Archive for the ‘News and Notices from the Writing Trenches’ Category

News and Notices from the Writing Trenches #146…

Wednesday, July 5th, 2017

Summer reading. Vacation or staycation, you can get some good R&R by reading a good novel or two. Also short story collections which portion out good tales in bite-size chunks even when your days are full. In fact, even if your days are hectic with different activities related to work or play, a good book can be a rich dessert to top everything off. It’s a good time to catch up on those books you’ve been meaning to read too!

There are many book sales for summer and holidays. Avid readers watch for them, and any reader can take advantage of them. (For the Smashwords site-wide sale, see below.)

Watching for classics. I’ve recently purchased some “classics” (fiction and non-fiction) on sale as ebooks. Some I have in paper version, but I wanted a copy for my Kindle; others are “new” to me—books I missed or originally found to expensive to buy. Take advantage when you see one available for $5 or less. New purchases of these classics will encourage authors and publishers to recycle these great books. Who knows? I might encourage Big Five publishers to drop all their ebook prices!

Literacy. David Baldacci is a great promoter of literacy and takes time to promote it while other writing superstars just count the money rolling in, although they wouldn’t be against it, that’s for sure. While I’ve yet to see an entire book written in social media’s acronyms—Ann w LOL: “OMG! WITW? TACP!”—I worry that internet communication will destroy literacy. When I worked in my high-tech day-job, I found many technical people who struggled to express themselves clearly, but this is becoming generalized. The next decades could be interesting.

“Steve’s Bookshelf”. I’ve always been an avid reader (speed-reading ability helps). Even now, as a full-time writer, I take time for reading and reviewing. The list of books on this webpage are just a few that have impressed me over the years.

Book piracy. I hope you read my blog post on this topic. Authors and publishers are discouraged from writing and publishing more books because of this prevalent practice. Support your favorite authors and publishers by buying their books. Reading for free shouldn’t be some vicarious turn-on (free copies in return for honest reviews are exceptions, of course).

First five-star Amazon review for Rembrandt’s Angel. I receive some reviews for my books, but this is the earliest I’ve ever received. Here are excerpts:

“If you lean toward mysteries that entertain as well as intrigue, this title is for you. …successfully couples history’s fascination with the still-missing master artworks that disappeared under the Third Reich with a pair of intercontinental sleuths who are more than a match for the cast of neo-Nazis they choose to tangle with. I say choose because 60-something Esther Brookstone of Scotland Yard and her somewhat younger partner and paramour Bastiann van Coevorden (Interpol) are clearly in command as they pursue a missing Rembrandt canvas across borders….”
“As the story unfolds, the pair maintain a delightful banter centered as much around their sex life as their pursuit of artworks and the crooks who would trade them for enough cash to finance a new and even more nefarious Nazi regime. Read it to find out which side triumphs and how they do it. Then join me in hoping there are more stories ahead starring this clever pair.”—Amazon Customer


News and Notices from the Writing Trenches #145…

Wednesday, June 14th, 2017

Likes. I’m not referring to Facebook here. I’m referring instead to readers’ tastes. Some readers like action, others intrigue, snappy dialog, interesting 3D characters, a complex plot, and so forth in their fiction (these elements can be in biographies too, of course). Authors have to write stories that can appeal to all these readers’ likes. The best way for an author to do that is provide a mix. Striking that right balance is work, but it’s also fun.

Word count. There are times when an author has to respect a word count limit—a 3000-word short story s/he’s planning to submit to a ‘zine, for example. For most of my writing, I just spin the yarn and later determine if it’s a short story, novella, or novel. That’s better than trying to pad a story or cut out large sections of prose.

Readers shouldn’t care about any of this, of course. They just want a good story to read. But I think that some are neglecting the short stories and novellas in favor of novels. Story collections don’t sell well, and those ‘zines are fast disappearing.

Voting and reading. When I voted in the NJ primary last week, I noticed all the voters were older adults. I only had a small sample, of course, but I think that’s a national trend. Since I’m an author, I wondered if this voting behavior correlates with readership numbers. Do readers tend to be voters, and vice versa, and do readers share the same trend: are they older adults? That might be even more stimulus for getting kids to read at an early age.

Younger adults shouldn’t be put out by this. I’m worried about the trend because there are so many entertainment and other distractions today, and forgetting to read could affect a lot of things.

