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Thursday, November 29, 2007
CULOTTA by Dennis N. Griffin
I began writing as a hobby in 1994, after moving to Las Vegas following a 20-year career in investigations and law enforcement in upstate New York. My first book – The Morgue – was self-published through 1stBooks (now Author House) in 1996. I was spending the summer back in New York when the book was released and did some signings at local independent book stores. I also appeared as a guest speaker at a library in a nearby town. Through these events I developed a small fan base and was able to generate enough sales to recover the publishing expenses and make a few dollars profit. This limited success encouraged me and I wrote another fiction, and then four more. These were all self/POD published and just above break even financially.

In November 2001, I attended a writers’ conference in Florida that turned out to be a career-altering experience for me. I was chatting with another attendee over coffee and we shared our backgrounds. As luck would have it, she had retired as a civilian employee of the Indiana State Police. As we warmed up to each other, I lamented the fact that my books just weren’t catching on the way I’d like. I told the lady that I enjoyed writing, but felt that after six books and seven years I should be doing better.

She asked me if I’d ever considered writing non-fiction. With my law-enforcement experience she thought I’d be a natural for writing police history or true crime. My new friend said she had written the history of the Indiana State Police and it was selling quite well in the Hoosier State as a local interest story. I purchased a copy of her book that day and read it on the flight back to Las Vegas. I was hooked on trying my hand at non-fiction. Within a short time I decided that my first project would be writing the history of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (Metro).

I knew that in order to produce a quality product I’d need to have Metro’s assistance. I put together a proposal and presented it to them. The sheriff endorsed my plan the same day. Armed with that promise of cooperation, I prepared a book proposal and submitted it to Las Vegas publisher Huntington Press. HP is a small traditional publisher of non-fiction books about gaming and Nevada history. In late January 2002, the proposal was accepted and I immediately began researching Las Vegas’ police history back to its establishment in 1905.

It was quite a project to say the least. Thankfully, Metro more than lived up to its agreement. I was assigned a lieutenant from the Public Information Office as my contact person and given a letter of introduction signed by the sheriff. I had tremendous access to old records, photos and personnel. But even with all that help, gathering the necessary information was a slow process. It was two years before the manuscript was finished.

It is often said that timing is everything. In my case that was certainly true. Although it had been unplanned in the beginning, Policing Las Vegas was released in 2005 — just in time for Vegas’ 100-year birthday bash. The free publicity regarding anything Las Vegas was overwhelming. That book marked a turning point in my writing career in several ways. But most importantly, it gave me name recognition and established my credentials as a credible researcher.

When writing Policing I knew that any book about Sin City police history would have to include something about organized crime. A veteran Metro detective I had become friends with suggested I write about the Tony Spilotro era. He said that Spilotro was the basis for the character that actor Joe Pesci played in the 1995 movie Casino. I followed his advice and put in a section called The Mob’s Man. The piece was relatively short and I knew I had only scratched the surface of what had actually transpired during Spilotro’s reign. I wondered if I did enough digging, if I could come up with sufficient material for a book about the Spilotro days.

Again, my timing was impeccable. I contacted several of the cops and FBI agents who had investigated Spilotro in the 1970s and ‘80s. They were now retired and many of them were willing to share their experiences with me. Convinced that I could put together an informative and entertaining book, I went back to HP with another proposal. The Battle for Las Vegas – The Law vs. the Mob, was released in July 2006. I was very pleased with the book and it was well-received. My only regret was that with most of the Spilotro gang either dead, in prison, or their whereabouts unknown, the story was told almost exclusively from the law’s perspective. I would have preferred to have included some personal insights from the criminal side.

One day while Battle was in the final stages of production, I was chatting with one of my sources, retired FBI agent Dennis Arnoldy. He had been the Las Vegas case agent for the Spilotro investigations. When Spilotro’s chief lieutenant Frank Cullotta had flipped and become a government witness, Dennis had been his handler. I knew that Dennis and Cullotta had become friends and remained in contact over the years. On a whim, I asked Dennis if Cullotta had ever thought about writing his biography. I said that if the former mobster was willing to be candid, he’d probably have quite a story to tell.

About two weeks later Dennis called me. He said Frank Cullotta wanted to meet with me and discuss a book. Under tight security, I met Cullotta in a Las Vegas hotel room in March 2006. It happened that he had been thinking about writing a book and had hundreds of pages of notes already prepared. We talked for a couple of hours and reached an agreement to co-author his biography. He’d supply the details and I’d put them on paper. He committed to being completely open and to provide details never before made public. And he did just that.

CULLOTTA – The Life of a Chicago Criminal, Las Vegas Mobster, and Government Witness, was released through Huntington Press in July 2007. Writing this book was a fascinating experience that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

Dennis N. Griffin is the author of CULOTTA: THE LIFE OF A CHICAGO CRIMINAL, LAS VEGAS MOBSTER, AND GOVERNMENT WITNESS. You can visit his website at www.authorsden.com/dennisngriffin/.
posted by Dorothy Thompson @ 12:00 AM   2 comments
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Happy Thanksgiving!
posted by Dorothy Thompson @ 11:06 AM   2 comments
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
VOICE OF THE ANGELS COOKBOOK by Dyan Garris
It’s that time of day again. Your stomach howls, growls, and grumbles and your mind begins cooking up a tantalizing array of possibilities of what to eat. Many people consider cooking to be a chore or something messy and time consuming, so out of the ethers appear the microwavable dinners and moveable feasts. It doesn’t matter much what’s really in the box or bag as long as it serves the purpose of being fast and easy. This doesn’t necessarily translate into something that’s going to be truly nourishing to your body, mind or spirit.

