Tag Archives: Dixie Cash

Readers (and Writers) Beware!

The world of electronic publishing and reading has been a blessing to many people. My DH for instance. On his Kindle reader he can enlarge the font and enjoy reading without his glasses. I, too, like reading on my Kindle and getting ebooks at a cheaper price than print books most of the time. It certainly has eliminated a storage problem for me in that even before Kindle, I already had rooms full of books that I didn’t know what to do with and didn’t have room for more. Still the case, I might add.51nk+aSvOFL._AC_US327_QL65_

Electronic publishing has enabled me to publish my own books instead of going through the crap-shoot of trying to sell them to New York publishers, which is like wading through Saran Wrap. It has brought me income that I wouldn’t have received from traditional publishing, for which I’m grateful.

A couple of years ago, Amazon introduced the Kindle Unlimited program that was immediately recognized as a boon to readers, but an unknown quotient to authors. Nevertheless, authors embraced it and put their books in the program exclusively for 90 days, shutting down their listings in other retail venues such as Apple, Barnes & Noble, etc.


Around the end of last year or the first of this year, my book sales at Amazon started tanking and I couldn’t figure out why. I wasn’t doing anything different from what I’ve always done. Sales got steadily worse every month. Admittedly, I’m not one of those prolific authors who rolls out a new book every 2 or 3 months, but still, the books I had on Amazon had always moved steadily along.

Eventually, I started seeing comments on social media from other authors about the same dearth of sales. I was still scratching my head, trying to figure out what had gone wrong. (And I haven’t figured it out entirely.)

I  already had faced that my self-published books were competing with books being   published directly and heavily marketed by Amazon under its own imprints. Amazon now has several imprints in several genres. They work the  same way as the traditional publishers in New York, i.e., paid advances to authors for acquisition of a work, contracts and deadlines and editors.

In addition, they have created the Kindle World program in which some of their paid authors they have made into bestsellers now have their own Kindle Worlds and are bringing ebooks to the market at lower prices. These are books written by authors who haven’t quite made those bestseller lists, but are riding the coattails of an Amazon-made bestseller. Sort of a modified pyramid scheme.

Still, though common sense told me Amazon’s own products got preferential treatment in terms of rankings and publicity, I accepted that as just one of those challenges with which all entrepreneurs no matter what they’re selling have to contend.

Little by little, bits and pieces of another problem started to eke out.

Can you say CLICK FARM?

Click farms have existed for quite a while for all kinds of products, but the fraud hadn’t 5hf8bU3kJM0QRK6dreally leaked into book publishing except through weird book pirating sites. That has changed.  In the last year or so, Amazon book sales has been invaded by click farmers. Self-publishing authors in particular are competing with fraud and plagiarism on a scale not seen before. It’s insane. https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2014/01/05/selling-social-media-clicks-becomes-big-business/4327905/

What is a Click Farm? Wikipedia says a click farm is a form of click fraud, where a large group of low-paid workers are hired to click on paid advertising links for the click fraudster (click farm master or click farmer). The workers click the links, surf the target website for a period of time, and possibly sign up for newsletters prior to clicking another link. http://www.businessinsider.com/silicon-valley-are-click-farms-real-2016-6

Here’s the definition from Google: A click farm is a business that pays employees to click on website elements to artificially boost the status of a client’s website or a product. Click farms are usually based in developing countries, where wages are extremely low by Western standards. https://kotaku.com/inside-chinese-click-farms-1795287821

Somewhere in China or Bangladesh or the Philippines or even Russia, a person beingwnus15o6tm4ekewlelgn paid a pittance is sitting at a computer that might be connected to 100 or a 1,000 phones or tablets or even more. All day and all night, they generate phony likes on Facebook, Instagram and other social media, to the tune of billions of “likes” in a year. When you look at a Facebook post that has many, many “likes,” you don’t know if they’re real or counterfeit.

The social media sites don’t really care as long as they’re getting traffic that, in turn, generates advertising dollars. The chances of someone, anyone, doing anything about this are pretty close to zero.

So what is happening with books listed for sale or borrow at Amazon? If you’re a Kindle Unlimited  member, you might find this article interesting: https://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/2017/07/15/scammers-break-the-kindle-store/  I couldn’t possibly explain the problem any better than the author of this article explains it.

THE IMPORTANCE OF RANKINGS

In other instances, fraudsters go into Amazon book listings under phony names and post reviews that affect a book’s Amazon ranking. Enough 1-star reviews will sink a book to the bottom of the list.

At the same time, if the click farmers post enough 4 or 5-star reviews on their own books, those books zoom to the top of the bestseller lists, thereby eliminating legitimate authors from competition and the opportunity to earn royalties. I’m not sure why, but apparently, Amazon’s bots do not know the difference between the artificial reviews and real ones.

The Amazon rankings are so important to authors. Sad to say, if you as an author have a book for sale and its ranking gets close to or drops below 500,000, you can bet that unless you can come up with a magic marketing formula that gets you back in the running, your book selling days at Amazon are over. Readers will simply never find your books, thus never buy them.

