Jump Start Your Writing Challenge – A trivial event


Jump Start Your Writing Challenge – A trivial event

 Rory C. Keel

 

Yesterday the old man wore a red-checkered flannel shirt accented by cream-colored suspenders. Every day as regular as a clock ticks, he sat on the south end of the forest-green bench in the park across the street from the café.

The day before, he shuffled in a slower pace than usual toward his regular sitting place and wiped the seat with a handkerchief, which he pulled from the back pocket of his wrinkled tan pants. After he stuffed the rag back into his pocket he turned and eased himself onto the bench and watched the children play.

Two days earlier, he wiped his seat and opened a small brown paper sack and produced a peanut to befriend a gray bushy tailed squirrel.

The morning before that he sat and tossed small pieces of bread from his sandwich to the pigeons that flocked around him.

Earlier in the week, a young girl pushing a stroller stopped to rest and sat on the other end of the bench. The old man removed his hat, revealing a gray head, a gesture of politeness long forgotten by a youthful generation. She opened the hood of the stroller to show the gentleman its precious cargo. He smiled.

Today, the south end of the forest green bench in the park across the street from the café is empty.

 

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Responses to My Amazon Question


Responses to My Amazon Question

Natalie Bright

In last week’s post, I blogged about concerns I had with the sales report for my new nonfiction picture book series, RESCUE ANIMALS. I have been promoting this book like crazy on a local level and was concerned with the reportedly 10 sales. All four books were enrolled into KDP Select, but the number of free downloads is not available on the reports. Here is what I posted on the Amazon Community Board:

“Specifically regarding ASIN: B01M0K6F6G FLASH, The True Story of a Rescue Horse. I have been promoting this eBook heavily in our local area. With just two events I reached close to 1000 people in the first month of release. At one school of 700, we know of at least 300 kids who had FLASH on their phones before they went home that day. I can count at least 50+ friends and family who ordered it as well. Total sales for that time period according to Amazon: TEN. In the meantime I’ve suspended all promo ads and local events, until I can figure out what is going on with my account. Maybe I missed something on the banking information or the pricing page? Can anyone think of something I might have set-up wrong? Thanks in advance for your time and expertise.”

I have since learned that Amazon had a major crash during the week I released FLASH. That might explain some of the reporting issues. Also below are the responses to the Community Forum question above, which is an open forum where KDP authors post their questions and concerns. Rather than joing the storm of accusations about how Amazon is ripping authors off, my first concern was that it might be a problem on my part. As I noted in the previous blog post, the sales ranking for FLASH made it to #5 under the sub-category Children’s eBooks/nonfiction/Farms and Ranch, but still only 10 total sales.

To date, I’ve had four responses to my question:

Amazon Community Forum Response #1:
The grade range for the book is P-5. I don’t know any kids 10 and under who have credit card privileges to shop at will online without parental approval (or parents thereof who would appreciate their kids coming home from school with purchases urged during a school-sponsored marketing pitch—what were you doing checking their phones?). Perhaps 300 small children downloaded the sample to appease the adults applying pressure. Unless friends and family can produce receipts for their purchases, they may also be being polite for the sake of appeasement.
If your Prior Months’ Royalties reports and Payments table show you’re owed money that you haven’t received, there may be a problem with your banking or tax information.

If they say you’ve gotten only 10 sales… you’ve gotten only 10 sales. The sales rank of nearly 1.3 million is consistent with that level of activity.

Response #2 & #3 from the same person:
Quando vai sair os pagamentos de janeiro e fevereiro ? Which translates to: When you are going out payments in January and February?
Hoje já é 18 de fevereiro – Today is February 18th.

Response #4
On the Reports Tab, what do the ORDERS total for that time period?
It is the blue line.

Response #1 was surprising and way out of left field. I’m not going to spark a debate in the forum, but I do want to address that here, specifically to make the point that I did not check kids phones. The point I was trying to make was that the promotion was concentrated to our local area because the horse is well known. The editor and horses’ owner is a music teacher, and everyone at her school, including the kids, parents and her coworkers, are very excited about this book. Each kid got bookmark. The kids probably showed their phone to their music teacher because they were excited and wanted her to see that they had the story. I’m assuming that some of those families have Amazon Prime memberships and hopefully took advantage of the free download.

