Understanding Keywords with Stella Wilkinson

Originally posted on The Independent Author:

One thing I noticed after my first month of publishing is that my sales basically came to a halt. Another thing I noticed is that I very much did not like that. So, I tried to come up with ways to increase sales while not spending any advertising money. I discovered that the keywords I entered upon submitting my book for publication on Amazon could actually get me into better search results (think SEO for Google) and even better categories.

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GALLOWEEN – or why I REALLY love Halloween!

Halloween has always been my favorite time of the year. I know that things have changed since I was young. You don’t see the crowds of kids in Superman costumes, hobo garb, clown suits and ghost sheets the way you used to. Nowadays kids are too cool for all that foolishness.

Nevertheless, I still celebrate it every chance I get. For years it was my great tradition to decorate my front lawn with as much booga-booga paraphernalia as I could manage.

What did I have?

Well, for starters, there was a great foam core full moon, painted bright metallic gold and on the highest peak of my roof. In front of that full moon dangled a witch on a broomstick – made from a homemade scarecrow stuffed with sheets and rags and shirts that I had outgrown.

Lord, I have grown through an awful lot of shirts since then. From size medium to extra-large – how the heck could I managed to shrink so much laundry?

On the front lawn was a pair of large sawhorses with an old door slung across them and a huge stuffed Frankenstein monster stretched out. A pair of diabolical looking juice jugs with plastic tubing served as a makeshift IV.

I’m not saying this was fancy, you understand, but it had all of the heart that I could manage to inject into it.

Speaking of heart, one year I found a garbage bag of stuffed animals on the curbside. I salvaged a fine fat stuffed penguin and laid him out on the top of huge wooden stump that I dragged from out back where it usually served as a chopping block for my firewood. I tied that stuffed penguin to the top of the chopping block, inserted a set of finely-crafted foamcore fangs into his beak, and then drove a wooden stake with the butt of my axe – directly into the heart of that vampiric tuxedoed penguin. A few artful dribbles of homemade blood and the work was complete.

My yew bush, a fine fat hunk of shrubbery grew long black plastic tentacles. At the foot of the yew bush I built a mouth with a pair of old stuffed jeans and some mildwed funkified workboots poked out from the jaws of the yew bush. The tentacles were arranged so that the trick or treaters would have to walk beneath the overhanging tentacles along the sidewalk to get to my door. Above my door hung a spider web crafted from the remnants of a hockey net. Above that spider web dangled a huge black fuzzy spider about as large as a bushel basket. Inside the web was a small stuffed Spiderman costume, with its arms and legs pretzelled into unmistakable dead-as-a-doornail angles.

Some nights I would sit out there on that front step beneath that spider web dressed in a big old homemade Frankenstein monster suit with a great black pea coat and a big old fabric head. I would sit just as still as I could until someone walked up and then I would stand and yell something profound like “Booga booga.”

The windows would be painted with black cats, and several carved pumpkins sometimes aided by our black cat who would stare balefully out the window at any approaching trick or treaters.

There were also several scarecrows staked out in front of our lawn – but the highlight was our cemetery. Every year I dragged the old tombstones – decorated with the names of various horror actors and authors – as well as their birth and death dates. Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, H.P. Lovecraft, Oscar Wilde, Bela Lugosi and many others were buried each year upon our front lawn.

Then, I would spend hours raking leaves from the backyard to the front. I would rake them from the curbside and the neighbour’s lawn. By the time I was finished that front yard would be covered with about a half a foot deep in multicolored dead autumn leaves. Then I would scatter plastic bones and chunks of driftwood and plastic machetes and cleavers and the like.

Yes sir and yes ma ’m – I did Halloween up in a real big way.

But the strangest Halloween of all happened the year that I decided that my front yard needed an honest-to-god gallows. I constructed it out of scrap two by fours – artfully nailed together in a fashion that would make Red Green look skillful. I hung a huge scarecrow with a noose that was tied in a perfect hangman’s knot.

