The Top 4 Pitfalls of Running a Newsletter

At first, I was resistant to having an author newsletter.  After talking to some readers who told me of their love of author newsletters, including a friend who subscribes to over twenty of them, I changed my mind.  My newsletter has been live for a few months now and I have to say that I love it.  I love writing it and more than that, I love hearing from readers.

There’s all sorts of articles out there about how to write an effective newsletter, how to set it up, and which service to use.  I’m not going to go into any of that.  This article is specifically to address some of the pitfalls that those who have a newsletter can fall into, or even do on purpose.

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Don’t send multiple newsletters a week.

Nothing frustrates a newsletter subscriber more than getting multiple mailings every week, sometimes several in one day.  I once got on the mailing list of some company that sells flower bulbs. Oh, hell no.  The sheer number of emails I got from that company not only had me hitting the unsubscribe button, it made me vow that for as long as I continue to exist on this big blue marble, I was never, ever, going to order one damn thing from that company.  Ever.  Want to piss your readers off so that they will never read another one of your books?  Send them too many emails.

Do send regular emails.

According to the readers I have spoken to, the sweet spot for how many newsletters you send out is once a week to once every two weeks.  Readers do enjoy hearing from you on a regular basis.  Those writers who only send out an email once a month are going to have subscribers that forget who they are and then stroll down to that unsubscribe button.  Once every week or two, with the very rare extra newsletter about a special or release, is a good rule of thumb.

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I love my small town P O Box!

Don’t set up a virtual P O Box.

To comply with United States anti-spam laws, any company or person that sends out newsletters with commercial content must have a physical mailing address on every newsletter they send.  Writers, for obvious reasons, don’t want to use their actual home address.  Browsing this issue online, you will see a plethora of folks telling you to just use some free service that gives you a virtual snail mail address.  That’s an oxymoron in itself.  A virtual address does not make you compliant with anti-spam laws.  The law is very specific. You need a real snail mail address to comply with the laws.  Those who ignore this law can be prosecuted.

Do get a real physical address.

It’s truly not that hard or that expensive if you are willing to shop around.  My personal research sent me straight to the good old United States Post Office.  If one isn’t too picky about what town one buys a P O Box from, this was by far the cheapest option.  I have relatives in a nearby small town.  Small?  We are talking the tiniest cutest little town ever.  I love that place.  Their post office is only open a couple hours a day.  My P O Box costs about $40 a year.  Far cheaper than in my hometown. I love my small town P O Box!

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Best spam-blocker ever.

Don’t share your subscriber list. Ever.

I keep reading about innocent folks who end up on newsletter lists they never signed up for.  Often, they suddenly find themselves on fifty newsletters they never signed up for.  How did this happen?  Well, it all starts when you share your subscriber list’s emails.  While newsletter swaps (writers sharing other authors’ information in their own newsletter) are common and awesome, the instant you share your subscriber’s email addresses with another writer or even worse, a service, you are breaking privacy laws.   To have a newsletter that is compliant with anti-spam and privacy laws, you must post a privacy policy.  Know what’s in that privacy policy? A statement that you will not share people’s personal information, like their email, for example.  To follow the laws, subscribers have to actually decide to subscribe and people who send the newsletters have to keep private information private.

Do use lawful means to build your newsletter subscriber list.

Use places like Instafreebie to build subscribers.  Use newsletter swaps where another writer puts some information about your newsletter in their own newsletter.  They share your information rather than anyone exchanging private information about your subscribers.  Run from any person or service that asks you to provide the email addresses of your subscribers.  It is absolutely wrong to share your readers’ personal information.  Build your list in compliance with the anti-spam and privacy laws.

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So many ads.

Don’t have nothing but ads in your newsletter.

If your newsletter is nothing but:
Buy my book!
Buy my friends book!
Look at these promos!
Book release!
Advertising, advertising, advertising!

Nothing is going to turn your readers off faster than each newsletter being chock full of nothing but advertisements.

Do have some actual news in your newsletter.

What’s going on in your life?  What are you working on right now? What book have you read lately and what did you think of it?  By all means, tell your subscribers when you have a new release or a sale going on, but don’t let that be all your content is.  Have some news in your newsletter.  Write a short story that’s only for your subscribers, or a short that they get to read before anyone else. I don’t just mean sneak peeks of upcoming books, though that is great on occasion. Give them a real reason to keep opening those emails from you.  Advertising your books and other people’s books should only be part of your content, not the entire shebang.

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I hope this article helps answer some questions you have about newsletters and I hope it helps you steer clear of practices that will put you on the wrong side of the laws protecting readers’ privacy and helping us keep our email boxes from being filled with more spam than they already are.  The true secret to building a subscriber list is having a newsletter people enjoy reading and getting the word out in an upfront way.  That’s all there is too it.

