Southern Scotch

Southern Scotch
After the Fall 2016

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Reb MacRath, Action Manifester! Chapter 3

The question for today is this: How long can you look at it without becoming ill?

As some readers race for the exits or hills, I call out: Hey, wait a sec! This really ain't that kind of blog any more than I'm that kind of dude. By "it" I mean your Moleskine or whatever brand of prompter or journal you use for your own inner trip. You won't get far without one, whether you're starting a novel, quitting smoking/drinking, going on a diet or beginning to work out. (From here on I'll refer to your Moleskine as your whatever.)

If you're human, then you know we all begin like gangbusters...then feel the wind go from our sails. We'll need to row a while, we know. And we're okay with that...we think. But every time, without fail--no matter the port of our choosing--the Sirens start to whisper: The journey's too long...You're not ready to quit smoking or work on your big novel yet...You're too busy...There's just too much stress in your life...Next year you'll be ready...

The worst of it is, you know better. You do! You know if you don't stop your footsteps--right now!--they'll take you to the corner store...where you'll buy those cigarettes...Or you know if you put off the gym for a week. Etc., etc., etc. You know what will happen! Yet happen it will--unless you learn a cool new trick to keep your whatever alive.

Let's start with the problem that all of us share: In repetition there is strength--but there is also boredom without some variation. My own whatever--my Moleskine--has five questions, one of which I tackle each day. And each question is then broken down into five parts.

Week one electrified me with its freshness and its promise: What Don't I Want? What Do I Want? (Chapter One spells out the details.)

Chapter Two livened things up just enough by getting more specific in my plans of action: What Are the Top Two Don't Wants That Can Most Impact the Rest if Corrected Now? What Are the Top Two Do Wants...? Etc.

I was beginning to see some real progress in my first manifestations. And yet...I needed to shake up the process somehow--or risk hearing the Sirens still louder. For the third round of five questions, I took (for me) a bad-assed move. For each of the five questions, I asked:

Where am I Still a Pussy and what must I do?

Now, I don't think of myself as a Pussy--or at least I never had. But for the purpose of this exercise I forced myself to do just that. In doing so I found myself pushing the envelope time and again:
--I went straight from third shift to the gym before going home for some shut-eye.
--I added protein to my diet to help fuel the muscular growth...and other needed nutrients to really get in me in the pink.
--Knowing I'd need money to finance  my move in mid-summer, I refused to cut my hours at the second job.
--I forced myself to stay on track for completing the rewrite of The Suiting for online publication in August.
--I continued reading a mystery I'd committed to review.
--I worked harder at broadening my mastery of Twitter and being more fun to follow.
--I worked harder to become a better friend and ally.
--After too many years in The Desert, and too many nights alone, I spruced up, had my hair restyled., splashed on some Armani Code and opened my arms to rejection. Long ago, so they say, Babe Ruth had the record for homers--because he was fearless about striking out. I like to think the Babe is smiling as he watches the Rebster hit nothing but air.

But I'll sign off by sharing a secret: I see myself succeeding. And, with my whatever to guide me, I will.

Stay tuned for the breathtaking 4th Chapter.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Do You Need to Up Your Ebook Game?

Just in case you haven't heard: Achieving visibility in EbookLandia is no easy task--not with several hundred thousand ebooks comin' every year. If you've slaved at the writing, then buffed and fine-tuned until your very eyeballs bled...if you've found the perfect covers and have won some warm reviews...if you've worked on Social Media, blogged and networked to no end...but still your sales are dragging--the following post is for you.

I'll give you the moral upfront: Pay attention to results and don't grow too attached to what you're sure are cool ideas. I did just that when I divided my books into two camps. On the one hand, I had some wild hardboiled thrillers with a Southern Scot named Boss. On the other hand, I had some highly unusual, much shorter books, blending suspense and romance. So a marketing split of some sort made good sense. But here's where I ran into trouble by attempting to get over-cute.


