Reviews, Views and Adventures in Content Creation

Thursday, December 21, 2017

SoupChad Simmers: Early Marketing

I made SoupChad available for sale on Amazon on December 7, 2017, but I'm considering these next few weeks a "soft launch" before a more extensive push after the first of the year.  After all, I don't want large numbers of readers checking out SoupChad on Amazon...with no reviews!

Here's what I'm working on at the moment:
A Box of SoupChad, ready for 2018!

1 - Reviews! It's so very important to build up as many reviews as possible before I start sending potential readers to Amazon in earnest. The simple fact is, reviews sell. For an indie author like myself, positive reviews are golden. I'm letting those in my network know that the book is available, and I'm hoping for promising results. It's one of the most difficult steps in the marketing process, so if you would like to help out, I would be grateful.

2 - Giveaways are helpful tools. I can set up various types of opportunities on both Goodreads and Amazon, which hopefully will develop word of mouth and a wider network. I can even set up a giveaway on Amazon that requires entrants to follow me on Twitter.

3 - Flash sales. Amazon Kindle allows for limited flash sales, which will allow me to offer the book for free for a limited (one day) sale to encourage readers and reviews.

4 - Media coverage. SoupChad is also about polarization in our society, so I'm hoping for media coverage across several platforms, from newspapers to blogs, radio and television. 

In the next few weeks, I'll be working on an overall social media campaign to "get the word out" over upcoming months and to brainstorm some promising secondary markets. For example, foodies and soup aficionados might get a kick out of the story. I'm hoping to create some book launch opportunities at schools as well, and engage in classroom discussions.

If I can get that word out, I believe I have a fighting chance of getting SoupChad the exposure it deserves.

Remember, you can follow me on Twitter @Rickflix 

Monday, December 18, 2017

The Gig Economy: You Never Know What's Next!

One of the most enjoyable aspects of working in the gig economy (in my case, working with UpWork and Fiverr), is the wide diversity of challenges I've tackled. I never know what's coming up next. 

As an editor, my online work has extended from YouTubers to training videos to a memorial park in Australia, with clients and needs that were everything from simple "do your magic" assignments to true partnerships.

As a writer, I've been paid to write (or ghost-write) short stories for various clients, as well as opening chapters for prospective novels. I'm especially excited about the possibilities in this area. To be honest, I hadn't considered writing short stories for pay as even a remote possibility.  I'm hoping to grow my clientele in this sector. It is, after all, the core of who I am. I've also written specialized short stories intended for specific apps (for example, "chat-based" stories).

The stories I've written so far extend from historical to biographical, horror and coming of age. In fact, one of my gigs on Fiverr offers to write a short "coming of age" story, while another offers a "Stranger Things" type story. Another throws the net even further, offering to write a general short story. I ask prospective clients to contact me first, so that I can screen those stories that wouldn't be practical (foreign or historical settings that would require research, for example). I've also been asked to write personal letters for those who don't have the skills to put their thoughts and intentions into a cohesive package.

To be clear, this isn't a game-changer yet. I haven't reached that volume of work or level of income (though I can see that others have). I'm still working on the right recipe to generate this work on a more consistent basis. How will I make that happen? 

I'll share my current strategy next time.

Remember, you can follow me on Twitter @rickflix.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Why I Wrote SoupChad

Like most people, I've found it somewhat difficult to process the increasingly polarized society we live in. Political discourse doesn't exist anymore. Political demonization is the norm. You're with me—or you're against me. We live in a state of anxiety.

SoupChad is my response. It's the tale of a middle school boy who loves soup and won't tolerate any kid who likes salad. When his family moves and he starts at a new middle school, he forms Soup Club to share his passion. Kids steer clear, until he decides to grant each one of them a new name based on their favorite soup. Spinach, Noodle and Chowder join first, followed by Matzo Ball and Potato.

But power goes to SoupChad's head, and his club transforms from a gathering of soup fans to an army allied against Salad Eaters. SoupChad doesn't just hate salad, he wants to eliminate it from the school. He'll do anything to make that happen.

