Novelist Rebecca Lerwill on Independent Publishing

The following is the 1st in my new Guest Blogger Series.

Introduction from David H. Schleicher:

Independent filmmakers who finance their own projects are often praised as innovative, creative, and edgy and seem to get instant street-cred when they buck the studio system.  Independent filmmaking has long been celebrated, and virtually no one would question the rite of a filmmaker taking the indie route.  Sadly, the moniker of independent novelist doesn’t carry the same goodwill and those who finance their own writing projects outside the system are often regarded as not credible, second-rate and find it nearly impossible to compete with the traditional publishing houses.  Yet one can still find success in self-publishing and Rebecca Lerwill, a purveyor of romantic suspense novels, is one such author who has brushed off the stigma of being an indie author with style and class.

Having shared my own experiences as an independent novelist on my blog in the past (in The Verdict on Self-Publishing and My Trials and Tribulations with Self-Publishing), I thought fellow writers and bloggers might be interested in someone else’s views on independent publishing – someone who writes stories vastly different from my own and who has taken some different approaches to publishing and promotion but nevertheless has words of wisdom, advice and tips for writers from any walk of life.  Therefore I asked Rebecca Lerwill to be my first ever guest blogger and invited her to share her experiences as an indie author. 

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Here’s what Rebecca Lerwill had to say:

Dave – thank you so much for inviting me to be a guest on your blog. As a subscriber of your blog page, I always look forward to your honest book and film reviews and goofy drinking games. The latter are a welcomed break from the dry and dreary business of book promotion which is mostly done during lonely hours online.You sent me a few questions regarding my books, my publisher, and what I do to promote. Before I get into those questions, please let me introduce myself to your readers.

I was born and raised in Germany and moved to the United States in 1996. As a horse trainer by trade, I lived in Michigan and California. After meeting my husband Troy, a professional rodeo clown and entertainer, I spent a few years ‘on the road’ as his traveling partner. Those long hours eating blacktop gave me the opportunity to read case loads of books, and after finishing my all-time favorite, Julie Garwood’s Killjoy, I was so intrigued by the story’s plot that I decided to become an author myself. That’s right; the most-asked question, “Did you always wanted to be a writer?” gets a shake of the head for an answer.

I’ve always been an avid reader but besides a few halfway decent essays in school I never thought about being a writer — until the summer of 2006. Fifteen months later my debut in romantic suspense, Relocating Mia, was honored with its first award; Finalist in the Indie Excellence Book Awards. The sequel to Relocating Mia, The Acronym, was published in April 2009 and has received very promising reviews. Continue reading

A Review of Kevin MacDonald’s “State of Play”

Im telling ya, Ben, I dont care what they say, this long hair is gonna work for me.

Crowe explains to Affleck, "I'm telling ya, Ben, I don't care what they say, this long hair is gonna work for me."

Yesterday’s News Still Blog-Worthy
7/10
Author: David H. Schleicher from New Jersey, USA

A gruff old-school reporter (Russell Crowe playing his A-game) becomes personally entangled in a breaking news story surrounding his old college buddy turned congressman (Ben Affleck, not as bad as you would think) and a young female aid who died under mysterious circumstances in the surprisingly plausible political thriller State of Play from director Kevin MacDonald who was previously responsible for The Last King of Scotland.  Though designed as a throw-back to paranoid investigative thrillers from the 1970’s, relevance is gained when the massive cover-up revealed becomes a vehicle for the filmmakers to explore the death of print news at the hand of digital mediums.

The twisty and engaging screenplay is credited to three scribes: Matthew Michael Carnahan, Tony Gilroy and Billy Ray. But it’s Gilroy’s fingerprints that shape the story with all the overlapping dialogue and conspiracy talk that will remind many of his Michael Clayton.  Adapted from a sprawling BBC miniseries created by Paul Abbott, the trio is especially deft in their condensing of the story into a fully digestible two hours. Even as new characters and twists keep coming, the audience is never left out in the cold. They also give the cast plenty to chew on with some great throw-away lines amidst all the posturing between the cops, reporters, politicians and sleaze-bags.

Though it’s Crowe and Helen Mirren as his sparring and quick-witted boss who shine the most, this is essentially an ensemble piece, and it’s especially clever when Jason Bateman arrives on screen for a few pivotal scenes as a smug public relations guru who’s too dumb to realize he knows too much. The cast also includes Robin Wright Penn as Affleck’s wife, Jeff Daniels as the arrogant majority whip and Harry Lennix, who as a D.C. detective makes a compelling case here for the lead role in the Barack Obama Story. The only miscalculation in the casting is poor Rachel McAdams, lovely but annoying in her high-pitch as Crowe’s blogging tag-along looking to kick it old-school and get something in print.