COUNTERFEITING

Then there’s the guy conducting seminars on how to hire some third world person to write a book for $200.  By this method, he “writes” at least a dozen books in a month, puts his name on them, lists them to borrow by Amazon KU members and collects a royalty. Because he’s successful, others are now doing the same thing. This isn’t exactly plagiarism. I don’t know if it even rises to level of fraud, but it might.

Here in the states, the same thing is happening, but probably not for as little as $200. It’s called “freelance writing” and there are several web sites promoting this service. For an agreed on fee, a ghost writer, by contract, gives away any rights he has to what he writes for someone who has hired him. He gets not a penny more than the agreed-on fee no matter if the book is a bestseller. In the end, he might or might not get paid the agreed-on fee. Plenty of instances exist where an author agreed to be a ghost writer, then got stiffed by the non-author who hired him or her.

VICTIMS OF PLAGIARISM

Real plagiarism is even more sinister and an even greater threat to legitimate authors. In some cases, somebody in a third-world country (or maybe somebody in the good old USA) copies a book’s content, changes words here or there, changes a few paragraphs, puts on a new cover showing a different title and a phony author’s name and markets it as his or her own book through Amazon for 99-cents. Much of copying of the books is done by software, so enough changes are made to prevent Amazon’s bots from catching the duplication and calling it plagiarism.

The fraudulent author then follows up by buying “likes” and/or phony reviews from a click farmer, which drives the book to the top of the bestseller lists. The click farmer, because he runs a sweatshop, puts up book after book and dominates the bestseller lists with several books, which qualifies him to receive substantial “bonuses” over and above royalties from Amazon.

With more exposure at the top of the lists, the click farmers sell more books, which forces legitimate authors whose books might be listed for more than 99-cents farther down the list. The only legitimate authors who can compete with them are the ones who have books for sale for 99-cents, but I don’t know how much competition they really present. No one who is really writing a book can do it that fast.

AMAZON’S ATTITUDE

Amazon doesn’t appear to care very much about who they’re paying royalties to. Their #1 interest is keeping the monthly KU subscription fee coming in from readers and or selling books to customers. If Amazon can somehow persuade authors to keep the inventory supplied for little or no money, so much the better for Amazon’s bottom line. Their payout is the same whether the recipient is a *real* author or a third-world-country fraudster.

Multiplied by tens of thousands, this tallies up to a lot of money.

This is fraud. This is plagiarism. This is crime.


THE FUTURE

What will happen eventually is that real books by real authors will have no more distinction and won’t be worth wasting your time reading. A lot of authors will probably bail. What is the point of continuing to write books if they can’t make any money?

I’m a good example. I spend many hours of a day in front of the computer trying to produce a quality, professional product. Do you think I or anybody else is going to keep doing that if something out of my control prevents my making a decent amount of money? ….. Writing a book is hard. If I’m going to work for nothing, I can find something easier to do.

When you start to buy a book that’s for sale for 99-cents, look at it closely. If it has an author’s name on it who released several titles just last week and has waaay too many reviews to have been on the market for only a week, maybe it’s been stolen from a legitimate author who spent a year of hard work writing it. Complain about it to Amazon.

Or if you buy a book in which the syntax, the editing, the grammar, etc., are awful, you might be reading a book produced by a third-world person who doesn’t know English very well.

Just recently, on a book at Amazon I was thinking about buying, I read some reviews. Every reviewer spoke about how bad the spelling, the grammar and the editing were. The listing said the book was published by a real publisher, so my first thought was if a professional publisher released this book, why is it full of errors that could have been easily corrected? My next thought was some kind of fraud. I didn’t buy the book and the author lost that royalty. This is an example of what I’m talking about.

Royalties are the same thing as commissions. They are the only pay an author receives. If someone takes them away by fraudulent means, a real author can’t continue to exist.

Amazon knows this is going on and what have they done? Instead of meeting the fraud head-on, they’ve tightened their requirements for *real* authors who try to put up new books for sale by demanding that they prove they have legitimate copyrights, for one thing. That might be a good first step, but it causes real authors a lot of headaches and delays their book releases, while the click farmers go happily along collecting royalties on a book they didn’t write. So far, defense against this has proved to about as effective as that old needle in a haystack cliche.

WHAT CAN WE DO?

As far as I can tell, authors can’t do a damn thing about it. It’s up to readers to sort this out and complain. And complain. And complain. And return books you believe to be fraudulent to Amazon. Amazon responds only to customers. Believe me, they’ve already heard plenty from authors.

And bear in mind, Amazon now uses overseas call centers for customer service. If you have a complaint, don’t give up and pull your hair. If the individual you complain to sounds like he’s out to lunch, hang up or ask for a different person.


On a final note, I would add, if you read a book by an author whose name you’ve never heard, if the “voice” sounds like *my* voice, let me know. I can tell you in an instant if I’m the one who wrote it. I don’t know what I can do about it, but I can let you know you’ve been cheated.

Having said all of the above,  I’m painfully aware that a reader, at 99-cents, might not care if he’s reading something that has been stolen or counterfeited and that he or she might not care if an author gets cheated out of a royalty. And that is the most hurtful, scariest scenario of all.

