Amazon’s Bots Causing Writers Nightmares

I applaud Amazon for developing algorithms and bots that seek out and destroy paid book reviews. Any type of review, book or otherwise, should not come from a paid hack. Nor, on the flip side, should Amazon allow reviews from those who always give bad reviews to everything they choose to write about. It is their idea of fun. They are the human equivalent of bots. The software digital bots have an excuse, the humans one are evil.

But we don’t live in a perfect world, far from it, and these problems will be ongoing.

A few years ago I had a 4-star review for one of my e-books that disappeared. Amazon told me they did not know why. As it dropped my average review from 3.5 to 3 that did not help my cause. Luckily I had saved it through copy and paste and can use it on this site.

I follow Anne R. Allen’s blog about some recent problems regarding Amazon’s bots deleting reviews that are random, done for no reason. This hurts both Amazon and writers.

I quote from her blog: ” UPDATE, 4/24/18: Yesterday the Washington Post ran an article on Amazon’s fake review problem, which made it sound pretty severe, and shows why the Zon is cracking down so hard.

But today industry watchdog David Gaughran offered some enlightening information that refutes some of the data in the WaPo article.

It seems that Amazon is using some very dodgy data from an outfit called ReviewMeta to flag “fake” reviews. Two “proofs” of wrongdoing, according to ReviewMeta are: 1) reviewers who mention the name of the book 2) reviewers who review more than one book in a series. Their algorithm flags those as fake reviews.

So if you’ve had your reviews removed, or your account has been deleted, it may have happened because you broke these “rules” which have no relevance to book reviewing.

This may be why the robots are getting things so very, very wrong.”

Digital technology is not fool proof. As you can see from the quote Big Brother Bots can go rogue, or maybe they are not that smart. So if you are a writer and have books, e-books, or sell anything on Amazon, monitor your reviews. Know how many reviews there are, who wrote them, what the rating was. And you might want to keep track the old fashioned way, paper and pen. You never know.

The following e-book has a 3.5 rating based on 3 reviews and is not the e-book with the missing review I mentioned. If you chose to buy this e-book please do NOT review the book. The bots may think we know each other. I can’t afford to lose reviews. Thanks for reading.

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How Fiction Emerges from Synchronicity

I have mentioned that writers find story ideas all around them. All you have to do is keep your mind open to wonder.

Here  is an example culled from real life, something you might be prone to forget the moment it happened, unless you let your mind run with it. I volunteer at a local historical museum. Recently I was scanning newspaper obituaries into a computer and then entering them in Excel. I listed name, date of birth, date of death and a hyperlink to the scanned obituary. Then a strange thing happened. I had made an entry and moved on to the next obit and when I came to date of birth I noticed the previous entry date of birth was not aligned properly. By that I mean, as Excel users know, when you type in a date then tab to next cell the entry aligns to the right, but this entry was to the left. So I deleted and retyped, same thing. It would not align right. For some reason, perhaps a ghostly whisper in my hear, I looked at the newspaper article and saw I had the month wrong. It should have been a 3 not a 2, so I typed in the correct date and it aligned correctly.

I do not draw conclusions whether it was a coincidental glitch, or a supernatural whisper from beyond to the tune of  ‘hey, you got my birthdate wrong, please correct.’

As I said, the majority of people would say, ‘well that was weird,’ think nothing more and proceed. But writers must be alert and when weird things happen, jot it down, save it, run with it, let your imagination fly.

This happened the same week that a construction company was working on improving and repairing the sewer system; they have been outside my house for a couple of weeks. I was doing some research on my home computer about a baseball pitcher from the past whose last name I had never heard before. It took about 15 minutes before my brain clicked in. I went out to the kitchen, found the notice from the construction company. It was the same last name of the baseball pitcher. Synchronicity at its best.

One more example, I was visiting a local Native-American museum for the first time. During the tour there was a large picture of a long ago tribal member and the guide discussed who he was and his importance. Two days later at the museum I volunteer at, I picked up a book on sale I had not seen before. It was historical and was about a Native-American woman from the late 19th century. I flipped it open to the picture section in the middle of the book, and there was the same picture I saw two days earlier. Of course I had to buy the book. You do not fool with synchronicity.

What does all this mean? I don’t know, but when you find these things happening in your life YOU can make something out of it. A short Twilight Zone type of story or a horror novel, or anything. As a writer be alert for things little, weird, and odd, and put them to use. Remember, if you do nothing, nothing will happen.

