Category: Writing / Authors

Sharpen Your Writing Skills!

Using Twitter to sharpen your writing skills?

But I don’t want to deal with the politics, vitriol. and hatred on Twitter!

Well, you don’t have to.

Yes! Twitter is in the news a lot. We hear about the vitriol and hate some express on Twitter. We hear about the censorship of conservative voices, and now we have just heard Twitter is banning all “political” ads.

It is easy to get caught up in the noise. And, I must admit I have been caught up in it a time or two … or three … or perhaps even four, myself.

However, I am going to try to work on that. Just be choosy in who or what you “follow.”

Now, about those writing skills …

sharpen your writing skills

One thing I really do enjoy on Twitter, is the supportive writing community. And I do participate in several, what I call “prompted Micro Fiction.” How it works is you get a daily word prompt, and you have the length of a Tweet to write a story, poem, or whatever you feel like writing. It is actually quite fun, and it does truly help sharpen your writing skills. I really like the #vss365 writing challenge.

Here a some examples I have written:


#lucid

“Damn! Clovis, that’s one hell of a shiner you’re sporting there! What happened?”

“The old lady asked me if her yoga pants made her look fat, Clem.”

“And, you said yes?”

“Damn, Clem, I didn’t want to lie to her!”

“Not one of your more #lucid moments, Clovis!

#vss365


#strike

Day-umm! Clovis! That’s one hell of a bruise!”

“Yep! It’s part second degree burn too!”

“Dude! What happened?”

“Well, guess I shot my mouth off at the old lady, Clem.”

“So, a bruise and a burn, Clovis?”

“The #strike came while the iron was still hot, Clem.”

#vss365


#verify

“What did the cops want Joe?”

“They needed to #verify where I was last night. There was some kind of upscuddle at the strip club. Told em I was with you.”

“But I was in that upscuddle Joe!”

“The cops don’t know that Clem.”

“I can #verify you’re an idiot Joe!”

#vss365


#second

“Listen Joe, there are two things life taught me.”

“Really? What’s are they Clem?”

“The first is that bills always travel through the mail much faster than checks.”

“And … the #second?”

“Never take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night.”

#vss365

Then sometimes, I even let my “romantic fool” side show …


#mystery

I will never understand the #mystery that is a woman’s heart!

She said to me once, “never underestimate the blackness that can be found there,” and then together, we had five of the best years of my life.

Turns out, I should have listened.

#vss365


#longing

There is a longing that cuts deep, to depths of my very soul. I live to again hear her voice, that wonderful laugh, to see her smile. I miss the stars that danced in her eyes. I pray that I will again feel the warmth of her loving embrace.

#vss365


#bottle

I looked over at her, finishing her last shot of Tequila, a sour look on her face.

“What’s up?” I asked. “Don’t #bottle that shit up inside. Let it go! Get it out in the open!”

She did! All over my brand new Nikes!

#vss365


So think about giving it a try!

Some of these Tweets got a really great response. But regardless, it is a lot of fun and a simple way to find out what other people, strangers, think about your writing.

Don’t forget to check out Serpents Underfoot and Adirondack Bear Tales, available at Amazon.

And for other interesting posts, click here!

Pearl Harbor is remembered

GP Cox posted a great remembrance for Pearl Harbor Day on his blog, Pacific Paratrooper. Please take the time to check out his great blog.

Pacific Paratrooper

Crew of the USS Arizona

When diplomacy failed and power and greed survived – the Pacific skies went dark….

Hickam Field

Aerial view during the attack

Battleship Row, as seen by Japanese pilot during the attack

From the Smithsonian Museum……

USS Oklahoma stamp

This relic marks the movements before the U.S. was launched into WWII….To record when a piece of mail was processed aboard ship, the Navy used wooden postmark stamps.  This one bears an ominous date: 6 December 1941 PM.  It was recovered from the battleship Oklahoma after it was hit by several torpedoes, listed to a 45-degree angle, capsized and sank in the attack on Pearl Harbor.  The ship lost 429 sailors and Marines; one-third of its crew.

