Book Reviews + Aparna Sharma’s Tanka + Podcast/Audio Version

Book Reviews + Aparna Sharma’s Tanka Happiness Between Tails

#Poetry #Writing #Books #BookReviews #Fiction Have you experimented with writing styles? 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. http://buymeacoffee.com/SupportHBT — 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

Check out the Happiness Between Tails Podcast at AnchorFM! There you’ll find links to subscribe, hear, and share episodes of Happiness Between Tails by da-AL 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.

One of the many fun things about writing is that there are so many styles to experiment with! Number one on the ways to become a good writer is to write daily. Number two is to read and read and read. The more I write (like on my novels) and read, the more I find that I wish I knew more about.

The books I’ve read lately cover a range of styles. Here they are, along with the reviews I wrote for them on Amazon and Goodreads…

“Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands” is a graphic novel by Kate Beaton, and she uses the medium to its fullest. Through her text and illustrations, she narrates honestly and poignantly what it was like for her to leave her small remote community in Canada so she could pay for her college loans. Through her eyes, we understand how hard it is to work as the rare woman in oil exploration, in the middle of a freezing cold nowhere.

Cover of Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands” is a graphic novel by Kate Beaton.

“Nightcrawling: A Novel,” by Leila Mottley, Joniece Abbott-Pratt (Narrator). My review: The best kinds of books let readers walk in the shoes of another, to truly experience and gain compassion for what someone else’s life is like. It’s an understatement to say that Leila Mottley does this in spades with maturity far far beyond the high schooler she was when she wrote this. Joniece Abbott-Pratt does a great job narrating.

Cover of “Nightcrawling: A Novel,” by Leila Mottley, Joniece Abbott-Pratt (Narrator).

“What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” by Raymond Carver, Norman Dietz (Narrator). My review: Carver is a master short story teller. Love in its infinite gnarly yet beautiful forms. Norman Dietz does great narration.

Cover of “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” by Raymond Carver, Norman Dietz (Narrator).

“How Not to Drown in a Glass of Water: A Novel,”  by Angie Cruz, Rossmery Almonte (Narrator). My review: Sublime in every way!!!! Angie Cruz wrote a wonderful book — and then, and then, and then the amazing Rossmery Almonte narrated it into the stratosphere!!! Great title and cover too!

Cover of “How Not to Drown in a Glass of Water: A Novel,”  by Angie Cruz, Rossmery Almonte (Narrator).

And then there’s poetry and all those styles, which blogger Aparna Sharma has decided to tackle. That’s between her General Medicine studies in Kazakhstan (though she’s from Rajasthan, in Norther India)! Pardon all the exclamations, but I can’t help how my heart warms at how blog-land lets me meet people like Aparna, who love to write that much!…

Photo of blogger/writer/medical student Aparna Sharma.
Blogger/writer/medical student Aparna Sharma.

Embracing Loneliness by Aparna Sharma

Note: TANKA is a genre of classical Japanese poetry and one of the major genres of Japanese literature. Tanka consist of five units [5-7-5-7-7 syllables]

Maybe loneliness was my fate,

Guess what accompanying you would be best,

If I had deep conversations,

Which would help me out if done,

To learn to embrace imperfections and insecurities.

Have you experimented with writing styles?

Age Defying Book Reviews + Robert Pacilio’s Act II + Podcast

Graphic from Anchor.fm regarding my podcasting accomplishments for 2022.
2022 HBT Podcast stats and graphic from Anchor.

Book Reviews + Aparna Sharma’s Tanka Happiness Between Tails

#Poetry #Writing #Books #BookReviews #Fiction Have you experimented with writing styles? 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. http://buymeacoffee.com/SupportHBT — 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
  1. Book Reviews + Aparna Sharma’s Tanka
  2. Carrot Delight Cake: a Healthier Recipe by Khashayar
  3. Teaser: Happiness Between Tails
  4. Author Reality + Charles Sterling on Marketing and Author Platform
  5. Critter Vids + A Vet Trip by Brendan Christopher

Check out the Happiness Between Tails Podcast at AnchorFM! There you’ll find links to subscribe, hear, and share episodes of Happiness Between Tails by da-AL 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.

Reading and writing (click here for more about my books) allow me to walk in the shoes of other people, and for that I sure am grateful!

Thank heaven for writers like Ariel Henley, a young woman who describes what it is to be born (in this case with her twin sister) with Crouzon Syndrome, a condition wherein the skull doesn’t evolve as it does for most of us. Along her journey that’s included countless surgeries, she’s ruminated on beauty in ways that most of us never consider.

Here’s my review of her book, “A Face for Picasso: Coming of Age with Crouzon Syndrome,” for Amazon and Goodreads:

Ariel Henley’s brave recount of growing up far beyond the absolutes of what society deems “conventional beauty” illustrates how truly limiting those confines are. Gorgeously and honestly written, she reminds us what each of us unfortunately needs to be reminded of over and over again. Our “shoulds” about our bodies don’t serve us unless they include our souls and our uniquenesses.

Cover of A Face for Picasso: Coming of Age with Crouzon Syndrome by
Ariel Henley.

In the realm of fiction, Helene Tursten offers up Maude, an octogenarian who’s had it up to there with bad people. She’s a killer without remorse.

My review of Helene’s first small book of short stories about her, “An Elderly Lady Is Up to No Good,” for Amazon and Goodreads:

Move over Olive Kitteridge (which I adored too, but in a different way). Maude’s fed up. She’s in her late 80s and she’s not taking it anymore… Such a rollick! The sequel is super charming too!

An Elderly Lady Is Up to No Good by Helene Tursten

For the sequel, “An Elderly Lady Must Not be Crossed,” I offered:

Woman in her late 80’s is a killer. What’s not to like? #1 was great & this #2 is even more fun.

Cover of An Elderly Lady Must Not be Crossed by Helene TurstenAriel Henley.

Today’s guest, Robert Pacilio, has self-published five novels of various genres — all after he retired from teaching! Find out more about him and his books, as well as to reach him for speaking engagements and book clubs, via his website.

