True Crime Thursday – You Got the Wrong Guy

By Debbie Burke

@burke_writer

Photo credit: Alex Galloso, Unsplash

We’re all aware of the staggering rise of identity theft that can screw up our credit. According to the Insurance Information Institute, in 2020, the FTC received 4.8 million reports of identity theft and fraud, a 45% increase from 2019.

But if a criminal claims to be you, does that mean you could be locked up for an outstanding warrant?

In the case of Jonah Scott Miller, yes.

When Zin Mali McDade, a transient, was arrested in Brevard County, Florida, he claimed his name was Jonah Scott Miller, who had been a childhood acquaintance. Both were born in December, 1985, six days apart. However, Jonah is 6’2” and Zin is 5’7”.

The real Jonah, who works security for a hospital, was arrested during Bike Week in Daytona Beach in 2019 on a failure to appear warrant for shoplifting, a warrant actually meant for Zin.

When Jonah told police they had the wrong man and he had never been to Brevard County, the arresting officer accused him of lying. According to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, she said:

“I suggest you get a lawyer because somebody’s lying. If it’s not you lying to me, it’s somebody you know because they know way too much about you. They knew your date of birth, your social, where you were born, your address and they have your tattoos.”

Jonah protested his tattoos couldn’t match anyone else’s because they were the names of his kids.

Apparently, no one at the scene brought up the mugshot from Zin’s arrest.

Jonah was booked into Volusia County Jail. There, officers discovered the mugshot on file didn’t match the real Jonah. The fingerprints on record also didn’t match the real Jonah. Yet, despite the obvious mistake, the innocent victim of identity theft spent the night in jail.

Attorney Steve Weisman of Scamicide.com recommends being proactive if someone impersonates you. Contact a lawyer, law enforcement, and the prosecutor/district attorney to file a report that you are the victim of identity theft. Show your driver’s license, passport, or other photo ID to prove who you are. Request a letter from the district attorney explaining the situation. In some states, you can request an Identity Theft Passport that may help if you are detained because a criminal steals your identity.

Booking photo of Zin Mali McDade

 

