Here you can follow the blow-by-blow account of my attempt to transform myself into a (regularly) published author.

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Friday, December 30, 2011

Keep Moving Forward

Since making all those phone calls about North Country Cache, we've packaged up books to send to the store that wanted more (and mailed them, along with several invoices), made a stack to hand-deliver to a local store, and have a review copy ready to leave at the Ludington Center for the Arts gift store.

I also found another venue to sell News from Dead Mule Swamp, so it's now listed at IWriteReadRate.

A long time ago I once read that anything worth doing is worth spending five minutes a day on. I've really taken this to heart because my life is so fractured and I always have so many projects going at the same time that it's hard to keep moving forward on them all.

However, I have learned that this concept really works. If I can manage to do some small piece of any project it does keep it moving forward. Even if there is some huge task... if I do a few small bits, after a while the rest of it eventually becomes doable.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Marketing- Follow-up on Consignments

Today, my sister-in-law helped me get organized and make calls to follow up on consignment placements of North Country Cache. I really despise doing this kind of work, so this feels like a huge weight off my shoulders.

Marketing is one of the most difficult parts, OK, THE most difficult part, of self-publishing. You have to get books into book stores for people to see them. Many stores won't buy books outright. They want the author to take all the risk by placing books on consignment.

Consignment is a huge risk. Not only do you need to do all the follow-up, finding out if books have sold and requesting payment, but there is a hidden risk as well. Independent bookstores can go out of business in a flash, and if they do, your books will probably disappear into a black hole and you'll never see any money.

At least four stores where I had books on consignment are just gone. In one case, I know that all six copies they had were sold, and I never received the money. In other cases, I don't really know, but suspect that the books all went to discount houses. Cost to them... nothing, since they never paid me for the books in the first place. Cost to me... at least the cost of printing each book, if not more.

Only one store that I called today wanted to order more books, and one store wants to return the rest of what they have, and I have to pay the shipping.

It's interesting how various stores feel about keeping inventory. Some stores won't keep your book in stock if they don't sell in a year. Others are willing to keep a few copies, apparently indefinitely.

Well, at least now I've done the checking on all these for a while. I wish I could say I won't do any more consignment sales, but that's not practical either. Sigh.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Review of News from Dead Mule Swamp by Cozy Mystery Book Reviews

Cozy Mystery Book Reviews has just posted about News from Dead Mule Swamp. This great blog reviews only cozy mysteries, and the owner, Bella, also runs some great giveaways.

Bella says, "It's fun discovering new mystery novels, and getting introduced to a host of new characters. That's how it felt when I started reading NEWS FROM DEAD MULE SWAMP. There are so many interesting characters... I was a little sad when it was over, because I wanted to read more about Anastasia and her new town."

Be sure to check out Cozy Mystery Book Reviews for more great reads.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Smashwords Now Offers Gift Giving Option

You can now give e-books as gifts at Smashwords. Here's how:

Any book that is not free shows an additional button under "Add to Cart," that is "Give as a Gift."

You will need to know the email of the person you want to give the gift to (there is a way around this). That person will be sent a coupon code to download the book at no cost to them after you pay for it.

You can alternatively use your own email address, then print out the coupon code and give it to the person (if you wanted to gift wrap it, for example).

The recipient will need to join Smashwords, but it's free... that's no burden.

Why not give some copies of News from Dead Mule Swamp as gifts? It's an inexpensive way to spread some fun!

Complete instructions for How Gifting Works at Smashwords

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Reader Reaction to News from Dead Mule Swamp

Reader Barry says, "Loved the story. It kept me reading past my bedtime last night. I barely put it down until I was finished and skipped dinner to read it. Waiting anxiously for the next one."

Music to an author's ears! The next one, Paddy Plays in Dead Mule Swamp, is begun.

You can order this cozy mystery at Smashwords or Amazon.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Chapter One "Meanders and Undulations"

With some concentrated effort yesterday, I got an actual beginning for North Country Quest that I like.

I'm at 443 words, and have the opening written and the concept for the way the chapter will come back to a conclusion.

I borrowed ideas on perspective from a passage in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, by Annie Dillard that I've always loved. Hopefully my efforts will be somewhat as appealing.

When I finish each chapter I may share a tidbit here. I'm thinking about that.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

I Spent an Hour and Wrote 44 Words

I spent an hour yesterday on chapter 1 of North Country Quest and wrote 44 words, of which 22 are going to be moved to the preface, and the rest are junk.

Why am I so slow? It's all part of the writing process. I listened to part of the tape again. I made two additional false starts and deleted them as horrible. I looked up the section of this hike on the map and read the description. I opened my mapping software and tried to find the name of a creek where I ate lunch (it has no name). I spent some time just getting the memories of that hike arranged in my head. Some were very clear, and others I had to work on.

I've had the name of this chapter, "Meanders and Undulations," settled since the date of the hike (October 2003). It's a phrase taken from the actual trail map description, and it's a perfect lead-in to the second half of my meandering journey along the North Country Trail.

But the next step, getting a catchy opening on to paper (screen), isn't that simple. I think maybe I've got an idea now. We'll see if I can get somewhere with that today.

This first chapter not only has to be an essay about the particular hike, but be an opener to the entire second volume, so it needs to be GOOD.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Poem to be Included in Elements of Life

I don't have a contract yet, but it is pretty certain that I will have a poem included in the next anthology to come from Twin Trinity Media, called Elements of Life.