SoupChad is a story of intolerance and power. While it's a fun, absurd picture of middle school obsession, it's also an allegory that pokes fun at the tendency to see every opposing point of view as an epic battle between Good and Evil, where there is no middle ground and there are only winners and losers.

In a modest way, I hope SoupChad encourages kids to treat others who simply don't agree with them with a bit more fairness.

Curious? SoupChad is available NOW at Amazon, in both paperback and Kindle formats. I would welcome your early review of my book—it's a huge help to an indie author!

You can follow me on Twitter @Rickflix 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Leveling Up: Starting to Build an Online Clientele

One of the most common criticisms of sites like Fiverr and Upwork is that they're essentially a "race to the bottom," offering services at ever cheaper rates, making the prospect of earning a living virtually impossible.

True, there are thousands of people offering pro gigs at rock-bottom prices. The cost of living, after all, is cheaper in Thailand and India than Los Angeles. They're in every category, from website creation to video services to writing. In some situations, westerners have relocated to low-cost locales. I wondered if it possible to compete.

I decided to look further. As I said, as a client, I had already spent over $200 on Fiverr services with just two sellers. I consciously avoided the lower cost options. I wanted to employ an established pro with whom a positive outcome was more likely.

As a seller, that's where I want to be.

I had two built-in advantages, even as a newcomer: First, I was a video professional with several Los Angeles Emmy Awards to my name (and several additional nominations). I also have published three young adult novels (with a fourth on the way). I hoped those facts gave me a bit of a leg-up against the competition, even though I didn't have a work history or online reviews on the freelance sites when I began.

I couldn't charge a premium, though. Despite my background, developing a presence and a collection of positive reviews is the key to higher end gigs. I started the process, seeking small gigs for 25 or 35 dollars that I could complete quickly and cleanly. The jobs I scored weren't going to make a dent in my income, but they would allow me, to borrow game parlance, to "level up" and allow me to play a more powerful game. More on that next time. 

Remember to follow me on Twitter @rickflix

Monday, December 4, 2017

Gig Magic: My First Exposure to the Gig Economy

Until I became a user of freelance "gig" sites, I hadn't given them much of a thought. I knew Fiver existed but hadn't given it much thought. My first impression was that it was a site where you could get cheap labor to do less than professional work. It didn't have much of an appeal to me as a consumer, and certainly not as a freelancer that needed to make a living.

I was collaborating on a series of a video for a client that had requested an animation. In particular, a colleague pitched a "whiteboard" animation, the story of presentation in which a hand seems to draw a series of photos and illustrations.  I would have had no idea how to obtain the animation locally, what the turnaround would have been, and would have guessed that it would have been prohibitively expensive for the small project we were working on. 

To my surprise, my associate was able to present, seemingly overnight, a beautifully produced whiteboard animation for $150, including changes Our client was thrilled. The service had been purchased on Fiverr, and I started exploring the site for other possibilities.
My latest book international collaboration.

Then, as I began to prepare to publish my fourth book, I was presented with a challenge. I wanted to illustrate the cover of the book with an illustrated cover in the style of a World War 2 propaganda poster. With my previous books, I had used photo elements, which my designer manipulated to create my cover. A specialized illustration required a different approach. Though I had a limited budget, I was determined to see my vision through. I searched Fiver, and eventually found a talented artist in India would do the job for $100. Another Fiver talent treated the book cover. I was able to get exactly what I wanted.

That's when I started considering how I might take advantage of these services to offer my own skills. I wondered if it would be worth the effort. I wondered which of my professional skills would be my best bets. I'm an Emmy-winning producer/video editor, I'm also a prolific writer of four novels and numerous blog posts (like this one).

I began to seek out my online competition and find out what was possible. I knew I had services to offer, but would it be worthwhile? Could I expect to be paid a fair rate? Was this, as some have suggested, a race to the bottom? Are clients only looking for cheap work?

In the next installment, I'll share what I discovered, (and why I decided to move ahead and give it a try regardless!).

