Sunday, February 27, 2011

Posts in Real Time

I have been away on a working vacation from February 17 until today. I attended the annual conference of the International Erosion Control Association, where I delivered three papers, met a lot of the leadership, and attended my first meeting as a member of the Professional Development Committee. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday were all business. The other days were driving and vacation.

Before leaving, I took time to write a few posts for the blog, and scheduled them to post about every two days. I also wrote one from there and posted it for later appearance. I like that feature of Blogspot, something I never used before, and which turned out to be incredibly easy. It lets me keep the blog fresh while being unable to write and post.

During the trip I had a fair amount of reading material with me, but found less time for reading than expected. I had volume 4 of the Annals of America, which is my first source for documents for Documenting America. I read the first item in the book, a report from 1797 by Moses Austin, father of Stephen F. Austin, of a trip he made from Virginia to the Ohio River valley and even to St. Louis and a little beyond. The document was fascinating, and I have written two chapters from it, one during the trip and one today, typing both of them this evening. The book is now up to 29, 275 words, so is still coming along.

I also had a notebook with various writings of John Wesley in it. I read some in that, both on the trip and today, but found it more difficult reading. Still, I have pretty well identified some material that will form the basis of a chapter in my Wesley small group study, so the reading, if limited, was profitable.

The week ahead looks very busy from a writing perspective. I have to prepare and send an invoice for some writing I did, the first of those I've had to do. That's a tomorrow noon thing. The editor for Buildipedia asked me to try to move forward an article I thought I could take till next week to do. That's a tomorrow evening thing. Despite some new troubles at Suite101 concerning changes Google recently made in their search engine algorithms, I'd like to write at least two articles this week for Suite. They will be Tuesday and Friday things.

And, while away on the trip I learned from Facebook posts that a woman in our church is a writer, excited about recently having sold some of her writing. I contacted her, and she is interested in seeing a writers group formed at church. I know of five others who in one way or another have either written things or have expressed an interest in doing so. This will be a Wednesday thing, I think, to see what can be done about organizing this group, with an eye to begin meeting maybe in April.

So the week looks full, and I hope on Saturday I can make a report of incredible productivity. Of course, I'll be writing here before then.

Friday, February 25, 2011

My First Sale of "Mom's Letter"

My e-short story, "Mom's Letter", has sold one copy since I listed it not quite two weeks ago. Yea! That sale was to someone I know, a former colleague in the poetry wars on Poem Kingdom, years ago when we were moderators together there. Poppy also wrote a nice review for it, an honest review, not a fake one. I'm grateful for that.

Due to having been away from home for an engineering conference, combined with a little vacation, I haven't been able to do anything to create a buzz for the story, except for one post here, one on the Suite writer forums, and one post at Facebook. I need to get to a few other places and do some posts. A few more sales would be nice.

On this trip I've managed to write one chapter for Documenting America. The document I reviewed has also given me fodder for at least one more chapter, maybe two if I want to. Once I type that chapter in I should be at 28,000 words. So that's edging ever closer, and publishing it before the end of March is possible, though possibly rushing it.

The sun is shining. I'm on vacation, and by the view through the windows it appears a gentle breeze is blowing. I should be outside, walking the campus or sitting by the pool, reading. Perhaps I will. I'll set this to publish tomorrow, actually, and fool all my readers (all ten or so of you) as to my whereabouts.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Little Time to Write

Work has pretty much consumed my waking time this week. I'm at a convention/conference--well, it ended today. I presented three papers on erosion control: two one-hour presentations, and today a half-day class. This was too much, and until noon today I had little time to do much outside of present my classes, wind down, and prepare for the next class. I attended no other classes, other than a full-day course on Monday. Tuesday afternoon would have been free, but I had to put together the PowerPoint for today's class.

I'm glad it's over. Three papers in two days is too much. I put a lot of energy into the presentation, just as I do for my brown bags at work. The time to wind down and relax a little doesn't give much time to do other brain-intensive things, such as write or research. Sunday I managed to complete one chapter (in manuscript) in Documenting America. I'm going to generate one more chapter from the document, but I think not tonight. Tonight I want to do a little bit of Wesley research. Haven't done any all week. I may only read an hour, maybe less, but I need to do it. I think I have enough brain power left for that.

My cold pretty much ended on Sunday or Monday, minor residual hoarseness persists, but that will be over soon. I'll be anxious to get back to researching and writing, perhaps by Sunday afternoon or evening. Looking forward to it.

