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.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

I’m right in the middle…


… of giving away over a thousand copies of my novel, “The Big Bend”. We’re talking about the Kindle version, of course. No printing costs, no shipping costs, nobody working in a dingy mailroom or a large warehouse that has to be built, maintained and staffed (and let’s not forget about the means of getting those books to the retail stores, and the distributors ‘bite’ and the cost of the shelf space in the bookstore, etc., etc., ad nauseam; all of that goes away when you discuss eBooks; and that is one of the main reasons why “Traditional Publishing” is going to go away, as well. They literally cannot compete against eBooks. It’s all about “Cost”. It has to be.

And I  am giving away over (I hope) one thousand copies of “The Big Bend”. That is the first of four novels in a series I’ve written about the life and times of a former cop here in Florida.

I could not afford to do that if eBooks – and Amazon – were not here. I could not afford to do that if I did not know I would be making money on the back end of this giveaway. Say, what?

Let’s say 10% of the thousand people who download and read a free copy of “The Big Bend” and enjoy it then purchase another of my novels. That means I will have sold 100 copies to people who – as far as I know - never read one of my novels before. That puts money in my pocket and brings in 100 new readers, all for a staggering cost to me of  - (are you ready for this?) - $0.00.

That’s right. It did not cost me a single penny, and almost everyone who owns a Kindle or uses a Kindle Reader App on their PC, or Mac, or hand-held device in both Europe and the US had access to Amazon during those 3 days of my giveaway. I sent out announcements on Facebook, my email notification list and blogged about the giveaway throughout the week prior to the start of the free download promo and begged everyone  to repost and forward the notice to their friends. One of my good friends in England, Morgen Bailey (http://www.morgenbailey.com/), updated a blog interview I did with her some time ago and allowed me to tack on an announcement about the giveaway (thanks again, Morgen! You’re the greatest! Love you long time!), and she has a much bigger audience than I do.

I really don’t care how many people download the free copy of that novel. I hope the number rises into the hundreds of thousands. The more the merrier.

The promotional offer began at midnight (think of it as very early Wednesday morning) yesterday and runs through midnight on Friday. This is all on Pacific Standard Time. So far, at 3:49 pm on Thursday, over 900 copies have been downloaded. I hope and pray that by the end of this evening that number is well over one thousand. That means I still have an entire day to see the numbers continue to climb. I sure hope they do!

it’s called Marketing and Promotion, and if you’re a writer hoping to grow your readership and actually make a living as an author, you gotta get yourself out there and do it. You gotta grow your audience. You have to cultivate new readers. Remember, ‘grow’ is a verb. That means you do something.

Here’s the link to the book page on Amazon for “The Big Bend”:


If you don’t own a Kindle, you can get an app for your PC or Mac or your hand-held device here. I know lots of people who read Kindle books on their smart phones (just not while you’re driving please!):


It’s free. Go ahead. Download a copy and read it and enjoy it. Please.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Free Download of “The Big Bend” for the Kindle Reader


I am reposting this to notify you that the Free download of “The Big Bend” will begin on Tuesday, 2 May and run through Friday, 4 May. See below for details.


This is the "The Big Bend" Kindle book page at Amazon. The FREE download offer for the “The Big Bend” will run from 02 May through 04 May (3 days):


Again, I hope to see thousands and thousands of copies downloaded and read!


I have had such great response to the Kindle Free Promotion program for my novels that I am going to offer another. This time, "The Big Bend", my best seller (and the first in the Terry Rankin series), will be FREE to all from 12:00 am on 2 May through 11:59 pm on 4 May. That's Pacific Standard Time, by the way, and the start and end times are approximate.

You do not need to own a Kindle to enjoy Kindle books (especially FREE Kindle books!). There are plenty of Kindle Reader apps for the PC, the Mac and all sorts of hand-held devices. Here’s the link to the Kindle Free Reading Apps page on Amazon:


Please note: be sure to verify that the 'Buy' price for the novel is listed as $0.00 when you go to purchase the book!!!

This is the "The Big Bend" Kindle book page at Amazon. The FREE download offer for the  “The Big Bend” will run from 02 May through 04 May (3 days):

I would be tickled pink to see several thousand copies of “The Big Bend” downloaded and read. Especially if this results (as it usually does) in new readers coming back to purchase my other novels and posting reviews all over the place.

So, please, take the time to share this information with your friends through your social media pages, Tweet the info and repost this for readers of your blogs.

I’m starting to feel my age, and I hate it


All three of my sons are engaged to be married some time this year. Yonatan, my second son, and his fiancé Shani, will be married on 3 June, in Israel. The other two , Natanel and Simcha, have announced their engagements to long-standing (and very patient) girlfriends, but no dates have been set.

My daughter Vered, my baby girl, is quite wisely staying in university and keeping her nose in her books. She told me the other day that all three of the girls – Tehilla (Simcha’s fiancé – he’s my third son), Adi (Natanel’s fiancé – he’s my first son) and Shani are all very nice girls.

Natanel and Adi have been keeping each other company for several years. He runs a café in Jerusalem and is studying internet marketing, and Adi is just finishing university. Yoni, my second son, is studying physical education in the Weitzman Institute near Netanya, and he teaches climbing and rappelling in Jerusalem. I forget what his fiancé does, but she is graduating later this year, while Yoni has another three years before he gets his degree. Simcha holds a job in the government, doing something that pays fairly well, and I don’t know what his fiancé does.

Yes, if I were a woman I would know everything about these girls, their families and where their grandparents were born and what they did to earn their keep and how many children they had and how much each weighed when they were born, too.

But I’m not.

I know my three sons are all engaged. And I am very happy for them all.

I also know that I am getting old. I’m happy about that, too (considering my options).

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Morgen Bailey


Morgen Bailey, located in Northampton, England,  has recently set up a new ‘Author’s Interview’s’ blog and reposted (and updated) an interview I did with her a few month’s back. Don’t let her address on the other side of the pond put you off. Her work and her blog posts are read all over the world:


But this post (this one, right here) is not so much about about that interview with me (though it does have a lot of new info in it) as it is about Morgen and what she’s up to.