Remember, you can follow me on Twitter @Rickflix

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

I've Gone International: Diving into the Gig Economy

You may have heard the term, Gig Economy, which generally refers to making a living on a job-by-job basis, rather than working for a single employer. It's become more and more common as time moves on, and it's caused more than a bit of anxiety as jobs with benefits and 401-K's become rarer and more difficult to land. The prospect of "pounding the pavement," looking for the next opportunity isn't that appealing in uncertain times.

If you're a creative in 2017, however, pounding the pavement is at best an archaic concept. The gig economy, in my initial dive over the last 2-3 months, means expanding my prospects from a limited local focus to one that is international, and much wider in possibilities than it would be otherwise. It means that I'm creating a clientele beyond serving others in the media industry to businesses of all types and sizes, and offering a wider variety of services than ever before. 

I'm primarily a video editor and writer by trade, which are both crafts uniquely suited to the gig economy. What makes this transition possible, in my case, are two of the most prominent sites in this new world: Upwork and Fiverr.

Fiverr, so called because it began as a resource to obtain creative work (from writing to computer programming to artistic work to video production and editing) for as little as five dollars. That was still my impression until relatively recently, in fact, until I learned that the name of the site had really become a shorthand for finding value at a suitable price. If set up correctly, an individual can set up opportunities that meet their existing rates, and on a more consistent basis. The seller offers a service, or "gig," with a number of add-on premium options, and a buyer needing a  service searches for a seller with the experience and price to complete the task at hand. The two come to an agreement, usually customizing a gig to suit the specific situation, and the work is completed in a set time.

Upwork allows buyers to post their specific needs.  Freelancers submit proposals with a suggested bid. The buyer chooses the freelancer best suited for their job.

In both cases, freelancers are paid through the sites, with a percentage subtracted as a service fee. That percentage can be fairly high (20 percent in some cases), but it's not unpredictable. Strategic freelancers will simply keep that fee in mind when setting an hourly rate or submitting a bid. The sites are upfront about this, clearly indicating the bid, the site's fee, and the resulting profit you will see from completing the service. For example, a completed task you accepted for $100 on Upwork will net you $80, with $20 going to the site.

Succeeding in the gig economy, though, takes some hard work and careful strategy. I'll take you along on my initial experiences in part two of this series, as I work to develop and build my online reputation. I'll show you how I began and update my progress as the story unfolds.

I'm just starting my journey, but I can already see the life-changing potential.

Follow me @rickflix on Twitter, or follow me here. I welcome your feedback and experiences.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

SOUPCHAD Cover Reveal

I'm marking my return to the blogosphere with a cover reveal of my next book. I'm very excited about SoupChad, and about the book cover itself.

I'm not sharing much just yet about the plotline, except that Chad loves soup...and will not tolerate anyone who likes salad. It's a fun ride that just might give you something to think about, too.

I'll reveal more about the book over the next few weeks. For now, think of me anytime someone asks, "Soup or Salad?"

Monday, May 1, 2017

If Only the Rest of My Life Was Like This

Scenes from the making of "The Ghost of Pacific Lodge."
Faces are blurred for privacy reasons.

As a volunteer, I’ve led video production workshops in a variety of settings and for ages ranging from teenagers to the elderly. One workshop, however, was especially meaningful.

At a chance meeting with the development director of Pacific Lodge Boys Home (Now Pacific Lodge Youth Services), a youth home dating back to the 1920's.  I mentioned that I’d conducted filmmaking workshops in the past. I was asked if I’d consider a similar workshop at Pacific Lodge.

I admit some reluctance at first. These were kids fresh out of juvenile hall, with backgrounds that were difficult if sometimes brutal. However, they’re also kids that the courts felt still had the chance to change their lives in a positive direction. By sending them to Pacific Lodge, a bucolic wooded setting where there were no walls or guards, they’re given the chance to work with counselors and therapists to set things right.

