Camera Vs. The Pen

I’m always astonished when intelligent, accomplished authors wreak havoc on their TV interviews. Today’s case in point Jon Krakauer (In Thin Air; etc). While flogging his new release MISSOULA, he wasted a prime interview spot on the CBS Morning news by babbling and committing the worst sin of all: he was BORING. Wake up, Jon. No one wants a polemic at 8am. Focus on YOUR book and why it is worth my time and precious dollars.If you are naturally shy, hire a media coach. Surely a man who has sold millions of books can afford this.
Bad enough that the intellectually bereft Dana Perrino shamelessly hawked her new book on THE FIVE. That’s par for the course when any television personality conquers the written word. Here’s a sad commentary on the book-buying public however–her book debuted in the #1 slot in either Amazon or USA TODAY. To her credit, the very scripted good little girl of Fox, explained the thesis of her work far better than the more talented Mr. Krakauer. As Dana explained, she had to force herself to say “hell” rather than spelling the socially acceptable H_E_Double Hockey sticks!!
Somewhere in a universe far, far, away a collection of superior beings is chortling.

Continue reading


Featuring Sgt. Micki Li (SLICE); and those sizzling sleuths, Eja Kane and Deming Swann. (SWANN DIVE; MANTRAP; GILT TRIP & SWANN SONG)

 Boston evildoers beware: Bellbridge Books has launched three new crime busters whose steely determination and mad detective skills are kryptonite to all felons.

Micki is a no nonsense cop who follows the rules and always gets her perp. Eja, a mystery author uses her instincts and creativity to go where no sensible civilian dares to go. Fortunately Deming is an attorney who bails her out when things go awry.

Q- Micki, what do you think about civilian involvement in homicide investigations?

 A – Involvement is too nice a word. I call it interference and I won’t stand for it. Taxpayers expect professionals to solve crimes not amateurs. That’s what they pay us for.

Q – Wow! That’s a strong reaction. What about it, Eja?

 A – Sometimes an amateur can do things that police officers like Micki aren’t allowed to.

A – (Micki interrupts). That’s precisely what I’m talking about.

Q- Any reaction, Mr. Swann?

 A – (Deming Swann). I agree with Sgt. Li. Eja should stick to fiction. Plus, she drags my mother into her schemes too. It’s dangerous.

 Q – You have a partner, don’t you, Sgt. Li? How does that work?

 A – (Micki Li) I trust my partner with my life. All cops do. We work as a team.”

A – (Eja). Exactly. Just like Deming and me. And my mother-in-law too.

(Deming throws up his hands in disgust. Micki snorts.)

Q –  Micki, in SLICE, you tangle with some really bad guys, carry a gun, and manage a kids’ baseball team. That must keep you in shape.

A – (Micki) I also run and work out at the police gym. Part of the job.”

Q – Eja, what about you?

A – (Eja. Looking sheepish). I’m allergic to sweat. Mostly I starve myself. Deming is the gym rat.

A – (Deming). Eja thinks about exercise and then writes about it.

Q – This is for all of you. What’s your preferred method for solving crimes?

A – (Micki). I’m constrained by the law and police procedure but I also use my instincts. All good cops do. That’s how criminals are caught and punished.

A – (Eja) All my favorite literary sleuths are amateurs too. Miss Marple, Lord Peter and Harriet Vane, Amelia Peabody. I could go on and on. They rely on brains and cunning and so do I.”

Q – Deming—what’s your reaction?

A – (Deming sighs). You don’t want to know.

Q – Thanks to all of you. Readers can follow the exploits of our crime fighters in these novels from Bellebooks:


SLICE (Micki Li mystery #1) by Mary Jo Kim

SWANN DIVE (Boston Uncommons mystery);

MANTRAP (Boston Uncommons mystery #2) GILT TRIP & SWANN SONG 

by Arlene Kay


Everyone’s a critic, or so it seems. Reviews of every service purveyor flood the internet offering wildly different opinions on value and quality.Writers, actors, and movies are particular targets of alleged “experts” who often have a personal axe to grind.
Consider movie reviews. If I had not already decided to see JERSEY BOYS, the review in the Boston Globe (1 1/2 stars) might have deterred me. After viewing that thoroughly enjoyable film, I have to question whether the critic actually watched it or allowed his obvious dislike for director Clint Eastwood to influence his review. Phrases such as “his best work may be behind him” and “the last person suited to direct this film” were the tip-offs. They even verged on “Age-isim” one of the sins abhorred by politically correct media types.