How Handwriting Kills Creativity in the Digital World

If you are a writer you know ideas, thoughts, and dialogue scenes pop into your head whenever, and at times whenever arrives like unwelcome gas when in bed with a significant other or significant same, in other words, at inopportune moments. You either have to let it go, or suck it up and multitask.

Often I get random thoughts when I go to bed. To sleep. So I keep a memo pad on a small table next to my bed. The other night something came to mind and I had to write it down. This was good. What was bad was waiting three days before I looked at it.

My handwriting is so bad even doctors can’t read it. It looks like a cross between Egyptian hieroglyphics, Sanskrit, Japanese, and ancient Martian. It does not help that my glasses were elsewhere when I wrote on the pad.

I finally got around to translating my handwriting into digital words on Word.doc. I was pleasantly surprised that only one word could not be translated out of three chicken scrawled pages, remembering of course that that is three small pages in a small memo pad.

One partial sentence reads like this, “. . .  not as vital as the heart, but vital to a (not legible), and then continues “to the future.” The word in question looks like h’fel’n, but that is a guess and based in part on two archeologists who are friends that specialize in ancient scripts.

The point is for a writer to strike while the iron of creativity is stirring. Do not have a memo pad by your desk. If you have an idea, get out of bed with the urgency of one who believes the roof is caving in during an earthquake, leaving your partner to fend for themselves because they are not writers and don’t understand you to begin with, shoving the cat out of your chair, and using the device of choice, write everything in the digital format and never, ever write anything with your hand. They are for holding a spoon to get ice cream to your mouth. If the cat meows too much throw her out of the room and let the dog take care of it.

As I was writing this post I had an idea for the last line. I made the mistake of writing-in hand-and doing so hurriedly. It looks like this, “Writing is important, nt Big otes on nets.”

I think otes could be notes, and nets could be pets or pads. I have no idea about nt. My archeologists gave up and went home.

Okay, I have no archeologist friends, but the two examples of my note taking are true.  The sad thing is that the last line beginning “writing is important . . .” is something I wrote about ten minutes ago and still don’t know what I meant.

So strike while the iron is hot and make sure the iron is stored in a digital device. Either that or have great handwriting.

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Why a Writer Should Work Like an Actor

Before I answer the question posed I want to set the scene before two characters talk.
In a short story I am working on, a man is walking down a hallway, stops in front of a door with a security window, punches a code into a keypad, and enters into another hallway.

I do not tell what the facility is, but through describing what the man sees in the hallway, like the color of the walls and what type of pictures or posters are hanging on the wall and using phrases like ‘institutional carpet’ and what he observes by watching people, some of whom are looking at a TV, though few seem to be comprehending, the reader should get the idea that the man is in a nursing home.
The man walks into a room where a woman is sitting and looking out the window. He pulls up a chair and begins to talk. So now we have a setting. And now they must talk.
When faced with a conversation, especially an emotional one and one with a twist, and a conversation that must reveal character, a lot of thought must go into the dialogue.
You must know your character, know how he talks, and know his personality. What you need not know is how the conversation will end. If you choose to think of how it will end and write towards that end that works too. For me, I like to make it up as I go along. Like an improve actor.
If I know my character, then I can imagine the conversation. As I write I know the man is going to reminisce about two things. One is about how happy he was when he got married and the other is the worst day of his life when his two children, home from college, are killed in an auto accident.
So, like an actor, I go with the scene. A writer must get into the character’s head and pretend to be the character. Writing fiction requires you, not to think, but to feel. A good actor feels the words, understands the emotion. Once you feel the emotion of the words, the dialogue flows. It did for me, usually does. And in this moment where the man says more than the woman he is conversing with I come up with something that makes it all work, including the twist.
You see, the man thought he was talking to his wife. The woman said that she was not his wife, that her children were not dead. She made short interjections, then asked him to call a nurse; three of four times she would break in and ask for the nurse.
When the nurse does come she sees the man and an empty chair.
The man was not in the right room, his wife is dead, the woman who lives in the room was watching TV in the activity area, and the man had dementia.
But you never say what the facility is. You never give the background like a reporter giving news. You reveal through descriptive imagery and through dialogue, imagining you are an actor, not on the stage, but on the page.
Finished imaginings of mine are found at the top of my web page and the e-books are available on Amazon.
Thanks for reading.

The Disappearance-a paranormal short story to take your mind into a new dimension

My short story was published in Mason County Writes, a yearly journal of stories, poems, and drawings from regional writers.

