"Required reading" for today's smart writer.

"Required reading" for today's smart writer.
Information & inspiration to hone your craft and increase your cash...Since 2009

Friday, November 19, 2021

Book Highlight* Land of the Sun, Land Without Light



1967. The Cold War drags on. A hot war becomes even hotter, trusting it to the patriotism of American youth. But Harrison Hamblin answers a different call. To honor his ideals, he joins the Peace Corps as a teacher. One who thinks that he knows a lot, but will learn that he knows very little.

The third world is choosing up sides and angling for aid. Countries will play both sides and manipulate the idealists. And local internecine warfare will carry on as proxies for the Cold War antagonists. So how could Harry’s efforts for peace and reconciliation lead to the death of friends and to tragedy and despair?

Land of the Sun is to a great extent a bildungsroman written by a narrator who writes in a humorous and self-deprecating style. Much of the drama (and humor) derives from intercultural differences and misunderstandings as well post colonial confusion. The cultural information is true and accurate. To a degree, The story is populated by a variety of tribesmen with their own cultural secrets as well as French, Soviet and American aid workers. Most importantly, the author has used the power of imagination and knowledge to inform, entertain, and captivate the reader—to create this unusual and sometimes even unbelievable story.


David Michael, Michael David (as Mother would have it—his parents couldn’t make up their minds) grew up on the Kansas/Missouri state-line. The tension deriving from his ambiguous naming and breeding location might explain the eclectic mix of folk, international, and country selections that he offers. He’s a wanna-be songwriter noted for, among others, Rock ‘n Roll Nation, El Wahid, and Leavin’ Sara Lee…or soon will be. In the meantime he writes kids’ books; he writes espionage novels; he writes technical stuff.


Inspired from his own grandchildren’s games, “The Mystery of the Big Booger” (published by AuthorHouse), a juvenile fiction story by author David Michael Litwack, invites readers of all ages to go on a one-of-a-kind adventure with mischievous siblings as they wander the woods seeking the mysterious creature in Nose Cave in Nose Mountain.

Against their mother’s stern warnings and instructions, twins Simon and Schuster drag their big sister MaPetite and their exotic pet Dino as they escape from their house and try to find the terrifying Big Booger who lives in a cave in the woods. But is the infamous Big Booger really what the tales tell of him? And what will become of these daring children?

In addition to witty wordplay and humor used in this book, Litwack leaves readers with a lesson of sorts: “This could happen when you don’t listen to mom—big trouble compounded by a big misunderstanding!"

Read more about David Litwack at his sites:

Monday, November 8, 2021

Agent Rita Rosenkranz Shares Industry Expertise

Thank you for your time today. It’s a pleasure to have you join us, Rita.

Let’s start with the basics. Can you tell my readers a little about who you are and your professional background? 

I grew up in Brooklyn, NY, and went to college on the west coast. I returned to NY to get into publishing and began my publishing career in the ‘80s as an editorial assistant at Random House. It was a stimulating environment and I felt blessed to have a window seat on the world of publishing. I later moved to Scribner’s, where I was managing editor, and then to Outlet, a division of Crown (Crown and Random House are now imprints within Bertlesmann) where I was editor-in-chief.

Did your role as a former editor play a role in your successful transition to an agent?

I believe it did. I was able to take on projects that needed editorial intervention, to help make them submittable. Today, there are many freelance editors/book doctors to step in, but when necessary I still like to help refine a work before I submit it. I want to make sure it’s not rejected for editorial reasons, for reasons in my control.

What do you find to be the most gratifying aspect of being an agent? 

Thanks to my steerage and stamina, an author’s dream of publishing comes to fruition. There are notions in the industry of what sells and what doesn’t sell. It’s especially rewarding when I’m up against the established prejudice that the subject I’m representing isn’t viable but I place the work and it sells well.

What is one of the biggest mistakes writers make in pitching agents today? 

A pitch can misfire for many reasons but sometimes I’m offered what can either be a memoir or work of fiction, and the description doesn’t make the category clear. If nothing else, I should be certain about what the author is pitching me. And an author should never write that the project is hard to describe.

We hear a lot about “author’s platform” in securing a book deal. Can you explain why this is so important? Is it possible to land a traditional book deal without one?

