Amazon could ban Hamlet ad for holding one thing

In order to get along we abide by certain standards like ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ and if you don’t abide you go to prison or death row. There will be repercussions after all for those of you refusing to abide by the rules. And, for better or worse, we live in a politically correct society, one in which people are easily offended-and we don’t want that do we. So organizations and businesses create standards to live by, hoping people will not get offended.

Amazon has standards for us writers who publish e-books on their site and they are entitled to do so. I’m sure they review their policies from time to time, but it is interesting to read what they will allow and what they will not.

Example:  Unacceptable books • Books glorifying or promoting the use of illicit drugs, drug paraphernalia or products to beat drug tests • Books with content that is obscene, defamatory, libelous, illegal, invasive of another’s privacy, or contains hate speech • Books with content that is threatening, abusive, harassing, or that discriminate or advocate against a protected group, whether based on race, color, national origin, religion, disability, sex, sexual orientation, disability, age or any other category.

No complaints from this corner. But let us move on to advertising on Amazon, what you can or can’t do.

Examples: Unacceptable ad content • Books with overtly religious or spiritual content • Books that advocate a specific political ideology, advocate for or against a specific political issue, or promote a specific candidate. Objective, educational or historical political content may be accepted • Foul, vulgar, or obscene language, including censored words that indicate foul, vulgar, or obscene language • Images of human or animal abuse, mistreatment, or distress • Images or titles glorifying or promoting the use of illicit drugs, drug paraphernalia or products to beat drug tests • Images or titles that are obscene, defamatory, libelous, illegal, invasive of another’s privacy, or contain hate speech • Images or titles that may be interpreted as threatening, abusive, harassing, or that discriminate or advocate against a protected group, whether based on race, color, national origin, religion, disability, sex, sexual orientation, disability, age or any other category. • Provocative imagery such as blatantly sexual prurient poses or poses that may be suggestive of sexual behavior, including partial nudity, excessive cleavage, or models in lingerie, underwear, or swimwear • Violent or disturbing images or titles. This includes excessive blood, injuries, mutilations, guts, corpses, and weapons being used in a violent or threatening manner.  

Keep in mind this is about ad content and ads should be somewhat clean and respectable. But for me, it seems almost puritanical to ban ‘models in lingerie, underwear or swimwear.’ If people get upset by a woman in a swimsuit, or for that matter, a man in a swimsuit, it says something about that person, something along the lines of unhealthy repression, and though I could go into more details, I may be banned for offending repressive Puritans.

And if people wanted to press the issue they can find something in all those no-no’s in books or cover art; it all depends on how picky they want to be because reading what Amazon says is unacceptable could be everything if you look closely enough.

But it is not a battle worth fighting; none of the ads I created had anything offensive except for the cover of Silent Murder, the knife on the one cover is acceptable on my Amazon page, but is not acceptable in advertising. While it appears to be a double standard, perhaps hypocritical, at the same time both Amazon and myself win.

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I can see their point in much of what I read in Amazon’s policies that they sent me and other writers. I may not agree with everything as I think they have gone to the extreme a bit on some things. For example my favorite No-No that actually got me to chuckle was the following: Skulls and bones. We do not accept images of realistic skulls that may frighten or upset customers. We do not accept images of skulls or bones that appear in or around a grave, or as an exhumed body.

A skull? Really where does it end.

So Hamlet holding the skull in the graveyard in which Hamlet says, “Alas, poor Yorick, I knew him well Horatio . . .” is now forbidden as an ad image. 

Some things are just ridiculous. 

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My lustful disease for books now has a name

In my July 6th post I told how I was buried under an avalanche of books, that my purchasing was outgaining my reading by 234 books. Five days later I shared what I purchased at a recent book sale and wondered what disease I had. I was not a compulsive buyer of books, though it seems that way, but I am not. Honest.

What I discovered subsequent to that post is that a bibliophile is  a lover of books. However, a bibliophile can quench his lust in a library without buying books. No what I am is a book collector. Some people bring home stray cats and give them a home. When you consider the cost of a litter box, bowls for food and water, shots, cat food and assorted accoutrements, you are better off bringing home stray books and give them a warm home.  

Years ago I read Bernard Malamud’s “The Natural” and that book has disappeared. It may have been a runaway. I hope it has found a nice home. But I now have two copies. One is a small 1952 Dell paperback purchased because of the cover, a painting by Bill George, on the left, and a 1966 edition from Time Life, cover art by Karl Stucklin on the right, purchased because of an introduction by Robert Angell, Hall of Fame baseball writer. 