All right, so my wife tied the knot but I thought the idea up so I still get to wear my Old Spice manly cologne.

That gallows looked good, standing out there just behind the graveyard with a couple of orange floodlights shining on it.

Two days after the gallows went up a woman knocked on my door.

“Mister,” she told me. “My kids love your Halloween yard every year but they can’t walk by here without crying because my husband, in a fit of depression, hung himself in our basement just last year.”

You could not have stunned me harder if you had struck me full in the forehead with a caulking mallet.

I hastily apologized and promised the gallows would come down that very day. I called in to work and told them I had to stay home today. I cut the arm of the gallows and lowered the big old scarecrow down. Then I dressed the scarecrow up in drag – giving him a high peaked witch’s hat and a long black gown. My wife stitched up a hag’s beak and shoved his chin forward. Then I tied him to the two-by-four that stood upright. I built a heap of firewood and decorated it with red and yellow and orange cellophane-style wrapping paper. When I hit it with the orange floodlights it metamorphosed from a hung scarecrow to a witch burning at the stake.

I figured I was safe.

There was no way that any neighbor would have burned themselves at the stake last year, the year before or the year before that.

It is a funny story, telling it now – but I want you to know that I felt like ten kinds of stupid hearing about that woman’s crying kids. It showed me that there is another side to Halloween. It is a doorway from the happy of summer to the long bitter wake of cold winter. It is a time of when the old people would carry tribute to their recently dead and their thoughts would turn to the hereafter, and folks would gather around their woodstoves and talk of those who had passed away.

Halloween wasn’t always candy and trick or treaters.

Still, the story did have a happy ending.

I was so pleased with how the graveyard looked that I left it until Christmas before I finally took it down. Early that December, my wife’s sister decided to take advantage of a neighborhood bus tour that was tooling around the local streets admiring the various Christmas lights.

When they passed our house the tour guide kind of choked on his spit and gasped out “Who the heck lives there – the Adams Family?”

“No,” my sister-in-law quietly said. “That’s my sister’s house.”

Any truths that were stretched in the spinning of this yarn probably needed a good workout anyway.

Yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

This blog entry was written as part of the OCTOBER FRIGHTS BLOG HOP, an event for readers and authors and Halloween-groupies and fans of the fine art of booga-booga madness. We have brought over FORTY-freaking-FIVE fine authors of horror and paranormal together to share their Halloween booga-booga thoughts with all of you fine folks.

Just click this image to be whisked away to the a world where October rolls on to somewhere long past forever - the October Frights Bloghop!

Just click this image to be whisked away to the a world where October rolls on to somewhere long past forever – the October Frights Bloghop!

Don't forget - today is your LAST chance to grab yourself a Kindle copy of OCTOBER TALES!

Don’t forget – today is your LAST chance to grab yourself a Kindle copy of OCTOBER TALES!

BEAT WELL – a short-short Halloween tale

Me – I’ve always LOVED flash-fiction.

There’s something super-cool about telling an entire story in less than two hundred words. It’s the same kind of super-cool feeling that gets a fellow into building doll-house furniture or constructing ships in a bottle.

This particular story came to my on a factory table saw while I was pushing my four thousandth board of the morning through the whirling blades.

I wrote it down on a scrap of particle board. I had just watched the movie HALLOWEEN, and had the vision of those opening credits burning in my brain. I sent the story to twenty four magazines. Twenty four rejections quickly followed. The twenty fifth magazine TERROR TIME AGAIN, bought and paid for the story. It went on to be republished in SPWAO’s “best of” anthology ALPHA GALLERY; and David Kubicek’s original anthology OCTOBER DREAMS. I use the story all the time in my high school writing workshops to demonstrate the use of multiple voices in a story.

Some of you folks who have been following my blog for a while know fully well that I have posted this story at least once before that I remember – two Halloweens ago – but at 175 words or so, I expect it bears rereading.


Like horror? Got a Kindle? Click this picture to grab a free copy today!

Like horror? Got a Kindle? Click this picture to grab a free copy today!


