Thursday, April 22, 2010


By Ruby Johnson

Thomas Kaufman is an Emmy Award-winning motion picture director/cameraman. He shoots TV shows for National Geographic and Discovery channels about all kinds of policeman, including the FBI, the DEA, and metro police all over the United States. Graduating from the University of Southern California with an MFA in Film production, he has also filmed documentaries for BBC, WGBH, WNET, and for Academy Award winners Charles Guggenheim, Barbara Koppel, and Mark Jonathan Harris.
Mr Kaufman has twice won the Gordon Parks Award for Cinematography, and an Emmy for a documentary about deaf children, SEE WHAT I'M SAYING. So it’s no surprise that he is now the winner of the PWA Best First Private Eye Novel Competition for DRINK THE TEA, a novel with an original PI character and an authentic cast of supporting characters.

RJ: Tom, thank you for being here. I’ve been looking forward to this interview since I contacted you. I know you’ve been on a recent book tour, so I am especially glad you could work us into your schedule.

TK: Hi Everyone, thanks for tuning in.

RJ: Can you tell us how your career as a cinematographer influenced your ability to develop and show your characters in your novel?

TK: Whether you’re shooting a film or writing a book, it’s all about story. Film and the written word are just the means of the telling. But the same principles apply.
Good writing means you show things, not just tell them. As a guy who spends a lot of time looking through the viewfinder of a camera, I “see” the scenes I write. When I’m sitting in some coffee shop with my laptop in front of me, I close my eyes and visualize the scene. I think of the characters I’m writing about as actors on a set, and I try to write roles that would interest a good actor. So I guess I’m trying to write interesting characters and visual scenes.
I try to see the body language of my characters as well.
A few weeks ago, my talented and wonderful wife—and there’s an example of telling instead of showing, you don’t know why she’s amazing and wonderful and I’m not about to tell you—my wife took me to see Renoir’s “The Boating Party.” What’s so interesting is how Renoir uses body language to tell stories. This painting has two love triangles in the foreground, and four smaller sub-plot stories in the background. It’s a masterpiece of showing through expression and body language.
When I write a scene, I try to picture how someone moves, their body language, what they say and, of course, what they don’t say. And most of this comes from me being behind the camera. Most times, I’m shooting in high definition. A good friend says I write in high definition. That’s certainly something I try to do.

RJ: Will you share with us a little bit about DRINK THE TEA?

TK: Willis Gidney is a private detective who grew up on the streets of Washington D.C. without parents or a home. He’s a born liar, and a con artist. He’s got a great sense of humor, which he’s needed to survive. His childhood affects everything he sees and does. And his parentless background compels him to take a case he shouldn’t: his best friend asks him to find a missing daughter, a daughter the friend has just discovered he has. This leads to major complications and pits Gidney against a corrupt congressman, a ruthless corporation, and woman desperate to conceal her past.

RJ: Could you also discuss the challenge of taking Willis Gidney, a rather derelict individual, and turning him into a character readers can cheer on. I liked how you defined him against a background of influences and also held him responsible for his actions.

TK: Our actions define us. You get to see what kind of person Willis is when he’s under pressure. So I put him in situations, some of them pretty rough, and let him react. The difference between his reactions and ours, you can attribute to his background.
When DC Police Captain, Shadrack Davies adopts Willis, he keeps Willis off a criminal path. But Shad’s influence puts Willis in a tough spot: Willis now knows what the right thing is. He knows about ethics, but the con man in him is always spotting the scam at the same time. I think that provides a complexity to Willis that readers can relate to.

RJ: Will there be another Willis Gidney book?

TK: I’ve written the sequel, SON OF AN ELEPHANT, and St. Martin’s has said they like it, but they’re waiting to see how well DRINK THE TEA does. So if you like the book, please tell your friends.

RJ: Tom, it’s been such an honor to have you here. I wish you much success with this and your next book.

TK: Thank you!!

