Tuesday, December 1, 2015

... it's right where they want him.


This is an action tale set in the village where I lived for a couple of years. Of course everything has changed since I was there. Gone is the tin roof market where every dog in town would stand slobbering on the burning hot sidewalk, staring at the butcher as he carved up a side of  beef twice a month, winking at any woman who happened to be waiting. Gone too is the palapa of jungle poles that housed pool tables shipped from Mexico city, where the owner had been a pool hustler. He used to walk among the tables, shoving wads of paper under a table leg here and there to keep the tables from wobbling, and say, as he chalked up his precious cue, "Now I'm going to give you a lesson," as he cleared the table. It was a time of innocence, when couples strolled with toddlers around the square in the evening, and if you wanted fresh fish for dinner, you just looked through a beach facing window, to see if the frigate birds still glided high above the surf. For, if they did, that meant the fishermen had not returned yet with the days catch. And if a party lasted into the wee hours and you ran out of booze, no problem. You just drove to Francisco's house, and he opened the back door of the Licoreria, passed out enough libations to keep the festivities going until morning.

Discription: Forced to flee the men stalking him, a cop named Cody Brannon moves to a Caribbean beach town and tries to escape a violent past by rekindling a dream and opening a food cart. But ritual murders push him to investigate the theft of a Mayan artifact, said to possess supernatural powers, stolen decades ago.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Caribbean House

     CARIBBEAN TIME:  I spent an amazing time in an abandoned house on the Caribbean, on the Yucatan peninsula, Mexico.  It was a fabulous experience among the Maya, and I daily spear fished on the Palancar reef, shooting lobster and snapper, while typing out my first novel on a little manual typewriter.  I have drawn heavily on that time for my new novel, which, of itself, is a personal journey to find love.

     At night I listened to the Caribbean surging onto the sand.  A breeze usually arrived in the early morning, when the heat of the day had finally surrendered, and a slight coolness filled the old house.  The breeze danced with the mosquito net around my hammock and made everything look hazy, as though  I was floating in a cloud.         
     Each morning I awoke singing, a dream song spilling into the day.  When I climbed from the hammock there was no rush to find warm clothes.  I stood there in my underwear, smiling at the tropical light filling my house with a warm candle like glow, listening to tropical birds, papaya leaves scraping the mosquito netting over the kitchen window, trade winds warm on my chest, feeling free and alive and content, a man with so little, living in an abandoned  house; but rich with love and life.
     At my drift wood table, barnacles stuck to a leg, I took a piece of bread, lifted the coca-cola bottle filled with raw jungle honey, a piece of corncob stuffed into the opening, and tapped it on the table.  The ants surrounding the cob ran down the bottle and I pulled the stopper and poured honey.
     After breakfast I opened the front door so Slinky, my feral cat friend, could visit and search for food.  She didn’t enter like a house cat with a meow.  She was all business, sneaking in low to the ground, cunning, hunting.  And while she hunted lizards, I sat at my manual typewriter and traveled in my mind to Germany, my experiences there having sifted through the filters of time.  How strange it was to sit in cut offs, spraying mosquitoes at my ankles with Bug and Tar Remover, while writing about a highly organized society on the other side of the world.
     Every time I walked into town, I could not be certain I would end up there, so full of possibility was each day. Maybe a friend would drive by with the jeep loaded for a cenote trip, or crazy Mike would need help building a fish-smoker in the jungle, or a lost tourist gringa would pull up needing directions, and I’d be pulled into the Caribbean flow of life again.  A simple trip to the store might end with Mike, being eaten by mosquitoes in the jungle while shoveling concrete, or jumping through the ceiling of a hidden, egg-shaped cenote, bursting to the surface of water untouched for a hundred years, feeling so alive that energy and joy poured from me with the water as I climbed into the sun.
     When I finished writing each day, and the house was too hot to stay in, I brushed sand from my feet, tapped my sandals on the floor to make sure no scorpion was hiding in there, and slipped them on.  With a few pesos stuffed into my salty cut-offs, I carried my 20 liter plastic container to the tap on the street, filled it and struggled up the path, feet sinking in the warm sand.  Back in the house I set it in the sun for a warm afternoon shower.
     It was not until I returned to California did I understand how much my time beside the Caribbean had changed me.  One day I was speaking to a Mexican man about his country.  As he told stories of his village, an odd look came over his face, as though he were watching a beloved child drive away for the summer. 
     “You know,” he said, staring into memory.  “The days are longer in Mexico.”

     “Yes, and more full of life."

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Ebook Ads Update

To date I've paid $150 for ads that have run with Kboards (2 ads @ $15 and $50), awesomegang ($10), Bargain Booksy ($50), and Free Kindle Books and Tips. Of those the last two only produced sales.

