Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Trapped with George Bernstein

by George Bernstein

GeorgeAbout The Author:

George A Bernstein is a youthful seventy-six-year-old, with a B.A. from Northwestern University, now living in south Florida, and the retired president of a publicly-held Chicago company. George's main interest is as a serious novelist. He has attended numerous writers’ conferences and seminars, including that of famous fiction agent, Donald Maass, and he has worked with independent editor, Dave King, all with the goal of improving his craft. George is also a “World-Class” fly-fisherman, and has held a dozen various IGFA fishing World records. In his life before writing, George ran Outdoor Safaris, a World-wide fishing & hunting tour operator, working with airlines and travel agencies promoting premier sporting trips. He has also published the definitive book on fly-fishing for pike & musky, Toothy Critters Love Flies.

George's first novel, Trapped, is published by TAG Publishers, after being a finalist in their Next Great American Novelcontest. Dee Burks and her staff really love the story, and her revision suggestions helped make Trapped the best it can be. Trapped was also a finalist at the 2012 Florida Writers Association RPLA fiction contest in 2012. Trapped has received virtually all 5-Star reviews on Amazon.

16095673Genre: Mainstream Suspense
Publisher: Tag Publishing LLC
Release Date: October 15, 2012
Buy: Amazon

Book Description:

The darkness is still, silent. Jackee Maren’s heart pounds reverberating through her body as fear sears her veins. Someone’s coming. No way out. This time they will kill me. Her breath is short, her chest burns. Must run. Faster. Faster! Her eyes fly open, her heart still racing with blinding fear. Jackee breathes deeply with relief and stares at the ceiling desperately trying to calm herself. The same dream. Something, someone is watching . . . and waiting.

A tragic car accident leaves beautiful, vibrant Jackee Maren completely paralyzed, in “Locked-in Syndrome,” able to move only her eyes. Jackee’s husband, Phil, is devastated and her two young boys left with nothing but a shell for a mother, but still, Jackee senses the foreboding of an evil presence and knows time is short.

Slowly, Jackee learns to communicate with her physical therapist, Kevin, by blinking her eyes. As evidence comes to light that her car accident was no accident, Jackee doggedly strives to expose the person who wants her dead before they get a second chance.

While Jackee struggles to put all the clues together, she’s stunned to discover she has the ability to sense the thoughts of others, but she hides this talent from everyone but her sons, not knowing whom she can trust. By actively exercising her new psychic ability, Jackee finally learns who masterminded the “accident” but feels helpless to stop them from trying to kill her again.

Desperate to survive, she slowly concocts a psychic plan to not only ensure her boys are safe forever, but to exact retribution on her would-be murderer. Jackee vows not to rest until this villain understands what it is to be TRAPPED! But she must hurry. Her psychic manipulations of the players in her “skit” of revenge are sapping her meager reserves, leaving her with only months to live.



Turn signal flashing, she eases into the right lane in front of a large, battered pick-up, with less than a half-mile to the Old Orchard Exit Ramp. Jackee Maren rarely drives so aggressively, but first delayed by her two sons’ late departure from school, and then navigating around a minor fender bender on Dundee road, she is already ten minutes behind, and she’s never late. The Northern Illinois Chapter of the United Way won’t start their planning session without their chairwoman, and Jackee hates the idea of keeping so many busy people waiting. Peeling onto the ramp, her attention is drawn to her two boys, bickering and shoving in the back seat. Glancing back at the road, a ridge of goose bumps cascades down her spine. They’re hurtled toward a string of glaring taillights… cars unexpectedly stopped by a red light at the first intersection off the expressway. Jamming a foot on the brakes, she’s stunned when the big Mercedes slews sharply right, smack into the path of the huge pickup truck, which had exited behind her. It slams into the rear fender of the sedan, sending it careening off the road, the seatbelts gouging her shoulder, crushing the breath from her lungs. “Hang on boys,” she gasps. Oh God! My sons! They can’t die here. They spin down the embankment like an eccentric top, ricocheting off a bridge column. The wheel torn from her grip, the air filled with the screech of rending metal and the stench of burning rubber, the car rears like a great angry beast, its rear legs hamstrung. Slamming down, it hurtles backward into the culvert, bucking and skipping along the steep embankment. Despite seatbelts, Jackee is flung around like a rag doll in the jaws of some huge terrier. The air bag erupts in the midst of their tumultuous downward plunge, rushing out at 200 MPH, just as frontal impact slings her forward. Her face catches the brunt of the blow, skewering lips on her teeth, smashing her nose. A searing bolt of pain fires across her brain, igniting a burst of red heat behind her tearing eyes. A sharp pitch right crushes her left cheek against the window, knocking her momentarily senseless. The sedan teeters, enveloped in a cloud of dust, hunkering precariously on its haunches before crashing down on its wheels, coming to a thunderous, grinding stop. She awakens to wailing and blubbering from the two small boys in the rear seat. “Mommy!” The call gasped through ragged breathing. “Mommy!” Now a frantic screech. “I’m…I’m here.” We’re alive! Thank God, we’re all still alive. She sags against the seatbelt, every joint singed with agony, unable to will herself into action. Help should be coming. She moans. Gotta hang on… She slips out of consciousness. The continued bawling and moaning of her sons stir her, drawing her out of the fog of semi-consciousness. One of her eyes is swollen shut, but the other flickers open, glazed with shock. Where the Hell’s Fire/Rescue.

