Plan A and Plan B Pricing

Join the Slow Revolution to Sell Directly to Your Clientele

Mission Statement:  “Our focus is to bring together entrepreneurs who focus on the quality of their products over profiteering, and who enjoy working personally with colleagues on cooperative marketing campaigns based on common product quality and personable relationships with each client.”

Plan A Price:  $195

This plan includes the installation of the complete Embellisher (TM) eReader and Store components.  This will be installed in tandem with your website at your current domain website (you must give us access to your cPanel to install it), or at your new free website on our server.

Plan B Price:  $250

This plan includes everything in Plan A, plus access to the communal Php email campaign software.  This will allow you to create direct eMail campaigns to your present list of clientele, as well as share lists with our growing membership and do cooperative campaigns to expand your reach and increase your return on investment faster.  This will be installed in tandem with your website at your current domain website (you must give us access to your cPanel to install it), or at your new free website on our server.  Also, you receive a private installation and ownership of the ePub3 Creator Studio.  This means you will have a private resource to allow other publishers and students to use your software.  You can even charge them for using it.

After Payment

Once you pay, you’ll be sent an email acknowledging your new purchase and further instructions about where to access your new website mobile sales tools.  They will be installed to use in tandem with your current website location or your new free website location on our server.


Margaret Atwood’s Newest Novel Now a Pirate Victim

Margaret Atwood (one of my fave authors) should be furious. Her newest novel THE TESTAMENTS is already online as a pirated eBook.

That’s why authors should sell directly to readers in a mobile delivery system such as mine. The Embellisher never has a full copy of the eBook loaded inside the reader. Therefore, it can’t be downloaded by pirates.

Amazon and other online retailers, on the other had, provide full copies of the eBook online, and this leads to “easy peasy” pirates getting their grubby hands on them. ☹️😌

Ownership is key to your business as an author

Direct-to-reader sales is the future of publishing.  Just ask J. K. Rowling and her sales platform at  My mobile ePub3 creator studio, sales, and marketing online platform, the Embellisher ™ 3.0, is efficient, secure, and reader-friendly.  These are the main reasons four of my clients have enjoyed using it for their different purposes.  I will also cover how my system is more secure than other platforms, and why it will be the wave of the future for selling to a readership which has switched from eBook Readers and computers, to reading on their mobile devices.  Why?  Because the reader of today is “mobile and on the move,” and sales and marketing directly to them through their iPhone and Android are the best ways to allow them to read and even do educational exercises, across mobile devices.

The Attorney

                                             Patrick Gould, Esq.

Our client, Patrick Gould, Esq., was very interested about working with somebody who could get him into the mobile publishing delivery of his law school bar review business.  When I met him at the Chicago Book Expo America, we had a good conversation about what he does and what he wanted to do.  I really appreciated Patrick’s approach to getting the best possible app for his needs.

First of all, Patrick hired a technical person to interview prospective app developers to see which one did exactly what he needed done for his needs.  After I talked with this person, Patrick was pleased with the information he got about us, and we moved into the specifics of his business needs.  Any good business person always knows the competition, and Patrick was no exception.  The other deliverers of bar training materials, including some multi-million dollar outfits like Kaplan, had some very poor ratings for their apps.  Most of the problems had to do with the syncing problem and the video loading problems inside the apps.

Therefore, I explained to Patrick that this was an excellent time for him to move into the market with the best app to deliver his materials to the students in the best way possible.  Social marketing is vital to the life of a business predicated upon technology and the delivery of educational content.  I told Patrick that his new business app would not have a problem with the syncing of materials to the user’s mobile device because our app doesn’t allow local access of files.  The user must be connected to the Internet to use the Embellisher™ Mobile Publishing app.  This provides the user with instant syncing with the educational materials, and, most importantly, the materials cannot be stolen.  

