I'm a writer. There, I've admitted it. I wonder if there's a 12-Step program for folks like me...

Most of this blog will be about writing for a living. Or maybe about trying to earn a living as a writer. Or maybe about trying to have a life while you write.

And maybe I'll be able to avoid the driving temptation to write about politics. But I'm not very good around temptation, so all I can promise is that I'll try to avoid writing about politics.

But I will write about the software I use, and the software I try out, and what I think about it. I actually spent lots of years in software testing - as a tester and as a manager of testing departments. I actually started work in software development in 1971, so I have a bit of experience with computers to back up what I have to say on this subject.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Free download of “Lonesome Cove” for the Kindle


“Lonesome Cove” is the fourth novel in the Terry Rankin series. I won’t be writing another until some time next year, since I’m tied up with two other projects right now.

This free download will be available for two days only – the 13th and 14th of June (that’s this Wednesday and Thursday), and I would dearly love to see several thousands of downloads during that period. Please help me out with this and repost this, or copy/paste this post into an email and send it off to every literate person you know (even if they don’t have a Kindle; they might know someone who does).

And if you are receiving this in an email, please forward it to everyone in your Address Book.

I have one last request for you before we get to the nitty-gritty; please take the time to post reviews for me. If you’ve read of my other novels, please post a review, and certainly for “Lonesome Cove”. It’s a great story, and potential readers always look at the reviews before they invest in an author they haven’t read before.


But it is a heck of a story:

Terry Rankin isn’t so sure about his new client, Gianni Lupo. Gianni is an old man, just released from prison after serving the full twenty-five years of a Life sentence for a double murder in Miami. But Terry figures the man’s paid for his crime and now he’ll spend his declining years tottering around his home on Sanibel Island. Terry isn’t sure why Lupo feels the need for armed bodyguards, but what can go wrong? After all, it’s been twenty-five years.

And three tons of gold is still missing…

Here’s the link to the book page on Amazon.com:


Remember to verify that the Kindle purchase price is $0.00 before you click the Buy button!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Free download of “Lonesome Cove” for your Kindle


Here's a reminder for you:

On the 13th and 14th of June my fourth novel, "Lonesome Cove" will be available for free downloading from Amazon:


Here's the back text teaser:

Terry Rankin isn’t so sure about his new client, Gianni Lupo. Gianni is an old man, just released from prison after serving the full twenty-five years of a Life sentence for a double murder in Miami. But Terry figures the man’s paid for his crime and now he’ll spend his declining years tottering around his home on Sanibel Island. Terry isn’t sure why Lupo feels the need for armed bodyguards, but what can go wrong? After all, it’s been twenty-five years.

And three tons of gold is still missing…

Remember to verify that the Kindle purchase price is $0.00 before you click the Buy button!

I’ve been a bit busy lately – Life tends to get in the way of earning a living


I’m sure you’ve encountered the same problems as I have. Well, most of them, anyway. Or at least some of the same problems; they’re pretty universal, unless you’re a chicken farmer in China, maybe. But even then you probably share a few of my problems.

So there’s really no benefit to any of us in my listing the number of reasons why I haven’t posted recently. It would just bore you to tears, and there’s enough of that going ‘round as it is.

My current project, “A Silent Star”, is back on track after having been derailed for a few months while I settled into life in dynamic (it’s really not) Deland, Florida. Deland is one of the more somnolent locals in a state filled with glitz, bling and glitter. But some of the locals are very fed up with the laid back, easy-going life here and are trying very, very hard to change the character of the place. I am not one of them, I am happy to say.

That said, I am looking around for a new place. Part of the problem is my budget (oh, how I wish I could afford a budget), but the major issue keeping me where I am is that I can’t find a place I’d rather be. I do know, however, that I would much prefer to be some place else. I’m sure there is a psychological name for this condition, but I neither care what it might be nor am I at all curious to find out.

So if you know of someone with a vacant apartment in or near Daytona (in a very quiet area) who would like to rent a one bedroom apartment to a published author for a few years (very poor but published author), have them contact me, will you?

