Neil Gaiman Birthdays & Electric Blankets

Courtesy of Sasha Maslov/The New York Times

Sometimes all it takes is one song to be awestruck and reduced to tears. As I did some research (procrastinated) this afternoon I came across this video. Warm, dark and lovely… everything about this video was love for me. The dog in the trash can is my tears started.

Then came the surprises. I went to Facebook to give this girl, Amanda Palmer, a like and realized she is half of the Dresden Dolls. No wonder this video resonated with me so well. I used to love the Dresden Dolls.

Then I found out she’s married to Neil Gaiman. And, by the way, it’s his birthday today. I did already know that. So lots of bombshells over here while I should be working on a story about monster cereal with a deadline of today.

The important thing to take away from all of this is… Neil Gaiman is older than me, and I adore his wife, her music and his books. Enjoy this video.

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Blues Over Fake Reviews

Ever since I addressed how to keep your Amazon reviews safe a few weeks ago (read that post here) I’ve been getting messages on the topic—most of them complaints against authors they think buy fake reviews.

I have a dozen plus emails with links asking me to investigate and expose. I apologize, but that is not what I do. But… let’s talk about fake reviews.

It used to be pretty easy to tell a fake review. They were five stars and one or two lines. Often the review came from someone anonymous.

Here’s a good example of this type of review. Not all of them are fake. I have one of these myself on Bitter Suites and I do know who left it. Very funny, D.

I’m probably damning myself here because so far Bitter Suites has all five star reviews, but all five star reviews is another sign of potential review fraud. It’s unlikely that everyone loves a product without complaint, especially books. When you see nothing but gold, start looking critically at these reviews.

A lot of times these fake five stars are easy to pick up because none of them talk about the book’s details. They will give general, glowing statements like “best book ever” or “will change your life.” But… there is another way around that.

Now writers can essentially write their own reviews about their books and pay someone else to post the review. Great deal for the fraudsters—they don’t even have to do any work now—copy/paste for pennies.

Click to enlarge. Courtesy of USA Today

These fake reviews are much harder to tell because they do give details about the book. You can find offers for reviews like this on sites like Fivrr.

Unless you have a big name and following, it seems painfully hard to drum up reviews. People are happy to stand in the coffee line and tell you how much they loved your book but these verbal reviews don’t do much except boost the ego (and if you’re a seasoned writer your ego got crushed to dust long ago so there isn’t much left to boost).

So how do the mid-level writers get these glowing reviews by the hundreds? According to research done by Matt Moog, CEO of Power Reviews, a company that makes ratings and review software, only 5-10% of customers actually write reviews. So to get 500 reviews, around 5,000 books need to be sold.

I get why someone would want to just buy reviews. Each review is vital. Just one increases the rate at which online window-shoppers actually click the “buy” button by 65%, says Moog. The magic number for reviews of any product on Amazon seems to be 20.

“You need to get 20 reviews and you’re golden,” said Keith Anderson, strategy officer at Profitero. Bad reviews get absorbed into the cushion when you have that many and you look established. My oldest book available, End of Mae, has just 28 reviews. It’s taken me eight years to gather that many reviews.

So here’s what I’d like to know… how do we get the big numbers of reviews honestly? I’d like to see comments left here or sent to my email sharing your best review snagging strategies. Don’t ask me to go on a witch hunt for fake reviewers… let’s just figure out how to get the reviews honestly… and share the knowledge.

I’ll let you know what I can find out.

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House Buying…

I haven’t been getting a lot of my writing done the past week or so. Besides moving apartments, we’re buying a house. I’ve been digging through our file box to locate W2s, 1099s and all sorts of other obscure paperwork I never thought I’d have to see again.

I’ve had so many conversations with our loan officer about my personal life I feel like we are having a relationship and have started wondering when we should actually go on a date.

That said, the house is worth the hassle. It’s an old two story built in 1895. Lucky for us, the whole place has been gutted and all the innards—wiring, plumbing and insulation—are new.

What we are left with is all the lovely hardwood floors, wood panels and old school brickwork. It’s in the historic district with a huge library on the next block, a farmer’s market at the end of the street and the town square a morning stroll away. Being in the oldest part of Kansas City, there are haunted houses all around us.