Here he shares how he mined what he learned in Act I of his life to segue into his Act II…

Screenshot of one of Robert Pacilio's virtual book club meetings with images of some of his novels.
Robert Pacilio at upper left of a virtual book club meeting. The bottom row shows some of his novels.

Curtain’s up on ACT II by Robert Pacilio

Hello. I was born in 1955…that means that I am 67 years young. I started self-publishing my novels at 54. For 32 years, I was a high school teacher. That was ACT I. I loved teaching—I still love making a cameo appearance in another teacher’s classroom. 

ACT I was a hit. I won numerous awards; however, the best reward was the love and respect of my students—which is why my next book is a memoir about those students and my impact on their lives. It is due out later this year.

I have always told stories—written and spoken, and as you read about my journey to ‘authorship’, you are likely to wonder how I got to “the Promised Land.” 

Here is my answer: I didn’t get to the mythical land of the New York Times bestseller list. That is a mirage that seduces everyone with a word processor. If that is your endgame and nothing short of that is acceptable, then get used to rejection. Rejection. Rejection. (And I might add—those rejections will come in bland, form letters…if you receive anything at all.

So, you ask, why do I feel successful as a writer? How did my author’s biography indicate that this indie writer made a difference with his loyal readership? And just how did I even accumulate a readership? Let’s go back in time for the answers. Before we do, let’s discuss the latest trending word: nepo-babies.

Nepo-babies are not you or me. They do not need to read this or any other blog about being published. Why? Because they are (a) rich since their parents are rich; (b) children whose parents are famous; (c) they know people inside of the business of ‘publications’ because their parents do; (d) they went to Yale, Harvard, Stanford, etc., because their parents did, and they have ‘connections’; and finally (e) all the above.

That is not us, Gang. My parents were Tessie and Louie, Italians who came out of East New York (the non-glamorous side of Brooklyn in the 1940’s and 50’s).They  graduated from high school and then spent a lifetime making a living in the world of hard knocks. 

So if you are like me, just a hard working, regular person who learned his craft and then decided to have a second act as a writer, nobody–I mean nobody—is going to give you an unearned break. You have to earn it the old fashioned way—with grit and drive. No quitters make it and there are no short cuts for “tramps like us” (apologies to Springsteen).

Okay, still with me. Good. Flashback to 2007 when I decide to write a semi-autobiographical novel about a year in the lives four fictionalized students whose teacher just happens to be me. I wrote the novel as I was teaching  American literature that year and it took a year. I had a close friend as my editor, not a professional but close enough at the time. Once done, I had a manuscript and I did what all writers do—head to Writers Market to query an agent. 

It is said 50 rejections is typical. That’s what I received. Some advised me to turn it into a how-to- book because non-fiction sells. That was not my jam.

Out of the blue, a former student who graduated years before visits my classroom (this is during my final years of teaching), and he tells me he works for Createspace. I ask, “Is this is a vanity publication?”

He responds, “No. You do all the work, hire an internal book designer, a cover designer, and an editor, and when you are done, we produce the book. You receive 70% of the profit.”

And that’s how I got started. Createspace had a community I could tap into to hire an internal book designer. I had a graphic artist and photographer whom I worked with and joined my team. Within a few months, VOLIA—“Meetings at the Metaphor Café” was born!

How did I produce it? My designer (Tony Loton and based in London) uploaded the manuscript and the Kindle version. He charged me $1,000 roughly (in 2007), and since I was already a teacher in a large district as well as being the 1998 San Diego County Teacher of the Year, I had what they call a PLATFORM. This allowed me to speak at teacher conventions, other schools outside my district, and even travel outside my state of California as word spread. That novel was nominated by other teachers for the California Young Readers Award (the only one to be self-published). Needless to say, I didn’t win. Remember, I am an outsider.

From there I wrote a sequel to that YA (young adult) book and then I moved to a different genre—adult/romance (think Nicholas Sparks—not Danielle Steel). During that time, I still was querying agents, and one agent who was impressed with my dogged pursuit of a publisher for my first novel decided to take me on. “EUREKA!” I thought. 

She asked me to make over 100 edits to the manuscript, and then she tried to sell it to publishers. But as you might have guessed there were no takers. Why? First, it was self-published and they felt that most buyers have already bought it. Second, it was not “real enough” meaning no sex, violence, gratuitous cursing (the f-word). I wanted teenagers to read this is class and for a Board of Education to approve the novel, which has happened. Nevertheless, publishers believed that kids would not read a story that was just about growing up and learning about life from a teacher who didn’t look like Michelle Phieffer. 

So after a year of those rejections, we parted ways until my next adult novel “The Restoration” was completed. She told me to not self-publish until she read it. I did as she suggested. She asked me to make numerous changes, and after I followed her advice, she abruptly decided it was a romance, and she did not handle that genre. I know what you are thinking—you must have been very angry. I was. She apologized. End of story. 

My next novel “Meet Me at Moonlight Beach” also didn’t get any agent interest although at this point I was none too interested in the run-around.  But the novel sure did sell. It got the attention of the local columnist Karla Peterson of the San Diego-Union-Tribune and a front page review in its “Arts” section—with a picture, no less (40 copies sold just that day). The power of media is evidently impactful. The same week, the books was for sale at none other than Barnes and Noble! I was invited to speak there. All this happened in 2018 and 2019. The train was rolling down the tracks…then Covid made the world skid to a stop.

During the isolation of 2020 I wrote my latest novel a legal/political jury trial titled “Whitewash.” This time I made a concerted effort to snag an agent using Querytracker. I decided to query several hundred agencies, and from all that effort I received two “nibbles.” You should know that each query requires a different chapter sample, different versions of my biography, and introductory query letters to grab their agency’s attention… so it took months of diligent work. In the end, of the two that seemed interested, one just ignored me (after making me wait for two months) and the other agent took it to his higher-ups. They thought it wouldn’t sell. So another no-thank-you, Sir, moment. I proceeded to self-publish it, and it has done fairly well, despite the Covid quarantine all of us have been dealing with.  