The book includes stories which were submitted for contests of the themes of Birth, Life, and Death. These contests took place before I got involved with Twin Trinity/ Accentuate Writers. However, Michelle (Michy) Devon, editor and publisher has requested poems to use as fillers between the stories.

This summer I wrote a poem entitled "Now, Then, When," and Michy requested that I send it to her, yesterday.

Elements of Life will be the next volume published. It follows Elements of the Soul, Elements of Time and Elements of Dimension, already in print.

Join the Accentuate Writers forum
Order books from Twin Trinity Media

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Editing Article for North Star

Not much writing happening today. I'm swamped with work for pay which I sure have to keep doing. (Of course higher pay would mean I could afford more writing time, but these days, I'm just glad to have a job.)

I did do some editing and providing additional material to the magazine editor for the next edition of North Star. It's entitled "Those Irrepressible Girls," and focuses on women who have made significant contributions to the North Country Trail Association.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

West Side Gang Writers' Group

The West Side Gang met tonight. It's a twice-a-month get together where we share works in progress for critique. I'm not much of a joiner, but I've come to value this group.

It's a talented bunch of folks! Some write poetry, some essays, some fiction, others non-fiction. Some of us just write all kinds of things because we can't stop.

Tonight, even off-season (several people go south for the winter), we had eleven people show up, and eight of us took something to read. Since I'm sort of in between projects, I took two short poems I had written over the winter.

Who knows what I'll ever do with all my poems? Poetry is a real tough sell, and I write it mostly just because I like to. But I do have them all collected in one notebook. That was a project from last winter.

And, there were holiday goodies to munch on, too. Can't beat that!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Meager Beginning, but Working on North Country Quest

Somehow, I have to work on both North Country Quest and Paddy Plays in Dead Mule Swamp at the same time. I honestly don't know how possible that is going to be because I usually get my head so deeply inside one idea at a time that there isn't room for much else.

Nevertheless, I found the tape covering the hike that will be the first chapter of NCQ today, and began to listen to it. I already know what the theme of the chapter will be. Each chapter in North Country Quest and North Country Cache is an essay that can pretty much stand on its own, so as soon as I know the thematic idea the essay is usually fairly easy to write. However, the fact that this will be the first chapter of the second book means that it needs a lot more filling out.

The book is following the format of the first book, a continuation and completion of the hike along the North Country Trail. In some ways, finishing the story excites me, and in some ways it seems boring. I think I can't really tell until I get into it. But, in either case, I've made a commitment to write the second book.

They say the most difficult part of any journey is the first step... so I've made a first step.

Friday, December 9, 2011

First Review of News from Dead Mule Swamp is Positive

Jennifer Malone-Wright, author of several vampire novels, graciously agreed to review News from Dead Mule Swamp, and I sure like what she says!

Although I did provide her with a free copy, Jenn says "I cannot guarantee a positive review... I simply write what I think about a book and that's it."

Basically, she feels that I've captured the small-town feeling well, and recommends the book. Please visit her blog and read her review of News from Dead Mule Swamp.

You can order this cozy mystery at Smashwords or Amazon.

If vampires are your thing, be sure to check out Jennifer's books, too

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Beginning Paddy Plays in Dead Mule Swamp

Is it possible that spending some time each day writing is becoming a habit? I have so few good habits that would be delightful!

At any rate, I had made notes to outline the general plot for the next Anastasia Raven mystery, and now I have a chapter and a half done.

Paddy is an Irish Setter puppy that belongs to Ana's cousin. She has agreed to keep Paddy for a few weeks of the summer. What kind of mischief can Paddy get into?

If you want to get acquainted with Ana, be sure to buy News from Dead Mule Swamp. It's only 99¢!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

What is an LCCN and Why Get One?

LCCN stands for Library of Congress Catalog (control) Number. It is a unique identifier assigned to any book which has applied and is accepted into the Library of Congress. Libraries use this number to find information to catalog a book which they have acquired. Some libraries will not accept books that do not have an LCCN.

If you want your printed book to look professional and be readily accepted by stores and libraries, you should apply for this number.

It's easy to do, you just need to do it well in advance of printing.

Go to and create an ID. Then apply for the number. You'll need to know the title, author(s), approximate number of pages, ISBN, and approximate printing date.

Click submit, and wait to hear back!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Winner of a Free Copy of News from Dead Mule Swamp

Winner of a free copy of News from Dead Mule Swamp is Ivy of Spinning Lovely Days. She found all 15 names and thus earned two entries, one of which won.

The rest of you will have to fork out 99¢- sorry about that. But I'm not too sorry, it's really a great deal.
You can order at Smashwords or Amazon.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Star City Short Story Contest Results

The Star City Blog sent me a message. "We regret to inform you that due to insignificant participation, Star City Blog was forced to cancel the contest."

I'm a bit bummed out that they couldn't have figured that out right after the deadline instead of six weeks later. But, o well.

I wonder what they considered insignificant? I wonder why they couldn't have said in the rules that awarding of the prizes was contingent on having X number of entries?

But, I do have another story that I can do something with on my own.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

News from Dead Mule Swamp - Ready for Orders

You can now order News from Dead Mule Swamp at either Smashwords or Amazon.

The author gets higher royalties if you order from Smashwords, and they offer many formats, including HMTL (to read in a browser), text and DDF for those without readers of any kind. They also offer ePUB which works in many readers, mobi for Kindle, and LRF and PDB for Sony and Palm.

Amazon offers one format, mobi, for their Kindle Reader, and the author only gets 35¢. So, if it makes no difference to you, it would be much nicer for me (any author) to order through Smashwords.

