Blog Posts Joel's Posts

Crime and Penmanship

A ghostwriting career can bring you into contact with some interesting people.  Like gangsters.

We’ve actually had three come our way.

Gangster #1 was the co-founder of a notorious Miami street gang — which was also a local hip hop crew that played venues with the likes of L’il Wayne and WuTang Clan.  The gang split up for good when his partner was gunned down and he was afraid of following suit. When we interviewed him for the book, he would come to our place packing heat, until Lisa, not exactly the poster girl for the NRA, asked him to leave his gun in the car. He agreed, but, the next time he showed up, I had a feeling…and I asked him what he had on him. He sheepishly showed me a much smaller handgun sticking out of his pants pocket. We never got to finish that book because…well, we’re not sure why. Except maybe he thought a tell-all would be further injurious to his ongoing existence.

Gangster #2 was involved in the notorious Whitey Bulger gang in South Boston. He had already had a bestselling book about his exploits (written by a different ghostwriter) and was looking to do some kind of follow-up. Specifically, he wanted to do a self-help book from the perspective of a guy who bashed a few heads in, sort of an “I’m OK – You’re Bleeding Heavily” thing. We never got to finish that one, because there’s a movie about him that might get made, which would up the price for a book sale substantially. Hopefully, we’ll get back into that one.

Third time’s the charm. A little over a year ago, while we still lived in Miami, we met Gangster #3, Christian Valdes, a Cuban-American who managed several of the notorious South Florida “pill mills” a few years ago. We liked Christian and his wife Crystal immediately – and we thought his story was awesome.  It ended up being a lot of fun writing it – and the best part was, we actually got to finish it.

That’s Christian below. Don’t worry, the bullet holes are only tattoos.

cropped christian backcropped christian


The final result, Pill Mill, is coming out on Amazon soon…here’s what we wrote for Chris to help market it:

For 5 years, Christian Valdes was at the center of the biggest drug operation in America.  

It was an operation that became internationally notorious, insanely violent and nonstop freaky.  It made its kingpins millions and millions of dollars, and it made Valdes as much money as he could possibly make in a day — because there were endless numbers of people lining up for what he had the power to give them. 

Those people were willing to do just about anything to get it.  With the men, that generally meant money.  With the women, that meant money – and almost any kind of sexual arrangement Valdes proposed.    

And the interesting part about this operation? It was completely legal.    

From 2000 to 2009, Florida’s incredibly lax prescription drug laws fueled a huge spike in so-called pain management clinics, especially in the Fort Lauderdale-Miami area. CNN and other national news media outlets tagged these clinics as “Pill Mills” — and with good reason.  When Valdes managed them, they gave out heavy-hitter drugs like Xanax, Percocet, Oxycontin, Roxicodone and Methadone just like they were candy.  And because the Sunshine State kept everybody in the dark about who was prescribing what, somebody could easily go into one clinic and get some Oxy and then head over to a different clinic for some more a few minutes later. 

Valdes helped a whole lot of people do just that – including a posse of strippers he sponsored – because he was running his own operation within the operation.

Pill Mill is his no-holds-barred memoir of life in the center of the action as the whole pain clinic scam spiraled out of control.  In this book, you’ll hear this full-blooded Cuban’s whole story – from the rough-and-tumble childhood and high school years that shaped him; to how he started dealing weed and eventually began growing it himself; to how he quickly learned how to work the pill mill scam and how he recruited friends and family to help him make the most money in the fastest amount possible; to how Hurricane Wilma almost put him behind bars for who knows how many years. 

Valdes also reveals the major players behind the pill mill scandals, talks about his frightening and sometimes hilarious conflicts with psychotic junkie patients and takes the reader inside one of the most notorious “Jungle Houses” of the time – a sad excuse for a clinic where junkies zoned out at a backyard barbeque, dozens of drug deals went down, and the owner, the infamous “Pill Mill” Vinny, sat behind a desk with over 200 grand in cash piled on top of it.

For the first time, this book offers an insider’s look at what happened when Florida became ground zero for pain pill abuse.  At one point, the country’s top 50 prescription pain pill sellers were ALL in Florida – and 33 of those 50 were in Broward County, where Valdes got involved in the racket.  There were more than 150 storefront pain clinics in Broward at the height of the madness.

