Posts tagged ‘story’

Creepers…Peepers, where’d you get that Eye?



Last Spring, somewhere near Knoxville, Tennessee, my sister-in-law decided we should go biking.  It was an overcast day and scattered snowstorms were forecast for overnight; but getting out of the house sounded fun.  I helped to load all of the bicycles into the back of my brother’s truck, and we set off.

When we got to Milton Lake, the bikes were quickly unloaded, and Jamie set out down the path with the attached contraption that held my comfortably-seated niece, Liv, 2.  Hallie, 7, took off after them on her newly acquired bicycle.  She did her best to keep up with her mom.  I trailed behind as slow as I could go, not wanting to leave Hallie behind on her own, as she swerved back and forth unsteadily.

We biked along the wind-swept lake, on a wonderfully paved trail that seemed like it could go on forever. We swooshed past ducks, geese, fields-for-play, and a still-wintry landscape.  Hallie was quickly getting tired.  Her mom decided to hang back, and told me to go on ahead and enjoy myself, full-throttle for awhile.

I was happy for permission to do so, and quickly biked ahead of the now-lagging group.   As I continued on deeper into the woods,  the scenery took on a surreal hue.   Skeletal trees were caught up in each other’s arms on the banks of the lake, contorted into anguished-looking beings, as they stretched and competed years, for the sun’s light and warmth.  The sky overhead was darkening ever so slightly towards dusk.  Riding through a semi-clearing, I noticed what could have been the set for ‘Friday the 13th’, the movie.  I chuckled to myself about my imagination, rolling on past the ramshackle cabin and open clearing.  A rusty gate once securing the property, now hung slightly open.  An invitation, I thought?  I continued on.

I finally decided to stop and wait for my kin to catch up to me.  I would enjoy some quiet repose before the group caught up.
I parked the bike off the path next to a bench, which faced away from the lake, and sat down.  I faced a thicket of trees. I breathed deeply, enjoying the fresh air and view.

No sooner had I sat down though, that sure enough, someone came hiking up the path, using a tall walking stick to guide them surely and quickly my way.  It seemed to be a man, seemingly with his full attention fixed upon me…and I begged silently for him to just keep walking past, hoping he would not stop to talk.  All I wanted was a minute or two of alone-time.  He stopped in the middle of the trail, facing me.  I sighed inwardly.

Not wanting to ignore him, as this would seem rude, I said politely, “Hello.”

He looked me over, as if determining whether I was worthy of saying hello to…and then came closer, still not saying a word.  My high-alert-readiness-mode kicked in just then, and I wondered why, oh why, I always had to meet strange people.  He took another step in my direction.  Finally, he deigned to speak.

“Look at me!” It wasn’t a question, it was an order.  I acquiesced quickly, wanting to assure him he had my full attention.  I already was taking him all in, looking him over thoroughly for tell-tale signs that I was hopefully dealing with just a regular ol’ hiker…and not the type of man he looked like – the guy on the bike who warns those kids in ‘Friday the 13th.’ 

“Can you see it?” he asked, still not giving even the most rudimentary of hello’s.  

I had still been doing a check…khaki pants, hiking boots…oversized hat, huge sunglasses (even on a day with no sun) which still looked normal…and I was just beginning to breathe comfortably again when he said, “Well, do you see it?”

Just then my attention had been drawn to the end of his walking stick — and the huge spike embedded into the top end.  Shit!  Was this what he was referring to, did I see this?  And was I to take that as a challenge, a threat?

Someone had warned me once to never run from strange animals…so I held stock-still as he leaned another step closer, now taking off his sunglasses.  He had a huge black eye, which totally had been hidden by the large sunblockers, and as soon as he lowered these, I understood it was this he was referring to…so I answered quickly to break the tension.

“Wow, that’s a beauty…” I whistled appreciatively, as if genuinely both impressed and interested.  He stood there, judging my sincerity.  I decided I had to go all in.  “How’d that happen?”  I dutifully asked.  He smiled crookedly a bit and stepped back, which I took to be reassuring…for a second, until I noticed it was just for him to be able to bring his walking stick, slash weapon, into nearer proximity to me.

I held my ground, and readied my muscles silently for a quick beat out of there…I was pretty sure I still had game over what appeared to be an old guy in his 70’s…but, you never know.
“O.K., so you see this here?”
I guess he had meant to wave it towards me, as he continued doing, brandishing the walking stick.
“Yes,” I responded simply, holding my breath.

“So,” he said, “I use this for reaching plastic bottles and glass.  I stick them like this,” and here he made a jabbing motion towards the ground, after he had turned the walking stick around to have the spike fully on display.  I nod, thinking to myself…and how does that work on glass?

“I went out on that dock right there,” he continued, “because they float up to that place and collect,” and he nods in the direction I’m supposed to look, just a bit past us up the path.

There is a dock on the lake, no boats tied up to it; no one sitting at the lone bench attached to it.  Just a grey dock, on a grey day.
I look…and I nod for him to go on.

