In Memory of Ashley L. Peterson: Self-Publishing Pt 1 + Podcast Ver.

Ashley L. Peterson blogged and wrote about mental health.
Ashley L. Peterson blogged and wrote about mental health.

It is with a very heavy heart that I inform you that (blogger/self-publisher/mental health activist/thoroughly great person who was always there for anyone who reached out to her) Ashley L. Peterson has passed away. Fortunately, family is keeping her site up, Mental Health @ Home: A safe place to talk openly about mental health & illness.

At Ashley’s blog, you’ll find her family’s recent post about her. In addition, they created a memorial site where you’ll see photos of Ashley, learn about her life, and of their great love for her.

Caz, another blogger/health activist who lives in England, also published an insightful eulogy to Ashley at her Invisibly Me site.

Ashley contributed twice to Happiness Between Tails. What follows below and in today’s audio/podcast version, is her first contribution, worded exactly as it originally appeared…

Self-Publishing and Thera-Piggies by Ashley L. Peterson Happiness Between Tails

#MentalHealth #Books #Authors #Publishing #Guinea Pigs Mental health nurse and author Ashley L. Peterson of Mental Health At Home dot org blogs out of Vancouver, Canada, and writes from both a personal perspective as well as that of a medical professional. Here she talks about how her pets help her to relieve stress. What's your best stress reliever? Share your thoughts, experiences, and questions by recording them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee. buymeacoffee.com/SupportHBT Time Stamps (where segments begin): Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Today’s topic and about today’s guest 1:00 Self-Publishing and Thera-Piggies: Ashley L. Peterson 2:00 My question for you 4:00 HBT outro Links used for the HBT blog post of this episode: Here’s the original blog version of this podcast episode. Ashley’s website Photos available at the HBT posts for this show: Ashley and her guinea pigs. Covers of her books. — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Click H-E-R-E for my podcast page at AnchorFM.  There you’ll  find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotifyand Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and more, plus an RSS feed. The full list of 50+ places is LinkTree.

Mental health nurse/author Ashley L. Peterson of MentalHealthAtHome.org blogs out of Vancouver, Canada, and writes from both a personal perspective as well as that of a medical professional. She’s adamant that it’s time we remove the stigma around mental health issues.

When it comes to self-publishing, she finds it’s wise to stay flexible with her listings at Amazon. On a daily basis, she experiments with keywords, especially in terms of how they work with setting bids per clicks on ads at the amounts suggested by Amazon.

Some of Ashley L. Peterson's books.

Ashley L. Peterson publishes regularly on mental health issues.

Here’s why she calls herself, “a proud crazy guinea pig lady”…

Ashley’s favorite photo of herself with one of her adorable little ones!

“Thank Goodness For My Thera-Piggies,” by Ashley L. Peterson of MentalHealthAtHome.org

I am a crazy guinea pig lady. Crazy in more ways than one.

The most obvious, perhaps, is that I have 5 guinea pigs (3 girls and 2 boys), and I treat them like my children.

What may be less obvious is that I’m crazy in a mentally ill sense. I have depression that only partially responds to treatment, so I deal with effects of the illness every single day.

I take medication and do various other things to manage my illness, but my guinea pigs are an important part of my overall wellness.

I live alone, and my illness has made it difficult to be around other people, so I’m on my own a lot of the time – at least in terms of human contact. But I’m never actually alone when I’m at home because I have 5 very active, very vocal munchkins to keep me company.

Photo of one of Ashley L. Peterson's guinea pigs, a white furry one.
“Cute” doesn’t begin to describe Ashley’s gorgeous guinea pigs!

Routine helps me manage each day, and the piggies thrive on routine. I have a rather odd sleep schedule, which they’ve adapted to quite happily. They know that when I wake up, they get fed, so as soon as they hear me start rustling around in bed, they start wheeking (an onomatopoeic word for their “feed me” noise). It’s a pretty good motivator to get my butt out of bed.

Ashley’s pets are truly adorable!

I prefer to practice mindfulness focused outwardly rather than inwardly, and my piggies are a perfect target for that. I can just gaze at them in fascination as my mind just shuts off.

More than anything, though, they need me. They’re very good at making their needs known, and they know that I can be counted on to meet them, no matter how lousy I’m feeling. Because of that, I mean the world to them. It’s definitely mutual.

Each of us is precious…

Hidden Life of Vanished by Mark Bierman w Podcast Audio Version

Close up of "Vanished," cover, an action/thriller by Mark Bierman.

The Hidden Life of, “Vanished,” a novel by Mark Bierman Happiness Between Tails

#Authors #Books #HumanTrafficking #Haiti #Writing #Canada Ever feel like your attempt to help the world is insignificant? When Mark Bierman, an author/blogger from Ontario, began to write an action/thriller, he found his subject ran deeper and broader than human trafficking. Within the horror, he discovered a message of hope. Do you believe a book can evolve beyond the author’s original dream for it? Your questions, thoughts, and/or experiences are welcome here. Record them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee: buymeacoffee.com/SupportHBT Time Stamps: HBT introduction 1:00 Today’s topic and about today’s guest 1:05 The Hidden Life of “Vanished,” a novel by Mark Bierman 3:18 My question for you 7:25 HBT outro Links used for the HBT blog post of this episode: The blog post for this episode includes photos and links to more info. Blogger/author Mark Bierman’s site includes his contact and book info. My own literary-novel-in-progress, “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat,” is a love letter to all who believe they’re too old, young, broken, lost, too whatever for love. — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Click H-E-R-E for my podcast page at AnchorFM. This week’s episode is the audio version of Mark Bierman’s guest blog post below.

At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotify and Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and apple music and more, plus an RSS feed. The full list of 50+ places is here.

Who knows what inspires someone to write a novel? Even authors don’t always until much later. My own literary-novel-in-progress, “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat,” seemed merely an experiment, a dive into fiction. Only as it progressed did I see it’s really a love letter to all who believe they’re too old, young, broken, lost, too whatever for love…

So when it comes to producing a novel, there’s deciding to write, then comes writing, and then it’s published. At that point, the author releases their words into the world for book lovers to make of them what they will. Every reader brings themself into the act of sitting with a story.

Here blogger/author Mark Bierman (click here for his site, where you can find his book and contact him) reveals what he’s learned about the writing process and readers. Born and raised on a farm in Ontario, Canada, he merges country life with his adult experiences as a correctional officer and a story teller. You can find more of his guest posts for Happiness Between Tails here and here.

Vanished by Mark Bierman cover.

The Hidden Life of “Vanished,” a novel by Mark Bierman

A few weeks ago, I was reading over some of the newer reviews and comments of my novel Vanished. I noticed some understandable trepidation among a few of those who hadn’t read the book. In response, I’ve decided to write this post, explaining the origins of the book, and why I wrote it.

First, though, I wish to thank all of those who took a chance on me, readers who cracked the pages, in spite of the subject matter. I really appreciate you, and I know it couldn’t have been easy to start.

Here’s a quick synopsis

Driven to despair by a shared loss, Americans John Webster and Tyler Montgomery try to self-medicate by embarking on a mission of goodwill to earthquake-ravaged Haiti. The reconstruction of an orphanage transforms into a nightmarish hunt after a young girl is kidnapped.

Unequipped, culturally illiterate, and alone, the pair are forced into alliances with shifty characters, as they delve deeper into the treacherous underbelly of the human trafficking world. Can they survive long enough to keep their promise to the child’s mother?

I want to clarify what is NOT in this book; rape, gore, excessive violence (yes, there is violence, but no more than any other action/thriller), injury or death to animals, pedophilia. You only need to ask someone who’s read the book, I’m confident they will attest to this.

If you asked me, ten years ago, to write a book about human trafficking, I would have declared you insane. Times, and people, change.

The truth is, initially, there was no intention of broaching the subject. I wanted to write about Haiti.

You see, my father, upon whom one of the main characters, John Webster, is loosely based, would volunteer to help build homes, churches, and other projects. I remember well, the photos showing the difficult living conditions. There were also the stories, none of which included human trafficking. There are bits and pieces in the novel that were gleaned from his experiences.

