Categories
Arts & Entertainment ebooks fiction Science Fiction short stories

It’s Coming–No Time to Waste


Actually, IT has arrived. The eBook–Not the catastrophe.

Download the eBook Free on Amazon Now Through July 11th, 2021

The Silver Sphere started out as five episodes posted intermittently on this blog. I’ve deleted the posts, re-written the story, and now it is available on AMAZON worldwide for only $1.49. Download it today and treat yourself to an engaging, fun, Science Fiction thrill ride. To whet your appetite, here’s Part One. Click on the Spotify button above if you’d like to listen to a professional narrator read it.

Man Walking On A Moonlit Beach

PART ONE

Jacob

IT WASN’T REALLY a sphere.

I found it on the beach. Right at the water’s edge. Actually, I’m not entirely sure I found it. The sphere may have found me in some karmic sort of way. We’ll have to wait until later to sort it out because, as I will soon learn, time is in short supply.

First things first.

My name is Jacob Casell. Two days ago, I left a comfortable beach house to go out for a stroll in the middle of the night. The full moon and stars were my sole companions. I needed to think about the ending of my latest novel. I found the water and the salt air helped to stimulate my creative thinking.

The night was clear. I splashed my feet in the tips of the tides. I
felt the crisp ocean breeze ruffling my longish hair as if it were saying, tell me your story. Before I could answer, I almost tripped and fell. A thing about the size of a basketball rocked gently in the water at my feet. I had the distinct feeling it was looking up at me, even though it had no discernable eyes.

The thing at my feet was a shiny silver sphere punctuated by streamlined indentations on its sides. It had a hole in the center which, in the moonlight, revealed nothing but bottomless darkness. Hardly an eye. Not a human one, at least.

As I examined it, the sphere began to pulsate. I stepped a few feet away. The sphere flashed on and off like a strobe light. I wondered if the damn thing was about to explode. Suddenly, the sphere stopped strobing. Then, it spoke to me. A voice inside my head spoke in stilted English.

“Do not be alarmed,” the thing said. “The lighting effect was me
reanimating my systems. No sense wasting energy while I was waiting for you to happen along. You certainly took your time, didn’t you? And, by the way, I’m not a ‘thing.’ I am a highly evolved organism. You can think of me as artificial intelligence. I am actually much more than an AI, but your mind is not capable of conceiving what I truly am.”

I drew back a few more steps thinking, I must be dreaming. This can’t be happening.

“For a man who writes novels, you display little imagination,” the sphere said.

I felt strangely comfortable speaking to the machine, as if speaking to a telepathic silver sphere was as everyday an occurrence as eating a tub of macaroni and cheese for dinner.

“How do you know I’m a writer?” I said out loud. I wasn’t in the habit of communicating telepathically, after all.

“I’ve absorbed quite a bit of information about you in the short time we’ve been together.”

“I’m not sure I like that.” I didn’t say it out loud this time. I thought it.

“It doesn’t matter if you like it or not.”

“It matters to me.”

It seemed like the machine was surprised by my response and needed time to process it. I pushed the advantage. “It sounds like you were expecting me.”

“I was expecting someone. I suppose you’ll do.”

“Uh huh. Do you have a name?”

“You can call me Arcon. A-R-C-O-N.”

“Got it. I suppose you came here from some far distant solar system?”

“Next you will ask me: ‘do I come in peace?’”

“Do you?”

“The answer is yes and no. I’m not here to hurt anyone, but there will be worldwide chaos if news of my mission leaks out.”

“That sounds ominous.”

“It’s nothing compared to what will happen if you don’t help me to complete my mission.”

“Since you appear to know everything about me, you must realize that I’m not at liberty to help you. I’m past my deadline for turning in the final draft of a manuscript. My editor calls to scream at me daily.”

“There is a much bigger picture here than your manuscript. I’ll dispense with the formalities and call you by your first name which, naturally, I’ve learned without your help. I’m getting cold and tired of soaking in this sea water, Jacob. Please take me back to the beach house your wealthy friend has lent you.”