How to Structure the Wesley Small Group Study?

I'm committed to writing this small group study, maybe titling it "Essential John Wesley". But how to structure it? For previous studies I've written, for each lesson I made up a simple sheet, two-sided, a mixture of text and graphics, but not a lot of reading. This seemed to work well. The class had no homework, not much to read. These several were all Bible studies, so relied heavily on the scripture.

Not so with the Wesley study. Obviously the Bible will be a big part, but so will Wesley's writings. My goal is to help the class know Wesley and appreciate how he impacted England for 60 years and the world since then, and how he is important to our religious heritage. So in addition to the Bible, I need to work in some of his writings. But how?

At present, I'm thinking of doing this pretty much like I'm writing Documenting America, but with a twist. For each chapter, maybe 15 to 20 in all, I think I'll have the following.
  1. A short intro (a paragraph) of what the issue at hand is, and what Wesley's contribution was to it.
  2. An excerpt of some one of Wesley's writing. I'll shoot for a mixture of letters, journal, sermons, books, tracts, magazine articles (as I can find them). Typically this will be 400-500 words (longer than for Documenting America), but I would not be opposed to a 1000 word excerpt if that's what it takes to get the point across.
  3. A discussion of the passage, and how that relates to the issue raised in the chapter intro. I may also try to tie this to the Christian life in the 21st century.
  4. Not in Documenting America, I think I will have a series of discussion questions here. For any print version, I'll include space to write answers. For any e-versions, spaces won't be possible, I don't believe, without knowing html and maybe not even then.
That's the plan. I'd like to have the total word count somewhere around 25,000 to 35,000, which doesn't seem too far off some of the small group study books I've seen. That would be 1250 to 2500 words per chapter. I'm not sure all will be equal.

Anyhow, that's what my thinking is right now. I'm in the midst of my research of Wesley's writings, and may change my mind as I go along.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Publications of John Wesley

As research for my Essential John Wesley small group study (and, by the way, that's not a firm title; not sure what I'll call it), I went searching for a bibliography of his works. Through the wonder of Google books and its advanced book search function, I found several. One I looked at today and printed is The Works of John and Charles Wesley: A Bibliography, by Rev. Richard Green, 1896. It includes 291 printed pages, including index, excluding front matter. It is a listing only of works by these two men, not about them.

This is the only Wesley bibliography I've looked at so far. I've looked at a lot of titles, and most of them indicate they are bibliographies of works by and about John and/or Charles. I'll want to look at one or more of those, but for now the Green Bibliography will suffice. It lists 417 printed works. As I haven't been all the way through it, I'm not sure if this includes compilations or issues of the Arminian Magazine by individual numbers. I saw that it had at least one year of those listed as a bound compilation. How much of that was written by Wesley and how much was by others I still have to research.

This is a great reference. For each work it gives: the full title page (the words thereon, not a facsimile), the name of the publisher, the date of issue, and all known editions in the 18th century. For many various annotations are included. Sometimes it's what a biographer said of the publication. Sometimes it's something Wesley said in his journal or an outgoing letter. Sometimes it's the editor's commentary, such as when he had a hard time identifying date, edition, printer, or whether the work is truly accredited to Wesley.

Some of that is for the work of the scholar, of course, which I'm not holding myself out to be. I love reading Wesley's works and reading about him, but I seriously doubt I would ever have the time needed to become a Wesley/Wesleyan scholar. I will be satisfied if I can really pull of this small group study. My pastor thinks it's a good idea. Between him, our youth pastor, my son-in-law, and on-line references, I have plenty of material, maybe too much. The trick will be to quickly digest all of this into a reasonable series of lessons, and then to write whatever I'm going to, and figure out how to disseminate it.

For sure the adult life group I co-teach Sunday mornings will become the trial group for this. I don't know how well they will take to it, or even if they will agree to doing it. Still, that's my plan. Stay tuned for more information.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Book Review: Winchester's "The Life of John Wesley"

It might not make much sense to review a book that's over 100 years old. It's not as if my words will send people flocking to Barnes & Noble to buy it. Nor is anyone likely to be clamoring for it. But if it's a book I've read, I feel as if I should review it.

The book is The Life of John Wesley by C.T. Winchester. My copy was published by The MacMillan Company in New York in 1906. I believe, from the copyright page, that it is a first edition, second printing book. I'm not sure where I got this book. Possibly at a thrift store or garage sale. Or maybe it was in some books given me for my son-in-law by a retired preacher. I let Richard take what he wanted the culled through the others, keeping some, adding some others to the garage sale pile. Either way, I love books, especially old books, and especially books by or about people like John Wesley.

