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Marlan Warren is a free-lance publicist who promotes entertainers and book authors (Roadmap Communications and Book Publicity by Marlan, respectively). She is also a film maker (Roadmap Productions), Reiki Master/Teacher (Light Hands Reiki Studio and Institute), Screenwriter, Novelist, PhotoJournalist, Tai Chi practitioner. 

Saturday, November 5, 2016

How to Love a Writer

I do not often write #poetry. But this one is for all you writers and the people & animals who love you.

Advice to the Lovelorn

If you value your privacy
 Do not date a writer.
If you have secrets
 Do not date a writer.
If you want to sneak around
 Do not date a writer.
If you want to lie your head off
 Do not date a writer.
If you want to see & not be seen
 Do not date a writer.
If you want calm and peace of mind
 Do not date a writer.
If you do not want to see yourself in Public
 Do not date a writer.
If you want to be cherished beyond all else
 Date a writer.
If you want to find new depths in intimacy
 Date a writer.
If you like the unexpected
 Date a writer.
If you accept your warts and all
 Date a writer.
If you do not care what she does as long as she’s with you
 Date a writer.

Advice to the Lovelorn, Warren, Marlan. November 5, 2016 

When Life gives you Lemons, make #poetry!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Huzzah! My review of the brilliant Imperfect Echoes is in Nov. issue of Midwest Book Review!

My review of Imperfect Echoes is published in November 2016 Issue of Midwest Book Review: Reviewer’s Bookwatch!

Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 16, Number 11
November 2016

Imperfect Echoes: Writing Truth and Justice with Capital Letters, lie and oppression with Small
Carolyn Howard-Johnson
HowToDoItFrugally Publishing
9781515232490, $9.95 Paperback, $2.99 Kindle, 148 pages
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Imperfect-Echoes-Writing-Justice-oppression/dp/1515232492

Marlan Warren, Reviewer

Genres: Poetry Anthology/Social Justice

Narcissus knows her reflection
well. She forgets to peer
under burkas, in our jails,
in the beds of the abused,
deeper, deeper into the pond...

―Howard-Johnson, Carolyn. Narcissus Revisited.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson's "Imperfect Echoes: Writing Truth and Justice with Capital Letters, lie and oppression with Small" is just perfect.

This Los Angeles award-winning poet lays out the landscape of her contemplative thoughts, feelings and reactions with such honesty and deceptive simplicity that they have the effect of offering a peek into her private journals. What puts this poetry on par with leaping tall buildings is the fact that each poem manages the feat of conveying personal and universal relevance at once.

Do not be scared off by the prospect of political rhetoric masquerading as literature; this is not one of those books. Although the book's subtitle may strike some as rather lofty, it is a quote from Czeslaw Milosz's poem, "Incantation," in his anthology, "The Captive Mind," which reflects Howard-Johnson's poetic themes. She has divided her prolific poems into a Prologue plus four sections: "Remembering What We Must"; "Nations: Tranquil Self-Destruction"; "Acceptance: Waiting for the Gift"; and "Future Stones of Distrust."

Howard-Johnson deftly blends the "Truth and Justice" observations with the "Small" moments of "lie(s)" and "oppression" as they intersperse through her poet's journey. The poems in "Remembering What We Must" address the stark realities of war and global misery, which Howard-Johnson treats with her practiced light touch that floats like the proverbial butterfly and stings like an outraged bee.

In "Belgium's War Fields," she compares the reasons for bygone wars to our present day confusion: "And now a war that takes from the mouths /and hearts of the stranded, the homeless. / How different from those who / marched with snares or flew flags / in a war when we knew / why we were there."

In the "Nations: Tranquil Self-Destruction" section, "The Story of My Missed Connection in Minneola" brings to life a brief rest stop during a road trip, which seems rather amusing at first as the wife relieves her bladder and the husband declines the coffee with "Let's skip it. Coffee's / probably been stewing for days..." but hits an unexpected bump of overt bigotry when the roadside store owner confides in them (in between the screeches of his pet parrot) that he left Los Angeles to get away from the "ragheads."

In the "Acceptance: Waiting for the Gift" section, "Relatives" takes on the ways in which "Small" minds can make a family dinner feel like a stint in Purgatory: "Perhaps you won't invite me back / if I mention that infamous / uncle. You know, the one who killed / three of his wives / but is candid / about who he is, / how many he's killed, / the methods he used / and never gets invited to dinner.

