A homonym that trips some up.

WINE—Red wine goes well with kumquats and prickly pears.

WHINE—Okay. They don’t pair. Stop your whining.

Posted 2012/08/30 at 20h12ET in Words, Writing.

Words—Licence— License

Easy to miss this one.

LICENCE—Always a noun. He has a licence to collect alien spaceships. British spelling variation.

LICENSE—A noun. A verb. U.S. spelling variation for noun. The federal Bureau for Interplanetary Affairs is empowered to license individuals, corporations and charities.

Posted 2012/08/26 at 18h24ET in Words, Writing.

The Protectors (A Thriller)


Easy to miss this one.

THROW—Transitive verb. You throw something. A book, your voice, a planet.

THROE—A noun. Emotions. Spasms. In the extreme. The throes of love, of battle, of using a computer.

Posted 2012/08/21 at 14h48ET in Words, Writing.


I don’t make these things up.

FLOW—Some like it when champagne flows, others when it’s beer. Water flows down hills and in rivers, but there are no ice flows.

FLOE—An ice floe. Chucks of ice floating in water. Big chunks, the size of a city, are called ice fields.

Posted 2012/08/21 at 14h27ET in Words, Writing.

Should I Use Up The KDP Promotion Days Before They Expire?

... some decisions are easier to make than others because you don't have all the facts...
I have a decision to make. Two of my novels on Amazon are part of the KDP select program and the 90-day period expires in a week. I have some free promotion days left to use. Do I use them or let them expire? Do I re-enlist for another 90 days? How to decide?

Overview of the KDP Select Program:
  • Applies to e-books only.
  • 90-day period.
  • Book becomes exclusive to Amazon.
  • No non-Amazon sales allowed.
  • 5 free promotion days.
  • Unused promo days expire. No roll over.
  • No royalty for promo day downloads.
  • Lending program for Select members.
  • 1 new lend per month per member.
  • Royalty for lending, around $2 per lend.

The Benefits.
  • People love free and will download.
  • Increased visibility from:
    • Amazon’s list of books currently in free promo.
    • Web sites and tweets of your free promo.
    • Hitting bestseller list on Amazon.
  • More clicks on the LIKE button for the book.
  • Reviews posted on Amazon and elsewhere.
  • Increased sales after the promotion period.
  • Increased rankings afterwards.

The Downside.
  • No sales from non-Amazon sites.
  • No royalties during free promo days.
  • Tonnes of free books offered everyday.
  • Downloads don’t turn into reads or readers.
  • Visibility lasts for a short time.
  • Income from lending less than regular royalty.

I think I have covered most of the key points on this issue.
I have one week left to use the free promo days. I suspect my lost royalties, if I use the days, will be less than royalties gained later. In other words, I think it will help to generate more future sales than would otherwise be the case. I can’t be certain but that’s my best guess and hence I should use them up.
I’m not sure if I should enrol for the next period. The calculus would include sales on Itunes, B&N, Kobo etc. It’s not insignificant. With greater visibility, there comes a tipping point where you can’t ignore sales outside Amazon.
NOTE: If you have a book enrolled, check your KDP bookshelf. Select a title, click Actions then See KDP Select Details. A window will pop up. There you will find a checkbox to automatically renew enrolment. You may want to uncheck it.
Posted 2012/08/20 at 16h17ET in Publishing.


This one never tripped me up. Not sure why. It should have.

COLOMBIA—Country in northern South America. Shares a border with Panama connecting South America with Central America.

COLUMBIA—Not a country.

Posted 2012/08/20 at 13h39ET in Words, Writing.