SUPPORT YOUR FAVORITE AUTHORS. CALL OUT FRAUD AND PLAGIARISM.

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New Directions….

I’ve finally done it. I’ve given notice at my day job. I work only 3 days a week, but it feels like 9. The chaos, thus the stress level is off the chart and it takes sooo much “thinking” time away from  writing. I read somewhere once that responsible people don’t leave jobs because they hate the job; they leave because they are unhappy with the management. Enough said.

To be sure, there is motivation beyond that. Number One is realizing that at the moment, I’m  making $3 an hour more than I was when I went there to work 9 years ago and no policy in sight to be paid much more. The past two years, my raises have amounted to 20-cents an hour. I will always wonder just exactly how much having that job cost me.

So, when I thought about the stress level compared to the pay, I just couldn’t find a reason to do it anymore.

Now I’ll be able to concentrate more of my time and energy on writing and I’ll be able to revive this blog. I had given it up because it was just too much to add to trying to write books and do a little marketing. WordPress has made changes since I blogged last and I’ve had to spend a couple of days re-learning enough about WordPress to actually write and send the blog.

I have several projects underway or on the back burner. So here’s my writing plan:

AnnaJeffrey_TheHorseman_200px (2)#1 project is to finish THE HORSEMAN, Book #3 of my Sons of Texas trilogy. AnnaJeffrey_TheTycoon_200pxI’ve blogged here about it before. It will present a romance for Troy Rattigan, horse whisperer and Bill Lockhart, Jr.’s bastard son. It will also complete the arc that began in Book #1, THE TYCOON, and solve the riddle of who is threatening and harassing the Lockhart family and the Double-Barrel Ranch. My books usually are between 25 and 30 chapters. I’m up to 15 chapters now on THE HORSEMAN, so I don’t have too far to go.

#2 project is work on MAN OF THE WEST, sequel to LONE STAR WOMAN and Book #2 of the Strayhorn trilogy, a book that has already been written and traditionally published as a mass market paperback by Sadie Callahan. I FINALLY have the rights back. I’m going to revise it a little and re-release it as an Anna Jeffrey book.

#3 is CLAIMED, the 2nd book of Miranda’s Chronicles. The first book, DESIRED, is a 40,000-word erotic novella. CLAIMED will be a full novel. I want to complete this duet because I really liked writing in first person and I liked the 2 main characters in this story. When I wrote DESIRED, I believed I had created one of my strongest, therefore best, heroines in Miranda.

#5 is to write Book #3 of The Strayhorn trilogy. This will be Cable Strayhorn’s story. I haven’t settled on a title yet, but I’m toying with MAN OF THE HIGH PLAINS. I’m also thinking about THE PRODIGAL and or THE PRODIGAL OF THE PLAINS, because it will be the story of a Strayhorn heir who leaves the fold for a different life, then returns after personal tragedy. I know—soap opera. 😊 I don’t yet have a cover. I have to settle on a title before I can choose a cover. ….. What do you think about the 3 titles? Would love to hear your comments.

Woven between all of these is a new Dixie Cash zany adventure for the Domestic Equalizers. I’ve got the title: WHEN I SAID YOU’RE THE BOMB, I DIDN’T DREAM IT WAS TRUE. I’ve also got the basic plot idea formed in my head and am doing research. So far, I have only 3 chapters on paper, but the more research I do, the funnier the concept seems to me. The title is a clue to the story. 😉 ….. This will be the biggest challenge of all of all my writing projects because I no longer have my sister as a partner and she is the funny one. I don’t have that “Saturday Night Live” sense of humor that she does. She has too much going on in her life to fool with it.

Also woven among and in between all of this is an attempt to narrate my own audio books. The fees for narrators makes them too expensive to do very many and unless a ton of books sell, it takes too long for the ROI. If I can do a decent job on my own narration, I’ll be releasing more audio books. Doing it myself is relatively inexpensive compared to hiring a narrator.

As you can see, just because I’ve quit my day job doesn’t mean I won’t be busy. 😟 I only hope to live long enough to complete all of these projects. Wish me luck!

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It’s Here Again….

Happy New Year


Happy New Year, Readers!

I can’t believe it. Seems like only yesterday I posted this same heading, yet it was Christmas a year ago. All of you probably thought I had died. The last time I posted on this blog was months back. August, I think.

I hope 2015 was a good year for you. As for me, I’ve had better. But on the other hand, I’ve had worse. All in all, I have a lot to be grateful for.

So do you make resolutions? And do you stick to them?

I don’t make resolutions so much as I make plans. And I’ve already got 2016 pretty much planned. Of course you know that old saying : Life is what happens while you’re making other plans. (That quote really did not originate with John Lennon. It originated with a guy named Allen Saunders.)

