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Uploading and Setting up your Amazon Ebook – Does SEO Really Matter?

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I spend a lot of time looking at other writer´s works.  Sometimes I am reading INDIE authors, other times I am surfing around Amazon, looking at what is happening with other writers.  One of the things that amazes me is how little effort some writers put into all the work that needs to be done after the book is on-line.

Of course, there is a ton of criticism launched towards INDIE writers based on their work; I won’t get into that in this blog.  It´s an objective thing and I am well aware of the fact that I tend to be extremely critical of other´s works and oh, so forgiving of my own flaws.  This is the devil we all deal with day to day.  This is not a science.  The scientific part is what I wish to discuss today.

One huge issue is the cover.  I am astounded at the number or HORRIBLE covers I see floating around the INDIE self-pub world.  My god people, you (hopefully) invested hundreds, possibly thousands of hours writing your novel and now you use the cheapest cover template available and hope that your book is going to sell?

But that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Here´s a bunch of other issues in no particular order.
1.  The Title of your book.
2.  The Subtitle of your book.
3.  Is it part of a series?
4.  The book description.
5.  Keywords.
6.  Categories.

The savvy Self Publishing INDIE author will have done a bit of research on these topics.  Everyone else is leaving it to luck.  The Amazon web site employs SEO which stands for Search Engine Optimization.   It may not function exactly like Google or other top search engines, but the same principals apply.  So how can you make this work for you?  I am no expert so all I can do here is give my layman´s opinion based on my limited experience.

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The first step may be something that should be considered long before the book is written – What genre are you writing?  Notice that when you use the Amazon search function, the field wants to auto-fill.  So if you type in the word, ´Romance´ it begins by giving you the following options – Romance Books, Romance Novels, Historical Romance, Modern Romance.  Type in ´Romance a´ and you get Romance Authors, Romance Anthology, Romance and Sex etc.  These are the common genres and the most common search parameters that clients will use to search.  These are also ´Key Words´ that you will need once it is time to upload your book.

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So how do you make that work for you?

Begin by working one or more of those words into the title or subtitle of your book.  Simple as that.  It may be a bit of a strain on your creativity but it will be well worth it in the long run.  Now here´s the kicker – try to do it in a subtle way.

So Amazon allows you to pick 7 keywords.  If a couple of the strongest are in your title AND woven into your book description, you are looking at the possibility of ranking higher when a customer searches for those keywords.  You can also use some Google Adwords Keywords (I am told) but I have never learned how to do that … if you think it´s to your advantage, get out there and research it.  Hell, once you figure it out, come back and leave us a comment.  I´d love to know what that is all about.

Finally, the categories.  For the vast majority of writers this shouldn´t be a problem.  Since I don´t write within a genre that is easily defined, I struggle here.

Now this is yet another ´I´d rather have it and not need it that need it and not have it situation´ – I spent a week messing around with the descriptions and keywords etc. on all my books.  I did see my English Tutorial books climb in the ranking but I have no idea if it affected my other three books.  I´ll take it on faith that I am doing it right.

So that´s it for today.  I hope this is of some benefit to someone.  At the very least, it will make your author page and your book description pages look professional.

Ah, that´s another thing.  In the name of all that is HOLY, make sure that you have a head shot on both your Amazon and Goodreads Author pages.  Have all your books updated to those pages as well.  If you run a blog, your blog-feed can go directly to both these pages via RSS.  Figure it out, I did.

Got knows, if I get to an Amazon author page and it doesn´t look slightly professional and well organized, I´m NOT BUYING YOUR DAMN BOOK!  I´ll figure you spent as much effort in the writing and editing as you did in setting up your promo page …. NONE AT ALL!

End of Rant.

David Gordon Burke
Find my Books here. 

The 5 A Club – Authors Against Adjectives and Adverbs.

What is the 5 A club you ask. Authors Against Adjectives and Adverbs.
It´s an unofficial club. There is no membership. There is no member list, no dues, no newsletter and no president. But it is a sure thing that if you are a member, you know it. If you are not a member, there is a good chance that your readers, or those potential readers that didn´t purchase your novel after they read the first page, paragraph or line also know it.

So what the hell is wrong with Adjectives and Adverbs? Surely a young writer has been, in some remote corner of the internet, introduced to a debate concerning  the value or lack thereof related to those pesky ´LY´ words that tell us how an action  is being done. Adverbs.  And almost every INDIE Writer within the Amazon Self Publishing world has read
Stephen King´s ´On Writing´ and therefore has poured over his diatribe on the evils of the Adverb.

