Writing

Contents:

How Does One Return A Kindle Book?
Rise And Fall Of The Author Empire
Bardon Me, William
Stories On Trial
To Read Or Not To Read
Funny About Humor
The Three Million Book Haystack
Quick Cut To The Quick
Amazon’s Best Sellers
The Many Faces Of Love
Why The Confederate Shadow?
A Revolutionary Revelation
Historical Fiction?

 

How Does One Return A Kindle Book?               February 1, 2014

In reviewing the miniscule royalty reports, I noticed that one Kindle copy of Two Loves Lost was bought and returned. Don’t understand how that can happen. Once the book is downloaded, can people read part or all of it, decide they don’t like it and say they are returning it for a refund? Maybe there’s a time limit but even so a quick reader would have an unlimited supply of free eBooks. After all, eReaders are unlikely to keep books around for a second reading.

I’m paranoiac about publishers’ sales reports. There’s no way of verifying them and with what feedback I do get from readers it seems they must be simply passing the few books reported around to each other. Still, that’s something to just make peace with. But returning a probably read Kindle book leaves me feeling cheated.

A more serious question is why was it returned? Did the reader decide after a few chapters it was not what he/she expected? One avid Avro Arrow fan wrote a review in which he said he thought he would not like the book after reading a few chapters. Fortunately, he persisted because in the end he raved about it. You can see what he said on Amazon or my website. This review from a total stranger is something I prize highly.

Perhaps the reader who returned thousands of bytes also wanted a book that immediately delved into flying or romantic tragedy and gave up early. Perhaps I should have pruned out more of the early chapters. I know the formula for grabbing and holding reader attention. Trouble is, I prefer to write stories with what might be termed more literary depth. I wanted readers to get to know and love Delbert through an understanding of his growth. Guess I can’t have my eCake and eat it too.

 

Rise And Fall Of The Author Empire                  February 12, 2014

I’m just finishing John Grisham’s The Racketeer. It’s his 31st book. Quite a run – but downhill recently. He’s following the pattern of so many popular authors. A rapid rise in fame from a breakthrough novel. Better than most, John produced some additional good books. Too bad the publishers crack a whip across these writers’ backs. Strike while the fire is hot they say. Only trouble is the authors burn out or churn out cookie-cutter books. And we keep buying them.

Others, like Tom Clancy, bring in a writing partner. How much remains Tom’s creativity? The worst is when the author dies and the novels keep on coming. So what should be our answer? Give the author one chance, two at most, when he puts out a stinker. Then boycott him. Easy to say, hard to do. I always hope the author has returned to form when I buy yet another from his publishing empire.

That’s one thing no one need worry about with my books. My back is pristine. Damn it.

 

Bardon Me, William                                   February 27, 2014

To porn, or not to porn, that is the question—
Whether ’tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Puritans,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of censors,
And by ignoring end them? To die, to rant—
No more; and by our silence say we end
The Heart-ache, and the thousand Natural shocks
That stall book sales? ‘Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. By porn, to sell,
To sell, perchance to Dream; Aye, there’s the rub,
For in that sale of sagas, what dreams may come,
When we have sold a million books,
Must give us pause. Where’s the respect
That makes bestsellers within our life:
For who would bear the Whips and Scorns of porn,
The lurid wrong, the proud man’s Conscience,
The pangs of despised Love, the Law’s delay,
The insolence of Offence, and the Spurns
That condemnation of the unworthy rakes,
When he himself might his conscience quake
With a bawdy body? Who would love to read,
The grunt and sweat of passionate life,
But that the dread of reputation soiled,
The familial shame, from whose bosom
No Relation returns, Puzzles the will,
And makes us rather live anonymous,
Than fly to sales that we know not of.
Thus Conscience does make a Coward of me,
And thus the Native hue of Resolution
Is sickened with the pale cast of Thought,
And enterprises of great pitch and moment,
With this regard the noble road is taken,
To choose the name of Action. Soft you now,
O fair reader? Delicate to thy Senses
Be all my sins redeemed.[5

 

Stories On Trial                                                          March 2, 2014

Avid reader(s) of my website and blog know I’m slowly building a collection of short stories and vignettes. This week I’ve created a new page titled Story On Trial. (See it above?) A new story will be put on display for your entertainment and comments about once a month. The goal is for you to tell me if it’s worth publishing in the collection or not.

