Friday, September 17, 2021

A Gift for You: The Rules for Lying Free on Amazon


The Rules for Lying

Free on Amazon

September 16, 17, 18, 19, and 20

Magic isn't for sissies

WARNING: No good comes from a book with magic, mayhem, theft, murder, sass talk, demons, animals committing felonies, gleeful revenge, and bad things happening to good people for no particular reason. This story won’t encourage good habits and probably fine tune bad ones. The only lesson learned is don’t lie until you know the rules.

Life in New Jersey is tough in the Great Depression, but teenager Peter Whistler has an exceptional ability to lie. He hones his talent, convinced it’s the ticket to easy fortune. He certainly doesn’t foresee the arrival of a murderous conjuror with mysterious designs on a little blind girl named Esther. Drawn into a nefarious plot to unleash a demon, Peter leads Esther and an enchanted terrier on a desperate escape to New Orleans and meets Amelie Marchand. Like all well-bred Louisiana gals she’s trained in deadly martial arts, but with a murderous stepmother, Amelie has troubles of her own. Peter and Amelie’s one chance for survival is to head deep into the bayou and seek help from a mad shaman known as the Frog King.

Welcome to an alternate 1930s where both jazz and magic fill New Orleans’ air. Can a little luck, mystical lies, and a dash of Cajun crazy help Peter harness the power to kill an immortal demon? If not, the Depression will be a picnic by comparison when hell arrives on Earth.


Thursday, August 26, 2021

Three Act Story Structure


Most writers have come across Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, probably the best known story structure. Campbell's journey has 17 stages divided into three parts: separation, initiation and return. Christopher Vogler modified it to make 12 stages that broke down into easily understandable segments such as the Call to Adventure followed by the Refusal to the Call followed by Meeting the Mentor. Despite the simplification, this arrangement can be intimidating with too many details to consider. After all, not everyone wants to write a grand epic. But if a guideline still appeals, consider a more streamlined approach with the Three Act Story Structure.

The Three Act Story Structure is just like it says, the story is divided into the three parts consisting of a Setup, Confrontation, and Resolution.

Part 1: Setup


The exposition contains the set-up or enough details for the world to make sense to the reader. Think of it as where the world is ‘explained’. Science fiction and fantasy might have more initial setup. If you’re writing science fiction on a space station, you need to make certain the reader knows the location isn’t Earth. A romantic fiction set in modern times would require less description to set the tone that the heroine works in an office in New York City. Avoid a massive info dump. Details should be sprinkled throughout and not shoveled on the reader in paragraph after paragraph. Rules of behavior should also be introduced. Readers should quickly gain a sense of the characters’ temperaments.

Inciting Incident

This sets the story in motion and introduces Plot Point One. The hero or heroine meets a challenge. For science fiction it could be an alien invasion. For a fiction it might be a job loss that shakes up the protagonist’s life. Either way, this marks the start of the main characters’ physical, mental, or emotion journey.

Part 2: Confrontation

Rising Action

The second part (and the meat of the story) contains the Rising Action. The story's true stakes become clear; our heroine has her first encounters with enemies and allies. The challenges and pitfalls become defined.


An event that upends the protagonist’s mission. It introduces other challenges and generally involves a large setback, either physically, emotional, or intellectually (or all three.)

Plot Point Two

After the conflict in the midpoint, the protagonist needs to regroup, reexamine, or reattack. The protagonist is definitely tested and failure is most certainly an option. Doubts arise concerning success. Is it possible with the resources at hand?

It’s important to note that Part 2 may occur more than once as the protagonist overcomes challenges and meets new ones.

 Part 3: Resolution

Pre Climax

The lowest of the low points. In a last ditch effort, the protagonist overcomes obstacles and takes decisive action. Failure is still an option


The final confrontation between protagonist and antagonist and the ultimate resolution.


Tie up those loose ends and detail the consequences of the climax. How has the status quo changed? And any happily ever after should be obvious to the reader.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Rimrider: Book 1 of the Rimrider Adventure Series Free on Amazon


Rimrider Adventure Series, Book 1

Amazon Free Days: July 28, July 29, July 30, July 31, August 1


A real space pirate fights like a girl.

Teenager Jane Benedict is wakened by her father and ordered to memorize a mysterious code. Within hours Mathias Benedict is dead and Jane and her brother, Will, are wards of United Earth Corporation (UEC). To escape the company’s clutches and uncover the meaning of her father’s last message, Jane leads her brother on a desperate flight from Earth to the galactic rim.