Let’s play a trick…
on old punkinhead.
nyah nyah punkinhead
nyah nyah pun…

* * *

(I remember poppy, he showed me how, he showed me first. First you slice opent the top. Dig out the pulp, thank god no seeds. Gouge out eyes, nose, and mouth. There. Oh. One more thing. There. Jack o’ lanterns.)

* * *

Old John lived way up on Carpenter’s Hill, so it wasn’t until morning when they found them. Propped against old John’s freshly whitewashed fence, staring sightlessly down upon the town below. The town where they had lived. The three boys still wore the costumes their folks bought at the five and dime. Shattered upon the ground was the remains of a broken jackolantern. The boys were dead. Hidden within the skull of each boy was a tiny candle, flickering quietly, where once only childish dreams burned. They found old John in the kitchen, making pumpkin pie.


This blog entry was written as part of the OCTOBER FRIGHTS BLOG HOP, an event for readers and authors and Halloween-groupies and fans of the fine art of booga-booga madness. We have brought over FORTY-freaking-FIVE fine authors of horror and paranormal together to share their Halloween booga-booga thoughts with all of you fine folks.

Just click this image to be whisked away to the a world where October rolls on to somewhere long past forever - the October Frights Bloghop!

Just click this image to be whisked away to the a world where October rolls on to somewhere long past forever – the October Frights Bloghop!

CBC Fright Night Movie Marathon

I love Halloween and ghost stories and anything to do with the fine art of booga-booga.

I owe this love to my grandparents who ALWAYS taught me the value of a good old-fashioned scare. I remember my Grandmother waking me up at midnight so that I could watch the monthly CBC Friday night Fright Night – which consisted of four back-to-back old-school horror movies. I would go to bed early that night and just before midnight she would wake me up and I would plug my grandfather’s television earplug into my ear so as not to keep anyone else awake and I would spend the whole evening watching Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney Jr. and Christopher Lee making with the cinematic booga-booga.

I am talking movies like FRANKENSTEIN. (1931)

This is the original, you understand – the film that shot Canadian immigrant William Henry Pratt, better known as Boris Karloff – to Hollywood fame as the actor who would scare the entire world.

I can still picture the beginning of that movie when actor Edward Van Sloan (the dude who played Van Helsing in Bela Lugosi’s great 1931 flick DRACULA) breaks the television screen by stepping out from behind a theater curtain and warning the viewers that “It’s about to get scary around here.”

Then, following the credits, we are treated to that opening scene of a funeral. I love the look of that graveyard with it’s drastically tilted tombstones and crosses and that gigantic statue of Death himself. I love how it echoes the sharp oblique lines of German Expressionism. I love the feel of good old-fashioned black and white terror.

Don’t get me wrong.

I am no caveman Luddite – although I do not own nor will ever own a cell phone.

But all the same there is something moving and ethereal about a black and white horror movie. It is almost like the filmmakers had somehow figured out how to paint in shades of nightmare and delirium.

I watch this movie at least once a year.

I am talking movies like The Mummy’s Curse. (1944)

This was the fifth installment of the Universal Horror series and it is one of my favorites. I have ALWAYS loved the way that Universal figured out how to string one movie after another with Frankenstein and the Mummy and the Creature From The Black Lagoon – although they never quite managed the trick with Dracula or The Wolfman. Hammer Films would later follow this tradition and I likewise enjoyed watching all of the Christopher Lee Dracula movies – looking forward each time to seeing how they brought the Count back to life and how they managed to kill him again and I could happily a dozen Frankenstein or Dracula movies strung back to back.

Lon Chaney Jr. never much cared for his appearances as The Mummy. He felt the make-up too restrictive and uncomfortable and he far preferred his appearances as Larry Talbot, the Wolf Man.

Which brings us to our next movie.