But “A Silent Star” is back on track for all that. The big delay (aside from niggling little issues like paying bills, finding money for food, getting real high-speed internet access and looking for another place to live near Daytona) was in figuring out the POV (Point Of View) from which to write the tale. We (my co-author and I – not all of the other voices in my head) have some pretty solid information on what actually happened to the covert team both during and after their incursion into Yemen, but most of that information cannot be allowed to see the light of day for various and sundry valid reasons.

Which means that I have to tell a true tale, but I have to lie like a rug to do it. Well, I am a novelist, so what’s the big deal? And what’s that got to do with the POV, anyway?

I’m so glad you asked.

I didn’t want to lie. I wanted to write a true history of those events. But I was not going to be allowed to do that. I had to write a historical fiction piece, which meant that the tale had to be solidly based in reality using characters created out of whole cloth. It took me some time to wrap my pointy little head around that. Then I had to sort out the point of view.

I could have written the tale as a history, with a bit of made-up dialogue extracted from made-up reports and debriefings; but that would have been a very boring read, so that idea went out the window in a hurry. Then I thought of writing from the point of view of a fly on the wall or a ghost in the room, but I am very uncomfortable with that style; it’s hard for me to suspend my disbelief and get stuck in to the story. So then I had to settle on which character I would become and write from his (or her) point of view.

Now, I have written female characters before, with some success, but I’m pretty sure I could never pull off writing an entire novel from a woman’s POV (there are many reasons for this, but mostly it’s because I am a guy). In the end, I settled on one of the two male character in the four-person team and chose to write the novel as if he were telling the tale after the fact.

And so far it is working out very well, indeed.

If there is a point to all of this (or at least a valid rationalization for it), here it is. Settle first on the format for your tale – the style, if you will, in which you will frame your story. Then decide on the POV. After that, build your characters in your mind and write out bios for each and ever one. Keep the number of your main characters as small as possible. You are going to have to become intimately familiar with each of them, and you will have to keep them in your mind the entire time you write that tale. You have to, or your novel will suffer from “cardboardiness” (yes, I just made that one up. I can do that. I’m a novelist).

Your characters have to become real people, with real feelings and real motivations, fears, hopes and dreams. And yes, it will get really crowded in your head, too.

I will be posting a few excerpts from “A Silent Star” both here and on the “A Silent Star” Facebook page over the next several months. Your comments will always be very welcome.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Download “Lonesome Cove” for Free (Kindle only) and a bit of blather


My latest novel, "Lonesome Cove" will be FREE for download to your Kindle (or Kindle Reader on your PC or handheld device) on June 13 & 14. 


Here's the link:



Here’s the back text:

Terry Rankin isn’t so sure about his new client, Gianni Lupo. Gianni is an old man, just released from prison after serving the full twenty-five years of a Life sentence for a double murder in Miami. But Terry figures the man’s paid for his crime and now he’ll spend his declining years tottering around his home on Sanibel Island. Terry isn’t sure why Lupo feels the need for armed bodyguards, but what can go wrong? After all, it’s been twenty-five years.

And three tons of gold is still missing…

Please please please be sure to pass this info on to everyone you know, and please be sure to tell them to post a review of the novel once they finish reading it. That is VERY important! Authors live or die on reader reviews.

Be sure to verify that the Kindle purchase price is $0.00 before clicking on the Buy button!

The next bit is targeted toward new authors mostly, but anyone who writes in the English language should probably pay heed as well.

I know for a fact that most Americans are not taught spelling and punctuation anywhere close to the standards that I suffered through as a  child. However, that is NO excuse for anyone who aspires to earn a living as a writer in his or her native language.

Grammar, spelling and punctuation make or break a good story.