Whatever happened to Zin Mali McDade (alias Jonah Scott Miller)? He currently resides at the Brevard County Jail in Cocoa, FL.

~~~

TKZers: Have you ever been the victim of mistaken or stolen identity? Would you obtain an Identity Theft Passport?

Don’t Play Coy With Your Readers

Don’t Play Coy With Your Readers
Terry Odell

Don't Play Coy With Readers

Image by Tayeb MEZAHDIA from Pixabay

One of my first writing lessons was Point of View. I learned it was a good idea to stick to one character at a time (and ‘time’ means more than a paragraph or two).

As a reader, I discovered I connected more with characters if I was privy to their thoughts. There are no hard and fast rules about Point of View beyond it’s important that readers can keep track of whose head they’re in.

My preference is to use Deep Point of View, which is sometimes called Close or Intimate, and that’s the focus of today’s post. What you call it isn’t as important as making sure that your readers can’t know anything your POV character doesn’t know. Or see. Or feel. Or smell. Or hear. It’s very close to writing in first person.

POV is a powerful tool, because by controlling the POV character, you control what you reveal to the reader. As I said above, the reader is only privy to what the character knows. On the flip side of that coin, if the POV character sees, smells, feels, or hears something, the reader should, too.

In my current WIP, my female lead knows why she quit her job, and is aware of some less-than-ethical behaviors of her boss. I’m eight chapters in, and she doesn’t want the male lead to know the details yet. But she can feed him bits and pieces as circumstances arise. The way I see it, it’s the author’s responsibility to find legitimate ways to withhold information from readers until it’s time to reveal it.

Which brings me to a couple of recent reads which had my hackles up. Both were written in first person POV. That puts the reader right into that character’s head, the same way Deep POV does.

In one book, the character read a letter; in the second she looked at a photograph. In both instances, the characters had strong emotional reactions to what they’d just seen. These books were both mysteries, and this “secret” information provided important clues.

But—and this is where I would have screamed out loud, had it not been late at night with someone sleeping nearby—both authors opted to hide this information from the reader. They simply avoided the reveal. The characters mulled it over, worried about it, wondered if they should tell another character, weighed the pros and cons. On and on. But never did they mention the name of the person in the photograph or the contents of the letter. The characters knew what they’d seen, so there was no reason the reader shouldn’t other than the author was doing what one of my first critique group leaders called “Playing Coy With the Reader.”

And for me, it’s not fair, not if you’re writing in first person or deep POV. It’s like when a television show character gets a letter, opens it, reads it, and then … cut to commercial without letting the viewer know what it said. If, when the commercial is over, the action picks up where it left off before the break and either shows the letter or the characters talking about it, I’ll accept it as being a way to make sure viewers “stay tuned.”

Now, if the author breaks to a different POV character, I might forgive them if, when we get back to the first character’s POV, we get the reveal. But to put a reader in a character’s head and then yank them out when something important happens is likely to aggravate them rather than heighten the suspense (which is what the author is going for.) To me, it’s a cheat.

In one of the books, the author never put the information out there. In the other, it took a while, but the reveal did come, so I grumbled and gave the author another chance.

And that’s what might happen. Play coy with the reader and you might lose them, not just for this book, but for future books they’ll never read.

In a more distant point of view, where the author is telling the story more than the character, it might not be such an issue, but then—I don’t like distancing points of view. Your mileage may vary.

All right, TKZers. What are your thoughts about authors withholding information a reader should have? Does it add a layer to the read for you, or frustrate you?

(I’m away from cyberspace this morning, but will be back later this afternoon to respond to comments.)


 
Trusting Uncertainty by Terry OdellNow available for Preorder. Trusting Uncertainty, Book 10 in the Blackthorne, Inc. series.
You can’t go back and fix the past. Moving on means moving forward.

Terry Odell is an award-winning author of Mystery and Romantic Suspense, although she prefers to think of them all as “Mysteries with Relationships.” Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

POP QUIZ ON ADJECTIVES

By Debbie Burke

@burke_writer