At first glance, you wouldn’t think I would have had anything in common with the boys. I was never in trouble as a teen, much less had been anywhere close to juvenile hall. My family life wouldn't have been called “dysfunctional.” On the other hand, previous experience in working with teens had taught me that showing respect and belief in their abilities went a long way in creating a positive experience. I decided to give it a try.
Pacific Lodge hosted a "red carpet" premiere,
complete with a limousine and dinner for
the boys and I at an upscale restaurant.
In late 2003, I began a six-month video production workshop with a group of eight boys. With the help of a great staff and a well-respected counselor with whom I worked hand-in-hand, I visited Pacific Lodge twice a week as the kids wrote, shot and then edited a half-hour film, “The Ghost of Pacific Lodge.” Together, we built a mythology inspired by PL's long history, crafting a ghost story that begins with the discovery of mysterious diary hidden in one of PL's spooky basements. Each boy participated in every stage of the production. Each had the chance to be a camera person, an audio boom operator, a special effects wizard, a director, and an actor.

It was challenging at first. For kids emerging from their first stay at juvenile hall, self-esteem is nearly non-existent. Despite their bravado, many of the boys were terrified. Some wouldn’t hold the camera at first. Others couldn’t imagine taking the lead as director. 

I'll never forget the moment when a fourteen-year-old boy turned to me and asked, “Why do you waste time with us? We’re all losers.” I shrugged and made a point of making the answer seem obvious, “If I thought you were losers, I wouldn’t waste my time.” 

Speaking after the premiere, thanking
the boys for a job well done.
Trust is extraordinarily powerful. Once I established that I was for real—by simply paying them the respect of showing up as promised every week—they became more willing to take part. 

Once the film was completed, the administration of PL held a grand premiere. Staff and benefactors cheered the boys as they emerged from a limousine and walked down the red carpet (after a five-star dinner at a nearby restaurant—personally paid for by the Director of PL). I had the great honor of not only telling the audience what these boys had accomplished, but thanking the boys individually and presenting them with mini-Oscars. 

Not every boy made it through to the end. Some were sent back to juvenile hall, or worse. 

Most boys, however, made it to the finish line...

...including the one boy who had been convinced he was a loser.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Virtual Reality: Boxless Thinking

Recently I spent a couple of days at the Los Angeles Convention Center, enjoying the sites, sounds, and creative energy of the emerging Virtual Reality industry. I sampled new worlds and met extraordinary people.

I listened to industry leaders both inspire and caution entrepreneurs about the future of the VR platform. John Riccitiello, the CEO of the ubiquitous Unity game development platform, believes that the industry will continue to progress, but won't reach massive acceptance for a few years yet. Pie-in-the-sky predictions aside, he believes it will be a few yet until true VR tech will be in the hands of one hundred million users and the industry can be considered well-established.

At the same time, excitement was palpable, and proof of the technology was everywhere.

Applications varied wildly. Here's just some of what I was doing at VRLA:
Inside Mindshow

Floated inside and outside a meticulously detailed recreation of the International Space Station, produced with the involvement of NASA.

All were great experiences, and show just a hint of the wonders that VR will hold in store in the coming years.  The VR industry is moving lightning fast, and many of the companies and projects on the exhibition floor didn't exist a year ago.  Of course, perhaps half of those companies or more may not be around in another year, but that's the reality of any new venture...high risk, for the potential of a high reward.

The technology is real. Unlike the recent launch and crash of 3DTV, VR has something valuable to offer gamers, educators and even bed-ridden patients in hospitals. It's just a matter of time.

At the moment, VR tech is still expensive and somewhat complicated for most consumers, but that's rapidly improving. Most haven't experienced any sort of VR, and most of those who have, experience it through cardboard viewers (into which one inserts a smartphone). Personal experience has shown me that people don't "get it" until they've tried it.

While I'm impressed by the tech, the industry and the VR experiences, I'm fascinated by the people that are making this all happen—the coders, content creators, writers and entrepreneurs who by necessity have had to think outside the box—because the box doesn't exist.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Tapping Back

A few weeks ago, I wrote here about my experience using the Tap app on my iPhone, in which stories are told entirely in the form of text messages. As you may recall, I tried it out, wrote a couple of stories, and then decided that the pricing structure wasn't to my liking, and decided to move on the sister app, Wattpad, a long established creative writing destination. I actually like the app itself, but doubted it viability as a successful venture.