This is all part of the travel plans. If we get this big house, we will be sharing it with my adult kids. The dogs get to stay in comfort with their family and pack while we travel. We get to have a permanent address, a place to store things and a solid home base. Splitting the mortgage up between all of us means we can maintain all this without a thought.

As this nears the end of the bureaucratic gymnastics stage, it’s hard to think of much else… but my plan is to have some major writing days this week. I have another magazine page to layout, an interview to conduct and some big plans to get solidly in my own work.

After all the dust settles I’ll probably have some new short stories to write… for therapy.

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Permission to Fail

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Happy International Speculative Poetry Day!

Today marks the second international recognition of speculative poetry as an essential genre. Last year the Governor of Minnesota presented the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association with a proclamation declaring November 3rd the official day to celebrate and promote awareness.

In 2017 I wasn’t even aware of what “speculative poetry” even meant and was surprised to find that was my natural genre. (You can read my enlightenment post from last year here.) That’s exactly why the folks at SPFA made this day… and it’s working.

So, Happy ISPD!

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Virtual Venue: Curious Fictions

I got an invite to join a new online virtual venue for writers called Curious Fiction. When I clicked over to check it out, I saw Ashley Dioses already over there. If Ashley is on there, it must be a pretty good site. I accepted.

Exploring the site, I think I’ll be using it to get feedback from beta readers on new chapters of the Bitter Suite sequel, Suite & Sour as well as parking some of my past work. I loved being on Radish, but that app seems geared toward romance, of which I have none (unless you count “Poinsettia Creams,” the second chapter of Bitter Suites). Curious Fiction seems to have a lot of dark and speculative work up already, so it may be just the place for me.

Anyone else have any experience with Curious Fictions? To me, it seems like a cross between Gather and Patreon. Share your thoughts!

Visit my profile at Curious Fictions here.

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TRUE Halloween Horror Story (& Exquisite Corpse Winner)

This is a true Halloween horror story:

We spent all of Halloween finishing a move which consolidated two apartments into one. The one we were moving to is on the second floor… not a big deal until you climb the stairs for the thousandth time.

Finally, everything was moved and the two old apartments were cleaned. Exhausted but happy, I set up my computer to announce the winner of last month’s exquisite corpse submission. The monitors were connected, the keyboard dusted off, the tower tucked away under the desk. I plug in cords into the Google Fiber box and, to my horror…

…the Fiber jack is broken!!!!

I call Google Fiber right away to see about getting it fixed. The technician was awesome and sympathetic. He completely understood how important high speed internet is to all of us and scheduled someone to come by and fix it, to my horror…

…two days later!!!!

No problem, I think. We can survive without internet.

“Hey Google!” I call out to the empty apartment, waiting for my Google Assistant’s response. “What do we do without internet?” There was no reply. I suddenly realized, to my horror…

…Google Assistant doesn’t work without internet!!!!

Shaking and alone, I realized how quiet the apartment was without ambient music playing in the background. There was no way for me to know what tomorrow’s weather would bring or set a timer without using that dial thing on the stove.

Determined to make the best of this dour situation, I selected the winner of the exquisite corpse prize and I took a walk to calm myself, leaving the necklace in its gift box on my desk. When I returned, to my horror…

…one of the dogs had eaten it!!!!!

My son’s dog, Bree, has now ingested enough dirt from Edgar Allan Poe’s grave to classify as a potential haunting ground. The nice gift box was shredded all over the carpet. Fortunately, I had made 33 of these necklaces to give away as presents and prizes, so it’s an easy replacement.

With that said, I’ll announce the winner of last month’s exquisite corpse poem. The winner was picked at random with no regard to merit of contribution. And the winner is, writer of horror… Danielle DeLisle!

Congratulations Danielle! I’ll be sending you an email to get your snail mail details. Next exquisite corpse will be open for submissions on November 15th!

Here are the corpses we’ve made so far…

Exquisite Corpse #1: Collaborative Poem

Exquisite Corpse #2: The Daunting Riddle

Exquisite Corpse #3: Toxicated

Exquisite Corpse #4: Deceptions

Exquisite Corpse #5: Final Chimes

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Exquisite Corpse #5: Final Chimes

The exquisite corpse has risen again… cold feet swing free of the binding shrouds that have held him and he once again feels terra firma gripping his bony toes. It calls him to return, but he resists. Instead, he stretches long angular limbs, tearing loose the gauze and bandages. Eyes blazing, he looks to the mirror to see what we have made. Our creation draws breath and our lovely corpse lives.

