A writing excerpt, more Scouts, and the best Becky

So, we paid a little money to promote The No-Campfire Girls on the Fussy Librarian newsletter, which resulted in a few sales. Then I doubled down by letting social media have it with both barrels. I sent out a newsletter, then put up two different posts on multiple social media platforms, including some I still have never heard of and others that don't exist yet.

(By the way, FaceBackTalk will be huge.)

I even tagged some celebrity former Girl Scouts with what amounted to begging. Up to this point, the total effort has produced zero results, in sales or reviews. (To my knowledge; sometimes these things move slowly, like my bathroom sink.)

So the next time your father says "you get what you pay for", stop snickering and pay attention.

I'm tempted to paraphrase Davy Crockett by saying social media can go to hell--I'm going to edit. But after Crockett said something like that, he went to Texas and died at the Alamo. I'm not sure I want to fight to the last adverb.

Besides, social media can be pretty cool, what with the family's baby pics and the backdraft simulators, so as long as you don't get addicted or expect too much from it, it's okay. Another besides: I was once followed on Twitter by the original Becky from "Roseanne", so I've already had my fifteen minutes of fame. (And after she followed me her Twitter account disappeared; coincidence?)

Besides X3, I've gotten a lot of moral support from friends and fellow writers online ... so here's a reward in the form of a short excerpt from The No-Campfire Girls. It's free. You get what you pay for.


            Cassidy stopped in her tracks. “Oh, no.”
            For a moment Cassidy listened to the voices, then she gripped Beth’s arm. “Whatever you hear from now on, just remember this: Only half of it is true.” She took a deep breath, then marched on toward the barn’s entrance.
            Director Harris stood inside, along with two wranglers—former Lookout Girls who now specialized in the camp’s horses. The wranglers looked greatly amused. Mrs. Harris did not.
            The object of their attention was an old man who stood with his arms crossed. His craggy face was brownish-red, his nose a great tomahawk-like hook, his eyes brown and clear. “Whatever might help should be tried, Director Harris. We accomplish nothing if we don’t try.” He wore jeans, work boots, and, despite the heat, a long sleeve red flannel shirt and cowboy hat. Even the horses stood still, fascinated by him.
            “Oh, my gosh.” Beth whispered to Cassidy, “He looks like a full blooded Indian!”
            “Half Cherokee. But he’s full of something.” Cassidy took another deep breath, then stepped into the barn.
            Cassidy knows this guy. Beth followed the other girl in. Well, it made sense: Unlike Beth, Cassidy lived around here, and the nearest city wasn’t all that big. Heather claimed the nearest mall called her name from three hours away.
            Mrs. Harris didn’t notice them at first, but the old man looked around. “Osiyo, Cassidy.” He sent her a mild smile. “Maybe you could explain to your director that I do an effective rain dance.”
            Cassidy drew back a little. “Hello to you, Running Creek. Beth Hamlin, this is Running Creek.”
            “Call me Simon. I don’t stand on ceremony.” He looked at Mrs. Harris again. “Although I do know how to conduct ceremonies.”
            A moment of silence followed. Everyone, Beth realized, looked at Cassidy.
            “Mrs. Harris, Running Creek—Simon—is trained and experienced with rain dances.”
            Mrs. Harris sighed. “That doesn’t mean—“
            “These things must be done right,” Simon told her. “Once, in 1997, I danced too long. It was a hundred year flood.”
            “I didn’t question your ability to do the dance, Simon. But you’re here to teach archery in place of having campfires—not to change the weather so we can have the campfires. I don’t think it’s proper to do what amounts to a religious ceremony in front of all these girls.”
            Beth didn’t see how a rain dance would be any worse than the Lookout Girl rain song they’d sung at breakfast, but something told her bringing that up would be a bad idea.
            Simon stared at the director for a long moment, then whipped off his hat to uncover a full head of pure white hair. “The politically correct police strike again.” He bowed to Mrs. Harris, nodded to the others, then walked out the door. The horses watched him until he disappeared, as if waiting for his next trick.
            The wranglers tittered a little, until Mrs. Harris threw them a glare and they went back to work. Then she turned her attention on Beth and Cassidy. “You know Running Creek—Simon?”
            “Yes, ma’am.”
            “He came well recommended, but I’ve never heard of him doing rain dances before. One has to wonder if he’s for real.”
            “He’s really half Cherokee,” Cassidy told her.
            “And what’s the other half?”
            Beth looked at Cassidy. How did she know so much about the old man?
            “Irish. I think the word we’re looking for here is blarney.” Apparently too rattled to ask the girls why they were there, Mrs. Harris walked out the door.
            After the director left, Beth cleared her throat. “Blarney?”
            “I think it kind of means … bull … droppings. I wonder if Mrs. Harris is half Irish, too.” Cassidy smiled. “They’ll continue to not get along.”