When we first learned to talk, most likely we never gave a second thought to the order of words. We just mimicked our parents until the sentences that came out of our mouths made sense and were understandable.

If a five-year-old said, I kicked over the fence the ball, most likely Mom, Dad, or a kindergarten teacher would tell the child it sounded better to say: I kicked the ball over the fence.

We instinctively knew how to place the words in the right order, even though we didn’t realize exactly what it was we knew or how we knew it. 

[Side note: English is a particularly difficult language for non-native speakers to learn because it’s full of inconsistencies and contradictory rules. If you didn’t learn English as a first language, please accept my condolences for the misery you’re going through.]

 

At some point in our language development, we learned that adjectives make sentences more descriptive. For those of us destined to become writers, adjectives became fun new toys.

Consider the three examples below:

The Jack Russell tan frisky terrier chased a mouse.

Hey, wait a sec. That sounds awkward. What’s wrong?

Instead, how about:

The frisky tan Jack Russell terrier chased a mouse.

Sounds natural.

A hot-air red massive balloon floated above farm land.

Awkward.

A massive red hot-air balloon floated above farm land.

Natural.

A new silver shiny Cadillac was parked in the murky dark shadows of the concrete parking high-rise garage.

Awkward.

A shiny new silver Cadillac was parked in the dark murky shadows of the high-rise concrete parking garage.

Natural.

In these examples, one flows easily off the tongue while, in the other, words come out in halts and jerks.

What is the difference?

The order of the adjectives.

Huh? Who even thinks about that?

Writers, that’s who.

Turns out there are actual rules about the correct order of adjectives.

Recently I learned that new lesson when TKZ regular Chuck sent me an interesting article that quotes The Elements of Eloquence: Secrets of the Perfect Turn of Phrase by Mark Forsyth. In his book, Forsyth separates adjectives into eight different types of descriptors and their proper order:

  1. Opinion
  2. Size
  3. Age
  4. Shape
  5. Color
  6. Origin
  7. Material
  8. Purpose

There is even a handy little acronym to remind you of the correct order, using the first letter of each type: OSASCOMP.

Cambridge Dictionary doesn’t want the rules to be that simple so they offer an alternate option that divides adjectives into 10 classifications in slightly different order.

  1. Opinion
  2. Size
  3. Physical quality
  4. Shape
  5. Age
  6. Color
  7. Origin
  8. Material
  9. Type
  10. Purpose

Translated to an acronym: OSPSACOMTP.

Hmm, I think I’ll stick with Forsyth’s version.

In Elements of Eloquence, Forsyth illustrates the correct order with this complicated yet coherent phrase:

A lovely little old rectangular green French silver whittling knife.

Take a moment to experiment. Can you rearrange the adjectives in a different order that makes sense and sounds better?

Me neither.

Of course, no author would dare string that many adjectives together without a stern reprimand from the editor.

Photo credit: Isaak Alexandre Karslain, Unsplash

Let’s have some fun with a quiz. Read the following jumbled descriptions and put them in the correct order. Your choice of either Forsyth’s or Cambridge Dictionary’s rules.

  1. The wicked old shriveled witch cast a permanent vengeful curse on the young innocent maiden.
  2. The black-and-tan huge guard German Shepherd dog growled when the child grabbed her puppy.
  3. The parchment ancient yellowed fragile scroll crumbled when touched.
  4. Margie couldn’t resist buying the silk designer black sexy strapless dress.

Below are my answers. If you disagree, please share in the comment section.

  1. The wicked (opinion) shriveled (physical quality) old (age) witch cast a vengeful (opinion) permanent (type) curse on the innocent (opinion) young (age) maiden.
  2. The huge (size) black-and-tan (color) German Shepherd (origin) guard (purpose) dog growled when the child grabbed her puppy.
  3. The fragile (physical quality) ancient (age) yellowed (color) parchment (material) scroll crumbled when touched.
  4. Margie couldn’t resist buying the sexy (opinion) strapless (shape) black (color) designer (origin) silk (material) dress.

Here’s a shortcut for when you’re writing a sentence with several adjectives but can’t remember the rules:

Read the sentence out loud.

If it sounds awkward, rearrange the order of the adjectives until the sentence flows smoothly and naturally.

If you’re still not sure, read the sentence out loud to someone else. Ask how the adjective order sounds best to their ears.

If you can’t remember the rules or would rather ignore them, here’s the easiest option of all: don’t string more than two adjectives together.

Your editor will appreciate it and so will your readers.

