Thursday, May 25, 2017

Summer Writing

At last, it looks as if summer is here.

My writing normally slows down a bit when warm weather arrives. For me, summer means lots of vacation days, short trips, golf, long walks, and hikes, gardening, a little fishing, and more time with my cameras taking wildlife and landscape photos. I also spend time watching Little League baseball and my favorite big league team the Rockies who are off to a great start.

One of our favorite places to relax and only a few minutes away

I will continue working on my new nonfiction book and hope to finish the 4th  kid's chapter book from my Mike and Moose & Me series. Here is the link to the first of the series.

I am doing a few small promotions for my newest book – here is my latest post on it.

Just in time for summer. Beginning Gardening and Other Entertaining Lies. Everything from how to read labels on a bag of fertilizer to building backyard raised beds. Great for beginners along with terrific reminders and how to’s, for long time gardeners also.  Complete with humor and four short stories, each starting with a body in the garden.

Other than that I will do lots of soaking in the sun and relaxing in the warmth of summer. How about You?
Last evening - sunset over Guernsey State Park 

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Using Kindle Unlimited and New Book Covers

Thursday at our house - Today, Saturday, I worked in short sleeves in the garden

Now You Can download all of my Books for Free with Kindle Unlimited - Like many writers that self-publish I am constantly looking for more revenue. With that in mind, I decided to move all of my books to Kindle Unlimited. I have always had a few there, but decided I would give it a try with all nine of my books and my one published short story. Not sure what will happen but if nothing else, it will give me something to check every day.

So what is Kindle Unlimited? - For those of you not familiar with Kindle Unlimited, it is a subscription with Amazon that allows members who pay $9.99 a month to download an unlimited number of books each month. Readers can have up to ten books at any one time but must return books to go past ten in a month. Not a bad deal, some readers return books as soon as they finish or if they decide it is not what they want and order another. Some readers report downloading dozens each month. It also looks like a good place to sell old-fashioned genres such as Westerns and Historical Fiction.
Take a look and read the free sample.
Take a look at The Ghost Dance Here

Author Pay – Authors are paid by how many pages are read from each downloaded book, works out to a bit over a half cent per page, which for a 300-page book would work out to $1.50, or a little more depending on the month as the payment does vary. Considering that the same book, sold as an eBook for $2.99 would pay the author about $2.00 it is not much different.
   I have not tried it yet myself but believe when late fall comes around again I will give it a try. My old bones do not like the cold weather of winter, and a good book is always a nice companion.

My Garden Book is now .99 cents as an eBook – I also reduced the price of my latest book, Beginning Gardening & Other Entertaining Lies to under a buck. (As I write this late Saturday afternoon the price change has not appeared yet but should change soon)
   This one is a bit shorter, 130 pages in soft cover and 80+ as an eBook, not sure why the big difference, as it takes a pretty small font to knock off 50 pages. This one also contains four short stories that all start with a dead body in the garden. Fun stuff. The actual gardening advice is solid and time tested, a terrific way for gardeners to get going. Take a look at the sample here.

New Covers - My kid's book series – I am starting to put new, and better, covers on my three book, so far, kid’s series. Here is the new cover and the link to the first.

Monday, May 15, 2017

My New Book is Out

My new book is out and much different than all of my others. 

This one tackles my love of gardening along with short murder mysteries.

Here is the book blurb 

A book for everyone who gardens or wants to garden. Gardening tips from a Master Gardener who has tried it all, over more than half a century of digging in the soil. With, just for fun, four Garden Murder Mysteries from a Master Story Teller.

All the information needed to start your own gardens, flower beds to do a complete landscape makeover. Tips on everything from fertilizer and seeds to bushes and trees. Raised beds, locating your garden and more. Want to start a garden and not sure what to do? Read it here. Check to see if you are doing it right, it’s all in the book. Tired from all that hard work in the garden?