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Ghost at the College is free until Oct. 13th

My newest paranormal mystery, Ghost at the College, is available free on Kindle until Friday the 13th. This is the second book in the Unruly Ghost Mysteries. It contains spoilers for book one, but can be read as a standalone. Speaking of book one, Ghost in the Park is discounted to $.99 for the release.

Abducted kids, a ghost, and Teddy Roosevelt.

Someone is stealing Louisville’s children. The deceptive kidnapper prowls unnoticed, making every park and gathering their hunting grounds. In this sequel to Ghost in the Park, Bryce saves one child from abduction but sees another snatched before his eyes. He’d stop this child stealing spree, but he needs help. Enter Bridget. She might be a ghost, but she will do anything she can to help her missing brother. Together, they will find the culprit, even if they have to recruit every ghost in town.

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Click on the pic to go to Ghost at the College’s Amazon page.

The Unruly Ghost Mysteries follow Bryce Campbell as he helps his police officer friend Chase solve crimes. Bryce is a writer and college professor, but his ability to hear the dead and have occasional flashes of psychic insight help solve the mystery in each book.

This book was a bit of a challenge for me. It’s the 6th novel I’ve written, but the first time I’ve had to write the second book of a series before. It was a new experience to find a way to repeat necessary information from the first book without going overboard. I’ll let the readers decide if I managed the feat with any sort of grace.

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Click here for Ghost in the Park

Also on sale until the 15th, in honor of all things Halloween, Teatime of the Living Dead. Nothing like a romp through downtown Louisville with thousands of zombies chasing you.  Grab a copy for $ .99.

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Click here for Teatime

Posted in Book release, Ebooks, Free Books, reading, writing | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Short Story- The Wolf

It’s almost Halloween, my favorite holiday of them all.  I recently sent out a wolfy short story to my newsletter subscribers and now I will share it with you.  I send out a newsletter once a week, and in every issue I include a story or sneak peek.  If you want to get in on this, there’s a button to the right to sign up for my newsletter.  In addition to free stories, I announce new releases, cover reveals, and when my books are discounted.

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The Wolf

The wolf had good time sense and woke shortly before sunset. Luke had learned to trust the wolf’s instincts. Though he retained much of his human mind during the change, he needed those instincts to move as the wolf’s body required. Giving himself a good shake to rid himself of the last dregs of sleep, Luke padded towards the door, thinking wryly that he would soon have more reason than usual to depend on the instincts of the wolf.

A small group of hunters was on his trail. He’d tried to hide by using a spell he’d purchased from a white witch. Unfortunately, the spell had backfired spectacularly and done nothing more than get Luke stuck in his wolf form. Normally, this wouldn’t be a bother, but he was in the middle of London and the wolf would stick out like a sore thumb. If he wanted to avoid the blasted hunters, he must escape the city and get to the enclave in Scotland. One of the magic folk there would be able to reverse whatever the cheap spell had done, and he’d be hidden from the hunters there as well.

Reaching the front door, Luke struggled with it for some time before giving up on it in disgust. The knob was round and the lock was engaged. No matter how he grasped with his teeth and twisted his head Luke could not budge the blasted thing. His bad luck that he had used that incompetent witch’s spell after he had locked up his shabby little house for the night. The inner wolf wasn’t feeling any better about being trapped than Luke was. Almost before he knew what he was doing, Luke found himself running full tilt at the nearest window and barreling through it mid-leap. Landing in a heap on the porch, Luke took a moment to assess his injuries. The thick pelt of the wolf had protected him from serious injury, but he had scratches on his nose and one ragged but shallow gash down one side. Knowing he could do nothing about his nose, Luke licked at the wound on his side until his saliva stopped the bleeding. Standing, he lifted his nose to scent the wind. It was a completely useless act. All he could smell at the moment was the blood from the scratches on his nose. He hadn’t even begun his journey and he was already handicapped. Until the scratches scabbed over, he would have to try to rely on his sight and hearing alone. To be honest, it would have almost been easier if he’d been blinded. Wolves relied on their powerful sense of smell for most of their information about the world around them.

Well…no use crying over it. I’ll just have to be especially alert until I get out of the city. I’d best try to keep to the less lighted alleys and smaller roads. If no one gets a close look at me, they will simply take me for a scruffy dog.

Luke couldn’t have been more correct. Traveling as fast as was prudent towards the north edge of the city, Luke was occasionally spotted by the odd non-magical person. Some called to him in a friendly fashion while some yelled at him. One old drunk, sitting propped up against an alley wall, threw an empty bottle at his retreating form with enough force to bruise his flank. People were the least of his worries; he was as cautious as he was quick. Even when someone gave chase, Luke quickly outdistanced him and lost him in the shadowy alleys. Soon he ran into a much more difficult adversary.

