Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Yesterday, Memorial Day 2012, I discovered what one person can do to honor our freedom and the people who have given it to us.

Larry Eckhardt showed me what the idea of a single person can do to honor others. And he does it again and again. Larry attended a funeral 6 years ago for a fallen soldier and he felt there were not enough flags there.

He now has attended 82 funerals of fallen soldiers, traveling hundreds of miles, and he brings 2,200 flags with him. He and local volunteers plant the flags on steel poles, on both sides of the road for eight miles. Eight miles.  A hero’s procession. And people turn out for a hero’s procession by the hundreds. I salute Larry Eckhardt. 

The link below is a youtube video that CBS Sunday Morning aired this past Sunday.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Your Best Thousand Words

            It’s old and it’s true. Pictures have worth and none more that your book cover. The only chance you have at getting your story noticed is the image on the front. Sure, reviews and recommendations will send your readers looking for your work, but the browsers who are looking for their next book have to be grabbed by the pigtails and dragged in.

Besides good writing, your book cover is where you need to plant your attention. Elements of your story, color, font, layout, and plain old shock value need to be perfect. How do you know when you’ve captured that? Like all high art that answer is subjective. Think about your target audience. What are they looking for? You have a target right?

Think up some ideas. Go and browse that bookstore you waste time in. Walk up and down and see where you stop. Why, what made you stop and zero in on that cover? Sleep on it. Run your ideas past your tea friends.

Then open your wallet and hire a book cover artist. The self-publishing revolution has grown some diamonds. Google will find many businesses that do book covers. And they have a portfolio on their web site to let you sample their work. Look at a lot of them. Enough that your head hurts and then go sleep on it.

Look for originality, a cover that isn’t flat but 3D and pops from the image. And remember your customer will see the book cover in thumbnail size on the bookseller’s website. When you have narrowed your choice of artists to three, email them about details.

Once you have made your choice, tell them your ideas, ask them about their ideas. They will do three samples and send them to you. Ask all your friends and every stranger on the subway which one they would choose. Take that great cover and tweak it, send it back, question everything. Do not stop until the cover says all the thing you want from a lover. And then it’s time for the last step.  Become a perfectionist. Steve Jobs kind of tyrannical overbearing son-of-a-bitch perfectionist. It’s that important.

My research and experience with book covers says $300 to $900 will get a cover and it will take a month or more before they really hate you. But then, you have art and both you and your artist will have a cover worthy of the journey.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Rocket Launcher
I did walk to school uphill both ways because there was a hill between our farm and the one-room one-teacher schoolhouse I attended. But that was nothin’. I wanted to go to school an’ not for the bag lunch or Roseanne or even for the learnin'. It was the Rocket Launcher.
I was one of the little kids, small and light and not bright. Perfect rocket material. The sixth graders, they were the ones, they were the fuel and they were the brains and in our school, the muscle. All morning we boys would sit and stew, fantasying about recess and keeping an eye out for Mrs. Wells in case she asked us to learn something. We wanted to learn about trajectory and pressure upon impact and- “Yes, Mrs. Wells, I will read the next chapter of Dick and Jane rolling down a hill.”
Rabbits! I don’t give a Scooby doobie if Dick and Jane rolled down a hill unless they were within range of The Rocket launcher.
And then each day it would, for the great God of Heaven, it came time to release the suppressed and sprint for the playground! The big kids would remove any girls that might be playing on the Merry-go-Round- Um, I mean the Rocket Launcher. The big kids would sit on the boards with their feet in the center and begin to wind the Rocket Launcher up. Me and the rest of the stunted would crouch on the boards on our feet and hook our arms over the pipes as the turbines wound up and the Rocket Launcher spun.
The big kids began to chant and the world blurred. Forces began to pull on my shoulders and I had to hook my toes to stay on board. The turbines hit top-end pushing with their feet and yelling Army noises. My hair sucked outward and my head began to bend toward the g-force.
I unhooked my arms, and gripped the pipe with both hands and released my toes. Instantly,  I snapped straight out, hanging on with my hands, whipping around and around knowing Mrs. Wells was inside trying to recover from the little rotten minions’ that she herded each day. We were free to launch.
Pretty Patty Dunbar was in range, she, talking with Roseanne, was unaware of her blundered path. I locked on. I went around once, twice. The pull on my eyeballs made the target blurry. I went around again. Stay on target. Patty stopped and turned. Stay on target. My fingers were stretching and my shoes were slipping off my gripping toes. Stay on target.
Once, twice around, I had target lock. Around we came and the world slowed as my brain did the calculation. The turbines on the Rocket launcher screamed “Go for Launch!” I released and screamed at a hundred miles an hour toward the enemy. Spread-eagled and wide-eyed, I pulled the pin on this grenade and readied for impact. I crashed into the ground, dirt flew and grass stains forever penetrated my pants right between Pretty Patty Dunbar and Roseanne.
Rats. Missed. They looked at me with girl disgust. Mrs. Wells stood on the steps ringing the bell in her hand. Double rats. I got up and limped toward the schoolhouse with grass in my hair and ripped sleeves. Climbing the steps, Mrs. Wells asked, “What on earth happened to you?” “Nothin’.”