Here's the best news. News from Dead Mule Swamp is only 99¢! I want you to meet Anastasia Raven, and the book is rather short. So, have a bit of fun without spending a fortune!

Go buy it!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Easier Contest Rules to Win News from Dead Mule Swamp

I'm not sure why people are having so much trouble finding the names of characters for the contest to win a copy of News from Dead Mule Swamp, but I've decided to make it easier. If you find at least 12 of the 15 names you get one entry. If you find all 15, you get two entries. So don't be shy of entering!

(All I can think of is that people are forgetting to click on "Older Posts" to see the entire list of posts)

Orders for North Country Cache

Amazon ordered two more copies of North Country Cache this week. I'm always happy to see orders come from people I (presumably) don't know. That means that word is getting around about the North Country Trail.

However, I also noticed that my sales rank slipped below a million. Not that I'm very worried about it, but it used to be around 800,000. It's quite possible that the drop is only related to holiday sales which might bump other titles up.

I'd be thrilled to have a higher rank, but I realize that's not very realistic for a supposed niche book. It's been enjoyed by almost every non-hiker who read it, but the first assumption is that it's a book for hiking freaks!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Turned in Monthly Newspaper Column

Just turned in my monthly column for the Ludington Daily News. I'm even a day early. I know... try hard not to faint.

I recently rediscovered a large (14-mile) trail system that is under 40 miles from the populated areas of the county. It's called Pine Valley. So I had to write about that. It's a no-brainer.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Formatting for e-Books

I'm working on the formatting of News from Dead Mule Swamp for publication on Smashwords and Amazon. Right now, everything is on schedule for the December 1 release.

Several people have advance copies and will hopefully be writing reviews soon.

Don't forget to place your entry to win a free copy. You need to send me a list of all characters' names that I've mentioned in excerpts. Here's a hint: click on "News from Dead Mule Swamp" in the labels list. That will bring up only the posts that have to do with this book. Here's a huge hint: I'm not trying to be sneaky, but people are having trouble finding all the names. So... there are 15 names to find folks!

Send your entries to Please put NEWS from DEAD MULE SWAMP CONTEST in the subject line. Be sure to include your own name (and address if you want a paper copy). Tell me if you want digital or a paper copy (paper copies not available for an indeterminate amount of time).

Friday, November 18, 2011

Enter to Win Copies of News from Dead Mule Swamp

Here it is... a way that you can win a free copy of News from Dead Mule Swamp.

I will give away a number of copies in proportion to the number of entries. 1-10 entries- 1 free copy. 11-20 entries- 2 people will get a copy, and so on. So you will always have a 1 in 10 or better chance of winning. If you want your copy in e-format, I'll send you a code as soon as the e-version is available (I'm still on track for December 1). If you want a paper copy, you will have to be more patient, as the date at which those will be available is uncertain at this point.

Winners will be determined by a random drawing. So how do you enter? You will have to do a little sleuthing, but the idea is to get you excited about the book.

Find the entries on this blog that have excerpts from News from Dead Mule Swamp, and make a list of the characters you find in those excerpts. (Hint: use the labels list to narrow the search from the entire archive!) You don't have to search for implied people... just look for names. Make a list of all the names you find and email it to Please put NEWS from DEAD MULE SWAMP CONTEST in the subject line. Be sure to include your own name (and address if you want a paper copy). Tell me if you want digital or a paper copy.

All entries that have a complete list of the characters mentioned will be eligible to win a book. One entry per person. (But if you think you made a mistake, you can send a revised entry.)

Revised easier rules- find 12 names and get one entry. Find all 15 names and get two entries

Entries must be received before midnight EST November 30, 2011. Winners will be announced the first week in December.

Good luck! I hope I have to give away a dozen or more copies.

Don't forget to Like Anastasia Raven Mysteries on Facebook

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

First Revision of News from Dead Mule Swamp

I've completed the first revision of News from Dead Mule Swamp! There will be at least one more, as I've made some notes of things to add near the beginning.

For the most part, the story works fine, I needed to put in more detail about some of the people.

I'm feeling really good about having the book available in electronic format before December.

If you haven't taken the poll above, I'd really appreciate it if you would do so. I'm still contemplating print options. I might combine the first two Anastasia Raven books into a single volume. (Of course I have to write the next one before that can happen!)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Story on Stage V

Quarterly, the Ludington Visiting Writers present an evening of short story readings interspersed with musical interludes. This past Friday evening, two short stories and a one-act play were read.

Three of the four authors were present. Pictured are John Mauk, Deborah Ann Percy and Arnold Johnston. Typically, the readings are given by local members of various theater groups.

The first story read was "And the Waters Prevailed" by Keith Taylor, read by Sean Gilbert. The story reveals the realization of the lifetime ambition of a man who sees the world differently from most people. Gilbert is involved in drama at the Ramsdell Theater in Manistee.

Next up was "The Earthbound" by John Mauk, read by Kathy Hansen. "The Earthbound" tells about a girl with an unusual gift, so unusual in fact that her neighbors find it hard to believe. Kathy Hansen is a retired English teacher from Mason County Central School, who is now active with the Bohemian Theater Group of Ludington.

For the first time, a one-act play was read. This was "A Pet of Temperance" by Arnold Johnston and Deborah Ann Percy. The parts were read by Michelle Kiessel and Josh Thomas (with stage directions read by Terry Murphy). This play is both humorous and thought provoking. A young couple is having an argument and the wife is insisting that they use rules to "fight fair." The husband would rather just fight and then make up. Kiessel is currently directing "Almost, Maine" by the Lakeside Civic Players, and Thomas holds a degree in Theater and Communications from Saginaw Valley State College.