If his nose had been able to smell more than the blood seeping from his muzzle, Luke might have avoided the dog altogether. A German shepherd, and a stray by the looks of it. It was just Luke’s luck that he ran into a breed that tended to fight much as a wolf did, remaining silent instead of giving itself away by barking a warning like other breeds. Because of the dog’s silence, Luke almost ran into it before a low growl alerted Luke to its presence. Normally any dog, even a shepherd, would leave a wolf alone. Though the animals were related, the wolf was stronger; the ruff of fur around its neck thicker and more protective. The wolf’s jaws were evolved to snap through the legs of deer and elk and had almost three times the bite pressure of the Shepherd. The wolf would be recognized as an alpha predator among most dogs and any with the sense God gave a goat would give him a wide berth. Unfortunately for Luke, he had run directly into the ragged stray’s territory and Luke smelled of blood and injury. The smell excited the dog and made him brave enough to defend his home even from his wilder, stronger cousin.
The dog lunged at Luke even as he became aware of it. Letting the wolf’s instincts take over, Luke leaped cleanly over the dog barreling towards him. Twisting mid-leap, Luke made an immediate counterattack, his sharp incisors raking over the dog’s flank. He was rewarded by a gush of blood and the rich taste of it sent his wolf senses into high gear. Luke may have smelt of injury, but he was still strong and quick. Spinning to face him, the dog paused, weight braced on stiff, slightly splayed forelegs. Its hackles were raised and it growled, deep and loud as it bared its teeth at the wolf. Returning the growl, Luke added just a touch of wild howl to the sound, which seemed to drive the dog to distraction. Hurtling abruptly towards Luke, the dog got a lucky grip on Luke’ throat and bit down savagely. Though his thick fur protected him from the dog’s teeth, Luke was nevertheless in trouble. The vise-like grip was cutting off his air. Throwing himself backward, the wolf rolled, breaking the dog’s hold by pushing hard with all four legs. Landing with a thump on his back, the dog had no time to regain his feet before the faster wolf was upon him.

Growling, Luke clamped his own muzzle over the smaller dog’s throat, holding it firmly against the ground with his greater weight. When Luke bore down on his grip and gave the dog’s throat a small shake—threatening to break its neck—the dog whined in submission. The bloodlust that held the wolf was almost too strong; the temptation to kill the dog who attacked him was great. Using every scrap of his human compassion, Luke, at last, was able to withdraw from the dog. Backing away, he eyed the dog warily as it scrambled to its feet. The dog had endured enough, apparently. As it gained its feet, it gave Luke one distrustful look before it dashed away down the alley.

Making his own dash the other direction, Luke ran for some time before pausing to get his breath. Despite the fact that his breath wheezed through his bruised throat, he wanted to ensure that he was out of the dog’s territory before he paused to rest and take stock of his situation. Seeking out the darkest, most dismal alley he could find, Luke hid amidst a pile of dilapidated garbage cans and assessed his position. The fight with the dog had slowed him down; it was near dawn. He was exhausted, the cut on his side from the window stung, his hip throbbed from the drunk’s thrown bottle, and his abused throat ached with each breath. His best guess was that he still had many kilometers to travel before he reached the outskirts of the city. There was nothing for it.

Knowing that he would never escape the city before dawn, Luke resigned himself to rest where he was throughout the daylight hours until nightfall. No matter how he wished to hurry, he knew that he mustn’t risk traveling in the light of day. London was a huge city and full of odd sights, but the sight of a wolf running down the streets in broad daylight would be too strange to escape notice. The hunters on his trail would have their ears perked for any rumors of a wolf running through the streets of London. With a weary sigh, Luke curled up as best he could on the cold pavement behind the cans and went to sleep.

His ears woke him sometime before sunset. Though the night had not yet arrived, the alley Luke inhabited was already dark, quiet, and abandoned, aside from the scurrying sound which had awakened him. Lifting his head slowly, Luke was pleased that his sense of smell was returning. The wounds on his muzzle had, at last, scabbed over and the smell of blood was far less invading. Pricking his ears at what he now smelled, his stomach gave a low rumble of hunger. Rats were not a wolf’s chosen prey; they preferred larger animals. However, Luke was too smart to let such an easy meal go unmolested. Gods knew that he needed to waste as little of his nights in hunting as possible if he wished to get to the enclave with all speed. Rising slowly to his feet, Luke slunk silently out from amongst the dustbins.

Though wolves preferred larger prey, they knew the mouse pounce as well as their smaller fox cousins did. Spotting his first victim, Luke leaped with his front legs stiff and closely held together. Coming down hard on the rat, both his front paws found their mark and snapped the small creature’s spine. It was a matter of seconds before the first rat was devoured and Luke continued flushing out its fellows. By the time full dark had descended, Luke had a full stomach and was impatient to get moving. His hip was still sore, and the scratch down his side was tight and painful, but his throat was much improved. With his sense of smell more or less intact, Luke traveled out of London with no further difficulty.

