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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Showcasing Chuck Weinblatt and his book Jacob's Courage and His Other Work

I was born in Toledo, Ohio in 1952.  I am a retired University of Toledo administrator.  I created, staffed and led a successful division called, Organization Development.  I am the author of Jacob's Courage: A Holocaust Love Story, Book Marketing 101, Runaway Ducks and Job Seeking Skills for Students.  My biography appears in the Marquis Who's Who in America and Who’s Who in American Education.  I live in Ohio and I am a reviewer for The New York Journal of Books.  I write published novels, short stories and articles.   

Tell us about the genre of your work. 
I’ve produced non-fiction (Job Seeking Skills for Students and Book Marketing 101), a children’s book (Runaway Ducks) and my debut novel of historical fiction, Jacob’s Courage: A Holocaust Love Story.  I’m currently nearing completion of a fascinating science fiction novel, Lost & Found (temporary title).  I am not pinned down to one or two genres.  However, I am best known for my tribute to victims of the Holocaust, Jacob’s Courage.  My favorite authors are: James Michener, Herman Wouk, Chaim Potok, Elie Weisel, Erich Fromm and Edgar Allen Poe.  My favorite genres are science fiction and horror fiction.  Stephen King and Tom Clancy are two other favorite authors.  I also very much enjoy the books of Jules Verne, Robert Heinline, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury and Rod Sterling.    

Why did you choose this genre? 

I chose science fiction because I love stories that stretch the reader’s imagination, display amazing new worlds, and interact with exciting new life forms and civilizations.  Perhaps more than any other genre, science fiction allows the author to stretch the reader’s imagination to the limit.  It is a genre in which anything goes.  This is an area in which bold story lines and very original characters thrive.
I selected historical fiction as a tribute to victims of the Holocaust, and to honor members of my mother’s family who perished in it.  I’ve long wished to write about the Holocaust in an epic way.  It was not until I retired that I had the time for such exhaustive research and writing.  While the novel has generated dozens of excellent reviews, one of the best and most descriptive came from The Toledo Free Press.  The editor called Jacob’s Courage “the Forrest Gump of the Holocaust” because young lovers walk through major historical events described in vivid detail.  As many of the reviews have noted, the novel allows readers to learn about Holocaust events while following convincing protagonists along the way. I am considering writing another novel about the Holocaust. 

What are some of your books, stories that have been published? 
My first book was published in 1987, called, Job Seeking Skills for Students (1987, Kendall-Hunt Publishing, ISBN, 978-9-76745-535-8).  This is a how-to book about job seeking from the perspective of a student or young person.  It covers resume writing, cover letters, interviewing skills, where to find job leads and it offers useful examples of each topic. 

My second published book was Jacob’s Courage (2007, Mazo Publishers, Jerusalem Israel, ISBN 978-9657344248 (ISBN-10, 9657344247,  This is a tender love story of two young adults living in Salzburg at the time when the Nazi war machine enters Austria.  This thrilling novel explores the dazzling beauty of young love, powerful faith and enduring bravery in a lurid world where the innocent are murdered.  Portions of the book are based upon pogroms against my 101-year-old mother and her family in Russia.  It is a powerful coming-of-age love story. You can read a sample of reviews and see the video trailer here: 
My next book was Book Marketing 101 (2009, Smashwords, ASIN: B0058EB5FM,  Readers learn how to maximize book sales with an effective author marketing campaign. Authors learn how to reach prospective readers with powerful and compelling methods that entice them to purchase the book.  Topics include how to promote your book with web site landing pages that offer excellent analytics, viral marketing, video trailers, public speaking, published articles, bookstore signings, e-mail and fax blasts, compelling reviews, book tours, international book fairs and conferences and media appearances. Additional topics include how to use compelling and persuasive reviews to generate sales. Authors are encouraged to create published articles that will deliver readers to his or her landing page. These methods will generate interest and help authors to manage their fan base with blogs, social networking and with e-mail marketing.