The second main character, Tyler Montgomery, is loosely based on my brother-in-law. The pair actually did make a trip to post-earthquake Haiti, back in October of 2010. I asked if they’d be willing to make a journal of their experiences.

So, here we come to the reasons behind Vanished. Over the years, I’ve been understandably and justifiably questioned as to my choice of topic. In the early days, I always delivered a simple and pat answer about a desire to promote awareness. If a problem is ignored, what hope is there to solve it? At the time, I truly believed my answer to be complete. Cut and dried, no further explanation needed.

I often mention that 50% of the proceeds are donated to help victims of human trafficking, which they are, and I hope I don’t sound like I’m touting my own horn. That is not my intent.

Yes, all of this is true. However, and this may sound strange, I’ve only recently come to realize it’s not the whole truth. Please let me explain.

Those who are familiar with me, know that I’ve spent the last twenty-plus years working as a Correctional Officer in maximum and medium security prisons.

Novelist/blogger Mark Bierman.
Novelist/blogger Mark Bierman.

The last max. was Kingston Penitentiary, which opened in 1835 and closed in 2013. It’s now a tourist attraction. I was one of the last to work there. Shortly afterwards, I was transferred to a medium level prison.

This blog is not evolving into a prison tale. My career was mentioned because I want to help you understand where I’m coming from. I also want to emphasize that Hollywood and the news are entities that thrive on sensationalism, because it sells.

I’ve encountered many traumatic experiences and looked into the midnight eyes of those who looked through, rather than at you. We called them dead eyes.

Fortunately, these are not the majority of inmates. There are some who’ve led normal lives until something triggered them to act in uncharacteristic ways. What you also had were many cases of psychological and drug addiction issues. Oh, and yes, plenty of the inhabitants had committed unspeakable acts of evil. I’ll spare you the details.

Of course, it wasn’t all bad. I’ve worked with some great staff and have had my share of laughs. I appreciated the strong bonds that developed between my peers. It’s inevitable when you place your life in someone’s hands, and they put theirs in yours.

I apologize if I’m rambling, but it was necessary to give some background into what made my brain tick when I wrote this book.

It took a diagnosis of PTSD, months of treatment, support, and deep reflection, to unravel the ‘other’ reasons for the birth of Vanished.

I have come to grasp the fact that it was also a product of a mind that sought to survive and heal. To find a state of homeostasis and make sense of the tragic and unfathomable.

The famous line from the movie, Saving Private Ryan, often comes to mind. Captain Millar and the Sergeant are discussing the personal cost of getting Ryan home. One of them says: “Someday, we might look back on this, and decide that saving Private Ryan was the one decent thing we were able to pull out of this whole Godawful, shitty mess.”

I’m not comparing myself to these brave warriors, but these are my sentiments, exactly.

The brain is extremely powerful, and I believe that it sensed something was wrong all those years ago, though my conscious mind was oblivious. It’s the frog in a boiling pot analogy. I was being cooked alive, and I didn’t even realize.        

The characters do represent, superficially, my family members. At a deeper level, they are avatars of my hope. Hope for something better, for this world, myself, and my loved ones.

Spoiler alert, Tyler struggles with mental health issues. The issue was approached from a Stephen King angle because I grew up reading his work.

At the time, I thought it was just a nod to the famous writer, but it’s become clear that my subconscious had put out a 911 call for help. In some ways, I’m Tyler.

Right now, more than ever, the world is hurting. I don’t know your personal stories, but I can sense from many of the comments, that anxiety and a sense of hopelessness rule the day.

Let me tell you, there is always hope. I want to assure you that you are not alone. I, along with many others, have been where you are. I’m on the mend, and my family is getting there, too. I cannot reiterate this enough: there is always hope.

Whenever a crisis arises, there are always those who step up and perform selfless acts. I refer to those as helpers. Look around, you’ll find them everywhere. You know what? Look in the mirror and you’ll see one up close.

Don’t believe me? Listen, if you’ve ever retweeted a post, shared a kind word on a blog, shared a blog, hosted, bought a book, read, and reviewed, made someone laugh or provided information, beta read… you get the picture, then you are a helper.

Yes, those dedicated people who work in the healthcare industry certainly fall into this category. There are so many others, unsung, and unnoticed. They go about the business of helping.

John and Tyler are much more than characters in a book, and the plot is deeper and broader than human trafficking. There is an ugly side to it, just as there is in life, but there is also a positive message. It’s about becoming a helper, doing whatever is within your capacity to make a positive impact, even if it’s just one person.

This is the true spirit of Vanished.

Here’s info at my site about how one woman works to help victims of human trafficking.

Do you believe a book can evolve beyond the author’s dream for it?

Vote + amazon music + Podcast: Hope for the Future by David Hunt

Heading over a picture of a VOTE button.

Hope for the Future by David Hunt Happiness Between Tails

#AIDS #Health #History #CDC #LGBTQ+ What do know about when AIDS was first diagnosed in the early 1980s? David Hunt, a radio journalist at the time, shares his experiences. Share your thoughts, experiences, and questions by recording them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee at http://buymeacoffee.com/SupportHBT Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Intro to today’s topic and guest 1:05 Hope for the Future by David Hunt My question for you HBT outro Links used for the HBT blog post of this episode: Original blog post for this episode at Happiness Between Tails. About my own novels in progress. David Hunt’s website Check out the Happiness Between Tails blog post for this show to see a still from the video that David and I produced. — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Click H-E-R-E for my new podcast page at AnchorFM. Today’s show features the podcast/audio version of Hope for the Future by David Hunt. The text version comprises the second half of today’s blog post.

At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotify and Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and more, plus an RSS feed. The full list of 50+ places is at LinkTree.

Voting day is right around the corner. Readers and writers, please don’t throw away your voice. Fortunately, there’s still time to make it easy on yourself. Vote by mail! I just did.

Rev up your keyboards and pens and lips — tell every single politically like-minded connection you have to vote and to do it immediately before they find themselves too busy or too absent-minded!

Most of my decisions were easy. 1) Naturally, I’m pro-choice, and 2), whenever possible, I support candidates least likely to give an inch to our ex-ogre, errm I mean former president.

Besides voting, this week I’ve been progressing with learning about podcasting. Since my show’s start a little over a year ago, it’s been on amazon music (and a bunch of other places, as listed at the top of this post). Have you ever reached out to someone or somewhere and, when they took 10+ months to reply, you could’nt remember why you did? In this case, amazon music has a free bonus for podcasters, though I’m murky about particulars…

No matter. Since this show is for me to practice and learn, I did as they asked. Here’s the advert they requested, highlighting that Happiness Between Tails podcast streams on amazon music…

Upon receipt, they quickly (wow!) emailed back that it looked good (double wow!), and asked which of their music genres to aire the commercial on. Umm… I asked them if they have analytics on which attract dear blog-sphere folks like you. But, now hoping they won’t take another ten months to get back to me.

What genre of music do you listen to? Do you ever listen on amazon music?

Dunno how many free times this ad will air, when, and so forth. Will keep you posted if I learn more.

Now that we’ve all voted (yes?), today’s guest blog post is by David Hunt. He also contributed here too. Basically, we met as infants, working at a car rental at LAX. Since then, together we’ve traversed many winding roads.

Voting in mind (and again, tell your friends to be like you and me and get out their black pens to vote now), wouldn’t it be great if our votes resulted in supporting great workers like those at the fore of HIV/AIDS?

Hope for the Future by David Hunt

Thirty-five years ago this month the CDC warned about a troubling outbreak of Pneumocystis pneumonia in five otherwise healthy young, gay men in California. Later that summer, when I reported on the outbreak for radio station KPFK, the number of cases had grown to 41, including 6 in California and 20 in New York. And, in addition to the rare form of pneumonia, gay men were starting to come down with a rare form of cancer and other opportunistic infections. By the end of the year, this new disease, later called AIDS, would claim 121 lives.

Clinical immunologist Joseph Church at Children’s Hospital L.A. with a young HIV-positive patient in 1992. From “Hope for the Future,” produced by David Hunt and Daal Praderas.
Clinical immunologist Joseph Church at Children’s Hospital L.A. with a young HIV-positive patient in 1992. From “Hope for the Future,” produced by David Hunt and Daal Praderas.

