Support Indie Authors

Do You Support Indie Authors?

It recently occurred to me that I needed to do a better job of supporting independent authors.  I have both traditional and self-published novels under my belt, but by far the most rewarding has been to self-publish.  My conclusion may seem obvious to some, but it has taken time for me to become aware of the dilemma.  I love to read familiar, well-known authors, but they all had a “first” novel.  In today’s world of instant EBook downloads with hundreds of thousands of new books being self-published it will be hard for anyone to attain the status of a best-selling author.  I asked the question, “Why would I expect anyone to buy my book when they can read a novel by a familiar author?”

My answer is that a reader has to be adventurous.  We get comfortable, stuck in ruts.  We like “our” genres.  We say that we “don’t like _____” (fill in Sci-Fi, Fantasy, YA, Romance, Fiction, Non-fiction, etc.).  I have read novels of nearly all of the basic genres that I have liked, so why not occasionally branch out?  In that case why not branch out to unfamiliar authors?

I want readers to try me out.  Read my books.  Get to know my characters.  Some will like my style and others will not.  So be it.  Nevertheless, back to my original question – If I expect others to buy my novels I should be buying theirs.  I need to be more adventurous.  I need to get to know another author’s style and their beloved characters.

I am reading UNMASKED by EM Kaplan (website).  She is an Indie author of this fantasy novel.  I have committed to using my Kindle to support Indie authors and will make every effort to read one book a month this way.  I generally don’t read quickly and only find time to read at night.  Many of you will be able to read even more than one a month.  I will also write a review – good or bad – and let the author know what I really think.  It is the best thing to do.  Be honest and fair.  Few of us have English degrees or know every way to use a comma (I have heard many different opinions about commas).  Our budgets don’t allow for every professional detail, so we need to cut each other a little slack, too.

Commit to reading more first time and independently published authors. Let me, and others in the independent publishing world know of your commitment.  If you are an author let me know about your book.  I will add it to my list and mention you in my blog and tweets.

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Witness in the Window – New Novel

Witness in the Window

A New Novel by Scott McPherson  – Published NOW! Small Witness Cover JPEG

It is my pleasure to announce the completion of the third book in the Jack Sharp Novel series, Witness in the Window.  Witness in the Window, is now available here on Amazon.com.  I actually began writing Witness in the Window, almost four years ago.  Every novel is a work which requires loving attention and constant revision until it is just right.  I also want to give each book time to reach the most readers possible.  Now I am able to share my novel with you.

Witness in the Window, is a sequel to my first novel, A Step Ahead of Death.  If you haven’t read this you may want to grab a copy first, but you don’t have to.  Just start the series from this point.  Witness in the Window, begins with a mystery.  Who is attacking women on Lincoln’s bike paths?  The only witness is a Korean War veteran who actually saw the face of the attacker.  But the old man hasn’t spoken in three years.  Dr. Jack Sharp faces a new challenge as Jacques Levant seeks his revenge upon the good doctor for foiling his attempt to profit from his illegally obtained diamond horde.

Witness in the Window, is available in paperback and Ebook formats.  You may purchase the novel here at Amazon.com.  Likewise Witness in the Window may be purchased through Barnes and Noble and  Ebook versions in multiple formats will, again, be available at Smashwords.com.

 

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Publisher vs Self-Publishing

How do Traditional Publishing and Self-Publishing compare?

 

Once you have completed your novel or non-fiction book how do you go about getting your thoughts and ideas out to your waiting public?  The book needs a publisher.  When I started the process I didn’t give any thought to the end product or how to publish my novel.  I learned by trial and error, and there have been a lot of errors.  See my blog on publishing for more details.  Here I want to highlight the differences as I have seen them.

  1. Traditional publishers don’t seek you out – you must search high and low to find a publisher interested in your book. If you are totally unknown (as most of us are) you will find it difficult to gain traction.
    1. You must research to find the right kind of publisher (some are genre specific)
    2. You will find many who are not accepting manuscripts.
    3. You may need and agent just to get a toe in the door.
  2. Self-Publishing involves different levels of preparation. You must proof-read and prepare your book, but you need only research the different options of self-publishing companies.
    1. Print-on-demand (POD) publishers
    2. So called “vanity” publishers – pay a high fee to get a few books

 

  1. Traditional Publishing companies provide you with all the start-up you need. You sign a contract and they provide the services.
    1. Editor
    2. Graphic artist
    3. Format experts
    4. HTML conversion specialists
    5. Marketers (though this is also often their weak point)
    6. Printers
  2. As a self-publisher you must find the experts to assist you if you want a truly professional book. But you can learn to do much of the work yourself.  Self-publishing companies like Createspace and Bookbaby provide you with the tools to do-it-yourself, but also have experts available to hire (for a price).  This allows you to focus on your strong suits.

