The Sun Singer's Travels

Malcolm R. Campbell's World

Archive for the tag “authors”

Free writing prompt (actual SPAM not included)

This is your lucky day. A new writing prompt that’s so wonderful, you’ll probably get your short story or book published and make at least $10000000000.


A down-and-out, but inventive young man or young woman decides to make his/her fortune selling SPAM door to door. (The real stuff.)

I have a few ideas for how to do this, most of which would be humorous allusions to on-line SPAM even if the whole shebang is a success; however it could also be a cautionary tale where everything goes wrong and the protagonist is found in a ditch at the end of the story surrounded by empty SPAM cans.

With NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) starting November 1, you’ll have plenty of incentives to get the story done even if you and/or the material end up annoying everyone and getting you kicked off Facebook and Twitter.

I’ll look forward to seeing the results of your work in Glimmer Train or possibly in a novel co-written with James Patterson.

Have fun, or else.



What are service publishers?

Service publishers are akin to vanity publishers in that they will print or publish whatever you have for a price. They will not pass judgment on it and they don’t care if it sells. The difference here is that you know from the get-go that they are selling services, not dreams.

via Service Publishers — a la Carte for Authors ‹ Indies Unlimited ‹ Reader —

Should you consider a publisher you have to pay? Hard to say, especially as writing gurus start telling self-published authors they need better editing, formatting, cover art and promotion plans, none of which are free.

Melissa Bowerstock tells us that service publishers and vanity publishers aren’t the same because vanity publishers are selling dreams and service publisher are selling services. Before you say, “oh, well that’s just semantics,” consider the fact that service publishers offer a “menu” of services from which you can choose while vanity publishers offer you a package that may or may not include services you don’t want.

It’s worth looking at because self-publishing really isn’t free if you want your book to have a chance of selling well.


Book Marketing tips for trad published authors

“Over the course of my ongoing tour, a lot of people have asked me what it’s like working with a major publisher and how much book marketing is expected of a traditionally published author. The answer is, it’s great, but it’s also a lot of work. In fact, based on my conversations with self-published authors, I can tell you that the book marketing effort required by a traditionally published author is about 99% the same as what’s expected of a self-published writer.”

Source: Book Marketing tips for trad published authors via Mark Noce

Mark Noce’s comments may surprise some self-published and small-press-published authors who assume larger publishers do more of the promotion work. As you’ll see, that’s not possible, due to the volume of new books coming out every month.

But Mark offers some nice tips here, well worth reading.


Does the book you’re promoting have a sell sheet?

“Book sell sheets are an essential and integral part of a book’s marketing and publicity plans. For this reason, it is important for you to understand what goes into a great sell sheet. So, to help you get a firm handle on the basics, here is a list of terminology that you will need to know when preparing your sell sheet for your book’s marketing plan.”

Source: Sell Sheet Terminology For Book Marketers

Joseph C. Kunz posted this blog about the importance of sell sheets last fall. I didn’t mention it here at the time because I was working on other things. However, now that I’m actively seeking reviewers for my latest novel, I’ve been updating the sell sheet.

Sell sheets are not a new technique, though I seldom see them written about. Kunz has a good overview. If you want more information, simply type “author’s sell sheet” into your search engine and you’ll get a lot of advice and examples.

I see the sell sheet as indispensable, even if you just paste it into an e-mail and never make printed copies, for giving prospective reviewers, article writers and others a quick capsule look at your book and it’s “vital statistics.”


Book blogs come and go while the blog directories don’t seem to notice

If you’re a reader, you might have a few book blogs to visit every week for comments about books you’re thinking about reading. If you’re a writer, you hope to find people who like reviewing the books in your genre who will consider your latest novel for review.

As I mentioned briefly under “Musings” on my other blog, I’m not going to submit any book I write to a blog with a goofy name that sounds like it’s written while somebody’s frying eggs or sitting on a riding mower. Yes, those blogs may have a fair number of followers, but a positive review from them can’t be quoted anywhere because goofy names don’t stack up well when the competition is quoting from magazines, newspapers and blogs with professional names.

blogclipartAll this comes to mind again because I’ve been looking for bloggers that might want to review my work. Unfortunately, some of my favorite blogs from a few years ago have closed down while others have made it harder for writers to get a foot in the door.

So, the next places I turn to are blogging directories, some are run by professional authors, editors and reviewers, and others run by people who read a lot and who kept a record of their links.