The first story is a perhaps too well veiled tribute to Hemmingway. I’ve always liked his The Old Man and the Sea. Though totally different in context, my story is in some slight way similar, beyond the title. Hope you Like it.

 

To Read Or Not To Read                                       August 3, 2014

My wrist is essentially healed, hopefully my arteries as well, playing golf again so let’s get back to more serious things.

Had a GoodReads giveaway contest for ten copies of Two Loves Lost which ended July 25th. 594 people entered, 255 marked the book “To Read”. The ten books have been in the winners’ hands for over a month now. Two read the book, gave it a five star rating and posted great reviews. Two more acknowledged receipt of the book and one of them has marked it “Currently Reading”. Beyond that lies the great unknown.

While one would think receipt of a free signed book warrants at least acknowledgement, I remain confident that all ten will eventually respond. What disappoints me is the lack of movement on the part of the “To Read” people. As an incentive, I slashed  the price of the Kindle version for a few days. None were sold. Apparently, “To Read” means little more than the idle click of a mouse button. Fortunately, selling books is only a matter of satisfaction for me but I feel for the poor starting writers who need royalty nourishment.

Satisfaction or ego, you ask? Take your pick. To date, response from readers has been overwhelmingly positive, with only two significant caveats. That’s enough for my ego. But if people almost always say they can’t put the books down, it seems a shame more can’t experience that as well. That’s why I had high hopes for the 255 who expressed interest. Having tried a number of promotions now and read literature on some of the myriad publicists’ offers to make one rich and famous, it all comes back to reviews and word of mouth. Guess I’m moving in a tight-lipped crowd.

 

Funny About Humor                                      August 29, 2014

I try to incorporate humor in my books. This is particularly true of one currently in work, titled Ickee Mushta. Makes me laugh each time I read the initial chapters. However, the burning question is will other readers see it in the same light? One way to find out would be to put chapters out there for people to give feedback. In fact, the first chapter can already be found on my website.

Course only my loving daughter and a treasured niece have commented occasionally on some of the multitude of material I’ve posted. Their input has been highly appreciated. Even though biased they provide good advice and suggestions. It would just be better to receive feedback from a wider, objective, perhaps even mean audience.

Humor takes many forms (and even more than one spelling; namely, humour). If you’ve read many of these ad libs, you will notice I like to twist and combine words, including created ones that have not yet found their way into a dictionary. Shakespeare loved to play on words so that gives me license to follow suit, admittedly at a more pedestrian level. Perhaps this form of humor and puns generates only groans from many readers.

So far you won’t find much of that in Ickee Mushta. Instead, the humor is created by laughable situations and events. Hopefully, it has more universal appeal. Time or perhaps you will tell.

A more serious goal is to create characters you can love or detest with a passion. I want you pulling for or against them to the last chapter. In a sense that runs counter to the use of humor, calling instead for highly emotional scenes. And meaty issues. It’s not clear to me how the two main characters will turn out in the end. They will definitely evolve and the funny thing is, this may well undermine the use of humor as the story progresses. Tickles to tears but at least tears that tickle.

 

The Three Million Book Haystack               December 28, 2014

Up until this last year, authors participated in Amazon’s good fortune with Kindle ebooks. They could elect to receive 70% of the purchase price, which still left Amazon with a profit after minimal administration costs. It meant that authors earned about the same royalties from Kindle books as they did from printed books. A fair deal.

Apparently too fair in Amazon eyes. They decided to let customers have an unlimited number of Kindle books for $9.99 per month or if they belonged to Amazon Prime to receive a free Kindle book on loan each month. Once a $100 minimum is reached, authors receives a flat rate ranging from $1.09 to $1.32 per copy. Royalties are less than a third of what they were and Amazon has a loss leader to draw customers in for other purchases.

Using a flat rate has prompted authors to break books down into separate short volumes passed off as a series or to simply write hundred page stories. Combine this with an industry promoting the concept that anyone can publish a story, the number of books available in the program has risen from 700,000 to over three million in a year. An individual author is less findable than a needle in this haystack.

Another little wrinkle—Amazon gives a bonus to the few bestselling authors and uses the $100 minimum to avoid paying the wannabe’s. One author recently complained that he published a book and has not sold a single copy. Either his mother is not alive or has disowned him for not earning an honest living. So what was promoted as an avenue for new authors to gather a following has become an author sinkhole.

