DA Kentner is an award winning author who also enjoys meeting and interviewing authors of many genres.

As author KevaD, my novel "Whistle Pass" won the 2013 EPIC eBook Award for suspense. Previously, in 2012, it won a Rainbow Award in the historical category. "Whistle Pass" is currently out of print, though I'm considering finding a new publisher, or self-publishing the novel. What do you think?

"The Caretaker", a 3,000 word short story, won 'Calliope' magazine's 18th annual short story competition. Click the blue ribbon to view their site and entry rules for this year's short fiction competition.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

An Interview with Author Joel Goldman

Joel Goldman is a former trial lawyer who has authored a number of acclaimed novels in which he occasionally – much to my retired cop amusement – murders an attorney or two.

A fourth generation Kansas Citian, Joel and his wife continue to make their home there.
Mr. Goldman's novels routinely receive award nominations and his short story "Knife Fight" was optioned by Sony Television for development as a series.

His latest release, "No Way Out," is the third novel starring former FBI Agent Jack Davis. What makes Davis such an unlikely and unique thriller hero is a rare movement disorder similar to Tourette's Syndrome, a neurological disorder characterized by repetitive, stereotyped, involuntary movements and vocalizations. It's a condition Mr. Goldman is all too familiar with as he, himself, suffers from this affliction.

But this disorder is also what sets Joel Goldman apart from so many of us. He opted to challenge the disorder on his own terms and, in turn, has made it a podium from which to launch an unforgettable literary hero.

In Mr. Goldman's own words: "Although we often can't choose what happens to us, we can always choose what we do about it."

Q) You hold a deep appreciation for the workings of the mind and the science and research associated with it. In that same vein, one of your three children is becoming a Clinical Psychologist. To what do you attribute this now familial interest?

A) The brain is what makes us who we are. As a crime novelist, I'm most interested in what happens when things go wrong, especially when we think no one is looking which, inevitably, leads to another question I always ask my characters - what the hell were you thinking? I like integrating brain science and psychology into the answers to those questions.

Q) I have to ask since you readily mention this in interviews. What on earth possessed you to ask for your mother's opinion and insight about any sex scenes you write?

A) In my defense, I didn't ask. To her credit, she volunteered her opinion. My mother didn't just think I walked on water, she thought I taught walking on water. So if she had any criticism, I always paid close attention.

Q) In "The Dead Man" you display more than a bit of architectural talent, which leads me to wonder if you ever studied or considered pursuing such a career. What other hobbies or pursuits do you have?

A) I never thought about being an architect but I try to paint realistic word pictures that put the reader at the scene. A year or so ago, I became interested in doing voiceover work. I started studying with a voiceover coach, recorded a demo and hired an agent. I've been auditioning but haven't landed a gig yet. However, I was hired for a non-speaking role as a doctor in a TV commercial, allowing me to finally use the old line, "I may not be a doctor, but I play one on TV". I've learned that there's a lot more acting in voiceover work than I imagined so I've enrolled in an acting class at our local community college. I'm also teaching an online course on the American Detective Novel in the graduate program of a local university.

Q) Unlike a number of writers, you turn your novels' physical scenes or settings into a subtle character all its own. Why is breathing life into the setting so important to you and what do you hope the reader gains from your almost artistic descriptions?

A) I believe that place should be an important character. It can shape, define and motivate human characters and plot. Without a strong sense of place, a story exists only on the surface. There's nothing to support it and give it context.

Q) Most folks don't understand what a solitary profession writing truly is. What do you and your wife do together to reconnect and recharge once you've finished a manuscript?

A) Writing is a solitary profession but it doesn't have to be a lonely one. I do most of my writing at my Starbuck's office so when my wife and I are together, we're tuned into one another.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Trademark Law & Book Titles

This article is copyrighted. Expressed permission has been requested and granted for the posting of this article to DA Kentner's blog site as well as the Some Write It Hot blog site. No other permission has been provided. No copying of this article in toto or in part is authorized without the express written permission of the author, Lloyd J. Jassin.
The original article may be viewed at http://www.copylaw.com/new_articles/titles.html
I want to thank Mr. Jassin for allowing the posting of this informative article.

How to Use Trademark Law to Create Multiple Passive Income Streams & Avert Legal Battles

By Lloyd J. Jassin

A great title can contribute tremendously to a book’s success. It can also create opportunities for multiple passive income streams from licensing the sale of book-related merchandise and paraphernalia. In this article, I will share with you valuable tips on how to determine the availability of a title, secure its ownership, and develop passive revenue streams through trademark licensing. I will also explain how to protect against unauthorized use of your title by intellectual property pirates.

