Write What You Know – Picking Your Subjects

There is a whole wonderful world of stories out there waiting for you based on your experience, areas of expertise, and willingness to research.

At one time or another, every writer has been given the advice, “Write what you know,” which is not bad advice when first putting pen to paper. A personal experience automatically gives you point of view, realistic dialogue, a good sense of time and place, and colorful descriptions of the event, even if the event is only about the time Aunt Tilly accidentally dumped a bowl of potato salad into Uncle Billy’s lap at the family reunion picnic (although I always laugh when I think about it).

“Write what you know” is not limited to personal experiences and can be expanded to “areas of expertise.” Take a look at the success of John Grisham, a lawyer, who used his knowledge to write a series of successful novels. Did he personally experience every case he wrote about? Nope, but he certainly knew about court procedure, language, the setting (he’s from the south), and the law. Same thing with Michael Crichton, a doctor, who was comfortable in the science genre, and came up with a broad range of stories, from Coma to Jurrasic Park, with a technical underlying theme.

How do you pick your subject if you have no area of “expertise?” First of all, I believe everybody has some area of expertise–cooking, camping, sports, etc. But if you don’t think so, then I have one word of advice, research. Want to write a sci-fi space novel? Read up, there is a ton of material in the newspaper, library or online.

There is a whole wonderful world of stories out there waiting for you based on your experience, areas of expertise, and willingness to research.

About the Author – Richard A Jones (@richallan)

Richard Allan Jones (pen name Rich Allan) is a published author – DRAFTED & IDENTITY CHECK, communications executive, actor, musician, singer, and songwriter. He is listed in Who’s Who in Entertainment and accredited by the Public Relations Society of America, holding an M.A. in Journalism and B.A. in Communications from the Ohio State University.


The nine months my son Chris and I spent in the house have forever changed our lives

Seven years ago, on a cold and snowy day in January, 2009, I stood in front of a group of mourners in a church to give the eulogy for my deceased friend, Paul Jaeger. Paul and I were close friends for over thirty years, throughout which we had shared our love of art, anthropology, history and more. What he didn’t share with me, however, were dark, family secrets that would be revealed to me as I fulfilled the responsibility as executor to clean out and sell his home.

The nine months my son Chris and I spent in the house have forever changed our lives, and what we experienced there became the subject of my debut book, Estate of Horror, A True Story of Haunting, Hatred and a Horrific Family Secret. Standing before the friends assembled at Paul’s memorial service, I couldn’t have imagined that I would now be an author, having fulfilled the promise to myself to tell my story of the incredible haunting and poltergeist experience we survived at the small, three-bedroom house that my friend had called home.

It was important to me to share my story publicly. My story is true but I’ve had to defend myself to skeptics who questioned that it was my imagination and that I made it all up. Believe me; I do not have that wild an imagination! It has been suggested by some skeptics that Chris faked the poltergeist activity presented on our videos on YouTube. Let me just say poltergeist activity is a very rare event. You would never believe that statement to be true with all the rampant “supernatural activity” that happens on today’s paranormal TV shows. I am not saying things don’t happen on those shows but remember these are primary entertainment venues and

they have to give the audience something “creepy” so they will tune in next week. When we recorded our paranormal events we did it for our own documentation at the time, never thinking they would later be reference in a book and then on a TV show, A Haunting. That was the furthest thing on our minds. We were more interested in surviving. So many people have had similar experiences like mine but they fear telling others because of the possible ridicule.

It’s not easy having me for a client, either. It is not every day that someone comes to you with a manuscript about a truly scary paranormal experience and you decide to take them on. Only then you realize what you got yourself into. That brave person is my agent Laurie Hawkins of Collage Literary. Over four years ago she read my manuscript for Estate of Horror, the work of a first-time author, and took a chance on me. Her hunch that my story would be read by many others paid off. In fact, my story became an episode for a national TV show. Not bad!

There have been “bumps in the night” along the way. Laurie has experienced some very strange occurrences at her home office while printing out my manuscript for Estate of Horror and now my sequel Dark Transference. She had ghostly experiences before she met me but things have only escalated. There has been poltergeist activity and sightings of a little girl at her home. Things have disappeared and then turned up in the strangest places. Computer files have evaporated on her desk-top and her printer has been known to spit out parts across the room!

