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Review of the film ‘This is My Year’

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Connor Miller, wannabe screenwriter, moves to LA for a make or break year in her efforts to get a script accepted. In ‘This is My Year,’ from director, James Brindle, we follow the adventures and misadventures of Connor and her friends over that fateful year.

This film is hard to categorize for someone of my generation; much like the milennials in the story, it seems to be going way, but ends up going another. That’s not a negative assessment, by the way. I found the film, like the milennials I encounter each summer in my writing workshop, stimulating and interesting. I was particularly impressed with Kanani Rose’s performance as Connor. That mask of apparent wide-eyed innocence that covers a hard mask of cynical realism that knows nothing is permanent and that life is often totally screwed up, was brilliant.

So, while I can’t tell you whether this film was a romantic comedy or a drama, I can tell you that I thoroughly enjoyed it, and strongly encourage you to see it when it’s finally released. I was fortunate enough to get a sneak preview. The film is due for an October 10 release.

Here’s the link to preorder the movie on iTunes:  : https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/this-is-my-year/id1418136923

 

Washington DC Area – Second Day of Spring, 2018

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March 21, 2018, the second official day of spring, and here’s the view I have from my kitchen and family rooms in North Potomac, must outside Washington, DC. And, while it doesn’t show in the photos, the snow is still falling, and is forecast to continue to fall until late at night, putting most of the area on snow emergency lock-down.

My Writing Office

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A real writer can work anywhere

Don’t Wait for the Muse

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Writers who wait around for the muse often get nothing written.

Happy New Year! Happy Reading!

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Welcome to 2017 – I would welcome the new year as well, but I’m holding off on that to see how it shapes up. My only New Year’s Resolution is to reduce the queue of books I have to read and review as much as possible, an almost impossible task with new books coming out that look tempting, and new review requests coming in almost every day.

I got a late start on the year, like most people, but for a different reason. I’d promised myself that I would be in bed well before midnight last night, but I got to reading, and before I knew it, it was 15 minutes past midnight. I’d read from 2016 to 2017 without realizing it. Yes, the book, The 30 Management Principles of the U.S. Marines, was that good. I’ll write a review of it eventually, but last night I was reading and taking notes for a book that I’m writing, Ethical Dilemmas and the Practice of Diplomacy, and this book has a few useful nuggets that I wanted to make sure I got down pat before I go back to my own manuscript.

Just a reminder to those who might have requested a review of their book. If I haven’t done it yet, and it’s been less than six months, please be patient; I’ll eventually get to it. The stack of print books I have to read is over 12 inches high, and my Kindle is full to capacity. If it’s been more than six months, I probably won’t review it for the reasons I gave a few weeks back in a blog post. If I don’t review it, please don’t ask me why. As much as I’d like to explain, with everything I have on my schedule for the coming year, I just don’t have the time.

Wishing all of my followers a happy, prosperous, and hopefully successful new year.

The Freelance Writer’s Success Kit

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If you want to jump start your freelance writing career, you need The Freelance Writer’s Success Kit. This kit of tools addresses many of the issues that give freelancers trouble. Now available for $29 at https://gumroad.com/a/677065843

The Cowgirls of Color: Black Women’s Team is Bucking Rodeo Trends

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article by Annalies Winny via theguardian.com The Cowgirls of Color are frustrated. It’s the final stop of Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo and the only all-female team has had a difficult first rid…

Source: The Cowgirls of Color: Black Women’s Team is Bucking Rodeo Trends

The Cowgirls of Color: Black Women’s Team is Bucking Rodeo Trends

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Outstanding article!

GOOD BLACK NEWS

Pinky, Pennie (in background) and KB calm their horses before riding in the grand entry. (Photograph: M Holden Warren)

article by Annalies Winny via theguardian.com

The Cowgirls of Color are frustrated. It’s the final stop of Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo and the only all-female team has had a difficult first ride, making their chances at a victory very unlikely. “The whole point was to win, not just to be in [the event] because we’re girls,” says KB, a 39-year-old legal administrator who has been riding with the team for a year and a half.

In a sport dominated by white men, the all-female, all-black team is a rarity. At the Bill Pickett rodeo, the only black rodeo in the country, high-octane events such as bull riding and steer wrestling remain almost exclusively male. But every year brings more female contestants than the last.

Since the team formed two years ago…

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#PoweredByIndie: My Fascinating Journey in Self-Publishing

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Shy and withdrawn as a child, my only solace was found in books, books that I devoured voraciously from the time I was seven or eight years old. The worlds I found between the pages gave me comfort in ways that human contact did not. By my early teens I’d overcome my shyness, but my love affair with the written word endured.

Transitioning from reading to writing was, perhaps, inevitable. I’m not sure when or how it really began, but by the time I was twelve, I was already writing little short stories, creating worlds like the ones I’d encountered in the books I read—but, only for myself.

