Monday, April 30, 2012

Welcoming committee

Yesterday the Lady Friend and I settled in for the summer at the Writer's Lair, our cabin on Lake Superior in upper Michigan, shortly after experiencing a wide-eyed greeting from these whitetails by the roadside near Iron River. We don't draw such interest back on the North Shore of Chicago.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


Lately I've been busy at a labor of love: preparing for "Words and the Porkies," the second annual writers workshop the Lady Friend and I will host at the Folk School in the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park near White Pine in upper Michigan.

This four-session Saturday workshop, which runs from 10 a.m. to sometime after noon on May 12 and 19, and June 2 and 9, is aimed at purely amateur writers. 

Last summer eleven writers, mostly mature residents of western Upper Michigan, participated in the workshop, and we all had a good time. There was no competition, no grading. The only rivals the students had were themselves. The idea was just to become a better writer, not a world-beater.  Our goals were modest and realistic.

We'd begin each class with a little PowerPoint lecture and readings of each other's work, then set out on an hour-long hike in the woods or on the beach to gather information for the next assignment. After a few days, the students would email me their work, and I'd edit it, make suggestions and printouts, and then we'd read the work in class and talk about it. It was all very informal and relaxed, with lots of coffee and munchies, and so far as I know nobody suffered an emotional breakdown. (We writers are tender souls.)

At the end of the workshop the students contributed their best work to a colorful little paperback book made with the Blurb Booksmart software, and we published it for ourselves. It's also available to the public.

Afterward the students formed a little writers' support group that met a couple of times a month at the Folk School to read their work to each other and exchange ideas. 

One of the students, inspired by a workshop hike to a cabin built in the woods for artists-in-residence, produced a Blurb Booksmart book about it. She had taken many photographs while participating in the building of the cabin, and she also accumulated pictures taken by others.

Another student published in the local weekly paper a long profile of a relative, the founding director of the Porcupine Mountains State Park, that she had begun during the workshop.

If you live anywhere within easy driving distance of the Porkies, you're invited.

Cost? Just $50 for all four sessions, or for one, two or more. That includes the cost of a Blurb Booksmart book containing your work.

If you just want to audit the class, the price is $25 for the whole thing.

Interested? Call Angie Foley at 906-884-4886 by April 30.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

It's nice to be No. 1

During the last few days, the ebook of my Zephyr: Tracking a Dream Across America has been No. 1 (sometimes No. 2 or No. 3) on's Kindle railroad book list.

Oh, this is good for the ego.

But it's unlikely to last. Part of's sales algorithm favors new books that sell well initially, but when the opening sale has found its immediate audience and saturated it, another part of the algorithm kicks in to favor the books that sell regularly over time. Right now, at 9:15 a.m. CDT on April 11, Zephyr is leading Frommer's Europe by Rail, a classic guidebook that sells well to a broad audience year by year, but by the end of the week could fall several notches below it.

All the same, the revenue trickle from all my ebooks seems to have swelled into a modest rivulet. I'm not complaining.

Monday, April 2, 2012

'Zephyr' now on Kindle

Today Zephyr: Tracking a Dream Across America finally appeared in Kindle format on, and I'm waiting for Barnes & Noble to do its thing (takes as long as 48 hours) for the Nook. The cover art doesn't look good on Amazon when enlarged, however—the red is muddy—and it appears that I'll have to do some tweaking.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Back in the yards

The Lady Friend and I have returned from our working adventure on the California Zephyr, and the TrainWeb report is here. The Kindle version of the ebook of Zephyr is nearly ready, and I am tearing my hair out trying to figure out how to compress the .epub file small enough to transmit to Barnes & Noble for the Nook version. There are a lot of photographs, and they take up bandwidth even when sized small. I'm sure there's a solution but I haven't found it yet.