 

  1. Traditional publishers put you onto a waiting list for publication. They often work by committee and the process takes a lot of time.  You will find that your novel, over which you slaved for months or years, will now take another one to two years before the public will see it.
  2. Self-Publishing allows you to set the timetable. You could publish TOMORROW (if you think your novel and cover are already perfect).  Another, little known, advantage is that if you find an error after publishing, you may “unpublish” your book, fix the problem, then “republish.”  My first book had errors introduced by the publisher.  Once their initial run of books had been printed, there was no way to fix the errors.

 

  1. Traditional publishing contracts often pay you a whopping 6-8% royalty. This sounds good when the initial retail price is over twenty dollars, but when did you last buy a paperback novel for $25?  Your friends and family will probably go for that, but the reading public will scorn the price and wait for it to drop.  The publisher has to start high, because they have salaries to pay, printers and distributors to reimburse.  Distributors receive the lion’s share of the royalties and no one makes much from each book sold.
  2. Self-Publishing allows you to earn from about 35% to nearly 100% royalty. This sounds like a no-brainer.  You can set a price that is reasonable.  You are in the driver’s seat and can adjust the price up or down.  There is science to pricing, of course, so it isn’t a bad idea to get advice, nonetheless.  You can research this and develop a strategy.

 

  1. Marketing is done by the big publishers. They have the deep pockets to pay for advertising campaigns and ads. However, smaller publishing companies usually expect you to come to them with a following already in place.  If you have no online presence, they don’t want you.  It isn’t easy to generate interest in an unknown author (the author’s “Catch-22” – you need a following to generate sales, but you can’t get a following without being published)
  2. As a self-publisher the marketing problem doesn’t go away. You will have to do it yourself, despite the promises of the self-publishing companies.  They have marketing plans, slick packages (pricey) with Facebook ads, and reviews, but you will pay dearly for them.  This has been one of my greatest challenges.  We must blog, tweet, FB, friend, email, etc. to gain customers (just like any other business).

Nevertheless, after making a great case for self-publishing, I don’t know if I would have gone ahead with it had I not been published by a publishing company first.  When I received that first letter from Comfort Publishing that they wanted to publish my novel, it was validation, a recognition that someone else thought enough of my ideas and writing to put their money into publishing my work.  It was deeply satisfying to see my name on the cover of the book knowing that someone else had put it there.

On the other hand, my first royalty check arrived 8 months after publication and I received almost no communication once the book was published.  I can’t afford to buy the book to sell to others (I get a whopping 40% discount) so I can’t make it available from my website.  My publisher did not purchase ads and, at first, did not even produce an Ebook (it was a new innovation).  Once they have your manuscript, they have total control of it for as long as they choose (depending upon your contract).

Needless to say there are a lot of things to consider when choosing to publish your novel.  You and it deserve a great start so think it over carefully.  Post your comments, contact me.  I continue to write and for now will continue to publish books myself.

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As I Walk Along theRiver

As I Walk Along the River  c010 Platte River Fall smaller

The morning’s sultry stillness greets me like a fog as I step out from the air conditioned atmosphere.  I leave the artificial and move to the natural.  As if letting go of civilization and taking hold of the hand of God the door slips closed behind me.  Facing forward I see what may have greeted Lewis and Clark.  Perhaps even this is artificial.

The creeks and groans of stiffness make themselves heard as one foot follows another, yet I can already feel the sinews loosening, tendons stretching, preparing for the load.  Sweat already prickles my eyebrow and my high-tech shirt begins to cling.

Then a crow calls out its familiar caw and a flutter of unseen wings rises before me.  The path is there.  Dare I take it?

It is an insignificant path of dirt snaking ahead into the trees, yet it is a super highway compared to the thick weeds and brush to either side.  As I step onto the path I am transported into this different world and the tension releases from my soul.

I am in no hurry, yet I move quickly anxious not to miss a thing.  The air is yet quieter within the copse of trees, though it feels less oppressive.  Buzzing accompanies the quiet rustle of leaves, moving lazily in an unfelt breeze.  Flies, well named as bugs, flit around my head causing me to swat at them uselessly.

Pines, cedars, oaks, hackberry trees, poplars, mulberry trees, maples fill the space as the path descends a draw.  Dry twigs and pine needles soften the tread, but hard dirt meets the soles of my shoes.  No rain for a week and intense heat has baked the earth, but life still thrives here.  I look up suddenly as the ground shakes.  I hear a thump-thump pause thump thump.  Peering all around I still cannot see the deer I know is escaping from me having sensed my presence before I could perceive his.  I have invaded his grounds, but he fears me.

The early morning light diminishes as I descend the path.  At the bottom of the draw is a creek bottom, sandy and dry.  Lush growth, nevertheless surrounds the crevice giving evidence to its role of water-bearer.  Nettles, ivy, and ferns abound, though their leaves hang limply thirsty for more rain.  Here and there the path is joined by another leading off in a new direction, but I follow the path that parallels the river.