What surprises me is that a fair number of people with websites listing bloggers, don’t keep their directories current. Sure, since the directory is free and might have a hundred listings, it’s a lot of trouble without compensation to go out there every month and see if the links work. That’s too bad because bad links are not only a waste of time, but they show the kind of laziness on the directory owner’s part that suggests they’re not actively looking for new links either to keep the place up to date.

I wish I’d kept a record of the number of blog links that ended up on screens like this yesterday and today while I was making the rounds:

  • The blog’s last post was several years ago.
  • The blog is officially closed because the blogger got too busy but has been left online so people could get to the archives.
  • A 404 error message.
  • A message that says “this domain is for sale.”
  • A change in policy indicating that the blog now has nothing to do with the blurb in the directory that supposedly describes what it offers.
  • Porn and other clickbait junk.

Naturally, my saying all this isn’t going to fix anything. But if you’re a reader or a writer who’s looking for new blogs, I’m not going to say “I feel your pain” because why would I want to do that? But I do understand your discouragement when you spend several hours looking and are lucky to come up with only one or two possibilities.


Hometown Reads, a new place for authors

“Thanks for visiting Hometown Reads! We’re launching our site for Toledo authors and readers first, with plans to quickly expand to other Midwest cities, and then across the country. As of March 2016, we’re in beta, with plans to add more features, resources, and opportunities as we grow. ”

Source: Hometown Reads

I have mixed feelings about sites and programs for indie authors. On one hand, I wonder if appearing on such sites simply alerts readers to the fact that we’re not mainstream authors so that they dismiss us without a second look. But I also like the idea of getting the word out and hope that one day the mainstream media and its reviewers will take us seriously. (Once again, this year’s “best of” and “most overlooked” book lists included no ultra-small presses and authors.)

So how do we get on the radar? Traditionally, one starts in his or her home town and works to become known there first. I hope this new site will help that happen.



Getting a good start: the first line

“All great authors know that a killer first line is almost more important than the first few pages, and authors put in hours of work just to get the right sentence on paper.”

– Mary Jane Hathaway

If you’re planning to plagiarize bits and pieces out of other people’s novels, stay away from the first line because if you find one that’s great, it’s probably on somebody’s list of first lines that are great. Even if people think your first line is great, it’s easy to Google it and see who–if anyone–wrote it before you wrote it.

As authors, we know we have to start our novels out with a bang. Some authors choose an explosion. Some authors choose sex. But far more authors figure out how to say something unexpected that also sets the tone for the rest of the novel.

A lot of us can think of great first lines. The trouble is, we can’t think of novels that go with them. Same is true with poetry, especially if you don’t usually write poetry. Sooner or later, those of us who write, will wake up and scribble down a perfect couplet. But then what? Usually, nothing. That’s all she wrote.

Since I don’t feel researching all the authors of my list of great lines to see whether they just wrote them or whether they spent years tinkering with them, I’ll say it’s better to just start your novel and get on with it rather than staring at a blank page or a blank screen waiting for an inspiring first line. That’s like “Waiting for Godot.” The line will never show up. So just forget about it and start writing. Once you’re done with your first draft, you can go back and see if your beginning not only sets the stage for the story, but hooks the reader.

There’s such a thing as being too cute and/or too clever with that first line. Once you have your darling line typed, can you keep up with it for another 40,000, 60,000 or 80,000 words? And if so, do you really want your entire novel to sound like that? For years, I’ve threatened to begin a novel with a line like: “Bob and Mary were killed while having unprotected sex when the tornado blew the condom billboard down on top of them.”

But then what? You’re right, nothing. I don’t know where to go with that, but if you do, feel free to use it as long as long as you list my name in your book’s acknowledgements as the “guiding force in my writing life.”

Having said all this, here are some of my favorites:

  • wintersnight“Congratulations. The fact that you’re reading this means you’ve taken one giant step closer to your next birthday.” – James Patterson, Maximum Ride, The Angel Experiment
  • “riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.”- James Joyce, Finnegans Wake
  • “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. – Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
  • “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” – George Orwell, 1984
  • “You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino’s new novel, If on a winter’s night a traveler.” – Italo Calvino, If on a winter’s night a traveler
  • slaughterhousefive“If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.” – J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye
  • “The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.” – William Gibson, Neuromancer
  • “All this happened, more or less.” – Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five
  • “Elmer Gantry was drunk.” – Sinclair Lewis, Elmer Gantry
  • “He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad.” – Raphael Sabatini, Scaramouche

Some first lines stay with me for a long time, haunting me like ghosts while I’m reading the novels they began. What about you? Any favorites?


What can you find on this blog?

See Any Content You Like?

Promotional gurus have mixed ideas about the purpose of an author’s blog. Most of them say it should showcase the author’s work one way or another. After that, opinions begin to diverge.