If you are a writer, or you love writers and what they do, or don’t give a fig about writers just so long as you have something interesting to read (or if you’re so desperate for something to read you’re back to reading the labels on soup cans), Morgen has something to offer you.

In her own words:

“Also I’ve since had a story published in a new charity anthology and four of my free (debut) eBook short stories, a writer’s block workbook and an anthology of short stories went live on Smashwords and Amazon and I’d be ever so grateful if you know of anyone who might be interested… more (novels) to follow shortly.”

Here are a few links to get you started:

Morgen with an ‘e’

http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com and http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/morgenbailey

Now a new forum at http://morgenbailey.freeforums.org

And please, for my sake do repost my previous blog about the giveaway of the Kindle version of “The Big Bend”. It runs from 2 May through 4 May, and I would love to give away several thousand copies of that novel. It’s not only the first in the Terry Rankin series, it’s also the best selling of the lot ( it is a well-written tale and my personal favorite).

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


Friday, April 27, 2012

Free Download of “The Big Bend” for the Kindle Reader




I have had such great response to the Kindle Free Promotion program for my novels that I am going to offer another. This time, "The Big Bend", my best seller (and the first in the Terry Rankin series), will be FREE to all from 12:00 am on 2 May through 11:59 pm on 4 May. That's Pacific Standard Time, by the way, and the start and end times are approximate.

Again, you do not need to own a Kindle to enjoy FREE Kindle books. There are plenty of Kindle Reader apps for the PC, the Mac and all sorts of hand-held devices. Here’s the link to the Kindle Free Reading Apps page on Amazon:


Please note: be sure to verify that the 'Buy' price for the novel is listed as $0.00 when you go to purchase the book!!!

This is the "The Big Bend" Kindle book page at Amazon. The FREE download offer for the  “The Big Bend” will run from 02 May through 04 May (3 days):

I would be tickled pink to see several thousand copies of “The Big Bend” downloaded and read. Especially if this results (as it usually does) in new readers coming back to purchase my other novels and posting reviews all over the place.

So, please, take the time to share this information with your friends through your social media pages, Tweet the info and repost this for readers of your blogs.

I wish you all the very best life has to offer.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Dreams vs Harsh Reality…

… or, “Be careful what you wish for”

I suppose this post is mostly for  writers in the early stages of their chosen career. I’ve written on this subject before, and in those posts I have made a very honest attempt to avoid sugar-coating what every budding writer will have to face in the first few years.

I don’t do this to scare away new authors – far from it. The more the merrier, in my opinion. Dashing into the fray without any forethought is a time-honored (if somewhat foolhardy) pastime of the young and optimistic among us.

But you do need to know what lies ahead of you. Writing that first (or second, or third) novel was tough enough, but how do you sell it, to whom do you sell it, and what exactly are you selling, and how much can you get for it?

What? You have no idea? Well, golly gee, Louise, why in the heck not?

Risk-taking is a very big part of getting ahead, and without risk takers the human race would never have gotten ahead of the lemurs on the evolutionary path. So go for it. Take risks. Get your manuscripts out there.

Contact literary agents, submit your writing directly to publishing houses. Pump out your press releases. Stay optimistic, even in the face of hundreds of rejection letters. Keep writing and don’t ever give up on yourself.

But don’t ever quit learning, either. Study the industry. Just make sure you study the readership, as well, since they are the ones who will buy your work. Please your readers, and don’t give much of a tinker’s damn about the literary agents or the publishing houses. They don’t buy your work, and hardly ever take the time to read and enjoy what you write. They will take your money, though. If you let them.

I wouldn’t. I’ve never paid a literary agent or a publishing house a single penny of my royalties, and never will. There was a time in the publishing industry when a writer had no choice but to submit their work – and their livelihood, and their dreams – to the whims of agents and publishers, but that day is happily done and over with, thank heaven.

You have options, and I strongly suggest that you consider them very carefully before you waste a single penny on postage or printing for your query letters and submission packages to agencies or publishing houses.

Research the industry. Join writer’s groups in your area. Join online writer’s groups and become current on industry trends. Study the trends among readers in your genre. Take responsibility for your own future as a writer. Don’t ever depend on a literary agent to take care of you – for the most part they are way too busy taking care of themselves to spend any time at all in looking out for your own best interest.

As I have mentioned before, writers are prey animals in the publishing world. Everybody wants a piece of you and what you earn.

You can’t even begin to learn to protect yourself until you understand that one single fact.

You can’t survive, much less get ahead, until you do. And yes, it is that important.  You are entering into a strange (in some ways very strange) new world when you complete your first novel, and you have no idea of what lies ahead of you.

Every time you sell a copy of your novel, or history, or collected works of poetry/short stories, you are taking money from a reader who just might –might – have given me his money instead. You compete with every writer in your genre for the money in your reader’s pockets.

But here’s the really odd thing about writers. We seem to like each other. It may have something to do with the herd mentality; we know we are prey animals, so we stick together. Yes, we compete for readers, but we also protect each other from the predators as best we can.

Every time your literary agent takes his 10 % or 15% out of your royalty check before sending the balance on to you, he is taking money out of your pocket and putting it into his. Ask yourself why? What has he done for you in the last six months?

You and you alone are responsible for promoting your book (s). You and you alone have to invest your time and money in getting your work into bookstores and getting to and from book signings and promotional events. So just why are you giving so much as a single penny to an agent or a publishing house? Explain that to me again, please?

In case you haven’t noticed, I am an independent sort of guy. Nobody’s the boss of me. And while I am as easily snowed as the next guy on occasion, I will wake up sooner or later (okay, sometimes much later), and get the situation straightened out in my favor. I LIKE my independence; I like being the only one responsible for my success or my failure, and I see no reason why I should pay anyone a single dime if I don’t have to. Mostly because I know damn good and well that nobody is going to work as hard for me as I do.

I also know that the publishing industry is and has been in a downward spiral for the last fifty (or maybe it’s a hundred) years and there is no sign of it recovering any time soon. There is not a single publishing house in business today with enough cash on hand to spend a dime on promoting a new author, including a paying Publisher’s Weekly for so much as a small box ad on the back page about the first release of that author’s novel.