At the time of the writing Wesley had been dead 114 years. His influence in the world had waned quite a bit. Methodism was still growing, but they weren't exactly practicing it the way Wesley recommended. Already a number of biographies had been written, maybe five or six. Why another one? Well, aside from Emerson's theory that each generation has to write for the next, adding to and somewhat replacing those of prior generations, Winchester said in his preference that early biographies were almost all done by Methodists, and so could be seen as biased. So Winchester wrote his.
It's not a long book; 293 pages, decent size font and not large pages. In fact, it's fairly short as a biography of a major religious reformer. I have not read the prior Wesley biographies, by the likes of Clarke, Watson, Moore, Southey, Stevens, Lelievre, Overton, and Telford (I guess that's eight, not five or six). I've read one or two written much later, in the 1960s or 70s. So I don't really know how Winchester's treatment differs from those who went before or came behind him.
I just know this was a good read. It's late enough in world history that the language is modern, the scholarship seems good, and Wesley's place in history was well established. Winchester spends time discussing Wesley's time, to demonstrate the impact he had: how awful social conditions were in Great Britain and Ireland when Wesley began his work, and how they changed as a result of it. I have heard it said that the impact Wesley had on English society—not just among the people called Methodists but on the Established Church and elsewhere—may well have saved England from a French style bloody revolution. I don't know if that's true, but it is true that Wesley changed England.

He wasn't the preacher-evangelist Whitefiled was. He wasn't the philosopher Johnson was. He wasn't as deep a theologian as Calvin was. But he had a combination of abilities (I believe "skill set" is the new buzz word) that embraced all of these and more, that allowed him to build a religious movement. Winchester clearly demonstrates this.
I anticipate that, as I write my small group study on the life and works of John Wesley, that I'll read more of those biographies. Anything before 1923 should be available on Google books, and I've got another one in hand I can read (or maybe re-read). Winchester's will stand out, however, as the first one I read as research for my book.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

My Winter Cold

Almost every year I have a summer cold and a winter cold. I thought maybe I would miss the 2010-2011 winter season, but unfortunately it's here. It started as a tickle in my throat on Sunday. Normally my colds start in my head, not in my throat, so I was hoping it was nothing more than a sore throat. Not so, however. Last night the tickle was worse, and I woke up this morning barely able to speak. During the day it got better any time I didn't have to speak, worse when I had to speak.

Now, tonight, it's moved to my head as well. Stuffy nose, pressure behind the eyes, tired feeling. I'm sure it's not flue; it feels like every one of my previous 50 or so colds, just that it went from throat to head instead of the other way.

So, I'm going to take it easy. I'll cut back some on my computer time, meaning I'll post here a little less frequently. But I will post as I get the chance.

A Bounty of Photographs

The last three days has brought me just that—a bounty of photographs. Old ones, family ones.

On Monday we received a package in the mail from Lynda's cousin Robyn. She had been in touch with Lynda via Facebook and e-mail, saying she had some Cheney family photos passed down from her mom. Given that I function as the main family historian, she thought we should have it. Also included were some papers: a souvenir marriage certificate for their common grandparents, a deed, and some other things.

One of the photos is a view of the Cheney ranch, south of Fowler, Kansas. It shows men on horseback or on foot, women on horseback, and four children, probably boys, atop a shed; twelve people in all. You can see a number of outbuildings, including a large barn, a stone shed that is still standing, buildings that show in other photos, and I think the homestead house in the background. In the foreground are cattle in a barbwire corral.

I already have a copy of this, but it is only a photocopy of it. And, either on the original or on the first photocopy, someone wrote what each thing was and drew arrows all over the photo! Not smart. This one is clean, the top right of the photo being damaged, but it shows only sky and could probably be restored. Other photos include siblings, uncles, scenes. At least one other photo is one I've never seen before, and I've never had a real one of the ranch scene.

On Tuesday I received a phone call from my nephew, Chris. He was contacted by a man in England. That man had photos of our family (though I don't think he's related) that were in the possession of my grandfather's oldest sibling, Mabel Todd. The photos sent so far are of the two brothers who came to America, and one wife (not my grandmother, though that's supposedly coming. Actually, the one I'm calling a wife of the brother of my grandfather is not identified, but it's by the same photographer who shot the brother, so it makes sense. I don't know if more photos are coming or not, but I think so.