Relax with four cozy, murder in the garden tales


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Oh - What a Couple of Weeks

To say the last two weeks have been a bummer would be the ultimate understatement. 
  1. Tooth Extraction
  2. Root Canal
  3. Flu
  4. Arthritis Flair up
There you have it, and a fun ride it has not been - but, the good news is I am on the mend. Seems as I get older bad things seems to come in groups, I only hope this group of ailments has ended for a few years - not fun. Finally up and around - some - the past few days, even managed a half hour speaking engagement yesterday. 
A few weeks ago standing behind the - one of a kind - CCC Cap House in
Guernsey State Park

All of the above means that I have not got around to much writing or editing. I did get a second proof copy for my newest book. I wasn't happy with some of my headings and spacing in the first. After a bit, okay quite a bit, of editing,  Happy Days, at first look, this one seems to be fine and should be available soon, but I will need to take a more careful look first - Just to be sure.
My light-hearted look at gardening - available in a few days.

The first Iris are starting to open - always look great

On the good news side, my yard and garden look quite nice for this time of year, and with no frost, in the two-week forecast, it looks like I will be able to continue planting in our gardens the next few days.

I am continuing the research and rough draft, on what I have found to be both a challenging and energizing new nonfiction book. This one I cannot wait to publish but it will be winter at best before it is ready for the big edit. 
On the grounds of Fort Laramie
 Setting for the new nonfiction book I am working on

Meanwhile, keep on writing and keep on reading.

The famous Iron Bridge at Fort Laramie - What stories it could tell

Monday, May 1, 2017

Well - Looks Like I Survived April

Looks to me like I almost took the month of April off. I made a measly nine blog posts, and although I no longer keep a word count, I suspect it was not high. I do have the proof of my ninth book and will have it up and for sale in a few days. This one – Beginning Gardening and Other Entertaining Lies, has gardening tips, four short stories, all related to gardening and some humor. It is pretty light hearted and only comes in a bit over 100 pages, but it was fun.  Those who have followed me for a while know that I am almost as passionate about gardening as I am about writing and photography.

So what’s next? I am back to work on my nonfiction book, yep the one I have talked about on here before. I am also toying with the idea of a new murder mystery, or I might go back to the one I got stuck on and never completed. Funny, I really liked that story, great location, and a couple of characters I felt were fun, had a murderer, had a body, and just could not come up with a motive – oh well, some day.

Nice to see spring trying to arrive here in Wyoming. Spring seems to make me feel younger and ready to get out and do something. Or maybe its because I am feeling better after a root canal and extraction of a cracked wisdom tooth. Ahh - the Golden Years.

Keep on reading and keep on writing. Good advice for me seems everytime we are out hiking these ol' boys are watching - maybe attempting to tell us something. Yep, better get to work before they catch up with me. 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Edit or Self-Edit and Book Covers Too

I have been spending more hours than I want to count this week updating two of my book covers. I like the new ones, probably because I may have a better understanding now than I did when I built my first ones two years ago.  I am not going to re-do all of them, right now, but likely will do one or two more soon.

I am also back working on my nonfiction book. I took five months off to finish up some other projects and am now enjoying the research and writing of nonfiction once again.

At one time in my life, I spent a lot of time, often too much, editing other writers works. I don’t do much of that any longer as I mostly worked with historical nonfiction although I did take on a few fiction projects. Now I mostly edit my own. What am I getting to here? All the advertisements I get in the form of tweets or email offering, book doctor or editing services. Often the promo starts with a line telling all who read that there are so many, maybe millions, of books and eBooks for sale that are chalk full of errors. And, it’s possible there are, but I would rather read a book with a handful of errors than one that is perfect but without a good story.

 I have downloaded, read and enjoyed, self-edited books by several authors. All were people I follow online or on Twitter, and most were pretty good reads. I did not notice a multitude of errors in any of them and the things I noticed can sometimes be found in mainstream novels. As I said above, if the story is a good one, I will read it.

My point is not that books do not need a good edit, but that some self-edited books come out pretty clean. If you are writing a book and hope to sell a thousand copies, which is what you will need to sell to pay for a middle of the road priced editor. I mentioned book covers above, and good ones will help sell books if the book can be found among the 8,000,000 or so on Amazon. Once again writers like myself, who sell books, steadily but not spectacularly, need to be weary of not spending too much for the creation of a cover. I am not crazy about many of the new covers that seem to be black no matter what the subject, they all look the same to my old eyes.

Today’s photos are from my backyard.

