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, 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.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Successful Program in Marquette

Marquette is a beautiful city. And they have a lot of beautiful miles of North Country Trail.

On Tuesday I hiked 8 miles with a trail group that was visiting the area. It was fun seeing some miles that I hadn't hiked for several years.

That evening about 30 people came to the Peter White Library to see "The North Country Trail and the Kitchen Sink." Most of them were already trail folks, and I hope that I was able to give them more of a vision for the whole trail. They do a great job of keeping their section in good condition.

I sold six copies of North Country Cache! I was actually surprised, because the Marquette area is where I have sold more books than any other place. I'm not complaining!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Working on New Media

This coming week is just crazy-nuts. I drive to Marquette tomorrow (7-8 hours). I'll be hiking with a group on Tuesday and giving my primary program, "The North Country Trail and the Kitchen Sink" at the Peter White Library in the evening. On Wednesday I'll drive home.

On Thursday evening, I have to have a new media program done that focuses just on Michigan. I worked on it all afternoon. Of course, I have this new computer. So Windows Movie Maker is still free, but it's an all-new version, and I have to figure out how to do all the things that I previously understood pretty well. Oh yes, before I could do that I had to redownload my software to convert MOV files to WMV, and that turned out to be a test. I had to work really hard to recover my license number because I had archived those emails. Well, I've now noted that information somewhere else!

I'm in pretty good shape with it, but the BIG QUESTION is whether I will have work assignments from my part-time job this week. If I do, I'll almost have to do them on Thursday, leaving me no time to work more on the program. I am supposed to be given assignments on Fridays, but in practice, that doesn't always happen.

Hope I can get everything done on time!

If you want to see my program schedule, just click on the "Program Schedule" tab.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Two Done for North Star

Better late than never? This has been my motto for life, I think. I finally got the second article done for North Star, the magazine of the North Country Trail Association.

It's about the practice of stealth camping (illegal camping), and why it's a bad idea, even though it may seem like it hurts no one.

Here's an excerpt:
Bragging about stealth camping to our friends should not result in smirks and knowing nods in commiseration of the difficulty, at this point in time, of backpacking along the entire NCT. It should result in worried looks and admonitions. People who are friends of the North Country Trail for the future will not stealth camp, or encourage it in others.

I won't tell you how many other things I'm behind on!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

One Done for North Star

I have two articles due tomorrow for North Star, the magazine of the North Country Trail Association. The longest one is about the recent conference in Dayton, Ohio. I have that done, and am starting on the second one.

Finally back to some writing.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Textbroker Assignment

I haven't written for Textbroker in months. They want things too perfect for too little money. However, I just got a direct order, and since I get a slightly better price on those, I agreed to do it.

At least I hope I have an assignment. The client sent me a message about it, and I said I'd do it, but he hasn't actually put the order in the system in a way that commits me to write it and him to pay for it.

Do I trust that he really will do that, and start doing the research? I'm not interesting in spending the time on this and then have the client say he changed his mind or something stupid.

Ah, well. I guess I'd better stop griping and start working on it.