My Dad the Hippie, part 2

Ann Lee Miller earned a BA in creative writing from Ashland (Ohio) Miller - author photoUniversity and writes full-time in Phoenix, Arizona, but left her heart in Florida, where she grew up on a sailboat. She loves speaking to young adults and guest lectures on writing at several Arizona colleges. Over 100,000 copies of her debut novel, Kicking Eternity, have been downloaded from Amazon. She blogs memoir at Here is the second half or her memoir article about growing up on a sailboat.

Dad didn’t just admire flower child freedom. He quit his job managing Shenandoah Pool to build our forty-foot yawl in the back yard. Then, the no-job lifestyle stuck. Mom’s nursing and Dad’s playing the market—his huge graphs spread across the fore cabin while he plotted his stocks—paid marina rent, Catholic school tuition, and kept us in bathing suits and zinc oxide. I don’t think he gave a flip that his BS in business from the University of Miami moldered while he boat and child-minded, bagged a Euell Gibbons life.

We slid into the mouth of the waterway, and I dropped the mainsail.

Dad yanked on the lawnmower cord to our ten-horse, secondhand, Johnson outboard, swore, yanked, swore.

My fingers clenched around the bowsprit as we coasted into the narrow inlet.

Mom sat at the helm, my brother smashed up against her side.

Finally, the motor coughed to life, and Dad muscled it down the stern into the water.

Ten minutes later we puttered into a virgin cove, surrounded on four sides by land and pines.

Dad killed the motor, and we glided into the perfect center.

We dropped anchors fore and aft and stowed sail to our transistor radio blaring the weather.

Hurricane Laurie hooked southeast and headed for Mexico.

We cheered.

That night, in my bunk in the after cabin, I lie awake listening to the strange sounds of the cove.

Dad wasn’t a hippie. Our car was a ten-year-old Plymouth Valiant he’d painted tan—with a paint brush—over the original white. But a picture from half a life ago lapped against my ear from the other side of the hull. I’d been five, and my parents quit their jobs, packed us up, and drove out west to pan for gold—in a Volkswagen van.

I shouldn’t have been surprised several years later when Dad grew out his hair like Willie Nelson or that he never again worked a “real job.”

Dad protected me from skin cancer, unhealthy eating, and a sedentary lifestyle. He gave me books, boats and the ability to write for twelve years without a paycheck. I have Dad to thank that I rebelled into conservatism and God. Conservatism may be expendable, but God I’ll keep.



JIM:  Here’s the blurb for her latest novel.

Growing up on a boat made it easy for me to set the stage for the Christian romance Tattered Innocence, a tale of passions indulged, denied, and ultimately forgiven.

Miller - Tattered Innocence New CoverOn the verge of bagging the two things he wants most—a sailing charter business and marrying old money—Jake Murray’s fiancée/sole crew member dumps him. Salvation comes in the form of dyslexic, basketball toting Rachel Martin, the only one to apply for the first mate position he slapped on craigslist.

On a dead run from an affair with a married man, Rachel’s salvation is shoving ocean between her and temptation.

Rapid fire dialogue and romantic tension sail Jake’s biker-chick of a boat through hurricanes, real and figurative. A cast of wannabe sailors, Rachel’s ex, Jake’s, a baby—go along for the ride.

The many-layered story weaves together disparate strands into a seamless cord. Mother and daughter look eerily alike—down to their lusts. Their symbiotic bond, forged in the blood of childbirth on the kitchen floor and cemented by their secrets, must be cracked open. A son must go home. Sin must be expunged.

Tattered Innocence is for anyone who’s ever woken up sealed in a fifty-gallon drum of their guilt.

You can view her book Tattered Innocence on Amazon by clicking


My Dad, the Hippie

Ann Lee Miller earned a BA in creative writing from Ashland (Ohio) Miller - author photoUniversity and writes full-time in Phoenix, Arizona, but left her heart in Florida, where she grew up on a sailboat. She loves speaking to young adults and guest lectures on writing at several Arizona colleges. Over 100,000 copies of her debut novel, Kicking Eternity, have been downloaded from Amazon. She blogs memoir at Here is a memoir article about growing up on a sailboat.

Hurricane Laurie gusted across the Gulf of Mexico, 105 mile-an-hour winds gunned for the Glades and south Florida. It was October 27, 1969, and my family barreled across Biscayne Bay under full sail, heading for a Hurricane Hole to wait out the storm.