We have found we have been deliberately thwarted in getting this second book out. It has been difficult for me to properly juxtaposition the last six years of the many supernatural incidents and to combine them in a coherent story compared to Estate of Horror’s time frame of only ten months. That is why there has been the delay in getting the sequel published. Citing these factors, it has not been an easy project for either Laurie or me. We both have dealt with serious personal health issues with parents over these last four years, too. She has faithfully edited me through each chapter to help me put together a book we are both proud of. Above all, I wrote Estate of Horror for the people who are not able or willing to write about their supernatural encounters and the heartbreak that they have suffered alone by keeping silent. I feel your pain.

I had never intended that I would be writing the sequel Dark Transference, now. I simply wanted to tell my incredible and true ghost story and be done with it. Unfortunately, that was wishful thinking. But although I live a paranormal life every day I choose the light always.

This post is contributed as Guest post by Anita Jo Intenzo

The story of the half lame refugee who became an author.

This is the rather brief life story of a guy who was born in the tiny, oil-rich country of Kuwait, more than 3 decades ago.

This is the rather brief life story of a guy who was born in the tiny, oil-rich country of Kuwait, second child to working-class immigrant parents — a machine operator at a steel plant, and a nurse, more than 3 decades ago.

At the age of 9, he took flight along with his parents, two siblings and a few bags of old clothes and trinkets, when a certain infamous Iraqi dictator-president, who was later hanged for his war crimes (during the time of America’s most intellectually challenged president ever), bombed and invaded the teeny-weeny country he lived in. After that rather adventurous trip in which he recounts living in a refugee camp for three weeks in the middle of a scorching desert called no-man’s-land located somewhere between Jordan and Iraq, sleeping inside canvas tents into which a desert scorpion or two made a periodic visit, and standing in long queues outside the Red Cross trucks that came everyday to distribute rations, he returned to native village in India — his real homeland.

Amid all the changes that followed, a year and half later he encountered a pathological fracture and underwent a major orthopedic surgery during which a graft was done on his left thigh bone. He spent the next two and half months lying on bed, counting the lizards on the ceiling (when not watching the idiot box’s only channel then available in his country) or reading a book, while immobilised in a body cast that extended all the way from his chest to his feet with only essential gaps for satisfying his biological needs. When he was back on his feet again, his doctors shocked him by saying he’d never be able to walk like normal kids again — he did hobble around for a few years with one short leg, wearing specially modified shoes. He eventually turned out rather fine almost 2 decades later, by when he became a regular long distance recreational runner — “don’t you bloody dare tell me I can’t run”, he told all those naysayers then.

In the years in between, he had a few forgettable years at school but spent a very ‘memorable’ four years studying in a college, a significant distance from home, that was better known for the enviable street fighting skills of its students rather than its academic prowess. He graduated with an Engineering degree, a lot more wisdom and a bit more common sense (that wasn’t that common previously) and a right shoulder that occasionally dislocated itself, much to the shock of unsuspecting bystanders.

At the age of 23, he found a very agreeable software company that put him in a travelling engineer’s role and while it gave him a chance to get into verbal contests with foreign clients who spoke English with rather unique accents; that job also gave him a chance to spend a few months wandering around in such rather interesting cities such as Dhaka, Bangkok and Lagos, try some exotic food (fried grasshoppers anybody?) and engage in banter with some of the friendly locals. Finally, when he decided that he wanted to feel the taste of a fancy world-class university (where street-fighting skills were not a hidden pre-requisite for entry), he quit his job, broke that piggy-bank of life savings, borrowed from a bank, packed his bags and went to that country of people famous for their stiff upper lips and spent a year pursuing an MBA degree. And while he was there, he spent some time singing songs and strumming a guitar on the campus lakeside and entertained some very enthusiastic, musically-inclined mallards and geese, and occasionally, a few drunken human beings too.

A year and half later, when the xenophobic British government stopped issuing work permits (to stop immigrant students from staying back with the evil intention of working in Subway and McDonalds outlets and snatching local jobs), he once again packed his bags and returned to India.