 

Mayda Engel looked left, then right, before glancing behind her. She was sitting on a white wooden bench near a cobblestone footpath. Her heart pounding, her breath laboring, her mind wavering back and forth; yes she was meeting a murderer at his request, but no she told herself, he was never arrested, only suspected. His wife’s body was never found, no crime scene, nothing to indicate murder, only malicious gossip eight year ago when the wife of writer Gordon Manton disappeared. Mayda didn’t believe he was a killer, but still, one can’t assume, or at least, should not assume.

As her right hand brushed lint off her cream colored skirt a few pigeons landed in front of her feet. “No food birdies, so off with you.” They stayed; looking at her, with what she thought was certain insolence. Stupid birds. She kicked out her foot and they hopped across the cobblestones. She looked at her watch. Gordon was ten minutes late. What he wanted to meet about he did not say. She had tried to get an interview with him in the past, but even before the disappearance of Annalise, he gave interviews as often as vampires got suntans. Was getting a confession out of the question? It would certainly enhance her career and reputation. Not much of a risk she told herself. No body, no crime scene, nothing to worry about. But what did he want from her?

Gordon was fifteen minutes late. Twenty minutes late. Looking down the cobblestone paths, Mayda saw elderly people out for a stroll, kids playing. She said out loud, not necessarily for the pigeons benefit, “I have better things to do on this beautiful July day than be entertainment for you silly creatures.”

But she stayed.

While debating whether to leave or throw a shoe at the pigeons, Mayda saw Gordon hurriedly coming down the path.

“My deepest apologies,” he said. “I could offer some excuse, but I have none that would justify my lateness, none that would appease you I mean. Late start to the day, things just went wrong. But thank you for waiting for I do need to talk with you, and need your help actually.”

“Do you have something to get off your chest, something about your wife, or just want to talk writing? A confession would be preferred of course.”

“Neither. That is, I mean, it does concern my wife, not her disappearance, but her reappearance at our summer home, the one in the country.”

“What do you mean? Is she back?”

“Well that is what I want to talk with you about. She is there, at the house, but also, not there. It is hard to explain, but . . .”

“Oh for God’s sake, make some sense. What are you talking about?”

“This will sound like I am nuts of course. Believe me, I have considered it. I have seen her in the house more than once, in fact many times over the years, but I am unable to talk with her. Look, I could say she is a ghost, but I do not believe in that nonsense. Besides she is not some shadow, nothing ephemeral, no wisp of a smoky thing, or whatever ghosts are supposed to look like . . .”

“So she is at the house, but she is not a ghost, though she could be, as you seem unsure about what you are seeing . . . well you’re a writer, you paint a picture with words, so relax and get into your writer’s mind.”

“Well let me get to the point. I want you to accompany me to the house, the sooner the better before I change my mind. Maybe I am nuts, but I want somebody to see what I am seeing, to confirm everything, perhaps to give an answer. Would you come to the house? Stay there for a few days, a week, or I don’t know, just to give it a chance.”

“Why not call those ghostbuster people? They can document it, get it on TV you know. Then the world can see Annalise.”

“I sense you are joking, but I am not. You see I don’t think she is dead, I don’t believe in ghosts. It must be something else. I can see her as clear as I see you, but when she sees me I can’t hear a word, a look of panic on her face. Then again I must question my sanity. I need a respected journalist, a skeptic, and you have a no nonsense reputation, somebody who the public, and of course the police, will believe if you see what I see.”

“Thank you for the compliment. I remain dubious, but that is what you want isn’t it? On the other hand, I did write, and I make no apologies, a rather brutal piece about you and your wife, so I have concerns for why you chose me to be a witness.”

“Because if I asked a good friend, or my agent, or my attorney, people like that, then credibility of the witness would be questioned. But if you verify what I have seen, that she is alive, the public and the authorities are better inclined to believe you.”

“Why not bring in a large audience?”

“Because,” said Gordon, “I am afraid that if a large group was there and did not see, anything, then word spreads so fast that I will look ludicrous and any subsequent attempts would be . . . well it just wouldn.t work. You are one person, not much damage done, even if you write one more negative story. I think you are my best shot.”

Mayda bent over, her head towards her lap, she brushed back her short dark hair with her hands. Sitting back and looking at Gordon, his gray hair impeccably combed, she said, “let’s go.”