All the pieces were in the literary genre. I say this every time we have one of these events. This is not my favorite genre, but I suppose it's good to think outside my box.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Recent Book Orders

Orders for North Country Cache continue to come in on a slow, but regular basis. I'm not complaining! I do wish Amazon would allow me to ship more than one book at a time, since they require me to pay the shipping.

This month I have received two orders from Amazon (one book each- and of course they were just far enough apart that I had sent the first book before the second order came in), and one from Barnes & Noble. B&N pays the shipping, and they don't require such a high discount, so I like orders from them much better.

Amazon requires a 55% discount, while B&N only asks for 40%.

See Reader Reaction to North Country Cache

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Received Printing Quote

I requested a printing quote from Sheridan, because they are the company I used to print North Country Cache. Except for some problems with them sub-contracting the cover, they did a good job.

What I found out is that for approximately the same price, I can have 500 copies of News from Dead Mule Swamp, or 1000 copies. The setup and cover are the big expenses, not a few more pieces of paper. This is not surprising, but now I know for sure.

I'm currently thinking that I might offer News from Dead Mule Swamp just as an e-book until I have a companion story to put with it. Then the two stories could be presented together in one volume as an introduction to Anastasia Raven mysteries. This would be more cost effective, and would make the paper book closer in size to the industry standard.

What do you think?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Mock Up of News from Dead Mule Swamp

I was just fooling around yesterday. I have requested a price quote for printing from the same company that printed North Country Cache. We had some problems with the cover of that, but after that was settled, otherwise, they did a quality job.

This would be much cheaper- no color pictures, no pictures at all. At any rate, asking for a quote is free!

Meanwhile, because they accept PDF format for printing submissions, just for fun I set up News from Dead Mule Swamp in a 5.5 x 8.5 inch format, with a font I like, headers and page numbers-- just how it would be if printed.

Then I printed it out myself and stapled it all together. Nice size, nice font size... I like it.

In either this format, or 6 x 9 inches with a slightly larger font, it came out to be about 130 pages. Well, I knew it was short.

What do you think about it? Would you enjoy a little mystery you could probably read in one evening, or would you discount it as uninteresting unless it were longer? Take the poll, and help me decide if it needs more text.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

News from Dead Mule Swamp is DONE

News from Dead Mule Swamp is done! First draft of course, but I don't anticipate a major re-write will be needed.

I should have taken a picture of me handing the paper mss to one of my beta readers. You would have seen lots of smiles. The other two copies in circulation went out by email to a beta reader, and Patricia Rockwell, editor of Cozy Cat Mysteries.

It's an odd thing how writing goes. It was my goal to finish the book this week, but I had a lot of other work too. So Friday night I sat down, with three events that had to happen in the book yet to go. I spent all of Friday evening getting one chapter done that just didn't want to go together. I knew exactly what was going to happen, but I had a hard time telling the story and making it believable, suspenseful, etc.

So on Saturday, I still had two events to go, to finish the book. I completed my regular on-line work by 11 am, and sat down to write. Small breaks for lunch, dog walking, getting a drink, etc, but I basically just typed as fast as I could until 5:30 pm. Everything just flowed out with no problems or agonizing over how to get from point A to point B. That turned out to be five more chapters, so the total is 35 chapters, at just over 34,000 words. This is fairly short for a book, but I've decided that's ok, this time.

At 5:30, I printed out the first complete copy, and took it to the beta reader. Wow- just WOW.

I believe I'm on track to have the e-book available by the end of November.

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Saturday, November 5, 2011

Reader Reaction to North Country Cache

I received a nice email from a reader of North Country Cache yesterday.

She says: "I just finished your book and I really enjoyed it. I loved the personal stuff in it, especially. I have been on canoe trips in the past and it always seemed to pour buckets of rain, so I can emphasize. But the plant identification, the stories, etc. were all fascinating to me. Thanks for writing it!" (Vickie)

Big writing announcement coming tomorrow. Unless, of course, you just read it on my Facebook page.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Chapters 28-29 of News from Dead Mule Swamp

I'm trying really hard to get News from Dead Mule Swamp finished and delivered to a beta reader before Sunday. It will be a stretch, because I have other work that is paying the bills, so I have to do it first.

Nevertheless, I did get two more chapters done. When I thought I had four chapters to go, what I really had was four events to go. The first one took several chapters, and that could happen to the final three events.

I think we are past where I should be sharing excerpts! I don't want to give anything away.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Third Quarter Payment from Smashwords

I'm not getting rich yet, HA! but it's nice to see some income for writing that doesn't have a lot of overhead.

I've found Smashwords to be very good to work with. They take a reasonable cut, considering that if you get the format set up the way they want it, they will convert it into formats that work for HTML, JavaScript (beta), Kindle, ePub, PDF, RTF, LRF, PDB (Palm), and plain text.

The ePub format works with Apple iPad/iBooks, Nook, Sony Reader, Kobo, and most e-reading apps including Stanza, Aldiko, Adobe Digital Editions, and more.

If you get the format correct and are placed in the Premium Catalog, your book will appear on the Smashwords site and also on Apple, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo, the Diesel eBook Store, and perhaps more.

I highly recommend them. The first effort at formatting can be daunting, but I've written a guide to ease the process. How to Format a Book for Smashwords

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Turned in Monthly Newspaper Column

This was due Monday at noon, and I got it done on time. I had several ideas rattling around in my head, but the topic that won out was seasonal.

