CanawlersCurious how to pronounce the title of my historical novel Canawlers?

It’s CAN-all-ers. It’s what boatmen on the C&O Canal sounded like when they used to say “canaller”.

They also had a challenging and dangerous job during the Civil War. Canawlers brought coal and other goods 185 miles from Cumberland, Maryland, to Georgetown. All the while, they traveled along the Potomac River within site of the Virginia shore and the Confederate States of America. The C&O Canal ran along the border of two warring nations, the canawlers were caught in the crossfire.

Hugh Fitzgerald is a proud canawler. For nine months a year, he and his family live on their canal boat, working hard to get them through the lean winter months.

The year 1862 was a hard year to live on the canal, though. To this point, the Confederacy has stayed south of the canal, but now the Confederate Army intends to go on the offensive and take the war into the north.

Not only are the Fitzgeralds’ lives endangered by the increased activity of warring armies and raiders on the canal, but the Fitzgeralds’ secret activity as a stop along the Underground Railroad only endangers their lives all the more.

Then fate takes Hugh away from his family, leaving his wife, Alice, to hold the family together. With the help of her children; Thomas, George and Elizabeth; Tony, an orphan from Cumberland; and David Windover, a disillusioned Confederate soldier, they will face the dangers presented by the war, nature, and the railroad together.

Download your Kindle copy for FREE until Jan. 20.

From the reviewers:

  • “A powerful, thoughtful and fascinating historical novel, Canawlers documents author James Rada, Jr. as a writer of considerable and deftly expressed storytelling talent.” – Midwest Book Review
  • “James Rada, of Cumberland, has written a historical novel for high-schoolers and adults, which relates the adventures, hardships and ultimate tragedy of a family of boaters on the C&O Canal. … The tale moves quickly and should hold the attention of readers looking for an imaginative adventure set on the canal at a critical time in history.” – Along the Towpath
  • “Mr. Rada presents an interesting slice of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal boatman’s life set against the backdrop of the turbulence and uncertainty of the American Civil War. The use of the canal as a route on the Underground Railroad is also woven into the plot which reveals how hard work, a strong family and difficult times could come together along the canal.” – Rita L. Knox, Park Ranger, C&O Canal NHP

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UntitledIf you’re a fan of Edgar Allan Poe, The Man Who Killed Edgar Allan Poe solves the mystery of the great writer’s murder, and you can get it FREE on Kindle until Jan. 13.

You might be thinking that Poe wasn’t murdered. He died in a hospital. You’re wrong.

While he did die at the Washington Medical Center, before that, he was found delirious on the streets of Baltimore and wearing clothes that were not his own. He was admitted to the hospital where he died without explaining what had happened to himself. One clue to what happened to him was that he shouted the name “Reynolds” before he died.

The hospital and its records were later destroyed in a fire, so we’re left with theory and conjecture about how the Master of the Macabre died. One person knows how the Father of the Modern Mystery died, and that person is …

The Man Who Killed Edgar Allan Poe.

This is his story, although it reads like one of Poe’s horror tales.

Alexander Reynolds has been known by many names in his long life, the most famous of which is Lazarus, the man raised from the dead by Christ. Matthew Cromwell is another resurrected being living an extended life. Eternal life has its cost, though, whether or not Alexander and Matthew want to pay it.

Alexander has already seen Matthew kill Edgar’s mother and he is determined to keep the same fate from befalling Edgar.

From the time of Christ to the modern days of the Poe Toaster, The Man Who Killed Edgar Allan Poe is a sweeping novel of love, terror, and mystery that could have come from the imagination of Edgar Allan Poe himself.