~~~

TKZers: Did you know there were rules for the order of adjectives?

As a writer, do you love adjectives? Or would you rather discard them in the same wastebasket with adverbs?

~~~

Debbie Burke is an absentminded (opinion) aging (age) blond (color) Montana (origin) thriller (purpose) writer who never uses more than two adjectives in a row. You can verify that if you read Debbie’s six-book series at this link.

To Adverb or Not to Adverb?

I’m in the midst of revisions – which is why today’s blog post is rather short – and (as always) wrestling with some of the the writerly tics that seem to invade every new manuscript. Today I faced the perennially thorny issue of adverb use, particularly when it comes to dialogue tags. I have a wonderful writing group partner who is particularly good at pointing out sloppy adverb use, highlighting all the ‘quietly/desperately/softly/angrily’ kind of dialogue slips that I have a tendency to make. She’s also very good at pointing out all the times I ‘tell’ rather than ‘show’ so I’m definitely feeling rather humble at the moment:)

As with any revision process, I make a judgment call on whether to keep the dreaded adverbs and when to curtail the amount of ‘showing’ versus ‘telling’ (sometimes not using an adverb actually makes the prose sound more awkward). My writing partner uses (and highly recommends) a program called ProWriting Aid, which apparently helps highlight problematic and sloppy writing but I am reluctant to go down that path for fear it will wreck my prose (or maybe I’m just afraid of all the writing errors it will illuminate!). Another writing partner ran some of her latest novel through ‘Grammarly’ with nightmarish results…which only confirmed my fears!

So my question to you all, is do you use any of these online writing aids? Have you run your prose through any of these kinds of grammar/writing checks and if so, was it helpful? How do you approach this type of stylistic revision when it comes to fiction  (up till now I’ve tended to prefer to go with my gut…) and finally – to adverb, or not to adverb, that is the question…

PS: Congratulations Jim on completing your draft of the new Mike Romeo thriller! – I’d be interested to hear if you’ve considered adding any of thee online tools to your revision process!

You Finished Your First Draft. Now What?

by James Scott Bell
@jamesscottbell

Done!

Finito!

Sis boom bah!

The first draft of my next Mike Romeo thriller is finished!

Completing a novel is such a great feeling, don’t you agree?

Be ye plotter or pantser, plodder or pounder—whether you write like the Santa Ana winds or like the groundskeeper at the La Brea Tar Pits—typing that last page is always a lovely moment.

How could it not be? You’ve done something only a few people on earth ever do: You’ve transposed a fictive dream in your head to the pages of a completed manuscript so it can be shared with others.

Sure, your novel may be dreck, but by gum it’s your dreck! You labored over it and brought it forth into the world. The good news is dreck can be improved. As Nora Roberts once said, “I can fix a bad page. I can’t fix a blank page.”

So the first thing you should do when you finish a draft is this:

Luxuriate in the moment. Enjoy it. You earned it. Take the rest of the day off.

On the other hand, you could be like Anthony Trollope, the legendary quota man. If he wrote “The End” and saw that he needed another five hundred words for his quota, he’d sigh, take out a fresh sheet of paper, and write “Chapter One.”

Me, I like to take a full, one-day break and do something fun. Like drive to the ocean with Mrs. B after picking up a couple of world-famous fish tacos at Spencer Mackenzie’s. We have a favorite spot on PCH (Pacific Coast Highway for you out-of-towners) where we can park and listen to the waves as we munch.

Or pop some champagne at home and watch a classic movie.

Or anything else that springs to mind. The main thing is to do something to celebrate. Writers need rituals, too.

Then it’s time to get back to work, which means two things: revising your draft and working on your next project.

I’ve always counseled getting some distance (4-6 weeks) from a first draft, then sitting down and reading it through in hard copy, taking minimal notes. You’re trying to come at it like a reader, not the author. You want to analyze the big picture: plot, characters, scenes. Are they working? Are there holes that need patching? Are you sufficiently bonded to the characters? Is it page-turning?

I then fix—or strengthen—those elements.

Then I give the manuscript to a trusted editor for the first pass—Mrs. B. She has been the first reader on every one of my manuscripts and always improves them. She’s especially adept at picking up plot inconsistencies or confusions.

And she puts up with me. When she’s reading quietly in her nook I’ll sometimes walk by, casting her a glance, wondering what she thinks.

“Reading!” she’ll say.

“Oh, sorry. I was just on my way to get a glass of water.”

Cindy’s cop voice: “Move along now. Nothing to see.”

After I incorporate her notes and fixes, I submit to my beta readers.

Then final fixes.

Then a polish. I primarily look at dialogue and scene endings. I find that cutting is an almost foolproof technique. Cutting flab words in dialogue gives it extra verisimilitude. Cutting the last line or two of a scene almost instantly creates more forward momentum.

Then I get a proofread.

Then I’m ready to publish.

Launch day for me is more sedate, but still a time to enjoy the moment.

So let me ask you: Do you have a “ritual” for when you’ve typed that last page? Do you celebrate?

Do you have system (a series of steps) that you follow after your first draft?

What if You Were the Main Character

What if…?

What if you decided you wanted to write a novel that would join the “50 most influential books ever written?” You wanted your book to be studied in literature classes 100 years from now. You had a concept and premise that would address a problem and make this world a better place. And you felt you had it within you to pull off such a feat.