Why This Novelist Stopped Watching TV

... When you're on your deathbed, will you cherish all the time you spent watching TV?...
n 2007, after a lifetime of watching of TV, I stopped watching. My habit was like any, like smoking or drinking. It was just something I did. No real thought about not watching. When I decided to stop, I went cold turkey. I had many weak moments in January and February 2007 but I eventually broke the habit. Whatever urge I had to turn on the TV completely vanished and I haven’t looked back.
But how could I? When I mention to people I don’t watch TV, they are incredulous or think I’m nuts. Well, it is true. I don’t watch TV and perhaps I am nuts but I have my reasons.
I had known co-workers and friends who had turned off TV completely. I read about journalists and writers who did the same and I always thought they were a touch nuts but then I read Stephen King’s book On Writing. In it he says, and I paraphrase, if you want to write novels, what the hell are you doing watching TV? It got me thinking but still I watched.
I watched the cooking channel or the talking heads. I watched the nature shows and tales about Egypt. I watched nonsense when I couldn’t sleep. I continued to watch, but I realized my addiction was destroying me. I had become a zombie. I had deactivated my brain.
The cooking shows became more about theatre and staged drama and less about technique and ingredients or how to cook. These folks fell for the world of reality TV and I began to hate it.
I watched all the politcos talk and talk, but there was never any sense of meshing out issues. It was staged theatrics. Everybody involved had their side and pushed their manure regardless of the smell. Those watching weren’t engaged in reasoned thought because they had their side and were spectators of a fight.
And think about all the commercials. There are the commercial breaks with unrealistic ads urging us to buy this soap or that beer, but it doesn’t stop there. Everything is a commercial. The pundits pushing a political party. The activist pushing a cause. The religious. The movie and TV stars. The bands. The chefs. The writers. The charities. Shows were nothing more than commercials wrapped around commercials with coming-up-next commercials to keep you watching.
What was I gaining from all this time sitting in front of a TV? Not much it would appear.
I know the names Snooki and Kardasian, did I spell them right?, but they are nothing more than names to me. Have I lost anything because I know nothing about these people? I don’t think so.
If I want to know about what is happening in the world, what’s the latest news, I find it’s much easier to read about it than sit through a TV news broadcast. With the internet, the sources for news have never been more accessible. I can learn more in fifteen minutes of reading then 20 minutes of news with its 10 minutes of commercials.
If I want to be educated on a topic, or even entertained, there are plenty of books and web sites and they work much better for me than TV. If I want a laugh, want a thrill, want to sway to the music, there are far better choices than broadcast TV. The best times, I’ve found, are usually with friends, chatting and laughing and not a TV in sight.
There’s always the risk one replaces one addiction for another like the internet. But without TV, I have time for gardening, exercise, reading and writing.
Do you think you don’t have enough time? Turn off the TV. Besides, when you’re on your deathbed, will you cherish all the time you spent watching TV? Is that what will go through your mind? I don’t think so.
Posted 2012/08/19 at 14h39ET in Writing, Life.


Similar words that can cause confusion. Me included.

ECUADOR—Country on northwest coast of South America. Includes the Galapagos Islands.

EQUATOR—Zero degree latitude. Splits northern and southern hemispheres. The equator runs through Ecuador.

Posted 2012/08/19 at 12h59ET in Words, Writing.