What is a Trademark?

Searching for the correct titles is like searching for hidden gold. Properly selected and maintained, your book’s title can be your most valuable intellectual property asset. As I discuss below, under trademark law, some titles are more worthy of trademark protection than others. Trademark law protects words, slogans, logos and even designs that identify the source of goods or services. It also prohibits people from trying to pass off their goods and services using the goodwill associated with an established brand. For example, trademark and unfair competition law are the foundations upon which the best selling Chicken Soup for the Soul, Dummies and Hardy Boys series franchises are based. All three, of course, are federally registered trademarks.

What Are the Benefits of Trademark Registration?

Federal registration is not required. In the United States rights arise from actual use of a mark. Generally, the first to either affix the mark to goods (or display it in connection with services) or file an “intent to use” application with the Patent and Trademark Office has the right to use and registration. The benefits to trademark registration include:

Constructive notice nationwide of the trademark owner's claim.

Evidence of ownership of the trademark.

Jurisdiction of federal courts may be invoked.

Registration can be used as a basis for obtaining registration in foreign countries.

Registration may be filed with U.S. Customs Service to prevent importation of infringing foreign goods.

Brand It! Own It!

If you are an author, it is helpful to think of your book as the headwaters of your very own intellectual property Nile. Best selling author, Robert G. Allen refers to it as “infopreneuring.” As an info-prenueur, the goal is to create multiple merchandise licensing revenue streams that flow from your book (and book title). Your focus is not just creating a best selling book, but best selling book byproducts. Lucrative speaking careers – which can dwarf the royalties your book generates -- often start out as books. From books flow distance learning courses, income generating websites, subscription newsletters, audio products, film and television and other opportunities.

Trademarks & Book Contracts

If you aspire to be a published author, or, if you have been offered a book contract, remember, you, not your publisher should retain trademark licensing rights to the title of your work. Merchandising rights -- which is a category of rights a publisher will seek -- includes the right to license the title of your book, and the characters contained in it, for games, toys, clothing, household goods, as well as innumerable other goods and services. To be clear, “licensing” is where the owner of a trademark gives another party the right to use that mark in exchange for payment of a royalty.

Regrettably, many start-up (and even seasoned) info-preneurs ignore the “grant of rights” clause of their publishing agreement. After signing away their rights, a form of seller’s regret sets in. Contracts clauses are malleable, not words set in stone. The reason publishers have contracts department is because contracts are negotiable. Be respectful of your publisher. Know what to ask for, or hire someone that does. That someone can be a knowledgeable agent or a publishing attorney, or both. Or both? Attorneys in the entertainment industry often play a kind of “central command role,” assisting agents in negotiating publishing and merchandise agreements.

Agent vs. Attorney

Entrusting your career solely to an agent is not quite leaving the fox to watch the hen house, but, as your career develops, the issues that relate to your IP assets, inlcuding image and literary works, becomes increasingly complicated. While most agents are good and honorable people, unlike an agent, an attorney owes his duty of loyalty to the client. Find the right people to help you. No single person, whether agent or attorney, can handle all aspects of your career. And, by having a team (i.e., attorney and agent) you create a true system of checks and balances. Agents, as their name suggests, procure publishers. Attorneys advise and counsel, and negotiate contracts. Both seasoned agents and literary attorneys are also likely to have long-term industry relationships that can be leveraged for your good.

A Copyright is Not a Trademark

Before providing you with the tools you need to select and protect the title of your book, it’s important to note that copyright law does not protect book titles. If you go to Amazon.com or the online Copyright Office records (www.copyright.gov), you will see countless examples of duplicate titles. Under copyright law, copyright protection only covers "original works of authorship." To the chagrin of many, the courts and the Copyright Office have made a bright-line policy determination that titles, names (including pen names), short phrases and mere listings of ingredients (as in recipes), no matter how clever, do not possess enough original expression to warrant copyright protection. Fortunately, there is another way to protect the commercial magnetism of your title and to cash in on it.

Look Before You Leap: Trademark Availability Searches

Trademark and unfair competition law protects against confusingly similar usage of source identifying words and designs (including book jacket design) by another. If you wish to publish a book, or launch a series of books, you run the risk that someone may have already obtained rights to a confusingly similar title. Like any business, as you prepare to launch your book, you want to select an appropriate title that is unique to you, and, if your book is an extension of your business, a title capable of identifying whatever your business offers – or, intends to offer as you expand your brand into multiple, diverse industries or product categories. Since trademark rights are granted on a ”first come” basis, it’s important to determine if anyone is using your title in a trademark sense. This is accomplished by doing a screening search. A screening search will help uncover how a trademark is being used in the marketplace. If it’s unlikely people seeing your book will be confused about the source or sponsorship of your book, there’s no trademark infringement. For example, when Al Franken borrowed Fox Broadcastings “Fair and Balanced” slogan for his book entitled “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right ,” no likelihood of confusion was found.