 

Nearly 800 country acres of rolling hills and ponds is where Gordon and Annalise purchased a house, bought because Gordon professed he liked the country feel of the area, was tired of the noise and distraction of big city life; rich green lawn preferred to gray hard pavement, birds chirping and tweeting preferred to horns honking, deer and an occasional raccoon or two preferred to angry, hostile people. Three months later his wife Annalise disappeared.

The house sat in front of a large wooded area, the woods enveloping the house on three sides. In front of the house a circular paved driveway winds through a deep rich green manicured lawn.

As Gordon drove his British grey Bentley towards the house, Mayda, seeing the house for the first time, did not think the house was imposing in any manner whatsoever. Influenced by Gordon’s ‘ghost story’ she expected something ominous. Both relieved and disappointed she resolved not to make any judgement the rest of the stay. Watch, listen, and see what happens.

It would be a great story if indeed she saw Annalise. And if she didn’t she would still file a story, one in which people would think Gordon had emotional issues. Of course, she thought, he might be setting up some kind of insanity defense.

Entering the door was a long entryway deep into the house with stairs to the upper floor on the right. To the left was the living room with dark red carpet and floor to ceiling windows.

The entire house was well kept, the furnishings giving the appearance of an Architectural Digest photo spread. The difference is that some of the furniture had protective covering for Gordon spent most of his time in New York. Mayda thought the house warm, friendly and inviting.

“How often do you return here Gordon?”

“Usually on our wedding anniversary, her birthday, and sometimes just to come back.”

“But not on the date of her disappearance?”

“No. That is not a day to celebrate. But I have been coming back more often, usually when I finish a book. I can write here, but I am often distracted. I see things, things I hope you will see.”

“Noises, do you hear noises?”

“There are always noises, even alone in a big house. Wood creaks depending on heat or cold. I paid no attention, not much anyway, of noises, until Annalise disappeared. Since then when I hear noises, they seem louder, more menacing, more imposing. Is it my imagination? I don’t know.”

“Which happened first? You saw her, and then noises, or the reverse, noises and then you saw her?”

“Noises.”

Gordon then took Mayda to her room on the second floor, far left from the top of the stairs, a library and bathroom between her room and Gordon’s. Wooden floors didn’t creak when Mayda walked heavily on them as a test. Her mind eased, she smiled. Bright yellow wallpaper gave the room a cheerful look, the window facing the front of the house brought in lots of light.

“When you see Annalise, Gordon, do you see her downstairs or up here, near or in your bedroom?”

“The first time I saw her was in our bedroom down the hall. I had fallen asleep while reading, so the table lamp was on. I don’t know why, but I felt something wrong, even though I was asleep, and that I always found odd, but when I woke up she was standing at the foot of my bed. I thought I was seeing things of course. But she was as real to me then as you are to me now. As I said in the park, no specter, no shadows, nothing like what a ghost is supposed to look like. All rubbish I say. Anyway her mouth moved as if she was talking, but I heard nothing. She then seemed panicked and looked like she was almost yelling. She looked frightened and here is the odd thing, she was pounding the air is if it were a door. Now imagine me standing here and pounding the air. If I were pounding my arms they would not always stop in the same place, but hers hands did. In fact it looked like her fist had flattened out as if she was pounding on glass.
Of course there was no glass. Then she walked hurriedly away towards our walk-in closet, but before she could get inside she vanished into air.”

“I confess I have never heard of anything like that. I don’t know what to make of it. What about other sightings. Does she always pound the air with her fists?”

“Would you like to see the room Annalise and I shared?”

“Of course, but about my question?”

“No, not always. Sometimes I see her just walking into our room like normal. She stops when she sees me, with a resigned, forlorn look on her face. She stands there, her arms hanging down, looking beaten, not physically, like she had been hit or anything, but beaten by something, a hopeless, sad look, her shoulders drooping down.”

“And naturally you have tried talking to her.”

“Every time, except the first time. I was too stunned to say anything. I could not believe what I was seeing. But since then, yes, always. Once I got frustrated and said ‘where are you?’ Knowing that she was standing in front of me I felt silly saying that, but it was simply frustration. No matter what I say, she shakes her head, or cries, or both. Once she screamed with a wide open mouth and I heard nothing. Nothing; how can that be? She showed all the physical signs of a scream. Mouth wide open, eyes large and nearly bulging out of their sockets, neck stiff with those tendons on the sides of the neck stretched tight. Other times she walks into the room, sees me, shrugs her shoulders, and walks out.”