In the "Future Stones of Distrust" section, "Rosa Parks Memorialized" opens with "On the day our September losses / reached 2,000, a tribute / to Rosa..." and asks "If she were alive now.../ would her solo / be enough or do we need now a choir singing, / thousands screaming...?"

Imperfect Echoes allows readers to witness a poet's lifetime revisited in memory and with fresh wisdom. If the topics of oppression, prejudice and war seem to some "overdone," Howard-Johnson responds in her Prologue poem, "Apologies from a Magpie":

Magpies are born to sing others' songs -
stained notes, imperfect echoes -
until the world begins to know
them by heart.

Note: All proceeds from the sales will be donated to the non-profit human rights watchdog, Amnesty International.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Book Review: Christina Hoag's YA Novel, "Girl on the Brink," Teaches How Not to Be a Victim.

"I hope...he never calls me again, but he still owes me a big apology."
 --Girl on the Brink
Reviewer, Marlan Warren
This review is also published on  my “L.A. Now & Then” Blog.

Summary: Aspiring reporter Chloe (age 17) lands a dream job as a summer intern with the local paper in her New Jersey suburb, and meets the somewhat annoying-but-cute Kieran while she is on assignment. Kieran (age 19) pounces on Chloe, who is pleased to find a creative person like herself (he's an aspiring actor), and enjoys his lavish attention as a welcome alternative to her unhappy home life due to her parents' impending divorce. Gradually, it becomes more and more apparent that Kieran is emotionally disturbed, and unable (or unwilling) to control his need to micromanage her life or his extreme jealousy. At first, she thinks "There's no point in resisting," but by the time he's repeatedly hurt her physically and mentally, Chloe knows in her head that he's abusing her, but her heart makes excuses for him. Which will win? Head or heart?

Los Angeles author Christina Hoag has crafted Girl on the Brink as a "howdunit." While it is no mystery why the vulnerable and intelligent 17-year old Chloe falls for the initial charm of a potentially lethal 19-year old young man whose avid attention leads her into a summer romance, the real mystery lies in how the heck this otherwise sharp, but troubled, teen will extricate herself from what increasingly becomes an abusive relationship.

Hoag has grounded the story in the psychological reality of how abusive relationships can occur at any age. The episodic story is told in first person from Chloe's point of view, which gives it a kind of one-sided diary quality, but its use of present tense gives it a you-are-there immediacy. It unfolds the way life--and relationships--unfold.

This is not a "sleeping with the enemy" tale. There are no real villains here. Neither the sex nor the violence is sensationalized. In fact, the tragedy and victory play out with greater impact because "domestic abuse" is sadly commonplace--even though it is almost taboo in American culture to discuss it openly, especially with young daughters and sons.

Many readers may see themselves or someone they know in these pages. And to her credit, Hoag supplies a "Resources" list in the Appendix where teens can seek help if they are in Chloe's situation.

It is a well-documented fact that a significant number of abusive relationships are inhabited by two people who say they love each other. Girl on the Brink gently explores this paradox (nothing is preachy). And when it is finally over, a wiser Chloe states:

"I know it was okay to leave Kieran, and it was okay to miss him, too."

Abusive relationships can happen throughout women's lives in repetitive patterns. Girl on the Brink serves as a beacon that shines light on how to nip potential abuse cycles in the bud, and place high priority on mutual respect in relationships.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Thanks for the Kudos!

Kudos are always welcome here. Six degrees of separation makes the Internet vibrate.
These are for Maxine Nunes' amazing L.A. crime novel, Dazzled, and my Review:

Carolyn Howard-Johnson

2 days ago  -  Shared publicly
Aha! Marlan, I see you found one of my favorite authors and fun reads! And, as usual--your pages always look wonderful. You are the book world's treasure!

Marlan Warren
5 minutes ago
Thanks, Carolyn, for the compliments to Maxine Nunes and myself! She is a stunning writer. I hope her books will be read by everyone who loves to wallow in fine storytelling. As for me, after I won First Place at a library competition for the best book report, at age 9 I was hooked! 