A trademark search, and a working knowledge of this nuanced area of the law, is how you determine whether you can use the title you have selected. When selecting a title an author must take into consideration both registered and unregistered marks. Failure to perform a proper search can result in threat of a lawsuit from someone who believes you are a competing with them unfairly. If during the selection process, you discover a confusingly similar title, used for similar goods, or even related services, it may not be available for use or trademark registration with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (http://www.uspto.gov/). Bear in mind, the science of searching and determining if a proposed title is available for use is not always a straight forward proposition.

The timing of your search is critical. Unless you file an intent-to-use (ITU) federal trademark application, you should begin using your mark very soon after determining your mark’s availability. Trademark rights are awarded are on first to use /first to file basis. An ITU application is an application for a mark that is not yet being used commercially. Like fresh milk, the shelf life of a search is measured in hours or days, not weeks. After a short while, the relevancy of a search diminishes because new, confusingly similar products and services may have entered the stream of commerce.

What is Trademark Infringement?

In any trademark infringement case, the key issues are “Who used it first?” and “Was it used on confusingly similar goods or services?” Recalling a published book after threat of litigation will cause both financial loss and professional embarrassment. While the cost of doing a full search can be daunting if you are working on a tight budget, there’s no excuse not to do an internet search. While not foolproof, an internet search can weed out obvious conflicts. If you identify marks – including best selling titles -- that are similar in appearance, sound or meaning, and are used for similar or competitive goods or services, you may have found a potentially conflicting mark. When in doubt, engage a trademark specialist to review your findings. As assessment by a trademark attorney who can decode trademark search results may give you the courage to move forward with your title, or caution you against doing so.

Merely descriptive marks are not entitled to exclusive protection without establishing secondary meaning. By secondary meaning, I mean well-known marks that call to mind a particular publisher, producer or manufacturer. Many claims of exclusive ownership turn out to be bare assertions of rights over non distinctive marks phrases for which there is little likelihood of confusion. If you receive a cease and desist letter don’t panic. Take a deep breath. Consult a trademark attorney who can assess the level of the threat. Sometimes a well-written letter, drafted by counsel (or with the help of counsel), explaining why you believe they have a weak claim and are attempting to unfairly silence you, will get them to stand down. For example, on investigation your attorney may advise you that they don’t have a valid trademark. Or, perhaps, you are using the word or phrase in its “classic” or “descriptive” sense in your narrative, not on the cover to suggest endorsement or an association with the trademark user.

Tip! Keep in mind that both identical and confusingly similar marks for related goods and service may be entitled to trademark protection, and that a trademark owner need not register their mark federally to enjoy trademark protection.

Now that we’ve reviewed the basics, it’s time to focus on which titles enjoy trademark protection, and which don't. Bear in mind, there's a large body of law which addresses what is registrable and what's not, so this, is at best, a simplification of the rules. When in doubt, seek out the advice of a seasoned trademark attorney.

a. Trademark Friendly Title: Series Titles Enjoy Trademark Protection

Generally, titles of works that are part of an ongoing series are protected under trademark and unfair competition law. Once a series title such as Chicken Soup for the Soul becomes identified in the public's mind with a particular author or publisher, unfair competition law kicks in to protect against consumer confusion, enforcing a kind of commercial morality on the marketplace of ideas. Once a series has been established, each work in the series reinforces that it comes from the same source as the others. Being a series author or publisher, is one of the secrets of successful publishing.

Without trademark law, consumers might otherwise be deprived of their ability to distinguish among competing forms of entertainment and information. Likewise, producers and publishers would be denied valuable sequel and adaptation rights in best selling books and hit movies. While some might argue that a world without TWILIGHT 3 is a good thing, trademark law allows us to cash in on the goodwill and commercial magnetism of a best selling series title.

TIP! When selecting a "series" title, try to select a title which is coined, arbitrary or suggestive – not one that is highly descriptive of your book’s contents. Arbitrary or suggestive words make better trademark candidates than highly descriptive titles. Highly descriptive series titles are not given automatic trademark status, although, marketing people tend to prefer descriptive titles for obvious reasons. Over time, descriptive titles must develop secondary meaning to enjoy protection. Secondary meaning is the connection in the mind of a consumer between a mark and the provider of those services.

b. Not All Titles Can Are Protected by Trademark Law.