I, along with many others, am pulling my books out of this Kindle Select program. So if you want to find out why readers rave about my stories (he said tongue in cheek), you’ll have to pay three to four dollars for them. On the bright side, they will soon be available on Nook and Sony as well as Kindle (wish now at least one of them condemned North Korea for the totalitarian dictatorship it has become). Seriously, I write for the fun of creating something hopefully of value and am grateful to you, the band of friends who have shown an interest in them. All the best to you in the coming year!

Xmas2014

 

Quick Cut To The Quick                                       February 2, 2015

“This is the worst kindle book I have ever purchased. The story reads like a first draft, the characters are stiff and poorly written. I wish I could return this mess.”

With these three simple sentences an unnamed Amazon reviewer brought my Kindle sales to a complete stop and hurt me to the quick. After the bitter pill was swallowed, it seemed appropriate to analyze her comments. I welcome positive criticism and tolerate the negative type. So what can be learned from these poisonous words?

I now recognize one pitfall in writing a sequel that could lead to the stiff character comment. The two main characters were developed fully in the first book and I failed to realize a reader starting with the second misses all that. They need to be rebuilt early on rather than let their characteristics gradually re-emerge throughout the story. Also, the transition from first to second book can easily turn dull to the first time reader.

To say that the book reads like a first draft and is poorly written cuts deep. While I don’t pretend to be the world’s greatest storyteller, I feel justified in claiming to be at least a couple of rungs above poor. In reviewing books for BookPleasures.com, I came across two books that were truly badly written. Even so, I found some good things to say (their plots were promising) and then treated their shortcomings gently. The recommended policy is to be truthful but avoid murdering the author.

Speaking from beyond the grave, it is interesting to note that Two Loves Found has received either five star or one star ratings. Nothing in between. That’s a clue some are offended by the content and perhaps that is what compelled this reviewer to pan the book in such a diabolically clever manner. The book deals briefly with paraplegic sex and digs into the darker side of life involving teenage drug addiction and nymphomaniac sex between a teenage girl and two adult men. These topics are not treated in a crude or vulgar way but they can offend some people, perhaps to the point of not wanting other to read about them. With this in mind, I have revised the book description in Amazon to make potential buyers aware of these topics. Serious consideration will also be given to revising the first few chapters to improve its ability to stand alone. Though the paraplegic sex bit is intended to be educational, perhaps it’s an unnecessary education. Maybe then the worst kindle book she ever purchased won’t trigger an urge to return the mess and my cut to the quick will quickly heal.

 

Amazon’s Best Sellers                                          May 21, 2015

Turns out any author can become an Amazon best-seller. All one has to do is buy an Amazon cash card for 12 friends and tell them to buy the book on a specific day. Assuming one is careful about picking the book’s category, it will become the best-seller for that day and the author can claim Amazon best-seller status from then on. Shows how fickle their ranking system has become. One gets bragging rights but it doesn’t translate into sales necessarily (or even probably).

Another revelation involves Amazon’s threshold for providing support. As an expert said, “You get no love from Amazon until you hit 35 reviews”. That means 35 reviews from people who have purchased the book or eBook from Amazon since they don’t seem to allow reviews from others, even print books bought from their subsidiary, Create Space. Since few readers bother to write reviews of one or more lines, it takes hundreds of sales. Unless, of course, one begs or bribes friends to enter a review, however brief.

On the other hand, Amazon has a policy of refusing to remove malicious reviews. That policy brought an abrupt end to sales of Two Loves Found, which had been running at two to three a day and increasing. One said the book looked like a first draft with stiff characters and all in all was a horrible mess. The second said the book was abandoned after the third chapter (there are more than three chapters available in the peek inside feature). Others have given the book five stars and their reviews are positive. The negative effect on sales doesn’t bother Amazon. In fact, my paranoia bubbles to the surface thinking about it since these reviews appeared right after I discontinued Amazon’s exclusive Kindle Select agreement.

Other websites will remove obvious poison reviews and ratings. I had a one star rating on my latest book before the offender could possibly have acquired a copy. Probably a Tea Party supporter. In any case, the rating was removed by the site editors with no input from me. That kind of fair treatment is much appreciated.