My two boys were allowed to purchase things online with their phones by middle school age. It was part of their allowance for chores. They had a set amount each month and could purchase music on iTunes. (They did not want the Kindle App, although I really pushed it.) I thought it was a good way for them to learn money management and how to stick to a budget. If they went over budget, they had to do extra work for that month. Strange to me how a question about book pricing set-up shifted to parenting. Such is the world we live in today.

The Amazon Giant we Love

There is a book published on Amazon every five minutes. That’s great news for readers. Obviously, there will be glitches on a world wide scale. It is amazing that we can publish our work with ease and find the books we need, with delivery in a few days.

And then there was this food for thought about Amazon ranking:

According to John Skalzi: “a) if you don’t know how it works, you don’t know why you rank as you do, at any particular time, b) it’s foolish to be invested in a ranking whose mechanism is unknown to you, c) outside of Amazon, the ranking has no relevance.” Authors love validation and those rankings in subdivision categories is basically a “participation ribbon” as Mr. Skalzi explains. whatever.scalzi.com

“Every second you take to worry about your author ranking is every moment you’re not spending writing a book or promoting a book.” Jim Kukrel, sellmorebooksshow.com

In conclusion: I really believe the future is eBooks and as this evovles over the word wide stage there will be a great need for new and original content. As for FLASH, the numbers are the numbers and they’re not changing…just keep writing.

flash-true-story-cover_low

The Saturday Morning Blogger – Nandy Ekle’s reading challenge


The Saturday Morning Blogger – Nandy Ekle’s reading challenge

James Barrington

Nandy Ekle’s “Reading Challenge” caught my attention this week. You can scroll down to find it if you missed it before. Having had limited time to write this week, it seemed like a good time to make some observations about reading.

We started reading to our daughters and grandchildren as soon as they came home from the hospital. Some of our earliest photos of our children and grandchildren are of them sitting in our laps looking at books as we read to them.

For a few years, my 15-year-old granddaughter and I greeted each other with the words, “What are you reading now? Usually a conversation would ensue about what we were reading. Often, we would exchange books when we finished and read what the other had been reading. I was introduced to Rick Riordan and his Percy Jackson books. My younger granddaughter is into those now. I am really glad that they have both discovered the great wealth within the pages of books.

Nandy’s reading list is not specific books, but books that fill specific categories. I’m sharing the list with my grandchildren, so they can delve into a variety of authors, styles, and genres. Some of the suggestions will be easy; others may be more difficult, especially with my grandchildren’s modern given names.

I have recently been reading some biblical apologetics by Hank Hanegraaff. I am finding them informative, thought-provoking, and entertaining.

One of my personal favorite fictional novels is A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. I had named Slaughterhouse Five by Curt Vonnegut as my favorite before discovering Owen Meany. Both of those authors are graduates of Phillips Exeter Academy (PEA) in Exeter, NH. Having lived almost a decade in Hampton, a town neighboring Exeter, I came to appreciate the area and the Academy. I’m told that the Academy has a library in the reception area of their application office that is filled with books written by PEA graduates.

The Bible has to be my all-time favorite. To pick a single book within the Bible would be impossible. There is so much to choose from as well as so many genres. There is something new to be learned with each reading.

Thanks for looking in on wordsmithsix.com. If you don’t have time to write, by all means, read.

Writing Prompt


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

Writing Prompt

By Nandy Ekle

 

“Write a story in which a broken coffee pot has a huge impact on the world around it.”

This is the coffee maker. This is the carafe that fits under the coffee maker.

This is the crack in the side of the carafe that fits under the coffee maker.

This is the man eyeing the crack in the side of the carafe that fits under the coffee maker.

This is the frown on the face of the man eyeing the crack in the side of the carafe that fits under the coffee maker.

This is the empty cup belonging to the frowny-faced mad eyeing the crack in the side of the carafe that fits under the coffee maker.

This is the black cloud floating above the frowny-faced man with the empty cup eyeing the crack in the side of the carafe that fits under the coffee maker.

This is the door slamming closed under the black cloud floating above the frowny-faced man eyeing the crack in the side of the carafe that fits under the coffee maker.

This the gas pedal getting stomped to the floor after the door slammed closed under the black cloud floating above the frowny-faced mad eyeing the crack in the side of the carafe that fits under the coffee maker.

Well, I’m sure you can see where this is going.