Adrienne Goldstone

21 hours ago  -  Shared publicly
"Dazzled" is a top-notch mystery, thoroughly enjoyable and satisfying As the reviewer says, the juxtaposition of the intoxicating perfume of jasmine and the stench of the morgue create a compelling vision of the mobius strip of life in Los Angeles. Highly recommended!
Thank you, Adrienne Goldstone, for your thumbs-up on "Dazzled." Yesterday I came across a book about authors who wrote about L.A. Not one woman mentioned in that huge tome. Maxine Nunes evokes an L.A. so real you can smell it. Literally.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

"DAZZLED" - A Mystery Built on the Contradictions of L.A. with Unflinching Fresh Eyes

I wondered how anyone ever felt at home here, where there was nothing you could trust to hold on to, not even the ground beneath your feet.—Dazzled

Title: Dazzled 
Author: Maxine Nunes
Series: A Nikki Easton Mystery (Book 1)
Publisher: Five Star (October 23, 2013) 
ISBN-13: 978-1432827304 
Available on Amazon (Paperback, Kindle and Hard Cover)
Website:  http://www.maxinenunes.com/
Synopsis: Feisty one-liner actress Nikki Easton finds herself embroiled in a quest to either find out who murdered her best friend—the "dazzling" aspiring actress Darla—or verify that the unrecognizable corpse buried in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery is really someone else. Along the way, Nikki finds herself smitten with a sexy cop, looks for clues at a Playboy-type mansion, and tangles with unsavory Underworld characters whose antics and shocking connections are nearly indistinguishable from the rest of Hollywood's movers who slither through this book. Sex, drugs and lost souls who are torn between the need to be "somebody" and the desire to flee L.A. keep this mystery ticking like the proverbial time bomb.

Maxine Nunes' Dazzled is a tale told with such precision for atmospheric details, lifestyle annoyances and pitch perfect dialogue, it should come with a cautionary disclaimer for Los Angelenos:

"Warning: May induce the sensation that you are still inside the plot every time you look up from the book."

True to its genre, the story takes readers where others have gone before, but Nunes puts a fresh spin on the familiar elements through inspired turns of phrases ("...a man who evidently thought a strip of chest hair would do for a necktie") and quirky 21st Century updates (gifted with a bouquet, the only "vase" Nikki can find is an empty Slurpee cup).

Nunes also has a gift for depicting layered characters. To this end, she makes excellent use of an acting class that demands "honest emotions" of its students. In the hands of a lesser writer, these scenes could come off as satire or excessively dramatic; but here they skillfully alternate between humor and pathos while giving readers the necessary insights.

The stronger the personality the more it hid.Dazzled

Dazzled lovingly and painstakingly explores the paradoxical contradictions of Los Angeles and its hapless inhabitants. The smell of night jasmine juxtaposes with the stench of the morgue...an actress with a "show biz" sensuality hides her true self in plain sight...and all the sleights of hand resonate in the book's first line:

What's real?

At its core, the mystery explores love in its various forms and disguises. Twists, turns and double-crosses abound. Enough to keep the pages turning, but not so complicated or overloaded with characters that it ever feels unwieldy.

All in all, a fun read—unless you are living in L.A., in which case you might have fun while also thinking about leaving town; or if you are the optimistic type, you might find yourself looking forward to a sequel!

Maxine Nunes
Maxine Nunes is a New Yorker who has spent most of her life Los Angeles. She has written and produced for television, and currently writes for several publications including the Los Angeles Times. Her satiric parody of a White House scandal won the Pen USA West International Imitation Hemingway Competition.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

QUOTE OF THE DAY: Carolyn See "Making a Literary Life"

This quote comes from Carolyn See's indispensable how-to book:
Making a Literary Life:

It's a wonderful thing to even think about becoming a writer. 
It's like opening a crystal door in your mind.


Announcing the Book Publicity by Marlan Newsletter First Issue! To subscribe, please visit: Book Publicity by Marlan Newsletter

Bukowski Mural: Los Angeles

For more info re Book Publicity by Marlan:
Visit http://bookpublicitybymarlan.blogspot.com
 And yes! We're on Facebook!

Note from the Editor

Welcome to the first installment of the Book Publicity by Marlan Newsletter! I began representing indie authors four years ago when my longtime friend, Luke Benoit, published a book that I thought was terrific (All Storms Pass: The Anti-Meditations). I ran a book review and an author interview in my blogs, and the rest...as they say...is history. Since then, it's been a thrilling--and educational!--ride as I hone my publicity and marketing skills, while assisting indie authors (self-published and small press) with their book launch campaigns, book reviews, press releases, press kits, speaker engagements and of course, book signing bookings. My services sometimes include editing (copy editing, as well as full-on revision suggestions and rewrite/ghostwrite).

