“Magic,” She Gasped.

Magic She Gasped Little Black2

“Magic,” she gasped.

Say it again: “Magic,” she gasped.

Tell your friends to say it: “Magic,” she gasped.

It’s a mantra, unless that’s the bat-shaped fish. Whisper it in your sleep.

“Magic,” she gasped.

What is it? What does it mean? Why should you care?

What makes a Subaru a Subaru? Actually, Subaru puts a comma in their statement – a comma with which I have never agreed. Love, it’s what makes a Subaru, a Subaru. What does that second comma do? It makes a clause out of “it’s what makes a Subaru,” which isn’t a clause at all. It equally makes a clause out of “Love a Subaru,” which is a clause, but  is so widely separated by the non-clause that you have to remove the non-clause to see it, by which time you’ve simply beaten the whole darned thing to death…and doesn’t make me what to buy the car because they have trouble with punctuation.

“Magic,” she gasped. It’s a mantra, or manta. Or Banta if you’re into Star Wars.

I was trying to come up with a way to sell my book, and the only catchphrase I could think of was “buy my book.”

Hmmm, lacks a little something.

Hailey, one of the characters in my novel, Droppington Place, has a fascination with magic – just to point out that there, right in that sentence, is the proper use of commas to separate a clause – which causes her to utter the mantra/manta/banta phrase. Several times throughout the story she gasps the word “magic,” in what I sincerely hope is a running joke.

So, you see, sometimes your characters can give you a hint on what’s special in your work.

But, here’s the dealio, the thing, the bomb, the cat’s pajamas: What happens if you Google search “murder, she gasped”? Well, probably nothing yet, because I just loaded the tags.

But eventually, my impatient friend, you’ll go to either Phineas Caswell’s home page at PhineasCaswell.com, or to his Smashwords Droppington Place page.

If you simply Google Phineas Caswell, whose name appears beneath the logo, brings you all manner of Droppington Placey options.

Is this marketing genius? Does Procter and Gamble sell soap?

Or is it simply some degree of self-delusion that I’m making progress in marketing my book? Self-delusional like a fox!!!

Already, the pieces are falling into place…bwahahahahah.

You, because you’re a friend, can actually skip all the marketing hype and get Droppington Place by simply clicking HERE. When you get there, type in this Coupon Code: NJ38D, and you can get the book for free!!!

Why, that seems almost like…

“Magic,” she gasped.





Goodbye, Baby

DP FinishedStand by to eject bathwater on my mark.

Standing by, sir.


The bathwater is terminated.

Nice shooting, Lieutenant.

Roger that. The baby is outta here. Repeat: the baby is out of here.

Big ten four. Stand by for towelage.

Uh, negatory. Sorry. No can do.

Disregard that. Stand by to commence towelage on my mark.

Uh, sorry, skipper. No can do.

All hands, stand by. What’s with this gloomy Gus guff, Lieutenant. I believe I gave you an order.

Ten four on that, skipper. But, we don’t have, a, well…

Don’t tell me you ran out of towels.

Negative, sir. It’s just that, well, we ejected the baby with the bathwater.

Mongo Santamaria! You’re telling me we tossed the kid out the window?

Like a bullet, sir.

Well, there goes the towelage. All hands, prepare for battle stations. Angry mom at eight o’clock!

It turns out, writing a book is great fun. And it is great fun. Even though your imaginary friends, all those little voices in your head, drag you through the very depths of despair and pain and agony, the fact that you share that with them, that you are a witness to their travails – is an honor and a delight.

Oh, sure. That’s the cat’s pajamas, that part. Like ice cream for dinner every night of the week. Best of all, you tell all your friends that writing is the pits, it’s the worst – you feel like a zombie…hour after hour, typing, thinking, scribbling, coffee, beer, whatever. While, actually, your inner you goes “teehee, this is the best!”

Welp. The party’s over. They ate the pretty balloons. It’s crying time again, and you’re gonna leave me – I can see that faraway look in your eyes. Why must we get offa this cloud?


Yes, there is one more moment of glee, and that is when you join the Club of Shakespeare. All the world is a willing audience, hungry for your written words, longing for your thoughts, your ideas… and, once the book is published… Yo, lookit me, feedin’ the masses!