I have come to accept the usefulness of a platform. This, generally speaking, is the author’s established outreach—how he or she has cultivated the audience for a book thanks to social media, a blog, lecture circuit, t.v. appearances, email list, and so on. Even if the author gets a monumental promotional push for the work through the publisher, after the initial campaign the author likely will be working on his or her own. If this circuit is in place, there will be no momentum lost, helping maintain a long tail of sales.

For academic works, let’s say, the qualifiers are different, where social media isn’t as important, though the author still needs to be an established expert in the field related to the project.

What types of submissions do you accept through your agency? 

My “open-minded” list is almost entirely adult non-fiction—a wide array of categories, including health, parenting, popular science, illustrated books, business, sports, and more.

Do you have a typical response time?  Do you accept submissions year-round? 

I do my very best to respond quickly, within a few weeks at most. Since I have a boutique agency, I feel responding quickly to projects I’m interested in is essential, and I do my best to send replies quickly to even those whose work I know I’m not interested in. I receive submissions throughout the year. 

What impact (if any) has the pandemic had currently on the publishing industry? 

Response times from editors is now longer. They are deluged with submissions, and I need to follow up regularly to inch projects forward. We are now suffering from supply-chain problems, so publication dates have been postponed and getting reprints on time is challenging.

What would it surprise others to know about you? 

I’m known among friends and some colleagues for my baked biscotti. They are a staple at home.

If you weren’t an agent, what would be your dream career? 

For a brief time when I was transitioning to agenting, I thought if it didn’t work out I might find work doing something low-keyed and reliable (fill in the blank). I’m so glad I didn’t have to test an alternative.

Any parting advice for those of us seeking representation in 2022? 

In my experience both authors and agents must have a relentless commitment to one’s work, regardless of rejections or any number of obstacles that are sure to surface. This is an anti-instant-gratification endeavor, and the ultimate reward of a successful publication makes it all make sense. We must keep our eye on that reward.

Learn more about Rita and her literary agency at her website:


Thoughts, readers? Related questions?

Image credits: Pixabay.com

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

The 3Rs Series Continues* Links & Leads You'll Love!














Where do I begin?  The Nick Cannon Show, which aired last month on Fox 32, totally took me by surprise. I must confess that before the show I was not a fan. The only things I knew of him were:


As a writer I am curious by nature. So when it launched, I figured I would tune in just to check it out. And now I love it. I rarely miss a show.
Nick’s talk show (and his personality) are all about positivity, showing love, and high energy! 
He is hugely entertaining, inspiring, easy on the eyes, talented, stylish, open and very personable. 

He uses his platform to share his struggles as well as his success story. Including his health challenges with Lupus and his recently acquired vow of celibacy.
Cannon is definitely a spiritual man. Often opening his show with the biblical quote: 
“If God is for us, then who shall be against us?”
Viewers can also look forward to his cool guest spots and celebrity interviews which have included icons like: Jerry Springer, Deepak Chopra, Food God, Barbara Corcoran and Carrie Ann Inaba of Dancing With the Stars.   

Folks, it’s the FEEL GOOD show of the year. 
No doubt Cannon will soar to greater heights of success, cultivating new fans along the way. “Go Nick! Go Nick!”

Check your local listings for details.

Thoughts? Comments?

Image credit: Chain courtesy of Pixabay.com

Monday, October 25, 2021

Why Jerry Springer is My Marketing and Media Guru!

“Nothing succeeds like success.”

I’m ashamed to admit it but, full disclosure here: many years ago, Jerry Springer show was my guilty pleasure. It drew me in like a moth to a flame. And it drove my mother crazy. She could not fathom how a person of my “intellect” who was formerly a college scholar, could indulge in such frivolity.  Mom considered it a shameful waste of time. And perhaps you would agree. 

But, in defense of Judge Jerry please allow me to plead my case. 

(Pun intended.)

The chick fights, vulgarity, over-the-top guests, dysfunctional relatives, and trash talk simply provided comedic relief for me. Serving as a much-needed contrast from the rather dark cop shows that found their way weekly on my TV viewing line-up.  ).

In my mind, Jerry Springer was the one “guilty pleasure” that was fat-free, debt free and didn’t violate any of the Ten Commandments. Not to mention, writers tend to be cerebral and sensitive. We're always "in our heads".

So I offer no apologies for this diversion. 


In the evolving years, I became a fan of Jerry’s; closely following his career and his antics. I learned much along the way. Despite his critics, this man was “laughing his way all the way to the bank.” Garnering a cult-like following and maintaining a long-term stay in the public eye.

