book promotion, Uncategorized

Writing DaysZ 5

Returning to the lanai with a mug of Guatemala Antigua, I attempt to ignore the TV lest it throw me off my thought track but am caught by whoops of frivolity from the morning news team. The news ticker scrolling at the bottom of the screen reports a night club shooting that left 6 dead. Live onscreen, a bleached blond fakes intense interest in a guy with a perfectly groomed unshaven look telling us about a restaurant named Prunes. They serve tripe. He hilariously tells how he and his friends held a contest to see who could eat the grossest things. Knee slapping follows. The ticker quotes a man mourning his murdered younger brother.

Bob vs the Aliens
To read Writing DaysZ 1-4, go to

Whooping News Loonies

+++The dirt road from town ended at sunset at a railroad track with a small waystation, two stories, one floor each with wooden stairs up the outside. They entered to find living space on the ground floor and an office upstairs. “That computer work?” Old Spice wondered. “My people are busy preparing to depart in the morning and I have urgent questions.”
+++“There’s a TV downstairs,” Piper said. “I’ll check it for news.”
+++“Good for you two. Somebody’s out to kill us and we know nothing.” Bob stood at the window looking back down the road. “Those townspeople know where this road goes. We’re sitting ducks if they’re asked about us. So, if you two think information from a computer and a TV can save us, who am I to -”
+++“Don’t start, Bob!” Piper warned as she went out. “We need to rest tonight. We’ll leave at first light.” He followed her down the stairs.
+++The living quarters were cramped. There was an exposed commode in one corner, a small table with a single chair, a bed, nightstand, TV and many boxes of, so far as Bob could tell, useless personal effects. He did find a gun in the nightstand, a Colt Police revolver, older than he and Piper put together. But it was a Colt and it looked safe to fire. There was a box of .38 calibre Black Talons with six cartridges missing. He checked the cylinder. The gun was loaded. “Piper, look. These babies go right through heavy clothing and expand to twice their size. If the shock doesn’t kill ’em the wound cavity will.” His satisfaction faded in her glare.
+++“Kill them? Who, exactly, do you wish to kill, Bob?”
+++“Anybody I have to.”
+++“Is that what you want?”
+++“It is my fervent prayer that if I have to kill someone, I can. Yes.”
+++“Are you two married?” Both turned to see Spice grinning at them from the doorway. “Congratulations! I am sorry I missed your ceremony. Was it at the Occupy Churches booth in town?”
+++“No!” they told him.
+++“Well, you should be. You argue so needlessly together.”
+++They glared accusingly at each other. She recovered first. “Spice, what did you learn on the computer?”
+++The Alien sighed, ticking off points on his fingers. “Computers are not fast when you have to wait for updates. Search engines are commercial spinmeisters designed to offer you goods or services, no matter the inquiry. News sites are slow to load and clunky with ads. Every time I began reading, the text jumped because something else loaded.” He shuddered. “They’re selling t-shirts with my picture on them.” His round figure seemed to sag.
+++“Nothing useful.” Bob’s tone was flat.
+++“The TV,” Piper said hopefully.
+++Bob’s dismissive, “Right,” dismissed her suggestion.
+++“To conclude my report,” Spice distinctly enunciated for their attention before Piper could retort, “The many ads for electrical generators indicate an expanding market.”
+++Two newsreaders on Channel 2 Eyewitness News fawned over cute little kids being interviewed for their opinion of the Atlanta blackout while at the bottom of the screen the news ticker scrolled, “Power outages continue to spread along the Eastern Seaboard.”
+++“Well,” said a darling little girl with a bright smile and clever eyes, “It’s spreading so fast. It’s not the Atlanta blackout. It’s the Atlantic blackout!”
+++“She’s so darling!” gushed the sexy blonde newsreader. “Isn’t she just bright for her age?”
+++“And clever,” agreed her sensitive looking male counterpart, who, squarely facing the camera, warned, “Coming up, a new study on how many of various ethnic groups does it take to change a light bulb reveals outrageous bias in the workplace.” He was interrupted by a candy commercial featuring cartoon aliens dancing in M&M t-shirts.
+++“Learning much?” Bob needled.
+++As first light pushed dawn across Alabama, a canister fell to ground outside the way station. It did not bounce. Odd, thought Bob, who happened to be exiting a nearby bush. One end gleamed in purple and gold, the sheen coming from a two-inch emblem capping the two-foot tube. Its colors shifted in the morning light and formed bold patterns as he approached. Suddenly, it shouted at him, “Halt! Waqfa! Alto! Tíngzhi! Arrêtez!” and switched to English when he halted at, “Stop!”
+++“Warning! Tampering by unauthorized persons voids warranty. Except as may be otherwise provided by applicable law, PodDrop, Ltd. disclaims all implied covenants and warranties of merchantability and fitness. Do not return this product to the store.”
+++Spice came out. “Nice landing for an orbital drop.” He kicked the thing. It fell silent and flowered open to reveal 3 floppy brim hats and a strange looking handgun.
+++“That a ray gun?”
+++“It is a disintegrating ray gun, yes.” Spice handed it to him, along with one of the hats. “Wear this smuggler’s hat whenever you are outdoors. The top reflects whatever is below – with you edited out. The effect is that you do not show up on satellite cameras.”