It’s a cerebral joy, and stunningly short-lived. I found no Disney at my door. Discovered Dreamworks dreaming of someone else. Ran across Random House randomly choosing someone else’s house.

No, the party’s over. Now comes the drudgery, the mind-numbing torture, of figuring out how to market this darned thing for real. It’s no longer a game, or a funny idea. Now it’s work, work, work, to get this product sold and out, into the sunshine where it belongs.

What? What’s that? How can you find it? Well, bless your generous soul, you have come to the right place. Let me pull your chair closer to the fire. Move it, dog. Make way for this most spectacular person.

Because you are you, and you’re a friend, I’ll let you have the book…for free!

No strings attached. Freebie. You go. Although, if you found it in your heart to write a dazzling review, I’m sure no one would be opposed to that…

Find DROPPINGTON PLACE here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/618049

Now, this is important: type in the coupon code NJ38D. When you do, the most wonderful book you’ll download with your free coupon will be yours – for free!!!

Of course, you could also visit the author’s site, PhineasCaswell.com.

Now, to find that baby…

You are the One – Bring Your Wallet


In the writing business… that is, the business end of the writer’s business, although the writer’s business isn’t business at all, but art – this gets so confusing – not the business of writing art, the business of selling the art, which is a business unto itself, but we’re not talking about that. Actually we are, sort of… you’re a writer, you know how it is…


If you are a writer, and you don’t have an agent, you need one. Yes, you can self-publish your novel, but who is going to sell your book for you? You? You’re a writer. You need an agent.

Finding an agent, well that’s the business end of writing. But agents don’t seem to drop out of trees, even if you’re absolutely, fantastically talented. I know this from personal experience. That dog don’t hunt. That ship has sailed. You can’t handle the truth.

So, you advertise, in a million different ways. You blog. You join writer’s circles and clubs and chats, and comment your brains out on other people’s stuff. You work like a monkey to get your name at the top of an agent’s mystical list, the agent’s short list, the who’s who of writers in the agent’s Rolodex. Rolodex – boy, that’s a piece of history, huh? Raise your hand if you know what a Rolodex is… uh huh, as I thought. Paltry, paltry.

At the end of the day, you have to face it: you’re marketing – advertising – in the hopes of getting an agent to look at you and say “wow, now THERE’s a talent!”

In the world of Gorilla Marketing, all this effort, all this subtle, almost not work at all, is aimed at just one person. Millions of readers, or in my case, half-dozens of readers, see your blog and comments, read your name… and move on to something else.

It’s like being a daisy in the middle of the tall grass – oh please, Ms. Cow, pick me, pick me! You stand up tall, doing your flowery best to grab a little bit of bovine attention… oh, puleeze…. Of course, nobody wins in the cow analogy. Literary agents are insulted, and you get eaten if you win. But, you get the point.

The point is that if Toyota gets you to run down to your local dealership and buy a car because you saw a good ad on TV, it doesn’t matter if they wasted the time of 30 million other viewers, so long as you buy the car. No, you don’t suffer from incontinence, but some poor sap does, and those commercials might just be the ticket… say, I didn’t know they made underpants like that!

The point is this: you market your keester off, in the hope that one, just one, single set of eyeballs, sees your stuff and says a quiet “bingo.” And when that one sees your stuff and mutters and magic phrase, all your Gorilla Marketing effort pays off, and the future is yours to pave.

Well, here’s to you, my marketing friend. May you hear a whispered “bingo” soon!

Now, if you’re an agent, you can find the first two chapters of my book here: PhineasCaswell.com.

Thank you.

The End of an Adventure Begets Another

PC ScreenCap

Well, my friend, we’ve sailed over the horizon, haven’t we? I mean you, and me, and my novel, MARIGOLD’S END, the final chapter of which is now posted on this site, right here.

Yes, the final chapter, the au reservoir to our friend Phineas, and the Kathryn B, and all those cool nautical cats. If you’ve been keeping up, and I know you have, you’ll know we left young Phineas leaping for his life from a stricken ship, the crack of a pistol ringing out behind him. This book literally ends with a bang.