Yesterday, Tap was brought to my attention when I received an email from the Tap offices, asking to feature one of my stories on their front page. I agreed. It hasn't happened yet, but it drove me back to the app to check on the fate of my stories.

Played, the story Tap wants to feature, doesn't have too many views - it hasn't grown much in several weeks. The other story, The Prank, which is based on characters in my book, My Life at the Bottom of the Food Chain, is trending upward, with over 145,000 "taps" and rising. I'm not certain precisely how that translates into individual readers, but the number is growing daily and my "friends" list is expanding rapidly (it had been entirely empty at last glance).

I'm still not convinced about the pricing scheme, but I have to admit that the growth in my Tap account is fascinating. I'm curious what will happen when/if my story is featured, and I've decided to create an additional story or two and see what happens. I still wish I could share the stories more freely, as I do on Wattpad. but for the time being I'll give it a go and see what happens.

I also have a suspicion that The Prank may have cross promoted my Alexander books (and sold a few copies). If it gains more readers, will I see a spike in book sales? Very interesting...

At the very least, I don't want to disappoint my new friends!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Author Update (aka what am I doing?)

Here's what's going on in the world of Rich Samuels (Author Edition):

  • I continue work on the audiobook of "My Epic Life," the third of my Alexander books. I've been busy with other things, but I'm still hoping to have it ready in time for summer road trips. I hope to publish both an audio edition of this book, and a compilation of all three books—which will make for a fun 7-8 hours of drive time! If you think you might like to relive your most awkward middle school moments, let me know through my social media:  Once the audio book's published, I'll have codes good for free downloads! 

  • If you don't know already, I'm posting ongoing stories on the Wattpad, the creative writing site. This is (if readers respond) a way for me to experiment with new genres, and engage in a little bit of reader feedback. I'd love to hear from you. Which would you like to see evolve into novel form?  If you're already on Wattpad, please follow me - I'm new there, and I have just about zero visibility!  Here are the works that I'm currently working on (I update each at least once a week): 

SoupChad is a tale in the spirit of my Alexander books. It's a story about a boy who loves soup, and had no patience for kids who like salad. If you've ready my books, you know how much I enjoy obsessive characters. Chad fits right in. You also might find this to be an allegory...

Feeder is part zombie tale / part vampire tale / part experiment in creepiness. This is probably the most experimental of all the stories I've posted so far. What do you think?

Marcus on the Train
 (as well as Soupchad) is a thriller I've been tooling around with for quite a long time. This one is about a teen runaway whose unwanted companion is proving to be more than a little unbalanced. 

Offline, I'm working on a couple of novels that I'm not quite ready to talk about yet. One is a science fiction tale, and the other a thriller/mystery. I'm hoping to have one or both available next year...I hope to share more soon!

(VR Update coming soon!)

Monday, March 27, 2017

Writing Evil (and other things)

If you read my recent blogs,  you know that I had a less than satisfying interaction with Wattpad's TAP creative writing app (see The Money Tap). Now, I'm launching another storytelling experiment at Tap's parent site, Wattpad.

Wattpad is a well-established (since 2006) creative writing site with social media elements built-in.  Demographics here tend to include readers under thirty, so it will be interesting to see if I can create any kind of following (an ongoing objective as an indie writer). To make this especially fun, I'll be experimenting in genres of which I'm less known: Horror, thrillers, and who knows what else. This will be a place, at least for a while, to experiment. Because Wattpad allows for writing and editing on my iPhone, I'll be able to write some of these chapters on-the-go.

Some of what I post will be totally unplanned, and may begin and end on Wattpad. Other stories may have earlier origins, but haven't yet been seen publically. These stories may not be as polished as my published work, but I'll do my best to make each story a fun ride.

I invite you to join me (I need some initial followers!) and read my first ongoing story, Feeder, a horror story of sorts with zombie and vampire I said, a totally different experience! I've written three parts/chapters so far (they're running about 400-500 words each), and I'll continue posting every few days. This isn't planned, so your comments may very well have an impact on the course of the story.

I'll be adding other stories...hopefully to create a few simultaneous adventures (and more opportunities to connect. Right now, you can also find a short story based on my Alexander books, Why Do You Think They Call It a Ghost Town?