I planted my eleven-year-old self on the foredeck, scanning the distant shoreline for a gap that might be our cove.                     .

I was not afraid. Dad would keep us safe.

But his tension bled into me.

Sailing was supposed to soothe, but even under clear skies, Dad stressed.

He could have taken a lesson from the hippies he admired. They rattled around Coconut Grove in beater Volkswagen vans, on bikes or on foot—wafting Patchouli oil, incense, and I-don’t-care in their wake. They didn’t care about jobs, haircuts, or monogamy. They ingested bean sprouts by the pound, brownies when they got the munchies. The women burned their bras.

I glanced back at the cockpit.

At the helm, Dad stood ram-rod in his crew cut. Mom posed at his side, her nurse’s uniform tented to symmetrical cones by a sturdy bra. They were a hip American Gothic portrait of monogamy.

We were coming up fast on a buoy. I shouted to Dad and pointed.

Dad levered the tiller hard to starboard, and the boat swerved and came about. He yelled, “What color is the damn buoy?” the second I remembered he was colorblind.

“Red!” Mom shouted.

He angled the boat into the wind and we drifted past the buoy.

Dad raised his voice over the flapping of the sails. “Annie, check our depth!”

I scrambled over the main cabin, readying for the thud of our keel hitting bottom.

Rigging clanged against the aluminum mast.

My fingers closed around the depth-sounder, a long mop handle with notches carved at one-foot intervals.

Patches of sand blinked through the seaweed below us, but we still floated.

Dad angled us back into the channel.

The sails filled.

I let the pole roll from my fingers, releasing a breath I didn’t know I’d been holding.

My five-year-old brother crouched in the corner of the cockpit, wide-eyed. These were the best days of his life, he’d tell me later.

Dad white-knuckled the tiller, his calming yoga work-outs not paying off. He’d lift his body off the dock with his hands and levitate his legs front or spread right and left. He did handstands while we kids counted the seconds. He sat Indian style with both heels up—like a hippie doing Transcendental Meditation.

I think Dad secretly wanted to be a hippie. But everyone knew flower children were young. Dad had rounded forty and was riding a Boston Whaler full-throttle toward forty-five.

Miller - Ann on boat2But no hippie would coat his kids’ noses, cheeks, and shoulders in zinc oxide twenty-four-seven—when the rest of the world was frying itself in Johnson’s Baby Oil. Hippie dads wouldn’t make their kids check in every hour. They wouldn’t saddle their offspring with chores like painting a stretch of deck or stacking lumber in the aft cabin.

A hippie dad would be too stoned to make his kid read aloud Euell Gibbons’ Stalking the Blue-Eyed Scallop and phonetically sound out all the fifty-gallon words.

My stomach growled as my eyes swept across the seawall looking for an opening. I wondered if there was anything to eat on board that hadn’t lived in the bay. The beansprouts Dad grew in the cupboard didn’t count.

He ground conch in a hand-cranked meat grinder into chowder and fritters that had to be chewed twenty-five times and tasted like rubber hose. Clams were dug at low tide. We scooped shrimp—when they ran—in nets from the dock. Dad gigged, cast-netted, spear-fished our food. Once in a while he poached a Florida ‘lobster’ by reaching into a crawfish hole, ripping off its tail, and stuffing it into his trunks. He never got caught.

Dad hollered for me to take down the foresail.

While I worked, my brother manned the tiller, Dad downed the mizzen sail, and Mom—binoculars to her eyes— yelled, “There’s the inlet!”

Relief flooded through me, and the wind gentled as we closed in on the shore.

I needed to think about something other than food.


JIM:  That’s all we have room for today.  But, Ann will finish the article next week, so be sure and come back.  In the meantime, you can view her book Kicking Eternity by clicking here.



I Am My Words

Today’s guest is Grady Jane Woodfin, who just finished her BFA inWoodfin-GJ_Author pic Creative Writing for Entertainment. She’s been published in several literary magazines such as Crab Fat and ThickJam, and her short story “Twizzlers,” was a 2015 Pushcart Prize nominee.  Today, she talks about why we should write about what we know.   Here are her words.

Writing is a lonely job.  I can talk story and characters and plot and themes and genres all day long, but when it comes down to it, it’s just me and a terrifying white, blank page with an annoying cursor that counts the seconds with its blinks.  But before I can confront that white, blank page, I have to face a different monster all together.

What do I write about?

My entire writing career, people have always told me, “Grady, write about what you know.”

“What do you mean?” I ask.

