This should be of interest to all writers, but non-fiction writers in particular. I’ve had this happen to me. Sometimes the reader has been right. Sometimes (thankfully, most of the time) I’ve been right.

My process is simple:

  1. I investigate the claim.
  2. If I’m wrong, I fix my copy and repost. Then I let the reader know the correction has been made and thank him or her.
  3. If I’m right, I let the person know that I looked into their claim, and I still support the original version. I also send them any supporting information about it. I then thank them.
  4. If they continue to insist I’m wrong, then I end the conversation. This has only happened to me when the claim of being wrong is about someone’s opinion versus my opinion. In the past, I have tried to talk it through with the person with no success. It has led to one person leaving a one-star review for one of my books. I can’t do anything about that but move forward. In another case, someone got really belligerent on a blog, so I just deleted their comments.

I know I’m not right all the time, and I’m willing to consider making corrections, but in the end, I make the decision whether to make the change or not. Whichever way I go, I make sure that I support my position.

Here’s another writer’s view on the subject. I meant to simply post this, but then being a writer, I decided to weigh in with my experience.

Source: Writing: How to Respond When a Reader Claims There’s an Error in Your Book

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C&O CoverMy new book, Secrets of the C&O Canal: Hidden History and Little-Known Stories Along the Potomac River, is out!

The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal was the great national project that failed to live up the dream in the 19th century. It never reached its ultimate destination, which was not Cumberland, Maryland (where it wound up) or the Ohio River (as the name implies). The early vision of the canal planners was something far grander and longer, and it’s just one of the secrets of the C&O Canal.

In this new book, Secrets of the C&O Canal: Little-Known Stories & Hidden History Along the Potomac River, you can discover the stories of the canal, its people, politics, and connection to history.

If you’re wondering where the canal could have gone, one possibility was that it would have ended at Lake Erie to offer competition to the Erie Canal. You can discover an alternate starting point in the book.

Other “secrets” of the canal include:

  • Discovering the connection between the C&O Canal and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
  • Finding out how building the canal led to the creation of the U.S. Constitution.
  • Discovering how the Johnstown Flood helped kill the canal.
  • Solving the mystery of two murders on the canal that never actually happened.

Secrets of the C&O Canal contains 67 black and white photographs and illustrations that help bring the stories to life. It is the third book that I’ve done in the “Secrets” series.

Take a look for yourself!

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thSo it’s tax season, which sucks. I work on my taxes a bit at a time because I have to gather tons of documentation to do them. When I look at my final business income, I often wonder could I make more at a steady job instead of as an indie author.

The problem is that it’s hard to compare apples to apples.

As an indie author, I have the pay the business side of FICA taxes as well as the individual side. I don’t have an employer who matches my 401(k) donations, pays sick time, or picks up most of my insurance premium. I also regularly work more than 40 hours a week, which reduces what I make on an hourly basis.

On the other side, I don’t have to pay unemployment taxes. I also get to take deductions for my car, phone, internet, and home office that I wouldn’t get to take as a regular employee. Then, there’s the fact that I don’t have a commute, which saves me hours each week that adds to my hourly rate.

I’ve never been able to try and make an accurate comparison without taking more time than it’s worth. I haven’t even been able to make a ballpark comparison between the two that I have thought was worthwhile.

One thing that was nice was that I am responsible for what I make. When most regular employees were seeing little to no pay raises a few years ago, I was making double-digit increases in my income.

In the end, I have come down on the side that I love being an indie author, and with that, I have to take the bad with the good.

Still, if anyone has a worthwhile way to compare indie income with employee income, I’d love to hear it.

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51aThcRqsrL._SX332_BO1204203200_I became a big fan of the BBC series Poldark this year. I’m not quite sure why because British historical drama is not my typical viewing fare. However, I got caught up in the characters and their stories. I also loved the scenery. It reminds me of how the setting of Longmire was almost a character in the stories in that series.

I then discovered that not only had there been a 1970s BBC Poldark series, both series were based on books by Winston Graham written in the 1940s.

I read Ross Poldark, the first book in the series and enjoyed. Usually, I enjoy books more than their movie or TV adaptions, but I think I like the TV series a bit more in this case. That’s not to say I didn’t like the book, but I might only give it 4 stars, whereas, the TV series gets 5 stars.

Ross Poldark is a man who has returned home to Cornwall after the Revolutionary War. He is a changed man because of the war, and he returns to find his hometown changed. It is deep in a recession. His father has died, and the woman he loved is about to marry his cousin.

