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

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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.

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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!