It's amazing what's out there for your family history is you only look. This contact from England was out of the blue. Chris wasn't even researching Todd genealogy at the time, when up pops the e-mail: Hey, I'm in England, I've got pictures of your family; want them? That's called a random act of genealogical kindness.

Now, when I issue the next edition of Seth Boynton Cheney: Mystery Man of the West, I'll have a decent quality photo to include of the ranch scene, not that old one that was barely viewable. And if I ever write a book about the Todds, I'll have a bit more to go on.

Now, someday, I hope to organize everything. I had an antique dresser that's close to full of photos. Some are ones we took back in our constant picture taking days; some are accumulated Todd-Vick-Sexton family. In a couple of binds I have Cheney-Stephens family photos, also needed organization and better preservation. Oh how I need to get to all of that and not leave it to my children when I reach room temperature.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Calling All Beta Readers

Documenting America, Volume 1, is coming along very well. I'm up to 26,300 words, en route to somewhere between 35,000-40,000. I have 26 or 27 chapters, planning on about 32 all together, though I may have my word count in just 30.

Before I decided to do this as an e-book, I was preparing it to be newspaper columns. In fact, as I've mentioned before, the first four were published by our local newspaper as part of a guest editorial program. I received good, if limited feedback. I stopped submitting them when the editor in charge of the program left, even though the program continued. I kept writing them for a while, accumulating eighteen separate columns, though a couple of them probably weren't really done. When it was a newspaper column, I aimed to have 500-750 words.

Now that I'm doing it as an e-book, I have no restriction on word count. What was an individual column is now a chapter. The only limit is how many words I would consider to be "history in sound-bite sized chunks." I consider that between 1000 to 1250 words. So I'm expanding those eighteen chapters to full length, as well as adding columns. I think I have seven or eight more to expand. I found, as I worked through many documents, that they deserved multiple columns/now chapters. I thought I'd do them widely separated, then decided to do them in pairs. So I'm adding chapters within the eighteen already written as well as at the end.

It's time, I think, to get this in the hands of some beta readers. I've contacted some by e-mail, receiving positive responses, but I need a couple of more people. A beta reader could be another writer, or an industry pro who has a critical eye. Or, they could come from the target audience, the people I hope to sell books to. The things I'm interested in are:
  1. Is this a sound concept, i.e. the idea of breaking USA history down into small segments as the chapters do?
  2. Is it likely to have commercial success, i.e. would you want to buy something like this?
  3. Is the writing any good? I have a very thick skin. If someone says my writing is crap, I take that as useful criticism and attempt to do better.
  4. Does the chapter complete a thought, or is the reader left hanging wondering "why the heck did he bother to write that?"
  5. Any of what we call "in-line" comments are appreciated from a beta reader, but certainly not expected. This could be anything from: identifying grammar errors; catching typos; pointing out some bad writing in the midst of otherwise good writing; pointing out incomplete thoughts, where I might have meant to say something more, was interrupted while writing, then never came back to it.
So, if anyone has any desire to be a beta reader for this project, let me know by posting a comment, or e-mailing me at norman_d_gutter at yahoo dot com.

Monday, February 14, 2011

My e-Short Story is for Sale on Amazon

Yes, it's finally up. Here's the screen shot. See the third listing.

Saturday I created the e-"book". That took more steps than I expected, but with the on-line helps from Kindle, it went well. Yesterday I uploaded it. At that point Amazon said it was going through an approval process, which I guess is to make sure it isn't an objectionable product, and that would take 24 hours. At 5 PM today Amazon said it was approved, and that it would be available for sale within 24 hours. It was up in less than 4.

Now it's time to get a little buzz going, as I said. First I think I'll head over to When the good writers there assessed two covers, several expressed interest in reading it. Maybe I'll be able to get a couple of sales. Then maybe I'll go to Facebook and make an announcement on my wall. Perhaps a few friends will buy it there. The, I might make my first appearance on the Kindle forums, and see what I can drum up there.

As I said the other day, it's a new era.

Gotta go write.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

That Was Painless

Well, I did it. I created an e-book (okay, it's just a short story, but the process is the same) and uploaded it to the Kindle store. Don't go looking for it; Amazon says it may take up to 24 hours for it to appear on the store. Sometime soon, "Mom's Letter" should appear.