See you there!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

What IS New Media, Anyway?

In a couple of weeks, I'll be speaking at the "Pathways to Employment" event being held in San Pedro, California by the San Pedro Neighborhood Council. My topic will be New Media, which is both an exciting and challenging area to consider. 

The very definition is elusive. Ask a dozen people what "new media" means, and you'll get a dozen answers. It changes depending on rapidly developing technology. What's "new?" Something that just emerged last month? Last Year? Ten years ago? Or, does "New Media" include all emergent media platforms since movies, television and radio? 

Virtual Reality is certainly considered New Media. YouTube, at twelve years old, is considered New Media. Podcasting also falls into that definition. The New Media Institute defines it as "a 21st Century catchall term used to define all that is related to the internet and the interplay between technology, images and sound." In other words, it includes nearly every way we communicate today.

I've experimented in varying degrees with New Media. For example, I've blogged for myself and for corporate clients, I've been on YouTube, I've podcasted here and there, and I'm currently diving into Virtual Reality. I've watched with fascination how creators have built their media presence, or failed to take advantage of their unique opportunities. The one question that's always lurked in the back of my mind: how does this all work together?

One of the most fascinating chapters in his process was a series of short interviews I conducted and posted with several dozen YouTubers. Young or old, I asked them all the same question: Why do you do it? Some simply wanted to be stars, of course, but most had other reasons: friendship, building skills and opportunity, helping or inspiring others. Some were kids in their early teens, while others were retired. Most were somewhere in between.

What ever their motivation, I found that many shared an entrepreneurial spirit—a desire to see where this adventure would lead, and the willingness to put themselves out there to make it happen. I was inspired to follow their example—not to make more YouTube videos, but to focus on the core of my own passion as a storyteller. 

New Media directly inspired me to create traditional media. To date, I've written three young adult novels, which in turn are promoted and distributed and promoted across various new media platforms.

New Media isn't so much about platforms. It's about strategy and learning to use these new tools effectively for your own "bigger picture." That's a skill that most individuals and corporations are still finding elusive, and where the real opportunity lies for young creators.

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Money Tap

I continued to experiment with WattPad's Tap, a creative writing app for Android and iOS devices, this time with a story based on characters I created in my book series. As in My Life at the Bottom of the Food Chain, The Prank finds Alexander cautious about non-existent dangers at his school. In the chat-based world of Tap, Alexander texts his friend Anthony and explains why he's waiting for just the right moment to enter the school gate. Anthony tries to convince him that he's being unreasonable, but Alexander isn't convinced.

In this Tap-only story, Anthony conspires with Darrell and cooks up the perfect prank to teach Alexander a lesson. Alexander, though, sees the world in his own way, and things don't turn out like Anthony thinks it will.

This time, the story takes place in six separate scenes, with a total of 306 "texts" between Anthony, Darrell and their friends. I posted it a few days ago on Tap, but my little comedy is somewhat lost in the Tap world of horror, romance and fan stories.  I'm happy to say, though, that both this and my previous story, Played, will turn up if you search under my Rickflix name.

I enjoyed the on-the-go ease of creating in this format, allowing me to create at any random moment during the day.

Unfortunately, as I've discovered the pay-as-you-go scheme that Tap is using, I'm not certain if I'll continue with this platform. In the app, Tap will allow you to read my story for a couple of minutes, and then present you with a message, Are you addicted yet? and prompt you to either wait 25 minutes to continue reading any story, or "Upgrade to Tap Premium," which can cost $2.99 a week, $7.99 a month, or $39.99 for 12 months of unlimited access to all content. I wonder why I would contribute content to a site that charges readers, but doesn't offer authors compensation for creating readable content. 

If you wait the full time to read for free, you can continue reading for a short time, perhaps enough to finish reading the story and start another one, but soon a new prompt will require that you wait another 25 minutes.

To read my story, you could start at the above desktop link, but it will prompt you to download the app on your Android or iPhone, and then the Are you addicted yet? cycle will begin. Suddenly, just reading my little story becomes a chore.