Meanwhile, keep on reading and keep on writing.
Oh - one of the redone covers, this for my first kid's chapter book

Monday, April 10, 2017

A New Book and A New Spring

I am happy to say today that I, at last, got out my second book in the Blade Holmes western mysteries. This one entitled, The Ghost Dance, follows Marshall Holmes from Fort Robinson, Nebraska to Nevada and back to the Sioux Reservations of Southern, South Dakota.  The book centers on the famous circle dance of the white shirted dancers, the Ghost Dance. This one has lots of authentic western history and is a very nice follow up to, Commitment, the first Blade Holmes historic novel.

In other writing news, I am nearly finished with my final touches of my gardening book, then it will get final edits and off to my first readers. If everything goes well, I hope this one is only a few weeks away.
A bee last summer on one of my backyard sunflowers

So what am I reading? Thomas McGuane – Keep the Change, so far I am enjoying it, even if it does fit best into the dreaded category of Literary Fiction. I am also reading and enjoying, Postcards, by famed Wyoming writer, Annie Proulx.
Not only me that enjoys basking in the sun

My book sales are picking up right now, always a good thing and the weather is looking more and more like spring. Can’t wait to start digging in that terrific garden soil again.
We have spent some wonderful days hiking in the new Spring weather

Keep on reading and keep on writing. 

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Writing & The Month of March

I am still surprised at how many posts I see each day that have the same theme. The theme is always something like this - The five mistakes writers make, or, the six no no’s of writing in first person. They pretty much rehash the same things over and over. Seems like I remember a few years ago that bloggers were told to put a number in the blog title for more hits, I still see so many five of this, or six steps to this. Not sure if it works but still seems popular. 

Lately, it looks to me that writing books about writing or marketing are the way to sell books. I seem to get multiple tweets, emails, and links each day to this kind of information. It also seems that writing how to for a hobby or small business books could be a money maker. I see more and more of these often offered in eBook only format and many in the 15-80 page range. How much? All are priced from .99 cents to $2.99. Maybe I will give it a try.  How about, Living Uncomfortable on Retirement Income, or maybe for golfers, Turning A Fade into a Screaming Slice. Probably not, maybe a writing book, Hours and Hours of Writing Only to Start Over – Again.

Well, another month has come and gone, and my book sales were mediocre. My trial at giving away one of my novels met with moderate success and did give me a bit of an uptick in sales. I would recommend it to anyone who writes and is still building an audience.

I finished my first draft of my gardening book – it was fun and so different from what I am used to writing. This one will be a .99 cent eBook and likely an $8.99 soft cover. It gives both sound gardening advice and some fun to read garden murder mysteries. Not sure I have ever seen anything quite like this book. Here is a brief excerpt from the first chapter.

It’s Planting Time

Gardening should be fun. Most of the time it is, but where I live, at high altitude in Wyoming, it can sometimes be tricky business. Start the season too soon, and a gardener may find the garden snow covered by morning. Start too late, and the garden might be covered in snow before harvest. When the growing season is short, timing is everything.
So, when do you start? Tough question, easy answer. No matter if you are gardening at altitude, or in the lower areas of America’s heartland, start after the last snow and harvest before the first hard frost in the fall. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it were that easy? Yes, it would, but, unfortunately,  it is not.
Can an experienced gardener predict the best time to plant every year? Ahh, no. But we can all find a way to understand when the time is right to sow those first spring seeds. The best way is to live in the same place for a long time, and then you will know, know the perfect time to plant. If you are new to the area, or if, like me, you forget what last year was like, or didn’t write it down anyway, here is a start.

In 2012, the USDA updated their Plant Hardiness Zone Map. This is the best way to start, all you need to do is type in your zip code and up it comes.

All Photos were taken Thursday in our back yard
It is looking like Spring, at least some days!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

An Attempt at Book Marketing

It has been an interesting three days as I attempted to move a few books. Over the past few weeks, I have been trying to read more about book marketing. Something I have not done much of, instead I spend time writing and editing, then move on to another book. I like the writing part, but am woefully bad at marketing. I have turned down several chances to publish with small presses as I still would have been the main, or only, marketer, could not see an advantage over Indy publishing.

