So you can read my books

Monday, May 30, 2016


Harper Lee, when questioned on the reason why she never wrote another book, told a friend:

"I wouldn't go through the pressure and publicity I went through with  

To Kill a Mockingbird for any amount of money.

I have said what I wanted to say and I will not say it again." 

Harper Lee was 89, a frail, hearing- and sight-impaired stroke victim 

living in a nursing home when this "sequel" was discovered

It was actually the first draft of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD written in 1957.  

Lee's editor, Tay Hohoff, thought it only lived in the flashbacks 

and asked Lee to write a whole novel of that era.

Perhaps just as important, her sister Alice, Lee’s longtime protector, passed away the prior November. 

Her new protector, Tonja Carter, who had worked in Alice Lee’s law office, held power of attorney.

So a classic and its hero was tarnished for a money-grab.  

How American.

And speaking of America ... let's talk CAPTAIN AMERICA:

The new CAPTAIN AMERICA#1 has revealed Cap has been a Hydra agent all along.  

It negated decades of his fighting for the ideals of America and had him being a supporter of the Nazi death camps.

{Shakes his head}

The event even made CNN. 

 Oh, and it just happened to coincide with DC's trying to recover 

from its highly criticized 52 reboot of its universe with the title sweeping REBIRTH.

Just another corporate diversion.

Many speak of how Atticus Finch became a symbol of compassion and courage for them, inspiring them to become attorneys.

Chris Evans has created a character believable in his compassion, his honor, and his willingness to sacrifice for others.

But Atticus and Steve Rogers are just fictional characters, right?  

These fictional worlds and people inspired hundreds of thousands of people 

to live in the ways they want, to go out and do the things they love. 

Better yet, fiction continues to do this 

as it keeps providing strong and unique role models for every kind of person out there. 

 The world is generally a troubled place rife with warfare, poverty, famine, and unrest.

Heroes are beacons of light amidst this vast darkness. 

Heroes prove to us that no matter how much suffering there is in the world, 

there are supremely good people around whom we can count on to do the right thing, 

even when most other people are not.

Heroes bring light to a dark world.  I just hate it when greed douses their candles.

What do you think? 

Sunday, May 29, 2016


We enjoy stirring videos of Memorial Day with graves draped in colorful American flags

as lovely music plays in the background.

We watch and listen to stirring Memorial Day parades, 

flags snapping in the breeze and bands playing stirringly as they march in unison.

People in our country's neighborhoods will be having the biggest and best barbecues, 

but the forgotten spirits of those slain upon a thousand distant foreign fields 

might take us to the cemeteries on Memorial Day.

Would they tell us that we could eat all the barbecue we want on the Fourth of July 

if we just murmured a small thanks over their graves today?

No one sets out to be a hero, and certainly no one wants to die a bloody, violent death.

But thousands upon thousands found themselves in terrible situations where they needed a hero, 

so that is what they became.

They died so that we would have a chance to live as best we could.

 We couldn’t enjoy sun-drenched summer days like today without their sacrifice.

Living in the world today is a challenge unlike one that has ever been seen in the past. 

But as thousands rose to the occasion when all seemed dark, we, too, can rise to tackle the obstacles facing us.

Yes, today is a day where we mourn the loss of precious lives and innocence.  

But today is also a day where we celebrate the victory of the human spirit over darkness ...

and this gives us hope.

Saturday, May 28, 2016


Czech airman Robert Bozdech found himself shot down with his wounded pilot in a grim no-man's land, 

between German and French forces at the beginning of World War II. 

It is January 1940 and the German army is shortly to begin its surge across the rest of continental Europe.

 In an abandoned farmhouse where Robert and his French pilot take shelter, 

he finds a starving puppy amid the rubble. 

Not weaned yet, the emaciated dog is able to suckle warmed-up chocolate from Robert's finger.

But a puppy left behind would make noise that would alert their Nazi hunters. 

Robert takes out his knife and lowers it to the puppy's throat. 

He looks into trusting brown eyes.  

He puts the knife away and the puppy inside his bomber jacket.

Along with the pilot, he and the puppy make the terrifying and arduous journey to safety.  

But that is just it: 

there is no safety with the Nazis butchering their way across all of France.

So Robert & the puppy, along with six other Czech airmen, 

eventually escape to Britain to serve in the Royal Air Force, 

along the way facing not only a saga of obstacles and dangers 

but the added challenge of smuggling along a dog Robert names Ant ... 

later changing it to Antis for a reason I leave for you to find out.