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I saw a recent blog post by a writer unhappy about the critique she received from someone she was using, who “didn’t get” what she was trying to do.
One of the problems we writers can have IS getting our readers to “get it.” And if they don’t, whose fault is that?
It seems pretty obvious it’s the author’s responsibility to see that his readers understand what he or she is trying to do or say. If your critic doesn’t get it, surely your audience won’t either. Many authors have a problem with criticism. “How dare you challenge my work, that I slaved over and love.” That’s a prescription to failure.
Dave King, an independent editor, and later, a top literary agent at William Morse separately recommended I remove my side plot in TRAPPED, that involved Phil with the Chicago Mafia. I had slaved over that, building tension and danger, and weaving the climax into the ending of the novel, but both experts felt it detracted from Jackee’s story and it wasn’t necessary. So I pulled it out…but it’s not a total loss. Writers NEVER discard any work, so I’m using that story in my in-progress 3rd Al Warner detective novel, changing the venue from Chicago to South Florida.

Then Dee Burks at TAG Publishers called me, saying they all loved TRAPPED, and it could be a winner in their “Next Great American Novel” contest, but felt it needed some content editing. Wow, was I excited. I LOVE positive input, but ultimately, it’s up to the author to decide what works and what doesn’t. I embraced her suggestion of a single viewpoint (Jackee’s) throughout the novel, and felt some of her other suggestions were excellent. I balked, however, at changing the ending, and after some discussion, she agreed with my take. Overall, our collaboration made TRAPPED a great novel…and the most prevalent comment I get from readers is, “I LOVED the ending!” One wrote me she read it 3 TIMES, she loved it so much!
Ultimately, critiquing is still a matter of taste. A smart author listens, and isn’t too proud to make changes that work, but is willing to resist things they think will compromise their story. It can be a delicate balancing act, but when well performed, can have wonderful results. But, like in all things, opinions can widely vary.
Shortly after I made those challenging revisions to TRAPPED, I decided to enter it in the large Florida Writers RPLA contest, where it became a finalist. Successes in large contests are another way to validate your work and heighten prestige.
A while after TRAPPED was published, I got the results…and the rating sheets from the 3 judges from the RPLA contest. Although a finalist, I was not the winner in my genre.
Typical of many contests, 2 judges read the synopsis and the first 30 pages. In the RPLA, they rate 10 areas, from 1 – 5 points…so a max total of 50. An entry needs at least 80 combined points to become a finalist. TRAPPED received 92, and both judges loved character development, the plot, dialog, and the way I described the action, solely through my protagonists eyes. As I said earlier, Dee Burks, my editor at TAG, suggested a single, 1st person point of view throughout, and I agreed. It wasn’t easy, but in the end, we both felt it was terrific.
As a finalist, the 3rd judge read the entire manuscript. Unfortunately, he (or she) didn’t agree with Dee…or the earlier judges. He down rated TRAPPED because he wanted scenes from other characters’ viewpoints…all the ones I’d carefully removed at Dee’s suggestion, and that was enough to keep me from winning that contest.
And the First Person viewpoint is a major factor in what seems to make TRAPPED so engrossing to those who have read it.
 As I always say, “That’s why they make chocolate, vanilla and 39 other flavors.”
This isn’t the 1st time I’ve had one judge rave about something, like characters or scenes or settings, while another denigrated them. My other novels have been past finalists in the RPLA, with similar results: raves by the preliminary judges that weren’t echoed by the final judge.
It’s the same reasons authors like Louis L’Amore (America’s top Western writer…for EVER) was reputedly rejected 350 time before finally getting published. And J.K. Rowling, probably the wealthy woman in the World right now, struggled for years before finding a small publisher to take a chance on Harry Potter. The stories of rejections that become Best Sellers are legion, because you can’t accommodate for taste.
Luckily, TRAPPED has already received loads of 5-Star reviews at Amazon, and I’ve fielded a plethora of calls and e-mail raves from readers. So I think I’ll cherish the good reviews and evaluate the others for merit.
I suggest this attitude should work for all of you, no matter what your endeavors.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Economic Apocalypse of Publishing with Lane Heymont