+++Bob plopped the hat on his head and hefted the multi-colored weapon. The strange form fitted his hand perfectly. “What happens to someone hit by the ray?”
+++“They stop bothering us.”
+++“I don’t see a trigger.”
+++“Just point the gun at attackers and lick that red spot.”
+++“It’s a safety feature. Can’t have that thing going off accidentally. And use the it sparingly. It’s a single shot prototype, specially made by our ship’s armorer.”
+++“I’ll be careful. How do I reload it?”
+++“You don’t. It disintegrates after one shot. Can’t have that kind of technology falling into primitive hands.”
+++At Spice’s touch, the impressive emblem seemed to leap into his hand. He stared at it thoughtfully for a moment before pocketing it. “Come inside, please. I need to talk with you and Piper before we set out.”
+++“You awake?” Bob thought Piper looked attractive sitting up in bed so early in the morning.
+++She waved at the TV showing a happy old man basking in the passionate embrace of a younger woman while a clinical voice warned the drug might cause blindness. “Everything looks pretty normal.”
+++“Piper, Bob?” The Alien pulled himself up to his full three-foot height. “My people left.”
+++“Thanks, Piper.” He handed her a hat. “Before they departed, I received instructions. We are to follow the railroad tracks outside to Ambrose Phoenix’s vault in the Rocky Mountains near Denver without letting Stene kill us.”
+++“That’s the plan? We walk from Alabama to Colorado while missile-firing helicopters hunt us?”
+++Piper laughed at him. “Sorry, Bob. But you look so funny standing there in a floppy hat waving a toy gun.”
+++“It’s not a toy.” Bob sat in the only chair and Spice perched on the open commode.
+++“No.” Spice explained the hat and ray gun to her. “And we don’t have to walk. There’s a railroad hand car in the back.”
+++Bob rolled his eyes at the ceiling.
+++“But there’s little else I can tell you,” the Alien continued, one eye glaring at Bob. “Ambrose and Stene have been on Earth a long time.” He stared with both eyes at the floor. “Really. A very long time. That Per bureaucracy-” He shook his head and continued, “Ambrose accepts it as part of their assignment from the Per and is willing to help us. But Stene feels stranded. He wants to trade me to the Ubilaz in exchange for passage off the planet.”
+++“Wait,” Piper exclaimed, “Stop! Ambrose and Stene you mentioned before. But who are the Per? Or the Ubilaz and why do they want you?
+++“Ambrose and Stene work for the Per, who are the oldest intelligent life forms in the universe. The Ubilaz are a third rate bunch of nasty newcomers who will agree to anything to acquire the secret of Orlog. They don’t care if Stene kills me. They know my family will give them the secret, just to get my body back.”
+++“Good questions,” Bob nodded approvingly at Piper. “But Spice, what is Orlog?”
+++The TV announced natural, organic hair colors in hot pink and sparkling purple hues.
+++“And why,” asked Piper, obviously pleased by Bob’s compliment, “Does your family have such an important secret?”
+++“I’ve been authorized to reveal information about Ambrose and Stene, the Ubilaz and the Per. But not Orlog. I know nothing of the last anyway and little about the first four.” Rising from the commode, he clenched his fists and stomped both feet in frustration. “I sense my father’s hand in this!”
+++Piper leaned ever so slightly towards him. “Your father?”
+++“He never liked me. I am the least favorite of his offspring. It is just like him to leave me marooned here. What does he care if he gets a body back! Family honor will be enhanced if I die in my new post.” He took a deep breath and solemnly pronounced, “I have been promoted to Mission Commander.”
+++“Oh,” swooned Piper. “Congratulations!”
+++“After everybody else in the mission departed,” noted Bob. “ConGrats.”
+++Their attention turned to the morning newscast because people were screaming in the background. “We are constantly saving time. But in spite of this, we have less and less. Why is this? Don’t miss Geraldo Rivera’s séance with Christopher Reeve, Somewhere There’s Time. This evening at nine.” Photogenic women on either side of the announcer beamed at him. “That will be so much fun!” said one, “I can’t wait.” The other woman laughed and laughed as the camera panned out to show the studio stage in the center of a crowd of people who were ecstatic about appearing on television.
+++“The word ‘loonies’ comes to mind,” said Spice in all seriousness. “Is that them?”
+++“No.” said Piper. “That’s news entertainment.”
+++“Yes.” said Bob. “But unfortunately, we can’t spend our day being entertained by the news. Grab your stuff and let’s find that handcar.” He was the last out. Holding the Colt revolver in one hand, he reached with the other to shut off the TV. The news ticker was listing cancelled airline flights, a phenomenon that appeared to be spreading across the nation, along with warnings about gas stations shutting down. The screen showed dolphins jumping through rush hour traffic and flashed the name of an electric car maker before the scene switched to a familiar lizard selling car insurance. Bob shot the TV.
+++Piper rushed him as he stepped out the door. “Bob! Are you alright? What happened?”
+++“I’m fine. I just shot a pest.” He’d always wanted to do that.
+++They found the railroad handcar just as helicopters sounded in the distance.