Not wanting to give the impression of being a penniless, jobless 30-something MBA graduate sunk in loans, he spent a few months as a part time academic writer who earned his daily bread by writing assignments for select Persian, post graduate students in the UK, who in turn, paid him generously for the ’B’ grades he got them for their academic assignments, with less than a week’s preparation — a feat they couldn’t manage to achieve over an entire term.

Eventually, realising that the deposits from the Persians were not sufficient to pay his debts and that he was in danger of seeing his bank sending a few six feet tall, unshaven, overweight recovery-agents to recover the money he had borrowed, he hopped on board a big IT company that promised him some ‘challenging work’ .

Before he knew it, he landed in the South Eastern African country of Uganda for doing that ‘challenging work’ and stayed there for 9 months before packing his bags again (he uses a sturdy ‘Samsonite’, in case you are wondering — lasts really long)

Finally in 2014 July, when he was back to a routine 9–6 job in that lovely city he calls home a.k.a India’s IT capital, he thought, “why not write a book taking inspiration from all my experiences over the years?”

And he wrote it.

He named the book, ‘Kaleidoscopic Lives — Ensemble Narratives of the Common Man’

Subscribers and E-mails: What is happening?

Subscriber satisfaction is absolutely instrumental in email marketing success. Here are some more email marketing tips to boost your business.

Email marketing has revolutionized how brands communicate with the masses. At the heart of E-mail marketing lies the interaction between a business and its potential customer. The question remains, how effective is that interaction. Can advertising through email convert your subscribers to buyers? To understand that we must find out the exact details of the communication between subscribers and emails.

Everybody is going Mobile

Smartphones have changed the world just as computers did several decades ago. We virtually have the entire world on our palms! Where ordinary people see a massive technological achievement, marketers see a great opportunity. People are using smartphones more often than computers, resulting in a need for digital marketing to focus on shaping their strategies in consideration of mobile phone format. As of 2017, 44% of the world owns a smartphone. Not only is a vast portion of marketing emails being open on smartphones but there is also a low abandonment rate on them in comparison to computers. Most users will abandon an email after opening it on their desktop, which is much less likely to happen with a user checking their mail on mobile. Everybody is going mobile and so should all email marketing services if they want to survive the tough competition.

Putting in HTML’s on emails is a smart and attractive idea, but it is useless if half of your subscribers cannot see it. Seamless and well-structured emails will be preferred by subscribers over unorganized emails that are difficult to navigate through. Efficient email marketing is well integrated and formatted for both computers and smartphones.

Are Emails actually being read?

No matter how smooth your viewing experience is, how smartly written your content is and how exquisitely planned your campaign strategy is, you cannot force your subscribers to read your email! These things are extremely helpful and major reasons behind email marketing success but at the end of the day, it is all about how much attention each individual is paying for your brand.

Today, hundreds of brands market theirs through emails, which is why there is an influx of marketing messages on every user’s inbox and spam. This certainly does not help the case for email readability. Fortunately, the majority of marketing emails are still being opened and read by their respective subscribers.

However, there is a huge difference between reading and effective reading. Many readers just skim through emails, looking only at the juicy bits. Those juicy bits include things such as the use of power words, aesthetically pleasing designs and imagery and strong subject lines. As email marketing competition increases, it’s important to observe trends and share your email strategy accordingly. Marketers should rejoice that most of their emails are still being opened by subscribers but that could very well change unless your campaign is top-notch.

Gmail rules

Gmail is the undisputed king of email services. In the past 5 years, Yahoo and Hotmail have fallen to the incredible services provided by Google. Marketers should adapt to the times and prioritize Gmail over all others. They will also find that most of their subscribers are active on Gmail more often. Optimize your campaign in accordance with the preferences of the majority.

Guest post By Author Christian David

The Musicality of Writing Fiction

If you were one of those people who were born with an ear for language and telling a story, I greatly envy you.

Songs are typically written in a specific key. For example, Pachelbel Canon, familiar to many as the Christmas Canon, is written in the key of D. That means there are notes that are correct and work for that song, and notes that would be discordant and “out of tune” or wrong.

(A quick side note, I’m aware that some music, singing or collections of sounds are meant to be discordant.)