The grass felt good under his paws; Luke noted much of his tension lifting as he left the roads to travel across country when he slipped into Hertfordshire. Reminding himself that he must still be wary, Luke had to turn aside often from his north-northwest heading to circle around a multitude of small towns. When the sun rose, Luke secluded himself in a dense thicket to sleep away the daylight. Having pushed himself hard during the night–along with the easy meal of rats—by the time Luke ended the second day of his journey he had made it to the outskirts of Bedfordshire. Pleased by his progress, Luke slid into sleep with hope in his heart.

The setting of the sun found Luke awake and rested but not at ease. His hip and throat were well but the shallow scratch along his side hurt worse than ever. Luke’s nose told him that the seemingly harmless scratch was infected and he spent a good hour licking it clean as best he could. It was frustrating that he might grow dangerously sick from a scratch that he would normally be able to heal with ease. Wishing that things were different would get him nowhere; Luke put the wound out of his mind and resumed his trek.

Bedfordshire made for easy travel. The odd small town was easily avoided and the farmland simple to navigate. Halfway through the night, Luke gave into his rumbling stomach and stealthily approached a farmyard. His journey that night had flushed no prey and he felt the speed of an easy meal outweighed the danger of getting closer to the farm. Soon he spotted just what he hoped to find; a chicken coop lay on the outskirts of the farm buildings. Smelling the traces of a dog on the air, Luke hoped that he could get in and out with his meal before the dog became aware of his presence. For once luck was with him, he never saw hide nor hair of the farm dog and he got into the coop with little trouble. The coop may have been made with the intention of keeping predators out, but the simple latch on the coop door gave Luke no problem at all. In fact, after he had killed two of the dozing hens and carried them outside, Luke carefully re-latched the door of the pen so that the farmers would not have to chase chickens the following day. They may end up a bit puzzled as to how two of their birds had gone missing, but at least they would have no further trouble on his account. Dragging the chickens far from the farm, Luke’s teeth made short work of them before he resumed his journey.

The ache in his side slowed Luke down that night, as did his detour to the chicken coop. When dawn approached and Luke hid in a small copse to await the night, he had barely gotten through Bedfordshire. Nightfall found Luke rising to sore, travel-weary feet and the ache in his side had grown worse. Shocked that he had slept past sunset, he nevertheless spent the time necessary to carefully lick his infected side clean before he started that days trek. After all, speed would not help him should he become too ill to go on. Resting a moment, Luke considered his route.

Blasted scratch! It’s nothing but a blasted scratch! I can’t die from one minor injury, can I? I’d give anything to see the enclave healers right now; they’d have me fixed up in no time. I’ll never see any of them…if I don’t get a move on. But which way now?

Luke knew very well that the enclave lay straight as the crow flies on the north-northwest path he had traveled since leaving London. However, if he headed directly North from his current position he could travel through Lincolnshire. Covered in woods and fens, Lincolnshire would be easy traveling for the wolf and he ought to be able to flush some prey without taking any more risks at farms. It would add length to his journey, and he would have to circle west around York when he got there, but Luke decided in this case the safer route was worth the extra time. Quandary at an end, Luke gave a very human nod of his head and turned due north.

Once again Luke was blessed by an uneventful evening’s travel. Though his side continued to pain him, he was lucky enough to flush a brown hare while trotting through a copse. The hare was large and more than enough to keep a wolf going for another day. Despite the ease of his travel, Luke was shocked to see how much his infected side slowed him down. When he woke on the fifth evening of his journey, Luke could tell the infected scratch was making him ill. Midway through Lincolnshire, he was not yet halfway to the enclave and already his pace was slowing. Knowing that turning back to London would do him no good, Luke determined to make it to the enclave if he had to crawl. As he doggedly walked onward, the nights began to run together in his weary and fevered mind. Many hours he walked forward as if in a trance, only the wolf’s instincts kept him away from human settlements and pointed toward the magical village he sought. It was fifteen days from the start of his trek before Luke entered the southernmost reaches of the forest that surrounded the enclave. Almost to the crawling point, Luke was distressed that he had come so very far yet was lacking the strength to manage the last bit. Lying down on that fifteenth morning, he fell into an exhausted sleep. One more rest and he’d reach the healers in the morning.

Posted in Fiction, Newsletter, reading, Short Stories, writing | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Thoughts and Prayers Aren’t Enough

Thoughts and Prayers Aren’t Enough

Now, don’t get me wrong.  Empathy for others is what changes the world and I believe in the power of both positive thought and prayer.  These are important concepts to a civilization that is trying it’s best to grow and change into something better.  What is disturbing me is the trend in my society that thoughts and prayers being offered up is a solution in and of itself.  There are people on social media who post their thoughts and prayers and think they’re done.  No further action is needed.

Americans in Puerto Rico are dying.  A couple of days ago, nine million children in America lost their health insurance because congress couldn’t be bothered.  Now, fifty-eight folks at a concert in Las Vegas are dead and tons more are injured because of a mentally ill man with a bunch of guns.

