is Steph Post, author of A Tree Born Crooked.

Front Cover

Steph and I both live in Florida. When I lived in Pinellas County, we were even on the same side of Tampa Bay, just a few miles apart. Close, but we never had an occasion to ever meet in person…until yesterday. This time there was no excuse. She was appearing as a panelist at the 6th Annual University of Central Florida Book Festival in Orlando. Currently I live a little over five miles from the venue. So, yesterday morning I pedaled my bike northward on Alafaya Trail and parked it in a bike rack in the midst of the festivities. I attended the panel discussion on mystery and crime writing. Responding to questions from a standing room only crowd Steph shined. I was proud of her not only because we are colleagues at Pandamoon but also because over the past couple of years she has become a dear friend of mine.


Afterwards she signed my copy of her debut novel and we took a picture together as proof that we had actually been in the same place at the same time. I met her husband, Ryan, and a couple of her high school friends who came out to the event in support of her. Really, what was important, though, was I got to hang out with one of my favorite authors. How cool is that? I’m such a fan boy.

Seriously, though, I loved Steph’s book from the first read through of the manuscript and since  it’s publication I have found it to be one of the easiest things I have ever promoted. Even if I wasn’t closely associated with the marketing support for the book, she would still be one of my favorite authors. I’m pretty sure that very soon her fame is going to blow-up in a huge way and everyone will be talking about her books. She has genuine talent that she has honed through the discipline of scheduling her time. She is a professional writer in every sense of the word. Personally I have no idea how she juggles everything she does, because is is also a writing coach and educator as well as a wife and ‘mother’ of several rescue pooches. But once you meet her and talk to her you really get the vibe that you’re in the presence of a remarkable individual.

As I pedaled home after spending a few hours at the festival I was thinking about how great it would be to get all the Pandamoon authors together in the same place at the same time. We have talked about it and even have a name for the event all picked out: “Pandamoonium”. I’m sure that sooner or later it will happen. Likely as not we’ll assemble in some central location, probably Austin, Texas, which is close to where the publisher is based. Only then will the sensation of being in the presence of greatness that I felt yesterday be eclipsed. Despite our geographic barriers I work with some amazing people.

It is a testament to the technological advancements over the past dozen of so years that people from every time zone in the western hemisphere have meetings regularly to share information and ideas about such topics as establishing and promoting author’s brand. Pandamoon Publishing is cutting edge in a lot of ways.


As for Steph Post, what she has done – pretty much on her own, albeit with some support from the Pandamoon marketing team – is nothing short of phenomenal. In the months since she signed with Pandamoon she has worked diligently on her brand, posting attention getting pictures that supported the theme and mood of her book, which is about crime in small town Florida. She contacted other authors in her genre, got to know them personally, read and reviewed their books, interviewed them, and her attention was reciprocated with reviews for her book. She arranged interviews on radio shows, with bloggers and scheduled personal appearances. Even before its release to the public, A Tree Born Crooked was receiving critical acclaim. Since its release it is being considered for some prestigious awards.

The reward for all her hard work was evidenced not only in the number of people who purchased Steph’s book yesterday but also the number of new friends she made as a result of her participating int he panel discussion. She signed a lot of autographs. In this age of Internet distribution and sales, one thing has not changed and it is ironic that, really, it is the same as it has been for the past couple hundred years. How a book is marketed always comes down to pitching it one reader at a time.

#UCFBookFestival #Orlando #Florida #Authors #StephPost #ATreeBornCrooked #PandamoonPublishing #ElgonWilliams #Publicity #Marketing #BookSigning #MysteryWriter #CrimeWriter


Beards, Razors and Marketing

Maybe a weird kind of topics for a writer’s blog, but bear with me. This could raise a bit of controversy in a $13 Billion a year industry. You see, I think the whole thing about shaving is overdone.


It’s a matter of personal taste and grooming, isn’t it? To shave or not to shave. Most guys know the cleanest shave comes from a barber with a single edge blade that is sharp as hell. The barber prepares the client with a hot towel to soften the tiny facial hair follicles while he hones the blade with a letter sharpening strap. This was how it was done for decades. And I dare to say it is still the best way to get a truly close shave.


So the personal shaving business came about because men’s grooming requirements for business in our modern age dictates daily shaves. Maintaining facial hair took a back seat. Most businesses allow for mustaches and some might allow well maintained bears, meaning something like that worn by a British man’s man not the standard Duck Dynasty or Z Z Top kind of monumental feature. You see, in the past men did not go to a barber daily for a shave and a haircut. They took periodic trips (weekly, bi-weekly, etc) depending on their personal standards. With the advent of the personal razor and shaving cream, men had the option to scrape the tiny hairs off their cheeks, chins and throats every morning – and for some men in the evening before going out.

Now, some of you may know I have sported a mustache and/or a beard for certain spans over the years. At present my part-time employer requires a neatly tripped mustache but does not allow a beard. Being a little tired of how I look with a mustache alone, I shaved it off earlier this year, around my birthday, actually. A couple of months prior to that, when I was still diligently looking for a job to supplement my income as a writer, I shaved off a beard I had worn for well over seven years – at varying lengths.