Aboard the Freetrader smuggler ship, Solar Vortex, Jane and Will become tangled in the crew’s fight for liberty. Drawn to their cause, she and Will swear allegiance and join the crew. On a contraband run, Jane saves the life of young smuggler Mac Sawyer and learns her father’s code identifies a UEC cargo shipment.

 On route to a deep space station, the Solar Vortex answers a desperate SOS from a Freetrader ship under attack. Jane, Mac, and Will survive an ambush on the damaged vessel and unearth a deadly threat to the Freetraders and a clue to the location of the shipment. The trail leads to Rimrock and the massive prison complex of Golgotha. Undercover as a spy, Jane stumbles into a conspiracy that can spell doom for the entire Freetrader cause and the extinction of an alien race. Can she escape the prison confines and deliver a warning before it’s too late?

Piracy, intrigue, romance, and a daring rebellion from Earth wait on the planet Rimrock. Will Jane answer the call to adventure and find new purpose on the galactic rim or will death for high treason be her fate?


Jane fired wildly, mentally counting the seconds. Her shots went way out of range. Although none landed anywhere near the catwalk, they drew the sweeper’s immediate attention.

Crackles of lightning ripped through the air as he returned fire. An energy blast hit near her feet, bubbling the metal deck plate. Jane dodged in panic, adrenaline pumping through her veins.

Close—too close. Don’t think! Run! Run! Run! Twenty more seconds

Jane tore across the bay, darting through smoke, dodging flames. She veered toward the bulkhead aiming for the safety of a storage container. The back of her neck burned as if she could feel the laser sight zero in on her. A beam sliced the dark to her left. Jane sidestepped in a panic. She was in the open…no place left to hide. The sweeper had her in his sights. A red dot centered on the middle of her chest. She looked into the face of death.

“Now, Will!” Jane shouted.

So intent on Jane, the sweeper didn’t notice a dark blob shoot up behind him. Hack’s claws clamped on the device at the sweeper’s feet.


Will had raised Hack’s alarm to full volume, and an ear-splitting shriek echoed in the air. Startled, the sweeper spun in a half-circle in time to watch Hack disappear with the unit, diving into the smoky haze of the cargo bay.

Jane rammed the cutter into the holster and sprinted toward the rack of mech suits where Mac hid. Heavy footsteps ran across the catwalk and then pounded down the stairs. With a soft whir and an urgent bleh-bleh, Hack flew over her head and then dropped the device into Jane’s outstretched hands. She grunted with the sudden weight and struggled to hold on. It was much heavier than she expected. Within a few meters, her breath came in ragged gasps as she stumbled across the deck.

Footsteps drew closer as Jane cleared the last of the storage containers. An agonizing ache shot though her side. Her legs moved as if strung by lead weights. Muscles in her arms burned with the effort to carry the device. Dead ahead was the rack of mech suits.

Mac was gone.

Jane glanced around in panic, but he was nowhere to be seen. On trembling legs, she collapsed behind a mech suit and hunkered low, aware her hiding place offered little shelter from attack. Clutching her prize tight to her chest, she gulped lungsful of air. The sweeper jogged into view. He wore a spacer’s coverall with no insignia. A mirrored visor obscured the top half of his face. He instantly spied Jane. She pressed against the wall and drew the cutter from the holster.

Jane butted the muzzle against the device in her lap. “Take another step, and I’ll blast it apart. I swear it.”

The sweeper made no sound of protest. Instead, he raised the rifle. A red dot from the laser sight moved along the deck to Jane’s leg, her chest, and then to her forehead.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Kindle Vella

 Kindle Vella – Amazon’s New Platform

Recently Amazon announced a new platform for English language authors in the U.S. to sell serialized stories. It’s called Kindle Vella.  Although not yet open to readers it’s currently available for writers to upload their material. The release date for readers is July.

But what the heck is it?

Authors release installments, either on the Kindle Vella app for iOS or Android, or on the Kindle Vella website. Word count for each installment ranges from 500 to 6,000 words. In other words, a story is told chapter by chapter or episode by episode. The first three chapters or episodes are free for a reader. After that they have to pay in tokens to access more.

 A what?

A token. The number of tokens required to unlock an episode will depend on the length. Authors are paid based on the number of tokens spent by readers to unlock them, and authors will earn half of what readers spend. There is also mention of a mysterious launch bonus based on customer activity and engagement, but I can’t figure out how much this mysterious launch bonus is.

