Thursday, February 24, 2011

Inspiration Interview #3: Untreed Reads Author Herschel Cozine

Next up on our list of authors in our interview series of "Inspiration to Publication" is Herschel Cozine.  I had the pleasure of meeting Herschel and his wife at an Untreed Reads informal get-together in San Francisco, and I enjoyed hearing about his writing.  What surprised me even more was when I found out that he will be turning 80 this year (happy early birthday!), as it doesn't seem at all possible.

Herschel has two titles released on Untreed Reads, "Delinquency Report" and "The Birds".  He speaks about his inspirations for both of these stories, his philosophical meanderings on right and wrong, and where he's going from here!  Welcome to the digital podium, Herschel Cozine!

You can purchase his books HERE!

The Accidental Author: Herschel, you just released “The Birds”, a delightful short-story mystery that takes place in Nurseryland, populated by characters from popular nursery rhymes. Can you tell us a little bit about what inspired this story idea?

Herschel Cozine: I had already had Osgood involved with Bo Peep, Goldilocks, Mother Hubbard, Cinderella and others. The outrageousness of the sixpence rhyme was perfect material. Why would anyone bake a blackbird pie? And how would they survive? The story cried out to be told.

AA: When you crafted your protagonist, Nathaniel P. Osgood, did you base him off of someone from real life or certain characters from other mysteries that you had read, or was he an entirely original creation?

HC: He is an original. It is written in the first person because he can do things that probably couldn’t be done with a third person narrative. But he isn’t really “me”. We may share some thoughts. But he can do things I would never be able to do.

AA: Since the first quarter of 2011 is devoted mainly to inspiration, what gets your creative juices flowing? Music? Reading other people's works? What helps you get in the writing mood?

HC: Usually a phrase or a thought. I often start to write without a goal in mind. I am not always sure where a story is going. That way I am as surprised as anyone whenever something happens. This may not be good writing technique, but it works for me. I have never been able to write from an outline.

AA: Speaking of Nursery Rhymes, do you think most people are aware of how truly dark they can be? I think the first time that I heard “Sing a Song of Sixpence” as an adult, I thought to myself “Well, that's awfully violent.”

HC: Many nursery rhymes and fairy tales are dark and violent. I have been told that some nursery rhymes are commentaries on people and events of the day. A sort of poetic editorial, if you will. Was Mother Hubbard an authoritative figure who squandered the taxpayers’ money and had nothing left to give them? Was Peter Pumpkineater a tyrant who suppressed his people’s freedom? And certainly “The Emperor’s New Clothes” can be a biting commentary. As for fairy tales, I always thought the Brothers Grimm were aptly named.

AA: Your previous release on Untreed Reads, “Delinquency Report” is about a particularly traumatic discovery that (hopefully) every child at some point makes: that Santa Claus is not a real person. The way it reads, it feels very authentic and sincere. Is this work at all autobiographical?

HC: In many ways, yes. I grew up in a small town on Long Island during the depression. The town in the story is modeled on the Long Island town. And I vividly remember visiting a five and dime where I wanted to buy a top. There were no clerks around to pay so I left. With the top. I was certain I would be arrested and thrown in jail. That never happened of course. And unlike the protagonist, I never stole again. And my mother had instincts like the protagonist’s. My father was clueless. It must be in the genes.

AA: “Delinquency Report” poses a very interesting and fundamental question, as the protagonist explains that he is agnostic and also no longer believes in Santa Claus. In the absence of some all-seeing, all-knowing sort of authority figure that keeps tabs on our every move, how would we react? Is there an innate sense of right and wrong that resides in our hearts and minds. Do you often ponder questions like this?

HC: Yes. And I have not resolved it in my own mind. We are taught by adults to behave in a civilized manner and obey rules. But who taught the adults? It had to start somewhere. Is it innate? I don’t know.

AA: What kinds of books do you like to read? What are you reading right now?

HC: My interests are wide ranging. Fiction, non-fiction. I love a good mystery or a good western. I enjoy history and sports. My favorite book is “To Kill A Mockingbird”, a remarkable work. I am not a big SciFi fan, but will find one occasionally that appeals to me. Right now I am between books, but have my eye on Mark Twain’s centennial biography. And David McCullough has a new book out that is sure to be a good read.

AA: What's next on the Herschel Cozine slate of releases?

HC: I have several Osgood stories that I am hoping to publish through Untreed Reads. I had so much fun writing those, and I hope the readers will enjoy them as well.

 Herschel Cozine has published extensively in the children’s field. His stories and poems have appeared in many of the national children’s magazines. Works by Herschel have also appeared in Alfred Hitchcock and Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazines, Wolfmont Press Toys For Tots Anthologies and Woman’s World. Additionally he has had many stories appear in Orchard Press Mysteries, Mouth full Of Bullets, Untreed Reads, Great Mystery and Suspense, Mysterical-E and others. His story, “A Private Hanging” was a finalist for the Derringer award. Retired from a career in electronics, he has resumed his writing career after an extended hiatus. Herschel lives with his wife, Sue, in Santa Rosa, California, close to his children and grandchildren.