Reviews of Rembrandt’s Angel. If you would like to review a free copy of my new book in exchange for an honest review, email me via my contact page. This goes for any of my books, of course, but I limit the numbers. No author needs thousands of reviews, only enough to cover all the opinions and inform other readers about the book. Of course, I learn from the reviews too. (If you’d like the free PDF “Two Articles for Readers of Rembrandt’s Angel,” mention it in your query.)

Reviews and interviews. I do both.

My “official reviewing” is done via; authors should query there because there’s a whole team of reviewers, and that improves your chances for a review. I do not accept direct queries, but they still arrive. When they do, and if the book is interesting enough, I’ll add it to my TBRoR-list (that’s “to be read or reviewed”)—no guarantee about when I’ll read the book, and I’ll review it only if I like it (you take your chances with Bookpleasures).


News and Notices from the Writing Trenches # 144…

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017

[This newsletter contains newsy items for readers, writers, and anyone interested in the publishing business. Enjoy!]

Summer reading. Hopefully the weather is improving where you are. Here in NJ we’ve had one heat wave (three days over 90), but otherwise it’s looked a lot like November or March—dreary and cold. I know other places in the U.S. have had it worse. Hopefully things will settle down, and we can all enjoy the good ol’ summertime.

Whether sitting on a beach in the sun or near a nighttime roaring fire by a mountain lake, books are entertainment that don’t require home electricity. OK, you might have to use a charger in your car or boat if you want to read ebooks on your Kindle, but print books don’t even require that and are ideal wherever cars and boats can’t go.

And books can provide you with new and fresh entertainment instead of summer TV reruns or watching those movie DVDs you’ve seen already. And for the kids who will be home from school, get them some children’s or young adults’ books to keep them occupied, not new computer games.

Rembrandt’s Angel. My new novel has been published by Penmore Press and is now generally available in ebook and print book formats. The ebook is available on Amazon as well as Smashwords and all its associated retailers (B&N, Kobo, and Apple, for example). The print book is available at Amazon, B&N, and your local bookstore through Ingram (if they don’t have it, ask for it). Here’s a short summary:

To what lengths would you go to recover a stolen masterpiece? Scotland Yard’s Arts and Antiques Inspector Esther Brookstone goes the extra mile. She and paramour/sidekick Bastiann van Coevorden, an Interpol agent, set out to outwit the dealers of stolen art and recover “An Angel with Titus’ Features,” a Rembrandt painting stolen by the Nazis in World War Two. Their efforts lead to much more, as they uncover an international conspiracy that threatens Europe. During their dangerous adventures, their relationship solidifies and becomes a full-blown romance.

Quotes. Did you know George Bernard Shaw is Irish? One of his quotes begins every part of Rembrandt’s Angel. I use quotes infrequently, but this novel has quite a few—OK, I like Shaw. His quotes say a lot about life in general, and some say something pithy about art. Brainy Quotes is a source for quotes if you’re an author but be prepared: you will have to spend some time matching the quotes with your prose. I also used them in The Midas Bomb; one reviewer loved them there.

The Collector. #5 in the “Detectives Chen and Castilblanco Series” is now on sale at Smashwords; use the coupon code indicated when you check out. Esther Brookstone, the main character of Rembrandt’s Angel, makes her first appearance here. She’s been after me to have her very own novel. Now she has it. So do you!

Bundles. They seem to be more common now. A bundle is defined as two or more novels in just one book. I’m considering bundling my two trilogies, the “Clones and Mutants Trilogy” and the “Chaos Chronicles Trilogy.” I’m also planning to make a second edition of Survivors of the Chaos, the first novel in the latter trilogy, so that makes some sense.

Print editions. Most of my books are ebooks, but I have six print versions: Rembrandt’s Angel (Penmore Press), The Midas Bomb (Carrick Publishing), Survivors of the Chaos (Infinity), Soldiers of God (Infinity), and Full Medical (Xlibris). The last two have ebook second editions, so they would be natural candidates for new print editions.

I know many readers prefer print versions. I respect that. I need to work on providing print versions for all my old books. I promise to have both ebook and print versions for all new ones.

Audiobooks… are another question. As commutes become longer and commuters spend more time in traffic jams, audiobooks can offer some entertainment for those long hours at the wheel. But I hesitate to offer them for the following reasons: cost and safety. The cost is significant, both to author and “readers.” I’d have to employ a professional reader who would probably cost more than all the other production costs combined, for example, and readers would have to cough up something like $30 per audiobook. Safety is important because I believe any distraction while you’re driving puts you in danger, although texting while driving is far worse than listening to an audiobook. Let’s all keep the roads safe.