 Long before Robert and his mates are welcomed into the RAF, Antis wins Robert's heart. 

His loyalty, courage, and intelligence, even as a puppy, 

create a bond of love, one that survives some of the most challenging circumstances.

 Antis was awarded the Dickin Medal, 
the animal equivalent to the Victoria Cross

Before France capitulates, Robert returns to fly with the French Air Force 

in a last-ditch effort to slow the advance of the Germans, joined by Antis. 

(Later Antis would fly with Robert in the RAF.)

"It seemed almost the most natural thing ... for Ant to leap onto the wing of the aircraft and climb in beside him ... 

The perils of the mission didn't seem to worry him ... His ears pricked up a little as the punching percussions of machine-gun fire filled the gun turret,

his nose twitched at the thick cordite fumes that drifted all around him, 

but other than that he didn't ... stir from his laid-back position prone on the metal floor."

 During the course of the war, Antis saves lives by hearing, and warning his master of, 

the approach of German bombers long before they could be detected by air defense. 

And after one horrific attack

he becomes a rescuer, sniffing out survivors in the rubble of a building.  

Even being buried by a falling wall could not stop the bleeding, crawling Antis 

from digging out his last rescue: 

a young girl who would have died but for Antis.

You will laugh, sigh, cry, and ultimately cheer this warm loving story torn from the bloody history of WWII.

You will be cheered by the ingenuity and never-say-die spirit 
of both man and dog.  

I am currently listening to the audio version of this wonderful book.

To give equal time to kittens:

Friday, May 27, 2016


C. Lee McKenzie emailed me:

I’d love to know more about how you did the audible. It’s something I hadn’t considered until hearing your book.

I thought if Lee had questions, many of you might have as well.  So here goes:

It can be expensive --

There is a price per finished hour of audio – which can vary from $200-$400.

So for a 90,000 word book, this would come out at around 10 hours of finished audio – costing between $2000 and $4000.

This may sound steep –

{Only $1.99 if buy the Kindle book}

but a 10 hour finished book will have at least 75 hours of solid work behind it – 

recording, editing and final quality check (it takes 10 hours just to listen to it!).

If you divide it out, this is paying the actor about $27 per hour on the lower rate – 

which is not not excessive for a professional running a business.  

You shake your head, "How hard could this editing be?"

Editing an audio book is a painstaking job –

removing the errors from the recording 

and maybe adding in pauses for effect or cutting long gaps to smooth out dialogue.

In addition you have to be listening out for and then remove, 

all the strange wheezes and pops, coughs and clunks and stomach gurgles that somehow get onto the track.

Add to this the removal of odd external street noises (police sirens, dogs barking etc) 

which are inevitable if you do not record in a sound-proofed room or have a directional mic.

There is some art involved in this –

deciding to leave a noisy breath in the middle of a sentence or

 removing one from the beginning of a phrase will depend on the flow and context of the passage.

Many authors have not planned in advance for a paragraph to be read aloud 

and this makes the job of the recording artist quite a challenge.

 Frequently there are gaspings as the poor actor struggles to get in enough air after a long sentence with many sub-clauses or commas!



(Lee ask your publisher if you have the audio rights to your books.  

If not, ask them if they could grant them to you since they are not going to use them.  

To use ACX you must own the audio rights to your book.)

For those of you who haven’t visited ACX – you should –

it is a brilliant uploading service for independent producers and authors.

They allow authors to advertise for the type of narrator they would like (accent, age, style etc) 

and provide an audition text for any interested party to use to record a sound test. 

The auditions come in, the author selects the one they like best and then the narrator goes off to do the work.

  It is a really simple utility to use 

and it marries authors and producers up and handles contracts, payments, sign offs etc 

and then gets the finished job up onto Amazon, Audible and iTunes.

They offer all sorts of payment options for producers –

including royalty splits and they then handle the payments to you when the book sales start flooding in….

With this option your outlay is minimal – you are just sacrificing half your future royalties.

But since the narrator is looking at continuing to be paid, she/he is motivated to do her or his very best work to spread "word of mouth." -- so to speak.

On the other hand -- 

when you as an author offer a royalty share deal to a narrator, you are asking them to work for free.  

Hopefully, it will pay off eventually, but that’s not guaranteed. 

