No New is Bad News

The old adage ´No news is good news´ definitely does not apply to the world of writing and self publishing.  Every day is a chance to succeed or fail – to sell a book or see your sales plummet.  So while I am sounding the trumpets for one of my best months ever, I am still spinning my wheels in other areas – principally in writing.

This month has seen a lot of movement possibly due to the freebee book specials of May / Early June.  The tally to today is:
12 Sales
8 KU/KOLL borrows
25 free downloads
2 Print editions

This compared to last month which was too pitiful to mention.
I´m hoping next month will see yet another spike in sales.  I am going to try to do one of these freebees per month in the hope of achieving my aim of ONE book sale or borrow per day.  Not an outrageous first goal.

As of Tuesday, June 30th, my book Mexican Mutts, Tequila Pups + Chili Dogs – True Stories of the Dogs of Mexico will be available FREE for 5 days (Until July 5th)


I´ve done a ton of promotion with some ´free promo blogs´ and have my tweets ready to go.
Now if I could just get back to writing so I would have something new to offer.  I am working on a novella that at the moment is stalled.  After finishing this post and a few other chores I plan to get down to brass tacks and have it back on track by the end of the day.  My goal is about 40,000 words.  A quick book which I plan to sell in the $1.99 range.  It´s another about dogs … The tentative title is ¨Conversations with Sammi – A Week in a Stray Dog´s Life¨ and has to do with a stray dog and his daily migration around his neighborhood, the people he meets and their lives, problems etc.  Sammi is a hero.  It will be in part a character study of Sammi´s friends and in part a light hearted adventure.  How will these people get their lives back on track and where does Sammi the Dog come in or help in the proccess.  A typical ´Hero Dog´ story.

So make sure to check out Mexican Mutts starting Tuesday.
Just a note – I am about to run a new contest so watch here for details.  To win you need to dowload a book so get one now.

David Gordon Burke
Get my Books here.


Another Promo Blast – Mexican Mutts, Tequila Pups & Chili Dogs – Free from June 30th to July 4th

I participate in a writers forum.  Over the last year or so I have documented my attempts to take advantage of the KDP free book and KDP select discounts with limited success.  You can read about my attempts here:

I´m doing yet another PROMO BLAST starting June 30th and running until July 4th.

This time I have discovered a number of site that list free book offers and have uploaded my info to them so with any luck my book Mexican Mutts, Tequila Pups & Chili Dogs – True Stories of the Dogs of Mexico will get a larger share of the free downloads.  I´m looking to see my book at #1 in the Dog category.


You can find the book here.  

This has been a great month for me with an average of one book downloaded every day.  A nice change after last month which was very slow.  With any luck this promotion will lead to a bunch of new sales in July and maybe a few more reviews.

Please take the time to download my book.  Every little bit helps.
Thank you,

David Gordon Burke
Find all my books here. 

New Reviews for Mexican Mutts, Tequila Pups and Chili Dogs

Getting reviews!  What a challenge this is.  Almost as challenging as writing the book itself.
I have been killing myself trying to get some reviews for my latest book – Mexican Mutts, Tequila Pups and Chili Dogs – True Stories of the Dogs of Mexico.  I now have three reviews with and overall rating of 4.7 Stars out of 5.  Not bad.

Here are the reviews.

This is a very engaging mix of short doggy stories from one of dogs’ very best friends, David Gordon Burke. Most of these short stories lean towards the sad and tragic with some nice yappy endings. However, Burke’s raison d’être is exactly that dogs are being mistreated, in Mexico in these cases, and we humans need to do a lot about it. The problem may be acute in Mexico though hopefully improving, but that is certainly not the case in all corners of the world.
Burke makes very good use of newspaper reports between his conventional short stories, which greatly add to the ambient feel of seriousness behind his reflections. All the stories are based on general truths from real incidents, though some have been lightly fictionalised to make them more engaging and rounded.
The stories are well written, though the version I read had a few very inconsequential typos. There is always danger in not mentioning this, as grammar fiends seem to so enjoy destroying great writing, like this, on such thin pretences and especially if they feel ‘conned’ into buying.
As one of those people that actually prefers the average dog to the average human, I am bound to empathise deeply with this book, however, I feel even strange folks such as cat lovers and rodent fanciers will find plenty here to grab their attentions, stories drawn from the street-life of Mexico.