In libris libertas…


News and Notices from the Writing Trenches #143…

Wednesday, May 24th, 2017

An example of “political correctness” run amok? The most recent victim of the anti-cultural-appropriation lunatic fringe is an editor of the Canadian magazine Write. He was forced to resign for stating that there should be a reward for an author who does it well. While I’m no fan of literary contests and awards that often go to so-called “literary fiction” books (the genre that’s no genre), how absurd is this action!

Fictional characters play out on the world’s stage. If an author’s writing is to be realistic, it has to recognize the diversity of human nature. In my very first book Full Medical (now with an ebook second edition), one main character is lesbian; she plays an important role in the other books in the “Clones and Mutants Trilogy.” Can I not show her as an admirable and caring human being because I’m not lesbian? The main character Rolando Castilblanco in my detective series is Puerto Rican. Can I not portray him as a crime-fighting wizard who has compassion for his victims because of his ethnicity? I even write his part of the novel in first person (hell, I once dreamed in Spanish, which is something for a non-Hispanic white guy). His partner Dao-Ming Chen is Asian-American. Why can’t she be a character? Because she’s not white and she’s a woman?

This anti-cultural-appropriation movement is silly and absurd. It’s just another example of political correctness running amok to the point that it’s becoming autocratic dogma. I’ll have none of it! If you don’t like the cultural appropriation in my novels, which I feel is an important aspect of my fiction along with its many controversial themes, don’t read them. Or maybe that’s why people don’t read them? If so, that’s sad.

Rembrandt’s Angel. Are you looking for an entertaining novel to read this summer? You have it in Rembrandt’s Angel, my new mystery/thriller/suspense story from Penmore Press just released. The novel pairs Scotland Yard’s Arts and Antiquities Inspector Esther Brookstone with Interpol Agent Bastiann van Coevorden, as their search for dealers in stolen artwork leads to exposing an international conspiracy.

Bastiann first appeared in Aristocrats and Assassins and played a prominent role in Gaia and the Goliaths. Esther made her debut in The Collector. This new team of sleuths discovers that pursuing stolen artwork can become surprisingly dangerous…and finds romance along the way. The new ebook is now available in all formats and can be found on Amazon, Smashwords, Apple, Nook, and Kobo. If you haven’t wanted to try me because I’m not in bookstores, or if you’re hooked on print versions (I respect that—many readers are), the print version will also be available shortly on Amazon, and you can also order it through your favorite bookstore.

Do you use beta-readers? I’m addressing this to authors who read this newsletter. I find them invaluable. Scott Dyson, an author of some great horror stories and a Disney World guide, went the extra mile by beta-reading Rembrandt’s Angel. I haven’t seen the print book, but Amazon says that the ebook is equivalent to 422 pages. That’s much longer than my other novels simply because I had the most fun writing it, but that meant his task was much more difficult for Scott. Kudos to him for a job well done. And readers should check out his stories.

My beta-readers take my edited manuscript and look for logical errors (the getaway car turns from red to green in the middle of a chase, for example); mine also catch many remaining edits. In addition to Scott, Debby Kelly and Carol Shetler have contributed on many books. Every author should have at least one or two–they make a big difference!

Just a reminder… In regards the rest of my books, or even Rembrandt’s Angel, you can read the ebook version for free in exchange for an honest review. I write mystery, thriller, and sci-fi novels, sometimes combining those genres—the story’s the thing, not the genre. All authors need reviews. You only have to say what you liked about the ebook and why. That helps other readers and it helps the author. Forget about those formal book reports (reviews) you had to write in high school English. People simply want to know what readers think about a story.

Netherlands… is a country in Europe, AKA Holland, and the people are known as the Dutch. But Netherlands is also the name given to the king of that country in my novel Aristocrats and Assassins. He plays a major role as a kidnapped aristocrat who refuses to give in to terrorists.

You can understand my astonishment when I learned that the king has a secret life as pilot for KLM, the Royal Dutch Airlines. He also served in the military. No wonder he wanted a major role in my novel, according to my muses. It’s all fictional and the king comes across as a great guy in the book. I’ll pass this information on to my other main character, Detective Castilblanco. The king and the detective are now good friends in my fictional universe.

Sale almost over. The sale of Aristocrats and Assassins is almost over, so don’t miss out! You can purchase the ebook on Smashwords for $0.99, a $2 reduction in price, until May 31. It’s #4 in the “Detectives Chen and Castilblanco Series.” Use coupon code VN74R when you checkout on Smashwords.

In libris libertas!