If you been keeping up with this blog,  you’ll know that this book writing business is a twofold affair: there’s the art of writing the book, and the science of getting someone to buy it. That’s probably art, too, because, in science, you’re supposed to be able to repeat experiments and get the same results. Good luck with that in marketing!

So, you ask, what’s next?

Well, I can tell you that gorilla marketing, for all its flashy allure and exciting verbiage, is a rather slow-and-go proposition, with lots of slow and very little of anything else. The line of people lined up around the block to read my book is sort of a line of one, and my feet are complaining about standing here.

In Field of Dreams the guy says “if you build it, they will come,” which is very catchy and enigmatic. He left out the time component: they will come tomorrow, or next week, or when the moon shines bright on my old Kentucky home. Or, and this is the one we all dread, they will come one at a time, quietly, unannounced, and go away. I’m a major sucker for jingoism, but I might just have to let this one go.

If you build it, and your work your keester off to grab their attention and you give them something in return for their visit, then they will come. Writing your book and telling the world about your book isn’t enough.

You got to get up every morning with a smile on your face and BELLOW to the world about your book. If you’re a good bellower, you can convince the world to bellow on your behalf, but you have to be bellower number 1.

I’m bellowing over here, with yet another of my sneaky, hey, are you trying to confuse me?, get-rich-quick, zero effort marketing schemes. It’s a site called Phineas Caswell.com – and has an interesting premise: Phineas Caswell is the author. Well, interesting to me, perhaps. You’re a writer, you now how it goes.

What if there was this curious site to which the curious reader could travel?

I agree, the site is snoresville today, but it will change, my friend. Ohhhh, yessss, changes, they are a comin’.

So, to accommodate the change in authorship, Phineas Caswell, the nautical hero in MARIGOLD’S END, has generously agreed to change his name to Benjamin Dilbeck. Not Ben, not Benny, Benjamin. Whaaaat? You cry, aghast. Trust me, Obi Wan, you’re the only one who can… it will work.

Say, this is quite the post, eh what? A chapter released over here, a new website over there… goodness, will it ever end?

Writing Forever


I know you know this, so I guess there’s not much point to telling you about it. But, well, there it is, isn’t it?

I’ve been hating on my book, DROPPINGTON PLACE. Okay, well, not on the book itself, but on the writing of it. Some days it’s a blast, and the words flow like sweet cherry wine. The next day comes the roadblock, the stumbling block, the block of ice that freezes our soul and stalls us just plain dead in our tracks. I hate that block, too.

In my story, the characters explore a surrealistic world made entirely of paper. Their path takes them down, well, a path. So, how do we walk down this path?

Walking, and walking, and walking becomes so dull that even I can’t stand to write it.

Instead of walking and walking, the camera drifts up into the sky and looks down on them, telling us where they’ve been and what they’ve seen.

And THAT, my writer friend, is exactly where the roadblock landed. Flooomph, like a big rock in the highway to Interesting Storyland, we stepped out of the lives of the characters, the story became wooden and dull, and no fun to write. And, if you don’t have fun writing a piece, however is your reader going to enjoy it?

Ding-dong. Hello, Mr. Dimwit? Your brain is calling.

It’s a scene, of course. The answer is to place scenes along the path. Scenes that move the story forward even as they move the characters down the road. Cool, huh?

Biggity-big-big-bigger question.

Why do this? Why do you care about great paragraphs, and storylines, and why is it so important for you to put your thoughts on paper?

Why? Why must you publish your book? If writing is so important to you, why don’t you just write and write and let it go at that.

Okay, so maybe it’s not the writing, is it? It’s the reading.

You write your ideas and stories so that others will enjoy, will learn, will see the world in a new way. Isn’t that so?

So, here’s the rub: if you are so concerned about your reader seeing the world in a new way as a result of your work, why put your name on it? Okay, so it’s not just the reading. It’s the fame.

Before we go too far into our writer’s tools and processes, let us get this straight:

You and I are reaching for the brass ring of immortality.

Think about Shakespeare, a household word. Shakespearian theater. It defines a whole category of acting, of playwriting, of presentation. Why isn’t that you?