FrazzAdverbs

Adverbs give a quality to an action. Quickly, loudly, respectfully, happily, gladly, sadly, thankfully, perfectly, highly, lowly, promptly, angrily, quietly, loudly, softly, beautifully, motionlessly, gracefully, generously, generally, adamantly, certainly, hungrily, massively, necessarily, lovely, sharply, accusingly, heartily, roughly, smoothly, separately, badly, dangerously, mournfully, spitefully, boldly etc. They all modify the way an action was done.

¨He closed the door firmly.¨ Nothing wrong with that sentence, right? Ok, it´s not Faulkner or the Bard but it gets the job done. But wouldn´t ¨He slammed the door¨ be a better sentence?

As an English teacher I am constantly telling my students that English conversation uses a small number of verbs as compared to Spanish and other romance languages. They say Elaborate where we just say Make. They say Enter where we say Go in. They say Carry out where we say Do. There are hundreds of examples.

But of course there is a huge difference between spoken language and prose. A writer´s job is to pick just the right word, at the right moment to convey the right idea, action, emotion or description.

Every writer has heard of the Show don´t Tell rule. Aren´t adverbs a nasty little poisonous way to let TELLING to creep into our prose where we would rather be SHOWING? A slammed door is an image that everyone sees played out across their mind´s eye. But the adverb ´FIRMLY´ is a description that one must interpret. It holds little visual context and is therefore TELLING.

Furthermore, if the adverb is not propping up a weak verb, it is likely to be creating a useless redundancy. (Ok, ´useless´ was redundant in itself … so shoot me.)  So if we are to assume that each and every writer has realized (within reason of course, there will be many instances where an adverb plays a good, strong role in your prose and should be left alone) that ADVERBS are vile little venemous creature to be stomped on whenever possible, why then should the ADJECTIVE not get the same treatment?

If an adverb describes and modifies a verb and often only props up a weak verb, doesn´t it therefore stand to reason that an Adjective, which describes a noun, would in many cases only serve to prop up a weak noun? Or create a redundancy?

¨As I stepped off the patio of my beach-side bungalow, a cool breeze blew through my hair.¨ (Ok, that just sucked but I´m just writing to create an example …. damned critics)
Which word can we get rid of here? I´m sharpening my ginsu knife and going after that ´COOL´ … damn, aren´t all breezes cool? If it were a cold breeze then wouldn´t you call that …. Oh, I don´t know ….. maybe WIND?

One could go on and on defending or destroying adjectives. One could argue that there is such a thing as a hot breeze. Ok, could be.  But the scene that I just wrote gives me the idea of a dusk or late afternoon scene with waves crashing, palm trees etc. If not, then maybe we should have written ¨Even with my five hundred dollar Ray Bans, the sun blinded me as I stepped off the patio of my beach-side bungalow.¨ Makes breezes irrelevant IMHO. Cause I´m using STRONG Nouns. Or if not, at least I am getting to the damn point instead of letting an advective do the work for me.

Before leaving off with a list of quotes about the evils of the deadly adjective / adverb, I´ll also bring up another tidbit of writer insight related to Nouns. Let´s all remember Chekov´s Gun. No, I´m not referring to some obscure episode of the Original Star Trek. Turn off the TV and pay attention.

Chekhov’s gun is a dramatic principle that requires every element in a narrative to be irreplaceable, with anything else removed.

Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.

Now this may seem a little harsh. I have actually, on many occassions employed the opposite approach which I call the kitchen sink method; putting in all kinds of stuff regardless of any connection to the story. However, this approach had better add setting, backstory or character developement. No one wants to know what kind of cosmetics your heroine uses, how many slices of ham they put on their sandwiches or (Especially …. damn I hate these guys) what their favorite Beatles´ tune is.

Ok. Off to the races with the quotes. Have fun and Kill your adverbs and adjectives. Welcome to Authors Against Adjectives and Adverbs.

Note – Let me mention once again … there is a time and place for everything.  I tend to ignore all rules, suggestions and throw all good advice out the window where dialogue is concerned (not including dialogue tags … that’s sacred ground)  So if you happen to notice a bunch of adverbs and adjectives in a Cormac McCarthy or Hemingway or even Stephen King novel, you might also notice how often they are used.  It’s like Chili sauce on your tacos … a little is just tasty … too much burns your mouth.  In other words, this is an opinion piece.  It is not meant to provoke a huge arguement.  Cheers.