To boost my sales, I offered a free eBook, a pretty good read and one I had a chance to publish with a small press. I declined the small press offer, believing if it only sold a few hundred copies I would make more Indy, than with a small press.

Creating a good Facebook Author Page, and developing an active email list seem to be the first needed steps, I have done neither. Instead, I trudge on, with a handful of posts on my blogs and a once-in-a-while tweet about my books. Guess what? It doesn’t work. A few days ago I posted this, in different variations, on several of my blog sites, as an attempt at marketing.

I am giving away, for the next three days, one of my novels, Ghost of the Fawn, the eBook format anyway. If you read on electronic devices, like Kindle or even your phone, it is free, no strings attached, just click the Amazon, buy for $0.00 - and it is all yours.
So what will you be getting? An adventure, modern day western mystery, set in several places in Wyoming. And it's short, only a couple hundred pages.
Click the link, download the book, and see what I have been up to the last few years.

How did it do? About what I expected, a few dozen downloads and a bit of an uptick in sales of my other stuff – but overall, not much. Looks like I might need to take some advice from marketers, who know what they are doing, to heart. 

Love to hear about anything that has worked for other Indy writers.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Ghost of the Fawn - Free eBook

Now in the second day of my free ebook give-a-way. So far, not bad. I hoped that during the five days of the give-a-way that I might get 100, or so, downloads. After the first day it looks like I will fall short of that goal, but still, it is not bad for my first try. Maybe, the weekend will help, and I will still make it. I did give away a short story a few months ago which did fairly well and helped my sales of other books for more than a week.

I have lamented a few times, on this site, that I was a poor book marketer, but I am trying and will continue with a few other promotional ideas as I go along. This book, classified as a mystery or modern day western takes place in Wyoming and spends time on the Wind River Reservation, in Riverton and at the famous, Big Horn Medicine Wheel.
Medicine Wheel

It's funny how things happen, I wrote this novel, Ghost of the Fawn, with Jr. High and High school readers as my target - but I am getting some wonderful comments from older readers who love it. Now if I can just get some of them to post reviews instead of just e-mailing me.

I will post an update and then a conclusion to this exciting story as I move along. In one small genre category, it is now up to number 3, pretty happy about that.

Here it is if you have not got the free download yet! Give it a try.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Ghost of the Fawn - Free for next few days.

Free eBook, this is the first time I have given away a book. I did this several months ago with a short story and it was well received. This one is a book of Wyoming mystery, intrigue and history. Set in central Wyoming in modern times, Give it a try today.  FREE!!  Click to Order

Friday, March 17, 2017

Getting an Amazon Best Seller or at Least in the Top Half

I spent some time this morning doing research as to how many books Amazon has for sale. Might have fit better into, messing around on the internet, but I’m going with research because it sounds like I was working. During this research phase of my day, I could not find anything from the last few months but did see that in 2015 Amazon had 17.1 million books, in English, available for sale. The same information listed more than three million, written in English, eBooks.

If this is true, an author with a book consistently listed in the top one million seven hundred thousand will make it to the top ten percent of books on Amazon. The same eBook would need to be in top 300,000 to qualify. To be in the top half of all books listed for sale on Amazon, it would take a book in the top 8,500,000 or the top million and a half eBooks. Sounds pretty good except that a book selling near the bottom of the top half of all books on Amazon would only need to sell a copy or two each month to qualify for that ranking, maybe even less than that.
My first six books - click to go to my Amazon Author's Page
Got my proof books for my two latest novels today. Will need to make a few changes to the cover of, The Ghost Dance, I didn’t like the white font. Otherwise, it looked fine. Hope that doesn’t take long. That book will be out to first readers in the next day or so – then some final edits, and it will be published. The other proof is for the third in the series of my of kids books – Yikes, My Neighbor’s a Vampire. It is fine and should be as this is the third time I have made changes. My thought is, keep doing it until I like it.
I liked how it looked on my computer, but too light here

Now I am in the final part of my first draft of a gardening, and murder in the garden, book. It is a bit different, I hope readers like it.

