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Sunday, February 27, 2022

How My Spiritual Journey Affected How I Write

    My life slowly began to change once I got a better understanding of who I was personally and spiritually. I discovered that I was an Israelite, and through the grace and mercy of the Most High God, Yahawah, and our Lord and Savior, Yahawashi, who the world unknowingly calls God and Jesus Christ, I had a better understanding of the Bible and a sense of clarity and peace that I’ve never experienced in my fifty years of existence at the time. Every facet of my life improved―I wasn’t behind the eight ball financially anymore as I started to get promotions at work and make better choices in terms of spending money. I also started to make lifestyle changes like giving up pork and alcohol, and I drastically slowed down on the nightlife. Things in my personal life had improved as well, though not without the daily challenges that everyone experiences, and this major transition in life also had a major impact on my writing.

    I published my first fiction book back in 2008 titled Ulterior Motives, and I was a newbie to self-publishing. I categorized myself as an urban fiction author, and like many of my peers in that genre, the language in most of my books was graphic―I used every curse word known to man, and my sex scenes were rated R on a good day. However, I experienced writer’s block once I embarked on my spiritual journey, and I didn’t write or publish anything for two years afterward. I wasn’t sure how to represent myself as an author at that point, and I removed all of my previous works from the Internet because my spirit wouldn’t allow me to write or sell fiction novels that didn’t have a positive theme overall. Now don’t get me wrong―I may create stories with a new sense of purpose, but there’s still an authenticity and realism to my writing style―I don’t sugarcoat my themes like the Hallmark Channel, for example. I’ve curbed my language to the point that a young adult can safely read my books―no B-words, N-words, F-bombs or sexually explicit language are currently present in my novels, but my dialogue isn’t rated G, either.

    Customer feedback has been positive for the most part as I have received very little criticism for cleaning up the foul language in my books. I also had a breakthrough in book sales because prior to 2018, I hadn’t had any success in writing whatsoever. I knew that I couldn’t call myself a man of the Lord and continue to write smut, and I wasn’t afraid to reinvent myself and continue to write stories that entertain my reading audience to the best of my ability. All praise, honor, and glory to Yahawah Bahasham Yahawashi. 

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Friday, February 18, 2022

The Profit Is in the Details of Book Marketing

    Amazon had changed the landscape of my Author Central page a week or so ago, and my sales had gradually taken a nosedive. I called customer service twice and asked for a reason why the layout and theme of my author page changed, and of course, neither rep could give me a clear-cut answer. I did, however, notice that the blog teasers from my blog feed were missing from the author page, and I wondered if that was the reason for the decline in sales because every other important detail was still intact. I also noticed when I click on the links that direct customers to the sale pages of my books, they're led to the eBook pages only and not the paperback, which is my bread and butter.

    I then took it upon myself to randomly check other authors’ pages to see if their layouts and themes had been changed, and the vast majority of them still had the original format as I was only able to find a handful of authors whose pages were changed like mine. The second rep did tell me to delete the link to the blog feed on my page and insert it again, and the blog teasers should reappear within a twenty-four-hour period. I’ll check back later to see if the changes have taken effect.

    It was then that I realized one small detail in book marketing can drastically make a world of difference. One example of a minor detail that can make a major difference is the AddToAny share button on a blog―backlink building is virtually impossible without this feature being added to a given website. Other examples of details that can reduce sales are poor keyword choices on the Amazon advertising platform, not including an excerpt with a description on the book page of your blog or setting the default bid of the keywords too high or low, for example. Details in book marketing matter a great deal, and if one or more steps are overlooked or missing altogether, it can ultimately be the difference-maker between making a profit or losing your shirt.

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Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Should Customers Tip Businesses for Basic Service?

    Many businesses across the country are hemorrhaging money daily and are desperate to stay afloat due to the pandemic. Downtown Chicago is practically a ghost town as most of the labor force have opted to work from home. Vaccination mandates have made even tougher for businesses to survive, and some of these establishments are beginning to use unconventional methods to remain profitable.

    Case in point, I work on a hybrid schedule two or three days per week on average. I hadn’t been to Subway in a while and decided to go there for lunch the other day. Initially, nothing out of the ordinary happened as I’m a creature of habit―I usually order a six-inch tuna sandwich with pepper jack cheese, mayo, and lettuce with chips and drink. But here’s where things get interesting. The cashier rang me up after she made my sandwich, and several options to give a tip popped on the credit card machine. I was already taken aback because the sandwich combo was two dollars higher than what it was the last time I was there, and on top of that, they expected me to leave a tip. Huh?! So, I asked the cashier where’s the option to not leave a tip, and her snarky reply was: It’s on the screen. Leaving a tip was now null and void after her snide remark, and I eventually figured out what icon to hit on the screen.


    Now, I’d like to pose the question―when did it become fashionable to ask for a tip for doing your job?  Is McDonalds going to ask for tips when customers want a made-to-order Quarter Pounder? When COVID-19 was in its early stages, many restaurants like Olive Garden and Chili’s offered takeout only, and I’d tip the young men and women who would bring my online food order to my car because they were dine-in restaurants. However, I don’t believe in tipping the cashier at Walmart or the sandwich maker at Subway for basic service.

    Once something is introduced and implemented in society like removing shoes and belts at TSA or automated checkout, there’s no going back. So, is tipping businesses for basic service the new trend? Please leave your comments below.

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Was Catherine Tramell the Actual Killer in Basic Instinct?