When I started high school, not long after my twelfth birthday thanks to a special program that put students in grades based on their test scores not their age, I met Paulyne Evans, my home room teacher and the English teacher in my high school, Booker T. Washington elementary and high school in the small East Texas town where I grew up. She helped me get over my shyness, but she also recognized my love of writing, and encouraged it. When I was thirteen, she talked me into entering a national Sunday school magazine short story contest, and to my surprise—but, she insists, not hers—I won first place. The prize was small, about ten dollars, if I recall, but seeing my byline on a piece of writing in a publication that was circulated throughout the U.S. hooked me forever.

After graduating from high school, and without the resources for college, I joined the army. Over a twenty-year career, I often moon lighted as a writer/photographer/artist for local newspapers near the bases where I was stationed, did freelance articles and art for a number of magazines, and wrote poetry. After retiring from the army, I joined the U.S. Foreign Service, and for most of that thirty-year career, I pretty much put my creative writing on hold, except for the occasional opinion piece, book review, or poem. I didn’t return to fiction, or try my hand at a book-length work until about twelve years ago; eight years before I retired from government service.

After four years of rejection slips, I almost gave up on ever being able to get a book published. Then, eight years ago, I got a bite from what at the time seemed like a reputable publisher for two books on leadership. I won’t, for legal reasons, name the ‘publishers,’ just suffice it to say, it was a rip-off. I got hooked into an eight-year contract, and incessant requests that I buy my own books. They haven’t sold well, although the first one did get a few rave reviews, and does still get the occasional sale. My royalties have been miniscule at best. The experience soured me on publishers, and almost killed my desire to write.

Then, I started seeing articles about self-publishing. I researched it, and discovered that many other writers, including some who already had relationships with traditional publishers, were taking that route. This was, unfortunately, just before indie publishing began to be viewed with a little respect, and I was hesitant. But, I finally decided that if others could do it, so could I.

I dusted off a manuscript that I’d been working on for three years, did some rewriting, enrolled in one of the POD self-publishing programs, and after a year, had my book available for online sales in paperback and e-book format.

Surprisingly, it got a few good reviews, and even a few sales, despite being roughly done. I was just learning that self-publishing involved more than merely writing the darned thing; you had to know formatting, editing, and cover design, and . . . yuck . . . marketing. But having a book out there for all to see, and getting even a few sales was energizing. I then dug out my journal in which I’d written down ideas for other books, and started writing seriously.

Over the past eight years, I’ve managed to create a substantial list of published books, fiction, children’s books, and nonfiction, and get modest, but steady, sales in both paper and electronic versions.

More importantly, with each book, I get better—at least in my own opinion—and, I learn something new. I can now format a book’s interior almost as well as a traditional publishing house, I’ve learned to edit my work as if it was written by someone else—which means cutting, changing, or adding  to that first creative outburst with a reader’s eye. I’ve learned to do covers. Oh, none of them will ever win an award, but they’re technically acceptable, and a few of them aren’t half bad. My experience as a photographer, editorial cartoonist and magazine artist helps there.

Am I ready to make the NYT Bestseller’s List? Not hardly. But, I’ve gotten some good reviews, my books continue to sell, and occasionally I get an email from a reader telling me that they found themselves immersed in my book and loving the characters. I get the occasional review that pans a book. I even learn from them. If the criticism is valid, and not just trolling, I make a note of it, and incorporate it into my next book, or as I did in one case, unpublish, rewrite, and republish the book.

Independent publishing has been for me an exciting journey, one that is just beginning. Along the way, I’ve learned some fascinating things, and met some wonderful people. Indie publishing might not be for everyone. It’s a daring thing to do. But, if you want some excitement in your life, and if you want to write, it’s a combination that will change you forever.

Introducing the Four Winds Series by Anne Conley

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Four Winds Series
Anne Conley
 
The Four Winds is a series of stories by Anne Conley of God’s archangels: Uriel—the archangel of destiny, Rafael—the archangel of healing, Gabriel—the messenger, and Michael—the angel of war. Watch as each one defeats the devil, known as Damien, who thinks he’s entitled to their brides. See their struggle as they experience humanity for the first time in the name of love. Warning: contains elements of Christianity, coupled with some sex scenes, and what people may consider heretical viewpoints. 
 
Falling for Heaven
 
Uriel is one of God’s Four Winds, the Archangel of Destiny. He has helped thousands of people throughout the ages find their destiny according to His will. This time however, what he doesn’t realize, is that it’s his own destiny he’s supposed to fulfill.Heather is an exotic dancer, who’s stage name is Heaven. It’s not that that’s what she’s always wanted to do, it’s just that it helps her pay the bills, and she’s got a lot of bills, with taking care of her mother and her sister. When the mysterious Uriel comes into the club, she can tell he’s different, just how different will rock her world…

 

 
 
Falling for Grace
 
 Rafael is one of God’s Four Winds, the Archangel of Healing. He has answered the countless prayers for healing of loved ones, wondering what it was about the emotion that made humans willing to sacrifice so much. 