The Freedman and the Pharaoh's Staff
by Lane Heymont

About The Author:

Lane Heymont was born in Pennsylvania. He earned a BA in Liberal Arts with a focus on literature and history. He also holds a double minor in psychology and business. After college, he turned his focus back to writing. Lane has several short stories published, one of which was recommended for the 2012 Bram Stoker Award in short fiction.

Genre: Historical, Fantasy, Slipstream
Publisher: Sunbury Press, Inc.
Release Date: December 23, 2012
Buy: Amazon

Book Description:

Jeb, a former slave, rescues his brother-in-law Crispus from the Ku Klux Klan, pulling him into a world of Creole Voodoo, hatred, time travel, and redemption. The two brothers-in-law set out to stop Verdiss and his Klan followers from using the Pharaoh's Staff, a magical artifact from ancient Egypt. Soon, Jeb and Crispus learn Verdiss’ diabolical plan and discover that he is working for an even more evil force. In the end Jeb and Crispus must stop the eradication of an entire people and each must find redemption for his own past sins.


Allenville flashed in Jeb’s head. Bodies burning, people tortured and brutalized in the streets. Somehow he felt the same thoughts in Fallon. The way his slender hand tightened around his when he’d said the word. He imagined hatred blistering inside the boy. Maybe the need for a father blinded him. Thank the Lawd–that ain’t the case no more…I hope.
Jeb. Fallon. This way. I found a mambo a few blocks away on Laurel Street.” Crispus’s voice broke through the crowd.
Come on!” Fallon pulled Jeb through the throng of people. Crispus’s voice always sounded just beyond them, amidst the night madness of Baton Rouge. “Wait!”
Where’d he go?” Jeb tugged on Fallon’s hand, pushing aside a doughy man.
He took a right down Nacadian Road. Wait, Crispus!” The hideous ensemble of vendors, farriers, knackers, and other merchants crying out their goods seemed to drown out the boy’s call.
One moment, mayhem wracked the market, the next it fell silent. Fallon stopped, so Jeb did. He couldn’t move, the herd seemed to stop stampeding. Footfalls echoed in the street. The crowd spread. Then came the heavy clacks of soldier’s boots on the flagstones. A band of men, too many to tell. But Jeb knew them by the procession’s cadence–Confederate soldiers. Men clad in gray uniforms marching through Baton Rouge. No doubt, they’d be Klansmen too. Shouts of jubilation spread like wildfire among the townspeople.
Kill them carpetbaggers!” came a woman’s elegant voice.
Long live the general!”
The South shall rise again!” shouted a boy.
Jeb felt the panic in Fallon’s hand, his heartbeat racing as he pulled him away. “What general? I know that cadence like I know my field.” Jeb focused on dodging whatever lay in his way, stumbling over garbage and bumping into people.
Fallon stammered over his words, “Not–not–nothing. Nathan Bedford Forrest?” He gasped, tightening his grip on Jeb.
Somehow Jeb overcame his instincts, keeping his head bowed. Not daring to look up in fear that monster of a man would see him. Though blind, Jeb saw Forrest clad in the gray Confederate officer’s uniform, adorned with medals. He’d seen photos of him. Tall, in his fifties, a receding hairline and a curly mane of black hair. A well-kept goatee tinged gray like his uniform.
I can end it all. Fight through the crowd. A single shot to the head. To hell with being blind, I can do it. For a moment Jeb meant it, caressing his pistol. It’d be easy. Instead, he listened to the Ku Klux Klan founder, savior of the white race, and ender of Reconstruction, parade along the street. Celebrated by a throng of who knew how many people. They were closer now, close enough for Jeb to count them. Four guards following him. Plus Forrest, that’s five. Six shot pistol. Just enough for one miss. He gripped his pistol. It didn’t matter that the crowd loved Forrest, even cheered him on. Six rounds is enough. Jeb edged his pistol free from its holster.