Some of the shorter suspense tales had subtle Christmas settings--and I set out to make my niche by stretching that connection...and offering dark, gritty, edgy thrillers--a few of them containing violence...sold under the umbrella heading "Reb's Rebel Yell Anytime Yuletide Chillers". And for the Boss MacTavin novels, I gave this series title: "Reb's Rebel Yell Crime Tales for Bad Boys and Girls."


A long story made short: recently I realized that the series titles were probably doing much more harm than good. Even with the word "Anytime", I'd put off the following readers: those who don't like Christmas tales...those who don't like gritty Christmas tales but do enjoy gritty suspense...those who might not mind a gritty little Christmas tale--but not in the middle of summer. Furthermore, Reb's Rebel Yell might sound just a little too precious. As for the Boss books, 'Crime Tales for Bad Boys and Girls' sounds too cutesy Young Adult.


I traded ideas with some writers I know and made these decisions:

1) I had to stop billing the short books as Christmas tales. In the books themselves, the setting is subtly played--just as it is in Die Hard 1 and 2, Reindeer Games and many other fine thrillers that happen to be set at Christmas. One writer friend pointed out that the tales all had to do with retribution, in one way or another. And that thought led to this new heading: The Fast and The Furies: Suspense. I now gave the genre and the unifying theme. I then went on to revise the copy (see below), experimenting gingerly with a couple of changes in font for effect.
2) For the Boss books, I kept my game still simpler. I'd been wrong in billing them as thrillers. They're mysteries, but with a lot more action than some mystery fans might expect. So, keeping it simple: The Boss MacTavin Action Mysteries.

Now here's the sample I promised, for one of The Fast and The Furies.



Each standalone book in this series will take you to a grave new world where those who've played fast with their lives or the law are on the run from karma. Breakneck thrills, hairpin turns and forces hellbent on collecting await. Only the noblest souls will survive.

Magic and Suspense
In The Vanishing Magic of Snow, an old man is horrified to learn that he was a villain for much of his life. Now starving and faced with eviction, Jay Penny has only one hope: a magic trick that caused the death of a brilliant young magician in the Seventies Toronto. The glory days, Jay's always thought, when he'd been dodging the draft.  But, looking back, he sees the part he played in Sonny Storm's death.  And it seems clearer by the day that Sonny's vengeful spirit is manifesting Jay's own ruin.  Or...could Sonny be trying to teach him the trick? 

Like the other series entries, TVMOS weighs in at 35,000 words--a bit shorter in length than readers may expect. But the books are in fact novels, not long short stories or novellas, just as the following titles are all sold as novels though under 50,000 words: The Old Man and the Sea, The Pearl, Of Mice and Men,The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde...

Trivia:
--The Canadian scenes are based on hard-won experience. Reb did live in Canada, with thousands of other draft dodgers, for the ten years recorded here. And he really did meet Doug Henning, Michael Ondaatje, Michael Sarazzin and most of the other stars who appear in cameos.
--The scenes set in present-day Charlotte, when Jay Penny is down to mere pennies, are based on true events. Reb came within three days of ruin by the Great Recession...when something astonishing happened.
--You needn't believe in The Secret or Real Magic to enjoy this story. The subject of manifestation--in which thoughts become things--goes back a very long time. Some say to the ancient Babylonians. That's open to debate. But from Ralph Waldo Emerson to James (As a Man Thinketh) Allen to Napoleon (Think and Grow Rich) Hill...to Wayne Dyer and Deepak Chopra...the philosophy's ancient and still going strong. And the springboard for this tale of terror is this: How do we avoid Creepy Karma if all we can see is our ruin?
--In its own fictional, fanciful way, the book offers an answer that anyone can use, whichever camp they fall in--Believers or Non Believers. When the wind is taken from our sails, we all need what Jay Penny calls an Almighty Shockeroo: one electrifying image to get us back in gear. And you'll learn how to find your own in The Vanishing Magic of Snow.