And no literary agent will ever spend a single penny on a publicist to arrange a television talk show or nationwide radio station tour for you. John Grisham might get that sort of treatment, but most of us are not John Grisham.

Book marketing is a very specialized segment of the marketing industry. Study it, and study the people involved very, very carefully. They, too are predators. There are some incredibly professional, honest and very hard-working individuals in the business, but you have to keep in mind that they are in business to make a living, and they make that living off of your skill as a writer.

You are on your own. It’s you against the entire publishing industry. Do your research.  Do lots and lots of research. You won’t regret it.

Your comments are always very welcome.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Linksys RE1000 Hardware Review


I have worked in and around computers since 1971. And yes, we did have computers back then. Just to put things in perspective, the Romans had opened the Coliseum only a few years before that, and Chuck Yeager was beginning to think he wanted to learn how to fly.  The Wright Brothers were still stealing apples and kicking cans down the road, and dreaming of owning their own bicycle.

1971 was a long time ago. I worked first for Control Data Corporation in Atlanta as an entry-level database programmer, and then with a bit of experience under my belt I got a job with the State of Georgia Mental health Department. Neither job paid very well – I would have seen a better paycheck as a gardener, but at least the work was inside, with air conditioning.

After working up a flow chart and writing some code (In COBOL), I had to punch my own cards on a keypunch machine, stack them neatly (and in order, of course) in a shoe box and run them across town  to the data processing center where the guys in white lab coats would load the cards into the hopper on the card reader and push the big red Go button to wake up the room-sized (really large room, too, with all of the cables run under the floor) IBM 360, which would, in about .3 of a second, spit out my cards almost before it had a chance to read them. Then I would take my stack of cards back across town to my cubbyhole-sized office and try to figure out why my app didn’t work.


I have always had a love-hate relationship with computers. And they know that.

Office politics put an end to my job about half way through the  project and I quite happily went back to work as a gardener.  The pay was much better, I didn’t have to freeze mu butt off in the air conditioning, and there was no interoffice bickering, either.

I’ve been around computers a lot in my life – I’ve gotten away from programming over the years, though I did work in Fortran, IBM Assembler, Perl and some of the ‘C’ language variations and even Unix, and worked as a Novel Sys Admin back in the day. I’ve taught DOS and Windows classes to newbies, repaired and upgraded PC’s and spent years in software QA ( testing) and hardware testing. My last two jobs in the industry saw me with my own software QA lab with over a million dollars worth of servers and over thirty employees in my department.

So I know something about hardware and software and how they’re supposed to work together to make our lives a little easier.

Actually, they don’t. But that’s a rant we’re not going to go into here (and probably shouldn’t, ever. The computers will know, and that will make them very angry with me).

So here I am in Deland, Florida, almost a year before I intended to be anywhere near Daytona, where I plan to locate the next Terry Rankin novel. Since I don’t have a fixed domicile (and don’t want one), I am renting a room in my nephew’s home while I wrap up a writing project and begin to do the research on that novel I just mentioned.

There were three computers in this home, and when I arrived only two of them had internet access via a 2-wire DSL connection provided by ATT. Basically a 1200 baud modem connection (though it was DSL, it was painfully slow). The modem and the router were installed on my nephew’s computer in their bedroom at the back of the house, and my computer was in my bedroom about 50 feet away at the front. I used a Linksys N1000 Wi-Fi adapter to connect to the 2-wire DSL router.

For the first few months I could barely load a web page in my browser, and checking my email was enough to put me into a rage.

I offered to cover the cost of broadband cable internet, and that offer was quickly accepted before I could change my mind. So I contacted Brighthouse and ordered the service. They showed up the next day and a few hours later we were up and running. My Linksys N1000 adapter was retired and I was given an Ethernet connection direct to the router.

For the first few days things went swimmingly, until my nephew’s wife began to complain about how slow her Wi-Fi connection was (via an old Belkin Wi-Fi adapter). She couldn't play her internet based game – the action in the game was choppy, and my nephew said it took way too long for his email to load…

Golly, gee, why did that sound so familiar???

Our computers are set at opposite ends of the house, and there is one concrete block wall and a few wood and sheetrock walls between them. I discussed the issue with my nephew and told him we needed a Wi-Fi Extender and he agreed to pay half the cost. I drove over to the Best Buy store in Daytona and picked up the Linksys (Cisco) RE 1000 Wi-Fi Extender. It cost $79.00.

The next day I finally had time to set it up. The box contained the Extender, an Ethernet cable (unnecessary), a power cord and  an install CD. Everything you need, other than a bit of common sense and/or someone who knows what he’s doing.

The instructions on the CD are very clear, and very short, and not very helpful if things don’t work the way they should the first time ‘round. They didn’t.

Before you connect the Extender to anything, you slip the CD into the reader and it does a search for the Wi-Fi signal. Then it tells you to plug the Extender into an electrical outlet close to your computer. You are also told that if your computer is not using an adapter to connect to the Wi-Fi signal to move to a computer that does use an adapter, or to disconnect the Ethernet cable between your computer and the router and make an adapter-based connection.

I had an Ethernet cable connection with the router and saw no need to change that (silly me, but I didn’t know that at the time, did I?).

So I moved to my nephew’s computer at the other end of the house and tried to set things up there. Four hours later I gave up. I was able to set up the Extender, but it could not access the router (no, it didn’t make any sense to me, either), so there was no internet connectivity, and that was the point of the exercise, wasn’t it?

I reset the Extender to its default settings and carried all the bits and pieces back to my computer, where I disconnected my Ethernet cable from the back of my computer and reconnected my Linksys adapter. Then, being somewhat impatient I slipped the install CD back into the reader and proceeded to screw things up once again. An hour later I realized that I hadn’t rebooted my computer after reconnecting the Linksys adapter.

So it was still trying to read data via the Ethernet cable. Which was no longer connected to my computer.

I rebooted. Once the system was back up it took about two minutes for the installation to complete. The Extender was working, but I still didn’t have an internet connection.

So I called tech support at Brighthouse and after a few minutes that problem was solved (somehow the settings for the IP and DNS servers had been changed to FIXED instead of Obtain – and no, I have NO idea why this was changed or what forced the change) and my internet connection was up and running.