“Adjectives are frequently the greatest enemy of the substantive.”
– Voltaire

“I was taught to distrust adjectives as I would later learn to distrust certain people in certain situations.”
– Ernest Hemingway

“The adjective is the banana peel of the parts of speech.”
– Clifton Paul Fadiman

“When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don’t mean utterly, but kill most of them — then the rest will be valuable.
They weaken when close together. They give strength when they are wide apart.”
– Mark Twain

“The road to hell is paved with adjectives.”
– Stephen King

“The adjective is the one part of speech first seized upon and worked to death by novices and inferior writers.”
– J.I. Rodale

“Use no superfluous word, no adjective, which does not reveal something.”
– Ezra Pound

“The adjective has not been built that can pull a weak or inaccurate noun out of a tight place.”
– E.B. White

“[Whoever writes in English] is struggling against vagueness, against obscurity, against the lure of the decorative adjective.”
– George Orwell

“Most adjectives are also unnecessary. Like adverbs, they are sprinkled into sentences by writers who don’t stop to think that the concept is already in the noun.”
– William Zissner

David Gordon Burke
Find my books here.  

More on Amazon Reviews – A New Review

I’d rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it.
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I don’t know who said that first … or it very well could be my variation on a Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers’ quote (I’d rather have drugs in times of no money than money in times of no drugs)  Whatever the case, my recent post raised a world of controversy over at Reddit.com.  I thought that my belief, which happens to be from my taking of the self publishing world pulse, was the accepted wisdom and norm.  Apparently, some disagree.

To reiterate, I advised self published authors to – 1.  Offer your book free in order to generate reviews 2.  Consider doing review exchanges with others 3.  Join an Indie Author group 4.  Promo your books on Twitter 5.  Reach out to people who regularly do reviews on Amazon of books in your genre.

The Reddit crowd shot me down like I was a duck in hunting season.  The first issue I have with their (harsh, no holds barred) critique of my post was the fact that I clearly stated in the post that this was my experience and that it was somewhat limited.  That said, it also seems obvious that what works for one writer won’t necessarily work for another.  It’s hit and miss.

The collective crowd at reddit went on to claim that Reviews are of absolutely no value whatsoever – this goes against everything I have ever read about getting sales on Amazon but again, that may be their experience and I respect that, even if I don’t agree.

It seems to me that a book on Amazon is like that first big High School dance.  Everyone is standing around, chatting and the band is playing but the dance floor is empty.  Who will be the first to start dancing?  Or like an standing ovation at a concert.  Who ever started a standing Ovation?  Or the wave at a football game.  No one starts the tide but once it begins, you get caught up in it.  So when someone finds your book and sees that 20 or so people have gone before them, they are more likely to buy.

This is far from a precise science.  Again, better to have the reviews than not.
One critic actually mentioned that the best way to get reviews is to sell books.  WOW!  There’s a bit of amazing advice. Every hear of a little literary work called ‘Catch 22?’

Yet another critic of my post mentioned that you have to have a great cover –  Ok, that’s a given.  Then he went on to spew his two thumbs up opinion about all the Formulaic strategies for hooking a reader – Catchy first sentence, catcy first paragraph, first page etc.  So the gist of it is that our entire hope of selling a book lies within the ‘sneak peak – look inside’ function of Amazon Kinde.  How sad is that?  Doesn’t this mean that literature will be narrowed to a single ‘one page’ format and that if you don’t get that first page dumbed down and working like a soda pop jingle or an ad campaign slogan, your hopes of selling are nil?

So in closing, to each his own.  Or as we say in Mexico, every head is a world.  I’ll cling to the hope that reviews are going to bring readers my way, that I am slowly creating a fan-base and that when I do hit that one great, great story that appeals to everyone, that they will go back and read my back catalogue too.

Meanwhile, my flawed methodology has brought in another review.

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4.0 out of 5 stars
An Engaging Collection of Short Stories About Abused & Neglected Dogs in Mexico, September 23, 2015
By LVesper
Verified Purchase

Mexican Mutts, Tequila Pups, & Chili Dogs is an engaging collection of short stories. It’s a mix of true tales and fiction stories. It explores the disheartening world of abused and neglected dogs in Mexico. Although there is a lot of sadness to the stories, there are some happy endings. The stories are well written and even though I consider myself more of a cat person ( I do have a dog, too), I found them to be entertaining and informative. Because of the serious and sometimes disturbing content of animal abuse, I did have to take breaks from reading at times.

Have a Great Day.