Grace is a lifeguard who has been on Rafe’s radar since she lost a little boy three years ago. What she doesn’t realize is the green haze that comes over her during a rescue is actually a divine presence who’s about to give up his celestial body to become a very real entity in her life. 

While Grace is trying to overcome her own demon, Rafe is discovering his own sexuality, but there’s a darker presence making himself known. The Deceiver wants what Rafe is getting, and he’ll do whatever it takes to have her.

 

 
 
Falling for Hope
 
 
Hope is an eccentric librarian who lives with her five cats and loves to spend her time fantasizing about living in a world of shape-shifters, vampires, and fairies. Although the existence of a paranormal world is far from Hope’s reality, she can’t help but sense there’s something different about the mysterious man lurking in her library. 

Gabriel is God’s Strength, the Messenger, who’s been tasked with delivering the Word for millennia. His most recent assignment will be his last, to fall in love and become human. But he can’t quite figure out what he’s done to displease the Boss. Gabriel’s latest assignment might be the hardest, but this gorgeous rubenesque quirk of a woman definitely has him intrigued.

 
Falling for Faith 
 
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In this, the fourth book in the Four Winds Series, the story is more intense, Damien is more intense, the sex is more intense. The entire series thus far has escalated into this, the archangel of war’s story. 

Michael, the archangel of war, is pissed. Humanity has taken every last vestige of any feelings he might have had and colored them in with cynicism. He’s ready to be done. So when The Boss gives him the deal, he’s eager for his mortality, at any cost, regardless of who he has to ‘fall in love’ with to get it. Blessed death. That’s what he’s looking forward to. When he finds out what Faith does for a living, he’s pissed off all over again. 

Faith is a cat burglar, but when she inadvertently makes a deal with Damien, Michael steps in to protect what is rightfully his. She’s not over her own tragic past, and this hulking bundle of hotness can’t change that. But when he insists on protecting her, claiming her, and dominating her, she is powerless to deny her own emotions. 

For mature audiences. Contains swear words, sex, elements of BDSM, and possibly heretical viewpoints. 

Excerpt from Falling for Faith

“Ballsy… breaking in with a house full of people.”  The quiet voice behind her had her heart pounding before he’d even finished speaking.  Spinning on her heel, she turned to find an exquisite man lounging on the chair in the middle of the room, watching her with interest, if not amusement.  Something else shone in the depths of his eyes, though.  Anger?

“It’s actually easier this way,” she whispered.  He’d caught her in the act, there was no use denying it.  And his relaxed posture, legs casually crossed, leaning back, stroking his chin, told her he wasn’t in a hurry to turn her in.  Did he want a cut?

Nope.  She wasn’t going to let him screw this up.  This was her last job for Shamus, and she’d be damned if she’d let herself get caught now.  Security.  He had to be on security detail here, and she must have done something to give herself away.  He had followed her.  She wasn’t sure how, but he had.  And now she was busted.

“Who are you?”

He didn’t answer her, which was irritating, but she wasn’t exactly in a position to force the issue.  As tall and fit as she was, she could see he was taller and fitter, even from his seated position.  She didn’t need a scene here tonight.  Maybe a distraction would work.

Licking her lips, Faith eased her hip to the side, revealing a leg.  She watched the man’s eyes snap to her shoes then reached behind her head for the clip holding her chignon in place, releasing it.  Her hair fell in waves to just below her shoulders, and Faith swung it around, fluffing it with her hands.  The man stood.

“What are you doing?”  His voice was rough, scraping across her skin to leave delicious abrasions behind.  No longer pretending, her breaths came in raspy gasps.

“Subduing the enemy without fighting.” Faith spoke to herself more than the man, but he seemed to hear anyway.  She always turned to Sun Tzu when she was in danger.  Eli had ingrained it in her.  Sun Tzu knew everything.

He moved closer, gliding, with the grace of a predator, and Faith saw she was in some serious trouble.

His sensuous mouth quirked into a smirk.  “Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.”  Laughter filled his voice, and she saw amusement twinkle in his eyes, crinkling around the edges.

Shit.  He knew Sun Tzu too.  Undeterred, she continued, using her sexuality as a tool.  She pursed her lips and forced a breathy quality to her voice. “To avoid what is strong, strike at what is weak.”  His silver eyes penetrated into her, looking deep inside her.  She felt naked under his gaze as it traveled across her face.  She was so intent on those eyes that she didn’t realize his hands had moved.

A knuckle grazed her cleavage, and she lost her breath.  She inhaled deeply, trying to get much needed oxygen into her system, but it only served to raise her breasts higher, into his touch.  It burned.  The humming in her body was louder than ever as if it was connected to this man’s presence.  She could feel it in her bones, her cells.

The man’s perfect face lowered closer to hers until their mouths aligned but didn’t touch.  She could feel his warm breath on her lips as they moved.  “The expert in the battle moves the enemy and is not moved by him.”

He hadn’t moved to subdue her, but neither had she.  Faith was paralyzed by a sudden lust coursing through her veins.  With all of her being, she wanted to grab this man and smash her lips into his, feel that little scrub of hair on his chin against hers.