Unlike series titles, titles of a single work, whether a book, periodical, song, movie, or television program, normally, will not be protected under either trademark or unfair competition law. This is one of the quirks of trademark law. To quote the USPTO, “Regardless of the actual relation of the title to the book,” courts treat all single title works as "inherently descriptive" at best and "inherently generic" at worst – unless the single title has had “wide promotion and great success.”

Tip! If today's single title is likely to grow into a series of books tomorrow, consider filing an "intent to use" application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. An "ITU" application allows you to file a "Statement of Use" within 36-months of official approval of your application. By filing an intent to use application, you benefit from the earlier filing date. In trademark law, who came first counts for a lot!

CASE & COMMENT: When McGraw-Hill, publishers of the best selling PT-109: JOHN KENNEDY IN WORLD WAR II , moved to enjoin Random House from using the title JOHN F. KENNEDY & PT-109 on a competing book, the court found that two terms in plaintiff's title -- "PT-109" and "John F. Kennedy" -- were descriptive or generic terms, and therefore unprotectable. Noting the inherent weakness of plaintiff's title, the court commented that the words chosen by Random House were an apt description of its book, and therefore in the public domain. Rejecting plaintiff's unfair competition claim, the court further noted that because of the weakness of plaintiff's title, combined with the differences in the overall look and feel of the two books (including Random House's prominent use of its distinctive logo on the spine and back jacket) there was no likelihood of confusion. McGraw-Hill Book Company v. Random House, Inc., 32 Misc. 2nd 704, 225 N.Y.S.2d 646, 132 U.S.P.Q. 530 (1962).

As the McGraw-Hill case shows, neither priority in time, nor significant sales alone will determine whether the title of a book has achieved secondary meaning. Secondary meaning comes gradually and can be defeated altogether when the words chosen are merely descriptive of the contents of the work. Similarly, secondary meaning can be lost through extended periods of non-use (after two years of non-use there's a presumption of abandonment), or diluted by permitting third-parties to use similar titles.

c. Parody Titles Sometimes Protected

As long as anyone can remember, parody has been an acceptable form of social criticism. However, sometimes poking fun can is no laughing matter; at least as far as some courts are concerned.

The problem with parodies in general is that there is no bright-line test to determine what constitutes a permissible parody, which drives home the point that trademark law is complex. Humor is not an ironclad legal defense to either copyright or trademark infringement -- or for that matter libel. For instance, while a florist's use of the slogan THIS BUD'S FOR YOU in an ad for fresh flowers was held by one court not to infringe plaintiff's well-known beer slogan (Anheuser-Busch v. Florists Assn. of Greater Cleveland, 603 F. Supp. 35 (ND Oh 1984)), the use of the phrase WHERE THERE'S LIFE . . . THERE'S BUGS for a combination floor wax/insecticide, was determined by another court to infringe the very same trademark. Chemical Corp. of America v. Anheuser-Busch, 306 F2d 433 (5th Cir. 1962).

Although commercial identity confusion is the most common form of trademark infringement, a noncompetitive mark can also violate a famous owner’s trademark by diluting the distinctiveness of the owner’s trademark. Thus, Barbie’s Playhouse for the title of a pornographic website was held to tarnish Mattel’s Barbie for toy dolls. Mattel Inc. v. Jcom Inc., WL 766711 (S.D. N.Y. 1998) . Just to confuse matters, in Lucasfilm Ltd. v. Media Market Group, Ltd., 182 F. Supp. 2d 897 (N.D. Cal. 2002), the court held that a pornographic movie entitled STARBALLZ was a permissible parody of Star Wars, and not barred under the Federal Trademark Dilution Act.

Fortunately for literary authors, the courts have placed some First Amendment limits on the rights of trademark owners. For example, in General Mills, Inc. v. Henry Regnery Co. (421 F.Supp. 359 (N.D.IL. 1976)), the owners of the "Betty Crocker" trademark sued a well-known comedian over a spoof entitled MOREY AMSTERDAM'S BETTY COOKER CROCK BOOK FOR DRUNKS. The book, which featured the "Betty Crocker" trademark on its cover, also had a photo of comedian Morey Amsterdam pouring alcohol over a salad. Since the test of trademark infringement is likelihood of confusion, the case turned on whether the public would believe that plaintiff, rather than defendant, was the source of defendant's book. While noting that both plaintiff and defendant published books (a fact tending to support a finding of likelihood of confusion), the court held there was no confusing similarity because the comedian's name appeared prominently in the title, and his photo on the cover, serving as a prominent disclaimer. The takeaway from this case, is that the clear, bold, and prominent use of your own title (or in this case, name and likeness) can diminish the likelihood of confusion to acceptable levels.