“But I just told you—”

“Pick me up, Jacob. If I miss my deadline, you won’t have to worry about yours.”

Categories
current events Essays Fitness inspiration issues life motivation positive thinking

Is there a Silver Lining to Corona?


Can There Be a Silver Lining to Corona?

Can there be an upside to something as horrible as the Coronavirus?

Well, maybe.

While I (we) can’t ignore the tragedies and hardships CV has visited upon so many of us, I think it helps to realize there have also been benefits that will accrue to everyone who makes it through these troubling times.

We all have goals of one kind or another. Some are easy to accomplish, like a “to do” list of daily errands. The ones that are higher on the food chain of goals are more challenging. They require more effort, perseverance and imagination.

What if I told you the CV pandemic made my higher goals easier to accomplish?

Grant me a few more paragraphs to explain.

Since the pandemic began, I’ve taken the mental pressure off of myself. I’ve cut way back on what I expect from myself. As a result, I’ve been more creative, more productive, and I’m having more fun.

In other words, the stay-at-home Covid lifestyle gave me the perfect excuse to slow down and relax. I’m guessing many of you have had a similar experience?

Here are a few examples of what I mean.

First of all, I’m not pursuing happiness with a vengeance. I don’t feel the self-imposed pressure of making myself or someone else happy. I’m just dealing with the Coronavirus situation one day at a time. I’m keeping it simple. I’m not forcing myself to be active. I’m not running around all over the place trying to “do something meaningful with my life.”

As a result, I’ve been working out more than I usually do. And I’m doing most of it at home rather than trekking to a gym somewhere. I’m saving time and energy. I’m in better shape. And guess what; I’m a lot happier than I’ve been in a long time.

Secondly, I’ve had a creative renaissance. I’ve dropped the “shoulds,” the “ought to’s” and the guilt. I’m not thrashing around thinking; What are you going to write today?  What, no ideas? How can you be so empty and lazy?

Instead, I’m not worried about writing anything. And voila. The ideas are coming to me spontaneously. The idea for this post came to me unbidden. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. But it wasn’t happening. Now, I’m enjoying writing this stuff. It’s not torture. Imagine that.

On to music. My music. Well, it’s not exactly my music. Plato said; ““Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” That’s a nice quote. I especially like the part about music giving life to everything. I feel the truth of it.

I enjoy singing and playing acoustic guitar songs by my favorite artists. When I get them down “just right,” I record and post them on my blog and on Facebook. I do it because I just plain like doing it. Since I’ve been happier lately, I’ve been doing it a lot more. And I’m downloading inexpensive tutorials to learn exactly how an artist like Cat Stevens plays a song I like. It’s fun and a good way to improve the old guitar technique.

I’m hoping some of this musical joy will rub off on my friends.

There are so many other silver lining stories like this one:

A personal trainer friend of mine told me she has increased her income and clientele by offering her coaching sessions online. She is no longer bound by geography. And she saves time, energy, and gas money with online sessions. Now that gyms have re-opened, she can do sessions online and in person.

I have to give some credit for my new-found happiness to the spiritual community I participate in. There are now nourishing online events I can attend almost every day of the week. It gives me the focus I want and it has helped me to be more grateful for what I have in my life. These community events, which started out as online support for the journey through CV, will now be extended beyond the Covid period.

“Necessity is the mother of invention.” We are responding by developing creative solutions to the CV crisis, both individually and collectively. So hang in there, and find the silver lining shining through the clouds every day in your life.

David Gittlin has written three feature length screenplays, produced two short films, and published three novels. Before quitting his day job, he spent more than thirty years as a marketing director building expertise in advertising, copy writing, corporate communications, collateral sales materials, website content/design and online marketing.

 

Categories
Book Marketing Book Trailer eBook Marketing fiction Novels Online Marketing Self-Publishing

How Do I Cost Effectively Market My Book Online?