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

And be sure to drink your coffee first thing in the morning. *wink*

 

Inspire Me


Outtakes 279

Inspire Me

By Cait Collins

 

 

Where do you find inspiration? There are times my mind is blank. I try looking at scenic photographs, or maybe old photos. Then there’s searching the internet under historic sites, heroes, kings and queens. I even pull out my journal jar or a topic assignment book and still can’t come up with an idea. It can be very frustrating.

So what are some alternatives? Go to the mall and people watch? It could work. You might find that perfect character. But what makes one person stand out over another? Is it hair color or the chiseled jaw? Maybe it’s the way he’s dressed or even the pace at which he walks. Whatever the attraction, can it be used to craft a character?

I like listening to music. I prefer the easy listening kind. Josh Grobin is one of my favorites and then I find inspiration in movie scores and musicals. The other night I was half listening to a TV show and heard pan flutes in the score. There’s something beautifully haunting about pan flute music. Two lovers face each other knowing the relationship is not working. They love but it’s not enough. The music fades. She leans her head to his chest. He kisses the top of her head   They separate, take a few steps and turn for one final look. So it’s kind of overly sentimental, but I can work with it. How did they meet? When did they know there were problems? What were the insurmountable issues? And there’s the beginning of a short story, a novel, or even a memoir.

Dreams are great inspiration. Just make sure you have a note pad handy to jot down the dream so you don’t forget the idea. Antique stores, museums, gardens can all be sources of inspiration when you’re stuck or even when you’re not looking for something to write. Some little something sparks the mind and the idea grows. Whatever triggers your thoughts and creativity should be explored.

Inspiration comes to each of us in its own special way. It may be as brash as a dream character beating you over the head and demanding “Write about me”. Or it appears as subtle as a spring breeze. However you find it, never reject it or ignore it. That spark or fleeting image may be a hint of something really big.

 

Jump Start Your Writing Challenge – A casual remark


Jump Start Your Writing Challenge – A casual remark

Rory C. Keel

Over the next two weeks Milton worked with the oxen. Starting early in the morning and working through most of the day, he could be heard in the field yelling “Gee” to turn them right, and “Haw” to turn them left, and somewhere in between he informed each one of them how dumb they really were.

The Giant that is AMAZON


The Giant that is AMAZON

Natalie Bright

Amazon for Readers

I love Amazon. In fact, while drinking coffee I just ordered two eBooks this morning (added to the hundreds more on my Kindle). At the first of the school year, we found a book on the bubonic plague, rush delivery, for a report my teenager had to write. He turned in his paper on time. My college student found two of his textbooks this semester, at greatly reduced prices, because he didn’t want to wait several weeks for the university bookstore to restock. Don’t get me started on my one of a kind, first edition books that I found through Amazon. Absolute treasures. If you ever come by my office, I will gladly show you. Amazon has changed my world for the better.

Amazon for Indie Authors

From a writers prespective, Amazon can be an entirely differrent exprience. More specifically, ASIN: B01M0K6F6G FLASH, The True Story of a Rescue Horse.

I have been promoting this eBook heavily because this horse is somewhat of a celebrity in our local area. My business plan was to fund print copies from eBook sales. With just two events I reached close to 1000 people in the first month of release. At one school of 700, we know of at least 300 kids who had FLASH on their phones before they went home that day. I can count at least 50+ friends and family who told me they ordered it as well. Total sales for that time period according to Amazon: 10.
Ten. That’s the number I reported to the professional photographer, making her split $3.08. We have spent a year working on stories about FLASH. There are four on Amazon, with six more titles in production for my new Rescue Animal Series which launched in September 2016. FLASH was enrolled in Kindle Select making it free for subscribers, which did gain me a few five star reviews and it did reach #5 on a bestseller list under Nonfiction Children-Lifestyles-Farm and Ranch. That’s exciting, but Amazon does not provide numbers of free downloads so I have no idea which of my promotional efforts were effective during that time period. Facebook ads? The school event? The email blasts? The Twitter or Instagram posts? I have no idea the final amount I’ve spent in promotion, because thinking about adding up those numbers makes me nauseated.

