Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Write On!

Early warning, this is about writing, indie publishing and marketing, not my usual travel-photo stuff.  If you are thinking of writing and publishing and would like to know more, this is for you. If you don't care about any of this, sign off right here! See ya next time.

This year I had the great good fortune to see three publications come to completion at roughly the same time, late spring 2012. It wasn't a coincidence. I held off publishing the first two as I wanted their release to coincide with  The Adventures of Frieda being published by my friend Kaan in Turkey. I hoped for some marketing synergy from the three coming out close together.

First I completed Santa Barbara Fire Song, a series of 3 short stories. From Fire Song I learned how to prepare a manuscript as an ebook. I chose because of their support for indie (independent) authors and their comprehensive free manual. They also send your ebook to most of the ebook retailers in the proper format if you meet their format requirements.

I knew I wanted to make this little book available free and I didn't want to pay to give it away. I thought what I wrote might be helpful to kids who were in firestorm situations and it would give people a sample of how I write and therefore interest them in other projects. This collection has three stories, each about different characters. The first is Black Belly who also appears in The Adventures of Frieda, next comes Gel who is the main character in Dungeon Dreams and the third is Rose who has made a few appearances in other short stories I wrote but haven't published. Doing a short project worked as shaping the manuscript to publish went quickly. I did several iterations before release of Fire Song as an ebook. The hardest technical part for me was the cover. I used a photo from the "Tea" fire in Santa Barbara. I think the cover is marginal and it took several attempts learning to get it ready to use. I just (10/13) popped in a new cover that will appear on Smashwords ebooks from now on. I think it looks much better. I will next attempt to spooge it over to Kindle. This will give you an idea of how flexible ebooks are. You can revise over and over, from tiny edits of commas up to a complete re-write if you like!

The great part is that it took off with more people down loading than I expected. It's still free and I intend it always will be. I couldn't afford to give away print copies and sending it as an email attachment was limited and not very appealing. So far there have been nearly 400 downloads. I was expecting maybe 30 friends and family would take a look. One clarification. A download doesn't mean a person read the material! It means they asked to have it loaded to their reader or computer. Maybe there's just one demented person who downloaded Fire Song 400 times! Good on ya! I also heard from some real people that they read it with their kids, so I know there's more than one reader out there.

That was the introductory piece in my market strategy. The Adventures of Frieda  was published in Turkey and some of you came to the book launch where I had a splendid time and got to introduce Kaan to some new folks and reacquaint him with old friends. This is the piece I wanted most to promote after Kaan went to all the trouble of finding a translater, an illustrator, an editor and a printer to bring this together out of stories I wrote for my grand kids.  So I was intending Fire Song to introduce the idea of me as a children's author and people would consider Frieda  as a serious (that can't be the right word for a book featuring a frog with red pigtails and her buddy who's eyebrows are never on his face) children's book. Frieda is a real hard copy book and even though our first customer suggested 25 cents was a good price, it sells for more.

One thing we learned from Frieda is that it is difficult to distribute books from another country in the US. We're still working on it. So far I am the distributor and the only US online outlet is through where you can order a copy. That's kept distribution down to less than 100 so far. The good part is that profits from Frieda go to NatureTrack to support outdoor field trips in nature for kids. When you see me, ask me, I often have copies in the car.

My third book started as a short story and grew one short story after another until it was a novel.  I promised my granddaughters I would publish Dungeon Dreams, some day. After the first completed version I gave them several years ago, we sat down and discussed what was needed to finish the book for publication. I made them editors, Kori and Taylor Gibson. They didn't know how much detail and work goes into completing a manuscript for publication. Neither did I. I learned about e-publishing, and it seemed a way I could complete my promise to them. I also aimed at using DD  to promote Frieda. My neighbor, Karen May, painted the image that became the cover.

Dungeon Dreams was announced when Frieda came out and was offered free as a promotion. Now it sells on most of the ebook retail stores (Amazon, Sony, Barnes & Noble, etc.)  along with Fire Song.  Dungeon Dreams has been downloaded about 200 times. In the back of both ebooks is a blurb about buying a copy of Frieda. I donate all the profit from DD to NatureTrack.