And what if you wanted that novel to address social injustice or something just as controversial. I included the Literature and Society sections from the “50 most” list for examples of such books.

Literature

From creating characters and stories that have become foundational elements in cultures around the world to upsetting undesirable standards and inspiring the imagination of many, these works of literature have touched the world in significant ways. These are the most influential books in literature.

  1. The Canterbury Talesby Geoffrey Chaucer.
  2. Divine Comedyby Dante Alighieri.
  3. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare.
  4. Moby Dickby Herman Melville.
  5. 1984by George Orwell.
  6. Brave New Worldby Aldous Huxley.
  7. The Iliad and The Odysseyby Homer.
  8. Don Quixoteby Miguel de Cervantes.
  9. In Search of Lost Timeby Marcel Proust.
  10. Madame Bovaryby Gustave Flaubert.
  11. Arabian Nightstranslated by Andrew Lang.
  12. One Hundred Years of Solitudeby Gabriel García Márquez.
  13. War and Peaceby Leo Tolstoy.
  14. The Tale of Genjiby Murasaki Shikibu.
  15. Uncle Tom’s Cabinby Harriett Beecher Stowe.
  16. Crime and Punishmentby Fyodor Dostoyevsky.
  17. Things Fall Apartby Chinua Achebe.
  18. Faustby Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
  19. Belovedby Toni Morrison.
  20. The Lord of the Ringsby J.R.R. Tolkien.

Society

These are the most influential books in terms of impacting society, texts that helped changed people’s views on racism, feminism, consumption, and language.

  1. The Diary of a Young Girlby Anne Frank
  2. The Vindication of the Rights of Womenby Mary Wollstonecraft
  3. The Second Sexby Simone de Beauvoir
  4. A Room of One’s Ownby Virginia Woolf
  5. Waldenby Henry David Thoreau.
  6. A Dictionary of the English Languageby Samuel Johnson
  7. Critique of Pure Reasonby Immanuel Kant.
  8. The Jungleby Upton Sinclair.
  1. What other titles would you add to this list?

And what if there would be consequences for writing such a controversial novel? Stakes (JSB, Plot and Structure): such as harm – physical, professional, psychological – even death. Do you still want to write that book? Have you thought carefully about the possible consequences?

So, what if you decided to protect yourself by inserting a buffer or a decoy – a main character who was on a quest to write such an influential novel, thus adding another layer to the story, and taking some of the heat off yourself?

What if, even though that main character was really you, you knew you must put your MC through the ringer.

  1. How far would you take your MC (you), or how close to physical death would you put yourself? Could you handle torturing and nearly killing yourself?

Commando squads showing up during the night to haul you off, never to be seen again? Or being ruined professionally where you could never find a publisher? Or being driven mad with the whole quest where you would finish the book as a deranged writer?

And, before you write your answer, we are talking “social disasters” outside your own country, not your own country’s political battles. No politics, please!

Okay, so how close to death would you take your MC (yourself)?

  1. Upping the ante

Now, finally, let’s up the ante. Or as Donald Maass says (in his books and classes), pick the worst possible scenario, now make it three times as bad. Let’s take that writer, the MC, you, out of the equation. You no longer have the MC to hide behind. You are writing that great influential, transformational novel yourself, without a decoy or a safety net; you face the stakes of death, in reality, not in the story. Do you still want to write it?

So, now, how badly do you want to write that story? What stakes would you be willing to face? What sacrifices would you be willing to make? Do you have it within you to make the ultimate sacrifice?

  1. Gaming the game

And knowing that some of you are already figuring out a way to publish without pain, what tricks have you devised to deceive? I’ll steal the easy ones: publish posthumously, hide behind a pen name, ghost write for someone else who is willing to take the heat. What others?

  1. Do you still want to be the Main Character?

 

How To *Easily* Publish On Apple Books

“Going wide” is a hostile issue for indies. It’s somewhere up there with the duke-it-out debate on plotting vs pantsing and the never-ending fight over show vs tell. For me, going wide was a no-brainer once a much-more-successful indie friend said, “Garry, you’re leaving a lot of money on the table by remaining exclusive on Amazon.”

So it was that last year, in the year whose name shall not be mentioned, I took the leap of faith and published my ebooks on Kobo and Nook. (Best damn book business decision I ever made.) I’m still with Amazon, though, and I freely admit I still make the most money letting the Zon pimp me out. However, Kobo is great, simple to use, and gives me a wider exposure than AZ. I’ve had Kobo downloads in 66 different countries. Nook, on the other hand, is barely worth the bother.

I couldn’t go wide on Apple until recently. That’s because I’m a PC guy and Apple publishing was exclusive to Mac users. That changed when Apple completely remodeled their ebook and audio book store and opened its Apple Books For Authors membership to PCers.

I bit into the Apple platform over the last few weeks and moved 8 publications in my based-on-true-crime series over to Apple Books. They’re now up and available if anyone wants to take a look. Publishing on Apple took a bit of time and, from the stats so far, seems to be worth it. But… there are a few things I’ve learned about Apple that I wish someone would have told me at the start. Hopefully this post will help someone who wants to know how to easily publish on Apple Books.

The Big Difference Between Apple Books and the Other E-Tailers

