Thursday, August 30, 2012

Why I chose eBook Publishing

This is the presentation  I gave at the Virginia Writers Symposium in Charlottesville, VA on August 4, 2012

C. Neuroticus Absolutus
As our retirement years pass, everyone considers what his or her legacy to the succeeding generations will be. A scrapbook of all the kid's accomplishments? An indexed book with all of Grandma's recipes on CD? A totally worthless coin or stamp collection? A stack of unedited, single-spaced manuscripts that tell the family history from the time of the Great Flood, including an exclusive interview with Noah? Perhaps a nonfiction book telling the story of some personal achievement or adventure? Or maybe a how-to book on some specialty where you have unimpeachable expertise.
Biographies and “how-to” books fall in the area of nonfiction. A quick survey of my own personal skills and experiences did not uncover anything I would consider exceptional; no “How to Make a Million Dollars in the Stock Market,” or “How to Tune Pianos for Fun and Profit,” or “How to Cut Your Household Use of TP by 50 %.” No, nothing so interesting in my background.
That left me with writing about some amazing story from my life that would create enough buzz to make it a runaway nonfiction best seller. It didn't take long for me to find my story.
During WW-II, I became the youngest pilot ever to fly a Vought F4U. Mom had helped me forge the papers and with the stroke of a pen, I was born out of wedlock and mom was only 14 at the time I was bornat least on paper, a scandalous thing at the time.
After a particularly harrowing sortie, as the lone survivor of my squadron I was approaching the carrier deck, low on fuel, radio shot up, my hydraulics bleeding off so quickly that I had no rudder or aileron control. With a Herculean effort, I managed to line up on the glide path to the carrier and began taking visual orders from the landing control officer. When I dropped my landing gear, the nose gear actually droppedand fell into the sea. Then the final drop of oil ran from the engine and it froze up. I think my heart also froze when the propeller flew off. Miraculously, I touched down on the deck. But my right tire blew and the plane careened into the conning tower.
The deck rescue crew ran towards me and were surprised to learn that I had completely escaped injury. I climbed from the cockpit unaided and ecstatically approached the ship's captain whom I saluted. “What a landing! Did you see that, Skipper? No radio, no hydraulics, no nose gear, engine seized up, blew a tire followed by that unbelievable crash into the conning tower. What a landing, eh Skipper!”
The captain looked me in the eye and saluted me slowly before speaking. “Oh, you plenty good pilot,Yankee Joe. However, you make one small mistake...”
I did consider writing about the time I crashed on an island in the South Pacific and was captured by a cast of singers who later . . .”
Oh well, by now, you've realized that this is not nonfiction and that I might fare better as a preacher or a politician. The qualifications are the same.
Upon realizing that I was stuck with fiction, I wrote a book and immediately began my search for an agent. I finished a second book without a single nibble on the first. In fact, I wrote 105 query letters and less than half the agents I solicited even had the courtesy to answer. Is it safe to assume that they steamed the stamps off my SASEs?
As you can tell from the color of my hair and my beard, I'm no spring, summer or even fall chicken. To be exact, I've weathered 74 winters. And I know that age is closing the door on me ―slowly, of course, not slamming in my face. At my age, I don't have a lot of career choices left in life. A couple of years back I decided that I could either become a writer, do stand-up comedy, or do Elvis impressions.
So why did I chose to e-publish? I'm old and I don't have a lot of time to waste on agents or publishers who may or may not even answer a query. Publishing on cost me nothing. I converted my manuscript into the proper format with programs provided free by And my wife's little Sony digital camera provided the pictures that I used for the covers of the books. I did spend $39.95 on Paint Shop Pro so I could add the book title and my name to the cover images.
This sounds like a snap to do. Believe me, it wasn't. After days and days of using my Mozilla Firefox browser trying to upload my manuscript to Amazon, I finally tried Internet Explorer and succeeded on the first try. Imagine wasting days on incompatible software programs. My first experience with publishing took about a month. My second, about a week. There are always formatting errors between programs and you must edit your book completely between each of the three format conversions. But that's another story.
I gauge from your response to my attempts at humor that I might have a stand-up comedy career in my future if writing doesn't pan out. And then there's my Elvis impression.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Defying Gravity Book Review