The value of navel lint, or: Girl Scouts cause an e-book breakout

I had a business plan all ready to go when we published The No-Campfire Girls, and it was, if I do say so myself, fool-proof:

First, we tell everyone half the proceeds to go a good and worthy cause, and that much of the other half go toward advertising that good and worthy cause.

Second, we set the e-book price at only 99 cents and, even better, the print book at just five dollars. Hey, you can find 99 cents in your navel lint collection. (It's up to you to dig it out.) Not only that, but these days 99 cents worth of navel lint is worth five bucks, so there you go.

Third, we spread the word among Girl Scouts, since that good cause was to support a Girl Scout camp. There are about two and a half million Girl Scouts in America today. So the Scouts of Camp Latonka would spread the word about this cool new young adult novel to other Scouts in Missouri, who get the word out through the Midwest, and before you know it I'm on Oprah's book list. No, I have no idea of Oprah was a Girl Scout, but she would know a fun read when she sees one.

I do sneak in a book cover, every now and then.
But speaking of Oprah, the next step would be to have The No-Campfire Girls endorsed by famous Girl Scouts. I may only remember a few Taylor Swift songs, but I know a former Scout when I see one.

By which I mean, I looked it up.

 So pretty soon Swift, Gwyneth Paltrow, Susan Lucci, Abigail Breslin, Dionne Warwick, Katie Couric, Martha Stewart, Mariah Carey ... let me take a breath ... Celine Dion, Dakota Fanning, Barbara Walters, Venus Williams, and my favorite, Sheryl Crow, are all telling their fans, "Buy a book and save a camp!" (trademark pending) ... "Oh, and enjoy reading!"

According to my math, these steps would result in 8,914,976 sales. If every one of those buyers likes the book, that in turn will result in approximately 475 book reviews. Since online publicity depends so much on book reviews these days, that many should result in at least another ten billion sales.

I confess, my calculator app froze up a few steps earlier, so that's some quick and dirty napkin calculations that I had to read off my face in the mirror, after an unfortunate chocolate mishap. But I think it's a fair approximation.

So, Girl Scout Camp Latonka is saved, and I see a book series in my future!

Well, I did. The plan stalled along the way, possibly during the "going viral" stage. Or maybe I should have led with, "It's a fun, story--really it is". But I'm working on it.

And, just in case, I've already got a sequel planned out ... maybe I'll put in a cute puppy.

(Oh yeah, I almost forgot, which defeats the purpose: Find The No-Campfire Girls and our other books at www.markrhunter.com or https://www.amazon.com/Mark-R-Hunter/e/B0058CL6OO.)

Girl Scouts, or coffee? I vote books.

The No-Campfire Girls was featured Sunday on the Fussy Librarian daily newsletter; the site's all about books of various genres, and can be found here:


It costs a few bucks to do the ad, but it did bring sales. The Amazon ranking for The No-Campfire Girls rose from just over three million to 41,341 that day, which is its highest Kindle ranking, so the extra effort clearly did something.

That's especially important because half the proceeds for the book go to support my wife's Girl Scout Camp Latonka, in Missouri. (Not "former" because once a Scout, always a Scout.) This is our second such effort, with the proceeds from another book, Smoky Days and Sleepless Nights, going to the Albion Volunteer Fire Department.

And they don't get charged for the advertising!

This is also why I didn't set The No-Campfire Girls to free: Can't raise funds that way. Not to mention the e-book is already only 99 cents. You can even pick up the print version for just five bucks: That's a lot of entertainment, for the price of an extra small plain black Starbucks coffee.