This is an experiment. I checked the e-book out and it seemed to format okay. It looks better with font size 2, since the lines of the embedded poem run to their full length. I priced it at $0.99, the minimum Kindle allows. The royalty is 35%, so for each one that sells I'll get almost 35 cents.

There were a lot of steps in this. Of course, part of that was the setting up of my account and entering all that information. I won't need to do that again. Part of it was being uncertain of what I was doing, and so having to read various instructions, some of them twice. One thing that concerns me is the cover may be a bit smaller than they recommend. I think they wanted 1280 pixels mimimum on the longest side. I read that as maximum, and the pic has only 1187 pixels on the long side. Since I don't know much about digital photos, I wasn't sure how to change that.

I still have to set up my author page. I'll do that after supper. I hope that won't be too lengthy, because I had hoped to work on expanding a couple of chapters of Documenting America. Maybe I won't be able to get to that tonight, but we'll see.

A new era has dawned in my life. Let's see what happens.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Time to Get a Buzz On

When you're talking about e-self-publishing (eSP), "getting a buzz on" means something completely different than it did when I was in college in the 1970s. It means creating an interest in what's being published; drumming up publicity; making people salivate in anticipating of your writing. For a major book launch, publishers and authors might begin getting the buzz on six to twelve months before publishing date.

In the old days writers went on book tours. Wait, they still do that and this isn't the old days, it's right now. I should say in the old way of publishing, with print on paper, writers went on book tours. They held readings. They did signings. They spoke to civic clubs. They talked to newspapers, radio, and, if fortunate enough, to television. They had a book in their hands, and copies to sell.

Now, with "Mom's Letter", all I'm going to have are pixels on a screen, organized into words and paragraphs, not even pages. A reading is out of the question, because I'd read the whole thing and then who'd want to buy it? And book signings at a bookstore are out, because, well, it's not for sale at the bookstore, and has no brick and mortar stores.

So creating a buzz for the short story will be difficult, but I've already started. When I asked my fellow writers at to comment on the two covers I was considering, several expressed interest in buying the short story. The woman here at work that I shared it with on Tuesday, before the storm, read it during the storm, and today she told me she loved it. I think she would write a 5-star review on Amazon. One Suite101 writer is putting together an e-literary magazine, and is looking to do book reviews on it. I'll be e-mailing him today. As he has no subscribers, but will be selling the mag via Kindle, I don't know how much buzz that will be, if he even decides to include me in his reviews section.

Then there's this blog, which has 10 subscribers and about 4 other regular readers, plus drop-bys. If I can convince them to say something about it on their blogs, that would be a few more potential buyers. There's always Facebook, with my 90 or so friends. If some of them would buy it and read it and post something about it on their FB page, with their hundreds or thousands of friends, maybe that will be a little bit of buzz. My son says I need to join Twitter and begin tweeting to gain publicity. Maybe. I'll give it some thought.

Also, I can become a little bit active again at Absolute Write, put a link in my signature there, and see what that will do. I will need to add a link to a blogger signature as well. I can also contact local media via press releases and see if I can get a notice there. That seems like overkill, however.

So there's no shortage of things I can do to promote the book, and I'll probably do most of them. But the good news is, beyond this I don't really have to do anything. If it gets a buzz on and begins to sell, great. If it doesn't, no biggy. If I keep submitting the short story to literary quarterlies and finally get accepted, I could expect a payment between $10 and $50. Actually, the more likely scenario is it would be accepted by one of those literary mags that offers no payment except two contributor's copies. The holy grail of publishing is to get $1.00 dollar a word, which would be about $1850. To reach that I'd have to sell 5,340 e-copies. To reach $50 I'd have to sell 145; to reach $10 only 29 copies. I think I'll wind up somewhere between 29 and 5340 (if I'm not being delusional), so already I'm thinking the short story launch is successful, buzz or no buzz.

We'll see what happens. E-self-publishing "Mom's Letter" is an experiment. The minimum price Amazon allows is $0.99, with the royalty being 35%. Some have said that's too high a price for a short story when you have novels on the Kindle platform selling for $0.99. But I feel that as long as I accurately say what the buyer can expect for his or her 99 cents, I'm not cheating anyone. I'm excited. This is the start of an adventure. As with most adventures the outcome is not clear. Let the journey commence, sometime in the next three days, I hope.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Jury is IN on the Short Story Covers

Home again today. I could have made it to work, but a call to the office determined that I could stay home if I wanted. My pick-up is all cleaned off and dug out, ready to hit the plowed roads at 6:30 AM tomorrow. So I've had a pleasant day of exercising my body via shoveling, and my brain via reading and writing. I wrote one new chapter of Documenting America, and expanded one old one to full length. I also did some research for future chapters. The word count now stands at 23,300, so I'm edging close to done. I've done half of my daily Wesley research, read the couple of writing blogs I follow, followed stocks for a while. I'm ready for something else. Oh, yes, I've also begun research for my next Suite101 article.