If you love dogs of any breed as I do, you will enjoy this book. There are some very sad stories and some giggle spots. I love people, but hate how gruesome they can be with animals. I did not have to purchase this book since I can read them for free, but I am happy to help the author out by giving him a good review. I do not do this lightly. I could tell in every story that his passion is to show the pain people inflict on animals and the story needs to get out, no matter how hard it is to face. Please read this book and enjoy the excellent writing of David Burke and let your heart lead you in helping abused and homeless animals.
I am so grateful for these reviews and pleased that the readers enjoyed the book.
David Gordon Burke
Find my books here.

Thoughts on Writing

You are either at one of five points in your writing career.
1.  You have always wanted to write a novel, novella or short story.  Put about 99% of the world´s population at this stage in the game.
2.  You have written part of or a complete novel, novella or short story.
3.  You have written and published at least one novel, novella or short story,  – whether through traditional publishing or self-published and now you are looking at that daunting blank page and wonder ¨What do I do now.¨
4.  You have written and published at numerious novels, novellas or short stories – whether through traditional publishing or self-published and now you are looking at that daunting blank page and wonder ¨What do I do now.¨
5.  You are in the process of writing a novel, novella or short story.

From the moment you turn on that laptop and type in the words ´Chapter 1´ you have entered a world that is full of pain and joy – and a lot of the actions we take and thoughts that go through our minds while in the act of creating a world out of our imagination are not unique …. we are all plagued by doubts, bad habits and negative external influences that can derail our journey to the bestseller list.

There are some inevitable truths and it´s better to accept them from the get go.  Why fool ourselves.  It´s also a good idea to remind ourselves of these issues from time to time even after we have achieved a certain skill level.

Our work is likely not to be what we hoped it would be when we begin.  Only by doing it again and again will we become the writer we envision ourselves being.

People are going to laugh their asses off when you tell that that you are or want to be a writer.

Just because you managed to write a novel doesn´t make you a novelist.

Some of the story ideas that come to us are going to be bad or unworkable.  If we get tied down to one idea it could mean wasting years in vain.

Neurotic Writer

It might take you years to discover the genre that is best for your particular voice of style.  In the meantime, write what you want to write.

If you write with the goal of becoming a  bestselling novelist overnight, you will likely not succeed and will make yourself miserable.  The best writers write because they have to write.  It is their main path to peace and balance.  If you have to force it, chances are that writing is not your thing.

Listen to your critics, beta-readers and editor.

Don´t listen to anyone who tells you that your work is great – especially your early work and first drafts.  Or your mother.

Keep track of your output but don´t worry if you write faster or slower than anyone else.

Write for two people – yourself and your readers.

Get in touch with other writers.  Find out how they do what they do.  Then develop your own method.

Gramma is a bore.  It was invented by an elite group of people with evil intentions.  Read a lot and look for how your favorite authors masacre the language.  Feel free to do the same or worse.  As long as you are communicating, it is all good.

You are not the next anybody except yourself.  If you copy another person´s work, you will only be a copy.

Read constantly – preferably outside your genre and preferably writers whose prose rings true to you and whose talent you admire.  If you read pulp fiction you are not going to write contemporary literary fiction.  You are going to write pulp.

To end today´s thoughts, I recommend reading this page full of quotes on the art of writing by Ernest Hemingway.

David Gordon Burke
Find my Books here.  

The Writer’s Mind

What is it that sets apart one author’s work from another?  If we take into account that the average person typically uses only 5,000 words in day to day speech and about twice that in writing, with a college-educated speaker having a vocabulary of on average 80,000 words, it seem likely that we all have the essential building blocks to write a great novel.

So what is it that makes a great novel?  According to a vast number or ‘How to’ books on the market, it must be the technical element of writing – the grammar, spelling, punctuation, story structure, inciting incident, story arcs, character development, plot, setting, conflict, symbolism, point of view, exposition, theme, dialogue … the list goes on and on.

But these elements and the experience that a writer accumulates after writing a few full length pieces (estimates are that you will be getting really good once you break the one-million-words-written mark) are the mechanics of writing.  This is the down and dirty theory of how a story is told.  If you were a guitar player, you’d have to practice your scales (all us guitar players hate that) but since you are a writer, this is your grunt work.  Skip it, just like skipping your scale practice on guitar, and you aren’t going very far.