Sales are low but I'm not thinking about money or ROI. It is my belief that once I get out about 100 books that will serve as a foundation, a core of readers who will begin to promote the book via word of mouth, the greatest form of advertising on the planet. I shall see if my belief proves out.

Goodreads: I should mention goodreads in with the mix too. On October 14 my pay per click ad with them began. At the beginning I thought this ad a waste of time. I got hundreds (now over 3k) views without a single click!

But slowly my belief about the ad changed. I noticed that members were adding my book to their 'to read' list (now 52). Since I am simultaneously running a free book giveaway, which cost me nothing other than the cost of the book and postage, I've noticed that over 120 have signed up for a chance to win a free copy. It is movement. The ice is melting.

How I've come to view my ad on goodreads is this: I paid $50 to have the ad placed. Over 3k readers have seen it and not a penny has been taken from the $50 fee. At this rate the $50 will give me an ad on goodreads, the site with the most traffic, for life!  As members begin to read my work others will see their reviews, and what they are reading. Again, the writing, the book, must sell itself.

Bottom line: An ad on goodreads is a long term investment.

Next?  The second wave of ads. On October 29 my book, Touching Spirits, will be free on Amazon
New detail added to cover--the hand!
KDP for one day. I have seen the power of this promotion. A few years ago one of my books was offered and 10k copies were given away in one weekend! 

I want to maximize the promo by getting the book listed on sites where readers are looking for free and bargain books. I chose Thursday for the give-away because that is not a prime sales day as is Friday, Saturday and Sunday. 

Build-up: To direct traffic to the book I listed it at Every Writer's Resource for $10. After shaving my book description down to 1-3 sentences for other sites, this one wanted not less than 300 words.  It should begin Wednesday.

On that fateful Wednesday begins another promo with Digital Books Today for $30.  What is nice is that this ad/promo runs for two weeks!  

Was I content to stop there? you ask. Not quite. The following day, when the free book promo kicks in, Thursday, October 29th, I have scheduled two more promos!

The first is with Free Books Daily for $3.00. How could I pass it up with such a low cost? 

The final promo/ad in the month of October, also kicking off on free-for-all Thursday the 29th of October, is with Good Kindles for $20.  This site also asked for about 300 words of book description, as well as a lengthy bio. I believe this ad will run for a month, and during that time I can once request that my title be moved to the top of the list.

That leaves the month of November without promos after the 10th. I'm hoping that by then the effects
of the free promo on KDP will result in rising sales and carry through this month until my promos in UK kick in. (Should I mention in my Amazon UK author bio that I was deported from Heathrow airport?) Anyway, 'having done all' I rest.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015


So, I worked on a novel for three years. Once it was published I was swept up in the advertising, and now I feel lost without a project to occupy my time. I tried to jump into a children's fantasy book I have been working on, but I couldn't shift from the tone, setting and characters of my novel to imaginary sea creatures.

What am I going to do?  It is time to retreat to non fiction, without all the concerns of fiction. Yes, it is time to write another automotive how-to. For me they serve as a great transitional device. With nonfiction I let the oil that lubricates the gears of fiction (plot, conflict, pacing, tone, character development) cool and slowly thicken to its normal consistency, so that it is, once more, ready to begin another project in the realm of the imagination.

I use automotive projects as diversions in my daily routine of writing. That is, when I'm into the creative part, writing for three hours a day with a first draft, I love to go to the garage and rebuild a carburetor or something else on a car. It is simple. I follow a plan in a book. And by following a clear procedure my thoughts flow freely, and during that time, when no need or pressure is applied to the creative process, no need-to-know stress, that the answers to the fiction problems just roll out and I have to wipe the oil from my hands and search for a pen to record the solution that just made itself known.

The most important thing, for me, on a professional level, is to keep writing. And writing the
nonfiction is a trick I use to keep going.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Ebook Promo Update

So far I have been promoting on Kindle and ebook sites for just over two weeks. I have spent $200 and how gathered a good understanding of which sites paid off and which did not.

Sites that worked:
1. Bargain Booksy. I paid $50 for a nice ad. They did a nice write up too. The moment it went live I saw a boost in sales.

2. The other ad that produced was on Free Kindle Books and Tips. I am writing this at 11:39 am, Pacific time, and this ad has already produced sales equal to Bargain Booksy. Also, this ad cost 50% what I paid at Bargain Booksy! 

The dud sites: 

1. I placed two ads with Kboards. One was in their 'new and overlooked books' blog, for $15. The other ad cost $50. The two ads produced 3 sales.
   In all due fairness, I suspect this site is one the author needs to daily build a presence, a following.