Please don’t tell me an author is paid in tokens

No. Cold, hard cash, but bear with me. This gets complicated. The cost of tokens depends on how many bought. Readers will be able to get tokens at different price points depending on the number.  Buying 1000 tokens at one time gives a better price than 100. After purchasing tokens a reader can then “buy” an episode. (Remember the first three are free). According to what I’ve been able to figure, Amazon expects the average cost of an episode to be low, around 15 cents. If you have a 20 episode story at 15 cents an episode, that would net $3 every time a reader finishes all the episodes.

 Whoo-hoo, I earn $3, right?

Not exactly. Tokens will be available through mobile channels (like Apple) that charge a fee. That fee will be deducted from any revenue, so that $3 will be less depending on how much the reader paid for the tokens. The 50% royalty may end up being closer to 35%.

Also, Amazon can change token pricing at any time and will probably offer free tokens to entice readers to join. Any episodes bought with free token won’t earn squat. Since this is a new platform, there’s no way to know how much money authors can expect to make, or which genres will do the best.

Rules for Kindle Vella

Of course there are rules. There are always rules. Authors can’t submit stories or episodes that have already been published in book or long-form content, no matter the language. Using a current or previously published book is a no-no, even if it’s broken into different episodes and the original wasn’t written in English. However, Kindle Vella episodes can be put concurrently on a different site. For instance, you can put serialized episodes on your website at the same time as they appear on Kindle Vella, but only if you charge for them. If you want to eventually publish the episodes together as a book, the episodes must be removed from Kindle Vella first.

What are the steps to upload a story?

It’s pretty easy, especially for self-published authors familiar with using Kindle Unlimited. The following is required:

    Story title

    Author name


  Image: Think book cover without a title. Amazon will automatically crop it into a circle, so make sure it’ll look good round.

    Story categories (Like Young Adult or Romance)

    Tags. You can add up to seven. Each tag will also have a landing page with all the stories using the same tag.

   Create and publish the first episode, by either uploading a .doc/.docx document, or typing directly into their online editor.

So, do you get to engage with readers?

Kinda sorta. Readers follow stories and are notified when the latest episode is released. They can crown one weekly “Fave” for the story enjoyed most. “Faves” also have an expiration date. Readers have to unlock (purchase) at least one new episode a week to “Fave”. Amazon will highlight the most “Fave” stories in the Kindle Vella store. Remember, this is only for readers who paid for episodes. Those who used free tokens or read the first three free chapters won’t be able to “Fave”.

Readers can’t leave comments, neither can authors. However, authors can leave an “Author’s Note” at the end of an episode to share thoughts or give a hint to the next episode.

To Kindle Vella or not to Kindle Vella?

This platform seems geared toward people who read on their smartphones rather than an e-reader and prefer short installments offered frequently. It’s not required to offer a new episode each week, but you’ll lose the audience if not. If you think this is something for you, check out the Kindle Vella website.





Friday, May 28, 2021

Spirit Ridge is on Sale for 99 Cents

Spirit Ridge

On Sale for 99 Cents Friday, May 28 to Friday, June 11

A dark shadow rises.

San Francisco in 1885 was a dangerous place for those who crossed Colin Doyle. To Nob Hill elite he was a successful businessman. To the underbelly of San Francisco he was The Mick, a criminal mastermind ruling from the shadows. If a buyer’s tastes ran to opium, a whore, or a politician, The Mick could name a price. No one who betrayed him ever escaped the city alive.

Until now.

Nell Bishop is a fearless investigative reporter for the San Francisco Dispatch. She’s on the run to the Arizona Territory with the one witness who can expose Doyle’s corrupt empire and stop the plan to extend his evil dominion to the West.

Marshal Sam Tanner of Spirit Ridge in the Arizona Territory fought the visions sent by his Apache blood. They always foretold a death he couldn’t prevent. Then Sam dreamed of the coyote with golden brown eyes who warned of a black shadow spreading evil across the land. Did the message call him to help the beautiful woman who stepped off the stagecoach? Can Sam and Nell elude the mysterious dark riders who dog their trail or will the next vision mean death for both of them?

Adventure, romance, humor, and the call of Apache spirits weave together a Wild West adventure where either murder or justice can come at the twitch of a trigger finger.



Surprise shot through Bart’s expression. “Never reckoned you smart enough to figure the truth. The Mick’s reward ain’t for fetching you alive.” His tongue flicked in and out again. “Please me, and I’ll make it quick.”