But what about that other something else?  That elusive ‘je ne sais quoi’ that separates the boys from the men, the girls from the women, the Prousts from the Pattersons, the Burroughs from the Browns.  What is that crucial element that Jane Austen has and E.L. James so sadly lacks?  The stuff that makes J.R.R. Tolkien a master of fantasy and George R.R. Martin a master of distaster?

Let’s call it the Writer’s Mind.  I have heard variations on this topic for years.  ‘Write what you know’ – ‘Live life so you’ll have something to write about’ and a miriad of other diatribes on the subject (quite often given by those that teach rather than those that do.)


This thread came about as a result of picking up a friend’s book and reading just the first five pages or so. Now I will admit that this is an internet aquaintance who I consider a peer, someone who I greatly respect for his work as an Indie writer and a person who has been a great inspiration and source of confidence … he always has an encouraging word for me even though I barely feel my work falls in the same league as his.

But his work is weird.  Speculative fiction in fantasy realms and things of that nature.  Sci-fi and the like. Not at all like my work.  So when I picked up one of his novels today and opened it, I was expecting something well written but not something I could relate to – how wrong I was.

The first five pages deal with …. life and death and our beliefs about the afterlife.  Nitty, gritty, down-to-earth stuff that everyone thinks about at one time or another.  He managed to make the genre irrelevant.  And it was all laid out in a fashion that everyone could relate to if not agree with.  And it got me to thinking – how did he go about setting these universal truths down on paper?

The ‘how’ is that he has a writer’s mind.  A true writer looks at all things from all sides of the equation – objectively and subjectively.  From the unbiased point of view and the prejudiced point of view.  And from various different prejudices at the same time.  Writers must be journalists reporting on the state of affairs of the day, telling the truth and lies at the same time.  We must turn that apple in the garden of eden over in our hands until we imagine the apple pie, the apple sauce, the snake, the banishment and the arsnic at the core of that apple seed.  And let’s be honest … some of us have that intrinsic analitic nature and some … well they just don’t.

Can a writer’s mind be developed?  Definitely.  Can we step beyond our ideas to see the world from other people’s perspectives?  Well it is possible but I would hazard a guess that many or most people have been indoctrinated in a particular dogma to the extent that they aren’t even aware they have it.  Also in play will be a person’s passion and compassion.  Their basic understanding of the  human condition – what makes us all tick?  What about psychology?  Does the writer understand the motivations and foibles of his characters?  What will be the consequences of his characters’ actions?  How well does he observe the behaviour of those around him?

And how well does he understand his reader?  Will he be able to step beyond his own passion about a subject and see what about it will draw the uninterested into the topic?  How will he get a person who has no previous contact with his subject matter to invest their time in his work?

Can the writer build enough tension and conflict to make any and all readers care about his characters?  Is there anything at stake in the story that the reader might draw on to create a parallel to his or her life?

I have two very strong advantages in life and in writing.  One, I was born Canadian.  Not that there is anything wrong with other countries but luckily I was born in a country that teaches its children that the correct thing to do in the case where the authority is WRONG is to disobey.  This made me a skeptic and an avid observer.  Secondly, I left Canada and came to Mexico and had to trade in my ideals for another way of life.  Talk about a kick in the teeth!  So I developed yet another way of seeing the world.

I’ve also always been a fan of a good debate.  Call it an arguement if you like, I love to hear another’s point of view.  And I live to bend that other person to seeing my perspective.  Call it a superiority complex if you will, I love to dominate and prove that my way is the better way.  Socially this is a death knell – even I’d really dislike that characterisic in another person, (especially on the losing end of a debate) but as a writer it is a great ability to have.

All of these so-called talents have built up a trick-bag of riffs and licks that I can throw into my work, into my characters and situations to make them real.  It’s one thing to describe the mean streets of Mexico the pastel and muted earth tones of the houses and to describe the cobblestone streets.  It’s but it’s something else altogether to have your reader smelling the fried onions and cilantro of the corner taco stand.  This is what I strive for in my work and it will only be achieved by honing my writer’s mind.  (That and a ton of editing)

In closing, I hope you all find your inner writer, turn on the consciousness of your mind’s eye, get intimate with your muse and tap into your writer’s mind.