My own TV news team is telling me that one presidential candidate sold State Department favors and the other plans internment camps for immigrants. Neither assertion is true, of course. They’re just straw man arguments. But a vigorous debate follows in which both candidates are trashed as though the assertions were true. Straw Men. They’re everywhere, like alien bug-eyed-monsters, grabbing our attention. Which is what straw men do, grab attention.  “Straw man n. 2. An argument or opponent set up so as to be easily refuted or defeated. – American Heritage Dictionary, Fourth Edition.” It’s the first step of spin.

Debatable Arguments

… to be continued
(Follow Writing DaysZ to read Bob Vs The Aliens as it is being written. To read Writing DaysZ 1-4, go to

About Writers, reading

The First Named Author

Enheduanna(Above:  Enheduanna, her Estate Manager Adda, her hair dresser Ilum Palilis, and her scribe Sagadu.)

Enheduanna. En (chief priestess) hedu (ornament) anna (of the Sky God, An) died in 2250 BC at the age of 35, having written poems for all ages. Her words,
“How she carried beauty like the rising moonlight”
reminds one of Byron’s,
“She walked in beauty like the night.”
Poets are timeless.

As the daughter of Sargon The Great, whether that was a title of blood or conferred by decree, Enheduanna was tasked by Sargon to aid him in the unification of the various peoples he had conquered. She contributed by writing hymms to be sung in seven temples throughout Sumeria. (I suppose this means she was also the first propagandist 🙂 )

“Sargon placed enormous trust in Enheduanna in elevating her to the position of high priestess of the most important temple in Sumer [Ur] and leaving to her the responsibility for melding the Sumerian gods with the Akkadian ones to create the stability his empire needed to thrive. Further, she is credited with creating the paradigms of poetry, psalms, and prayers used throughout the ancient world. … Through the Babylonians, they influenced and inspired the prayers and psalms of the Hebrew Bible and the Homeric hymns of Greece.”
– Joshua J. Mark, published on 24 March 2014,

Enheduanna addressed her poetry to gods but it was often deeply personal. When temple intrigues forced her into exile, she wrote,
“I, accustomed to triumph, have been driven forth from my house
and made to walk among the mountain thorns.
The life-giving tiara of En-ship was taken from me.
Eunuchs were assigned to me –
‘These are becoming to you,’ it was told me.
The fruitful bed has been abolished
so that I have not interpreted to man the commands of Ningal.
I no longer dwell in the goodly place You established.
By day, the sun scorches me,
By night, the shade overwhelms me,
My honey-sweet voice has become strident,
Whatever gave me pleasure has turned into dust.”

It’s hard to keep a good poet, and daughter of Sargon, down. Enheduanna was restored to her position. Her works became known throughout the ancient world for another 2,000 years. She was discovered again in 1927 at the Sumerian site of UR, depicted on a calcite disc.
“The royal inscription on the disc, reads: ‘Enheduanna, zirru-priestess, wife of the god Nanna, daughter of Sargon, king of the world, in the temple of the goddess Innana.'”
– Joshua J. Mark, op cit

A writer whose work is still read although it is 700 years older than the Egyptian Book of the Dead, more than 1,000 years older than the I Ching and 1,500 years older than the Odyssey, the Iliad and the Hebrew Bible deserves godly recognition. We could do worse than to make Enheduanna our Muse.

reading, writing technique

On characters, thrills and getting laid


I’ve been trying to figure something out. Thrillers. More precisely, why they don’t thrill me enough. Or rather, yes, they thrill me but don’t satisfy me. So I’ve been pondering the reasons for that.

Is it my fault or theirs? It could be mine. I mean, they really are page-turners, most of them. But often what happens is that around page 216, I lose interest. Which is odd, really, considering that it’s precisely the point where the tension is ramped up, the hero’s in real trouble, and the perpetrator / villain / psychopath is about to be discovered. But at that point, I stop caring.

Let me take a couple of examples. No Time For Goodbye by Linwood Barclay and Live to Tell by Lisa Gardner. Gripping situations, both of them, and despite the differences, a similar starting point. Barclay’s book has Cynthia waking in the morning to find her family missing. Gardner’s has Danielle waking in the night to find her family dead.

Now, both these books are bestsellers. They both have 46 chapters of 3 to 4 pages, with the reader left, maybe not always hanging over a cliff, but at least suspended somewhere in mid-air. So in that respect they work. You turn the pages. And yet, after a while, they don’t thrill.