Tossing in commas helter-skelter is NOT the way it is done, ladies and gentlemen. Commas are mainly used to separate phrases within a sentence. Most sentences consist of one or two phrases. Not three or four or five. One cannot use a comma where a semi-colon belongs, and one should never, ever forget that quotation marks always travel in pairs. There are no bachelor (or bachelorette) quote marks to be found in any language with which I am familiar (and I have a working familiarity with several languages). Quotation marks belong at the beginning of a bit of dialogue and at the end.

You may not ever mix dialogue from two or more people in a single paragraph; it is not the done thing. Each character’s dialogue deserves its very own paragraph.

DO NOT EVER trust yourself to edit your own writing. EVER. Read your work aloud to yourself BEFORE you allow anyone else to see it and make what corrections you can BEFORE you turn it over to an English teacher or to someone in your writer’s group or a few fans or friend who have volunteered to help you out, but do not EVER think you can do a thorough job of editing yourself.


If you ever hope to make it as a commercial author (as opposed to living as an “Artist”) you NEED to find someone who has the patience and the experience to help you edit your stuff for spelling, grammar and punctuation (not to mention continuity). You really need a professional Editor, but who can afford such luxuries? Get a good friend or a few great fans to help you out, and be sure to thank them by name in your Acknowledgements section.

I write all of this not be bore you to tears but to emphasize just how incredibly important it is to your success as an author. Bad spelling, incorrect usage of terms and really lousy punctuation will destroy the reader’s ability to suspend his (or her) disbelief so they can become involved in your characters and your story line.

Such errors in the proper use of language will ruin your ability to market your material to a wide audience, and that will spell the end to your brief (very brief) writing career.

If it takes you a year or two years to write your novel, isn’t worth another six months’ effort to have a few good people help you to polish it up with a bit of editing before you invest a penny in publishing it???

Give yourself a break, folks. Don’t insult your manuscript; don’t make a mockery of your dreams with shoddy and incomplete work. Your job as a writer isn’t done until the editor says it’s done. And if you don’t have an editor you’d better have a few friends who know more about the English language than you do.

You owe that much to yourself and your future, at least.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

They don’t write, they don’t call

And they don’t post reviews, either.

A year ago I counted myself fortunate if I sold five copies of my novels a month on line; that’s paperback and Kindle versions together. My sales have grown this year to well over twenty times that, and my bank manager is well pleased.

But getting readers to post reviews or even drop me a line to say they enjoy what I have written is something else entirely.

But what the heck; at least someone, somewhere, is buying my books. I’m assuming it’s not my mother any more – she passed away some years ago (she never posted a review, either).

I have received some lovely emails from readers since my work began to sell, and it is always a great boost to my otherwise flagging ego.

And I’m not alone in this. If you as a reader enjoy what a writer produces, be sure to drop the author a line and let him or her know that – and do post a review; it means a lot.

I am not soliciting reviews for myself (okay, I am – sue me). I try to avoid that sort of thing – it seems a bit churlish, somehow. Bat as a member of the writing community I can state that we succeed in this business because what we produce pleases readers one way or another, and other readers very often base their buying choices on what other readers have to say.

So go the extra mile – take that extra step – and post reviews on what you read. Decent reviews not only encourage others to invest their hard-earned cash on a writer who's work you enjoyed, it encourages that writer to produce more work that you will in future be able to enjoy yourself.

Recent industry statistics show that over one million new titles were published last year. One million. That’s world-wide, in every genre and almost every language on the face of the earth. That’s a lot of books.

And that growth is directly related to the end user’s ability to access internet retail sales sites and the ability of independent authors to access publishers such as Create Space, Lightning Source and other print on demand publishers (along with the Kindle and Nook no-fee self-publishing options) without going through literary agents and traditional publishing houses.

And the readers – the consumers – benefit by having a world of new books to explore.

What’s wrong with that? Not a damn thing, unless you’re a literary agent or a traditional publishing house. Guess it just sucks to be them right about now, huh?

The “Reader” now has the last word. Literally. He (generically speaking) decides who to read. The reader makes or breaks the author. The reader – finally – decides who he will or won’t read, who he will or won’t support with his money and his recommendations.