So what are the ways I get the word out? All of the following tasks paid some dividends:

  • YouTube videos of me reading various sections of my novels, placed on Facebook, Twitter and any other social network with which I can engage.
  • Speaking at as many conventions as possible is enormously helpful. Teachers, writers, service clubs, and church groups.
  • Creating my own website www.robertpacilio.net and having a professional set it up on WIX. It has reviews of all my novels, links to video clips, and how to purchase any of my work, including how to order directly from me (and get a signed copy which I pay to ship it to the buyer). It also has a PayPal link for an easy purchase.
  • Getting local media outlets to cover/review my books. The local newspapers that serve communities are really helpful and will work with a determined writer.  
  • Gathering all readers into a community and sending out newsletters updating what you are doing and where you will be speaking. Even small groups at a Starbucks work well. That is a way to get book clubs interested—especially if they know you can travel to them as I have.
  • I have a former student who specializes in publicity, and she has taken me on as her pro-bono client. She organized the virtual book club meetings during Covid and interviewed me on a Facebook LIVE segment.
  • I have spoken at Barnes and Noble and other bookstores. They demand a healthy cut in the profits but that is just the way it is. 
  • I have a tribe of loyal friends who act as readers of my manuscripts. They are so helpful, and they will spread the word. I also encourage folks to review my novels on Amazon.
  • I have been on several podcasts. They help reach people outside your “zone” of influence. 

The most important thing I can tell an indie or a person breaking into the writer’s Field of Dreams is that YOU HAVE TO BE ACTIVE AS YOUR OWN SALES FORCE. Nobody else can sell your work effectively. You can’t just write a book and sit back passively, hoping the droves of fans will line up for your John Hancock.

As for getting rich, I would say that self-publishing a book means you probably have to front about $1,000 to $2,000. If you work hard and your writing touches your audience, you will make that back and more. I’ve been fortunate to have a great team working with me for the last 13 years. Michelle Lovi in New Zealand has edited two of my novels and designed the interior and covers. I highly recommend her, and I will pass on her information to anyone who wishes to reach her. 

I wish all of you luck and to remember that nothing comes easily—certainly not writing. Be open to revisions and do not be discouraged. The curtain rises on Act II and the person who raises that curtain is YOU. Break a leg.

Do you have plans to author a book? Will you seek an agent or publish it yourself?

Author Reality: Charles Sterling on Marketing + Audio/Podcast

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

Photo of author Charles Sterling.
Self-portrait of author Charles Sterling.

Author Reality + Charles Sterling on Marketing and Author Platform Happiness Between Tails

#Authors #Books #SelfPublishing #SerializedDrama #StoryTelling Marketing, building a platform as a writer… There’s more to being a novelist than simply writing. Many successful authors started out serializing chapters in newspapers and blogs. What are your thoughts on selling books? 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 — or support me at buymeacoffee.com/SupportHBT Time Stamps (list of segments): HBT introduction Some of my findings on authors who start by serializing their books and a little about today’s guest 1:05 Charles Sterling on Marketing and Author Platform 4:45 My question for you 12:20 HBT outro Photos available at the blog version of this show: Charles’ self-portraits Links referred to in this episode: Happiness Between original blog post for this episode. Author Charles Sterling, this episode’s guest. About the novels I'm writing. Wikipedia on madeleines that writer Marcel Proust used as analyze memory. Wikipedia on Charles Dickens who serialized. Wikipedia on Helen Fielding' and her orignially serialized, “Bridget Jones’s Diary”. Wikipedia on Armistead Maupin and his newspaper serialized “Tales of the City”. E. L. James, began her “Fifty Shades of Grey” as a blog. Julie Powell blogged “Julie and Julia” into a book, then movie. — 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

For a podcast/audio version of today’s post, check out AnchorFM! There you’ll also find links to subscribe, hear, and share episodes of Happiness Between Tails by da-AL 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.

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 getting my novels ready to publish. What I know for certain is I’m having fun here — meeting you as I build my author platform! Who knew I’d encounter so many friendly people from all over the world, who would open my ridiculously sheltered eyes?

Before I started blogging, I romanticized the role of Author with a capital “A.” No need to lift a finger to sell their books. On talent alone, I believed, they attracted their super-star literary agent and publisher.

Before Author brandishes pen and paper or fires up their computer, there’s a rousing jog with their dog, a refreshing shower, and a decadent breakfast with aromatic teas. Next, Author inhabits their writing worlds from a cushy seat before an incredible desk that faces a spectacular view. For the sake of creativity, there’s a midmorning espresso break with sweets ala the madeleines writer Marcel Proust used as analyze memory.

Throw in more writing, a leisurely lunch, strolls between writing, which culminate at four for a feast shared with famed thinkers. Sleep is restful, peacefully given now and then to inspiring dreams… 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 keeping their stunning models warm. Clothed subjects were always famed and genius…

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.

For some writers, publicity is part of their process…

The novels I’m working on are comprised as letters to a deceased grandmother. Many stellar authors began by serializing their books. 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, Helen Fielding. Her film hit, “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” was first serialized in newspapers.

Armistead Maupin did the same with “Tales of the City.” He’d get home from wild 1970s San Francisco parties, mine whatever occurred for his serialized newspaper column, and voila!

The same goes for author/bloggers…

The blog posts of E. L. James “Fifty Shades of Grey” atom bombed indo books, movies, and who knows what else.

Julie Powell’s “Julie and Julia” blog also turned into a book and a movie.

For my books, my plan is to eventually podcast bits of my novel and then get it into print. This blog is the beginning, where I gather a circle of friends who are interested in novels and arts, who spread the word about my writing, and who hopefully will enjoy my books.

Author Charles Sterling wrote his first novel when he was 15 and has published many more since then! He writes and blogs from Russia. Here he shows us how easy the marketing/platforming side of writing is and that it builds upon itself…

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!

How do you discover your next books to read?

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?