My first thought was, it’s the characters. The first person narrator of Barclay’s book displays all the complexity of a wooden marionette. While after reading Live To Tell, I knew nothing of Gardner’s detective heroine other than that she eats a lot and would really like to get laid.

But of course we don’t go to genre fiction for psychological depth. If we did, Ian Fleming would never have had the success he did. Nor James Patterson today. So I’ve reached a much simpler conclusion: these books are too long. If they ended on page 215, that would be fine. Why the extra 180 pages? I suspect it’s the Hollywood syndrome: the fight goes on a full 20 minutes, Tom Cruise finally knocks the baddy down and then – groan – the baddy’s up on his feet again and we’re into extra time. Maybe it’s a ploy to keep technicians and stuntmen in work, but to the viewer / reader it’s like being force fed when you already want to throw up.

Now Patterson, I can handle, because he knows when to stop (just before I get bored), but in a book 400 pages or more, I want characters that surprise me, intrigue me, characters who reveal a little of what it means to be human.

You might dismiss what I’m saying here as unreasonable. ‘What does he expect? It’s Linwood Barclay, not Dostoyevsky.’ Sure. I get that. It’s just that if I’m in for a marathon read, I need my interest to be sustained. And Dostoyevsky does that, Barclay doesn’t.

Or else you could say it’s sour grapes. ‘He’s griping because he’d really like to do what they do but he can’t.’ And actually, I confess you’d be closer the mark there. Not quite sour grapes, though, because otherwise I’d include Patterson in the gripe. I probably would have if I’d read him back when I was snooty, but now that I’ve seen what it takes, I begrudge no author their success. My attitude now is they must be doing something right, even if it’s just the marketing.

Imitation isn’t the way, I know. Nonetheless, given that I’m no Dostoyevsky myself, whenever I read Patterson (not that often in fact – maybe half a dozen so far), I go into analytical mode. Short chapters – yep, I can do that. Paragraphs, sentences, words – keep ’em simple and direct. And the book itself – to be devoured in about the same time as a chocolate Magnum. It takes a little practice, but all of that I can manage. Where I’ll always trip up, though, is with the characters. They will insist on having foibles, issues, qualms, dilemmas, contradictions. Why can’t they just be simple? Eat, go after the baddy and get laid. Isn’t that what life’s all about?


About Writers, blogging, Uncategorized

Writers Criticizing Writers

A short whimsy

Vidal of Capote
“He’s a full-fledged housewife from Kansas with all the prejudices.”

Mailer, of a competitor
“He said she was beautiful because he couldn’t make her so.”

Capote of Kerouac
“That’s not writing, that’s typing.”

Nietzsche of Dante
“A hyena that wrote poetry on tombs.”

Faulkner of Hemingway
“He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.”

Hemingway of Faulkner
“Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?”

Wilde of Pope
“There are two ways of disliking poetry; one way is to dislike it, the other is to read Pope.”

Auden of Browning (my favorite here)
“I don’t think Robert Browning was very good in bed. His wife probably didn’t care for him very much. He snored and had fantasies about twelve-year-old girls.”

And, for Atthys, James Tiptree of Alice Sheldon (or, vice versa)
“The trouble was, you see, I was just good enough to understand the difference between my talent and that rare thing, real ability. It was as though I had climbed the foothills high enough to see the snow-clad peaks beyond, which I could never scale.”

Got a favorite? Please add it to the comments 🙂

book promotion, writing technique

What I Did This Weekend.

Screen Shot 2016-08-15 at 10.50.16 AM.pngScreen Shot 2016-08-15 at 10.50.49 AM.pngScreen Shot 2016-08-15 at 10.51.21 AM.png

I’m searching for something to write about. I’m not ready to do another post on serials. That entails a lot of digging.

Kevin has certainly inspired me, not that I needed it, to consider alternatives to the sort of pain that Atthys has just described. My website still has a ways to go. Real bells-and-whistles mailers, with my own art created, are also a slow-go.

While I agonize over a style, I’m working on a table of contents for my novella, all type, but eye-catching, I love to fool around with fonts. I had to do this screen shot in three pieces, you can see the breaks, or at least I can. I see plenty that still need messing with. This is not the final, but it’s close.

I’m thinking a three-fold piece, on the left a synopsis, the center as shown, the right a simple paper doll, with hat and boots.

Who will I send this out to? I have no mailing list. I’ll send it out to editors, publishers, etc., dug out of the Marketplace books, to get the ball rolling. It will be cheap to print, why the hell not? Somebody tell me, why the hell not?

At worst, I’ll have a portfolio piece. Ha! Like I’m ever going to look for another job. I’m seventy-fucking-years old in two weeks.

book promotion, book sales

Report from the Front Lines.

Nine Hundred and Forty-Two Million. According to Wikipedia, that’s the number of English speakers in the world. That includes 603 million people for whom it is a second language.

As a writer ever in search of an audience, my first crass thought upon hearing that statistic is: I wonder how many of them might want to read my books?