Similarly, in Cliff Notes, Inc. v. Bantam, Doubleday, Dell Publishing (866 F2d 490 (2nd Cir. 1989)), a U.S. Court of Appeals rejected an argument that a "Spy Notes' " parody of "Cliff Notes" study aids was confusingly similar to "Cliff Notes''" the well-known study aids. Aside from adopting a cover, title and format similar to the "Cliff Notes" format, "Spy Notes" lampooned a number of contemporary titles and authors in "Cliff Notes" form. Despite defendant's profit motive, the court classified the parody as "artistic expression" worthy of constitutional protection.

Margaret Domin, in a law review article, perhaps, said it best, “A non-infringing parody is merely amusing, not confusing. A “true” parody will be so obvious that a clear distinction is preserved between the source of the target and the source of the parody.”

d. Use of Famous Names in Titles

Unauthorized Biographies: The First Amendment is the patron saint and protector of unauthorized biographies. Consequently, a well-known person cannot stop the use of his or her name in the title of an unauthorized biographical work solely on trademark precepts. The protection of the right of free expression is so important that even where a right of publicity is recognized (the right to commercial uses of one's name and image), the public's right to know what prominent people have done or what has happened to them is generally indulged.

However, authors do not have the unbound freedom to make use a famous person's name or likeness in a title for commercial purposes. For instance, while an unauthorized bio of the late film star Keith Leger entitled "Keith Ledger: The Unauthorized Biography" is permissible, you can't publish a "Keith Ledger Cookbook" without the permission of late star's estate. The general rule is that as long as use of the celebrity's name is a literary or expressive use (i.e., primarily editorial), and not a disguised advertisement for the sale of goods or services (e.g., cookbooks), permission is not required.

Caution! While the use of a celebrity’s name in the title of an unauthorized biography is generally not considered a violation of that individual’s right of publicity, or trademark rights, authors need to be aware that in the U.S. (and elsewhere) false statements of facts, the result of shoddy journalism, can give rise to false light and libel claims.

Artistically Relevant Use of Celebrity Names: Provided a celebrity's name has some reasonable "artistic" relationship to the content of the work, and is neither "explicitly" misleading, nor a thinly veiled commercial advertisement, the slight risk that the celebrity's name might implicitly suggest endorsement or sponsorship, may be outweighed by the public interest in free expression. For instance, the song "Bette Davis Eyes," and the film "Garbo Talks," are good examples of protected uses of well-known individual's names used in an "artistic" manner.

CASE & COMMENT: Eminent filmmaker Federico Fellini's 1986 satire, GINGER AND FRED, concerned two retired small-time dancers who were known as "Ginger and Fred" because they used to imitate well-known dance duo of Rogers and Astaire. When Ginger Rogers learned of the film, she claimed her right of publicity had been violated, and that the movie falsely implied she endorsed the film -- a violation of Section 43(a) of the Trademark Act. Affirming the trial court, the Second Circuit Court appeals held that where the title of a film is related to the content of the film, and is not a commercial advertisement for goods and services, the First Amendment's interest in freedom of expression will outweigh a well-known individual's right of publicity. The court further held that where a celebrity's name has at least some artistic relevance to the work and is not "explicitly" misleading, freedom of expression concerns will generally outweigh the likelihood of public confusion over the source of the work. Rogers v. Grimaldi, 875 F2d 994 (2d Cir. 1989).

The Rogers' case acknowledges that books and movies are hybrid by nature -- a combination of art and commerce. While consumers have a right not to be misled, the "expressive element" of a title may make it predominantly noncommercial, and thus deserving of more protection.

How to Avoid Costly Trademark Battles

Look before your leap! It's always been sound advice. Prior to launching a new series or publishing company, conduct a preliminary search to ascertain if your mark is in conflict with someone else’s mark. Bear in mind, marks do not have to be exactly the like in sight or sound to be cause trademark confusion. Sometimes referred to as "knock out" search, a screening search should include a review of state and federal trademark databases, industry directories and, of course, the internet. Similar marks used for closely related goods or services are what you need to consider. If there are no clear conflicts, retain a trademark attorney who will order a professional search report. The trademark attorney will then provide you with an availability opinion. Failure to do a thorough search, or to properly evaluate a search report, puts you at great risk. The consequences of not searching, could include a court order demanding the destruction of inventory, monetary damages, and, general business disruption.