Self-Publishing by Peni Jo Renner Pt 1 + Podcast Version

Self-Published Historical Novelist Peni Jo Renner: Part 1 of 2 Happiness Between Tails

#Authors #Books #Novels #Writing #Fiction Do you want to write a book? Historical novelist Peni Jo Renner tells us how she published several. 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 Self-Published Historical Novelist Peni Jo Renner: Part 1 of 2 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. Peni Jo Renner’s blog. Photos available at the HBT post for this show: Peni Jo Renner Her books. 3CTl0Fn7PgHC4ITynM7O — 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 show is the audio version of the 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 more, plus an RSS feed. Check out the full list of 50+ places

Title of blog post over photo of historical novelist Peni Jo Renner.
Historical novelist Peni Jo Renner.

Many who visit here are soon-to-be self-published novelists (I’m writing novels too). Fortunately for us, Peni Jo Renner (who blogs from Maryland and has generously featured me on it plus she’s looking for people to review books there) has three self-published historical novels worth of experience to share with us…

Interview: Self-Publishing with Historical Novelist Peni Jo Renner Part 1 (Part 2 here)

 

da-AL: What advice can you give to writers who want to self-publish? And who’d like to get their books into public libraries?

Peni Jo Renner: Advice? Well, in 2012, I hadn’t written in like 25 years, and I felt I needed a refresher, so I took a class at our local community college. A fellow student told me that she had published HER book with iUniverse, so I went with them. But due to the measly 20% royalties iUniverse offered, I looked into other self-publishing companies and settled on Lulu with its 80% royalty rate. LuLu took care of all the copyrights and stuff. Self-publishing with companies like this can be expensive, so if money is an issue,  Amazon’s Createspace is free. 

I’m not big on self-promotion. I didn’t write my trilogy to make money, more to fulfill a lifelong dream. However,  I do ask new Facebook friends to “Like” my author page, and I participate in #SharingIsCaring on Facebook. #SharingIsCaring is this campaign on Facebook (and I suppose Twitter and Instagram) that authors list their FB author pages on other authors’ pages. Everyone Likes everyone else’s pages. Usually, the campaigns begin on Sundays.

In the past, I have participated in local book-signing events, but they are few and far between. However, I like to keep a supply of “The Puritan Chronicles” bookmarks, and I’ll ask people, “Do you enjoy reading historical fiction?” If they reply in the affirmative, I give them a bookmark. 

As to libraries; I know my trilogy is at my local library, but that may be due to the fact I used to work there! However, a cousin in Texas did show me a photo of my book, “Puritan Witch,” that she found at HER library!

My books are POD (Print on Demand), so the best way to purchase them is online. I wrote Puritan Witch; The Redemption of Rebecca Eames. This multi-award-winning novel was quickly followed by its sequel, Letters to Kezia.  A third novel, Raid on Cochecho, completed the trilogy and I had accomplished my task of writing historical fiction.

Here’s the bookmark that historical novelist Peni Jo Renner hands out.

Dear Happiness Between Tails friends: Check back soon for when Peni Jo lends us a peek into her writing process!

My fave historical novel is Isabel Allende’s House of Spirits — what’s yours?…

Recipes: Persian Veg Kabobs, Tahdig, Veg Omelet + Podcast: W. Croft

Photo of Khashayar with brunch spread he cooked.
Brunch ala Khashayar.

Willow Croft on Writing and Animals Happiness Between Tails

#Animals #Writing #Authors Poet/blogger/speculative and horror fiction author Willow Croft tells how her writing and love of animals merge. How do animals figure into your love of reading and/or writing? Record your thoughts on my podcast page 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 Visit this show’s original blog post for links and photos of Willow Croft’s book and cat. Time Stamps (where segments begin): Happiness Between Tails introduction da-AL discusses today’s guest 2:00 Willow Croft on writing and animals 2:20 A question for you 14:00 — 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 “Willow Croft on Writing and Animals,” which you can read the text version of H-E-R-E. (This show has a new graphic to reflect that it’s shortened from an earlier version that included information that’s become outdated. Anchor’s tools make editing easy!)

At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also 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 H-E-R-E.

Click here for an audio version of the blog post below.

1. Veggie Kabobs with Grilled Tomatoes

The other night Khashayar, cooked something so outstanding that I took a picture, but didn’t think about creating a blog post for it until too late — I’d only shot this one photo from the top of the stove. Sorry I can’t show you how scrumptious it looked plated with plain rice. Khashayar enjoyed his with slices of raw onion as well. No wonder his recipes get more likes than my posts!

Khashayar's veggie kabobs with grilled tomatoes.

Pardon that the instructions here are a bit rough. He’s been extremely busy with work lately, otherwise he’d write it himself. What follows is how he told me he made it, and the notes in parentheses are mine:

It’s an easy recipe, like making what Persians call kabob-mahitabe. (Mahitabe simply means pan.)

The base is fake meat, a pound of “Beyond” brand ground meat. T-H-I-S link explains about the brand.

Get your grilled tomatoes started first, so they can caramelize while you make the kabobs.

  • Slice them in half and bake them, cut side up, at 400°F for about 30 minutes.

For the “meat,” mix together:

  • 1 lb. vegetarian ground meat substitute
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Then stir the following spices into the veggie meat and egg mixture:

  • 1 tablespoon red Korean chili pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Now…

  • Shape the “meat” into flat broad strips, then brown them in a pan with a small amount of oil.
  • Once plated, sprinkle the kabobs with sumac, which is a powdered berry that adds tartness, but no heat, even though it’s red.

2. Persian Rice and Tahdig

When  a friend saw the kabob photo, she asked about “fancy Persian rice.” By that, she meant the crispy layer called tadig, which in Farsi translates into “bottom of the pot.” Persians serve rice many ways, not always with tadig. They also cook spaghetti (which they label simply “pasta”) in a similar way to achieve spaghetti tadig!

The night of the kabobs, Khashayar didn’t make tadig so I don’t have a personal photo for you, but visit this blogger’s site for a nice photo of her variation on potato tahdig.