Defying Gravity
Cherie Reich
Book Review by C. Neuroticus Absolutus
Defying Gravity is the story of star-crossed romance as it begins to boil between two young space travelers, Linia and Alezandros. The erudite Linia, a linguist and student of alien languages, is from Persea, a lush green world of plenty. Her heartthrob Alezandros is from Medusa, a dying world whose reptilian inhabitants once again seek to steal verdant Persea from it's native people. Thrown together by fate and the throes of war, Linia and Alezandros are sucked through a wormhole, captured and held in adjoining cells by Earthlings who plan to barbecue them as soon as they are fattened up a bit. They become friends as they talk to each other through a tear in the wall between their cells. Within scant hours, they find themselves comforting each other and becoming insatiably attracted to one another . They plan to escape at the first opportunity. But even if they manage to escape their captors, they' might never be able to return home if they can't find the wormhole that brought them here. Further, once home, their families will never accept their inter-species union.
The first of a trilogy of novelette-length stories, Defying Gravity makes a giant leap into interplanetary fiction for author Cherie Reich who has also published A to Z Flashes of Foxwick and The Women of Foxwick. Both of these forays into the fantasy fiction genre are charming five-star tales, well written with an excellent sense of continuity and likeable characters.
The change in point-of-view from chapter to chapter in Defying Gravity is refreshing and is handled well. Continuity from scene to scene and chapter to chapter is good throughout the book and the story flows well. Descriptions like, “She's as boring as a hibernating slog,” and “. . .sharp, pointed teeth peering from behind his lips,” bring Ms. Reich's sharp visions to the page for the reader to enjoy. And the cute ploy of using the color, vibrancy and temperament of Linia's antennae to visually display her moods and emotions is endearing.
However, Ms. Reich's journey into science fiction does not reach the level of military or technical expertise concerning interplanetary travelers and their vehicles required to bring the story into the five-star category. Still, her characters are well developed, her premise is credible and her writing, which at times is quite humorous, keeps the reader turning pages. A bit more polish would easily bring Defying Gravity to a five-star rating. As it stands, I'll give it four stars.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Shape Up, Mr. Dickens!



C. Neuroticus Absolutus

The pundits of successful writing tell us to make the first sentences of our stories leap off the page and grab the reader’s attention. Consider: “It was a dark and stormy night,” from Shultz’s character Snoopy’s novel which starts with that quote from the 1830 Bulwer-Lytton novel Paul Clifford. Make fun if you will, but is that beautiful or what? Only seven words to set the mood, the scene and to capture your interest.

Inspired by Snoopy, I’ve tried to write an introductory line with the same attention-grabbing impact. The best opening seven words I’ve ever penned are: “She had big tits, really big tits!”

Kind of grabs you, doesn’t it?

Some authorities advocate going through your manuscript and removing intensifiers every time they appear.

But, compare: “She has big tits,” to “She has really big tits.”

The first sentence describes a familiar sight: Large, but rather ho-hum breasts. The really in the second sentence—from my unpublished novel Bazoombas!—tells us there is something exceptional about these breasts. With these words the author reaches out from the page, snatches the reader’s attention and simultaneously provides a titillating image of the character’s attributes. I immediately want to know more about this character, especially her breasts. Is she proud of them? Apologetic? Are they perky? An obvious burden to her? Award-winning? The products of surgical augmentation? Do they hang below her waistline? Are they psychologically uplifting to her or a depressing nuisance? What other unusual attributes does she have? Curvaceous hips? Long lithe legs? Buck teeth? Pattern baldness? Thick ankles? You’ve captured my attention. Quick! Tell me more!

Forget ho-hum breasts. It was the intensifier really that grabbed your attention, admit it!

Ed Sullivan said, “We’ve got a really big show!” Substitute a stronger word, some might advise. But it’s not “a big show,” a great show, or amazing, huge, brilliant, humongous, elephantine, or even rhinocerine show . . . it’s “a REALLY BIG show!”