The reader, finally – not the publisher or the literary agent or the bookstore chain – decides which authors are ‘good enough’ and which are not.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is exactly how it should be.

So post your reviews and tell your friends what you are reading. Your opinion really does matter.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

On Writing


Writing is just about the most fun a boy can have by himself and still be able to talk about it in mixed company.

It’s also a lot of work and takes a lot out of a fellow (I’m being generic here – I mean both boys and girls, men and women).

It can drain you, right down to your toes. Writing isn’t a compulsion for me the way it is for some folks – or at least they claim it is. Some sort of poetic/prose muse drives them, they say, and it just might be so. For me, it’s more of a money thing, since I can’t seem to make a living doing any of the other stuff I know how to do.

And I’ve done a lot of stuff in my life. I’ve been a lot of places, met a lot of interesting people, and made some of them really mad at me.

Bu that’s life, I guess. You just have to take the bad right along with the good. You’re not given a choice, you see.

And Life has worn me down, some, I’ll admit it. I’m not as young as I used to be (my ex-wife will tell you that I never was as young as I used to be, and she’ll say that with a straight face, too).

I’m so worn out I expect to see bits dropping off any day now.

So I write. About what I know, where I’ve been, some of the stuff I’ve been involved in and what I think about it all. But for safety’s sake, and to make it all a bit entertaining, I turn it into stories. I take all of those characters – men and women, good and bad, mix them all up a bit and drop them into interesting plots for readers to enjoy.

And yes, some of those plots – or parts of them, at least, really did happen; in different countries, perhaps, with different people, certainly (my characters are just that – characters), but they did happen. Some of them, anyway.

But sitting at my writing desk (one leg of the chair is propped up on some old, dusty tomes because the mice nibbled it down), and looking out of the cracked and dusty window pane (the part that isn’t covered by a bit of cardboard to keep with bitter winter winds out) in my fourth-floor walk-up garret while I sit huddled in my winter coat and the quilt off my bed sharpening a dull goose quill, I half-way envy my readers – their obvious wealth (because they can afford to buy my novels) and the leisure time to enjoy them, and their normal (okay – somewhat more normal than mine) everyday lives.

Occasionally they write and tell me just how much they enjoyed what they read. And that makes it all worthwhile; it really does. And the icing on the cake is, of course, seeing a new – and positive – review posted somewhere.

Unsolicited praise is praise indeed, and all writers love that sort of thing. If it was strictly about the money there would be a glut – a glut, I say – of former writers lining up at McDonald’s and Burger King begging for a decent paying job (okay, so they’d be standing in line behind everyone else applying for jobs at those places). But it isn’t just about the money. It never way, it never will be. Writers write because they love writing.

I received such an email today, and I’d like to share it with you:

“I must tell you how much I enjoyed The Big Bend. I must admit my husband put me onto you. He said you definitely need to read this author! Which means, read everything that he has written. He reads twice as fast as I do, and always says, hurry, hurry, you won't believe what happens next! Just purchased Hog Valley and Twisted Key and can hardly wait to dig in. Please, keep writing and we'll keep reading. Thanks for making our reading time so enjoyable.”

Needless to say I have removed the sender’s name for privacy’s sake, but that is the letter in toto.

I wrote them back right away, as I do with all such emails, and thanked them profusely.

Yes, I write to make a living, but that does not mean I don’t enjoy receiving emails like that one. I live for them (just to clarify - I live by my royalty checks, but I live for those emails).

So does every other writer.

Well, that and good reviews, of course. I’m pretty sure the readers of this blog are about an even mix of readers and writers, so you understand that I’m playing straight with you (at least, I hope you understand that). Reviews sell books, but word of mouth is just as good. If you enjoy what a writer produces, let your friends know about it. Do the guy (or gal) a favor and post something on FaceBook or MySpace about what you just read and let your readers know where to find it.

Yes, I write to produce an income. I live off my royalty checks (which are not all that great, by the way). And since it takes about two years to produce one of my novels, I invest a great deal of time and money in getting them into the market.