Trademark Licensing Rights: Optimizing Non-Book Income Streams

If you are an author, before signing your book contract, ask yourself whether your book has commercial licensing potential? As a matter of course, most publishers will seek merchandise licensing rights, but very few will fight you if you wish to retain these valuable rights. If you are represented by a literary agent, and the contract he or she has obtained for you contains a grant of merchandise licensing rights, likely, you are not well represented. Can you rely on your literary agent to guide you properly? It all depends. There are many honest, contract savvy agents out there. However, be vigilant. Once you move beyond the AAR certified agents, you enter a pool of author representatives that includes both stellar agents and predatory practitioners. Read and understand what’s put in front of you. Ideally, hire an attorney to review both your agency agreement and publishing agreement. Unlike agents, attorneys are licensed, and have an undivided loyalty to the client. Are there bad attorneys? Of course. Buyer beware.


Step 1: Check the availability of the mark you wish to adopt.

Step 2: Have an attorney conduct a full trademark search.

Step 3. Apply for federal (and state) trademark protection.

(c) 2010. Lloyd J. Jassin

DISCLAIMER: This article discusses general legal issues of interest and is not designed to give any specific legal advice pertaining to any specific circumstances. It is important that professional legal advice be obtained before acting upon any of the information contained in this article.

© 1998-2010 The Law Offices of Lloyd J. Jassin. All rights reserved. Copylaw is a trademark of The Law Offices of Lloyd J. Jassin

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Co-author of The Copyright Permission & Libel Handbook (John Wiley & Sons)

Lloyd J. Jassin provides counseling to book publishing, television, theater, new media, arts and entertainment clients on contract, licensing, copyright, trademark, unfair competition, libel, right of privacy and general corporate law matters. His practice includes drafting and negotiating publishing and entertainment industry contracts, intellectual property due diligence, trademark prosecution, dispute resolution and litigation. His expertise in intellectual property and organizing business entities, has enabled him to represent clients throughout their growth cycle. Besides individual and corporate clients, he also represents trade and industry groups such as the Audio Publishers Association (APA) and Publishers Marketing Association (PMA). Mr. Jassin has achieved national prominence with his book, The Copyright Permission and Libel Handbook (John Wiley & Sons), coauthored with Steven C. Schechter.

More information about the author may be viewed at http://www.copylaw.com/aboutus.html

Friday, November 19, 2010

An Interview with author Adrian Dodson

I came across an interesting novel titled "From Acid to the Body of Christ" by Daxx Danzig. This book is so non-mainstream, so cleverly and skillfully written, I immediately wanted to interview Mr. Danzig. One problem – he doesn't exist.

Daxx Danzig is the mind-numbing creation of Adrian Dodson - elementary school creative writing and physical education teacher, and current coordinator for the President's Council on Health & Fitness in the state of Mississippi.

Mr. Dodson drew on his love of music, fashion and art to develop the fictitious memoir of a fictitious person we all have known at some point in our lives.

And that, I believe, is the true magnetic draw to this book. We know Daxx. He is that person who would never go away. No matter what he did, no matter how far into sex, drugs, and rock and roll he fell, how he tiptoed on the brink of insanity, no matter how much he disappointed and irritated us, he could still force us to smile and we just couldn't find the strength or lack of humanity to turn our back on him. Somewhere, something inside us said Daxx would survive – he would persevere, and we needed to know how, to be there at the end of his roller coaster life's ride.

But, in every fictional character, even one as dark and narcissistic as Daxx, is a piece of the author. The quality of Adrian Dodson's own true spirit slips through in Daxx's reflective moments of relationships, religion, self abuse and how within every one of us there beats a flame of passion to live life to its fullest measure. http://www.daxxdanzig.com/

Q) As an elementary school creative writing teacher, what advice and encouragement do you provide your students to open their minds and help them write? After all, for most of them, the freedom and joy of writing is a relatively new experience.

A) Well hopefully I can stimulate mind opening without the use of hallucinogenic drugs, as they were almost the demise of Daxx Danzig in the 70's. I do however play Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon, burn nag champa incense and hang black light posters in my classroom while teaching. Really I encourage young writers to create their own style, and throw the mainstream ideas of what rules they should adhere to out the window. Worrying about how one should write, structure, or format a book to please the masses can hamper one's creative process. My goal was to create a book SO unique and unlike anything ever written, that it transcended genre or classification. I aspire to do the same with my students. I tell them that 10 years ago I was scribbling dark poetry on onion-skin tracing paper because this earthy, artsy fartsy chick I met at a coffee shop thought it was rad! And the rest is, dare I say...history.