“Does this only happen at night?”

“No, it can be morning, afternoon, evening, middle of the night. Sometimes I can be outside the house and I see her looking out through a window. She evened waved at me from the window and I waved back, though I felt silly doing so. After I waved she shook her head slightly and walked away.”

“You said the first time she vanished into air. Does that always happen?”

“It can, but those times when she walks out of the room, I follow and though she is not there I can’t say for certain that she vanished. A couple of times I followed her down the stairs and she walked into the kitchen, but when I walked in she was gone.”

“If that is the case, I could see her anytime. So I had better be alert for anything.”

Gordon looked at her without emotion, his eyes dark and empty. After an awkward moment she said, “What’s for dinner?”

 

Over the next five days Mayda read two novels, one by Peter Ackroyd about a mystery surrounding Thomas Chatterton and one by Paul Auster set in Brooklyn; called her office twice; wandered around the house until she had memorized every room, corner, floor, ceiling, and piece of furniture; left the house to explore the garden and was startled by either a large dog or maybea wolf, she couldn’t tell which. She stayed indoors after that. Gordon spent long hours in his study which he kept locked.

At breakfast the next morning Mayda asked Gordon if previously there had been long stretches of time where nothing happened.

“Depends on what you consider long stretches. There was always a sighting, a noise, something every week.”

“Well, to be honest, I’m bored and I do not plan on waiting much longer. This is wasting my time and in case you haven’t noticed there is a lot going on in the world and as a journalist making my living covering news and people, I must get back to work. I can’t sit around waiting for a ghost to show up. Instead of me trying to verify whatever you saw, how about an interview. That is something you can do for me since we are both here. You owe me that for the time I have been here.”

“As I said, I don’t believe she is a ghost.”

“Is there something you’re not telling me?”

Gordon put down his fork, swallowed his bite of pancakes and maple syrup, took a sip of orange juice, and said, “There are more things on heaven and earth . . .”

“Oh wonderful. You’re quoting old Will. Is his ghost here too?”

“No, he haunts the Globe.”

“Then spill it. What should I know that you’re not telling?”

“I would rather show you when I see it,” said Gordon. “It will be easier to explain. If I am correct and I have no idea if I am even close to understanding, but it will be harder to believe than a ghost. If we see it together, you will perhaps understand.”

“So you have seen something other than a ghost, something that makes you believe in something else entirely, is that it? And of course it has something to do with Annalise.”

“Of course.”

“I have to say I am disappointed by this shutting me out of whatever you think might be going on. So if something does not happen soon, I will call a taxi and head back to the real world.”

 

The next day Mayda was packing before breakfast. Before calling for the taxi she thought to ask if Gordon would take her back instead. She walked to his study and knocked, got no answer, opened the door, called his name, heard nothing, then walked into his bedroom. It was empty. She walked through the rooms on the ground floor and saw nothing out of
the ordinary. The car was still in the driveway. Mayda went outside, walked throughout the large yard and garden. There was no Gordon.

At least the day was bright and cheerful she thought. But concern began to fog her mind, her spirit incongruous to the weather. Mayda walked back in the house and starting with the ground floor, checked every room, every closet, everything she could see that could hide somebody, and she thought ‘the somebody’ in question would be dead. Her mind even thought Annalise might be found, her body rotting. But how could that be. There would be a smell. Mayda told herself to stop having these stupid thoughts. Don’t panic. Remain calm.

She reached the second floor, checked everything, even looking at the ceiling in every room. She remembered a jewel thief who said ‘always hide things in plain sight because the police will never look there.’ Once the police came to his home looking for stolen jewelry, but they never found it. They did not look at the chandelier in the ceiling. It was in plain sight.

She walked down stairs and thought she heard a noise, one she could not identify. She stopped on the stairs and listened. It was quiet. Was her mind playing tricks? No. She heard it again. It was soft, not of voices, not anything she could compare it to. Slowly she walked down the steps until, she reached the ground floor.

Mayda heard the sound more clearly. It was a blend of a kind of a hum, a sort of whistle, and a type of whisper; all in tune with each other. The sound was all around, not coming from any direction. She moved away from the stairs, and moved to the left and looked down the hallway.

And then she saw it.

It was a vertical line in the air, long, not straight, but shimmering and wavy. It appeared to radiate waves outward across the hall on either side, the visible shimmering waves bouncing off the walls.

Her first instinct was to run. But she was frozen in wonder.