Our product is not strictly an app; it is a so-called “web app”. In other words, users do not install the app from a Playstore but instead visit a website which is optimized for mobile phone usage.  The user must be logged into the app and connected to the Internet in order to be able to use the materials.  The video problems are alleviated with our app by installing the videos on Vimeo and then embedding the video inside an eBook using our ePub3 Creator Studio.  Whenever the video is uploaded into the app, it will have a problem with loading when the user tries to view the video.  Because we “stream” the video from Vimeo’s server, there is no loading needed.  Also, we don’t use YouTube because of the advertisements that get placed inside the videos and interrupt the viewing enjoyment.  Hackers do this to increase revenue, but we don’t want our users being side-tracked by some other company’s ads.

Patrick purchased our Turnkey Installationt the Embellisher 3.0.  He also needed a Php-enabled website, so we sold him that also, with the domain name of included, for $100.00.  The security our platform provides was also important for his legal tests.  My main competition are online sites such as the Canadian service Bookchain.  If you note, they do charge license fees and other fees, simply under the guise of “protecting your eBook from piracy.”  My developer tells me the only “almost” foolproof way to protect an eBook is by not having the complete book anywhere in the sales software, which my platform does and Bookchain does not.  My platform also allows for ePub3 formatted eBooks (multimedia and interactive).

My developer and I worked on this program for several years to ensure an almost 99% hack-proof program (he says that nothing digitally programmed is ever 100% hack-proof, so I must agree).  However, the idea is to slow-down the hacker enough that he/she doesn’t believe it’s worth his/her time to pursue the required stealth.  For example, eBooks sold on Amazon include the “keys to the car” inside each book they sell.  A hacker can de-program the book in about twenty seconds and have it up for sale on pirate web sites.

The reason my program is so efficient is because the reader must login to a “live” app which never loads a complete copy of the eBook into the eReader portion of the software.  To pirate a book, the hacker must be able to download a complete copy, and in my Embellisher platform, this is not possible.

Finally, we worked with Patrick to show him how to use his new app and the creator studio that comes with it.  We set-up a one-on-one webinar to show him the steps required to create a simple ePub3 eBook, embed a video, and include other teaching materials for his students.  In addition, we instructed him on the use of the Administrative side of the app where he can price his courses and even include coupon discounts.  Finally, we explained to him that because he has licensed our top-of-the-line installation, he will be able to expand his business in the future by allowing other instructors to have their own courses to sell inside his app.  In other words, each instructor can have his/her own Administrator login and creator studio account, and Patrick can collect a fee from the instructor for using it.  In other words, only the Embellisher™ Mobile Publishing platform allows for expanding into the publishing and education business.  In fact, entire school districts use our app to do this, allowing each teacher to have his/her own Administration account.

The Publisher

         Yaron Goldstein

When I began working with the largest eBook distributor in Israel, Yaron Goldstein, one of the first things he told me was that the Israeli publishing community had never experienced the phenomenon of Amazon and eBooks.  In other words, there was no rise of the giant conglomerate to attempt the take-over of the digital reading market the way it had happened in the United States.  Mr. Goldstein put it rather simply to me, however, when he said, “Why should I give 30% of my money to Amazon?”  Why, indeed!

There was a lot made about the “Netflix for books” business model.  Perhaps Smashwords spoke most coherently about it.  Of course, they had signed a deal with Oyster, one of the outfits that offers the “all you can read buffet.”  Hugh Howey, the former indie supporter came out in favor of the Amazon Kindle Unlimited experience for the reader and author.  Of course, he was one of the “lucky ones” to receive a “non-exclusive” contract agreement to sell his titles through Amazon.  Even the Huffington Post came out with the article to assess the overall playing field for the author in these days of “streaming content.”

Yaron and I are working together to provide a better model for authors.  Our model says that mobile publishing is the only way indies can stay competitive against this tidal wave of greedy profiteers in the “land of the corporate giants.”  Make no mistake.  The authors are the ones losing out in the long run with the corporate business model.  It’s basic economics.  Karl Marx even talks about it in Das Capital.  If the business person (yes, an author is also a business person) does not own the means of production, then he will always remain subservient to the overlord.  What is never discussed in these articles about Safari, Oyster, Scribd, Kindle Unlimited and Playster, is the fact that they own the means of production.  In other words, without the ability to create and distribute your own intellectual property, independent authors will remain patsies to the Goliaths in this world.