Begin with long-grain basmati white rice that’s been rinsed until the water runs clear. If time permits beforehand, soak it in salted water for several hours. Then boil it (don’t stir, otherwise it will turn mushy) only until it’s slightly undercooked, as it will be steamed further in the next step. Salt to taste.

The easiest method of making tadig is simply to leave it in the rice pot, cooking a bit longer. Basically whatever food is at the bottom of the pot, such as the rice, will crisp up.

Some cooks line a new pot with oil, then layer it with lavash (thin unleavened bread for which Mexican tortillas are a great substitute), or slivered potatoes. Gently heap the cooked rice over that, then cover the pot to steam everything until the bottom browns.

Many cooks simply pour several inches of oil at the bottom of the pot, while restaurants merely deep fry a bunch of rice. For a lighter version, Khashayar first lines the pot with a circle of parchment paper.

Rice is fluffiest when it’s handled least. Khashayar often rigs a thin towel to the underside of the pot lid, the ends of it pinned away from flames. That way steam can’t drip down and turn the rice gummy.

Once the rice is plated, liquify a pinch of saffron in a few tablespoons of boiling water. Stir into a ladle full of rice into that, then arrange the resulting bright gold grains over the white steaming mound.

The method for spaghetti tahdig is basically the same. Start with extra al dente pasta that’s been drained, then pile it into a pot lined with parchment paper and a little oil. Same as with the rice version, you can then steam the pasta over that, or you can first add thin bread or slivered potatoes to the bottom of the pot.

Photo of Khashayar and da-AL with scrumptious food!
I know I’m lucky to have a husband who loves to cook healthy!

3. Asparagus Omelet with Mushrooms and Sweet Potatoes

Saute onion, garlic, asparagus, salt and pepper to taste.

Just before the omelet is completely cooked, fold in the above mixture and sprinkle in as much grated parmesan as you like.

Once plated, those who eat fish can top it with bits of smoked salmon, a “better” fish because not much is required for a lot of flavor. Ring the omelet with sweet potatoes that you’ve oven-roasted with paprika and cinnamon, along with the steamed mushrooms. Garnish everything with chopped fresh chives and parsley.

Close up of Khashayar's asparagus omelet.

This makes a great brunch, especially when you serve it with a nice black tea mixed with cardamom and saffron. For the perfect compliments to the meal, fill bowls with whole leafy greens (soft mild ones such as fresh baby leaves from beets, arugula, and spinach), and herbs (such as parsley, mint, tarragon, and lemon basil), that everyone can eat in fistfuls between bites of the main dishes.

Warm lavash, feta cheese (a “better” cheese because just a few crumbles are quite satisfying), and walnuts soaked in brine are wonderful for breakfast too. Another great accompaniment is an interesting fruit salad like this one of pears, strawberries, bananas, and different colored grapes.

Bowl of Khashayar's fruit salad.

A brilliant Persian cookbook with splendid photos is “New Food of Life,” by Najimieh Batmanglij, which I reviewed H-E-R-E.

Want more of Khashayar’s recipes? Type his name into the search bar — H-E-R-E and H-E-R-E and H-E-R-E and H-E-R-E and H-E-R-E are some to get you started…

Nooshe jun! (Happy eating!)

What are you enjoying eating lately?

Blog and Pod Tricks + Podcast: Dwayne Sharpe’s Sci-Fi

Photo of K-D-doggie giving da-AL a sloppy kiss.

1st podcast!! + D. Sharpe’s Sci-Fi “Another Day in the Twilight Zone” Happiness Between Tails

#ShortStories #Podcasting #Novels #WritingLife #Authors #Drama This very first experimental installment premiered during the early days of the first COVID-19 lockdown in Los Angeles. First it discusses podcasting, then Dwayne Sharpe reads his sci-fi short story, “Another Day in the Twilight Zone.” As always, I welcome your insights and questions. Record them at my Anchor site — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. And buymeacoffee.com/SupportHBT Links referred to in this episode: Video version of this episode. Blog post with this episode in text form. This episode first resided here at Podbean, a podcast host. A Happiness Between Tails blog post where I sing public library praises and another one here. A video with my honey and a super cute baby chick in New Zealand, and this amazing cat video I made in Spain. Get Dwayne Sharpe’s books, "Thomas' 100 Cat Tales” and “Blaze Mysteries,” here. He also enjoys geocaching, which you can learn about here and here.) Los Angeles County Library Virtual writing groups offered through Shut Up & Write. Photos available at the blog version of this show: Dwayne Sharpe, the cover of his book, “Thomas’ 100 Cat Tales,” and the cover of another of his books “Blaze Mysteries.” Time Stamps (where segments begin): 1) Happiness Between Tails intro 2) Background info about today’s show 1:09 3) How I started this show and about today’s guest 1:59 4) Dwayne Sharpe's Sci-Fi, "Another Day in the Twilight Zone” 4:49 5) Happiness Between Tails outro 7:53 — 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 an earlier post. There’s a video version of it H-E-R-E (and at the end of this post) — and a text version of it H-E-R-E.

At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also 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 H-E-R-E.

1. Getting the word out about Happiness Between Tails Podcast takes time away from writing my novels. Rather than worry I’ll never get my books done, I remind myself this stretch of learning is an investment for when I’m ready to produce serialized audio drama versions for the novels.

To that end, it occurred to me — duh, after all this time lol — that while Happiness Between Tails is meant to be a play on “tales” as well as “tails,” only the wag-able kind is represented in this site’s photo. A few days ago, I was feeling rather under-the-weather pasty, but hey, my hair was clean and brushed. Time to set aside excuses and dust off the selfie stick. The new masthead and the photo below are the results. The books? There’s a pile of them on my lap, but they kept sliding, so the book stamped onto my shirt must suffice.

2. Do you have business cards? Does anyone use them? I dunno, but it seems like the thing to have “just in case” if one is to be in business, so here’s mine. The two versions are because I discovered sites like t-h-i-s o-n-e that offer free QR codes. Who knew COVID would bring them back in style?

