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Jim Cox Report: April 2020

Dear Publisher Folk, Friends & Family:

All the business shutdown responses to the CoronaVirus pandemic will not effect the Midwest Book Review. We are already a 'cottage industry' whose volunteers work from their homes and use the internet to send us their reviews. Plus all nine of our monthly book review publications are online only. So for us it will pretty much be 'business as usual' for the foreseeable future.

I probably should add that my 74 year old wife and my 77 year old self are already 'sheltering in place'. That place being a duplex where we live on one side and the Midwest Book Review operates out of the other side. So I expect to keep trundling along as the editor-in-chief.

Like all other businesses, the CoronaVirus pandemic is having a major impact on the publishing industry and on the marketing of books to a public that is being hammered by a crashing economy and the mobility restrictions of having to shelter in place for the older members of the population who are the major market share of book buyers and book readers.

One of those effects of this new epidemic is the closing of brick & mortar bookstores because of the demands of 'social distancing' and the fear of contagion, which have resulted in the increasing rise of online book selling. Several experiments by innovative authors and publishers are underway in an attempt to cope with this new book marketing reality.

One such author is Peter Quinones. He is a writer whose books have been favorably reviewed by the Midwest Book Review -- and you'll find our reviews for them archived at:

Now Peter has come up with an interesting idea for selling what he is writing through an on-line innovation in book marketing. He's offering his postmodern fiction short stories on a kind of subscription basis for a dollar a month to the general public. You can find out more at his website at:

It's an interesting concept that might have significant value as a template for other authors and publishers in these troubled times.

Now let's go on to the subject of Proof Reading.

Here are some helpful tips when reviewing your copy from 'The Proofreading Experts' (

Don't Take Headers for Granted/Read Them Again...and Then One More Time
People often assume headers are correct and speed right past them to get to where they think typos are hiding. Sometimes they're in plain sight...and large.

Read Every Letter
Because of language familiarity, we have a tendency to read what we expect to see instead of what's actually there. If you force yourself to look at every letter, you will avoid this risky habit.

Read the Copy Backwards Once
Obviously, context is important, but this different perspective keeps you from getting lost in the narrative of the subject matter and missing a typo.

Double-check Then, Than and That
The wrong choice between then and than and a that meant to be a than are among the most common mistakes we see, and of course, your spell-check program is no help.

Plus, if you can afford it, you can always send your manuscript to the Bulletproof people. They professionally proofread 'all day, every day'.

Now here are reviews of books that are of particular and special interest to writers and publishers:

Writer's Notebook: A Guided Journal to Plan Your Story
Liz Delton
Tourmaline & Quartz Publishing
9781734523102, $11.95, PB, 126pp,

Synopsis: "Writer's Notebook: A Guided Journal to Plan Your Story" by Liz Delton is specifically intended for anyone who has ever wanted to write a book. It will also have practical value for experienced writers engaged in starting their next story.

Aspiring authors can get their thoughts on paper by writing all your story ideas in this pre-organized journal. This notebook is part blank journal, part guided story planner. There's plenty of room for to customize notes, and enough guidance to help figure out plot, characters, and publishing goals.

Critique: A consumable instructional guide and thoroughly 'user friendly' DIY manual, "Writer's Notebook: A Guided Journal to Plan Your Story " is an especially recommended and highly valued addition to any writer's personal reference shelf.

Editorial Note: Liz Delton writes and lives in New England, with her husband and amazing son. She studied Theater Management at the University of the Arts in Philly, always having enjoyed the backstage life of storytelling. She loves reading and writing fantasy, especially the kind with alternate worlds. Liz is the author of the Arcera Trilogy, and the Realm of Camellia series. World-building is her favorite part of writing, and she is always dreaming up new fantastic places.

The Write to Happiness
Samantha Shad
Morgan James Publishing
11815 Fountain Way, Suite 300, Newport News, VA 23606-4448
9781642798098, $17.95, PB, 288pp,

Synopsis: What happens when aspiring writers compose stories? Neuro science reveals that writing stories transforms their brains and their minds.

"The Write to Happiness: How to Write Stories to Change Your Brain and Your Life" by Samantha Shad is an impressively practical tool that can help writers to change their lives in the direction they choose. In this strikingly original writing manual, Samantha Shad teaches aspiring writers not only how to write great stories, but also how writing will change their life for the better.

The process of changing the brain and the process of writing a great story are the same. "The Write to Happiness" teaches professional story structure to help writers to understand and use the power of storytelling. Those writers will also learn why gossip is central to survival, how forgetting creates meaning, and why accurate memory is a joke!