As mentioned above, there was a time when I sold only Kindle eBooks. Not anymore. I make them available for all formats using Nook and Smashwords in addition to Kindle. This may actually reduce overall sales compared to the Kindle Select route but it’s a matter of principle. I don’t like poor treatment from a monopolistic company. And I often blithely claim I’m not writing for the money. Yet even if that’s true, the satisfaction of producing a popular story is very real. And the disappointment of mediocre sales produces a harsh reality. Perhaps I should buy you a cash card.

 

The Many Faces Of Love                         June 29, 2015

My first five novels are all different, even with two of them forming a series. Yet, upon reflection there is a common thread running through them…love.

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My debut (and still favorite) novel, Two Loves Lost, deals with a thwarted love that stubbornly persists long after most would succumb to the seemingly insurmountable obstacles and tempting alternatives. Its sequel, Two Loves Found, shows the impact of unconditional love on a lost teenager and its reciprocal, moral neglect of a pampered one.

In The Pizza Dough King, the hero carries his love for a woman from high school through life until death does them unite. And Murder – On Salt Spring? illustrates the rocky road some couples travel on the way to finding love.

My latest, Ickee Mushta, explores the love between a musically gifted extrovert male and deaf introvert female. It contrasts her mentally strong, perceptive and sensitive nature with his socially strong, confident demeanor. Their love is built upon the way these characteristics complement each other. Yet the story shows how they can also cause insurmountable problems.

As an introvert myself, I’m fascinated by this topic. During my first career, it’s fair to claim that I contributed in a number of meaningful ways to the aviation industry (though my nature makes it difficult for me to broadcast that). All along the way, extroverts supported the effort and often made it possible. Some were ultra-extroverts, like Bill Clay and Peter Morton. Others ranged towards moderate, like Peter Gallimore, Dick Peal, Bob Davis and Phil Condit. All handled the corporate social aspects while I beavered away on the technical issues. When this symbiotic relationship ended, my contributions dwindled and I opted for an early retirement.

Over the years, many other extroverts have helped make my life enjoyable. They still do today and will into the future. Some acquaintances will find this revelation strange, perhaps even not credible. I can only refer them to another introvert, Johnny Carson, who said he was fine with ten million people and terrible with ten. For those of you who consider yourself shy (though you likely are not in the strict definition of shyness) or introverted, take a look at Quiet, The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. It will make you feel good about yourself and it’s informative reading for extroverts as well.

Afraid this has rambled off the topic of love. Friendship is another face of love. Your tolerance in reading on to here illustrates that. Thanks!

 

Why The Confederate Shadow?                       July 18, 2015

Ickycover-Smash

People have asked why I show a shadow of the confederate flag behind the Stars and Stripes on my latest novel. In view of recent happenings in South Carolina, shouldn’t it be blown away? If only it could be, but the truth is much of what it stood for still exists like a black cloud periodically peeking over the horizon. Here’s an excerpt from the book that perhaps provides insight into the situation that has even worsened today:

Ickee spoke up, “Actually, the Confederates won the war.”

“Johnny, don’t be disruptive. We all know the Union won the Civil War.”

“No. They won the battles, not the war.”

“So you know better than all the history books?”

“I know what I see. The war is not entirely over yet, however, the Confederates have essentially won.”

“Johnny, we’re not going to waste class time pursuing your foolish argument. If you feel strongly about it, write a report to defend your position.”

“If I write it, will we all get a chance to read it?”

Roy Cameron humored him by saying yes. He didn’t think Ickee would try to prove such a ridiculous concept. A string of previous teachers would have claimed otherwise. Three days later, Ickee presented his report to Cameron.

Who Won The Civil War?          By Ickee Mushta
Faced with the United States’ call to abolish slavery, the southern states banded together to form the Confederate States of America with the intention of seceding from the Union. The North considered that an act of rebellion which then precipitated the Civil War in 1861.

By 1865, the southern army was defeated on the battlefield and its soldiers scattered when General Lee surrendered. President Jefferson Davis was captured and the Union army occupied the confederate states. The 13th Amendment abolished slavery. Victory was signed, sealed and delivered—in theory.

However, the defeated rebels reverted to guerrilla warfare using arson, assassination, lynching’s, even pitched battles to terrorize people loyal to the Union. Confederate leaders either maintained or regained control of state governments. Union forces were unable to rebuild or reshape the south and by 1877 were forced to withdraw from confederate states.

State constitutions were rewritten to undermine  the effect of the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments and restore upper class supremacy. Slavery was replaced by segregation and those theoretically freed were paid a pittance, barely enough to survive. Forced back into hard labor, thousands remained in shackles and whippings were as common as ever. Plantation aristocrats regained the same control they enjoyed before the war.

