Swiggers by Joey Pinkney

In the brevity of a short story, Swiggers by Joey Pinkney manages to give us some great insight into a subtle aspect of the African-American community. Also, Joey’s Author Notes at the end give us more to ponder as he discusses the inspiration and life experiences that he called upon to create this little gem.

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Within these pages, we’re given a glimpse into the “theater of reality.” Except, within this particular theater, it is the Greek Chorus which serves as the main character. The theater is a shady park bench near a corner liquor store and the play is the daily habits of the townsfolk. A group of older men meet at the park bench, drink, tell stories, relate jokes, and offer commentary on the people who frequent the store.

Remember, in the play “As You Like It,” Shakespeare said “All the world’s a stage. And all the men and women merely players; they have their exits and their entrances…” However, what can a humble Greek Chorus commenting on the theater of the real do when their little piece of the world stage begins to change? I don’t like to put spoilers in my reviews, so you’ll have to read it to find out.


The jokes are rather funny too. I think my favorite was the one about the Pussy Willow.


About the Writing

PinkneyI did not come across any oddly constructed sentences or glaring errors. With Swiggers, Joey Pinkney has produced a clean product. There are some word repetitions here and there, but not enough to destroy the reading experience. The dialog is quite natural and flows well despite that it is written with something of a U.S. Southern accent.

FaceBook Page  https://www.facebook.com/joeypinkney

Twitter @JoeyPinkney

Blog  https://joeyspen.com/

 

Overall, this was an enjoyable, easy-to-read little story that kept me engrossed all the way to the end.  Highly recommend!

 

 

Editing Crutch Words

When we (the Queen and I) were on the cusp of completing the final draft of my fantasy novel, Storm of Divine Light, I came across an intriguing post by #WritingCommunity member, Indie Author and Editor Dan Alatorre. His blog post concentrated on the dreaded phenomenon known as “crutch words.” Just when we thought we were safe, it was back to the draft for another round of editing.

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What are crutch words?

They are words or expressions that an author’s brain defers to like a default setting (and therefore, they become over-used). These repeated words / phrases should not be obliterated from your writing, but rather, their frequency and usage needs to be reduced.

What do I mean by “usage”?

Word usage falls into two broad categories. First, there is description / exposition and second, there is dialog. I’ll use the word “look” as an example in exposition.

Janet flashed a stern look at him.

Occurrences like this are borderline “telling.”  You can allow about fifteen per novel; just make sure they are distant from each other.

John looked at Janet’s stern face.

Blatant “telling” and also “distancing.” Please edit (with extreme prejudice) such usage from your manuscript.

On the flip side, the word “look” seems quite natural in dialog:

John held up the old photograph. “Wow! Come over here and take a look at this.”

Proper, simple, and to the point. Good job!  Now here’s an example where I make a special effort to  avoid the word “look.”

“Hey, Janet! Amble over to my location and visually scan this old photograph and let’s see if it surprises you?”

An overzealous crusade to edit any and all occurrences of a crutch word in dialog may result in stilted, wooden, and unrealistic conversation.

In another example, you may have placed the word properly, but it appears too many times within a short space.

John held up the old photograph. “Wow! Come here and take a look at this.”

Bill glanced over his shoulder and said, “Now look, I can’t drop everything whenever you think you’ve found something important. Keep searching and we’ll look everything over later.” He huffed a breath and stared at John with a disdainful glare.

“Don’t look at me like that.” John flung the photo into a box.

Every single line of dialog is perfectly acceptable. However, “look” is used four times within five lines of text. Do not only refer to the sidebar within MS Word. When you do a search for any crutch word, scroll though and look for clusters.

Is it possible to use a crutch word to one’s advantage?

People, not just authors, have crutch words in their arsenal. Therefore, to make a character more realistic, give them a crutch word or phrase that is reflective of their personality. Remember to use it and don’t abuse it. If a particular character has a verbal crutch, don’t let another character say the same phrase or word as much.

In Storm of Divine Light, I used the word “quite” thirteen times in dialog. The main secondary character, Cyril, uses it seven times, Maynard four times, Dagorat once, and Liberon once. I gave the character Cyril the phrase “Quite right.” Maynard says the same with some frequency, but I also established that he and Cyril are peers in age, education, and social status.