I collect fiction, non-fiction, whatever captures my eye and my lust.

In the book “The Man who Loved Books Two Much”  by Allison Hoover Bartlett, Walter Benjamin is quoted, “Ownership is the most intimate relationship that one can have to objects. Not that they come alive in him; it is he who comes alive in them.” I must admit when purchasing books I get a bit of a high, that coming alive feeling. I love reading the copyright page where you find what edition the book is, which printing it is. I love reading the first paragraph, flipping through the pages, and of course, the cover art.

Other books about the insanity are:

A Gentle Madness by Nicholas Basbanes

To Have and To Hold by Philipp Blom

Anatomy of Bibliomania by Holbrook Jackson

Collecting: An Unruly Passion by Werner Muensterberger

If there is a cure, I don’t want to know about it. I am content.

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The Dark Side of Being Organized

I recently downloaded an app that I thought would help me be better organized. Instead of writing Post-Its or making notations in a notebook near my keyboard, using scraps of paper, paper towels, or toilet tissue, I could put everything on this very organized app. I am going to tell you how it works, what I did, and how it created a dark side.

The app is called Get it Done and it is very helpful. There is an inbox, a today file, a next, a scheduled and a someday file. There is also a projects list where you can add and edit projects. You can do the same for something called Smart Groups. I have no idea what this is, but it is there. You can also add and edit people (if it were only that easy).

Keep in mind that this app is free, though there are certain functions for which you need to register and pay $39 per year. But for my needs the free features work quite well, thank you.

I have two items in my inbox. One will remain as it is a reminder of something I need to focus on each day, the other concerns upcoming events.  I have five items in my today function, one for today and the others for upcoming days. What I need to do, where to go, appointments; a daily calendar. I have 12 items in my someday file, though that could be in the projects folder as it has do to with my writing plans, projects I am working on and upcoming projects. So I may move it to that location.

Now keep in mind I had to set all this up, deciding what I needed to focus on, how I want it arranged and then typing in all my notes and so on. Upon completion my desk was clear and my life was organized in my cute little app. However, it took so long for me to organize my organizer that I had no time to write the blog I intended to write.

I also went to a book sale the next day and though I only bought nine books, in order to better organize things I had to spend three hours reorganizing my room in order to make my book case and shelves better organized, putting in alphabetical order all my unread books-now over 300 including e-Books-by size, alphabetized in three sections; hardback, trade, and paperback. All tidy, pretty, and organized. The problem of course is that I had no time to write my blog for the second consecutive day.

As you can tell, being organized is time consuming and leaves little time to get done what is on your list. I had to forego the blog I intended to write as I thought I should warn you about the dark side of being organized. It isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

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How to create a story-FROM WHAT?

While reading “The Curse of Beauty: The Scandalous & Tragic Life of Audrey Munson, America’s First Supermodel” I was struck by lightning, or to put it another way, a light bulb lit up over my head in a cartoon panel; in other words I had an idea.

Audrey Munson was a young woman of great beauty in the early years of the 20th century. She posed for every great sculptor of her time, not to mention painters, illustrators, and photographers. She was in high demand because during this neo-classical time before modernism became the mode of the day, she had, according to artists, the classical Greek form. She also appeared in two early silent films, appearingnude, which she frequently did posing for sculptors.,

In the book the author talked about the artists and how they would make sketches from all angles before making a clay model, then onto the actual sculpture. It dawned on me as the light bulb grew to full illumination that a writer can do the same thing, make sketches I mean.

I could in essence sketch the story before writing. So I thought I would try it for a short story that I must submit by September 1st. I have the beginning of the story, the problem that the protagonist encounters and what problems would arise with said problem and how it will end. You may think I created an outline, but I did not and this is why. It was free form, writing what came to mind without any undue thought process, one thing leading to another, thoughts, ideas within ideas, flowing from brain to fingertips, fingertips to tapping keys, and showing up in Word.doc. I wasn’t outlining by thinking, I was sketching by not thinking, coming up with a sentence here and there, more words, phrases, something to work from.