Now climbing the steep path is rutted and washed by former gully washers.  Someone has installed railroad ties as steps making the climb somewhat less slippery, but it still requires exertion.  Now sweating the troublesome bugs are even happier to pester me.

Wiping my brow I look up to the next ridge and freeze in my tracks.  A pair of turkeys have taken up station above me in the middle of the path.  Their tails facing me they seem oblivious to my presence, though I haven’t been silent in my passage.  Their heads bob up and down to the rhythm of their pace as they move ahead.  I begin my climb slowly, watching them to see if I startle them.  Casually, as if they could care less their pace quickens and they move off the path.  By the time I reach the spot where they had been I can only make out their red heads occasionally looking up out from the surrounding weeds, though they have not flown away.

Not wanting to interrupt their breakfast I continue on the path, but now have a marvelous sight to behold.  The path is mere feet from a cliff and the trees have opened up to the east.  The dazzling morning sun baths me with ever increasing heat.  Before me lies the flat wide river called Platte.  Channels carve their way through the sandy islands.  Waters rush through narrow places and laze in wide areas.  The level has dropped because upstream it is used for nourishing crops of grain so vital to the world.  Sucking water from the deep caverns which flow beneath the ground the insignificant river provides only superficial evidence of the vast storehouse below.  Yet the sight of so much sand is disheartening and concerning.  The vital liquid of life is not without limit.

I hear an engine wax and wane and out of the sun see the silhouette of a small plane as it lifts sharply from the field beyond.  It wheels and turns and dives again making long low passes over the corn now standing well above a man’s head.  Enthralled by the pilot’s skill I watch as he deftly navigates the field rising just in time at the end to miss trees and power lines.  His engine noise disappears for a moment then roars back to life as he turns away from me.

As I gaze another sound fills the morning.  It becomes louder until the plane is actually drowned out by comparison.  Immediately below I can see parallel railroad tracks and two engines burst from below a screen of undergrowth and trees.  Their groaning diesels grind away the miles pulling car after car of coal.  Just as necessary to our lives and even more controversial, the coal moves eastward to feed the giant power stations that make life so much easier.

Yet coal and crop dusting are not needed by me at this moment and the noise is deafening.  I move along the path more quickly to find respite from the intrusion.  The path finds another draw.  Deeper, darker, and now in the stillness, even more oppressively warm.  A tidy bridge crosses this gully.  Built with a small bench on which to rest it seems to be a place that one could contemplate life while gazing up at the stately oaks and maples, reaching toward the sky.  Here the canopy has shaded so well that the undergrowth is sparse.  The dry ground is more evident showing the detritus of years.  Broken branches, leaves and rotting logs lie undisturbed.  Clouds of insects move around and I move to avoid them.  Looking down I am surprised again, that the ground is not devoid of life.  Here and there various insects are making their way to somewhere.  Here a green beetle, there a daddy longlegs.  A line of ants crossed the path reminding me of their more sinister cousins in the forests of Africa.

On I go up and down, swishing through weeds and nettles and strangely not feeling their sting.  I realize that the dryness has caused the leaves to be limp hiding their pain inducing undersides, allowing me to move freely without suffering their wrath.

The warmth has caused me to think about turning back when I see above and ahead the form of a cabin, built in the woods.  The path breaks off here for those who cannot stand to complete the journey.  Looking at my watch and feeling the sweat pouring down my face I choose to move up and away leaving the solitude once more.  As I find my feet treading lawn and then concrete I think about how I enjoyed the time.  The calmness of the morning, despite the train and the plane, were soothing balms to me.  I will return again and again to see what is there awaiting me.

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AS I WALK IN WINTER

As I Walk in Winter

Sugar –coated, powdered sugar haze and the soft salmon colored light gives way to a mandarin orange horizon. The stillness is pervasive.  Not a breath of wind is felt.  The perfect winter scene spreads out before me as I move closer to the edge of the lake.  A cluster of dark shapes like large frosted plums drift between the ice flows.  Unmoving they are geese still resting after a long frigid night.  Careful not to disturb their rest I walk along yet further.

The trees, which only a day before seemed so stark and empty, now appear to be encased in candy.  From the largest trunk to the tiniest sprig all take on the illusion of feather softness.  It is a scene out of a make-believe landscape so perfect and still.  It feels as if walking into this land will carry me away to a new reality.

In the hush my footfalls crunch loudly virtually echoing through the air.  This is a day for heavy boots with their warmth and sturdiness.  The other reality here is that slipping and falling make ambulation treacherous.  Staying to the side of the path avoids the icy patches which can take me by surprise.  The ice causing such a soft appearance on the trees means an iron-hard crust underfoot.  The shape of the path is just discernable ahead as I have arrived before the bladed truck and plow have made their rounds. In the deeper snow the going is slower as my feet drag through the soft layers but greater effort put into the walk reaps greater reward.