The title is "Hunters and Hikers- Can They Share the Woods?" I gave a few safety tips, and listed some local places where there are trails more than a mile in length that are closed to hunting. In Michigan, the gun-deer season is two weeks long. Many hikers prefer to just stay out of the public forests during that time, so having some alternate locations is nice.

The photo? Both groups are in pursuit of these critters... either with gun, bow, or maybe a camera!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Chapters 24-27 of News from Dead Mule Swamp

This weekend was really busy with other tasks with deadlines, but I managed to get them all done, and write four more chapters of News from Dead Mule Swamp. The story is getting spun out more than I expected, but that really is fine because it keeps the suspense up (I hope!).

Here's an excerpt from a phone conversation in Chapter 27:

    “Somebody must have thought Cliff was a threat,” I said, trying not to commit myself to a particular suggestion. Cora’s eyes were bright and she was shaking her head vigorously from side to side. I got the hint, but it felt like I had to choose between trusting Adele or Cora. However, I knew that Adele had no ability to keep a secret, so for now I sided with Cora.
    “Exactly!” Adele barked. “What are you and Cora doing?”
    “We’re still sorting old newspapers,” I said. It was almost the truth.
    “Let me know if you find something interesting.”
    “I will.” That was the truth too, as long as there was no time restriction placed on the promise.
I'm hoping to finish the first draft before November 6th. I have a beta reader who wants to take it on a trip with her.

Right now, my goal is to have the e-book available before the end of November. I'm deciding between POD and a short advance run of print copies.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Article for North Star

One of the things I needed to get done this weekend was an article for the next issue of North Star, the magazine of the North Country Trail Association. I don't get paid for those, but its one of the volunteer things I do for the trail.

I wasn't very enthused about the topic of this one, but that doesn't mean I could worm my way out of it. After all, I did agree to write it. The idea is to call to mind some of the women who have made great contributions to the NCT. I'm not a fan of gender distinctions, I'd rather just recall great people.

Nevertheless, I had fun looking back for some info on candidates for the feature, and in doing so found two additional articles I had written for the magazine.

I did complete this one, and sent it off to the editor.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Anastasia Raven Mysteries Fan Page

There is now an Anastasia Raven Mysteries fan page on Facebook. If you go there, you can read the opening paragraphs of the book.

It would make my day if you would "Like" it, and/or leave a comment.

For some reason, the code for the button to "Like" it directly isn't working properly, so you'll have to go to the page to do so. But, I know you want to read those paragraphs, anyway!

I've finally beat myself into doing some of the other work that I HAVE to complete this weekend. Hope I'll be back to finishing News from Dead Mule Swamp really soon.

Go to the Anastasia Raven Mysteries fan page

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Chapters 22-23 of News from Dead Mule Swamp

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I am closing in on the final chapters of News from Dead Mule Swamp. The really sad part is that I have to work today, and the two other assignments I have pending must be completed this weekend.

These final chapters have to be done well or the mystery won't be suspenseful enough, or have enough action. I might get you to buy this first book, but you wouldn't want any others from me, right? So I want to pay really close attention to detail and timing and tone.

Here's an excerpt from Chapter 23:
    I was brushing my fingers over it to remove any superficial dirt when a hand was placed on my back. I nearly jumped a foot, and indeed, I barked a shin on one of the metal bars.
    “Good Morning, Ana. Are you fascinated by our historic machine?” The voice was Kevin Teeter’s; the tone was edgy.
    Rubbing my shin, I contemplated that tone. I turned, stood up and forced myself to be cheerful. “Mr. Teeter, Kevin, how are you?”
    “Fine, just fine.” he said. The sharpness was gone, and the salesman was back.

At this point there are still several people that Ana is suspicious of... which one is the key to her puzzle?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Chapters 19-21 of News from Dead Mule Swamp

I seem to have hit a real writing jag on News from Dead Mule Swamp. I've written three more chapters, tied in a loose end nicely and dragged another red herring through the story in the process.

My writing group, West Side Gang, has heard 16 of the chapters. Our regular meeting was last night. I showed them the cover, and introduced them to Cora, the character who turned out to be so interesting. One person wrote on the copy (we discuss and annotate everyone's work) that she thinks Cora is a very likable character.

There are at least five chapters to go, but that might be pulled out into more if the plot needs them for full resolution. I have to work tomorrow, but I'm going to try to write one more chapter yet today.

Here's an excerpt from Chapter 21:
    “Did you take the things out?”
    Bella squirmed again. “Just to see what was there. I didn’t take anything, honest!” She glanced fretfully from Chief Jarvi to me, and finally settled on her mother as her best ally.
    “We know you didn’t take anything, Bella,” said Tracy. Everything was there except a piece of old newspaper.
    “I didn’t do it!” wailed Bella. “It must have been that man.”
    “What man?” we all demanded at once.

I definitely have other things I should be working on, but I don't want to let this spurt of creativity get away.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Chapters 17-18 of News from Dead Mule Swamp

I seem to really be on a roll with News from Dead Mule Swamp. I just got in the groove of writing yesterday and did two more chapters. This bumped my outline into 23 chapters, at least. I discovered that I have a couple of loose ends to weave back in which will add another chapter or two. This is all good.

The book wasn't necessarily too short, but it's not that long either, so adding some more events into the plot will be perfect.

I found out that a character I introduced in Chapter 15 is a lot more interesting than I had realized. She is playing a larger role than I had thought. Indeed, if this turns out to be a series, she is going to be a major player in one whose plot is already forming in my head. I'm making notes as that intrudes, but I really need to concentrate on finishing this book. I'm so good at starting things and so bad at finishing them.