DixieCash_YouCanHaveMyHeartNumber One on my list is to finish the Dixie Cash book I’ve got underway, YOU CAN HAVE MY HEART, BUT DON’T TOUCH MY DOG. It’s full of the usual madness and mayhem only Debbie Sue and Edwina and their friends can generate. I had planned on releasing it before the end of 2015; however, my day job took over my life for about six weeks and I didn’t get it done. If I’ve made a resolution at all, I have resolved to not let that happen again. Now I’m shooting for a release date in February or March.  This was quite an undertaking for me. My sister threw in the towel at around 50 or 60 pages, so I’ve written it on my own. People who have read it tell me it’s funny, but I’m nervous. I’m the first to acknowledge that she’s the funny one. AnnaJeffrey_TheHorseman_200px (2)

Second on my list is to finish THE HORSEMAN, Book #3 in the Sons of Texas trilogy. It isn’t a comedy. This will be Troy Rattigan’s story, plus it will tie up all of the loose ends and reveal the villain who’s got it in for the whole Lockhart family.

Along with these two projects, I’m going to attempt to narrate my own audio book. I know. Don’t laugh.  …..  I’ve already bought the equipment I need and am ready to roll. All I need now is to get over this head cold that has affected my voice. I don’t know how my Texas twang will sound trying to narrate an audio book. A person should have good elocution and be a half-assed actress for it to work. In fact, most of the audio book narrators *are* actors or actresses. My advantage, if I have one, is that I know how I mean for the dialogue I wrote to sound. We’ll see how it goes. Believe me, the money I’ve invested in the equipment is a drop in the bucket compared to paying for a professional narrator. They are very expensive.

Another project on the drawing board is to write Book #2 of Miranda’s Chronicles, a sequel to the 40,000-word novella I released in 2015, DESIRED. Book #2 will not be a novella. Writing a novella is harder than it looks. I will never do it again. My home is in 100,000-word tomes. The title will be CLAIMED and I’ve already bought the image for the cover. That way, with money invested, I’ll be motivated to get it done.

978-0-451-22959-5_ManOfTheWest.inddI’m also still trying to get my copyright back from my former New York publisher on MAN OF THE WEST, a book I wroteAnnaJeffrey_LoneStarWoman_800 under the pseudonym, Sadie Callahan. I so want to re-write that book and re-release it as an Anna Jeffrey book. It’s Book #2 of The Strayhorns series and a sequel to LONE STAR WOMAN. I had originally planned to write Book #3 in this series and that story is still sort of floating around in my head. I might go ahead and work on it whether I get my copyright back or not.

So those are my plans for 2016. I think my day job is definitely going to have to take a backseat. Still, don’t bet any money that I’ll get all of this done.

How about your resolutions? Are they doable?

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COMING SOON!! …

RELEASE DATE FOR “DESIRED” IS AUGUST 4TH.

Pre-OrderSale3_Desired (2)(Sml)BUT IT’S STILL AVAILABLE FOR A LIMITED TIME AT AMAZON AS A PRE-ORDER FOR 99-CENTS!

Release date is only a week away, fellow readers. I’ll be blog-touring to celebrate it, so I hope you’ll surf by and leave comments. I’ll also be giving away prizes. In case you haven’t read the blurb, here it is:

“Miranda March wears her extraordinary beauty like a mask to conceal her emotional vulnerability. A successful small businesswoman, she might appear to be in control of her universe, but ever in the back of her mind is the one thing that can yank the rug out from under her at any moment: Her mother who suffers from mental illness.

Enter handsome, sensual—and rich—Harvey (Tack) Tackett, a friend of a friend, in town overnight on business. The instant they meet, Miranda feels a connection that stirs her to break one of the rules she lives by—no foolish flings with men passing in the night. After a night of passionate lovemaking like she’s never known, profound emotions emerge. She believes the feeling is mutual. But Tack leaves town without so much as a call and she hears no more from him. As she struggles to overcome her disappointment, she learns her mother has sunk into a depression that calls for immediate attention. Miranda has no choice but to move Mom in to live with her. Her life will never be the same.

From out of the blue, Tack reappears. But it’s too late. Miranda is committed to her duty to her mother. Trying to have a romantic relationship with Tack or any man would be as hard as mixing oil and water. She has already tried and failed at that. Can she solve the conundrum and find a happy-ever-after with Tack?”


What else have I been doing? Working and working. I still have my day job. And at the same time, I’m working fast and furiously on THE HORSEMEN, Book #3 of the Sons of Texas trilogy and the new Dixie Cash epic, YOU CAN HAVE MY HEART, BUT LEAVE MY DOG ALONE.

I’m about 100 pages in the Dixie Cash book. It’s another zany story of love and conflict. The object of conflict:  a golden mixed breed dog. Adding his colorful opinions along the way is a potty-mouthed parrot named Jake and the usual craziness from Edwina and Debbie Sue.

Here’s a thumbnail synopsis: The heroine, Sandi, who happens to be Edwina’s niece, owns and prepares homemade dog and cat food in her gourmet bakery for pets. DixieCash_YouCanHaveMyHeartShe’s also a foster parent to abandoned animals.  After being abandoned twice herself, she’s empathetic and has decided to devote her affections to animals rather than men. She has collected a menagerie that’s she’s trying to take care of in a small backyard and a small house in town.  She wonders if something is wrong with her because a parrot appears to be her best friend and confidante.

