Monthly Archives: February 2007

BOOK BEAT 33 – Eric Spencer

BOOK BEAT   Naples Sun Times    February 28, 2007

by Philip K. Jason

Naples High School and Duke University graduate Eric Spencer has launched a campaign aimed at the democratization of authorship. Our society has already seen the democratization of information access and opinion-mongering through the development of the internet. Book authorship has been heading in the same direction through vanity presses, single-author publishing houses, and print-on-demand services. Eric Spencer, now a 27-year old businessman, wants to accelerate the process. He, along with co-author Dr. Neil Shulman, has just published Get Between the Covers, a work that encourages and aids all of us to “Leave a Legacy by Writing a Book.”

2nd edition 2008

Spencer insists that just about everyone has a book buried inside, almost like a seed, ready to be nurtured and developed. While many people suspect this and still don’t know what to do about it, others have yet to discover that their life experiences, their special interests and perceptions, and their areas of expertise make them candidates for authorship. For the former, Spencer has useful advice; for the later, he opens a door to unsuspected and exciting possibilities.

Because book publishing is now so easy, Spencer feels that it should be encouraged – and not only for the author’s personal satisfaction. A large-scale wave of the writing and production of many more thousands upon thousands of readable books has the possibility of uplifting basic literacy and improving the writing skills of masses of people. The process of working industriously and intelligently on a book will lead authors to sharpen their communication skills. Skeptics might say that Spencer is only encouraging more junk to find its way into print, but he insists that people should and will take pride in their work, making it worthy of publication and readership.

But Get Between the Covers is not essentially a how-to book about writing. It gives some cursory attention to the editing process that is almost useless in its sketchiness. Basically, Spencer and Shulman leave that kind of advice to others. This book is about attitude building, inspiration, habit-formation, and implementation.

In twenty-three digestible chapters, the authors cover a range of useful topics. The first part of the book has eight chapters that focus on getting the reader committed to his or her writing project and guiding the fledgling author to see it through. The next four chapters make up the second part, boldly titled “Demystifying the Mighty Giant: Welcome to the Publishing Industry.” Here begins the nitty-gritty of the book, taking the initiate through traditional publishing, agentry, and the retail bookselling industry. Part 3 – “Paths to Print” – steers the reader through the various older and newer methods of bringing a book to the marketplace. It stresses print-on-demand, self-publishing, custom publishing, vanity publishing, and even e-books. For each approach, Spencer and Shulman assess the pros and cons. A decision about which route to take depends on an individual’s personality, time horizons, and risk tolerance.

Part 4 of the book is a pastiche of anecdotes and advice, much of having to do with marketing and career building. There is also an appendix of useful resources. 

There is more to the Get Between the Covers initiative than a mere book. Important as it is in itself, it is only the first step in a campaign to position Spencer and Shulman as key facilitators for hundreds and thousands of book projects. Spencer says he want to be a “portal” to the yet-unpublished masses. He and Shulman are already networking on college campuses (especially writing programs), with various associations (like AARP), and with players in the publishing industry toward building a book-brokering empire.

Their own book is a demonstration project. Using their own advice and entrepreneurial know-how, they found an unfilled niche in the market, developed the product, brought it out through AuthorHouse – a popular print on demand imprint – and devised the marketing strategy for it to premier in 7th position at Amazon.com on December 28. Sustaining good sales has assured a March launch at major bookstores across the country.

Naturally, you can find out more about the book and the author at getbetweenthecovers.com.

Philip K. Jason, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of English from the United States Naval Academy.  A poet, critic, and free-lance writer with twenty books to his credit, this “Dr. Phil” chairs the annual Naples Writers’ Conference presented by the Naples Press Club. Send him your book news at pjason@aol.com.

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BOOK BEAT 32 – J.D. Sousa

BOOK BEAT   Naples Sun Times   February 21, 2007

by Philip K. Jason

When J. D. Sousa came to the United States from his native South Africa in 1993, he was still carrying around in his head questions and ideas that had engaged him since high school. Sousa settled in the San Francisco area and built a career in real estate and business management, but the ideas kept swirling in his head – ideas about secret societies, empires built and lost, seeming miracles with no definitive explanations, and past accomplishments that seemed beyond the technologies of by-gone eras. By 1997, he had prepared enough of a scheme for the literary exploration of these issues to register a copyright with the U. S. Library of Congress.