Every client experience has been a teaching episode. It is not enough to throw your book up on Amazon and hope for the best. And each PR effort requires diligence as well as knowledge on the part of all who are promoting a book.

Why am I smiling? I'm on vacation!

I'm an "Artisanal Publicist"--each book campaign that I design for an author includes a carefully crafted one-sheet, "elevator pitch," and consideration of the target market, as a well-researched plan for attracting media interest and interviews.

This month, I find I have a short list of Writer-Author-Publisher items that might interest you. So here we go!

PS - I will consider articles you submit for this newsletter. So please feel free to submit your pearls of hard-won wisdom via the Contact Form on this newsletter! Thank you! 

Upcoming Stuff

Seattle Publisher, Gemelli Press, will be releasing and re-releasing these spicy guidebooks to Italy, just in time for your next Italian Romp (or your next fantasy about it):

In Etna's Shadow
Salento by 5
Pit Stops, Pitfalls and Olive Pits
Coins in the Fountain 
The Essential Etna Wine Guide
I worked with Gemelli and its sister, Green Darner Press, last year on several of their exciting books, and cannot wait to get started on helping spread the word on these new offerings. (I also did the final edit on Pit Stops, Pitfalls and Olive Pits, a lovely you-are-there guidebook with charming anecdotes along the way.)

Hot Tips and Contests
For great tips in PR, Writing and Beyond, I highly recommend veteran author/publicist Carolyn Howard-Johnson's jam-packed Sharing With Writers Newsletter. She also maintains a generous and informative website, where she frequently publishes my book reviews (she welcomes your submissions too), and most recently a note of praise I wrote her re her Artists First podcast interview:


This very savvy publicist is the author of the bestselling How to Do It Frugally series, which serve as encyclopedias for self-published authors.

Free Book Review Sites

I write book reviews for The Midwest Book Review, but the MBR editors are fine with me publishing those reviews elsewhere first; so while I wait for MBR to Green Light them, I send them off to Carolyn Howard-Johnson's The New Book Review site, in addition to publishing them on my blogs: L.A. Now & Then and Roadmap Girl's Book Buzz

As you authors and publishers already know, there's no such thing as too much PR exposure!

Why would one publicist support another publicist? Good question! I'll write about that in my next newsletter!

Very happy for U.K. mystery author Celia Conrad (Alicia Allen Investigates Trilogy) whose novel, Wilful Murder has just been selected as BOTM (Book of the Month) by the Goodreads Legal Anything group.

Conrad is an attorney-turned-author with a powerful imagination that spins her legal experiences and love of Classical Literature into mystery gold.

And P.S. to anyone in the Los Angeles/Pasadena area: Sisters in Crime is a wonderful group for mystery writers and readers. They meet once a month at the South Pasadena Public Library (and are international, as well). The meetings are open to anyone and free (membership is worthwhile if you care to join for a small fee), and feature speakers who give talks on all aspects of writing, publishing and mystery/suspense genre writing. 

 Keep an Eye Out for...
Book Cover Draft-Not Final

I edited and helped revise the first draft of Shelly & Sherry Glaser's all-about-healing book enticingly entitled The First Practical Handbook for Crazy People. Sherry Glaser is a well-known performance artist and activist whose hilariously painful one-woman show, Family Secrets, still holds the title of Longest Running One-Woman Show in Broadway History. Her mother, Shelly Glaser, was in and out of mental wards for most of her adult life, but as she pushed for answers to help heal herself and found a path that worked for her...she also began writing this book. Years after her mother's death, Sherry Glaser came across the manuscript, and sat down (with her mother's blessing from the Great Beyond) and began revising it--as well as adding her own two cents about her own Odyssey to Sanity. If you'd like more info or wish to donate to the crowd-funding site for the book's publication, please visit

Sherry Glaser: "Oh My Goddess!" NYC United Solo Festival Winner
 Sherry Glaser's Big Fat Media Kit

Should you consider a Digital Press Kit?

Just a few words about the Digital Press Kits I've started designing for clients (authors and entertainers). When I first started, all the elements of the press kit were laid out one-by-one and attached to an e-mail query to a reporter or program director, or copied & pasted into the body of the e-mail. This is still advisable (sans the attachments and preferably via a service like Constant Contact if you're going to send out to a lot of recipients). However, a Digital Press Kit can be quite impressive and effective. Check out the link above for Sherry Glaser or visit the press kit I created for Stacey R. Campbell's Young Adult adventure tale Arrgh!