I don’t suppose anyone who covered the early years of the AIDS epidemic came away untouched. I’ll never forget Robert Bland’s soft brown eyes and calm determination to serve as “an AIDS guinea pig,” even as he acknowledged that a cure would surely come long after his own death. Or the button imprinted with the defiant message “I Will Survive” that San Francisco AIDS activist Bobbi Campbell proudly wore right up until his death in 1984. Or the scathing criticism gay journalist Randy Shilts leveled at bathhouse owners who refused to provide their customers with condoms or educational materials. Courage, defiance and anger; like the stages of grief, these came to symbolize for me the stages of AIDS activism. To be honest, fear was there, too, just below the surface.

Expanding Epidemic

By the time I began working as a video producer in 1985 the AIDS epidemic had expanded beyond the gay community, and now affected people of color, teens, women and even infants and children. An educational video I co-produced for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles in 1992-93 told the stories of three families struggling to deal with AIDS. it featured a 12-year-old boy, a 4-year-old girl (pictured above) and a baby boy. The message of the video, targeted to the parents and caregivers of children with HIV/AIDS, was not to give up hope, that new drug therapies were being tested and would soon be available. We titled the video “Hope for the Future.”

I don’t know if any of the children on the video survived long enough to benefit from the new drug cocktails that eventually made AIDS a largely manageable disease. I heard that the baby died shortly after we finished production. One thing you learn in an epidemic is to ration the amount of grief you have to handle at a given time. While I’d love to see those kids grown up and healthy, I’m not ready to face the other possibility.

If anybody’s still counting, AIDS has claimed more than 35 million lives worldwide since 1981.

David Hunt’s blog
More about the initial outbreak... and more.
Pediatric AIDS then and now.

Have you voted? And what genre of music do you listen to? Is it on amazon music?

Smut + L Marchell: Afterlife + Podcast: N Cotticollan Self-Published

Blog title over photo of blog guest Lori Marchell and a black labrador dog.

Writing & Self-Publishing in South India: Nadira Cotticollan Happiness Between Tails

#NovelWriting #SelfPublishing #Authors #India What’s your experience with buying or publishing self-published novels? Got questions, thoughts, and/or experiences to share about writing and publishing? Record them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me and buymeacoffee.com/SupportHBT Extended version of this episode, including photos and links, at: HappinessBetweenTails.com Time Stamps (these are approximations due to whether ads play during show): Happiness Between Tails introduction da-AL discusses today’s topic and tells a bit about today’s guest 1:07 Nadira Cotticollan shares her experience 2:06 This episode’s question with info on how to comment, and learn more about Nadira and da-AL 7:07 — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Click H-E-R-E for my new podcast page at AnchorFM. This week’s show is Writing & Self-Publishing in South India: Nadira Cotticollan, which you can also read the blog post for.

At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotify and Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and more, plus an RSS feed. The full list of 50+ places is at LinkTree.

Do you believe an afterlife exists? Today holds more than enough for me to agonize over… though sure it would be nice if my dearly departed ones dropped by now and again… if I’m going to consider that, should I dwell on how I’ll be remembered?…

Last week, when I mentioned a “dirty” (what is “dirty”?) book, Bojana (a great writer with a wonderful personal blog — maybe if you ask her nicely in the comments below, she’ll let you in?) enlightened me about James Joyce. The author is so revered that I want to read his tome called Ulysses, but even his own adoring wife wished his books were easier to get through. 

Thanks to Bojana, I now see he also wrote some pretty easy-to-understand stuff. After he and his beloved wife passed away, some of his letters to her were discovered inside of the sleeve of an old coat. They were odes to loving his wife — in the context of explicit sex.

Obviously, they were meant only for her eyes.

Author James Joyce and his wife, Nora Barnacle.
Author James Joyce and his wife, Nora Barnacle.

Years later, the aftershocks continue of publicizing them. To name only a handful of the issues they bring up, there’s everyone sensationalizing them, the public’s far-ranging reactions, the fact that writers can and do experiment with many kinds of writing… questions like whether it’s important or mere avarice to reveal private details of people once they’re dead.. and if it’s okay to do with some, how do we differentiate?… 

Note: proceed at your own discretion.

You can read them

Or you can listen and see some photos of the clothed couple looking staid…

Today’s guest, Lori D. Marchell, is an artist of many talents and lives in Southern California. She also works in the healing arts…

Chert Dog’s Greatest Gift: Quantum Leaps of Faith, a synopsis by Lori D. Marchell

Chert Dog came into my dad’s life after the sudden passing of my mom. In his book entitled “My Father’s Greatest Gift: Life Lessons From A Black English Labrador Retriever,” he conveys his mission and purpose as to bring unconditional love and forgiveness to all he encounters with the main objective in healing my dad’s broken heart. This Black English Labrador Retriever accomplished this in his 14 years life span. 

With Chert’s deep inspiration and connection to Spirit, he came to me in a dream three months after he crossed over and asked me to walk to watershed where the cover photograph of his book was taken. After walking around the park, as I began to leave, I heard a crying sound. When I approached the tall tree where this sound was coming from, I looked up and a yellow and white kitten was crying for help. After over an hour and a half, the kitten finally listened to me asking it to jump to a lower branch where I could reach him and that is where Jaco’s story begins.

Jaco Kitty has five toes on all four paws, with actual thumbs on his two front paws. His healing energy and leaps of faith into all areas of his life have taught me about the importance of listening to your intuition and taking on new adventures. Through his growing-up years he has taught me about standing up for myself and making new friends which brings in Tigger. About a year ago, Tigger, a brown and white tiger cat began visiting Jaco. Through a gradual bonding process, Tigger and Jaco are now best buddies. And added to this, Tigger’s family have become friends as well.

Check out my website, where you’ll find links to my father’s book and videos of Chert Dog’s and Jaco Kitty’s original piano music theme songs, along with various excerpts of their stories on my blog.

Whose life do you think is fair game for public exposure after they die?

My Audition Video + Podcast: Pigeons Rock by Novelist K. Rooney

Freeze frame of da-AL from audition video.
Freeze frame from my audition video for pilot of America’s Next Great Author.

16 Reasons Pigeons Need Celebrating by Novelist Kathleen Rooney Happiness Between Tails

#Authors #Pigeons #WorldWarI #Books #Writing Do you like pigeons? (It’s ok if you didn’t before this episode.) Novelist Kathleen Rooney’s historical fiction novel called, Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey features real-life heroic pigeon! Share your thoughts, experiences, and questions by recording them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee. buymeacoffee.com/SupportHBT Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Intro to today’s topic and guest 1:05 16 Reasons Pigeons Need Celebrating by Novelist Kathleen Rooney My question for you HBT outro Links used for the HBT blog post of this episode: Original blog post for this episode at Happiness Between Tails. About my own novels in progress. Follow Kathleen Rooney at @KathleenMRooney Photos available at the HBT post for this show: Kathleen with her book and a pigeon friend. Cher Ami, WWI heroine, at the Smithsonian. Pigeon couple, Coo d’Etat and Walter Pigeon, at Kathleen’s home. Coo and Walter's babies, Feather Locklear and Molly Wingwald, under Kathleen’s eaves. — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Click H-E-R-E for my new podcast page at AnchorFM. This week’s episode is the audio version of Novelist Kathleen Rooney’s post here, “16 Reasons to Celebrate Pigeons.”

At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotify and Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and more, plus an RSS feed. The full list of 50+ places is at LinkTree.

Progress — oh, you thrilling and unhinging thing — I finished writing my book, yes, I started recording an audio version via a compact homemade audiobooth (thank you, Mother Nature, for cooler days), and then there were setbacks of sorts.

All last week, I couldn’t figure out why, oh, why, my voice sounded hollow and flat on the audio recordings. Each day, I made changes that improved the sound, but only a little. When I was ready to chalk it off as “that’s just how I sound,” I hit on tweaks that, thank the goddesses, made the needed difference.

Yay! But — what a sinking feeling, too — should I or shouldn’t I start all over and re-record everything? Ugh… the idea of putting in all those days again…

Monday morning I awoke in a “give ‘em hell” frame of mind and took it from the top. I was rehearsed and felt not fully confident, but stronger. Whad’ya know, over that single day, I caught up to where I’d left off!