View the trailer for Drink the Tea:, and learn more about the book and author at Thomas Kaufman's website: and blog:

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


posted by Jenna Howard

I’ve been told not to like it.
I’ve heard that it is bad.
But all I see are balls of sunshine
Cheerful flower makes me glad.

You think this is the end
Of the joy it brings.
But it turns into fluffy clouds
And my heart simply sings.

It still hides a secret
Revealed with a puff.
Tiny dancers float away
Peaceful, happy stuff.

But then comes horror
Liquid death in a spray.
Now the weed is withered
At least the dream can stay.

One Word, One Sentence, One Paragraph At A Time

by Ruby Johnson

Whether you are working on new fiction or non fiction, sometimes self-doubt kicks in. Consider the following  when this happens.
You live a life that no one else lives. Shouldn't you have thoughts and ideas that no one else has? You do not live a life that is boring. You're an individual with your own views. You know exactly what you value, what makes you unique, what inspires you. You've spent years defining your style, your way. You see things differently — as you should. So when it comes to writing, you have definite ideas about where you are, what you see in this world, what is best, what is beautiful.  The next time you write, build on your ideas, literally. It's the way  individual writers have been showing their ideas for centuries, one word, one sentence, one paragraph at a time . With endless ideas for stories, and limitless capabilities with talent, when you  sit down to work on your manuscript, your work won't be just like the others on the book shelf, because it is uniquely yours alone. How could it be? Yours is  built around your vision.

Surround yourself with inspiration. Where does your inspiration come from? If it's the outdoors, take the time to garden and let it stream into you with the smells and sounds of nature. Ideas can come in all shapes and sizes.Start with one and add layers of complexity to build a plot that twists and turns.  Or, if non-fiction, start with an idea and build  to a perfect conclusion. But the most important thing is to start.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


Posted by Jeffery W. Turner, member.

How could we forget those ancient myths that stand at the beginning of all races, the myths about dragons that at the last moment are transformed into princesses? Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love. So you mustn't be frightened, dear Mr. Kappus, if a sadness rises in front of you, larger than any you have ever seen; if an anxiety, like light and cloud-shadows, moves over your hands and over everything you do. You must realize that something is happening to you, that life has not forgotten you, that it holds you in its hand it will not let you fall.

The words above were written by the German poet named Maria Ranier Rilke. Those words  got my attention long ago and are something I  used in my book “Notes To Stephanie: Middle Aged Love Letters And Life Stories”. While the words vary somewhat, depending on the translation you read, the key elements  remain. Beyond the words themselves, one asks what exactly do they mean? They were written in a book called “Letters To A Young Poet” where Rilke is corresponding with a French poet named Kappus. Rilke explains to Kappus that  the darkest things in our lives sometimes create something good and wonderful.

In fact before the quote above he says “We have no reason to harbor any mistrust against our world, for it is not against us. If it has terrors, they are our terrors; if it has abysses, these abysses belong to us; if there are dangers, we must try to love them. And if only we arrange our life in accordance with the principle which tells us that we must always trust in the difficult, then what now appears to us as the most alien will become our most intimate and trusted experience..”

When a person is having a hard time it is natural to only see  the bad and negative side of things. When events try us it is difficult, if not impossible, to see a positive side of them. But that is what we have to do to endure the trials besetting us and obtain victory over the things that attack us. I  have had to do this more than once. In fact, that way of looking at things is one reason I completed the first book . Sometimes something bad begets something that is good. And, thus, as Rilke suggests to us, I learned to love the dragons in my life and move on.

So when life throws up its next hurdle to you just remember what Rilke said: "... life has not forgotten you, ... it holds you in its hand it will not let you fall". Thus even in darkness light can be found if you are willing to try.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Ask An Agent

by Carrie Shannon
I was online on Friday evening and happened to be present for a twitter online question session. The hash tag #askagent brought me to the attention of about 6-7 agents and publishers from NYC to the west coast.

Several of my questions were answered. One was totally ignored despite 4 attempts to get it answered.

Question: What is the most important attribute that you look for in a new writer? (obviously I only had 140 spaces so some of my original questions are expanded here).

Answer: professionalism.