I take note of a tiny fall of ice and snow flakes.  A small gray bird flits from tree to tree, sure-footed on its slippery perch.  The chickadee is awake and must search more diligently to find food this day.  Just ahead the distinctive tread of a rabbit can be seen.  No fox is trailing this furry creature as its footprints are alone in the new fallen whiteness.  There he is! He is silhouetted against a clump of weeds also seeking nourishment.

Continuing down the lane I note that the bird feeders are alive with visitors.  The chickadee has found his breakfast and other feathered friends are winging their way to join him.  Over my shoulder can now also be heard the honking geese as a newly arrived squadron wings set circle for their final approach.  On the water heads pop out of wings to take in sight of the new immigrants.  They call out their greeting and drift aside to make room as a dozen majestic geese gracefully touch down in the patch of open water.

The silence is further disturbed as house doors open, cars rev to life, people begin the labor of scraping their automobile windscreens.  A bus roars past the solitude is broken.  Yet I move on knowing that sweeter views are still ahead.  This time the crossing is even more welcome.  Beyond the concrete path today lays the country lane.  There the plows stop and the drifts are left alone.  After a new fall like today it will be idyllic.

The sun, now a yellow orb, appears to be just beyond the next copse of trees.  Its rays yield no warmth as yet but they pierce even the early morning brume.  Pulling down my scarf my own breath adds to the fog.  If care is not taken it will cling to my spectacles and blur my vision.  Then all I can do is wait for it to evaporate in the crisp desiccated winter air.  The breath cloud drifts away, dissipates and is gone.

On the snow ahead are the tell tale tracks of a cross country skier.  Someone has been here ahead of me.  Of them, though, there is no other sign.  They have moved along quickly and left me in their wake.  The parallel lines create an interesting perspective as they disappear in the distance never quite meeting.  Even as my eyes are drawn to the horizon I behold a wonderful sight.  Not far ahead a majestic creature appears as if from nowhere.  The bare-headed doe quietly and calmly steps out onto the path intending to cross.  She is alone and seems unhurried.  She bends her head down to nibble a bit of grass peeking out from the new fallen snow.

I am perfectly still and watch her enjoying her morning morsel.  Yet, as quiet as I am she startles and her head quickly turns my way.  Her large liquid brown eyes take me in and she trembles slightly.  Her muscles tense as, no doubt, other encounters with my kind have not been pleasant.  Though there is no threat she chooses to disappear through the haze and branches along the path.  Her dignity still intact there is purpose but no urgency to her step.

The light has finally changed into the brightness of daylight brilliance.  It is almost blue as sunlight blindingly reflects from the open snow-covered fields.  More birds are out and about now as they try to make the most of the short winter day.  Yet the path is still oddly quiet.  The tell-tale tracks of a fox and later a raccoon join the path then diverge away.  There is still no sign of the lone skier.  The time has come now too for me to turn back.

A light breeze causes miniature blizzards of snow that swirl like white tornadoes.  A new sound arrives at my ears.  The breeze is playing a tune in the branches of the ice covered trees.  What began as a whisper grows into a symphony of bright crackling noises.  The cacophony of sound is accompanied by new visual effects.  At first bits of snow drift to the ground.  As the wind increases deafening noise is manifested by chunks of ice breaking loose from their lofty station.  Now I must pass through this gauntlet of ice and snow and here and there small branches fall to earth.

No major limbs threaten my passage.  It has become a game as I dodge and skip to avoid the larger nuggets dashing to the ground.  Though there is not a cloud in the sky I appear to have come through major storm as I emerge otherwise unscathed.  My return reveals that the once virgin snow has been swept away, the gray concrete drying in the bright morning light.  Thus civilization once again bids me return.

The day passes as many do.  No time to think or ponder.  The pace does not slacken until a sudden pause occurs.  I am given a gift of a few moments to sit and wait.  At my desk I turn and see the setting sun gliding inexorably toward the west.  Its fiery rays pierce the glassy coating of the high tree branches.  From this lofty perspective there appears to be a forest aflame wherever the sunlight is magnified by the natural prisms.  The wispy clouds ignite and swirl as smoke rising from the conflagration.  Then a buzzing sound breaks my reverie.  There is more work to be done.

Like my writing?  Purchase Congo Mission a Jack Sharp Novel  by Scott McPherson- receive a signed copy

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AS I WALK

AS I WALK IN THE DARK      As I Walk at Night

There are times when I walk early in the morning in the dark before the sun rises.  This may occur because it is so hot during the day or I may expect work to be very busy.  On occasions I merely wake up early and feel like taking my walk before the day gets started.  Darkness changes the dimensions of the walk.  When I meet or pass other walkers they seem wary and isolated.  There are no cheery smiles or waves as darkness opens our minds to fears that vanish with the rising of the sun.  In the darkness any light stands out.  I notice the spot-lighted trees and garden plots weakly illuminated by their solar powered lamps.  Orange tinted sodium vapor street lamps glow with their haze of insects ever moving around them mesmerized by their brightness.  Occasionally a bat swoops by grateful for an easy catch.