David Gordon Burke
Find my books here.  

Author Spotlight

Hello All,

Here is something new that I have yet to try.  Author Spotlight.
Today I will be using this space to tell you about a friend of mine – Author Bill Ward.
Please make him feel at home and please check out his books.
20130307_185738 Bill

Bill Ward is a 61 year old from Brighton, UK who retired from a career in the IT world. He then decided that the time was ripe for fulfilling a life long dream of being a writer.

Bill had a false start in his thirties in which he came close to landing a publishing deal but a career, 7 daughters, 1 son and a household derailed his dream. Two years ago he decided to retire early to concentrate on writing.

Bill turned to the world of thrillers. He says of his first novel ´Revenge.´

¨I grew up during the Irish troubles when the IRA were bombing London and Birmingham. I have vivid memories of those times and it was difficult to imagine then there would ever be the peaceful times we have today so it just seemed perfect material for a thriller.¨

Bill´s second book is called ‘Encryption’ and is a cyber thriller. This book was inspired in part by Bill´s career in the software industry and in part by the times we live in. His third, soon to be released novel is called ‘Trafficking.’ As you can see he likes strong, single word titles.

As you can also see, Bill likes strong images for the covers of his books. Some of the best I have ever seen.
Trafficking_amazon FB

Other than writing, Bill is a mentor to many other Indie Writers.

¨As an Indie author I have been determined to support other Indie writers and I’ve found some great writers but too many to pick out any individual. Based on what I’ve read so far of I am Pilgrim, Terry Hayes goes very high on my favourites list after just one book.¨

Bill is a member of the Rave Reviews Book Club which gives support for Indie authors.

You can find Bill’s books here at Amazon.

Here is Bill’s Goodreads Blog.

Check out Rave Reviews Book Club – Tell em Dave and Bill sent ya.

So there we have the first Author Spotlight.  Others who wish to get into the spotlight can get in touch with me via  Have a great weekend.

David Gordon Burke
Find my Books here.  

Marketing – Choose your Genre – Historical Sales vs. Modern Sales

This is an intersting site for anyone who is looking for some direction vis a vis Genres.

I am at a loss to explain or understand the popularity of one genre vs. another.  Other than romance and erotica (sex sells) there doesn´t seem to be any reasoning behind people´s preferences.  And as proven by the 50 Shades debacle, apparently a well written book with believable characters and situations isn´t part of the public´s criteria where buying a book is concerned.

So what makes one genre a bigger draw than another?

Hollywood would be to blame for some of the public´s tastes.  They set trends and then sell the trend to death until they establish another trend.  Repeat.

And let´s admit it, the vast number of people in this world get their comfort not from thinking for themselves but rather by being part of the pack.

So where does this leave a writer.  Well, the two packs are clearly ´Conform´ or ´Innovate.´

Is it any surprise that if you do a search on Google for ´Trends in fiction genres´ you come up with a bunch of web-pages dating back to 2012?  Maybe the only people out there keeping track of the trends are the Publishing Agents and they are likely only sharing their insights with their already signed authors.

So how is an unsigned author supposed to figure out what to write next?  The NY Times bestseller list might be a good place to start.

I´m going to look at the Hardcover fiction section since that´s the most recent releases and assuming that if it is popular in hardcover (the most expensive version one can buy) then it is a good reflection of both the public´s taste and their buying habits.  After all, they´ll probably only shell out the $30 or $40 on books they really expect to like.

The NY Times today is listing.

Finders Keepers, Stephen King #1  (what, again ….. no comment)
The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins. #2 A psychological thriller
All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr.#3
In the Unlikely Event, by Judy Blume.#4 Historical Romance
Radiant Angel, by Nelson DeMille. .#5  Spy thriller / Terrorism
Memory Man, by David Baldacci #6  Crime / suspense / thriller
Seveneves, by Neal Stephenson #7 Sci Fi
14TH DEADLY SIN, by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro. #8 Crime Drama
PIRANHA, by Clive Cussler and Boyd Morrison. #9 Action
THE NIGHTINGALE, by Kristin Hannah.#10 Historical Drama

Nothing new in these trends so it’s probably a good idea to look through the whole top 100 bestsellers to see if a trend is emerging.  Right away I do see the element of ‘Historical’ becoming more prevalent in many genres.  Why write a detective novel when you can write a Historical Detective novel?  Why write a Romance when it could be a Historical romance?