With every ounce of will she had, Faith turned away from him, back towards the safe in the wall.  She could only hope to get out of here without police involvement at this point.  “The wise warrior avoids the battle.”  She heard rustling behind her, and when he spoke next, she realized he’d moved back to the chair.

“I can see it.”  He spoke as if to himself, murmuring so quietly she almost didn’t hear.  “We’d make a decent match.  You’re almost as irreverent as I am.  And you know your Tzu.”

Without a word she slipped her hand back under her skirt again and retrieved her multipurpose tool.  She’d have to come back, but she wasn’t going to let this asshole get what was hers.  Doing her best to replace the faceplate in a hurry, she left the wall safe a ridiculous mess, not having taken anything from it.  Super.  She could hear him muttering behind her about thieves and Jezebels and tamped down the flash of irritation that flared to life.

“I work alone.”

“For now.”  He chuckled as she darted out the door and back downstairs.  She didn’t dare glance back.

 
Falling for Cyn
 
 
Damien is bad—the original Evil. Satan from Hell on Earth has been his identity since forever. The Devil. Beelzebub. Minister of Evil. Prince of Darkness. Lucifer. Old Scratch. 

He’s never been given a choice in this prison of fate, but it’s his turn now. 

Hell is about to meet his match. When Damien gets a woman, the only underworld he’s ever known changes. She’s chosen for him, but she’s enough… 

Cynthia doesn’t believe in Hell; she believes in kindness and science, and the greater good. She’s perfect, and pure and… 

dying. 

But she’s his. 

And he’ll move Heaven and Hell to keep her. 

This is Anne Conley’s final installment in the Four Winds series.

 
Excerpt from Falling for Cyn

“Oh God…” she murmured under her breath.

“Are you alright?  Do you need the hospital?”  He knew what was happening to her, and it was probably embarrassing to her, but he was turned on beyond belief, and it was something he’d never felt before.  Sure, he’d indulged in carnal pleasures with women before, but this was something completely different.

“Yes…  No… Oh God…”  He steered her out of the restaurant, and as soon as they made it out the door, Cynthia pushed him against a wall.  “Stupid tumor…” she moaned as she threaded her fingers around his neck, pulled his head down, and crashed her lips against Damien’s.

The feel of her lips on his took his breath away.  The soft heat of her tiny little tongue as it swept inside his mouth with a whimper caused him to lose all semblance of control.  He didn’t know what came over him, but he had to have this woman.  Now.

His hands immediately grasped her ass and spun her around so she was against the wall.  He lifted one of her legs, wrapping it around his hip, and ground his erection into the warmth separated from him by their clothes.  He’d never felt anything like this lust before.  He needed her with a burning fire that he wasn’t sure one night with this creature could douse.

She responded, pressing against him wantonly.  Her fingers tangled in his hair, and the prickly pain made him groan.  He pushed the vision, knowing the image of them in her bed—a mass of sweaty tangled limbs—was undoing her, the same way his mental fondling was.

The same way it was undoing him.  A torrent of lust wracked his body, and he fairly shook with it.  He wanted her.  Right here.

Damien so wanted to do some real-life fondling, to sink his fingers inside her wet heat and feel her pulse around him, but some conscious thought told him that wouldn’t do.  Not on the first date.  He knew enough about good women to know that wouldn’t further his purpose with Cynthia.

She was whimpering into his mouth, and he swallowed the sounds eagerly.  He continued his grinding, building her to heights he couldn’t even imagine.  His own erection was painful, but he held back doing anything to relieve it, knowing this was for her.  He selfishly wanted to show her what they’d be like together.

She flew apart in his arms—on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant—with a muffled cry which he devoured with his kisses.  He could kiss her forever, he realized.  As she came down from her climax, he slowly lowered her but didn’t stop kissing her, wanting her with every fiber of his being.

When she pushed him away, a sinking feeling flooded him, dousing the fire with disappointment.

“Um… I’m sorry.”  She was straightening her hair and smoothing her pants, refusing to look at him.

“Don’t be.”  He couldn’t keep his hands to himself, so he cradled her face with his palm, thinking that may be a classy way to reassure her.

“I have to be.  That was really embarrassing.”  Her eyes darted around to see if anyone had seen them, but he chucked her chin with a finger.

“It was beautiful, Cynthia.”  Beautiful wasn’t the word for it.  It was magnificent, celestial.  She glowed with an inner light that nothing could extinguish, better than any fantasy he could conjure.

About the Author
 
 
Anne has written her entire life and has the boxes of angst-filled journals and poetry to prove it. She’s been writing for public consumption for the last four years. Currently she is writing three romance series. In Stories of Serendipity, she explores real people living real lives in small town Texas in a contemporary romance setting. In The Four Winds, she chronicles God’s four closest archangels, Uriel, Gabriel, Raphael, and Michael, falling in 
 
love and becoming human. In Pierce Securities, she gives us Ryan, Evan, Miriam, Zack, Quinten, and Simon. She lives in rural East Texas with her husband and children in her own private oasis, where she prides herself in her complete lack of social skills, choosing instead to live with the people inside her head.
 