It could be. If your book is successful, if you find the right combination of story and character, you, my dear reader friend, could be the next Shakespeare, your name whispered and hailed and venerated for generations to come.

That’s immortality for us.

But it’s more than that, isn’t it?

Writing is a business. Success is not measured by finished works. It’s measured by works sold. Sold. Sounds bad, but it is the business.

Sell a million books and you’re doing good. Sell a million books a year and you’re on your way. Sell a million books a year and get a movie deal, and household wordism isn’t far away.

Isn’t that what you want? That’s what I want. I don’t think it will happen, but that doesn’t make me want it any less, or make me work any less hard in trying to get there.

So, go finish your book. Write well. I’m finishing mine. Maybe you’ll read it – maybe I’ll read yours. Maybe yours is so good that Disney is dialing the phone this very instant to make you the next Stephen King.

Hey, it could happen! Immortality could be that close. I’m sitting by the phone.

The Internet as Closed Door


Marketing and publishing your book in this new, connected age is rather like convincing yourself that you’re a genius – no one will dispute it because no one is really listening. No one really cares.

Now, don’t get all huffy and think ol’ Johnny’s getting crabby and bitter. I’ve always been crabby. And bitter? That’s just the flavor to the stew!

But the answer to your publishing and marketing puzzles cannot be found on the WWW. Go ahead, Google “Answers to my marketing puzzles” and you’ll see what I mean. Not there. Never has been.

No one is going to give you the answer. No one is listening.

It’s because you’re asking too darned big of a question. The answer to marketing your book cannot be found on the I’net because you haven’t asked a valid question. It’s like Googling “how to make food.” It can’t be answered.

So you, my writer friend, have to do the hard work of figuring out how you want to market your writing – are you going to publish it yourself, or shoot for the agent/publisher combo? Are you going to purchase advertising or use social media?

Even as you ask yourself these questions, plans start to form in the mind. Plans, plots, machinations. Maybe you’ll do this, with a twist of that..Ah HAH! They’ll never see it coming!

For me, the hardest part is the waiting. My beautiful editor may have read the first couple of pages, but that’s it. Gosh, I sent the corrected version on Christmas Eve…what gives? Could she possibly have anything better to do?

In the mean time, I’ve been foolishly posing my marketing questions to Google, and have reached the conclusion that folks online mostly want to sell me stuff. Perhaps the WWW stands for the Worldwide Wearing down of the Wallet, although I suppose that would be the WWDW, which sounds like we should be carrying guns and calling each other “bro


The point is that, while the Internet is a fantastic resource, it’s not the answer. If you check out a book on marketing from the library, your product is still not marketed. The book doesn’t care about you, either.

At the end of the day, you and I must do our homework, make our tough marketing decisions, get off our protruding duffs, and do something other than hope the Internet will tell us what to do. I’m talking you, mister, or perhaps just to me. Rats. I hate it when that happens!

Until those decisions are made, I’m sorry, but the Internet is closed.

Elevator-Speech Dustcover Marketing

Marigolds End Fin

Don’t you hate those people who sum up their lives in, like, fifteen seconds? What do I do? Well, after I graduated with my MBA from Dogsnorton University, I became the sales manager for Incredible Products, the premier manufacturer of sodium-hydroxide based whisk-broom filaments with offices here and in seventeen other countries. Perhaps you should look into purchasing sodium-hyrdoxide whisk-broom fliaments. Your first thought: don’t these elevator doors ever open?

On the one hand, it’s nice to know what that person is all about. On the other, an elevator pitch invariably leaves you standing there saying “uh, well, huh, how about that?”

Sadly, this must become you. Wait, don’t go! …well, go if you must. But hurry back.

The fellow making his elevator speech to you is showing you a sign, paving your road, mentoring you, yes, you. Instead of muttering “you’re ticking me off, Phil,” you should take a mental note. Use a pencil if you have to.

This person is showing you how to market your book. He’s not exactly granting you permission to be annoying and mono-focused, but he is giving you a great example of how to sell. His elevator speech is guiding you in creating your dustcover speech.

When you buy a book, you don’t just read the front cover. You flip it over and read the paragraph on the back of the dustcover to see if the book has more than just a cool picture to recommend it. That guy’s elevator speech is his dustcover paragraph.

