Piracy hits e-writers and bloggers-You NEED to read this

As an e-Novelist I am concerned about copyright theft and piracy, not just because I lose money, but I hate those who steal and claim something as their own, when you have done all the work. 

I follow Anne R. Allen and Ruth Harris’s blog and suggest you do as well, for you will learn invaluable information every week. Their most recent blog is about book piracy, how e-Books can be stolen/pirated, and how it affects us poor writers. I had no idea what these pirates were doing and I took a suggested step from the blog that might alert me to any questionable activity of my books.

Click the above link to learn what is going on and what you can do to protect yourself and your e-Books.

Three bobbling writers heads to inspire


Bobbleheads are popular in baseball. Every team has a bobblehead giveaway of their popular players every season. On my computer desk I have Seattle Mariners Felix Hernandez, Jaimie Moyer, and Lou Piniella. I also have  Desmond Mason from the NBA’s Seattle Supersonics. Also a former TV broadcasting duo from the Milwaukee Brewers Daron and Bill. Little did I know there are also Bobbleheads of writers.


I searched on Amazon for the fun of it and found Edgar Allan Poe, Mark Twain, and Charles Dickens. I also found a Poe (above) on the Poe Museum website in Richmond, Virginia. What a great way for us writers to find inspiration than sitting down at the computer, looking at the shelf above your head and beginning the day by asking the Big Three if they like your writing, then tipping the heads’ of Poe, Twain, and Dickens, seeing their bobbing heads, imaging they are urging you on “Yes! Yes! please write more.” Nothing beats inspiration from those three writing icons.

In truth I was searching for Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, but alas a Google search found none. If you know if there is one please provide a link. I can see a Bobblehead of Mary with the Frankenstein monster behind her. Bobble on! I will settle for an action figure of course.

It turns out there are Bobbleheads of most anyone, from Gandhi and Pope Francis to Fidel Castro and John Wilkes Booth. There are philosophers, Socrates and Aristotle, and for scientific nerds, Nikola Tesla and Albert Einstein. I am chagrined there is a Bobblehead for Booth, but not for Mary Shelley.

But back to the writers. It turns out that there are different versions of some writers, different bobbling, so you can choose a more fitting representation to suit your taste. Until I find my Mary, I will start with Poe, then go for Charles and Mark.

frankensteinbobbleheadLook who just bobbled in. Hey, where’s Mary ?


Amazon’s marketing analytics for writers must change

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I previously posted a blog about my ad campaign for “Loonies in the Dugout,” selling for .99 by the way. The campaign was approved, then soon after it began Amazon stopped it because of low relevance. To be honest how does one get ‘low relevance’ on the third day. I assumed the problem was that there were no categories in the marketing campaign listings for my e-book that is ‘sports fiction/satire’ so I  used literary fiction, the closest I could get. In my second attempt, after learning the campaign was stopped, I added sports/outdoors. The campaign was approved for the second time.

I had bid .70 cost per click, and I was getting .60. That seems good, but maybe I’m wrong. In the information I received from Amazon, it was estimated that my campaign, May 13 through June 8 would generate only five sales. They stopped the campaign on the third day and I had sold seven books, two more than projected, and I still had 22 days to go. Yet the email said customers were not engaging with the ad. Huh? Seven sales in less than three days, more than they said I would get.

They also suggested I increase my bid as it could be getting beat by other ads that were bidding higher for better placement. Sorry, I’m not taking the bait. I like my book, I want people to read it. That was why I lowered the price and created the ad campaign. But I will not increase my bid when it started so well.

In my original email to Amazon I said they should consider adding ‘sports fiction’ and ‘satire’ in their marketing campaign listings for targeting. They answered that they appreciate the feedback and would consider it at a future date. In their second email to me after telling them I had sold 7 books in first three days, out doing their projections, I received the following, “I’ll take your concern as feature request and communicate the same to our business team for consideration as we plan future improvements. I’m unable to promise a timeframe at this time, however, we are still evolving and feedback like yours motivate us to dive deep and unearth ways and means which helps us in making publishing on KDP a happy experience.  Please be sure to check our forums periodically for updates.”

Nothing against the forums, I have used them, but it takes a lot of ambling around to find the specifics you seek and the answers are not always helpful, nor are they necessarily correct. Why doesn’t Amazon just post something on the appropriate marketing page, saying ‘new and improved.’