A study by the Pew Research Center reported that 23% of all Americans didn’t read a single book during 2014, and there’s not much reason to expect that number to improve. In addition, some of those other 77% who did read a book only read one, so they probably aren’t exactly hopefuls. So how many are real potential readers? Well, that same study showed that 42% of Americans read 11 books or more in the past year, roughly one a month. So lets use that figure. Let’s say 42% of 942 million.

That’s almost 400 million readers. Sell to a mere one percent of those folks, and you’re one of the most successful writers on the planet.

This sort of number crunching has been on my mind because I ran my first ever free promotion on Amazon a short while back for my book Spark. As most of you probably know, Amazon lets you sell your book for free for five days out of every ninety. I chose to spend the whole five days in one swoop. Here’s how the whole thing went down:

Day One: I decided to do Day One with a minimum of promotion. I was originally going to do none at all just to establish a baseline, but I got impatient so I did a couple of Twitter posts on sites that promote free books (maybe a dozen altogether). Day One total:  69 downloads.

Day Two: Here’s where the promotions kicked in. I chose two paid sites: Book Barbarian and Free Kindle Books and Tips. Total paid: $60. I set those up about a month in advance. I also submitted the book to a whole bunch of free promotional sites as well, about thirty. This was a very tedious and time consuming process. I also kept on promoting on Twitter, although not a lot. I have to admit, day two was kind of exciting, mostly because it was fun to watch the numbers climb. Day Two total: 1475 downloads.

(Note: some of the free sites posted my ad and some didn’t. It’s hard to be certain but I know the following sites posted: Reading Deals, My Book Cave (very helpful), It’s Write Now, eBookasaurus (but no cover picture), Bookangel, Ask David (very nice), Ignite Your Book (again, no cover), frugal freebies, discountbookman (first listing on the page. Nice.) and Some of these listings were little more than a postage stamp-sized cover on a page full of the same, and others were pretty nice. Next time, I’ll check them out a little more carefully beforehand, but hey, what d’ya want for free?)

Day Three: I kept on posting on Twitter and on a couple of free Facebook promotional pages, but I was probably mostly still riding the wave of my Day Two promotional push. I might have also been getting some downloads from Amazon’s own internal marketing machinery by now, because the book received pretty prominent placement on the Top Free Books lists. It was number one or two in Children’s Books Fantasy, Science Fiction, Fantasy and Magic, categories like that, so anyone browsing free books in those categories would have seen it. I topped out at number 4 for Free Children’s eBooks overall, and was high up on that list for a couple of days.

(A note about that: Children’s Books is not the label I would have chosen. Young Adult, sure, but Children’s Books was a very confused category. Spark was, at times, sandwiched between The Lonely Balloon, How to Draw Sea Creatures and Sinful Cinderella (which wasn’t porn, despite the name.) I think it would’ve done better if it had been on the YA list, but I must have entered it wrong. (Incidentally, there were other YA books on the list. In fact the comparable paid list was mostly various Harry Potter. But still, it wasn’t the ideal category.)

My best position for the overall free list occurred on Day Three. For a few hours, Spark was the 88th most downloaded free book at the Amazon Kindle store. That was cool, but I’m sure my placement on the minor category lists got me a lot more looks. Day Three total: 752 downloads.

By Day Four things were slowing down. I continued to post on Twitter, and I did a boosted Facebook post which got a fair number of looks. It cost me eleven dollars, reached 1185 people, and garnered about 50 likes. It’s hard to know if it resulted in more downloads, but certainly no more than those 50, so that was clearly the worst-spent money in the campaign. But I got some new likes on my author page, and probably moved a couple of books. Day Four total: 409 downloads.

In the end, after five days, my downloads totaled 3061 units.

In truth, I’ve never been crazy about the idea of giving away my books. I know a lot of you feel the same. You worked hard on your books, and you believe them to be things of value. Giving them away is like saying “Hey! These are trivial and expendable! Have one!” And, as you’ve probably seen when established independent authors grouse about the glory days of two or three years ago, the free days don’t really work as well as they used to. Most of the people who love eBook giveaways have kindles already jammed with hundreds of books they haven’t read yet.

Kristen Lamb strongly discourages free giveaways, because it sets the expectation bar so low. People now expect eBooks to be free, which undervalues all of our work. I don’t disagree, but I also think that ship has sailed. It’s fine for me to refuse on principal, but who’s going to notice? The millions of people who are actively not buying my books?

You have to have an audience. You just do. It’s fine for Kristin Lamb to preach, and I’m glad she is, but she already has people listening. I don’t.

Look at it like this: I wasn’t selling books anyway. Now 3000 people have the book and might read it, might like it, might buy one of my other books. One percent? Two percent? Dare I hope for five percent? One hundred and fifty new readers?