Once the Extender is connected properly and you know everything works, you can unplug it from the power source and move it to a more central location in the house, and even turn it this way and that until you find an optimal location – one that provides the maximal signal strength to the most distant computer.

So the Linksys RE 1000 Wi-Fi Extender works, the install CD is easy to follow as long as everything goes swimmingly the first time and persistence and a few phone calls can usually handle any problems that may come up due to a lack of information or a wish to avoid what seems at first glance to be unnecessary labor.

So everybody’s happy. Except for my nephew’s son, who still needs a Wi-Fi adapter for his computer, along with a computer table. And I still need a grounded 3-wire outlet so I can connect my expensive UPS into the wall. The house is all 2-wire electrical service and the UPS refuses to accept power from an ungrounded supply. But I have an electrician due on Monday to price that for me.

Oh, well.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

On the Pursuit of Filthy Lucre, and other Worthwhile Endeavors


Let’s face it; unless you are independently wealthy, or at least supported in the style to which you have become accustomed by someone else, you need to earn enough money to keep body and soul together. And maybe pay the rent, utilities and insurance, buy a bit of food every now and then and maybe even put a bit of gas in your car/truck/van/Bugatti or at least fill your bicycle tires with air.

But you’re a writer; by trade, avocation, inclination or even out of sheer desperation (just like yours, truly) because your last your last job went away and nobody wants to or can afford to hire you.

If you write for pleasure, lucky you; you can ignore the rest of what I have to say and just toddle off down the garden path and sniff a few roses, chase a butterfly and pet your cat. But if you hope to or simply have to earn your living through writing, here’s the nitty-gritty, down-to-earth rude and crude truth about what’s involved.

Most folks who produce material on earning a living as a writer will write an entire book on the subject, and give you lots of information on a particular segment of the writing industry, even giving you a list of contacts for submitting to agents/publishers. Check your local bookstore.

But you didn’t need me to tell you that; you probably have one or two such books on your shelf now. I’m not going to waste your time - and mine - doing your research for you. That’s your job and you will learn a great deal if you invest some time and effort in it.

I’m much more interested in discussing how you turn a talent into a skill, and how you convert that into a product you can sell into your chosen market. So let’s assume for the moment that you do have a fluency with words; you know how to organize your thinking and how to put words on paper so they will mean something to a reader.

That’s a great starting point. I really don’t care if you’re a poet at heart, or a short-story writer, a novelist or you derive great pleasure from writing travel articles or fly-fishing stories. You have a talent for expressing yourself and a marketable skill.

Or at least you think you do. Join a writer’s group. There are scads of writer’s groups, both on-line and in your area. Look into Yahoo Groups, join LinkedIn, join your local library and inquire about writer’s groups. Nobody cares what you write, only that you do.

And then submit your stuff for some constructive (if occasionally harsh) criticism. You and your writing both need and deserve criticism. Tough it out. It’s good for you and for your writing. That sort of criticism will help you to grow as a writer; until you do this, you really are working in a vacuum.

You need a plan. A marketing plan. You need to treat your manuscript as a ‘Product’, because it is. In the same way a furniture maker builds cabinets or chairs or rocking horses to sell, you write stuff. In the same way he or she has a feel for what will sell in his chosen market, so do you.

Or at least you should. There’s no sense investing time and effort in writing something that won’t sell; not if your goal is to make a living as a writer.

And you can’t convince the market to buy your stuff just because you like it. Oh, readers might invest in one of your stories/articles/novels/whatever, but if they feel disappointed in your work for whatever reason  they will never, ever buy another piece from you.

And there goes your market. You can wave bye-bye now. See you.

Get to know what’s selling in your genre today, and figure out how to forecast what will sell by the time your manuscript is ready for the printer. That may be six weeks or six months from now. Or a year or two years, depending on your productivity.

You write for a specific market, whether you know that or not.

So get to know your readers, and what they want to read. It really does not work the other way ‘round. Or at least it does not work very well. The first law of writing for a living is that you have to write something your customers want to read. If you want to sell lots and lots of books/articles/collected poems, you have to write what lots and lots of readers want to read.

It’s really rather simple, if somewhat harsh on the ego; nobody cares what you want to write. They only care that you write what they want to read.

You have to become accustomed to looking at your writing as a business. Marketing – orienting your sales toward a market, and Promoting yourself and your products – getting the right eyes on your products and convincing them to invest in your writing, is the most important part of writing for a living. If “Content is King”, as many people say, “Marketing is the Emperor”.

All the content in the world isn’t worth spit if nobody knows it’s there, and if nobody sees any value in that content for themselves, your sales will be, well, minimal.

And THAT is the key to selling your work.

You have to add value to your work. You – your name, your biography, your skill as a writer, has to become your major marketing tool. Everybody knows of John Grisham, John D. Macdonald, Carl Hiaasen, Agatha Christie, and so on. Most of those same people could not name more than one or two novels written by any of those authors, but they do know their names.

They know their names, and they trust those authors to write what they want to read. In other words, their very names add value to their work in the eyes of their readers.

You sell yourself to your market. Then your market buys your books. It’s that simple, and that important.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Write What you Know, Not what you Think


Just the facts, Ma’am.  Let’s preface a discussion of character description and development with a short digression on facts and the writer’s Life experience (or staggering lack thereof).

In fact (so to speak), this is one of my major gripes about some authors and what must be a pathological hatred for research (or  perhaps it’s due to a very sheltered life). I really enjoy ‘boaty’ stories; so much so that I will  do just about anything to include one or more ‘boaty’ scenes in everything I write. Admittedly, I have (so far) avoided small plastic boats floating in a bathtub, but I am tempted to slip that into my next novel. Somehow.

But some writers will go to amazing lengths to avoid researching terminology when writing about stuff they don’t know. In a rush to complete a scene they will throw terms around without any regard for proper usage, when all it would take is a brief phone call to  a friend in a relevant trade or industry to verify proper terms to describe what the author wants to include in a scene. It’s not difficult, folks. Don’t be lazy.

Readers will become so upset over improper usage of terms (nautical or otherwise) they will throw your “Great American Novel” directly into the garbage. Certainly, if they do not trash the author to their friends they will never, ever recommend him or her to anyone.