The interesting character is Cora, who is the unofficial county historian.

Here's an excerpt from Chapter 17:
   The first case was an old one with quarter-sawn oak edges, and a rounded glass front. It contained fossils and arrowheads, stone hatchets and wicked-looking stone knives. Some were grouped, and every group was labeled with a typed card. The card beside one batch of small arrow points read, “Clarence B. Morrow farm, found by William Morrow, aged 7, 1934.”
   “How do you know all this?” I asked.
   “People generally want to tell me all they know about things when they bring them in. I mostly display the items that have more provenance, and keep the less-well documented things upstairs.”

I hope all mystery fans are looking forward to when this will be for sale!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Cover for News from Dead Mule Swamp

About draft three, but I think I'm getting close!

It looks really good in print. I probably need a version that is digitally sharper in a small size for ebooks

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Outlined the Rest of News from Dead Mule Swamp

Today I wrote a general overview of the rest of News from Dead Mule Swamp. Basically, I did a brief synopsis of what will happen in each of chapters 17-22 and made notes about how I want to handle some of the details. Everything seems to hang together pretty well, and makes sense. I don't have to stretch anything too much to have the story resolve.

What I may need to do is go back and add more details from Ana's personal life. The sub-theme is that she is learning about rural life, and it takes some getting used to!

Then I went back and worked on some of the actual writing of Chapter 17.

It's probably time to start thinking about a cover.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Final Edits on "Toby and Harry"

This may be getting really close! Yesterday I received what I hope are the final edits for "Toby and Harry." I have been told that it will be live today at Twin Trinity Books. We shall see.

Since this is a bit of a (light by today's standards) horror tale, having it appear just before Halloween is great timing. I hope that I'll soon be able to report that you can buy and read "Toby and Harry."

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Path Less Traveled- Media Coverage Grand Rapids Press

hiker on a rocky outcrop
JHY overlooking the US-Canadian border from the Border Route Trail (photo by RMA

The Grand Rapids Press is running a nice article today about my being the first (so far only) woman to hike the entire North Country National Scenic Trail. I was interviewed three weeks ago for this, but didn't want to say anything till the article appeared in print.

Hopefully, it will generate a few book sales, although the Grand Rapids bookstores that were carrying North Country Cache have mostly dropped it, so people will probably have to look on line. Thankfully the writer does mention the name of the book.

She did get a few things really wrong (and there are way too many spelling errors for submission to a major newspaper), but I'm glad to have the coverage!

The story begins:
When Jennifer Pharr Davis set the fastest thru-hike record of the Appalachian Trail in August, completing the 2,181-mile foot path in less than 47 days -- the fastest by any man or woman -- the North Carolina hiker’s achievement got a storm of national media coverage.

But just a year earlier, Joan Young, of Scottville, became the first woman to hike the North Country Trail -- the longest foot path in the United States.

And, for the most part, the media were mum.

See the full article at:

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Wow- Also Sold Out of Would You Dare?

I have also discovered that I am completely out of copies of my book of short biographies Would You Dare?

That's a bit more serious of a printing project because it has 86 pages, and has a comb binding. I'll need to pretty much find a whole day to devote to that. Of course, an order for a copy would turn it into an immediate priority!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Order of Devotions for Hikers

I got an order for ten copies of Devotions for Hikers this week, to be delivered tomorrow. Horray!

That means I need to print more. I'm really glad that I wrote down EXACTLY how to do that and put it in my file, and also that the new printer doesn't seem to have any idiosyncrasies that cause it to print differently from the last one.

I have all the printing done, and am assembling them next. I have chosen to print this book myself, because it keeps the weight very small- something that backpackers are always worried about, and the printing costs are very low this way, as well.

I'll never get rich offering this little booklet, but it is a slow, but steady, seller. If my records are accurate, I've sold 62 copies with almost no promotion. I just put it out for sale with my other things when I give a program. Of course it's listed at Books Leaving Footprints

I have a file with ideas for a second volume. It's also available as an e-book at Smashwords. Click the picture of the cover to go there.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Chapters 15-16 of News from Dead Mule Swamp

The West Side Gang writers' group meets tonight and I want to have a chapter of News from Dead Mule Swamp to read. After lunch I got down to work, and actually wrote two chapters. This is too much to share at one meeting, but I feel really good about making progress on the story.

Chapter 15 gives more insight into rural life, which is really the tongue-in-cheek sub-theme of the book. In Chapter 16, the plot begins to move along again.

Here's an excerpt from Chapter 15:
    I followed her through the porch into a kitchen that probably hadn’t changed since the 1950s. A wooden table and chairs, painted white, occupied the center floor space. A one-piece cast, enameled sink and drainboard filled a corner, and flowered chintz hid the pipes and whatever was stored beneath. Open shelves were neatly lined with flowered paper and stacked with dishes, pans, books and knick-knacks. A round-topped refrigerator hummed in the adjacent corner. The one anomaly was a brand-new cooktop range. Cora had been following my eyes. “Had to do it,” she said. “The old oven just up and died one day."

If the West Side Gang has interesting things to say, I'll report tomorrow.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Spirit of the Woods Program and Book Sales

Last night I gave my program "The North Country Trail and the Kitchen Sink" for our local chapter of the North Country Trail Association. There were quite a few guests there, so that was fun- to educate a lot more people about the trail.