Purchase his books from Untreed Reads HERE!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Mission Continues!

We've succeeded in getting "A Summer Wedding", my very first published short story up to a great ranking at (best yet was #4,667).

Let's see if we can't push this even further and make it into the TOP 1000!!!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Mission! Join me!!!

All right...part of me just wants to see what the power of social networking REALLY is.  I have 324 friends on my personal FaceBook page.  What if I decided to post in my status that I am trying to break into the Top 1000 on's eBook rankings with my story, "A Summer Wedding"?

What would happen?  Well, let's find out!

For those of your who are FaceBook savvy, post the following link in your Status:

State that you are trying to see if the power of Social Networking can push a little $0.99 Flash Fiction Story into the top 1000 on

$0.99...come on, really...I say let's give it a shot!!!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A true case of Deja Vu

I realized last night, as I was settling into my hotel room in Albuquerque that I was staying in the same hotel where I wrote the first draft of my short story "5".  But even more crazy was the fact that I was staying in the SAME ROOM as before (Room 431).

How weird is that?

Oh, did I mention that all of my short stories are on sale (25% off) in celebration of my publisher's (Untreed Reads) first birthday?

Go buy them, for crying out loud!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Inspiration Interview #2: Untreed Reads Author Darryl Forman

The latest in my 2011 series of "Inspiration to Publication" interviews is with Darryl Forman, author of a collection of essays entitled The Unleavened Truth that is all at once informative, hilarious, intensely personal and poignant.  Her incisive wit and frank and honest discussions of life as a Jewish woman are not to be missed.  And, for the rest of the month of February, The Unleavened Truth is available at a 25% discount in celebration of the first birthday of Untreed Reads publishing (incidentally, my works are also 25% off this month...just click HERE.

Darryl discussed her journey towards writing the essays in The Unleavened Truth and what inspires her to write!


The Accidental Author:  Your collection of essays, The Unleavened Truth, is an amalgam of memoir-type stories from all phases of your life as a Jewish woman.  What was your main inspiration for writing these essays?

Darryl Forman:  I’ve always loved words and I’ve always been funny.  As an adult, in spite of myself and my B.A. in Psychology, I ended up as a financial services writer (not a lot of jokes in stocks and bonds). To keep the creative juices flowing, I wrote lots of fun things – poems that rhyme and tell a story, ironic twisty lyrics, and terrible terrible puns. I enjoyed the process, so I kept writing. I write about me because it’s what I know, although the parts I share are universal. It doesn’t matter what your background is – things that go on within families, for example, are crazy. My job is to turn crazy into funny.

AA:  You write about some very memorable characters from your life.  Which of the family members that you write about do you look on most fondly?

DF:  It’s hard to get away from families as a theme or in person, but I tried. (There’s a reason I live 3,000 miles from where I grew up.) The essays in The Unleavened Truth span 16 years of writing, and I didn’t take on Ma and Pa in the early years. I waited to write about them until they were well dead. They would have disowned me if they’d read their stories. I talk about my mother’s shoplifting, something never discussed while she was doing it. My father’s story was cathartic for me, and he would have loved the epilogue, if he didn’t explode from an aneurysm while reading what I really thought about him. Given that my brother is the only one alive, I should name him; however, the unleavened truth is that my mother is the one I think of most fondly. She adored me when no one else did. Unfortunately, she died the year my marriage fell apart. Fortunately, she never knew that her little girl had been wronged. This was the beginning of my 15-year bad decade.

AA:  Are there any portions of the essays that are fictionalized?  If so, what was your motivation for the embellishment?

DF:  The short answers are: yes and why not. I write in the first-person and base all the characters on me, people I know, family, imaginary friends, bus drivers and any other humans or situations I observe, so readers think it all happened to me. To protect my privacy, I created a literary genre called “notaubiography.” It wavers between truth and untruth, with no special ratio of one to the other – a kind of cross between Anais Nin and, say, James Frey. Many events did happen to me, but they could have happened to you, too, or to someone else. So I call the essays memoirs, you-moirs or someone else-moirs.

I embellish or exaggerate for fun, puns, or just to keep the flow of the story’s unraveling.  Plus, I like drama that I can control.

AA:  Many people have many different types of muses, be it music, quiet meditation, people-watching, or what have you.  What “gets you in the mood” for writing?

DF:  Not that I’m a great writer, but all great ones and many of us wanna-bes indulge in reality-muting tricks to escape the “censors” that reside in our heads. That said, I have been known to inhale intoxicating herbs now and then (and maybe later, too.). Out of habit (and because my editor is likely to spike it), I play this down even though it’s legal where I live. What also gets me in the mood is a good tale to tell. I like to give myself deadlines, which can be a great motivator.

AA:  Having met you in person, I can easily say that you are just as witty face-to-face as you are in your writing.  Sometimes it is very difficult to translate this kind of in-your-face humor to the page.  What is your greatest challenge when writing humorous essays?