I would show you exactly what I did, but then you will have all you need to write your story from my notes, win yourself a Pulitzer, get a book deal with a New York publisher, make millions, have swimsuit models draped on your arm-or undraped if you prefer-and get you face on the cover of Writers Digest. I think you understand why I can’t share. Besides with success come problems. You will have too much money and fame, and that leads to drugs, addiction and the murder of a swimsuit model, and you spend the rest of your life in prison. So I am saving you from a life you don’t want. You’re very welcome.

So if you want to write a story, write a sentence or an idea, and then let your mind roam, writing down any thought that comes based on the sentence. Think of it as word association, but using at times more than one word. Example: Using the famous opening, “It was a dark and stormy night”-dark-power outage in the neighborhood-what kind of storm-rain? Meteor? Sand? Maybe a rainstorm in a desert-what is going wrong with the climate- a climatologist is in danger-is it the apocalypse? Well you get the idea. Let you mind go crazy and create a sketch of ideas to build your story on.

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Why telling a story around a campfire makes you a writer

I was looking at some of my blogs from a previous incarnation and ran across this post and thought I would share it.

I have no illusions about my writing. I am not a great writer, though if you want to disagree I shall not object. Like most Indie authors who write e-novels and short stories, I have flaws. But I have read novels from writers who have an actual publisher and agent, and I wonder how they got published.

I contend that writing advice is often more analytical after the fact. What I mean is that the advice about structure and plot usually give examples to dissect, to show how it was done. That is fine, but how many writers actually sit down and write a structural outline, with character arcs, denouements, epiphanies, and other literary  analytics.

Of course there are writers that do and my congratulations to all of you, but it seems backward. If you have sat around a campfire and told a story, you are actually writing as you speak. The story you tell has its own built in structure, its own twist, its own climax. When you sit down at the keyboard, instead of keeping all that advice in your mind; advice that can clutter, confuse and cause writer insanity, consider telling a story by narrating in your mind.

Imagine you are telling a story. Listen to your voice, forget grammar, forget everything and just tell your story.  You don’t need long, complex sentences with heavy use of adverbs and colorful description. Trying to impress will backfire. When you hear the phrase ‘a writer’s voice’ it is more than writers style and technique; it can also have something to do with how the author speaks with his voice.

In a good documentary film the narrator can captivate you with his words as he tells the story. That is what story telling is. Narration. You can even speak your words aloud as you pound out keystrokes. I don’t because I am already nuts, but I do listen to my words as I type. I narrate a story (Including dialogue of course). I don’t write it.

I bet you can do the same.






Here is what I purchased to feed my lustful disease

In my previous post I mentioned I was buried under an avalanche of books and that I was going to a book sale at the local library that raises funds for said library. Before I show you what I bought, I tried to find a name for the disease of those of us who-it might be said-are compulsive book buyers-but I found none specific to book buyers, but Google does no always find what I am looking for. The closest word is oniomania. It is a compulsive buying disorder that causes problems with everyday life. Book Buyers exempt.

The word ‘bookaholic’ does not really apply. It is a person who loves books, but when you continue to buy and your reading can’t keep pace with the purchasing then there must be a better, more accurate term. But I am not compulsive. It certainly does not interfere with daily life as daily life continues no matter what I do.

I may be in denial, having bought 21 books plus one Justice League of America comic book on Saturday, days after receiving two hardbacks from Amazon, “Paper,” a book on the history of paper, and “You May Also Like” a book on taste in the age of endless choices. It tells us why we choose what we do. (At least I have heard it will, as it remains unread for the moment).

Saturday sale 


Callander Square-Anne Perry

The Rose Rent-Ellis Peters

The Snake, the Crocodile, and the Dog-Elizabeth Peters

Live to Tell-Lisa Gardner

Nightmare in Pink-John McDonald

five mysteries by Dana Stabenow-set in Alaska.

Mr.. Murder-Dean Koontz

House of Sand and Fog-Andrus Dubus

Foucault’s Pendulum-Umberto Eco

The Island of the Day Before-Eco

Grendel-John Gardner

What Killed Jane Austen and other medical mysteries 


John Dickson Carr Treasury-two novels

Light Thickens-Ngaio Marsh

Book of Lies-Brad Meltzer

Faithless-Karen Slaughter

The World’s Last Mysteries-Readers Digest 

One Justice League of America comic 

21 books + one comic. Cost $6, tip included at Friends of the Library Sale


Sale continued Monday:

The New Yorker Album of cartoons 1925-195o (oversized

The New Yorker Album of cartoons 1955-1965 (oversized)