So you be the judge...

Here's why he merits attention and continues to serve as my marketing and media guru:


According to EWN (Eyewitness News.com) : "Springer believes the show has lasted for 27 years because it has never been presented as a serious talk show or as being anything other than entertainment.

The former lawyer is convinced the reason viewers keep tuning in is that they love the “outrageous” people who are willing to come on and share the crazy drama in their lives. Springer mused: “The show has lasted so long because it is stupid. It has got a niche. It is about outrageous personal relationships and because it is so outrageous other shows don’t try and copy it. It is so crazy we own that turf. And we aim towards young people.”


Despite critics, haters and naysayers, Springer created his own "brand" and has never deviated or denied it. Who would have known that something so ridiculous would appeal to so many and last so long? Hats off to him.


Years ago, when Jerry appeared as a celebrity on Dancing With the Stars, I faithfully tuned in. Let me admit, it was painful to watch. (Sorry, Jerry). He lacked musicality and he definitely didn't have the "smooth moves" of his competitors. Still, he showed up every week with a smile. Reportedly, because he wanted to learn to dance for his daughter's wedding. So, he showed up. 

I'm learning to do that too. Sometimes, I "misstep" with a blog post. Or I hesitate to tackle something that I think may be controversial or difficult. But, I still show up! Hello? What I am learning in the process is that there is no growth if there's no struggle. 


Did you know that in addition to being a talk show host he was also a lawyer? A journalist? The former Mayor of Cincinnati? Yep. I recently saw Springer on Nick Cannon's talk show where he shared his background. This man has lived. And with it he has cultivated so much experience in so many arenas. Something that we as writers should strive to emulate in order to stay relevant, broaden our knowledge base and go the distance.    

5. HE KNOWS HOW TO HANDLE REPUTATION MANAGEMENT  Jerry lives as if he subscribes to the theory that "there's no such thing as bad publicity." Over the years he has been in hot water and in the hot seat on various issues. He typically owns it, learns from it, and then surfaces shortly thereafter with another show or project as a result.

In closing

Life (and celebrities) can provide us with many teachable moments that offer valuable lessons to shorten our learning curve as we navigate our way; if we are receptive.     

In the words of Jerry Springer: "Take care of yourself and each other."

 Thanks for reading.

Any Jerry Springer fans out there? Make some noise!



Image credits: Pixabay.com

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

5 Ways to Carve Out More Productive Writing Days

There's no doubt about it. Summer is seductive. The allure of which can sometimes create lazy days, short-circuit our focus, and derail our writing goals.

Though being a "beach bum" for a few months won't kill your career, it can certainly kill your motivation and make it harder to move forward with those resolutions you made earlier this year. Remember?

The ushering in of fall now holds endless possibilities... 

With this in mind, we'll explore 5 tips to more productive writing days with greater purpose and progress.

If you're on board, let's get busy.



There's great validity to the expression, "Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise." Think of it as potentially getting a jump start on better crisis management. 

Writing in the early hours of the morning allows for clearer head space, fewer distractions, and the ability to be more proactive than reactive. Typically, as the day unfolds, there is a greater likelihood for phone calls, family needs, noise, and general chaos. Give yourself a fighting chance. 


Have you ever noticed that when you go to the grocery store without a shopping list you often end up spending more and getting less of what you originally needed?

A similar situation happens when you embark upon a writing journey without a specific destination or desired goal. A blank screen can be intimidating enough. For the best results write a to-do list to guide your efforts. Your goals will dictate your game plan.

For example...

Would you like to update your blog today? Pen 500 words for your current W.I.P.? Pitch a few publishers regarding your novel? Create a new online class? Assess and address. Some effort is definitely better than none. In the words of Nike: "Just do it!"


 Writing prompts are great writing tools to provide inspiration, stimulate thought, and to get into the general flow of things. Some are theme-based; while others are simply clever introductory lines that pull you in and push you forward. 

According to Theodysseyonline.com: "Writing prompts allow for an opportunity in exercising and challenging your writing skills. Stepping out of your comfort zone or trying new perspectives can help you in not only improving your work but also in understanding your strengths and weaknesses as a writer. You could find that one genre suits you better than other, or one point of view is more appealing and comfortable than another. A good challenge is healthy once in a while, and writing prompts sure are a way to exercise your creativity."