This is a story that has yet to be told in movies, TV shows or even in another book.  This is a story that could only happen in South Florida.  Just like Christian Valdes is a guy you would only find in South Florida.



Blog Posts

Our awesome client, Keyon Dooling…

NBA vet Keyon Dooling had an amazing story to tell and we were proud he allowed us to help him tell it.  Click here to check it out…

Keyon and meJoel and friend.

Blog Posts Lisa's Posts

From Idea to Manuscript in Less than Three Months?

Carol Erb, PhD and Copy Coach Lisa discuss the book coaching experience…

If you’ve been considering writing a book with a copy coach (like me!) you might be wondering what that might look or feel like.  Instead of just telling you, I thought I’d enlist the help of one of my favorite clients, marriage therapist Carol Erb, PhD, to help me explain.

Carol recently completed her manuscript for Enveloped, a memoir about surviving divorce and betrayal and going on to live a rich, fulfilling life that’s taken her places she never expected to go (including becoming an author!).  It’s an amazing book, but what’s even more amazing is the fact that she completed the manuscript in about 12 weeks.  Want to know how she did it?  Read on…

CAROL: I spoke with you when I was first interviewing coaches and ghostwriters, and I liked your enthusiasm and you were fun and enjoyable to talk to.  But a literary agent was interested in my book and the literary agent recommended another coach/ghostwriter to work with – the coach was familiar with the Christian genre and I thought that would align well with the literary agent.

The result was basically total disappointment.  He was late or would cancel our coaching calls and reschedule, which was very frustrating.  He also under delivered – the book was supposed to be done in 3-4 months, but I only had 1/3 of a manuscript at 7 months.  Plus, I learned that having a male assist me was not a good fit – he didn’t write in my voice, so “my” book didn’t sound like me.

So I called you again, and you made me feel extremely comfortable and unashamed about hiring you to work with me even though I had passed you over initially.  I hired you because I got such a good feeling the first time we talked, and also because you believed in me and you had a specific plan for me.

LISA:      How did we get started?

CAROL: I gave you a basic overview of my book and then you helped me begin with a timeline.  We discussed the content of each upcoming chapter weekly and then you helped me narrow down what to write about for that chapter.

LISA:      What was different about working with me?

CAROL: The other writer took control and did the writing himself — I just gave him suggestions, and the longer we worked together, it became more of his book than mine. You saw my abilities and encouraged me to write my book myself.

LISA:      Why did our system work for you?

CAROL: Because you believed in me as a writer and didn’t let me get off easy by saying you would do the writing — it gave me the confidence that I could write and you affirmed that in me.  It was extremely empowering to me. Because of that confidence I soared and the book turned from just a book tomy book!

I could not believe how easy you made the entire book writing process.  You held my hand and led the way.  I trusted you and believed in you as my book coach.  You became a personal friend on my journey, which for me was totally unexpected.

It was so natural and so easy for me.  The whole experience of writing my book was more like sitting down on a cozy loveseat with a friend, coffee in hand, telling a story.

LISA:      How were you able to stay on track?

CAROL:  I had a total vision from start to finish because of your direction.  It helped immensely to have our coaching calls recorded so I could review them later.  It was also a help for me when I needed another eye on my manuscript and especially when I needed some tweaking when transitioning a new chapter or introducing a new thought.

LISA:      How did you feel about the amount of time it took?

CAROL: Personally I was totally amazed that I wrote my book in 11 weeks.  I was a maniac at the computer!  I was also highly motivated — which helped. LOL

It was easy to write, but the concentration, laser focus and time devoted to writing is not for the faint of heart.  That said, there is a tremendous feeling of authenticity and satisfaction that has come to me in my ability to say I am an author — because I wrote the book myself.

LISA:      Do you think it’s possible for other people to finish a manuscript as fast as you did?

CAROL: Yes.  But they have to be invested in the project and know that it will be what they are focused on for those few months.  Their social life and everything else has to be put on hold. And it doesn’t hurt to have a husband or partner who makes your breakfast, lunch and dinner for you while you write!