She approached the vertical ripple cautiously; afraid any sudden movement would make it disappear. She stood in front of it with awe and fear. It was inches away.

Mayda tentatively put her right hand up to the ripple and put her hand slowly into it. Her hand disappeared and she quickly pulled it back. She looked at her hand and it was normal, no sign of anything on it at all.

She bent down slightly and stuck her head inside. She screamed, but heard no sound.

 

After taking a long sip of a gin and tonic, her hands trembling, her heart still pounding, her mind still in disbelief, Mayda leaned back in the comfy chair in the living room of the house in the beautiful countryside. She knew what she saw, but decided not to tell anyone. Who would believe her? She saw what she saw and she was not sure she believed what she saw. She started to smile, knowing in time, a long time, she would not believe it; it would be some dream she had.

But for the moment she did believe. Believe what is the question. When she stuck her head in the ripple she saw a man and woman embracing each other. Annalise and Gordon. They turned to her, perhaps after she screamed, or thought she screamed. Gordon smiled. Then he took a deep bow and laughed. At least it looked like laughter. Gordon and Annalise walked away, not down the hallway, because they were not in the hallway. In fact they were in a room, one she had never seen before. Everything in the room, which see saw only briefly, was old, like an antique store, only everything looked new.

Mayda never asked herself if she was going to write about this. She had a career. Then she realized that Gordon having disappeared like Annalise would open up a new investigation. Police would ask her when she saw Gordon last. If she called a taxi, then the driver would say he picked up a woman at the house. He would give a solid description. If she drove Gordon’s car, provided she found the keys, where would she leave it. Would someone see her?

Mayda wondered if Gordon knew this beforehand. Did he know if he could disappear into another time with Annalise with me as a witness that . . .

She got up and went to the hallway. The ripple was gone. There was no escape. But it might come back. Mayda waited.

 

I hope you enjoyed the story. More weirdness can be found in 2 e-book collections of short stories at Amazon.

 

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Shakespeare and R L Stevenson altered our minds without drugs

Myth can be created by folklore like Paul Bunyon, a tall tale to be sure, but myths can also arise, inadvertently by an author, from popular fiction that takes on a life of it’s own.

Two cases in point.

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. The popular conception of pirates is that they buried their treasure because that is what happened in the novel. But there is only one known pirate to do that and it was Captain Kidd, who was more a privateer than pirate. It depended on whether his contemporaries liked him or not. More disliked him than liked him, so to us he is a pirate. Winners write history.

Think of it logically. Why would pirates bury their treasure and return later to dig it up. The entire crew knows where it is, so each larcenous crew member now looks at each other with distrust and paranoia. And don’t think the captain was the boss. A pirate captain was elected by the crew and he did nothing without a vote from the crew. And the crew wants the loot and they want it now. They have been at sea a long time and they want rum and women.

In truth pirates took ships, their cargo, and most of the crew of the captured ship. At one point, Kidd had three captured ships in tow. They would go to a friendly pirate port and sell everything they could, keeping supplies they needed.

The only reason Kidd buried nearly a million dollars in jewels and goods is that he was headed back to New York to answer charges of his piracy so he had to bury the evidence. Didn’t help. Most of his treasure has been found. But other pirates and ‘X’ marks the spot maps are pure fiction, not history. Thank to Long John Silver and R.L. Stevenson.

Another example comes from Shakespeare’s play Anthony and Cleopatra. Everyone believes Cleo was bitten by an asp while she was a prisoner of the Romans. That is what happens in Old Will’s play, but whether Will was passing on the lore he knew or he made it up, the asp is now our truth. Check any crossword puzzle.

The Romans found her dead. There were two puncture marks. From an asp? Well, according to other records she committed suicide by a poisoned hairpin, not an asp. Poison was a big seller in Egypt. Cleo was found in her private chambers. As a prisoner she would not have access to snakes, nor would she keep them in her rooms. But a snake is more dramatic because the audience would be more fearful of a dangerous snake than poison. Poison being more passive. 

And now you know the truth of the matter. Until it changes once again. You never know. It just shows the power of the written word, the power of story telling, and how we believe what we read, even if it is fiction.

Here are two of my fictional e-novels at Amazon. Both based on true stories. Perhaps another myth will arise from one of them. With your help of course.

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The dilemma of telling people you’re a writer

A few days ago I received my online newsletter from Authors Publish.  It contains two leads for publishing houses, but what caught my interest was a short piece about what happens when you tell people you are a writer.