2. The awesomegang. Yes, I only paid $10, but this 'ad' ran the same day of the $50 Kboards ad, and so maybe it helped with those 3 sales.

3. This next one is confusing. Because of the massive amount of traffic on goodreads I bought an ad. I paid $50 and they showed me all the mega data about traffic and sales, etc. But I should have done more research. All the blogs I have since read stated what I have since learned: The goodreads ads are like those on Amazon: you pay per click, and you get no clicks.

In advance I forked out $50. My ad has since been seen by 1700+ readers without one click! But ... my ad has been seen by 1700+ readers. It took me quite a while to grasp this. It is exposure. The rate I am going that ad will remain there into the next century.

Also, I have noticed that 47 site members have added my book to their 'to read' lists. The ice is melting. So make up your own mind on this. For me, I am not happy, but rather accepting that I am slowly flirting with the readers, like the good looking woman I daily see in starbucks. It is not a the approach used in a Friday night club after a few drinks like the other ads, delivered to readers looking to score. I am cultivating my readers--I hope.

One other thing: I arranged for a free book giveaway on goodreads. It is free, other than the hardcopies and postage I will pay for to those who win. Goodreads takes care of the whole thing, but I set up the duration (1 month), and the number of free hard copies (10). What has happened? The giveaway began on October 14, and I have had 115 members of that site register. My name, my book, has come to the attention of 115 members, plus the 47 other members who added the book to their to read lists.

At this point I'm not thinking about ROI. I am just trying to get the book in the hands of readers. I know that if I can get 100 people to read it it will build a following, an increase in sales though word of mouth. I know it.

My next step? I am going to use the extremely good info on Digital Book Today and World Literary Cafe, and use it to orchestrate a KDP book giveaway, in conjunction with several ebook site ads, layering, as they call it, to maximize sales. I shall report on it. kevin. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Expand your Titles List--Easily!

Okay, I confess. I have an automotive habit. I love to tinker. It helps me unwind after hours in the writing realm. I own a 1975 Ford truck that is possessed, and it keeps me quite busy. For a short while I wrote some articles for national car mag.

Between fiction projects I decided to write a short non fiction book. And you can do the same about something you know and love. It took me about two weeks to write and organize the photos I had. I had it formatted on fiverr for $30 (for info on how to deal with fiverr, and what to expect, and how to avoid hassles, see my blog post on the subject), and now I'm selling ecopies on Amazon and hard copies alike. No, it doesn't sell like gangbusters. It is a small niche market, for a carburetor that was last made in 1979. But it has become my 'little train that could.' It just keeps trucking.

Every month I make about $20 from royalties. It sold a copy in France too. For me it was an easy way to build up my title list, and I have others planned.

Pick a subject you know a lot about, and plan a small non fiction book. 

Promo Status

Dude on my new Writer's Digest.
I have found out that sitting and staring at the Amazon sales report page, constantly checking sites where I could advertise, makes me crazy.

While the promos were going on I rescued a 10 year-old surfer cat, raised in Huntington Harbor, named Dude. Every time I enter the hall this cat, a twenty pound manx without a tail, slips and slides on the hard wood floor, and runs for his life as though I might eat him. Dude, I have noticed, is also cross eyed, and has an extra toe on each paw. Without a doubt, he is quite the dude.

Anyway, the promos!  Now my ad on goodreads has been viewed by more than 1,000 people without one sorry click. I stop to cry. But be of good cheer. The book giveaway has kicked in and there has been movement on the site. Seventy-six people have registered for a free book. Is the Artic ice melting?

Update: There is an excellent article on Digital Book Today outlining the steps required to maximize your sales using the KDP giveaway days. World Literary Cafe adds more insight with their bit about the subject. I am going to try their system next week on Wednesday, and will certainly post the results. The last time I tried the KDP giveaway 10k copies of my first suspense novel went out in two days. It was quite exciting. Alas, yes! I want to see that result for copies sold!

If any reader has tips to ad or to help with the KDP giveaway, please let me know. This blog is for you. Kevin.

Here I choose to hold my tongue (fingers) about the distance from hand to wallet being the greatest anywhere.

Beyond that, 26 people have added my book to their 'to read' list on goodreads. Bless their souls. I wouldn't want them to do anything bold like rush out and actually buy a copy.  But that is okay. I knew what the site was about, and accept it.

It is my belief that if the book is well written, makes readers sad to finish it, then it will grow in sales due to word of mouth. I shall see.