How to find those crutch words

I searched on-line for crutch word lists. Although some results geared toward public speaking and therefore contained “Um,” “Ya know,” and “like.” I found enough sites to compile a general list, but then came the ultimate problem associated with crutch words in your manuscript:  finding the personal ones unique to your own brain.

You may find those elusive personal crutch words by searching for a different one. When I searched through my manuscript for “very,” MS Word also highlighted “every,” “everything,” “everyone” and “everywhere.” In this way, I discovered that “every” was one of my personal crutches. By the time I was done, I had an extensive list to scrub:

  • A bit
  • A few
  • Actually
  • Almost
  • Appear
  • As though
  • Basically
  • Beginning
  • Certainly
  • Could
  • Definitely
  • Each
  • Every/thing/one
  • Felt
  • Finally* (Obliterate this one)
  • Gaze
  • Glance
  • Heard/hear
  • Just
  • Look
  • Nearly
  • Nod
  • Only
  • Probably
  • Quite
  • Rather
  • Reach
  • Realize
  • Really
  • Saw
  • See
  • Seem/Seems/Seemed
  • Shrugged his/her/their shoulders
  • Simply
  • Slightly
  • Some / Somehow
  • Touch
  • Turn / return
  • Very
  • Virtually
  • Was
  • Watch
  • Wonder
  • Would

Remember to apply the principles of usage and frequency when hunting these buggers down.

I’m somewhat knocked out by the difference between a crutch word-cleaned draft and the preceding draft. My manuscript for Storm of Divine Light became tighter, and neater. Or shall I say more groomed?

Did you find this helpful? Did you find a personal crutch word not on my list?

Every Time You Reply, Baby Patrick Doesn’t Cry

A Message to Any and All of My #WordPress Followers / Readers

I follow back anyone who follows my blog. However, I noticed lately that many blogs that used to appear regularly on my WordPress Reader or others that send an email notification of a new post have been silent.

Out of curiosity, I checked the insights tab on my stats page. To my surprise, many blogs that I follow were now unchecked.

I don’t know how or why, because I certainly didn’t do that.

I’ve gone through the list and visited the blogs in question and checked the “Follow Tab” or re-subscribed. Granted about five blogs were defunct, but there were about 6 pages of active blogs off my radar.

Hopefully we’ll be hearing and seeing each other soon.

My Favorite Author Blogs

I do a lot of cruising around the Blogosphere, dropping “likes” and comments in many places. However, I find myself repeatedly returning to certain blogs over and over again.

Although they are all Independent author blogs, you’ll find distinct voices and points of view. Yes, occasionally they will blog about the same particular subject, just not at the same time. After all, they’re all authors and discuss the Indie-Author World. It’s a sure bet that when you dig through the archives you’ll find posts on editing, “pantsing” or planning, and others.

I Blog About These Subjects As Well

I have never referred to myself or have tried to portray myself as some type of self-publishing guru. I’m not one. Therefore, I don’t do it. I basically discuss my journey and blog about the things I’m discovering and learning along the way, as evidenced by such categories as Diary of a Fantasy Novel, Short Story Journal, and The Writing Journey. I also like to drift away from craft posts and write about an array of subjects in Idaho Scrawl, or simply present personal anecdotes and my favorite Recipes.

The folks listed below are not braggarts. However, they have achieved a particular level of notoriety for offering quality advice or “how to” procedures for authors. Most of them have a smooth and friendly style that makes one feel welcomed to read and comment.

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Photo Credit and CC License

Here Are My Favorites

Kristen Lamb

If Independent authors have a Torch-Bearing –Warrior-Queen it would have to be Kristen Lamb. She writes passionately about the world according to the indie author. Granted, the posts are quite extensive, but they are well worth your attention. Kristen has a few self-help books out there for indie authors. Rise of the Machines is probably the most well-known and important book on the topic of indie-authoring.

