A Wild Ride and A New Site

i grew it, i mixed it, & i did the work

Handmade watermelon juice cocktail with home-grown mint twist by Elaine Radford

I’m shutting down the ghostwriting and editing service to new clients, which means that I will soon be shutting down this blog. There are only twenty-four hours in the day, and I have more stuff to do than time to do it. Thus… I’m going to be extremely picky going forward about taking on new projects. You’re always welcome to pitch something to me, but please be aware that I can’t take on every job that I’m offered.

Because I’m not seeing the need to have a professional site for the time being, this site will be closing soon.

Everybody Else Has a Free Book…

I’m not going to be able to re-open for editing services in 2017. I am snowed under. Big-time blizzard!

Since I’m not available to help people out right now, I thought I would post a real quick guide to how to publish a free book on Amazon. Many of you already know how, so you can skip this read. But if you’re a complete noob to indie publishing, you may be flummoxed and frustrated to find out that Amazon won’t let you post your book for free. Meanwhile, everybody with a pulse and some without do have a free book on Amazon– and all of those people are going to have way more visibility and downloads than you do. In fact, if you don’t have a free book, you’d better be spending thousands of dollars a month on Facebook ads like all the other people who are buying Amazon rankings…

Let’s assume you’re new to writing, and you don’t have thousands to invest in ads, but you’d still like to be read. You can probably publish and promote a free book for less than $100.

(Sorry, posting a free book for free is no longer going to happen. You still need to advertise that your book is free, or how else is anybody going to find it among the other 10 million books on Amazon? Oh, yeah, there’s 10 million books. I just checked an author who complained about no sales and they were ranked at something like 10,880,347… so maybe there’s 12 million! Nobody will stumble on your book by accident. You need to advertise.)

For some of you, the day has come where it doesn’t even make sense to continue writing. If you have no budget at all, you need to get a second job or another way of getting money until you do have a budget. Writing ebooks is no longer a game for the unfunded.

But some of you can still afford to get your work into the hands of readers. Making a book perma-free is actually pretty easy.

Upload your book to Amazon as usual. Do NOT check off that box that signs you up for the Kindle Select / Kindle Unlimited program. You do NOT want your book to be exclusive to Amazon. If it is, you only get five free days out of every 90.

You can put any price on your book you want. We’ll say $4.99. It doesn’t matter.

The next step is to sign up at Draft2Digital and publish your book to Apple iTunes and Barnes & Noble. When they ask you the price, set it to zero.

The secret key is that Amazon absolutely hates Apple iTunes. When your book is published and being given away free at iTunes, go back to Amazon KDP and hit that teeny tiny “Contact Us” Button hidden at the bottom of the page on your account. Explain to them that you are giving your book away free on Apple iTunes (and any place else, like Barnes & Noble) and you would like to request Amazon to price match your book to free.

They will send you a sniffy note saying “Amazon reserves the right to set prices” but they will agree to the price-match. I mean, don’t try to price-match 100 books or something. But if you have a reasonable number of free books, they’ll agree. After all, you’re giving them free content that you took the time and money to produce and advertise and you’re doing your small part to bring people to their site. So if you’re reasonable about it, you have a win / win situation for both you and Amazon.

My “15 Safety Tips” Now Free at Zon Plus updated Editions of “10 Things”

I’m now making more of an effort to reach out with my bird publications, starting with my previously published reprint book, The 10 Best Things You Can Do For Your Bird, which is a collection of 28 of my previously published bird care magazine articles. To buy from Amazon, just hit the link in the preview.

To buy from Barnes & Noble, hit this link right here.

To buy from Apple iTunes, hit this link here

To buy from Kobo, go here.

To borrow from Scribd, go here.

For Page Foundry / Inktera, go here.

Google Play and some other distributors are coming soon.

Amazon has now agreed to price-match my short bird safety article, 15 Safety Tips All Bird Owners Must Know, to free. Click on the preview to get it. You can also find it at many other distributors.

Download it from Apple iTunes FREE

Download it from Kobo for FREE

Download it from Scribd for FREE

Coming soon to Barnes & Noble, Google Play, and probably some others.

Write Better Dialogue in Ten Minutes

I’ve just finished several fiction editing jobs for new writers. As a public service to bleeding eyeballs everywhere, I’d like to share a little secret that will help anyone write better dialogue in just ten minutes.