Number one of the five is the imposter syndrome. I have always been hesitant telling people I am a writer. The reactions I have gotten have not been positive, leaving me at times, feeling like an imposter. To this point, other than a brief memoir in a book published in 2012 and two short stories published locally in an annual book, I have published three e-novels and two short-story collections on Amazon. I also wrote film reviews for a newspaper for eleven years and did a few freelance stories. I received positive feedback during that period.

Yet I still hesitate.

I told a woman the other day about my short story published in an edition of the locally published book and she told me she wrote a piece for them a few years ago-and then made sure she deflated me my saying -“They publish anything sent to them.” I don’t know why she blew it off, and I question whether everything send is published.

Another woman said she only reads ‘real books’ and e-books are not real. Perhaps she fears the digital world. Then there are relatives. My closest cousins don’t read much, if at all, and though one wanted one of the annuals where my short story was published, he has never read, to my knowledge, the story. He had said he would tell me how he liked it, but that was about seven months ago. No phone call, no email, no smoke signals, not a wisp of contact. My other cousin said she still has not read the story. She never reads.

Is there any doubt why I sometimes feel like an imposter and any doubt why I hesitate to tell people I am a writer.

My best experience was reading my latest short story at the kickoff for the last annual collection of local writers. One woman said she read the story three times, and the man who puts the writings together for publication told the group how much he liked the story, why he liked it, and pushed me to read the opening page of my short story.

Though I hesitate, I am getting better at it. I have learned that detractors often have insecurities as I noted about the woman who said they publish anything. Like the Taylor Swift line ” haters are going to hate” so stay away from the haters and the negative nellies. They are not worth your time. I have found a positive group of local writers to share writing and experiences with, so am moving forward.

Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the great make you feel, that you too, can become great.-Mark Twain.

I am coming out of  the “I am a writer” closet.

I am a writer, like it or not, take it or leave it.

To Publish or Not to Publish; that is the question-and of course How

If Moses were alive today he’d come down from the mountain with the Ten Commandments and spend the next five years trying to get them published.
– Anonymous

I have published three e-novels and two collections of short stories on Amazon because getting an agent who may find a publisher who may publish the book would be like beating the odds of winning the lottery. The odds are against anyone for too many reasons to go into in this blog.

But . . .

Having just finished my fourth novel I am faced with a choice based on new information about e-books and hard copy (book) by a publisher (who puts book in bookstores).

First, Amazon has something new that might make it easier for me and anyone else to publish. In the past I outsourced my word.doc to LiberWriter who changes my word doc. to the specifications of Amazon, something I do not feel qualified to do. LiberWriter sends me a file that I can upload on Amazon. Of course that costs me money, but I am willing as it saves me time and because I have no idea how to do it anyway.

Bu now Amazon has something called Kindle Create that lets me send my Word Doc to a software program they have and it recognizes everything, lets me play with it a bit, edit and so on before I publish, thus bypassing my paid formatter. I have done a cursory review of the how to and it seems easy enough for me to accomplish.

Or . . .

I subscribe to Authors Publish, a free weekly e-mail about smaller publishing houses that are likely to accept your manuscript. They do research on the company and also remind you to check out the publisher yourself through websites like Predators and Editors, which, alas, is no more. It is looking for a caretaker. But there is Writers Beware, that is supported by Science  Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America with support from Mystery Writers of America, Horror Writers Association, and American Society of Journalists and Authors (links below). Authors Publish also has leads on magazines, online zines, journals, and they tell who pays and who doesn’t and provide links.

So . . .

Among the emails from them I have found book publishers that I may be able to work with. I have yet to fully research them as these e-mails have come during my writing and proofreading, so I saved the ones I read that looked promising. I have had a couple short stories published in hardcover, but a novel would be nice.

Therefore . . .

I must research both Kindle Create and a possible publisher. And do so now. But we have more options today then did Moses and he was more of an agent.