I’d call that a start. Of course, I’ll never really know just how many, but I have sold six copies of Spark since the promotion (which is more than the week before. Hell, it’s more than the month before)  and over 3000 pages  have been read through Kindle Unlimited (plus 400 pages of Flight of the Wren, which UnknownI suppose was just a random occurrence). I’ve had two new five-star reviews  on my Amazon page and 33 people have added Spark to to their “to read” or “reading now” lists on GoodReads. So at the very least it means people saw it and wanted it, so it must be okay. The cover, the blurb, the Amazon landing page, they can’t be as unappealing as I sometimes think they must be, given the deafening roar of indifference I usually experience. So I’d do it again and I’d recommend it to others. And I’d recommend using as many forms of promotion as you can manage or afford. Make the most out of your giving. If my baseline of 69 books on Day One is any indication, my promotional efforts increased downloads by a factor of almost nine, so that’s highly significant.

I know it may seem odd crowing about how many books I gave away. Even odder that I spent money for the privilege. And it’s true, I spent $72 on my giveaway and so far I’ve made maybe 25 bucks back, but it’s only been a week or so. The books are out there. It takes time for people to read them.

This is the long game we’re playing.

I’ll keep you posted.

reading, Stories

Writing DaysZ 4

Searching for a second, well maybe third, cup of coffee, I pass the TV and see Tea Party demonstrators on the same street as Black Lives Matter separated by cops with dogs in the middle. Imagining PETA showing up to protect the police dogs sets me to grinning at the thought of feminists, environmentalists and immigration activists joining the melee, all for attention, donations and votes.

Bob vs the Aliens
To read Writing DaysZ 1-3, go to

Diversity Faire

+++They were close enough to the blast that its light came a split second before the sound, causing them to begin turning when the hot wind blew over them.
+++“Careful,” whispered Bob, diving to the ground. All around, bits of debris began falling like hard rain.
+++“A Bomb!” Piper’s face showed fear. “Or mortar round. Or RPG. As a reporter, I’ve heard that many times on TV.”
+++Old Spice placed a hand on Bob’s shoulder, one eye imploring caution while the other eye turned inwards for news. “Wait,” the Alien confided, “I’m consulting with the others. That was a Hellfire Jr. missile. Made for domestic use.”
+++“What the – !?” Bob looked at him. “The bus?”
+++“The bus was destroyed, yes. But the WTF! racists had nothing to do with this. Their requests for heavy ordinance are invariably turned down. No, this was your government.”
+++“Friendly fire,” Piper opined. She sounded shaky.
+++“Friendly!” Bob sputtered. He sat against a tree and patted the ground. “Sit, Piper. Let’s see what Spice can tell us before we walk into hell fire.”
+++Spice sat in front of them, forming a little triangle of togetherness as the debris fall slowed. They stared at a leaf that faced the sky. Red granules of flesh had fallen on it, piling up like sand poured from a child’s hand. “That’s Jackson,” Spice said. A bare foot fell to ground, waxen white, drained of all blood. “That too. Pity, he used to be taller.”
+++“Friendly fire,” Piper began explaining, “Is accidental.” She looked at Jackson’s remains. “I mean….” She shook. “Our own government?”
+++Bob put his arm around her. “I know,” he said soothingly, “Oh my God. They tried to kill us.”
+++“DARPA.” Spice’s inward eye appeared to be reading something. “Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. But it was not an official act.” Suddenly startled, he jumped up and helped Bob and Piper to their feet. “We are not the first! Come.” He led them deeper into the woods. “I’ve just been informed that two aliens already live here. One, it seems, lives near Denver. He will help us if we can reach him before the other kills us.”
+++They walked in silence while Spice searched for information. It was a beautiful day, mild and clear, but Alabama north of Highway 84 just across the Chattahoochee River was heavily wooded and rough going. By midday, exhaustion set in as one by one, they heard the sound of drums in the distance. Topping a hill, they looked down on an open valley. Below was a one street town. The block-long street had houses on both sides and at the edge of town it turned into a dirt road that wound away into the woods. “Down there,” Spice pointed. “We follow that road. It goes north-west and therefore towards Denver.”
+++“If you say so.” Walking downhill appealed to Bob. Drawing nearer, they saw crowds of people and the drums became a full band milling in the short street. Booths lined the street. Someone must have spotted them for at the town’s edge they were greeted by, apparently, the Mayor. “Welcome to Gay Camellia, Alabama! Home of the world famous annual and grand Diversity Street Faire!” The little bearded man wore a pink camellia in the lapel of his leprechaun suit.
+++“Thank you Sir or Madam,” Piper shook his hand. “We could use some freshening up first. If you can show us your public conveniences?”
+++But the Mayor was not to be put off his talking points. “Nowhere else will you see all these groups assembled peacefully together! The Gays have sheathed their claws; the Tea Party is unarmed. Even the Abortionists and their Antis are sharing booth space.” He beamed and waved at his town. “Isn’t it all just so Gay!?
+++“Gay,” Spice nodded, “Adjective. Being in or showing good spirits > happy, jolly. See cheerful. Full of color > rich, vibrant, vivid. See colorful.” He read with one eye inward while the other took in the panorama of booths richly painted in primary colors and telephone poles wrapped in vibrantly purple ribbons topped by vivid gold banners against a heavenly blue sky, all lining a street bouncing with the cheerful rainbow colors of dancing harlequin and jester band members. “Supererogatory, too.”
+++“Super, yes!” the Mayor clapped Spice on the shoulder, “We have our own LGBT Marching Band! You’re an Alien!” the Mayor suddenly realized, genuinely pleased. Then he took Pipers’ arm, “Come, have some refreshment. You must need it; nobody walks to town anymore.” To Bob he said, “Don’t worry, we welcome all sorts.”
+++Everybody was as friendly as they were colorful. At a booth constructed entirely of organic lumber, Environ-Mentalists served them a delicious reclaimed salad and explained how they knew the planet should be managed. The Alabama Police Union Comedy Troupe performed a skit titled “Common Ground,” with black activists and NRA Teaparty members hanging pedophiles from lampposts. At Bob’s suggestion that they, “Get the hell out of this crazy town, now!” Spice retorted, “This is the only reason you people still exist. It takes all kinds if anyone is to survive extinction events.”
+++“Well, whoever blew up that bus was interested in personal extinction. Maybe ours.”
+++“They were, but now the one after us is on his own. He’s been fired for destruction of a government-leased vehicle.”
+++“Who would want to kill us?” Piper puzzled.
+++“I don’t know. There was no mention in my briefing of other aliens on Earth.” He sounded surprised. “We thought we were the first.”
+++A delegation from Nations Without Borders Immigration welcomed Spice so warmly that he signed their petition to unite all protest groups worldwide into one, theirs. “What unexpected cooperation!” He glad-handed all the booths, zig-zagging down the street as they worked their way out of town. A feminists handed Piper a free PETA neutering kit, remarked for human use.
+++At the edge of town, they stopped for “free bottled water” from a booth manned by a couple wearing pins that read, “It’s all about the children.” Crude pictographs on the walls showed stick figures strangling, shooting, clubbing and decapitating smaller stick figures. “Oh,” breathed Piper, “Children! How wonderful. Do you have a brochure?” she politely inquired.
+++“We’re fairly new,” replied the woman. “Donations are still slow.” She pointed to a chalk board behind her.
+++“Support Infanticide. Vote Yes on Amendment 2,” Piper read, confused. “What? What do you want?”
+++“Well, we’re not asking for any new rights, we just want the current limits expanded a bit.”
+++“How,” Piper paused, “Expanded?”
+++“To 26.” The man explained. “If they’re still living at home when they’re 26, they need to be put down.”
+++Piper staggered back, reaching out. “Bob.” Feeling his hand close on hers she turned to him and gasped, “They are so sincere! These people….”
+++“I know. They are all sincere. That doesn’t mean they’re right.”
+++The two followed Spice into the woods.