In the darkness as I walk foot-falls are more distinct.  My ear notes the tap and scrape of every step I take, a sound not noticed during the brightness of the day.  In the dark the path taken is not as certain as in the daylight.  My plans may be to follow this path or sidewalk or that road but in the dark the automatic sprinklers throw up their barriers of spray twinkling in the street lights. At other times sluicing run-off along the roadside muddies the path causing me to veer to the other side.  Early commuters pose a threat as well as they back their vehicles from darkened garages necessitating watchfulness and quickness to avoid being a statistic in the dark.

Cottontails love the darkness too.  As I walk along the path in the pre-dawn they are less afraid or more distracted by the sweet smelling succulent clover.  My approach may go unnoticed until I am within a few feet.  Then, alarm, and several shapes scatter into foundation plantings and shrubbery.  Yet they are silent in their movement had I not been alert I might have missed even this.  Owls with their low who-who sound have surely not missed this and may be waiting for me to move along as they seek their prey in the early hours.

 

Owners of dogs like the darkness too.  In the early morning often can be found the family pet unchained in their front yard.  Flaunting collar rules it is easier to release the hound to find its own way in the morning than to obediently walk the pet allowing it to do its duty.  Some of these pets do not like walkers and the quiet atmosphere and calmness of the amble can be loudly disrupted by barking and bared teeth.  I have loved dogs in my past, but have also been bitten.  There is a fear inside as uncontrollable as a sneeze that asserts itself regardless of the size of the beast whenever I hear a barking dog.  Dachshund or Doberman makes no difference to my reactions.  My own instincts take over and make my feet want to run.  Thankfully the most common type of dog I am faced with is a terrier or a poodle.  My brain is able to override my fear and I wave pleasantly at the owner who stands at the door calling back their pet.

The beauty of dawn is difficult to match.  It approaches steadily and silently.  Sounds in the air change as houses become more distinct.  The chirping and whirring of the crickets is replaced by robin calls and the skreegh of  the red tail hawk floating above the trees enjoying the first hint of updrafts from the fields.  The first ochre rays of sun cause a rise in the temperature perceptibly and reflect off eastward facing windows of the taller homes.  Traffic begins to pick up as early commuters seek to beat the rush or get an early start on their busy day.  I try to keep my mind on the natural scene but this intrusion moves me toward home as well and into an equally busy day.

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AS I WALK

As I Walk
By Scott McPherson

FALL

Reduced path. I have taken this way for years but still I see new and delightful things. As my mind wanders it clears of the stress and anxieties of the day as if it is being washed with fresh clean water. I feel the worries melt away as I take the first few steps.

When I cross from the parking lot to the path it is as if I am hanging up my coat and putting on my slippers to enjoy a relaxing evening. I open the door and before me is comfort and peace. I don’t amble in fact I walk quickly toward it. But the pace means nothing. I feel like a child hurrying toward the playground. I press forward to the familiar and leave other familiar things behind. I have often smiled just to think of how I nearly missed this moment of peace as I have looked down from my office window. Why would anyone prefer to stay in there?

The first turn takes me on a path that could lead me anywhere I would want to go. I could stay on that path to the road and keep going until I reached the Atlantic Ocean or veer off toward Canada or Mexico. Does anyone else see it this way? I could be in the first stages of an epic journey. “HE WALKED ON INTO THE SUNSET.” But not today. I will only taste that journey and when I have reached my limit I will return from whence I came.

This path is hard, concrete. It was poured as so many sidewalks with lines spaced regularly to allow expansion. Sometimes I try to take big steps from each slab, missing the cracks. Usually I pay no attention and keep my eyes up. On this day the path is littered with newly fallen leaves. The breeze will soon scatter them and the caretakers will brush them away. They are old friends too. Can I tell what tree they are from?

The leaves not only differ in color and shape but they have distinct smells. I try to memorize the pungent odors but it is hard to do. Is there a way to describe a smell? To me the locust tree with its spiny twisting branches is tinny, sweet, heavy. It has seed pods made of stringy tough material. The seeds are smooth and dark and look like pieces to some strange game. The stately oak is warm and inviting almost like the smell of a Rattan chair. Cottonwood broad and tall is just. . . cotton-woody. Pines are easy but it is hard to tell them apart. When I walk past a stand of pine trees I can close my eyes and imagine I am in the mountains or my favorite Black Hills. In a few days the leaves will be gone and only the bark will be there to show me who they are. I wish I could remember how to distinguish these surface textures one from another.