On a much simpler level, the song Louie Louie, as recorded by The Kingsmen, is in the key of A Major.

Someone could change the key Louie Louie is played in, but that means it is played with different notes to a different effect and sound.

Modern jazz tunes can be played in a particular key and also improvised in many different ways. A jazz musician could play Louie Louie or Pachelbel Canon in D to an entirely different purpose and sound than what people usually associate with these pieces.

The point is, the key a musical piece is originally written in doesn’t limit the choices of the way in which it can be played, but there’s a difference between someone new to music hitting wrong notes and an accomplished musician improvising with the intent of creating a variation.

I’m not a classically trained musician, but I can tell the difference between a wrong note being played and a thoughtful, musical variation or interpretation.

Now lets bring that back to writing. Harry Potter is a novel about fitting in. All the choices in this novel revolve around, let’s say, playing a simple rock and roll song in the key of A Major.

Because author J. K. Rowling understands the song/story she is playing, she hits the right notes. Harry Potter wants to fit in. The Dursleys want to fit in. The conflict in the world of magic is over pure blood (pure notes) and mixed blood (improvised notes, so to speak). Rowling sticks to her themes, weaving her story and characters seamlessly into her central idea. She knows the world in which her story takes place, much like a composer knows the key of his or her composition, and everything falls within those boundaries. If anything lands outside of it, it doesn’t ring true, just as a musical piece that hits a wrong note will not work in a musical composition.

Now, a new, struggling writer could set out to write a Harry Potter-type fantasy. But this writer starts out with an idea for a character or a plot event, or some other starting point. To someone reading this manuscript, because the writer hasn’t settled on a key to set the story, notes are discordant. Maybe the writer doesn’t know the world in which the story has taken place. Maybe the writer hasn’t settled on a central theme or conflict. Perhaps the characters are not well developed. These are all critical elements to creating a story that harmonizes, that brings a sense of accord and beauty to the reader.

The writer makes choices about how to describe characters, but someone the description is flat or fails to advance the story.

The words/notes aren’t set/being played in the correct key of the story.

Reading manuscripts by new or struggling authors, I’ve found I have to get to the end of the novel to find out what the story is about, or, in this context, in what key it should be played.

That requires the author to go back to the beginning of the story and find a way to convey, what Harry Potter-like fantasy the “key” the book belongs in.

The writer chooses what type of story/song they are playing.

The foundation for my a story is a promise concept is to understand a story and to make choices based on that understanding.

Looking at stories from this frame of reference, The Dead by James Joyce, and The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy, are the Pachelbel Canon and the Louie Louie of stories, but each hits note correct for each song.

Criticism of a story ‘not working’ are an observation that the story notes don’t create the effect of a pleasing song for a particular audience, with the understanding that different music appeals to different audiences.

In the movie Francis Florence Jenkins, the main character sang opera horribly off key, but an album she recorded was so odd, people bought it to hear badly sung opera as a comic gesture or to discover what the fuss was about. This is not the audience most writers want for their novels, so it is imperative to know what “key” you are creating in, and then to use notes that are in harmony with that key.

I’ve come across people who had a good ear for music/language and were willing to learn how to compose a story/song that played in particular key and pleased an audience. They had an ear for the tones created by words and they could create an enjoyable story melody. Such a composition may not have obeyed all the rules of grammar, but the story and its notes worked. An example is The Davinci Code. Not great writing, but mostly in tune in a way that allowed its audience to enjoy the story, in spite of the people who pointed out its faults.

And, just like in popular music, there are those one-hit wonders who write a song/novel that sells millions of copies but mystifies people who enjoy well-played music.

If you were one of those people who were born with an ear for language and telling a story, I greatly envy you. Much of my success as a writer has been as a playwright because of my imagination and an ear for dialogue. How to create a plot, that I had to learn.

Guest post by Author Bill Johnson (@bjscript on Twitter) 

About the Author

Bill Johnson is web master of Essays on the Craft of Dramatic Writing, a site that explores principles of storytelling through reviews of popular movies, books and plays (www.storyispromise.com), and author of A Story is a Promise & The Spirit of Storytelling, available on Amazon. His plays have been produced around the United States.