Critique: Effective storytelling is at the heart of any writer's success in both fiction and non- fiction. "The Write to Happiness: How to Write Stories to Change Your Brain and Your Life" should be considered essential reading for anyone seeking to write either for their own personal and private benefit or for publication and the benefit or entertainment of others. While unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library Writing/Publishing collections, it should be noted that "The Write to Happiness: How to Write Stories to Change Your Brain and Your Life" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Samantha Shad was a member of the bar in three states and a practicing entertainment attorney in Beverly Hills before she turned her attention to screenwriting. She wrote twenty feature film scripts for the major studios, including Class Action (Twentieth Century Fox), as well as feature length and episodic television for each of the major networks, including the movie Vanished Without A Trace (NBC-Universal). Each story increased the joy in her life. She learned how to write her story to right her life. She now teaches advanced writing and leads seminars on how to Write to Happiness.

The Public Relations Writer's Handbook
Whitney Lehmann
711 - 3rd Avenue, Floor 8, New York, NY 10017-9209
9780815365297, $155.00, HC, 202pp,

Synopsis: From pitches and press releases to news and feature stories to social media writing and more, "The Public Relations Writer's Handbook" is a new book by author and communications expert Whitney Lehmann, along with a handful of experienced contributors that breaks down the most widely used types of public relations writing needed to become a PR pro.

"The Public Relations Writer's Handbook" serves as a guide for those both in the classroom and in the field who want to learn, and master, the style and techniques of public relations writing. Eighteen conversational chapters provide an overview of the most popular forms of public relations writing, focusing on media relations, storytelling, writing for the web/social media, business and executive communications, event planning and more. Chapters include user-friendly writing templates, exercises and AP Style skill drills and training.

A dedicated eResource also supports the book, with writing templates and answer keys (for instructors) to the end-of-chapter exercises in the text.

Critique: Offering a complete and comprehensive instruction manual and guide, "The Public Relations Writer's Handbook" is particularly recommended to the addition of PR majors and/or PR practitioners. While unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, corporate, college, and university library Writing/Publishing collections in general, and Public Relations curriculum supplemental studies lists in particular. It should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Public Relations Writer's Handbook" is also readily available in a paperback edition ( 9780815365280, $64.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $61.70).

Editorial Note: Whitney Lehmann, Ph.D., APR, is an assistant professor of communication in the Department of Writing and Communication at Nova Southeastern University, USA. Her industry experience includes working for Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Miami International Airport, Barry University and the Miami Herald.

The Author's Checklist
Elizabeth K. Kracht
New World Library
14 Pamaron Way, Novato, CA 94949
9781608686629, $15.95, PB, 240pp,

Synopsis: The bad news for all aspiring writers seeking publication is that even really good manuscripts can have weak spots that are enough to garner rejections from agents and publishers. The good news is that most of these commonly encountered problems are easy to fix once the writer sees and understands them.

After several years of evaluating manuscripts, literary agent Elizabeth Kracht noticed that many submissions had similar problems, so she began to make a list of the pitfalls. "The Author's Checklist: An Agent's Guide to Developing and Editing Your Manuscript" is comprised of her short, easy-to-implement bites of advice, illustrated by inspiring (and cautionary) real-world examples. Most aspiring authors yearn for a friend in book publishing -- "The Author's Checklist" is just that!

Critique: A critically important instructional resource that should be considered essential reading for any writer (especially self-published authors) seeking publication of their work, "The Author's Checklist: An Agent's Guide to Developing and Editing Your Manuscript" is impressively well organized and thoroughly 'user friendly' in presentation. While especially and unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Writing/Publishing instructional reference collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Author's Checklist" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

The Big Book of Small Presses & Independent Publishers
Marylee MacDonald
Grand Canyon Press
9781951479190 $20.99 pbk
9781951479046 $9.99 Kindle

Diane C. Donovan

The Big Book of Small Presses & Independent Publishers is packed with listings of small presses, contests where book publication is one of the prizes, university presses, and others accepting works from authors. It should be the reference of choice for would-be authors who don't want to self-publish, but who find themselves stymied by the lack of an agent.

Marylee MacDonald avoids the pitfall of listing vanity publishers (those who publish for a fee) and features a wide range of presses who publish in all genres of fiction and nonfiction.

It should be noted that these listings are alphabetical, not segregated into genre. But lest an author think they have to read every description to arrive at a list of, say, romance publishers, it should be noted that the 'find' search approach in the e-manuscript works fine for skipping through the listings to locate publishers accepting work in a specific genre.

Each listing includes an assessment of the submission process, contact information, a web link for writer's guidelines, and special notes about what a cover letter should ideally hold to attract them. Listings also include company history (where available) and any special notes about the publisher's philosophy, backlist, and interactions with authors.

This isn't the only book to provide lists of publishers (Writer's Market is the most extensive such reference, for one example), but it's been well-researched to include publishers especially open to new authors and manuscripts, who have a reputation of doing good work.

