Serial Fiction – As Old As Printing / As New As Your Smart Phone

Serial Fiction may have begun when the first person telling a story around a camp fire late at night got the idea to leave his or her audience at the edge of their seats until the next night with a cliff hanger ending and a “to be continued.” If we had a time machine we could go back an listen.

Printed serial fiction got started in the 17th Century with the introduction of moveable type. In the 18th Century, Dickens’ Pickwick Papers started an avalanche of serial novels. Wilkie Collins, the so-called father of the detective novel, published serial novels. In France, Alexander Dumas, author of The Count of Monte Cristo, published serial novels. Gustave Flaubert’s, Madame Bovary; Leo Tolstoy’s, Anna Karenina, and Dostoevsky’s, Brothers Karamazov were all published as serials.

American authors, Henry James, Herman Melville and Harriet Beecher Stowe all published serial fiction. Perhaps America’s most influential novel – Uncle Tom’s Cabin – was published as a serial.

Check out this entry at Wikipedia – Serial (Literature) to find out more.







Leaking Water Line Twitter Hiatus–Part Four

The plumber came back on Wednesday morning as promised and brought an electric jackhammer and a helper. We ran an electric cord from the inside the house to the jackhammer and the plumber and his helper got to work.

I got busy with online things, but before long the plumber knocked on the door. He held up a section of white PVC pipe. “Here’s where your leak was,” he said.

The piece of pipe had a hairline crack that ran for about an inch and a half.

“The line was surrounded by the concrete,” the plumber added. “The weight of the tree roots made the concrete press against the pipe until it finally cracked.”

“How did the concrete get into the ground?” I asked.

“Probably when they finished the concrete work on your driveway and sidewalk, they had concrete left over. The trench with the water line must have been uncovered, so they just dumped the left over concrete slurry into the trench.”

It sounded like a plausible explanation. The plumber gave me his invoice and drove away with my check.

It was left to me to fill in the hole – and save an hour’s labor charge – with 250 pounds of “play sand” that I purchased from the local hardware store to cushion the water pipe and its newly repaired section. I shoveled small rocks and dirt back into the hole over the sand and put the sod back in place.

Later I met with the water company manager and showed him my bills for the leak finder and the plumber. He had had my meter read again and estimated that my next bill would be at least $1200 instead to the usual $100. We talked it over, and he agreed to subtract a portion of the amount, but we’d still end up paying the largest bill we’ve ever paid.

So where did all that water go? I have no idea and neither did anyone from the water company or the plumber or the leak finder. In fact, the only trace of the water is the numerical difference between the initial reading on the water meter and the last reading after the leak was fixed.

In a future blog I’ll let you know what the final bill came to – another joy of home ownership.

Leaking Water Line Twitter Hiatus–Part Two

A leaking water line had led to a hiatus in my Twitter activities; here’s more of the story:

The leak-finder recommended by our plumber arrived on a sunny Saturday morning in a large, very clean, white truck. He was all smiles. He took out two black plastic suitcases and set them on the lawn. I retold him the story of the leak up to that moment – including about the large water bill, the call to the water company, the water company men checking the meter and telling me I had a big leak, and calling the plumber, who recommended him.

He checked the water valve. “Wow,” he said, “You’ve got a big leak, but I’ll find it.” He asked me whether we had metal or plastic pipes. I didn’t know. The line was put in long before we bought the house.

He surveyed the length of the line from the valve to where it connected to the house – probably 50-60 feet. He cocked his head and listened for a sound only he could hear.

“What’s in the black suitcases?” I asked. “My equipment,” he said. “Don’t worry, I’ll find your water leak.”

I asked him if he’d been a plumber before becoming a leak finder. He shook his head. “I was a bartender,” he said, and then he told me the story of the black suitcases and how he became a leak finder.

He had a surfing buddy who worked part-time as a plumber’s helper. One day his buddy was out on a job when a leak finder was brought in. The man arrived with two black suitcases, and proceeded to locate the leak in less than an hour and charged 3 times the hourly rate that the plumber received.

Although he wanted to know more, his buddy didn’t want to ask the leak finder too many questions and jeopardize his job with the plumber. So he memorized the name of the company embossed in the sides of the two black suitcases.

Later the two friends were sitting around watching TV, drinking beer and discussing how easy leak-finding appeared to be. They decided to get their own black suitcases with the magical leak finding equipment and go into business.

When they finally located the company that made the equipment, they ordered two sets. “Two sets,” the man on the other end of the phone line had said. “That’s fine. They cost $30,000 a set. How would you like to pay?”

The bartender and his friend sucked in air, and told the man they’d better put the order on hold for awhile – neither of them had any where near $30,000. But now they had a dream of improving their lives and their incomes, and a new goal to put together $30,000 and buy a set of the black suitcases.