Research is King, boys and girls. Don’t assume you know what you’re writing about; KNOW it. Don’t assume that because you are you that you have all of the facts at your fingertips – you do not. If you don’t handle firearms every day or every week, don’t write about them without some serious research. If you don’t own a boat, or go boating with friends, or build boats, go speak with someone who does before you write a novel with a boatbuilder or boat owner or whatever. If you don’t know about aircraft or flying, don’t write about it.

Research is KING. Research – or the embarrassing lack thereof – will make you or break you as an author. Period.

So now we can deal with character description and character development. Believe it or not, this is very much related to my little diatribe above.

Some authors are plot-driven writers. They come up with these intricate, twisted plots and just have to put them down on paper. They become so wrapped up in their plots they have no time or interest – or space on the paper, for that matter – for their characters. As a result of this concentration on plotting, their characters appear as cardboard cutouts of human beings.

They wind up with totally one-dimensional, and intolerably uninteresting characters. Everything in the story is all about the ‘Plot’ and little or no attention is paid to the characters or their interaction with one another outside of the plot line. The reader gets the idea that the author is completely lacking in human understanding.

People are complex critters; they are driven by fear, desire, inadequacy, unthinking lust, addiction, loneliness, hopes and dreams, desperation, you name it. And all at the same time. Perhaps a little introspection is in order. Perhaps a bit of observation of the behaviour of others.

Again; write about what you know, not about what you think you know. If you don’t know about people and what drives them to make the decisions they do, or say the things they do, or the way they say those things, don’t write about people. Write tour guides, or advertising copy.

That may be a  bit harsh, but write about what you know. And if you don’t know how one of your characters should react in a scene, ask someone. Ask two or three people – of any sex – how they would react in that situation, and ask them to be honest when they tell you. I certainly am not suggesting you take any course in psychology or sociology; heaven forbid.

But don’t be afraid to reveal your characters as real human beings facing real situations. Even if your novel is set aboard a starship in the Crab Nebula (lovely place – lots to see and do there), they are still human beings (well, some of them are, anyway).

People want to read about people. You do yourself and your tale and your reader a disservice if you fail to provide enough information about your characters for the reader to see them as human beings.

I do not recommend that you describe each character in complete detail at the beginning of your tale – fifteen pages of character description is a bit much for any reader. But do provide a brief physical description, a brief revelation of what they do and where they come from (background). Just enough for the reader to build an image of that person, and that will convince them to become invested in your tale.

The reader comes to know your characters as people, and that helps him or her to ‘suspend his disbelief’. And through the course of the story, reveal – through the characters actions and dialogue – who he or she is and what drives them.

“Show, don’t tell,” is the key to interesting writing. Show, through action and dialogue what is going on, who is doing what to whom, and why. Write actively – not passively. Stay away from the ‘have had’s’  and ‘had done’s’ and ‘had been’s’. Forget passive anything in your writing.

And the same holds true with your characters. Reveal them through their actions and their speech patterns. You don’t need multiple paragraphs filled with a narrative about why someone is doing something or ‘had done’ something. Historical narrative is guaranteed to put your reader into a coma. Keep it active – keep your writing here and now. That will keep your reader involved in your characters and your tale.

Friday, April 13, 2012

“Lonesome Cove” is now available for purchase


Here’s the URL for the book page on Amazon:


My fourth novel, fully two years’ worth of research, writing, editing and rewriting, is now available for purchase for the Kindle. It is a tale about the search for a missing woman, the granddaughter of a Mob hit man released after serving twenty-five years in prison for a double murder. It’s also about a dirty cop, Latino gangs, and revenge. And three tons of gold, stolen off a ship in the Port of Miami back in the early 80’s. It’s still missing, you see…


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…


And here is the URL (again) for the book page on Amazon:


Thursday, April 12, 2012

A woman I have yet to meet is one of my best friends ever


But I am going to make a point of meeting her in the next short while.

Keep in mind that no writer works in a vacuum. You might sit in your garret room with the wallpaper peeling off, the plaster dropping from the ceiling in great sheets and the cold rain blowing in through the broken windows while you sharpen your goose quills and grind your powdered ink. You might do all you can to avoid walking down those three flights of rickety stairs to face the storm outside during the short walk to your corner bistro for a half-loaf of day old bread, but you still do not write in a vacuum.

People – real, living, breathing (we hope) human beings actually read your stuff (again, we hope). And they talk to each other, and send emails to one another about what you’ve put down on paper (or perhaps parchment or strips of birch bark).

Many years ago while I lived in Israel I published several articles and essays on Israeli politics and terror groups. That stuff is still floating out there on the web, and I still get emails from readers. No, I won’t go into details about what they say. That’s not the point here.  Good comments or bad, people read your stuff, and they occasionally (not nearly often enough) take the time to write and let you know what they think about your work.

It’s called criticism, and much more often than not it is constructive criticism. And that is a very good thing for you as a writer. Welcome it. Beg, if you have to, but make certain sure your readers understand that you really, honestly, truly want and need to hear from them.

Because you do. Unheated, damp garret rooms are very lonely places. And day old bread does not a healthy diet make.

Several weeks ago I received an email from an author I know and admire. His wife was reading one of my novels and wanted him to ask if I would mind a list of corrections, since, as she put it, ‘He writes a great story, but he really needs an editor’.

It took me less than thirty seconds to get a reply off to him. A few days later his wife sent me that list; about two pages, single-spaced, with the edits identified by page line in the novel.

Wowie-zowie! I went through her edits in about twenty minutes and republished the Kindle version within the hour. And then sent off a very impassioned thank you to the both of them.

The other day I got another email with a Word doc attached with edits for my second novel. Again, it took me about half an hour to make the corrections and  republish the Kindle version and again I sent a very warm thank you right back.

The three of us will be having dinner together in a few weeks.

Keep in mind that I use “Beta Readers” once a manuscript is complete. Several readers participate and send their corrections to me, and each keeps that copy of the MS and receives an acknowledgement in the preface to the published novel (along with a signed copy of the paperback version). What a wonderful group that is, too.