Just ahead is the bridge. This one would be ideal for a troll to guard. He could remain well hidden until passersby trod on the wooden piers. What is it about bridges that is so enticing? I always want to stop and look into the water flowing beneath to see what is there. Sometimes it just lays there stagnant, awaiting fresh rain to swell its flow. The water brings up memories of boyhood discovery and the joy of finding something new as I peered at the surface. I used to fill bottles with water and algae to be viewed with a microscope. It seemed to me as if no one else had ever discovered the colorful beauties before. I drew pictures of them and had my own names for my “discoveries.” As a littler boy, even younger, I wanted to fish in any stream I found. I would imagine catching fish even along the street if water was flowing there. At this time of year the water is amber and clear and the flow is steady but not riffling. It makes little sound as it begins its long trek toward the distant ocean.

In the Spring there is a mallard pair which raises their brood year after year just below the bridge. I don’t know if it is the same pair but I have seen them every year. Today they are nowhere to be seen. They must have joined their cousins winging their way to the south ahead of winter’s blast so soon to come. Yet nearby a willow lazily casts its branches toward the water near their abandoned nest and wild roses now loaded with red juicy hips, provide a perch for the sparrows. Today there is a rustling sound in the plants near the water. They are about to go dormant for the winter.

On the other side of the bridge once existed a beautiful garden. The owners meticulously weeded and nurtured the multicolored flower bed from Spring to Fall. They loved the garden and walkers like me loved to see it. It was the perfect transition to further discovery. Where color once exploded along the verge now there is nothing but grass carelessly sewn, weedy and poorly trimmed. I don’t know the people who used to live there but I am sad that they have moved on perhaps to a town-home or assisted living where they can only dream and remember their perfect garden.

The path then winds a little. Some neighbors keep their gardens near the path and I enjoy their flowers and fruit trees. Others have dogs that excitedly bark as if to ask to be taken along on the walk. They seem friendly, though they are large and appear to be from a fierce breed. Nevertheless, the sounds of their barks is not harsh or threatening. Usually I also meet a few people who take the same route about the same time each day. We greet each other and smile a knowing smile. We know what others are missing today.

“The Crossing” has become and obstacle. Where once the press of a button brought a stop light holding up traffic on the four lane thoroughfare, now the timed delay is so long that few runners or walkers wait for the signal to change. I see crossing as worth the risk. There is so much more to be seen beyond this barrier. It is as if one must take the plunge to find the beauty that exists on the other side. Here the grass really is greener. Many people now know this too and a generous parking area was built for them to begin their own journeys along this path.

Truly an epic journey should have this beginning. Here is a place to leave your car behind and take to a path leading away from the hustle and bustle of town life. This path is gentle but well populated with trees and birds. Squirrels love it here and field mice, though not often seen, can be heard flitting through the dry grass. I have seen tracks from deer, raccoons, and opossums as well as more domesticated animals in the moist earth beside the trail. While I walk most times the path is also frequented by whole families bicycling together or runners preparing for their next marathon.

Some people can’t come to the path free from their “other” lives. They dare to wear electronic earpieces and listen to their harsh music/noise when there are so many wonderful sounds to be heard out here. God has provided the music and accompaniment to their journey. Do they know the sound of a squirrel running through the branches? The call of the cardinal or wren? They certainly don’t know about the little mice or birds in the grass. Why are they here? I love even the crunch of stone under foot and the wind whispering through the sheltering the trees. I have heard the calls of the hawk and owl. The bluejays’ piercing calls and whistles can be heard all year long. It is part of the walk, the experience of taking the path and I wouldn’t want to miss it.

Beyond the parking lot the path seems different. The awning of trees presses in from above almost as if it will close over any trespasser who dares to enter. As the path bends ahead one cannot tell if they will be swallowed up by and ancient byway or find a much more benign scene. Though the sinister could be waiting there is no bite to this bark. It is an introduction to prove that the path is greater beyond this point. I no longer see the hand of man in the order of the plants. A wilder force has been at work here. Instead of an oak here and an ash over there can be seen a mix of mulberry trees, wild plum bushes, hackberry, and cedar trees begun at random by much more natural means. The path now appears carved out of the natural world as it continues on its way.

Looking back before the first bend in the trail one can just see the cars resting and waiting patiently for their owners. Will the people all return or will some become so enthralled by the journey that they will leave their vehicle and just keep going? I have yet to hear of one who has given into this passion but I understand the magnetism of such a proposal. It is the subject of a dream, a work of fiction just as quickly brushed aside as if you awake from sleep. I too can only come to this place for a short time before returning to life as it has become. But one day reason may give in to passion.

Moving around the bend the newness of the path’s character is evident. Now only a few houses can even be seen. I am in the country now and the measured rows of corn lay before me marching up to the culvert beside the path. Though manmade they belong here in this part of the world. Here I will be able to watch as the crops progress through their life-cycle for yet another season. In some spots the harvesters have passed leaving a startling contrast between the tall tan stalks laden with their prizes and the stubby remains mercifully left behind by the combine. Birds sweep in to glean the kernels dropped here and there another happy consequence of the reaping.