I thought that the group was pretty well saturated with book sales, but I sold two copies of North Country Cache, so that's always a good thing.

Also, there was one ordered through Amazon this week.

I have no bookings coming up until spring, and that date is not firm yet. If you are in the Midwest and would like a great program at a reasonable cost, let me know! You can see the flyer of my offerings and prices at Books Leaving Footprints. (Click on Meet the Author, see lower left corner)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Book Review- Spin the Plate

I am participating today in Jennifer Walker's Book Tour. To do so, I'm reviewing the book Spin the Plate

Spin the Plate was a surprisingly interesting read. Donna Anastasi weaves a tale of two people who do not fit well into society and brings them together in a believable way.

Jo is a victim of sexual child abuse at the hand of her father, which she can not forgive. Not a small woman, she has become tough and reclusive. She earns a living as a tattoo artist and roams the streets at night rescuing and avenging hurt and abandoned animals.

Francis is a small man, who was bullied as a child because of his size and shy nature. He is drawn to Jo so much that he seeks out a way to make her acquaintance and win her confidence.

This unlikely duo build a relationship that works for them, and along the way surprising things happen.

Spin the Plate is the 2011 Living Now Books Gold Medal winner. If you are familiar with this award, you will suspect before you begin reading that there is going to be a positive outcome. Living Now Books are “designed to improve and enhance our lives through creative ideas, [or] inspiring advice.” The core philosophy of the book is Christian. Yet the inevitable presentation of the Christian message is not forced or hackneyed. It simply grows out of Francis’ sharing of his life story. Yet, not all Christians will be comfortable with some of the actions of the characters. They are “real” people, not all good or all bad.

Any author is going to bring in his or her own world view, and secular authors feel free to hint at or expound on their philosophies. Anastasi's world view is Christian, and it shows, but is not forced on the reader as coming from outside the story. I found this refreshing in a Christian book.

The one false note in the book is a long soliloquy by Francis about a charity he has founded that gains visibility by being featured on American Idol. It’s an interesting concept, but Anastasi has Francis talk about it for several pages. It breaks the flow of the story, and just becomes an advertisement for an idea

At 194 pages, this is an easy read, and will leave you with positive feelings about the world rather than the general angst of “literary fiction.” Published by Black Rose Writing. Order Spin the Plate

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Working on "Fall Off the Couch Laughing"

I'm hopeful that this eBook will take a lot less time than the first one. For one thing, the seemingly complex steps you need to follow to format a book for Smashwords doesn't seem so daunting this time.

Also, I know what I need to do with the pictures to incorporate them. E-books don't deal very will with images, but they are an important part of my essays. And they do load in all formats except the plain text version. From my first experience, I learned that I need to make the caption a part of the image itself.

So, I'm working on getting the ten essays collected into one document, and choosing the order. Then I'll put the pictures in.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Ludington Daily News Column- September 2011

Wow! I don't know what happened to September. Consequently, I turned my column in late. Not good, but they will probably print it when they get a chance. In the fall months, the deer hunters' trophies take up most of the Recreation Section, anyway.

This time I wrote about the economic value of the Manistee National Forest, based on a report issued by the Forest Service. As a factual article, it's perhaps not as entertaining as some columns, but here's an excerpt anyway:
The primary expenditures on these trips were at gas stations, restaurants, and grocery stores. Non-locals spent an average of $277 each time they came. Even local folks averaged $139 a trip. That’s a fair chunk of change. The study shows that local folks like to stay overnight in or near the Forest almost as much as those who travel to the area. And they... we... spend money when we do it.
These columns are not available on-line, unless you subscribe to the Ludington Daily News. One collection of columns is currently available as an e-book, called Get Off the Couch with Joan, at Smashwords. I recently reduced the price to $1.89. It's really difficult to price e-books- they range is all over the map.

I'm formatting a second volume of humorous essays entitled Fall Off the Couch Laughing. It will be available soon.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Short Story Collection Idea

I know that ideas are cheap, but no completed project happens without an idea that started it.

One of my pet peeves is the idea that for a story to have value, it must be filled with angst and tragedy. I call it the "life is a sad enigma" genre. So I sort of decided a few months ago to keep in mind a short story collection based on the opposite of the Seven Deadly Sins, that is, the Seven Virtues.

Although I've found a couple of lists, I think I like this one best: four cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, restraint or temperance, and courage or fortitude, and three theological virtues of faith, hope, and love.

Then I would write a short story on each of those themes. I already have one done for hope. It was written for another contest but didn't win. I think that might be because is it a rather straightforward interpretation of the idea. There aren't any fancy twists. It's very, well.... hopeful.

So, the other night, I couldn't sleep. It made me groggy all the next day. In one way, I should be thankful for those nights because I often think up story ideas as I toss and turn. And, that is just what happened. I came up with what I think is a viable idea on the theme of justice.

Yes, I made notes so I won't forget until I get time to actually work on it.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

It's in the e-Mail

The short story is sent off to the Star City Blog Short Story Contest.

Another writer friend read it as well, and she thinks it's pretty good. Now it's up to the judges. I have no delusions of greatness. I know that contest judges are looking for wahtever they are looking for which may not have any relationship to what I wrote.

But, I did my best, and if it doesn't get me anything, at least I have another short story that could go in a collection.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Cover for Next e-Book- Fall Off the Couch Laughing

OK, I shouldn't have spent the time, but I just wanted to be able to say I made some progress on this one.

The next collection of my essays will be Fall Off the Couch Laughing. The results are not guaranteed, but they should be good for a chuckle or two!