Screenshot of da-AL's business cards.

3. Podcasting and some lingo: It’s one thing to have a hosting site, like AnchorFM, where one’s podcast lives. “Directories” are also needed to get it into listeners’ smartphones and desktops of various operating systems, and such. For weeks I’ve researched “directories,” among them Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Pandora, and so on — they’re the apps and sites that catalog and feature podcasts.

It would be impossible to get onto all the zillions that exist, so I just did my best and now I’m done, at least for now. Take a look at the list, not merely for to know where to listen, but to copy for when you submit your own podcast to directories.

The extended list of directories and other pertinent links are H-E-R-E at Linktree. It’s a site where, among other things, multiple links can be simultaneously funneled into a “master link.” A click of the screenshot below will also take you there…

Screenshot of Happiness Between Tails at LinkTree.
All Happiness Between Tails links are listed and scroll-tap-click-able at LinkTree.

Time-saving Linktree tip: before adding links there, first organize them in another document. Then drop them into Linktree starting with the last one. The last one loaded lands at the top.

Back to today’s podcast — here’s a video version of it…

Dwayne Sharpe submitted the story when Los Angeles was first quarantined, so… 

When you first heard about COVID, how did you think your life would be impacted?

Novel to Big Screen: how Gabriel Constans turns novels into movies

Are you a novelist? I’m working on “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat.”

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

Wait — let me start over — regardless of whether you’re a fiction writer, have you ever wondered what it’s like to complete a book and then see it made into a Hollywood production-type of film?

Cover of Buddha's Wife by Gabriel Constans.

I met Gabriel Constans through Twitter, where he was working to promote his movie, The Last Conception. The trailer is so charming that it induced me to ask if he’d share his writing and filmmaking wisdom with us….

The guest blog post he emailed confused me because it wasn’t about The Last Conception — but it was interesting too, so I urge you to read to the end of this, where you’ll find it.

As for The Last Conception, here’s what he wrote back when I requested info on how he came to write it, whether someone hired him, or if he was somehow inspired, etc, and what did it feel like to see it on the big screen:

The book (The Last Conception) was written as a romance. I was inspired by both our daughters, and some friends lives, to write the story. It is also somewhat of a continuation of Buddha’s Wife, but set in a contemporary setting.

I decided to write the script from the book and found the producers myself. They turned the movie into a romantic comedy, with my input along the way, and changed and added a lot of the dialogue. They had me go over the movie in pre and post-production and let them know anything they missed or that needed correcting. The film turned out really well. Each of the actors/actresses were perfect for their part and it maintained the essence of my book as well. I am thrilled with the final product, and it seems many others who have watched the movie feel the same way.

Regarding his background, he replied:

I worked with hospice, hospitals and mental health centers as a grief and trauma counselor for many years; have been writing since I was sixteen (novels, articles, non-fiction, etc.); and written screenplays for the last twenty years. I live in the Bay Area in California and love getting together with friends to play our ukuleles and sing.

I’ve had two other screenplays produced — Stellina Blue and, most recently, The Last Conception (which is the one in the trailer above).

As for his guest post that follows, he explained:

It’s about another script I’ve written called Buddha’s Wife. After many years, it now has a director, production company and distributor. They are looking for funding to make the movie.

Find about more about Gabriel and his projects at his blog.

Photo of writer/filmmaker Gabriel Constans. Photo of writer/filmmaker Gabriel Constans.

“It Only Takes a Few Days… Right?” by Gabriel Constans

The story, as seen at this time. So close and yet so far and so far and yet so close.

  • Write a book based on the life of the woman (Yasodhara) who was married to the man (Siddhartha) who became known as The Buddha. Rewrite and edit the book a zillion times.
  • Obtain quotes and advance reviews for novel.
  • Book published.
  • Book signings, promotions, connections and marketing for over two years (before and after novel is released).
  • Meet Navyo Ericsen at book signing. A musician, web designer and film and video producer who wants to bring Buddha’s Wife to the screen.
  • Work with Navyo for a year trying to find a screenwriter to write screenplay on spec, since we have no funds for film. Several possible, but all fall through.
  • Decide to write screenplay ourselves and change historical setting into a contemporary story. One of my previous screenplays (Stellina Blue) was made into a film.
  • Work on screenplay for a year, with wonderful feedback and suggestions from a famous screenwriter/director.
  • Workable, moving and entertaining screenplay completed.
  • Write up logline, summary of film and treatment.
  • Start approaching well-known actresses, executive producers, directors and production companies.
  • Write and develop estimated budget.
  • Elapsed time, from book being published to presenting screenplay to others for film is four years.
  • Presently (two years later), the film has been co-written with Shandra McDonald and optioned by her production company, Kiss the Limit Productions. It also won best screenplay at the FLOW Film Festival in 2020 and has worldwide distribution in place.
  • The challenge is to get the film financed without a name actress yet attached and vice-a-versa, to get a well-known actress attached without first having the picture funded.
  • This is a scene that thousands of novelists, screenwriters and filmmakers find themselves in, so we are not babes in the woods, but it has been an interesting situation with infinite possibilities for Buddha’s Wife to come into being as a movie.

To those in the film industry, this story will be anti-climatic and familiar, but I hope for those just starting out or venturing to put your toe in the water, it provides a little preparation and insight into the amount of patience, persistence and ordered chaos that can await many on the journey to bring their story to screen.

Do you have a project you’re mustering patience and persistence for?

David Gittlin’s DIY Fiction Marketing

David Gittlin, writer.

Do you think I’m crazy for taking heart whenever I see books of fiction — novels, mainly — make it big even when, in my opinion, they stink? That goes ditto for just about anything, but before you call me a nut, let me explain.

Persistence goes a very long way when it comes to success. So does obtuseness about failure and criticism. Throwing heaps of money at an endeavor is another way to lead readers/buyers/voters/whatever to prefer style over content.