I am talking about movies like FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLFMAN (1943)

This was Lon Chaney’s FIRST follow-up to his classic THE WOLFMAN (1941) and Universal’s FIFTH follow-up to FRANKENSTEIN (1931) and as far as I recollect this was the first BIG monster mash-up where the filmmakers would bring two successful movie monster franchises together – kind of like watching Hulk Hogan square off with Andre The Giant.

Toho did the same thing with Godzilla meeting King Kong, Mothra, Ghidrah, Megalon, Mechagodzilla and a whole alphabet soup’s worth of oddly-named kaiju. FREDDY VS. JASON (did the same thing for the same reasons. It is just a natural sort of evolution for movie monsters. Sooner or later, the viewer begins to wonder – gee, I wonder what would happen if an Alien met a Predator?

The actor portraying Frankenstein was Bela Lugosi. There is a certain undeniable irony in the fact that Lugosi had originally tried out for the first Frankenstein movie and had been turned down flat because he showed up dressed in something that looked a little bit like the 1915 silent movie, THE GOLEM. Now here he is hidden beneath all of the Frankenstein make-up. Lugosi was never as successful a monster as Karloff was – but it is interesting to note that he is the actor responsible for that iconic stiff-legged walk that everybody gives Frankenstein’s monster nowadays. When Lugosi first portrayed the Frankenstein Monster he was told that he had been blinded in the last movie. So Lugosi naturally adopted that stiff, arms-straight-out walk that stuck like Krazy Glue to the character from there on out.

Sadly, I am also talking about movies such as FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE SPACE MONSTER (1965).

I remember how totally bummed out I was when I first watched this movie and realized that Frankenstein wasn’t in this one little bit – and yet schlocky Ed Wood Z-Grade monster films like this are a strong part of the monster movie tradition. Movies like this one are like the Halloween hobo costume that you throw together with your Dad’s old fedora, a suit jacket bought for three dollars at a local used clothing store and a bindlestiff made out of a stick from the garden and your mother’s favorite handkerchief.

Now – what I want to ask is does ANYONE else remember the CBC putting on a monthly Fright Night? I have exhausted my feeble powers of Google-Fu and cannot find a single reference to this event that played such a huge role in my childhood and helped to foster my love for horror movies.

This blog entry was written as part of the OCTOBER FRIGHTS BLOG HOP, an event for readers and authors and Halloween-groupies and fans of the fine art of booga-booga madness. We have brought over FORTY-freaking-FIVE fine authors of horror and paranormal together to share their Halloween booga-booga thoughts with all of you fine folks.

Just click this image to be whisked away to the a world where October rolls on to somewhere long past forever - the October Frights Bloghop!

Just click this image to be whisked away to the a world where October rolls on to somewhere long past forever – the October Frights Bloghop!

And lastly, let me tell you about the special gift that I have arranged for all of your reader-types out there – especially you folks who dig crazy horror.

From today until October 3, 2015 my collection OCTOBER TALES will be available FREE for all of you Kindle readers.

Like horror? Got a Kindle? Click this picture to grab a free copy today!

Like horror? Got a Kindle? Click this picture to grab a free copy today!

Yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

The Scoop on the Kindle Scout Program

I would like to send a great big HELLO to all of reader-types and writer-types out there in the interwebs.

I have been looking at the KINDLE SCOUT program for some time and ever since they announced that the program would now be open to NON-US residents I have been working very hard at putting together a submission of my own. I intend to have my book submitted to KINDLE SCOUT before the end of October.

SO – as a result I have been talking to people who have any sort of experience with KINDLE SCOUT – especially over at k-boards.

One of the people who has given me an AWFUL lot of helpful advice is Jill Nojack , whose recent novel THE FAMILIAR: A PARANORMAL ROMANTIC COMEDY was released this September through the KINDLE SCOUT program to the great delight of thousands of witchy/cat loving readers!

Over the next few weeks I am going to tell you folks all about my brand new novel, KELPIE DREAMS and I will fill you in on why you ought to consider KINDLE SCOUT for your next e-book submission and more importantly I will tell you all about how you can get yourself a FREE copy of KELPIE DREAMS before it is released.