Where do KDP authors go to find the aswers they seek? There is no service phone number. Maybe I have my banking information or the pricing page set up wrong? There is no address where I can send a letter to request an audit. The instructions are to post my concerns on a public forum where other Amazon KDP authors can weigh in on my issues (a unique service offered by no other business owner ever). Amazon makes for a horrible business partner. After I finish this blog post, I’m going to post my concerns on the forum. In the meantime, I’ve suspended all advertising promos and cancelled all future events. I had big plans for FLASH in 2017, but I’m not spending any more energy (or $$$) for someone else to gain the benefit of sales from this book. That’s just bad business. My book sales have flat-lined. This relationship Indie Authors have with Amazon is an unbreakable bond. They are our savior and our frustration. My Amazon Author Page looks alright with a few book covers. I’m writing and getting my work out there, and yet if no one is buying or reading my books, then I’ve failed in finding potential readers. How can I make this relationship better for my business and for my creative soul? There are a million new books published every year. This is a long, long marathon to reach and find potential readers. There really is no finish line.

Moving forward means I’ll probably be uploading more books to Amazon this year; the children’s book creator is a genius tool. For Indie Publishers, Amazon does offer the best option because so many people love them as much as I do. I’ll be buying more books from Amazon for certain. They make it so easy. But as a business owner, I do not want to give up on this picture book series. There is still work to be done.

I’ll let you know if I find out anything from the forum. In the meantime…we’ll just keep writing.

The Saturday Morning Blogger – The roots of a story


The Saturday Morning Blogger – The roots of a story

James Barrington

This week I will lay some of the groundwork of the novel that is taking shape in my mind and on the computer screen. It is a story of small town life and how the lives of classmates change between their high school days and their twenty-year class reunion.

Teenagers tend to think that what they are in high school will profoundly impact what they are in life. Those of us who have been there know that to be both true and false. High school can solidify the groundwork for our decision-making patterns throughout our lives, but the details are much more profoundly affected as we move into real-world decisions.

There are many allusions in literature to “crossing the Rubicon” and observations that “you can never go home.” Some real life choices are irreversible, but Christians come to understand that even bad choices don’t have to be the end of the discussion. Sure, the effects of some choices are irreversible, such as murder, for example. But the eternal consequences can be changed as long as there is life in our body and a repentant heart. Saul of Tarsus and King David are both examples of that.

The novel that is my current project has a working title (subject to change) of The Reunion.

The story opens with class members gathering for their twenty-year reunion. The jocks, the nerds, the students and teachers, all come back to remember and renew, but it only takes minutes to become apparent that high school stereotypes frequently break down under the stress of real life. The “popular kids” have largely fallen onto hard times, while the class nerd has become a soldier on and off the nation’s battlefields. Disaster has struck the home town and the pieces are still an open wound.

Nothing happens in a vacuum. The battles of the world have had real life impacts on this small Texas town and acts of war on the opposite side of the world impact people and places everywhere.

Examining the lives of the classmates exposes the good and bad choices they made as youngsters and how those choices built derelicts and heroes. Some of those outcomes are immediately evident, while others fester inside, marking some for success and others for failure. But even those labels are tenuous, depending on the measuring rod.

Undercurrents run through the town that are generally invisible except to those who are directly involved, and the stalwarts of the community come face to face with the darker sides of the world that are as easy to ignore as turning off the television. When evil and avenger come home to the same reunion, the classmates can be left wondering which is which.

We’ll begin developing the characters and story next week.

Thanks for reading!

Reading Challenge


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

Reading Challenge

By Nandy Ekle

 

 

I found this challenge on line and got my attention. Let’s all give it a try.

During this year I am challenged to

  1. Read a book I read in school.
  2. Read a book from my childhood.
  3. Read a book published over a hundred years ago.
  4. Read a book published in the last year.
  5. Read a non-fiction book.
  6. Read a book written by a male author.
  7. Read a book written by a female author.
  8. Read a book by someone who isn’t a writer.
  9. Read a book that became a film.
  10. Read a book published in the 20th century.
  11. Read a book set in my hometown.
  12. Read a book with someone’s name in the title.
  13. Read a book with a character with my first name.
  14. Read a book with a number in the title.
  15. Read a book with over 500 pages.
  16. Read a book I can finish in a day.
  17. Read a previously banned book.
  18. Read a book with a one word title.
  19. Read a book translated from another language.
  20. Read a book that will improve a specific area of my life.
  21. Read a book written by someone younger than me.

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.