Then comes along the hero, Nick, a good-looking single ranch manager in Salt Lick, who has simply lost his dog. Sandi has unwittingly found it, fallen in love with it and and adopted it. And the fight is on. When Edwina discovers what is going on between her niece and Nick, she can’t resist applying her matchmaking skills. And Debbie Sue can’t resist helping her. Even Jake gets into the act. A wild ride ensues.


I’ve received the cover for THE HORSEMAN, though I haven’t finished the book yet. The cover, designed by AnnaJeffrey_TheHorseman_200px (2)Kim Killion, is beautiful, as usual. I’ve loved every cover she has designed. Here’s a preview:

In THE HORSEMAN, I’m attempting to tie up all the loose ends that have been flying around in the first two books of the trilogy, so you’ll have to read all 3 books to get the whole story of the Lockhart family. But mainly, THE HORSEMAN is about Troy, Bill Junior’s bastard son, finding romance.

All I need is about 36 hours in a day.

Let me know what you think of the cover. Do you think there needs to be less of her and more of him?


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EEK!…WE’RE NOT ALONE!….

In fact, we’re being monitored from the most unexpected corners. But then, with all the stuff that’s been in the news lately about being spied on by the government, maybe we aren’t even surprised.

This morning, I was surfing around on one of my book pages on Amazon. I scrolled down and saw a section called “Highlights,” which is sentences or phrases from my book that have been highlighted in Kindles by readers. It might have been there for a while without my noticing it because I don’t always scroll down the page.

How many of you use the “highlight” feature on your Kindle? Apparently, quite a lot of you because Amazon says there has to be a number of highlights to generate the feature. Amazon apparently tracks “highlights” and the data they glean is what appears on the book page as “Highlights.”

At first blush, I like this feature. It’s flattering to me as an author. I assume Kindle readers highlight a word or words or phrases and sentences because they find them worth remembering for some reason. So it makes me feel good that readers feel that way about my writing.

On the other hand, it really is a sort of an intrusion. If you happen to be a reader who highlights material in the books you read on your Kindle, you now know that activity is being tracked by Amazon. On a deep level, do I want what I and you are highlighting in Kindle to be tracked by them? I don’t know about you, but I don’t. I don’t know what else they might do with that information.

We’ve known for some time that the books we pay for and download from Amazon don’t really belong to us. Amazon has access to the content on our Kindles, thus has the capability of yanking any one or all of the books we consider to be ours. Not that they do that or ever have done that (as far as I know), but the point is they have the technology to do it if they choose to. I don’t know if Nook also can do it.

Here’s my point. I’ve read “Brave New World” and “1984” and two or three other dystopian tales and I thought they were scary. The thing that makes them scary nowadays is the fact that much of the literature that we used to call “science fiction” and “futuristic” is now reality. Our privacy, which is always an issue in dystopian stories and one of the key elements that enables some villain to exploit the population, is disappearing fast.

Smartphones are a perfect example. Most people who own a smartphone have no clue all that it can and will do and wouldn’t know how to make it do those things anyway. But coming up on smartphones and already here in some brands is the phone’s ability to cease to function if it can’t identify your face or your eyes or your fingerprint. It’s a security feature and will keep a phone thief from being able to use the phone if he steals it, but what else can a feature like that be used for?

Every time I turn around, I’m discovering some new aspect of my life that somebody is watching and I don’t think I like that. It makes me wonder if I really need to get rid of my smartphone.

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A Ghost of a Story in Audio…

Debbie Sue Overstreet and Edwina Perkins-Martin are back. In audio. My sister and I are self-publishing the Dixie Cash extravaganza, OUR RED HOT ROMANCE IS MAKING ME BLUE, as an audio book. It will soon be available at www.audible.com. You will be able to listen via your phone, your MP3 player or on your computer. The narrator is an actress from New York and she does a great job. Really nails Edwina’s voice and personality. The print version is still for sale at Amazon and other online book sellers.

 

AnnaJeffrey_OurRedHotRomance_Audio3

 

The typical Debbie Sue and Edwina bedlam ratchets up when they get hired to be ghost-busters. A young widower believes his deceased wife is haunting him. He hires the Domestic Equalizers to surveille his home.  Fearing they can’t handle the job, Debbie Sue and Edwina call on a beautiful young psychic from out of town.

I don’t know how many of you enjoy audio books, but I love them. I spend a lot of time in my car, which I consider to be wasted time for the most part, so I listen to audio books while I’m driving a boring road.

I often listen to a book I’ve already read and gain a new and different perspective on the same book. There’s just something about hearing the words as opposed to seeing them, especially the dialogue.

The narrator can make or break a book. I recently read a very popular book and enjoyed it. However, I had an ambivalent opinion of the heroine. I then followed that by listening to it in audio and ended up disliking the heroine immensely. The tone of the narrator’s voice, her interpretation of the dialog just totally put me off. Her voice and her interpretation did not detract from the hero, however. Just the heroine. And I cannot explain why that is.

So, if you do listen to an audio book, if you’re lucky enough to get a great narrator, the listening experience can enhance your enjoyment of the book. Try it.