Now I wait to see what will happen with the Free Kindle Books and Tips ad out on Oct. 18, where I will be dropping the price from $3.99 to $1.99. The cost for the ad was $25.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Tell me Why the hell not

Had a great day away from the writing. While driving home with the fiance I wondered, 'Why can't I place a gold star on the cover of my book, in which it says something like: The best adventure novel of the year?  Please tell me.

I remember on the cover of Bridges of Madison County, it said something like: "A librarian said this is the best first novel she has read." Well who was she? Did she actually exist? Or, was the author simply placing the idea of the book's quality into the potential reader's mind?

In James Scott Bell's book about ebook marketing he mentions an author of ebooks who was disgraced for paying for reviews. THE AUTHOR SOLD MORE THAN A MILLION COPIES!! I'll bet he is so sad on his island.

In the digital marketing class I took the instructor mentioned repeatedly to be bold, think outside the box.

If I write something like that on my cover am I violating some ethical writing law?  Or, is it good marketing?

Monday, October 12, 2015

Book Promos #3

This is a rushed update that I will come back to later today when I have time and edit.

The ad I paid $50 for on Goodreads, which is a mega site with mega traffic, turned out to be a dud. You are charged $.50 per click. Their stats show an average of 1 click per 50 views. Really? To date, I have had over 400 views with zero clicks. It is enough to make me insecure. I have rethought my cover, title, and blurb. I have rewritten the blurb 6-8 times, searching for the magic one.

Update: I have gotten 699 views on goodreads and not a single click. After poking around the net I
found the same experience related by a couple of other writers. Both said the goodreads ad was a waste of time. One writer mentioned the same thing about the ad she placed on Amazon, also a pay-per-click ad. I was so surprised to read she got 20,000 views, no clicks, zip, nada, zilch!

The Kboards ad was a dud as well. I sold three books from the two Kboards ads and the awesomegang ad. Those cost me $75. Three books sold.

The one ad that did something was a $50 ad from Bargain Booksy. As soon as that ad went live I saw the reaction on Amazon. It did not sell crazy wildly, but 10 copies went out in that one day.

The next one scheduled to kick in is the goodreads giveaway. It is free, and members register to win a free hard copy. They say an average of 600 members sign up for a giveaway. We shall see if the numbers are skewed. It begins on the 14th, Wednesday.

 Cheers. I will post more later today.

Update 2: I have decided to let the ad run on goodreads during my book give-away, and then to inquire about cancelling it. 

My goal for these promotions was only to sell 100 books. Even before publication I have thought that if I sold 100 copies that would be a good foundation, a seed of readers to begin with. I believe that if that many read the book they will tell others and slowly the book will begin to sell. 

As I have researched online I found a couple of articles that have made me rethink the kindle giveaway program. Here they are: http://worldliterarycafe.com/content/maximizing-free-days-kindle-select-kdp-select  


I found both very helpful and informative.

Promos to come: At this point I still have a few promos scheduled. The first will take place on 10-18. It is with Free Kindle Books and Tips. I paid $25 for this ad, and it will run for one day.

10-28, with Digital Books Today. The cost was $30, and the ad will run through November 10th.

And the final promo of the year will take place with a British site, Indie Book Promo. I checked the site's traffic volume, and the look of the site, and was impressed. They also offer quite a value for $50, keeping a nice ad up for 2 months, right at Christmas time, so I went for it. I shall see what happens.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Ebook promos follow up

My first promos came from Kboards and the awesomegang. I thought surely I'd get a good response, but alas, I sold three books. Yes, at $.99! Ouch. That is not much return on investment. I thought I'd sell 30-40 books.

Well, the Kboards new book promo cost $15, and the awesomegang was $10.

My goal is to sell one hundred books. I consider that a foundation. From there the book has to produce its own sales via word of mouth, or it will die. If it is good it will rise and sell.

So, where do I go from here? On October 8th I'll be a featured author on Kboards. This promo cost $50.

On October 9th my book will be featured on Bargain Booksy. Again, this promo cost $50.  I expect a good response from these two sites. They both register a high volume of traffic. I will see.

Another important step I have taken is to produce hard copy editions on CreateSpace, and make them available to the public on Goodreads. (I remembered the Writer's Digest article about getting in good with goodreads.)

 Not only have I organized a book giveaway through the site, but I also paid for a graphic ad.  According to GR, on average 600 readers register for their giveaways. I placed 10 autographed books in the giveaway, and I will both purchase the copies from CreateSpace, and pay for the shipping to the winners. The ad cost $50.

The goodreads ad begins October 8th, while the giveaway begins on the 14th, and runs for one month.

I have a couple other promos in the works, but I'm going to end this here as one segment. That way I'll be able to keep all appraised of the results.