Let some Real Magic into your life with this book.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Reb MacRath, Action Manifester! Chapter Two

So! Knowing the wind would abandon my sails at some point in my journey, I set out with my trusty Moleskine, adhering to the plan I set forth in the opening chapter: 2 pages daily, five themes repeated with minor variations to keep my interest sparked and enable me to probe deeper each round.

Round One: 
1)What Don't I Want? 
2)What Do I Want? 
3)What Are My Top Priority Blocks to be Cleared? 
4)Which Intentions Do I Most Need to Feel I've Already Achieved? 
5)Where Do I Most Need to Start Letting Go? 

 These began my daily 2-page logs. After each,I made notes on the following four issues (to give the number 5 more legs): a daily perception...a "Clearing" exercise in which I tried to break through a blockage...an Intention Imagined Now, or detailed visualization...and a list of the day's related or Inspired Actions.

Round Two: 
The same except, I narrowed my focus this round to the top two answers for each question: solutions that would have the most impact on the remaining items.

Round Three will start tomorrow, the basic plan for it being to focus on the one item of each two that's proving to be the top challenge. The Inspired Action section has been the biggest boon, compelling me to take the actions that will fuel the manifestations to come.

Three action-packed examples: 
1) Even after losing 25-plus pounds on a longish fast, I remained unpleased with my physique. I wanted to look like my fictional hero, Boss MacTavin: rail-thin and totally ripped. I was thinner, but not rail-thin and I'd lost all of my muscle bulk and most of my tone. In Round Two I began a modified version of the Matthew McConaughey workout: 500-700 crunches spread throughout the day...and as many pushups as I can manage in sets staggered through the day. I'm already beginning to see some results...and the daily entries in my log have galvanized my psyche.
2) I needed to start fighting smarter to achieve success on Amazon. My 5 ebooks had attracted some notice, along with some glowing reviews. But readers couldn't buy my books if they didn't see them. After reviewing Making a Killing on Kindle, I came to two conclusions: my series titles on Amazon were hurting me, not helping me--particularly pitching three fine thrillers as Chistmas tales. And the 'product descriptions' I'd slaved on needed some drastic fine-tuning as well. Inspired actions: I networked with some colleagues on Authors Electric, who confirmed what I suspected--and offered some useful suggestions. I spent two full days trying this and trying that before finding the precise angles of attack I thought would win the fight. I went on to spend a full morning changing everything on Amazon and making sure all the new keywords were woven into the new book descriptions.
3) I did some serious juggling of my new two-job schedule. Until I can find the ideal day job that enables me to quit working nights, I need to be a juggler. The two schedules will conflict from time to time. And when I can't call out without risk, I may need to do back to back shifts during the holiday season. We'll see. If I keep my focus on Inspired Action, things will work out fine.

Upcoming Inspired Actions: back to the real gym tomorrow...Continued revising/retyping of the 25th anny edition of The Suiting...Return to the Singles arena.

Stay tuned!



Thursday, May 16, 2013

Reb MacRath, Action Manifester! Chapter One

The one subject that's sure to set eyes rolling and hopes soaring in almost equal numbers has been called by many names: The Secret, The Law of Attraction, Manifestation, Creative Visualization, Positive Thinking...to cite just a few. Some call it Absolute Hooey. Some call it Pure Hokum. Some call it much worse.

The philosophy, though, has been around a long while. The Secret traces it back to the ancient Babylonians. But we needn't go back quite that far, since no Babylonian books have survived. We can follow the thread quite easily in our own country: from Ralph Waldo Emerson's and Prentice Mulford's shared doctrine 'Thoughts are Things'...to James Allen's 'As a Man Thinketh'...to Napoleon Hill's 'Think and Grow Rich'...and on down the line to Tony Robbins, Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra and the gang.