Are you ready?

smirking baby

Smirk by Jason White via Flickr under CC 2.0 license

I’d like to call this secret the “only jerks smirk” rule. Your dialogue will be 1000% stronger once your characters stop smirking, winking, giggling, and chuckling their way through their lines.

NOBODY smirks a line of dialogue. Nobody giggles, sighs, chuckles, or winks either. They might whine, but if they do keep in mind they won’t be all that likable. Nobody likes a whiny little baby, do they?

You want stronger dialogue? Here’s how to get it in just ten minutes.

Don’t let ANYBODY see the story until you’ve done a search to find every place you’ve used the words “smirk,” “giggle,” “chuckle,” “whine,” and “wink.”

Get rid of every single instance of the word “smirk” unless you’re a screenwriter for The Simpsons. Yes, all of them. Only jerks smirk. I’m saying don’t use this word at all ever, and your fic can only be the stronger for it. For whatever reason, smirking is the hallmark of amateur fiction.

And what if your character smirks all the time because he is, in fact, a jerk an alpha? I’m going to suggest you find a way to show us what kind of person he is without relying on this tired facial tic.

There’s nothing wrong with amateur fiction if that’s what you want to write. But I suspect if someone goes to the trouble of hiring an editor instead of just slapping their story up on WattPad, then they would like to become a professional who makes sales.

So no more smirking from your characters unless you’re Matt Groening himself.

While you’re at it, I strongly recommend that you also delete every single instance of the word “wink.” I guess if he’s Santa or if he’s over eighty, the character can wink. Otherwise…no more. Do you know any normal people who aren’t giving off that perv vibe who still wink? Me neither.

Consider removing every instance of the words “chuckle” or “giggle.” You can write a perfectly good story without ever using either of those words — but it’s damned difficult to write a good story that uses them more than once or twice.

The word “whine” isn’t always bad. It’s OK for the character to whine if she’s a puppy. Or if he’s a big old baby of thirty-seven in bed with the flu. But please. No more having a character “whine” during an alleged sex scene. “Whining” isn’t just a sound. It connotes a certain amount of complaint. Did you really want to imply that your romantic hero isn’t all that in the sack? Probably not.

True, we do see characters “whining” during sex in fanfic all the time. But if you’re asking people to pay for your story, you need to step up your game. Tune up your ear and make sure every word you choose says what you think it says. Is your character whining, or is he moaning? Screaming? Howling at the moon?

*   *   *   *   *

Do you realize your story needs an editor but you’re not sure how to find somebody you can trust?  Your friends are afraid to point out anything except the most minor of typos?  Your writing group is a circle of people who haven’t sold a total of ten ebooks between them and you’re starting to suspect that they’re blowing smoke up your elbow?  If you’re looking for professional advice but don’t know where to turn, I may be able to help.

For a limited time, I’m offering mini-edits of the first 1,000 words in your story or non-technical how-to/service article.  For $20, I’ll do one round of edits on the piece and provide you with a brief evaluation of your writing, including some useful tips you can use to make your writing even more professional.  Paypal payments only.  Thanks! I look forward to hearing from you at justanotherpeachfront [at] gmail [dot] com.  Be sure to put a personal subject line in your email so my aggressive spam filter will know that you’re a real person.  And please don’t send any attachments or documents until we’ve talked about it first. Thanks. If you want to get the ball rolling, you can place your order by hitting the Paypal button and getting in touch so I can pickup your document under 1,000 words.

UPDATE: SORRY, GUYS. I’M COMPLETELY OVERWHELMED WITH EDITING JOBS AND NEED TO PULL THIS OFFER UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE. THANKS. I PLAN TO BE BACK IN A WEEK OR TWO WHEN I CAN SEE OVER MY DESK AGAIN.

Writers Don’t Earn Passive Income

some martinis I drank

You wanna know how much money I earned while drinking these martinis over the weekend? *checks watch* I earned an amazing 46 cents in Amazon affiliate income — and you can too! Photo credit: Elaine Radford

Writers, do you want to earn passive income? Make money while you sleep? Sit on the beach sipping margaritas while the money rolls in?

Well, guess what, sports fans. You picked the wrong career. Ain’t no writer anywhere earning passive income while sitting on the beach. Even the multi-millionaire best-selling writers like Stephen King and J.K. Rowlings are out there doing TV, doing interviews, doing pitches. The money-making writers are always selling, selling, selling. SELLING.

Sure, J.D. Salinger wrote his greatest hit and hid in his basement for the next 60 years but it ain’t 1951 any more. Salinger was competing with less than two hundred thousand adult Americans to sell his book. He lived in a lightly populated America-centric world.