My company, EMRE Publishing, LLC and its product, the Embellisher™ Mobile Publishing and Marketing platform 3.0, is the David who can fight this Goliath.  Our slingshot is what will give our clients the edge.  Mobile distribution of books allows authors to become the controllers of their destinies.  No other means of getting your books in front of readers’ eyes will allow you to collect most of the profits directly into your bank account the way our platform does.  This is the main reason Yaron came on board, and this is why we’re willing to work with any independent who wants to experience the freedom of getting their “ducks in a row” in order to establish a brand that won’t be taken under by the conglomerate model of book sales looming on the horizon.

The Author

                                            Shirley Franks

Shirley Franks has purchased our installation of the Embellisher™ Mobile Publishing platform 3.0 to use her expertise as a nurse and business person.  She wanted to be able to prepare and teach graduate nurses the practical skills they need to pass the Nurse Practicum, which is a final and required test by one’s peers to see if you have the practical skills necessary to work with patients.

As a result, we created her website and landing page to introduce her clientele to her services.  This was an extra cost because she did not have her own server or website.  We were able to do this with no problems.  All registrants will automatically receive a free copy of Shirley’s eBook, A Foreign Nurse’s Guide to America, when they register for her free app.  The courses will be offered inside the app.  Students can login to their course on any mobile phone available, just copy the platform URL to their home screen, so there are no complicated management interfaces.  They can also pay for their courses right inside the app using Stripe.

As you can see, our installation works for authors who have something to teach their readers.  Not only can you sell your books inside our app, you have established a unique, one-on-one platform from which to teach them the specialized information you may possess.

The Former eBay Businessman

                                             Chris Musgrave

I hope you don’t mind the bit of nepotism, but my son, Chris Musgrave, uses my platform for his growing online product sales.  He was tired of the “buyer bots” and extra charges that Amazon was piling on.  So, the way he profits is to create the multimedia eBooks in the studio part of the software, and he then markets the eBook for each of his products and adds extras like videos and interactive text inside that can bring-up images to show the quality of the item being sold to each prospective buyer.  He prefers to market in a mobile environment because it allows him to send links to each product by using Twitter, Snapchat, Linkedin, Skype, or any other social platform, where he can reach high-end collectors and quality product buyers.  Once they sign-up to his platform, he has future sales guaranteed.

He is now a consultant to the pawn shop in Rosemead.  Brown’s Pawn and Jewelry.  He is married to Kristal Kent and they have my granddaughter, Jenna Nicole, who wants to be a genetic research scientist when she finished college.  She’s the real “star” of our family.

As a fellow author, I understand the hard work that goes into each manuscript, and when you create a series of books in one genre or subject area, you want to be able to keep your readers in one place—your place.  Ownership and security, I say again, are the keys to any thriving business.  Especially the digital eBook business.



                        James Musgrave

James Musgrave was born in Fall River, Massachusetts. He taught as a Professor of English and worked as a Supervisor, Management Development at Caltech, Pasadena and at various San Diego colleges. He is now the author and publisher at EMRE Publishing, LLC in San Diego. He has won many writing awards, and his mysteries are “featured selections” by the American Library Association. He was also a Finalist in the Bram Stoker Awards, First Place Award for Best Historical Mystery in the Chanticleer International Book Awards, and a Finalist in the Heekin Fellowship.


Please contact the author at:
Sign-up for the Author’s Newsletter at:

Evolution of an author

right brain left brain

Here is a fact I learned from reading Dr. Ian McGilchrist’s book, The Master and His Emissary, about how the brain’s two hemispheres work:  human denial is processed in the left hemisphere.  Another fact is that eBooks are being pirated at the rate of $315 million in the United States last year.  Who is in denial about it?  Why, the authors and publishers, of course.  If things continue to destabilize, over half of all eBooks sold through the online retail chains will be lost to pirates by 2023.  Of course, it depends on how motivated the thieving pirates are as opposed to we creators.