No, thank you, I’ll keep my intensifying verys and reallys. They’re intended for those who wish to follow me on my imaginary adventures—and have fun along the way.

The opening lines from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities (1859) are often quoted:
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”
… to which our writing authorities might say something like, “Get to the point, Mr. Dickens. Don’t tell. Show! And for Pete’s sake, Charlie, get rid of that weak verb was. Worse, you used it eleven times!” Verbs must be strong, bust you in the chops, keep you on the edge of your seat our pundits insist. But I wonder how they would improve on Dickens’, “Marley was dead . . .” without raising the word count or inserting a bunch of adverbs and adjectives that will only get in the way of Dickens conveying a simple fact to the reader: “Marley was dead.” A be verb followed by a past participle? Tsk, tsk, Mr. Dickens, where’s the action?

What if I’m looking for a quiet read in my old wingback in front of the fireplace, my slippered feet on an ottoman? Many mature readers still like whodunits with detectives who use their brains instead of Aston Martins upgraded with MI6’s latest 007 spy package, Israeli Uzis, karate chops, 9 mm Austrian Glocks or Japanese ninja stars. Imagine:
  • Miss Marple at the wheel of the 1968 Mustang GT 390 fastback in the famous Bullit auto chase
  • The sophisticated Nick and Nora Charles as they duke it out with the Chinese mob ala Bruce Lee as Asta chews on Jet Li’s ankle (Oh, crap! I just used the deadly as construction—twice!—and buried the action in dependent clauses!)
  • Detective Joe Friday not getting the facts
  • Or Sherlock Holmes waiting for the results of a DNA analysis
Many of us still like characters who are humanly fallible, have humorous quirks, imperfect bodies and lack the slightest inkling of super powers. And all that constant action wears us out!

The proponents of removing -ly adverbs from your writing should check out the work of
J. K. Rowling, one of the best-selling authors of all time. Her liberal use of adverbs must drive them mad. Bless billion-dollar-author Rowling for ignoring their advice and writing a series so enjoyable that literally millions of children became avid readers, if only for seven delicious volumes. Through these young readers, adverbs might live on in our lexicon.

For the rest of us hopeful scribes and scribblers, be careful where you get your advice.

As for you, Mr. Dickens, shape up!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Work in progress

Seventy-thousand words awaiting another twenty-thousand or so and closure of this action thriller eBook with a working title THE BACK NINE, an obvious reference to a the back nine holes on a golf course where the story begins. That's about 20-days worth of work for me. I write everyday, weekends included, and write about a thousand words each day. That's unedited, of course. I like to edit the entire book at one  time. And re-edit as often as I feel necessary. Gives me an idea of flow and continuity. Also, that's when I finalize formatting for acceptance as an eBook. Then I'll add a cover and a table of contents, acknowledgments, and copyright info. The end is a great place to include references to my previous works as well as a picture of the author. Then, after I upload it all to Smashwords and, I can sit back and shout, "Author! Author!" and glow in my accomplishment for a second or two. Not much time for self-aggrandizement. Have to market! market! market! and move on to writing the next book, already germinating in the back of my well-fertilized mind. Anyway, I plan to have The Back Nine available this fall, and I believe that's a reasonable target.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Kill Me Once Again - and Again

Kill Me Once Again is now available at Barnes and Noble for Nook, iPad/iBook and other Apple digital book reading devices. Check it out!

Kill Me Once Again

My second book, Kill Me Once Again, first available on as an eBook, is now available on as an eBook. Smashwords provides a multi-format choice which permits users of Nook, Kindle (.mobi for Kindle devices), Epub for Apple iPad/iBooks, Sony Reader, Kobo, Stanza, Aldiko, and RTF formats to enjoy their products.
Here's a look at what Kill Me Once Again brings to your bookshelf and reading pleasure.
In Kill Me Once Again, Major Scott Wilson is fragged during a CIA black ops mission when he refuses to help his mutinous men smuggle captured Afghan heroin to the States. Scott dies in the med-evac chopper, but a determined Army field surgeon revives him. He recovers except for PTSD and retrograde amnesia, specifically any memory of the fragging. “If not remembering that mission doesn’t bother you, go home. Have a good life. It’s not important,” the VA shrink tells him. But now, it is important. Scott’s life may depend on remembering who killed him the first time.