Your thoughts and prayers are all very well, but people need actual help.  Offering nothing more than a moment of your mental time is selfish and lazy.  By all means, pray for these people, but then do something.  Call your representatives and ask what is being done about the children who have lost their healthcare. Give ’em hell!  Make a donation to help those devastated by the natural disasters of this hurricane season.  Make a donation to those people struggling with loss and medical care costs in Las Vegas.  Even if all you can afford is five bucks, it adds up.  If every adult in America donated only five buck each, it would raise over a billion dollars.

Now, I’m not trying to shame anyone.  There are folks who can’t even afford five dollars.  I’ve been there.  You work on staying afloat and let the rest of us handle this. I’m talking to the people who can help, but don’t get around to it, or post their thoughts and prayers and think they’ve done their part.  Your thoughts and prayers were great, now stand up and do something.

To donate to Puerto Rico or relief for victims of Irma, Harvey, or Maria:

Direct Relief is a vetted group working to get medicine and health care to those in need.  They need cash donations to do this.  You can find them here:

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United For Puerto Rico is another way to get money directly to those in need.

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To help the victims in the Las Vegas shooting:

Steve Sisolak, chairman of the Clark County Commission, has set up a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds for the victims.

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If you are in the Las Vegas area, please consider donating blood.  That will help as well.

 

To find your representatives and ask what’s going on with CHIP, the program that gave health care to 9 million children, visit this website:

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I’m a struggling writer without a day job.  I’ve donated, have you?

Posted in Helping disaster victims, writing | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

To Write or not to Write the Word Fuck

Fuck is my favorite curse word. I like it because it’s fairly nondenominational. It does not insult anyone’s religion, race, or creed. It’s a word that can be used for everything but doesn’t actually mean much of anything. I say it a lot. If you’ve read my blog before, I used it in my writing at times as well, but not as often as I would like. My writing style is very conversational but there are times when I have to limit it. I don’t like limiting the way I speak or the way I write. It’s a necessity rather than a desire. Curtailing my use of the word fuck makes me feel a little less myself, a little less honest. So, why do I do it?

Because people don’t like it.

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View from the bridge at McCloud Nature Park.  Fucking beautiful day!

I live in America, land of the free as long as you don’t say the word fuck too much. Americans don’t like the fucking word. An American can take the names of various deities in vain and get a slap on the wrist from society but say the word fuck at the wrong time or in the wrong place and you risk outright censure. For the reasons I stated above, it’s a shame. In American society, a curse word that implies something sexual is considered far worse than those which denote violence or negativity towards people’s religious beliefs.

I have a friend from Australia. She says the word fuck quite a lot. It’s her favorite curse word too. One of the hardest things she’s had to learn while being in America is to not say it in front of children. She refuses to curtail her use of it in front of adults, regardless of location or situation. My friend finds it ridiculous that people are offended by such a nonsense word. She does indeed try not to say fuck in front of children, though that is difficult for her because in Australia nobody cares. Around grown-ups, she doesn’t bother. In her opinion, if people judge her harshly for it, they can fuck right off.

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This is the huge fucking rainbow that recently made an appearance over my house.

Picture this: you’re in Chuck E Cheese amidst an entire herd of happily playing children. You hear people say damn, you hear people right and left saying thet’re going to kill someone, and no one bats an eye. Say the word fuck too loudly and you’ll likely be asked to leave the establishment. Because in America, it’s quite alright if you threaten to kill children, but heaven forbid you say the word fuck. That will apparently scar them for life.

I try not to say the word fuck in front of children. I try not cuss in front of them at all. Sometimes I fail. When I do, the conversation goes rather like this:

“Sorry about that,” I say, chagrined.
“Don’t worry about it,” says the child. “It’s not like I haven’t heard that word before.”
“I know, but I’m allowed to say it and you aren’t, so I don’t think it’s fair of me to say it around you.”

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Here is one of the wee children I try not to say “fuck” around.

That’s what I always say because that’s what I believe. I don’t think any word in the English language is going to traumatize a child. Where children are concerned, the only rule I agree with is not saying curse words around children too young to know better than to say it themselves. That will get the child in trouble if it runs around cursing and doesn’t understand why it shouldn’t. I don’t want to get children in trouble. With older kids, I’m more concerned with the unfairness of it. And when I give children that explanation, it makes sense to them, and they accept my apology for using the words they are not yet old enough to get away with. That’s what it’s about really. I don’t think you’ll find a child psychologist in the world who thinks an accidental curse word will ruin a child’s life. Far worse, in my opinion, is the casual way we treat words that denote physical threats. It makes it seem like threatening someone with physical violence is no big deal, but saying a word that sounds sexual is a horrible sin.

As a writer, I wanted to be true to my own voice and my books had the word fuck in them. My romance novel, Descending, still has a few instances of that word. I think if a character is being threatened by a grizzly bear, they have the right to say the word fuck. However, I de-fuckified the rest of my books. While in my heart I wish I could remain true to my love of the word fuck, the truth is that I am an American writer writing for an audience which is comprised mostly of American readers. While I believe very strongly that the word fuck is not the bugaboo that many people think, I decided that I did not want readers to miss out on any of my books because of one tiny word.

