Friday, April 18, 2014

FNN Report: Texas Board of Ed Wants New Numbers

Hey! While I'm over at IWSG for the A-Z challenge talking about the letter P, (drop by and say hi, will ya) my good buddy Hank Quense is here so Stacy Conundrum can report for FNN (faux news network). They make it up so you don't have to!

Tongue, cheek, tongue in cheek, cheek in tongue, whatever's necessary, carry on Hank!

FNN Report: Texas Board of Ed Wants New Numbers

This Faux News Network exclusive report was filed by our political reporter Stacy Conundrum:

The Texas Board of Education has announce a new initiative after it realized that America uses numbers developed by Moslems. It has authorized a project staffed by astrologers, numerologists, phrenologists and Bible experts to develop an American, Christian set of numbers to replace our current Arabic numbers. They hope to have the new numbers in text books by the start of the school year in September 2014.

A spokesperson for the Board told our reporter, "It is symbolic of our inept Federal Government that they have ignored this insult to our Christian nation. Their refusal to respond to our righteous demands has forced our hand. While the Board accepts the responsibility to develop an American number system, we anticipate that the project will be attacked by the liberal wimps in and out of government. We will disregard their unjustified criticism and do our Christian, American duty. This is a crash project. The sooner we finish it, the sooner our children will stop being exposed to the pernicious, foreign and ungodly influence of our current numbers.

"Our Board is extremely disappointed that none of the state's math teachers and none of our NASA scientist or engineers agreed to join the project. In a further demonstration of partisan rancor, our project has been denounced by the American Academy of Science. The Texas Board of Education responds by decrying this liberal rathole of reactionary and dubious science."

When asked by our reporter about the Board's project, a spokesperson for the American Academy of Science replied, "This is absurd. It smacks of the Dark Ages."

To learn more about the Faux News Network, visit the network’s webpage.

Hank Quense is the author of 50 published short stories along with four novels and three collections of stories. All of these are humorous and/or satiric scifi and fantasy. In the non-fiction area, he has over a dozen articles published on fiction writing and he's the author of the Fiction Writing Guides series and the Self-publishing Guides series. Both series consist of a number of ebooks. The Fiction Writing Guides and the Self-Publishing Guides are an outgrowth of his lectures on both subjects.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

IWSG: Ask PZM - April 2014

Before we jump into Ask PZM...

Just want to let you know I'm over at IWSG today doing my part for the A-Z Challenge (my post: B is for Books). Also, today is Wednesday and that means it's time for Insecure Writer's Support Group, compliments of our very own fierce and noble Ninja Captain, Alex J. Cavanaugh. If you think this group sounds like a good place for you and you'd like to join, click here.

It's a simple process: 

"Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time. Be sure to link to this page and display the badge in your post."

Our Twitter hashtag is #IWSG

Alex's awesome co-hosts for today are Hart Johnson, Chemist Ken, Candilynn Fite, Terri Rochenski, Clare Dugmore, and Lilica Blake! Please stop by and thank them for their generous time and effort. 

Please help us spread the word about the Insecure Writer’s Support Group Website. And if you don't already know we have a IWSG Facebook site too. 

IWSG Facebook Guidelines:

1. Since the focus of IWSG is support, the Facebook page should reflect this ideal.

2. You are encouraged to support your fellow IWSG'ers who share their writerly-related experiences, which include accomplishments/disappointments/challenges, with the rest of the group. Keep in mind that writers are at different points of their respective writerly journeys. Some lurk for a long time, before finding the courage to share with the rest of the group. Since the IWSG is all about community, a word of encouragement or advice may be just what somebody needs. Or even just a smiley face/thumbs up...

3. News & Promotional Saturday is your opportunity to add a link. The IWSG administrators reserve the right to remove promotional links, especially if they are posted haphazardly.


ASK PZM - April 2014

Q: How do I create shortened URLs for my books on Amazon?

Until recently you needed to go to a URL shortener service to reduce those very long Amazon book URLs (the web address on your browser at the top of a book’s page on Amazon). I used because this shortener service automatically has an abbreviation for Amazon — such as this link for my cozy mystery CAST THE FIRST STONE —

Amazon has now realized its long book URLs do not look well on social media and is offering an easy alternative. The newest shortcut is using your ebook’s ASIN number or your print book’s 10-digit ISBN number along with like this: — ebook of CAST THE FIRST STONE — paperback of CAST THE FIRST STONE

You just create your own shortened URLs with this system without having to go to a URL shortener service.

Q: Could you explain what Amazon’s Kindle Worlds is?

Here is how Amazon describes its Kindle Worlds:

“New stories inspired by books, shows, movies, comics, music, and games people love.

“Welcome to Kindle Worlds, a place for you to publish fan fiction inspired by popular books, shows, movies, comics, music, and games. With Kindle Worlds, you can write new stories based on featured Worlds, engage an audience of readers, and earn royalties.