A few days ago I posted two trial covers for my short story, "Mom's Letter", asking people to weigh in on which one looked better. I also posted a notice about this at the writer's forums at Suite101. Not may people commented on the blog (only one, in fact), but many of my friend and colleagues from Suite101 dropped by, looked at the two, then went back to the Suite forums and posted comments. I also received comments from my wife and son. The verdict is...

...both covers are good (one Suite woman described both as "gorgeous"), but cover one was better than cover two. The comments were about 14:1 in favor of cover one. The only negatives about cover one concerned the font. Some thought the letters in the word "Mom's" and my name seemed "squooshed" together. Some saw the font as "non-professional". I must confess that I didn't see the squooshing, and still don't after the comments. When I first looked at the font it did look non-professional to me. However, after dwelling on it a bit, I think it's the right font for the story. It looks like it came off a typewriter—an old typewriter—which fits the story with it's span of forty years and attention to memories.

I was going to re-shoot the second one, see if I could do better with the lighting, but have changed my mind. With such a large margin between the two, it's doubtful that better lighting on two will overturn the verdict in favor of one. Perhaps the cover designer might want to tweak the letter spacing, perhaps not. I'm pleased with it the way it is. All it needs, IMHO, is the words "a short story" added somewhere, so that potential buyers are not led astray, and it's good to go.

One of my Suite commenters said she'd been in many editorial meetings where covers were discussed and had never seen such a lopsided agreement between competing covers. That may be due to the fact that the photographer for one is accomplished in that pursuit, while the photographer for two (meaning me) is not, and has no sense of artistic layout, lighting, spacing, etc.

The good thing is, with e-self-publishing, it's easy to change the cover. Short story not selling? Early reviews say the cover stinks? Change it. If that doesn't work change it again. If that doesn't work change it again. Change it daily if you want. It's not a question of pulling a print run; it's a question of deleting a file and uploading a new one. How cool is that.

So, I'm inching closer to publishing this. Maybe I can get it done by the weekend. My schedule will require me to wait until early March if I don't get it done by then. Must next see if the story needs any tweaking. Amazingly, I found one typo in it on Tuesday, and a "that" I think I can delete. Recent beta readers have suggested a tweak or two, which I'll evaluate. Then, I have to finish research into how to upload the file and list it on Kindle. Then I'll have to see about other publishing platforms. Nice, discrete tasks all in a row.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Another Snow Day, a Little Bit of Progress

The forecast was for 4 to 10 inches, then 4-9, then 4-8. Last night at 11 PM the storm was hanging out just north of us, and I wondered if it would pass by to the north. I set the alarm to get up at the normal time, in case the forecasters had it wrong. I was up at 3:45 AM and looked out. 1-2 inches had fallen; the snowfall right then was heavy. I turned off the alarm and went back to bed.
When I got up at 7:30 AM, we already had 7-8 inches, and the snow was still falling. I had my devotions, then went downstairs to lok at stocks on an unusual day at home. By the time the snow ended, around noon, we had 12 inches, maybe a little more than that.
On such a day as this I should write. And I did. I finished edits to my article for Safe Highway Matters, after calling the Michigan Department of Transportation to get additional info and quotes. I then wrapped up a Suite101 genealogy article. However, when I tried to upload it I was foiled by my old, old computer. The hard drive had been crunching forever, and it kept doing it and didn't load the article publishing page at Suite. I gave up, went upstairs, then out to shovel the driveway. That took an hour, then back in for some soup and back downstairs. I decided to do a files cleaning of the computer. I figured at the same time I'd install updates and re-boot. This took forever.
So I came over to Lynda's computer (which she almost never uses), much newer than mine and more powerful, and I began this post. Meanwhile the old computer finished all its crunching and deleting and uploading and restarting. I've been going back and forth between the two, typing on this post and starting Suite101 again and getting the article uploaded. That finally worked.
Meanwhile, as I've had to wait on web page loading, I've been able to do some research for Documenting America. I also began putting together my next brown bag presentation at work, this concerning floodplains.
It's now 4:16 PM as I write this. Hours and hours remain in the day. I'll spend a little more time on the floodplain presentation prep, then finish reading the document for my next DA chapter, then maybe go upstairs and read some in the John Wesley biography I'm most of the way through and enjoying immensely.
Another snow day is a productive day, perhaps helping me to see a little more what a writing life would be like. Now if I could just get these fool pictures to place correctly in my blog, I'll be happy.