Q) You're married with three children, and have written columns on health and fitness for newspapers. Basically, you're what Daxx isn't. Is Daxx a piece of you that wanted to stray from the 9 to 5, or a trace of your past that wasn't quite ready to succumb to laptops, schedules and societal expectations?

A) I suppose I could have written a book on health & fitness, sports or some other subject, but thats all been done before. The 9 to 5 me (Adrian Dodson) tippytoes around on egg shells, as not to step on the "normal" society, whereas my alter ego (Daxx Danzig) has a wierd and psychedelic story to tell, thus throwing caution to the wind!

Q) Daxx has the makings for a cult-like fan base. Have a few of those surfaced yet, and how do you shield your family from the overly exuberant?

A) The fan base is hard to classify, but a good friend of mine categorized the people who would probably "get" the style:
Invite everyone who are fans of Pink Floyd, Vonnegut,TOOL, Black Sabbath, abnormal psychology, Breaking Bad, night skies, higher thinking, the abstract universe, Soundgarden, art, fashion, music, pop-culure, sushi, dark poetry, God, intellect, red wine, Blue Oyster Cult, Hunter S. Thompson, Beavis and Butthead, Dexter, Miami Vice, comedy & humor, Dax Riggs, Acid Bath, Pantera, Confederacy of Dunces, Panic attacks, quirks and disorders, and Bozo the Clown, to check out the book titled From Acid to the Body of Christ.

To answer your question though, I just really dig connecting with fans who comprehend and enjoy my art. It is me as Steven Tyler, watching 10,000 people sing Dream On with their lighters held high!

Q) Your humor has been compared to Denis Leary and Sam Kinison, your plot-work to Quentin Tarentino, and yet the style is decisively your own. Where did your unique literary voice come from?

A) Severe panic attacks, agoraphobia, and depression ruled my life for over 30 years, crippling and dulling all senses inside me, save for one, my sense of artistic creativity. I have finally overcome this disorder, and I got one hell of a wild rollercoaster ride to share with those who wish to hear it.

Q) What's next for Adrian Dodson, and do those plans include Daxx Danzig?

A) Daxx will always be a part of me, albeit a dark and disturbing one. As for plans, I have flown around by the seat of my "britches" with no plan for quite some time now. I really want a plan, I just don't seem to have one. Life is good, enjoy the ride.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

An Interview with Author Amber Green

If Amber Green wrote bistro menus, each would convey a variety of suspense and intrigue within light pastry folds of premières, quick wit.

She is the living definition of wordsmith and undoubtedly rivals the CIA in her knowledge of people, cultures, and traditions.

A born and bred Southern girl, she continues to make her home in the Deep South. Only the sun can match the size and warmth of her heart and on any day, numbers of friends and relatives can be found milling about her home enjoying her hospitality and home cooking. Most stray animals in the area wind up on her porch for a free meal, a warm bed, and a bath. She is a woman devoted to family.

Her favourite quote sums up her staunch support of our country.

"We cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home." Edward R. Murrow.

The fact she donates proceeds from book sales to purchase comfort items for our troops says even more about her.

Yet somewhere in all of this she manages to pen stories that will knock your socks off and curl your toes. Her descriptions of people and places are so vivid, so exquisitely detailed, the reader swears they have met the characters, walked the streets, and inhaled the fragrance of local foods.

A word of warning – Amber doesn't write for the sexually moral community. And that has to be the lone reason this author has yet to become a household name.

Is she planning to go mainstream? We'll have to ask her.

Though not her most recent in a long list of releases, THE HUNTSMEN 2: BAREBACK, serves notice of the true depths of Amber Green's abilities to create unforgettable characters, plots, and imageries.


Q) What stories and books caught your attention as a child and inspired you to write?

A) Walter Farley's Black Stallion series captivated me. Also, my sixth grade teacher--desperate to shut me up, I think--handed me a tattered copy of The Fellowship of the Ring. Oh, I hated having to hand that back! For the next couple of years, I thought it was a one-off with a strange ending. I couldn't stop thinking about why a book would have been written that way, and what would have happened after "Yet we may, Mr. Frodo. Yet we may." I think all that wondering might have twisted my mind a bit. (Something did; let's blame kindly old Professor Tolkien!)

Q) What edge do you believe your Southern upbringing has added to your writing?