I do like Amazon. I have made many purchases with them and I am sure they have enjoyed my money. I will take them at their word, that they are evolving and are seeking ways to improve (making more money), that they will ‘dive deep and unearth ways to improve,’ but I will also continue to check in to see if and when they change their methodology. They clearly need a better understanding of low relevance. Consider that they say they compare ‘like’ ads for effectiveness, but also say they don’t have specific numbers. If you compare things you learn something, yet they imply otherwise.

I will try again with other titles this summer, hoping my relevance improves.

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How to properly use a writing prompt

If you are a writer and follow writing blogs you have come across someone who challenges your creativity with a writing prompt . I gave a prompt in a previous blog, quoting writer John Gardner who said, “describe a barn as seen by a man whose son has  died in a war. Do not mention death, war, or the son.” I do not need you to respond to it. I offer it as an example.

I suggest you avoid any prompts you encounter in your Internet perambulations.

Here is why. It is okay if you are bored and have nothing better to do on a rainy day, your dog won’t play with you, your cat is sleeping (when aren’t they) and all your friends are busy-or avoiding you. If you are a writer then why waste your time being creative on something you won’t use. If you need a prompt to stir your creativity then turn to the story you are working on, or the story you intended to write, but have put off because you were eating cookies while reading the new Stephen King book.

Instead of responding to another’s prompt, I respond to my own prompts. As an example, in my short story “The Castle” found in “Cemetery Tales and other Phantasms” I prompted myself with this-describe a scene where a young excited boy just out of high school has left America for the first time, arrives in a remote area of England for a new job. Do not mention America, England, the new job. I came up with this:

Taking a deep breath of fresh air Quinn felt intoxicated. He wanted to giggle, to jump up and down, but proudly he maintained his cool.  Outwardly he was sure he looked composed, confident, and worldly; inwardly he was concerned the blood racing through his pounding heart would be noticeable through his pale skin, worried people would mistake the pounding of his heart with thunder in the darkening skies. 

My goal was to capture his feeling of being in a new adventure in a new country. I think it worked.

Or from the same story, describe a scene where a character is lost somewhere, scared, where death may be imminent.  I came up with this:

He turned and saw nothing, no outline of any trees, nothing to separate sky from ground, just total blackness in a black vacuum. He had to get back to the castle. He was safe there. He tried to run towards the castle. He couldn’t. He tried to walk, gingerly putting one foot forward. He couldn’t. He had to get back to the castle. He couldn’t. The silence was deafening, the darkness blinding. The cold, dank, swampy air was crushing him.”

The point is time spent on your writing is best served prompting your scenes. Nothing wrong with prompts, they’re a good exercise, but exercising on your own story will get it done quicker.


Does the Bible inspire murder

It follows like morning from night that when some mass murder or odious crime is committed moralists bring out their standard polemic condemning Hollywood for violence in movies, or they blame books like “Catcher in the Rye” because Mark Chapman carried it when he killed John Lennon.

I thought of this again when reading “The Beautiful Cigar Girl” about the murder in 1841 of Mary Rogers and how Edgar Allan Poe wrote his mystery “The Murder of Marie Roget” based on the facts of the case, which has never been solved.

Mary may have been one of the first to become famous for doing nothing. Take that Kardashians. She was young and so beautiful that men flocked to the cigar store where she worked, so many and so often, that newspapers took note and wrote about her popularity. She became so well known that when she disappeared for a few days there was near panic. She returned saying she was visiting someone. But a few years later she was found floating in the Hudson River, brutally murdered.

In the book, author Daniel Stashhower quotes James Gordon Bennett, a newspaper editor, who wrote about the murder in 1836 of Helen Jewett, a 23-year old prostitute. In her room was found Lord Byron’s book of poetry “Don Juan.”  Bennett wrote “the book has no doubt produced more wretchedness in the world than all the other moral writers of the age can check.” And the “Journal of Public Morals stated, “Avoid the perusal of novels.”

Don’t read books or Lord Byron’s poetry for they will lead you into prostitution and death.