That’s by choice,  because writing is exactly what I want to do to earn my living.

But it does get lonely here in my cold-water, fourth-floor, walk-up garret. Mice make for poor company, and lately even the pigeons on the window sill have been eyeing me hungrily. I do so enjoy company, especially when they bring food. Especially when they bring enough for the mice, and the pigeons, with maybe a bit left over for me.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Give a Little, Get a Little – On the Cheap


You’re a writer; you’ve published one or more novels/poetry chapbooks/articles/screenplays etc., and you live in the requisite cold, draughty garret along with a few pigeons and mice, or perhaps in your parents basement with just a few mice and maybe a cat who does not really appreciate your company as much as you’d like.

And you’d really prefer an upgrade to your life. Maybe a nice beachfront condo in Maui, or at least Coral Gables. I mean, come on already. You’ve paid your dues. You’ve got all this stuff written and you know from your readers (along with your mother) just how good you are. You just don’t have all that many readers, yet.

You’re on FaceBook and MySpace, you’ve got your very own web site and you keep your blog up to date (pretty much, anyway). But the readers aren’t lining up to buy your stuff in sufficient numbers for that lifestyle upgrade to which you’d just love to become accustomed.

What’s a boy/girl/other supposed to do?

Learn. You have to become much more than  just a writer. No matter how good you are as a writer, no matter how many of your readers have taken the time to tell you (along with your mother) just how very much they enjoy reading whatever it is that you write (and I’m assuming that you aren’t paying them to tell you this stuff), being a great writer is not, in and of itself, enough to get you out of that garret (or your parents basement, for that matter).

You have to learn; about your place in the market, about how to make your potential readers aware of you and your product, about how to add value to your product for those potential readers, and about how to encourage them to take some of their hard-earned cash and put it directly into your pocket instead of mine.

Did I just say that?

Sadly, that’s exactly what I said. You, Dear Reader, are one of my many competitors in the marketplace. One of several hundred thousand, in fact. I go into bookstores, and I browse through the book pages on Amazon and I see competition (I also see lots and lots of books I’d love to read). Every one of those books was written by someone just like you. Or me.

And we, each of us, compete for every dollar any reader will ever spend on another book in his or her entire life.

There really are hundreds of thousands of writers in this world, boys and girls, and tens of thousands of books/articles/screenplays/chapbooks published every year. What makes you so special? What is it about you that a reader would want to buy your book instead of mine? How is he or she supposed to find you, or see one of your book covers as opposed to me, or one of mine?

And who in the heck is he (or she) anyway?

But I’m just a itty-bitty little ol’/young/middle-aged writer person – how am I supposed to do that when I can’t even buy myself a cup of coffee at Starbucks?

Good questions. Let’s get some answers.

First, we have to define our terms. These two definitions are from:





1. the act of buying or selling in a market.

2. the total of activities involved in the transfer of goods from the producer or seller to the consumer or buyer, including advertising, shipping, storing, and selling.




1. advancement in rank or position.

2. furtherance or encouragement.

3. the act of promoting.

4.the state of being promoted.

5. something devised to publicize or advertise a product,cause, institution, etc., as a brochure, free sample, poster,television or radio commercial, or personal appearance.

So “Marketing” is any activity that enables you as a business person to get your products into the hands of consumers. As noted above that can (and probably should) include advertising, selling and delivering your products.

“Promotion”, then, includes advertising (getting yourself and your products before the eyes of your potential customers) and giving them a good reason to purchase your product.

Let’s start with ‘Marketing’. You really can’t sell into a market until you know what your market is.

Identify your market. Who reads your stuff now? How old are they, what kind of education do they have, what are their likes and dislikes? What do your readers have in common? Where do they live? How do they earn their living? Do they go to church/synagogue/mosque? Are they tradesmen/women? Educators?

Once you have identified the groups into which your readership (or potential readership) falls, you need to figure out how to reach them.

And that’s where “Promotion” comes in.