And so, Ross begins to build himself a new life. He tries to get over his feelings for Elizabeth, his former love, but it is hard when she is now family.

As he begins to try and restore his family estate, he realizes that he no longer believes in the boundaries that society has placed on his social class. He doesn’t feel comfortable with the genteel nor the working class.

He hires an abused 13-year-old girl named Demelza to help in the kitchen in his home. As she begins to work to become a good servant, she also finds her world expanding and she finds herself becoming a compassionate, strong-willed woman. The first book in the series takes place from 1873-1787, which allows Demelza to mature from 13 to 18 years old.

fae724d7af819b74f9ef08ce8c470625

Demelza and Ross Poldark from the BBC series.

 

Graham’s writing is beautiful and engaging. I did have to sound out some of the accents that he tries to duplicate, though.

Because of the four-year span, it seemed like the book was taking it’s time to move from scene to scene. Maybe I am just used to the TV series where months or even years passed between episodes and you only realized it because a baby in one episode is a toddler in the next.

If you are a fan of the TV series, I definitely recommend reading the books. You’ll recognize a lot of shared scenes between the two, and you’ll even get some bonus scenes that didn’t make it into the series.

Note that there are a couple of big differences between the TV series and the book. The biggest is that Demelza is only 13 when she first appears in the book. They never note her age in the TV series but she is definitely not 13. Also, George Warleggan is not the immediate enemy of Ross in the book. In fact, he barely even appears in Ross Poldark.

I enjoyed the book immensely and read through it quite quickly. I am now on the second book in the series and wondering when the fourth season of Poldark will be released on BBC.

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audiobooks.jpgLast week, Rosemary Hutchison spoke to the Gettysburg Writers Group about audiobooks. She is an avid listener of audiobooks and researched how indie authors go about producing audiobooks. She and her husband, author Will Hutchison, were considering turning at least one of his novels into an audiobook.

I had my first novel turned into an audiobook years ago. How long ago, you may ask? Well, it was so long ago that the audiobook was put out on two cassette tapes. Also, I was given the task of cutting my book down to fit on three hours of recording time, so needless to say, it was not an unabridged version like today’s audiobooks are. I’m not sure I even have a cassette player in my house to play that old audiobook.

My, how things have changed!

According to the Audio Publishers Association, the audiobook market totaled $2.1 billion in 2016, which was up 18.5 percent from 2015. It was the third consecutive year that the market grew by nearly 20 percent.

Here are seven items that Rosemary came up with when considering e-books.

What type of audiobook do you want to do? The typical audiobook is narrated by a professional reader. You pay for and download the audiobook to your device and you can listen to it at your leisure. The most popular site for this type of book is Audible.com. The other form of an audiobook is a podcast that you stream on the internet. This is generally a free service.

Is it a good idea? Rosemary said one very attractive aspect of audiobooks is that the market is not overcrowded. This means it should be easier to attract readers than it is for print and e-books.

How much does it cost? This could be why there aren’t as many audiobooks as print and e-books. Rosemary estimates that at the low end, it will cost $5,000 to produce an audiobook. While there are royalty sharing options that reduce the upfront expense, the audio engineer cost is a separate fee. Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX) is a popular site that matches authors with narrators. It will also provide audio engineers for the books.

How to choose a narrator? Some fans of audiobooks look for books narrated by their favorite readers, according to Rosemary. This makes the choice of a narrator very important. Will your narrator need to do accents or both male and female voices? “A truly great narrator is an actor who can make every sentence, regardless of how banal, sound exciting and appealing,” Rosemary said. As you listen to narrators auditions, think about whether you would want to listen to that voice for hours.

What happens after the book is recorded? Having the narrator record your book is like writing the first draft of the book. Then you send it to a sound engineer, who serves as an editor. The engineer polishes the recording to regulate the pacing and volume. The audio engineer charge can range from $500 to $15,000.

How about the cover? If you are making an audiobook of an existing book or e-book, use the cover of that book.

How do you promote an e-book? Your author platform becomes the basis of your marketing efforts. Audiobooks do have some drawbacks. For instance, you can’t do an audiobook signing or sell them at a festival. On the other hand, you can stream clips to websites. Play to the strengths of audiobooks as you market them and be creative.

In the end, Rosemary and her husband chose not to do an audiobook because it seemed that thousands of copies would need to be sold to begin making a profit.

If you’re considering adding audiobooks to your offerings, ask Rosemary’s questions about your book and see if it will be a good fit for you.