I’m sure we can research back further in time and find more moral outrage. But blaming movies, TV, music, videogames, even Dungeons and Dragons, or anything antithetical to Ivory Tower moralists is misdirection. Many will bring up the Bible as the good book, the book of comfort and morality. Do these moralists know how many people were murdered in the Old Testament, how many were slaughtered, how many sins of Bible heroes were committed. Could the Bible have led to murder and sins of it’s readers? No, you say. How about the Crusades, the Inquisition, burning witches at the stake to free their souls? Or anti-abortionists who kill doctors and nurses?

Maybe moralists have a point. Reading is dangerous.

On the other hand, is it not truer to say that people who were inspired to murder, mayhem, and other crimes, had something wrong with them to begin with. More people have not committed murder from reading the Bible than have committed murder. More people have read “Catcher in the Rye” and not killed than those who have.

In short there is no correlation between art and crimes. People commit crimes; people point fingers. Those fingers are pointed the wrong way.

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HUH? Amazon approves ad campaign, then suspends when it starts HUH?

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The above e-novel was my first, of what is now five, e-Books published on Amazon.  It has been reviewed twice, both with four star reviews. If you want to learn more about it, you can tap the link at top of page. I loved writing the book and the two main fictional characters in this book, based on a true story, have now appeared in three e-novels. Baseball fiction does not sell well, unless you are named W.P. Kinsella, or Darryl Brock. So in order to gain more readers, because, as I said, I love this satire on fame and celebrity, I lowered price to 99 cents. 

I also decided to avail myself of Amazon’s marketing services and created an ad campaign with them. It is easy to setup. When submitted, either robots, humans, or some digital logarithms places the campaign in review to make sure it meets their standards of decency and all that jazz.  The campaign was approved. It was to begin May 9th and on that day I received an e-mail from their marketing service stating the campaign was stopped due to ‘low relevance.’

What, you ask, is ‘low relevance.’ Amazon says the following “There are a number of factors that impact relevance including the targeting you choose for your ad. Refining your targeting options to focus on related products or genres may improve your ad’s relevance.”

When I created the campaign you have a choice on whether to target by ‘interest’ or ‘product.’ For writers ‘interest’ is best. As I said baseball fiction is not a big seller and when choosing targeted relevance I chose literary fiction because neither sports fiction or satire was listed. But literary fiction was as close as I could get. I could select up to two I believe, so thought I should select another.

I redid campaign and submitted it again, this time adding ‘sports and outdoors’ under ‘other.’  I don’t know if this will work as campaign is under review, and even if approved, it may, like my first attempt, get approved then stopped on my new day to begin the campaign.

The only other problem I had in marketing with Amazon was the knife you see on the cover that I had to remove because of the image and what it means. I dealt with it, not a deal breaker. So I will see what happens with my new ‘relevance’ and in the interim I will contact marketing services to suggest they expand their list to include sports fiction and satire.

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Mystery of The Agony Column, Charlie Chan, and a free book

Earl Derr Biggers was known for his six  Charlie Chan mysteries and the movies made from them. But before he created the famous detective he wrote other mysteries. One of which “The Agony Column” is a mystery within a mystery. I bring this book up because it is worth examining for writers as well as readers. You may find the book a great read, or you can argue the novel is too cute, too clever for it’s own good. It is a public domain novel you can download to your reading app for nothing on Amazon. You can tap for the free book and judge for yourself.

It was written in 1916 and the story takes place in 1914 just before England enters World War I. Here is the set up. The title is derived from a column in a London newspaper. It is one where people can exchange messages with anonymity. An man is seated at a restaurant table when a lovely woman and her father enter, sit down and begin talking. The man, infatuated with the lovely young American learns she loves reading the Agony Column. So he places an ad that references where she had lunch. She answers saying she loves mystery and romance and if he can continue to keep her interested she will meet him.

We learn in his second letter that the man above his apartment has been murdered and over the course of his letters a great mystery with many twists and turns ensue as the young man is helping in the investigation, not something he expected to have happen and indeed he becomes a suspect as well, and for good reason. Is he innocent or will he confess in his last letter? Would it not be a great twist to have the narrator be the killer? In each letter he professes his admiration and love for her, but is unsure of his future because of the murder investigation. 

It is a clever structure to have the mystery told by the narrator through letters. Not something I have run across before. The mystery of what happened draws the reader in and because of the time 1914 with war about to break out in Europe it seems a likely spy is in the midst of the murder and one who may be with the British government. But  there is also good reason to believe someone else is the killer, including the letter writer.