Get Your Copy Here

From the reviewers:

  • “Impressively original, exceptionally well written, absolutely absorbing from beginning to end, ‘The Man Who Killed Edgar Allan Poe’ showcases author J. R. Rada’s outstanding skills as a novelist. ” – Reviewer’s Bookwatch
  • “…this fictional nail-biting account of the two men whose blood feud brought about Edgar’s death. … it’s a great ride through suspense, horror, and mystery – worthy of the writer for whom the novel takes license.” – Allegany Magazine

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I noticed that recently Kindle publishing started offering an option to produce a paperback version of your e-book once it is uploaded. That seems only fair. Createspace, another Amazon company, has been offering to produce the Kindle version of paperback books for a while.

I’ve never taken advantage of either option. Why? Because despite the convenience of having to do set-up only once and working with a single publisher dashboard, the finished versions aren’t compatible.

I discovered a long time ago that the best way to ensure that my Createspace-printed book looks just the way I want it to is to upload a .pdf version of the interior. I discovered this after spending a couple hours trying to tweak a Word document that I was uploading. Even though I was using a Createspace template and everything looked fine, when I reviewed the uploaded document before publishing it, something had always changed. For instance, a line would roll to the next page. This caused a domino effect that threw off the pagination throughout the document.

 

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Screenshot of Kindle Direct Publishing offering to publish the paperback version of an e-book.

 

My solution to this problem was to save my Word file as a .pdf before I uploaded it, and the problems I had vanished. I’m not sure what the difference was between me saving the document as a .pdf first and then uploading or Createspace saving the document as a .pdf after I uploaded it, but it made all the difference in the world.

Somehow the uploading process changed my document. Saving it as a .pdf first locked everything into place. The pagination, images, and fonts were all saved and fixed in place.

While this works great for getting my paperback layouts right, it isn’t so nice for e-books. E-book documents need to be able to change fonts, point size, and margins. Sure, Kindle can publish a .pdf, but with everything locked in place, your Kindle or e-reader is going to show each book page as a screen page. I do some of my reading on my phone. Just imagine how a page from a book would look if it was condensed down to a 2×4 inch screen. To make an e-book work best, I upload a Word document.

Since I need to upload two files—one for my paperback version and one for my Kindle version—, I need to publish both separately.

If you don’t have problems with uploading Word files on Createspace, then publishing your e-book should be no problem. However, I’ve run into other writers who have had the same problem I’ve had with Word documents. I told them my secret of saving it as a .pdf, and most of their publishing issues have disappeared.

So while it’s another option to have with Createspace, you may cause yourself more headaches if you aren’t careful about how you use it.

gjon-mili-writer-damon-runyon-working-on-script-at-deskThe most-frequent question that I get as a writer is probably, “Where do you get the ideas for your columns?”

It’s hard for me to give that questioner a short answer to this, especially when we’re talking face to face at a book signing. I thought that I would go through the process with you for my blog.

For those of you who don’t know, I write a local-history column for five different newspapers in Maryland and Pennsylvania. These aren’t the same column appearing in five newspapers. They are different columns, pertinent to each newspapers’ readership, published in those newspapers. This means I need to regularly come up with interesting history articles on a regular basis.

Finding ideasmultitude-clipart-writing-clip-art-3

I routinely go through the old newspapers that service the different areas where my columns appear. Many of these old newspapers can be accessed on newspaper databases that I subscribe to, but others require trips to different libraries that have the old newspapers on microfilm.

I pick a year at random, and I generally start with whatever month the month is when I’m doing the research. There’s no reason for this, other than it helps me gather articles not only from different years but different times of the year.

I start scrolling through the newspapers. I read all of the headlines looking for something that catches my attention. I search for stories about interesting people, unusual events, famous people, local versions of national events, and others. This is where personal preference comes in. My selection of stories is going to be different than someone else’s choices.

One other thing about story selection. I try to find stories that seem to have enough meat that I can turn into a column. If the original newspaper story is short, it had better be fascinating to me because I will probably have to do a lot of research to flesh it out.