K.M. Weiland

K.M. Weiland’s Blog is called “Helping Writers Become Authors.” That blog title is no lie; it is completely packed with quality information. I truly suggest opening the category button to discover the smorgasbord of pertinent subjects. The choice is yours. You can comb through this blog, or spend hundreds of dollars on craft books.

Bryn Donovan

Here’s another blog where the archives should be the first place to examine. Her “Blank Page to Final Draft” series of posts are worth reading. Also, there are lists for plots, facial and physical descriptions. She has written a craft book as well called “Master Lists for Writers,” you can find links to Amazon on her blog. I have only recently discovered this blog. However, it pulled me right in.

Nick Rossis

Nick writes about a variety of subjects, including some personal anecdotes. His blog category on marketing is a must read for any would be indie. Look no further than the list of awards for his fantasy novels to understand that this guy knows what he’s talking about.

Diane Tibert

First, in order to appreciate her blog, you’ll have to get past the colour and flavour of her exotic Canadian English :-). Diane’s “Publishing 101” series takes you from editing to cover design. I would say that it’s a good first place to start your research. Yes, she has many other tips for authors.

Honorable Mentions

Chris: The Story Reading Ape

Chris has turned re-blogging into an art form. He’ll save you tons of search and reading time by finding quality posts from authors around the world. I found Bryn Donovan only about a week and a half ago. How? Because Chris re-blogged and highlighted one of her posts. Do yourself a big favor and “Follow” this one.

Ben Garrido

Ben is an indie author, but his posts mostly offer questions and examinations of nationalism, culture, government, and religion. Perhaps I’m drawn to his postings on account of my degree in History and my Catholic faith. Many of the stories in my forthcoming collection have themes of conflicting beliefs, or what happens when the relationship between government and the individual goes awry. Ben’s scholarly posts are thought provoking and very well written.

What About You?

Do you already follow some or all of these blogs? Did I miss a great blog somewhere? Tell me about it.

***Ernesto San Giacomo is the author of Ragged Souls***

Give Your Blog a “Facelift”

Last week I cleaned up my Twitter account, and documented that process in a post called Twitter Litter. That experience prodded me to take a long hard look at my Welcome Page. I saw quite a few problems like empty space, links that didn’t stand out, a somewhat distanced and impersonal opening paragraph, and a ho-hum title.

After all, my blog is the center of my social media platform. Which also means that my (and your) welcome page become even more important.

The Title

Before, I had a one word title “Welcome!” Yawn. Then my wife and I (we’re big Mel Brooks fans, as evidenced by his presence on my fav movie lists*), thought about Madeline Kahn’s character Lili Von Shtupp in Blazing Saddles, remember how she responded to a knock on her door? We added an Italian greeting and felt like we had the job done. 🙂

*See how my list of favorite films from the ‘60s, ‘70s and, ‘80s compares to yours.

First Paragraph

Originally, my welcome message was incredibly mediocre. As I read through it, I realized that it wouldn’t inspire anyone to continue. Therefore, I doubled the size of my opening blurb, and added more personal information like some of my core beliefs that work their way into my writing. In a nutshell, I presented the ABC’s of me.

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Blog Ecosystem Diagram by I.A. Walsh used under CC License

Empty Space

My blog category list was down at the bottom of the page. It was a slender column with too much blank space. I put them in linear form with five spaces between each one. Now it looks like an abundant amount, mimicking a paragraph.

Link Color

Although the links were now more noticeable and moved toward the top, it may still be difficult for someone to notice them as links rather than underlined text. I customized a brick red color that wasn’t hard on the eyes.

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***Put Ragged Souls on your Kindle at Amazon U.S.***

A Personal Photo

I’m not an ego-maniac who needs to see his portrait prominently displayed everywhere. However, as an author’s welcome page, I thought it necessary. After all, you want people to see the front page; feel welcomed, and then are prompted to click, read, and hopefully comment. It’s all about creating a comfy zone. So, I posted my mugshot…um I mean thumbnail portrait and wrapped the text around it.

The Top Menu

We also changed the pages in the top menu bar. Now there’s a published page that lists everything with links to different sites, like Amazon, Smashwords, and Barnes & Noble.