“Amazon Publishing has secured licenses from Warner Bros. Television Group’s Alloy Entertainment for Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, and The Vampire Diaries; Valiant Entertainment for Archer; Armstrong, Bloodshot, Harbinger, Shadowman, and X-O Manowar; Hugh Howey’s Silo Saga; Barry Eisler’s John Rain novels; Blake Crouch’s Wayward Pines series; and The Foreworld Saga by Neal Stephenson, Greg Bear, Mark Teppo, Eric Bear, Joseph Brassey, Nicole Galland, and Cooper Moo. Licenses for more Worlds are on the way.”

In March I had the privilege of hearing Philip Patrick, publisher of Kindle Worlds and Amazon Publishing’s Director of Business Development, speak about his vision of this innovative program on Amazon, which launched in June of 2013. (He was the speaker at an event of the meetup group Hollywood 2.0: The Future of Storytelling.)

As Patrick explained, he sees Kindle Worlds as offering access to writers – giving writers opportunities to showcase their writing ability to fans of existing worlds. And, by extension, fans have the opportunity to read more about their favorite worlds.

Of course, writers must follow the rules that each world on Kindle Worlds has – rules set as part of the Amazon licensing agreement with the copyright holder. For example, in the case of the world of Veronica Mars, only a specific time period (high school and college) for her adventures can be written about on Kindle Worlds.

If you are a fan of one of the worlds and you would like to try writing fan fiction, Kindle Worlds could be a good place for you. The authors of published fan fiction get royalties plus publicity exposure. This might be a way to attract attention for your other writing projects.

You can check out the current Kindle Worlds at – with more expected soon – along with a video of the January 2014 Kindle Worlds Authors Webinar. And you can follow Kindle Worlds on Twitter at

And remember, if you want a public platform where you can showcase your own non-fan fiction writing (although not get paid for it), consider Wattpad. Just remember to click “Advanced” under OPTIONS and choose “All Rights Reserved.” While this doesn’t necessarily protect your work from being stolen by someone, it is important to do.

In terms of utilizing Wattpad, you have to decide on your own level of comfort with putting your work out there. I’m personally writing two projects on Wattpad – Cold War memoir TALES OF AN AMERICAN OCCUPYING GERMANY at and dystopian thriller THE MOTHER SIEGE at

TWEET #1 - How to create shortened URLs on Amazon (click to tweet)

TWEET #2 - Understanding Kindle Worlds (click to tweet)

TWEET #3 - Creating a public platform on Wattpad (click to tweet)

Phyllis Zimbler Miller on Twitter is at and she is the author of fiction and nonfiction books on Amazon. Her fiction books on Amazon can be found at and her nonfiction books at

She is also a digital marketer who blogs on book topics at and you can download a free copy of her YA short story PINKY SWEAR at

Friday, March 21, 2014


or for want of a better title:

The Upcoming Events in My Writing Life
(not to be confused with my very quiet and uneventful non-writing life)

How's that for a title?

I've been offline for a few days due to a sick internet connection; hence, I've turned into a crud-infected blogger. I have no idea what that means, but I just read Kittie Howard's post where she talked about having crud, and I'm pretty sure I have it.

Now... (to divert your attention away from any thoughts about my mental capacity) here's a beautiful photo taken while we were in Bucerias.

A while back a dear blogger friend asked if I'd consider joining in on an anthology collaboration. She and several others were planning to write a steampunk novel. I immediately said, "Sure!" then proceeded to google the term: steampunk.

Wikipedia says:

Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction that typically features steam-powered machinery,[1] especially in a setting inspired by industrialised Western civilisation during the 19th century. 

Let's just say that I sweated buckets coming up with a character and a storyline. I struggled, I procrastinated, and I agonized over every single word. To date, this has been the hardest thing I've ever written.

Break Time is due for release May 1st through Second Wind!

 More news...

Monday, March 24th, I'm guest hosting on IWS's blog and asking the question Is Your Protagonist Appealing? And I don't mean Pretty!

Beginning April 1st, my IWSG cohorts and I, and our Captain are participating in the A-Z Challenge. Our posts will surely dazzle and amaze you, so do stop by IWSG daily.

Last but not least, I'm happy to announce that funny man  Hank Quense is back by popular demand here on my cluculzwriter blog in April. Hank's has a faux news network report in store to dazzle and amaze you. Go figure!

(didn't make any of this up eiher!)

Puerto Vallarta's Melacon

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

IWSG: Ask PZM - Mar 2014 - Twitter pt 2

It's that wonderful time again, the time for Insecure Writer's Support Group day, compliments of our very own fierce and noble Ninja Captain, Alex J. Cavanaugh. If you think this group sounds like a good place for you and you'd like to join, click here

It's a simple process: 

"Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time. Be sure to link to this page and display the badge in your post." 

Our Twitter hashtag is #IWSG

Alex's awesome co-hosts for today are Tina Downey, Elsie, Elizabeth Seckman, and Julie Flanders! Please stop by and thank them for their generous time and effort. 


Please help us spread the word about the Insecure Writer’s Support Group Website!!!


Ask PZM: March 2014

Part 2: How can authors use Twitter effectively to create relationships with potential fans?  