Now all I can do is wait. 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

My Ebook Promotion Route



This photo was taken when I lived in Yucatan. That is where I set my new novel, Touching Spirits. I didn't know what I had then, spear fishing daily for meat, fish swimming around me, moray eels trying to steal my bag of fish. It was adventure, raw, life cracked open.

Flash forward many years. I spent three years writing this novel and don't want it simply fade away as my time in Yucatan did. Yes, it is on Kindle, but I need to prime the pump to let people know about it. If no one has heard any thing about it, no one will buy it. After all, John Grisham took a load of his his book and hit the road on his own. Wayne Dyer did the same.

The route I took was slightly different: I chose digital marketing. I selected several book sites to promote on, and am now waiting (while blogging, tweeting, posting). Since it is a new book, and I'm still a new comer, despite having several books out, many sites won't allow my business. I have to have a certain number of positive reviews. So I searched.

A site called kboards dot com has a discovery program for new authors. It cost only $15, and I'll be listed in their blog post on October 2, at 4pm, Pacific time. What a deal.

The following days, October 3 and 4, my book will be listed on a site called awesomegang dot com. That cost me a mere $10.

I also booked days on Bargain Booksy and Digital Books Today. Bargain Booksy cost me $50 for one day, but they are a large site with a lot of traffic, so I wanted to try them and see what type of response I would get. The latter, Digital Books Today, was a bargain. I paid $30 for 14 days' exposure. Talk about value.  For both of these promo's I raise the price to $1.99 for the book.

I should also mention goodreads.com. In a few days I will have hard copies available for sale, and will be offering a book giveaway on goodreads, most likely 10 free books.

I will be monitoring the results of each promo and will keep readers informed. I hope this will help other writers. Kevin R. Hill

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Republished on Amazon Kindle

I originally published my new action book in June. But one of my readers mentioned some changes to make it stronger, so I pulled it and rewrote, and it should be live on Amazon Kindle by tomorrow, the 24th of September.

I really struggled with whether or not to use a pen name because three years ago 10,000 copies of my first suspense book went out with horizontal text. Ouch. They were free, but nonetheless the damage was done.

But I decided to put my name on this book since I am proud of it. I worked for three years on it and had it professionally formatted, not to mention three beta readers having filtered it. I did everything possible to ensure a quality product.

I hope readers enjoy it.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Touching Spirits--Blurb for new book.

    This book took three years to write.I set it in a Mayan village 
I lived in. Notice the candle in the photo needs viagra. That 
was Yucatan in the summer. It was the time of my life, spear 
fishing for meat. The experience was priceless. 

                            Book Blurb for Touching Spirits.
     I'll be publishing under the pen name Charles Madrid.

     Every cop straddles the chasm between love and violence. At some point each must decide where they stand.
     Police Sergeant Cody Brannon, the one American on the Amsterdam force, is stunned when something unseen grabs his arm each night. To make matters worse, he finds men stalking him along dark streets. It’s almost too much to cope with when his wife leaves him.
     After a shooting Cody is forced to take a medical leave. He has to find out what grabs him at night, and flies to California to get answers from the family oracle, his freaky grandmother.
     Soon the men arrive and Cody must lead them away from the old woman he loves.
     He finds a house with a palm leaf roof, a frog residing in the toilet tank, and waits for the men hunting him. In this village beside the Caribbean, strange Mayas sit outside his house at night.
     With the department shrink guiding him via Skype, a stray cat bringing love into his life, along with the beautiful Clarissa, and oddball neighbors offering friendship, Cody begins to see a new path.
     When the men close in it is Cody’s time to choose where to stand.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Climbing the Rough Writing Trail

A childhood friend's suicide changed my life. I don't know if I would have traveled if he did not leave. But either way, there was something balled up inside me. 

For years I wandered Europe, hitch hiked North to South, harvested apples and hay. My soul sang for joy as I stood on a Paris on ramp, waving at drivers. I ran a bar in Israel and traveled atop supply trucks through Africa. The world was my playground.
All the while there was something caged inside me that wanted out. Since fifth grade, when a story I was writing jumped off the page and danced around me, I had to be a writer.

During my gypsy days I sold some travel articles to newspapers and wrote two bad novels and hundreds of stories. I didn't know my wandering was my path to being a writer. Through practice and reading I was learning the craft and tempering it with experience.

The novel is a fascinating, complex art form. I took classes, attended conferences, read like a fiend, practiced without end. And after years of work I am a beginner.

When Kindle came along I made tremendous mistakes. In one weekend 10,000 people downloaded a suspense novel of mine, only to find vertical text. It was a painful experience.

Now here I am. I have spent more than three years writing a new novel. Touching Spirits is about to be released on Kindle. I paid to have it professionally formatted, filtered it through three Beta readers (a process invaluable!), but I can't help but wonder if my name is tainted because of the previous blunder.