Here are a few places to help you become a rock star writer:




It goes without saying that human beings are social creatures. We crave interaction. We "connect" in order to be heard and seen. To share our thoughts and experiences. Not to mention, living in the age of a pandemic has unfortunately prevented us from enjoying many of the in-person activities and events of which we have become accustomed. Still, that doesn't mean we should over-compensate by spending endless hours with our Facebook friends with nothing to show for it. Perish the thought. 

"All things in moderation."


Writing is hard. As rewarding as it is, it's also time-consuming, mentally exhausting, and sometimes frustrating. Dealing with editors' rejections; dealing with eye and back strain; navigating technical issues; feast or famine cycles; etc.

Stay in the game. Keep yourself motivated by rewarding yourself for efforts extended and goals achieved. 

As a point of reference here, one way that I do this is to kick back to a good, relaxing movie after spending hours on the computer. Or sometimes I even treat myself to a small shopping spree. It works if you work it.


In order to become a prolific, productive writer, discipline/structure is needed. Following these five tips is a terrific place to start.


Would love to hear your thoughts on this. Agree or disagree? 

What would you add?  

Image credits: Pixabay.com

Friday, October 1, 2021

Author Interview With Maxwell Silver of Terror Quest


Thank you for joining us today, Maxwell. We appreciate your time, creative input and expertise here at Pen and Prosper.

Can you tell readers a little about your professional background and how you began your career as a writer?

After college, I worked in high tech, and still do. I started writing about networking and computers to stand out a bit among the brilliant people I worked with. I was an adjunct professor too, so writing courses about new technology blended well with writing books.

 What challenges you the most about being a scribe? 

Stories are made up of a few basic ingredients: setting, plot, dialogue, characters. I think I am adequate in other areas, but I struggle with characters that readers will really care about. My characters tend to be cool and analytical, like I am, and that’s not the best way to be if you are trying for fear or another raw emotion to drive the character. (But I think I’ve done that in Terror Quest…which, odd to say, is basically a love story between a married man with children and his former lover.)

Do you write everyday? Describe your creative process.

As Stephen King once said, "When I’m writing, I write every day." But you need to think too. I find that the easier the words come out, the more I like the resulting story. If it’s hard for you to get from Great Scene A to Great Scene B, imagine how hard that will be on the reader. But when you can’t wait to write the next chapter or scene, and the words flow easily from your brain to your fingertips to the page, that’s when you know you have something others will read. 

What inspired you to write Terror Quest? What do you hope readers will take away from it?

I wrote the book years ago, but even then, there were concerns about success in the Middle East, the plight of our veterans, the security of elections, the us-versus-them “tribalism” breaking out among citizens who fight in the streets, the co-opting of the Stars and Stripes by one side…I could go on, but it’s all there in the news every day. I think there are things that are sacred in this country and that are worth fighting for. The American flag is not a symbol of oppression, but of the freedoms we enjoy. 

What I want readers to take away from Terror Quest, besides the good guys winning over evil, is the idea that everyone can make a difference: young and old, Black and White, rich and poor, civilians and veterans. If you want to make this country better place, it can start with you, no matter who you are. 

What would it surprise others to know about you?

Let’s see…I’m kind of odd. I am published in classical and military history as well as technology. I almost had a PhD in artificial intelligence (some day..). I was for 20+ years a lector and eucharistic minister in the Roman Catholic church. I was asked to be a deacon (I declined) and have given out ashes on Ash Wednesday. When you look into the people’s eyes, you can see who is shining with faith and who is just going through the motions. It’s that stark a difference.

 If you could have one literary “super power” what would it be?

Oh, gosh, let me invent characters who readers will be enthralled with. Let me wave a magic wand and create the next Sherlock Holmes or Harry Potter. But it has to be a female…all of my female characters are always stronger and wiser than the males. I used to tell classes that female programmers were the best, because, if the roof is leaking, a male will throw a tarp over it and watch the rest of the game, while a female will actually fix the leak first and check the score later. (You didn’t ask, but I think everyone is part male and part female…even males have an X chromosome and so are half female…so a lot of the gender debate is just silly. Be who you are.)

 Do you find that being a tech writer helps you in creating fiction?

Actually, I think it hurt me until I figured out what to do about it. Yes, my writing about technology and the internet is easy and requires little research, but the point of the chapter is not how bitcoin and blockchain works, but how the bad guys managed to transfer a million dollars to their Swiss bank account under the noses of the good guys.