I'd planned to do a whole promotion thing around the Fussy Librarian appearance, with the idea of getting it as far up the rankings as possible. But my mother landed in the hospital (she's out now) and some other things happened, so now I'm going to launch that effort afterward instead, for about a week. I don't self-promote nearly as much as I probably should, so I think my readers will forgive me, especially when it comes to a good cause.

What will my extra promotion effort entail? In the immortal words of Indiana Jones, I dunno--I'm making this up as I go along. But look for more about the book later, and until then please support the Girls Scouts by picking it up on our website at www.MarkRHunter.com, or over on our Amazon page:

The Dog Ate My Homework

Here in dispatch we got all sorts of goodies this year in honor of Public Safety Telecommunications Week, much of it in the form of food from various appreciative members of the public. I especially liked one of the first ones, a paper bag full of all sorts of neat snacks, many of them of my favorite type--chocolate. But I wasn't able to partake right away, because right after I got home we had to leave again, to see my mother in the hospital. So, I left it on the kitchen counter until we returned.

The dog ate it.

He left most of the list, so I could see what I was missing.
Most of the chocolate was gone. Dogs love chocolate for the same reason humans do: It's bad for you. But, I'm happy to report, Beowulf made it through the crisis with a smile on his snout and an ache in his stomach. Okay, I'm not so very happy.

It's hard to tell how much of the bag he swallowed, but he didn't get to the microwave popcorn, and apparently the can cooler was too chewy. The green stuff at the bottom left is from one of those Scentsy wax smelly things--but that's another blog.

He also didn't get the gum, which is maybe for the best. Imagine that moment of panic the first time he passed gas after a whole pack of gum moved through his system.

In any case, although I remain less than happy with him, at least Beowulf didn't make himself sick going places he wasn't supposed to go. And me, I've learned my lesson: First, never take your work home. Second, whenever you get chocolate--eat it. Right now.

Movie Review: Ready Player One

As we left the theater after seeing Ready Player One, I told my wife, "I think that's the most fun I've had at the movies since Deadpool".

Not the best movie, mind you--but certainly the most fun. However, by happy coincidence, Ready Player One is also a great movie.

The concept is that virtual reality has sent much of the world's population into a computerized universe that's way better and more fun than the real one, which of course leads to the real world  getting that worse. In other words, it's the way things are pretty much headed in real life. By 2045 everyone, including Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) is going into the OASIS, where you can be anyone you want and do anything you want. A good example of this is right at the opening, when we see some people climbing Mount Everest--with Batman.

For instance, you could have your own time machine.

Wade lives in a trailer park so overcrowded that the homes are literally stacked on top of each other, and won't that be fun the next time a tornado comes along? He's competing to find clues to a contest that will give the winner control of the OASIS, along with the fortune of its creator, James Halliday (played with relish by Mark Rylance). When Wade wins the first of three challenges, he gets on the radar of some very powerful people, which ends up endangering both the OASIS and the real world of Wade's friends and family.

Where does Hollywood get its ideas? Where everyone should: books.

Now, let's be clear: Ready Player One is another science fiction action-adventure, nothing more. But in the hands of a master like Stephen Spielberg, nothing more can become ... more. From the moment Wade hops into the Delorean from Back To The Future to race the Akira motorcycle, Bigfoot, the A Team van, and the freaking Batmobile, you know you're in for something special. And that's before King Kong shows up, and by the way, that's just in the first ten minutes. It's breathless and breathtaking, spectacular and funny, and the only thing that's missing is a John Williams score--although having said that, Alan Silvestri does a great job weaving in well known themes for a memorable soundtrack.

By the way, is there any SF fandom Simon Pegg hadn't been involved in at this point?

Spielberg has said Ready Player One is the most difficult film he's made since Saving Private Ryan, twenty years ago, and the third hardest ever behind Jaws. I believe him; but he pulled it off. Oh, and yes, there are themes and deeper issues, as well as plot holes along the way.

If you're into pop culture references, you'll probably want to see Ready Player One more than once, just to catch everything. For me it was one of the fun parts of the movie, and honestly I'm bursting to shout out all the references, from the obvious (The Shining) to the blink-and-you-miss-it (Firefly). And if you don't recognize all those shout-outs ... doesn't matter. Still a great movie.

If you don't recognize at least one of these, you'll recognize something else.

