Friday, December 5, 2014

Breaking through the barriers of Standardization. Part II - Going the Indie Way ….

I knew was of course this was going to cost me money. I also knew that the message of the novel, the tragic reality of Gypsies behind the prejudice, needed to get out there. Gypsies/Romawere once again being persecuted across Europe, reminiscent of the holocaust.  With that in mind I had been putting money aside for years before I started the endeavor.

  1. The novel was finally in the shape I had worked hard to achieve. This is not possible, to my mind, without the help of equally dedicated editors – my first, essential expense.
  2.  I then went the traditional rout - Query letters to Agents, receiving in return some encouraging, some standard pre-printed replies, i.e. landing on the slush pile, probably unread, i.e. waste of time, but I did my duty.
  3. The choice now was between self-publishing and Independent Press. Here I had learned from writer friends that, at that time, self-publishing closed many doors, reviews in major literary magazines, selling to major bookstores, etc. So I opted for Independent Presses. Here the search livened up. More dialogue, more interest, more people truly dedicated to literature, willing to take a risk. Then I came across the best match for me - Wilderness House Press. Its owner and manager, Steve Glines, a writer, designer/computer wiz, above all a man truly dedicated to literature as an art form. We hit it off. He loved the novel, I loved his work and dedication. We have had close collaboration ever since.
  4. Marketing. Essential of course. As I was told by several successful writers, as much work as writing the novel. But, a writer can’t be a fox that hides in a hole. I then, in 2010 at the vigorous age of 65 started Facebook, Twitter, Linked in with great success, mostly because I actually enjoyed it. I also came across a huge food chain of people trying to make a living off us struggling writers. I don’t blame them, and I don’t knock them. They have a lot of knowledge to impart. On the other hand, I needed actual results, sales, for the writer, in this case, me. Again, after intensive search, I came across the perfect professional for me - Denise Cassino. Denise specializes in turning your book into an Amazon Bestseller. Again, she loved my book, and so she did. Thanks to her, a European agent approached me, again a wonderful professional. Pauline Villain. Unfortunately, she tragically died suddenly. Last but not least, a word about Amazon. I did deal with one major book chain, Barnes and Nobles. They did sell all the copies, but did not ask for more. Whereas Amazon was and is there for me. Right now, for the struggling writer, I feel it is our best ally.
  5. Back to what now I consider my home turf – Wilderness House Press/Steve Glines, my publisher, Denise Cassino, my marketing expert, between the three of us helping each other, collaborating, starting a marketing/selling campaign. I did sell over 2,000 copies. Not bad for an unknown, and a first novel. Friends, another essential, helped finding places for book signings; I did a number of radio interviews, helped by an outfit that specializes in that. Last but not least, Independent Book Stores. Here I want to mention a spectacular one in Vermont, the Northshire Book Store. As a whole, these stores are struggling side by side with us writers, and should be supported by both readers and writers.

I am now working on a sequel to Dosha, flight of the RussianGypsies. So, unfortunately I have to cut back on my marketing efforts for novel no.1.  I will, however keep in close contact and continue to work with Steve Glines, my publisher, and Denise Cassino, my marketing person – my home turf, to me so reminiscent of how publishing in this country used to be. 

To those of you interested, I am open to further questions.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Breaking through the barriers of Standardization. Part I – The Facts.

Yesterday I went to see the movie ‘The Theory of Everything’. I was intrigued days before as I watched unusual amounts of advertising on TV. Then the movie was first shown in theaters far from the center of town movie houses. It was and is of course an art film trying to fight the odds of getting sufficient viewership to make a profit. Without money and support, art in whichever form, cannot survive. This one will make it - an excellent movie, great marketing. It also, like many works of art, had a long run-up time.

What intrigues me the most is of course the similar obstacles faced by Indie Movies and by Independent Presses. During America’s great literary past, success depended on the cooperation of publisher, editor and writer, plus small enthusiastic bookstores. All of them were passionate literati. They were willing to take risks, and they did, and they were successful.

Since then, publishing was taken over by corporations. Agents became their gatekeepers. The main goal was follow the market, diminish risk as much as possible, bookstores turned into chains. It leaves the artistic writer facing an impenetrable wall with no visible traditional doors. The author has to go it alone, looking for new ways, and if he has no money to spend he is basically stranded.

That was the reality when I finished my novel Dosha, flight of the Russian Gypsies, a novel with a strong message and insight into one of the most persecuted Western minorities, I looked at the market place and decided I must find a different route. 

Monday, July 30, 2012


I am not an academic researcher, I am not a journalist, I am a novelist who has known the Gypsy people for most of my life. I am a European by origin who has grown up in World War II. Then too people were persecuted and nailed to the cross, anybody in Germany who did not agree with the Nazis. We were lucky insofar that we were never caught and trapped in those death camps at the mercy of common men turned full-time abusers. Through massacres and ever present death, what gave us wings was hope in a world on the other side of war.
I am sure it is what held Romanian Gypsies/Roma together and going. In Romania they were enslaved until 1865, again I am no academic researcher, but that is what I have read over and over - then pushed out of sight into abject poverty and neglect, no human rights, no opportunity. But, and this is merely human, I am convinced that hope kept them believing in a better future, somewhere down the line.
Europe Unites. The barriers to their prisons FINALLY opened. The day, I am sure, they had been praying for over a century has become reality. Their leaders, those with knowledge of the world on the other side of the invisible barbed wire that has kept them closed off from the world at large, warns them. They do not have the tools to survive in the modern world, they never had access to them.
Again, I compare their destiny to my own. Walking out of the world of war where hope had made life despite it all even beautiful at moments, we walked into the aftermath, where a whole culture lay bombed to the ground and the horrible truth of Nazi persecutions now lay bare, destroying all remaining beliefs in humanity.
Again, racial hatred is out of the bag, is spreading as Europe is nailing her Gypsies to the cross.