Once I focused 100% on the characters and their execution of the plot, the members of the writers group liked my stories a lot better. 

What passion project or “cause” excites you currently?

Oh, where to start…. I try not to bring emotion to the controversies about vaccines and climate…I live in Phoenix where I know first-hand how much hotter it’s become in the past 20 years, and I do what my doctor tells me to do.

One thing I’m trying to put together is a web site that seems to be a normal site about education or whatever, but hides a horror story about demons and those who protect us from the evil from beyond. 

Do you have any other projects in the works that readers can look forward to?

Actually, I have a work of historical fiction that’s gotten some good feedback from published authors in the field. It’s about the early days of Christianity in the Roman Empire and is about as far from the world of Terror Quest as you can get. 

On the other hand, at the end of Terror Quest, one of the characters heads for Texas, so maybe there’s a story there as well. We’ll see. 


MAXWELL SILVER IS THE PEN NAME OF A TECHNICAL WRITER WITH MORE THAN A DOZEN BOOKS AND ARTICLES ON AN ARRAY OF TOPICS, INCLUDING: military history, classical history, and networking. He has worked as a college professor and technical trainer. He also collects first editions and rare books and is a member of the Lawrence of Arabia Society.

Learn more at his new site:


Monday, September 20, 2021

Launching a Social Media Campaign? Read This First

Whether you own a business, work as a brand manager, or have big plans to one day launch a multi-billion-dollar eCommerce business, social media marketing is likely to be a big part of your plans for connecting your brand with your target audience. 

Social platforms, such as Facebook and YouTube, alone have billions of active monthly users. 

This means that by leveraging the power of these social networks, brands can potentially put their goods and services in front of a massive online audience. 

However, effective social media marketing is about far more than simply posting a few selfies and hoping they go viral. 

Therefore, we thought it’d be a good idea to create the following quick guide on what to ask yourself when planning your next social media marketing campaign. 

Where Does Your Brand Fit Into Your Industry? 

When planning any marketing or advertising campaigns, the very first step should always be to perform a bit of top-level industry research

You’ll want to learn about who your biggest competitors are, what type of content they’re using, and how effective they are at attracting, engaging, and converting paying customers. 

Learning about your competitors is essential, not only because it will help you understand where your brand fits in at an industry level. 

It will also allow you to determine your unique selling proposition, or USP, which is crucial to help you stand out from the competition, even when you’re both offering the same type of products or services. 

Essentially, your USP will explain to your potential customers why they should deal with you rather than turning to a competitor. 

Who Are Your Ideal Customers? 

If you want to sell to customers, you’ll need to think like your customers. 

In other words, you’ll need to find out as much as you can about your target audience, including their average age range, where they spend most of their time online, and what type of hobbies or interests they might have in common. 

One way to do this is to create a series of buyer personas, outlining a range of personality traits, pain points, and other information that will help you identify your ideal customers. 

Essentially, the more information you know about your target audience, the better you’ll be able to create content and craft marketing campaigns that cater to the needs of your audience. 

In turn, this translates to a better brand reputation, increased trust between you and your social followers, and, hopefully, more sales for your business. 

Is My Branding Consistent And Relatable? 

After you’ve determined your market positioning and you’ve studied your ideal customers, it’s time to get busy being active, engaged, and sharing content to your social feeds. 

However, before you get too far, you’ll want to ask yourself whether or not the logos, imagery, graphics, tone of voice, and messaging used are in line with your brand, as well as your overall marketing goals. 

Consistent branding isn’t just about making your business look pretty! 

It’s about making your content memorable and recognizable. 

So that, when a follower sees something you’ve posted, they’ll almost instantly think of your brand and its products or services. 

You can create custom logos and designs using a free logo maker. 

Planning Effective Social Media Campaigns

Of course, these are only a few questions you should be asking yourself before diving headfirst into the world of social media marketing. 

However, the more research and planning you put into your campaigns, the more likely you’ll be to succeed in accomplishing your goals. 

So get busy learning about your industry, studying your target audience, and fine-tuning your business branding, and you’ll be well on your way to social media marketing success! 

Thanks for reading and re-joining Pen and Prosper.

Thoughts? Comments? 

Guest Post provided by LANETTE SCHNUR

Photo credits: Pixabay.com