Author Archives: Laine Cunningham

About Laine Cunningham

Laine Cunningham is an award-winning author, ghostwriter, and publishing consultant who has been quoted on CNN Money, MSNBC.com, FoxNews.com, and other national and international media. Her novels interweave social, cultural, historical, political and spiritual movements that have occurred within different groups and at different times. These elements engage readers in discussions of how similar forces have changed or are changing the contemporary world…and what might lie in our future. When individuals recognize how large issues build over time from multiple small steps, they recognize that everyone can foment change through their choices and their decisions. Her work has won multiple national awards, including the Hackney Literary Award and the James Jones Literary Society fellowship. In past years, the Hackney Award was received by Horton Foote and William Styron, placing her in the ranks of Pulitzer Prize-winning authors. She has received dozens of fellowships and residency slots from programs like the Jerome Foundation, the Vermont Studio Center, the New York Mills Cultural Center, Wildacres Center for the Humanities, Arte Studio Ginestrelle in Assisi, Italy, the TAKT Kunstprojektraum in Berlin, Germany, Fusion Art in Turin, Italy and The Hambidge Center. Her nonfiction books include "Writing While Female or Black or Gay: Diverse Voices in Publishing," which includes tips on re-engineering the publishing industry with grassroots actions. She is also the author of the travel memoir "Woman Alone: A Six-Month Journey Through the Australian Outback" and a series of Zen and Wisdom books combining unique inspirational text with beautiful photos.

Do Good and Get Fee Stuff!

In just a very short time, North Carolina Kindness_FrontCoverfinalforwebresidents will be able to do some good in the world and possibly win free stuff at the same time!

An author is coming to North Carolina to read from her new book. The work is a children’s picture book that tackles a very tough subject: how to talk to young kids about terrorism.

I was honored to be able to work with the author, Rebecca Hubbard, while she wrote this story. We have worked on an entire series together, all of which help parents and kids face difficult issues.

This event is for the launch of the entire series. The book, Kindness in a Scary World, is full of heartfelt moments. Anyone who has wondered how to help kids understand tragic events should come!

This event includes freebies that are very cool. One is a raffle for a signed print featuring one of the illustrations from the book. There will be drawings for other prizes. All proceeds from the raffle benefit the Center for Child and Family Health.

Sept. 15 th 6:00-8:00pm
Center for Child and Family Health
1121 W. Chapel Hill Street Suite 100, Durham, NC

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Author Interview: Dr. Barbara Culp

As mentioned in last week’s post about great books for the back-to-school season, now we’re going to hear directly from Dr. Barbara Culp herself.

Culp Teachers

Dr. Culp started out as a preschool teacher before teaching at the elementary and middle school levels. The area superintendent promoted her until she became the principal of one of the largest elementary schools in Georgia.

After retiring, she found that education was a field she could never leave. She returned to work as a field supervisor of aspiring teachers before founding a tutorial service. The books she has written allow her to reach out to everyone who is focused on academic excellence.

More than four decades of experience have been distilled into this series. Each of the comprehensive books targets teachers, principals, superintendents, parents, and students with thoughtful, relevant advice. Readers empower themselves with wisdom from an educator who has been where they want to go.

She kindly took a break from her busy schedule to answer a few questions for this blog.

How would your advice for new writers differ from advice you would offer writers who have been in the game for a while?

To a new writer, I would say it takes time to fine tune your writing skills. Don’t give up, because your passion and purpose will take you places you never dreamed of.

To a seasoned writer, I would say you owe it to your voice in the world to mentor others who have a calling on their lives to write.

When you take a break from writing, is it a full and total break or is your mind constantly parsing the world for fodder? What does that parsing look like? How does it make you feel as an artist? As a human being?

For me, my mind is constantly at work searching within and without looking for more thoughts and information to fill the void with respect to the project I’m currently working on. It resembles an outline or table of contents; it is part of the whole that inspires more.

It makes me feel that I have something of value to add to the big picture of reading and writing and, as an artist, I am challenged to always put my best foot forward.

From your perspective as an author, what do you feel is the biggest challenge to the publishing industry today? Is there a way to solve that challenge?

I think the greatest challenge to publishers is to get people reading again. In a world where technology rules, reading a book seems to be the last thing people want to do.

I hate to offer this suggestion, but the right incentives usually motivate people to doing things they might not do on their own…so, hide messages in books that lead to monetary rewards/incentives or put books on audio to be listened to as we travel to and from.

What books are you currently reading?

I am currently reading the Bible and The Moses Code.

Which authors do you think are underappreciated in the current market, and why? (The authors do not have to be living.)

I think James Baldwin was an underappreciated Black author during his time, and that was one of the reasons why he left America and moved to France. If he were living today, his novels would probably be bestsellers as he had a tendency to speak about human sexuality as it exists in the world today.

Which new writers do you find most interesting, and why?

Michelle Alexander is a new author, civil rights attorney, and Professor of Law at Ohio State University who wrote a book titled The New Jim Crow. She spotlights racism based on her insight as a civil rights lawyer. In her book, she helps us to see the imbalance in our justice system when it comes to race in America.