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LEST WE FORGET…

Happy Memorial Day, everyone…..One thing we do not want to forget on this opening summer holiday is the reason for the day. We want to remember that it’s more than the opening of summer or the end of school or a long weekend at the lake.

When I was a kid, my grandparents called it “Decoration Day.” In the tiny community where they lived, there was no one to look after the only cemetery. In a showing of respect for those who had passed on, volunteers hoed weeds, repaired fences, pruned trees and did anything else that was needed to make the cemetery looked cared for. And some honored their own loved ones by decorating their graves.

This custom wasn’t confined to where my grandparents lived. It did and still does take place all over the country. Unfortunately, however, to a great degree, we’ve gotten away from it. These days, too many of us don’t have time or are too far away. And there are a hell of a lot of us who don’t even know what Memorial Day is about. That’s sad.

In these days when we’re losing or have lost so many of our young men and women to causes that no longer seem worthwhile, let’s don’t forget them. There’s a famous quote and I’ve been searching for the origin all week, but haven’t found it. It says, “All gave some, but some gave all.” Let’s don’t forget that either.

On another topic, I’m making a few changes to the blog. Some you might have noticed, some you might not have.

You might have noticed the book list is missing. I had this great slide show through a site called http://www.slide.com. Around the first of the year, they announced they would be taking their site down at the end of March and we who had slide shows created through them should do something different.

So far, I haven’t found a user-friendly site on which I can create a slide show that WordPress will accept. WordPress recommend a site and I put together a slide show there. But then WordPress rejected it and continues to reject it. I can’t figure out how to get past their rejection.… Like everything in the computer world, if you aren’t a guru, anything you do has a steep learning curve. Did I say I’m not a guru?

The other thing you might notice is a link in the right-hand column to The Anna Jeffrey Times. This is a baby newspaper. It features headlines and a few articles about current events. I would like to give it its own page in the blog so that you don’t have to leave the blog to glance at it, but so far, WordPress hasn’t let me do that either. I suspect it can be done and I hope to eventually figure it out.

The last thing I’ve done is put the archives in a drop-down box. It’s all still there, so if there’s a past blog you want to view, you can find it by using the drop-down box.

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Blog Map 😦

“Figuring it out” is how I have to approach everything I do on the computer. I’ve owned a computer of some kind for twenty-five years, so you’d think I’d be smarter, wouldn’t you?

But I’m nothing, if not determined. Eventually I’ll get that book list back up there as a slide show and eventually I’ll get The Anna Jeffrey Times on its own page.

Meanwhile, while I struggle with it, if any of you *are* gurus and want to make some suggestions, I’m certainly receptive.

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A RANT ABOUT CELL PHONES…

Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...

About a million words have been spoken and written about what cell phones are doing to us, i.e., giving us brain cancer, making us unable to communicate verbally, walling us off from each other, yada, yada, yada…..

Something happened recently that made me start to think more about this. I was in a parking lot, walking from my car into a store. I was walking along with car bumpers close by on my right side. Directly ahead of me was a guy walking toward me, deeply absorbed in texting.

I could go no farther to the right without running into car bumpers. “He sees me,” I told myself and continued my path. He came closer and closer and never looked up, so he simply ran into me and almost knocked me off my feet. I couldn’t believe it. He had feet and feet of space where he could have gone to his right, but he was oblivious to it and oblivious to me. His arm hit my shoulder and he looked up at me as if I had just landed from Mars. He didn’t hurt me, but he jostled me. And he didn’t even have the decency to apologize.

I work with a young man who is on his phone every minute of every day—texting, Facebooking, shopping, messaging or whatever else he does on the phone. Even when I’m trying to talk to him, he’s only listening with one ear. His eyes are glued to his phone screen. Why management doesn’t land on him, I don’t know, because he behaves that way not just to me, but to everybody.

I work with a young woman who keeps her cell phone hidden, but who has FaceBook open at all times and constantly refers to it.

I work with yet another one who plays gambling games all day long, even while we’re at lunch and trying to have a simple conversation.

When I walk into the break room, almost every person there is texting or doing something on the phone. Nobody even says hello anymore.

I have another acquaintance who pulls her cell phone from her pocket or purse every few minutes to check for something. It’s impossible to have an uninterrupted conversation with her. I never have her full attention.

I have yet another friend who weaves from lane to lane while driving while she’s either trying to get the phone out of her purse or trying to punch in a number or read a text. At least, I haven’t seen her text while driving, but she might do that. I no longer know, because I’ve quit riding with her.

Person using cell phone while driving.

Person using cell phone while driving. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

SMS: Text Messaging Gets Redesigned

Just last week, I heard a young woman talk about dropping her cell phone in a cup of Coke when she was texting while she was driving on a major highway.

I’ve seen two teenage girls standing a foot from each other and texting each other.

These days, you hardly see a young person who doesn’t have a cell phone in his or her hand. Only older people have them in holders attached to their belts or secured in their purses. But they still have them with them. Even if you’re on welfare, the government will provide you with a cell phone, and it isn’t just *any* cell phone. It’s an iPhone or an Android if you want it.