Tears sprung to Daisy’s eyes. “Sweet Jesus, help me.”

Bart’s heartless chuckle encased Nell’s heart in ice. “Ain’t no God nor man gonna help a whore.”

“Get away from her this instant!” Nell stepped into the alley, right hand hidden in the tunic, finger on the trigger.

Bart raised the gun to meet the new arrival. “Where’d you come from? Best be on your way. This ain’t no concern of yours.”

Nell strode toward them through the fog. The gaslight shone on her white wimple and the scapular under the veil.

Daisy gasped. “She’s a nun, Bart. You can’t shoot a nun.”

“Shut up,” he barked, backhanding her across the mouth. “For five thousand, I’ll shoot anyone.”

  “Get out of here, Sister,” Daisy moaned. “Please, don’t get hurt on my account. I ain’t worth it.”

“Release her.” Nell’s tone betrayed not a single tremor. “If you beg trouble, sir, let fly. I guarantee you won’t live long enough for regrets.”

Bart’s thumb pulled back to cock the trigger. “Your words don’t cut nothing. The devil claimed me as his own long ago.”

“Then perhaps,” she responded coolly, “the time has come to meet your maker and beg forgiveness in person.”

A shot rang out. Daisy shut her eyes and screamed. 


Apple Store

Monday, April 26, 2021

Hi-Yah! Great-grandma knew how to kick booty

It’s not uncommon nowadays to find a woman in a book or on the movie screen trained in martial arts. With a few high-flying kicks and a karate chop or two, she stands triumphant over the bodies of the bad guys. You might think women’s interest in martial arts is something fairly recent.

Well, you’d be wrong.

In the later part of the nineteenth century, the streets were dangerous, far more than today.  Freedom to walk in public alone was considered the sole right of men. Middle- and upper-class women had limited ability and severely restricted movement. Using an escort meant ceding privacy and even more control over their lives. But by the end of the 1800s, industrialization and urbanization created new opportunities. Women moved into education, work areas, and leisure pursuits, and although respectable women began to ride street cars and walk city streets alone, their actions were not without consequences. The term ‘mashers’ was coined, a slang term for men who harassed or made unwanted sexual advances. Women discovered police were not always willing or able to protect them.

As the right to vote movement spread, so did the idea of woman standing up to physical attacks. Reformers and suffragists were largely responsible for encouraging women to learn self-defense tactics. Many suffragists already used their bodies to resist oppression by picketing and forcing their way into public buildings. What was wrong with a little more shoving and a poke in the eye to make a point?

Needless to say, it wasn’t met with universal approval. Many men denounced women aggressively fending off attackers as indecent and unnatural, a horrified male minister accused them of “breaking down barriers of distinction between the sexes.”

Despite criticism, in the early 1900s, courses sprung up in self-defense. American women in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era turned to boxing and wrestling as an expression of empowerment through physical training. The “manly art” of boxing was touted as a way to develop character and physical strength in men, but rapidly became a popular fad among progressive-thinking women and college girls. Many in the public feared boxing would masculinize women while others emphasized boxing’s ability to enhance feminine beauty. One newspaper editorial praised boxing’s ability to “cure bad temper, feminine hysterics, or a catty disposition.” While female boxers were seen as oddities, exhibitions weren’t uncommon. In 1900, a circus strong woman from England, named Polly Burns, was named the Women’s World Boxing Champion.

Think kung fu is a new thing? Think again. Asian martial arts courses in the early 1900s were popular. Harrie Irving Hancock, taught classes in jiu-jitsu for women and children. In his manual, Physical Training for Women by Japanese Methods (1905) he wrote that the phrase “weaker sex” needed to be “stricken from the language.”

Women using self-defense tactics often made headlines. In 1909, twenty-year-old nursing student Wilma Berger defended herself against an attacker and became a local sensation in Chicago. She had studied under Tomita Tsunejiro, who helped introduce judo to the United States. Under the disbelieving eyes of the local police, she demonstrated her technique on an officer, by tossing him like a sack of laundry.

Interestingly enough, many self-defense courses were taught via pamphlet. Few middle and lower-class women had access to actual classes, so free pamphlets and illustrated articles in newspapers presented the techniques. The Yabe School of Jiu-Jitsu in Rochester, New York, offered free lessons through the mail. Lest you scoff at them, in 1906 Mary Steckler pinned down a would-be mugger until police arrived. She learned her smooth moves from a pamphlet.