Culp Principals

Finding the discipline to keep writing can be tough. Which “get writing” techniques are most effective for you?

Believe it or not, I believe I write best when I am bored or depressed. When I am feeling low, I can write my way back to a place of happiness, self-acceptance and self-reliance. The ideas, words, and thoughts seems to just flow.

Can you give us a sneak peek into your current project?

Again, my next project is school/workplace related, and it centers on building highly effective and efficient operating teams in support of greater student success.

 

Books for Back to School Needs!

Culp Parents

Here are six fantastic books just in time for your back-to-school needs. If you’re a parent or a student, Dr. Barbara Culp has written books specifically for your needs. Teachers, principals and superintendents of public and private schools–and anyone interested in understanding how schools work so that you can help your kids achieve the best academic results–can dive into a lot of wisdom in books targeting their needs.

The series of six books, published by Rowman & Littlefield, distills forty years of experience into practical, affordable tips. By mining her broad educational background, Dr. Culp provides support, inspiration, and empowerment.

This series is a true “must read” for aspiring, new, and seasoned educational professionals, parents, and students. Rich with real-world examples, each title contains user-friendly tips that lead to solutions, resolutions, and effective action.

  • Essential Knowledge for Teachers: Truths to Energize, Excite, and Engage Today’s Teachers keeps professionals focused and relevant in today’s changing educational landscape. 
  • Trusted Knowledge for Parents: Tips to Prepare, Position, and Empower Today’s Parents provides clarity, inspiration and support for raising compassionate, respectful, and productive children.
  • Choice Knowledge for Students: Words to Empower, Enliven, and Enrich Your Life enhances the confidence, maturity, and motivation that drives success.
  • Vintage Knowledge for Principals: Keys to Enrich, Encourage, and Empower School Leaders and Empowering Today’s Principals provides authoritative solutions, resolutions, and actions for school leaders.
  • Culp StudentsThe Art of Appraisal: Effective Tools and Streamlined Process to Boost Teacher Performance distills the evaluation process into a structured, step-by-step system developed by Dr. Culp.
  • Key Knowledge for Success: Solutions to Augment, Fortify, and Support Today’s Superintendents provides simple and effective knowledge that will supercharge district success.

Stay tuned because next week, I’ll have an interview with Dr. Culp. She’ll tell us more about her writing process, and provide exclusive tips for authors and readers!

Scammers Break The Kindle Store

This is an issue that everyone who uses Amazon–to buy anything from toilet paper to books and gardening equipment–needs to know about.

David Gaughran

On Friday, a book jumped to the #1 spot on Amazon, out of nowhere; it quickly became obvious that the author had used a clickfarm to gatecrash the charts.

The Kindle Store is officially broken.

This is not the first time this has happened and Amazon’s continued inaction is increasingly baffling. Last Sunday, a clickfarmed title also hit #1 in the Kindle Store. And Amazon took no action.

Over the last six weeks, one particularly brazen author has put four separate titles in the Top 10, and Amazon did nothing whatsoever. There are many such examples.

I wrote at the start of June about how scammers were taking over Amazon’s free charts. That post led to a phone conversation with KDP’s Executive Customer Relations.

Repeated assurances were given that the entire leadership team at Amazon was taking the scammer problem very seriously indeed. But it was also stressed that the…

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Audiobook Toolkit

Today, we have a fantastic guest blog post from Becky Parker Geist. She’s been working on audiobook software and interesting options for audiobooks for a very long time. Now all that work has been distilled into a webinar authors can benefit from. Here’s what she has to say:

Audiobooks are the fastest growing segment of the publishing industry, with industry leaders projecting 40% growth over last year, following an unprecedented 31% growth 2015-2016. This is prime time for making sure your book is also in the audiobook distribution channels!
But many independent authors are uncertain about where to start. Should you narrate the book yourself or get a professional to do it? What are the challenges with doing it yourself, and how could you prepare yourself for success? What options are available? How do you figure out if it will be worth the time and cost and effort? Where can you turn for guidance and answers to all those questions that keep you from moving forward and getting it done?
Audiobook expert Becky Parker Geist, who also serves as President of Bay Area Independent Publishers Assn, will be joining Joel Friedlander, an independent publishing industry leader, for a live, information-rich webinar on Wednesday, 3/16, 1 pm PST, 4 pm EST. Spaces are limited and they fill up fast! Claim your spot at bit.ly/aubkwbr.

Interview with Christopher Zoukis, Author of Federal Prison Handbook

Interview with Christopher Zoukis, prison rights advocate and author of Federal Prison Handbook: The Definitive Guide to Surviving the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

How would your advice for new writers differ from advice you would offer writers who have been in the game for a while?

When it comes to those new to professional writing, I would say that you need to read what you want to write and also read a lot about how to refine your craft and market yourself. It’s hard to get going in this industry. But with a lot of time and effort, it is certainly possible to make a name for yourself. The key is in understanding the type of writing that you want to write and how to market your brand within that arena.