However, the right hemisphere of the brain tends to be able to visualize the “big picture.”  In this instance, the big picture is that the most intelligent publishers are moving away from the black holes of pirate infamy in order to sell directly to the reader.  You think this is just a fantasy?  Let me tell you a real-life fantasy about the most popular and richest author on the planet:  J. K. Rowling, of Harry Potter fame.  Here’s another fun right hemisphere fact:  Ms. Rowling is “knighted” in France and not in England.   No, in England, she’s merely an “Officer” in the Order of the British Empire.  My more logical left hemisphere, after knowing certain facts that I’ve researched, believes the U. K. probably snubbed her because she chooses to keep the money she makes and not lose it to “big publishing.” 

The Theme

This is the “theme of my article.”  The richest author in the world has kept her wealth close at hand because she refused to play with the “big boys,” the big publishing and distribution giants.  It is my contention that because of piracy, mostly caused by these same big publishing giants, more intelligent authors and publishers (who use both sides of their brains) will be moving closer toward the model of publishing which I am about to discuss in my story.

My left hemisphere is really bugging me.  It wants me to categorize the ways in which an eBook author and digital publisher can escape these pirates who steal their loot, their intellectual property.  Some of these methods are less successful and less profitable to the author/publisher than others.

First of all, let me give you my credentials in this area, so you’ll know I’m not some rookie off the bench.  I am 72 years old.  I am an award-winning author of 30 years.  I worked and taught at Caltech in Pasadena, and I served on the Top Secret Crypto Board in the United States Navy.   I also taught in the college classroom and consulted to business for another 20 years.

All right.  Do I have your attention now?  Here are the four major ways eBook authors/publishers can protect their eBooks and other digital property:

  1. Encryption and “locked box” technology.
  2. Password-protected eBooks.
  3. Online “secure storage” and encryption.
  4. Mobile publishing and “direct-to-the-reader” sales and marketing.

I shall not keep you in suspense, as this is a fantasy.  Our “magician” is J. K. Rowling, and her method is “almost” the best.  However, the true “winner” of the future, in my opinion, will be those authors who use method #4 on the above list.  Yes, and I will explain why, using my right hemisphere to drill down and show how these methods compare and contrast.

Encryption and the Locked Box

I recently observed a wandering inebriant in the parking lot of Costco, my favorite shopping mart.  On the back of his jacket, he had the name:  “Gore.”  In his hands he held his bedding.  He was half-singing and half-proclaiming words that I could not understand.  His was the crudest form of encryption.  Obviously, I couldn’t get into his head to experience what he was saying.  It was a locked box, so to speak, and only he held the explanation.  

Another Gore, in the Presidential Election of 2000, had a locked box idea as well.  He, Al, from Georgia, said he would keep all the “entitlement money from SSI, Medicaid, etc.” in a locked box so the government could not get at it.  Sorry, Al, but they’re still trying to get at it, and they’re winning, last time I checked.  They’re pirating our locked box!

Those two paragraphs were my right-brain talking to you.  Can you see what I am getting at?  Encryption is a “supposedly” secret scrambling of intellectual property (words) that can only be deciphered if you have the overall “key” to how the coded information translates into the common language of the reader.  Frankly speaking, it is very expensive, and the most expensive types of cryptography are done by the government, mainly the military industrial complex.  Not many authors and publishers I know can afford that level of encryption, and even with it, if one person can decipher the “key,” then you lose!  In the Navy, we changed the encryption daily, and it was still not 100% secure technology.


You see, the first two methods listed, “encryption and locked box” and “password-protected” do not make reading easier for the buyer.  They make it more complicated.  The idea of eBooks is to make it the easiest for the reader, agreed?  Plus, as for security of the intellectual property, in the long run, once a hack and translation of the code is made, the author/publisher loses.  An example of this encryption-password method is the Canadian company, Bookchain.

The Knight

Now we come to our French Knight in shining armor, J. K. Rowling.  She uses method #3 in the list, “online secure storage and encryption.”  Actually, because I have not seen the back-end of her website, I can’t really be certain she uses any form of encryption, but I would assume her web site has one of highest “secure socket layer” protections available to prevent hackers.  However, her real intelligence comes from the fact that her web site sells directly to the reader.  She sells all her digital wares there:  eBooks, audiobooks and DVDs.  No wonder she’s a knight!