Online Marketing for Self-Published Books

Comparatively speaking, writing a novel is the fun, easy, first step of the self-publishing process.  The second step, creating an attention-getting book cover, offers its own unique set of challenges.  However, the most intimidating and difficult undertaking, to most authors, is the third step—Online Marketing.  These words strike terror in many authors’ sensitive little hearts because they want as little to do with the outside world as possible.

The most intimidating marketing question is: “Where do I begin?”  In this blog, I’ll let you in on some of the advertising methods I’ve tried and the results I’ve had.  I’ll save you time and money.  I’ll guide you through the marketing process from the completion of your manuscript to the final strokes of your marketing plan.

Before we begin, bear in mind that more than a million books are published every year.  Therefore, we have to be good at marketing.  Damn good!

After completing your final rewrite and the inevitable tweaks that come afterwards, it’s finally time to upload your book to online retailers.  Next, you announce it on your blog, your author website, your Facebook page, and your YouTube channel (optional).

Now what? Gulp…

This is the seriously hard part—driving people to these outposts in cyberspace.

Let’s take a look at what has worked for me and what hasn’t.

Upset young beautiful woman writer mad at slow work of software and computer. Charming young student was upset because of poor grades on test. Gadgets and Technology Concept. Difficulties and troubles

Book Covers

The first step in marketing your book online or ANYWHERE is to create a relatable, attention-getting cover.  We’re taught  not to judge a book by its cover.  Ironically, this principle doesn’t apply to actual books.

I’ve read that the cover of a book needs to be genre specific.  By this I mean your reader can quickly identify the subject matter inside, whether it be Romance, Action/Suspense/Adventure/ Thriller, Espionage, Science Fiction, Fantasy, and so on.  The trick is to make your book genre specific without making it look like every other book in the space.  The idea is to stand out from the crowd, not get lost in it.  If you are an accomplished graphic artist, go ahead and do it yourself.  Just be sure that you follow the specifications of your print on demand supplier.  If you are not a great graphic artist, like me, go ahead and shop for an artist who can turn your cover vision into a commercially viable package.

Please choose an artist with a specialization in book cover design.  This person can have other specialties, but they must also be fully versed in the art of book cover design.  If you are creating the book cover, make sure to research the subject.  There are many pitfalls, just as there are with writing a book.

I used three different artists to create the covers for the three novels I published.  Besides the fact  that I get bored easily, there may have been a method to my madness.  Each of my novels is in a different genre.  Some artists have genre preferences and do better work in those genres.  There is no set rule.  Some artists are good in any genre.  They may be more talented and expensive than others, but you won’t have to go through the angst of breaking in new ones.  And you may get a better overall result.  Or not.  Choose carefully.

If you have an idea of what you want in your book cover, great.  If you don’t, that’s okay.  Just be sure you choose a capable artist who you can communicate with.  Don’t be guided solely by cost.  Choose someone who knows what they are doing; who inspires your confidence, and “gets you.

Blogging

Blogging is a great way to get yourself and your work “out there.” It’s not hard to create a blog, even for graphically challenged people like me.  WordPress and Wix are two of the most popular sites now.  You don’t have to be an expert at coding to make a nice looking blog.  You can also choose an upgrade plan that will give you more customizing options.  I believe the upgrade plans are worth it.  WordPress has a premium plan for only $99 per year.

Once your blog is created, don’t let it just sit in Cyberspace. Take a little time each day to read and comment on blogs by folks who write about subjects that interest you. Those people will then read and follow your blog if your content is good.

Take note of how other people promote their work on their blogs.  I’ve found that the subtle approach is the best way to do it.  Keep in mind that content is king.  What you have to say and how you express it will ultimately determine your degree of success.  Andmake sure the template you use to create your blog is Smart Phone Friendly.  I finally woke up to the fact that most people read blogs on their phones. Duh. I dumped my old templates and replaced them with new, easy to read, phone-friendly ones. Now,  I’m attracting more followers than ever before, and I’m making many new friends.