As I find the possible stories, I save a copy to my idea file.

bernard-schoenbaum-writer-working-on-computer-uses-a-electronic-tablet-to-handwrite-his-words-cartoonStory selection

I don’t start working on the stories I save right away. When I need a topic for a column, I go to my idea file and look at the different ideas that I’ve saved. If the idea still catches my attention, I may use it.

Sometimes the story doesn’t. There have been instances when I have saved a copy of a newspaper page that had a story on it that I thought was interesting. When I went back to look at the story again, I couldn’t even tell which one was the reason that caused me to save the page.

Research

Once I select the story that I want to work on, I start researching it. The first thing I do is search the newspapers to see if there are additional stories concerning the topic. I also study the people and places in the story to get more background about them. Sometimes, I may interview someone, but often, I can’t find someone living who has something pertinent to say about the story. I may even do a web search to see if there is anything out in the ether that might help me.

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I transcribe the information and quotes from my research into a Word document. This pulls together all of my research into one convenient location. I then sort and rearrange the information into roughly the order that I see the story progressing. This will sometimes show me gaps in my research that I need to research and fill in.

At this point, what I essentially have is a very meaty outline.

Writing

I start writing, moving from point to point in the outline and including the quotes that still make sense to include. This is another place where individual style comes into play.

I may write about the same thing as someone else, but the story I come up with will probably be very different. Both stories may be fine versions of the same idea. It just depends on whose style appeals more to readers.

So, that’s my process. Nothing too fancy, but it works for me.

 

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Here’s a screen shot of this blog post as I started to write it. You can see how the suggested changes are in the right sidebar. You can also indicate on the toolbar what types of checks you want the program to do.

 

I signed up for Grammarly last week, and I have been enjoying it. It seems to do a very in-depth grammar and usage check. I ran a 300-page manuscript through it, and it came back with 2,500 issues. As I am working my way through all of them, I find that about one-quarter are changes that I definitely need to make and another quarter are in a gray area that I think can go either way. I usually make the change. About half of the issues are things that I don’t believe need to be changed.

The program looks at contextual spelling, grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, style, and vocabulary enhancement. You can also run a plagiarism check. I haven’t tried this feature yet, so I can’t comment on how effective it is.

Grammarly offers a free and paid version. I’m not exactly sure what the differences are, only that the paid version found a lot more issues. The paid version is $140 a year. With the amount of writing that I do each year, it’s a bargain for me. I can head off mistakes before an editor sees them.

What I am finding is that the program is calling my attention to words that I use too much. I have to look at each one and decide if I want to keep it or substitute a different word.

I can see this becoming a very valuable beta reader of my books and articles; one that will improve my writing.

The program was easy to install. It not only looks at my Word documents, but another add-on also looks at any writing that I do online, such as e-mails.

Writers should check out this program. Sign up for the free version and try it out and see if it doesn’t help you write better.

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2500dagenrust-dicht-8001-300x300A common question that I hear when I teach novel writing or even talk with other writers is, “How long should my book be?”

My answer is usually, “What genre of book are you writing?”

There are different acceptable lengths for different genres of books. It doesn’t mean that you can’t write outside of those limits. I found one writer named Wildbow who had written a web-published book called Worm. It’s not on Amazon but you can find it online. It is made up of 31 arcs and an epilogue and each arc has about 10 sections. If it sounds long, it is. It has 1.75 million words or about 7,000 pages. Each arc I’m guessing could probably make up its own novel.

That’s an extreme example of an author writing outside of typical lengths. Some well-known novels can be outside of the typical lengths for their genres. Les Miserables runs long at 530,000 words while Old Man and the Sea is a short novel in any genre at 26,000 words.

Word count matters for publishers for a couple reasons. Longer books cost more to print, which means that they will have to charge a higher price, which could affect sales. Also, readers of certain genres expect books to be certain lengths.

Nowadays, an acceptable length for a novel depends a lot on the genre. Here’s a list I’ve compiled from different sources on the web and averaged out.