Our creative J. K. has competition.  The largest distributor of eBooks and digital wares is Ingram.  Guess what?  They want authors and publishers to “switch” and sell direct to their readers.  They are tired of the Amazonian way of doing things and the increasing piracy around the world.  And they are moving on it.  The “new company” they bought is in charge of that effort. is this company.  Despite the denial shown by “big publishing,” Ingram Content Group wants to move in a new direction.

The Shameless Plug

So, what is the best way to create, market and sell eBooks and digital creations directly to the reader/listener?  That’s where I come in, and I am the fourth and fastest growing method in this race to outrun the Amazons.  Since I didn’t want to spend the majority of my time discussing the platform I invented, I am going to give you a link where you can explore it for yourself.  Please use both your left and right hemispheres to come up with the best solution for your digital business.

The evolution of digital sales is direct to the reader.  The biggest digital companies know this.  The biggest and most popular authors know this.  Now you can see why you don’t need to have encryption or a locked box/password to gradually break-away from the big retail outfits.  You don’t have to do it overnight.  In fact, you can “use” Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords, until you have a large enough mailing list of followers and fans to be able to finally “cut the cord,” the same way young people have been doing it to the big cable companies.  It’s just a matter of evolving and using your “old bean.” 


Four Keys to writing better mysteries and thrillers

I have written a lot of fiction over the years. My greatest improvement came when I realized the power behind these fiction Truths when writing Mysteries and Thrillers. I want to pass them along to any would-be authors so they don’t make the same mistakes I made. As a college professor for twenty-five years, passing along information is now part of my genetic make-up.

Keep the Conflict Going.

At first glance, this may sound obvious. However, when understood at the deeper levels to which I refer, it becomes clearer to a writing craft-person. After all, writing is a craft. Mistakes and risks are part of this game, as in any real craft, whether it’s mental or physical.

As an author, I must picture the conflict in all that I build. Whether it’s the setting, the dialogue between my characters, or the actions of those characters (plotting), I must see how I can improve the conflict at every juncture. Why? Because I was a reader before I was a writer. As a writer, I must create what I enjoyed most while I read. Simple to state, but much more difficult to put into practice.

I must be honest with you at this point. Some writers learn this part of the craft early because they have an innate “talent.” If you are not a natural, then you must learn this skill by experimenting with many stories, and then with many novels. It requires a unique vision, and I can give an example from the contents of each of the four fiction elements mentioned above, but I can never give this overall “vision” to you. Only God can. If you don’t believe in a Higher Power, then only Fate can. If you don’t believe in Fate, then I can’t say anything. You must be a Nihilist.

Example 1: Setting.

Say your scene is set inside a jail cell. You are meeting the client. If there are no problems with this being a prison, you must create these problems. Believe it or not, simply having it take place inside a jail is not enough conflict. Why? Because readers have read about jails many times, and they want something extra added to spice it up beyond a stereotypical jailhouse setting.

So, I make my client a woman. She is not Caucasian, even though her married name is Fulbright. She is Chinese. It is 1887, in a jail outside San Francisco called Ingleside. She is a midwife and an abortionist who works in Chinatown. One of her clients died, and, since abortion is illegal in 1887, she has been arrested and charged with manslaughter.

To increase the conflict at the jail, I make the Superintendent a Mexican-American who is prejudiced against the Chinese, as a race, because, as a Catholic, he is against abortion and birth control. More conflict is added to the the scene when I place the prisoner in steel shackles when her attorney arrives. The cell is also stifling and hot. Insects buzz and rats scurry. So, you get the idea?

I recommend that you do not create detailed outlines. I don’t use any, but it may be best to have a general outline when you first begin crafting scenes. The reason I don’t use outlines (called “pantsing”) is because I want to be able to add stuff as I go to increase the conflict.

Example 2: Dialogue

Speech is one of the easiest ways to increase the conflict between your characters if you do it properly. Let’s take the jail cell scene. The lawyer, whose name is Laura de Force Gordon, is furious about her client being in shackles. Does she blow-up and shout down the guards? Does she ask to file a complaint? What she says at this point is especially important. My lawyer is very intelligent. She uses sarcasm and innuendo to increase the conflict and yet get her way.