For that reason I am considering the pen name Charles Madrid. The result of years of study and practice is about to be on display. If I have created a book that readers will be sad to finish, a book that sits on a shelf and makes them nostalgic when they pass and see it, then I have gone beyond the formula novel.

Time and experience have tempered that caged beast. Whatever richness or wisdom travel brought to my writing, I consider it a gift from my friend. That's how I choose to remember a friend.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

RIP Dr. Wayne Dyer

I want to post a quick note about the passing of Wayne Dyer, a great teacher and seeker of wisdom. His first book, Your Erroneous Zones, was published as a 'dove.' That meant that the publisher would spend little to no money on promotions. But Wayne took a trunk full of copies and hit the promotions trail, and didn't stop until he pushed all the way to the bestseller's list, and on to the Dick Cavett show. 

His teachings greatly affected me and because of them I live the life I do. I simply say thank you, Wayne.

Please leave a note regarding Dr. Dyer.  Thank You.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015


Hot Spring Bliss!
Lately I've been afloat in what seemed a vast sea (hot spring, actually) of a novel rewrite.  I've been reading Gabriela Pereira's article The Great Revision Pyramid, in the September issue of Writer's Digest, and using her system. It has changed the way I rewrite and edit a novel.

I have found it very helpful and will certainly use it from now on. I enjoy how I am able to pop from one section to another, following a thread of plot, to sharpen and hone that aspect of the whole. Let me explain.

Using Ms. Pereira's system, I divided the novel into sections. Every time Brisker, a character, is present, for example, I have a sticky on the manuscript page. I have done that for all characters, and for all plot threads or aspects, so that I can pick one and follow it from beginning to end.

I used to get bogged down and lose track of the plot points because so much was going on. This system makes it easier to follow and sharpen and develop. Once again, Writer's Digest has come to my aid with the professional assistance I need. I write for up to twelve hours a day and keep their magazine beside me, with a sticky marking the article I am using that day. They have helped me develop my craft.

To writers seasoned and beginners alike I say utilize Writer's Digest as a tool. It is one of the best investments I have made in my writing career.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Fiction's Forbidden Words!

I'm pissed. I had a great scene that I thought extraordinary, ground breaking. But then I realized I could not use the forbidden words of fiction: God or Jesus.

I was told by an editor that I'd lose 50% of my readers at those words. That is certainly not to be taken lightly. There simply are, she explained, loads of beliefs and emotions that readers attach to those words.

She mentioned the book, The Secret, which is arguably fiction. Never does the author mention the G word.

So what does an author do? You have to devise a different way to say the same thing. The use of 'love' is popular, or 'the universe,' or 'the light.' They allow an author to get across an idea without forming a blockage to fictive flow by dragging in memories of being forced to attend church, or of getting your knuckles whacked by wonderful nuns.

I continually remind myself that I am an entertainer. I will do anything to keep my reader in the fictive flow, free of outside interruptions. And if I choose to use one of those words the readers mind is pulled out of that flow. I can't risk it. So hopefully, by showing a situation with scene choice, etc., I can get my point across without using one of those words.

Saturday, August 22, 2015


I'll be giving away hard copies of this book on goodreads. I hope you like it. I have the entire chapter 1 on notepad, and, I believe, I have earlier versions of chaps 1 & 2 here on the blog. Most of the book is set in a Mayan fishing village on the Caribbean.