That same night, I got an email from Shut Up & Write. through Meetup. It was a call for entries for a TV pilot about writers.

Normally, I click contest notices into the junk bin. This time I actually opened the email, read it, and decided, “Okay!” Call me masochistic? Ordinarily sure, but in this case, much of the attraction was that the deadline was in two days, meaning I would give it my best shot without torturing myself for an extended period. Moreover, I now have the video to use here and to show you!

Besides a very specific type of video, they asked for a brief autobiography, a synopsis of the novel, and the first ten pages. Mind you, I am very-very protective of my novels. Fortunately, these people appear quite legit and they didn’t ask for a social security number, a bank account, or any other suspect info.

The TV show/pilot is called America’s Next Great Author, which the producers liken to The Great British Baking Show, in terms of goodwill among participants and all involved. All the people in charge are authors who’ve published many books as well as carved out careers of teaching others to publish.

Anything to do with authors, especially of fiction, I’m all over, so I wish them the best of luck, with or without me.

Here’s what I put together after countless attempts. I also tried to somewhat pretty up the finished clip for you, in terms of color and sound correcting, and adding titling. Dang though, no matter what I did, iMovie muted the ending, so this is it in its unvarnished glory (and I cringe each time I watch it, wish I had time for yet another take). If you want to follow along, the script follows beneath this YouTube window…

Script to the above audition for America’s Next Great Author

(ANGA’s pitch video strict instructions: 1:15 maxm and must include, in this order: name, where from, catchy autobio detail, book pitch.)

Hello, my name is da-AL, which is spelled d-a-A-L. I’m from many places and currently reside in Los Angeles.


Most people are interested to know that my father invented my name. And — that no one else on this planet shares it.

Okay, now let’s get to my novel!

Flamenco & the Sitting Cat is my love letter to anyone who thinks they’re too broken, too old, too whatever to find happiness.

In it, heart-cynical Lali Catala shows how every single one of us, at all our many coming-of-ages, deserves happiness, with others and alone.
Closing on forty, her career as a journalist is bombing.

She aches for a life partner. However, the mere mention of the love-deadening convention called matrimony gives her hives.

She’s so lonely that she’s even writing to Abuela, her deceased grandmother.

Whad’ya know, Abuela answers!

How do you feel about writing competitions?

DIY Amends + A. Bailey’s Book Sites + Podcast: L. Akiyama Published

Award-winning contemporary romance writer Andrya Bailey scouts a site in Athens.
Award-winning contemporary romance writer Andrya Bailey scouts a site in Athens.

How I Got Published (Big Time) by Lance Akiyama Happiness Between Tails

#Authors #Books #Publishing #Learning #Crafts Have you published a book? Lance Akiyama got a big publishing house to put out four of his. Share your thoughts, experiences, and questions by recording them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee. buymeacoffee.com/SupportHBT Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Intro to today’s topic and guest 1:05 How I Got Published (Big Time) by Lance Akiyama My question for you HBT outro Links used for the HBT blog post of this episode: Original blog post for this episode at Happiness Between Tails. About my own novels in progress. Lance Akiyama Photos available at the HBT post for this show: Lance Akiyama. Cover of one of his books, “Duct Tape Engineer.” — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Apologies in advance to you, dear reader, if this post’s intro is choppy with the rawness of my jangled nerves. The writing that follows (by the way, here’s about my novels-in-progress) won’t involve names or pertinent exposing facts — it’s just me trying to eek some good out of something upsetting. Scant hours ago, right after I’d taken a shower, someone apologized for a terrible thing they did to me a long ago. Now I could use another shower.

How to give an apology in 3 easy steps:

  1. Don’t phone your victim… er hem person… to do it unless there’s plenty of time to converse.  Don’t ask if they’ve got time to talk and if they only have ten minutes, just sob and blow through it. Not if you’re sincere about wanting to help the other person rather than merely unburden yourself.
  2. Stay humble and on-topic. Don’t tell them how terrible you feel for all the bad turns you assume resulted in their life from the bad thing you did. Neither inflate your importance, nor imply the person is living a messed up life — that’s not apologizing, it’s condescending.
  3. Remember you’re apologizing to help (or should be) the person you wronged. Don’t bother if your mind is on simply assuaging your own guilt.

7 more steps can show you mean it:

  1. Heed #1 above by listening to their response with an open heart and mind.
  2. Get to the point without the person having to dig for what you are referring to.
  3. You can ask them if there’s something they’d like from you.
  4. Better yet, say you wish you’d never done it and you’ll never (I hope) do it again to them or anyone else.
  5. Don’t get angry back if they get angry.
  6. Don’t later contradict your apology in any way, shape, or form.

I get that apologies are difficult and messy. Of course, I accepted this one and am grateful for it. Still, now I feel bad for feeling bad…

How have apologies made you feel?…

Today’s guest is award-winning contemporary romance writer Andrya Bailey. Since childhood, she yearned for the writing life. Years of writing later, she entered a manuscript contest. No, she didn’t win the actual competition. However, she won by having a novel she later self-published! A poetry book followed, and so did short stories, anthologies, journals, more contests, and a romance trilogy. Today she’s published by one of the 5th best publishing houses in Houston, and a press in Greece!

Researching Location for Contemporary Fiction Books by Andrya Bailey

When I started writing a romance trilogy, I knew that, since one character was Greek, the couple would eventually end up in Greece. I hadn’t been to Greece yet, even though it was a place I’d always dreamed of.

Poseidon Temple in Cape Sounion, Greece, another location I researched for Olympian Heartbreak: Book 2. Photo by Andrya Bailey.
Poseidon Temple in Cape Sounion, Greece, another location I researched for Olympian Heartbreak: Book 2. Photo by Andrya Bailey.

I knew I’d have to resort to internet research to describe the locations for the contemporary tale.

The primary location of the first book was Houston, TX, where I live.

San Antonio, TX, where novelist Andrya Bailey lives, features prominently in Olympian Passion: Book 1.
San Antonio, TX, where novelist Andrya Bailey lives, features prominently in Olympian Passion: Book 1.

As the book progressed, I recognized that being onsite gave me an advantage on how to describe the places. Instead of doing research on the internet, visiting a place you’re writing about brings forth senses you otherwise wouldn’t notice. For example: smells, sounds, sights and the total atmosphere which you can’t fully capture if you’re just looking at pictures. It also brings forth the emotions you feel and can instill in your characters. Thus, more “show” rather than “tell” in your story.

The primary location of the second book was Athens. When I took a trip to Greece, I had already finished the manuscript but it wasn’t published yet. It was a great opportunity to test the research I did online. I wanted to see if what I described was up to par with the actual places.

The research had been great. But seeing the places in person – it’s a cliché here – “it was priceless”. Did I change anything after the trip? Yes. Once I experienced firsthand the colors, sounds, tastes, the culture and personalities, it was easier to edit the story to reflect those senses. Not only that, but some details that may not be observable while researching online. For example, in one chapter, our Greek hero takes his beloved to a specific restaurant. She’s presented with a menu in Greek and, not being able to read Greek, she asks him to order whatever he thinks she’d like. When I went to that same restaurant, though, I noticed the menu was both in English and Greek. This is the case for most of the restaurants in big cities, such as Athens. So, I changed the narrative to reflect that. Since the choices on the menu overwhelmed her, she asked her hero to choose whatever he thought she’d like. The outcome was the same, but the detail was important enough to ensure she could read the menu in English. It all came to accuracy.

Andrya researched Koulos Fort in Crete her Olympian Love: Book 3.
Andrya researched Koulos Fort in Crete her Olympian Love: Book 3.

Here’s an excerpt of when the heroine arrives at the airport in Athens, according to my experience (from Olympian Heartbreak):

“As we stepped out of the airport terminal into the passenger pickup area to wait for our transportation to the hotel, smog and fumes from the hectic Athens’ traffic assaulted me. A hot, humid breeze carried along the sounds of car horns, police whistles, sirens, blasting radios, and tumultuous voices speaking a language I didn’t understand. Compact cars in the convoluted traffic and harried pedestrians smoking and talking on their cells completed this assault on my senses. Not what I had expected Athens to be like. It was overwhelming in an exotic way. I inhaled and took in the myriad of colors, sounds, and smells as a welcome change which would only enrich my life. And I hoped to have my god waiting for me at the other side of this archaeologically modern rainbow.”