My fourth book is Runaway Ducks (2011, Smashwords, ISBN 978-1-4580-1711-6, ASIN: B0058EB5O8.  What happens when two young duck brothers run away from their safe pond to seek excitement in the woods? The pond is a safe place for young duck brothers Sam and Louie. Their mother told them never to go into the woods past the pond. But Louie was tired of the boring pond. He wanted a more exciting life. One day, Louie convinced little brother Sam to go with him into the woods. Instead of excitement, they found danger. Lost and afraid, will the two young ducks find home again?

My fifth book is a science fiction novel called Lost & Found (temporary title).  Lost & Found is a riveting science fiction tale of suspense, love, war and survival.  Deeply entrenched social overtones make this story appealing to the discriminating science-fiction reader.  We see a human astronaut whose mind is  cascaded into another solar system by a massive solar storm, downloaded into an alien body, who soon learns to hate an unseen enemy.  When finally presented with the enemy in person, all bets are off.  The enemy is not at all who he imagined it would be.  This is an abject lesson in sociology, psychology, racism and human destiny.
I have also had numerous articles published in various publications, including Wandering Educators, E-Zine, TRCB and Read the Spirit 

What ages do you direct your books? 
I’m across the spectrum on ages.  Most of my books are designed for the young adult or adult reader.  Jacob’s Courage was originally designed for adults.  However, it has been required reading for high school students.  Job Seeking Skills for Students was designed for high school to college aged readers, although I’ve used it with my consulting practice with unemployed adults.  Runaway Ducks was written for elementary school students.  Book Marketing 101 is for adults or young adult authors. My science fiction novel is for young adults and adults. 

Do your books have a teaching objective?  If so, what is it? 
Jacob’s Courage offers a history lesson on World War II in Europe and more specifically on the Nazi genocide against European Jews, beginning in 1938 and concluding after the end of WWII.  Fictional young Jewish lovers walk through real historical events through the course of the Holocaust.  From the Anschluss, the non-violent occupation of Austria by Nazi Germany, through ghettos and concentration camps and finally to the most famous Nazi death camp, Auschwitz, readers visit real historical events as seen through the eyes of our protagonists.
Book Marketing 101 teaches valuable lessons about how authors can and should market their books.  Self-published authors are completely on their own for distribution and marketing.  Even trade-published authors will be largely responsible for marketing after the first year.  It is a shame when well-written, interesting and valuable books languish because the author fails to deliver on distribution and marketing. 
Job Seeking Skills for Students provides all of the lessons required to conduct a successful job search. 
Runaway Ducks holds a lesson for children who seek excitement by running away.  The duck brothers who leave the pond in search of excitement instead experience fear, discomfort and danger.  This book has a classic, “there’s no place like home” ending, which is a lesson for all of us. 

How do you come up with the names of places and characters in your books?  

With my historical fiction novel, Jacob’s Courage, I was forced to conduct comprehensive research.  As an epic novel that occurs in various European locations, more than three years of daily research was required to place my protagonists into the precise locations of Nazi-enforced ghettos, concentration and death camps.  The names of Nazi leaders, SS officers, Czech partisans and concentration camp officials were used whenever possible. The names of protagonists and secondary characters arose from my imagination, attuned to the time and place. 

With Job Seeking Skills for Students, my first published book, I honored some select friends and family by using their names.  
With my other books, I simply created names of characters and places as needed.  There was no intent or purpose involved. 
How did you develop the character/s of your in each of your books?  
Character development was challenging for Jacob’s Courage.  I doubt if any novel can be considered valuable unless the personalities of the characters, especially the protagonists, are clear and well-developed.  The same can be said for my science fiction novel.  With Jacob’s Courage, one might suspect that the simple fact of “good” characters versus “evil” characters can make a novel sell.  Arguably few organizations in history could be as inherently evil as Nazi Germany and their localized purveyors of horror and death.  However, I believe that great novels are more about real people than archetypes.   Humans are rarely good or bad.  Events are not always black and white.  Reality is more than winners and losers. Today's discerning reader expects characters to be more like themselves – multifaceted, often chaotic individuals who possess characteristics both good and bad. Novels should not always be about traditional hero and villain archetypes. If we wish to emulate reality, then our good characters should become complex humans, with flaws, limitations, imperfections and faults. Our villains should possess some good qualities, as well. 