Write articles or get interviewed in trade magazines your readers buy. Offer to do personal appearances at libraries and book clubs, become a guest blogger on blogs that you know cater to the readers you have targeted. Redesign your web site and modify the keywords and meta tags for each page you have on your site to improve your search engine ranking. Make sure the book reviewers for your local newspapers know you’re alive and writing. Take them to lunch if you have to.

You need to get yourself and your product up out of the muck where people can see you. You have to make yourself ‘Special’. I know your mother already thinks you are and probably tells you that every day, but it’s not enough. You have to make sure potential readers think you’re special – someone they want to pay attention to – someone who’s work they know and trust and enjoy.

You need to convince those potential readers to buy any book that has your name on it because it has your name on it.

Do that, and that lifestyle upgrade you’re looking for is within your reach.

Sell yourself. You; not your books so much, but you. Everybody knows the names of Joan Collins and Agatha Christie, Ernest Hemingway, Robert Heinlein and John Grisham, Carl Hiaasen and Randy Wayne White and John D. MacDonald. Most people could not name more than one or two titles these folks have written, but they know their names.

But they don’t know yours.

And who’s fault is that?

The titles of your books are nowhere near as important as YOUR NAME, and what thoughts and feelings people associate with your name. You need to tell people who you are and why they should prefer your work product to that of other writers in your genre. You need to convince them they have a reason – added value to them – to give you their hard-earned money.

You need to “Brand” yourself.

Here’s another definition from the nice people at Dictionary.Com (http://dictionary.reference.com)



1. kind, grade, or make, as indicated by a stamp, trademark, or the like: the best brand of coffee.

2. a mark made by burning or otherwise, to indicate kind,grade, make, ownership, etc.

3. a mark formerly put upon criminals with a hot iron.

4. any mark of disgrace; stigma.

5. branding iron

verb (used with object)

9. to label or mark with or as if with a brand.

10. to mark with disgrace or infamy; stigmatize.

11. to impress indelibly: The plane crash was branded on her mind.

12. to give a brand name to: branded merchandise.

13. to promote as a brand name.

For purposes of this article, let’s consider #’s 1,9, 11 & 13.

Send out an email blast to your readers and maybe even post these questions on your web site:

  • “what phrase would you use to describe me as an author/writer?”
  • “What other authors or writers would you compare me to?”
  • “What separates me and my work from other authors you have read recently?”

Take those results and come up with a few short phrases – say, two phrases, and turn them into a signature for every email you send out, every press release you send out and make sure it appears at the top of every page on your web site and even on your blog page. Make sure it appears on your business cards, as well.

That is your brand, and do not ever change it (unless your sales drop off dramatically, in which case you have to go back and do a bit more research).

It can take months or years to build a good brand and a good readership. This isn’t something that happens overnight – at least, not without a great deal of money, and I’m pretty sure nobody reading this has THAT kind of money laying around to invest in things like marketing, promotion and branding.

So take it slow. Do your research, and take your chances. Take small steps, study the results, note your failures and learn from them, and take yourself out to dinner when your decisions put a bit more cash in your pocket. Celebrate your victories and learn from your failures.

Just don’t quit on yourself. Ever.

I know full well what it means to go to bed hungry; I know what it means to find yourself in your car on your last tank of gas driving toward a Salvation Army shelter with a  very bleak future ahead of you. I know exactly how it feels to know that you have no job prospects in our future. My entire life has been and continues to be a hazardous experience filled with ups and downs.

I certainly can’t recommend it to anyone. But it’s what I’ve got to work with, and I’m no quitter.

I am, in fact, a writer. And a salesman, and a bit of a philosopher (it’s somewhat embarrassing at times, but you have to take the good with the bad).

I did mention this a bit earlier, but it bears repeating; being a good writer isn’t enough. You have to become a very good marketing agent and you have to become responsible for your own promotion. Promote yourself. Sell yourself. Do that, and your customers will buy your books; you won’t have to sell them once you sell yourself.