I was fortunate to travel before the book publication. According to my travel experience, I edited the location details to make them more accurate. And I’m thankful we can resort to online research and books to find out more about the subject we’re writing about when traveling is not possible. 

There’s another valuable and important resource to ensure accuracy while describing places we haven’t been to or can’t travel to. You can ask a person from the country for their feedback when in doubt about the cultural and local traditions. Finding a reliable local source can be of utmost importance to understand how their behavior can be exhibited in certain settings. I looked for local Greek teachers and historians to proofread the manuscripts. It ensured an accurate portrayal not only of their country and culture but also of their people. As a result, a Greek publisher accepted the trilogy for publication. Their editors were very pleased with the way I represented their country and culture in the story.

Although it can be costly and time-consuming, onsite and in person research can greatly enhance your perception of the place you’re writing about, and you’ll also have wonderful memories of a great vacation (and an excuse to travel more!).

Do you have a fave locale for fiction? And how have apologies made you feel?…

Tango Videos + C.Hall Audiobook + Podcast: Healthy Carrot Cake

Screenshot from video of Khashayar and da-AL dancing Argentine Tango, un-choreographed.
Screenshot from video of Khashayar and da-AL dancing Argentine Tango, un-choreographed.

Carrot Delight Cake: a Healthier Recipe by Khashayar Happiness Between Tails

Check out my podcast! It’s hosted by AnchorFM. There you’ll find the audio version of “Our COVID + Carrot Delight Cake Healthier Recipe by Khashayar.” The Anchor.fm page also features links to subscribe, hear, and share shows via most any platform, from Spotifyand Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and more, plus an RSS feed. Here’s the full list of 50+ places.

Note: Check out the audio/podcast version of Chris Hall’s guest blog post that follows below.

This week I had time to work on my novels. Yay! I’m also happy to report that my husband and I danced. The Covid quarantine put our tanging on hold. As much as we missed it, we were even more eager to see our dancing friends at last. Pre-Covid, a number of fellow students gathered several times a year for potluck and dance ranging from belly and flamenco, to tango and folk.

Good news regarding my learning to podcast: since the audio version of author/blogger Judith Barrow’s guest blog post about how she got published aired recently, I used Headliner to produce a full-length video version of it.

Khashayar and I performed two tangos for our friends last weekend. To be safe, the event was outdoors and only included friends who were vaccinated. Over the Covid interim, my hair had grown so long that during rehearsal, it got stuck in his armpit. The morning of the show, I whacked 4” of it off. When we performed for real, I was so out of shape and unaccustomed to wearing heels that my calves were cramping. All the same, the whole night was truly heartwarming and fun!

We began with a classic tango, un-choreographed as is the tradition for authentic Argentine tango…

Later we performed a milonga style Argentine tango, also not pre-choreographed, so as to adhere to convention… 

Back to the subject of books — do you listen to audiobooks? I’m obsessed with them. It’s amazing how quickly moments of listening during cooking, washing dishes, sweeping, driving, exercising, brushing my teeth, and walking my dog add up to a whole book!

Author/blogger Chris Hall, who has guested here before, just produced an audiobook! She calls herself a compulsive story-teller, a cat slave, and a hen keeper who hales from England and lives in South Africa with her artist husband. Lately she’s finishing the sequel to her novel, “Song of the Sea Goddess.” Visit her blog to read her flash fiction and poems.

In her recounting of the process she used to convert her novel into an audiobook, she includes helpful links, as well as where to hear a sample of it…

Graphic describing how "Song of the Sea Goddess" is available as an audiobook.

“The Rise of the Audiobook” by Chris Hall

Audiobooks are becoming more mainstream, most growth coming from people using technology to find more time in their day to consume more books”.
Chris Lynch, Simon & Schuster Audio.

Audiobooks have been around for almost a century in one form or another, although it was only in the 1990s that the advent of digitized recording technology saw audiobooks take off. They’re a boon for people with visual impairments and those who have difficulty with holding a book or e-reader. Or those who don’t get on with processing the written word but still love stories. And of course, they’re great for busy people who like to multi-task, all those artists and crafters, bakers, cooks and wielders of needles I know! From my hairdresser to my podiatrist, I’ve found people who love to listen to audiobooks.

There is also the opportunity to reach a brand new, younger audience. The ‘Podcast Generation’, the 18-24 year age group, are increasingly listening to audiobooks, and these are not a traditional book buying group. Plugged into their smartphones, they consume their stories on the go.

Increasingly aware of the appetite for creating audio offerings amongst some of the folk I know here on WP, where more people are converting their posts to podcasts, producing their own podcasts, and generally getting to grips with ‘all things audio’, I decided to dip my toe in the water and make an audiobook.

But which of my novels to choose?…

I decided on my most recently published novel, Song of the Sea Goddess. It’s the first book I’ve written set in South Africa, my adopted country, where in my experience, people are less wedded to the written word, but love their listening devices. It’s a book that I hope will appeal to both a local and a global audience.

Song of the Sea Goddess combines fantasy and magical realism, and contains elements of an eco-thriller. Key themes include man’s avarice and arrogance, and the human threat to the environment and to earth’s creatures (both real and imaginary). Written not long after Cape Town almost ran out of drinking water a couple of years ago, it also touches on the thirst for water experienced in many parts of Africa.

But it’s not all gloom and doom. My novel is populated by a small cast of quirky and humorous characters who reside in the charming little coastal town that I created for them, an imaginary place on the beautiful west coast of South Africa. They’re a great bunch to get to know, and very relatable to a local audience.

Author Chris Hall.
Author Chris Hall.

So, to the process of producing an audiobook…

A little online research led me to make my first decision: I had to find a good narrator. Even if I had that magical ‘voice for radio’, it’s a mammoth task to read and record an entire novel. Nor do I have the equipment or the skill to make a professional digital recording, and I can only imagine how many times I’d need to stop to silence my very opinionated cat! But, by great good fortune one of the teachers with whom my husband used to work is also a voice actor. I asked him to drop her an email.

Voice actor Terry Lloyd Roberts was happy to take on the project and in turn, she introduced me to Devon Martindale, Director at Audioshelf, a South African company dedicated to the production of audiobooks. From then on making the recording was easy. All I had to do was send them the manuscript and they’d do the rest. Over the next month, I received a chunk of chapters to review each week. Listening to the recordings made by Devon and golden-voiced Terry was an absolute delight. It couldn’t have been easier. You can listen to a sample here.

Armed with the finished recording, finding a platform on which to publish was the next step. Being in South Africa closes off many avenues (don’t get me started) and I was disappointed to find that ‘big names’ like ACX were ‘not available in your geographical location’. However, Devon came to the rescue and recommended Authors Republic who offer audiobook publishing and distribution worldwide.

After signing up, completing a US tax form, and adding my paypal account details, all that remained was to fill in the book details, load up the cover pic and upload the audio files, which had been perfectly prepared by Audioshelf, then finally set the price, although the distributors have the right to amend this to fit their pricing profile.

Just two weeks later, my audiobook was available via all the major audiobook retailers, including the ones unavailable to me in South Africa, like Audible and Chirp. It was also published on Amazon, alongside the e-book and paperback, which I’d been unable to do directly.

Bottom line: cost vs. sales…

Because of the time involved to read and record an entire novel, it is a relatively costly enterprise to engage a narrator and arrange the studio time. It cost me equivalent to a nice holiday! This of course, would have been drastically reduced if I’d done my own recording. 

Sales are paid quarterly by Authors Republic and I’m pleased to report that I earned more royalties from the audiobook than the combined paperback and e-book sales in these first three months since publication. It might take a while (if ever) to make my money back, but it does give me the opportunity to reach a new audience. Having people enjoy what I’ve written is reward enough for me.

Would I do it again?…

Oh yes! Terry and Devon are about to start recording my adventure story for all ages, Following the Green Rabbit, which will be out in time for the coming festive holiday.

Do you listen to audiobooks? And is there something you’ve gotten rusty at due to Covid?