So do any of you recall the days when if the phone rang at your home and you weren’t there to answer it, you simply were not home? And if the caller wanted to talk to you about something important, he or she would call you back when you were at home? Do you remember the days when we didn’t have voice mail?

Mobile phone evolution Русский: Эволюция мобил...

Mobile phone evolution

When I was in the real estate business, I had “Call Waiting.” But I hated it. I thought nothing was ruder than abandoning the person or person with whom I was talking to answer the phone. But, for some reason, it was a tool I thought I needed.

Angel with mobile phone

Angel with mobile phone (Photo credit: Akbar Sim (terribly busy))

So now that we’re to the place where almost no one (and I mean no one) is without a cell phone, especially if one is under 25 years old, where are we really? We’ve exponentially compounded rudeness. We’ve almost eliminated verbal communication. We’re encouraging young people, who are already easily distracted, to have the attention span of a gnat.

And I could go on and on. Am I just an old fuddy-duddy who can’t adapt to the times?

What comes of all of this? Does anybody know?

By the way, for you who are interested, THE LOVE OF A STRANGER will be a free download on Amazon on the 17th and 18th. You can download it to your Kindle, your computer, your iPad, your iPhone or most other devices if you get the Amazon app. I don’t, however, think you’ll be able to get the Amazon app on Nook, but I don’t know for sure. So if you want to read it for free, there you go.  🙂

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AN EXCERPT

My sister and I are pounding away on the next DixieCash epic. We’re up to Chapter 5.

Midland, Texas, where most of the story takes place

One of the main characters in the books is a dog named Wafflle.

And here’s a short excerpt from Chapter 1

The last thing Trudy Coffman wanted on a blistering July day was a trashy alley. As a specialty pet food merchant and the owner of the only pet food bakery in Midland, Texas, she insisted that the area around her shop’s back door be kept neat and clean. LaBarkery did not need an open invitation to bugs and vermin. Trudy had been known to rent a high-pressure hose and blast the alley.

Recently, to her everlasting consternation, the City had placed a Dumpster almost directly behind her back door. The other shop owners up and down strip mall claimed to feel the same about the alley, including the owners of the mom and pop burger joint two doors away. But so far, they hadn’t contributed much physical effort to keeping the Dumpster area clean. As far as Trudy could tell, they hadn’t even reminded their teenage employees who closed at night and took out their garbage to have a care whether they hit the Dumpster.

So after she finished her lunch, she gathered her trash and stepped out into the sunlit alley to dispose of it. To her horror, the area around the Dumpster looked as if a garbage bomb had exploded. Trash cans were upended, including hers. Debris lay everywhere. She knew that unfortunately, she had no choice but to pick all of it up. Besides her personal stake in keeping the alley clean, her neighboring tenants had come to depend on her as the “alley policeman.”

Her shoulders sagged. The temperature hovered around a hundred. “Oh, hell,” she mumbled.

She recognized some of the refuse as coming from her own shop, but sure enough, most of

it had come from the burger joint. On a sigh and a grumble, she righted the garbage cans, placed her plastic bag of trash inside one, then bent and began to pick up the surrounding litter.

Just as she reached for a sack of discarded French fries, a large scruffy dog came from behind the Dumpster and began to wolf down everything in sight. Common sense told her to give a stray dog a wide berth, but he was so thin his sides were sunken and her heart went out to him. Among the things she had never been able to ignore was an animal in need. And for proof, she had two rescue cats, two dogs, an opinionated parrot, two hens and a one-eyed rooster at home.

As she replaced the lid on the trash can, she said to the stray, “Hey, sweetheart, are you friendly?”

The dog looked up at her with soulful brown eyes and wagged its tail, but kept its distance, as if it feared a blow or some other cruel response. From the looks of it, it had been on the street a long time.

She felt a stab in her heart. “Awww, don’t be afraid. I won’t hurt you.”

A soft voice seemed to work. The dog inched toward her. Wagging its tail more, it began to dance around. Trudy noticed it was male. She didn’t know when she had seen an animal so starved since a weekend trip to Juarez with her friends. Down there, mongrels ran free, but they were timid and scared, slinking around with their tails tucked between their legs.

The dog wore a collar, so he had belonged to someone. She saw no tags. Unfortunately, now he had fallen on hard times and was getting by the best he could. A heaviness filled her chest. She related all too closely. Been there, done that. Not that long ago, she, too, had belonged to someone, then been abandoned.

Sand storm that passed over Midland, Texas, Fe...

Sand storm that passed over Midland, Texas, February 20, 1894 at 6:00 p.m. Windmills and houses visible just below the whirling sand. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Filed under Books and Reading, Writing

ON TO TITLES (bugle blaring in the background)…

Last week, I closed by saying we would talk about titles and how they come to be. So I’m simply going to describe my own experience. I’m not speaking for anyone else. I’m sure every author has a different experience.

“What’s in a name,” we ask. Well, if you’re writing books or songs, the answer is, “A lot.”

I always stick some kind of name on whatever I’m writing. But that doesn’t mean that’s what I will finally call it. But you have to have a way to identify the file, if nothing else.