DF:  In your face … really?  [Accidental Author Note:  Probably a more appropriate term would be “unapologetic”] A dear friend said to me that he use to think that I was “on” for other people, but he’s come to see that I can’t help myself and this is how I think. Having such content in my head is one thing, having the discipline to record it is quite another. Another challenge is remembering funny lines I’ve spewed or heard. I always think I’ll remember them but, unless I write them down as I hear them, I have problems recalling the phrase. In terms of writing, it’s important to get the humor across without it sounding too contrived or forced. I sit in front of my iMac and speak the words aloud, which is when the muse visits with all her puns and wordplay. I call it punching up the story. If the story’s the skeleton, than the jokes are the muscles. Good bones never hurt, though.

AA:  Do you also enjoy creative writing, or do you derive most of your inspiration from real-life encounters and events?

DF:  To me, all writing is creative. Do I base my tales on real incidents? Yes. Do I rely on existing personalities to inflate my characters? You betcha. But it’s me who personally interprets the situations and creatively reports them. I believe that almost all stories have been told before. (How do you write about hell or the devil without relying on Dante, for example?) What I bring to the table is the way in which the story’s told. My style is more about the telling than the tale, but it doesn’t mean there’s no tale.

I admire writers who write well and create unique situations and characters. John Irving falls into this category, although he could use a little more editing. At the same time, few writers tell a better story than Herman Wouk. I can exaggerate, satirize and "sarcasticize" with the best, but I can’t create something from nothing … or I haven’t yet.

AA:  Obviously, this collection of essays is a mere smattering of your experiences as a Jewish woman.  How do you choose what events to write about?

DF:  I don’t always choose them; some of the stories just about write themselves. I try to write stories that will be of interest to others because they can relate to them. The Smooth Sailing quartet is about falling in love  - who can’t relate to the tummy full of butterflies and the giggle in one’s throat? Toss in the luxurious ship and the romantic Caribbean and you’ve got a million women’s fantasy.

I need a “hook” in a story to make me want to write it. For instance, I was lucky enough to be invited to go with my dear friend and her friends to Jerusalem for her son’s Bar Mitzvah. Most people can’t relate to such extraordinary generosity, so I wasn’t sure how to present the fabulous journey. Then a dark moment occurred in an otherwise perfect vacation, and I got the hook for my story. It’s in my next book. All I can ask is how many people do you know who walked into a Tel Aviv hotel lobby bleeding from her head?

AA:  Did you ever start writing something and stop because you felt something was TOO personal?

DF:  Writing about personal matters and relationships helps me to understand them better. Do I mute some of the rough edges? Of course, it was bad enough that I had to go through the emotional upheaval, why should people kind enough to read my stories have to also? Better I should see the funny in it and write it in that context. As to inappropriate places to be funny, I told a joke at my mother’s funeral. It was a “wicked pissah” hot and humid Boston summer and the rabbi decided to truncate the service. The problem was that you can’t start the service until the body is covered, so he put a piece of astro-turf over the casket before it was lowered into the ground. I whispered to my sister, “Look, Ma’s at Riverfront Stadium.”

I don’t think anything is too personal to write about … as long as you make it funny. But I have an advantage because I can always hide behind “notaubiography.”

AA:  What types of books do you like to read?  What are you reading right now?

DF:  After (un)signing with Untreed Reads Publishing, I stopped reading so much and started writing more. Prior to that, I had recently left the world of fiction in favor of non-fiction. Granted, the non-fiction was so engagingly written that it could have been fiction. The (unleavened) truth is that I’m a bit of a news junky, much to my blood pressure’s dismay, so I’m scavenging news stories and magazines from across the world wide web. The next thing I’m going to read is your blog and your story. I was afraid they might influence my answers if I’d read them before I finished this e-terview.

AA:  How did you come to publish your work as an eBook with Untreed Reads?

DF:  After 15 years of writing essays and showing them only to family and some colleagues, all of whom forecast I would be the next straight Jewish David Sedaris. I was flattered, but I hate rejection so much that I didn’t try to shop the stories around as a collection. Then a friend invited me to join her at a party at her friend’s who had recently started up an e-book publishing company. I met K.D. Sullivan and Jay Hartman, publisher and editor, respectively, of Untreed Reads. I sent them some stories and was thrilled when they wanted to publish them. This was a life-changer for me. I feel like I didn’t touch the ground again until The Unleavened Truth fell off of Amazon’s top-selling list in its categories.

AA:  If you don’t mind my asking, what are you working on now?

DF:  I’m writing more essays for the next book. As I mentioned, I wrote one about my Israel trip, or Shalomerama, as I like to call it. I’m not sure what else I’ll include, but I guarantee it will make you smile or wince, depending upon your pun threshold.

Darryl Forman is a story-teller who takes you to her amusement park of words while unraveling her tales in The Unleavened Truth. Whether about growing up, family, health or aging, her essays are full of wordplay and puns, but also are pithy, poignant, and reveal angst-filled lessons about life that you can relate to and make you laugh.

Darryl grew up in Newton, Massachusetts and went to Syracuse University. She discovered northern California and, except for a brief interlude on a hippie farm in upstate New York, has lived in San Francisco for the past 40 years.