    I, like millions of other movie goers, enjoyed the film Basic Instinct that was released in 1992 starring Sharon Stone and Michael Douglas. There were many twists and turns throughout the film, and the general consensus was that Catherine Tramell, the character played by Stone, was the cold-blooded serial killer who murdered rock star Johnny Boz with an ice pick. Needless to say, everyone in the theater believed that San Francisco detective Nick Curran (Michael Douglas) would eventually be on the receiving end of that ice pick. But what if Catherine Tramell wasn’t the actual killer like everyone thought? I understand that there were two different sets of writers and directors for both films, and both films were released fourteen years apart. However, Michael Caton-Jones, the director of the sequel, had an interesting interpretation of Catherine Trammel’s character despite the strong sexual content, but the film only received a star and a half and didn’t get the credit that it deserved in my opinion.

    Fast forward to 2006 when Basic Instinct 2 was released. Catherine Tramell was never charged with the murders of Johnny Boz, Lieutenant Nilsen, or Nick’s partner, Gus―and it was presumed that Nick’s psychologist, Beth Garner, did all of the murders. Catherine left the States and settled in London, and more bodies started piling up after her arrival. The opening scene of the movie showed Catherine and her lover fondling each other while she’s driving her sports car a hundred miles an hour on the street. Long story short, she crashes into the River Thames, and her boyfriend drowns while she survives. She’s then charged with reckless homicide because she had drugs in her system and has to see a psychiatrist Dr. Michael Glass for an evaluation.

Golden Gate Bridge

    Now, I’m not going to get into the meat of the plot because it kept viewers guessing just like the first film did. Yet, the crux of the entire story comes at the end of the movie. Glass is charged with all of the murders and is then placed in a psychiatric hospital. Catherine comes to visit Glass while he’s sitting in a wheelchair in a drug-induced state and gives him a copy of her new crime novel The Analyst before giving the viewers a synopsis of him committing all of the murders. What’s interesting is that Catherine says it’s always the psychiatrist who does the killing and not the novelist or cop when giving Glass an overview of her book. Could she had been indirectly talking about the murders committed in San Francisco as well? So, my next question is: did Beth really kill Gus and Lieutenant Nilsen? Catherine had admitted to killing Johnny Boz to Dr. Glass earlier in the movie, saying that she hated him and knew she could get away with it. She also said that she didn’t kill Nick, but it wasn’t clear if she was telling the truth or not.

    I know that I’m grasping at straws here, but director Michael Caton-Jones truly does lend a unique perspective to the sequel of Basic Instinct. I think the only mistake made here was waiting fourteen years to do a follow-up movie, and I truly believe that critics would’ve been a little less harsh if the sequel was shot within the five years of the first film.

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Friday, February 11, 2022

Authors Can Write Fiction Through Life Experiences

    Stories can be created from events that have happened throughout the course of one’s life. Authors don’t have to share their life stories verbatim―a plot can be formed from any past incident that they may have experienced. For example, let’s say that you found out that your first crush died recently, and you’re flooded with various memories and emotions. A storyline could then be centered around going to the funeral and seeing old friends and acquaintances. Another example could be traveling to a new country and forming a plot from some of the details of that trip.

Hawaiian Beach

    The possibilities for creating fiction narratives are endless―just about every book I’ve written contains an episode that actually occurred in my life, and I disguise it with fictional characters and surroundings. With the exception of my book titled Night in the Underworld, which is loosely based on true events, each one of my other books has an element of truth in them that the reader may or may not guess.

    In conclusion, it’s good for an author to draw from any creative reservoir possible and writing stories from past experiences is a great way to thicken a plot. Real life drama breeds emotion, whether it’s happiness or pain, and adding these ingredients to the mix can only make the plot better in my opinion.

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Saturday, February 5, 2022

How Authors Can Post Effective Ads on Amazon

    There are three ways authors can get their books noticed on Amazon right away―a great-looking book cover, choosing the right keywords, and placing ads that boost sales. Garnering organic traffic on its marketplace won’t happen without a successful marketing plan, and the algorithm won’t be triggered unless customers are visiting an author’s product pages. However, once authors figure out a way to grow their traffic and consistently make a profit on a monthly basis, Amazon will give books the push needed to take business to the next level.

 Hiring a Freelancer for Book Cover.

    There are dozens of other author’s books on a given product detail page, and it’s vital that the book cover is professionally done so it will stand out in a myriad of other titles. Freelance graphic designers are affordable on Fiverr, and I recommend a woman from the UK that I’ve been using for the last five years as she’s one of the best in my opinion.

 Choosing the Right Keywords.

    Choosing the right keywords for an ad can make or break an author’s marketing campaign. It’s best to use the Amazon search bar in Books and Kindle Store to find popular keywords of a particular genre. Most of the keywords selected won’t be effective in converting book sales, so authors will have to weed out the keywords and phrases that aren’t fruitful. I only use 15-20 of the most profitable keywords for my ad campaigns that I’ve analyzed over a period of two years. An author should also use the Phrase Match as opposed to the Broad Match when selecting keywords and phrases so that the sales conversion rate percentage is as high as possible.

 Placing Ads That Boost Sales.

    I’ve learned over the years that a description under the book cover in the Sponsored Ads section isn’t necessary because it doesn’t help an author sell more books, plus the reader can get the summary of the book on the product page if interested. Moreover, I discovered that placing all of my titles under one ad umbrella significantly increased my monthly sales. When I placed unique ads for each of my books, some titles did well while others didn’t receive as much exposure. Using one group of keywords for all of my books seemed to give each title an equal opportunity to be displayed, and subsequently, I believe I’ve attracted the business of small bookstores and libraries because a large percentage of my sales are now in bulk.

    These three important methods that I’ve used since 2018 have helped me sell more books on a consistent basis each month. An author must be proactive in marketing his or her books, and Amazon Advertising is a great tool for gaining immediate exposure and creating a great supplemental income in the process.

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My Two-Year Stint as an Uber Driver

     At the beginning of 2016, my entire life was in shambles―my marriage was on the rocks, I was a temp at the law firm that I work full-ti...