 
 
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The Write Way: What Not to Do So That Your Writing Rings True

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You’re penning that mystery novel, and you think you have the perfect scene; a body lies in a pool of blood on the sidewalk, your PI protagonist, a police detective, and the medical examiner stand over it. The following dialogue ensues:

Cop:  “What do we have here, doc?”

ME:  “A white male in his late thirties with GSW to the chest.”

PI: “When did he die?”

ME: “From lividity and liver temp, I’d place time of death between 2 and 2:30 this morning.”

Okay, let’s stop there. There would be beats, or actions included here, not just lines of dialogue, but that’s not the point I wanted to make. Readers raised on a diet of TV cop shows will probably not see anything wrong with this little scene, but they would be wrong. There are so many things here that are incorrect it’s hard to know where to start. If you’re writing fiction, though, it’s important that you get it right—or as close to right as possible—whether you think your readers know the difference or not. And, be warned, more readers than you might imagine will know the difference, and they will not forgive you for not knowing.

Think about it - do your research - before you write it down.
Think about it – do your research – before you write it down.

Following are a few things that you shouldn’t do if you want your writing to have that ring of authenticity that allows readers to suspend disbelief and follow along.

  1. Don’t have characters in a situation that would never occur in real life.  In the dialogue example above, the PI is standing over the corpse with the cop and medical examiner. No way! A private investigator, unless he was a suspect and being grilled—and, that would be in a police station, by the way, not out on the street—is a private citizen, and would never been allowed past the crime scene tape. It’s also unlikely that the medical examiner would be at the crime scene. These guys work in the lab.
  2. Don’t have characters doing or saying things they would never say in real life. The ME (who wouldn’t be there in the first place) also wouldn’t give time or cause of death prior to conducting at least a preliminary autopsy, regardless of how many do it on TV. There are too many factors that must be examined to determine cause or time of death for someone to be able to look at a corpse on the sidewalk and make such definitive statements.
  3. Don’t have agencies or organizations doing things they don’t do in real life. The ME in real life doesn’t usually go to crime scenes. Again, forget what you see on TV. Another pet peeve of mine is having agencies, especially federal agencies, doing things they would never do in real life. The Patriot Act notwithstanding, federal agencies don’t normally just swoop onto the scene and shove local authorities aside. Unless a case is clearly interstate in nature, or is a case of international terrorism, the FBI has no jurisdiction. Local sheriffs, for instance, have more power than people realize, and can block federal officials in their jurisdictions. My son-in-law is a postal inspector (the investigative arm of the US Postal Service), and he tells me of some western sheriffs who’ve detained postal inspectors for serving federal warrants in their counties without first notifying the sheriff’s office. Now, that’s power. Another pet peeve of mine is the way travel of foreigners is handled, or how the role of diplomats is portrayed—all wrong in most cases. An example I saw recently had cops investigating the murder of a young Brazilian au pair in NYC. In the course of their investigation they learned that the victim had bribed an officer at the Brazilian consulate general to get her brother a permanent visa into the United States. He killed her, and they lured him onto the sidewalk where he was arrested. Forgetting the unlikelihood of NYPD pulling a stunt like this, the fact is, foreigners wanting visas to come to the U.S. don’t go to their consulates, they go to an American consulate or embassy, and if that organization issues them a visa, they then have to apply to an immigration officer at the US airport at which they land for permission to actually legally enter the U.S.
  4. Leave out the magic technology. Unless you’re doing science fiction or really futuristic stuff, don’t have technology doing things like instant identification of an individual from a partial print, or immediate identification from a small DNA sample. Identification through fingerprints, even with today’s technology, requires comparison of the print against a print on file and agreement of several points of identification. Often, matches are a percentage of comparability rather than a 100% match. DNA testing and analysis takes time; it’s not a push button affair.
  5. Don’t have your victims flying through the air after being shot. This is one that really gets my goat. It’s a mainstay in a lot of gory movies. The victim gets shot and the force of the bullet slams him into a wall, or through a window or door. Uh-uh; in real life it doesn’t happen. I’ve been in a war zone, and I’ve seen guys hit with M16 slugs and still continue to charge forward. I once stood next to a sergeant who accidentally shot himself in the hand with his .45 caliber pistol. It took a portion of his finger off, but didn’t cause his hand to fly forward. When people get shot, what often happens is they stop, unless they were moving rapidly in one direction, in which case they often continue, and then they fall to the ground.
  6. Don’t do Bruce Lee kung fu fight scenes. The kung fu movie fight scenes are great choreography, but in real fights—including the martial arts variety—no one dances around like that. If you want to write fight scenes that sound real, spend some time in a gym or dojo and watch real fighters go after each other.

