A chapbook?

I expect this to be live April 7. I’ll post the link when it is!

I decided to collect my little poems into a chapbook. I didn’t even know for sure what a chapbook was even though, back in the day, all the poetry MFA “kids” in my graduate program in English at the University of Denver went on about them at potluck dinners saying things like, “Yes, I hope to have a chapbook ready by the end of the quarter.” It all sounded very precious, so I ignored them reverse-snob that I am. Basically it’s just a small book that holds one chapter of a longer work or enough poems to fill 40 pages. I guess it was the way they said it… Oh well…

I put the poems together for my dad who died 50 years ago and wanted me to be a poet when I grew up. So… I guess this means I’ve grown up. 😄 Most of the poems are about nature and dogs (who knew?) The title is also explained in the book.

It will be for sale on Amazon April 6 or 7 for $5.25. I will make a whole dollar in royalties. Silver dollars would be cool, but I don’t think it’ll work that way.

It was a fun project to design. It has a couple of photos but that wasn’t my first idea, just as I worked today to finish it up I thought, “Hmmm this needs a picture and so does this,” so there are two photos.

Publish WHERE???

Everyone (thinks they) know everything. Since I’m not one of everyone, I keep trying to find things out.

I was reading a blog post on IndieBRAG about why I shouldn’t publish books using Amazon because bookstores hate Amazon. I should use Ingram/Spark. So, I went to see about that and found incredible complexity. Since I was up most of the night with an upset stomach, most things are too complex for me right now. I can see, though, they might be a good platform with a few more options, but… I wondered about Amazon’s “expanded distribution” which puts books out there where Ingram puts books. I wasn’t sure so I found a Youtube video about this and a young, bald, bespectacled talking head yammered at me from a position too close to the camera and never answered the question. Why is it so many people who make Youtube videos do that? Why is it so hard for them to get to the point?* Anyway, I didn’t learn anything I didn’t already know. The books end up in the same conduit where libraries and bookstores can order them if they want to.

I need a proxy to do this stuff for me, to make these decisions and learn all this stuff continually because I’m not into it. I tell myself that I don’t care if people buy my books, but it’s only a half-truth. I do know that I’m not sitting here today trying to figure out another publishing platform. I don’t know what I’m doing (tired, still a little funky in the stomach) but I’m not doing that.

*I have the same problem with TED talks, except for the too-close to the camera part. 😀 Probably the price I pay for not being an aural learner, but stronger on visual and kinesthetic learning. I focus on people’s faces and what they do rather than hearing their words.


Rambling Discourse on Self-Publishing

I’d be lion if I said I have something to write this morning about lions. I don’t. More of a tiger person, myself.

Yesterday I got the idea of looking at some of my short stories, many unfinished, and that’s consuming me until I get the proof of the China book back from my editor.

This is the fourth book my editor, Beth Bruno, has helped me with. Long, long ago when I first wrote Martin of Gfenn and was submitting it to agents, I got a response. The agent had written in Magic Marker, big black letters, “Get an editor.”

I honestly didn’t know what he meant. I thought that was what you got after you got a publisher. It took fourteen years or so for me to “finish” Martin of Gfenn by which time the agent thing was moot. I published it. I sent it around. Then… I looked at the published book and saw it was rife with small errors of the type someone like me would never, ever, ever see. Savior was (I thought) finished, but I was afraid it was also fraught with errors. I went online to find an editor and I found Beth.

I found others at the same time and contacted several. I ended up hiring Beth because she presented herself in a straight-forward manner, and her commitment seemed to be helping writers write THEIR boosk rather than writing HER book through someone else, if that makes any sense. Many of the editors I found did not seem to have the professionalism or detachment Beth has. Her references were good and supported my perception of her.

It was expensive (for me) but it was worth it to me. Since then, Beth has helped me with three books. Now that she knows what she will be getting from me (a finished manuscript that doesn’t need a lot of development assistance) it’s more affordable for me, and we have evolved into a team. We work using the comments and changes feature on Words/Pages and by phone. With the China book, she was especially helpful in reminding me that I was writing about a world most people have not experienced, and I needed to clarify terms, ideas, moments, cultural details so others would know what I was writing about.

Working together on the China book has been great. After she finished the work specified in the contract, she offered to do a final reading of the finished project, something she’s just completed. We both love the project, I guess.

I was also thinking last night that initially I considered self-publishing (Indie publishing, has that phrase caught on?) to be failure, something you did when no one wanted your work because it wasn’t marketable for any one of a number of reasons. I still feel that way, but I also understand that a work not being marketable might not mean it’s a bad book, poorly written, or uninteresting. It just means that there’s no agent who feels they can sell it to a publisher because there’s no publisher who sees a market for your work. The market isn’t the arbiter of quality, just what people will buy.