After forced medical retirement, Scott’s boss and good friend, Jonas, has the Witness Protection Program relocate him with a new identity.

Five years later, in present-day Myrtle Beach, SC, assassins kill a girl driving Scott’s car and attack him. Scott kills one thug before a grazing head shot knocks him out. He wakes in a hospital where FBI agents say nothing was found at the site of the attack to support his story. When FBI Special Agent Kathy Saunders’ partner is murdered, she realizes she’s in danger, too. Unable to tell friend from foe and Scott’s WITSEC identity compromised, Scott and Kathy go into hiding. Electronic bugs, hidden GPS tracking devices, snipers, a bullying NSA Lt. Colonel and his henchmen, and merciless Russian assassins greet them at every turn. What's more, best friend Jonas is lying to him.
And here's a sneak peek at Kill Me Once Again. 
Chapter 1

Balghis Province, Afghanistan, 1998
THUP! THUP! THUP! THUP! Rotors pound. Pulsing blasts of air push down on me. A cyclone of sand swirls, stings my face and hands. Someone slings me over his shoulder. I hang limply, bouncing as he carries me at a run towards the Huey. Its screaming jet engine demands attention. The hot acrid smell of its exhaust pulls me back to the flood of pain in my head and chest. Strong hands drag me into the MedEvac chopper. I feel the chopper rise as we dust off. “Hang on, Major. Stay with me now, stay with me. We’re only twenty clicks out.”
I struggle to open my eyes. A tube runs from a needle in my arm to a bag swinging overhead in the dim red lights of night ops.
“Oh, God! What the hell are you doing? Get off my chest. Christ! Get off me, you bastard!”
“Easy, Major, easy. Come back to me, now. Come on, Major. Dammit!” he pleads. “Can’t this freakin’ bird go any faster?” he shouts into the intercom mike attached to his helmet.
Then nothing. That’s all my dreams tell me. That’s all I know.
That was five years ago. That’s the day I died.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Saga of Lance Armstrong

The Saga of Lance Armstrong
C. Neuroticus Absolutus
According to the caption below a picture of Lance Armstrong in The Roanoke Times (Saturday, August 25, 2012), “Lance Armstrong, who helped change the image of cycling, was deemed guilty of doping.” (The italics are mine.)
The accompanying article by The Roanoke Times Reporter Aaron McFarling said, “. . . Armstrong dropped his fight against doping charges by declining to enter the U. S. Anti-Doping Agency's arbitration process.”
Mr. McFarling gives the Times readers “three schools of thought” from which to choose: 1) Lance cheated but denies it. 2) Whether Lance cheated or not is not relevant because of his fund-raising efforts for cancer research. Or, 3)Lance is innocent, a target of a witch hunt.” Then Mr. McFarling says, “With all due respect, I don't know how anybody can believe No. 3 anymore. It just doesn't seem possible. Cycling is the dirtiest sport in the world. Everybody cheats. And yet Lance was the one guy who didn't—AND he beat all the cheaters? Seven times?. . .”
Do these statements allude to Mr. McFarling's personal contention that Armstrong is guilty? What do we care what Mr. McFarling thinks? This isn't reporting the news, this is an opinion piece. So what is it doing on the front page with the news? At least move it to the Sports section where such drivel is quoted and printed regularly.
I thought The Roanoke Times had an editorial page in addition to a policy of vetting all statements to ensure truth in publication. “Everybody cheats?” If the USADA couldn't prove it for one guy (Armstrong) how can you include everyone in the sport in your comment? And, “Cycling is the dirtiest sport in the world?” Lets see you prove that!
An examination of the choice of words in this article leads me to believe that the article was written by a freshman journalist. However, I assume Mr. McFarling's credentials are far better than that.
The Merriam-Webster On-line Dictionary defines the word deem as follows:
Transitive verb: to come to think or judge: consider, < deemed it wise to go slow >

