Publishing: The Good, The Bad and The In-Between, by Raining Deer

by Classics author, and guest blogger, Raining Deer ©2011

The Road to publishing your own work is a journey of the good, the bad and the in-between.

The GOOD  is the Creative Process — writing as a craft/art.  If you are a skilled writer, expressing your thoughts or storytelling may be a fairly natural thing for you.  I always say, “if you can talk, you can write,” i.e. – you should be able to write what you say.  But that’s not always the case.

For some, who don’t speak “the King’s English” writing may be more of a challenge.  Nevertheless it is always necessary to convey your thoughts from the “reader’s” perspective.  With that in mind, whether you consider yourself a writing technician or someone who just likes to tell a good story and will leave the grammatically correct aspect to an experienced editor, remember to write in such a way that the reader fully gets the point of what you are saying.  

The BAD in publishing can be lined with rejection – letters that is, if you are seeking a publisher.  This can be a lengthy, tedious process, and you might need to grow an extra layer of skin to soften the blow of rejection.  You could seek out a literary agent to run interference, but there are costs associated with having an agent represent you.  And still, you may not get a deal within the timeframe that you set for yourself.

If you don’t have or want an agent, are thin-skinned, or you or your agent don’t think your material will grab the attention of a small or large publishing house, self-publishing is always a good alternative.  Especially if you have a story or a topic that you simply must write about and it’s just oozing out of your pores, so to speak, self-publishing might make the most sense. 

The IN-BETWEEN is that, in any event, you must understand that you are a writer, but you will be in the business of marketing.  For some this is a hard concept to grasp. If you get a book deal with a publisher, your job will still be to market your book.  If you self-publish, your job will be  — to market your book. Today, even if you have limited financial resources, with desk-top publishing and a plethora of  electronic avenues for getting exposure for your work, self-publishing is a proverbial snap.

Once your manuscript has been written, edited, proofread, priced competitively, printed or set up as an e-book, you establish a website, start a blog and start some chatter on face book, Twitter, LinkedIn or some other popular on-line sites, and you’re good to go.  At least the ground work is all done.  Then comes the networking.  Actually, the networking should have begun from the moment of conception – or your book topic, because when you decide you want to write a book you have to know your audience, — i.e., who will be willing to pay money to read your work, and have a plan for accessing that audience.

In any case, see the good and don’t let the bad or the in-between deter you from following your passion.  As they say, “Don’t die with the music in you” or in this case, don’t die with your story in you.  Get it out.  Write about what you know and get it out.

Raining Deer is the author of BCV – RITES OF PASSAGE FOR BREAST CANCER VICTORS, which is available at Classics, , 117 South Warren, downtown Trenton,  You can learn more about Raining Deer at

Is it the Death of the Printed Book?

I often get asked about what I am going to sell once the eBook has destroyed the printed book.  Lol.

People are alarmists.  They like to get worked up.  Just watch political commentators or weathermen.  Their ratings go up if they are wringing their hands about the imminent destruction of either the American Way of Life or the next weather pattern. When the predicted storm of the century turns out to be one inch of rain, well, no harm no foul. 

It’s that way with changes in media too.  When radio was becoming popular, commentators predicted the end of books.  When movies became popular, commentators predicted the end of radio…and books.  When TV became popular, people predicted the end of radio and movie theatres…and books.   Obviously all incorrect.  Did video kill the radio star?  Nope!  The radio star is still going strong.

So when people predict that eBooks will kill printed books, I have to yawn.

Now, I do believe that things in the industry will change.  My experience as an independent bookseller has been that the sort of customers who shopped big box stores are exactly the same type of customers who like eReaders, so there will be a battle for market share between these two.  Publishing houses may print dramatically smaller print runs of physical books.  On-line sources will take a bite out of reference materials like encyclopedias and dictionaries.  The text book industry is due for a big change.  But the accounts of the death of the book are exaggerated. 

As long as there are people who prefer a particular format, there will be businesses who will offer to sell it to them.  Best Buy carries vinyl records, for Pete’s sake.