It’s 2015. We live on a crowded global planet with a dense population of 7 billion people — and English is the lingua franca of that planet. Every educated person may not write beautifully, but they can write well enough if they need to.

The day when you could speak softly from the dust bunnies behind your sofa and still get heard are over.

I heard a great phrase the other day from Ramit Sethi, who sells his marketing courses for thousands of dollars. “You have to sell free.”

Beautiful. In five one syllable words, Sethi sums up our modern problem.

You have to sell free.

I think it’s probably always been true in his space (teaching, coaching, consulting) because people associate being taught with so much pain. I mean, public school was free but nobody went there voluntarily.

And now it’s becoming true in the writing space. You have to sell free.

Think about it.

There are literally over a million books now on Amazon and, at any given time, a ton of them are being offered for free. 700,000 are available for free at all times to the members of Kindle Unlimited.

A writer can’t just put up a title on Amazon, sit back, and passively wait for the money to roll in. That’s never gonna happen. Nobody’s even gonna FIND your book. Nobody clicks past the first page of Google or Amazon search. Really. Nobody. When is the last time you did?

Hey, people’s hard drives are getting pretty full this time of century. Gone are the days when somebody would just download every book posted for free and instantly send the title in question to the top of Amazon’s best-seller list. Besides, to get paid under the Kindle Unlimited model, the reader can’t just download the book. The reader has to actually open it and read it past the first 10 percent — the YouTube model.

Gone are the days when you got paid for the book as long as somebody bought it, took it home, and forgot to return it to the bookstore when they realized they were too busy to read it!

If you’re going to sell books, a writer needs to be willing to promote, to market, to contact people, and to be real. You need to know what you’re talking about. And you need to keep the pressure on somehow so that the prospective reader is frequently reminded to read the freakin’ book.

Forget about earning money when you sleep. It doesn’t work that way. And anybody who tells you that it does has some very expensive cow patties to sell you.

The so-called writer who wants to bake cookies during writing time is going to be scammed into buying some “passive income with Kindle” program. The writer who loves writing but doesn’t want to market will be scammed into signing and paying big money to one of those vanity publishing houses or fake literary agents.

The job isn’t about writing what you feel like and hoping that dollars will drop down on you out of the sky. The world has changed. You have to create not just the content but the platform and the audience. YOU have to find your readers. And you’re not going to do it in your sleep.

Writers work for the money. They don’t earn passive income. That’s oil-field royalties, not publishing royalties.

Crystal Cash is a Number One Amazon bestseller screenshot

Peachfront Press title Crystal Cash: Fast Easy Money Magick Using Popular Stones hits number one for its category on Amazon

Need a beta reader or a ghostwriter for your project? Get in touch. No manuscripts accepted without a signed contract and a deposit. But I’m always happy to hear what you have in mind.

* * *

Short Stories For Money: Then, Now, and How

Can you write short stories for money today?

In my last post, I gave you a taste of one of the short stories I wrote for the pulps when I was experimenting with short story writing for money in the 1980s. I made a number of sales, but it was a highly competitive market then — and a dead market now.

This month, I want to talk about what happened to kill the paying magazine market and what you can do about it to get money for your short stories.

I’m not here to scam you so I’m going to tell you upfront: Most people will never earn a dime from their stories and should write them for fun. If you’re happy with that, you can find an audience today by posting your fics at Archive of Our Own, Wattpad, or any of a number of free sites.

However…

If you want or need to earn money from short stories, and you’ve heard that some guy decades ago made it big writing short stories, then you may want a deeper explanation.

How old are those guys you heard about who earned money writing short stories? Harlan Ellison and Stephen King old? Thought so.

Night Cry Fall 1986 cover

I was the token unknown writer in this issue featuring Dean Koonz, Robert Bloch, J. N. Williamson, George Alec Effinger, among others.

I’m not entirely sure when writing short stories died out as a way to earn a living, but it was well before I started writing. It was still possible in Stephen King’s day, but if you’ve ever read his book On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft, you might remember that he seems at a bit of a loss to tell young writers coming up what to do to make money.

The scam at the time King wrote On Writing was to have young writers send their short stories to various academic and literary zines, an expensive process that — at best — involved tons of postage and buying of zines you wouldn’t ordinarily buy or read and then, if you do get published, being rewarded with a token fee of a few dollars or, more likely, some complimentary copies.