Intransitive verb: to have an opinion: believe

Synonyms: allow [chiefly Southern & Midland], conceive, consider, believe, esteem, feel, figure, guess, hold, imagine, judge, reckon [chiefly dialect], suppose, think

Related Words: regard, view, perceive, depend, rely, trust, assume, presume, presuppose, surmise, conclude, deduce, infer, accept”

Inserting some of these synonyms in place of “deem” in the first sentence of this story provides the following possibilities:
Lance Armstrong . . . was believed to be guilty . . .”
was considered to be guilty . . .”
we guessed he was guilty . . .”
we imagined him to be guilty
we supposed he was guilty
we presumed he was guilty
we reckoned he was guilty
we inferred he was guilty
we surmised he was guilty.
we figured he was guilty
etc., etc, etc.”

Got the picture yet? There was no standard burden of proof used in making the original statement, “deemed guilty.” Harsh words but perhaps appropriate when someone is being tried in the court of world opinion or the media.

Check out the amazing Olympic record of Michael Phelps. I suspect that by Mr. McFarling's yardstick, Phelps must certainly be deemed guilty of doping to have won so often and accumulated so many medals. Otherwise, it's just not possible!

What is the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) anyway? The following is quoted from the USADA website at

As a non-profit, non-governmental agency, our programs:
Provide deterrence and preservation of sport for athletes, coaches, students, teachers, parents, scientists and more through education and resources;
Include numerous protections for athletes to ensure that only athletes who are guilty of a doping violation are sanctioned;
Strive to systematically identify those individuals who are engaged in the effort to gain advantage over athletes who are competing clean; and
Fund pioneering research for the detection of doping substances and techniques, and the pursuit of scientific excellence in doping control.” (the highlighting is mine.)

By the way, these people report to no one but their own Board of Directors and are a self-proclaimed anti-doping organization.

Looking at the USADA statements above, “. . .only athletes who are guilty of a doping violation are sanctioned.” Where's the proof that Armstrong is guilty of such charges and thus should be sanctioned? (But they say they have 10 guys ready to testify that they saw Armstrong . . . Just remember, none of those witnesses have been identified and they haven't yet sworn an oath to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth in a court of law.)
And “. . .strive to systematically identify . . ?” After all of Armstrong's tests for doping and he having failed none, perhaps the USADA hasn't striven hard enough, or truly doesn't have the capability to detect everything that might be used to produce the near super-human endurance required to win the Tour de France seven times. If this is their fault, how can they justify stripping Armstrong's medals?
Well, forget all that. We just know he's guilty.
Further, it's not just the USADA that has been trying to catch these athletes, it's the whole world. Not just in cycling, but in all sports.
So Mr. McFarling, perhaps—at least for the moment— we'll not be able to accurately judge Lance Armstrong's actions or records. I've heard it said that it is impossible to prove a negative. So how should Armstrong prove that he is not guilty of doping, arbitration or not? The USADA and the anti-doping officials at the Olympics and the Tour de France had their chance and never found one iota of evidence of Mr. Armstrong having used doping.
What ever happened to innocent until proven guilty?
Lastly, readers would all appreciate a little more respect for the difference between subjective storytelling and objective reporting in our newspapers. Especially on the front page.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

What It Means to be Green

I remember when I lived on Hokkaido, the northern island of Japan. You could count the number of native English speakers in Hakodate on one hand, and I seldom had the opportunity to iterface with them. In my heart, I was truly lonely, although I seldom admitted it to myself and never aloud. My weekly touch of "home" was the broadcast of Miss Piggy, Kermit and friends on NHK television. I cried when I heard Kermit sing "What it Means to be Green." I knew just how he felt.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Foxhole Short Story Review

Review of
by James Vanore
Reviewed by C. Neuroticus Absolutus
Just finished reading Jim Vanore's short story, Foxhole. It's up for Book of the Month honors from Long and Short Mystery Reviews (LASR). Whether you have served in the military or not, you will be haunted by the tale of a son who idolizes his father and reveres his father's heroism in the Second World War. To say any more about this touching story would deprive the reader of a personal journey into that dark foxhole and discovering the depths of a man's life-long suffering.
Foxhole strikes a nerve like a tiny, almost invisible, splinter whose occasional needle-like jabs remind us to pay homage to those who endured the personal hells of war in service to their country. Thank you for reminding us, Mr. Vanore.
Put Foxhole at the top of your to-read list.