Monday, February 7, 2011

A Short Story is Only as Good as its Cover

Okay, readers, I need some opinions. My good friend Gary Boden has prepared two trial covers for my short story, "Mom's Letter". I know, some will think "A short story needs a cover?" When you list it on, it does. The cover conveys an impression to a buyer, and either draws them in or turns them away. It could be a neutral thing, but you want it to be a positive.

Gary took a photo, I took a photo, and he composed them into covers. The first one was before he knew the words "short story" needed to be on it. We'll get that fixed; easy enough.

I know nothing about art and what's attractive or what isn't. I'd like to know what other people think. Which looks better? Which one would make you more likely to spend 99 cents to buy the short story? And, if you want to take the time, why?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

A Chapter Here, An Article There

So far this weekend has been productive. I wrote and posted one article at I don't think it's one of my better articles, but it's up and available for making money. I wrote a chapter in Documenting America. This was with research and writing complete in one day. I also did a little bit on another chapter. If I can complete the other chapter, and rewrite the third chapter to expand to full length, I will, with this blog post, have completed my writing goals for the weekend. I could then go and work on the research for two Bible studies. I've already done quite a bit on one of them Friday night and last night.

Well, my other writing goal was to research e-self-publishing some more. I left some things hanging on Friday. I'm pretty sure I don't have the whole story concerning what to do with the mechanics of eSP. I found a good reference for that today, and will read it later. Events are moving in the right direction for this. I took some pictures yesterday to serve as a basis for the cover of "Mom's Letter". Hopefully they will work out. My goal for publishing that remains around March 1.

I have two other reasons for making this post. I want to test the feature for "scheduled posts" on Blogspot. I knew this was possible, but never saw how to do it until Friday. So I'm going to schedule this to post about an hour after I finish it, just to see how it works. The other is I want to post a couple of figures of my statistics for Suite101, for page views and earnings. Friday evening I merged several spreadsheets, so that I have graphs covering my entire time there. I'll post them below, or at some place on the post. One is page views, per day and the seven day moving average. As can be seen, my page views are not going up even though I ad articles. The other shows the amount I make per article per month. This is also not going up, indicating that my articles are not gaining revenue over time, but in fact may be earning less revenue as they age. It's perhaps too early to tell what I should do about this. For now it's just data tabulated, graphed, and waiting for analysis.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Once Again It Snows; I'm Confused

Last night they said we would have snow showers today, with no mention of accumulation. So I assumed that meant a dusting, with no accumulation. This morning that was changed to a winter weather advisory, with 1 to 3 inches expected. Right now it's snowing heavily, and has been snowing since 10 AM, sometimes light, sometimes heavy. It's pretty out there, but not exactly what I'd call "snow showers". Oh, well, I don't suppose the weather dudes can get it right every time. They did really well the last time.

So this noon hour I spent time researching the Kindle publishing process. Talk about confused! I have so much to learn. Somewhere I read that you basically create a Word document, don't use footers or a few other features, upload it to Kindle, add page breaks, and publish. But today in the FAQ, or somewhere on the Kindle pages for would-be self-publishers, I saw all kinds of talk about html. I don't know html, and despite some attempt to learn it I have failed. If I have to learn html to eSP, I'm done before I start. Surely I'm confused as to what it will take.

I finally managed to get to the Kindle Forums, and will start browsing. I have always found the forums, wherever I go online, as a good place to start and to get information. Perhaps browsing the forums will be the cure to my confusion.

So, the activities to further my writing career are going on these lines. First, complete works to eSP. I've mentioned these in previous posts. Second, learn the mechanics of eSP. This may take longer than I'd like, and may end up being more a case of doing than of learning. Third, I'll continue with my freelancing work. Suite101 and Buildipedia are my two main outlets for this. I'm not actively chasing any other freelance gigs. The one for Safe Highway Matters came to me without any marketing on my part.