But the project just wasn’t getting off the ground. When Sousa and his family relocated to Naples in 2004, he turned his attention more and more toward getting the remaining research done – and the writing. Now the first volume in his projected “Untold Legends” series is in print. Titled The Rise of Empires, it launches Sousa’s fictional exploration of the quest for a single World Order – a quest that leads him to probe, through research and imagination, the planet’s major civilizations, their leaders, and their ideologies. 

Sousa’s goal is to make his readers look at 30,000 years of history from a new perspective, to question the orthodox views, and to see the bearing of this new perspective on contemporary events. For example, the standard answers to “who build the pyramids” don’t satisfy Sousa, nor do they explain why they are found not just in Egypt but, with variations, all over the world. To this end, Sousa dramatizes the sanctioned historical record and traditional understanding while challenging its improbabilities, weaving into his narrative both historical figures and fictional ones. The latter characters serve as the readers’ surrogates, giving immediacy and relevance to the unfolding revelations.

Sousa tempts us as follows: “In the winter of 1999, twenty-seven stories below the Las Vegas, Nevada desert area, the U. S. government was robbed. The vault was emptied and the codes were cracked. The incident not only triggered the most significant series of international events in modern history, bit it also resumed the countdown of sequential actions designed to alter the course of men, leaders, and governments, as well as the structure of world order and dominion, that man has known the past 4,000 years. It is all a matter of time.”

This last sentence Sousa means quite literally. His vision posits that time is a manmade construct, the use and misuse of which maps the course of the past and potentially the future. Who controls the “it” that is time itself? How do potential lessons learned become unlearned, their mistakes repeated, their patterns echoed from generation to generation and epoch to epoch? Can this cycle be broken? Should it be? 

But maybe J. D. Sousa is just putting one over on us. When I asked him whether his premise was just an intriguing device to spring his fiction or something more deeply held, his answer was more “what if” rather than clear-cut commitment. In a way it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that his premise is intriguing, his narrative compelling, and his ambition rather astounding. To juxtapose his present-time protagonist – Sam Rutherford – against a cast of characters that includes the biblical Moses, Joshua, David and Solomon is a neat trick. From here it’s just a hop, skip, and jump to King Cyrus, Plato and Socrates (with Aristotle around the corner), and Alexander the Great. Did I mention a member of the Russian Mafia named Nick? Throw him in too, travel the known world, and you get the idea.

What lies ahead?  “World Domination, “The Rise of the Templar Order,” “The Silk Road,” “The New World,” “The Nazis,” “SIRC,” “Genesis,” and “Revelations.”

You can find out more about the book and the series, and place your order, on the website legendsuntold.com. And you can meet J. D. Sousa among the dozens of exhibitors at the Authors and Books Festival at International College on February 25 from 10am to 4pm. He’ll be glad to sign your book.

Philip K. Jason, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of English from the United States Naval Academy.  A poet, critic, and free-lance writer with twenty books to his credit, this “Dr. Phil” chairs the annual Naples Writers’ Conference presented by the Naples Press Club. Send him your book news at pjason@aol.com.

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BOOK BEAT 31 – Linnea Sinclair

BOOK BEAT   Naples Sun Times   February 7-13, 2007

by Philip K. Jason

Linnea Sinclair knows the rules of the writing games she plays. She knows what her readers want – which is exactly what she wants as a reader. And she knows how to talk the talk and walk the walk of a successful writer poised to take some giant steps in an already remarkable career. Games of Command, which officially goes on sale February 27 but will premier a few days earlier at the Naples Writers’ Conference, is sure to be one of those steps. 

Sinclair’s earlier titles, all beneficiaries of critical acclaim, include Finders Keepers, An Accidental Goddess, and Gabriel’s Ghost. The latter title won the prestigious RITA award (given by the Romance Writers of America) for best paranormal romance of 2006, as well as a host of other awards. The preceding novels received only slightly less acclaim, building Sinclair’s reputation and readership. Linnea Sinclair is now among the top names in an increasingly important commercial niche – sci-fi romance – and she is redefining its potential. The promotional copy says: “What defines a Linnea Sinclair book? Kick-butt heroines. Science Fiction action. Steamy romance. And a good dose of fun.” Sinclair in person is at once forceful and funny, as those who attend her February 25th workshop, “Character Torture 101,” will discover.