For a different view on the Pearl Harbor “surprise”……..

https://pacificparatrooper.wordpress.com/2016/12/07/the-other-pearl-harbor-story-kimmel-and-short/

For a wonderful Pearl Harbor poem, by Lee…..

https://mypoetrythatrhymes.wordpress.com/2018/08/

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Farewell Salutes – 

William Barnes – Brookston, IN ,& Lake Worth…

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Reblog from National Anthem Girl: Send Christmas Cards to Lonely Vets in Hospice Care

Great post. I wish I had seen this a little sooner!

e-Quips

1: SEND CHRISTMAS CARDS TO LONELY VETS IN HOSPICE CARE!

Veteran’s Last Patrol’s purpose is to ensure no veteran faces their last years, months, weeks of their lives alone. They would love to deliver YOUR cards to veterans who are alone in hospice this holiday season! This is a GREAT project for your students, children, office group…everyone! Please consider sharing this mission with others. Here’s all the info you need:

How many cards should I send? As many as you can! Veteran’s Last Patrol is currently working with about 100 veterans. The more cards each vet receives the merrier! Be creative! If you’ve got some creative students/kids – have them draw pictures too!
Do I need to put postage on each card? No. If you’re sending more than one card, just put them all in one package or envelope and send. Feel free to put your return address on each…

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Montagnard: Chapter Sample #1

Setting the stage …

In this sample, we jump into the past to find young Dish, a Montagnard warrior and ally to the American’s during the Vietnam War, narrowly escaping certain death at the hands of the Viet Cong.

Dish is the adopted brother of Mai, a Vietnamese woman and mother to the main character in this exciting sequel to Serpents Underfoot. He plays a key role in this new tale of kidnap, rescue, redemption, and revenge.


17 September 1967

Dish leaned his back against a tall Dalat pine and struggled to quiet his heavy breathing to listen for sounds of enemy pursuit. The ambush had been perfect. Dish, as point man, had been allowed through the kill zone. Somehow he’d missed it, which meant that whoever laid that ambush was also damn good; because Dish was damn good.

The terrain had not allowed for the typical L-shaped ambush, or the Viet Cong’s favorite, a V-shaped ambush. But the Green Beret A-team he was scouting for was now caught in a deadly cross-fire from both sides of their position. Separated from the team by a dense hail of bullets created by both the ambushers and the Green Berets who were returning fire, Dish tried, unsuccessfully, to circle back and rejoin them. Unfortunately, he ran directly in to a group of a dozen or so VC that were moving up to reinforce the right leg of the ambush. Spotting Dish, the group opened fire, and he could do little more than turn and flee back down the trail. The excited VC, forgetting their mission, took off after him, following in hot pursuit.

Reaching up, he removed his Boonie hat to wipe his sweaty brow with the sleeve of his olive drab jungle fatigue jacket. Listening , he heard nothing.  

There’s no way I lost them, Dish thought. Maybe I outran them? He doubted that was the case and was sure they’d be along. More likely, they were moving cautiously.

Finally, he risked a swallow of water from his canteen, relieving the dryness of his throat. Placing the canteen back in its pouch on his left hip, Dish returned the Boonie hat to his head and crouched down, shifting his grip on the M-16 rifle he carried. He listened for several long minutes. Had he lost them? It still seemed unlikely.

That question was answered a few seconds later when Dish heard a twig snap a short distance to his left. He froze. A hushed admonishment in Vietnamese immediately followed.

Then, his eye caught a movement. Dish held his breath as two black-clad figures stepped out of the brush and into a small clearing just a few yards down the slope from where he now stood, pressed against the Dalat pine. Both VC carried AK-47s and wore bandoliers with extra ammunition hanging sash-style over their shoulders. Each wore the trademark conical straw hats as protection from the sun, which luckily at this moment was directly behind Dish.