Psychiatry and psychology teaches us that no emotion pushes us to behave in a stronger sense than does guilt. There is no more manifest period in history than the Holocaust for conditions that produced massive guilt, even among the innocent victims, who felt guilty to survive when all of their loved ones were murdered.  I constructed characters aggravated constantly and aggressively by guilt. We are forever tortured by our past and guilt is the primary motivator in our decisions about the future. We can ignore it or learn from it, but we can never escape from it. I believe that it is impossible to write about the Holocaust without dosing our protagonists with guilt. In “Jacob's Courage” all of my characters are burdened by guilt – even the most innocent.

Characters living through the Holocaust were faced with the most perfidious forces. Deceit, brutality, cruelty, sickness, starvation and the death of loved ones were the daily companions of Holocaust victims. Novels about this time are by causality dark and precarious. Yet, in the midst of this despair, there was life, love, passion, desire, religious fervor and the excitement known only to children. Even in such hopeless desolation, there was love of God, infatuation, romance, passion and longing for all of the things that humans crave. Characters such as these must by nature embellish the widest range of human attributes. Such was the complex state of being in a Nazi concentration camp.

Jacob's Courage describes the Holocaust through the eyes of a normal Jewish family. If we speak only of heroic individuals battling against dark forces, then we dismiss the veracity of our nature. Humans are far more complex than such generic characters imply. Not all Jews imprisoned and tortured by Nazi Germany were good. Some became “kapos,” more ruthless than the SS. Not all Germans were bad. Some Nazis were riddled with guilt and expressed tender compassion for the imprisoned Jews. Yet, below the surface of brutality, we find the human instinct for life, liberty, love and compassion.

With the passage of time, most of the Jews in Nazi ghettos and concentration camps suspected that they would not survive. Yet, within these prison camps, captured Jews constructed synagogues, schools, and orchestras. They had civic leaders, medical clinics, commerce and religious celebrations. Hidden from the SS, these imprisoned Jews observed the covenants and rituals of Judaism, including holidays, marriage ceremonies, burials and circumcisions. Along the terrifying, sinister path to the gas chambers of Nazi-occupied Europe, Jews lived, loved, learned and died. Even in their darkest moments, the Jews of Nazi concentration camps fabricated a “normal” life for their progeny. Despite their impending mortality, they created a normal world on the inside to protect children from the raging genocide on the outside. Such was the nature of their love. Yet this love transcended parental affection. Judaism cannot survive without Jewish children.  They knew this and they protected their children to the greatest possible extent.