Make your Bio great again!
It's not just books that are as different from each other as snowflakes, but so are publicists. Because I find myself at a loss to articulate all that I encounter in a day or over a period of months working with an author, I've decided to post some "Before" & "After" shots to help folks get a whiff of what it's like to be...well, me.

A couple years ago, I was hired by a friend I've known for over three decades. She is highly accomplished in all facets of her professional life, and well known in her circles (we're talking Ted Talks and awards and a column for Psychology Today, etc.). Yet, despite all this, and more, I was surprised when she sent me what I considered to be a rather "bare bones" account of who she is (aka "Bio").

It turns out that we are not always the best publicists for ourselves when it comes to writing bios; one reason being our modesty or even "blindness" to what exactly makes our life story so interesting to others.


Judith Fein lives to leave. An award-winning travel journalist, she is either on the road or on her computer. She has contributed to more than 100 international publications, and is the author of the acclaimed book, LIFE IS A TRIP: The Transformative Magic of Travel. Judith has been a keynote presenter for many conferences, including the Adventure Travel Trade Association, and Tedx San Miguel de Allende. Widely lauded as a speaker and storyteller, she is a frequent guest on broadcast media. With her husband Paul Ross, she teaches public speaking and creativity as applied to writing, PR and Marketing. With humor, surprise, and hands-on exercises, they help people to be their best creative selves. Judith is the co-founder and executive editor of the award-garnering experiential travel blog Your Life Is a Trip, which has more than 125 contributors. She blogs about travel for The Huffington Post and Psychology Today, and occasionally she and Paul Ross take people on very unusual trips. In her LBTW (Life Before Travel Writing), Fein ran a theatre company in Europe, lived in Africa, and then worked as a screenwriter, playwright, and theatre director in the U.S.A.  Her website is Global Adventure.


Overall I like it. The basic bio is there that you always use and that's really good. It seems a little weak to me because of some omissions, intentional or otherwise, that could make it sparkle? It seems to be the end-product of your modesty.

A few questions:

1. Weren't you the President of a Travel Journalists Assoc. or did I dream that? Any high office like that is notable.
2. I don't think it would hurt to be more specific about the "broadcast" -- esp. what people recognize (like what makes people go "Oh!" and gasp at parties or stop looking around to see who else is there but now they fixate on you). So I would mention NPR and the Marketplace that you and Paul were regulars on (not only Marketplace, but Savvy Traveler). 

I'm not all that thrilled about the sentence that explains how you bring out the best in people as writers, etc. It sounds like a bit of a sales pitch (I know you don't mean it that way), but it seems out of place in an Author's Bio (to me).

3. Details on the publications wouldn't hurt either, as you have written for L.A. Times, NY Times. Those are not easy papers to get into. Do NOT take it for granted that it's no big deal or it will sound like bragging. Here you can brag.

4. Try to stay cognizant of what makes people go "Ah!" When I wrote Luke's bio, I wrote that he "toiled in Hollywood" before becoming a therapist. One radio host jumped on that and had a field day asking Luke about his "Hollywood" career.

People in Podunk or other than L.A. imbue the word "Hollywood" with either the image of success (writer) or balls to try to make it as a writer. 

A reader would want a little something about your travels (in a condensed, flighty kind of sentence) like "Judie has run with the bulls in Mexico, healed with the healers in the Yucatan, danced the hootchie-kootchie in the pyramids, etc."

I hunger for specifics. Colorful, fun specifics. Because you and Paul are colorful and fun.