By the third act State of Play overplays its hand in its attempts to be timely with too much talk of the privatization of the military, Capitol Hill sex scandals and traditional newspapers losing out in the digital age to bloggers more concerned with gossip than real journalism. It could’ve also been more subtle in its preaching about the importance of serious investigative reporting.  It should be commended, however, for an otherwise smart screenplay that doesn’t spell out all its twists and turns too early and the well polished cast who give the film a slick sheen. Even though it might be reporting on yesterday’s news, State of Play still makes for solid rainy day entertainment and is worthy of blogging about.

Originally Published on the Internet Movie Database.

Contest Winners Archive

In November of 2007 I was prompted to give away autographed copies of my acclaimed independent novel, The Thief Maker, to five lucky readers in my first ever book drawing.

The response to the contest was so great, that starting in January of 2008 I began to have a drawing to win a personally autographed copy of The Thief Maker at the end of every month.

Sadly all good things must come to an end, and after a run of 15 months straight, the drawings came to a close in March of 2009. In all, 21 lucky readers from across the globe won free signed copies of my novel.

Below is the archive of those lucky winners.

Thank you to all who entered over the many months and congratulations to the 21 who won.

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November 2007 winners:

Carmen, Jersey City, NJ

Angela, Montgomery, AL

Rake, Gilford, NH

Darshan, Altadena, CA

Lita, Auckland, New Zealand (The Thief Maker goes international!)

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2008 Winners:

January: George, Waltham, MA

February: Ana, Luquillo, Puerto Rico

and “The Pear Lady”, Pearland, TX

March: Erin, Savannah, GA

April: Chris, Wenatchee, WA

May: Sonja, Toronto, Canada

June: Shirley, Black Creek, GA

July: Jane, Wasola, MO

August: Liza, Taylors, SC

September: Melissa, Virginia Beach, VA

October: Eleanor, Greenville, PA

November: DeeAnn, Pottstown, PA

December: Jill, Lexington, KY

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2009 Winners:

January: Scott, Toronto, Canada

February: Jeane, Mesquite, TX

March: Christina, Virginia Beach, VA

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People Is Crazy and Chick-fil-A Is Delicious

Seth Rogan tells a fretful Anna Farris, Yes, this role will totally ruin your chances of doing more serious work in the future.

Seth Rogen tells a fretful Anna Farris, "Yes, this role will totally ruin your chances of doing more serious work in the future. But don't worry, you still look really cute."

Every once in a blue moon a mainstream film comes along that makes you ponder:  WHAT THE HELL WERE THEY THINKING?

Idiotically marketed as some sort of Judd Apatow-style riff on Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Observe and Report, I am happy to say, is one such film that defies all expectations and leaves you scratching your head, laughing nervously and a little bit shamed.

Referencing films like Taxi Driver, Fight Club, The Dark Knight and Oldboy and featuring one of the craziest soundtracks of recent memory containing songs with titles like “Dwarves Must Die”, Observe and Report arrives on the scene as a funny as hell and criminally insensitive psychological case study detailing the horrifyingly awkward inner workings of a delusional bi-polar mall cop (Seth Rogen) who becomes obsessed with catching a serial flasher in order to impress the smoking hot cosmetics counter girl (Anna Farris). 

The movie, written and directed with bright-eyed cynical aplomb in a no-holds-barred style by Jody Hill left me wondering many things:

Is there a better actress than Anna Farris when it comes to broad low-brow comedy?  I can’t think of another woman who can still manage to be totally adorable while playing such a crudely despicable character.

Is it possible for a mainstream comedy to be more offensive than Bad Santa?

Just how many mall cop movies will be released in 2009?

Amidst a shocking smattering of dark moments, graphic violence, and groan-inducing nudity, the film also features Ray Liotta as sleazy hot-headed detective, Celia Weston as the worst mother of all time, and Michael Pena lisping it up and sounding like a Hispanic version of Tim Meadow’s “Ladies Man” as Rogen’s second fiddle. 

If Observe and Report proves anything, it’s the old adage that People Is Crazy.

But not crazy enough to blow up a Chick-fil-A, because why would anyone want to blow up a Chick-fil-A?  THAT PLACE IS DELICIOUS.

Meanwhile, if you have a sick, twisted sense of humor, this could be your film of the year.