But for now – let me turn you over to somebody who is a WHOLE lot more expert on how to get accepted by the folks at KINDLE SCOUT.

Dancing With Disruption – One Author’s Experience with Kindle Scout!

by Jill Nojack

Kindle Scout (KS) is a new Amazon publishing program which engages readers as part of the selection process.  It’s not selection by popularity, however. Final choices belong to the Scout editors.

KS is a perfect opportunity for an indie writer to become a hybrid one while still having a lot of input in the book’s production. It is a truly new, potentially disruptive approach, and I’m glad to be part of Amazon’s bold experiment in reader-involved publishing.

My experience as a Kindle Scout winner has been fantastic. As I write this, I am a week past my launch date, and my book has maintained an average daily rank at or above 5500 during that time. I worked hard for that with my own promotional efforts, but I could never have done it on my own. If, like me, you’ve only dreamed of that kind of success at launch, you may want to consider submitting your next book to the program.

I’m not going to lie: the effort to keep my book in the Hot & Trending (H&T ) list over a period of thirty days was extremely taxing, especially since I’m not big on social networking self-promotion. However, I bit the bullet and I managed to run a good campaign. It’s a lot of work to get on the H&T list and even harder to stay there, but it does pay off, even if your book isn’t selected, which I’ll explain further down the page.

First, it’s critical to understand that if you have expectations about the program that Amazon hasn’t explicitly stated, you will definitely be disappointed. Yes, there are authors selected for KS who have been offered publication on Amazon’s premium imprints (Thomas & Mercer, Montlake) instead of Kindle Press. That will not happen for most winners. You will also not get a premium imprint level of promotion. However, every book that is selected will receive promotional benefits. For instance, I discovered yesterday that my book is a Featured New Release in SciFi & Fantasy on Amazon UK.

I took screenshots.

Yes, I sent them to my mom.


My best advice for people considering submitting to Scout? Pay attention to what Amazon says they will do, because that’s exactly what they’re doing. Don’t fall prey to the conjecture, uninformed contract interpretation, or wishful thinking found in the blogosphere.

With that said, the Scout site itself is the best resource for information about the program. There are also a number of friendly, easy to find winners who would be happy to answer your (reasonable) questions and can provide accurate information. A blogger, podcaster, or forum pundit who didn’t bother to verify his or her assumptions about the program with Amazon before posting them?

Probably not.

Here is a handy list of things you REALLY need to know before you submit your book.

  1. You can access the full agreement here. Read it.

That link leads to the exact document Kindle Scout winners digitally sign. It’s written in user-friendly language. If you don’t know what if means, contact Amazon and ask. You may have to ask a couple times if you end up with a canned response. Just reply and say, “no, I wanted to know about the Kindle Scout contract”. It will get to the right place eventually.

  1. The crowd-sourcing / reader interest aspect of the Kindle Scout program is real and important.

If you are not already a known writer, a strong campaign can get your book noticed by Scout staff. As with all things Amazon, there is most likely a data algorithm behind the scenes of the selection process. As I said earlier, however, final selection is done by human beings.

Then (and this is the amazeballs part), if your book isn’t selected, Amazon will notify everyone who nominated your book that it is available for them to purchase! They can opt out, but they will be notified by default if they don’t.

  1. The program is looking for publication-ready books. Publication. Ready. Books.

If you don’t provide a professional-looking blurb, book cover, author bio, and excerpt, your chance of catching the eye of the readers (and later, the editor) is small. This may not apply to well-known individuals from other fields (columnists, local celebrities with established followings, etc.) or those who have been previously traditionally published. But I still wouldn’t skip it.

Finally? Copy-editing, copy-editing, copy-editing. Every little typo, every little misspelled word, every glitch and gleep and oops-a-daisy weighs against your final chances for a successful Kindle Scout release.