  • Flash  fiction: up to 1,000 words.
  • Short stories: 1,000 to 10,000 words.
  • Novellas: 10,000 to 50,000 words.
  • Middle grade readers: 20,000 to 55,000 words. The longer books are for the older students.
  • Westerns: 50,000 to 80,000 words.
  • Romance: 50,000 to 100,000 words. The smaller ones are the ones that are published by companies by Harlequin while the larger are independent.
  • Young adult: 55,000 to 75,000 words.
  • Memoirs: 75,000 to 85,000 words.
  • General fiction: 75,000 to 90,000 words.
  • Mystery: 75,000 to 90,000 words.
  • Horror: 75,000 to 90,000 words.
  • Historical fiction: 90,000 to 105,000 words. These tend to be longer because of the need to weave in historical detail.
  • Science fiction and fantasy: 90,000 to 115,000 words. These books tend to be longer because there is a lot of worldbuilding involved.

These numbers aren’t locked in stone. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books, which were all in the same genre and targeting the same audience, ranged from 76,000 words to 257,ooo words. So there can always be exceptions, but generally not for first-time authors. Even Rowling’s first Harry Potter novel was pretty close to the range for a young adult novel. The numbers didn’t grow until she had proven herself as a writer and the shown the popularity of the characters.

So, the first thing to do is write the best story you can. Once you have a good solid draft, then take a look at the word count.

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The cover for the first book that I will be releasing in 2017.

So a book that I had hoped to have published later next year just isn’t going to happen. I’m still finding too many gaps in my research that I need to fill in. If that turns out to be impossible to do, then I will have to reframe the story to minimize the need to have those gaps filled in. Either way, I’ve got a lot more work to do than I thought I did.

That messes up my publishing schedule for next year. I had planned to have out a new historical fiction novel, a non-fiction history book, and a short historical fiction ebook all under James Rada, Jr. I also wanted to publish a paperback edition of a horror ebook that I wrote as J. R. Rada and a new ebook collection and the second book in a middle reader series as J. R. Rada. Postponing one of the books had a domino effect on the others.

Enter one of the nice advantages of self-publishing. It’s flexible.

I love the Marvel cinematic universe. Not only do I get to see the classic superheroes of my youth come to life, but I love the interconnected movies. However, Marvel Studios plans those movie release dates years and years in advance nowadays. I think I saw where they had some movies planned for 2020 releases and beyond.

So what happens if one of those movies of a particular superhero flops? What if the superhero movie dies off? What if they can’t get a successful actor to extend his or her contract?

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The Marvel movie schedule that was released earlier in 2016 and has already had to change.

They’ve already had some kinks in their well laid-out plans. The Inhumans movie got pushed back and may be cancelled for instance. On TV, they actually added a Punisher TV series to their plans because the character from the Daredevil series turned out to be so popular.

When you are a behemoth like Marvel, making those types of changes is like tossing a big boulder into a pond. It creates a big splash with a lot of ripples.

I know some indie authors who make far-reaching plans like Marvel, but what happens when they run into unforeseen problems?

I like to plan my publishing schedule out a year in advance, but I keep it fairly loose. It only starts to firm up as we draw closer to the end of the year. Meanwhile, I have a lot of projects partially written or outlined that I review every so often just to update.

Being flexible as an indie publisher means that I was able to move the project that needed more work into my unscheduled active project pile. I looked at what I had that might fill the gap while not totally sucking up so much of my research time that I couldn’t work on the delayed project.

I even looked at the other projects. I am trying to keep things fairly balanced between the two names that I write under, fiction and non-fiction, and the different geographic areas where I have strong sales. Removing that one book, caused me to make some other changes to my schedule as well.

My point is that I was able to do so. I have a new publishing schedule for 2017 with just as many projects that hits my goals. I think it is a version that will work because I’m feeling the excitement that I feel when things click into place. It’s an aggressive schedule that I can meet with new exciting books, and this time next year, I’ll have even more projects planned, some brand new and some from my unscheduled pile.