The same attitude about character development applies to my science fiction novel.  While the central protagonist should be honest, appealing and enduring, he or she should also remain a complex personality, with flaws and imperfections.  Those disordered and complex limitations make characters engaging and attractive – all the more human. I believe that today’s reader desires protagonists to be complex humans, with faults as well as strengths. 
Is there a unique character or a recurring character if you have more than one published or to be published book? 
The primary protagonist in Jacob’s Courage is a bright, compassionate teenager.  He is common in many ways.  This seventeen-year-old yearns for all of the typical adolescent ideations.  He is sexually inexperienced, but willing to explore sexuality with his true love. He adores and respects his family, especially his father, with whom he has an enduring and powerful relationship.  Jacob is like almost all his classmates.  He is possessed by visions of medical school, a career and a happy married life with his soul mate.  He is no more or less courageous than any of his friends.  Jacob is a typical teenager, planning for a life that was suddenly and permanently ripped away.
The same can be said of Jacob’s romantic obsession, Rachael.  In fact, the novel could just as easily have been called, “Rachael’s Courage.”  She is a beautiful, shy and bright teenager.  Her deep love for Jacob would be tested by the most unimagined and terrifying circumstances.  Rachael, separated from Jacob is molested by a Nazi camp commandant and she becomes pregnant.  Somehow, she must find the daring, audacity and fortitude not only to survive, but to save her beloved Jacob, imprisoned in Auschwitz.  
These are complex humans with character flaws and liabilities.  But their hearts are pure and unencumbered by remorse or indecision.  Their love is so powerful that life without each other is not worth living.  This generates the courage to do anything, to overcome any obstacle and to remain together forever.  It causes Rachael to break INTO Auschwitz, in an effort to save her precious Jacob.  These are the compelling people we love to know in books and films.  They are flawed, like the rest of us.  But under conditions of unimagined duress, they find the courage to save each other.  They do what each of us hopes that we could do, under conditions of horror and dread. 
I left the ending of Jacob’s Courage deliberately vague enough to sustain characters in a sequel.  That novel would occur in nascent Israel.  It was my plan to leave open the potential for sustained character presence. 
What is your favorite thing about your books? 
The favorite thing about my books is that they are all so very different from each other.  My non-fiction books are for authors and for young job seekers.  My fiction books are for children, for young adults and for adults.  There is no rhyme or reason in this, except for the fact that after writing my Holocaust book, I needed something very different (the children’s book) to clear my mind.  
I think that some authors enjoy testing themselves by placing their skill into very different circumstances. I have four published books; yet each one resides in a different genre from the rest.  I believe that authors often tend to find success in one or two genres, which is fine.  Discovering a warm home in which their talents lie, authors tend to feel contented and they continue to write in the same genre. I love science fiction.  I’ve been writing science fiction since I was a teenager.  I feel completely comfortable there. Yet, strangely, that is the only major genre in which I haven’t yet been published.  Perhaps I’ve wanted to test myself by writing successfully in other genres first.  But, more likely, I’ve produced books that seemed to be appropriate to the time and circumstances of my life. 
Perhaps the “favorite” thing about my books is that I was able to generate a novel that told the story of a typical Jewish family in the Holocaust.  From comfortable lives in Austria, my fictional family was subjected to terror, sickness, starvation, forced labor and murder.  This was a long, horrible road to eventual death.  Out of 9 million Jews in Europe, 6 million were murdered, including at least 1.5 million children.  These families lost everything, their money, homes, valuables, safety and eventually their lives.  The survivors typically lost everyone that they knew and loved.  They had no homes to return to, because the homes had been taken by others in his or her absence.  
Had I been born just nine years earlier in Europe, I would likely have perished in an appalling concentration camp.  While the results of the Holocaust in no way diminish the victims of other genocides, there is a special place in my heart for members of my religion, including members of my family, who were murdered by Nazis only because they were Jews.  
Is your book illustrated?  If so, would you tell us by whom, and if you worked with an illustrator, can you discuss that experience? 
My children’s book would be appropriate for illustration.  However, I did not want to pay for an illustrator only to have a publisher later desire to use their own illustrator.  Should a publisher find the book worth their investment, time and effort, I will gladly entertain their illustration recommendation.  I should add that my daughter designed all but one of my book covers.  A professional advertising art director, she is experienced in creating successful covers.  My publisher agreed to use her talent and he was pleased with the result.  If you know of a talented graphic designer or artist, feel free to use or recommend them.  My publisher (for Jacob’s Courage) had no issue with it and was pleased with the results. 
Are there any problems in getting children’s’ books published? 
Children’s books are very different from others in terms of being published. They exist in some specific delineated lines, including: Board books: 0-3. Picture books: 3-7. Chapter book/Early readers: 5-8. Middle Grade: 8-12. YA: 12 and above. Many children’s publishers focus on one specific group and they have their own preferred illustrators.  Publishers today seek originality in children’s books.  Yet, the majority of children’s authors try to find comfort in the successes of prior generations.  Frankly, it is so difficult to be traditionally published for a children’s book, that many such authors self-publish.  They create a manuscript and e-publish it.  Or, they hire an illustrator and print the book on his or her own.  But, that is no guarantee of success.    Obtaining a contract from a talented and successful literary agent for children’s books can be at least as difficult as finding a publisher on your own.  But agents can open doors for children’s authors. 
I wrote my children’s book not to be published, but to clear my mind from three years of daily effort writing about the Holocaust, which was an emotionally draining effort.  Should a publisher one day express an interest in Runaway Ducks, I would be pleased.  But I will certainly not stop writing future books in anticipation of a children’s book publisher. 
Why and when did you begin writing? 
I began writing at age five and I’ve never stopped. Why?  I was an only child.  I had to do something constructive with my time.  Writing is arguably my only skill.  I’m terrible with math and dangerous with tools.  No other choice. 
What is your writing schedule? 
I am happily retired from higher education.  I write as a hobby, rather than as a profession. I have no set schedule.  That being said, I try to write or conduct research for a book, every day.  There are times when I am on a roll.  I might then write several hours per day, possibly for several days.  When I’m not “on a roll,” I devote more time to research.  Of course, being productive does not always equate to being successful.  
I spend as much time marketing my books each day as I do writing.  Even when a book has been trade-published, the author must devote considerable time, effort and expense on marketing.  Authors must be involved with public speaking, media appearances, bookstore signings and Facebook fan pages.  Authors must engage readers with blogs, web sites, social networking, media interviews, fan management and e-mail marketing.  In addition to writing more books, authors need to learn how to create a winning web site landing page for each book, as well as successful video trailers.  Adept social networking and viral marketing techniques are the rage today. Ignore them at your own risk. 