However, the most important change is the addition of a Free Short Stories page. I’ve uploaded one so far but have a few more “waiting in the wings” as they say.

***Notify me when the new Sci-Fi / Horror short story Night Flights is available***

Conclusion

It’s too early to assess the success of these changes as to the impact on blog traffic. But I’m keeping my fingers and eyes crossed. I guess my Facebook Author Page and my blog’s sidebar are next.

Twitter Litter

I’ll freely admit to all that I am no expert on social media platforms for indie authors. What I document within this blog category are the things that I am learning as I plod along. Perhaps after reading this, you may even have a few tips for me.

Easy Clean-Up

I tried to use a free unfollow service that would list all those Twitter accounts that I was following, but not getting followed back. However, when I checked some of them, I discovered that about 25% of those accounts were indeed following me. It was time to try a different method.

If you don’t have 10.5K followers on Twitter, you don’t need any fancy subscription to an unfollow service. Just click on “Follows” on your Twitter homepage. It will list everyone you’re following. Under their name and right next to their Twitter handle you’ll see the gray text “Follows You.” If you don’t see those words, it means that you’re following them but they are not reciprocating. Now just click the big blue button and you’ve unfollowed them back. I have about 1,350 followers and I was able to “clean house” in about 30 minutes.

The “Twitter Litter” has left the building!

FB

Photo by Luc Legay used under CC License

The Disturbing Part

I’ve always regarded other indie authors as Fellow Travelers or Kindred Spirits. Although our genres and styles may be completely different, we’re still cut from the same cloth. Therefore, I’ve always made it my business to seek out other indies, follow and post on their blogs, Facebook pages, offer reviews and beta reads, and yes offer them a #folloback on #Twitter.

My biggest surprise was the amount of Indie Authors who followed me, waited for me to follow them back, and then they would unfollow. I would say that about 60% of the accounts that I had to unfollow were other Indie Authors. Sad but true. 😦

Disappointing Results

A while ago, I wrote a post called The Blog, The Tweet, and The Facebook Page. That post was inspired by my WordPress stats. I discovered that other blogs created the most traffic into mine, followed by Facebook*, search engines, Google +, and way last was…Twitter.

*Facebook has now taken over the top slot

Most social media gurus say that Twitter is a necessary component of an indie author’s social media platform. But I have to face a dose of reality, Twitter has not been a major generator of sales and blog traffic. I believe it serves as a double exposure.

Most people have Facebook and Twitter accounts, therefore, they may see you there and then see your name pop up elsewhere. That second exposure is what may prompt a click, and that’s the only purpose that Twitter can serve. I track my links through Bitly, therefore I can see exactly how many clicks a link receives. To be honest, it’s not that great. I don’t spam or make an annoyance out of myself. I basically tweet about new blog posts, the occasional ad for Ragged Souls, or contribute to a discussion.

Keep It Anyway

I don’t plan on cancelling my Twitter account, nor would I suggest that course of action to anyone. I recently read a great post by Kristin Lamb about the nature of books in the digital age. There are quite a few gems of wisdom within her words. My favorite eye-opener to indie authors within that particular blog post was, “Our greatest enemy is obscurity.”

Never were truer words spoken. Therefore, I’ll keep trying to tweak my tweets as best as I can, and hope for the best.

Ragged SoulsBlog

***Put Ragged Souls on your Kindle***

How About you?

If you’ve been successful with Twitter, please enlighten me (and some others). Do you see activity and clicks based upon your Tweets?

***I want to know when the new short story Night Flights is released***

When Bright Lights Burn Out

In the past month, I have heard two disturbing pieces of news of a personal nature. However, I think most of us have experienced this type of news as well and can relate. Perhaps this is rather fitting, especially when one considers that 2015 is about to fade away and a New Year starts tomorrow.

Leaving the wilderness of New York City for San Antonio, and then later to Idaho, has separated me from many friends, family, and acquaintances. A recent tour of Facebook brought me the news concerning the deaths of two friends, Monsignor Joseph Ansaldi and Marilyn Hudson Tucker.