“I mean write about what you know.”

“But what if I don’t know much of anything.”

“Then you probably shouldn’t be a writer.”

So, what do I know?  Well, I know some things.  You see, I am constantly wondering if anyone else in the world has ever felt the way I’m feeling.  That’s a huge part of what draws me into writing.  I’m convinced a lot of my writing is desperately trying to work things out in my own head.

I find myself crafting stories that have strong undertones of the struggles I face in every day life.  In my short story, Twizzlers, I focused on writing about things like loneliness, abandonment, family, and starting over.  These were vital for me to tell a good story because they were conflicts I’d experienced before.  I was battling my demons in my own stories.

Woodfin-GJ_PushCartPrizeCoverSo far, I find this to be true with other writers.  We all seem to be writing about what we know best, whether it’s loss or love, revenge or redemption.  I think we do it without thinking.  It’s our natural, default setting.  It’s almost guaranteed that if something is keeping a writer up at night, they’re going to express one way or another through their writing, whether it’s the A story plot or an obscure sub-plot that’s mentioned in half of a sentence on page 187 of the second draft.  We’re all writing about what we know because it’s familiar to us.

But there’s something horrifying that comes with admitting I’m really writing about my own experiences.  Writing about what I know makes me vulnerable.  As Ernest Hemingway once said, “There is nothing to writing.  All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”  Writing is literally transferring myself onto a piece of paper and hoping that someone, somewhere is going to relate to the obstacles I’ve overcome… or maybe didn’t overcome.  There’s nothing separates the writer and the reader.  There is nothing on the paper but black and white truth.  Brutal and honest and messy truths.

I am my words.

That’s the scariest part.

Writing sounds like an awful labor of love.  I write because I exist.  I exist because I write.  So on and so forth.  The cycle continues.  However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

There’s a reason I write about what I know.  I write about what I know because what I know is real.  It’s conflict that I’ve encountered.  It’s problems that have haunted my nights and trickled into my days.

It is the realness of writing about what I know that makes my storytelling relatable.

When characters encounter a realistic problem the reader has also faced.  That’s the exact moment that makes all the vulnerability of writing payoff because something clicks, and somebody says, “Hey, I never knew that someone else in the world had felt that way before.  I thought I was the only one, and it’s nice to know that I’m not.”

Writing about what haunts me most, deep down in my gut may be alarming, but without that twinge of helplessness, writing wouldn’t be nearly as rewarding.

Always write about what you know because it’s those stories that mean the most.


JIM:    Grady Jane’s immediate plans are to move to LA and break into the television writing industry.  Here are some links to find out more about this young writer.

Her website/portfolio:






Nine Ways to Get More Book Reviews

Today I am pleased to have Misty M. Beller on board.  She shares Beller-cswith us some    great tips on that all important task for writers – how to get more reviews for our books.  So, I not going to delay that even a minute.  Let heard what she has to suggest.

Word of mouth is what sells books, right? The Amazon review is one of the most powerful word-of-mouth tools you’ll ever encounter. Is your book well-researched? Your readers will appreciate that and mention it in their reviews. Did you forget to tie up loose ends in your story line? You’ll be called out on it, I guarantee. Potential readers often look at the reviews to see if they’re willing to spend precious money and time to read your story. Hone your craft and write the best story possible, and your reviews will reflect it.

How many reviews do you need? Many writers say it seems there’s something “magical” about reaching twenty-five. After that, they seem to come so much easier and quicker. The more reviews you have with a four- or five-star rating, the more comfortable a potential reader will be taking a chance on your book.

So let’s take an extra minute to talk through methods for garnering reviews.

Many of the options in this list work best if you send out ebook files, but you may sometimes need to send hard copies. Not every method works for every person or book, so it’s great that we have so many options!