Razor Burn

I’ve had to get used to shaving regularly. It causes some problems. It irritates sensitive skin, especially after wearing a beard for so long. Also, those of us who have naturally curly hair, and especially men with nappy roots, can develop a condition called
pseudofolliculitis barbae, also known as barber’s itch. This happens when the sharp ends of recently cut hair follicles curve back into the skin and embed themselves producing a small pimple-like pustule. It is not something you want to have and the only real cure for it is letting your beard grow enough. But for those who must shave you can let the beard grow for the few days necessary for the sharp hairs to pull themselves out of the skin. The time interval also allows for the attendant skin rash to heal.

Now there are a plethora of shaving products out there and many treat irritated skin. Many contain alcohol which not only produces a cool kind of burning of the recently scraped skin but also toughens the skin to the daily abuse men must endure to have the clean shaven look.


Now, lets enter the marketing realm and take a look at the crass business side of things along with the development of electric and multi-blade razors. First off electric razors are a ;poor substitute for a wet shave, in my opinion. I’ve owned one and like most men who received one as a gift at one or more points in life it wound up stuffed in a drawer after a period of less than satisfying use. Do they work at all? Yes, they remove beard from sight. Pretreating the skin and beard aids in creating the feel of a close shave but I think most men prefer lathering up and shaving – if they need to shave at all.

I occurs to me that electric roars, including the more recent wet electric roars – are mainly marketing gimmicks. They work well enough to be used with some modicum of overall satisfaction from the general public and a lot of time, effort and expense has gone into researching and development of improved products over the years. But nothing compared to the barber’s shave as the standard of excellence.

1956 Pal InjectoMatic Injector Razor (2)Injector

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In the quest for a personally substitute for a trip to the barber we’ve seen straight razors evolve into injector blade roars, doubled edged razors (that allowed one to flip it over to continue shaving before ring off the accumulated amalgam of beard and saving cream) and multiple blade razors.

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I am old enough to recall the first wave of double blade products and the initial pitches – usually during televised sporting events. There was one commercial in particular that simple amazed me and prompted me to replicate the ‘test’ in a mocking way using the edge of one of my first credit cards. The commercial purported to demonstrate how much closer the see of a man;s face way when it was shaved with a double blade roar as opposed to a single edged one. What a marketing coup! The problem is that the less than scientific evidence was easily faked as I demonstrated many times by applying more pressure to the credit card when running it over the stubble of my face.

The principle behind the double blade roars was that the first blade pulled the hair out slightly and the second blade comes along quickly, before the beard hair has time to recover and it lops it off a second time, supposedly below the skin’s surface. After wards the shaven hair is naturally tugged back into the skin, just below the surface. Of course, I would be concerned that this would promote the aforementioned irritated skin condition,if, in fact, what was really happening was that the beard was being trimmed twice, at different levels. Personally, I doubt that the second blade is actually cutting the hair off before it has time to revert to its rest state int he skin. I’m pretty sure the beard snaps back faster than any number of blades could come along and lop it off again. So the whole multi blade roar phenomenon is a mostly marketing gimmick.


If two blades are better than one, what about three? Four? Five?  Look at the genius of this. The blade manufacturers can sell you five blades at a time and five or more time the cost of a single blade and…imagine this, you will be forced to use it fewer times because of the close proximity of the blade and the difficulty cleaning away the debris that gums up the gap between the blades. The more blades and the closer they are spaced together the worse the situation. So, you are getting two, three, four or five blades and paying two, three, four or five times what you would pay for a single blade. They are made in a process that bonds thin metal foil to a flexible strip of mylar The sharpness outlasts the utility of the blade unless you figure out how to clear away the debris with an old toothbrush or some precision dental instrument. Even so, the blades have often been decided to limit the amount if flow through from the front to the back, enhancing the likelihood that a clog of hair and cream will render the device useless.

So, I’m pretty sure that by design these multiple blade razors were a means of getting men to pay more some something that by design they will be able to use less before replacing. That’s how an industry grows.

All razors work well enough. There is probably some minor increase in closeness of a shave from multiple blade razors because, after all, two blades would, in theory, reduce the number of stroked the shaver must be pulled across the face, regardless of whether it actually cuts the beard below the skin’s surface. But the downside is the increased expense of the blades and the diminished longevity of utility. So more blades me more money and fewer shaves per dollar spent.

#shaving #razors #barbers #marketing #beards #RazorBurn



The Roles of Marketing and Publicity in Publishing


As a publicist for authors I frequently confront confusion about the role of marketing in the publishing business. It comes from the general association of marketing with sales, which is erroneous. Anyone who has worked in marketing knows that when you apply for a marketing position with many firms the entry level job is in sales. Sure, a little front line experience in the trenches is good for rounding out a marketing professional’s understanding of how the complete picture of a business culminates in an actual transaction. But marketing is a strategic exercise while sales is completely tactical execution

With regard to books, marketing is a strategic phase of promoting a book through many different channels. As a publicist I am involved in some planning in the development of a marketing plan. Publicity is definitely a part of the larger picture of getting the word out about a book. Some of that involves pitching events and scheduling interviews. But most publicists are involved in finding wrinkles in the promotional landscape that can be exploited to gain singular attention for the author he or she represents. Often that involves thinking outside of the box and going well beyond what is usually considered in a marketing plan.