I’ve made the Sergeant-at-Arms of the jail an extremely portly gentleman who is Mexican-American. His name is Sergeant Robles. Like his boss, the Superintendent, he is also prejudiced.

She says to the sergeant, “Tell me, Sergeant. Do they make these shackles in your size?”

The conflict is increased without using a more bombastic and cliched approach. He is criticized on a personal level, so he can see she is angry, but she can always increase the sarcasm until he is truly able to see what is wrong with the picture.

Always craft dialogue with argument in mind. If it’s not directly controversial, it still must be inferred, as in this scene.

Example 3: Characters

As you can see, I have already created characters who are in conflict because of who they are. Of course, with the main characters, you want their purpose in the mystery and/or thriller to be their motivation. In this case, the attorney, Laura Gordon, wants to protect her client and, eventually, argue her out of the criminal manslaughter charge. Therefore (very important point here), all the minor characters you create along the way must be there to conflict with your main character(s)’ main purpose. Now do you see why I’m a “pantser”? I must be free to slot-in any minor (or even major) character of my choosing to fit the scene!

Thus, I create a Mexican-American Superintendent who is Catholic and prejudiced, as is his Sergeant-at-Arms. Their purposes are counter-opposed to my attorney’s purpose. Even their inner belief systems are in conflict. You must do this with each and every scene you construct, or you won’t maintain the page-turning conflict that you need for your reader to stay with you.

Example 4: Plotting

In a mystery and/or a thriller, your action must be moving toward an end of some kind. In a literary-type novel, that conclusion must come full-circle, in that it seems to the reader that everything has been answered to his/her satisfaction–both on a surface (active) level and at an (inner) psychological level.

Since most mysteries and thrillers don’t aspire to “high art,” you can create plots that simply escalate the conflict until a grand climax or denouement is reached. In a mystery, that’s a bit trickier, in that the reader has been attempting to solve the logical puzzle (mystery) along with your main sleuthing characters. So, the eventual solutions must be explained in your concluding chapter, through dialogue and action.

In thrillers, the main plotting points are created to rescue whomever is in peril and go through many conflicting hazards in order to successfully achieve that rescue. A book like Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn, is an excellent resource to study for superb plotting skills, which dynamically and slowly escalate the conflict, and twist the events, for even more conflict just as nicely.

So, when you remain a “pantser,” in my humble opinion, once you’ve achieved the overall “conflict author’s vision,” you can accomplish your tasks more easily. You can thus craft each of the four crucial items, with some amount of flair and gusto. And, you won’t get bored! Frankly, I can usually spot a novel that’s been too carefully plotted, characterized, and outlined, a mile away. Why? Because I usually lose interest by the second chapter! How about you?

The Real Life Characters in the Portia of the Pacific Historical Mystery Series

Historical Characters Brought to Life

Author James Musgrave uses several characters in his mysteries who existed in history, including the main female sleuth, Mrs. Clara Shortridge Foltz.  Please click on the photo of each character to be taken to more information about their background and accomplishments in real life.  Click here for a brief list of Clara’s family members.

           Clara Shortridge Foltz, Attorney, 1885

                        Isaiah W. Lees, Detective

                       Ah Toy, Chinatown Madam

                          Mary Hopkins, 1848

                   Laura de Force Gordon, Attorney

                     Trella Evelyn Foltz, 1887

                        Fung Jin Toy, “Little Pete”

                       Paschal Beverly Randolph

                      Washington Bartlett, 1886

                       Sarah Pardee Winchester

                            Elizabeth Ware Packard

Fans and Readers Become Characters and Suspects

As the first author to directly involve readers in his novels, in this case historical mysteries, James Musgrave, a self-published and independent entrepreneur and retired college professor, held a recent Rafflecopter raffle. Five of his readers were chosen to become suspects and/or red herrings in his third mystery. THE STOCKTON INSANE ASYLUM MURDER will feature his five readers, by name and by physical description. They will also have some of their admitted “strange idiosyncrasies” expanded upon in these portrayals. “We are all, after all, wearing our various masks each moment,” he said. “This is just one more mask I will give my reader to wear for the fun and excitement of being insane.”