Returning to the lanai with a mug of Guatemala Antigua, I attempt to ignore the TV lest it throw me off my thought track but am caught by whoops of frivolity from the morning news team. The news ticker scrolling at the bottom of the screen reports a night club shooting that left 6 dead. Live onscreen, a bleached blond fakes intense interest in a guy with a perfectly groomed unshaven look telling us about a restaurant named Prunes. They serve tripe. He hilariously tells how he and his friends held a contest to see who could eat the grossest things. Knee slapping follows. The ticker quotes a man mourning his murdered younger brother.

Whooping News Loonies
… to be continued
(Follow Writing DaysZ to read Bob Vs The Aliens as it is being written. To read Writing DaysZ 1-3, go to


Blurb your enthusiasm

Kevin Brennan’s initiative in selling Fascination directly to readers is in itself a fascinating tactic. And to judge from his previous work, his latest is likely to be well worth reading.


Cover cropFascination is a curious little book, and I wouldn’t want you to buy a copy without knowing what you’re getting yourself into. It’s part picaresque, part morality play, and it covers plenty of territory across our great land. Route 66 looks like a cul de sac compared to the voyage of our heroes, Sally and Clive.

Stay tuned for a sample of the book tomorrow, and you’ll be able to land your own personalized copy on Monday.



It’s a road picture (with pictures)…

It’s the novel you buy straight from the author …

It’s a novel about self-realization and vengeance …

It’s a novel about the pointless journey of a grieving young widow — Sally Pavlou — and a lovestruck private investigator — Clive Bridle — looking for the dead man who done Sally wrong …

It’s a novel about postponing the inevitable and rushing to…

View original post 93 more words

book promotion, reading

Serials: The Little Engine That Could?


Chugga-Chugga Choo-Choo, won’t you choo-choo me home!

Curtis says: “I have written a book that nobody needs. But that’s not just the case of One Green Bottle – you could say it of practically any book that’s published.”

Atthys says: Agents … “didn’t see the potential for the kind of commercial success that would’ve made it worth their time and effort. The bottom line really is the bottom line.”