I was doing my nightly cop thing in one of those tall skinny houses in Amsterdam. If I wanted to sleep I had to check every access point before I went to bed. I started at the same door every time, pushed my shoulder against the warped old thing until I felt the bolt click into place, then walked to the next entry point, the bathroom window. Only another cop would understand.
As I was drifting into sleep someone sat beside me. Someone was in the room. The mattress compressed and triggered an alarm in my head. Adrenalin hit my heart like a defibrillator jolt. I snapped awake but did not move.
Gun and badge were on the bedside table. If the intruder had my weapon I was already dead. I waited for a pillow pushed against my head to silence the shot.   
As my mind raced someone took hold of my arm.
I shouted and jumped out of bed, grabbed my automatic and flipped the light switch, but I was alone.   
It was the third time in a week something sat on my bed and grabbed me. I moaned and laughed and wiped sweat from my face. Strange sounds escaped my mouth as I slid down the wall beside the light switch. Cops don’t go crazy. I had to hold it together. There were attorneys to deal with and divorce papers to sign.
For years marriage held together my life in Amsterdam. Friends, career, apartment and language were stuffed inside it like groceries in a paper bag. Divorce hit that bag like a stream of water. What had once seemed strong fell apart in my hands and left me juggling the contents so nothing would shatter at my feet.
I remember the day everything changed. Michelle was across the kitchen, chopping asparagus for a midnight stir-fry, her blonde hair falling over a shoulder.  
She had been out and looked so sexy and sweet standing there in black pumps and flowers on a blouse that hung low around her neck, shaking with the rhythm of the chopping. As I admired her and stepped close, kissed her shoulder, pressed my hand on hers, I smelled perfume and cigarette smoke from the club.
The instant I touched her she started crying and dropped the knife.
“Cody, there’s something I’ve wanted to tell you for weeks. I met a new friend, and her husband, and it just happened with the three of us. I’ve tried not to see them, but I can’t stop.”
It wasn’t so much the words that hurt as the look in her eyes, those green eyes once so full of admiration and hope and our love, now showed fear and a wanting to be somewhere else. Her simple admission cracked the foundation of our home, broke the concept of us. It was as though I had been slapped but it hurt more, a pain in my gut that sucked strength out of me because I knew what it meant. Michelle was the reason I came to Amsterdam, learned Dutch and joined the force. She was my Holland. Without her as my anchor in the Netherlands I could feel the tide of culture and language pushing me toward the beach of my home, my country, the USA.  
Memories and plans danced through my mind as I sat with my back against the wall, the light switch beside me. Traffic in the street below turned silent. Laughing crowds had long since left the bars when I climbed into bed.
I was sleeping on the horrible pull-out sofa, steel bars poking me when I moved, dreaming of Michelle cozy in our apartment, when I found myself staring at a man. I thought I was dreaming and rose on an elbow. He was in his sixties, dressed as a Wild West gambler with vest, Western bow tie, silver walking stick, a strange blue glow around him. I stared for a few moments before realizing I was awake.
Fear shot through me and I jumped out of bed and ran for the switch once more. With light the phantom vanished, but his chair remained. Something had moved it from its place against the wall. Something real, with physical form, had moved it.
I could have imagined seeing a ghost. Maybe I imagined something touching me night after night, but there was no denying something moved the chair. That freaked me out. The rest of the night I sat in the corner, firearm in my sweaty hand. I was safe with my back against the wall. If anything touched me I would instantly see it.
I was losing sleep. It wasn’t something I could shoot or slap handcuffs on. Once or twice might have shaken me up, but could have been explained as a dream. I had to make it stop.
I was lucky I still had my career and ran from the house each morning. But sketchy sleep was making me irritable and I often snapped at Michael, my partner, during the second half of our patrol. That was when I started worrying about going home, wondering when the thing would touch me again.
 I needed somewhere to go where I felt safe and welcome. I couldn’t go to the people I loved in Michelle’s family. They had chosen sides. To them I was now a foreign intruder. I was isolated and alone, a man with a giant accent that made even the flower girl on the corner look twice and hesitate to answer, never having heard Dutch spoken by an American.
One night, as I changed into my street clothes and shut my locker and walked out the back door of police headquarters, I knew I couldn’t go home. I couldn’t take something touching me again.
Instead of walking my usual streets, along busy boulevards and side streets where I hardly had to look up to know where I was, I headed into Old Town. Out here, surrounded by traffic and business signs and shoppers, nothing weird could touch me. I walked city streets for more than an hour.
Near the park, as the downtown lights faded and trees blocked the streetlights, wisps of fog floated along the cobblestones, past little houses pressed together, windows glowing with light through curtains. From one of the windows jumped a cat. I turned to watch it run and saw a man following me.
 He was short with brown skin and black oily hair combed straight back.
I was so concerned with what touched me when I slept that I wasn’t watching my surroundings. I was being street stupid. He might be some guy rushing home. That would be the best scenario. Or he might want to rob me. That I could deal with. But if he was connected to a case and seeking revenge, there might be several men working together. If an organized group were tracking me I was in trouble. I had to get among people and find out the man’s intentions before I called for help.
I reached for my weapon and realized it was in my police locker. I crossed the street and stepped out of sight behind a van. That gave me a few seconds head start. The instant I stepped out of view I sprinted up the street and around the corner.
I made it to the park and squatted in the bushes, panting, touching the damp leaves on the ground with a glove to keep my balance, waiting to see if I was being paranoid or really in danger. Within seconds the guy ran into the park and rushed to the restrooms, came out and turned a circle, searching, and ran to a side street.
He was tracking me. Had some con with a grudge been released from prison? 
For another hour I marched around the city, stopping in doorways and peeking out café windows to make sure I lost him.
I followed one canal and then another and found myself where I felt best:  At the old three story bookstore that became my second home while studying for police exams.
I laughed when I saw the building, skylights making the roof glow, little gargoyles hiding beneath the eves. Already I was loosening my scarf and taking off my gloves as I approached. For a while I walked around checking out old study spots: the huge leather chair by the elevator, the alcove beneath the stairs.
Loud angry words pulled my attention toward the sounds of a struggle and I thought a woman might be in trouble. Customers sitting on the floor and standing in the aisles looked about. I marched across the store to the fighting couple.
With a wave of my badge they froze. The woman had bright red hair that touched the spiked collar of her leather jacket. She smiled and jerked her arm away from the man holding her. A book flew out of her arms, hit the carpet and slid to a stop against my boot.
I picked it up and gave the man a warning as the redhead hurried away.
I carried that book under my arm and followed the woman from a distance. It felt good to have a big solid hard cover in my arms, like being a student again. I tapped it against my leg and pretended to be interested in automotive picture books as the woman ruffled through magazines. Not that I was interested in muscle cars or her, but I wanted to make sure Mr. Wrong wasn’t going to accost her when she left. And sure enough, a few moments after she hurried through the large double doors, flipping up her collar, the guy tried to go after her.
I thumped him on the shoulder with the book. “Either you keep browsing for half an hour or I call a squad car.”
From my post beside the exit, leaning against the wall and making sure he didn’t slip out before the woman was far away, I looked at the title of the book in my hands: Ancient Energy.
On the back it mentioned beings from other realms and how a person goes about protecting themselves. That struck a nerve.     
Could I read something like that? It was fringe material, I called such publications, for the marginally sane five percent of society. But where was I supposed to find answers about being visited by a man with a blue glow, or invisible things touching me at night? My friends would think I was crazy. It wasn’t like popping online and searching for a plumber or electrician. If the police department heard about it they’d yank my badge and gun and throw me to a shrink.
I looked up and noticed Mr. Wrong was moving toward the other exit, so I walked across the store and positioned myself beside that door.
I needed help and didn’t know where to turn, so I read the first sentence of the book: “Though out history humans have been visited by creatures of other realms.” That was all it took to suspend my disbelief. Every page shouted to be read. I felt like a kid who tries tennis or skateboarding and is hooked. It was what I needed, a friend speaking about the things happening to me. I bought it and completely forgot about detaining the guy.
I carried that book everywhere. Before work, during break and evenings I read. After a couple of weeks I tried a chant that was supposed to keep away creatures from other realms. I was ready to try anything.