Judith Fein lives to leave. An award-winning travel journalist, she is either on the road or on her computer. She has contributed to more than 100 international publications, including the Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, Dallas Morning News, National Geographic Traveler, the Jerusalem Post, Hemisphere, Islands, New Mexico Magazine, Travel Age West, Organic Spa, and Spirituality and Health.  She is the author of the acclaimed book, LIFE IS A TRIP: The Transformative Magic of Travel. Judith has been a keynote presenter for many conferences, including the Adventure Travel Trade Association, and Tedx San Miguel de Allende. Widely lauded as a speaker and storyteller, she is a frequent guest on broadcast media, was a regular contributor to The Savvy Traveler for six years, and has been heard on the BBC, All Things Considered, and Marketplace.  With her photojournalist husband Paul Ross, she teaches public speaking and creativity as applied to writing, PR and Marketing. Judith is the co-founder and executive editor of the award-garnering experiential travel blog www.YourLifeisaTrip.com, which has more than 125 contributors. She blogs about travel for The Huffington Post and Psychology Today, and occasionally she and Paul Ross take open-hearted people on very unusual trips. In her LBTW (Life Before Travel Writing), Fein ran a theatre company in Europe, lived in Africa, and then worked as a Hollywood screenwriter, playwright, and theatre director in the U.S.A.  Like a modern-day Marco Polo or Ibn Batuta, Fein has traveled from Mog Mog to Vanuatu, trained as assistant to a Mexican healer, purchased a camel in Tunisia, danced with spirits in Brazil and a Mayan elder in Quintana Roo, dragged her husband to consult with a Zulu sangoma in South Africa, swum with beluga whales, had a private audience with the High Priest of the Ancient Israelite Samaritans, appeased the mischievous jinns in Morocco, and eaten porcupine, albeit not with relish, in Vietnam. Her website is www.GlobalAdventure.us 

Friday, May 20, 2016

Publicist Author Carolyn Howard-Johnson Gives Great Interviews & Tips

Carolyn Howard-Johnson

I am a big fan and admirer of the Los Angeles publicist/poet/author Carolyn Howard-Johnson. Four years ago, I heard her speak at a writers' workshop about how to get the most PR mileage out of Amazon, and I've been hooked on her How to Do It Frugally series ever since. I'm very pleased that she posted my "Lovely Little Letter" to her on her popular Sharing with Writers Blog. Thank you, Carolyn!

One Lovely Thank You Note a Day: This is What Carolyn See May Have Meant

In one of her books on writing, Carolyn See advises authors to write one lovely thank you note a day, the emphasis on "lovely." Lots of authors are good at writing thank you notes, especially since e-mail has made it so easy. But "lovely?"  We are all pressed for time.

Still, I have one reader who has sent me several that are examples of the kind of letter I think See would have approved of. Her name is Marlan Warren and she gave me permission to reprint her letter if I thought it would help other writers do something similar--or at least to nudge them to write their letters.  I mean, a note like this can make an author so happy! And the words from a smart publicist are an added bonus!

Dear Carolyn:

I really enjoyed your interview with Maxine Thompson on the Artist First Radio Network last night.
I felt privileged to hear you and Maxine discuss literature, writers, writing, and your own great how-to knowledge (I’m a huge fan of your How to Do It Frugally series and now a fan of Maxine's show). You are two Old School pros who know better than anyone that being a great writer or editor means more than having been at the top of your class in English.

I especially liked your tip to "Promote the Promotion." This is what I try to explain to my PR/Marketing clients, but it is hard for them to grasp. Most think it's enough to post a "Hey! Buy my book!" on social media and leave it at that.

Your discussion with Maxine about editing was spot on. Didn't she say something about refusing to promote a book that is not ready? I do the same thing. You explained today’s indie author marketing environment perfectly: the Internet has provided new venues for people who want to get their writing "out there," but it has also opened the floodgates for sloppy writing and presentations.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Writing Coach Elaine Ash Helps Writers Rewrite Until It's Right.

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of hearing Los Angeles writing coach, Elaine Ash, speak on the topic of "Self- Editing for Authors" at the monthly Sisters in Crime meeting. If you've never been to a Sisters in Crime meeting, and you're an aspiring crime writer living in the vicinity of their meeting place, the South Pasadena Library, I urge you to attend their free meetings, which always feature a riveting speaker.

Elaine Ash is an engaging speaker who shows up with a well organized and entertaining presentation that included a handout with insightful tips guaranteed to get any writer's motor running. The headings included:

  • "Develop First - Everything Else Can Wait"
  • "Get The Most Out of Your Writers' Group"
  • "Too Many Characters"
  • "Deconstructing Successful Novels for Structure"
  • "The Feather Edit"
As a publicist and book reviewer, the "too many characters" totally resonated. For me, few things are more frustrating than settling down to read a newly published indie novel, only to find a few pages in that I need to write down the 10 characters who were introduced before I got to page 4 (and draw a map of the tangled backstory while I'm at it). As readers, we wish someone had tipped off the writer that confusion overload can lead to a reader closing the cover, never to open it again--unless it's for love or money.