Question: How does a new writer find an agent?

Answer 1: google is your friend (not all that helpful...but...)

Answer 2: read books you like and see who the author thanks. (actually this is helpful but if you prefer to read books written a half century ago, not very helpful to find someone actually still breathing...)

Question: What length of books are selling? (this was not one of my questions, but one I thought was interesting)

Answer: YA fiction from 50-70k. All other fiction no more than 85-90k. (this caught my attention because have one novel currently at 175k and another one topping at over 95k at the moment).

One publisher mentioned that any book over 90k was probably 'two stories in one'.
Not so for my opus, but I digress.

Final question: Does a writer have to get their work professionally edited before an agent will pay attention.
No answer to this question, despite asking it 4 times over the hour and in various ways. I still would like to know. Seems to me, that more and more is being put on the writer...

Hopefully this was helpful to someone. It was very cool to get real time answers from real live agents and publishers. I did not keep a record of this, should have, so this is all from memory.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

ACFW Author Shares How to Get Started Reading Ebooks

Posted by Ruby Johnson for K. Dawn Byrd.

I am excited to welcome our first guest blogger.
K. Dawn Byrd is an author of inspirational romance. She holds a masters degree in professional counseling from Liberty University and she believes this background gives her better insight into the minds, feelings and emotions of individuals, which help her to better understand her characters and develop them more fully. Queen of Hearts, a WWII romantic suspense waas released April 1 and Killing Time, a contemporary romantic suspense will be released August 1, both with Desert Breeze Publishing.

She is an avid blogger and gives away several books per week on her blog at, most of which are signed by the authors. Her blog spotlights not only the books, but the authors also because we all want to know more about our favorite authors.
When not reading or writing, K. Dawn Byrd enjoys spending time with her husband of 14 years, walking their dogs beside a gorgeous lake near her home, and plotting the next story waiting to be told.

                                                    K. DAWN BYRD

If you're not reading ebooks, you're missing out. After I figured out how to download the first ebook, I was hooked and have purchased dozens of ebooks since then. I absolutely love them. I'm not killing trees, using expensive ink or lugging around heavy objects. And best of all, I can read when I want on my cell phone, anywhere, any time. And, I can read in bed with hubby right beside me and don't have to worry about disturbing him with a bedside light. The font is adjustable and right now my font is larger and darker than the print in a paperback. It's backlit and easy on the eyes. I can purchase ebooks in seconds and never leave the house. I have literally thousands of titles at my fingertips. Also, ebooks are inexpensive and many of them, especially those in the public domain, are free. Since I store ebooks on my computer or smartphone, they're not taking up room in my home and I can read them again if I choose.
In order to read ebooks on your smartphone or PC, you must have the proper software, which can be downloaded for free at After entering their website, click on "help" in the upper right corner, find your device, and then download the software. If you want to take a test run to make sure your software is working properly before spending your money, you can go to and click on the their "Free! Free! Free!" tab to the left. Choose your item and download. It's that easy!
I'm such a fan of ebooks that I have two romantic suspense books coming out with Desert Breeze this year, one in April and one in September and I'm crazy about the cover art they designed for my April, release Queen of Hearts! It's scary and intriguing. You can read an excerpt at

Here's the blurb from my publisher's website: Daphne Dean is proud to be serving her country stateside during WWII as a reporter and an Office of Strategic Services operative. When the photograph she takes of the crowd at a murder scene places her on the mob's hit list, she's forced into hiding in a vacant mental asylum in the middle of nowhere with terrifying secrets of its own.
Daphne thinks she is still  in love with her ex-fiancĂ©e, Kenneth, until she spends several days locked away in the asylum with Vito, the mob boss' son. Can she put the terrifying events that occurred there behind her and allow herself to pursue a relationship with Vito? Or, will she return to Kenneth who has turned his back on his country by becoming a draft dodger and a black market racketeer? One thing's for sure, it won't matter if she can't escape the mental institution alive.
I hope your ebook experience is a positive one and you love them as much as I do. ----K. Dawn Byrd

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