Considering the wide range of free content available elsewhere, I also have to wonder if this concept will work at all. Would you pay for access to uncurated fiction? 

Tap is a promising concept, but in the current version, I wonder how much support it will find. Perhaps offering exclusive content by pro authors might encourage subscriptions, but there doesn't seem to be any compensation or reward for those who might develop popular content on the site. That will invariably turn people off.

I'd rather see an ad-based version, which seems to work well for so many other apps. Many readers and writers would support the option of purchasing an ad-free edition. I did that for Words With Friends. I wouldn't mind doing it for a creative app. 

Let me know what you think.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Experiments in Storytelling: Wattpad's "Tap"

I recently engaged in a bit of experimental storytelling using a new app called Tap. Created by the people at Wattpad, the creative writing site (and available for both Android and iOS), it also allows authors to freely create and share their work with a wider audience. What sets Tap apart, however, is that it's all about telling stories "chat" style—in other words, through the back and forth texting that dominates so much of our lives.

The opening lines of Played.
The story is told entirely through dialogue. There's no description or third person observation. The scene must be set and the story told entirely through text. Character names can be indicated as one might find in a group chat, and a background image for the chat screen can help set the scene. Also, if the story occurs in more than one setting, that background image can change to indicate a change in venue.

Finally, the author can add a book cover (in this case, a simple representative image), and add a short description and category (or multiple categories)—for example,  romantic, scary, magical or suspenseful.

My story, Played, is the tale of two young gamers planning to meet IRL (In Real Life) for the first time. Will the meeting happen—or is this all a game?

The story selection screen looks nice, but
so far, it's not possible to search anything but
  category. I haven't yet found my story. 
Played is told in a total of 177 messages. The reader will either Tap the screen (if in the App, or tap the "Tap" bar, if on a desktop) to move on to the next text.

Here's my story. You'll be guided to the desktop reader if that's where you're clicking.

I encourage you to follow the link, Tap through the story, and tell me what you think here on the blog or through my social media channels. As the App is in its early days (feature improvements are promised), I'd also appreciate if you would share it as well. Reader feedback isn't built in (yet), so

I had great fun creating this story, and I'll likely create a few more Tap experiences. It's a great stream-of-consciousness exercise and brainstorming tool, too. I'm very curious to see what readers think.

And who knows, it just might inspire my next book...

Is Alexander Right for my Kid?

All Three Books Add Lexile Text Scores

I've taken an important step in making my books student friendly by obtaining Lexile® Scores for all three books. 

Recognized as the standard for matching readers with texts, tens of millions of students worldwide receive a Lexile measure that helps them find targeted readings from the more than 100 million articles, books and websites that have been measured.

My Life at the Bottom of the Food Chain has a score of 690L, Own the Scrawny is 740Land My Epic Life is 640L.

So, what does this actually mean? For comparison's sake, popular books in the same Lexile range include The Maze Runner, The Book Thief, The Giver, Wonder, Percy Jackson and the Olympians and Holes. 

Please forward this to educators and parents that might find this useful, and check out for a list of challenging words for each book, according to the Lexile Framework. Just select Parents/Teachers  on the menu and choose "Lexile Measures."

My Epic Life is now available as a $2.99 e-book on all popular platforms. 

I've also started recording an Epic audiobook. Remember, My Life at the Bottom of the Food Chain and Own the Scrawny are already available as audiobooks. You can find them on Amazon. By this summer, the entire series will be road trip ready!

I made an appearance at Barnes and Noble recently at a fundraiser for Bridgeport Elementary School, and once again attended the Santa Clarita Local Author Celebration at the Newhall Public Library.

Check out Greg Baldwin's fun behind-the-scenes video of my time at the Local Author Celebration.

Finally, here's an in-depth interview I gave on the new YouTube channel, Writing Fun.  Michelle Dunton covered everything from the origin of the Alexander books, to my evolution as a writer. She's also the latest in a line of homeschool moms who have found my books especially appealing. Watch the interview to find out why!

If you feel inspired, both of these YouTube channels would appreciate your subscription.

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