I’m probably like you in that I research things before I take them on. Publishing on Apple Books was no different than any other new venture, so I did my diligent homework before the dive. I read some blogs, watched a few videos, and took an Apple-sponsored webinar hosted on Alli – the Alliance of Independent Authors. All good stuff, but all failed to explain the big difference between Apple Books and the other e-tailers. And I had to find out a vital secret — the hard way.

Before exposing this vital secret, let me point you to a few good Apple Books publishing resources. First, go right through the Apple Books For Authors website and absorb it. It’ll take a while. There’s a lot there, but you’ll be poorly equipped for the trip unless you do so.

Second, check out these helpful articles:

David Gaughranhttps://davidgaughran.com/apple-books-for-authors-launches-pc/

Reedsyhttps://blog.reedsy.com/how-to-publish-on-apple-books/

Written Word Mediahttps://www.writtenwordmedia.com/how-to-self-publish-on-apple-books/

So these links, plus the info in this post, should get you onto Apple Books as smoothly and painlessly as possible. Something nobody tells you (the big difference between Apple Books For Authors and the other e-tailers) is that Apple has two separate publishing interfaces. Unlike Amazon, Kobo, and Nook, Apple has Apple Books For Authors as the mechanical part of publishing (uploading files, covers, metadata, etc.) and iTunes Connect as the financial end (setting up an account, setting prices, stores, tracking stats, getting paid, etc.).

Now for the hidden vital secret. There’s a glitch in the iTunes Connect interface that defies all logic and common sense. However, it’s there and if you don’t know about it, ITunes Connect won’t let you go forward with the Apple Books publishing side. Basically, you’re screwed unless you know the trick.

Once I found this out and cleared the incredibly frustrating roadblock apparently intentionally set-up to peeve-off a poor person like me, it was clear driving all the way to the Apple Store. Here’s a step-by-step hand-hold with applicable screenshots on how to easily publish on Apple Books. And a story to go with it.

Step 1 — Deal with iTunes Connect

Create an iTunes Connect account (if you don’t already have one). I didn’t have one because I don’t have a Mac device. BTW, the Alli webinar reported there are 1.5 billion Apple devices worldwide so you can imagine the depth of the Apple Books market.

Now the trouble started. Dave Gaughran said the iTunes Connect interface was “a bit clunky”. For me, it was a rattletrap. Simple things like entering your username (my email address) and my password were seamless. So was declaring myself as an individual as opposed to an organization. I clicked Accept on the Terms Of Service without reading them. Seriously, does anyone other than a Philadelphia lawyer ever read all that BS?

I moved on to the Complete The Agreement part. Here was the tax section which took a bit of figuring out but I struggled though it by telling the IRS that I was Canadian and to go talk to Revenue Canada about bloodsucking matters. They bought it and I made it to the next iTunes Connect round called Add New Bank Account.

It’ll be easy, they said. Just enter your chosen currency (Tip—enter USD because it’s going to make it easier when you get through this part, sent over to Apple Books Publishing, and then get rerouted back to iTunes Connect to list your ebook pricing and the countries you’re selling to. Whatever country you bank in will have its own par-value to the United States Dollar and will do the current currency exchange. Trust me on this. Do your Apple business in USD.

Then you enter your banking institution name. For me, it’s TD (Toronto Dominion) Canada Trust which is a top-ten North American financial institute. Easy enough, I thought. This should be a breeze—just like entering my name here.  No problem again, same with my account number, and the last step was putting in the Transit Number or what’s also called the ABA Routing Number.

I entered 92220 which is my bank’s transit/routing number. A pop-up with a large yellow exclamation mark appeared and said “The Transit Number Is Invalid”. Hokay. Let’s try this again. Same thing. “The Transit Number Is Invalid”. I got up and got my file stashed away from when I opened my TD account, blew off the dust, and checked the information. There it was in faded black and white: Transit Number 92220. I went back to my PC and told iTunes Connect on its Apple interface that I was right and they were wrong.

Once more, “The Transit Number Is Invalid”. My wife heard my cursing. Rita had five years in the banking industry back when I first met the pretty little dish so she tried troubleshooting the matter. “They might want both the transit number and the institution number,” she said. “Here. Try entering 92220 followed by 004.” I did. Once more: “The Transit Number Is Invalid”.

The pop-up had me hostage. There was no way it was letting me past this gatekeeper, and there was no way I was ever going to get paid for selling on Apple Books without iTunes Connect brokering the deal which was the whole point of this entire exercise. “I know,” I told Rita. “I’ll go down to the bank. They’ll figure this out.” So I took a screenshot of this pesky pop-up, printed it out, and walked downtown.

With luck, my favorite teller was open. I showed Amy-Beth my sorrows. She checked the transit number, institution number, the account number, and even my name. “I don’t know, Garry.” Amy-Beth smiled a sweet smile that suited her name and shook her head. “Everything is in order. You shouldn’t be having this problem.”

“Did you, like, recently change your transit and institution numbers?” I struggled for answers.

Amy–Beth smiled less. “No, Garry. We’ve been in business since 1855. We’ve had the same numbers for a hundred and sixty-six years. They’re a standard in the international banking industry. Some things never change.”

