Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Judgment Tramp is almost ready. I can't believe we are this close, and I'm also humbled by the amount of effort it took. Kristin has done such a wonderful job! 

We also benefited from great advice along the way. Vickie Taylor gave us great advice when she advised us to use the Smashwords style guide:


I would absolutely recommend that anyone read over these guidelines and follow them carefully--it will save a lot of work! The Smashwords style guide is much easier to fathom than Amazon's convoluted instructions. 
Formatting an e-book for release is a lot of work, even with good advice. Be prepared to make changes, and to stay organized (keep track of the source file and rename the file as it is re-saved--it's really easy to start modifying files and end up wondering which one to publish...don't ask me how I know that...).

The work is worth it, though. We are striving to market a professional looking product, a book that will inspire people to have confidence in our work (and hopefully, confidence in the writer's ability to deliver an exciting read).

It won't be long now!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles...and books

Everything changes.

I happen to be the proud owner of a Chevrolet Corvair--you know, the car made famous by Ralph Nader? That's right. I own an "Unsafe at any speed" Corvair. Mr. Nader may know some things, but he was full of crap about the Corvair--and now, almost 50 years later, the Corvair has one of the highest survival rates (relative to overall production) of any car from its era. Part of this is due to a dedicated owners club and a good supply of parts from several suppliers, and a lot of it is due to the durability of the car.

But make no mistake--the Corvair is a dinosaur. EVERY car from that era is--Mustangs, Camaros, Ramblers, Oldsmobiles, Pontiacs...they are all relics of an age that is gone forever. The 60's are long gone, and cars run for 100,000 miles without a tune-up nowadays. Corvairs were unloved "used cars" for years, but now prices are creeping up. A 1965 Corvair convertible recently sold for almost $40,000 at auction.

Once upon a time, Trans World Airlines relied on a plane known as the "Super-Connie", the Lockheed L-1049G. This was the great passenger airliner of the late 1940's and 1940's, in an era when an airline meal was edible, a female flight attendant was called a "Stewardess", and when air travel was comfortable. The Super-Connie became obsolete when jet-engined airliners came on the scene, but the Super-Connie hung on as a passenger airliner until the late 60's. The jets that replaced the Super-Connie are long gone from passenger air travel themselves.

The Electromotive F7 was the standard freight locomotive of the late 40's and 1950's, and F-units were also used in passenger service. The Santa Fe Super Chief was pulled by F-units (there's a nice shot of that train in the movie "White Christmas", which is hilarious--as the train ran from California to Chicago, IL, not to Vermont), and for many people the Santa Fe F-unit was the face of American railroading, after Lionel made a best-selling model of the Santa Fe locomotive.

These were the iconic machines of the postwar world, along with Edsels, Cadillacs, Alco PA passenger locomotives, and Boeing 707's. They exist now, if at all, in collections, museums, and scrap yards.

I love planes, trains, and autos...but I think they pale in comparison to words. A story lives forever. Tom Sawyer is timeless. Huck Finn is still relevant today, maybe more relevant than ever. Gone With The Wind will still be read when I have turned to dust, and Steinbeck will endure.
Maybe someday the book as a medium will disappear, relegated to the dustbin of history like the Corvair. But people will still read. Rhett will chase Scarlett, Huck and Jim will raft the Mississippi, and Of Mice and Men will still be on student reading lists. We may read with a tablet, but the medium will never be as important as the message. We all have to tell our story, and we will need to read about this experience known as life, as long as humans feel, think, laugh, cry, plot, kill, work, play, and love. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

E-book, part 2

I didn't think it would be such a long gap between posts, but life can get in the way....

Releasing Judgment Tramp as an e-book is proving to be a challenge--like everything in life, the devil is in the details, and the details of formatting a manuscript for an acceptable looking e-book are way beyond this technophobe. I'm lucky because I have a dear friend who is working tirelessly to figure out the process--and Kristin has been able get some help from other talented people along the way ( a big thanks to Vickie Taylor is due, among others...), and Kristin seems to have things figured out--I think.

It's easy in some ways to be a writer in the 21st century--there are resources available to anyone nowadays that make writing (and the necessary research) more feasible for more people. I can do research on a subject in a few hours today, and I can find tidbits of information that would have taken months or even years of searching out in pre-internet days. I can type on my laptop computer and save my work quickly and easily--no carbon paper copies needed, no file cabinets full of completed manuscripts required. 

I can communicate globally, sharing ideas and information effortlessly via a multitude of social networking sites, chat-rooms and forums. It's all good.

I can network with people globally, and I can market my work much more effectively, all because of the internet. But...there's a catch (you KNEW there had to be one somewhere...).

All of this wonderful stuff takes time away from writing, to the point where it seems that it would be very easy to social network and forum-surf the day away, and never have time to write. That's one of the catch-22's of the new age--it is easy to lose the focus of the mission-writing-and it is so easy to be seduced by distractions.

We have to conquer a different form of gravity today to reach the writing mountaintop, and the grade is still steep.  It's a different climb than the one writers were faced with back in the day...it requires an equal amount of dedication, but in some ways it requires a completely different set of skills. I admire the people who can find time to write, and also find the time and energy to market themselves, research new projects, and wade through the minefield of new technology. I'm not one of those people, and my one saving grace is that I'm smart enough to realize that I need help to achieve my goals.

I'm very fortunate--I have the most valuable resource of all--I have a friend named Kristin. Kristin allows me to be a writer, and she takes care of so much of the other stuff--she is the reason that I will succeed in the brave new world of writing. I couldn't possibly imagine doing this without her.
A good friend can make the difference--and I have the best friend. She doesn't have all the answers--but she won't stop until she does, and that makes all the difference.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Self publishing and E-books

I'm gradually reaching an accommodation with the 21st century...but it hasn't been easy. Five years ago I would have laughed at you if you told me I would be thinking about publishing an E-book--and I would have swore up and down that I would never, NEVER, read an E-book.

Time marches on, however, and we evolve. I even evolve--more or less. E-books are here to stay, and anyone who writes books needs to educate themselves about the E-book market. In view of that, a few weeks ago I made the decision to release Judgment Tramp as an E-book. I'm not saying I'm comfortable with the idea--not yet anyway, but I know I have to do it in order to reach my goals.

I initially felt the same way about self-publishing. I didn't really start out thinking I would self-publish, but now I don't think I'd be interested in doing it any other way. Don't misunderstand me; there are many pitfalls to self-publishing, but there are also rewards. I guess I'm a bit of a control freak in my old age--and I want my books to reflect my personality, not my agent's idea (or an editor's idea) of what will sell.

I am not a fan of Publishing-On-Demand. I print my books myself, I can sell as many books as I want--and I can sell books at prices that POD authors can't touch. I think POD will stick around for a while, but the E-book levels the playing field more than POD ever did.

I'll be talking more about this over the next several posts--stay tuned.