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What I said when I saw this in a parking lot, “It’s the fucking Weinermobile!

My work still has cuss words and it, I’m not that dishonest. I write adult fiction for adults. There’s adult situations, occasional violence, and strong language involved. But not the word fuck, that is, unless you read Descending. I never did de-fuckify that one. Perhaps I will when I get the time.

It mystifies me though. We have teen fiction that has graphic violence, sex, and drug use, yet a writer of adult fiction has to make this big decision about whether they’re going to use the word fuck. It seems to me our priorities are bit fucking backward.

If you write fiction for adults, you will have to make this decision too. It is absolutely your right to use any language and any words you wish, but know that your choices will have a real effect on who reads your books and who chooses not to. I dream of an America where people are more concerned with their children hearing about violence and seen it in movies and on the TV then they are worried about their child hearing the word fuck. I think we have a long way to go to get there.

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Don’t forget to nominate Ghost in the College at Kindle Scout!  Everyone who nominates it will get a free copy.

Posted in Habits in writing, Kindle, Kindle Scout, writing, Writing Advice | Tagged , | 8 Comments

Get my book, Ghost at the College, for free

Ghost at the College’s Kindle Scout Campaign!

In the second book of the Unruly Ghost Mysteries, Bryce and Chase are back again and this time they have to find out who is stealing Louisville’s children and why.

Ghost 2 is in a Kindle Scout campaign.  This is the first time I’ve put a sequel through the process and it’s very different from my other campaigns.  So far, stats have been pretty  good, but not quite up to my other campaigns.  I’ll have to push a bit to get the nominations I need for a good launch.

In case you haven’t checked it out before, Kindle Scout is a great way to get free books.  You check out the books in the program, nominate any that seem interesting, and if those books get selected to be published by Kindle Press, you get a free advance copy.

With Ghost at the College, you’ll get a free copy either way.  If selected, you get a free copy from Kindle Press, if not selected, I will have a few free download days at launch.

Nominate Ghost at the College and get your free copy!

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Free short story with newsletter sign up

If you haven’t signed up for my newsletter, now is a great time to do so.  Sign up be following the link below and get a free short story from the world of The Unruly Ghost Mysteries.

Each newsletter features writing news and a free short story or sneak peek.  Subscribers also get alerted to giveaways, new book releases, and sales.

Click here to get your free story- Haunting Bryce!

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The ghost of an old woman haunts Bryce night after night, begging him to do something about her cruel great-grandson.  Mrs. Chipwithe is certain her great-grandson will end up killing someone unless he is stopped.  There’s only one problem.

Bryce is eight years old.

What can he do about a boy who is older and much bigger than he is?  He can’t go to the adults, they won’t believe him.  Bryce has already learned he has to hide the fact that he can hear the dead. Now, the old woman won’t let him alone and he has no idea what to do about it.

Writing News:

I still haven’t quite finished my next book, Crucible Station.  I’ve had a little too much life in my life, which has made it difficult to buckle down and get the last couple chapters done.  Things are begining to quiet down, so I will hopefully get that book finished soon.  After that, it’s on to Ghost on the Downs.

 

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Using Real Locations in Fiction

Using Real Locations in Fiction

If a writer is creating a space opera on the edges of the Coaxilian Nebula in a galaxy next door, then it is up to the writer to create all the locations out of whole cloth.  If one is writing a story about a dude running from zombies in Louisville, Kentucky, that’s a completely different situation.  Do you use real locations in the story or make them all up?

The answer is, it depends.  If you are talking about a giant corporation like Disney, it might be wise to make up a similar amusement park that isn’t named Disneyland, or even Smisneyland.  Disney is super concerned with how their brand is portrayed and not above using all the lawyers in the land to tell you firmly to stop it.

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I would love to write Ghost at Disneyland, but I don’t think I’m going to get permission for that.

What about smaller corporations?  It is perfectly legal to use actual corporations in one’s fiction, if there is no hint of slander or libel. What exactly does that mean?  Do you have a favorite shoe repair shop that you want to use when your heroine breaks a heel?  If she’s going to walk in and have a positive experience and get a nicely repaired heel, then go for it.  If you plan to have a surly worker, a bad repair, or murder someone browsing the wares, then you will want to make up the name of that repair shop.

Basically, if you are using a business and anything negative is going to happen there, make up the name and other specifics.  That is the only safe way to go about it unless one wants to contact the business in question and get permission in writing before you publish that story, Murder at Burger King.

That brings up another issue.  While it may be fine to have that happy customer eating a non-poisonous lunch at a real restaurant, it is not okay to have the title of your book be “Happy Lunch at Burger King.” Restaurant names are often trademarked, which means you can’t have it in the title of your book without written permission.

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If I ever want to write Ghost at the Oasis Diner, I’ll have to get written permission beforehand.  As it’s a small, non-chain restaurant, they might even give it.