David Gordon Burke
Find my books here.

Guide for Getting Reviews – A New Review

How do you get someone to review your book?  Anyone publishing on Amazon knows that book reviews are an essential part of getting your book into readers hands and getting sales.  Here is my advice.  This is by no means a complete methodology which should be clear since I have only managed to get a total of 32 reviews on my 11 titles on the Amazon Dot Com site.  I have a few others scattered across the other various Amazon subsiduaries.

The hardest and worst source is likely to be friends and family.  I have found the Facebook crowd to be an utter waste of time.  You are more likely to have success with complete strangers and in the end, these reviews are the ones you are looking for … unbiased reviews that aren´t based on anything other than the merit of the book.

  1.  Making your book available for free via an Amazon giveaway gets the book into people´s hands.  You need someone to read it before it can be reviewed.
  2. Review exchanges.  I have been informed that Amazon shuns this practice so I no longer do it this way but it is a good way to get the review ball rolling.  Reach out to another author and offer to review one of their books in exchange for them reviewing yours.
  3. Join an Indie Author group.  I belong to the Rave Review Book Club.  We promote each other´s work and review each other´s books.
  4. Do you have a twitter account?  Reach out to people on twitter who review.
  5. Here is the big one.  This takes a lot of work but pays off in the end.  Find other books that are similar to yours on Amazon.  You will notice below your book details a section that says ¨People who bought this book also bought¨ – These are you target books.   Reach out to people who have done reviews for those books.  Offer a free copy of your book and ask them if they would be so kind as to review your book.  This means clicking on thousands of links to find those reviewers that leave their email address.  Within these readers there are often people that blog book reviews so if they do accept and review your book, you are likely to get a guest spot – review on their blog.  This can only raise your profile and possibly sales for your book.

This was how I got the latest review of my short story collection.

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Sarah Jackson’s review Sep 20, 15
4 of 5 stars
Read from September 13 to 19, 2015

It is difficult to classify this book using conventional genre classifications. “Mexican Mutts, Tequila Pups & Chili Dogs – True Stories of the Dogs of Mexico: Modern Dog Book” offers a series of fictionalised true stories and news reports, presented in an easy to read, well-written book. It is designed to highlight issues of animal cruelty and the mistreatment of dogs in Mexico. I must admit that I personally get very angry when I hear about acts of animal cruelty, but this book offers hope for a positive future for both dogs and owners. Well worth reading.

Hope that puts you on the path to new reviews.
David Gordon Burke
Find my books here.  

Revamping the Lifestyle & a New Review

As of this past Monday my lifestyle took a turn toward the responsible.  One of my teaching contracts wasn´t going so well and the company decided to reschedule for morning classes.  No more sleeping late for me.  I am now an early riser – 5 am. to be exact.  Morning rituals and then a break for a coffee, then I take Rose out for her morning walk and it´s off to work for me.  Luckily, I start at 730 and finish at 9.  I get back home at 10 or so and then I head straight back to bed.

This week was like something out of ´The Walking Dead´ with me stumbling around the house in a daze.  I am getting used to the new routine and even woke up early today although I don´t work.  So now I have to rearrange my writing, blogging and promoting schedule.

Meanwhile, I got another review this week.

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4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Stories
By Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews “Amy Shannon”on September 16, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition
Each short story draws you in and is written so well, you feel like you’re part of the story. My favorite of the stories is the first one about a dog named “Charley”, who wrecked havoc on the lives of his owners, as the single father tried at several attempts to get rid of the dog, but he kept returning. Each story started with “Mock” newspaper articles that led into the story. It was a great lead-in, and if you love dogs, or just having a pet, you’ll totally love these stories.

You can see the review on the reviewer´s blog along with other recommendations HERE.

That´s about all the news.  Sales have slowly been increasing.  Working on some new projects and will report soon.
Hope to get back to regular blogging once my mind adjusts to mornings.  (Some time around 2018)

David Gordon Burke
Find my books here.

Author Interview on Writing Forums

I have completed my first in-depth interview for the #1 Writing Forum on the internet.
http://www.writingforums.com/forum.php

Here is an excerpt from the interview.

Author Interview: David Gordon Burke

Our next WF author interview is with prolific author, David Gordon Burke. David joined WritingForums.com in September 2013 and is one of our esteemed Veteran Members. David’s passion for dogs and animal welfare inspired both fiction and non-fiction books dealing with real issues related to our treatment of man’s best friend.

David also writes tutorials on any subject in which he has expertise.