I have a blog for novice authors that covers publishing and marketing ( and I have a book to address successful author book marketing techniques, Book Marketing 101 (  While this is not rocket science, it does eat up large amounts of time.  Self-published authors should be forewarned that they will be responsible for massive amounts of time and effort, including obtaining persuasive reviews from compelling sources, arranging global distribution contracts, handling all facets of marketing, warehousing, stocking, restocking and sales.  Trade-published authors will have a publisher to handle many of these tasks.  But even those authors will be responsible for other marketing tasks.  
What projects are you working on now, or plan for the future? 
My science fiction novel has top priority now.  It’s about two months from being completed.  Then I’ll need to handle editing and finding a publisher.   
For the future, I’m thinking about a sequel for Jacob’s Courage. I left the ending in a perfect spot for a sequel.  If so, it would take place in nascent Israel, circa 1950.  The heroes of Jacob’s Courage are perfectly situated to remain heroes in the creation of Israel and the defense of the new Jewish state. 
 I also have an interest in writing another Holocaust novel.  There are six million stories to tell.
What kind of advice or tips do you have for someone who wants to write and get published? 
If you feel uncomfortable about your skill level, take courses in writing.  The more you understand about character development, dialog, narrative and timing, the better your books will become.  This can be accomplished in local classrooms or through your computer.  Many universities and community colleges or even adult education centers offer such assistance.
I also recommend a large dose of patience.  It can take years to create a new book.  Then, it can take months to have it professionally edited (never send an unedited manuscript to a publisher or agent).  It can then take several weeks to create a winning publishing proposal.  One does not simply write a book and then send the manuscript to publishers.  Publishers do not read unsolicited manuscripts.  The winning publishing proposal will have at least at least one page each devoted to: sales attributes, marketability, a biography, synopsis, market analysis, competitive analysis and marketing strategies. 