As is the usual, it seems I come away with more questions than answers.
If one were able to read a couple hundred bestsellers in a heartbeat, the trends might become clearer.
Not a possibility here so …. I guess I’ll just stick to writing what I write and hope I hit the right combination one day.

David Gordon Burke
Find my Books here.

Archive Post – Cliches – Death Knell for Writers?

What is a Cliche?

A cliché or cliche is an expression, idea, or element of an artistic work which has become overused to the point of losing its original meaning, or effect, and even, to the point of being trite or irritating, especially when at some earlier time it was considered meaningful or novel.

Last night I was reading the very last novel I will ever pick up by a very successful popular novelist.  (name withheld) So our hero is getting down with his new girlfriend in a cheap hotel and he says “I was as hot as a ten dollar pistol.”


You can see why I won’t read any more of this guys work.
Of course, this is my opinion so you can slather cliches through your work if you feel the urge.  What the hell do I know?  Make up your own mind.  Maybe the piece you are writing is screaming for some stale cliches to give it authenticity.  Maybe an old style Sam Spade type detective novel would benefit from some cliches but then again, maybe not.

As usual, all rules related to the proper usage or adverbs, passive voice or cliches (THE THREE DEADLY SINS) are null and void when we enter the realm of dialogue.  Dialogue is how people speak so if it seems natural, even if it contains one of the THREE, I say go with it.

But cliches are dull, boring and have a tendency to sneak in.  Find them, rewrite them, kill them now.

Here’s one that I read that writer Elmore Leonard despises “All hell broke loose.”  Yeah, that’s HORRIBLE.

Another type of cliche is the CLICHE STORY – your whole damn idea has been done to death.  Ok, this one you can work your way out of if you can add something interesting, new, novel, and unexpected into the genre, style etc. you are writing.  Look at Robert B. Parker’s series of Detective novels “Spenser.”  Yeah, another hard boiled detective, written in the style or Raymond Chandler.  So what is so impressive with that?  Not much.  Pretty well the same old formula, except with a few quirky twists.  Spenser, compared the vast majority of detectives who bounce busty blonde witness off their bedsheets bi-weekly, is in a committed relationship.  Spenser cooks – in many ways the food is almost as much fun as the crime.  So Spenser slowly becomes a well rounded and unpredictable character.

Returning to the theme of Overall, Cliched stories, do a search – How many different stories are there – you will find that many, many works can be seen as a parallel to something that came before it.

My wife is watching a Mexican Soap Opera.  The plot goes:
Young poor girl is wronged by a bunch of rich people.
She ends up in jail due to their abuse – lies.
Gets out of jail.
Becomes rich.
Changes her name.
Plans her revenge.

We are basically looking at the female, Mexican version of “The Count of Monte Cristo.”  It’s all been done before.

Check out this link.  Then do something different with it.  And don’t make your main character “as hot as a ten dollar pistol.”

David Gordon Burke
Find my Books here.

Archive Post – To Passive or Not to Passive

Here is an interesting issue!

Should you use passive voice in your fiction?

( A brief explanation)

Shakespeare wrote Macbeth.  – Normal, Active sentence.  The Subject, in this case the Bard, is doing the action.
Macbeth was written by Shakespeare.  Passive sentence.  The Subject (Macbeth – the book, not the character) is recieving the action of being written.

Every guide, tutorial, diatribe, sermon or tome related to writting says this is BAD.  BAD, BAD, BAD, BAD, BAD.

Hmmmmm.  More food for thought.

So when is it acceptable?
In my humble opinion – and here, if you are actually a fan, potential fan, critic, hater, troll or whatever of the ebooks I have / am / will be publishing on AMAZON, you can jump in and tell me either that.
A.  Your writing sucks.  Get a day job.
B.  I like your writing but no…….Passive voice is still BAD, BAD, BAD, BAD, BAD and I use it too much.
C.  You agree with my exceptions to the BAD, BAD, BAD, BAD, BAD rule.