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2061471151-rijagd4irI’m often told that I get a lot done in a day, so I must be a good time manager.

I don’t think so.

I think I get a lot done in a day is because I have a lot to do. One of the things about being self-employed is that unless you want to pay someone to do it for you, you have to do everything. So not only do I have to be an author, I have to be a salesperson, book designer, social media marketer, blogger, accountant, PR rep, graphic designer, and more.

My to-do list every day is longer than two people could finish. It helps that I don’t have a long commute that eats up an hour or two each day. It also helps that I’m finding new technology all of the time that helps me automate some of the routine things that I need to do.

So even when I accomplish a lot each day, I always know that more needs to be done. I just keep chipping away at the list like a man trying to eat an elephant. I take small pieces, knowing that eventually, I will finish the whole thing. I do a little bit of each project every day to keep them all moving forward. It takes longer to finish any individual project, but I don’t fall behind on any of my projects. Doing things this way means that if I run into a problem with one of the projects, I have the time needed to fix things without having to pull an all-nighter. It’s something that I learned to do in college while taking a full course load and working a full-time job.

Since college, I’ve learned two other techniques that help me.

The first is that I reprioritize my list every day. Projects that are due sooner are at the top of the list and get a bit more attention. I have found that by doing this, some projects consistently fall to the bottom of the list, and I might not even need to do them.

The second thing I did was to watch less television. Some studies show that the average American watches five hours of television a day. Now I’m no saint. I still watch an hour or two a day, but that still saves me three hours a day. Also, I stream my shows or watch DVDs on my computer on half of my computer monitor and work on other projects on the other side of the monitor; nothing complicated, just routine work.

One final thing is that I have gotten used to things getting done a little slower than I would like, but they get done. That’s the important thing.

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a_team_20My dad used to watch The A-Team when I was a kid and the main character. The main character, John “Hannibal” Smith, was known for chomping on a cigar and saying, “I love it when a plan comes together.”

I know how he feels. I’ve had this historical novel project in mind for at least five years, probably more. I knew I wanted to do a novel set around the 1922 national coal strike set in Western Maryland. I’d written about the strike in a couple articles, and it had come up in a non-fiction book that I’d written. It seemed like a rich setting for me to work with. The strike seemed like it would have a lot of action and drama.

Previously, my efforts in historical fiction have either been my family saga, Canawlers, which is set on the C&O Canal or action-oriented books as in The Rain Man or October Mourning. This novel I envisioned as being more action-oriented. However, I’m beginning to wonder about that now. It may wind up being a very character-driven story.

I had many false starts with the book. I’ve probably written the opening two or three times. I’ve written different scenes. I’ve got it outlined, and have done a lot of the research I needed. Yet, they didn’t work. Something was missing. It wasn’t coming together.

Every time that I put the book on my schedule as a project that I wanted to finish, I’d get started on it and then get distracted by another project. For me, when that happens, my belief is that if I’m writing something that I can’t stay interested in, I’m not going to write something that a reader will be interested in. Plus, I need to maximize my time, and if I’m struggling to push through writer’s block on a project, that is time I could have been doing something that pays.

I actually had this project on tap as one that I wanted to release this year as a herculean effort to produce four books in 2018. I’m putting the first book on the schedule to bed now and doing work on the second book.

Then all of a sudden this past weekend something clicked inside my head and pieces started falling into place for how I could structure the story, which has a working title of In Coal Blood. However, even though I’ve loved that title for a while, I’m not sure it will fit the book that I’m writing now. Maybe that was the problem. Maybe my title caused me to think of the book differently.

I spent all weekend writing notes about characters, outlining section of the book, and writing scenes. I’m really liking what I’m coming up with. I think this has been the turning point for this project. I believe that this year will finally see the publication of the story. I think that I may even switch it with the project that I should be working on.

I had this happen once before when I hit a major stumbling block with my first historical novel. I actually got about halfway through the draft, and it just wasn’t going anywhere. I banged my head against the wall for a long time before I finally laid the book out chapter by chapter on postcards. That’s when an epiphany hit me that a major character who was supposed to survive the story needed to die. Once I wrote that into the story, the floodgates opened, and the book was easy to write from that point on.

That’s how this has happened. I think the key point this time was that I needed to make the story more personal for my main character. Originally, he had no ties to where he was. He was being sent as an undercover Pinkerton agent into a community to infiltrate the miners’ efforts to unionize. It was a job and that was pretty much all it was. Then I decided to connect him personally to the community and have him face some of his demons.