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David, please tell us a little about yourself and your background.

I’m Canadian by birth and Mexican by choice. I moved to Mexico about 20 years ago, mostly to avoid the brutal Canadian winters. Mexico is a great place to establish a semi-retired lifestyle. It took me years to get the hang of life here and longer to acquire citizenship. I lived a nomadic existence moving back and forth between the two countries for a while but now I’ve mostly cut ties to Canada and consider myself Mexican.

I grew up surrounded by extremely talented people – artists, writers, musicians, actors etc. I won’t drop any names but if a person from Ottawa, Canada made it onto the international stage, I probably knew them (with the exception of Alanis Morrisette …. She went to my High School but I never knew her.) These people set the bar pretty high for me which in many ways has been both a blessing and a curse.

My first attempts at writing were in my teen years while hanging around comic book artists. Those people went on to found Aircel comics which at one point was huge and the principal competition for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turles. I went my own way and followed my other love which was music. Of course music is a young guy’s dream so now I am back to writing.

What inspired you to write your latest book, Mexican Mutts Tequila Pups & Chili Dogs: True Stories of the Dogs of Mexico?

The principal thing that got me moving on Mexican Mutts was the fact that I had been diagnosed with cancer. I had by that time written a memoir and a novel and I thought to myself, “Is that it? I finally get started in the writing game and now I’ve got cancer and I’m going to check out? I’d better hurry up and write something else in case I don’t beat this thing.”
There was no planning or premeditated purpose or goal behind the book except that which I found while I was researching for it. I started out in Jan. 2014, just looking to see what kind of background I could gather from the internet. There wasn’t much but I put together a dozen or so newspaper style reports that had to do with incidents that had happened across the country involving dogs.

I had planned to intersperse these reporter / journalist style pieces between a series of short stories. As the spring and summer passed, the topic heated up and dogs and animal welfare became a hot topic in Mexico.

What is the book about?

The book is all about my observations on the treatment of dogs in Mexico. As I said, it has some short, one or two page pieces that are very much written in the style of a reporter. This was my attempt to prove to myself that I could have been a good journalist or a nasty tabloid writer if I had gone that route. Then there are the fictionalized accounts of things I have seen in person, experienced, read about or seen on television. Obviously, the fact that Mexico is center stage for the book doesn’t mean that these aren’t themes that are played out in every country in the world. It’s a universal topic.

You can read the full interview at the below link.

http://www.writingforums.com/private.php?do=showpm&pmid=749086

Very cool and thanks to Pip for asking me to participate.

David Gordon Burke
Find my books here.

More Confirmation – Marketing vs. Storytelling & a new Review

Yet another review has been done on one of my books and again, it confirms an idea that I have been kicking around – if your story, protagonist or other element of your book doesn´t jibe with your marketing, you are going to lose your potential readers.  In this case it seems that the title and cover of my book ´Mexican Mutts, Tequila Pups + Chili Dogs´ gave one reader the idea that the book was going to be humorous.  I´d say that´s a fair possiblity (if you know absolutely nothing about Mexico) The cover and title are really kind of silly.

These are issues that probably won´t come into play for a lot of genres.  Write horror? Have a scary cover – job done.  Write espionage? Have a sexy, thriller type cover of the White House with a Swastika or some other terroristy emblem superimposed over it – job done.  Give it a Ludlemy title like ´The Reich Initiative.´ A winning formula.

But again, you had better make sure that your character(s) line up with your reader´s expectations.  This is where knowing your demographic, market, reader etc. is so important.

Overall, I am not likely to second guess myself, nor am I going to worry that one reader didn´t seem to get it.  However, I have had some really weird reactions to some of my writing so every little bit there is to be learned along the way could make the next book a touch more accessible to a larger group of readers.  Sadly, this is a touch of Political Correctness for writers.  Goes against the grain of my inner rebel but to some extent, it has to be done.

I may have to return to this great book and give it a second look.  Writing Popular Fiction by Dean Koontz.  It seems obvious that he may know a thing or two about writing.  As compared to the Stephen King ´How to´ book, Koontz approaches writing Genre Fiction from the point of view of ´What´s Expected´ and ´What can you get away with, what can´t you get away with´ depending on your particular genre.
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Again, although this is a Three star review, I think it shows that I did manage to overcome a lot of the reader´s prejudices and expectations.  I cannot complain.