Here are the sorts of readers who will keep buying books—


People who like the feel of a book in their hands find eReaders unsatisfying.  I have one customer who buys books from me and ships them off to have them carved out and reinforced so she can fit her Kindle into them and give her Kindle a real-book feel.  She loves her eReader, but it feels insubstantial to her. 

After he fourth purchase, I asked her how many Kindles she owned.  She told me that she owns one, but likes to swap out the covers like another person might swap IPhone cases.  That’s most excellent.

In addition to the physical sensualists, there are the visual sensualists.  People who like the looks of a room lined with bookcases filled with books.  The books become conversation starters, trophies of reading accomplishments and intimate revelations of the reader’s soul. 


EBooks (and on-line sellers) are great for the people who know exactly what book they want.  But for people who want to wander the stacks and find something they didn’t know about, you need a brick-and-mortar bookstore.  If you want to explore books that are also out of print, you need a used bookstore.


The people who search out and hoard first editions, limited releases, signed books will not be searching these things out in digital format. 


Board books are made for infants who are likely to put the book in their mouth.  Do you really want your eReader to go there?

Pop-up books?  When eReaders can produce a Richard Sabuda pop-up, I will be impressed!

Gift Givers

A wrapped book is a gift.  A copy of an email certificate for an eBook, not so much.  There are whole categories of gift books that need the printed form: coffee table books, oversized kids books, pop-up books, miniature stocking stuffer books, art books with art that deserves a venue larger than 10.1 inches.


Reading is a solitary act.  But bookstores are explosions of community.  Our bookstore has poetry readings, writing workshops, author-led discussions, Scrabble games, knitting clubs, and, up near the register, what Eric Jackson calls “one continual community meeting” arguing politics, literature, art, urban revitalization, raw foods vs. hamburgers, Jeopardy vs. Family Feud, or which Wonder Twin was the best.   Try to get that while shopping for an eBook.

In addition, these contacts help strengthen the community.  When the mural up the street was vandalized, the Scrabble club contributed to its renewal.  When they heard that our troops in Afghanistan were short helmet liners, the Trenton Knit and Stitch knitted and delivered a box of helmet liners.  After arguing near the register about the lack of publishing opportunities for Trenton writers and artists, the Trenton Review was born.  In the midst of a recession, from the contacts they made at this bookstore, two people were able to find jobs from the network of people they met in the bookstore.

People who value community and reading will always value bookstores and the books sold there.

I Kissed a Zombie and I Liked It, by Kelly Jameson

I Kissed a Zombie and I Liked It: A Zombie Short

by Classics author, and guest blogger, Kelly Jameson

What’s not to love? He’s relentless in his pursuit of me. Sure, he can’t bang out a Tchaikovsky symphony on the piano, haul down a steady living, or even microwave a bowl of Hormel chili, but his love, our love, transcends the grave.

He’ll never say to me, “Get me a beer, you stupid betch.” Ok, maybe he will, but I won’t understand him because it will sound like, “eturggeeretch.”

He won’t complain when I don’t make the bed. He won’t pester me to have ‘lover talks’ or go to counseling because we’re not communicating. He taught me something. You aren’t truly free to live until you’re not afraid to die. He is dark and beautiful and a little stinky, but aren’t we all?

He doesn’t care that I’m not a supermodel with fake barn-silo tits, practically no body fat, and lips like truck tires. He’ll never leave me. Unless I forget to close a door or window.

I’ve learned how to cook a variety of dishes for him using cow brains. He eats them, doesn’t complain, washes them down with Miller Lite, which pours from the holes in his rotting neck and thorax. He’s a slob. But he’s my slob.

He’s not subtle, coordinated, or mysterious. As long as he has a bowl of brains in front of him, he’ll watch hours of X Factor with me, or even Dancing with the Tards. Yeah, I kissed a zombie and I liked it.

He buries his face in my hair. He loves me for my brain. How lucky can a girl get?