“Well I was reaching, trying to get one…and I slipped, fell, and hit my face right on that dock!”
“Oh, my!” I exclaimed, truly sympathizing.
“Yeah, it was bad!  And look!  Right here!”  He motioned to the right side of his forehead, where I could still see a nasty cut, bruises, and stitches. “Seven stitches! Good thing my son was in town!”
“Oh, my…” I repeated, relaxing into the listening of just a lonely man’s tale.
“That is horrible…good thing your son was in town to take you to the doctor’s!” I was very relieved he wasn’t a complete kook, and listened for awhile as he talked about the lake, his son, and then the weather.

My clan was just cresting a small hill in the path, and I could see that they would be near us, in like, under a minute.
“So, you know all that rain we got last night?” he was saying as my attention drifted back to him.  “Yes, that was a killer storm,” I answered.

“Well, guess what?” he asked, smiling a little wider now.  I was happy for him that his story was no longer dwelling on his injury, so I asked innocently and politely, “what?”

My sister-in-law and her girls were rolling up to us now, and came to a stop.  

He lowered his voice just a bit.  “My blood is still all over that dock…the rain did not wash it all off yet!”

I took this in, shocked at the change that had come over the man, who now…that an innocent mom and two little girls had shown up, was regressing back into creeper land.  Jamie probably thought I was just chatting up some harmless old hiker.  I shot my sister-in-law a glance, a glance that I think only moms who have learned to read danger signs, as a result of protecting their brood, could interpret.  She understood me immediately, and I was grateful for her intelligence, and quick wit.

Mr. Creeper spoke. “I’m going to go home and get clear pol-y-ur-e-thane…and I’m gonna paint that deck, so my blood is there forever…”

I was done listening and I motioned for everyone to just turn around and start pedalling.

“This is MY park,” he said loudly, not liking that he was losing his audience so quickly.  “I want my blood to be a part of it!”  

We were heading away from him now, me saying “go, just go!”  And Jamie saying, “what was that all about?” She pedalled quickly, and I urged poor Hallie, who hadn’t got to rest at all, that she could do it.  She could make that crest of a hill again.  We all pumped our feet faster.  

Over our shoulders he yelled now.  “Hey,” he called, “Hey, look at this!”

I filled Jamie in on what the creeper had said, and we glanced over our shoulders, watching as he walked quickly after us, still yelling, and then ordering, “Hey! Come here!”

Soon we had a good distance between us, and he was left way behind.  Night-time was closing in quickly, and we put the girls in the truck, loaded our bikes, and headed for home.  We were all thankful to leave the lake, and the creeper, far behind.  

Self-published…print! AND…then what? (a personal journey account)

O.K., so here’s the reality for anyone interested in becoming an author, or for just whoever might want to know about the process involved when finally getting that tome of yours self-published.  Is it a harsh reality? If I let you think that way…you may never want to try the self-publishing route at all…so let’s just continue to consider it.  You’ve written a story, collection of poems, essays, or the like. You would like to share your work with the world, and thus would like to see it published.  However, despite that want and your gut feeling that your body of work is well-worth being appreciated by the rest of the world…you can not find it a traditional publishing house.

This is what this post is about then:  self-publishing.  Maybe even you are a wayy big-baller, and you don’t want to go the normal route, because you know the drill, and you want your own control over your project.  My first book is a children’s picture-book…and I know since I’m not Jim Carrey, or Spike Lee, who both have recently-published picture-books out right now…the likelihood of me scoring a publishing house, especially because I have my own friend/collaborator who is the artist/illustrator of my project…was pretty slim.  So I didn’t bother going there.

But let’s get to the heart of this post.  I found a printer.  Ingram/Spark.  Best outfit, in my mind, of having the best offerings.  Things like quality printing, fairly inexpensive finished products, and their highly touted global distribution network.  Their claim is 39,000 distributors:  like libraries, on-line retailers, and schools/universities…who if they were to choose your title out of Ingram’s catalogue, could then order as many copies as they would like to carry and or sell.  Which sounds SO exciting! All of those people, able to consider your work!

But…and isn’t there always that one big butt-head thing that stops us? The thing is, even though Ingram, unlike CreateSpace, allows an individual author to publish in a hardback format (aka Case Laminate) and that might be what you would like to see aside from just a paperback (definitely what libraries need) the cost, including an upgrade to a premium color package (for me, or for cookbooks, heavy graphics, etc. which includes a heavier stock of 70#)…is just too prohibitive.  My base price, plus shipping, plus allowing for the traditional ability for retailers to have a “return policy” on their orders, would totally negate any profit I could make, along with a truly horrifying thought that if a retailer could not sell my precious book — I would be on the hook for the return charges!

So, here’s what I have done:  I left my book listed with Ingram/Spark at a premium package.  I disallowed any return policy.  This alone, supposedly and most definitely, will preclude me from being on anyone’s must-order list! I priced it as high as I could to allow for the 55% discount (also supposedly such a tradition, no one will order unless you have allowed this deep cut)  and to allow just the base printing price to be covered.  I think there was something like a $1.80 or so, left-over as profit for myself and illustrator to share.  Because that’s our shared business-plan.  For any on-line retailer, there was still room to make a profit…but not without the gamble of first buying the product outright.  So I know that’s never going to happen.