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Monsignor Ansaldi was the principal of St. Joseph H.S. where I taught for a few years. He was more of a guiding light than a boss, and therefore, always considered him a friend. As a lifelong #Catholic, I must say that he was one of the greatest homilists I’ve ever heard. It has been over six years since I’ve heard him speak, yet I can still recall some of his homilies and retell them completely.

Marilyn Hudson Tucker was a tireless contributor to the San Antonio Writer’s Guild. She took me under her wing and instructed me to start a #blog. She was my first “like” on #Wordpress, and I was her one-thousandth. She was always ready and available for a beta read, and ran the Ask a Grammar Guru page on Facebook. Moving has caused me to miss Sunday evening critiques at her home, but now I miss the writing scene in San Antonio more than ever.

I’ve never seen her upset, annoyed, angry, or anything like that. There was always a welcoming smile, and a calm demeanor that the rest of us can hopefully learn to imitate.

For Monsignor Ansaldi, the best way to honor him would be to live a better spiritual life.

For Marilyn Tucker, the best way for me to honor her memory would be to write more and make those writings great.

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Click the Pic and go straight to AMAZON!

 

My Last Newspaper

I was on my way to work one morning and as I passed by a newsstand I saw the huge, bold headline: Catholic Priest Sex Scandal. The priest’s picture was plastered across the entire front page.  He was a very popular priest and well known, since some newspapers had done human interest stories about him prior to that headline. Perhaps that was the reason for the press’s extra viciousness concerning this incident.

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St. Nicolas Roman Catholic Cathedral by Jennifer Boyer used under CC License

A few weeks later I purchased a copy of the paper, wanting to see the box score from a Yankee game. As I flipped through the pages and scanned the headlines I saw something very disturbing on page 17.

In a small article, nestled among many other small articles that would constitute a page of clippings, was a follow-up story about the #priest.  Apparently, all charges against him were dropped.

An NYPD spokesman said the child involved had been prompted to tell a story because the parents were looking for a cash settlement. The police became suspicious when the child kept changing his story. Detectives questioned him for a statement three times, and not once did he ever give the same answer. When pressed, the parents admitted to prodding their child to make a false claim.

What a group of forthright, just people are journalists and #newspaper editors. Shouldn’t they have put that priest’s portrait on the front page again with a bold headline proclaiming his vindication? Yes, they should have. You know it and I know it. So how could the press not know it?

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Earth Day by Deb Stgo used under CC License

I believe they knew the right thing to do. However, why should they run a story when there was probably something more sensational that day?  Also, why run a story that speaks of your own sensationalism and errors?

I think it’s sad. Have you ever seen anything similar?

Special Thanks to Don Charisma. His #blog Post “Do Journalists Tell the Truth” dredged up this memory.

WordPress Stats: Seeing is Believing

In a previous post called “The Blog, the Tweet, and the Facebook Page,” I mentioned that creating a relationship with other bloggers is a must. I came to that conclusion based upon the behavior of those who followed me on various social media outlets. I also mentioned that I really didn’t push or spend a lot of time on #Facebook. Also, when it comes to blog stats, I usually only checked the “out-clicks” to see how many people were exiting my #blog by going to my Amazon, Nook, or Smashwords.

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My Social Network by Luc Legay used under CC License

But I had a jaw-dropping revelation when I looked into my WordPress stats the other day. Facebook was the source for the most referrers, i.e. where someone was when they decided to click into my blog. The second was Search Engines, then Google+ and Twitter. Why are these stats surprising? Because I usually spend the most time promoting my blog on Google+ and Twitter. When I thought about it, it didn’t take long to figure out why this happened. I use Facebook in the same way that I blog, taking the time to visit other pages and leave commentary rather than promoting my own stuff.

Let me be clear for a second, I am not a spammer (and never have been), on Google+ and Twitter. However, when I look back at all of my tweets and Google+ posts, most of them were promotional. I think it’s time to switch gears and use the rest of social media in the same way as I’ve been using Facebook and blogging.

You may experience the same if you go into your WordPress bar graph (site stats for last 48 hours), then look at the referrer’s box and click summaries. You can view your referrers for different time periods as well.

O.K. now that you’ve looked, what did you find out about your stats?