For us novelists who want people to purchase our books, there are myriad “experts,” aka “vultures” galore. As I research how to eventually have that happen for the novels I’ll eventually serialize into podcasts and then sell as books, Flamenco & the Sitting Cat and Tango & the Sitting Cat, it’s impossible to avoid avalanches of Youtubers parroting each other’s basic “secrets” about marketing/platforms/etcetera. Each concludes with the same pitch, which is that, in return for our dough, they’ll fulfill our ambitions. Indeed, some may be legit. My jaded ears, however, remind me, “A fool and their money are soon parted.”

That’s why — and here’s what this post is all about, my friend — it’s like finding gold when someone with real experience shares their knowledge without charging us money.

Without further ado, here I present David Gittlin, who blogs from Florida and who is exactly that man. He’s authored three feature-length screenplays, produced two short films, and published three novels, each in a different genre! (Links for them are within his post.) Before that, he worked for over thirty years in all sorts of capacities related to marketing and the internet.

Read on for his hands-on wisdom that he’s kindly letting us in on. Lucky for us too, he’s not charging us a red cent…

How do I Cost-Effectively Market My Book Online? by David Gittlin

Comparatively speaking, writing a novel is the fun, easy, first step of the self-publishing process. The second step, creating an attention-getting book cover, offers its own unique set of challenges. However, the most intimidating and difficult undertaking, to most authors, is the third step—Online Marketing.

These words strike terror in many authors’ sensitive little hearts because they want as little to do with the outside world as possible.

The most intimidating marketing question is: “Where do I begin?” In this blog, I’ll let you in on some of the advertising methods I’ve tried and the results I’ve had. I’ll save you time and money. I’ll guide you through the marketing process from the completion of your manuscript to the final strokes of your marketing plan.

Before we begin, bear in mind that more than a million books are published every year. Therefore, we have to be good at marketing. Damn good!

After completing your final rewrite and the inevitable tweaks that come afterwards, it’s finally time to upload your book to online retailers. Next, you announce it on your blog, your author website, your Facebook page, and your YouTube channel (optional).

Now what? Gulp…

This is the seriously hard part—driving people to these outposts in cyberspace.

Let’s take a look at what has worked for me and what hasn’t.

Book Covers

The first step in marketing your book online or ANYWHERE is to create a relatable, attention-getting cover. We’re taught not to judge a book by its cover.  Ironically, this principle doesn’t apply to actual books.

I’ve read that the cover of a book needs to be genre specific.  By this I mean your reader can quickly identify the subject matter inside, whether it be Romance, Action/Suspense/Adventure/ Thriller, Espionage, Science Fiction, Fantasy, and so on.

The trick is to make your book genre specific without making it look like every other book in the space.  The idea is to stand out from the crowd, not get lost in it.

If you are an accomplished graphic artist, go ahead and do it yourself.  Just be sure that you follow the specifications of your print on demand supplier.  If you are not a great graphic artist, like me, go ahead and shop for an artist who can turn your cover vision into a commercially viable package.

Please choose an artist with a specialization in book cover design.  This person can have other specialties, but they must also be fully versed in the art of book cover design.  If you are creating the book cover, make sure to research the subject.  There are many pitfalls, just as there are with writing a book.

I used three different artists to create the covers for the three novels I published.  Besides the fact that I get bored easily, there may have been a method to my madness.  Each of my novels is in a different genre.  Some artists have genre preferences and do better work in those genres.  There is no set rule.

Some artists are good in any genre.  They may be more talented and expensive than others, but you won’t have to go through the angst of breaking in new ones.  And you may get a better overall result.  Or not.  Choose carefully.

If you have an idea of what you want in your book cover, great.  If you don’t, that’s okay.  Just be sure you choose a capable artist who you can communicate with.  Don’t be guided solely by cost.  Choose someone who knows what they are doing; who inspires your confidence, and “gets you.”

Blogging

Blogging is a great way to get yourself and your work “out there.” It’s not hard to create a blog, even for graphically challenged people like me.  WordPress and Wix are two of the most popular sites now.  You don’t have to be an expert at coding to make a nice looking blog.  You can also choose an upgrade plan that will give you more customizing options.  I believe the upgrade plans are worth it.  WordPress has a premium plan for only $99 per year.

Once your blog is created, don’t let it just sit in Cyberspace. Take a little time each day to read and comment on blogs by folks who write about subjects that interest you. Those people will then read and follow your blog if your content is good.

Take note of how other people promote their work on their blogs.  I’ve found that the subtle approach is the best way to do it.  Keep in mind that content is king.  What you have to say and how you express it will ultimately determine your degree of success.  Andmake sure the template you use to create your blog is Smart Phone Friendly.  I finally woke up to the fact that most people read blogs on their phones. Duh. I dumped my old templates and replaced them with new, easy to read, phone-friendly ones. Now, I’m attracting more followers than ever before, and I’m making many new friends.

Facebook Ads

I’ve experimented with ads on Facebook.  I’ve racked up tons of likes and very few sales.  In my humble opinion, paying for ads on Facebook is a total waste of time and money for self-published authors.  I have an author friend who is running great ads on Facebook, but he’s not selling any books.  I’m not saying ads in general don’t work on Facebook.  They do.  But you are an up-and-coming author struggling to find an audience.  You aren’t Macy’s.  You aren’t selling specialty items currently in demand like face masks.  See what I mean?

Facebook Pages

A Facebook page isn’t essential, but I strongly suggest that you put some time and effort into making a good one.  If nothing else, FB pages add credibility and overall impact to your marketing campaign.  And they are FREE.  You might even sell some books from your page using the SHOP NOW button.  Pick a glowing book review and pin it at the top of your posts column.  This little maneuver has increased views and engagements on all three of my Facebook pages.

Instagram

Upload a JPEG of your book cover with a link to your Facebook page.  If you have lots of friends who spend half of their lives on Instagram, you might get lucky.  I don’t use Instagram.  Don’t ask me why.