Grammar and Books and Toes + “I am a Tulpamancer” by Dr. Bob Newport

Grammar Matters:

“He told him that he loved him.” (Add “only” between the different words in that sentence to see how the meaning changes.)

“We never said I should kill him.” (One at a time, italicize each word to read how the emphasis changes.)

Photo of K-D doggie and da-AL's newly red-painted toes.

Courtesy of the COVID-19 quarantine, I’ve discovered the joy of working on my novels in the virtual company of others. MeetUp is a site that hosts free Shut Up & Write meetings (among other groups, including in-person ones). The sessions provide accountability and camaraderie. Shut Up & Write has many types of challenges and events. I prefer the basic virtuals; authors chat, write, chat some more, then maybe continue writing.

Before you read the essay below by fellow writer Dr. Bob, who I met on MeetUp, here are some new reviews I just wrote for Amazon and Goodreads:

Cover of the novel, "A Spark of Light," by Jodi Picoult.“A Spark of Light” by Jodi Picoult

When I blogged about anti-choice here, this novel was recommended by JoycesMysteryandFictionBookReviews.blog. Some reviewers at Amazon complain that it’s too pro-choice, to which I argue au contraire. Picoult’s story actually afforded me more compassion for those who are anti-choice.

Cover of the autobiographical book, "The Soul of a Woman," by Isabel Allende.“The Soul of a Woman” by Isabel Allende

Much as I adore some of Allende’s books and enjoy others, this was meh in places. The autobiographical parts were good. However, more vivid recounting could have “shown” rather than “told” and lent needed “soul” to her political musings that sometimes were wasted as preaching to the choir. Overall, though, it was worthwhile.

Cover of the novel, "Antiquities," by Cynthia Oziak.“Antiquities” by Cynthia Ozick

Since when do I try out an author based on their age alone? Since they’re over 90 and after a long career of accomplished publishing, they’re still at it! This finely nuanced book depicts how we can be wonderful and awful and sentimental and crude all rolled up into one.

Cover of "The Comfort Book," by Matt Haig.“The Comfort Book” by Matt Haig

His first book, “The Humans,” is sublime, so I’m amazed when he produces new novels even half as good. This book is altogether different, a non-fiction filled with bits about what comforts him. Thank you, Haig, for continually reminding us to hang on.

Cover of the novel, "Libertie," by Kaitlyn Greenwood.“Libertie” by Kaitlyn Greenridge

What would it be like to be black and live in a black community post-Civil War era, to be a girl whose mom is a black female doctor? Freedom, identity, gender, caste, and plain ole’ relationships stitch together the canvas of this well constructed tale.

Cover of "The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People," by Stephen R. Covey.“The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change,” by Stephen R. Covey

My fave nugget from this was his advice that we, “instead of using a map, use a compass,” when it comes to prioritizing. Unfortunate that right-wing religiousness and politics are deeply factored in.

Oh, and last time I mentioned my hair. I didn’t mean to appear vain, rather I meant to point out that it finally seems like life is sort of really kinda post-COVID19. In the photo at the start of this post, I’ve even painted my toes (thought K-D doggies isn’t that impressed), another first in two years!

Now onto our guest, Dr. Bob Newport. He blogs out of Los Angeles, and his self-published novel is available here for sale.

I don’t know whether I’ve got a magical side. Dr. Bob’s courage to seek his out and speak of her openly is truly admirable!…

Photo of author Dr. Bob Newport.
Photo of author Dr. Bob Newport.

“I am a Tulpamancer,” by Dr. Bob Newport

Don’t know what that is. Well you are in the vast majority of folks. We are a tiny group, who only have existence because of the internet. Prior to it’s existence, the very concept of tulpa, was known to only a few Tibetan Monks and a French woman, Alexandria David Neel. Ms. Neel lived at the turn of the twentieth century. She was an anthropologist who spent a dozen years in Tibet studying the culture. She became enthralled and took up meditation after becoming acquainted with a number of the luminaries at the time. She (as far as we know) was the first westerner to create a tulpa (a sprul-pa in the Tibetan language). She reports this in her book, Magic and Mysticism in Tibet. I got my copy from the L.A. Public Library. Published in 1919, it didn’t get to the U.S. until the 1940’s and didn’t get read until the internet came around and folks began to be intrigued by the possibility of creating their own magical creatures.

And, now you know what a tulpa is; a magical creature intentionally created by the tulpamancer, also known as a ‘thought-form’. Ms. Neel’s tulpa became so real, that he became a nuisance to her neighbors, and she had to terminate him.

Mine has appeared once in physical reality and only for a few seconds. As no one else was around, I can’t say whether or not, she would have been seen by anyone but me.  But I don’t care. She is real to me when we are able to connect . That is not often. I am not able to hold my concentration steady enough to maintain the contact. That takes practice. I have been at it since Dec. of 2018.

She, her name is Flora, first appeared in everyday consensual reality in March of 2019. She had been appearing in my dreams for some time. However, it was after her March debut that I really became excited by her, and she began to appear during my daily meditations. It was hard to hold my concentration because I became so excited, my heart would pound in my chest. I have worked on this and while I still become excited, I don’t let it distract me.

Shortly after Flora first appeared, I created N’sonowa (her full name; Katlego Kalisha N’sonowa, Il’oi-bonokoh of the black sisterhood) to fill out my desire for coming into direct contact with my ‘feminine current’, that part of my male psyche that in my life became encrusted with childhood traumas.

Cover of novel by Dr. Bob Newport, "Tulpa Tales."

This was my main reason for starting the practice. After discovering what it was about I realized that it could become a tool for repairing the damage I suffered at the hands of my mentally ill mother. I am not there yet. Not fully recovered, though I have made a great deal of improvement, more than decades of psychotherapy. But the difficulties I am having contacting her, suggest that I have more to do. It’s okay though, I have never shied from doing hard work and while I am not happy about having to do this ( neither is she and she lets me know when we do have a little time) I am going to do what it takes to give her a complete life. In the meantime, I do the practice daily and have enough contact to let me know she is still around and shares my goals for her.

Photo of author Dr. Bob Newport.
Photo of author Dr. Bob Newport.

She also has taken to writing. I have given her a page on my blog “Flora’s Own”  and this is currently the main way I have of knowing what she is up to. That and through my own writing, I have published one book, Tulpa Tales: Confessions of an Elder Tulpamancer and have two more in development. It might not surprise you to find that many tulpamancers are authors who find that their characters take on lives of their own and become tulpas. I was writing before tulpamancy, but the practice and the fact of my tulpas, have passionately motivated me to put them out in the world.  If this essay has at all interested you in finding out more, I keep a blog with my journal and the people at the Tulpa Community are very helpful.

About Publishing

In a nutshell self-publishing is easy if you can read instructions. Or, rather the instructions are easy to read, executing them is quite another story. I will hire someone to do the formatting in the future. As for the money. Kindle Direct Publishing (this is Amazon) pays about 30 cents of the dollar, for eBooks and the same less the printing cost on paperbacks. As the printing cost is proportional to the length of the book, my 184 page book selling at 9.99 yields about three dollars per sale.

In contrast, my wife gets $0.05 per sale of a $20 book. To be fair, her co-author, gets a nickel too. It costs me nothing to get mine out there, whereas she spent over 3k to have hers produced professionally. (There is something to be said for that  though; she has won awards and has been published in three languages.)

What are you reading? And have you discovered a magical side to you?

COVID Hair n Writing Life by da-AL + Pamela S. Wight’s Memoir

K-D doggie with da-AL, who just tried to dye her hair turquoise.
Was nature set on whimsey when she fashioned dog noses?

“What do writers do when they’re not writing?” That question flabbergasted me when I saw it on Quora, an interactive “ask and answer site.” In my case as a novelist, I wish I was outside-the-box enough to warrant such an inquiry. When I’m not writing, I’m fretting about not writing.

(For an audio version of this post, click H-E-R-E.)

When I’m not fretting, I’m reading or listening to audiobooks, spending time with loved friends and family, walking my doggie, eating, sleeping, gardening, and ruminating way too much on my hair, as you’ll read later.

Note regarding Happiness Between Tails podcast: Apple Podcasts is taking longer than usual to process submissions, so I will continue to keep you posted.