Now I have to get it all formatted for Smashwords. Hopefully, within the next month.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Accepting Critiquing of Your Writing

Accepting criticism, even constructive criticism, is a learned skill. No one really likes to be told that they haven't done a good job. I like to think that I'm better at taking comments than I used to be. Sometimes, now, I even welcome the opinions of those with writing skill.

The story I am going to submit to the Star City Blog Short Story Contest is basically sound. But two groups now have offered comments, and I think it's been improved because of that.

First, my friends at Accentuate Writers (join- it's free) pointed out one part that needed clarification. They caught a couple of punctuation errors, too. It's nearly impossible to properly proof your own stuff.

I re-wrote the story and took it to my West Side Gang writer's meeting on Tuesday night. They helped even more. First of all they said it is a good story (and members of this group have the expertise to lend weight to a statement like that). Secondly, they pointed out another issue that could be made more believable with a small change. I'm working on that.

My point is, if you are a writer, and working "in a vacuum," join some forums, groups, etc. that can provide you with useful feedback. I'm really, really not a joiner. A friend practically dragged me to a meeting of the West Side Gang. But, I have to admit that it has become a valuable tool toward becoming a better author. (And I've made a few new friends, too!)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Star City Blog Short Story Contest

I got my act together and have written an entry for the Star City Blog Short Story Contest. It's their second annual contest, and entries have to be under 850 words on the theme of "perseverance.” First place will win $150. Runners up will win $75 and $50. All winners will be published on the website. The deadline was extended, and entries are due October 7, 2011.

I made an inquiry, and here's how the rights will work. "Star City Blog takes first publication rights, as well as the right to keep the work on SCB in perpetuity. However, the author retains the copyright. As far as non-winning entries, rights immediately revert back to the author. " Sounds good!

I don't want to say anything else about my story, since I will give it a couple of days to cure, and then definitely submit. Stay tuned for results "at a later date." They don't give an exact date for announcing the winners.

If you want to enter, see complete rules at Star City Blog's Second Annual Short Story Contest Deadline Extended .

If you want to read last year's winning entries on the theme of “Survival in Tough Times.”, see

2010 Honorable Mention The Honest Man's Fortune by Robert Robeson
2010 Honorable Mention House Paint by Tory Clower
2010 Third Place: Back to the Country by Peter Salter
2010 Second Place: A New Path by Richard Nielson
2010 First Place: Kill Bills by Aaron Franco

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Your National Forests Article Online

For those of you who are interested, the copy of Your National Forests magazine, in which my article appeared is now available online, free. This is a pdf file. Just click on "Sample and Savor the North Country Trail".

It opens the entire magazine, so it's big file. That's the only way you can do it. I know a few readers were interested. I really appreciate it!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Traverse City Program and Book Sales

Tuesday evening, I spoke at the Boardman Nature Center, presenting "The North Country Trail and the Kitchen Sink." There were about 50 people there, so it was a great audience. Jokes are always better received when there is what I call a "critical mass" of audience.

I sold 6 copies of North Country Cache, one puzzle book, one devotional book, and one copy of Would You Dare?. I think I have to print more of those! But, I can do that, now that I have a good printer again.

After that high, I came home to having the college cancel my program for Wednesday evening. They want to reschedule for the spring. I think that's a good idea, actually. I just hope people didn't show up and find that there was no show.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Finding a Writing Style and Dissatisfaction

It's been weeks since I've had time to work on News from Dead Mule Swamp. Meanwhile, I've discovered a new mystery author, J. S. Borthwick. I'm enjoying Down East Murders, which is set in Port Clyde, Maine, and on a fictional island just off the coast.

Part of what I love about the book is that I know Port Clyde and the area. But, I also have to admit that Borthwick's book is a lot more interesting than mine. She's given the characters more depth, and sprinkled in lots of little red herrings- the kinds of silly things that make perfect sense to small-town life.

So, now I'm dissatisfied with my work. I wonder if I can go back through the book and work in more "stuff." I wonder if I should. I also adore "The Cat Who..." books, and they have about the same level of detail as I now have, and yet I think they also capture a small town really well.

My book is too linear. I need to introduce some bunny trails. Most of all, I need to find some time to work on it.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Successful Program for Dunes Audubon

Last night I gave a brand new program, "The North Country Trail in Michigan" to the Sable Dunes Audubon. This program is the first in a series that will focus on a particular state of the NCT. They wanted a program of 30 minutes. I wasn't sure, until I gave it in front of an audience, if I had produced the right length, but it was just fine. Then they asked me questions for another 30 minutes after that!

I added video to this program. Some of the slides are the same as from my longer program about the whole trail, but I want each program to be fairly unique, so that people won't think that if they've seen one they've seen them all. I had a video of my friends and I singing "The Happy Wanderer" from my final hike in August of last year. I took the sound track from that and added video clips of nature scenes that I've shot along the trail over the last couple of years, since I went digital. I want to tweak it a little more, but it isn't too bad for a first effort.

Using such a familiar song had just the opposite effect from what I expected. I thought it would be trite and people might be bored. I guess most people don't go around singing that all the time, because they were delighted, and some even sang along. Now that is audience participation!

They want me back next year to talk about local trails. That's not quite as good as a solid booking, but pretty close. I'm trying hard to work on the idea that you shouldn't leave a program without having a booking for another one, somewhere.

I had a pile of my brochures, about the programs I offer, and several of those were picked up.

There were about 35 people there, which they said was a really good turnout. I also sold one book. That's not too bad for a non-trail group, where I know that several of the members already have a copy.