Saturday, August 10, 2013


"Are you working on your next book?" and "what's it about?" are the questions that began haunting me almost immediately after publication of The Unveiling.  I wasn't sure I could motivate myself to begin again, especially realizing from the outset how much time would have to go into marketing once the book is written.

The first question I had to answer for myself was what I can do differently this time to maintain more control over the process and reduce the long delays I encountered with the first book. The answer is a no-brainer. Don't get hung up looking for an agent who will try to convince a publisher to take on your book. I know the story is timely and the potential audience is significant. I know how much the popularity of e-books has grown. I'll draw upon the social media contacts I now have to identify the most promising way to publish my e-book. I will not use a Print-On-Demand publisher who sets the price too high and controls distribution.

Editing is another step I'll handle differently. With my first book, I completed the first draft, and then asked friends and relatives to read it to give me feedback. Their input was a big help, but I lost months waiting to hear back from some individuals. I eventually paid for a professional editor who was a big help, but took more time than I expected. This time I may again seek input from friends and relatives, but I'll line up an editor before I complete my manuscript.

Another huge time and money waster I'll avoid in the future is using quotes from songs and poetry that require copyright permission. In my first novel I introduced new sections with quotes from music or poetry to define the theme of a new part of the story. I had no idea how difficult it would be to find the owner of the copyright, how long it might take to get permission or what the costs would beI wasted months waiting to resolve this issue. I will only use quotes in the future if they are already in the public domain, or better yet, if I need something unique to introduce sections, I'll compose my own poems or lyrics..

I'm moving along with my writing now, making a little progress every day. The title of my next book is Shred of Evidence: the MK Ultra Secrets. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Mystery of an Unassuming Hero

Among the many characters in my novel, The Unveiling, one stands out as a true hero. Chaim Rubin was a distant cousin who in 1920 left the safety of his home in New Jersey to return to  the war-torn shtetl, Skvira, in Ukraine to rescue over fifty suffering people. He helped them overcome the dangers and hurdles to escape first to Budapest, Romania, then Antwerp, Belgium, and finally to Ellis Island, New York.

My mother mentioned Chaim often while I was growing up in Pittsburgh. She was in awe of him. I never met him although his name was never far from my consciousness as the man who saved our family from the destitution of the shtetl following the Russian Revolution. Who knows what would have happened if they had not escaped...maybe they would have starved or been killed in a pogrom. If not, the Nazis would likely have wiped them out later.

When I interviewed my mother as I prepared to write The Unveiling, she could not explain how Chaim Rubin came to make the decision to undertake such a dangerous mission. She knew that her father and other family members had contributed money to help pay the expenses for the trip. My grandfather's sister and her family were also among those who needed to be rescued.

Once I began writing, my cousin, Carol Swartz, shared a photograph taken in Belgium of all of the people who were rescued as they were preparing to board the ship for the United States. Sitting in the middle of the large group was Chaim Rubin. That photograph provided some of the inspiration I needed to write the book.

Unexpectedly, a  few weeks ago, I began to hope that I could solve the myserty of our family's hero. Another cousin, Marvin Rubin, had made contact with Chaim Rubin's daughter, Etta Cantor. She read The Unveiling and wanted to meet me. She lives on Florida's east coast. Since I have been vacationing on the west coast,  her daughter, Bev Shane, was willing to drive to a luncheon meeting in Naples, Florida. Luckily, my cousin Carol was able to join us.

Leah Lambert, Etta Cantor and Carol Swartz

I felt an immediate bond with Etta, a lively, bright and curious woman, who shared her feelings of excitement when she read the section of The Unveiling that recounted her father's courage and selflessness. She wanted to know more about the people who inspired the other characters in my book. She remembered meeting quite a few.

I wanted to know more about her father. When I asked her what she thought motivated him to undertake such a harrowing mission, her first response was startling. "Maybe you should ask how his wife felt about him going on such a journey when she was home with two young children." But she did not elaborate on that angle.

As we talked about her father, she portrayed him as a very quiet, unassuming man who owned a candy store in New Jersey. He loved family and felt a sense of responsibility for them. Among the people he rescued from Skvira were his four brothers and their families. She said he never talked much about his experience although he had told her the same story my mother told me, about the woman who tried to quiet her crying baby and accidentally deprived it of oxygen and killed it.

Etta did have one new story to share. If I had heard it a few years ago, I would have included in The Unveiling. Before Chaim made the trip, he bought a camera. When he joined the others in wagons that carried them out of Ukraine, they all covered themselves with straw and hay to avoid detection. Some of the soldiers who were checking the wagons to prevent people from escaping, began poking through the straw to see what was there. A sword went through the camera and missed Chaim. He kept that camera for the rest of his life.

I am hoping to stay in touch with Etta and to learn more about her family.