The same is true of book reviews. Many novels that have been anointed by the cognoscenti seemed boring, poorly edited and over-written to me. (Wolf Hall, Gone Girl and Death Comes to Pemberley spring to mind.) Others genuinely enjoyed them and that is fine.
We’re all entitled to our opinion–I get it. Just ensure that it is YOUR opinion not regurgitated pablum from a scion of the nanny state. Consumers who keep their critical faculties on alert reap the best of both worlds–access to other points of view and the ability to decide for themselves.

By the way–go see JERSEY BOYS. It is a hoot.


POINT OF ORDER: At what juncture does self-esteem morph into arrogance? When friends who experience a modicum of success suddenly assume they are superstars, it’s a game-changer. Humility is the correct estimate of one’s own self-worth. (That’s what the nuns beat into my head). It requires a REALISTIC assessment of both strengths and weaknesses. Give thanks for those natural gifts and try to improve the pesky shortcomings. N.B. No writer is a superstar until he/she climbs to the top of that NYTimes list.

Book Titles

Book titles are key to attracting a target audience. Check today’s NYTIMES review of Benjamin Black aka John Banville’s Philip Marlowe reboot. Fans know that Raymond Chandler favored snappy titles, crisp dialogue and sassy dames. The title “The Black-eyed Blond” says it all. Readers know exactly what they will get. It’s truth in advertising writ large, something every author should consider.


I abhor psychological claptrap and the jargon that accompanies it. Most often it excuses personal weakness and clouds the issue. But every once in a while those fuzzy headed practitioners of the mind really nail it.

Have you ever secretly cheered when a backbiting co-worker gets his comeuppance, or googled the tabloids for the photo of a ‘supermodel’ (is there any other kind?) caught with a patch of cellulite and no makeup? How about the implosion of the celebrity marriage that everyone proclaimed was “perfect”?

Most of us occasionally take a perverse pleasure in the misfortunes of those whose looks, social status or finances exceed our own. It’s a comparison thing which according to author Richard Smith (The Joy of Pain), is hardwired into most animals especially humans. Cutting the mighty down to size as the old saying goes isn’t charitable but it feels sooo good! This, my friends is Schadenfreude, and like many of you I have taken a few trips to the dark side of this social emotion.

Dr. Smith says it’s normal, healthy even. After all, Schadenfreude is a passive pleasure that arrives by happenstance and leaves us feeling better about ourselves. Best of all, it’s as guilt-free as a diet soda without the bitter aftertaste. Someone else’s seismic loss is our gain.

The late, great Gore Vidal declared, “Every time my friends succeed, I die a little.” He tapped into the vein of Schadenfreude within us all by acknowledging this brutal fact: the success of a peer may bring our own failings under merciless scrutiny.

Writers are especially susceptible to this malady. We read the work of our colleagues and quietly judge their output against our own. Commercial success may be equated with “selling out” as if healthy bank balances or critical acclaim are the work of Satan.

The multi-talented Clive James devoted an entire poem to the concept that underlies Schadenfreude. Read I beg you the entire work. You will chuckle, wince and read it once more. The opening line says it all:

“The book of my enemy has been remaindered and I am pleased.”




Silly me. I have always loved Leonard Cohen’s beautiful song “Hallelujah” and figured it was sort of a homage to Handel. WRONG Yesterday I actually listened to the music with lyrics on YouTUBE and realized that the song was a sensual tribute to many things some of which were definitely not envisioned by Handel. I immediately downloaded my favorite version by the late Jeff Buckley and have been playing it while I compose some of the spicier scenes in my latest novel. Such inspiration! Now the song is even more meaningful.

The Themes of The Manhattan Puzzle – Guest Post By Laurence O’Bryan

The Themes of The Manhattan Puzzle

By Laurence O’Bryan

What has been hidden in Manhattan by the most powerful people on earth?

What would you do to a Manhattan banker who treated ordinary people like slaves?

What magic is buried under Manhattan that allows it to rise again from anything the world throws at it?

BXH Bank building, Manhattan, vehicle entrance visible under the arch.

OldCentralPostOfficeManhattanImage © LP O’Bryan

These are the themes of The Manhattan Puzzle. The story sees Sean and Isabel (my characters from The Istanbul Puzzle and The Jerusalem Puzzle) reunited in Manhattan at the headquarters of one of the world’s largest banks, BXH. There’s been some grisly murders, and now the plot takes a new twist. The contents of the book they found in Istanbul are revealed.

My personal journey with this story grew out of my disgust at the financial crisis that has brought many so low. I am interested in the myths and the beliefs of those who value money above everything.

But The Manhattan Puzzle is about other things too. For instance, what would you do if your partner didn’t come home one night? And what would you think if the police turned up at your door the next day looking for him?