Sinclair’s background includes a BA in journalism/criminology from Indiana University followed by graduate work in criminology at Florida State University. During and after her college studies, Sinclair worked in radio and television news in Tallahassee and later as a newspaper reporter and freelance contributor to newspapers and magazines in New Jersey and in the St. Petersburg area. From 1990-1999, while working as a private investigator, Sinclair freelanced articles for the National Association of Investigative Specialists magazine.

Sinclair claims the distinction of being a two-time Neapolitan. A regular visitor since about 1980, Sinclair moved here in 1999 and stayed for two years. She and her husband arrived from St. Petersburg, where she had just closed up her career and business as a private detective after a ten-year run. They loved it here, but Sinclair was caring for two elderly parents living over on the east coast and needed to live closer to them. So, they moved to Fort Lauderdale and stayed there until Hurricane Wilma chased them away from the devastated area near the Port Everglades cruise ship terminal. She and her husband moved back to Naples in March of last year after settling her parents in the Naples Aston Gardens two months earlier. The Sinclairs love the Fifth Avenue and Third Street night life, and they enjoy cruise vacations. Linnea is very active in the Southwest Florida Romance Writers group.

I asked Linnea Sinclair to clarify the distinction between Science Fiction and Fantasy. She was quick to explain that both fall under the heading of speculative fiction. In Science Fiction writing, the story involves more in the way of technology. Often set on another planet or on a future version of the Earth, the technology is an integral part of the story. Fantasy relates to dungeons and dragons. That is, we enter a world where magic, sorcery, and mythical creatures play important roles. Her own novel, The Accidental Goddess, combines the two streams of speculative fiction.

Sinclair feels that these genre distinctions (and other similar ones) mean far less to readers than they do to acquisitions editors, agents, and marketing people.

Sinclair was drawn to science fiction when quite young. She was an eager fan of the original “Lost in Space,” a dedicated Trekkie, and an avid watcher of sci-fi cartoons as a young girl in New Jersey. At five or six years old, she would sneak out of the house at night with her blanket and wait for the aliens to come and get her. Fortunately, they have not yet arrived or Sinclair would be writing on another planet in another language.

The other part of the equation, the romance element, did not attract Sinclair until she was an adult reader (though she found the young William Shatner as Captain Kirk to be quite a hunk). In college, she would write “trek fanfics,” which were interpolations of Star Trek episodes written by Star Trek fans. Usually, these were imitations or loving parodies. Sinclair’s included a romance element. And we can extrapolate from there and beam ourselves into what’s next.

Because of the power of the RITA award, Games of Command, published by Bantam Spectra, will be a dual-shelved book. Readers will find it displayed in the romance section of the bookstore and in the science fiction section as well. Later in the year, The Down Home Zombie Blues is scheduled to appear, and, after that, Chasidah’s Ghost. How has success changed Sinclair’s career? Well, her first three-book contracts depended on having three completed manuscripts accepted. There was little risk-taking on the publisher’s part; no agreement would be based solely on proposals or sample chapters. The second three-book contract was negotiated with the books not yet written!

Linnea Sinclair promises to bring her RITA award to the Naples Writers’ Conference so that we can all see it. Until then, learn more about this powerhouse writer at linneasinclair.com.

 Philip K. Jason, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of English from the United States Naval Academy.  A poet, critic, and free-lance writer with twenty books to his credit, this “Dr. Phil” chairs the annual Naples Writers’ Conference presented by the Naples Press Club. Send him your book news at pjason@aol.com.

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BOOK BEAT 30 – S.V. Dáte

BOOK BEAT   Naples Sun Times   February 7-13, 2007

by Philip K. Jason

For years, readers have known  as Tallahassee bureau chief for the Palm Beach Post and as the critically acclaimed author of five zany, satirical novels about Florida and Florida politics. But after the last of these novels, Dáte turned his attention to political biography. In 2004 came the highly regarded Quiet Passion: A Biography of Senator Bob Graham. Now comes a thought-provoking and chilling treatment of Florida’s two-term governor Jeb Bush, a man of enormous talent whom Dáte give us reasons to fear if (or, rather, when) he offers himself for the presidency. The perspective is that of an aggressive journalist who has been a professional Jeb-watcher through the entire reign, who has dared to ask the embarrassing – though often simply factual – questions, and who has paid for his independence. 