Hiding behind the Second  Amendment, confederate state governments built strong militias to enforce segregation. Blacks were denied the vote and equal protection under the law as promised by the Constitution. Yes, the Union won on the battlefield but the Confederate States of America preserved their way of life and won the war which actually lasted from 1861 to 1877

. . . .

Ickee goes on to explain how the Tea Puppet (as he calls them) strategy today is only different in that violence is not often employed, other than protecting racists and zealots ability to own deadly weapons. With or without the racist flag flying, the shadow of confederacy hangs over us still.

 

A Revolutionary Revelation                 September 5, 2015

In spite of a nagging concern that American politics is growing more like 1936 German politics, I’m going to lay off the subject in posts, at least for a while. My idyllic meanderings actually solicit more readers.

In fact reading is the subject around which my revolutionary revelation recently revolved. Revolting, you’re thinking. Really, it came during a review of books I’ve read and listed on GoodReads. By far, the ones I like best are in the historical fiction genre. More specifically, those which leave me living the hero/heroine’s life right along with them. The ones that drop me right smack into the culture and adventures of the time.

And the time period doesn’t matter. It can be the semi-escapist stories of Auel’s caveman era, Waltari’s The Egyptian, Renault’s Greeks and Persians, McCullough’s Rome, Follet or Rutherford’s Middle Age England, WW II in the eyes of Hartog’s The Captain or Findley’s Famous Last Words. The list is endless and so are their time periods. In fact, one might say they extend into the future with Herbert’s Dune, for example.

Three of my five novels are set in the 1950-60’s and in view of the monumental culture shift in much of the world since then, they now qualify as historical fiction. Cultural shift? Yes, the one brought about by television, computers, the internet and smartphones which has left us with an overabundance of self-centered individuals ranging from those still caring to those with an insatiable greed. But that’s a digression. My novels paint a picture of a time when doors needn’t be locked and people cared for each other. Not that there weren’t plenty of bad actors and traumatic events. Point is, I now wish I had labelled them historical fiction/romance. That would attract more readers.

While I have four stories in various levels of gestation, one is truly historical fiction. Revolutionary Lovers is based on two of my ancestors; a captain in the British Army that occupied New York and the daughter of a sergeant in the American Revolutionary Army. The conflict is obvious. They had to elope and were married in a church on the island of Manhattan. Twelve chapters are drafted. You can get a taste of it on www.SandPen.info . Perhaps my revelation is revealing a need to return to the Revolution.

 

Historical Fiction?               November 5, 2015

Someone asked in a social media discussion if a book set in the Vietnam War era qualifies as historical fiction. Since three of my novels involve the 1940-60 time period, the question piqued my interest. Am I wrong in considering them historical fiction?

One requirement is that the story accurately reflect life in the time period for the chosen locale. Mine do, as best I remember it. A trickier question is deciding at what point events transition from current to historical. Meditation advocates would say yesterday—or even a moment ago. However, I think the genre requires that a story take place at a time when the culture and lifestyle differed significantly from the world today.

That certainly happened with the widespread introduction of television. For the first time, everyone could see the horror of a manufactured war as well as the alternative of draft dodging, LSD, rioting, freedom marches, free love and folk festivals. Culture and lifestyle in much of the western world changed dramatically. Since my stories took place before that, they should qualify as historical fiction.

But what about the Vietnam War period itself? Has there been a significant shift since? Seems debatable. The internet and smartphones have supplemented television. In the 60’s a large number (though a small percentage) of teenagers ran away from home and some even country. But today almost all teenagers run away, without leaving home, to texting and social media. Despite church and radical republican efforts, most people born after 1970 remain free thinkers who determine their own course of action and ethical code (hopefully).

Each year we become increasingly bludgeoned by instantaneous video news coverage, blitzkrieg marketing, security breaches and propaganda. People live under higher stress levels right up until retirement when those of us fortunate enough can blow it all off. Small wonder autism seems more prevalent. While the change began with television, I think the shift has continued in such a way that even the Vietnam era lifestyle would appear a welcome relief today. That would make it a candidate for historical fiction.

On a lighter note, our buck appeared this week to perform his annual mating duty. Because of the declining number of does locally, he probably feels two days is all he can spare in our pasture.

Bucks 007

 

 

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