These “extreme makeovers” of fans into characters will be crafted on his series Facebook page:

After completing the characterizations, Musgrave will then post the results to the main followers on the web.  Musgrave has taken on the misogynous and anti-immigrant policies of Nineteenth Century California in this new series, and his first two mysteries have been reviewed favorably by Kirkus and other media. If this experiment goes as well as it seems to be doing, he plans to do it again in his fourth mystery, which will be about a nominee to the Supreme Court who is murdered, and the team of investigators from San Francisco, led by Clara Shortridge Foltz, Esq., the first woman admitted to the California State Bar, will discover that this nominee was also a rapist and womanizer.

All visitors to the Portia of the Pacific Facebook fan page will be able to follow along with the author every step of the way in his innovative and creative journey. Musgrave hopes he gets many more followers and readers to pay homage to his wife, Ellen, and to mystery lovers everywhere. Proceeds will also be going to fight Alzheimer’s Disease.

Here’s what one of the five “patients” said about being turned into a fictional character:

I’ve enjoyed watching the author take aspects of the real me to craft a fictional character. It’s been especially interesting to see how he has gleaned information about my thoughts and personality from our personal, often unrelated conversations, my own Facebook posts, and my comments on posts and interwoven them into the character development and plot of the story.

It’s been fun to have my character be allowed to act out on thoughts and beliefs in ways that aren’t allowed in normal society as well. Would I actually stab someone for telling me how to eat my food or for chewing too loud? Probably not. Would I LIKE to? Absolutely!!

Side note: I haven’t shared this with Mr Musgrave, but I did once stab a boy through the hand with a pencil when I was 12 or 13! Not for the same reason my character stabbed her uncle, however! In this case, art unintentionally imitates life!

Get Your Readers Involved in Your Fiction

I have just begun a new historical mystery series called Portia of the Pacific, starring Clara Shortridge Foltz, Esq., and many members of her family.  My third mystery, The Stockton Insane Asylum Murder, is set inside the first-ever state asylum in 1887 northern California.  I did my due diligence and became immersed in the history of mental health in California, and especially as it concerns this specific state asylum in Stockton.  I had completed the first four chapters, when I realized the possibility of getting my readers involved in the actual writing process.  Why not have five “winners” of a raffle become five mental patients inside my asylum and inside my mystery?

If you want your readers to become enthused with your subject matter, and possibly increase your purchases, then here are the steps you can take to do this:

  1. Think of a way your reader can become a character in your book and then hold a raffle to do this.  See my current raffle using (free) Rafflecopter software.
  2. Promote your raffle on your author’s website as well as in Facebook ads.
  3. Let them read sample chapters from the novel in which they will be appearing.
  4. Be certain to also promote this inside your other books in the series.
  5. Post the “results” on your book series Facebook page so others can share in the excitement.
  6. Do a mailing to your reader’s mailing list.

That’s about it.  It takes some loneliness out of the writing process, and it just may increase your motivation to please your readers.  That’s not too horrible, now is it?

Birth of a Story

Mara Salvatrucha Gang Members, El Salvador

When I wrote my short story, “Incognito,” I attempted to shine a light on the realities about which most Norte Americanos have no clue. For example, many Trump supporters believe these people who come in caravans to the border from Central and South America are attempting to “smuggle” their illegal children across. In truth, there are very specific laws in the U. S. that allow people coming from war-torn or violent countries to be able to apply for asylum. This is what they are trying to do, for the most part, although one cannot assume for all.

In my story, I chose a Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) family, who is also half indigenous or mestizo. During the Inquisition in Spain, many Sephardi Jews came to South America to escape death. They never became Christian and were thus persecuted. The native tribal people have always been discriminated against. So, my fictional family from El Savador already has two strikes.

Then, I added another layer of problems. First, the Mara Salvatrucha, MS-13, has infiltrated their village, and a group has targeted young girls. My narrator’s sister, Guadalupe, is one of those targets. However, because my narrator is also called a “genius” by his mother for his intelligence at twelve years old, he also sees “visions.” His ability to talk to the gang’s leader, “Smiley,” saves his sister from prostitution, but his brothers are kept to cook meth as insurance for the family’s transport down south to the land of “freedom,” the United States.