  • One track supports the notion that an author’s blog is primarily intended to attract authors, editors, publishers and others in the publishing industry.
  • Another track suggests authors should focus on the kind of content, themes and ideas that are important to their work in hopes of attracting readers.

Even though you”ll find a few reviews here and some writing ideas as well, I prefer the second approach. I already have a publisher. I’m not looking for freelance writing opportunities from magazines and websites who see content here and want to pay me to write more about it for them. I’m not looking for co-authors or the editors of anthologies who might want to morph the material here into something else.

Apparently, this blog doesn’t fit a traditional niche, the evidence being that the posts are all over the playing field and that the two most popular posts are The Bare-Bones Structure of a Fairy Tale and Heave out and Trice Up. Off hand, a post about fairy tale structure and a post about Navy slang aren’t even in the same universe.

Aha, but there is a connection. I served in the navy and wrote a novel (At Sea) inspired by my experiences. And, I have written fairy tale/folk tale material into my magical realism (Eulalie and Washerwoman) and my fantasy (Sarabande) novels.

Hero’s Journey

herothousandfacesIf this blog has a niche–other than my books–it’s the fact that it promotes the strengths of the individual against the system as well as the power of the individual to find his/her true mission and authentic self. Most of my books focus on that idea in varying ways. So, if you have read this blog–and my Malcolm’s Round Table Blog–for a while, you will have found references to Joseph Campbell (The Hero With a Thousand Faces), to books about the somewhat different heroine’s journey, and to related myths, books and writing techniques focused on this structure.


treeoflifeYou’re also going to see content in this blog about magic, and by that, I generally mean almost anything that has yet to be defined by modern science. This includes a wide group of subjects, in addition to the hero’s journey, that focus on personal transcendence. How to you find yourself? How do you unlock your hidden gifts?

It also includes folk magic, which many people dismiss as mere superstition, because I see those beliefs as a part of my philosophy that each of us creates our own reality using the tools we are the most comfortable with. For one person, that might mean the mystery school structure of, say, The Rosicrucian Order (of which I’ve been a member for 50 years). For another, that might mean meditation and relaxation techniques such as those taught via The Silva Method, shamanistic journeys, spells, affirmations, the law of attraction, various methods of positive thinking, or one of the organized churches. Needless to say, my paranormal books, fantasies, and magical realism develop magical themes.


Marianne Williamson quote

Marianne Williamson quote

People tell me that I have a dark sense of humor. I think they’re right. So, you will have found evidence of that on both of my blogs through the fake news stories written by Jock Stewart (my alter ego) and promotional  blurbs about my satirical novel Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire. This satire stems from my 1960s anti-war protesting days’s belief that the foibles of the establishment need to be made clear, and that humor is sometimes a good way of doing that.

So, when it comes down to the question of “What Can You Find on This Blog?”, the answer is how to be a hero or heroine using satire and/or magic to triumph over the the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. In that very general statement, I hope you find something you like and even a few things you were looking for.


InstaFreebie Offers Authors a Chance to Build Mailing Lists, Find Fans

“Back in August, I started hearing authors talk about a site called InstaFreebie, where you could give away a free copy of your book in exchange for recipients signing up for your mailing list. Both Jim Devitt and Shawn Inmon have discussed the importance of mailing lists. Authors on different online groups said they’d scored upwards of a thousand names added to their lists using InstaFreebie.”

Source: InstaFreebie Offers Authors a Chance to Build Mailing Lists, Find Fans – Indies Unlimited

Author R. J. Clayton has found a great site for us to explore. Why? Because sometimes establishing a mailing list is like pulling teeth. So how about a little incentive?

Worth a look, and perhaps a tryout, I’m thinking.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of magical realism novels.


Rumpus Interview With Max Porter

“But the dream for later in life, if you want to know, is this: I walk down a garden, and dive into a river. I swim a few hundred yards down the river. I hop out and walk to my wooden shed in among the beech trees. I get dry, brew some coffee, and write until I need to leap into water again. Repeat until oblivion. I don’t even really need for this dream to come true. The thought is enough.”

Source: The Rumpus Interview With Max Porter – The

I like the river dream, and also this: “I don’t want to do anything to violate the gorgeous honor of working on people’s books with them. If at any point my writing life is unbalancing or interrupting the simple (yet richly complex) process of doing my best for an author’s book, then I will have to re-think. And I hope whatever happens, whatever life I’m living, I’ll keep an eye on the commas.”

In addition to the clipped out statements, I find this an interesting and insightful interview. You might like it, too.


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