That isn’t a scam if you know what you’re getting — readers who are mostly not readers but academics and other aspiring writers — but it is a trap if you are under the illusion that it will lead to an income. It’s also the wrong road if you’re into genre writing rather than literary writing.

Another great short story writer, Kurt Vonnegut, was equally at a loss for what aspiring short stories writers could do to survive. In a famous The Paris Review interview, he touched on the topic several times:

After our family lost almost all of its money in the Great Depression, my mother thought she might make a new fortune by writing for the slick magazines. She took short-story courses at night. She studied magazines the way gamblers study racing forms…Strangely enough, though, Mother was right: Even mediocre magazine writers were making money hand over fist…when I grew up, I was able to make her dream come true. Writing for Collier’s and The Saturday Evening Post and Cosmopolitan and Ladies’ Home Journal and so on was as easy as falling off a log for me.

But he also acknowledges that those markets are no longer there:

Since publishers aren’t putting money into first novels anymore, and since the magazines have died, and since television isn’t buying from young freelancers anymore, and since the foundations give grants only to old poops like me, young writers are going to have to support themselves as shameless hacks. Otherwise, we are soon going to find ourselves without a contemporary literature. There is only one genuinely ghastly thing hack jobs do to writers, and that is to waste their precious time…Something’s got to be done, now that free enterprise has made it impossible for [new writers] to support themselves through free enterprise.

That was 1977.

In the 1970s Cosmopolitan alone, which published a novel excerpt and multiple short stories every month, was probably a bigger market than the entire paying magazine market available today. And Vonnegut had already acknowledged that new writers could no longer make a living selling to magazines.

You’re probably not smarter than Stephen King or Kurt Vonnegut.

four benjamins

$400, a typical payment for a short story in the 1980s, it’s probably more like $4 today…photo by Adam Kuban via photopin cc

So…

That’s the bad news. Ain’t nobody going to buy your short story the first time out of the gate.

The good news is that if you are prepared to polish your short story and to build a world behind it that can support a continuing series of involving fics, then you may be able to do it yourself by publishing on Amazon. The plan is simple:

Write a short story set in your universe, give it away free to everybody that will stand still, and then follow up with longer stories or novels set in your universe that you can market on Amazon in the Kindle and paperback format.

It still isn’t guaranteed but at least you can get your story out there and see what happens.

By the way, if you want me to edit and/or rewrite your short story and/or give me my thoughts on whether or not your short story is likely to earn money, feel free to get in touch, but do NOT include your story until we have a contract.

If you’d like to read a previous short story series that I recently edited, check out The Mortal Passage Trilogy.

ebook cover for The Mortal Passage Trilogy

Kindle ebook cover for The Mortal Passage Trilogy, a book I edited and published for the author Roger Williams

*****************************************

A Fiction Sample — My Horror Story

Night Cry Fall 1986 cover

The battered cover of one of my author’s comp copies of Night Cry with my story in it

Most of my fiction is work for hire on the subject matter of a paying editor’s choosing, but I did dabble in writing short stories under my own name in the 1980s. The market for magazine fiction was in steep decline, but it didn’t completely vanish until the 1990s, so I was able to break into a number of paying markets. I actually considered myself a science fiction writer, but this particular piece was accepted by Alan Rodgers for Night Cry, a spin-off of Twilight Zone, a horror publication.

The title, “Dancing in the Dark,” wasn’t my most original moment, but the story was pretty wild — set in Siberia, where experimental germ warfare research is apparently taking place, contrary to various international treaties…but the Soviets have a nice cover story that they’re manipulating genetic material to bring back the dodo and to help out other various endangered birds. Hilarity ensues. I don’t re-read my own fiction, but the first paragraph probably gives you the flavor:

They were making dodos, or so the talk went, manufacturing genetic code in Top Secret Ornithological Laboratories 1, 2, 4, and 6. Why dodos? Misha wanted to know, and Papa shrugged: Who knows? Why not dodos? Inside he smiled at the boy’s innocence, for the true dodos were surely the military birdbrains who’d concocted that tissue-thin cover story.

If you want to see more because you’re thinking of hiring me to write/re-write your horror story, feel free to let me know and I’ll send you the clip. If you’re a reader, well, sometimes copies of Night Cry FALL 1986 are for sale on Amazon. If you’re an editor who wants to reprint the story in an anthology, let me know. I sold North American first serial rights to that one, so I do have the reprint rights.