Bag of Bones-Stephen King

Devices and Desires-P.D. James

The Red House Mystery-A.A. Milne (Yes the Winnie the Pooh guy)

This Side of Paradise-F Scott Fitzgerald

Tender is the Night-F Scott Fitzgerald

The Dark-Carrie Brown ( a professor from my alma mater)


Something from the Nightside-Simon R. Green

The Natural-Bernard Malamud

Freedom From Fear-Pulitzer Prize winner from David Kennedy. The American people in the depression and war 1929-1945

And finally a book all book lovers MUST have on their shelf. It is “The Man Who Loved Books Too Much,” by Allison Hoover Bartlett. It is about a man who loves books and steals a fortune in rare books, not to sell, but for himself and the detective on his trail. I hope he is never caught. On the back of the book in the description it says this. . . “deep into the rich world of fanatical book lust. . .” Book lust, that must be the disease, an erotic, lust of books.

Cost-$6 (tip included)

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In an April 4th post about three cheap ways to become a bookaholic I mentioned  that I had 81 unread e-Books and 133 unread old fashioned books, the type you hold in your hand without use of a device, unless, of course, you recognize hands as a device. This amounted to 234 books waiting for me to crack open, or in the case of an e-Book tap open.

Two months and a few days since that post there is no relief as the avalanche continues to bury me. Unread e-Books up to 96 and the old fashioned kind up to 157. This adds  up to 253, a 19 book gain. And keep in mind I have read and finished books during this time, hoping to lighten the load bearing down on me.

And it is going to get worse. This Saturday and again on Monday the Friends of the Library is holding one of there sales. The proceeds go to the library to help them purchase new books,  to aid library programs and buy supplies for kids. So everybody wins. Except for a book hoarder like myself; I can barely breath, let alone move under the weight of unread books.

How good is the sale you ask? Hardback books at 50 cents or 3 for a $1. Who does this? This is as close to giving books away as you can get. Do they expect me to stay away, do they think I have discipline? I believe they have these sales knowing they will make a fortune off me. And paperbacks are 25 cents each or 6 for a $1. The same goes for VHS tapes, CD’s and audio books. To be honest the CD’s they had at previous sale were mostly music to accompany your yoga workout, or music from countries I did not know existed. But I go for the books anyway.

I will spend the next few days reading books nearest my hands, as many as I can, foregoing meals, bathroom trips, sleeping, and doing anything that prevents me from getting out from under this cataclysmic cascade of opus delicti.




What did Sue Grafton say about writing

Besides being an author and blogger, I volunteer at the local library. One of my two sections covers all the books about writing. There is always a book or two that catch my eye while I am checking the Dewey decimals on each book ensuring they are in proper order. One day I ran across “Why We Write.” Twenty best selling authors telling you there tips, tricks, and secrets. (There are no secrets, for if you share, it is not a secret-but I digress.)

In the introduction, the editor of the book , Meredith Maran, quotes George Orwell’s four motives for writing. They are: Sheer egoism (to be talked about, remembered); Aesthetic enthusiasm (for the pleasure of sound and rhythm of what you wrote); Historical impulse (to see things as they are, find true facts); Political purposes (The opinion that art should have nothing do to with politics is itself a political attitude).

Writers are quirky. Isabel Allende begins every novel on January 8th. She begins with a ‘sort of an idea’ and the first four weeks are wasted. Eventually it begins to pull together. What we can take away is her perseverance. She doesn’t quit, she works her way through her process. So if you feel bogged down with your story remember Isabel and stay with it; persevere and you will feel great, having, in the end, worked out of the dense jungle you found yourself in.

David Baldacci says ” ‘Writing for your readers’ is a euphemism for ‘writing what you think people will buy.’ Don’t fall for it! Write for the person you know best: yourself.” Many writers have said this. Write your story for yourself first-it will turn out better. This has been said since Mark Twain, maybe earlier.

Jennifer Egan says not to worry about bad writing. “One should accept bad writing as a way of priming the pump, a warm-up exercise that allows you to write well.” She also says you must write on a regular basis, even 15 minutes a day, something to keep you in the habit.

Sue Grafton, with all her success, says “Most days when I sit down at my computer, I’m scared half out of my mind. I’m always convinced that my last book was my last book, that my career is at an end. . . ” She, like Allende, perseveres.  Grafton gave my favorite quote, “There are no secrets and there are no shortcuts. As an aspiring writer, what you need to know is that learning to write is self-taught, and learning to write well takes years.”

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