Uncategorized, writing technique

Mary Anne Evans

The love of my life, M, is reading George Eliot. She enjoys Eliot’s incredible vocabulary. On Kindle, M just taps a word to see its meaning and then sometimes throws the word at me. I didn’t know “casuist” is a word for one given to casuistry, or, excessively subtle reasoning intended to mislead. The casuists I know are all newsreaders but I didn’t know there was a polite term for describing them.

It made me wonder. In a world where news is spun and we tend to believe what we want to hear, I wonder if the words we no longer use don’t tell us as much about ourselves as do the words we use. My favorite example is the shifted meaning of the word, “alienation.” I once looked that up in a dictionary printed in the 1800s just to see if it was in there. It was but it was described as a form of insanity. Not now.

There must be a word for things we don’t want to see but who remembers that?

Hopefully, the more erudite among you can help me out here.
What words are no longer in use even though what they stand for still exists?

book sales, Uncategorized

Does Amazon Help You Sell Books?

Other than being the largest warehouse of books in the history of literate societies, does Amazon actually help writers sell books? Or are Amazon algorithms designed to maximize their profits regardless of the effect on individual authors and publishers?

I hear both from other authors. And there’s nothing wrong with maximizing profits. That’s how Amazon gets the cash to provide its services.
But, how well do they serve authors?

One author says, “The DAY I launched both titles there was someone selling paperback new and used copies of my books below my price. I had not sold or printed a copy (other than my own proof copies … which are still in my possession). There were simply no copies in existence.”
Now, how does that happen? Seems to me that copying and selling an author’s new book without paying the author is or should be illegal.

Other authors love Amazon. What has been your experience?

[Disclaimer. My own book, still available at retailers linked from ThePhoenixDiary.com, was on Amazon until they quarreled with my publisher.]

About Writers

Midnight in Paris

Midnight_in_Paris_PosterIf you’ve seen this 2011 movie, then you know it’s about writers. Owen Wilson stars as an American writer in Paris from the year 2010 who stumbles into the roaring 20s to meet the Fitzgeralds, Zelda and Scott; Ernest Hemingway; Gertrude Stein & cohorts. It won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, the Golden Globe Awards for Best Screenplay and was nominated for three other Academy Awards. Setting aside the astonishing photography, the fun, believable scenes with great writers and artists of the time and the award winning writing, we come to the heart of the story: Everybody believes that the Golden Age of writing is in the past. They missed it and they long for it.

Are we like that? Do we tend to believe that the best 20th Century writers are better than anyone out there today? Are none of the 11 million books on Amazon worthy of future veneration? This is, of course, a matter of perception and we may someday find a book from the last 16 years that went unnoticed at publication but is reprinted for generations because it says something no other book says so well.

As writers, we should be able to say -now- what such a book would be like. I think it would have to tell readers things about their own lives that they don’t understand because they are too close but that a writer, being on the outside looking in, can.

What do you think a new book destined to be reprinted for generations would have to be like?

About Writers, Uncategorized, Writers Co-op

Writing for Fun

“These silly writers let their imaginations run away with themselves.”
– Nicole Kidman as Satine in Moulin Rouge!

It being Monday morning, I naturally selected my “writing cup” for morning coffee and thought about my WiP, only to remember the online game I had been playing over the weekend. I had promised people there I would write a song for our pirate guild. Well, why not call that writing? Toulouse-Lautrec painted posters of ill repute. Marshall McLuhan and his anthropologist friend Edmund Carpenter knew peoples for whom living is itself art. Why should a writer limit expression to a book-yet-to-be-published? Why avoid the fun of being silly?

This is ingame (silly) writing.

The Pirate Song

Against convention we rebel,
To sail the sea of briny foam.
We drink with demons straight from hell
And chase their asses home!

The waves be drunk and so are we,
The moon be high and so are we.
We’re sinful dirty pirates
And we’re sailing to be free!

We’ll blow yer ship to smithereens,
Board yer women & belay yer men.
We’ll sink yer bloody brigantines
And haul yer treasure to our den!


So flee the hull that flies the skull
Or Davey Jones will pick yer bones.
Cannon balls and boarding brawls
Are winsome cheers to buccaneers!