Serials may be a viable alternative path to publication. Slow and steady wins the race, remember? No stone unturned, I promised that, to you and to myself, a while back.

I’m going to look into it.


Here’s Yael Goldstein Love (of Plympton Publishing) on serialization: (some of this is paraphrased/condensed)

* A serialized novel is a novel delivered to readers in installments over time. Each installment is a satisfying read in itself, but it also leaves you wanting more. Any good serialized novel also reads well as an all-at-once book, whereas the reverse is not true. A slow, lyrical novel, for instance, might make a bad serial. I say ‘might’ because you never know what other charms this book might have. Maybe each chapter is a perfect gem you want to savor.

Charles Dickens was THE famous early serialist, with The Pickwick Papers. Pretty soon, and for much of the 19th century, it was rare for a novel to be published as a book without first appearing as a serial. Most of the great (and not so great) 19th century novelists needed that money to survive, before their full book made its way into stores.

* Time-wise, and cost-wise, a serial has obvious advantages (for a reader) over a full novel. The stakes are much lower. Don’t like the first installment? Don’t get the second.

* The rhythm of the thing: Monthly doesn’t seem to work. A month might as well be a decade as far as serial reading goes. You lose the thread, maybe have to start over. But is weekly ideal? Daily? Release everything at once and let the reader choose the pace? Yael says that works for the library of classics on Plympton’s companion site DailyLit. She doesn’t have an answer for original fiction.

Serials are something of a natural for us today. TV shows with a running narrative have trained us to expect our stories to arrive in bite-size chunks, and there’s real delight to the cliffhanger.

* Serialization may work best as a marketing device—to build buzz before a book is released. This means the format becomes, in part, a gimmick. But, historically, serials have changed thinking, and may do so again.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin, published as one complete book, wouldn’t have had the effect that it had on thousands of white readers. It would have been easier to read it, put it aside, and forget the uncomfortable fact that something horrific was happening in this country. Instead, readers had to sit with it for months, thinking and wondering as they went about their lives. That made it a lot harder to forget those uncomfortable facts. I mention this mainly because I think it highlights just how much depth and richness the serial experience can add. It’s the furthest thing from a gimmick; it’s an art form.


Entertainment choices were once severely limited. Serialized fiction filled a real need. A popular author under contract was an asset, giving a newspaper an edge over rivals. It was no second-rate way of publishing, it gained you a wider audience than you would have had, and it paid, perhaps not handsomely, but dependably.

Online outlets have proliferated, but there is an admission process, and there are rules. We’re back to a situation in which we deal with a gatekeeper. Some spots are difficult to join, some less so. On those easier to infiltrate, the quality may be less. A few lemons and a reader may move on. There are pastures and pastures, some greener than others.

A handful of sites pay, most do not. The major gain is exposure. You’ll have to fight for it, like anywhere else and, to quote Ringo, it don’t come easy. There’s massive competition.

Plympton is a major player. It’s gotten some great press. I read about them on Salon. (Kindle and Amazon are the biggies, but Plympton is a well-known boutique site.) They handle some big names, and they take on unknowns. But I went to the website and found: No new submissions accepted at this time due to submission overload. I have no idea, as yet, how common this is.

You can go it alone, some do. But you have to promote just as relentlessly as you would for a book. And punchy episodic chapters that hang together as a whole are essential.

Punchy. We’re back to a formula. A few thousand words of fast-paced shenanigans, wrap it up with a hook that entices folks to look forward to the next bit of business. My dense, ambling style may not pair well with the format.

It is easy to believe, and it may well be true, that serials lead to repeat customers and enhanced customer retention. Some sites allow for reader participation. Authors generally welcome the back and forth, saying it gets a reader onboard like nothing else.

The form is appealing on both sides of the equation. An intriguing novelty, a short, self-contained story, read it on your lunch break. The structure lends itself to a test drive for reader and author alike. I expect that readers settle on a favorite one or two sites after a broader try-out.

With an eye-catching title, you may have a better than average chance of being noticed in a table of contents. It’s a form of market research. You may build a committed fan base before you vault onto Amazon, followers who may be Johnnie-On-The-Spot with a review when that time comes.

May-may-may. I’m constructing my castles in the air before I’ve ever set foot into a serial site. BTW, I read that some of them are loath to give out figures on traffic, hobbling an accurate evaluation of prospects. Choose wisely.

Hugh Howey created a serial without meaning to. His initial petite version of Wool proved so popular, readers demanding more and more from him, that he spun it out to a full-length novel. The rest is publishing history.

His story was so successful that he’s the first author ever to negotiate a contract allowing him retention of digital rights. He’s got his big book deal, and he keeps the full proceeds from online sales. Full earnings, not whatever percentage your liege-lord thinks good and proper. They had to do it. Hugh wouldn’t have signed otherwise. He’s making too much money on his own. How’s that for an inspiration?

Check out Tuesday Serial, which offers . . . whoa! . . . one-hundred-twenty-seven pages of listings. I’ll dig deeper into that next time.