Jeb! America’s Next Bush – which hits bookstores on February 15 and can be ordered now through the online booksellers – will warm the hearts of liberals and be attacked by the fans of the self-proclaimed “fair and balanced” news empire. That much is predictable. The question: will it persuade those in the expansive middle of America’s political spectrum that Jeb Bush is a threat to democracy and to broadly-shared American values. For this middle-of-the-roader, Dáte’s arguments – arguments firmly supported by evidence – are compelling.

 Dáte worries that Bush’s push to privatize major government services is too extreme and too driven by unreasoned ideology while blind to measurable, factual consequences. The major case in point is the failed school voucher system that turned taxpayer dollars into vouchers into assets for private institutions that were not held accountable for their performance. By outsourcing education to the private (or nongovernmental) sector, Bush placed a faith in the free market in an area for which that faith could not be justified. At the same time, public education was undermined.

The very same voucher issue illustrates Dáte’s concern that Bush’s policies undermine the separation of church and state. While some might argue that the separation theory is itself a shaky one, there is no question that favored denominational religious institutions have been funded with taxpayer dollars through the voucher system, and that enrollment in such a voucher-supported or voucher-dependent school brings the additional price of being held hostage to religious ideology. Though Dáte does not go quite this far in his claims, one can sense a dangerous circle in which the religious right raises money for Conservative candidates like Jeb Bush who work to put taxpayer money right back into the pockets and proselytizing ventures of the right’s religious institutions. Finding church (or certain churches) and state in this kind of embrace is certainly worrisome.

On these and other matters, Dáte finds Bush’s policies at odds with Florida’s state constitution. But Jeb Bush is not the kind of person who would let something like a constitution stand in his way. He will circumvent it. Why? Because he is always right and because he – according to Dáte – operates like someone anointed rather than elected.

The main thread running through the book is that of an Imperial Governorship. Though the style is different, the stance is much like brother George: we know what we’re doing – get out of the way and don’t ask questions. Dáte traces this royal stance to a privileged childhood and easy entrance into the corridors of wealth and power. Though Jeb believes he is a self-made man whose success is simply the result of his merits and his industry, Dáte makes it clear that many doors where opened to Jeb because of his family’s influence. Jeb Bush acts as one born to rule. He shows little patience with the legislative and judicial branches of government, and even less patience with reporters who won’t simply regurgitate press releases from the governor’s office. Because he is smarter, more a master of detail, more articulate, more ambitious, more hands-on, and far more charismatic than his older brother George W., Jeb may be even more dangerous in wielding presidential power. This book can be highly recommended to anyone concerned with the dynamics of American politics. Especially revealing is Dáte’s group portrait of the assumptions and methods of an American political dynasty.

Who is this guy making trouble for Jeb Bush’s political future? Born in India, S. V. Dáte came to the U. S. as a child. He majored in Political Science at Stanford and became a journalist upon graduation. Before coming to the Palm Beach Post, he worked for the Middletown (N.Y.) Times-Herald Record and then the Orlando Sentinel. His first novel, Final Orbit, a murder mystery set aboard NASA’s space shuttle Columbia, was published by Avon in 1997. His subsequent novels, Speed Week, Smokeout, Deep Water, and Black Sunshine, are darkly satiric thrillers that have been praised in the New York Times and the Washington Post and featured on NPR’s “Fresh Air.” All four were published by Putnam. Dáte’s new book and its immediate predecessor are published by Penguin’s Tarcher imprint.

As part of the launch tour for his new book, Dáte will be a featured speaker at the Naples Writers’ Conference and Authors & Books Festival at International College. His fifth appearance at this five-year old event makes him the record-holder. On February 24 at 3:15pm, Dáte will address conference attendees on “The Art of Biography” and sign his new book. All are welcome to the book signing, which will begin about 4:15pm. Seating for the presentation is limited. That evening, he will visit the Naples Borders at 7:30pm. For information about the conference, call 593-1488 or visit the website authorsandbooksfestival.org. To learn more about this multi-genre author, visit svdate.com.

Philip K. Jason, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of English from the United States Naval Academy.  A poet, critic, and free-lance writer with twenty books to his credit, this “Dr. Phil” chairs the annual Naples Writers’ Conference presented by the Naples Press Club. Send him your book news at pjason@aol.com.

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