Okay, that’s a nice half dozen tips to get you started. I know most how-to lists are 5, 10, or some multiple of 5, but I like to be different, so deal with it. And, if you’re nice, I might even share some more hard-earned knowledge with you in the future. Got any more ideas on what makes fiction seem unreal? Share them with me at charlesray.author@gmail.com, and if I use them in a future article, I’ll give you full credit.

#IWSG: What I’ve Learned from the Insecure Writer Support Group

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InsecureWritersSupportGroup It’s December, 2015, the second of the month, to be exact, and it’s time again for my contribution to Alex Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer Support Group, a forum of bloggers who share their fears, hopes, dreams, and ideas for the benefit of the writing community. You can see a list of them here, as well as throw your own hat into the ring and share your pearls of wisdom.

This is the last post of the year and, sadly for me, my last contribution to the group. I find that running two blogs, reviewing 3 – 4 books per week, trying to write my own books, and teaching three courses at local colleges—just to list my main activities—takes up more time than I’d anticipated. In addition, I’m not sure I have anything else to share that’s really new.

I thought for my last post in the group, I’d talk about the things I’ve gained from being a part of IWSG for the past many months. That’s right; this has been more of a learning exercise for me—I’ve gained much, much more than I’ve given.

I’ve learned that, while writing is essentially a solitary activity, thanks to social media, blogs, and the Internet, a writer doesn’t have to be totally alone. I’ve gained many friends over the past three years, many of them writers, and I’ve learned something valuable from each of them.

Reading the blogs by other members of the group I’ve improved my own writing. Hints on how to develop characters, or to develop meaningful character names, a great post by Jody Hedlund. There were a lot of inspirational posts, like Rachel Shieffelbein’s advice on not quitting when the going gets hard.

There were more, so many more that there’s not enough space here to mention them all. At this writing there were 255 bloggers participating in the Insecure Writer Support Group monthly posting. That’s a lot of potential sources of advice and inspiration. I know—I’ve been inspired and gotten tons of advice over the months. I’ll keep dropping in from time to time, because I know there’s always something new to learn.

In the meantime, my parting piece of advice to all you writers and wannabe writers out there—stop threatening to write, stop procrastinating. Listen to Rachel Shieffelbein; sit yourself down and put fingers to keyboard and WRITE.

Happy holidays to all my regular readers, and a happy successful year ahead. Keep reading, keep writing.

A Blog Award

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one-lovely-blog-award-e1447361998422I don’t normally pay a lot of attention to blog awards–too busy blogging, book reviewing, and writing–but, I have to stop and say thanks to Anatomy of Perceval for One Lovely Blog Award. I’m really not sure what I did to deserve it, but it’s always nice to learn that there are actually people out there who read what I write.

So, having that out of the way, I’ll follow the rules for this award.

7 Interesting Facts About Myself

I’ve been writing since I was about 12 or 13 – got my first short story published in a national magazine back then.

I have a short attention span, and get bored easily, so I write and read in a lot of genres.

My first full-length work of fiction took eight years to write–but, now I finish a book of 60,000 words in about a month.

I was a paratrooper in the army, but I’m afraid of heights. I can’t stand on the edge of a three-story balcony without getting dizzy.

I like animals, but am allergic to cats.

Because of a childhood accident that damaged my eye nerves, I don’t have binocular vision. But, it was undiagnosed until I was nearly 20, so I’d learned to compensate–including playing baseball and shooting expert with a rifle in basic training when I joined the army at 17.  Go figure.

I love to travel, but I hate flying.

Blogs I’m nominating

These are bloggers I follow, even though I don’t visit them as often as I probably should. When I do, though, I always find something to make my day. Not everyone has the time to respond to these awards, and I’ll certainly understand if they fall into that category, but I just  had to express my appreciation for the great writing they do.

Richard Bunning

Dancing Palm Trees

Vickie McKeehan

Jeri Walker

Patrick Jones

DV Berkom

Jacqui Murray

Coach Muller

AR Rivera

Jessie Jeanine

Helen Treharne

Elisabeth Zguta

S. A. Gibson

Cindy Knoke

Olga Godim

Luaypdk

 

Rules for the Award

In conclusion, to all my blogger nominees, here is the list of rules to participate:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you and provide a link to her/his blog.
  2. List 7 interesting facts about yourself.
  3. Nominate 15 other bloggers and inform them by posting on their site.
  4. List the rules and display the award.

Completed Shelly Hitz’s Writing Week Program

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It was actually quite helpful in focusing my writing.

#IWSG: Dealing With Know-it-Alls

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InsecureWritersSupportGroupIt’s time again. It’s the first Wednesday of the month and time for another offering to Alex Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writers Support Group (#IWSG). Here’s where we share and encourage each other, as we write about our fears and weaknesses, discuss our failures and triumphs, and offer words of encouragement to others out there who struggle like we do. Sometimes, we use it to vent our frustrations with the things that devil writers’ lives. If you’d like to be a part of this group, check out the link above.