He felt a bead sweat run down the back of his neck. More sweat stung his eyes. Dish could do nothing; even the slightest movement might give his position away. To his surprise, the two enemy fighters never even glanced his way. Their attention seemed focused on something downslope. Seconds later, the two continued to carefully work their way down the hill and away from where Dish was willing himself to become part of the tree. Then, like jungle ghosts, they were gone.

Turning, Dish began running along an outcropping of rock that was partially concealed by the Dalat pine against which he’d rested. There was a shout. An AK-47 fired, and a spattering of bullets ricocheted off the rock just behind him. They were right on his tail. Dish spotted an outcropping of rock just ahead and raced toward it. Hearing his pursuers closing in behind him, he ducked behind it.

I hope this isn’t a dead-end!

There was no place to hide. The crack created by the outcropping was narrow and not very deep. Perhaps five feet wide at its opening, in narrowed to maybe eighteen inches where it ended in a rock face.  It was seven or at feet deep at best with a thick growth of leafy scrub brush at the base of the rock face. It was a dead end.

At twenty-three years old, Dish had been fighting the North Vietnamese and their VC allies for seven years and had witnessed much of their evil brutality. He was determined not to be taken alive. Moving quickly to the rear of the crack, he pressed his back into the brush and checked the action of his M-16 rifle. Dish had ten fully loaded 30-round magazines available in his rucksack but doubted he’d get a chance to reload very many times.  When he died, several of them would come with him.

Pressing the magazine release, he quietly slid the partial magazine from the well and replaced it with a full one. Working the charging handle as noiselessly as possible, he moved back as far as he could into the split in the rock. Turning to face the opening, Dish leaned back into the brush, wanting to feel something substantial behind him. Nothing. He shifted back just a bit and pressed back again. Still, there was nothing. Crouching, he worked himself farther back into the scrubby growth and suddenly tumbled over backward.

Getting to his feet, Dish looked back at the crack. He was now standing on the other side. The rock face in front of him was solid, but there was a hole, probably cut by water at its base. Stooping, he peered into the hole and estimated the rock wall to be several feet thick. The scrub brush concealed the hole, and he had luckily fallen right into it. Dish listened but could hear nothing. The VC were cautious in their approach, suspecting they had him trapped and in no rush to get themselves killed. Even a trapped rat will turn on its pursuers, and Dish was no rat, more like a tiger.

Dish quickly took stock of his situation and could see he was in a big bowl cut by falling water. He spotted a rocky wash on his right that led up a steep, almost vertical, bank.

The only way out of here is up, he decided.

He slung the rifle across his back and started climbing up the wash, making as little noise as possible. He’d climbed about a hundred feet or so when the wash suddenly turned out onto a rock ledge. Flattening himself out, Dish lay on the shelf and quieting his ragged breath, listened. He could hear the VC below him, now searching for him, calling out to each other in Vietnamese.

“Fan out! He can’t have just disappeared. Poh! Use your bayonet and check that brush.” There was the sound of a bayonet snapping into place on a rifle barrel and then being thrust repeatedly into the brush.  

“I tell you he isn’t here!”

After a time, the perplexed group of VC moved on, their voices fading as they drew farther away. They’d completely missed the hole into which he’d fallen.


I think my readers will find real improvements in style and substance in this new release, due out next summer … a result of lessons learned while writing my first novel.

I have gotten great feedback in emails and reviews of Serpents Underfoot, and I always take that feedback to heart as I strive to improve my skills in my chosen craft as a writer. I am looking forward to hearing from my readers about this second novel when it is released.

Have You Ever Thought About Doing a Book Trailer?

How do you market your books?

If you are a self-published author, you are often on your own when it comes to marketing your work. There are many avenues to explore including review blogs, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, email lists, etc. In fact, it can sometimes be a bit overwhelming!

In my opinion, social media marketing is great for getting exposure. You can build a support network of other writers (#writingcommunity), gain ideas about target markets for your books, and promotes specials or giveaways. You may even sell a few books.