Horror Writers Association

Mystery Writers of America

American Society of Journalists and Authors

Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

Character Reveal, Foreshadowing, and Toilet Paper

After you read the following excerpt from my soon to be released e-novel I will explain the intent, why the reveal and the foreshadowing, and tell about toilet paper and life. The time is 1927 and this paragraph ends a chapter near the end of the story

Driving back I felt a sense of freedom. I was free from my job, a job I liked I grant you, but you become accustomed to not working. Maybe I am lazy. But I sensed this story was coming to an end, that Bast would be found, arrested, and tried for multiple murders. That would free my mind, case closed, back to Hollywood, back to a new job, back to writing, back to normalcy. Chasing down a killer, being followed, being shot at, being lied to, are not things that are pleasurable. It may be entertaining to an audience watching a hero in a movie catch a killer; a hero with smarts like Sherlock Holmes, with brawn like any movie tough guy, and all the while wooing some dame with ultra-coolness, but reality is nerve racking, tense, mind numbing, the bullets real, the danger scary. I am not near as smart as Sherlock Holmes, not a movie tough guy, not even close. I learn by accident, I stumble through the carnival funhouse coming out the other side with unexpected answers. And I don’t woo any dame. I am married, happily so. Movies aren’t real. I know, I write them. Of course we writers like to twist things, turn the screw if we can, do a Henry James you know. If we are good, we are magicians, or maybe illusionist is a better word, making you look one way, then the reveal, the twist, the unexpected moment. I didn’t think there was one in real life. I said ‘didn’t’ with intent because that is past tense. There was a real twist coming, one that Henry James would not have seen. Maybe that Freud guy would have figured things out, but not a writer.

First, a word about character reveals. Normally you might see a character reveal a personality trait about himself through dialogue, action, or something descriptive, like a nervous person avoiding eye contact, tapping their foot, pacing around the room. Here Chet Koski is being reflective. He has been trying to solve multiple murders and because he is a writer, not a police detective or private eye, he is frustrated. Real life is not the movies and he is a movie guy. There is an implication that moviegoers don’t get it when they watch a movie. Maybe he is out of his element at times, another reason for frustration.

This character reveal segues into foreshadowing by Chet’s reflection on writers and why at the end of the story writers twist things; the surprise ending. It is the author (that would be me) warning you there is a surprise ending coming soon. By implying Freud may have figured things out evokes, I hope, a psychological complex ending. Naturally I used my fictional character to reveal the foreshadow. Writers are sneaky. However, the character reveal is solely from Chet.

P.S. There is also another foreshadowing in the third sentence: “But I sensed this story was coming to an end.” Once again I put thoughts into Chet’s head. I am so bad.

Life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer it gets to the end, the faster it goes.

 

Ancestry.com links me to Sherlock Holmes

According to Ancestry.com to whom I sent my DNA-not all of it, just a sample-I am a direct descendant of Sherlock Holmes. I know, I know, you are going to tell me Holmes is a fictional character; I understand all that. But I too am a fictional character. It does not make me any less real.

There are thousands like me, perhaps millions, and we have lives; we experience fear, love, and some of us are mistrusted, many for good reason, and many of us are heroic in different ways.

The problem we fictional characters face is that our lives, no matter how exciting our lives seem to you, get boring at the redundancy of our existence. I have been told that readers face similar fates, but with a difference. You get up, get dressed, eat breakfast, brush your teeth, go to work or school, eat lunch, go home, eat dinner, watch TV, and go to bed and if you are one of the lucky ones, you do not sleep alone. One difference between you and us, is we rarely go the bathroom. When did Sherlock Holmes ever relieve himself, or sit on a toilet and ponder clues.

So perhaps your life seems redundant at times and you to escape into our world and read some fictional lives. But look at it from our point of view. Take Sherlock Holmes in Hound of the Baskervilles. You can read the story a hundred times and Sherlock does the same things a hundred times. Let me tell you folks, that gets boring for us. Do you have any idea how it feels to be a character who is killed off. Do you want to get shot thousands of times. It’s not fun, but that is not my problem for I have not died off yet. But I can imagine.

Speaking of imagination try to imagine life from our point of view. Would you like to eat in the same restaurant, eating the same food, wearing the same clothes, dining with the same people. Trust me, it gets boring. You can change things up a bit. We are trapped.

The good thing about Sherlock Holmes was he had adventures other than the Hound story. Like him and all my other ancestors-Phillip Marlowe, Perry Mason, Nick and Nora Charles, Hercule Poirot, Lew Archer, Travis McGee, and Nero Wolfe to name a few, they do have different stories to tell. As a result they have different ways to get bored, but still it is better than having one story to tell.

Just as God created humans-so I am told-someone created me and I am thankful for that. In fact, I feel a stirring in my soul-yes we have one- and I sense a sequel coming on so I must get back to work. So I will see you in the bookstore or perhaps that Kindle thing.

But first I will go the bathroom.