I can’t be the only writer who also writes just for fun.
What about you?

book promotion, Uncategorized

Writing DaysZ 9

It is amazing how many activities, rituals and products are credited with accomplishing something they have no effect on. The nostrums and quackery of the medical, diet and belief industries are well documented. But the social and political rain dances continue as if no one recognizes the sham.

Bob Vs The Aliens
To read Writing DaysZ 1-8, go to ROFLtimes.com/BvA.pdf

Rain Dancing

+++They rode through the Alabama night, subdued by the latest attempt on their lives. Old Spice sat up front, his short alien legs dangling safely over the edge of the railcar. Only Lizbeth seemed perky. Spice had set the ventriloquist dummy on his lap from where she pointed out sights no one except he could see in the dark. “There’s two more at it. A lot of humans wrestle after going to bed.”
+++“Huh?” asked Bob.
+++“It helps us to sleep better,” Piper giggled.
+++Spice whispered to Lizbeth, who nodded and asked them, “You have only one, right?”
+++“One what?” Bob asked.
+++“Sex organ.”
+++“There’s your problem. You have to share.”
+++“My Earth-adapted body has both required organs,” Spice explained, “We didn’t want to offend any of you people. So, when we want to, we just -”
+++“OKAY,” Bob finally got it. “I get it. What about that GPS chip?”
+++Spice whispered to Lizbeth, who answered, “He disabled it. Stene can’t use it to track our rail car anymore. But, he does know we’re on a rail car and despite our hats -” her head abruptly swiveled up to Spice’s wide brimmed hat. “I didn’t get a Smuggler’s Hat! I’m not wearing a hat that reflects whatever is below with me edited out. I’m exposed!” She kicked him.
+++“I doubt that satellite cameras have ventriloquist dummy recognition software.” Bob wondered why he bothered to point out the obvious to a ventriloquist dummy. “The real problem, Spice, is that the rail car itself is no longer safe.”
+++Spice pulled the doll closer to him and leaned forward to cover her under the brim of his Smuggler’s hat. She hugged him. “I know,” he said. “But, we’ll be safe there for the night,” he pointed ahead to where the lights from Birmingham unmistakably lit the sky. “Too many people around for a missile strike.”
+++“That didn’t stop Stene from blowing up a busload of Doctoral grads.” Piper sounded unassured. “And that group of businessmen back there. Or, keep a helicopter SWAT Team from rappelling down on us.”
+++“Those attacks were in secluded places, Piper. Stene doesn’t want publicity. If his employers learned he killed me, they’d cancel his contract.” Spice paused. “He’d lose his back pay. I’m still researching, but I think Stene’s been on Earth quite a long time. He must have a fortune coming.”
+++“How is it,” Bob asked, “That you didn’t know two other Aliens were already on Earth? You guys obviously prepared. You speak our languages. You altered your bodies to appear human – kinda,” he trailed off, watching the ventriloquist doll reach around the spherical Alien to scratch his nose.
+++“I missed most of the mission training. I was a last-minute addition to the group.” Spice’s voice lowered contemptuously, “At my father’s request.”
+++“Your father must be important,” Piper prompted.
+++“Important!? He’s the Emperor!”
+++Piper’s mouth opened. Before words could form, Bob asked, “Of what?”
+++“The galaxy, of course. My father’s the Galactic Emperor of the Milky Way. And that’s pretty good in the grand scheme of things.”
+++Piper exhaled. “Yes.” She sounded numb. Before she said anything else, Spice changed the subject.
+++“I need to check Ty’s website.” He turned both eyes inward. “Hopefully, those guys found a safe place for us to spend the night.” They rode quietly until his eyes reemerged. “Ty’s website is saying we should stay there,” he pointed ahead at a building. “It’s full of people coming and going all night.”
+++They stopped the rail car at the tracks’ closest approach behind a run-down motel and picked their way across a trashed lot to a back door marked “Exit Only” where Bob suggested, “We wait here and let Piper book us a room?”
+++“Me?” She looked around, clearly unhappy. “I once did a piece on a drug-infested neighborhood that looked like this place.”
+++“Don’t worry,” Bob lifted his shirt to show the butt of the revolver he’d picked up at the way station outside of Gay Camellia, Alabama. “Just tell the desk clerk you’re a liberal newspaper reporter in the company of a funeral circuit speaker and an Alien with a ventriloquist dummy. And that we’re running from people trying to kill us but we’re protected by the Foreign Policy/Industrial complex.” She regarded him as if the elevator door had opened on the wrong floor.
+++The desk clerk watched Bob watching Piper from the entrance and the room was booked without fuss. “I ordered Pizza,” she told them as they walked to the room. “But now, I’m out of cash. Credit cards don’t work anymore, you know.”