LISA:      How long do you think it would have taken you to write it on your own?

CAROL: I would not have written this on my own.  I needed someone to believe in me, guide me, encourage me, cry with me and laugh with me through the process.

LISA:      Any advice you would give someone else who’s trying to write a book?

CAROL: Writing a book is a deeply personal journey. A book represents every aspect of yourself — your experiences, your thoughts and feelings. You must have a book coach who is respectful of the totality of who you are.  If you don’t feel you have a good fit with your coach, you most likely will not write authentically because you may very well hold back in your writing due to fear of rejection or fear that what you have to say is not worthy to be read.  You must have the confidence that your coach believes in you, has your best interest in mind, is trustworthy when you need correction and you both honor each other in your work together.

LISA:      Thanks so much Carol, I know this will be a big help to people who are wondering what the book coaching experience is like.  I can’t wait to see the finished product!

So…what have we learned?  If you’re planning to write your own book, be prepared to have no life…at least for a while!  But if you stick with it, it really can (and will) happen.  And if you need some help, check me out at

Carol’s book, Enveloped, is due to be published in June of this year.  Find out more about her at

Blog Posts Lisa's Posts

Writer’s Block…The Experience!

A week or so ago, I made what I thought was a no-brainer of a commitment.  I promised myself that I would blog once a week.  Since writing is a big part of my job, this seemed like a pretty simple task.  I’d just sit at my desk and, instead of spending the next 45 minutes or so writing for one of my clients, I’d write for me.

I’m embarrassed to say I’ve always been too lazy to blog.  But I know how important it is to be “visible” and get “exposure” and have a “platform.”  And since I’m a writer, there’s probably not a better showcase for my writerly brilliance than an opportunity to write about whatever I want, right?

So I decided, yes, I would do this.  I started last week.  And, ohmigod, it was easy.  In less than an hour, I had a blog post that didn’t make me want to throw up, all written and ready to go.  I was on such a high, I even came up with concepts for my next two posts, just because I COULD, dammit!  This blogging thing?  It was gonna be cake.

So…that was last week.

Flash forward to yesterday (which I guess would be flashing backward?), when I had decided I was going to write my next blog.  I had the topic all ready to go – my son David, a college junior, just got an internship and started writing semi-professionally.  I had decided to write about how he was my first “coaching client.”

It was going to be hilarious, and meaningful, and relatable, and all those good things.

But when I sat down to write, all that came out were a random series of thoughts and sentences and beginnings and middles that had essentially no relation to each other, except that they somehow involved my kid.

Where were the brilliant sentences, the hilarious one-liners, the clever turns of phrase?

They were buried somewhere deep in my brain – if they had ever really existed at all.  Because, horror of horrors, I had writer’s block.

Ordinarily, writer’s block is something I know how to deal with.  I have a system I use and everything – since writing can be essential to my being able to eat.   That system is, in a nutshell, stop trying to be so creative and just write the facts.

Just.  The.  Facts.

That’s when I realized I had forgotten what the facts were.

What was it I had wanted to write about Dave in the first place?  and why was I so sure it would be clever and interesting and funny?  Because, hey, from where I was sitting, it looked more like a pile of self-indulgent drivel.

So I moved on Plan B — Write Something Else.  And decided that, since I was in the midst of a genuine, real-life episode of writer’s block, I could write about that.  After all, wouldn’t that be valuable and interesting? For a writer to share a real-time, warts and all look at what writer’s block looks and feels like?

Guess what happened when I opened a new file and started writing about writer’s block?

Well…nothing you’re going to see here.

So it was on to Plan C – also known as, Screw This – I’ll Write it Tomorrow.

Which is today.

And that’s basically why you’re reading this now, instead of some amazingly witty essay effortlessly illustrating the many hilarious parallels between parenting and coaching.

But I did manage to write something.  And sometimes, when you have writer’s block, something is enough.


Video: Copy Therapy

Ghostwriter Joel gets some much-needed treatment from Copy Coach Lisa…

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Video: How We Beat Writer’s Block

Copy Coach Lisa and Ghostwriter Joel share their secrets for beating Writer’s Block.