News and Notices from the Writing Trenches #142…

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017

It’s a reader’s world! If you’re an avid reader like me, sometimes you’re overwhelmed with all your choices. Some stats (I apologize for not remembering the source): 300,000 indie books were published in 2015; 75,000 traditionally published print books were published in 2013. How can we swim in this vast sea of opportunity to catch those extra special books that will entertain us and make us think?

First, price. I don’t know about you, but I won’t pay for an ebook that’s almost as expensive as a print book. That just doesn’t make sense. And I’m willing to wait for that traditionally published book to go on sale or be offered in one of those airport racks for a fraction of the original price—books are forever, but prices come down.

Second, genre. Yeah, on online sites, that’s just another key word. I use it more as a filter. I won’t read romance or erotica, for example. You might like those genres—more power to you—and maybe you hate mysteries and thrillers or sci-fi? We both might miss some good books that way, but with all the books out there, who cares? And we should all ignore books by celebs—they generally have nothing to say that will affect our lives, and, if they give advice, it’s highly suspect.

Third, read the book’s blurb and use sampling features on your favorite online site (“peek inside” on Amazon), and pay less attention to reviews. So many online reviews aren’t honest, or even they’re paid for by either publishers or authors, and those one- or two-line endorsements of a book by some “famous author” are practically worthless—s/he’s not you, the reader; s/he doesn’t know your preferences; so who cares what s/he thinks? Finally, along with reviews, forget about the rankings if you’re on an online site. A popular vote doesn’t work well with Dancing with the Stars or American Idol; it works less well with books.  Some books have thousands of four- and five-star reviews on Amazon. They might be great books, but they’re not that great!  Even hundreds of reviews are evidence for readers climbing on a bandwagon.

Use information available to make your own choice—don’t depend on others to make it for you. You’ll be a happier reader. And one last suggestion: if you start a book and find it doesn’t resonate with you—the extreme case being you can’t bear to even finish it—put it down, give it to some unsuspecting schmuck, or offer it as a gift to be used in a library or high school book sale. The next reader might like it. Or maybe not, but that’s not your problem.

Have great reading experiences this spring and summer!

Why traditional publishing? Why not? Some readers might have noted that my new novel, Rembrandt’s Angel, will be published by Penmore Press, a traditional publisher. First, I wanted the experience. My great relationship with Carrick Publishing (almost all my previous books) has been more of an equal collaboration, a more personal and friendly one than I think I could achieve with Draft2Digital, for example, but close enough that I have no desires to try that or any other online publisher, considering the long and productive tradition with Carrick. Second, I reviewed one of Penmore’s books, Aegir’s Curse by Leah Devlin, and liked what I saw, both novel and publisher. When a publisher has a good catalog, that says a lot.

The experience with Penmore has also been great. I’m glad I’m having that experience, and I’ve come to know some great people there. (Like Carrick Publishing, based in Canada, the relationship is an online one—the publisher is located in Tucson, home to some of the greatest scenery in the U.S. but far, far away from New Jersey.) I’m happy Penmore has had enough confidence in me to publish my book. Because it’s the one I’ve had the most fun writing so far (all of them have been fun, of course), that confidence is like frosting on the cake.


News and Notices from the Writing Trenches #141…

Thursday, April 13th, 2017

Book reviews anyone? I’ll post two mini-reviews this Friday. They were on my TBRoR (“to be read or reviewed”) list. When authors query me for reviews, their books often go on this list, which is more a list I maintain for possible incidental reading. When I get around to them, I’ll review the book if I liked it enough to recommend to other readers. Note that these reviews ONLY appear on this blog—I no longer post reviews for TBRoR-books to Amazon for many reasons.

My formal reviewing activity is still done under the auspices of Authors might want to query there. First, there are many reviewers associated with that review site who might like to review your opus, not just me. Second, the reviews tend to be more extensive and therefore more useful for readers and the author. Third, reviews are reposted to Amazon if the author so desires—that means that your Bookpleasures reviewer reserves the right to point out negatives as well as positives. (Of course, I’ll do that even in my mini-reviews.)

Readers might excuse over-exuberance in a review that neglects the negatives, but such reviews don’t help them make informed book purchases. Neither does the Amazon ranking. A reader should always read the blurb for the book carefully and use the “peek inside” feature on Amazon before buying. Any author submitting a book for review should ask for an honest one and NEVER, NEVER pay for a review—paid reviews are inherently dishonest.