I guess that's a pretty good game plan. It's certainly enough for the moment. Later there will be more works, and more learning, and promotion of eSP works. I can't really think that far ahead. In fact, it's now after 5 PM. My thoughts have turned to the drive home, with a stop at Wal-Mart on the way to pick up the urgently needed things so we don't have to go out tomorrow. For the next 90 minutes I'll be able to work without confusion, on the mundane tasks of life, concentrating on the shopping and the roads.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

"Mom's Letter" Will Be First

I've made up my mind. The first work I will e-self-publish is my short story, "Mom's Letter."

A short story, you say? What demand is there for a stand-alone short story at any price? Enough, it would seem. Several authors report on Joe Konrath's blog that their short stories are making enough money to justify the time and limited expense of formatting it, preparing a cover, and listing it. They are all published for $0.99, the minimum allowed for an Amazon Kindle title. The royalty on that is $0.35. So for every ten copies sold the short story will earn $3.50. If I could set it placed in a literary journal, the most I could realistically hope to make is $50.00 (though some pay higher). That means I'd need to sell 143 copies to justify going the eSP route.

This will give me experience with all the techno-stuff related to e-publishing. How to go from a Word document to a Kindle document. How to actually upload it to Kindle. How to see that it's properly listed. How to add tags to it. How to select the genre. How to do an author page. How to do back-cover text. How to select the amount of preview material. So much to learn, so little time. Oh, yeah, and how to make and upload a cover.

That last one will be close to a deal killer. You might not think a short story has a cover, but for e-sales it does, just as a novel does. The cover shows up as a thumbnail view in Kindle listings, then as a larger view when clicked on. I'm not sure I can do this. I have no artistic skills, I've never used artistic software, and am pretty much clueless of what looks good and what doesn't. But paying to have a cover made costs about $300 the eSP-ers tell me. That's more than I'm willing to spend.

But I will do this. I have an idea for a cover that I'll make and upload. If it looks terrible, maybe I'll spring for someone to make one, if I can find a reduced cost for a short story cover. I ran "Mom's Letter" through two critique groups, and three beta readers some time ago. I recently solicited beta readers at Two of the four who were willing to read it have reported back, and say the story is ready to go, with maybe a tweak or two.

I don't know what my time frame is. It would be nice to get it done before I head to Orlando later this month for a convention, but I'm not sure I can, given everything else going on. Early March for sure.

Stay tuned for results.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

More Snow, More Writing

Beginning last week the weather folks were predicting a major winter storm for Tuesday. By Sunday some of the numbers had firmed up: 6-12 inches in our area. So Monday morning, to allow me to get to work the next two days over short, flat roads, I packed to stay two days in town with my mother-in-law, since Lynda was in Oklahoma City and not planning to be back until Wednesday, after the storm. However, as she got news reports there she decided to come back Monday, before the storm. So I came home, knowing that if the weather people were even close to right I would lose at least one and probably two days of work.

That's what happened. We have 7 or 8 inches of snow, on top of about a 1/4 inch of sleet. It fell mostly during the daylight hours yesterday, so we hunkered down, read, used the computer, and ate. Today has been a mix of sun and clouds. I got out early to shovel the drive to let the radiant energy dry it out. I also cleared off my pick-up early (it's parked well up the road, not quite at the top of the hill). I also shoveled our large deck, which had an average of 12 inches due to drifting. So today has been busy.

But on both days I was able to write. Yesterday I completed chapter 22 in Documenting America. I decided to use the extra research I did on Rev. John Urmstone and wrote a second chapter from some of his writings. I also began research for the next chapter. I read one document which, unfortunately, I can't figure out how to use. I scanned several others.

Today I wrote an article for, the next in my series of genealogy articles. I don't know if this is a correlation or not, but January is a record revenue month for me at Suite, 37 percent higher than my previous best month. January last year was good too; it's my third best month, not topped until last November. So maybe January is just a good month, or maybe my genealogy articles are making some money. Either way, I have quite a few more in the series to write before I run out of ideas.

Now I'm going to start the next chapter in Documenting America. I found a document I can use, some of the writing of William Bradford of the Plymouth colony. I've also spent a lot of time these last two days reading for my next two Bible studies, and beginning to outline one of them. I've also studied (some) in the e-self-publishing market. I've printed out a lot of Joe Konrath's blog posts, and the comments, to look for ideas and for guidance on the nuts and bolts of creating the e-book once you've got the words finished.

So these two days—the second one still with 6 to 7 waking hours in it—may not have been my most productive, but they have been good. Back to work tomorrow, with deadlines two days closer without commensurate production. Not looking forward to it.