I thanked Amy-Beth for her time and walked home. Rita had a suggestion. “Why don’t you call Apple Support? You can’t be the only one who’s had this difficulty.”

Good idea. I dialed 1-800-MY-APPLE. A service rep came on. Now, I live in North America. The service rep didn’t. I speak fairly fluent English. The service rep didn’t. I knew what my problem was. The service rep didn’t. Try as I might, there was no resolving it with the service rep.

I was frustrated as hell. Rita wasn’t. She came up with another idea. “Why don’t you ask Rachel? She’s a whiz at all things technical.”

FYI, Rachel is my close indie writer friend in the UK and the one who told me I was leaving a lot of money on the table by not going wide. By my reasoning, Rachel was the reason I was in this trouble with Apple so it was her responsibility to get me out. I emailed Rachel the situation.

Rachel replied right away. (British accent) “Blimey. I remember that snafu. If I reckon right, you have to put a zero in front of the transit number and the institution number. So it has to appear as 0XXXXXYYY. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? But that’s the secret. A silly little zero.”

I asked Rachel how she found this out. She replied, “I had the same trouble, so I called Apple Support and they immediately solved it for me. Lovely folk, those blokes at Apple they are.”

So there you have it, Kill Zoners. The vital secret. A silly little zero, and you’re through the banking information turnstile and away you go. To clarify, my transit number looked like this and it worked.

092220004

In what universe this makes sense, I don’t know. But I know I’ll never have to deal with this strangeness again, and I’m happy to say the rest of the Apple publishing experience was excellent.

Step 2 — Publish on Apple Books For Authors

To start this step, as soon as you log onto your newly-created account at Apple Books For Authors, iTunes Connect will text you a one-time, six-figure, two-step verification code. Note: This happens every time you work with Apple Books For Authors and iTunes Connect, so get used to it.

Once you’re in the Apple Books For Authors portal you’ll see a screen titled Choose How To Publish. You have three options — Submit a New Book, Update a Previously Submitted Book, and Setup a Pre-Order. Click Submit a New Book, and follow along while I upload At The Cabin which is the 8th book in my Based-On-True Crime Series.

I’ve got to stop the slideshow for a sec and say something about the book description section. Writing book descriptions, jacket copy, blurbs, or whatever you call them is an art on its own. That’s for another day, but I will say that Apple’s window is a bit tight to work in. It doesn’t like paragraph spaces and will look like a picket fence in real time if you try it. Also, it doesn’t have HTML features like some of the other e-platforms do. So if you want to use bold and/or italics, you’ll have to handwrite HTML code the old fashioned way like this: <b>bold</b> & <i>italics</i>.

That’s it! It’s just that easy, and Apple walks you right through it. All you do now is click the blue bar Upload Book to iTunes Connect and you’re going to head back to the interface that sells your book and pays you.

I’m going to back up and cover two important points in the first step where you upload your e-file and your cover art. Apple works off an ePub file, not Mobi like Amazon’s proprietary file. I write my manuscripts in MS Word.docx and convert them to ePub files through Calibre. From my experience (over 20 publications now on four platforms) I firmly believe the key to clean productions (other than proper editing /proofreading) is to format your Word.docx file properly. I wrote a Kill Zone post titled Top Ten Tips on Formatting eBooks from MS Word. Top take-away from that is never use Tabs or even the dog won’t like your e-file for breakfast.

I see Apple has an auto-convert feature built in that bypasses a specialized e-file converting software like Calibre. I didn’t try it, but I’ve gone that route on Kindle and Kobo and wasn’t satisfied with the final product. I’m very comfortable with converting MSWord.docx to EPub and Mobi on Calibre and it only takes two minutes. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it but you can try the built-in conversion because, one way or the other, you’ll have to upload an ePub file to Apple.

Changing the subject to covers. It’s something for an upcoming post where I’ll have my cover designer, Elle Rossi of Evernight Designs, join the Kill Zone crowd for cover lessons. Apple has a specific artwork image requirement. They want a jpeg file in size 1400 x 2100 (same as Kobo).

Step 3 — Back to iTunes Connect

I promise you – no more monkey business once you’re back on the iTunes Connect interface. Once you’re past that @#$%^& Zero thing, it’s user-friendly. Here’s what happens:

That’s it! Hit done and iTunes Connect and Apple Books For Authors will do the rest for you. It takes a few hours to a day for your new book to go live in the Apple Book Store. They’ll send you an email confirmation with the website link.

Just a few comments about completing the metadata on iTunes Connect. (Metadata is just a fancy word for information.) DRM (Digital Rights Management) is an option you have and every source I’ve ever listened to all says to leave DRM off. I don’t exactly know what it entails, but I understand by opting in you somehow limits your exposure.

Speaking of exposure, make sure you click on the Select All for Countries and Regions. Seeing as Apple currently has 51 worldwide stores, I can’t imagine why any self-respecting indie would not want to be in every store. Sidenote: Since I went wide on Kobo last year, I’ve had eBook downloads in 66 different countries. It’ll be interesting to see how Apple’s performance compares.

One final thought is on pricing. My experience is that $2.99 USD is the sweet spot for my crime genre books. But you can price anywhere up or down the scale you want, and with Apple — unlike Amazon — you don’t take a royalty beating for going below $2.99 or above $9.99.