Over this evolution I read a lot of best-selling historical novels that I would be ashamed to have written. I learned that I have an intrinsic sense of what makes a good book and that sense is sacred to me. I also realized none of this really matters. I understood this when I saw that just because I couldn’t find an agent, I would not stop writing. I also learned that I enjoy the process of putting a book together. For a brief moment I had a publisher for one of my books — The Brothers Path. That experience showed me the compromise that would be involved if I went “legit,” so to speak. And then he went out of business, and I was able to do my book myself. Disappointed, but…

Recently, The Price garnered an IndeBRAG Medallion. I’m happy and proud because that means all three books in that trilogy get to wear that badge. It also meant I could combine them in a single book and sell it at a lower price.

The president of IndieBRAG messaged me that she loved the cover of the The Price and asked who’d done it for me. I wrote back that I’d designed the cover for that and all my books. She was surprised. But I think it’s fun to figure that out; what images tell the story?

I still wish that there was an agent who saw the possibilities for my books, but the process of submittal got to be really grueling and my attitude toward it shifted from one of hope and possibility to, “Who the fuck are you to sit in judgement on my books?” That shift began at a writer’s conference in which an agent complained about having manuscripts to read. Really? That, Sweet Cheeks, is job security. Another wondered if the leprous hero in Martin of Gfenn got married and had children at the end. Over time, I encountered this again and again and realized that I’m just not on the public pulse. Can I go there? I don’t know. I don’t think so, even though there are a lot of good books out there that ARE on the public pulse.

Do I still feel that self-published books are “failures”? Yes, in a way. But a bigger failure would be allowing an external notion of success to stop me from doing what I love.


Red and White Blues

The best discovery I’ve made in a long time is an Apple program that makes it a lot easier for me to make Kindle books. I have found that process tedious and boring, never mind not knowing if they work or not other than the various simulated eReaders offered me by Amazon’s publishing platform.

I’ve long had the theory that no one WANTS me to do that particular formatting task myself because people want me to HIRE them to do that for me. I’d love to, but I haven’t discovered buried treasure, well, there were three antique burlap potato sacks in my crawl space that were pretty cool. The name of the program is iBooks Author and maybe it’s been around for a while and I just didn’t know it.

Anyway, I’m now putting the trilogy of Savior, The Brothers Path and The Price together in one Kindle book. I can’t see putting them together in a paperback unless there is a market for door stops that I haven’t heard of.

Meanwhile, here we are at the 4th of July. Other than the random firecrackers being blown up in town, scaring Bear (and though through it all she feels she must protect me) I think it best to draw a veil of silence over the whole thing. I have a lot of opinions, substantial anger and even more substantial sorrow over the state of things in “my” country.

I’m telling my dog — and myself — it’s just one day and soon (maybe next Monday?) our wildlife area will be open to the public (and the black Angus herd that’s there now). Hopefully the shady trail by the river isn’t underwater, but I think it probably is. I can’t wait to see how things are going out there.

If you live in the US, have a safe 4th of July.


Tedious Quotidian Update 43.c.iii

Back in book marketing mode. The Price getting an IndieBRAG medallion opens up some opportunities that I didn’t have before. I’m still looking for reviewers. If you’re interested, let me know. I can send it to you as a mobi, an ePub, a PDF or a real live book.

My Amazon giveaway was a bust. I only had two books to give away. Three people entered to claim the books and none was qualified — probably (knowing my record) they didn’t live in the US. I ran another one and one book got claimed, two more disqualified people jumped in and that giveaway ended. OH WELL.

None of it is that serious, anyway.

I have a big job to do now. I need to combine Savior, The Bros Path and The Price into one file for Kindle. I’m glad I finally got some good software for that, but it’s still a tedious project.

Stuff around here has been breaking — one burner on my stove, Bear’s Halti (after four years of hard daily use the buckle cracked), my vaccccccuuuuuum. The garden is a joke, I have to water when the city tells me to, I need to put up shelves in the garage then put stuff on them. I buy stuff I never even open — like those shelves and a pole saw for tree limbs. Maybe we all do that, I don’t know, but I want to stop. The thing is, you think you’re going to use something and then you don’t. Those things are good ideas, but I don’t have any interest in erecting shelves and putting stuff on them or cutting down tree limbs hanging over my back yard from my neighbor’s elm tree.

Speaking of elm trees, those are sinister bastards. They are all over my town and this spring they let loose a deluge of seeds that would have challenged Noah to stay afloat. Now their illegitimate children are springing up in the carefully tended gardens of dedicated retirees. I wonder if they would be as good on a sandwich as are alfalfa sprouts.