  1. Friends and family: Most of them are eager to post a review when they learn it will help you.
  2. Critique Partners and Beta Readers: They’ve already read the book, so it should be an easy review.
  3. Launch team: This is something I started with my second book and have enjoyed! Right now I have a group of twelve on my team, but I have an open sign-up form on my website where energetic leaders can request to join the team. The main thing I ask from my launch team is to post reviews. Anything else is optional!
  4. In the back matter of your book (I put this immediately following the last page of the story), have a page that asks the reader to post a review if they enjoyed the book. Have a clickable link (in your ebook) that takes them directly to the review page.
  1. Pre-orders. This is one of my personal favorites and one of the main ways I got my first 30ish reviews on The Lady and The Mountain Doctor. I wrote a fairly extensive blog post on pre-orders here.
  2. Ask other authors if they would be willing to read and review. The upside is authors do understand the value of reviews. The downside is most authors have a To Be Read stack taller than they are.
  3. Facebook groups like Christian Reviewers where you can post your book to potential reviewers. If they’re interested, you email the person an ebook and they post a review. I’ve heard good things about these groups, however most will only let you post a book to the site if it has less than 10 reviews.
  4. Websites like, and others where you can post your book to potential reviewers. If they’re interested, you send them an ebook through the website and they post a review. General feedback I’ve heard from this site is you usually get review on about 10-30% of the books you send.
  5. Free days. This is much harder to pull off if you’re traditionally published, but basically you lower your ebook price to free for a day or two (or five). You’ll typically receive thousands of downloads each day for a free book. If you have a note in the back matter of your book asking satisfied readers to post a review, those thousands of free downloads result in lots of reviews. You also have the nice side effect of great ranking with Amazon during those free days, which creates VISIBILITY and can help increase sales numbers once you’re back to regular price.

Beller - The Lady and the Mountain Doctor cove-srNow, I’d love to hear from you! Have you found any of these options to be successful? Are there other strategies you use that aren’t listed here? Let’s hear them!


You can find her on her website, reader blog, marketing blog for authors, Goodreads, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest. Or check out her books The Lady and the Mountain Man or The Lady and the Mountain Doctor.


The Long Tail in Publishing

Today, Stephen Woodfin talks about the new paradigm for writers, onewoodfin-2 we should all be aware of.  Stephen is a multi-published author (and a lawyer) whose novels have been well-received.  But for some of us, what he has to say today is new and important.  Take it away, Stephen.

Amazon’s Long Tail 

One of the most interesting components of bookselling in the new digital age is the long tail.

“Long tail” is a term made popular by the publication of Chris Anderson’s book, The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More.

gorillaIn essence the long tail refers to the infinite shelf-life of books on Internet marketplaces.  As anyone in the book business knows, Amazon is the 500 pound gorilla in the long tail business.

If we look back a few years, we can see the revolutionary power of the long tail in the book business.  For many years, when brick and mortar stores dominated book selling, publishers fueled the retail book market with the returns system.  The returns system is a mechanism whereby book stores can return unsold copies of books they purchase from publishers and receive full credit for the price they paid for the books.

This means that if a book does not sell quickly, a bookstore returns it, and the book vanishes from sight of the public, usually never to be seen again.

Now, however, a reader can find books on Amazon that are not in physical stores. Those books do not disappear, but rather continue to populate digital shelves, waiting for readers to find them.

And readers do find them.  It may take a while for a book to sell from an online site, but it will sell if it is a book of interest to readers of a niche genre.

The niches are endless, too. Virtually any topic has a group of people who want to learn more about it, and it is those readers who search Amazon for books in the category.

Another factor that comes into play with the long tail is Amazon sales rankings.calendar Most people don’t understand what those rankings mean. They are not a reflection of the popularity of the book vis a vis all books for sale on Amazon.  Rather, they are an indication of the amount of time which has elapsed since the book’s last sale.

For instance, a book ranked 100,000 is selling about a copy per day, while one ranked 1,000,000 is selling probably about one copy per month. Also, the rankings reset every hour, so that a book ranked 1,000,000 in the morning may be ranked 100,000 or 1,500,000 by nightfall.

If a reader develops a curiosity about sales rankings, she will soon understand the significance of the long tail.

tailWhat does the long tail mean for authors?

Simply put, it means most authors, save for the infinitesimally few who are lucky enough to have a break out bestseller, will benefit for the most part from the long tail.

In other words, they will sell a few copies of their books day to day, but those sales may continue for many years. This is why authors should keep writing and increase the number of titles they have.  The more titles, the greater the chance those niche readers will find them as the days, months, and years go by.

Jim, thanks for the chance to blog on your site again.  It’s always a pleasure and a privilege.

You can find Stephen’s books on the big Gorilla with the long tail, Amazon, by clicking here.

Please Share or Like, and give us your thoughts on this new look at publishing, the gorilla with the long tail.  Thanks.



Imagination, not invention


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Today’s guest is John Lindermuth, a retired newspaper editor, and the author of 14 novels, including six in his Sticks Hetrick crime series. He currently serves as librarian of his county historical society, where he assists patrons with genealogy and research. … Continue reading