Writing The Next Chapter of The Julian Assange Narrative

... using a real life character to write a narrative about what could happen...
couple of years ago I read an article on Julian Assange in The New Yorker. At the time, he was a minor celebrity. Times have changed. Today he garners headlines all over the world. Most know something about him. To some he’s a hero. To others he’s a villain. I’m not here to take sides; I’m here to analyze the narrative aspects of his current situation. In other words, use what we know to write the next chapter of the story—create a political thriller if you will, one that could even include plots for assassination. Hey, I’m making it up and want to create suspense.
At the moment he’s holed up in Ecuador’s embassy in London, England. The Swedes want him on a criminal investigation. There’s an INTERPOL arrest warrant. The British have agreed to extradite him to Sweden. He has lost all appeals with British courts. If it weren’t for the protection provided by Ecuador and international laws on diplomacy, he’d be on a plane back to Sweden.
In the latest news, Ecuador’s government has granted him political asylum but how to get him to Ecuador where this protection has effect? If he leaves the embassy, the British can arrest him, but he can’t stay in the embassy indefinitely. Besides, it doesn’t work for our story. We have to move the action forward and come to some resolution on the questions raised.
It’s a storyline that has been played many times in real life and hence we could be heading down a worn path, something to avoid, but this time it seems different because there are so many players involved: Assange, the British, the Swedes, Ecuador, and the US.
Yes, the US. They are the wild card in this story. They have been the biggest target of Assange’s web site and feel wronged. Many US politicians and pundits would like to see Assange brought to the US and stand trial. It’s suggested if this wild card were eliminated he would have returned to Sweden. I don’t know and I’m not taking sides. We’ll use it because it provides fodder; it adds suspense and intrigue.
At this point in our story, our protagonist faces a dilemma: what to do next? He has to determine what action to take. Meanwhile all the other players have to decide what they are going to do. Can you see the multiple points of view that is so typical of thrillers?
Reaching a decision on a course of action is a sequel. It’s a slow paced section of the narrative because there’s no immediate action, no head-to-head confrontation. A sequel ends with the decision and taking action which starts a new scene. But while Assange thinks, others are thinking and acting.
The Swedes are sitting around waiting for others to act, but let’s up the stacks. Perhaps there are forces pushing the government to withdraw the investigation. Perhaps there’s some duplicity. They make it appear they are no longer interested in perusing any criminal charges in order to allow Assange to leave the embassy whereupon, at some later point, he’s picked up. Just a thought and at this point that’s what is happening. Thinking about the possible ways the story can go.
The British are looking at a way to capture Assange. Can they storm the Embassy? What are the consequences? Do they rely on the police or do they use their vaunted SAS? How long can they maintain this constant police surveillance? What sort of public pressure can be brought to bare on the government? What discussions are they having with the other governments?
Can the Ecuadorians be persuaded to remove the sanctuary? What force, what incentive might allow them to change their minds?
Could the Swedes be persuaded to provide a guarantee that he won’t be shipped off to the US?
What are the US plotting? Is there a way they could bring him to the US?
In a way, the best strategy for Assange is to wait. As long as the Ecuadorians allow it, the longer he waits, the less interest there will be from the British and Swedes primarily because the people directly involved will move on in their careers, their lives. But waiting in this instance would zap the story of suspense. Our protagonist must make a decision and act on it.
The other aspect of the storyline? Espionage. Assange is a computer geek and encryption expert. It’s the reason governments have had a tough time shutting down his web site. The US and British will be working on tapping into the electronic and communications of the embassy to see what they can learn. More intrigue and suspense and more conflict. They want to crack his codes and he wants to stop it.
There’s a lot of meat here and it’s tough to decide where to go. The answer starts with the ending. Know where you want to go to and work backwards.
Possible end points.
1. Somehow he ends up dead. It’s always an option and one that occurs in stories quite a bit. For me, it’s always a last option unless the character had it coming and must die.
2. He agrees to go to Sweden, or is captured and turned over, where the justice process plays out.
3. He makes a break from Ecuador’s embassy and avoids capture. He’s on the lam. It’s an ending to the current sequence in the story, but not a story ending. Or, he ends up in Ecuador with restricted mobility.
4. He ends up in the US where he either ends up in prison or free.
5. The charges are dropped and he can go free.
6. Something else. There’s always the unknown option that can pop up at some later point.
The writer in me sees this scenario play out.
He decides to make a break from the embassy. I like it because it’s action with tension. A game of cat and mouse. Will he or won’t he be caught? To make the escape possible, there is collusion and duplicity. The British have convinced a key figure in Ecuador’s embassy to make Assange believe he’s safe to leave, but at some point he’s turned over to the police. To add suspense, add in mistakes that make immediate capture fail. A twist to keep the readers on their toes. Perhaps the embassy staffer was playing the British. Either way, there’s a point, say when they reach France, where it seems he’s made a clean escape only to be captured where he’s sent to Sweden and where he’s freed or in prison.
Duplicity, so common in espionage tales, real and fictional, adds uncertainty, creates interest and hence keeps a reader reading to find out how it will end. If the reader knows the duplicity is happening, it creates suspense.
Interest is also created by Assange himself. He’s a polarizing figure. Some people love him and would be reading to see if he gets away. Others, who hate him, will be reading to see him lined up in front of firing squad. Either way, there’s little indifference.
I have a good idea about how I would write it and given some time and more thought, rewrite it and throw in a few more twists.
How would you play it out?
Posted 2012/08/17 at 18h15ET in Writing.

Writers and Rejection

Great Article on The State of Publishing Industry

... The publishing industry and it is a business first and foremost...
reat article in Forbes about the current state of publishing and the digital revolution by David Vinjamuri.
Must read article that covers the state of publishing and does so with precision.
Some added thoughts.
Brad Thor thinks if you’re good enough, you’ll find an agent and a publisher. He fails to take into consideration the “luck” factor, as well as the benefits of self-publishing for niche markets or mid-list type authors. His mindset is NYT bestseller list and it shows.
As Vinjamuri writes, “most new authors who make it through the arduous process of finding both an agent and a publisher are surprised to learn that it is the author who is responsible for marketing and promoting his or her own work.”
Until, and if, you break out, you’re on your own. So why go with a traditional publisher?
He’s correct when he says the amazon rating system has become useless. It’s impossible to trust them. There are too many faked reviews. People who give five star ratings when they never read the book or only do so to curry favours. There are also the vindictive reviews meant to sabotage the competition.
Read the article here.
Posted 2012/08/16 at 12h19ET in Publishing.