The sun is different here and now than anywhere else or any other time. As the golden Fall rays of sun pass through the colorful leaves it gains a new quality. Perhaps the color is reflected back into the sky as well. The air has a new unique quality too almost seeming to cause distances to be shorter. As I walk along the path at times it seems that I could walk into another time altogether. It is as if just around that bend I will see women wearing large hats and flowing dresses and men with handle-bar mustaches making their way toward me.

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I SAW RED TODAY

I saw Red today                                                               2014-10-30 12.13.14

This isn’t a blog about the World Series or even Nebraska Football.  I love to walk on the bicycle path near my office and make it a regular habit to walk at noon.  The half-hour jaunt gets me out of the office, into the fresh air.  The exercise clears my mind.  The morning pressures almost melt away.  Though I have been doing this for over thirteen years (with varying frequency) I never get tired of the same stretch of concrete connected to the MOPAC trail that leads to the east of Lincoln, Nebraska.  This trail, built on the abandoned Missouri Pacific Railroad bed, leads eastward nearly to the Missouri river near Omaha.  It is frequented by bicycle enthusiasts, runners, workers out for a noon break, and mothers with their strollers.  The trail is lined by a wide variety of trees and shrubs casting shade and showering their fall leaves over the casual walker.  So what was red?  As I left the concrete path not far down the white rock MOPAC a fluffy red fox rustled the leaves, glanced my way, then scurried quickly up the berm disappearing in seconds.  I kept walking smiling at the sight.  I have never seen a fox as I walked along the trail.  I continued my walk, keeping my pace quick.  Squirrels chattered above, a blue jay drew a crowd of angry sparrows all flitting away as a bicycle rushed past.  There was silence for a moment, then the natural sounds began again.  As I reached my farthest point I glanced up, just in time to see the beautiful black striped body of a downy wood pecker head topped with his red cap gliding across the path from tree to tree.  The west breeze now full I my face I returned to the part of the path, now covered with concrete, then back to my office and the completion of my day.

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Be a Publisher – Esengo Publishing

ESENGO PUBLISHING                  Congo Mission "Buy

My second book was self-published.  I was hesitant to follow this route, at first, because I have seen some books written and self-published by their author that were very poorly done.  Some covers don’t look professional, the word choices were poor and grammar was sloppy.  Today, these books still appear, but more people are publishing books without the benefit and hassle of a traditional publisher.  Some authors have amazing success stories from their efforts.  Nevertheless, it is fairly easy to spot a self-published book if there is no publisher logo on the cover or the publisher is listed, inside the book, as the book company where the author produced their book.

My bias against self-published books has lessened significantly since doing it myself, but that is not true for many people, including book stores.  Even independent book companies will only carry your novel or self-help book if it looks professional.  They prefer that it would be published by a traditional publisher, too, for several reasons.

  1. Their customers also have bias against self-published “new” authors
  2. Books from print-on-demand sources usually cannot be returned if they don’t sell
  3. Most self-published authors have little marketing and promotion experience
  4. Working directly with an author, not a distributor can be difficult, at times

While you can’t totally “hide” the fact that your book is self-published, there are few things to do that will ingratiate you with a book seller.  The professional appearance can be enhanced by having a publisher.  This sounds contradictory, but it isn’t.  You can form a legitimate publishing company and sell your books through them.  It isn’t too complicated, though you should consult the tax rules in your state to see what is involved.  I formed ESENGO PUBLISHING for this purpose.  I had a friend design a logo and I went through the process that is required in Nebraska to form a company.

Name

First you have to come up with a unique name for your company.  Start with your, already good, imagination.  Then scour the internet to find out if there is another such company.  It is a good idea to be thorough, using several search engines and business title websites.

Register

Once you have a catchy, unique, name, in Nebraska you need to register the company.  There is a form to fill out (I have zero employees) and the fee here is one hundred dollars.  Once you hear back from the state you must put a notice in a locally circulated newspaper announcing your company.  For my  local paper this cost twenty-five dollars.

Business Account

I was able to find a local bank where business checking accounts are free.  I even received a Foreman grill as a gift and small safe deposit box for one year free of charge.  I use this account to receive my royalties from Amazon and Smashwords and deposit book sales money into that account.  I plan to use it for any further expenses for this book as well.

Sales tax

If you sell your own books, you legally must charge sales tax.  It is dependent upon the location where the book is sold.  In my city the rate is 7.5%, but in other towns around it is different.  If I sell a book I keep a record of the sales tax and will send in a tax form with a payment to the state for the sales tax collected.  It is not wise to ignore this, because it adds up.  I use my Paypal account and the card-swiper to make sales (I also accept cash and checks).  The Paypal app on my phone calculates the sales tax and allows you to send an email receipt to the purchaser.  Using the app and swiper costs 3%, but the convenience is worth it.  There are other companies with similar card readers and you may want to check out their plans.