Friday, August 17, 2012

A to Z Flashes of Foxwick

A to Z Flashes of Foxwick

by Cherie Reich

A Book Review


C. Neuroticus Absolutus

I don't believe it's too much of a stretch to imagine Cherie Reich as a child, under the covers after lights out, a flashlight trained on Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland and her mind completely involved in the conversation between Alice and the Mad Hatter. Or that Ms. Reich still occasionally slips into another dimension where she enjoys a rich life in the otherworlds of her imagination.
The idea for A to Z Flashes of Foxwick is the result of Arlee Bird's Blogger Challenge where bloggers were challenged to write succeeding blogs featuring the alphabet letter of the day posted on the contest blog. Ms. Reich accepted the challenge and wrote 26 blogs using each letter of the alphabet in a series of flash-fiction stories about the Kingdom of Foxwick, its inhabitants and its neighboring lands.
The literary journey takes readers through Foxwick and neighboring Wintermill, Valedale, Shadowland, Lochhollow and Blackden Barrens, which Mrs. Reich introduces under the letter B:
Sparse grasses swayed like a metronome. Stunted trees, blackened from fire's fury, poked from the ground. A lizard crept over the rocks and scurried into a crevasse as the phoenix glided over Blackden Barrens. . .” Poetic prose.
It's a time when fiction and reality blend into a dimension of illusions. Words melt in your mind and sentences flow into a mesmerizing sea of dreams as Ms. Reich opens the door to her world of fantasy. Hers is a world populated with dragons, fire birds, kings and queens, and ebony unicorns with silvery horns. Creatures move from her mind to the page with a childlike beauty and simplicity that ask for yet another telling of the stories. I read them twice from cover to cover.
Ms. Reich's flash-fiction stories follow each other like a lustrous string of pearls until they are finally woven into the storybook that brings the vision of Foxwick to the reader's mind. The twenty-six flash-fiction stories are followed by Lady Death, a bonus short story from Ms. Reich's book The Women of Foxwick. The short story ties characters from A to Z Flashes of Foxwick to a duel to the death between lady sword-fighting assassin Umbria and Lady Death. Way cool!
Beyond the enjoyment of Ms. Reich's world, the book also taught me that a flash-fiction piece of exactly 100 words is called a drabble. Just wait until I play Scrabble again!
I can't imagine a young reader who wouldn't enjoy A to Z Flashes of Foxwick. A dragon eating a sheep might be too much for little tykes, so I might not read the stories to them. But, with the exception of one or two words actually common in today's media, I recommend letting young readers discover the magic and charming world of Foxwick for themselves. The eBook edition is available at,, Sony and other eBook distributors.
The stories of Ms. Reich bring a dimension to flash-fiction storytelling that will surely be enjoyed by many generations to come. A fun read. Five stars and two thumbs up!
By the way, have you ever had a book get into your head and under your cliched skin? Here's what A to Z Flashes of Foxwick did to me poetically:
Dribbles and drabbles.
Quibbles and quabbles.
What fun doth Cherie bring!

A unicorn, a dragon
Whose tail is that waggin'?
Ye olde land of the king and queen.

Beware, Princess faire
Of one Shadowland lair.
The sword of Death is keen.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Works in Progress

Works in progress are the author's dreams, still not on paper or stored in a computer memory or even in a cloud somewhere in cyberspace. But the dreams of getting another book published is one of the main forces that drive a writer to sit down each day and add a few more days to the lives of the characters. My first two books, Home Again and Kill Me Once Again are already available on and from Smashwords eBook distributors. My current work-in-progress has a working title of The Back Nine, a reference to a murder on a golf course. I am about two-thirds of the way through the book. After that is a major editing to verify format and storyline continuity. Run spell check a dozen times and ...

a writer's life, works in progress, WIP, Home Again, Kill Me Once Again, The Back Nine, editing