As a basic reference of publisher contacts in the small-to-medium press world, The Big Book of Small Presses & Independent Publishers can't be beat. It holds all the basics necessary to appeal to authors who eschew self-publishing and agents, and who want to approach that segment of the publishing industry particularly willing to work with new authors.

Writing Through the Muck
G. Elizabeth Kretchmer
Dancing Seeds Press
9780996103886 $14.95 print
9780996103893 $4.99 digital

Diane C. Donovan

The concept of wellness journaling isn't a new one, but what sets Writing Through The Muck: Finding Self and Story for Personal Growth, Healing, and Transcendence apart from other how-to or self-help guides is its focus on using writing to heal from physical as well as mental trauma.

This approach is not just for writers and those used to putting pen to paper, but encourages non-writers to explore the cathartic healing process that can come from 'writing through the muck of life'.

Chapters provide concise instructions, easy exercises, and a wide range of writing formats. There are even graphic visualization exercises. They also pair such writings with the kinds of analysis, criticism, and growth opportunities that come from sharing and interactions with others, using other writings as examples. For example, in the chapter about managing your inner critic, readers are introduced to Tara Brachís work and then prompted to write a love letter to self in which they start by acknowledging and embracing their self-judgment: "Those first two parts of the letter are the mindfulness that Brach wrote about. You acknowledge the criticism, and you embrace what should be embraced. You even show gratitude for the relationship you share with your inner critic.

Next comes your commitment to a healthier future together, written with the compassion necessary to honor your mutually acceptable intentions. And this is key. Being on the same page with your inner critic can be as difficult as being on the same page as your co-parenting partner, but itís just as important. If you canít be on the same page, then at least try to line up as closely as you can.

By the way, if you find it difficult to recall an inner critic moment, youíre not off the writing hook. It might be that youíve built up such a solid defense system that criticism canít filter in. If you find yourself blaming others for all the obstacles you encounter rather than accepting your share of responsibility, this could be whatís going on. If so, you might sneak outside your personal fortress and peer back in through the arrow-slit windows."

From how to capture visual images using words to using non-human voices to express pain, G. Elizabeth Kretchmer offers a variety of insights, approaches, and tips to help non-writers and writers hone in on the types of journaling processes that translate to new revelations, growth, and change. This reviewer especially enjoyed and appreciated the wide-ranging scope of Kretchmer's coverage, which makes it especially recommendable to fellow writers seeking a multifaceted approach to creativity.

Extensive footnoted references to science, research studies, medicine, literature, and more back up the contentions and history presented and create a firm foundation for this book.

Writing can be a powerful anecdote to life's challenges, if employed consciously and deliberately. Kretchmer uses examples from many types of writing to demonstrate just how this is achieved. Writing Through The Muck is highly recommended for anyone who would turn to the written word for better understanding and personal transformation.

Finally, "The Midwest Book Review Postage Stamp Hall Of Fame & Appreciation" is a monthly roster of well-wishers and supporters. These are the generous folk who decided to say 'thank you' and 'support the cause' that is the Midwest Book Review by donating to our postage stamp fund this past month:

Nick Wright
Peter Quinones -- "Comet Fox"
Eric Bikales -- "Fire in the Clouds"
Francie Mion -- "Fee, Fi, Fo, Grow"
Louise Blocker -- "My Swan Lake Life"
George Farag '-- "Pro-American Immigration"
Robert J. Sanischalchi -- "Bullets and Bandages"
Richard Plinke -- "Dancing in the Cave of the Dragon"
Theodore Jerome Cohen -- "Flash Fiction for Animal Lovers"
Jeff Howard -- Rand-Smith Publishing
Elizabeth Waldman Frazier -- Waldmania!
Barbara C. Wall -- The Barrett Company, LLC

In lieu of (or in addition to!) postage stamp donations, we also accept PayPal gifts of support to our postage stamp fund for what we try to accomplish in behalf of the small press community. Simply log onto your PayPal account and direct your kindness (in any amount and at your discretion) to the Midwest Book Review at:

SupportMBR [at]

(The @ is replaced by "[at]" in the above email address, in an attempt to avoid email-harvesting spambots.)

If you have postage stamps to donate, or if you have a book you'd like considered for review, then send those postage stamps (always appreciated, never required), or a published copy of that book (no galleys, uncorrected proofs, or Advance Reading Copies), accompanied by a cover letter and some form of publicity release to my attention at the address below.

All of the previous issues of the "Jim Cox Report" are archived on the Midwest Book Review website at If you'd like to receive the "Jim Cox Report" directly (and for free), just send me an email asking to be signed up for it.

So until next time -- goodbye, good luck, and good reading!

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive, Oregon, WI, 53575

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937

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