 Weeks passed and one book led to the next as though forming an intellectual path designed just for me. When I finished one book on spirituality I knew another was waiting and fingered through editions on the bookstore shelves until another title called me like a friend from across the room. From each I took bits I could use and put them to work in my life. The books became the comfort and guidance I needed.
The only thing that stopped the touching was a recipe in one of the books. Several times a day I surrounded myself with the White Light, closed my eyes and imagined a bubble of light and love surrounding me.
How strange it felt to be on patrol, the one American on the Amsterdam police force, and sit down in a toilet stall in the Red Light District, hookers and tourists and hash’ café’s outside, and imagine a bubble of love protecting me. I was a grown man after all, not some boy at Sunday school. Life on the force had changed me, toughened me. It meant rubbing against people with hatred pounding through their veins like a virus, and I was the serum injected into society to stop them. Yet here I was in a graffiti-covered toilet stall, shiny black shoes touching urine on the tile floor, a 9 mm strapped to my side with cuffs, radio dangling over my shoulder, outfitted for urban warfare, asking for love to surround me?
I felt stupid imagining the bubble and would have dropped it in a heartbeat if it wasn’t keeping away the touching. Soon I was sleeping through the night and feeling stronger. I began visualizing the bubble more often.
I don’t know if it was because I was getting stronger or because my energy or thoughts were changing, but I started getting flashes of intuition. While buying morning bread I got a glimpse of the baker having hot sex with another man. That made me recoil. It was too much information. When I spoke to the girl at my neighborhood news stand, who was all laughter and smiles, I saw her signing legal documents and knew she had come into money.
Then the glimpses got serious. I shook hands with a bar owner during patrol and saw his basement filled with marijuana plants. After examining records of his electricity usage we got permission to search his property, and it turned into a nice arrest. Despite liberal marijuana laws,
cultivation of more than five plants was a felony.
It was a huge encouragement and I found myself speaking daily to the White Light. I didn’t want to label it God or Shiva or Buddha, because with those names came a steamer truck of beliefs and dogma. I didn’t want to be sucked into any one way of thinking. I had a private thing going with the Light and wanted to keep it that way.
Then came the day that ripped my life in two and shook the Amsterdam Police Department.