The narrator is taking a risk – 

it could really pay off, given that there’s no upper limit to what a royalty share title could earn. 

However, it could completely flop, and if it does, the narrator is out of luck.   

Many quality narrators will no longer do Royalty Share for that reason.


The option of paying a low per-finished-hour rate, such as $50 – $100 per finished hour, 

plus royalty share, to cover the cost of editing or at least provide a baseline pay 

for the narrator in case the audiobook sales don’t come through spectacularly. 

This is referred to as a “hybrid” deal. 

The way this would work through ACX 

is that the author and narrator would create a royalty share contract, 

and then the author would also pay the narrator the agreed upon rate.  

The hybrid arrangement seems to be a “sweet spot” for a lot of other narrators I’ve talked to –

the best of both worlds. 

This would be a good thing to be prepared to offer if you don’t have the budget 

to offer a pay-for-production deal, but want to attract a good quality narrator.


2. Create an account (click on the big Get Started button after admiring Neil Gaiman for a minute)

3. This account works with your Amazon account - so you'll have the same sign in and password

4. Creating an account here is very similar to creating an account on any e-book platform - just follow the directions and fill in the info

5. Confirm you own the rights to your titles. 

This is similar to adding your books to your Author Central account, sort of an is this book yours? within ACX and then you confirm if it is or isn't.

6. Next comes the bit I found the most tedious - creating your title profile

a. Post a cover photo (don't worry, it's not the FINAL cover art)

b. Post a description

c. Post an excerpt for narrators to audition with

d. Post a write up of anything else potential narrators and producers need to know -

for example, I stated that I needed a female narrator that could handle doing a proper British accent.

e. Post word count, territories (most will be Worldwide like with e-books)

f. Choose your royalty.

 This is where you decide if you are going to pay an upfront hourly rate or royalty share.

Obviously, if you pay's going to cost something.

If you do the royalty share, you don't pay anything upfront, but you do split all of your royalties with the narrator/producer 50/50.


Audible takes 60% of the price.  
You and the narrator 
get 20% each of what is left.

 I chose to share my royalties, and in fact am happy to share my royalties. 

I honestly feel like my narrators put just as much work into creating the audio books as I did writing the books!

 7. Now your title profiles are listed on ACX for narrators and producers to peruse. 

(A lot of the narrators are also the producers.)

You can wait for them to come to you, but I have no patience, 

so I started listening to narrator auditions right away. 

(Go up to Search and click on Narrators for hire.)

If you have any more questions, friends, just email me.  :-)

Thursday, May 26, 2016


C. Lee McKenzie

has written a delightful review both on GOODREADS and on AMAZON for 

"When you listen to Death in the House of Life, you’re drawn into a world where natural laws do not exist. 

There’s no division between those living and those dead, 

there’s a fusion of history and the fantastic, real historical figures align with 

 or fight against mythical/alien ones, time can be manipulated, 

and what is evil—in the end—turns out to be what saves you.

Texas Ranger Captain Samuel McCord, 

the charming central figure of this mixed-genre delight is doomed and, therefore, heroic. 

Set in the 19th century, 

it has a cast that includes Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, Nikola Tesla and the remarkable Countess Ada Byron—

all people of intellect and achievement in that century. 

It’s surprising, exciting, and at all times, stimulating to have them together in the quest for the aegis.

One of my favorite things about the book 

is how the author weaves the historical and political events into the fabric of his tale.

 It’s so cleverly done that while I was absorbing real facts from the past, 

I was always entertained and involved in the fictional adventure.

The voice actor did one fine job in not only keeping each of the characters distinct, 

but also rendering the females so well, that I wasn’t aware that a man was delivering the dialog."

For a limited time:
Buy the Kindle Book for $2.99 and get the audio book for just $1.99!


Wednesday, May 25, 2016


Ghost of Mark Twain here ...

I'm here to help Roland out a mite.  The trouble with his posts?

They're too dang long!  

By the time I get to Point #17 I've done forgot the first five!

Roland, take notes, son.  Here is how it is done ...

There was never a time in the last 40 years I wrote 

when my literary shipyard hadn't two or more unfinished ships on the way, neglected and baking in the sun.

This has an unbusinesslike look, but it was not purposeless.  It was intentional.

As long as a book would write itself, I was a faithful suitor, and my industry did not flag.