Facebook Ads

I’ve experimented with ads on Facebook.  I’ve racked up tons of likes and very few sales.  In my humble opinion, paying for ads on Facebook is a total waste of time and money for self-published authors.  I have an author friend who is running great ads on Facebook, but he’s not selling any books.  I’m not saying ads in general don’t work on Facebook.  They do.  But you are an up-and-coming author struggling to find an audience.  You aren’t Macy’s.  You aren’t selling specialty items currently in demand like face masks.  See what I mean?

Facebook Pages

A Facebook page isn’t essential, but I strongly suggest that you put some time and effort into making a good one.  If nothing else, FB pages add credibility and overall impact to your marketing campaign.  And they are FREE.  You might even sell some books from your page using the SHOP NOW button.  Pick a glowing book review and pin it at the top of your posts column.  This little maneuver has increased views and engagements on all three of my Facebook pages.

Instagram

Upload a JPEG of your book cover with a link to your Facebook page.  If you have lots of friends who spend half of their lives on Instagram, you might get lucky.  I don’t use Instagram.  Don’t ask me why.

Press Releases

I’ve created and distributed press releases on PR Web with a target audience of 30,000 journalists and bloggers. The idea is to drive traffic to your websites and generate publicity on major news sites and search engines.  You can participate at various cost levels starting at $99.  The more you spend, the bigger the audience.  I participated at the second highest level at a cost of $289 per release.  (The highest level currently costs $389).  To add interest to the releases, I created a book trailer video. (A simple book trailer without actors will cost anywhere from $250 to $300 from a reputable company).

Bottom line: I could not relate any book sales to my press release adventures.  Save your money.

Book Trailers

Book trailers are nice to have but they aren’t essential to your marketing campaign.  When I first started marketing my books twelve years ago, the pundits all said that you were dead in the water if you didn’t have a book trailer.  As it turns out, this is baloney.  Book trailers are a nice addition to your marketing package, but they aren’t powerful generators of sales.  I made trailers for my first novel, Three Days to Darkness, and my second one, Scarlet Ambrosia–Blood is the Nectar of Life.  I had fun making them and they didn’t cost too much. Recently, I used the first trailer I made as the cover photo on my Facebook page. (Note: The video has to be two minutes or less to be uploaded to the cover section). To my amazement it worked. More than a thousand people visited my Three Days to Darkness page in the span of two weeks. I made some book sales at the rate of two percent of the visits. I’m still getting views.  But here’s the thing: if you have a limited budget, use it where it will do the most good.  I’m getting to that.  Stay with me.

Audio Books

If you can swing the cost, make an audio version of your book.  As you are no doubt aware, people don’t read as many books as they used to.  Audio books are getting more popular every day.  I used ACX to make the audio book for my third novel, Micromium: Clean Energy from Mars.  I liked using ACX and they are part of Amazon.  I signed an exclusive agreement with them, which means I get a bigger royalty (70%) on each audio book sale.  With this agreement, your book is automatically uploaded to Amazon, Audible, and iTunes.  The downside is, you don’t get exposure on sites like Hoopla, Overdrive, and Bibliotheca, which serve libraries.  If you don’t go exclusive, ACX offers a non-exclusive agreement wherein you can distribute to any platform and get a 25% royalty.

If you hire a narrator for your audio book, which you can do through ACX, a good one will probably cost you between $100 and $150 per finished hour.  Your narrator does the narration and all of the production work.  You direct them and approve the finished product.  I had a great time making my audio book with an amazing woman who did a fabulous job.  I’ve done reasonably well with my audio book.  I’ve noticed that having an audio version available has increased my overall book sales.

Paid Reviews

When you launch your book, you want to have a sufficient number of positive reader and editorial reviews available on retail sites and Goodreads to convert browsers into buyers.  Unless you have twenty friends and a handful of book critics ready, willing, and able to post glowing reviews, it makes sense to purchase a few of these.

There are a number of sites available for these services.  I have found the best and most reliable site for reader and editorial reviews to be indiereader.com.  Check out their website.  I bought reader reviews and an editorial review from them. I’m 100% satisfied with their service, reliability, and results.  I’ve also used midwestbookreview.com for fair, reliable, and less expensive editorial reviews. Readers Favorite is an excellent site for FREE reviews. Check it out.