The high river flow has killed several people — a couple of people just fell in (I don’t know how) and many OTHER people challenged the water that was rushing by at at least 1400 cubic feet/second. One pair from Texas tried to drive their Jeep across a river that’s normally pretty shallow and slow, and damn if their Jeep was sunk… Warning: the video contains Anglo Saxon aka blue language… 😀

In other Texan news (please readers in Texas, don’t be offended, but this stuff really happens) I was walking the dogs past the 9th hole of the golf course (it’s at the end of my alley) yesterday during the fantastic beginnings of a storm that didn’t materialize in Monte Vista but pounded South Fork. Four old (55+) guys were playing golf. OK, I know that for some golf is an excuse for driving drunk and these four guys were that type. As I passed, they got very loud, exaggerating their Texan accents (this whole area is where some Texans go to escape summer just as my Montana uncle and aunt went to Texas to escape winter), and one yelled at my retreating form, “Can you cook?”

Once that sank in, I had a resistible urge to go back and wrap his 9 iron around his neck. Or worse. Some men remain 14 year old a-holes their whole lives, I guess.

I forgot to write “shoe.” I’m still wearing them. Lots of people are hanging out in sandals, and in summers past I have, too. But this year? I dunno. I just kind of like socks.


Copy, Right?

Yesterday I got an email from KDP, Amazon’s publishing platform.

During our review, we found that the following book(s) contains content for which you may not hold the necessary rights. Some or all of the content within your book(s) is freely available on the internet. As a Baby Duck Listens to Thunder: A Foreign Expert in English, Guangzhou China, 1982-83 by Kennedy, Martha (AUTHOR)

At first I thought (grad student forever) they were impugning my citations. How dare they! I taught that shit! I lived by it! Then I realized that they must have a bot searching that vast wilderness of words, the internet, and it found my blog.

God forbid I compete with myself, right? I responded that it was my blog and that I’d removed the posts (yesterday). A double problem for them — I imagine there are authors who steal the work of bloggers and I can also see they wouldn’t want to go to the expense of publishing a book that no one has to buy to read it.

I hope this will help someone out. I know many people write blogs with the thought of someday turning the blog into a book. Of course there’s the chance I’m the one person in the universe who didn’t know this.

Update: I got this message this morning. I guess I cleared everything up.

Thanks for your message regarding the following book:

As a Baby Duck Listens to Thunder: A Foreign Expert in English, Guangzhou China, 1982-83   ID: 32561303

Your book is currently live and available for purchase. Check out the detail page to check the status:


P.S. KDP stands for Kindle Direct Publishing that was once Amazon’s e-book publication interface. They had another for paper books, Createspace. They’ve combined the two under KDP. It works well, has become easier to use and has a wide reach (obviously).


Can You Enforce It? (and Rambling Nonsense)

A long time ago in a faraway land (California) I wrote a novel. A neophyte novelist, I was very worried (because it was the BEST idea anyone had had for a novel anywhere) that someone would steal it. I got the forms from the Library of Congress and filled them out, registering my idea with the gubmint. Back then the Internet was in the infancy of its common usage and stuff was mailed across the surface of the earth, sped along by trucks, trains, and planes. I had learned in some class or other that all you had to do to copyright your work was mail it to someone who didn’t open the envelope so it could be proven in a court of law that the work was yours.

That was actually true — and might still be true.

I have a visible copyright claim on the front “page” of my blog. I know it amounts to little more than the FBI warning at the beginning of a video. It looks scary but would I prosecute an offender? I can’t afford it. I have $75 ($200 earlier but my electric bill and another thing just came out of my account. Feel free to donate 😉 ) to last me till the end of the month.

I got into an argument with the polemical husband of a good friend about this. I mostly just wanted OUT of the room, but the argument went on and on and on and on and on over a subject I don’t care about anymore. I see no point in two ignorant people getting in a heated debate about stuff they don’t know for sure and could look up. If you want to know, here is the link to US Copyright Laws.

The thing is, there is little that is truly original. As a species we take a lot of things in and then rework them as our own or push them further along. It’s human nature. A friend was telling me about Elon Musk’s new ideas and research, that rather than having to use this interface — fingers on keys (who could have imagined that back when people were horrified by the typewriter?) but total integration between the mind and the internet (that you pay for, of course) so that everything the Internet “knows” you know. I argued that in such a case, you wouldn’t really “know” anything. I argued that true knowledge is not just facts and answers, but experience acquired through time. I said that the person would only know the past and would not experience the present or move into the future (as we are supposed to do!) I didn’t make the case for uncertainty, doubt, fear, and failure. All these things really upset my friend. He really doesn’t see the bright side of fuck-ups and apprehension.