Last month I discussed how to create an effective Twitter profile after explaining that Twitter is a free social media site in which people send out tweets with a maximum of 140 characters, and people on Twitter can follow anyone without asking permission (except for the few people who lock their tweets, which as authors we do not want to do).

I also said that as authors we want to be public on Twitter, sharing information about ourselves, other authors, topics related to our nonfiction or fiction books, and other well-worded tweets (no vulgarities, please) that might encourage people to be interested in us and, by extension, our books.

Okay, I’m going to assume that you now have an effective Twitter profile with a good photo and a well-written bio.

What’s next?

If you already have lots of followers, that’s good.  If you don’t, use the search field on Twitter to find people interested in books, the topics of your books, and other related information. 

For example, put ebooks in the search field and you’ll be provided a list of tweets mentioning ebooks.   Click on the Twitter username of each of those tweets and see if you are interested in following that person on Twitter.

Now there is no guarantee that a person you follow on Twitter will follow you back (especially if that person is famous).  But there is a good chance the person will follow you back if the information you share is related to the information that person shares.

By using different search terms related to your interests, you can start to grow a following.

And meanwhile, the name of the game on Twitter is sharing other people’s information rather than only tweeting about yourself and your own books.

When you look at the tweets that come up following a search, check if there are any tweets that you want to retweet.  (Note that you do not have to be following someone to retweet that person’s tweet.)  Simply hover over the bottom of a tweet to get the RETWEET button and click.

If someone retweets one of your tweets, you can thank that person.  But just tweeting “thank you” doesn’t mean a lot to people following your tweets.  I like to do this kind of thank you tweet that references the tweet and the link in the tweet:

Thx @BonnieBLatino 4 RT: Read sci fi work-in-progress THE MOTHER SIEGE on @Wattpad at

Does every tweet have to have a link?

Of course not.  But sharing links on Twitter is an important activity.

For example, I stay signed into my Twitter account so that, when I read an article online that has the Twitter share button, I can quickly tweet the article title and its link to my Twitter followers.

Although many people offer a formula of what percentage of your tweets should be self-promoting, I don’t have a percentage to offer.  I think using commonsense is a good rule of thumb.

And one great opportunity for authors on Twitter is sharing the tweets of other book authors.  As an author it is very satisfying to share the books of other authors with your own Twitter followers.

Again, there is no guarantee that, if you retweet author A’s tweet about her book, she’ll RT a tweet about your book.  But I do believe that putting out goodwill into the universe can benefit you. 
If you have a nonfiction book – or a fiction book with nonfiction subject matter – you have numerous opportunities to share information from others that relates to your book topic.  

What about the question of automatic follow back?

While this decision is up to you, I personally do not automatically follow back someone who follows me.  I click on that person’s Twitter username and quickly read his or her bio.  Sometimes I then click follow, and sometimes I don’t.

The reason I don’t always follow back has much to do with keeping my following and followers figures in reasonable balance.  In the past at certain points Twitter has prevented me from following any more people until my followers number catches up to a reasonable balance with my following numbers.

While there are other options on Twitter, such as following trends, the most important activity is sharing information that may be of interest to your followers.

And as authors, I know you’ll understand when I recommend you stay on the spine of the “story” you’re sharing on Twitter.  Thus stick to topics related to your own books and your own interests rather than tweeting all over the map on topics that will confuse your followers who expect a certain type of information from you.

Thus I stick pretty closely to tweeting about books and publishing, digital marketing and new tech options, and military topics.  Even though I like art museum exhibits, I probably wouldn’t tweet about this because it is not on the spine of what my followers expect me to share.

One very important thing about Twitter:

Don’t join if you aren’t going to tweet at least a couple of times most days of the week.  Twitter is a different animal than, say, Facebook, where it is not as relevant how often you share.

When I click through from a LinkedIn profile to a listed Twitter account and see that the person hasn’t tweeted in months, I know that person isn’t active on Twitter and I don’t waste one of my follows on that person.

To be someone of interest to follow on Twitter, you have to demonstrate active participation, and that means spending a few minutes almost each day participating on the site (whether on your computer or through a Twitter app on your smartphone).

And do remember to daily check the CONNECT option (next to the HOME button at the top of your screen) to see who has mentioned you in a tweet.  You may want to respond to that mention via Twitter.  

It’s all part of the Twitter experience.  Enjoy!

P.S.  I’m working on a new project and I’ve set up a Twitter account for this project.  At the moment that I’m writing this article I haven’t yet started following people and tweeting more than an initial tweet (always put at least one tweet on a new account) because I’m waiting for something else to be set up.  But do check out and click “follow.”  Especially as an author you should like what’s coming soon.

TWEET #1 - How authors can use Twitter effectively. (Click to tweet)

TWEET #2 - Should every tweet have a link? (Click to tweet)

TWEET #3 - How to share information on twitter. (Click to tweet)

Phyllis Zimbler Miller on Twitter is at and she is the author of fiction and nonfiction books on Amazon.  Her fiction books on Amazon can be found at and her nonfiction books at

She is also a digital marketer who blogs on book topics at and you can download a free copy of her YA short story PINKY SWEAR at