This month, I’d like to briefly address the know-it-alls, bullies, and trolls out there who seem to have a mission of making everyone else’s lives as miserable as I imagine there are. We’ve all encountered them. They’re the ‘expert’ at the gym who just has to show you how to properly exercise, despite only being a member for a week longer than you, or the ‘helpful’ person at the golf course who feels an obligation to critique the golf swing of a total stranger. If you’re a writer, you’re particularly vulnerable to this type of person, and even though I used three labels at the beginning of this paragraph, that was just for literary effect. In fact, these are just bullies; people who never outgrew the urge to pull the wings off flies.

Where can you encounter them as a writer? I’ve mentioned them a few times in previous blogs. They’re the reviewers who pan your work in the most strident of terms, or who slam you as a writer without showing any evidence that they’ve ever really read it. They’re like the reviewer who slammed a book because she felt the regional dialect of a couple of the characters insulted them; ignoring the fact that in that particular passage, this is precisely what the author was aiming for—for the specific characters, not a particular group. If, like me, you write book review—and I read a lot, so why not—you’re still likely, no you’re sure, to encounter this type. There are those who will attack you because they don’t like the rating you gave something they liked or hated, because your rating betrays a particular political or social leaning they find offensive, etc.

They’re out there, and the Internet has increased their reach. They can now pull the wings off flies from across the globe, and do it anonymously. So, how do you handle them? It’s not easy. No one likes to repeatedly turn the other cheek. Especially when it’s being verbally slapped. But, Mark Twain said it well – “Never argue with stupid people. They will only bring you down to their level, and beat you with experience.

Free 7-Day Nonfiction Writing Challenge

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I’m participating in writing coach Shelley Hitz’s free 7-Day Nonfiction Writing Challenge, designed to help authors write and promote nonfiction works. Check it out here: http://www.writingweek.com/.

http://www.writingweek.com/

#IWSG: Amazon – Big is Neither Good Nor Bad, It’s Just Big

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InsecureWritersSupportGroupIt’s time for another posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. This is where you can see posts from a group of writers who share their success, fear, and advice with you on the first Wednesday of each month. This month, I have only a brief message; about a subject I’ve been avoiding, but there has been so much in the media about it the past several months, I’ve decided to be silent no longer.

In American politics, there are a number of topics that arouse intense debate whenever they’re brought up: immigration, gun control, gay marriage, social security, to name a few. In the publishing world, though, among publishers and writers, there seems to be only one subject that does this: Amazon.

The ‘Zon seems to be the third rail of the publishing world—especially when it comes to indie writers and publishers. Everyone has an opinion on it, and all opinions seem to be at one pole or another; Amazon is either a behemoth that is devouring publishing as we know it, or it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Let me give you my view, for what it’s worth. Amazon is big. It’s huge. And, while big is not necessarily better, it’s also not necessarily bad. Sure, Amazon’s a business, and the business of business is to make money. Amazon has become big because it’s been good at doing that. And, it’s made all that money by supplying what customers want. Along with the thousands of other products available for sale on Amazon.com and its other sites around the world, are tons of books in all forms, from hardcover to e-Book (to audiobook), all of them available at the click of a few keys on your computer; available, I might add, often at relatively reasonable prices. Reasonable prices attract more customers, which means more sales, which means more income—or so Amazon’s reasoning seems to be.

Now, one of the arguments against Amazon has been that it is creating a monopoly which will restrict the availability of books, which will hurt authors. Looking at what’s available for sale on Amazon and my own book sales over the past year, I have a hard time believing that argument. Will Amazon help or hurt writers, especially indie writers? I think the answer to that is, it depends. If you have a large backlist and your books are pretty good, I think Amazon’s business model will benefit you. Take my own case, for example. My books are so-so popular (I have a few diehard fans), and I have a backlist of 60+. Amazon’s new model, which pays authors for total pages read, has caused a 25% increase in my monthly revenue. Why? Simple really; the more you have available to be read, the more will be read. For example, if you have four books and readers read 75% of each, you still won’t do as well as I will with 60 and readers only reading 35% of each. Don’t believe me; do the math.

The same can be said of many of Amazon’s other business models, such as KDP Select, where you make a book exclusive to Amazon for a period of time. It’s easier to do that if you have several books, and can chose which ones you want to make exclusive, and which ones you want available on other platforms (and, I’m talking e-Books here, as paperbacks aren’t exclusive).

So, briefly put, Amazon is in the business of making money. If you’re an author, you should be in the business of gaining readers, and you do that by offering a wide audience of readers a wide selection of things to read. Amazon is the platform to do that. Not the only one, by any means, but a good one. So, rather than getting embroiled in the debate, get to writing.

Beezeebooks is where you can find the best reads

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Looking for a good book to read? Looking for a place to showcase your book?  Check out Beezeebooks, a site for readers and writers, featuring some of the best fiction and nonfiction by indie authors worldwide.