The disclaimer found in all fiction, the one that says “people and events in this book are fictitious or used fictitiously,” ought to be enough, legally speaking, to protect you, but in practice, it isn’t.  A writer could create a more extensive disclaimer, but even that is not a complete protection from lawsuits.

Now, if we are talking about public places, it is different.  I imagine there are exactly one bazillion stories published that use Central Park for something nefarious.  A public place is not a business entity in its own right, and the city of New York is not likely to sue you for The Rabid Wombat Murders of Central Park.”

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Those rabid wombats are always lurking.

As a general rule, public places and things like city and state names are fine to use in fiction.

I lived in Louisville, Kentucky for about twenty years.  Most of my books are set there. I love to sprinkle them with real places and have characters eat at my favorite restaurants.  It makes me feel a little less homesick.  I almost made a mistake in my first novel.  I had an employee of an actual business doing something that put a customer in danger.  An alert beta reader caught the issue, and I was able to change the business to a fake name.

Use real places in your work, but use caution when doing so.  When in doubt, consult a lawyer, get written permission, or change it to a fake place.

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer.  If one needs legal advice on how one uses actual locations in a work of fiction, one should contact a lawyer.  The above are simply a few general guidelines.

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Ghost in the Park’s Free Launch

Get Ghost in the Park for Free:

My paranormal mystery, Ghost in the Park, was not selected for publication by Kindle Press, but that means you don’t have to wait to get a copy.  The Kindle eBook is free to download from now until August 25th.  Feel free to spread the word to friends and family and on social media.  The more free books I give away, the happier I’ll be! If you don’t have Kindle, there’s a free app you can download for phones and tablets.

Ghost is doing well so far.  It’s #1 in it’s category for free Kindle books, and overall near the top 500, which is the highest ranking I’ve ever gotten.  I’m so excited about it!

A killer, a ghost, and a cat named Billy

Bryce’s favorite student has fallen prey to a vicious killer. He’s a mild-mannered college professor, but Bryce feels compelled to use his psychic insight and ability to talk to the dead to bring this murderer to justice. Enter Elizabeth. This ghost is distracting, pushy, and eighteen years old. While she needles Bryce to change his hermit ways, she also shows abilities that will aid him in his search for the serial killer. In the end, he’ll discover why Elizabeth is not your average ghost.

If you enjoy reading Ghost in the Park, or even if you don’t, please consider leaving a review.

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Click the pic for Ghost in the Park’s Amazon Page.

Other Writing News:

The second of my Unruly Ghost Mysteries, Ghost in the College, is finished and at the editor.  I’m expecting it back soon, and then it will be next up for a Kindle Scout campaign.  This time, I won’t be worried about them selecting it.  I can’t imagine them choosing a 2nd series book when they didn’t pick the 1st.  It’s a great way for me to get a few eyes on my books, though.  I’ve been writing forever, but self publishing is new to me.  Everything that helps me spread the word is a good thing.

My YA dystopian book, Crucible Station, is almost finished.  I think I have around three chapters to go.  I was hoping to have it finished by now, but getting Ghost published has slowed me down a tad.

Check out my Facebook Page:

I just finished a giveaway on my Facebook page, and I’ll be having more as we go along.  Stop by and like my author page if you want to stay up to date on giveaways and such.  It’s also a great place to leave me a message.

Working on some new covers:

I’m getting to the place where I have to make a cover before I write the book, which is odd.  If I want to put the cover of the third Unruly Ghost Mysteries as a “coming soon” in the back matter of book two, then I need it now!  I’ve already got book three titled and plotted, so here it is, book three’s cover.

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It isn’t as good as getting it professionally done, but I love it.

That’s all the writing news that is the writing news for today.  I’ll leave you with a pic of Scooter, who is growing like a weed and trying to make friends with one of our grumpy old ladies.

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Posted in Book release, Ebooks, Fiction, Free Books, Ghost in the Park news, Kindle, reading, writing | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Are Speech to Text Programs Useful to Writers?

Are Speech to Text Programs Useful to Writers?

I belong to a writers group called 20booksto50k. The ideology behind it, is that by the time one has published twenty books, one can be making 50k a year. It’s not quite as simplistic as that. Common advice in the group includes writing to market, having quick releases, etc.

One of the members who has had success with Indie publishing posted a list of things they suggested authors do to reach their writing goals. The point that interested me the most was the one about speech to text programs.

I’ve heard of programs like Dragon Speak before. I know a woman who has a medical reason for using speech to text and I know there are writers who use it as well. I’d been curious, but until recently was unsure if such a program would work for me.

I’m a terribly slow typist who uses 2-4 fingers to type. This has certainly slowed my production down, but could I get used to dictating out loud?

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And can the kitties get used to me talking all the time?

Looking into the matter, I saw that Amazon had Dragon Naturally Speaking on sale for a very reasonable price. That cinched it for me. It was time to give the program a try.