A) Air conditioning was far from universal when I was a kid. The house was too hot to be comfortable long after the evening air cooled off outside, so after supper everyone sat outside on the steps or on the porch. The grownups talked. They told stories. They told jokes. They handed down bits of history, disguised as gossip, and gossip disguised as history. We kids spent as little time as possible practicing our band instruments and as much time as possible playing tag or hide and seek, or catching lightning bugs in mason jars. Those of us who weren't that much into the game, or who were older or younger than most of the kids playing, sat on the steps and listened. Or read under the porch-light. When the mosquitoes drove us indoors, we'd read or watch TV. Bear in mind that most places I ever lived had three channels, two of which heavily overlapped one another and a third that came in all buzzy and grainy, so TV wasn't a great option for entertainment. Another factor was the southern sports culture. I couldn't see well enough to keep track of what was happening on the field, but not going would have been socially impossible. So I spent hour after hour trapped in the stands, either reading or playing out scenarios in my head--re-writing the plots of TV shows I'd seen and picturing the actors playing out my version, or mentally finishing books I'd had to give back before I read all the way through.

Q) Let's get to it. Your mastery of story telling deserves a greater fan base. Are you planning to go mainstream? If so, when? If not, why not?

A) I'd love to go mainstream. For the longest time, I thought the story I'm writing now, Khyber Run, would be my mainstream story. But the story wouldn't go there, and the more I tried to make it work, the more stiff and awkward it felt. Now I'm letting the story go where the characters need to go, and we're all happier. I'm in a good place right now. The small presses and epubs give me a great deal of flexibility. If or when I go mainstream, the pressure to produce will become much stronger. So really, I have no answer for you.

Q) Your characters are so believable, yet, so varied, where do they come from?

A) Working out characters, then deciding what they'd do in a given situation and why, takes up the vast majority of my writing time. Once I get the characters clearly drawn in my head, everything else is easy. When I was in college, I played role-playing games (Call of Cthulhu, Dungeons and Dragons, Traveler, Aftermath!, Twilight 2000, Chivalry and Sorcery, Gamma World, Boot Hill, you name it) obsessively. Though I really didn't have that much fun playing as a character, I liked making up characters and watching other people interact in character--seeing if they would act as I expected, and what happened when they didn't. I don't play anymore because the same energy goes into writing. Sometimes I start with a stock character with a few minor changes or a major change, like I would developing a game character, and run him through a couple of scenes. Playing out what "works" in my head defines the character as an individual, often moving him rather far from the stock. If I feel like I'm close but still not quite clear about what makes a character tick, running him or her through an online personality quiz really helps.

Q) In a perfect world, on a perfect day, how would you spend your morning?

A) My husband would bring me coffee without grumbling about how early it is, then we'd both play with the puppy, then I'd read while my husband scrambles breakfast. After breakfast (omelette with salsa and home-grown eggs, washed down with "lemonade" from our limequat tree) I'd spend the rest of the morning alternatively writing and flea-combing the cats. Oh, and nobody would get arrested.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Nelson Ottenhausen, A Sterling Example of Indie Press

Those not familiar with the benefits of Indie Press are sometimes quick to shout them down as too small, too inexperienced, the authors are unknown, etc, etc.

Indie Press is here to stay.
The reason is people like Nelson Ottenhausen.

Mr. Ottenhausen prohibits the use of profanity in the books he publishes (other than an occasional “damn” or “hell"). But this author and president of Patriot Media Publishing is one of the greatest examples of where Indie Press is headed, and why growing numbers of authors are knocking on the doors of small publishers.

Nelson sells roughly four hundred of his authors’ books every time he arrives at a congregation of his target audience. That doesn’t include Internet sales.

It is the fact he understands who his target audience is and caters to them that makes him, Patriot Media, and thusly his authors so successful.

Patriot Media publishes stories of American heroes (both real and fictional) who are either in or veterans of the U.S. military. His audience? Veterans. Wherever large groups of veterans gather, a Patriot Media rep is there with trunk loads of books.

Nelson readily communicates with the veterans who buy Patriot Media novels and has learned exactly what they want. He designed the standards of Patriot Media around that information. He personally reviews author submissions to guarantee those standards are met. As such, the rejection pile is high. The books meeting those standards are published and Nelson develops one-on-one relationships with the authors.

Yes, his own books such as the murder mystery “The Killing Zone” are published by Patriot Media. And, yes, they are held to the same standards by other editors of Patriot Media.

Patriot Media was contacted by unknown author Lt Colonel Peter Clark. He’d written a book.
Patriot saw merit where others hadn’t. Nelson and his group worked with LTC Clark and the novel “Staff Monkeys: A Stockbroker’s Journey Through the Global War on Terror” was born.
Why should you remember this novel published by a press you never heard of?

“Staff Monkeys” is now a certified 2011 Pulitzer Prize Nominee.

How many more reasons do you need before you submit your manuscript to a small press?