Written by David H. Schleicher

A Review of Toni Morrison’s “A Mercy”

Orphans of the Storm

In Toni Morrison’s A Mercy we see life through the eyes of people physically and emotionally abandoned, orphans with names like Lina, Florens, Jacob, Rebekkah and Sorrow.  The storm is the clashing of cultures in pre-Revolutionary War America where the laws are not yet defined, everyone and everything is for sale, and all are threatened with annihilation by God, the environment or each other.  Europeans looking for a promised land of unending wealth or escape, Natives living through an apocalypse, indentured servants and slaves from Europe and Africa bound to barbaric institutions are all brought to a slow, simmering boil in the torrid fog rolling in over Mary-Land and Virginia…colonies ironically named for women but that are unmerciful and cruel to those females who come to their shores. Continue reading

A Visit to Grounds for Sculpture

With the return of Spring comes the return of my Day-Tripping Series.  This week I made use of my new GPS system–oh, how I love it when she tells me in her British accent to “Get on the motorway”–and headed north to Hamilton, NJ to Grounds for Sculpture which is a mere forty-five minute drive from the immediate South Jersey suburbs of Philadelphia.

The website for this beautifully landscaped outdoor park of sculpted and artistic wonders claims there is an entrance fee, but I walked onto the grounds freely, and I imagine so did all the children and their parents and teachers traipsing about.  The park has a gentrified zoo-like feel to it with people milling about and kids shouting, but luckily the grounds are vast enough that you can still capture a few good shots without having somebody walk into frame. Apart from the sculptures on display, there are also plenty of quiet hidden paths to meander about away from the fray of the main walkways. 

Here are some photos I captured on my walkabout Grounds for Sculpture: Continue reading

Philadelphia Film Festival Closing Night

Apparently I had been asleep at the wheel and missed the fact that the Philadelphia Film Festival had been going on since March 26th.  Luckily at the last minute, I was still able to fit in some showings on the festival’s closing night on Monday, April 6th.

All the people with beautiful smiles ride bikes together in Tel Aviv.

All the people with beautiful smiles ride bikes together when spending a weekend in Tel Aviv.

For a late matinee For My Father aka A Weekend in Tel Aviv showcased just the type of thoughtful independent filmmaking one comes to expect from a world class festival. The film delicately weaves the tale of a Palestinian suicide bomber who gets stuck in Tel Aviv after a botched job and befriends a young Jewish woman trying to escape her orthodox heritage. The screenplay boils down the complex issues of the Palestinian conflict to a simplistic, but ultimately humanistic and relatable level. The film shows how the telling of stories can form a bridge to healing wounds and features nice production values, a well placed sense of humor, and a likable cast portraying interesting characters easy to route for. As the characters’ back-stories are slowly revealed, some tighter control of the plot points and development would’ve done the film well, but it’s easy to overlook the narrative flaws when the rest of the film is so naturally compelling as it careens towards a harrowing conclusion.

This vampire should not be for sale!

This vampire should not be for sale!

For the final showing of the evening, it was a totally different type of film presented indicative of the vast diversity of films represented every year at the Philadelphia Film Festival.  The horror flick I Sell the Dead (whose title sounds so much more intriguing if you say it with a There Will be Blood style Daniel Plainview accent) seemed a fitting choice to close the fest since Philly always likes to showcase horror films and it was at the 1st annual Philadelphia Film Festival many moons ago where Guillermo Del Toro first cast a blip on the American filmgoers’ radar with his Mexican vampire flick Cronos.  Sadly, I Sell the Dead did not stand up to Del Toro’s high standards even though it featured a can’t miss plotline involving hapless grave robbers uncovering…dun dun dun…the UNDEAD.

The cool title aside, I Sell the Dead is one of those schlocky mish-mashes that tries way too hard as it clumsily marries old-school Hammer-era homage with Gilliam-esque silliness while being stylistically influenced by graphic novels.  The film featured a distractingly bad sound design (which I assume could be fixed if it gets picked up by a larger studio) and so much fake fog blowing through its gothic Victorian set designs that it could make your eyes water.  Though it’s not nearly as clever as it thinks it is, I Sell the Dead contains just enough fun moments (like the goofy vampire bit and lovely Fanny’s back-story as a “wrecker”) that I imagine it could still develop a small cult following.  I for one will be no part of said cult.

For more information on the Philadelphia Film Festival and Cinefest ‘o9, click here.

Written by David H. Schleicher

To the Victors the Spoils

World Champion Philadelphia Phillies.

Still to this day it sounds unbelievable…like I’m living in a dream…and just a year ago seemed as unlikely as President Barack Obama. 

In late October of 2008, the newly crystallized reality of the former and the hope of the latter were all that the city of Philadelphia had to hold onto in the wake of Wall Street slitting its throat and flooding the streets of America with blood.  But Philly’s streets were proud to run red, and in early November it turned out American’s hearts beat blue once again as Obama swept into the White House.  My most lasting memory from that time period was walking the quiet autumn painted streets of Society Hill in the swell of Philadelphia’s rising tide towards victory in the playoffs and seeing on every other window in the neighborhood an Obama sign next to a Phillies’ sticker.  The feeling of impending triumph was palpable.  Pardon the cliche, but you could almost taste it.

And now to the victors go the spoils, at least for a short while.  Continue reading