Kelly Jameson is the author of Dead On, which is available at Classics, 117 South Warren, downtown Trenton,  You can learn more about Kelly’s work at

Tips on Writing Children’s Books: Tika Bernadette

Tips on Writing Children’s Books

by Classics author, and guest blogger, Tika Bernadette 

Writing children’s fiction is a lot of fun, but it’s no easy task, in my opinion.  As with any well-written literature, there are rules and standards that industry movers expect when reviewing literary work for children.  If you wish to attract positive attention from editors, agents, publishers, educators and your target readers, there are some things you must take into serious consideration when creating your literary art for children.  Here, I will share some pointers that I’ve learned along the way to conceptualizing, writing and publishing two books for children, with a third book set for release this year. 

One simple rule for writing picture books is – Keep it simple. Let the pictures tell the story. Picture books are generally for babies and toddlers, with illustrations in place of text. Text, if any, is secondary to the illustrations and is no more than one word per picture, or two to three words per sentence, on average.  The text, if any, is often choppy.  And, the entire book is usually between 24 and 32 total pages.  

Learn the categories of children’s books so you can be sure that you are writing for your target audience.  As you have read above, many picture books are for babies and toddlers. There are also books for early readers. Readers in this group typically range from age four to age eight and are just learning to read and write.  They are still thrilled with pictures, but are also fascinated with written words.  Books for early readers have more printed words per page with fuller sentences, even when accompanied by illustrations.  The storylines, while still simple, are more fluid and imaginative. At this point, a few challenging words have been incorporated into the text.  Early readers are not as intimidated as you may think and desire to increase their vocabulary.  Structurally, books for early readers are usually between 45-60 total pages and no more than 1,500 words. Then there are your intermediate readers. Readers in this group range from age eight through age ten.  They are proud chapter books readers at this point.  Chapter books usually contain 48 to 80 pages and between 1,500 to 10,000 words.  These books tend to be thicker and have more sophisticated plots and themes.  Another category in children’s book literature is the middle school reader.  These readers are independent thinkers and are discovering themselves and beginning to pursue their own interests.  They usually select books based on their own personal taste.  Books for the middle school reader are usually 80 to 192 pages, with 20,000 to 45,000 words.

After middle school readers, we then go into young adult readers.  We won’t speak about them today. Today, we are discussing literature for young children.

Study your target audience.  Observe children’s habits, their movements, their language, their emotions, their follies, their antics.  Tune in to their interests.  Channel their energy and excitement through your work.  Take your mind back to when you were that young.  When you do so, you will find that you write on their level, but not down to them. They are intelligent creatures and learn quickly. They pick up on condescension and do not appreciate being talked down to. 

Read your story out loud.  Read to an audience of children before you send your work to an editor, agent or publisher. Get lots of feedback from parents, teachers and your target audience.  Is your audience fully engaged? Ask for audience participation.  You not only want to read your story aloud, you also want it to be interactive.  You want your readers to be so enthralled that they desire to become part of the story themselves.  Therefore, at some point during your reading, stop and ask your audience questions about what you’ve read so far.  Bring them into the story.

Keep writing!

Recommended reading:

  • Writing Children’s Books by Lesley Bolton and Lea Wait
  • Writing Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul
  • How To Write And Illustrate Children’s Books (And Get Them Published) by Treld Pelkey Bicknell and Felicity Trotman

Tika Bernadette is the author of Baby Love and Zuri and Friends Conquer the Mountain.   You can buy her books on Amazon by clicking here.

You’ve Got 49 Days: Things Found in Books

I find great, suggestive things in books.  The inscriptions are the private face one person shows another, almost always written in some private language, referring to events and people about which we can only guess.  Sometimes there are items left behind in books that are as fascinating as the book–love letters, a $7,000 check, a 4-leaf clover. 

Here are three things.

#1.  Inscription from Gloria Steinem’s Revolution from Within


It takes forever

When you read one page

A night.  I’m going

Back to the other book

Now.  Hope I live

Long enough to finish.

Talk to you soon—


 As I typed this inscription, the computer automatically capitalized the first word in each line, formatting it into a found, prosaic poem.