Here´s the review.
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BOOK REVIEW: Mexican Mutts and Tequila Pups by David Gordon Burke

SEP 09, 2015
Review of: Mexican Mutts and Tequila Pups by David Gordon Burke

Genre: Nonfiction, Humor

Mexican Mutts and Tequila Pups is a generally humorous collection of short stories and actual news articles about dogs in Mexico.  It is a pretty quick read–I finished it in a couple quick afternoons of reading.

I was pretty skeptical about reading this book.  Books about animals are not something I generally consider myself a fan of, but I read the preface to this one and was intrigued enough to want to keep reading.  Burke has a light, sarcastic tone, and the short stories were instantly appealing.  The book itself is compiled of several different short stories, interspersed with semi-relevant news articles about these Mexican dogs.

The gist of the book was meant to call attention to the sometimes deplorable treatment of dogs and strays in Mexico, and I think it definitely accomplished that.  For starters, I would have never guessed that there were so many actual news articles solely focused on dogs.  From the sounds of it, there is certainly an enormous problem with the amount of strays and abandoned dogs being left largely to their own devices.

When I started reading, I really thought that humor was going to have much more to do with it.  When it came down to it, the first short story was pretty humorous, and a few other stories throughout the book had glimmerings of the same wry, pointed humor, but the majority of the stories were not very funny.  In fact, some of them were pretty horrifying.  Maybe that’s my problem–for assuming the book was going to be humorous.  I don’t know.  It surprised me, one way or another.

My main issue with the book is that it seemed to be rambling and unrelated at points.  One of the short stories seemed to be about something completely separate from the general subject of dogs, or the story of a dog, until the very end.  As the reader, it was hard to keep up with what was going on from story to story, and how exactly it was relevant to everything else that had happened.

There are certainly some cool stories about dogs in here.  If you’re a dog lover at heart, or find yourself curious in any way about the population and treatment of stray dogs in Mexico, this is definitely a book for you.

Ultimately, it was a good book.  It was outside of my preferred genres, so I like to think that I stretched my mind a little bit, and I did enjoy it.

I liked it: 3 out of 5 stars

So there it is.  I am definitely open to a pleasing a person that is out of my general target audience.  So I´ll call  this one a win.

David Gordon Burke
Find my books here.  

Mission Statement – New Review & Amazon Glitches

Lo and behold, I received notification of a new review for my novel LOBO. Very pleased with the review. The reader states that the multiple POV that I employed as a structural twist was confusing for him at first but then goes on to give the book FIVE STARS. To me, this is the best possible result. WHY? Because I don’t strive to write something that is so easily digestible that it passes through you like grease through a duck. I want my books to get stuck in your throat, I want my reader to work for it, to think about it and ultimately, to remember the book years after they have finished reading it.

I have read a ton of pulp fiction paperbacks over the years but few if any of them were memorable. Sure, a lot of them were entertaining at the time but they didn’t change my life or teach me anything or influence my life. They followed a standard formula for the paperback industry depending on what was in vogue at the moment and I bought it, ate it up like a bag of popcorn and then forgot about it. Worse ever is the fact that on a few occassions, I have been reading a book and realized that I had read it years earlier. It had been so forgettable that even with a fresh copy in my hands it didn’t spark those old memory neurons.

If anyone follows my blog, twitter feed, contributions to writer’s forums, facebook page or whatever, you will notice a constant theme – DO YOUR OWN THING! I learned this lesson back when music was my passion. I still play and I’m still doing my own thing there as well but I’m a little aged for trying to break into the nightclub scene with a new band so I just pick away on the guitar for my own pleasure.

Back in the day when I was an up-and-coming bassist/songwriter/arranger in my hometown, I had a lot of peers who were doing a lot of very cool projects musically. Specifically, there was a band that had been highly influenced by Stevie Ray Vaughn, as were millions of young guitarists at the time. Then there was this young chick who played guitar. She went back to the roots, learned all the licks and tricks of the masters. To be honest, I thought she was pretty un-cool.

Fast forward a few years. Who do you think was the first to break out of our hometown and score a major recording contract? That’s right! The chick that did it the way it should be done. She learned from the masters and then did her own thing with it.

Check her out – Sue Foley – a chick from Mechanicsville, Ottawa playing in front of a huge crowd in BRAZIL – How’s that happen? A simple but effective tune.

The same philosophy can be applied to any artistic endeavor. Of course this requires two great human virtues – ethics and patience. I’m not about to sell out and start writing some BDSM erotica or other insipid tripe just to get sales. I believe in what I am writing and figure that with patience and hard work my effort will pay off in the long run. And if not? Well, at least I have the satisfaction of knowing that a few people read, enjoyed and were maybe influenced by my books.