+++That evening, there was much talk about their chances of reaching Colorado but no more of Spice’s family. “I can’t say more.” In the morning, the website told them to take the rail car into the city to meet a large group of people going to Memphis. “Safety in larger numbers?” Spice wondered hopefully. The breakfast buffet in the lobby of the little motel was surprisingly well stocked and quite enjoyable until Piper noted the staff returning food left on the tables to the buffet bar. Still, Spice made them pocket some as they left. “It’s not going to get any better, you know. Soon, nobody will be leaving food on the table.”
+++Heavy traffic now a thing of the past, the rail car entered Birmingham unobstructed, crossing deserted streets in the chilly morning air until, on the north side, they spotted a bonfire. “Must be them.” As the car approached, Bob considered the people gathered in a dirt field beneath Interstate 65, some of whom stood on the tracks waving signs at them. Despite the variety of signs, the groups seemed organized. At the last moment, the wheels locked up and the car screeched to a stop, helping them off. “It’s designed to not run over things,” Spice explained to Lizbeth, who repeated the explanation to Bob and Piper. “Hola!” Spice waved to a bald woman in a pink dress. “Radiation?”
+++She smiled hesitantly, “Yes.” Then her smile brightened with purpose, “But, that is why I am here.” She waved her sign which read, “Stop Cancer.”
+++Spice leaned forward and grinned widely at her, saying warmly, “I wish you all the intended results of your brave endeavors.”
+++“That’s very sweet of you, Spice,” said Piper, placing her hand on his rounded shoulder and pulling him upright as the woman backed away. “But when conveying warm wishes, it’s more appropriate to smile, not grin.”
+++Spice looked rejected but Lizbeth spoke up, “Who’s that?” She pointed to a procession of people carrying lighted candles and flat white boxes winding towards the bonfire.
+++“Oh, they’re back! That’s the candlelight vigil for The Unknown Dead Person,” answered the woman. She tapped a man next to her and pointed, “Hey! Look.”
+++“Pizza’s here!” the man yelled. Others took up the cry and converged on the procession.
+++A woman, maybe in her fifties and dressed like a society matron from a 1950’s movie, sat on the rail car with them and shared her pizza. “My late husband’s money is doing good here.”
+++“You paid for this?” Lizbeth questioned.
+++“Just to be around all these wonderful people!” the woman nodded. “So many deserving people supporting so many useful causes. It makes me feel involved,” she confided. “And,” the woman looked directly into Lizbeth’s eyes, her tone and her face overflowing with love and hope, “We are saving the world.”
+++Lizbeth’s head swiveled to look directly into Spice’s eyes. “It’s hormonal.”
+++“Well,” said the woman. Rising, she handed Lizbeth a business card. “You can read all about us on our website.”
+++“LEM. Love, Empathy, Meaningfulness,” Lizbeth read, “See our website at LEMings.org.”
+++“Come.” Spice slid off the rail car and walked into the crowd. Bob and Piper stood, shrugged at each other and followed him. “We have to find the right group. Unless you want to walk to Memphis.”
+++Apparently, the Topless Women for Gender Equality was not the right group, although Bob seriously considered them until he caught Piper glaring at him. All the groups were eye-catching. A handful of people dressed in lady bug suits carried signs protesting the slaughter of malaria-carrying mosquitoes. “It’s not their fault! Love Don’t Kill! Save a Species!” The largest group, POP or, People Opposed to Potus, just hated the American President although a couple of questions from Piper revealed that not all of them cared who that was at the moment. The woman paying for all this appeared briefly to hand a newspaper clipping to Lizbeth. “See! Lots of important people care!” Then she was whisked away by MOB, Moms Outing Bullies, wearing blood-stained black and blue sashes that read, “Bruise the Bullies!” Someone had converted a Port-a-Potty on wheels into a vendor stand. Spice stopped there. “What is that news story about?” he asked Lizbeth.
+++“It’s about that earthquake in Chili last month. Their President tweeted her support to the earthquake victims. She cared.” Lizbeth deadpanned.
+++“Buy a wristband?” the man standing in the door of the Port-a-Potty addressed them. “It’s for a good cause.”
+++“What cause?” Piper, ever polite, smiled at the man.
+++“I left that blank. See?” He showed her a magnetic clip-on wrist band with a smooth space on top. “I can engrave your favorite cause there. Mine’s plastic bags. They’re choking our environment.”
+++“What are the reusable bags made of?” Spice wanted to know, “And how does one dispose of them?”
+++“What?” The vendor turned his attention back to Piper, holding up a display board of wristbands in shades of red, yellow, black, white and brown. “They come in all race colors.”
+++“Hear that?” Spice’s ears perked up.
+++“How’d you do that?” the vendor stared at Spice’s ears. They had elongated noticeably and the tops quivered.
+++“Who knows, he’s an Alien. Hear what, Spice?”
+++“That roar, Bob.” He beamed and beckoned at Bob and Piper. “Come, there’s our ride to Memphis.” He led them towards the sound of Bikers For Peace revving up their motorcycles at the entry ramp to the highway.