Press Releases

I’ve created and distributed press releases on PR Web with a target audience of 30,000 journalists and bloggers. The idea is to drive traffic to your websites and generate publicity on major news sites and search engines.  You can participate at various cost levels starting at $99.  The more you spend, the bigger the audience.  I participated at the second highest level at a cost of $289 per release.  (The highest level currently costs $389).  To add interest to the releases, I created a book trailer video. (A simple book trailer without actors will cost anywhere from $250 to $300 from a reputable company).

Bottom line: I could not relate any book sales to my press release adventures.  So, save your money.

Book Trailers

Book trailers are nice to have but they aren’t essential to your marketing campaign.  When I first started marketing my books twelve years ago, the pundits all said that you were dead in the water if you didn’t have a book trailer.  As it turns out, this is baloney.  Book trailers are a nice addition to your marketing package, but they aren’t powerful generators of sales.  I made trailers for my first novel, Three Days to Darkness, and my second one, Scarlet Ambrosia–Blood is the Nectar of Life.  I had fun making them and they didn’t cost too much. Recently, I used the first trailer I made as the cover photo on my Facebook page. (Note: The video has to be two minutes or less to be uploaded to the cover section). To my amazement it worked. More than a thousand people visited my Three Days to Darkness page in the span of two weeks. I made some book sales at the rate of two percent of the visits. I’m still getting views.  But here’s the thing: if you have a limited budget, use it where it will do the most good.  I’m getting to that.  Stay with me.

Audio Books

If you can swing the cost, make an audio version of your book.  As you are no doubt aware, people don’t read as many books as they used to.  Audio books are getting more popular every day.  I used ACX to make the audio book for my third novel, Micromium: Clean Energy from Mars.  I liked using ACX and they are part of Amazon.  I signed an exclusive agreement with them, which means I get a bigger royalty (70%) on each audio book sale.  With this agreement, your book is automatically uploaded to Amazon, Audible, and iTunes.  The downside is, you don’t get exposure on sites like Hoopla, Overdrive, and Bibliotheca, which serve libraries.  If you don’t go exclusive, ACX offers a non-exclusive agreement wherein you can distribute to any platform and get a 25% royalty.

If you hire a narrator for your audio book, which you can do through ACX, a good one will probably cost you between $100 and $150 per finished hour.  Your narrator does the narration and all of the production work.  You direct them and approve the finished product.  I had a great time making my audio book with an amazing woman who did a fabulous job.  I’ve done reasonably well with my audio book.  I’ve noticed that having an audio version available has increased my overall book sales.

Paid Reviews

When you launch your book, you want to have a sufficient number of positive reader and editorial reviews available on retail sites and Goodreads to convert browsers into buyers.  Unless you have twenty friends and a handful of book critics ready, willing, and able to post glowing reviews, it makes sense to purchase a few of these.

There are a number of sites available for these services.  I have found the best and most reliable site for reader and editorial reviews to be indiereader.com.  Check out their website.  I bought reader reviews and an editorial review from them. I’m 100% satisfied with their service, reliability, and results.  I’ve also used midwestbookreview.com for fair, reliable, and less expensive editorial reviews. Readers Favorite is an excellent site for FREE reviews. Check it out.

Amazon Advertising

Sponsored ads on Amazon.com are the most effective marketing tool I’ve used so far.  If you have a limited budget, this is where to spend it.  The ads are easy to create. You set your daily budget, write your copy, set your campaign dates, and off you go.  If the ad doesn’t work, you can scrap it and try different keywords.  You can see which keywords are working and which are not and adjust accordingly.  Best of all, you can see how many books you’ve sold and how much it has cost you to sell those books.  There’s no baloney and no guesswork.  And, let’s face it, most of the books people buy are sold on Amazon.  To create a campaign, sign in to your KDP account, select the book you want to advertise, click on the three dots to the far right of the book, and select promote and advertise.

I hope you will find these tips helpful.  I wish you all the success in the world, and keep writing.

Do you have first-hand publishing and marketing knowledge to share with us?

The Gift of a Book by Tom Darby

The smallest kindnesses of strangers, things that they probably no longer remember doing, have benefitted me for my entire life. Those gestures combined with the sorcery of books can conjure magic potent enough turn lead into gold!

Tom Darby is a blogger and writer, born in Chateauroux, France, raised in Klamath, California, residing in Spanish Springs, Nevada. He is an award-winning journalist and hall-of-fame radio jock. You can find his stories and other articles here.

Read on for Tom’s example of exactly what I mean…

One of Tom Darby’s “Trees of Mystery” tags.

“The Gift of a Book,” by Tom Darby

The roadside tourist destination opened at seven in the morning, and I was expected to be there an hour later, ready to work. My job was to place a red-on-yellow piece of 15-by-5 inch cardboard on each automobile that read: ‘Trees of Mystery’ in large letters and ‘Shrine of the Redwood Highway,’ below that.

We called them ‘tags,’ those who put them on, ‘taggers,’ and the act of doing so, ‘tagging.’  The object of the job was to slip a piece of wire through the holes at either end of the tag and hook the wire over the bumper so that the tag could be seen as a vehicle passed by on the highway. 

Advertising at its simplest.

There were usually three or four taggers on duty each day in the summer months. Each boy hauled a hundred tags and twice as much precut wire in a leather satchel in, through and around the vehicles that quickly filled the parking lot.

One early morning I approached a young couple from British Columbia, Canada, driving a burnt orange Volkswagen bus and asked if they’d like a tag on their vehicle. They did and I obliged them.

As I stood up I saw a thick paperback book shoved down between the dashboard and windshield. The artwork of a ‘naked woman’ swimming with a gigantic shark, mouth agape and swimming out of the depths to gobble her upheld my attention.

“I jus’ finished it,” the woman said, “Do you want to read it?”

“Yes, please.”

She retrieved it and handed it to me.

“Thank you,” I responded.

It took me all of the summer of 1974 to finish “Jaws,” written by Peter Benchley. That gift helped to germinate, not only my young but ripening imagination but also my continuing desire to write.

Has the kindness of a stranger ever affected you profoundly?