As for those who have been in the industry for a while, the game is changing. It used to be that if a book wasn’t published by one of the Big Six that it didn’t stand much of a chance. Now, even if a book is published by a large publishing house, it still might not stand much of a chance. New technologies and avenues of connecting with readers are the wave of the future. Harness these tools, think outside the box, and figure out how to get your expertise (or flavor of fiction) to the end user in a manner that they want. The current era is that of the hybrid author — an author both traditionally published and self-published. There is a strong argument for pursuing the hybrid path in today’s market.

When you take a break from writing, is it a full and total break or is your mind constantly parsing the world for fodder? What does that parsing look like? How does it make you feel as an artist? As a human being?

As a writer I feel that I’m an odd sort. I’m all on or all off. So, when I’m all on, I write like my life depends on it. I outline, create a self-imposed quota system, and muscle to the finish line. I’ve found that when working this way it is important to take time off. This is why I try to vary my tasks, and to cycle whenever I can. I go from books to articles to book reviews to interviews and so forth. I also try to build in projects that aren’t writing-related. I work out, play Ultimate Frisbee, and try to schedule a little time each evening to hang out with a friend to decompress.

One word of wisdom that I would offer aspiring book writers (and those who have already published their works) is to really think about what type of book the world really needs. I always have five books in the back of my head. They are all worthy, at least in my not-so-humble opinion. But when it comes to devoting a year of my life to something, I need to select a project that is going to succeed. So, when deciding what to do next, a writer should really think about the reader and the industry. What is missing? What do readers crave? And is there a book that readers don’t even know that they want, but won’t be able to live without once they have it? This is the book that you need to write next.

From your perspective as an author, what do you feel is the biggest challenge to the publishing industry today? Is there a way to solve that challenge?

Making money as a writer is a challenge. Most of us will never be New York Times bestselling authors. That’s the truth of it. So, we need to find a way to make our writing work for us and pay the bills. As a nonfiction author, one way to do this is to use your book as a business calling card, which draws attention to your primary product — which may not be your book. Writers who want to live a comfortable life need to plan on not making a whole ton of money on their books, but to structure their books and businesses in such a way that a revenue channel can be capitalized upon.

What books are you currently reading?

I tend to read a lot of school books these days due to being a graduate student at Adams State University. So, typically I’m reading a lot of business textbooks. I just finished a book on organizational behavior last week and am about to start a book on managerial finance shortly.

I also engage in a healthy amount of non-school reading. Right now I’m reading the Magisterium series of novels by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare. These are phenomenal books. They remind me a lot of Harry Potter. I’m also reading Journalistic Writing by Robert M. Knight to help hone my craft a bit and Bigger Leaner Stronger by Michael Matthews to upgrade my fitness knowledge.

Finding the discipline to keep writing can be tough. Which “get writing” techniques are most effective for you?

I try very hard to cycle my projects, because I find that I get burned out very easily. So, the best “get writing” technique that I have is to vary my projects. A close second is to outline and implement a self-imposed quota system. If I’ve outlined a 20 chapter book, then I might push myself to complete a chapter every week or two. Then, after the rough draft is down on paper, I might set a quota of polishing one chapter every week. This quota-based system helps me push myself to project completion. In this respect, I’m very business-like with my writing projects. I like to think of myself as a project manager who needs to ensure that the writing project is done on time, at an appropriate level of quality, and that it fulfills my readers’ needs.

Can you give us a sneak peek into your current project?

Sure. If you swing by PrisonerResource.com you can check out my Federal Prison Handbook. In this book I’ve tried to answer all of the questions that a new or seasoned federal prisoner, as well as their loved ones, may have. You can also use the “Look Inside” feature on Amazon.com. This provides readers with a sample of the book prior to purchase.

Book Review: Federal Prison Handbook by Christopher Zoukis

Book Review for Federal Prison Handbook: The Definitive Guide to Surviving the Federal Bureau of Prisons by Christopher Zoukis.

Published by Middle Street Publishing, January 2017.

Hands down, this is the single most useful and informative book you’ll ever find on what it’s really like inside the federal prison system. Not only is it packed with information, it’s written in the personal voice of a prison rights activist who is currently serving time at a federal facility.

Author and advocate Christopher Zoukis is an incredibly prolific writer. He regularly appears on Huffington Post, New York Daily News, and Prison Legal News. He’s able to break down the bewildering volume of rules, regulations and details so that anyone—a convict new to the federal system, their family and friends, and even individuals who’ve been in for years—can learn everything they need to know to survive behind bars.

In addition to providing a nearly encyclopedic review of the official regulations, Zoukis tells readers what others won’t: how to navigate prison culture. Family members and friends discover exactly what their loved ones are going through along with different ways they can help. Personal anecdotes and the stories of other inmates make Federal Prison Handbook an intimate, honest, and compelling read.

Tomorrow, an interview with Zoukis will be posted. As an award-winning author who has been honored by the PEN America Center, he has a lot of tips to offer other writers of fiction and nonfiction. Meanwhile, link here for his website and here for the Federal Prison Handbook.