But I have come to a conclusion that people who spend a lot of time on social media outlets, are probably not book lovers or voracious readers. If they were, they’d be reading, and not Tweeting. So, I decided to try something new!

I decided to try creating a book trailer.

Videos do seem to be another great way to grab a possible reader’s attention and interest, gain exposure, and maybe even sell a book or two. Videos are easy to share and can certainly be used with social media. But, they can also be used on your website, uploaded to YouTube, emailed, shared on blogs, etc.

Conspiracy. Terrorism. One SEAL stands between freedom and nuclear annihilation.

I started trying to do this myself, but quickly found out that there is a good bit to it. Access to appropriate royalty-free footage, editing software, having a script or storyboard, and a good soundtrack are all important and too much to learn all at once. Therefore, I enlisted the help of a video editor on Fiverr.com to help me get started. It turned out to be a lot of fun. You can view the results above, of course.

As part of this process, I did learn the importance of having a script and storyboarding your video to get your ideas in laid out and conceptualized before you go looking for royalty-free video footage, etc. I am also looking into getting some better video editing software. I think this would be fun to do yourself, but then, you also have to consider time and investment.

So, for my next project, a “coming soon” book trailer for my sequel to Serpents Underfoot, I will certainly still get some help from the experts on Fiverr.com, but who knows what the future may hold!

One thing is clear. Writing a book is only part of the battle, and in fact, may be the easiest part. Getting your book out there and getting exposure, building a reader base, driving sales, all while continuing to write additional books can be quite a challenge. Hopefully, somewhere down the line, the work pays off. You have to truly believe that the investment of all your time and hard work will pay off in order to keep chugging away and eventually be successful.

Just don’t stop trying!

There is some sage wisdom from some old martial artist that seems appropriate here. The founder of Isshin-ryu Karate, Tatuso Shimabuku, used to say it, but I am pretty sure it didn’t originate with him. The saying goes:

If you fall down seven times, get up eight!

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My version of that is “I am to stubborn to know when I am beat, so I just keep going!” But, isn’t that the secret to success?

Stay tuned for future book video trailers. And for other blog posts and book reviews, click here!

Ignore My Browser History …

I’m a writer … not serial killer!

So, you type into your google search window, “What is the best way to wash blood off your hands?”

Hmm! I just realized how bad this sounds. For the record, I just had a very serious nose bleed … I am not a serial killer.

But to some folks out there, this would sound pretty bad! I get that. Especially those who project what is going on in their own dirty little minds onto my above mentioned search phrase. But what if I really had just had a bad nosebleed?

And, the fact is, hydrogen peroxide dissolves blood.

Hmm! I wonder … if you gave someone a huge shot of hydrogen peroxide directly into their blood stream … would it kill them? Let me google that!

ignore my browser history

Uh! No officer, I swear I’m not a serial killer. I’m a writer!

Me (After they search my browser history)

In my sequel to Serpents Underfoot, my main character’s mother (who is Vietnamese) returns to Vietnam in hopes of finding her long-lost adopted Montagnard brother.

Given the terrible situation the few remaining Montagnard people in Vietnam find themselves in these days, she would naturally have to look in some pretty bad places such a refugee camps, slums, re-education camps, prisons, or maybe … red light districts. Image what doing research for this part of the story could cause to appear in your browser search history.

ignore my browser history

And then, there’s this awesome rescue mission where the main character and his friends are helped by a mysterious Thai go go dancer!

States of confusion

“What do you mean that’s not a girl?”
“‘I’m telling you, that’s a guy … a lady boy.”

ignore my browser history

“The hell you say! There’s no way that’s a guy!”
“I’m telling you, this is a lady boy bar … and that’s a not a girl …”
“Well, actually guys. That could be a girl working in a lady boy bar, posing as a lady boy!”
“Now my head hurts!”

Other areas of research that hopefully won’t trigger the NSA!