Whatever their lingo, whatever their slant, the basic tenet that all share was best expressed by Joseph Murphy: 'Life is an out-picturing of your inner pictures.' Whether you believe devoutly, scoff in complete disgust, or are sitting on the fence, know this: a poor and miserable boy born as Archibald Alexander Leach transformed himself into his image of the ultimate elegant actor...renamed Cary Grant. An Austrian weakling with bad teeth and an unpronounceable last name hit the gym, seeing his arms as giant oaks--until they became just that. Arnold then saw himself as an actor, despite the 'impossible' odds and his accent. He then saw himself as Governor...Many fighters include visualization when they're training for upcoming fights...And, back to good ole Cary Grant, he succeeded in quitting smoking through a form of self-hypnosis, picturing his success.

Relax: Reb MacRath, Action Manifester will arrive in just a minute. But before he takes the stage, know this: I'd studied the subject for over twenty years with wildly mixed results. 
On the plus side: I'd seen myself, finally, breaking into print and winning the Stoker Award...I'd seen myself traveling to New York, landing a copywriting position, marrying the girl of my dreams..
On the dark side: I'd seen my marriage crumble, seen myself enter a decade-long crash, seen my writing career go up in flames, seen myself enter The Desert for years...
Getting back onto the plus side: I'd seen myself getting my life back on track, seen myself publish 5 ebooks, seen myself lose 25 pounds and whip myself back into shape...

How could I avoid drifting again to the dark side?

Well, bless my soul--it's Reb MacRath, Action Manifester!

Now, I don't object in the slightest to becoming a new sort of hero: a man of a certain age who got his bleep together and succeeded in out-picturing some groovy, incredible things. But I really must confess:

THE 'GONG' WAS STRUCK BY ACCIDENT!
Forget all of my efforts to will new success. Forget all of my drive to control every single detail. Here's the miracle that came about to launch the debut of Reb MacRath, Action Manifester:

Certified 100% true:
Several weeks ago. with a week to go until payday, I'd taken care of all my bills but had next to nothing to live on. You can imagine my emotions. I didn't know what to do. But I'd just read a passage by Wayne Dyer: one that involved the spirit of abundance and the need to release our obsession with controlling all the details. I set out one day dead broke, but grateful for the job I had, for the ebooks I'd managed to publish, for the weight I'd been able to lose, for the modest pleasures I've managed to find here in Charlotte.
Dead broke, but feelin' good. I got to talking with a guy. Money never entered the conversation. I was dressed nicely, my manner upbeat. But he thanked me for brightening his night and handed me $12. As he left, he turned back around and slipped me $20 more!

Read what you will into this. But I never asked for anything. And I do believe that my embracing the spirit of abundance, instead of thoughts of scarcity and need, brought this turn of luck around.

And two days ago, out of the blue, I received an EFT from Amazon, unexpected royalties.

OKAY, OKAY, ALREADY! ON WITH THE ADVENTURE!
Well, here's the way-cool news for all: a master strategy came clear to me for keeping the wind in my sails. Find a good one of your own, if you decide to sail with Reb. I bought:
A new pocket-size Moleskine notebook.
The Grand Plan: a rotating five-part arc, with two pages a day for each part. My opening 5:
1) What Don't I Want? Frank, specific answers.
    E.g.: I don't want low, or no, Amazon sales.
2) What Do I Want? Transformations of these into frank, specific positives on which I'll focus instead of Don't Wants.
    E.g.: I do want a top-selling catalog of well-reviewed Amazon ebooks.
3) What Are My Top Priority Clearings? Note: The last word has no connection whatsoever with Scientology. It refers to areas in which I need more work.
    E.g.: Anger management. Nutritional improvement. More consistent workouts.
4) Which intentions do I most need to feel I've already achieved?
    E.g.: I need to feel like Ruby Reb now, not when I'm a millionaire.
5) Where do I most need to start letting go?
    E.g.: My need to control specific outcomes. Or to let go of the hold of past painful memories,

Finally, to keep up my interest:  I write one daily Perception, or new thought on the process.  I list one or two Clearings.  I visualize in detail one of my intentions as accomplished. And...I list one or two of the day's actions that further my intentions.

The Almighty Trick of It
But you already see the trick: Batches of 5 offer variety, but the constant repetition could take the wind from my sales. Soooooo...
For my second batch of five, which I began today, I did a variation:
1) What are the two Don't Wants that can most impact the rest, if I correct them first?