One of the interesting parts of early self-defense classes was the “use what you have.” Today, a woman might have pepper spray. In 1900, a woman’s chief weapon was the hat pin. A well-dressed woman always had her hair up in public and she used to secure the hat pin to secure the hat to her hairdo. The pins were long, up to 6 inches, and sturdy. They were also an important piece of jewelry as no well-dressed woman would be seen in public without a hat. A woman might have more than one needle-sharp hatpin on her outfit, a handy, unexpected weapon. In 1912, Elizabeth Foley, an 18-year-old bank employee, was walking home with a male colleague who carried the entire payroll for the bank staff. They were attacked by a robber who knocked the male colleague down. But Elizabeth, undaunted, reached for her hatpin and jabbed the robber’s face. The attacker ran away without the money. No rescue need.

Take that, Wonder Woman. Who needs a magic lasso when a hatpin is at hand?

Saturday, March 27, 2021

The Vernal Equinox: It's Not Too Late to Burn your Socks

It’s been a long winter and though the vernal equinox has passed, it’s not too late to burn your socks. What’s that, you say? You’ve never celebrated the vernal equinox? Well, you’re certainly behind the times. It traditionally occurs on March 21 each year and signals the start of spring in the Northern Hemisphere (and fall in the Southern Hemisphere.) It’s all keyed to the Earth’s rotation which tilts at an angle of 23.5 degrees on its axis relative to the plane of orbit around the sun. This means that during the year, different places get sunlight for different amounts of time.

While “equinox” comes from the Latin for equal, sunlight didn’t get the memo. Because of atmospheric refraction, people at mid-temperate latitudes actually get  a few extra minutes of daylight on the equinox. The fall and spring equinoxes, however, are the only two days during the year when the sun rises exactly due east and sets exactly due west.

Earth thinks it’s oh-so-special but it isn’t the only planet with an equinox. Saturn’s occurs about every 15 Earth years. The next one is on May 6, 2025, so you have plenty of time to plan a party. When Saturn’s equinox is viewed from Earth, the rings are seen edge-on and appear as a thin line, sometimes giving the illusion they disappeared. Weird.

What’s also weird is the belief that since day and night are nearly equal, equinoxes affect gravity and are the only days of the year you can balance raw eggs on end. Wrong. You can do that any day of the year, although why you’d want to is beyond me.


The vernal equinox is responsible for many beliefs of ancient people. Stonehenge’s design also includes a celestial observatory function, which allowed prediction of eclipses, solstices, equinoxes and other celestial events.  On the vernal equinox, the druids and pagans celebrated the ancient Saxon goddess Eostre, who symbolized fertility and new beginnings.

Angkor Wat, Cambodia, was first a Hindu, and then a Buddhist temple complex. It was built by the Khmer King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century AD. The carved asuras (demons) and devas (deities) are intended to indicate the precession of the equinoxes and the slow transition from one astrological age to another.  On the morning of the spring equinox, the sun rises up the side of the central tower of the temple to crown the pinnacle.

A Chinese legend involves the vernal equinox in a divine right to rule. In the year 1600 B.C., a woman named Chien-Ti received a special egg from a heavenly swallow. Although a virgin, she became pregnant, and her son Hsieh went on to found the Shang dynasty.

In the Middle Ages, reproduction of many plants and animals was often a mystery. Philosophers latched onto the idea of spontaneous generation where life sprung out of rotting or decaying flesh or matter. Mice, for instance, were supposed to come from sweaty underwear placed near husks of wheat in a dark place. (Note to self: Do laundry more often.) The vernal equinox was the most potent time for getting something from nothing. Petrus Alfonsi, a 12th century philosopher wrote:

“From this spring equinox (which is the beginning of spring), cold weather turns warm... Blood increases in the bodies of animals, and the diseases which come from blood return; natural lust bursts forth from its latent state, and all insects which are born from spontaneous generation now procreate.”

Now as to the sock burning…The old sweaty garment thing is still showing up, however not with mice. Every year, boaters in Annapolis, Md., burn their socks on the vernal equinox. The tradition began because sailors are forced to wear these “woolly prisons” on their feet all winter and enough was enough. Now the town website proudly proclaims since no self-respecting boater would wear them in the summertime, the dreaded socks “must be reduced to ash in a community bonfire.”

Not a bad tradition and even though the vernal equinox has passed, I think I’ll make a tidy bonfire on the front porch. It’s better than having mice spring from my underwear.