Before posting the review, just a note – It seems that Amazon has a ghost in the machine. The review came to me by way of an email but it’s not online yet. Strangely, my review tally went from 11 reviews to 12 reviews and a lost review reappeared. Weird. Hopefully once this new one goes live I will be up to 13 reviews. The rating to date is 4.6 out of 5 stars. So cool!

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Five Stars
More Than a Dog Story, September 5, 2015

This review is from: Lobo: a novel in the tradition of classic dog stories with a Mexican twist. Drug cartels, dog fighting and one dog’s struggle to return home.: A Modern Dog fiction Novel (Kindle Edition)
This novel is more than your typical dog story. Set in Monterrey, Mexico, with plenty of local scenery and characters, it is story about Mexican culture and a bit of a travelogue. It is also a story about human culture, with characters of good, bad, and in-between varieties. Among the good characters is Antonia, an orphaned girl who befriends Lobo, a large, unruly German Shepherd feared by many. The other main characters are Pepe, a former criminal; Padre Miguel, a dutiful priest and sort of guardian angel; and Emilio, a criminal who, among other things, conducts dog fights.

Burke unfolds the narrative using alternating viewpoints within chapters. I found this confusing until I sorted out the characters, their separate threads, and how they interacted. The two main threads are Antonia’s and Lobo’s. Antonia’s thread—orphaned, she is taken in by Pepe’s family, struggles to adjust, meets Lobo, he brings her joy, they are separated, she misses him, they are reunited, but events threaten their reunion. Lobo’s thread—he is born, goes to live with Antonia, is happy, is separated from her by a hurricane and flood, joins a pack of roaming dogs, learns survival skills and dog culture, is captured, is picked up by a criminal (Emilio), becomes a fighting dog, is reunited with Antonia, but events threaten their reunion.

The novel has some violent dog fights and incidents of animal cruelty. It also has some sad moments—Antonia’s reaction to Lobo’s disappearance, the death of a beloved dog. There is a redemption (Pepe’s), a comeuppance (Emilio’s), and lots of other good stuff.

Does the story have a happy ending?

It’s a dog story. Guess.

So there’s the review and my words of wisdom for the day. (my brand of wisdom … take it or leave it)
Have an awesome Sunday and thanks for dropping by.

David Gordon Burke
Find my books here!

Write it Right (or How to Really turn off your readers)

According to Wikipedia, a mondegreen is a mishearing or misinterpretation of a phrase as a result of near-homophony, in a way that gives it a new meaning.

Who hasn´t seen that web post about all the misinterpreted song lyrics.  My personal favorite is the ´Excuse me while I kiss this guy´ interpretation of Jimi Hendrix´s  ´Purple Haze.´

Another great one is this Youtube video of Joe Cocker´s Woodstock presentation of ´I Get By with a Little Help from my Friends´

This phenomenon of mixing up words has become epidemic in the INDIE self-pub revolution.  I was reminded of this tonight while reading a book (title not to be revealed) in which the writer described his main character in a lot of detail and then went on to say that ´his hair was retreating.´ RETREATING?  You´re kidding me right?  What, is his hairline under attack from head lice?  (I´d think he meant receding but what do I know???)

This is not the first time I have seen clichés, expressions or just everyday conversation turned upside down.  Aside from all the other errors a writer could make, of which there are gadzillions, it seems to me that screwing up a common expression or mixing and matching wrong verbs with wrong compliments is the ultimate foe paw.  (Just kidding, it´s faux pas)

Here are some other messed up phrases I´ve seen.

In the nip of time.  What the hell?  Either this is a small drink of alcohol of time or a derogatory Asian term of time.   Isn´t the correct term ´In the nick of time

Nip it in the butt. Aside from the possibility that this is a book of Homo-erotica, I believe the correct term is ´Nip it in the bud.´

There are hundreds of these expressions that get mangled.  It seems to me that a writer had better get this stuff right because you are sure to have readers who notice when you get it wrong.  I became hyper-vigilant to this area of English after reading ´Write it Right´ by Ambrose Bearce.  Although the book is severely dated, the ideas are still relevant today.

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Here is a bunch more oft-mangled phrases for your consideration.

I could care less vs. I couldn’t care less.  Hmmm.  Thank you for caring.

You’ve got another thing coming vs. You’ve got another think coming.  Sounds like Christmas morning.  I only got socks and a bottle of Old Spice – I better have another thing coming.