So, Where's the Beef, El Reberoo?
I thought you'd never ask! In the first week of the adventure, I manifested the following things:
--I won a part-time job at Macy's, which enables me to move from a substandard one-bedroom apartment into a newly renovated condo in August...also to beef up my wardrobe with compound associate discounts on threads...also to start advertising my ebooks by posting the covers on World Literary Cafe in June.
--I began rising long before the alarm to implement a new, Spartan fitness regimen. This is based on a program described by fitness master Matthew McConaughey: I'd read that he reached peak physical condition one summer by doing 1000 situps and 500 pushups each day--not all at once...but through the day. I've halved his numbers to start with.
--I've incorporated meditation and constant review of the new Moleskine into my daily routine.
--I've reached the halfway mark in 'retailoring'/rewriting my first Kelley Wilde book, The Suiting, for its 25th anny edition.
--At the same time, I'm prepping mentally to start revising the first draft of the next Boss MacTavin novel.

To be continued next week...
 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Stop the Presses! I've Been Paid!

I'd promised you the first in a series of posts on the subject of manifestation. I'd planned to write the first entry today. But I'll get to it tomorrow because something exciting's just happened. As a matter of fact, it relates to that topic that's been on my mind for so long...but one thing at a time, eh?

Today I received an email from Amazon's Remittance Department. And for a horrible moment I thought that, with long days until pay day, somehow I owed them money. How this could be, I couldn't say...but I began to wonder if they'd take an IOU or at least wait a couple of days. Then I calmed down and read the email carefully.

No, I didn't owe them money. They'd sent me a royalties payment via EFT. The amount was small, but the sense of vindication was both huge and thrilling. I published my first ebook in April 2012, followed by four others. My first giveaway event netted about fifty downloads. Subsequent free days resulted in more downloads every time--with no impact on sales as far as I could see. Though I never lost hope, I did begin to wonder...

Well, the snowball has begun, I hope, to gather weight and speed. But whether our first payment is $20 or $200, we taste something like blood when it happens. And, after a long drought, our great thirst feels quenched. A few readers cared enough to buy. And now, by God, our job's to keep those precious few in mind--and to keep delivering the goods over and over again. Incomparably. Indomitably.

For when hundreds of thousands of ebooks are published every year, all howling for attention, we have a huge obligation if we've attracted attention: we'd bloody well better be grateful--and show it in our work. Cheers!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Coming Soon : A Brand-New Blog Adventure!

Starting one day within the next week: A once-weekly true serial adventure on the subject of manifestation. Stay tuned.

A small miracle the other night, one that connected directly to a page I'd just read on the subject, convinced me that the time had come to put what I've learned to the test. Background: I've studied the subject for thirty-odd years and portrayed it in my book, THE VANISHING MAGIC OF SNOW. Can I prove, though, that The Secret, or manifestation, does work?

Believers and nonbelievers alike should find the chronicles amusing. Nothing heavy-handed. I'll describe as lightly as I can the results of my attempts to put my thoughts into action.

Chapter One will include: description of the miracle, my immediate goals and beginning actions--or moves upon the board.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Twittering Continued: Will You Catch Your Flight or Miss the Boat?

A good short run bodes well for the long run. Whatever we're pitching on Twitter--a book, a business, a buff bod, a sparkling sense of humor--others will form their impressions on the strength of a handful of Tweets. I know, I know. This just doesn't seem fair. 140 characters? I share your pain. But the truth is: within the iron confines, clever peeps can rock.

I'll take this a step further: clever peeps not only rock, they manage to project tantalizing glimpses of personality, style and character well worth a closer look. And we're wise to look more closely. Why? Because when all of that's conveyed in 140 characters, we know a wealth of talent is at play behind the post. And we know that this writer's gone out of his/her way to treat us as real, busy people--not a great sea of faceless marks for whatever it is that s/he's selling. We can also be reasonably certain that a writer who can work within a 'budget' this tight will be a joy to be around when s/he has more room: a book or a business proposal.