Hmmm. If enough readers ask nicely, I might be persuaded to release it myself as a Kindle e-short. But I can’t do it for just one person, considering I’d have to completely re-type it and create my own art, since I don’t have a digital version of the story nor do I own rights to Twilight Zone/Night Cry’s art.

shot of first page of my horror story

“Dancing in the Dark” appeared alongside Dean Koonz, Robert Bloch, & J.N. Williamson

Fun with internet hoax-busting

One of my online writing jobs involved a fair amount of internet hoax-busting. When two wild stories emerged from Quebec on the same weekend, I had the makings of an amusing tale called Quebec Mayor ‘Deliberately Runs Over Cats,’ Quebec Parrot Fired For Speaking English.

cat & macaw

Turkish van cat photo by Bertil Videt courtesy Wikipedia, Macaw photo by Elaine Radford

Here’s the opener:

A Quebec mayor said he deliberately runs over cats to control the feral population in his town. A Quebec language inspector announced that a parrot persisted in greeting guests in English at a Montreal attraction, a violation of Quebec language laws that will result in the unrepentent scarlet macaw being transported to Toronto.

That’s the kind of animals news from Canada that was appearing in my feed this weekend. People, chill. I’m going to clear it all up for you…

Enjoy reading the rest in its original home at The Inquistr.

Really Chill Sampler: Three Clips In Honor of the Polar Vortex

In honor of our recent snowstorm, the snowy owl irruption of 2013/14, and the polar vortex, this month I’d like to bring you three writing clips in the key of brrrrrrr.

  • “Emperor Penguins Colder Than Antarctic Air” is a fun science story that appeared in last year’s Inquisitr. Check out the opening line: “Emperor penguins have always known they’re really chill, and now scientists know it too.”

    The rest of the story can be found by clicking right here.

    one of several Snowy Owls I observed

    Snowy Owl in Superior, WI © 2015 by Elaine Radford

  • Into irony, the disease of our time? It may seem a tad ironic to talk about global warming during the coldest winter in many a decade, but let’s roll with it. Here’s another fun science story from 2013 called “Adelie Penguins Loving the Warmer Climate Change,” also from the Inquisitr, which was flirting with doing popular science stories at the time. My favorite paragraph is the second: “OK, I know what you’re thinking. Nobody from Minnesota can view global warming as a 100 percent terrible thing.” For the rest of the story click right here.

  • “The Christmas Chicks” goes all the way back to the December 1986 Bird Talk to tell the whackadoo story of the first time I successfully bred button quail.

    It had to be a miracle. When I awoke that morning to the coldest Christmas in 20 years, I seriously considered staying right there in bed — especially after my roommate reported that the toilet was full of ice…Then I heard the first peep. The silver button quail were hatching…”

    For the rest of the story, click right here.

    Need some easy to read, conversational writing for your blog or Kindle book? Let me know what you have in mind, and I’ll give you a quote.

Travel Sampler: Three Funny News Stories, One Serious Blackjack Adventure Report

lemurs berenty 2007

some of my lemur species photos from berenty, madagascar 2007

I’m afraid that I didn’t post most of the hard information about how to win at the gambling or travel game for public consumption for a variety of reasons, including the confidentiality I owed my blackjack team.

However, I do have some funny but all-too-true travel clips online that may entertain you while proving that I might know a little something whereof I speak. Here are three from The Inquisitr published in summer 2013. IQ is an entertainment news site, so the language is informal. Bring your sense of humor when you read these clips.

  1. This video round-up story, “Eight Stupid Ways to Get Thrown Off Your Flight,” was popular enough to be widely plagiarized. Being a Google-plus author was supposed to help with that, but Google wasn’t as quick off the mark to take down the rip-offs as I might wish.
  2. Here are my thoughts on the woman who sang so badly on her American Airlines Flight that it was diverted so she could be arrested.
  3. And here I’m having some fun with a sensitive health topic: Inflight Farts: Doctors Say Just Do It.

Although I don’t always do serious, I can. This sample is a 1999 reprint from a private publication about the 90s era blackjack team where I was one of the founding members. Before you run out and try to emulate us, just keep in mind that the industry has experienced serious consolidation and economic stress since then. If there were still millions in dead money out there to be won, you probably wouldn’t be reading this website because I’d be out there trying to get my share.

goreme turkey in the snow

goreme, turkey in march 2009, shortly before my near-death experience on that AMS-MEM flight that got struck by lighting