Regarding friends, look at the cool pen my dear pal, Patricia, gave me! (Btw, here’s a letter she wrote to you and me about her United States Marines recruit daughter, Rebekah Hyde, who’d love to get our postcards.) Patricia planned to gift me a mega-bling pen, but I snatched this instead. She appeared somewhat crestfallen, so I asked if she wanted it back, but she answered that she’d hoped to give me something pretty. Ah, I told her, thank you very much. However, how often do you come across a USMC Marine band pen? With a  revolving clicker that displays their website, phone number, and such?

The "President's Own" is the Marine band that accompanies the president everywhere.
The “President’s Own” is the Marine band that accompanies the president everywhere.

As for gardening, figs are coming in, kumquats are winding down, and so are tomatoes (here’s one of several posts they’ve figured into). “Wildlife” devoured the grapes. Despite K-D doggie’s best attempts, she has yet to de-populate our modest back yard of possums, rats, birds, and the figeater beetles who work their tiny gossamer wings very hard to fling their enormous green bodies into the soft fruits of our labors. (Btw, have you read “Miss Benson’s Beetle” by Rachel Joyce? So fun and so girl-power that it’s changed how I see beetles forever. Check out other books I like at my Goodreads page.)

It's fun to grow food.
It’s fun to grow food.

“Mirror, mirror on the wall,” here’s my hair short, before the COVID-19 quarantine hit. Sheesh, back then I had no inkling what the future would bring…

BC: Before COVID-19.
BC: Before COVID-19.

No one I know is happy about COVID-19, though my husband likes my newly long hair that resulted from not being able to get it cut during quarantine. It took a while to learn how to condition my hair to where it’s not a dried-out snarl. The photo at the very start of this post is an unveiling of sorts. It’s my hair yesterday, the day after I marinated it in temporary turquoise coloring. Admittedly, it now only looks a little darker.

All the aforementioned distractions and more are why I am especially impressed with writers who actually produce, and boy, does Pamela Wight produce! She’s an inspiration to me and I hope she’ll be one for you too. Here she was a Happiness Between Tails guest before. As you’ll read below, she’s a blogger (find all her social media links here, including for her books) who posts from Boston (though she’s from San Francisco), teaches, gives presentations, and publishes books for kids as well as adults. Also, she loves animals and values life’s simple moments. Read to the very end of her guest blog post to learn of her publishing journey…

Author Pamela Wight with her furry family, Charlie and Charlotte.
Author Pamela Wight with her furry family, Charlie and Charlotte.

“Memoir in a Flash” by Pamela S. Wight

As a writer of several genres — romantic suspense and children’s books — I thought that memoir was one genre I would never attempt.

Memoir is the stuff of hardship and life challenges. Memoirs often follow an individual who battles abuse/addiction/racial and sexual inequities/tribulations that eventually lead to triumph.

But ordinary me? What would I ever write about that made for an interesting “me” book?

But then, several of my blog followers began to suggest that I use my blog posts to create a fun memoir.

What? When I think of memoir, I don’t think of fun. I think of tragedy and hopelessness until the denouement, when hope and love are reestablished.

Cover of "Flashes of Life," by Pamela S. Wight.

Whoever heard of a light and easy memoir? A memoir of ordinary snippets about ordinary life? So I continued posting my fun everyday stories of a dog who barks longingly for pumpkin in his kibble, of an “elderly” grandmother who rollerblades with her eyes closed, of a fear of pedicures and of a scam gone wrong. Readers seem to delight in my honest discovery of the joys — and horrors — of babysitting grandbabies and of being horribly late for a brother’s wedding.

More blog readers and friends/strangers suggested I should compile these stories — those posted and those still filed away — into a book. 

Silly, I decided. Until I mentioned the silly idea to my publisher who immediately exclaimed: “A FLASH memoir! Perfect idea.”

I thought she had made up this genre on-the-spot — a flash memoir? But then my research revealed this new genre called micro-writing, which is also called the short short story. In his preface to In Short: A Collection of Brief Creative Nonfiction (edited by Judith Kitchen and Mary Paumier Jones), Bernard Cooper writes in the Preface: “To write short nonfiction requires an alertness to detail, a quickening of the senses, a focusing of the literary lens, so to speak, until one has magnified some small aspect of what it means to be human.”

Well, yes, that’s exactly what I try to do in my flash stories. To show how extraordinary the ordinary is. To show how the amazing lightness of being can be available from one day to the next. The flash in “flash memoir” indicates brevity, yes, but even more importantly, it suggests a “flash” of insight into the human experience.

So, I listened to my publisher and to the beta readers who read my compilation of fun fast stories of everyday life. I hired an editor who wrote: “this is a really sweet, funny, readable, heartwarming collection of anecdotes from your life. I smile when I think about parts I’ve just read, and I’m sure readers will feel like that when they put the book down just for a short time before they find themselves smiling and picking it up again! Even the sad parts of the book are well done, drawing the reader in with empathy for your characters. The humility and humor are what make this a beautiful book. I love it.” (Thank you, Anneli Purchase.)

So yes, there are a few sad parts in here. This is about life, after all. But the sad is infused with joy.

I include eight sections in my flash memoir, with headings like “Fun Family Drama,” “For the Dogs,” and “Relationships.”  I wanted to keep this light memoir light, literally as well as metaphorically. So the page count is a modest 140. My publisher designed it brilliantly as a square book with black and white waterlogued photos of real people in my life — photos from the 1940s to current day.

I must admit, I’m glad I’m now a triple-genre author. And one of the genres is memoir.

On Publishing…

The first book I wrote was Twin Desires with co-author, Ashley Brandt. My co-writer and I were a great team. Ashley had been a student for several years in my creative writing classes, and at some courageous point we decided to write a romantic suspense novel together. We had a great time, because we set aside our egos, outlined a plot after writing about 1,000 words individually, sharing these pages, and then delegating chapters. Then we switched and edited each other’s chapters. After hiring an editor and making a few changes, we got an agent within a month of “putting it out there.” This is rather miraculous, as most writers know. The agent was marvelous and shopped the book to many publishing companies, and we got terrific feedback (all positive). That said, no one wanted to buy the book. We received comments like: “already published too many books with twins,” “don’t want a book with a bomb in it,” “well-written and page-turner but doesn’t fit in with our needs now.”

That’s when I decided to research Indie publishing. After doing so, I’ve never looked back. Both of my novels are self-published (Twin Desires and The Right Wrong Man). For my two children’s books (Birds of Paradise and Molly Finds Her Purr) and my “flash memoir,” I decided to go with hybrid publishing. For a fee, the publisher (Borgo Publishing) designed the books and organized the printing and getting them into Amazon and Barnes & Noble.. I receive 100% of the royalties. Each of these books needed specialized designs, and Borgo did an incredible job with all three.

Visit Pam’s blog for more about her.

How long did your hair get during the quarantine?…

Author Reality + Charles Sterling on Marketing and Author Platform

Marketing, building a platform as a writer… There’s more to being a novelist than most people think.

Photo of author Charles Sterling.

(For an audio version of this post, click H-E-R-E.)

I’m no expert on how to market fiction writing. Although I’ve produced video documentaries, radio news, published non-fiction articles and a short story or two, I’m still editing my novels. However, what I know for certain is I’m having fun here — meeting you! Who knew I’d encounter so many friendly people from all over the world, who would open my ridiculously sheltered eyes?

In my hugely romanticized imaginings, I picture an Author with a capital “A.” On virtue of their talent, they only need to work a little hard to attract a super-star literary agent and publisher. For this reason, they never lift a finger to sell their books. The Author sits at an incredible desk in a gorgeous office with a spectacular view. After a walk with their dog, a shower, and a scrumptious breakfast, they begin their day writing. Until they get hungry, that is. That’s when they enjoy a tea or a hot chocolate or an espresso with sweets such as the madeleines writer Marcel Proust used as analyze memory.

Next, said Author does some more writing, takes a stroll for inspiration, writes a tad, then shares dinner with famed thinkers and creatives. The Author’s day ends with a blissful night of rest. The next day, the Author joyfully wakes to do it all over again. Oh, no — I forgot to mention their lunch — well, you get the picture…

Alas, that daydream is akin to figuring that all the amazing painters of bygone days did was simply dab at their canvases between tasting the displays of sumptuous meals they depicted, and doing whatever with their human models. They might chat brilliantly with their clothed subjects who were always famed and genius, or they could indulge in a tryst with their naked and willing gorgeous ones.