Stegodyphus is a spider species whose young eat their mother. They liquefy her insides and drink them. It’s good to eat. It’s good to take what you need. Some behavior is too basic to be understood as human or even animal; it is life. Death creates new opportunities for survivors.

Arachnids of Happiness
… to be continued
(Follow Writing DaysZ to read Bob Vs The Aliens as it is being written. To read Writing DaysZ 1-8, go to ROFLtimes.com/BvA.pdf)

book promotion, book sales

Self Publishing is the Way to Go

I’m not crazy. Having a publisher promote my book onto the NYT Best Sellers list is almost preferable to winning the lottery. The odds are similar. But, that’s our world now, ain’t it; not enough publishers and most of them incapable of promoting any book onto any best seller list?

So skip the middleman and upload directly to a major retailer’s book site. How is that worse than not getting a publisher to promote your book?

My point is, publishing is easy. Getting the book to retail is easy.
Marketing is the difficult part.

What businesses exist today that will market our books?
A quick Google yielded
JKS Communications: http://www.jkscommunications.com/
Smith Publicity: SmithPublicity.com
Author Marketing Experts: amarketingexpert.com
Do you know anything about these, or similar companies?

Do you know of any company that markets books for a commission?

book promotion

Characters Matter

Above: Photo of Hybrid Human and Fictional Character
Below: Post by Old Spice, Earth Mission Commander

Just when I figured I had you humans thought out, up pops a Zombie. Which, according to the report just handed me by Lizbeth, my assistant ventriloquist doll, turns out to be part of a second Intelligent Life Form co-populating Earth with Humans. Fictional Characters are everywhere influencing what Humans say and do. They are quoted, they are held up as shining examples to emulate or villainous evil to destroy or simply endearing personas.

Fictional Characters may be anything imaginable. A woman becoming a Detective, a Girl and her flying carpet, a fighter pilot wreaking Major Havoc. Some are laborers, loggers, tradesmen –Ordinary Folk. There are Gods in agony and Lethal hackers There’s even a cat out there somewhere though I’m told he’s Sly and can be hard to spot.

The impact on Humanity of Fictional Characters is to alter individuals, create cultures and build civilizations. Kids play with imaginary playmates. Cultures are created around gods and myths. Heroic figures guide the rise of civilizations.

Humans are easier to understand when their imagination is weighed equally with their intellect and emotions.

And that’s why I’m here. To study Humans. Those rumors about my family banishing me to Earth over an incident involving my father’s mistress are misleading. My job, with Lisbeth’s help, is to understand Humans and the Fictional Characters they live with.

Tell me, as a writer, what Fictional Character(s) live in your head?