Statue of limitations vs. Statute of limitations.  The Statue of Limitations is just down the road from the monument to bad writers.

For all intensive purposes vs. For all intents and purposes.  My purpose here is very intensive.

Extract revenge vs. Exact revenge. I´ve got a juicer but I have to get me one of those revenge extractors.

Old timer’s disease vs. Alzheimer’s Disease.  I hear that watching old 70´s programs on Youtube can cause Old timer´s disease.

Irregardless vs. Regardless.  I don´t want no double negatives please.

I made a complete 360 degree change in my life vs. I made a complete 180 degree change in my life.  Back where I started from.

Curl up in the feeble position vs. Curl up in the fetal position.  Reading that one left me feeble too.

Prostrate cancer vs. Prostate cancer.  Bad writing causes a cancer of lying face-down on the ground.

First-come, first-serve vs. First-come, first-served.  Damn, I´m not going early to that party.  They´re gonna put me to work.

Shoe-in vs.  Shoo-in.  A shoe in was a 60´s phenomenon, much like a love-in, but with shoe salesmen.

Baited breath vs.  Bated breath.  Don´t go fishing with this guy – he eats all the worms.

Ok, that´s it for today.  Keep your eyes out for these kinds of mistakes.  Gotta run now.  I have a guitar lesson and my teacher is going to teach me how to play that great song by Canadian Bryan Adams – ´Summer of 69´ Everyone knows that song.  It´s the one that starts “I got my first real sex dream…”

David Gordon Burke
Find my books here.

Stephen King – The Godfather of the INDIE Revolution

More than J.K. Rowling.
More than E.L. James
More than Stephanie Meyer
More than Suzanne Collins
More than Veronica Roth
More than James Dashner
More than Amanda Hocking
As much a house hold name as even Shakespeare himself, no other writer has had as great an impact on his generation as Stephen King.  While a few others may be listed as having generated more revenue (particularly J.K. Rowling whose paydays for the Harry Potter movies make Paul McCartney look like a pauper) few can argue with the scope of his work over the past 4 decades.  King may also be the Undeclared Godfather of the INDIE Revolution.
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King was the first to publish a mass-market ebook online.  By all acounts, the project was a failure due the technological limitations of the day.  But it was clear from the outset of King´s experiment that the Ebook was here to stay.

Another huge King  influence on the INDIE crowd was the publication of his book ´On Writing´ in 2000.  I don´t know an Indie writer who hasn´t read it.  The debate on Stephen King´s ´ADVERB ADVICE´ is still raging 15 years later.

How about the man himself?  When ´Carrie´ first came out in the 70´s it was an unprecedented hit … Overnight Stephen King became a star.  His name was everywhere, everyone was reading his novel.  And he was just a regular guy.  We´d see him on TV, interviewed on Johnny Carson or some other show and he was just a guy from the neighborhood.  He didn´t look like some stodgy old English professor with a tweed jacket and a pipe.

And then there are his novels, short story collections and screenplays/movies.  After having read almost everything King has written, sometimes three and four times for some of my favorites, I think I can speak for all of us and declare him an pretty damn good writer.  No one is going to stand in front of the George Inn (la ate 16th century Inne which is the last remaining original coaching inn in London. A placard in the courtyard counts both Shakespeare and Charles Dickens among those who “knew the hospitality of the inn,”) and scream at the top of their lungs that King is the greatest writer ever.  For my taste he has had a few really off the mark novels that only a die hard fan who has read everything he´s ever written would like.   (Hearts in Atlantis)  His prose is clear and direct but neither poetic nor challenging.  It´s prose written for the average guy.  Stephen King is to Literature as Bruce Springsteen is to Music – Everybody gets it.  Everyone can relate.  Flowery prose isn´t necessary.

In my opinion, King´s greatest strengths are those same elements that are found in the best INDIE works – he tells a damn good story and he has really interesting characters.  Another element that almost all INDIE writers struggle with and which King does better than anyone is getting that backstory in without beating us over the head with it.

But King, more than anything planted the seed in many writer´s minds – ¨If he can do it then I can do it too!¨

Watch this video to hear how King finds his inspiration.

In my case, my influences are family and friends and my crazy mutt Rose.  I often play the ´What if´ game while reading, watching TV, walking down the street, riding on the bus or whatever, wherever.

Where do you find your influence?  How has Stephen King influenced your writing or desire to be a writer?  Was there another author that had the same impact on your writing as Stephen King?

David Gordon Burke
Find my books here.  

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