 #2.  In a book of religious quotes entitled Thorns and Thrones I found a torn corner of a photograph of a man’s face leaning into the corner.  In the background is the top of a horse’s head and trees.  The man is half-smiling and wearing a gray t-shirt and a Philadelphia Eagles base ball cap. 

He was obviously removed from some other picture, but why?  Was he cast out from the picture, or was the rest of the picture thrown away and he the only face worth saving?

 #3.  In the western, Legend of a Badman by Ray Hogan

I love you, you old shit.

Read slow.  You’ve got 49 days.

Top Ten Oddest Books

When I go out to eat, I am immediately attracted by the strangest thing on the menu.  If the restaurant is brave enough to offer the weirdest thing, it must be something special.  When I first walked in to 11, at 11 West Front Street in Trenton, New Jersey, for example, I knew I had to try the breaded spaghetti with meat sauce, raisins and broccoli.  It was great!

A friend of mine, Didi Goldmark, was a “connoisseur” of literature the way I am a “connoisseur” of food.  The stranger the title, the more she wanted it.  In her memory, I have collected the top 10 oddest books I have seen.  For purposes of this list, this can’t be books that are intentionally funny or ironic (like the Pop-Up Book of Phobias).  We also eliminated printing errors, like my cousin Mike’s  Zen philosophy primer that was given the cover for Nietzche for Beginners.

For Didi, I present the Top Ten Oddest books:

#10.  How to Avoid Huge Ships by John W. Trimmer.

This book is dedicated to educating boaters on how not to get run over by freighters.

#9.  What’s your poo telling you? By Anish Sheth. 

My friend Alexis says, “the book explains all different kinds of poo and why it happens (like your diet, stress, etc). Pretty amazing!!!”  Several of my friends recommended me include this book, including my friend, Jan, who has it in a one-a-day calendar, and my cousin Mike who describes it as “near mystical.”

#8.  Sun-Beams May Be Extracted from Cucumbers, But the Process Is Tedious: an Oration, Pronounced on the Fourth of July, 1799.

Though the contents are a non-odd criticism of Thomas Jefferson, the title is supposedly taken from a letter from Jefferson to a neighbor.  And it makes me smile every time I see it.

#7.  Over their Dead Bodies.

Though the title is consciously funny, the book is a commemoration of epitaphs from the 19th century. 

#6.  The Clowns of Death by Keith Breese

It is a 209 pg hardcover history of the band Oingo Boingo. 

#5.  Keeping Poison Frogs

#4.  Herd Registry for New Jersey 1908

Very useful in day the days before computers, this is a thick leatherbound volume listing the names, parents and birthdates (drop dates) of every cow in New Jersey.   Drop into Classics to see this!

#3.  All About Scabs by Amanda Mayer Stinchecum and Genichiro Yagyu

If you thought scabs were worth only a paragraph in a larger book on health, think again!

#2.  How to Start your own Blood Bank

One of the greatest books in Didi’s collection.  I laugh out loud every time I think of it.  Who bought this book?  Goth vampire wanna-bes?  Or did somebody in Iowa actually open up a blood bank in their basement?

The #1 Oddest Book

How to Live Through a Famine






I love the cover art with the dying stick figures in front of a pretty flower from the 1970’s.

My friend Mary’s favorite paragraph in the book is

“For an individual who has no alternatives, he should scatter what food he has, wherever he can. If one has a sack of flour… He should deposit the flour in whatever containers he can find- pop bottles, shoe boxes, coat pockets, anything suitable.”

Mary pictures people walking around with coat pockets full of flour.  Can that be a good container?  Why not keep it in the sack?

9/11 & My Family: Andrew Lubin

9/11 & My Family

by Classics author, and guest blogger, Andrew Lubin

Like everyone else in the New York, New Jersey area, I remember the startling clarity of the day. Picture-perfect blue skies when I left for work, but heartbreaking later that morning as we watched the two towers collapse and the thick black smoke, billowing straight up and soiling the sky.