Thank you to everyone who contributed lines for our Halloween edition of exquisite corpse. This poem has been created by a group of poets dedicated to bringing dark poetry to playful life. Tomorrow I’ll be posting the winner of the special necklace containing real dirt sustainably harvested from Edgar Allan Poe’s original grave site—the perfect lucky charm for horror writers.

For now, enjoy this dark day and what we’ve created… Happy Halloween and a blessed Samhain! We will do this again in November.

Previous corpses…

Exquisite Corpse #1: Collaborative Poem

Exquisite Corpse #2: The Daunting Riddle

Exquisite Corpse #3: Toxicated

Exquisite Corpse #4: Deceptions

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Support for “Mourning Meal”

Filming for “Mourning Meal” is about to begin! This short film will be developed from a multi-award winning screenplay written by Jamal Hodge and based on a poem written by Linda D. Addison. Addison met Hodge years ago in New York at a writer’s group. 

“I was knocked out by his unique imagination… and I read his fiction,” says Addison. “We stayed in contact when I moved to Arizona. He has wanted to do a film inspired by my work for a while.”

In the last two years, Hodge has had projects in more than 60 film festivals, won 18 awards and screened at Cannes twice. He directed the Investigation Discovery Channel show Primal Instinct, which at its guest point was number two in its time slot.

“His films are excellent quality,” says Addison. “I’m honored that we’re doing my first film project together.”

Linda D. Addison

Addison’s poem that inspired the screenplay was originally published in White Knuckles magazine, issue #8. It has been reprinted in her latest collection of poetry titled How To Recognize A Demon Has Become Your Friend—the collection received a Bram Stoker Award in 2011. Hodge’s script for Mourning Meal has been in six film festivals, was a finalist in two, an official selection in two and won awards twice. 

“I have no doubt that the film will be scary good!” says Addsion. “In fact, the short film will be the first act in an intended feature film we’ll make in 2020. I’m beyond excited about this long time dream of seeing a film inspired by my work!”

You can be a part of making the Mourning Meal dream come true by visiting the film’s GoFundMe fundraiser campaign. Besides good karma, your support can pay you back in other perks like “Associate Producer” and “Producer” credits, special thanks and a signed copy of the “Mourning Meal” poem from Linda Addison.

Go here to pledge your support!

Linda D. Addison is an American poet and writer of horror, fantasy, and science fiction. Addison is the first African-American winner of the Bram Stoker Award, which she won four times. The first two awards were for her poetry collections Consumed, Reduced to Beautiful Grey Ashes (2001) and Being Full of Light, Insubstantial (2007). Her poetry and fiction collection How To Recognize A Demon Has Become Your Friend won the 2011 Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a Poetry Collection.

Jamal Hodge is a multi-award winning filmmaker. Since May of 2016 Jamal Hodge’s films have been an official selection in 60 Film Festivals and won over 16 awards. Jamal has had screenings for films he directed at the illustrious Cannes Film Festival for two consecutive years, in 2016 for The Kind Ones and in 2017 for the Knockout Game. Jamal also has had screenings at the Urban World Film Festival, New York City Horror Film Festival, Los Angeles Film Awards and over 40 other festivals since 2016.

The lead role is a young woman named Cheryl, played by Rüya Koman, a film producer, director and actress and the founder/president of Koman Filmworks. Ruya recently co-directed, produced and starred in “Interference,” a short film written and co-directed by Robin Rose Singer. “Interference” had its World Premiere at the “New Voices in Black Cinema Festival” at BAM (NYC). 

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Excuse the Move/s

Today we move from one apartment to the other. I mentioned this in a recent post and a friend was concerned that our February travel-as-gypsy plans have been canceled. Nope. This is all part of the big picture. Here’s some clarification.

We are moving two apartments to one so we can re-write our apartment leases and consolidate. As we do this first move, we are buying a big house. Then we will all move in to the big house.

All this is to set us up with the freedom to travel-as-gypsy next February. The entire house mortgage payment will be the same as our one bedroom apartment now, so financially we will be pretty flexible. Also important, we have two large dogs we love that do not want to be gypsies. They can stay in the house, well cared for and stress free while we travel next year.

So… prayers, incense, candles, good vibes and positive intentions… all are welcome as we move, move, buy a house and move… and then travel.

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