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Is writing full-time all it’s cracked up to be? Should authors seize the chance if offered? Is it worth aspiring to? Join our lively debate on the blog!

Source: Writing full-time – good or bad? | Self-Publishing Advice Center

 

swlogoWhen I started putting out my books as ebooks, I was initially overwhelmed. Just consider all of the platforms that sell ebooks: Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iBooks and Overdrive to name a few. Was I going to have to prepare my manuscript to meet the standards of each one?

Then I discovered Smashwords.com. It’s an aggregator of e-book platforms. I could upload my book once and have it converted to all of the necessary e-publishing platforms and then appear on the different sites. It was a godsend.

The site is pretty easy to use, too. You fill out book information and then upload a cover and the interior of the book. Smashwords converts the book into the appropriate platforms and then sends it out to the different retailers.

The one problem I have found myself having of late is that to qualify for a listing with all of those retailers, you have to format your book to certain specs. It was no problem for my novels. I just followed the tips that Mark Coker, the owner, posts for formatting and the process went smoothly.

The problem I run into is with my non-fiction books, which contain pictures. The pictures apparently cause a lot of problems in the conversion process. I must have tried six times to get my last book uploaded properly, but something kept going wrong. I think I may have it figured out, though, so I’ve got my fingers crossed for the next book I upload. (FYI, I will be setting my pictures at 96 dpi instead of 300 dpi. The latter is the standard for print publication. Since I’m not doing the print version, the web standard for pictures works fine.)

I haven’t made as much use of Smashwords as I can, which is something I’m trying to remedy. The site offers some useful tools for indie authors. You can easily change the book pricing. Unlike Amazon KDP, Smashwords allows you to make your books free of charge for an indefinite period. You can also alter how much someone can read of your book for free.

You can also use a set of marketing tools. Create coupons. Post an author interview. Link books in a series together.

These are just a few things that I’ve discovered so far.

Despite the advantages of using Smashwords, I also use Amazon KDP for the Kindle versions of my books. It does require some extra work to prepare the manuscript again, but most Kindle users buy their Kindle e-books from Amazon. I found that when I started publishing directly with Amazon KDP, my Kindle sales jumped considerably.

Still, uploading two versions of my books is a far cry from having to upload six versions. Now I just need to find the best ways to use the marketing tools at my disposal.

checklist-clipart-response-clipart-clipart-pencil-checklistWhen I mention freelance writing, what type of writing jumps to mind? Here’s the types of freelancing I’ve done: newsletters, columns, newspaper articles, magazine articles, short stories, novels, ads, brochures, direct mail, radio scripts, catalogs and press releases. They’re all types of freelance writing.

Freelance writing is what someone is willing to pay you involving writing. I even throw in speaking, magazine editing and teaching as part of my work.

The way I look at it, you can divide your freelance writing into three areas based on who will be reading.

  • Public Writing – This is writing for the general public. It includes stories, novels, a lot of what writing, magazines, etc. It tends not to pay as well as other types of writing, but you get more recognition.
  • Business Writing – This is writing for businesses, such as ads, brochures, direct mail. You need more refined skills and understanding of marketing. It pays better than public writing.
  • Scientific Writing – This type of writing can be very technical. Often it seems to be done by writers who are scientist or other experts first and writers second. You need to be able to break things down and rebuild them. It pays very well.

Writers tend to specialize in one of these areas. During my first stint as a freelance writer, my specialty would have been scientific. My current specialty is public writing. As your writing career grows, you will get opportunities to expand into other areas if you want to. It’s up to you whether you want to take them on. It will give you a chance to expand your horizons.

The important thing is to find the area that brings you the most satisfaction. I find myself having to find a lot more assignments than I used to during my first time as a freelance writer. However, I am enjoying myself a lot more now. It doesn’t really feel like a job. That’s what you’re aiming for.

 

 

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