Genres. We love to categorize things and people. From “household appliance” to “environmental activist,” labels have pros and cons. They fill a need for order that many of us have. On the other hand, they’re often limiting or just plain wrong. Book genres are like that. Do you pay attention to them? They’re no doubt a convenience for bookstores, including Amazon, but in the online versions they tend to be used just as keywords. In a big book barn like B&N, though, you can often scratch your head about how they’ve shelved a particular book.


News and Notices from the Writing Trenches #140…

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

Calling all horror/fantasy writers. I saw an old movie recently. Although it was really bad, bad enough that I don’t remember the title, I found it entertaining. At the end the heroine buries pages of some demonic how-to book in the Bonneville Salt Flats to keep a warlock safely stashed away in hell. What’s that about? I’d never heard of salt being good for stopping evil magic. Anyone out there care to educate me? Does it work? I can think of several places to use it in politics—for example, burying a copy of the Citizens United decision. Help me out here. The first person that gives me a satisfactory explanation before the next Friday 13th (October 13, 2017) will receive a free copy of Gaia and the Goliaths. Same for sending me the title of the movie. Use my contact page and put “Salt of the Earth” in the subject line.

Movies based on books. They’re often a cut above the usual Hollywood fare—steaks compared to hamburgers, if you will. Yes, of course I’m biased. Two notable ones this year were Hidden Figures and Lion. Don’t miss them. Who’s the most represented author on the silver screen? I’d venture it’s Phillip K. Dick. To see the entire list, just google “Phillip K. Dick Movies.” You’ll be surprised.

Plots and themes. Stephen King puts plot above theme; I’m the reverse. For me, themes in a work of fiction make an ordinary story become extraordinary. Woven in and around the plot, they put meat on the bones of the latter. Consider Then She Was Born by Cristiano Gentili, a book I’m currently reviewing. The plot is the quietly intense story of an African child. The theme is the horrific fate of albino children in Africa. I suppose you could have the first without the second, but that plot wouldn’t mean much without the theme. I hate to say Stephen King is wrong, but he is in this case. Or he just thinks that nothing serious sells. Another book with important themes, Hidden Figures, was mentioned above. Such books enrich my reading life—they will enrich yours too.

Articles about writing and the book business. Most of these would appeal to readers and writers alike. Recent ones deal with censorship, misleading stats in book sales figures, the new return to apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction, and tomorrow’s article about the danger of gleaning an author’s opinion from what a character says. New articles generally appear every Thursday. They are archived in the blog archive “Writing.” I might repeat some of these during the spring and the summer like I did a few years ago. Writers go on vacations too.

More golden nuggets. You’re reading this because you’ve discovered my blog with its variety of articles (or you’re just looking for news and notices about books and the book business, which is OK too). The articles mentioned above are short—generally 500 to 1000 words—but I’m even less verbose on Facebook. The content there on my author page complements the content here. Take a gander: “Like” the page or the comments. Of course, you can “like” the articles here too…and share them with friends and relatives. And thank you for visiting either this blog or my Facebook page. Being an educated citizen is more than just reading books. (more…)

News and Notices from the Writing Trenches #139…

Friday, February 10th, 2017

Are you a public library patron? My local public library helped turned me into an avid reader when I was a kid. I’ve given many print versions of my books (I don’t have many—I’m working on that) to public libraries around the country. Public libraries seem as popular as ever. They offer valuable services to the community too—beyond books, internet access for those who can’t afford it, reading programs for kids, opportunities for the public to meet writers, editors, and other people in the publishing industry, and community meeting spots, to name a few.

I’m obviously a cheerleader and lament that public libraries are often among the first victims of budget axes when communities find themselves in a bind. Like public schools, these budget axes are often sharpened when fat cats in town governments feel they need more salary (why a mayor of a small town makes more than a scientist is beyond me)—of course, some of those fat cats are school administrators!

One of the reasons I’m ending exclusivity for my ebooks on Amazon and adding them to Smashwords is because Smashwords has many more affiliates that service public libraries or act like one so readers can borrow ebooks and not have to pay for them. I’m not sure how much this benefits me financially—it might not at all—but I feel it at least brings me some good karma like reviewing (see below). Anything I can do to increase reading and literacy is worthwhile.

A new affiliate was just added to Smashwords; it’s called Bibliotheca CloudLibrary. This service offers the entire Smashwords Prime Catalog to subscribing public libraries. Library patrons can also survey the catalog and ask that ebooks they find interesting be available to borrowers, if their public library allows that. Of course, if your public library doesn’t lend ebooks, you’re missing out on a lot of good books. Your public library should welcome ebooks, by the way—their shelves are probably sagging too, something that convinced me to switch to ebooks as much as possible.