Eventually they had the money, and the two buddies became partners and began to work with local plumbers to find water leaks. They were busy – all the time. They made enough money to buy a second set of the black suitcases, and new trucks, homes and many other things.

Later on they decided to go their separate ways – and there’s been enough business in the area to support them both.

That was the story the leak finder told me as he assembled his equipment and began to probe the ground with a long needle-like tool as he listened through the headphones attached to the probe for our leak.

First he determined that we had plastic pipe. He forced air into the line and began to probe around the stump of a fig tree. He occasionally pulled the headphones off when a car or truck drove by. “Too noisy,” he said. “I can hear the sound of the tires as they go by.”

He stuck the probe into the area near the fig tree stump and listened and smiled. He whipped the headphones off and proclaimed. “That’s it,” pointing at the probe sticking out of the grass in the last place he jammed it.

He went back to his truck and got a can of white spray paint, removed the probe and sprayed the grass. He placed his equipment back in his black suitcases. “Tell the plumbers to call me before they start digging,” he said.

It was over in less than an hour. I held the yellow copy of the bill and my check book. And yes, I had paid him about three times the hourly rate the plumber would charge.

Now I knew where I had gone wrong in choosing a profession. If only I had known about the two black suitcases and the magical equipment they contained.

The plumber came on Monday; but that part of the story awaits the next installment.

Leaking Water Line Twitter Hiatus–Part One

I was teaching myself how to use Twitter and other social networking when I got my water bill for the previous two months. The bill was much larger than I expected. I hadn’t been doing any watering this winter, and yet the bill was nearly $40 more than the same period the previous year.

I called the water company. They would send someone out the next day to check the meter. It rained all day, and I had jury duty. I wasn’t called to be on a panel, but I was butt-tired from sitting in a large room with all those other potential jurors where I saw lots of iPads, iPods, Kindles and laptops as I sat reading my old-fashioned, analog paperback book.

I got home just as two men from the water company arrived to inspect my water valve. “Wow!” they said, “You’re using about a gallon of water every 10 seconds!” No water was running in the house at the time. “Wow!” they said, “You’ve got a major water leak. Do you want us to turn off your water?”

What an option – no running water in the house until I could have the leak found some where along 50 feet of line and fixed.

So the water stayed on. With my under-water, jury-duty-addled brain, what other choice could I make?

I called the plumber I’ve used for other problems next and told him the story so far. He said I needed to hire a leak-finder and gave me the names of two. “Do they fix the leak?” I asked, in my naivety. “No,” the plumber said. “They just find the leak and then we come and fix it.”

So I called the first leak-finder; he said he’d come on Saturday.

You’ll find out what happened next in my next post.

Reynold Akison

Ideas Are Easy; Marketing is Hard

I know it’s a big jump from the idea for your novel to marketing your finished book, but marketing your book once you’re finished writing is something you need to keep in mind – I wish I had. You see, I’ve got three enovels – Insure to Murder, Death of a Guru, and Not Just A Girl – languishing in cyberspace because I didn’t start marketing those novels until after I had written them and published them at Amazon and Smashwords.

My mistake. Experienced enovelists suggest that you think about marketing your books before you finish writing them – as if you didn’t have enough do and to think about. In other words, think about how you’ll market your enovel along with creating your book’s characters, story and plot.

Like I said, I waited until I had published, not one, but three enovels before I’ve really gotten started with my marketing efforts. I wanted to write the novels, and I had the energy, the ideas, characters and time, so I forged ahead.

Yes, I built this Word Press blog site as the home base for my fiction writing and “collected works” and to provide a platform from which to communicate about my books and what I was doing as an enovelist. But I had never blogged before and didn’t have any idea what to write about. So this is a work-in-progress.

Let me clarify my title: finding ideas to use as a basis for a story of whatever length has been easier for me (and maybe for you?) then learning how to be a consistent online marketer of my work.

But now I have embarked on an educational program that I hope will to teach me how to market my books online with your help. My intention is to share what I’m learning about marketing online through this blog. I would hope you will share what you’ve learned too and/or ask questions.

Right now I assume the popular social media sites like Facebook and Twitter will play the biggest part in my online marketing education. It would be swell if you would like to share what’s worked for you on those sites.

What to do with your idea now?

Now that you’ve got a good idea for your novel, how do you turn it into a book? Some writers might advise you to start writing immediately and see what happens. I’ve tried that, and I’ve found that if my idea, characters and plot are lively enough, I can get off to a good start. I began writing my speculative-fiction novel – Not Just A Girl – that way. The character’s conversations sustained the forward movement of the story for nearly half of the first novel. After that, I outlined the rest of the story. I’ve also written short fiction that way too.

Elmore Leonard says he auditions his characters while he’s writing – giving his approach a Hollywood or theatrical spin.