I also remember my son storming into my plant a few hours later. It was the 2nd week of his freshman year in college, and when the towers fell, marketing and accounting became the furthest thing from his mind. “We’ve got to get even,” he raged, and in a comment that later gained popularity with a certain group of highly-motivated young men, said “we need to ‘get some’.”

Then one October evening he casually mentioned to me he’d enlisted in the Marine Corps, and what did I think?

College was not a challenge, he said, and he needed something that enabled him to stand out from the crowd. He volunteered that the 9/11 attacks made him think that college and a business career was no longer the be-all and end-all that’s so prevalent in the greater NY-NJ area; 17 people from our county were killed that day, and their hard-earned professions and degrees seemed suddenly unimportant and impotent to him. And how could people not volunteer for the military? Isn’t this our version of Pearl Harbor? He’d been doing some hard thinking since 9/11, he told me, and the more he thought about it, how could he not join the Marine Corps?

In July 2002 he graduated boot camp and joined the fleet as an artilleryman, and was sent to 1st Bn, 10th Marines in Camp Lejeune…and only 6 weeks later was called to war New Years Day 2003 and 12 days later sailed off to Iraq with Task Force Tarawa.

March 23, 20003, 0335 EST…I’ve got three televisions on in my house watching the Marines fighting at An-Nasiriyah, and the news is grim. Initial casualty reports are of 50-70 Marine dead, scores wounded, something about an ambushed Army convoy…and suddenly Kerry Sanders-MSNBC is screaming about an intense Marine artillery barrage holding off the Iraqi’s…it’s the artillerymen of 1st Bn, 10th Marines and Sanders is difficult to hear he’s so close to the Marine howitzers…Dear God, I’m watching my son’s unit fight…

18 Marines killed that day, and I wrote about the battle. Charlie Battery; A Marine Artillery Battery in Iraq won some awards and I wrote some articles and did some TV spots. Then as my son returned to Iraq and the Sunni Triangle in 2004-2005, the Marines took notice of my work,  and in 2006 I ended up in Beirut in the 24th MEU covering the emergency evacuation of 12,000 American citizens as the Israeli-Hezbollah war broke out.

He was stationed in Okinawa; I visited him. I went to Ramadi and covered the rising Sons of Anbar and interviewed Sheikh Sattar; he went to the Philippines and trained Philippine artillerymen. I went to Afghanistan in 2008; he ran the artillery segment of the multinational Operation Cobra Gold in Thailand. And last year we were in Afghanistan at the same time, so I went to his base and spent a few days with him.

My goal is very simple in writing and recording the stories of our young men in combat: I need to do as good a job in recording history as they do in making it. I’m always asked when I’m embedded “Hey Sir, do people at home know we’re still here?” And my answer is always the same “Yes they do, Devil Dog; it’s my job to make them care.”

And what did I think when he told me he’d joined the Marine Corps…I reached across the table; grabbed his hand, and said “I’m proud of you; do your best. Semper Fi.”

Andrew Lubin is the author of Charlie Battery; A Marine Artillery Battery in Iraq, which is available at or Classics, 117 South Warren, downtown Trenton.  You can learn more about Andrew’s work at his website:

God Blesses Sexy Geeks! or, Top Ten Reasons to Visit Classics Used and Rare Books

#10.  Earthquake proof!

#9.  Click here for reason #9.

#8.  You can buy those leather books to carve out a case for your Kindle, giving it a real book feel!

#7.  We are keeping the last remaining Borders Bookstore in the back of Classics in a jar for you to visit for old times sake.

#6.  Zyzzyvas!

#5.  Click here for reason #5.

#4.  God blesses sexy geeks!  (Tanya Ray)

#3.  “I loved Classics because it was a place where I could knit and play Scrabble, and then one day I noticed it was also full of used books.  What more could one want?”  (Mary Allen)

#2.  The only place to learn about Jack the Ripper’s and his incredible piano tuning skills.  (Megan Iurilli)

#1.  Unlike its New Hope location, it is not 6 feet under water!