There’s been this sort-of war of words, statistics, and articles across the blogosphere and news about which form of publishing will survive the economic apocalypse. Print or e-books? Which is more popular, which is dying, and which is extrapolating as if it’s taking a gulp of ambrosia.
     For me it’s a moot argument. Sure, there are a lot of articles, facts and indicators I could throw in here to try to “prove” which is succeeding, but that’s been to death. This is about my thoughts, and annoyance at the whole thing.
     My debut novel The Freedman and the Pharaoh’s Staff was released this past February and I often wonder which format will earn more sales. Print or e-book? Partly, because—and mind you I’m a complete failure when it comes to math—I wonder which I earn more royalties off of.
     Most folks in media outlets following the publishing business report declining sales in print books. But, it seems people actually in the publishing business profess print book’s conquest over e-books. Let me clarify, that comes from big publishers—the big six, and those small presses large enough to have their books stocked in brick and mortars.
     It’s usually the small presses—niche or those without actual distributors selling to stores—that insist print is dying and e-books are the superior creature. Some go as far as to say print will actually phase out altogether. You see where this is going? It’s a pointless battle over the supremacy of two formats, which will never die. 
     However, I hate to admit I buy more e-books than print. Why? For the same reason most people do—it’s more convenient. So, I see the growth of e-books only skyrocketing, which of course, it has been. But I’m also of the mind that print books must survive, and that they will. There is something magical about browsing a house lined with bound sheets of words boasting stories of all kinds. And to hold a book in your hand, feel the soft or firm paper on your skin as you turn each page. That will never die.
     People, especially authors, will always want books in print. Sure, stores are closing, sales are lacking, but print will go on. When I first held a hard copy of The Freedman and the Pharaoh’s Staff in my hands it made me remember why print books are so wondrous. Not to mention if any far-fetched apocalypse happens where all electronics on the earth die what the hell would we read?

I’d like to thank Patti for letting me come on her fantastic blog to discuss the changing facets of the publishing world.

Friday, March 22, 2013

The People Who Have Inspired Lisa Binion

Softly and Tenderly

by Lisa Binion

Author - Lisa BinionAbout The Author:
Lisa Binion is a writer, editor, and wife. She makes her home in the beautiful state of Kentucky. Her two children are now grown, but she has been blessed with two beautiful grandchildren, Tyler and Zoey. Her family also includes four dogs, four cats, and two goats.
As the Fiction Writing Editor for BellaOnline, she writes articles, reviews fiction books, and interviews fiction authors. She is also an editor for Silver Tongue Press and Edit 1st. In her spare time, she attempts to clean house and relax. You can find her at,, and

Genre: Horror Short Story
Horror Short Story
Publisher: Silver Tongue Press


“Mom died in her sleep last night.” Those are terrifying words for a child to wake up to. The beetle that falls off the stretcher and stares at her is only the beginning one of the strangest and most frightening times in Lori’s life. Death is not a pretty thing, especially not when the funeral is to be at the Lights Out Chapel and Crematorium. Once she walks into the funeral parlor, she experiences things that no little girl should ever have to experience. No one is acting normal. No one can see what is going on. Is Lori the only one who sees the blood oozing from the pictures of Jesus on the cross? Doesn’t anyone else see the beetles? Is Lori hallucinating when she sees her mom sit up and hears her speak? There is absolutely nothing soft and tender about what happens to Lori. From her overly morbid piano teacher to the creepy preacher and a father that just isn’t acting like himself, Lori is surrounded by people and things that hint of something bizarre. Once she leaves the Lights Out Chapel and Crematorium, things will go back to normal. Or will they?