First off, I ignore all advice from all writer when dialogue is involved.  People speak the way they speak so if I use an adverb (also considered BAD, BAD, BAD, BAD, BAD) it is because I want to make the conversation seem like words that a real person might have spoken.  This applies to passive voice.

Second, there are some structures that almost exclusively work in Passive.

To be born
To be / get married.

Third, adjective phrases apprear to be and really are just passive in disguise.

I am tired.
Hence, Something has tired me.
Active Passive.

Finally, if I want to show that my character was not in control, I let passive stay.
Bill was fired from his job.  OK, so maybe Bill looks like a big loser at this point but then again, maybe he stood up to the boss and got fired for noble reasons.  Plays well both ways.  The boss fired Bill.  I don’t see that as a stronger sentence per se and it is not the way people speak the English language (at least not on my ranch)

Anyway, My Opinion.  How you feel about it (Again, Mr. King HATES passive voice – no passive is his mantra) is up to you.  I would say I’m 85% against and 15% for, depending on the situation.

What do you think?

David Gordon Burke
Find my Books here.  

What You Can Learn about your Market from Reviews.

Yesterday I got a very interesting email from a potential reviewer.

Hi David,
I’m sorry to say I will not be able to write a review for you book. To be honest I just couldn’t get through it. I think you lost me the first time when you said “damn Gringos”. Still I continued to read. Up until you let Charley run away and didn’t go after him. That’s just cruel. I was glad when Charley showed back up with the kids, but then you started going off in a different direction and lost me again. I get that a book is supposed to draw emotions from the reader. You have done that, unfortunately it is not emotions I want to feel when I’m reading a book about dogs or puppies. I can only hope that Charley became one of the family in the end.
I just can’t add my name to a review for a book I didn’t enjoy. I can not tell people to read a book I don’t believe in. 
Damn, there is just so much to learn about the audience´s perspective in this letter.
So first and foremost I have to realize that the ´Politically Correct´ criteria is wholly in play.  Apparently, although dislike of Americanism is a common trait within Mexico and many other countries, if you create a character who isn´t PRO US, you risk losing your US audience.  At the very least a few of them.  This never crossed my mind.

I have read a bunch of novels that don´t portray some Mexican people in a very good light but wasn´t offended – as for my birth home Canada?  Well what can you say negative about Canadians?  Never been in that situation.

Added to that is the fact that aside from the US critisism being very tongue in cheek, it wasn´t a critisism of American people at all but the US cultural dominance of the world, mostly through film.  No offense to anyone intended but I truly believe the world would be a better place without so much JUNK culture.  A world without Kanye West and Sponge Bob would be no worse in my opinion.  But I digress.

This is a fictional character that is supposed to represent a stereotype and have stereotypical ideals and opinions.  These opinions are contrived and exist to make a point about the overall story.  That seems to have fallen flat with the reader.  I have to assume then that many readers are going to share the bias or taboo that if you say anything against the US, they are going to bolt.  After all, the biggest marketplace is the US.  Note to self, leave the Americans alone.

Another issue I found with this email is that the reader didn´t like the way the story played out.  ¨That´s just cruel.¨  This one again astounds me.  The story is about a father that just can´t live with his kid´s dog and does everything to get rid of it.  He eventually succeeds, only to have the dog return at a crucial moment in the family´s lives.

What got me was the idea that someone would shun reality, in a literary sense would prefer to keep their heads stuck in the sand and not think about the fact that this goes on every day – not only in Mexico but all over the world.  Millions of dogs are put down by the dog catcher every year.  Once a dog goes to the pound, its chances are very slim it will ever come out.

So I guess there is an element that just doesn´t want to deal with that.  I have decided that rather than lighten up my subject matter, I will have to redo my Author page on Amazon to reflect the fact that my stories are not all ´La di da´ happy little puppy stories.  They are gritty, dirty reflections of the world of dogs and the hell we humans tend to put them through.

And finally the emotional element.  Apparently I succeeded in arousing an emotional response.  Again, it seems evident that some people will psychologically turn off their emotions – I guess this is a relfection of a person´s psyche.  Who knows?

Regardless of how absolutely ridiculous I thought this reviewer´s reaction to my book  was, it is all food for thought.

David Gordon Burke
Find my books here.