Okay. On to pubbing on Google Play! How about you Kill Zoners? Anything you’d like to add on this or any other subject that’s on your evil minds?

———

Garry Rodgers is a retired homicide detective and coroner. Now, Garry has reinvented himself as an indie-published crime writer whose books can be downloaded on Apple, Amazon, Kobo, and Nook. Soon they’ll be out on Google Play.

Vancouver Island in British Columbia is home for Garry Rodgers. Garry lives there because he’s a wuss and it’s the warmest year-round place in Canada. You can reach him at garry.rodgers@shaw.ca, at his website DyingWords.net, or on Twitter (@GarryRodgers1).

It All Counts

By John Gilstrap

You experienced writers out there please talk quietly among yourselves while I address the rookies for a few minutes.

I’ve mentioned here before that I frequent Facebook pages that cater to young, new or upcoming writers. I consider it a form of paying forward, and I try to help in ways that I reasonably can. Those pages also serve to give me ideas for this blog and well as for my YouTube channel.

What I want to talk about here today is less about writing, per se, than it is about fulfilling dreams of pursuing a writing career. Cutting to the chase: If you’re posting online, you’re in a public forum. Every item you post, every comment you make, is part of a truly permanent record. Before you click that “Post” button, ask yourself if you’re about to do something good and helpful, or are you about to do something you might have to apologize for sometime in the future.

I belong to one Facebook fiction writing group that boasts over 120,000 members. I’m not sure if its possible to know what the demographics are of that group, but judging from the posts and responses, many are young, the majority are inexperienced, and for a substantial number, English is not the members’ first language. As with all virtual groups of that size, trolls are common.

What’s less common–in fact, what’s damn difficult to find–is good advice. Most of the “wisdom” from members feels like advice we’ve all heard over the years presented as inviolable rules. Those of you who have hung around TKZ for a while know my opinion on the rules of writing: There aren’t any. Fiction writers need only to entertain their audience. If they can do that while including a prologue that’s all about waking up from a dream in the middle of a thunderstorm and wondering who they are, then Godspeed.

Posting Stories Online

I know you’re new to all of this, and I know that it’s hard to get feedback on your writing from real people in the real world, but do yourself a favor before you post a work in progress: Ask yourself what you hope to achieve by posting what is essentially a rough draft in a public forum.

What will you do with anonymous feedback from largely unqualified critics? Clearly, you will share the glowing praise when it happens, but what about the less glowing yet honest critiques? Worse, how are you going to handle the slashing troll attacks? All too often, feelings get bruised and wounded submitters engage in ad hominem broadsides with their gloating trolls.

What about that exchange seems helpful? I submit that every bit of it is 100% harmful. What’s the sense in seeking feedback that can never be trusted?

And to make it even worse, the submissions, responses, and arguments reside in that public forum forever, where deans of admissions, employers, security clearance analysts, editors and agents can all see them and learn from them.

TKZ First Page Critiques Are Different

My intent is not to shill for our First Page Critique program, but I do want to differentiate it from what I discuss above. Three key differences come to mind:

First, the critiques come from writers who have walked the walk in their own lives and have enjoyed some success in the fiction writing biz. That doesn’t mean we know what we’re talking about, necessarily, but at least our opinions come from an earned place.

Second, submissions here are anonymous for a reason. If a critique is harsh (they should never be mean-spirited), the author need never step forward and take responsibility for the piece. Hopefully, they will learn from the experience, but there’s no embarrassment. In fact, as the designated critics (critiquers?) we never know whose work we’ve analyzed.

Third, submissions to the First Page Critique program are curated at the beginning. Occasionally, submissions are so immature or undercooked that it would be unkind to expose them to public critique. We will never savage anyone here.

Spelling and Grammar Count

I recognize that I am now strolling on very thin ice. I find that it is the rare TKZ post with my name attached that does not have at least a couple of typos in it. It ain’t for lack of trying, but if there’s one truth I’ve learned over the past decades, it’s that I suck at finding little things, whether it be a typo or the milk that is right in front of me in the refrigerator.

That said, if you’re part of my targeted audience with this post–the new, upcoming, young, struggling writer–you have to be more careful than I do. I’ve earned a Mulligan or two, while your Mulligan bank is empty. Every word you post in a public forum is part of an ongoing audition for your future as a writer. Don’t squander marvelous opportunities to make good impressions.

And for heaven’s sake, don’t destroy a history of well-thought, well-constructed posts with an ill-considered rant about anything.

Writing is a craft, and crafts need to be practiced. Just as golf and tennis swings require muscle memory that repeats good habits, so does writing. If u r in da habit uv riting in internet-speak, I urge you to stop. Immediately. When bad form and bad syntax start feeling normal, it has to affect the quality of other written communication. It has to.

Your turn TKZ family. Am I all wet here? Have I missed anything?