I also continue the painstaking research on my second nonfiction book, still hope that I will get it out before 2018, but not sure. I am also hard at work on the third of my Blade Holmes, historical fiction- mystery novels.
Pronghorn walking the foothills west of town
The days are warming, and spring cleanup has started in our backyard. We have also made a few nice drives giving me a chance to get out with my camera.
Young Bison Bull

Keep on reading and keep on writing. 
Mule Deer running the Pronghorn off

Friday, March 10, 2017

Western Writers or Writing Westerns

I write about the West, some of it old, some new. All five of my adult books are set mostly or partly in Wyoming, my three kids books are set where I grew up in Nebraska. There is an old writer adage that says, write what you know. I like the idea of writing what you know, but also about where you have been. I still spend as much time as possible outside, observing and listening to nature, and anything else that flows in or out. Some of what I take in with my senses finds a way into my stories.

I love watching all sorts of wildlife and listening to anything that breaks the silence. I have found that the smell of a campfire can travel for a mile or more under the correct conditions. That made it into one of my books. A river and lake sound different and both sound wonderful in the rain. Describing the sound can be both challenging and rewarding.
Three Mule Deer - Rare Albino 2-year-old in Front

I call this site, Confessions of a Writer of Westerns, but I really don’t write westerns. Some are in that time period, but they are Historical Fiction, some I classify as Historical Mysteries. Everything I write is out west. Thus I am a western writer. I had a reader email me that read my book of Christmas stories. She had this to say, “The stories are so warm and true to life, I couldn’t put it down.” I thought well, that’s great.
Our Local View

Then she went on to say, “They sure don’t seem like westerns to me.”
In my reply I let her know that I appreciated how much she liked the stories and added, “They may not seem like westerns because they are not.”

 Most people, or maybe I should say many people, confuse the real west with the fictional wild west, where gunfights at high noon and barroom brawls were an everyday occurrence. The wild west of television series fame was a creation of Hollywood and made a good living for many pulp writers for decades. My books tell stories of the west, some old, and some modern, but they are set in a real west.
I enjoy writing about people in the west, some real and many products of my imagination all tied together. I am in the read through the proof stage now on my third kid's book, and my second historical mystery, with my legendary protagonist, Blade Holmes.

For the last few days, I am stepping a bit away from my usual stuff, but still set in the west. The book I am working on is about gardening in the West, gardening takes up much of my time when the weather cooperates. I also have a cozy mystery in the works about a Wyoming Golf Pro/amateur detective. But I will never get away from writing stories involving cowboys, ranchers, Native Indians, townspeople, soldiers and shopkeepers, all out west.
Taking a break - out with nature

Now it’s time to get back to writing and reading. 
Used this Golden Eagle for a scene in my newest novel - available next week

Monday, March 6, 2017

Writing - But No One is Counting

Seems I have had a burst of energy this week, more writing and much more editing. Now the weather is warming, and I can set some goals for spring. Oops, just looked out and it’s snowing – again.
Five Days Ago
I have, at times, posted a, what I did this month blog at the start of a new month, so what did I do in February? Quite a bit. First, I quit counting how many words I wrote. I have kept track of everything for two years and did again in January of 2017, then stopped. I got mixed reactions from writers who counted or did not count their words. Some thought it necessary to keep on task, others said they wrote what they wrote. My wife thought that I was getting a bit too hard on myself if I missed a day or two of writing. She was right, I put a lot of pressure on myself to write every day and to stay on pace for my quarter of a million words each year. Now I am writing, but no longer keeping track of numbers, kind of a relief and I don’t need to keep my calculator at hand.
I did go back and check to see how much I blogged last month, not bad, 11 on my blogger sites, three on Wordpress and five on Google plus. I had been away from Wordpress for a couple of years and decided to give it a try again, not gaining much traction and not sure I will continue posting there on a regular basis. Google Plus seems to have a lot of people, but I don’t get too many comments on Plus, nothing like my regular Blogger site where I have much more traffic.
This Golden Eagle Backlighted by the Setting Sun Yesterday - Spectacular Bird
I did get the review copy of my third kid's book, made a few changes on the cover and ordered another. Should go live later this week. That will be my seventh book and will be followed shortly by my eighth, as I will order the proof this week. Then I hope to finish the first draft – almost there – of my book on gardening. Busy days!

Meanwhile, keep on reading, writing and thinking of spring.
As We Left the Park Last Evening