For an idea of what I’m talking about, check out the entry for my book, Frontier Justice: Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshal at http://beezeebooks.com/frontier-justice-bass-reeves-deputy-u-s-marshal/western/, and while you’re there, check out some of the titles by other outstanding authors.

#IWSG: How to Promote Your Book for Free

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InsecureWritersSupportGroupIt’s that time of the month again—first Wednesday—time for a contribution to Alec Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writers Support Group, a collection of nearly 300 avid bloggers who share ideas, fears—you name it—about writing for fellow writers. If you’d like to become a part of this stellar group, go here and sign up.

This month, I want to address an issue that I know concerns everyone who writes for publication; book promotion, and how to avoid some of the schemes floating around.

Book promotion is like going to the dentist. It’s one of those things that is unpleasant, but necessary for good health, or in the case of a book, getting sales. Social media, as pervasive as it is these days, is a good way to promote your published work, or even create buzz for a work in progress, but the problem is knowing how to use it.

I’ve found Twitter to be a highly effective means to get word out about my books. So, apparently, have thousands—if not millions—of other people. As with any technique that works, it has also spawned a whole new industry of people who offer, for a fee, to help you get your word out to the Twitterverse.

I’m not calling these offers scams, because the majority of them are probably honest offers. But, honest or not, they are unnecessary. Why pay $50 upwards to have tweets posted about your book by someone else, when you could, with a little effort, probably do the same thing yourself? Or, you could find one of the free retweet services, such as CoPromote, to do it. I’ve been using this one for several months now, and during time have reached over 4 million new potential readers, and seen a 25% increase in monthly book sales, both paperback and e-Book. CoPromote is a relatively easy concept. You sign up, link your account to your Twitter, Tumblr, and YouTube accounts. You then pick a Twitter, Tumblr or YouTube post to promote and highlight it (the instructions are easy). After you’ve selected a post to promote, you scroll through posts by other members and select up to ten per day. The posts you select are promoted on your accounts, and other members promote your post. My average number of shares during the two week promotion period has been 150,000 to just over 300,000 new shares. That’s a lot of new readers. When I first signed up, Facebook posts could also be linked, but due to technical problems, this is no longer possible. The web masters at CoPromote say they’re working on the problem, so we’ll just have to wait and see what happens. There is, though, a way around the problem. I have my Facebook and Twitter accounts linked, so that when I tweet, it also does a Facebook post. Helps others more than me, other than the fact that it helps enhance my reputation as someone who promotes others–not a bad thing for a writer.

I use CoPromote primarily to promote published books, but have also used it for other projects, such as my photography.  This gives me extended reach to new readers without having to do frequent sales pitches on my own accounts. And, it costs me nothing. Now, you can’t get better advertising than that. I’d be interested in hearing from anyone else who has had experience with CoPromote or any other free book promotion site.

#IWSG: Stop Writing – Get Some Exercise!

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InsecureWritersSupportGroup That time of the month again—the time when I make my offering on behalf of Alex Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer Support Group, a bunch of bloggers bent on being the best at helping fellow writers beam bright in the blogosphere and elsewhere in the writing firmament. If you’re interested in sharing your views, pop on over to IWSG and sign up. Each month, we write about something that interests us, and that we hope will be of interest to others; advice, fears, triumphs, etc.

This month, I’m going to depart from the usual advice to writers, to wit, WRITE, WRITE, WRITE, and tell you that sometimes the best thing you can do for your writing is to STOP!

Given that I’m usually spouting off that the only way to write well is to write often, and my frequent suggestion of having a 1 – 2,000 word per day writing goal, my regular readers are probably scratching their heads in wonder right now. Bear with me, though, and you’ll see the method to my madness.

Everyone has, no doubt, heard or read the old adage, ‘a healthy mind makes a healthy body,’ or something along those lines. The meaning of that is usually, a good mental attitude is important to maintaining physical health. But, scientific studies have shown that the opposite is also true: maintaining good physical health helps to improve brain functioning. Staying physically active, keeping your heart, lungs, and blood vessels healthy helps ensure adequate oxygen gets to all parts of the body, including brain cells. And, while we’re talking about exercise, which is great for maintaining the physical plant—muscles, bones, vital organs—it’s also great for conditioning the brain. That’s right. Science has discovered that the brain has more plasticity than previously thought, and even in adulthood, can be improved through exercises such as puzzles, learning a new language, or learning to play a musical instrument.

Ideas, and the manipulation of language are a writer’s stock and trade, which means that for us as writers, the brain is one of our most important possessions. It stands to reason, then, that we should keep it in top condition. So, to keep that idea engine humming along like a Mercedes Benz S500, step away from the computer for a short period every day. Get out and walk through the park—briskly. Start every other morning with a nice, heart pumping workout, work the daily crossword—with a ballpoint pen.

You don’t have to sacrifice any of your writing goals to do this. Like writing, exercise can be worked into a 24-hour day if you really want to do it. Turn off the TV for thirty minutes. You’ve seen that episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer anyway. Get out and walk around the block

Your writing will be better for it.