Yes, I am very much aware that no amount of beta readers can ever take the place of a professional editor, but when you’re living in that garret and looking forward to your next half-loaf of day old bread, a professional editor is the very last thing on your shopping list; way down there below paying rent, covering your utility bill and that short and very damp walk to the corner bistro for your half-loaf.

Been there, and done that. Still am, in fact. My fourth novel, “Lonesome Cove” will have the great good fortune to experience the contributions of a professional editor for the paperback version (right after the last of my beta readers’ comments are dealt with). But the Kindle version, since it costs nothing to publish, will have to make do with the tender ministrations of my beta readers and the very welcome comments from the folks who pay their hard-earned $3.00 + applicable state and federal taxes to read it.

And I will welcome comments and corrections from everybody, thank them from the very depths of my heart, swear life-long love and friendship (meaning every word of it) and make those corrections to the manuscript and republish it just as quick as a little bunny.

Because I know damn good and well that I do not write in a vacuum.

I will be the first to admit that my work is not perfect; but it is ‘good enough’ to sell, and follow-on comments from readers allows me to improve the editing and re-publish a matter of hours. As I mentioned earlier, a professional editor would catch much of what I and my beta readers miss and make a ‘good enough’ manuscript into a truly publishable work. And “Lonesome Cove” will be the first of my published novels to have the luxury of a professional editor’s attention.

Let’s be honest here. I know that I am not the only published writer facing an inadequacy of income when it comes to getting my work published. Editing costs just about as much as the actual publishing of a novel. In fact, prices for professional editors run around  $5.00 – $7.00 a page. If a Print-On-Demand publishing house charges $1300.00 to publish your novel and the editors want another $700.00 – $1000.00 to edit your manuscript and you have saved up most of that $1300.00 after months of scrimping on your half-loaf of day-old bread, what are you gonna do – not publish for manuscript for another year just to get it edited first? You’ve just spent the last two years of your life writing the damn thing and another six months rewriting after your beta readers have gone through it with a few fine-toothed combs and you surely have a use for the several dollars’ increase in your treasury selling the paperback copies will generate at your local community events and even on-line.

And you know, too, that you have a lifetime’s worth of promotion and marketing to do to sell yourself as an author, and you can’t even get started on that until you have at least one novel/biography/history/chemistry text book in the marketplace. So it’s perfect. It is damn near, and that is ‘good enough’ to get started with.

You bet it is.

Purists may disagree. Just so you know, those purists can afford to pay a professional editor. You probably can’t. So do the best you can with what you’ve got, and be damn sure that every work you publish is better than the last. Pretty soon, now - meaning in a few years – you’ll be one of those purists, too. But when that day comes, just keep in mind what it took you to get to that point. Encourage new writers; don’t put stumbling blocks in their paths. Better to light the way for them.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Another Excerpt from “Lonesome Cove”


Terry Rankin is in Miami, looking for information on Gianni Lupo’s grandaughter, Nikki. He finds a lot more than he bargained for. But not much solid information:


I paid the bill and left a nice tip, then headed for my hotel a few blocks away. There wasn’t anything left to do until Petty called with some answers. South Miami is a nice place; everything is close by, the weather is nice, the people are nice. The staff in the hotels are nice. It’s all so damn nice.

On the surface, anyway. Just like most parts of the civilized world, folks are polite. It helps to keep people from killing each other over the little things. Most times, anyway. There are exceptions.

Hal Petty called while I was in the shower. So did Cathy. I called Petty, first.

“Got some interesting stuff for you. Don’t like it a lot, and I’m sure you won’t, either. Doesn’t make a lot of sense, but then there’s a whole lot in life that doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

I laughed. “You’re not making much sense either, right now.”

“Okay, this is what I got. Tammy O’Shea, aged eighteen. Died in a car accident on 23 December, 2000. Sound familiar?”

Oh, crap, yes, it did. “Who else was in the car, Hal?”

“Rosa and Angelo Gianuzzi.”

“Where was their daughter, Nicola?”

“No mention of her in the newspaper report. Got a call in to the police department in Trenton who responded to the accident. No call back from them, yet.”

“What else?”

“Tammy O’Shea, of Trenton, New Jersey, has a Florida driver’s license. No violations, no wants or warrants out on her, no ‘Also Known As’ listed. She’s had the license for nine years. Clean as a whistle. Registration and insurance on the Corvette is in her name, with the address I gave you earlier.”

“Hal, you have to get me some information on Nicola Gianuzzi.”

“I’m working on it,” he said with a bit of asperity in his tone. “I’ll get what I can from the Trenton PD and the local obituary columns and work from there. Your girl would have been way too young to strike out on her own. She had to live with someone until she was old enough to join the army. If she’s using the O’Shea ID to cover herself she had to have professional help setting it up. I’ll see what I can learn.”

Gianni Lupo didn’t know that a third person had died in the accident that took the lives of his daughter and her husband. I wondered how he learned of the accident. I wondered if it was an accident. I wondered where Nicola Gianuzzi was, and why she was masquerading as Tammy O’Shea.

Then I called Cathy. I did not tell her what Hal Petty had learned, or about my thoughts. I wasn’t about to drop that on her over the phone. That was going to be a face-to-face conversation. After we said our hellos, I asked, “Did your dad stop by today?”

“Yes, in fact he’s going to stay over tonight. We’ve been all over the boat, looking at what Rolf and his crew did. Dad loves the instrumentation in the wheelhouse. Now that he’s had a good look at Nina R, he’s thinking of getting some new gear for his Riviera.”

“He’s got a real pretty boat, Honey.” Calling a forty-five foot Riviera pretty is a major understatement. Try beautiful.

“What’s new on your end?”

I told her some of what I’d learned, but not all. “I’ll tell you the rest when I get back tomorrow evening. Everything I thought I knew has been changed in just a few hours today. No idea where this thing will go tomorrow.” Oh, boy, was I right about that.

“Well, you take good care of yourself. Spike’s trying to grab the phone to say hello,” she giggled.

“Hello, Spike,” I laughed. “Cathy, tell your dad I said hi, will you? I’ll see you tomorrow night.”

Ten minutes later, things changed again, when someone knocked on my door.