You see, most marketing people receive the same kind of training whether at college or in the field. Strategic decisions about promotion, presentation, packaging and pricing are the major part of that. Promotion includes advertising and public relations aspects of communication with and through the media. In the publishing world these days there are millions of new authors vying for attention in exactly he same way through the exact same channels. To the press it must seem like everyone on Earth has just written a new novel. The publicists task in all that is finding some way to make noise of present his or her author in a way that draws maximum attention.

Sometimes authors gain attention for the wrong reasons and publicists get involved in spinning the event in some way to minimize the damage or, in a few cases, turning it into an benefit. For example, if an author makes a controversial statement or gets involved in some newsworthy event in a negative way. But for the most part authors don’t seem to gather much attention or focus without some assistance.

In order to gain the attention of electronic and print media a publicist much find some way to present his or her author in a way attractive for making a story. Some question to consider are:

What is it about a particular author that stands out?
What are his or her personal interests or hobbies?
What causes does he or she support?
Besides writing, is he or she an expert in any other field?

More directly, what else does he or she do besides writing?

A publicist may work for a publisher on behalf of an author or he or she may be contracted directly by the author. In either case a publicist creates opportunities for the author to promote his or her author’s brand. The actual sale depends on a culmination of all marketing strategies int he final transition, selling the book – which is completely an interaction that is in some way always part of the connection established directly between the author and the reader.


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We Are Authors, Not Competitors


Look, I’ve been in competition for years, selling all sorts of things from toe nail clippers to complicate computer systems to expensive automobiles. I know the best and worst practices of the sales process. having studied marketing and promotion, I also know the difference between strategy and tactics.

Some of things authors post online in an effort to gain attention of their recently published books cause me to shake my head. You see, as a rule, writers are not great strategic marketers or tactical salespeople. Some are and those tend to be best selling authors. We all aspire to being successful but to do that we must promote and sell effectively even if we have little or no direct experience. The good news is that you don’t have to be a professional marketer or salesperson to be a nest selling authors. You only need to be yourself and attract fans.

What most writers do wrong is focus on the book not the author’s brand. That is the major disconnect. It is like trying of sell someone a generic brand cf something with which they have no experience. Would you buy a car without knowing the manufacturer’s reputation?

Most writers who fail in becoming successful authors approach the marketplace as if it is a dog-eat-dog competitive environment with authors competing against one another for the exact same valued readers. Here’s what you need to realize that makes all the difference. You are not in competition with anyone except you.

The key is not your book. That is not as important as your author’s brand. Why? Readers could not care less about your book. As its writer, you are the only one who cares about your story until you persuade someone else to try it on as an alternate reality for the span it takes them to read it. Until a eager belies you can entertain them, he or she will not buy your book.

From a reader’s perspective they have already heard every possible pitch you are gong to use to promote your book. They are skeptical because they have bought books before and not been satisfied wight he content. This is especially true of indie books where it is more common to find errors and the perceives quality of the work is lower. Let’s set aside the fact that many books from major publishers that have spent upwards of two years editing and designing a book have errors in the finished product. It happens. But when it happens to an indie author, it is almost always blamed on self publishing.

How you gain a readers attention depends on how well you communicate one essential thing to the reader. What makes your book different. The answer is as obvious as your nose or anything else about your face. YOU are the only reason someone will want to buy your book.

Unlike other products, books don’t really have a set life cycle. Yes, I know the conventional wisdom that has come from traditional publishing, but in this modern age of eBooks those rules no longer apply. A book doesn’t need to generate all its sales in thirty or sixty days. Amazon and other eBook sellers do not have a limited number of shelves. Each virtual bookstore continues to add new publications everyday and each new offering has its own shelf. However, you want your book to be noticed, so you need to ensure it is displayed closer to the front of the virtual store. How? You need to establish your authors brand giving readers a reason to come looking for your book. That in turn will increase its likelihood.of your book being displayed near the to front of search engines.

So, how are you not in competition with every other author out there? It’s fundamental marketing. You are only in competition with other authors of any specific genre that you may target. If a product is unique enough, it will have no competition. That needs to be your goal in establishing your brand distinction as an author. It will also increase the universal appeal beyond any specific genre categorization The singularity of your book will attract the attention of readers who are always looking for the newest thing. It almost seems silly having to say it again, but the difference between your book and everyone else’s book is that you wrote it. Sell the reader on you as a writer and they will buy your book.

Since there cannot be anyone else in the universe exactly like you, you have no specific competition. That’s great news. Feel free to promote other authors and their brands because the overall goal is to grow the aggregate market of readers. Give everyone a reason to cuddle up with a new novel, whether eBook or printed page instead of allowing their minds to rot watching the inane drivel of a reality TV show on cable or satellite TV.

You’re the only one who can attract your fans. And yes, you may share fans with other authors because readers don’t read just one book. They do not follow only one author. The world of opportunity is large enough for every one to prosper and succeed if you first establish your particular brand.