My Score:
Entertainment Value: 5 out of 4 M&Ms. Yeah, I said it.
Oscar Potential: 3 out of 4 M&Ms. There's quality in every aspect of this production, but sadly, I wouldn't be surprised if the Academy totally ignores this picture as being too much fun for their lofty standards.

911 Dispatcher of the year ... hey, I know her!

In 1981, California declared the first Public Safety Telecommunications Week, so you can't say nothing good ever comes out of California.

Around here we call ourselves dispatchers, or sometimes 911 dispatchers if we've feeling particularly unappreciated, which does happen from time to time. In a fifteen minute period last night we took 911 calls of a prowler tapping on windows, domestic violence in progress, and a baby not breathing, so personally I feel some appreciation is in order.

Hearing my feelings, Indiana Governor Eric J. Holcomb proclaimed April 8-14 Public Safety Telecommunications Week here in the Hoosier State, as has been happening since 1999. Saying "dispatchers" doesn't really cover it, especially in small dispatch centers. On third shift I work with a grand total of one partner at a time. We take 911 and business line calls, send out police and fire trucks, transfer and monitor EMS calls, and handle some calls ourselves without having to contact anyone else.

We run license plates and driver's licenses, handle warrant searches and services, put out weather alerts, contact highway departments for road problems and utility departments for electrical or gas emergencies, keep track of flooded and closed roads, and track down the origin points for the hundredth 911 hangup call of the night.

We talk to the drunk, the disturbed, and angry, the pranksters, and the people having the worst days of their lives. We guide people through what they need to do to survive until help can arrive.

We are, sometimes, the last voice someone ever hears.

And some of us do it while staying up all night.

By the way, some government agencies classify us as clerical workers.

Now, every once in awhile, almost as if by miracle, Public Safety Telecommunicators get recognition. I give you:

Boy, that looks a lot like my shift partner there on the right.
Hey ... that IS my shift partner!

Congratulations to Bonnie Clevenger on well deserved recognition! I can only imagine riches will follow, and I'm hoping she'll shed some small portion of them on the rest of us. Now remember, if you have to call 911: There's a human being on the other end of the phone.

Singing Up a Spring

Hey, I wrote a song!

It's not a great song ... but then, I'm not a great song writer. There are two problems: First, I meant it to be humorous, but it comes off as kind of depressing; chalk that up to the weather and my sinus infection, I suppose. Second, it's a song, and I was hearing the music in my head while writing the words (It has a country vibe). But I can't play it for you because I can't write music ... so it probably won't work as well as a poem. Maybe it's for the best, though, because I'm also not a great music writer. Or ... any music writer.

I should hold some contest, like: If I sell thirty books by the end of April, I'll post a video of me singing this. But that might lead to negative sales. "For Heaven's sake, don't sing! I'm sending your books back to you."

I call it: Springing Out of Springdom.

(I'm not a great title writer, either.)

I like to ride in the countryside
just to take in spring.
The flower blossoms, birds at play
and all the greening things.

But this year I've come to realize
something that's made me sad.
We won't get a spring this year
'cause we've all been too bad.

Yeah, we've all been too bad this year,
we just can't get along.
We fight and fuss and disagree
Even as the days get long.

Mother Nature said "Screw you!"
"I'll just evaporate."
So winter just won't end this year;
she left us to our fate.

So now the temp's below average
just like all our moods.
Plants are brown and grass is dead,
let's face it--we're all screwed.

Our tulips won't come up this year,
They're underneath a drift.
The robins are hitchhiking south,
their frozen wings won't lift.

Yes, we've all been too bad this year,
we don't deserve the spring.
Mosquitoes can't come out in this,
it's frostbite that'll sting.

Mother Nature said "Stuff it!"
and left us all to freeze.
so winter just won't end this year,
no flowers, birds, or bees.

So let's all try to get along,
we just don't have to fight.
At this rate our nice summer
will become a year long night.

It's not that we all must be friends,
but hatred hurts our souls.
If we don't make up by Christmas
At least we can heat with coals.

True, we've all been too bad this year,
and spring will never come
if we don't get our butts in gear
and stop being so dumb.

Mother nature said "I'm done!"
and winter's staying strong.
So dig back out your salt and plows ...
or try to get along.

I think I can, I think I can ...

It's so quiet, you can hear a tree drop.

Hey, it's spring, let's take a walk ... never mind.

This would be more like it.