March 20, 2012

Aspiring authors know how difficult it is to get something from an idea to the pages of a hard back book. Some might say it’s impossible. I, like many others, have never put forth the effort it takes. One of the main reasons is the frustration created by the roadblocks put up by the industry.

Most legitimate publishers will not accept submissions directly from unpublished authors. Such submissions must come from an agent.

Since most agents will not accept new clients unless they’ve been previously published, it’s almost impossible to find an agent. Self-publishing through the “vanity” presses doesn’t count.

So, what does that aspiring author do? If he or she found a way to be a celebrity of some sort – professional athlete, well-known recording artist, or politician – he or she wouldn’t even have to possess writing skills. He or she could find a ghost writer (with the help of that agent who can’t be bothered with people who write well) and lead everyone to believe that the celebrity has multiple skills.

Fortunately for me, and many others like me, I never needed the money badly enough to grovel. After several futile attempts, I just let my work gather dust.

Then along came the e-readers and self-publishing was given a new meaning. No longer does an author need to pay a vanity press thousands of dollars to print a stack of books that will gather dust unless the author is really good at marketing his or her own work. The author can now simply go to one or more of several sites and upload the work for free. After that, it’s a matter of watching to see how many copies are sold.

Perhaps the most difficult part of this free process is determining what price tag to attach to each book. If a person has invested a year or two in creating his or her masterpiece, he or she might want to see people pay the kind of money they would pay for a Stephen King novel. But, how many books by an unknown author would people buy – especially if the price is high.

On the other hand, if a bargain basement price is attached, people might not think it’s worth anything.

So, you pick a number that sounds reasonable – reminding yourself that the reader isn’t even getting a hard copy of the work. Then, you sit back and hope it will continue to sell after all your friends and relatives have been shamed into buying a copy to help you out.

Short of buying an ad in USA Today, I’m hoping the people who read my work will provide glowing reviews to their friends and relatives and encourage others to read my work. Social networking and blogs supposedly have ways of causing things to go “viral” – a term with which I’m not totally enamored. So, for now, I’m going to avoid the USA Today ad and see what happens.

Before I end this post, I will include some information on each of the books I currently have available for sale. When you see the list of choices, you might think I have yet to find my niche or genre. That may be true, but I have my own thoughts on that.

Ian Fleming is famous for the James Bond novels he wrote. I know for a fact that Ian Fleming wrote in other genres – “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” is one most people would not have guessed. At least Fleming continued to use his own name regardless of what he wrote. Many other authors used pseudonyms when writing something other than the genre for which they were known.

The truth is that all writers like to write about lots of things. Establishing a “voice” is more important than getting boxed into a specific genre. If you like the style of someone’s writing – it’s easy to read and makes you feel comfortable with the use of the language – it doesn’t matter what he or she is writing about.

So, that should explain the works I have published to this point.

The first to hit the stage was:

This work was born out of a dinner conversation in New Orleans. A friend of my bride was asking us about various trips we’ve taken and finally suggested I write a book about how to have a great trip at a reasonable price. This book is available for both Kindle and Nook readers.

Next came my murder mystery.

This book was written in 1996 shortly after I learned that my teenaged daughter had been raped and was pregnant. I was out of work and depressed and started thinking, “What could be worse?”

The ordeals experienced by the little girls and their parents in this book are far worse, and should be a warning signal to all parents and grandparents.

Every time I see a parent simply drop off a child and go off to do their own thing, I shudder to think what could happen. People need to wake up. “Stranger Danger” is a stark reality!

Currently, “Shattered Princesses” is only available on Kindle.

Next came this:

This is a collection of magazine articles and essays I’ve written over the years. It clearly demonstrates that we writers like to write about anything that strikes our fancy.

Like my travel tips book, this one is available for either Kindle or Nook readers.

So, there you have it. The three books I’ve published so far. There will be more.

The most expensive of the three is the murder mystery. It sells for $3.99.The other two sell for $2.99.

With all three, you can download the first several pages and see if you’d be interested. If you like my style or get caught up in the plot, you can go ahead and buy it.

Finally, if you buy it and like it, please encourage your friends and relatives to take a look. I’d appreciate all the support I can get.

My First Published Work

March 12, 2012

I had to resort to cyberspace to get it done, but it’s working. People are buying one of my books. If you’ve ever considered publishing your writings you know that most publishers won’t consider you unless you have an agent, and most agents won’t consider you unless you’ve been published.

Only the experienced need apply – unless you’ve already made a name for yourself as an actor, athlete, or politician. Then you can get published even if you don’t know how to write.

As Yakov Smirnoff would say, “What a country!”

In any case, here it is!

My travel tips for the tyro.

It is currently available from Amazon.com and is a steal at $2.99. It explains most, if not all, aspects of travel. It begins by talking about documents you might need – depending on your destination, Then it examines how to pick the best times to take the trip – to avoid crowds and high prices.

Many of the trips my bride and I have taken were bargain basement deals; so I explain the steps we take to find those specials. Then we look at how to make the good deals even better, by choosing less expensive travel methods and meals and expanding the itinerary set by a travel agent.

The thing that sets my book apart is that it covers so many aspects of travel. There are many books written by folks like Rick Steves, Fodors, Frommer’s, DK, Eyewitness Travel, Footprint, Lonely Planet, and Moon. They, and the books like them, do a nice job of telling you about various destinations – they just don’t tell you a lot about how to get there.

Clark Howard, a consumer advocate based in Atlanta, provides lots of travel advice, but many things you should know are scattered throughout his website and books, or simply assumed.

Much of the information in my book might be considered common sense. I simply attempt to present a formula for taking a trip – from planning to packing.