This would be the research into topics like drug smugglers in the Golden Triangle, al Qaeda in Niger, gun smuggling, clandestine flights to obscure airstrips, American drone bases, Thai go go bars, and CIA contractors! I am pretty sure I am now on somebody’s watch list … somewhere.

But the fact is, the better the research and the more realistic the background for your story, the better the story will be. And, if this is truly the case, my next book Montagnard, should be a killer!

Ahh! Yes officer, I meant “killer” figuratively … not literally.

Me (after we continue the “discussion” downtown)

Therefore, to satisfy my loyal readers, I will bravely continue to do my research, no matter what the cost. It is a sacrifice I am willing to make in the pursuit of my chosen craft.

And I, umm, also do plan to do a few murder mysteries in the future. That should get really quite interesting.

I’m innocent I tell you … I don’t know what happened to the guy that gave me that really awful book review. His disappearance must be a coincidence. I swear …

Me (as they lead me away in handcuffs … )

For more great blog posts and book reviews. click right here!

How to Create an Audiobook

Sell your audio book on Audible, iTunes, and Amazon.

One way to do this is through ACX, and this is the vehicle I am using to create an audio version of Serpents Underfoot, which will be released at the end of this month.

audiobooks

ACX makes this easy to do and puts you in charge.

audiobooks


Here is an outline of the first 6 steps of the 10 step process for authors on ACX

Step 1: Confirm

Confirm you own thee audio rights for your book by checking your print book contract. If you own the audio rights, then for purposes of ACX, you are the legal Rights Holder.

Step 2: Create your Profile

Create your Title Profile by describing your book and the type of narrator best suited for it. You’ll then post a 1-2 page excerpt from your book to serve as the Audition Script for any potential narrators.

Step 3: Find your ideal producer

Listen to the auditions you receive. You can also listen to sample narrations and invite a handful of producers to audition for your book.

I took three scenes from different sections of my book totaling about 2 1/2 pages and uploaded it. I received 10 or 12 auditions from narrators to read Serpents Underfoot.

A few did not even read my sample, instead sending me links to other books they had read. I discarded them immediately. I wanted to hear my work being read in their voice.

A couple of others sent lists of their accomplishments and highlighted their experience, but again, I wanted to hear my work being read, so I discarded them as well.

Step 4: Review Auditions

This left about 6 or 7 who actually read my sample, and I carefully listened to the auditions they provided. It was a tough decision because several were really darn good.

Step 5: Make a Deal

Finally, I settled on Doug Greene. I checked and Doug had done about a dozen previous projects in various genres.

Doug had the voice “authoritative or military” sounding voice I was looking and really seemed to enjoy reading the sample I had provided.

We came to an agreement on schedule, payment, etc.

Doug is doing a great job and I am very pleased with his work.

Step 6: Get Started

Doug recorded and upload the a 15 minute test read of the audiobook, which I listened to and approved, providing my feedback. Of course, when your sample is approved, the producer will record the full project.

How you complete the project is decided by you. Doug is uploading each chapter as he completes it. This was actually Doug’s suggestion. This way, I can listen to each completed chapter to see if any edits are needed.

So far, there has been very little editing that needed to be done. And, I must say it is pretty exciting to see (and hear) this project unfolding.

I like this method, especially since this was my first time doing doing an audiobook.

You could certainly also just have the producer complete the entire audiobook, and review it all at once.

The Remaining Steps Will Soon Follow!

The remaining 4 steps are

Step 7: Approve the Final Product

Step 8: Distribute

Step 9: Promote

Step 10: Earn Royalties

I will follow up with an additional post outlining these last 4 steps once I have completed them.

For now, I will just say that ACX makes this process easy and while there is certainly an investment in both time and money, it looks like the process should allow for a good ROI if you have a good product and stick to the program. We shall see shortly!

Serpents Underfoot is currently out in Kindle, paperback and hardcover. I am excited to announce that it will, very soon, be available as an audiobook through iTunes, Audible, and Amazon as well!

Click here for other interesting blog posts!