We live in a time when cooking shows are hugely popular, chefs are big TV stars and yet less and less people really cook. Everyone wants top of the line kitchen appliances in their homes, yet do they really use them or are they just for display, like ghost place settings at a table in a model home?

I’m Greek. We feed people. I’m pretty sure I came out of the womb knowing how to cook. It was a prerequisite for birth. And certainly I needed those skills to be able to work in the family business which was restaurants of course.

I’ve fed a lot of people in my lifetime both with real food and with spiritual food. During the course of this “feeding,” I’ve had a lot of people ask me, “How do you do that?” I reply, “I talk to it.” And I do. Literally. I’m a spiritual teacher, clairvoyant, clairaudient, clairsentient. I’m a psychic. I talk to a lot of people that others may say aren’t even there. But of course they are. My body of work has to do with what is called vibrational attunement. This is simply a balancing of mind, body and spirit.

My goal with “Voice of the Angels Cookbook – Talk To Your Food! – Intuitive Cooking” is to give people easy and healthy alternatives to mystery food loaded with chemicals and unpronounceable ingredients. I also stirred in a little of the spiritual realm into the basic cookie dough because, while cooking and eating is something very “root chakra,” we just can’t ignore all of our other energy centers. Let’s lift up this experience a little bit and bring it through our whole body instead of just through our mouths.

We live in a time when balance seems ever elusive, no matter how hard we strive for it. How can we change this? Take something very basic, such as cooking and eating, and instead of doing it mindlessly and without joy, do it in a way in which we are fully present. This begins to open a pathway for transformation on both physical and spiritual levels. With a little mixing, stirring and gently folding in, we can achieve balance of mind, body, and spirit.

Dyan Garris the author of VOICE OF THE ANGELS COOKBOOK - TALK TO YOUR FOOD: INTUITIVE COOKING. You can visit her website at www.voiceoftheangels.com. If you would like to purchase Dyan's book at Amazon, click here.

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posted by Dorothy Thompson @ 9:27 PM   4 comments
Friday, November 9, 2007
ON STRIKE FOR CHRISTMAS by Sheila Roberts
I think the best book ideas come from a real life experiences, and some of the most irritating experiences can provide the best material. If I hadn't been irritated with my husband, I never would have come up with the idea for my new book "On Strike for Christmas" about a group of friends who go on strike for more appreciation over the holidays with near disastrous results.

My husband was grumbling about having to spend yet another holiday with my big, loud, fabulous family and I had just had it.
What was his problem, anyway? He'd been doing this for years? Now that I think about it, maybe that was his problem. The poor man spends more time with his in-laws than his own family. But when I made my threat I wasn't thinking so rationally. "I'm going to put you in a book," I threatened.
He just laughed.
Until I actually did it. And once I got rolling I'd give him regular reports. "Your nickname is now Bob Humbug."
"Ha! I like it."
He wasn't that wild about being the prototype for a naughty husband once he had a chance to actually read the book. We got an advanced reader copy and he started hauling it back and forth from work, and one day he came home looking like the personification of Elvis's "Blue Christmas". "Am I really that bad?" he asked.
Part of me wanted to say, "Yes! That's why you're in a book." But he had obviously learned his lesson, so I assured him that fiction often requires some over the top writing. (And there is
plenty of that in this story.)
Still, he took the underlying message to heart, and now, like Scrooge, he's a changed man. And he's given the story an enthusiastic thumbs up. So there'll be no Christmas strike at our house this year.
Just a lot of fun as we celebrate both the holidays (with my family, of course!) and the release of my first novel with St. Martin's Press.

Sheila Roberts is the author of ON STRIKE FOR CHRISTMAS (St. Martin's Press, Nov. '07). You can visit her website at http://www.sheilasplace.com/.




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posted by Dorothy Thompson @ 12:00 AM   8 comments
Monday, November 5, 2007
THE LAST JEW STANDING by Michael Simon
As a young reader and moviegoer, I had two favorite genres: comedy and crime. My crime reading and viewing was mostly of an earlier era: the novels of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, James M. Cain and Jim Thompson, and films featuring mugs like Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson and George Raft.

It was later that I was taught a distinction between detective fiction and crime fiction. By my professor’s definition (I’ve heard others since), a detective novel is told strictly from the point of view of a detective. You only know what he knows. A crime novel may be told from the point of view of a criminal, a victim, or a bystander (innocent or otherwise.) It can even be told from multiple points of view, employing a crosscutting technique so often used in film and TV. This can raise the stakes, and often begs the categorization “thriller,” which I use to describe my books.

My main character is a detective, but in three of the books, the reader knows who the killer is long before the detective does, even before the killer kills. The story often begins with a murder and ends with a solution, as all detective stories do. But there are other murders along the way, and plots and schemes, and attacks and counterattacks. There are elements of romance as well as mystery. My goal is to make the reader hunger to find out what happens next, rather than wondering what happened before.

My newest book, The Last Jew Standing, is different from my others in that the entire story is told from the point of view of the detective, Dan Reles. We only see what he sees, and often, by the time he finds out what the criminal is up to, the damage is already done. My goal was to create a story that was just as thrilling as a multiple-POV story, but with only one narrator. To do that, I created a situation where the character found himself, (along with his family and his town) in increasingly desperate danger.

Then I challenged him to get out of it.

Michael Simon is the author of THE LAST JEW STANDING (Viking 2007). You can visit his website at http://www.michaelsimon.info.com/.

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posted by Dorothy Thompson @ 12:00 AM   3 comments
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Name: Dorothy Thompson
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About Me: Dorothy Thompson is CEO/Founder of Pump Up Your Book, an innovative public relations agency specializing in online book promotion and social media marketing for authors.  Visit her website at www.pumpupyourbook.com.

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