Here are two dustcover paragraphs on my book, MARIGOLD’S END:

The deep blue sea has haunted and hunted twelve-year-old bookbinder’s apprentice Phineas Caswell ever since it took away his best friend and his father. Now, shanghaied aboard his uncle’s ship, the Kathryn B along with his new-found friends Louise and Taylor, he must face pirates, storms, and the secret of nations as he learns the meaning of trust and the value of responsibility.


Everything happens to twelve-year-old bookbinder’s apprentice Phineas Caswell: his father and best friend are taken by the sea, he’s beset by bullies, and he’s dragged off to sea by his uncle. But, after learning the ways of sailors, after battling ruthless pirates, facing storms, and even determining the fate of nations, he realizes that life is not what happens to you, but what you make it.

So. Which book would you buy? – I’m sorry, “neither” is not a valid option. I’m still trying to decide which of these best describes not just the story, but the style of the book. Like the elevator speech, how you say what you say says what you need to say, too. Well, I say!

The second book sounds like more fun, but the first book might teach you more. I haven’t figured out which one I like yet – your input would be appreciated before you leave the elevator.

So, go out there and practice your dustcover speech. Who knows? Someday you might be on an elevator, and someone might ask what you do. You turn to them and say “Everything happens to twelve-year-old bookbinder’s apprentice Phineas…”

Don’t these doors ever open?

Gorilla Marketing Phase I: In Process

Photo: carpictures.com
Photo: carpictures.com

At eighty miles an hour, hauling bananas down the freeway, the steering wheel of your new Yugo pops off the column and into your lap. Turns out the factory hadn’t quite gotten around to tightening the steering-wheel bolt. First, it’s a miracle your Yugo can go that fast, but, most important, you rather expect the thing to be complete when you find it in the showroom.

So, bringing the book to market.

Instead of guerrilla marketing, which takes advantage of evolving market circumstances and opportunities to quickly and effectively advertise a product, I’m using a technique called gorilla marketing, which takes advantage of overall laziness and general inaction with a grudging commitment to minimal effort. The gorilla marketing maxim: how much can you get done without doing anything.

Gorilla marketing is certainly affordable, both financially and time-wise, although it may not be as effective as that guerrilla thing in getting a book to market.

But, guerrilla or gorilla, you gotta do one thing: finish the darned book. Finish. It. Cross all of the T’s, dot the I’s, and get it done beyond done. Spell check it. Grammar check it. Re-re-re-read it once more.

I am happy to have an utterly brilliant editor very close by. My wife has a master’s degree in Russian literature, is an avid reader, and, most important, a mother of three terrific kids.

In the best gorilla marketing tradition, I didn’t even bother to print the thing out, but simply emailed a copy of MARIGOLD’S END to her. I just hear the boop as it arrived on her cell phone. That’s really close to doing nothing about marketing my book.

Jackity-crackers, kids, we’re working now. Although she is perhaps the slowest dignity-danged editor on the planet, she’s really good at it. And the price is unbeatable!

She will clean my clock on just about every sentence in this thing, and will make me rewrite the stuff that just doesn’t make sense to her, and we’ll have approximately 27 arguments over why Phineas says this and not that.

But, at the end of it, the MARIGOLD’S END that comes out will be the cat’s underwear.

So before I sent it to my editor, and in order to bring the number of soon-to-be-coming snarky comments to a bare minimum, I had to spell- and grammar-check it one more time. Found a couple of things I’d missed – who knew? The grammar-checker challenged my sentence structures – fie on thee, grammar-checker! Anyway, it’s done, and the missus has already said she regrets taking on the task. Cool!

Now, how to fix the steering wheel in my Yugo…

De-Energizing Anti-Inertia

Photo: HowWeDrive.com
Photo: HowWeDrive.com

Time rolls like a jelly-roll, right down the hill with the biological waste-matter, for we all know poop rolls down hill. That’s why your boss can give you dreadful assignments with such cheerful abandon, because poop lands on the desks of bosses with the express goal of rolling down the hill to your desk. If you are a boss, good on ya, mate, because you can roll your poop to the next level below. But I digress.