But the minute the book tried to shift to my head the contrivings of its situations, 

inventing its adventures, 

and conducting its conversations, 

I put it away and dropped it out of my mind.

It was by accident that I discovered that a book is pretty sure to get tired about its middle 

and refuse to go on until its powers and its interest should have been refreshed by a rest

 and its depleted stock of raw materials reinforced by a lapse of time. 

When I reached the middle of TOM SAWYER, I could not understand why I could not go on with it.

The reason was simple: 

My tank had run dry.  It was empty; the stock of material in it exhausted.

The story could not go on without materials.  It could not be wrought out of nothing.

When the manuscript had lain in a pigeonhole for two years, I took it out one day and read the last chapter I had written.

It was then that I made the great discovery that when the tank runs dry, you've only to leave it alone for a spell ... 

even for so small a time as a good night's sleep to awaken to discover your tank has filled while you dreamed.

See, children?  A short post but you still learned something important.  

But be kind to Roland.  He ain't achieved ghosthood yet.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016


{Gift short story at the end of THE NOT-SO-INNOCENTS ABROAD}

The news.

It has none of the characteristics that make something worthwhile.

It's not fun, it causes anxiety, it gives you a warped sense of reality, 

and people who watch it are rarely going to do anything with the information they get.

Yet, watch it they do.  Why?

If we want our books to sell, 
we need to be able to answer 
that question.

The appeal of many books, ideas and actions boils down to six key factors –

1.)  A person-centered subject matter
2.)  The presence of patterns
3.)  The odd incongruity
4.)  A topic that pushes the buttons of hope or fear
5.)  Stimuli that engage our body or senses 
6.)  Thoughts that play to our psychological biases

 Rhyming idioms are catchy, attractive and appear truthful 

because they are easy to mentally process and their repetitive sound appeals to our love of patterns.

Idioms that at first glance appear contradictory stimulate our keen eye for incongruity.

Fiction is so engrossing because we are hard-wired to detect useful information 

and while part of our brain knows that what we are reading is make-believe,

 another part thinks the characters, and events, are real.

Some aspect of our poor susceptible minds really thinks Hannibal Lector is out there. 


Have you ever left a movie feeling vaguely dissatisfied?  

You didn’t like the film but don’t know exactly why?

 Chances are, the movie failed in terms of story structure. 

 Storytelling is so ingrained in us that it sets up certain expectations for how a story should unfold.  

When those expectations are defied, it leaves us vaguely unsettled.

A story is a character in pursuit of a goal in the face of an obstacle or challenge.

How the character resolves (or fails to resolve) 

the challenge creates the drama and human interest that keeps us reading or listening.




Readers will only know how the other characters are feeling through what your protagonist

 (POV character) 

notices and perceives—their words, actions, facial expressions, tone of voice, body language, etc.


Slap your MC right out of the gate.   

It doesn’t need to be the main problem of the story,

but put something on the first or second page that challenges him and makes the readers start worrying about him.

 The difficulty or dilemma can be internal, external, or interpersonal.


Introduce some opposition in the first few pages.  

Bring on a rival, an enemy, or a nasty villain fairly early to get things moving fast and make your readers start biting their nails.


 Surprise gets our attention by defying our expectations. 

We’re wired to immediately start figuring out what’s actually going on, 

the better to gauge whether the smack we're about to receive will be on the lips or aside the head.


 Science has proven that the brain uses emotion, rather than reason, to gauge what matters to us.

So it’s not surprising that when it comes to story, if we’re not feeling, we’re not reading.

 In a compelling story the reader slips into the protagonist’s skin and becomes her/him –

feeling what she feels, wanting what she wants, fearing what she fears.


Over 11,000,000 pieces of information dive-bomb our five senses every second. 

Don't add to the reader's input unless it is necessary. Bore the reader; lose the reader.


We access the universal only through the very specific.  The story is in the specifics.

"Dario had a hard day."

There are all sorts of hard days. Is Dario a door-to-door salesman or a Roman gladiator?

Use the" Eyes-Wide-Shut test."

If you shut your eyes, can you see it? If not, then neither can the reader.


Life is hard enough for your reader.  Give them a chuckle or two in each chapter even if your tale is a dark one.

It is always darker after a light has died than if it had never existed at all. 


If you care, it will carry over into your words.

Charlaine Harris stopped caring about Sookie 

and just continued to write the novels to keep her contract.

It showed.