Relationships are under stress everywhere, because of the demands placed on us by our jobs, but few of us will face what Isabel has to face when Sean goes missing.

There is violence from the start in The Manhattan Puzzle too, but the opening has a woman inflicting it on a man. I am tired of reading about men inflicting sexual violence on women. I think it’s time for the handcuffs to swop wrists. And they certainly do in The Manhattan Puzzle. You can download the first chapter here as a pdf.

But don’t get me wrong. I love Manhattan. It’s a city in a snow globe of dollar bills. So look in your bookstore and on your E-readers and order it too, if you want.

To order The Manhattan Puzzle click here.

Or to visit my website click here.

And thanks for reading this and for buying The Manhattan Puzzle, if you do. I hope you find it entertaining and the themes interesting.

Revenge Of The Frat Boys

 Imagine that: the New York Times reports that females at the esteemed Harvard Business School are less likely to thrive than their male classmates. Despite having equal or superior academic skills, a distressing number of women fall short on classroom participation—the subjective assessment that comprises 50% of their grades.

To its credit, Harvard has devised a number of well-intentioned academic interventions to reverse this trend. Most are doomed to fail. It is a law of nature, universally observed, that high stakes competition encourages an assorted bag of dirty tricks and exclusionary practices especially amongst the “Masters of the Universe” types that populate elite business schools. Official sanctions are a palliative that will ultimately send these chest-thumpers underground to snicker with like-minded members of their ‘secret societies’.

I propose a different tact, one that sends an unequivocal message to both genders. Women have to toughen up and fight for their place at the table. Far too many of them have assumed that “feminism” is some quaint concept spoken fondly about by their addled moms and grandmas. Many young women refuse to identify themselves with it, and openly state that the battles have already been won. REALLY?

Being a “nice” girl ensures that you will curry favor with a certain type of man who may date you but rarely chooses to hire and promote you. Speaking up (or out) poses risks but it also confers benefits such as self-respect, leadership, and yes, a better grade for “class participation”. I am unsympathetic to claims that women are “intimidated” by sneering classmates who challenge or ignore them. This is the real world, ladies, especially for those of you who actually enter the fray whether in the financial jungles or the boardroom.

One can be comforted by the knowledge that many of these superannuated Frat boys will be indicted, imprisoned, or lopped off the evolutionary chart in the decades to come—hoist on their own noxious petard.

Courage under fire never comes easily but taking responsibility for one’s own life is part of the deal. Just ask those soldiers (male and female) who risk their lives daily for the rest of us.

Female applicants must gird their lady parts for the battles ahead. By clarifying their personal and professional goals and calmly assessing their willingness to fight the good fight, they may just reverse the current trend.

Stop waiting for a savior—gallantry died long ago.



I have delivered literally thousands of speeches/presentations over my career. In my former life, I taught aspiring Executives how to maximize their public appearances. (Disclaimer: I never taught them line dancing or encouraged participation in poorly scripted videos.) Consider this advice when you market your book.

 Dos and Don’ts

1 – The Joke’s on you. (Don’t start with a joke unless your routinely do stand-up comedy. You’ll be memorable for the wrong reasons)

2 – Don’t imagine everyone in the room is naked to dissipate your nervousness.  (REALLY! Look around this room. Would you really like to see most/any/all of your colleagues au natural?)

3 – Unless you are specifically reading from your novel DON”T READ! SPEAK to your audience. Use keywords on an index card if you must but not FULL SENTENCES.  You’ll bore them into a stupor, possibly an irreversible coma. There are civil and criminal penalties for this offense.

4 – Humor is an especially effective tool when giving a presentation but only if it is NATURAL to you.  Your goal is to make you AUDIENCE relax, have fun, and hear your message. Determine your own style and go with it.

5 – Read your audience—If they’re nodding off, it’s time to change tactics, or conclude your talk. Remember: leave them wanting more.

6 – Tip for the ladies: AVOID those little bitty, tentative voices that lack authority. You’re selling your product and yourself— confidence breeds acceptance by others.

7 – Tip for the gents: AVOID being pompous, especially in an all female audience. Don’t play the big man—Don’t take yourself too seriously—CALCULATED HUMILITY builds audience rapport.

8 – Move around the room a bit if you can—don’t stay glued to a podium. It relaxes you and your audience.

9 – Avoid sexist or other controversial uses of language. It interferes with your message, and you’re there to give a clear, unambiguous sales pitch for you & your product. Keep Mr. Hyde chained up at home while you play Dr. Jeckyll.

10 – HAVE FUN—If you enjoy yourself so will they. It also builds confidence and enhances your authority with an audience when they see that you have mastery of your subject.