Friday, May 18, 2012


Finding an editor

Once you go rogue, you lose some of the valuable things that a publisher provides. Self-publishing means you have all the freedom in the world right? You want to sleep today? Good. You want to blow up the neighbors’ cat? Good. You want a great book? Good. Look inside your toolbox, you have a big wrench in there called a checkbook.

That will get you an editor. I know you could send out your book without another set of eyes. Or, have your spouse who knows he has to continue to live with you and is willing to lie for that privilege, edit your book. Your Mother loves you too much. You love your prose more than your children and you won’t cut its legs off. 

Necessity. That itch has the new model of self-publishing filling opportunities like popsicles in July. I found several editors who have also gone rogue and hung a shingle on a WWW. signpost. They offered a free sample edit of the first ten pages of my manuscript along with pricing based on word count.

I emailed off my babies and wished them well in the world knowing they would come back unchanged to daddy. After all, who knew the story better than me? They rolled back in and they were redheaded stepchildren. Some of them were belligerent.

However, they were smarter now. Some were enhanced and clear and bright eyed and happy. This one guy removed the marbles from my mouth and still kept my voice. I hired him and have been thrilled with my new grown up and scrubbed clean child. That editor is John VanZile, of Editing with Authors.com. Fantastic editor.

You have two questions. How much and where do I find this finishing school?

For a 100,000 words; $600 to $3500 depending on the editor and what services you want such as sentence structure, plot and story development, general editing or proofreading etc. I chose to do a general edit and my cost was under Two Thousand.

Where to find them? Google is a wonderful thing. I recommend Editing for Authors.com. In addition, a site that you can query several editors at once is:


And where do you find information on all things writing? Why www.absolutewrite.com. It’s where all your new friends are talking.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Publishing Business Is Broken.

Well, like 19.6 % of the American population I started writing the great American novel. And like 1% of the overly stubborn population I finished it and asked the publishing business to look at it. I found out the system of publishing is broken.

The publishing business decided to leave the heavy lifting to authors and now only promote persons who already have celebrity status aka cherry picking. Now they are not the first industry who held all the cards and were selfish and shortsighted. The railroad industry a hundred years ago thought they were in the railroad business. But a guy named Ford knew they were actually in the transportation business and took the money right out from under them. Well publishers are really in the information business and a guy out west built a warehouse and is taking the money right out from under them. And big publishing is still building tracks with Snookie books instead of embracing the new frontier and paving roads.

I said the publishing business is broken. I say this through my experience and the experience of many others. Thousands of books are completed and a few actually get examined by the publishers aka the gatekeepers, and even less get offered a chance to sell it to them for around five grand and 17.5% of sales. If the author gives up all ownership and control. Their new friends will massage it and print it and then the author has to go out and promote it on their own dime. Meanwhile the author’s new friends are busy putting a publicity tour together for their best friend Snookie. The new publisher friend will print more if the author can sell it. If you don’t earn back the five grand they gave you, you have to give it back.

I will say it again the publishing business is broken. When the publishing industry mastered total control of content for the information business, they built necessity. A hundred thousand authors were turned away by the gatekeepers and that necessity found a way to be heard. Today you can self-publish a book for zero dollars and put your book in front of millions of readers. Technology exists that allows you to put you book on the web in front of readers and allow them to order one book and then print one book and send it to the reader. But even better than that, that reader can get an electronic version for half the money and the author still makes 50% more money than the publisher would give him.

Book sales are in decline. Electronic eBooks sales are growing like weeds and I am jumping on this truck and following many others by self-publishing my book. My journey begins.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mothers for sainthood 

My Mom was born a southern girl who was wooed by a farmer from the frozen reaches of the Midwest. I never realized her journey was an extraordinary story because she was just my mom. I remember when she would put me and my brother in our bed for a nap, I thought she sat outside the bedroom door and just waited for me to beckon her to my side.

So in the early sixties my Dad stayed to tend the farm and Mom booked a train to Los Angles to visit her parents and she took the two young colts with her. I was four and my brother five. We were 13 months apart and fought for dominance at all angles and opportunities. Especially when out of sight of my domineering father. In order to keep us safe and corralled mom had two harnesses with leashes attached. More than once we found ourselves attached to a clothesline pole so we were still alive when the chores were done.

Walking through the train station full of new experiences and huge looming machines and travelers, we were ready for adventure. My mom, all of 90 lbs. in her heels, dress and fashionable hat was being hauled like a teamster. Every train whistle and every bell set us off pulling like draft horses on our harnesses.

We would whinny and snort and put every ounce to the work. Our handler would yell out, “Rick, Spike, stop it!” We heard, ‘Yaw, get along there, pull you doggies!’ I remember her heels skidding on the concrete. Then we would switch and pull in opposite directions stretching her out like Christ on the cross. I do remember his name being used.

Everyone would complement her on how much spirit we had and what a hand full she had with her wonderful little boys. Once on the train, we threw food at each other over the white linin dining table and tore down the halls whenever we got off the leash. At every stop, Mom would have to recruit some stranger to carry the luggage while we bucked and kicked them in the shins with our hooves.

I don’t remember, but I bet she stayed in bed for two days when she handed us off to my Grandparents who spoiled us rotten. After two weeks of that we got another crack at train robbin’ and ropin’ on the return trip with our new cap guns.

And still she loved us and adored us and didn’t leave us under a bridge with a day’s ration of peanut butter and jelly. She, like all moms, was the best thing in the world.