People Who Have Inspired Me

There are three authors who have inspired me to write more and to publish what I write.  They are Haley Fisher, Rebecca Graf, and Richard Petracca.  I don’t know whether or not you have heard of these authors, but they have been a huge inspiration to me.  How did they inspire me?

Haley Fisher, author of Rising Calm, is an amazing young lady.  Haley is only 19 years old and has already published her first novel.  Rising Calm is the story of a young girl who finds out that she is destined for great things.  With the help of her friends, and not all of them are from Earth, she sets out to save a world.

I met Haley through Silver Tongue Press, the publisher of her book.  I read her book long before it was published, and I am one of the people who edited her book.  As I read through it, her talent really shined.  Her characters seemed so real to me, and she had a remarkable talent for weaving together an intricate plot.  I have always wanted to write, and have often wished that I began as early in life as Haley did.  Instead of writing though, I got married and had raised a family.  I don’t regret giving my all to my husband and children, but I also wish I had found a way to write.

Rebecca Graf, author of Deep Connections, is another author who has given me inspiration.  I met Rebecca through BellaOnline.  She is their history editor, and I came to know her as I edited a book she wrote for the site.  Rebecca had an idea to start a publishing company, Silver Tongue Press, and asked me to go along on this adventure with her.  That was an easy decision to make.

Something that she said to me one day gave me the idea to write Softly and Tenderly.  The story began to literally consume me.  It burned inside me so deeply that I worked on it while I made chicken strips later that day.  It took me two days to write it, and I had no plans of publishing it, but Rebecca had different ideas.  It is because of Rebecca that I submitted it for publication.

Richard Petracca, author of The Immortal Game:  Rise of the Water Bearer, has not let anything stop him from pursuing his dream of writing and being a published author.  The multiple sclerosis and dyslexia he has to put up with may keep him from writing as much as he would like to, but he didn’t let those things stop him from becoming a paramedic, and he doesn’t allow them to keep him from writing.

I also met Richard through BellaOnline.  He hired me to edit a query letter for him, and then he hired me to edit his book.  Through him, I have learned a lot about writing and editing.  He is the one who edits the plots of my stories.  He makes sure that I don’t leave potentially embarrassing plot holes everywhere.  He also makes sure that my dialogue is good.  My imagination tends to go a bit overboard at times, and he is the one that makes sure it doesn’t drift too far out to sea.

My biggest inspiration has been my husband.  He has always believed that I could write and has never stopped urging me to write that bestseller.  He doesn’t get upset when he comes home and finds the house isn’t perfectly clean because I have been too busy writing or editing or have had my nose stuck in a book so good that I just couldn’t pull myself away from it.  He has asked one thing of me though:  he has asked me to never kill him off in a story.

 Excerpt 1:

Lori, it’s your turn to say bye now. You need to tell her that you love her and how much you will miss her.” Daddy put me down next to her coffin and placed his hands on my shoulders. He pushed me so close to her death box that I felt the white satin that overlapped to the outside. It rubbed against my hands. At least it was soft for Mommy. She would be comfortable in there.
I decided to speak out loud this time. Maybe no one else would bring me back up here again if I spoke my goodbyes out loud. “Mommy,” I began, but then I started crying so hard I couldn’t speak. Daddy rubbed my shoulders until I quieted down and could begin again. “Mommy, I love you. I don’t want you to leave me. Please come back. No one, not even this Jesus, is worth leaving me over.” I opened my eyes and looked at her. She hadn’t moved since Mrs. Minuet had dragged me up here. But then her eyes opened, and she stared at me. She was staring at me! I sucked my breath in and felt my legs grow weak as my head began to spin. With one hand I grabbed on to the edge of the coffin, while with the other hand I grabbed hold of Daddy’s arm.
Daddy! Daddy! Mommy’s not dead! She looked at me!” I screamed as I jumped up and down. “She was still alive when they took her out of the house. I saw her trying to get out from under the sheet.” I pulled on his arm and shook it. “Please, Daddy. You’ve got to save her.”
Daddy was beginning to sound a bit mad. He picked me up and held me over top of Mommy. “Maybe if you give her a goodbye kiss you’ll understand she’s dead, and believe me when I tell you she isn’t coming back.” I was so close to Mommy’s cheek that I could see the makeup was beginning to cake in her pores. There was no warmth rising up from her body, only icy coldness.


5 eCopies of Softly and Tenderly

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