The program is extraordinarily easy to use. A short tutorial, and I was ready to roll. While I’m still learning some of the commands and still teaching my Dragon to cuss, it’s been easy as pie to use the program.

As for my fear that I would not be able to make the switch from composing on the computer to composing while dictating, I took to it like a duck to water. My last test will be to see if the beta readers can tell at which point in my book I stopped typing and started speaking, but I don’t believe they will be able to tell. My writing style seems intact when I dictate.

The proof is in the pudding. For me, an average day of typing on my work in progress was 1k to 3k words. If I had an all day marathon that lasted well into the night, I might manage 6k words.

Yesterday I had a lot to do. I had to go to the grocery, it was trash night, there was some housework that needed to be done, etc. I had three shortish writing sessions during all of this where I took advantage of my voice to text program.

I wrote over 6k words.

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So much faster than this.

It’s true. The amount of work it used to take me all day to complete now can be done in a fraction of the time. I love my new Dragon. For the first time, I think I can become one of those writers who completes a book a month instead of a writer who takes a least 2-3 months to complete a project.

Voice to speech might not work for everyone. Some folks may never find any level of comfort in dictation. However, I have to say it is well worth getting such a program and giving it a try. At worst, you’ve spent a little money to find out if this will work for you. At best, you will greatly increase your production level.

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Don’t forget to nominate Ghost in the Park!

My supernatural mystery, Ghost in the Park, is in heading towards the end of its Kindle Scout campaign. I’m giving out free copies of the eBook whether Kindle Press selects it or not. Last campaign, I gave away 1200 copies. I’d love to give away even more this time around.

All it takes to nominate is 60 seconds and an Amazon account. Amazon runs Kindle Scout, and they will ask you to sign into your account to nominate. It’s a great way to get some free reads.

Ghost in the Park‘s Kindle Scout Page

Ghost in the Park is the first book of my first series, and I’m about to finish book two.

A killer, a ghost, and a cat named Billy.
Bryce’s favorite student has fallen prey to a vicious killer. He’s a mild-mannered college professor, but Bryce feels compelled to use his psychic insight and ability to talk to the dead to bring this murderer to justice. Enter Elizabeth. This ghost is distracting, pushy, and eighteen years old. While she needles Bryce to change his hermit ways, she also shows abilities that will aid him in his search for the serial killer. In the end, he’ll discover why Elizabeth is not your average ghost.

Posted in Ebooks, Fiction, Ghost in the Park news, Kindle, Kindle Scout, writing, Writing Advice | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Get my newest book, Ghost in the Park, for free!

Get my newest book, Ghost in the Park, for free!

It’s Kindle Scout time again, and I’m really excited about this one. Ghost in the Park starts its thirty-day campaign today.

I was very pleased with my last book’s launch, so I’m doing the same thing this time. Everyone who nominates Ghost will get a free copy of the eBook, regardless of whether Kindle Press selects it for publication. If not selected, I’ll announce the free dates here and on my Facebook author page. Be sure to nominate though; if it is selected by Kindle Press, nomination is the only way to receive a free copy.

All it takes to nominate is an Amazon account, and Scout will require that you sign in. Amazon owns Scout, so it is not a third party site, it’s part of the Amazon machine.

You can nominate Ghost in the Park here.

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About Ghost in the Park:

After years of polishing my writing skills on fanfiction, Ghost was the first novel I ever wrote. I wrote it in two short months. This book practically wrote itself. I have left it until now because I wanted to work out the kinks in the Scout process before I put my prettiest baby into the program.

Ghost got a moderate re-write. In the years since I wrote Ghost, I’ve learned a few things. Then it was packed off to the editor and returned in its present sparkling state. This is the fifth novel I’m publishing and it’s my personal favorite.

Ghost in the Park is also the first book in my first series. I’ve got the first three books in the series plotted, and Ghost 2 is about half-way written. I am not sure how many books there will be in total, but I could easily see me writing this series for a long time. It’s that much fun.

There’s a touch more gore in this book than in my usual, but it’s limited to a couple of scenes. The Unruly Ghost Mysteries are all paranormal mysteries, and I wanted to start the story out with a bang. Ghost in the Park has a serial killer for a bad guy, and he is a baddy.

Ghost 2 is less violent and has a completely different sort of criminal. That’s one of the things that makes this series so much fun to write.

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Elizabeth is the oddest ghost he’s ever met.

Bryce’s favorite student has fallen prey to a vicious killer. He’s a mild-mannered college professor, but Bryce feels compelled to use his psychic insight and ability to talk to the dead to bring this murderer to justice. Enter Elizabeth. This ghost is distracting, pushy, and eighteen years old. While she needles Bryce to change his hermit ways, she also shows abilities that will aid him in his search for the serial killer. In the end, he’ll discover why Elizabeth is not your average ghost.

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A killer, a ghost, and a cat named Billy.  Ghost in the Park

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