He was always a WWI veteran, but I began to think of him as a man who had joined the army at the beginning of the war to escape the mining life. After the war, he did not return home because his parents had died from the flu. He had missed their funeral because he was still in Europe. He still works for the Pinkertons in Baltimore as an undercover agent. However, now I have him returning home because he was offered a job that would pay more than usual because of his connection to Western Maryland. He is also trying to get away from the memory of a failed romance in Baltimore.

By connecting him to the community, the book is now so much better for it. It is all coming together. I’ve created new characters and fleshed out the ones I already had.  This is giving me a better understanding of who these characters are, and with that better understanding, I am so looking forward to writing this book. I’ve got so many ideas. Now my problem is getting my other work complete because I’m spending so much time on this story.

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UntitledHere’s the cover for my next book, Secrets of the C&O Canal: Little-Known Stories and Hidden History Along the Potomac River. It is also the third book in my “Secrets” series.

Secrets of the C&O Canal contains 29 true stories about the canal and 67 photos and illustrations. My favorite stories include:

  • The chapter about where the original destination for the C&O Canal was. Hint: It wasn’t Cumberland, Md., or the Ohio River.
  • The sad story of the Spong family and how they met their tragic end on the canal. This one might give you nightmares if you’re a parent and even if you aren’t.
  • My third-favorite story is the one of about the connections between the canal and the JFK assassination. Let that sink in. The C&O Canal closed in 1924, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, and this story takes place in 1964.

It should be no surprise that the C&O Canal is a favorite topic of mine. I’ve written three novels, a novella, and dozens of short stories about it. I’ve even got an outline for another non-fiction book that I want to write about the canal.

One thing that I find fascinating about the canal is that although it closed in 1924, we are still learning new things about it nearly 100 years later.

Secrets of the C&O Canal will retail for $19.95 when it is released next month. You can pre-order a signed copy and get it shipped free to your home (U.S. addresses only) at this link.

If you’d like to take a look at the other books in the series, take a peek at their Amazon pages.

3 Secrets

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Happy-New-Year-2018-clipart-images-1024x640Welcome to 2018. I’m looking forward to it for a number of reasons.

Last year was a great year for me on the business side of things. I sold more books and earned more money than I ever had as an author-entrepreneur. Hopefully, I’ve learned enough to replicate the results for 2018 and build on it. I did a lot more marketing last year and a lot more examining of the results of the marketing.

I had a couple missteps at the end of last year. One, I can correct. The other I will just have to keep in the back of my mind.

The thing I can correct is that I misjudged the demand for one of my new books and some stores ran out of copies. Not only was I embarrassed to have to tell the stores that I couldn’t get them copies before Christmas, I lost potential sales. This year, I will make sure to order more copies of my newer books for the Christmas season.

The thing I couldn’t really plan for was a customer who over ordered books for a fall event and then returned half of them in December. At that point, I didn’t have enough time to make up for the lost income by the end of the year. It wasn’t a crippling thing, but it broke the growing momentum I had been on the rest of the year.

I’ve got book projects planned for this year, and I have even made progress on all of them coming into the New Year, which makes it more likely that I’ll be able to get them out on time.

Since January and February are relatively slow times for me, I can hopefully get ahead on some projects and layout my marketing plan for rest of year. I’ve hit the ground running and plan to keep going.

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rrI’ve written about getting ideas from dreams before. Well, the other morning I woke from a dream around 4 a.m. It was a neat story that as I thought about it loosely tied in with a novel idea that I had started work on years ago. The images were still fresh in my head that I actually got out of bed to start writing it down

Then, even as I was writing, those dream details started getting fuzzier. I managed to get a decent representation of the dream down on paper, but as I looked it over, I realized that it wasn’t the same thing that I had dreamed. Things were missing that I just couldn’t recall, I had filled it in with general statements.

I will go over it again my recollections again and try to create a coherent story line. Then the story will go into my tickler file. By the time I pull it out to write the story, it will have hopefully jelled into a more complete idea.

I don’t know what the final story will be like, but I hope I can capture the excitement that I felt while I was dreaming it.

The morning following that idea dream, I work up again with another idea dream. It was a completely different dream that I anxiously tried to capture on paper. The problem was that try as I might, I could only remember that this dream took place on an island.

So what is it that allows someone to remember one dream and not another? I don’t know if I would want to remember all of my dreams. Most of them probably wouldn’t make sense. I would like to remember the ones that wake me up, though.

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