I cursed myself then, for flying to Miami. If I had driven as I first thought to do I would have a weapon with me. I wasn’t expecting anyone, and a knock on the door in the middle of the night is always cause for concern. I moved to stand with my back against the wall of the bathroom and faced the closet on the opposite wall. That placed the entry door on my right side.

“Who is it?”

“FBI, Mr. Rankin,” a familiar though not quite welcome feminine voice replied. I breathed a sigh of relief, flipped the deadbolt and opened the door for her.

“I never caught your name,” I said as she and her young male companion entered. I first met her in the parking lot of the apartment hotel late one night last month. She came with a message from my government asking for my cooperation in ending the life of a very unpleasant and dangerous man.

Then after it was all over she and her gofer came to bring me a gift from my government. A gift that I quickly dropped into the depths of the Gulf of Mexico, unopened, where I hoped no one would ever find it.

She was a pleasant woman, easy to look at and obviously a very capable agent, but not entirely welcome right then.

“And how can I help you and my government this evening?” I asked as the young man with her closed and locked the door.

She brushed her shoulder length blond hair off her face and said, “Did you wonder why Mr. Lupo settled on your company to provide his protection?”

“No, it never entered my mind,” I replied as I pulled a soda out of the mini bar. It should have, though. But I’ve never been one to check the dentition of gift horses.

“I visited him while he was still in prison and recommended you.”

That caught my attention. “Why?”

Another knock on the door interrupted us. As I began to move toward the door she put out a hand to stop me. “Paul, give me your backup piece,” she said as she pushed me into the room and around the corner, out of the line of sight from the entrance. She handed me Paul’s Springfield Arms .40 semi-auto. I slipped the safety off and racked the slide to load a round into the chamber as she said to me, “Stay there.”

She took up a position with her back to the wall, her weapon in a two handed grip, with the barrel toward the ceiling. She signaled to her companion, saying, “Get your weapon ready. Stand beside the door. Ask who it is.”

The young man held his pistol parallel to the floor and pointing at the entry as he called, “Who is it?”

The burst of rounds that answered his question blew right through him, pulling a red mist in its wake and catching the woman through the sheetrock wall she thought would shield her. It didn’t. It never does.

Time slowed to a crawl.

As she dropped to the floor, cursing the pain, I moved to stand against the opposite wall where the pistol in my right hand could point more naturally down the short hall. The door eased open on its hinges; the rounds from the automatic weapon had destroyed the locks holding it shut.

Two men entered. I took one step into the hall and pulled the trigger four times, dropping them both. The second man tried to stand and bring his pistol to bear, but a fifth round put him down for good.

I stood there, staring at the mess that was once Paul. I’d never learned his last name, but he’d died doing his job in my hotel room.

Screaming from the other patrons on the floor assured me that at least one person had already called the front desk and probably the cops, as well. I pulled the pillows off the bed, stripped the cases off and moved to kneel beside the woman, where I did what I could to stop the bleeding. Two rounds struck her in the back; one through her right shoulder blade and the second lower down, blowing out through her stomach.

She was alive, in extreme agony and cursing a blue streak. Anger, frustration, and sadness mixed in her words. “That kid wanted to be an agent his whole life. He’s been with me since he got out of the Academy. I was his field training officer. My bosses thought I’d keep him out of trouble. And I just used the poor bastard as a speed bump.” There was more like that. She never lost consciousness; the agony of a round in your gut is indescribably painful.

The paramedics had her on a gurney in a matter of a few minutes. I spent the rest of the night answering questions.

It would be another week before I learned her name, or why she’d come to visit. Once the cops had me at the station I called Cathy to let her know I was okay and then my attorney, Allison Saunders, just in case.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough answers for them, though I told the story as I knew it from beginning to end half a dozen times and answered all of their questions as thoroughly as I could. The officers who interviewed me asked questions and demanded answers, but they wouldn’t tell me a damn thing.

I was a witness, a victim if you prefer, but I was treated as I had treated perpetrators through all my years in law enforcement.

It is never pleasant to be on the receiving end of an interrogation.

They released me around mid-day on Sunday. I returned to the hotel to find they had moved me to another room. I showered and shaved, packed my bags, paid the bill and drove to the airport. After turning in my rental car I checked in at the airline desk. Then I found a restaurant, had a decent meal and drank coffee until my flight was called.

I didn’t read the newspaper. I didn’t even look at it.

I’d be back in Miami, right after Gianni Lupo and I had a long and probably very unpleasant conversation.

Cathy was waiting for me when I stepped aboard Nina R Sunday night. I wasn’t hungry, but my stomach was roiling from all the coffee I’d drunk, so we put a few potatoes in the oven to bake, assembled a garden salad and steamed a few salmon steaks. The night had turned chilly so we ate at the galley table. I told her the whole story about what I’d learned on Saturday. She took copious notes, and like the investigator she is, she asked lots of questions.

“Somebody is gaming you, Rankin.”

“That’s my take, too. I’m planning to have a long talk with Lupo tomorrow.”

“You think he’s behind this? That man spent the last twenty-five years in prison.”

“And he pointed me toward Miami, don’t forget.”

“What about the Corvette nobody can find? Who made it disappear? Gianni Lupo? Even if he was the Don of Dons he couldn’t pull that off.”

“Somebody set his granddaughter up with a cover identity, Cathy, and that same somebody is protecting her, or at least working hard to make sure nobody gets past the cover to see what’s behind it.”

Cathy grimaced. “You believe that kid behind the pharmacy about the drugs he claims he sold her?”

“Two questions about that; first, if he was on the level and things went as he says they did, maybe Nikki Gianuzzi was buying drugs from him as part of a sting operation. Second, if things went as he claims, maybe she was buying them to use herself. Some people do consume illegal drugs, though it’s unlikely any DEA agent would be that stupid. Third-”

“You said two things. I get to say something now.”

I shrugged and let her continue.

“Let’s say he was on the level and told you what he thought to be true. Never mind if what he said was a hundred percent valid; he thought it was. He sold her illicit drugs and assumed she was using them.”

“No law enforcement agency in the world would put a jerk like that on the street, and nobody is that good an actor. I’m taking him as real, right along with the hairdresser and the guy in the karate school.”