After I moved Fire Song to also sell at Amazon's Kindle Store (yes, you can list at Amazon & Smashwords at the same time) I discovered that the cost of creating a paper copy of your own work When I first considered publishing Dungeon Dreams it looked like it would cost $300-500 to create a paper version and to have some copies to distribute. Reading carefully I discovered it was possible if I did all the setup work that I could have a paper version available for sale for nothing! You might consider the sweat equity in this project before jumping in, it takes some time and some digital fussiness that isn't appealing to all writers. When I finished Dungeon Dreams I went through what looked like an easy conversion of the Kindle ebook to Amazon's subsidiary company, Create Space for a paper copy. It wasn't as easy as I hoped. Most of that had to do with learning to size pages down to a trade paperback. It is easy to create an 8.5 X 11 inch edition, but I didn't find that attractive. Getting the cover with the words to the right size took many tries, but I did it. If you plan to do this, it might be faster to start with Create Space and then move to Amazon/Kindle ebook format.

The paperback version of Dungeon Dreams is available through Create Space (use:, I get more money to donate when you buy it here!) and through Amazon/Kindle. The main point of doing all that work isn't to sell tons of paperbacks. It is to have a physical copy for my grandkids after all these years. If a few copies sell too, that is a good thing. If you do this, you can buy copies of your own book for a few bucks without having to pay someone hundreds of dollars. I stand in dark alleys and sell them from secret pockets in my rain coat.

What's next? I have a non-fiction book about a family dog that is about to come out. I still need a cover to go on the front! My Dog Ate My House is now available at Amazon's Kindle Store and under my name. My nephew Andrew Crenshaw did the art work for the cover and Laurie Hoyle did the editing. Hope you enjoy!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Early & Post Fire + New RV

These are a couple of photos for comparison. The 3-smokes shot was soon after the fire started and next one is today after the smoke cleared so you can see how the area burned off. With the fire retardant and burned areas it looks a little like a southwest hillside with red rock.  
 Earlier this month we went to a family wedding (grandnephew Justin and bride Kristin) near Portland and then up to Sequim, WA to buy a truck camper for the next phase of our travels. The travel trailer is really nice once it arrives at camp and the truck is unhooked. If you've been to our house you can imagine the difficulty inserting it here. It would be much better if no one else were on the road while I negotiate into the property, but that doesn't happen. So we downsized. A lot!

The two photos with water are the Hood Canal not far from Dosewallips State Park, WA.  I saw two bald eagles that morning on the river in front of our campsite. Carole, standing in the back, is at our campsite after we spent our first night.

 This is after I knocked most the bugs off the truck and camper. This makes a good emergency home in case of more wildfires and other home threatening events! We're not planning any, but then we didn't plan the last one either.
Just a reminder, you can click any photo in the blog to see the images made large. At least that works on my computer, maybe it will on yours.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Close Fire as Summer Steams Through October

   Fire was always a part of life here since the first Americans were in Santa Barbara thousands of years ago.  The Chumash encouraged valued annuals through small fires after harvesting seeds. Recently large, wildfire has become more prevalent. Much too prevalent. This is the bigger of two fires in our mountain area in the past week. The first started with and burned up our mail carrier's truck. Some of our mail survived with a smokey essence. A mere acre burned with the vehicle.

This one started early in the morning and threatened those on the other side of San Marcos Pass at Painted Cave coming right to the edge of their properties.

The aerial precision of the air drops was stunning. The theater of this fire is a narrow wedge between two steep drainages that flow together above Highway 154. The choreography of 6 choppers and 7 planes in this reduced air space was high drama on wing and proceeded without incident. The result came early and was highly effective. Keeping this potentially huge fire storm between the ridges and below the houses was an education in concentrated air attack on fire close up. Forty-four acres burned to the rocks and all houses still stand unharmed!

Traffic flowed all day on 154 and power was restored to our neighborhood soon after it went out. The Sheriff patrolled neighborhoods and made reverse 911 calls to get our attention.

While this may not be global weirding at work, it's hard not to look at the total pattern of the increasing frequency of Southern Cal. big fires and not wonder about the cause. Fire suppression? Sure, it's been over zealous. Encroaching on the rural habitat with the urban interface? Of course we have and are increasing this menace. And I still suspect the climate change as well.

At the least we had a hot fall with summer  unwilling to loosen its talons. Today, a much needed respite is on hand with a cooler, on-shore flow complete with clouds and humidity. Maybe fall at last?