Amazon Advertising

Sponsored ads on Amazon.com are the most effective marketing tool I’ve used so far.  If you have a limited budget, this is where to spend it.  The ads are easy to create. You set your daily budget, write your copy, set your campaign dates, and off you go.  If the ad doesn’t work, you can scrap it and try different keywords.  You can see which keywords are working and which are not and adjust accordingly.  Best of all, you can see how many books you’ve sold and how much it has cost you to sell those books.  There’s no baloney and no guesswork.  And, let’s face it, most of the books people buy are sold on Amazon.  To create a campaign, sign in to your KDP account, select the book you want to advertise, click on the three dots to the far right of the book, and select promote and advertise.

I hope you will find these tips helpful.  I wish you all the success in the world, and keep writing.

Writing Fiction as a Profession

David Gittlin has written three feature length screenplays, produced two short films, and published three novels.  Before quitting his day job, he spent more than thirty years as a marketing director building expertise in advertising, copy writing, corporate communications, collateral sales materials, website content/design and online marketing.   For more information, please visit www.davidgittlin.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories
Essays inspiration international issues

The Journal of Good News


Is good news boring?  Is there a severe shortage of hopeful, inspirational stories outside of the sports section? Would it violate journalistic standards if the media served up more stories that motivated us to be better people and brightened our days a little?

The answer is you can find stories of hope and inspiration if you look hard enough for them. I’ve been extremely fortunate to be a small part of some pretty amazing stories from around the world as editor of the TPRF blog for the past two years.  I’d like to pass my good fortune along to anyone in the mood for something out of the ordinary.

The TPRF blog began with a mandate to cover the developing story of the third Food for People facility planned for construction in the small village of Otinibi, outside of the metropolitan city of Accra in Ghana, West Africa.  Food for People  is a proprietary hunger relief program initiated by TPRF.  These facilities feed a nutritious daily meal to children and village elders in areas of extreme poverty.

Enjoying a Nutritious Lunch at FFP Ghana

Our first posts covered the Ghana Food for People project in detail beginning when the facility was an undeveloped piece of land awaiting governmental approval of the documents transferring title of ownership to the local charity set up to manage and run the FFP.  We literally watched the facility rise up out of the ground, culminating in a triumphant opening one year later.  The FFP in Otinibi has materialized thanks to the dedication of mostly local volunteers, an expert construction team, funding from TPRF, and donations from individuals following the story on the Internet.

Five hundred children and adults will eat every day in Otinibi. The same thing occurs at two other Food for People centers in Bantoli, India and Tsarapu, Nepal, opened in 2006 and 2009 respectively.

The logistics and effort required to establish and keep the FFP facilities operating boggles the mind. Food and hygiene standards must be established and maintained. A chef has to plan the menus. The meals have to be balanced nutritionally and tailored to the tastes of the people in the area.  Managers have to train and supervise staff and volunteers. The list goes on. Yet it is happening.

FFP Staff Prepare a Meal

Thanks to these Food for People centers, children go to school instead of doing manual labor (like crushing rocks to support their families.)  The nutritious daily meals allow the children to grow and develop normally. Plus, they learn proper sanitation habits and enjoy watching educational television programs while eating.

With healthy bodies and the opportunity to learn in school, these children have a vastly improved chance to realize their dreams later in life.  And something more.  I have seen through these stories that Food for People is an oasis for these children, a place where they can flourish and enjoy their precious childhood.

Six months after the first TPRF blog post, we decided to open up the scope of the blog to other feature stories while still reporting on the progress of the project in Ghana. We regularly cover stories about  TPRF’s Peace Education Program in prisons, independent fundraising efforts, disaster relief, clean drinking water initiatives, and other humanitarian efforts undertaken by TPRF’s partner organizations.

Here’s a thought.  Maybe you are what you “tune into” as much as you are what you eat.

Food for People photos by Francis Ahore.  Ethiopia photo courtesy of International Relief and Development Organization (IRD)

Drought Relief in Ethiopia