My logo appears on the back cover of CONGO MISSION and on the Title page.

Logo Name

Esengo is a word in a language spoken in Congo called, Lingala.  It means “Joy.”  I chose this word, because it is unique.  Few people in the US know what I means which lends a little bit of mystery and I am confident that there is no other publishing company with the name.  If you “Google” the word you also find a song written by Selah called “Esengo.”  It is one of my favorite songs.  The African gray parrot in the logo is special to me.  When we lived in Congo our neighbor had such a parrot.  It was named “Esengo.”

Stay in touch – watch for my new novel – Witness in The Window : a Jack Sharp Novel

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SELF-PUBLISHING

Self-Publishing    Congo cover for articles

My  most recent endeavor has been to venture into the world of self-publishing.  At first it seems simple and like an obvious choice, but there are pitfalls that make caution a must.  Like my experience with traditional publishing, I have not learned everything there is to know about this facet of producing your work, but I will share what I know and, perhaps, others will help fill in the gaps.

Fortunately there are many resources available to help you in the world of self-publishing, but it can still be too much of a good thing.  As with traditional publishing, you must decide what you are trying to accomplish and identify your audience.  If you are merely putting together a family reunion photo book your choices will be different than if you are trying to gain a national audience for your new self-help ideas.

One thing to watch for are the “vanity” publishers.  This type of self-publishing does work, but the cost can be quite high.  For this service you pay an editor to check over your work and help you correct grammar.  They may make suggestions about style and content, but overall, they “approve” what you have written.  They have professional graphic artists to help with cover design and book layout.  Your costs may run into the thousands of dollars, but you will have a professional product to sell.  Every step of the production for the book has a significant cost.  You will end up with a certain number of copies which you will, then, be tasked to market and sell.  Additional fees gain you marketing and advertising help, but add to your overhead.  If you have written a best-seller you may recoup your costs, but it is a risky way to start out.

Print-on-demand (POD) publishers offer reduced fee options (and this is becoming more common in the “vanity” market as well).  In fact, one can publish a novel through Amazon Createspace at little or no cost to the writer.  This may be true with other POD publishers too, but I have not investigated them.  At this point you may want to stop reading and check out how this works with Amazon.  I was intrigued by the possibility of “free” publishing, myself.  If you have a manuscript and have done the editing you may submit this directly to Createspace (once you have opened an account).  If it meets their editing criteria you may go on to design you own cover.  Createspace has stock photos that can be used for free to make the cover.  Once you put it all together and they approve the design, you may publish your book.

The caveat to doing the “free” publishing is that Createspace directs where and how the book is sold.  They are the publisher of record.  The ISBN (I will explain this later) is in their name and, while you may set the price, if you go this route entirely you may not be able to sell your books anywhere but on Amazon.  Nevertheless, Amazon comprises the lion’s share of the market.  So by hitching your wagon to Amazon, you could still do quite well at selling your book.

I chose a middle route for my second book.  I did submit the copy to my original publisher, but I found out later that they were dealing with a distributor who had declared bankruptcy.  I suspect this was a little distracting while I was hoping they were evaluating my manuscript (or maybe they just didn’t like it).  Having done some research I chose to self-publish.

I am blessed with daughters who are all very literate and capable of proofreading and editing my manuscripts.  One is a teacher and willingly provided the editorial service I needed for my second novel, “Congo Mission.”  I paid her a modest sum (this could reach into the thousands for some editors) and she did a marvelous job.  I’m not saying that having a professional copy editor wouldn’t be valuable, but one must take into account the “return on investment,” to a certain extent.  Getting the spelling and grammar correct is a major undertaking.  Editing content and advising the writer on what sells and what doesn’t sell is probably important, but comprises a major investment.  I utilize readers to help me decide if I have a good idea or not.  Friends and relatives can read your book and provide surprisingly effective critique.  After-all, they are “consumers.”

I had this manuscript in hand when I started the process with Createspace.  Here it gets a little tricky.  My document was double-spaced with equal margins.  A paperback book has to have a wider margin along the spine side of the page.  Createspace provides a template for you to do the proper margins and spacing.  The best idea I found (from Smashwords – which I will discuss in a later post) is to “NUKE” your document.  This process is to copy the entire document to the clipboard then open it in “Notepad.”  By doing this you remove most of the extraneous formatting that can get you into trouble later.  The formatting guide provided by Createspace helps you to know exactly what is required.  It took me a couple of weeks, making adjustments, to get the formatting just right so that it looked perfect on the template.  When you upload the correctly formatted manuscript, it is then checked to see if everything is in shape.  If issues are found, you have the opportunity to fix them and re-upload the document.

This is only part of the story, however.  Before I ever uploaded my manuscript I paved the way to make this book my own.  I formed a publishing company, called Esengo Publishing, purchased ISBN numbers, and found a company called Smashwords where I was able to produce an e-book.  All about this on later posts.

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