I sold my first book in a 3-book contract. I had titled it “For the Love of a Cowboy.” I had this notion that the title should perhaps reflect something about the book. Since the book was Dahlia’s story (the heroine), I wanted it to say what she did because she fell in love with a cowboy.

Well, it took only about 30 seconds for the editor to inform me that for marketing reasons, they had changed the title to THE LOVE OF A COWBOY. I did not know at the time that the marketing department has almost as much sway as the editors.   …..  Granted, they hadn’t changed it much.  So, I said, “Fine.” Because I didn’t really care what they called it.  …..  Nobody in publishing tells you much. You sort of have to ferret out information on your own or learn it by accident. So it took me 3 books to learn that most of what happens with books is decided by committee, of which the marketing department is a large part.

I titled my next book “Out of Ashes.” The story had a fatal fire in it, which played into my thoughts at the time. But I also thought about Doug and Alex, the hero and heroine building a relationship out of the ashes of their troubled lives. Melodramatic, huh?  …..  I did not know at the time that a book about Saddam Hussein had the same title.  😦  …..  Although, thinking back, I don’t know if that would have mattered.

At that point, I had a new editor who didn’t like the story or the characters and who was a bit more heavy-handed than the editor who bought me originally. She and my agent got together and renamed the book, THE LOVE OF A STRANGER. Again, I didn’t care. But I learned something.

I didn’t even put a title on the 3rd book. I just called it Book #3 and waited for them to name it. And they did. They called it THE LOVE OF A LAWMAN.

In the end, all 3 of the books were appropriately named, I thought, though they were not titles I chose. All 3 of the stories are set in the same small town in Idaho, and the play on the phrase, “The Love of,” seemed like a good marketing idea.

My next experience was with SWEET WATER. My title for that book was “The Mayor of Agua Dulce.” The book is set in the West Texas desert and a well for drinking water was an important item. Marisa (the heroine) is the de facto mayor and agua dulce is Spanish for “sweet water.” The marketing department thought the title was too long and too many people wouldn’t know what it meant, so they changed it….I liked *my* title, but again, I just moved on.

I had absolutely no idea what to call what finally became SALVATION, TEXAS, but I knew they would come up with something. Imagine my surprise when they decided to call the book the name of the town in the book.

When SWEET RETURN rolled around, my editor was about to leave on her 2nd maternity leave and just wanted to get a title on the book. She asked me for some ideas (shock) and I sent a long list. They decided on one that wasn’t even on my list. I think they took it from a sentence toward the end of the book. I protested slightly because of already having a book out called SWEET WATER and I even whined to my agent. But the editor said, “Look, do you really want to wait a week or two for a title and have my assistant go through another meeting on this?”  ….   I didn’t, so I acquiesced.

With LONE STAR WOMAN, I was hoping for the title to say “Texas” loud and clear. I asked for that and they worked with it. It was the 1st of what was supposed to be a 3-book series, all set in the same small town in the Texas Panhandle. MAN OF THE WEST followed, which seemed logical, although that’s also the title of an old Gary Cooper western movie. But hey, I could be in worse company than Gary Cooper. 🙂

Those 2 books were written as Sadie Callahan, which is another long, boring publishing story. I’ve got the rights back now to “Lone Star Woman.” Suffice to say, this book will be re-issued by me as an ANNA JEFFREY book.

The same applies to “Man of the West,” although I don’t know when, if ever, I will get the copyright back. If and when that happens, I will probably re-write the ending, as a lot of readers have hated the ending. I wasn’t fond of it myself, but I ran out of time and space.

Obviously, the 3rd book, Cable’s story, never got written and I have no idea what the title would be. I might write it yet and self-publish it. Then I’ll have to start the title search all over again.

So that’s how it works with titles. I don’t know if everyone in the publishing house committee gets to vote on it or what. But since an author no longer owns the book once it’s sold to a publisher, it’s purely a courtesy if an editor uses a title an author wants or likes. My sister had a great title idea for a Dixie Cash book, we thought, but it was completely ignored for several books and never did see the light of day.

Is it any wonder that indie authors are enjoying this new-found independence?

Although book content is copyrighted, the titles are not. Nor are the titles to songs. That’s why you see titles repeated. If one sold particularly well, then the publishers have no qualms about using it over and over again, whether it relates to the story or not. It’s all about sales and money, you see.

Now, for the first time, I’m dithering over the title to my new series and it’s going to be solely my decision. I’ve had a dozen ideas float through my head, all of which I’ve rejected up to now. Maybe I need that committee.

So far, I’m settled on  THE LOCKHARTS OF TEXAS – DRAKE  for Book #1. Sort of like Linda Lael Miller has named her McKettrick and Creed series. But by the time I’m ready to publish it, I might come up with something I like better.

It’s one of my typical Anna Jeffrey mainstream angsty romances. Sort of. But I’m trying to make it a little meatier. You recall the TV show, Dallas? It has that flavor. Big, old, rich, Texas dysfunctional family and their trials and tribulations.

If you have any title ideas, folks, by all means, throw them out there. I consider *everything.*  ….. In fact, I believe one of you gave me the name of this blog.  🙂  And I thank you.

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Filed under Books and Publishing, Writing