 You must describe in demographic terms, which reader will purchase the book, where they exist and why they will desire it.  Then, you’ll need to explain, by comparison, why your book is a better bet for marketplace success than similar books.  This winning proposal can take weeks or months to complete successfully.   
One should never sign a publishing contract unless it’s the BEST contract offer.  For Jacob’s Courage, I had to send out almost a hundred proposals to publishers in order to generate four sold contract offers, excluding vanity publishers.  The very last offer turned out to be the best one.  So, PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE.  
Are there any other comments, advice or tips that you would give to beginning writers? 
It can be tempting to self-publish.  I’ve done it twice.  For everything, there is a season.  If you write non-fiction, self-publishing can be the best way to publish.  It’s fast, fairly easy, and you will control all aspects of the process.
If you write fiction, consider the value of traditional publishing.  A trade publisher will have a professional staff ready to make your book perfect, including proficient editors, graphic designers, global distribution contracts, the best printers, compelling reviews from the most persuasive review sources, representation at global book fairs, conventions and conferences and extensive marketing, at least through the first year.  Trade publishers will help you with e-mail and fax-blasts, web site landing pages, catalog marketing, video trailers, media spots, newspaper and magazine interviews, published articles, book tours and bookstore signings.  Remember that trade publishers only earn a profit from sold books.  Thus, they will do whatever is necessary to distribute and market your book.  If you self-publish, you will be responsible for all of the above, including the cost (typically several thousand dollars).   
Finally, never stop writing.  If you doubt your ability, or someone has suggested you need help, take writing courses.  Most universities and community colleges offer continuing education courses for writers.  Some English departments have their own continuing education.  Even when you have been published, continue writing.  Like any other talent, you will become a better author with practice.  
What do you do when you are not writing?  
I love music, especially classical music.  I’m also interested in ornithology and astronomy.  Add to that sports and movies.  But the most important part of my life when I’m not writing is my family. 
Anything else you would like to add? 
If you think that you might be a talented writer, then write forever and continually try be published. Use rejection as a tool.  I’ve loved writing all my life.  Yet, I never thought I could be published until 1987, when a textbook publishing company offered a contract and an advance for a book that took only three months to write (on a typewriter!).  Twenty years later, when I was forced into early retirement by disability, I wrote another book (Jacob’s Courage).  Yet, I still doubted my ability to be published.  After I was offered contracts by traditional publishers for my novel, I began to believe that my talent is marketable.  If you believe in yourself as a writer, remain persistent.  You can become successful. 
What “Made It” moments have you experienced in life? 
The most important part of my life is my family.  So, I would say that falling in love and marrying my high school sweetheart was the biggest “made it” moment in my life.  That would be followed closely by the birth of our two children and then watching them mature to be successful adults.  If I had experienced nothing else of significance in my life, I would have remained happy and satisfied to the end. 
My professional life, like all others, has been an exercise in meeting obstacles, experimentation, failing, being persistent, developing confidence and taking advantage of breaks. If someone had told me thirty years ago that I would one day be able to design, staff and administer my own university division, I would have recommended a good psychiatrist.  Yet this occurred less than two years after I was stuck in a dead-end job, timing watches in a cold, damp basement for minimum wage.  My highest hopes never reached close to that level of success at a university.  So, becoming a university director was another significant “made it” moment in my life. 
I have learned that success is a result of the acquisition and retention of knowledge, the ability to communicate effectively and the willingness to take calculated risks.  The same applies to writing.  All writers experience failure.  It goes with the territory.  But if you acquire knowledge about writing, if you learn from your mistakes and you take calculated risks, you can be successful as an author.  I’ve had two “made it” moments with being published.  Those moments remain the icing on the cake of my life.

Blogs & Web Sites
Author Summary:
My blog on writing and publishing:
New York Journal of Books Reviewer Page:

Author Articles/Interviews 
Jewish Literary Review Interview:
Wandering Educators:
Joey Pinkney Interview:
Morgen Bailey:
Toledo Blade:
Toledo Free Press November 2010:
Barnes & Noble:
Synopsis & Video Book Trailer:

You can visit my other blog at: that features a preview to my new book that will be released in 2012, Traveling a Rocky Road with Love, Faith and Guts.

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