Using the information I’m sharing, I’ve saved hundreds of dollars on a single trip! And my bride and I have taken at least one dream vacation every year for the past several years. For three bucks, I think you’ll be able to pack your carry-on and have the same sort of good fortune we’re enjoying. If you buy a copy of the book, come back here and let me know what you think. Thanks.

Travel Tips

March 5, 2012

For the first twenty-three years of my life, I knew very little beyond the confines of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Ours was not a well-traveled family.

Every few years my parents, brother, and I would travel to Wooster, Ohio to visit friends of my mother. On a more regular basis, our family traveled to New Jersey to visit my father’s relatives. On our trips to New Jersey, we’d often pass through Delaware.

My older brothers took me to Syracuse, New York and Morgantown, West Virginia to watch the Pitt Panthers play football. Other than that, the only other state I visited in my youth was Maryland.

That all changed after I reached adulthood. Since the age of 24 (when I went to work for IBM), I’ve traveled to all fifty states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. While some of those travels were paid for by IBM, most of them were on my own.

I’ve also been to four Canadian provinces, two Latin-American countries, and six European nations. (Two of those European nations were at IBM’s expense.)

At the age of sixty-seven, I realize there is much more of this earth to see and I am diligently working to do so.

Over the last ten or twelve years my bride and I have been most fortunate in being able to travel both here and abroad. Those trips have provided many opportunities for us to learn better (interpret that as “cheaper”) ways of traveling. In some cases, we are deeply indebted to travel agents. In other cases, our gratitude is aimed at the Internet, TV travel shows, and various magazine articles.

 * * * * * * *

 A number of people have suggested I take the time to write down what we’ve learned so that others might profit from our experiences. My initial thought was to aim such a document at senior citizens who need to get all their travels in while they’re still young enough to do so. For many senior citizens on fixed incomes, being able to do anything as inexpensively as possible is almost mandatory.

The more I thought about it, however, the more I realized that my advice would be valid for anyone who wants to see the world in the cheapest ways possible. Cheapest should not be interpreted as staying in flea bag hotels and eating all of one’s meals at greasy spoons. I simply want to demonstrate that you don’t have to spend a fortune to have a most enjoyable trip.

So, while my basic emphasis is directed toward older folks, younger people should take note, and take trips in “economy style”. In so doing, the younger set can take their children along for the ride. Travel is one of the best educational tools available… regardless of the age of the traveler. Senior citizens might also consider taking grandchildren along for the same reasons. Of course, many young parents might prefer to leave their children with their grandparents so they can enjoy more adult adventures. If those grandparents are anything like my bride and I, they’d welcome having the little ones around for a week or so… but no longer. We want to hit the road too!

 * * * * * * *

 As you read through this material you’ll find that each section contains my “formula” – the steps I use to find and improve on good deals. I also try to include some personal experiences so you can see the results that are possible from using the formula. I can’t guarantee you’ll have the same outcome, but I’d hope you’ll be able to save some money. Bad experiences are easier to cope with if they didn’t cost you an arm and a leg.

Before moving on to the “meat” of this subject, let me say that I’ve heard of modes of travel that are cheaper than the ones I discuss. Since I’ve never taken a cargo ship cruise, nor stayed in a youth hostel, I cannot speak from experience on those things. While the youth hostel doesn’t interest me in the least, taking a “cruise” on a cargo vessel might be very entertaining, but I doubt they’d have a social director to keep things lively. To me, it would have to be a real bargain!

A quick search of the Internet provided me with three links:




There were a number of others, but the information I gleaned from these reinforced my belief about the lack of a social director. I also learned that a cruise on a freighter is not the great deal I thought it would be.

According to Freighter World Cruises, Inc., there are no buffet meals, no swimming pools, and no evening entertainment, which isn’t at all surprising. What is surprising is the fact that these “cruises” cost between $90 and $130 per person per day. The cruises my bride and I have taken were much less expensive and included all the bells and whistles. So, aside from the “adventure” of traveling with a group of professional seamen, you’d be better off on a ship filled with everyday people rather than cargo containers.

Of course, you could always sign on as a deck hand and get paid for the cruise, but that might not qualify as a vacation.

* * * * * * *

 A final note of introduction: Much of the information discussed in these pages revolves around the use of a computer and the Internet. Without a doubt, the World Wide Web is your best source of travel information – from airlines, hotels, and travel agents to the weather you can expect at your destination. You can buy a computer for less than $300 and hook it up to a high-speed Internet connection for about $50 per month. If those costs are prohibitive, use the computer at your local library.

Please keep in mind that you’ll see references to many web sites in every chapter of this book. The ones I name are in no way meant to be seen as all-inclusive. New travel sites come to life almost daily. There’s no way I could hope to list them all. In fact, by the time you read this, some of the sites I mention may be gone; that’s the way the web works.

Use the web sites I list as a starting point. Use the available search engines to find more. The only caveat is the “Buyer Beware!” that not all web sites are as they seem. Never provide any personal information – bank account numbers, credit card numbers, or anything else that could enable someone to steal your money or your identity. Unless you have thoroughly checked a company’s credentials, don’t even think about giving them more than your name and email address. Even when you know you’re dealing with a reputable outfit, always deal with your credit card. NEVER provide your bank account information or use a debit card on a travel related web site.


What you just read was the introduction of a book I’m making available on Amazon – to download to your Kindle – and eventually to Barnes & Noble for the Nook owners.

I explain how you can save hundreds of dollars and enjoy wonderful vacations simply by taking the time to find the deals.

If you’re interested, let me know – and tell me what such advice would be worth to you. $25.00? $10.00? How about $2.99?