But as with any great mystery there is a twist and that I can not share, but the twist is where the reader, and perhaps a writer might think it was a twist that should not have been made. I will understand if some don’t like the ending, I get it. But from a writers standpoint I see something else at work. The narrator is the writer, the woman is his audience, and Biggers is the author and we are his audience. Even in a wonderful mystery, Biggers is having fun, holding up a mirror to the construct and artifice of writing, poking and prodding his audience to the end when he says “Got Ya!”

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An inside look at the life of a 21st century writer-no punches pulled

I was going to begin working on my new novel this morning, but first I had to write this post. A writer must have self imposed deadlines and schedules. There are certain days to write and publish posts for this blog. And I might add, a great warm up exercise for the days writing.

Of course I, as any writer, must also Tweet about my five e-books available at Amazon Kindle, and another Tweet or two, or three, directing other Tweeters to my website where they can learn about me and my books. Since I am on Twitter I should search for other people to follow, to see if they will also follow me.

And as long as I am being sociable, there are thirty communities at Google+ that I have to visit in order to comment on posts, give them the ‘+’ all in the hopes they will do the same for me. After commenting, promoting, and ‘+’ others, I can then promote my e-books, my blogs, my website. I promote the others first of course, not only because I am generous with my time, but also because if I don’t I will be chastised, exorcised from circle of friends, and banned from the community.

Having done all the above it was time for lunch. I did not make any progress on my new novel, but at least I was not wasting time.

After lunch I needed to make a decision about Facebook. It really does little good promoting my books to family and friends. Though some are encouraging (some as in few, very few), most don’t have a Kindle, and others don’t care. They are busy posting funny videos of cats and sharing recipes for Risengrod (tap for recipe). So do I now create a Facebook fan page when I have not enough fans to make it worthwhile. And what do I do on my fan page anyway?

Then their is marketing to consider. Do I try Amazon merchandising campaign ads to promote my books?  You must spend money to make money is the old adage. No doubt coined by an ad salesman to make money from those who won’t make money.

Prior to the Internet, writing was a solitary art, now it is a social art. My question is, when do I find time to write my next book? It is dinner time after all. Maybe after viewing those cat videos.

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This post was revised and edited from one of my posts on a different website.





How a gremlin tried to sabotage my e-book-writers beware!

I am the world’s worst proofreader.

In light of my declaration of inadequacy, I take offense that I was targeted by digital gremlins. They were out to sabotage me, and indeed, they partially did. I really don’t need their help. I am perfectly capable of self-sabotage. The following is a true story.

My e-book “Loonies in Hollywood” was published on Kindle Direct a few  years ago. I used an independent formatter where I proofread, then viewed changes on my Kindle app 250 times. The number came from a counter on the formatter, and the proofreading was over ten days. I knew I could not catch everything, but I had caught so much I considered something unworldly was going on.

There came a time when both my eyes and my mind were weary and bleary. Eager to publish I went ahead. Bad decision. sent a review copy to someone knowledgeable on the story I wrote. He emailed me a number of spelling and grammatical errors. I corrected all but one.

He had said there were times I used the word Edward when it should have been Edwin. I went to the formatter, did a search and replace for Edward, but it said there were no occurrences. He saw Edward, my formatter does not see Edward. I checked some pages where his name was likely to be found. I could not find Edward.

Two days later the book had a free day. The Edward-Edwin thing kept bothering me. Late in the day, that inner voice said to check the formatter one more time. I did another search and replace for Edward, and this time it found nine occurrences. What? One day none, another day nine. Truthfully, I was so confused, I am not sure what is name was. It could by Wally for all I know.

To go from zero occurrences to nine the reason must be e-world gremlins? I have heard rumors about them, even saw a documentary about them on the PCC Network (Paranormal-Cryptid-Conspiracy). Now I have had a personal encounter.

I republished the book in the middle of the free day; with I am sure, millions upon millions of eager readers wanting to devour my loony book.

But I had no choice; this is the e-world I live in, one where gremlins lay in wait like a collide rattler, ready to strike venom into my hopes, dreams, and livelihood.

Like I need any help.

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This post was revised and edited from one of my previous posts on another website