The story incorporates a coming-of-age motif for the narrator, Felipe, as well as a unique way for me to explore what I believed about the symbolic connection between all peoples in the Jungian dreamscape of the Collective Unconscious. I am able to weave into Felipe’s visions a creation story based on the Brahma and Shiva myths, as well as the root of Justice in Judaic teachings.

At one point, the gang leader is reading the newspaper, as he is an educated gang leader (there are even educated criminals–what a concept!), and he sees that President Trump has called the MS-13 animals. He remarks that Trump allows his rich gangster friends from Russia to stay at his hotels and create “anchor babies,” but he won’t allow any South or Central Americans, who are poor, to be, in any way, associated with MS-13.

I also added some actual gang practices and rivalries (with Barrio-18) into the story, and contrasted them with the visions that my narrator is having. The reader is made well aware of the contradictions.

So, I tried to add a bit of irony to the story. At any rate, like most of my work, it will not be published in any mainstream press (most likely), but it does my heart good to be able to explore the reality that exists for many people seeking asylum and who are turned away by the greedy and arbitrary laws of this administration.

If you’ve read this far, then perhaps you might want to read the complete story, in case it doesn’t find publication space. Please message me, and I’ll give you a private Docs link.

Philip Roth Will Never Die

A tall figure in the “literary” pantheon has fallen, and he just so happens to be a Jew. As a white kid in the heart of anti-Semitic Orange County, California, I knew nothing about Jews or about their culture. In fact, when I attended a Catholic school, St. Anthony’s, in Long Beach, just over the line from Orange County, we were not “allowed” to read the Old Testament (Hebrew Scriptures, as my Jewish wife later explained was the proper title). Later, when I took a Bible as Literature class in college, I finally got to study it, and I knew why. It was filled with great stories about sex, violence, and revenge. Those Christian nuns were really not into that kind of stuff.

Philip Roth was, to me, as a writer, somebody who could use his imagination to break taboos. In one of his last interviews with the New York Times, he stated the fact that “writers are people who have great imaginations, which separate them from the rest of the population.” He was also asked if he had anything to say now that his writing career was over. “No, because everything I ever wanted to say was in my books.” How can you not love a guy like that? He’s so anti-tRump, without even mentioning politics.

As a twenty-three-year-old, just out of the service, when I read PORTNOY’S COMPLAINT, I was awakened to the possibilities of fiction. Alexander had this psychological malady that any male kid in America could relate to. When I heard that Roth was getting criticism from his own “people,” the Jews, about his portrayals of the characters in this wildly comedic and imaginative book, I instantly became a protector of Mr. Roth and his “message.” In my mind, he was speaking Truth to Power with his art.

I believe Mr. Roth will be forever read because he could create books that, as Kafka said, “become the axes to break the frozen seas within us.” Each one of Mr. Roth’s novels took chances with imagination and never attempted to become a “best seller” through the use of formula plotting or identifiable, lovable, and non-controversial characters.

Many publishers and even authors today attempt to heap Mr. Roth’s genius into a category: literary. To the commercial hawkers of books to the masses, this spells “boring,” “non-profitable,” and “high-brow.”

To me, and to other writers who have any kind of an imagination, Mr. Roth and his work were an inspiration to do the same and not a genre of fiction. If a writer studies what Roth does in just that single book PORTNOY’S COMPLAINT, he or she can learn about how to create a world so funny, so conflicting and so full of human pathos that it makes the so-called “real world” look pretty dimwitted and chaotic. This, my friends, is why we writers spend so much time in front of blank pages. We pray, nay, we gird our creative loins, hoping to have the inspiration to fantasize such memorable stories.

Mr. Roth, you will be missed by your friends and family, but you will not be missed by us writers. We have you in our midst, to read, to study and to bask in the warmth of your imagination. Until the next Hitler comes to burn your work, we will attempt to carry your bright torch of free thought into the future. Baruch Hashem.