In my fantasies, nowhere does marketing rear its head. Certainly, in my dreams, the fame of great Authors never involves any of them setting aside part of their day to develop an author platform.

Now for Reality…

Most Authors, even ultra-talented ones, work hard — and that work includes getting people to know about them. 

The novels I’m writing are in the form of letters to a deceased grandmother, so I’m delighted that many stellar authors began their careers by serializing their books. For instance, Charles Dickens, who wrote “A Christmas Carol,” and “Oliver Twist,” was a master of episodic, a.k.a. serial, storytelling. His chapters, which were featured in newspapers, garnered so much attention that he bound them into the popular novels we know did quite well!

Another successful writer who worked that way is Helen Fielding. Her colossal hit, “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” was first serialized in newspapers.

Armistead Maupin did the same with his “Tales of the City.” He’d get home from wild 1970s San Francisco parties, use them as inspiration for his serialized newspaper column, and voila! He was rewarded with success, fame, fortune, movies, and I hope more.

Now, let’s consider Bloggers.

The blog posts of E. L. James, who’s known for her “Fifty Shades of Grey,” mushroomed into a money-making atom bomb that included books, movies, and who knows what else.

Also, Julie Powell’s “Julie and Julia” blog eventually made her lots of money as a book and a movie.

My idea is to eventually podcast bits of my novel and then get it into print. First, I started with this blog. Here I continue to do my best to create a larger and larger circle of friends interested in novels and arts, and who might be so kind as to spread the word about my writing.

Author Charles Sterling, who blogs from Russia, is here to show us that the marketing/platforming side of writing may not be all that awful after all. He published his first novel when he was fifteen! Since then he’s put out at least eight novels and a bunch more sorts of writing. He’s also a digital artist. Read on for his book-selling experience…

Photo of author Charles Sterling.
Photo of author Charles Sterling.

Book Marketing & Author Platform by Charles Sterling

Introduction

One day at age fifteen I walk into my father’s room and I ask him; ‘how difficult is it to write a book?’ He replies, ‘son, it’s the easiest thing in the world!’ Now, whether he was right or wrong, I believed him, and that belief allowed me to write my first ever 75k book at that young age.

Had I asked him ‘how difficult is it to sell a book?’ perhaps the answer would have been different. Selling a book is a whole other world. When you’re writing, you’re an artist. When you’re marketing, you’re in the business sphere. That’s where book marketing and the author platform comes in!

How to market your book

Having been marketing since 2011, when I made my first thousand dollars I used methods that would never work anymore! As times change, so does marketing. But luckily I adapted my approach and saw a steady improvement and increase in sales. The wonderful thing is, it’s like a snowball that goes down a hill and keeps getting bigger. The more books you sell, the more Amazon recommends your books!

Here’s what I did for my past few books.

  1. Set your book for free and do some promotion stacking through “free book promotion” websites. This will give you thousands of downloads and some much needed reviews.
  2. Pin your book with an inviting image to the top of your Twitter.
  3. Promote it in forums like Reddit and GoodReads.
  4. Have an incredible book cover.

We eat with our eyes first! And we do judge books by their covers. I guarantee you that if you had the best book cover in the world, your need for marketing would be zero. The book cover would do the job for you all the way to the New York Times Best Seller list.

Often enough as writers, after we’re done writing and we get onto promoting we start looking for ways to get more viewers. We forget about what we’ve been working on so hard and begin relying websites and methods to get us where we want to be. I wish to reiterate on this extremely important point, a good book cover sells your books first! And the reviews sell your book second, so make sure your book is wonderful too.

Personally, I design my covers myself because I’ve been graphic designing as long as I’ve been writing. Essentially one must look at the top selling book covers in your niche create something thematically similar. The reason being that, readers out there already know what they’re looking for, so it’s your book cover’s job to accurately portray that.

Now, I chose to market my ebooks exclusively through Amazon for its KDP program allowing you to set discount prices as well as put your book out for free. The free book part is important to get some reviews going early on. Amazon is also a good focus point because by putting all your effort into your book, the algorithm helps push your book forward by placing it in the “Recommended Books” section of your potential readers, which is what allows you to sell books even when you haven’t marketed for months.

I’ve tried publishing in Barnes & Nobles and SmashWords, but so far really enjoyed focusing on purely Amazon.

The Author Platform

It’s super easy, but super important to have! Once you have an author platform you’ll be proud of yourself and even feel a little famous when you appear in Google searches.

Twitter

I believe Twitter is perfect for a few reasons; most authors and readers are either on Twitter or Facebook. Instagram is an image based platform, I tried it for a while and didn’t quite like it.

On Twitter the hashtag game is a lot stronger than on Facebook, making it easier to fit into a specific niche and target specific groups of people. The retweet function is nifty as well, as others retweet your stuff for more people to see!

So if you do decide on Twitter, get a photogenic picture of yourself and write a short and sweet bio. No need to be too long. Pin your book to the top of your page, and spend the rest of your social media rants about yourself, things you find funny and your opinions on things. If your Twitter is filled with nothing but your book, people will turn away.

Your book will already be pinned on top, so every single person that comes onto your profile is forced to see it before they see the rest. “The rest” should be inviting things and things that people can relate to and understand you better as a person. You want them to say “wow, I like this person. I’ll follow them and take a look at their book.”

To get followers is really easy; go around your niche and comment and put likes on people’s stuff. Thirty minutes of twittering a day and you’ll have a thousand followers in two weeks. I did just that with no complications!

Website

Get either a Wix or a WordPress website going, use a free template to make it look nice, and fill it up with your stuff. Have a page for your books, have a page for your author bio, a page for your short stories or poetry, or even a page for pictures of your pet.

Images you use on your website will appear in Google Images, so make sure to keyword them with your name.

Words that you use in “Heading” format will appear in Google Search, so make sure they’re your book titles or your name. Then add your website to your Twitter and you’re basically set! A website might seem like the hardest part, but once you did it, you no longer need to worry about it.

My own website charlesimagines.com is as easy as that, yet has all my work neatly laid out for people to see, and it took me just about two days to fully complete.

Amazon Page

Aha! An Amazon page is an author platform too! Make sure all your books are listed in your Author Central. If you have a blog, you can link it to your Author Central as well. Then in your GoodReads account make sure all your books are linked to your Amazon page, because often people write reviews and comment there.

This part is not difficult, and if you have some problems (like I did) just write them an email and they fix everything for you.

It’s a good time to mention that, Amazon has over 3000 different categories for your books, but you only get to see around 250 when you’re actually publishing. If there’s a specific category that you need (like mine was Young & Adult Pirate Adventure eBooks) then you’ll have to contact Amazon and they change it for you.

Reap the Benefits!

As a few final thoughts, I’ve only started using Twitter and adding things onto my website about five or six months ago and the benefits that came with it were enormous.  I was discovered by authors and readers, invited to do podcasts, got free book reviews on other people’s websites and most importantly… I emerged from the shadows and began connecting with people!

Book marketing is usually a slow and steady process that gets faster and faster the more you do it. I started off with numbers like 2, 5, 13 and some months later they turned into 900, 1500, 3000, and are still on their way up.

At first things might seem like they’re not working out, or you’ll get tired or you might feel like it’s a waste of time, but the longer you go on, the more the puzzle pieces start fitting together, and the more the grind seemed worth it.

My final tiny advice that I wish to share applies to anything and is based around the principal of ‘compound effect’. Much like going to the gym or eating healthy, it’s about doing something small every day. This gets multiplied by hundreds of days, and the effects become massive.

This was the case with me; my first books back in 2011-2012 kept bringing me paychecks (despite the books being clearly written by a teenager) and then the books that followed were stranded in a desert with no activity. I was left wondering what was going on and what I had to do to make it work again, and ended up committing a huge portion of my time to learning on promoting and marketing.

I had to change my old fashioned book covers, market in different places, create better keywords, and I started seeing my numbers grow again. As of recently, the author platform I built has greatly helped!

What are your thoughts on selling books?