What is going to happen now is that I am going to still have a very nice place to print off books, one at a time, or as many as I choose to have printed and shipped to me…at a very affordable price; and receiving, for that price..the best quality, professional book I can be proud of.  Then, I am going to continue marketing the eBook version, while at the same time promoting sales of a hardback version, through my own website.  The next marketing move for me, after I can see if I can work out an agreement with any major stores/chains, etc., will be to do just like the big-boy publishers are doing:  print it overseas.  During a recent foray into Barnes & Noble, I found almost every picture-book to have been published (no matter the famous publishing-house) in either China, or Malaysia.

Now, definitely, you may be able to score sales from the global network program, if you are just merely looking to have a paperback listed on Amazon, and hopefully other retailers.  You will be much luckier than I in that regard, as your book will be much less costly to produce, and therefore can be picked up by other retailers! Yay for you! 🙂

Also, do not forget to produce your book in an eBook format!   If you sell it primarily on the internet, you will need to focus all of your attention on marketing it on the internet where you feel your core group can be found. The business (and it is a business) of marketing is almost full-time, and can take very valuable time away from what you love best:  writing! You may then consider, if your finances allow for it, a marketing team to boost awareness of your product.

When I decide I have some buyers for bigger venues, and I am ready to commit time to local fairs, shows, etc., I will order the minimum shipment allowable (like $3,500 worth) of books from China.  Meanwhile, I am happy to sell them one at a time through word of mouth, or like last week, one copy to a nearby lunch patron who was at the same bistro where I was holding a signing!

The true excitement and value comes when just that one person tells you they like your book.  It’s even better when they are a sweet, loveable child and the story reached them innocently, without that child worrying about how the story came by them and what marketing strategies the writer had to employ…it just came to them.  And they tell you they loved it! My book is titled ‘Spoiled Pink’, and the little girl dressed herself (she was 7) all in pink, to meet me! And what was even cooler, is that she and her mom already had a copy of the book, but just wanted to meet me and have it signed! That, to me, is what it’s all about!





Self-Published (recently) with tips! *PART TWO*

Continuing the summarization of my experience with CreateSpace (now a subsidiary of Amazon) when self-publishing my first title, ‘Spoiled Pink’…a 44 page picture-book for children.

1) Excellent customer service, from accessibility via email requests, or a dedicated ‘team’ assigned to assisting you via phone call.  Also, even though they had processed some work prior to their approving cancellation of the rest of my order…they returned all funds without question, and in an expeditious fashion.  The end result, my title is officially in ‘retired’ mode — and they have been kind and wise enough not to just close the door on a potential reunion by still keeping my account open and accessible to me.

2)  Pricing:  Just a tad more per unit for case laminate/hardback version, & paperback/perfect bound than IngramSpark.  However, they do not print case laminate version for sale on either your ‘eStore’ website they allow you to set up (so that you can retain an additional 10% off of the sale of your books from traffic you drive to that site, ie., friends & family) –or for purchase on Amazon.  You will only be allowed to have paperback version sold on Amazon as well.  Bottom line — the hardback version is for you to publish on demand, one at a time if you like, for shipment solely to your home/business address.  

3)  As stated in Part One, but worth mentioning again…the promise of any connections to a global audience of booksellers & libraries is just a come-on.  This can not happen, as book publishers need be able first, to acquire the hardback (which is not offered for this program) and secondly and more importantly, book sellers/buyers need a traditional return policy so they are not stuck with unsold product.  Without this guarantee, there is a 99.9% likelihood no one can make the economic decision to order your book for sale on their distribution channels. 

4)  Poor shipping practices.

Now on to IngramSparks, an off-shoot of Ingram Lightning Source, one of the biggest distribution companies in the world.  IngramSparks is basically for the independent, small publisher, like me! Now for quick comparison:

1)  Zero customer service! The email server was so busy during the past Christmas holidays that an email went unanswered for over a week.  There is no dedicated team to your title.  There is no phone number to easily find to call, and if after a very diligent search you happen upon the number…that goes to voicemail and is unreturned.  If you really continue on in your search, oh, because let’s say you were in the process of uploading a file, and needed a question answered…and you managed to find the front-desk person, she would send you on to a person’s voicemail, and they might return the call, if only to say, please email question please, as we are very busy.  Long story short, you must have extreme confidence in processing their required paperwork, and you must trust either yourself or your web designer, that you are on the right path.  We were successful on our first attempt at uploading our file, so that is a good thing.  But then we waited in suspense for any number of days it seemed, before the file was approved for printing.  So, zero stars in that department…which for some, would probably be enough to call it quits, as at times it seemed we were not able to proceed through the maze of details unexplained to us at many junctures.

2)  Once your file/title is in the system, only then does the system seem to make sense, as it then seems orderly.  The price per unit is a bit more inexpensive than CreateSpace and the price actually rivals the bother of trusting an over-seas printer, and having to gamble on buying a minimum of 1000 or so units to keep in your garage to sell to nearby innocent bystanders.  The Indonesia/China markets also do not have print on demand (POD) & the wait is approximately up to two months.  


To be continued… As I am encountering new issues with IngramSparks…which have yet to be resolved!

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