Time and energy are inextricably intertwined. Don’t think so? Why don’t you drive at 85 mph down the interstate when you’ve got six hours to get there…unless you are one of THOSE, who can’t drive 55… was that Sammy Hagar? Wasn’t he horrible? Or was that Hagar the Horrible, who drove too fast in the… but I digress.

What stands between you and your finished work – and by finished I don’t mean lookee there, Slim, I rot me a boook! – I mean a finished and produced piece that, if not published, is well down that road. In fact, let’s take it a half-mile farther down the road and say your work is not finished until it is published, and easily accessible by the world at large.

Wow. That’s a big goal. You took the time and heart and effort to write your book, didn’t you? Good on ya, mate! That’s your heart and your art, and, even though we tell our friends and admiring toadies that it was tons of work, you know in your artistic heart that it was fun. Go ahead, admit it. We probably won’t tell.

There was so much inertia to get the book done – day after tedious day (wink) of writing to tell the story, get those characters’ voices out there- be free, my creepy inner friends – with a single goal in mind: The End.

Publishing it. We-heh-heh-heh-ell, now, that’s just a whole new kettle of friskies, in’it? How do you do it? My proofreader moved on before he finished my book – well worth the nothing I was paying him, I say. An editor? An EDITOR? Those cost around a thousand bucks, my ramen-eating friend. And then, say we finally get the thing proofed and plop down half of the house payment and get it edited: crickets.

I came of age in the business world – you probably did, too. We know how to get things done, you and I. Mimeograph this, would you? Did you order more ribbons for the Selectric?   Can you smell the ditto machine? Publishing… oy, now, that’s going to use our business acumen, and other parts of the egg.

All the inertia is lost. A wide set of skid marks veer off the shoulder and into the bushes on the other side of the ditch. Maybe it’s off the road, or maybe it’s running down some hidden lane only the driver knows. Whichever way it’s going, it aint towards success.

The hardest part of this book-writing exercise is the now, right here. The thing is done, but there is nowhere to go with it. I’ll let you know if I get out of the bushes.

Vile Betrayer Marketing Guru


Back in the good old days, before color TV, rulers declared themselves despots, and tossed out anybody who didn’t agree with them. Those disagreers were labeled “vile betrayer”, and, boom, off they went to the desert on good days, off went their heads on bad.

“Be gone, vile betrayer,” was a pretty common phrase, back in the good old nasty despot days, so I’m told.

In marketing your book, you get to be a despot – a marketing despot. It’s a cool title, like those honorary doctorate degrees that colleges hand out to folks who chip in a bunch of money to build a new teacher’s lounge with a gymnasium attached. Except that this title has power to it.

For one thing, you can brand as vile betrayers those people who tell you that you should be writing with crayons. Be gone, vile betrayer. Or those who tell you they’ve read better material on the artificial butter tub. Be gone, vile betrayer. Or those who just simply tick you off – you there, with the white socks and Birkenstocks – you are worse than a vile betrayer. Be oh so gone.

As the marketing despot of your book, you have to have an iron will – or an iron George if Will isn’t around – to keep the success of your book foremost in your mind, in front of the windmills. You must cast out as non-believers those who don’t believe in your success, because, well, shucks, they’re non-believers – I guess that just sort of follows.

Why must you be so iron-willed (or Georged) despotic? Two answers:

  1. You must be iron willed because you, and only you, are the champion of your book. If not you, whom?
  2. You must be iron willed because faith is a tentative and fragile thing. And, really, all you have is faith that your book is marketable, is fantastic, and is something truly special. That it is your gift to the world.

The marketing guru chosen for MARIGOLD’S END turned out to be a vile betrayer. A non-believer. A nay-sayer. A neer-do-well-cad. A nervous Nellie. Be gone, vile betrayer, and take your encyclopedia-selling mindset with you. Be thankful you’re not banished to… to… well, banished! Be gone!

This is your chance to be the ruler you’ve always known you should be. YOU can take your book to stellar heights. YOU can build a literary empire. YOU could RULE the WORLD!!!

Or, maybe you should just concentrate on selling your book.

Yeah. Probably that.