AMERICAN GYPSY - Defiling through Distortion.

What if……….British TV were to arrive into the States wanting to create a reality show on The American Family of Today! What if they chose Vermont, a state in tough economic shape? There they decide to choose, not the most enterprising among the locals running their own small businesses, not those working two jobs to keep their families afloat, but some of the ones perpetually on welfare, fat women with babies, often officially divorced (but not separated) to increase welfare checks, their men out in the woods shooting guns. Of course those welfare recipients would be more than happy to comply = extra money, little effort. Now let us image that particular reality show would turn into an instant hit in Great Britain. Would it be far-fetched to assume Americans would be enraged at such a distortion?

So are the Gypsies/Roma , as well as Gypsy activists viewing an off-the-wall Gypsy family being portrayed as your average Roma family, it being clear to anyone who really knows Roma, that they are acting, making money with a performance that has little to do with the life of most Gypsies I have known in Europe or the U.S . Petitions were sent to me to ban the show, pointing out that while this outrageous distortion is being broadcast, Gypsies/Roma are persecuted in Europe almost like a rerun of the holocaust . Then……………

I talked to a friend, one who knows more about the life of Roma in America than anybody else I know, is more dedicated to fighting for a better future for these people who have been persecuted since their arrival into Western culture more than 700 years ago. To my surprise he said to me: On the contrary, maybe this will help bring the problems of the Roma people out in the open. Find out the truth behind the killer prejudice. Shine a light on persecutions that are spread all over Europe, but silenced by the press.

So let's start a discussion. First item

My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, a blockbuster in the U.K. Fact or Fiction?

Dosha, flight of the Russian Gypsies

Monday, December 12, 2011

Horses in Life and Fiction.

Those who do not know them, fear them, rightfully so. A horse's physical power is far superior to ours. A horse, if so inclined, could easily maim or even kill a person, no matter what their size. Genghis Kahn was killed by a horse.
Yet horses, purely vegetarian, have gentle and generous souls. Their eyes reflect all the beauty and sadness of our world. Once bonded with a rider, patience and respect, will have results that last. Whereas in moments that matter, training through mere discipline often fails. Although many fear men, they pick up on the nurturing qualities of women.
The life and adventures of Dosha, the heroine of my novel, depicts such bond of horse and rider that will last till death will them part, and beyond.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Independent Book Stores Flourish in Vermont

In a state many highly educated readers have chosen in search of a more fulfilling life, these bookstores have turned into community centers for kindred spirits. Owned and run by lovers of the written word, protectors of an art in trouble, those who work there appear like members of an extended family. Should you be a reader, or a writer, or a child ready to start exploring the magic of the written word, you will feel at once at home. I live in a tiny village, yet there are two of these inspiring stores nearby. The bigger one, Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, Vt. (a must see should you come visit this wonderful area), consists of three expansive levels of books, displayed with thought and enthusiasm, of toys and children’s book to inspire the young, and a generous coffee shop where you can meet, mingle and chat. 

The second one, Mystic Valley Books in Chester, Vt., is more of the same on a smaller scale, but worth the visit. Both feature calendars packed with readings by authors and other literary events.

These stores are reminiscent of a time when literature in the U.S. was flourishing. To my mind, having fought the struggle of marketing my own novel for close to a year, they are essential to the survival of literature as an art in our country. Like Public Radio, they deserve our support. We need them as much as they need us. Go browse, and choose them as their place to buy. With both the visit and the buy you demonstrate your support.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


It took me time to grasp the leadership qualities of Hillary Clinton. I was used to more flamboyant female leaders. Women partisans I knew during WW2. Hemingway captured the type perfectly in Pilar (“For Whom the Bell Tolls”), women who openly confront men. Grandmotherly types like Golda Meir, who didn’t budge from threat and gained the respect of negotiators in male dominated societies. In fact my novel “Dosha, flight of the Russian Gypsies” depicts women of all types, from the needy to the radical to the wise leadership of an elder. I myself grew up liberated, not by choice, but by lack of the normal protections of childhood and young adulthood. So when I found myself surrounded by raging American feminists in the Sixties, I felt the movement was misguided, mainly because many believed in bashing men to elevate women, whereas I felt that a healthy society is one of shared power, equal but different, male and female complementing each other.

Since then I have met women who have risen to the top of leadership in corporations and government positions. I have witnessed many of them mistaking toughness and lack of compassion for leadership. Hillary is of a different ilk, a woman of compassion and a leader with vision. When her husband strayed, instead of breaking up her family, marking her daughter with relationship insecurities for life, and leaving herself remaining wealthy but alone like so many other divorcees for the rest of her days, Hillary opted to work it out. I have watched her carefully stand her ground, getting her points and messages across in male dominated societies. She has been bravely and tenaciously fighting for women’s rights across the world. I even came across notices of Hillary trying to stand by Europe’s most vulnerable and once again viciously persecuted minority, the ancient, once nomadic Roma/Gypsies population.

We have every reason to be proud of our Hillary, hard working, smart, a true woman and effective world leader in her role as US Secretary of State.