“So you believe what they had to say?”

“They all reported basically the same thing, with sufficient differences to allow me to build a fairly accurate appraisal of Tammy O’Shea/Nikki Gianuzzi.”

“But the hairdresser thinks she’s a high-priced call girl, the kid at the pharmacy thinks she’s a drug user, and the karate guy thinks she’s a nice rich lady with a healthy body,” Cathy retorted.

“They saw what Nikki wanted them to see. None of them saw her.”

Cathy shrugged. “So what’s third?”

I had to think about that for a second. “Ah, the third point I wanted to make. She bought the drugs as a part of her cover. The ‘flash’ car, the party girl and the drugs, and the proven martial arts expertise all paint a picture of a single woman with big bucks and a big lifestyle. That’s what she wants the world to see.”


“No idea. But it has to do with where she parked the car she didn’t drive on the Tamiami Trail the day she disappeared. The car she drove when she actually went into that apartment in that upscale complex. It has a lot to do with whoever she works for, or with, and what they’re doing.”

Cathy leaned back and stretched. “And what great insights do you have on who sent those two men to kill you last night?”

I shrugged again. “Great insights? I don’t have so much as an itty-bitty inkling.”

Sunday, April 8, 2012

On ‘Color’ in Writing


My last little snippet on the elements in writing dealt with “Voice’. Today I want to spend a bit of time on ‘color’. Let’s give Voice a short review, first.

Voice can best be described as how you present your story – it includes your attitude about the tale you tell, the point of view from which you tell the tale and your approach to your writing. It’s more than just your style – it’s you, as the writer, telling the tale.

‘Color’ in music refers to  the variety of tones used in a piece of music – it refers to the complexity of tones the composer selects for a piece. What key (how many flat or sharp notes) he or she prefers to provide the overall tone of the piece, which cords (majors, dimunitives, minors etc) are used, and so on. In other words, is the piece going to be a simple folk tune, a 1950’s romantic such as “More” (from Fellini’s movie “Mondo Cane”) or a complex classic such as Pachelbel’s Cannon in D Major, or one of Beethoven's symphonies?

You’ve heard the term,  Noir (Black), used to describe a classic detective novel, I’m sure. You know right away it’s going to be a dark tale, morbid and slightly depressing. And you’ve certainly read enough blurbs on the back’s of novels where the tale within is described as a “warm and loving family story”. Warm in this sense gives you the tone of the story.

Well, that’s ‘Color’. You as the writer set the tone of each scene long before you begin to write it. You know well in advance if it has to portray a warm and intimate scene between two people, or a caring and loving scene between a mother and daughter or a dark and forbidding scene where the hero confronts the bad guy in an alley.

You need to keep that color, that tone, in mind throughout the scene or risk confusing your reader. Once the scene is over you can transition to another tone as the characters relax or reflect or shift into another activity, but to maintain the reader’s ‘suspension of disbelief’,  keep the color of the scene clear.

The overall color (or tone) of the tale you tell will go a long way toward selling it to your readers. Many readers will never purchase a noir story simply because they choose not to be depressed by what they read. For the same reason they will choose to only read ‘A warm and loving tale of a family struggling to survive in the face of adversity’ tale.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Free download of "Twisted Key" for your Kindle!


Here’s a present for your Easter and Passover enjoyment!

“Lonesome Cove” will be out for the Kindle some time this month. In the meantime, I am giving away – for today and tomorrow only, copies of my third novel, “Twisted Key” for the Kindle.


Be sure the ‘Buy’ price is $0.00 before you click on the ‘Buy’ button…

Please 'Share' this link on your social media sites and email it to your friends who own Kindles!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Sorry to crowd your day with another post…


I’ve been posting stuff all week long, and today I am posting twice. I hope this does not bore any of you to tears.

Especially because I seem to have gained a few readers with my post this morning on finding your “Voice” as a writer. You will see more such short and pithy posts from me in the weeks to come. Please let me know if you find them useful or not. In either case, I welcome you all aboard!

So what’s so all-fired important I have to post twice today? Well, tomorrow’s Friday and I figure most people have lives away from their computers on Friday, and I have a few announcements I hope to pass along before your lives interfere with your computer time.

So here’s the first bit. On the 7th and 8th of April – that’s this Saturday and Sunday – I will be giving away the Kindle version of my third novel, “Twisted Key”.

Here’s a short blurb for the novel and the cover art:

clip_image002 Terry Rankin has a new client; Fatima al Natsche, a Muslim woman living under a sentence of death for her work on behalf of women suffering under Islamic law. Terry’s a businessman – he’ll protect just about anyone who can pay the freight. In fact, he admires Ms. Al Natsche and the sacrifices she’s made to get her message out.

But then her daughter flies over from Norway and gets snatched off the street in front of her mother’s home, and all of the masks come off and all of the dirty little secrets come out to play in the Florida sun.

Go to: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_2_14?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=gary+showalter&sprefix=gary+showalter%2Caps%2C644

Look for “Twisted Key”, and before you click the ‘Buy’ button, be sure that the ‘to buy’ price states $0.00. Otherwise you will wind up paying for the book…

You don’t need a Kindle hand-held to take advantage of this. There are today versions of the Kindle reader for the PC, the Mac and all sorts of hand-held devices (smart phones and tablet readers). I have heard from several people who have read my novels on smart phones and they seem to enjoy the experience. You can get these free apps here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html/ref=sa_menu_karl3?ie=UTF8&docId=1000493771

And here’s the next bit. My fourth novel, “Lonesome Cove”, should be available for the Kindle later this month, and I will advertise that event as soon as I have a fixed date. I am waiting for a final round of edits and as soon as I get it and make the changes I will publish it for the Kindle. The paperback version should be available some time in the fall.

Here’s the cover art and a short blurb:

clip_image004 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, maybe walk the beach in the morning and collect a few seashells. 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 another bit of news:

On the 14th of April I will be at the “Author Expo” in the Marion County Public Library on Silver Springs Blvd in Ocala Florida. This is going to be a “Big Thing”, folks, with lots of authors, some speakers and all sorts of stuff going on. The event will be on that Saturday between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. If you’re in the area, please stop by and say hello.