We're wise to look more closely because Tweeters like this are so rare. If we scroll through an average list of Tweets we'll a lot of mostly, sorry, mental masturbation: nonstop recylings of past posts: BUY MY BOOK/ON SALE TODAY/READ MY REVIEWS/USED CARS AT OUT OF THIS WORLD PRICES/TODAY I DID MY LAUNDRY, etc.

You'd be foolish not to wonder: Hey, what's in this for me? The good news is: As you get better at asking that question, you'll grow in skill at answering how you can engage readers as real people, and capture their attention, in 140 characters.

My training: I worked as a retail copywriter years before computers or Twitter. Our space restrictions were severe and we had to count characters to make sure our copy would fit before the works went to production. Usually, we had room for one creative sentence before we moved on to fabric content, percentage of savings, dollars saved, disclaimers, etc. One sentence! And occasionally my ads were competing with those of six other writers. I had to get my shine on fast with products that weren't that exciting in and of themselves.

The two important lessons: shoppers don't buy only to save money...and they want to be romanced--but not snowed. I romanced them playfully, making them feel good about buying something, on the cheap, by a not famous designer: E.G.: Down comforters: Nights go better under down... Reversible comforters: One good turn deserves another...

Now, this wasn't Shakespeare. Nor need anyone else become a retail copywriter. But learning to maneuver within a very tight space is a cool and useful exercise. And the exercise is simpler if we think in terms of YOU, not MEMEME. If I remember that YOU are busy and bombarded by self-serving Tweeters, I'll make the time to custom tailor Tweets with YOU in mind.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Too Few Dare to Be Used on Twitter

Everybody has a plan for getting rich through Twitter. The plans pretty much come to the same selfish thing: gather a half-million followers...Tweet a hundred times a day, pitching the same books...achieve a 'conversion' rate to sales of even 10 percent. Result: 50,000 sales at 70% of 2.99/copy. Yeah, $100,000--hopefully, each month--ain't exactly chump change. And some may succeed through doing this.

But, I suspect, not many. For the most part, we grow blind and deaf to nothing but pitches from strangers. BUY MY BOOK! FREE TODAY! ONLY .99! 5-STAR REVIEWS! We ignore these for good reason: they have nothing to do with us. No attempt has been made to engage us. We're not even treated as readers. We're like sexual partners with bags on our heads.

These writers conclude from their sales figures that Twitter doesn't work. It does--for those who not only use Twitter but who consent to be used. Used in the positive sense of the word. The more we do for our followers, the more devoted and loyal they're likely to be.

I adhere to the following three basic rules:
1) Maintain a healthy balance between my shout-outs and my reach-outs. If I tout my books once or twice a day, I try to produce at least two or three interesting, funny Tweets that reveal something about me and my writing style while they entertain.
2) Remember that my followers have their own dreams and ambitions. Some of them are following me because of the strength of my follower base: about 15,000 and growing. I'm happy to RT for them and to be of use.
3) Share, now and then, lessons I've learned about writing and the publishing business through occasional links to my blog. With nine published books to my credit, it's time to open up and share.

We're far more likely to see the upside of Twitter if we show it due respect. Let me close with four examples:
1) Last year a Twitter contact conducted my first interview. This year three more Twitter contacts have led to three more interviews.
2) A playful Tweet about my most popular ebook, Nobility, led one follower to write that she'd downloaded the book on the strength of that Tweet, which she'd enjoyed immensely.
3) Some fine reviews have come my way from those who discovered me first through my Tweets.
4) A referral from a Twitter friend led to my becoming the first American writer on the collective British blog Authors Electric.

In closing: don't be too quick to write off Twitter because it's not selling your product or books. You'll see different results if you approach Twitter in a different spirit. Try!



Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Third Reberview


My third interview's just gone live on Troy Jackson's blog:


The part about drafting and editing timelines should be of special interest to writers.

Check it out!