Here’s what I have gotten out of being published as a Kindle Scout Winner so far:

  • Reviews during preorder.
  • Mailing list sign ups from my thank you letter because I put my newsletter link in it. I assumed I would lose. I always assume I will lose.
  • “Also boughts” beginning early in preorder from the books given away to Scouts. Those books are considered verified purchases.
  • Being listed on the Kindle Scout merchandising page which is advertised on Scout book pages.
  • Friendly and enthusiastic support for my book and helpful answers to all my pesky questions.
  • The support of my peers in our super-secret clique on Facebook.
  • The certain knowledge that my book will receive Amazon merchandising and promotion without tipping a magic algorithm.
  • Kindle Press books are paid in a “trad pub” format for Kindle Unlimited. After a borrower reads past 10%, you get paid the KS standard 50% royalty based on average sale price for the month. Some may not like this. I think that I do.
  • An advance! It’s only $1,500.00, but nothing says commitment to a book better than a little splash of cash.

What I gave up to be published on Kindle Press:

  • The ability to control my pricing and promotions. Personally, I trust that Amazon knows more about that than I do, and I’m happy to let them take it over.
  • Twenty percent of my royalty (the program pays 50% instead of the 70% it pays self-publishers). I have a self-published series on which I spend 30% of my royalties to make a very small number of sales. I think this is a fair trade for Amazon’s interest in my book.
  • Not formatting the ebook the way I like it. But they did use the images I had created for it so that it looks very close to what I envisioned.

NOW – There is a WHOLE lot more that Jill has to say about KINDLE SCOUT – but I have asked that she hold back some of the more controversial aspects of the KINDLE SCOUT program – and more importantly I have asked her to indulge in a little blatant self promotion.

If you found this blog entry useful and or informative – or at the very least if you printed it off and lined your cat box with it – then you could TRULY show your gratitude to Jill’s hard work by picking up a copy of her KINDLE SCOUT winning book!

Just click this cover shot to beam yourself over to Amazon.com to order this e-book. Or paperback, if you wish.

Just click this cover shot to beam yourself over to Amazon.com to order this e-book. Or paperback, if you wish.

The Familiar: A Paranormal Romantic Comedy

Sometimes a cat has to man up.

Tom has been mostly cat for a long time, but when the witch who enslaved him dies, he has one last chance to become a man again and maybe to find love, too. He just needs to tell Cassie, a sensible girl who knows nothing about the witchy business all around her, that he’s trapped in the body of the kitten she cuddles at night. But cats aren’t known for their conversational skills, and a powerful warlock is determined to take Cassie for himself. To make things worse, Tom is rapidly running out of lives.

You can find The Familiar here.

OR – for all of you UK readers you can find The Familiar HERE!

OR – if you are a Canadian reader – (God bless maple syrup and beer) – you can find The Familiar HERE!!!

yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon



Two Fisted Nasty Cover full size


What is left of a man when everything worth losing has already been lost? Is vengeance worth any price? Ask Father Simon. Leftovers is a story of redemption, sacrifice and leftovers. It is a story of the bottom and what you find lying beneath it. It is a novella-length hardcore chill that will shock even the most hardened reader.


(now back to regular price)

yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

Two Tales of Mermaid Meat

Steve Vernon:

Nothing I like better than a good old-fashioned mermaid story – except maybe TWO of them!

Originally posted on 百物語怪談会 Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai:

Ningyo Niku

Translated from Opinions About Life and Death as Told by the Legend of Yaobikuni, Japanese Wikipedia, and this Blog

To learn more about Japanese Ghosts, check out my book Yurei: The Japanese Ghost

Japan has mermaids, but they are very different creatures from western folklore. They can take many shapes, but the most common in the form of a fish with a woman’s head. And even then, appearance is not their most distinctive feature—eating the flesh of a mermaid is said to grant an extended lifespan. And sometimes it does something else.

Yaobikuni – The Eight-Hundred Year Nun

Yaobukini Shrine

One of Japan’s most famous folk legends, variations of this story can be found across the entire country. Most versions of the story involve a fisherman who catches a strange fish. He brings it home to cook for his family and a friend. The friend notices that the fish has a human…

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