Other writers might suggest that you research you idea, and find characters who will fit the roles needed to bring the idea to life and then learn everything you can about your characters. Then sketch out your plot and begin writing.

On the other hand, your idea might not be an idea at all, but a cast of characters living and carrying on in a particular place and time. You may see these characters and hear them talk to one another or even to themselves. They might be discussing love or sex or the neighbors or gun control or the band or singer they saw the night before.

If you’ve got characters let them talk all they want. Get out whatever you use to write with and start taking down their talk. After awhile they may help you discover your story and plot.

Whatever approach you try, it all starts with the first word, the first sentence and the first paragraph. Don’t be afraid to start. Just remember that all good writing is usually re-writing. That means once you’ve finished writing for the day, or you’ve reached the end of your story or novel, you can and mostly likely will go back and rewrite what you’ve done and make it better.

So why not make a start now. What do you have to lose? What you write doesn’t have to be “perfect” the first time out. Go for it!

New eNovel – Insure to Murder is Published!

I’ve finally published my new Robert Champion eNovel – Insure to Murder.

Here’s a short summary: During private detective Robert Champion’s investigation into the death of his client’s mother, he uncovers a life insurance scam run by bankers, investors and the Russian Mafia, along with a caregiver who also delivers death!

I’ve enjoyed writing about Robert Champion and his world in the wine country of Central California and Santa Barbara. I hope you will enjoy stepping into his world too. You can read Chapter 1 of Insure to Murder right here on my website. You can read more and download Insure to Murder for $2.99 on Amazon at:

Or at Smashwords at:

Please give Insure to Murder a try and come back here an let me know what you think.

Insure to Murder – Tweeking the Novel

I’ve spent the last few days tweeking my new Robert Champion crime eNovel – Insure to Murder. What exactly is “tweeking”? It’s what I call fact checking, weather coordination, name checking, place checking and other cross-checking, as well as polishing the prose to make it read better and easier.

One of the handy tools in MSWord is the ability to bookmark specific items, be they words, paragraphs or chapters in a manuscript. When I started writing on typewriters (anyone other than writers remember them?) I used to have to write down page numbers, scrible notes on the pages or use Post Its and keep a list of notes in order to remember what to fix when I returned, sometimes months later, to fix problems. I still keep a note log of little and big details that pop up as I write, and in that way I can continue writing knowing that I’ve captured a detail that I need.

An example from Insure to Murder: “the tattoo on a man’s hand” – I bookmarked the first instance of this word in a conversation between Robert Champion and Wolf (Champion’s Native American associate). Wolf mentions a tattoo of a cat and a skull seen on the back of another man’s hand. I wanted to make sure I that I described the tattoo correctly as it figures into the story several times further on. I had also reasearched this specific tattoo before writing the passage, and I wanted to double check my sources later, so I added a book mark to the manuscript so I could return to it once I had finished the first draft of the novel.

Bookmarking – what a great writer’s tool. Now back to tweeking and spell-checking.

Insure to Murder – First Edit Completed

I’ve just completed the first full edit of Insure to Murder, my new Robert Champion crime novel. I’ll be going back to a few chapters I’ve bookmarked to make sure the writing makes fictional sense. And then I have to launch spell check and make the thrilling journey through all 258 pages again.

I’ll print out a copy for one of my first readers, after which I’ll enter the spelling and grammer corrections they find and look at any structural problems they might find.

So I’m just a little ahead of schedule for releasing Insure to Murder on Amazon and Smashwords, as well as put up the novel’s first chapter on this website. Keep your eye out for it. I’ll let you know on this blog when it’s ready to read, which will be before the complete book is ready to download.

First Edit – Getting Close to Finished

I’m closing in on the finish line on my first edit of my next Robert Champion crime novel – Insure to Murder. I’m still on track to finish the first edit by October 16th. The process is going well. As I mentioned in an earlier post, editing requires that I re-imagine the scenes and the characters. I must see how the characters look, hear how they talk and re-imagine what takes place in each scene in the book.

It’s not quite like the first draft and putting words on a blank screen or blank page. The words on the screen take me right back into the the characters’ imaginary world. When the original text works the entire process flows along in the fictional dream.

But when changes need to be made, or a “fact” needs to be check, I’m jerked back into real time and another part of the writer-brain takes over. Those stops in the flow might require a trip out on the internet, or picking up a reference book, or looking in a folder full of notes before the editing can resume.

I used to hate this kind of editing because it can be long, hard and tiring. But for me, there’s no way around it. No matter how hard I try to get things right the first time around, it’s impossible to catch all the misspelled words, bad grammer and punctuation choices, and bad sentence and story logic. So onward I press reliving the story with Robert Champion and the other characters.

If you’re a writer, please share your editing experiences.