News and Notices from the Writing Trenches #137…

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

More books and authors, fewer readers? Peruse my blog post tomorrow and see if you agree. Comments are always welcome. You can do so directly in the blog; that’s public, so if you want to keep them private, use my contact page. In any case, please remove foul language, whether you agree or disagree. Let’s keep internet discussions civil.

New review for More than Human: The Mensa Contagion. Ramon Somoza has written a nice review of this sci-fi saga, illustrating that sci-fi is international. He is also a sci-fi author, so I am humbled and appreciative of his opinions. I have very few reviewers, so I thank each and every person who has taken the time to review one of my books. You can read any ebook for free in return for an honest review. Query me using my contact page.

Books added to Smashwords. Have you been keeping track of them? The advantage of Smashwords, of course, is that they not only retail my ebooks in all popular formats, they distribute to other retailers like Apple, B&N, and Kobo, along with various lending services. Next up are The Collector and Family Affairs, #5 and #6 from the “Detectives Chen and Castilblanco Series.” BTW, all future ebooks from Carrick Publishing will be published on Smashwords as well as Amazon.

New PDF free for the asking. Speaking of detectives Chen and Castilblanco, they are featured in a new novella, “Dreams of Revenge.” Both cops’ new families are threatened. This and any other PDF in my list—see the webpage “Free Stuff & Contests”—are free for the asking. Query me using my contact page.

New books are coming! Gaia and the Goliaths, #7 in the “Detectives Chen and Castilblanco Series,” will be published soon by Carrick Publishing. Rembrandt’s Angel will be published by Penmore Press this spring. I also have a post-apocalyptic sci-fi novel, Qasis Redux, waiting off-stage left, and I hope to publish it by this fall. My goal is to entertain my readers, so I’m still writing a lot and have a lot more ideas for new books.

Silicon Slummin’…and Just Getting’ By. The Silicon Valley hasn’t seen anyone like Mary Jo Melendez, ex-USN Master-at-Arms, and she’s not sure she wants to stay there either. Readers met the MECHs (Mechanically Enhanced Cybernetic Humans) in Muddlin’ Through. Russia and the U.S. still want them and think Mary Jo knows where they are. But they have to compete with Mary Jo’s stalker. Unlike the first book in the series, this one doesn’t travel around the world, but the dangers for her might be worse. This mystery/suspense/thriller novel is available in all ebook formats.

In libris libertas!

News and Notices from the Writing Trenches #136…

Wednesday, January 4th, 2017

What do you like to read? Reading tastes vary, but my stories are in the popular genres of mystery, thrillers, crime, suspense, and sci-fi—I might write a “crossover story,” but it will have things in common with those genres (a genre is just a keyword these days, after all). I don’t do romance, erotica, fantasy, or horror. Sure, my stories can contain romance and horror—the first is a positive aspect of the human condition, the second is often a negative. I know a few authors who write that stuff (cozy mysteries and dark fantasy too), and they’re so good I can understand why their books are read, but I can’t write them, so I have to be a sometimes reader and admirer of their writing skills. That said, my mantra for what I write is simple: if each story entertains just one reader, I consider it a success.

Readers wanting freebies. I can’t seem to give it away—PDFs free for the asking, that is. No cost to me (OK, fun time I spend), so no cost to you. You might not be interested in my little course about writing fiction—that’s really for writers—but why not the short story collections and novellas? Send me an email and say what you’d like to receive. I’ll never divulge that email, and will delete it in fact unless you want to subscribe to the email version of this newsletter (it’s less frequent and more oriented to readers).

Speaking like a native. My new mystery/suspense/thriller novel Rembrandt’s Angel (coming this spring from Penmore Press) features Scotland Yard Inspector Esther Brookstone, so I had to review some differences between American and British English (Ms. Brookstone has a lively way with words). There are variations within American English and British English too. In Speaking American (I suppose the title is a nod to the UK because we Yanks don’t speak the Queen’s English by any stretch of the imagination), Josh Katz notes a few differences that go beyond regional dialects like Bostonian v. Texan. Here’s a short list of how different words are used on the East Coast v. West Coast for the same concept:

East                                                                                       West

sneakers                                                                              tennis shoes

yard sale                                                                              garage sale

skillet                                                                                    frying pan

scallions                                                                               green onions

lightning bug                                                                      firefly

turnpike                                                                               toll road

highway                                                                               freeway

middle school                                                                    junior high