“Yeah, but what a great mind!”

“I’ve already read that in science fiction, and I saw it on Star Trek.”

“Yeah, but this isn’t science fiction.”

“It’s just not a new idea. That’s all I’m saying.” I was thinking of Philip K. Dick and the woman with whom Spock fell in love who’s “dress” was a net of material that was energy and held all knowledge and the box of energy that contained the collective mentalities and knowledge through time of a whole planet.

I was thinking, too, of the comparative primitiveness of the human body. It hasn’t caught up with the change in human life OR it’s trying to tell us something. I’m not sure which. I spent YEARS happily running from (non-existent) predators. Our bodies are still designed for that life. They WANT to run away. They LIKE it. “Waaa-HOOO! I can run away!” Whether one is able still to run away, walk away, ride a bike or a wheelchair, we glory in it. I think NOT being able to run away is very scary on a primal level. I think it’s the basis for a lot of my fear during the past decade and now, when I know I cannot run away and, instead, must carry a weapon.


I look around me and see so many people who couldn’t run away from anything and would make a long and tasty dinner for any non-human predator who came along. Deep inside I believe that this contemporary, sedentary life of comfort, safety and plenty we enjoy MIGHT be temporary, and it’s important to maintain whatever mental and physical fitness we can, so if we need to we can outrun or outsmart the sabre-toothed tiger or dire wolf.







Chilly mornings out here in the real west. This big cup of hot coffee is (sometimes) the best part of a whole day. It’s always a major enhancement. I’m sad when it’s gone, and I have to give the cup to Dusty T. Dog (who is salivating at my feet waiting for it). All he gets is whatever has stuck to the sides of the cup, but he likes it. I think it’s a bonding thing.

During my long blogging hiatus I finished my book and sent it to my editor, Beth Bruno. She’s a writer’s editor not an editor like Maxwell Perkins or something. She helps me find typos and inelegancies of writing and that sort of thing. She’s awesome. Very helpful, thorough, and kind. I like working with her very much.

Long long ago (like 20 years) when I first sent manuscripts of Martin of Gfenn to agents, I got a rejection that was a folded a 8 1/2 x 11 sheet off paper that said in big black letters written with a Magic Marker, “Get an editor!” Big black letters and all, I didn’t know what he meant. I mean, was I NOT an English teacher? A WRITING teacher? Seriously?

But he was right. I should have been alert to hubris, but like many heroes (ha ha) had not yet encountered my fatal flaw face-to-face.

Meanwhile I’ve done my tasks. I have compiled a little spreadsheet that is a list of possible agents for The Price. I’ve written a pretty good query letter. I have done my chapter summaries, my synopsis and an introduction to the book.

I know that self-publishing is an option, but (as with all my books except My Everest) I want to give it a chance out in the big world.


In case you want to know what my coffee is, it’s made in Colorado. You can order it online. I bought a 5 pound bag a couple of months ago. I’ve tried their “sampler” and ALL of it was delicious. You can actually tell the different roasts and origins apart. Because of the way it’s roasted, it’s relatively low acid, too. That’s all for my sales pitch. 😉




The Price

Yesterday I finished the first full draft (and it isn’t exactly a rough draft) of The Schneebelis Come to America — real title The Price. I like it and what I like best is that the ending is actually true.

Now I’m in the next phase of this whole writer’s adventure. I’ve been here before, lots of times with some close calls that you might call marginal success. I’m beginning the process of putting together a submittal package in hopes of finding a literary agent who will want to represent my book.


Every writer wants to publish a book that people buy. All my books so far have been self-published which has some distinct advantages to me, but — except for the hiking book — self-publishing was the end result of rejection and other things like a publisher going out of business and another publisher changing their mind and an agent not performing. In every case (except with the hiking book) I just reached a point where I didn’t want to try for conventional publication any more. Besides that, I like designing my books.

Rejection also has at least as much to do with the market and perceived saleability of a story as it does with the author’s actual writing. Probably more. All of my books have won prizes — a couple of them have been hard-won and prestigious awards. I’ve learned that lots of things can happen that don’t have anything to do with how well a book is written. But, as this story is about Amurica, I think it might have a better shot than my other books which are about obscure places in a tiny country many people confuse with Sweden.

The big challenge of a submittal package is being able to see your work from OUTSIDE yourself (and it) and writing about it as if you were a reader, not the writer. It’s amazing how difficult it is to do this, just to say, in a few sentences, what the book is about. I don’t think I’m the only writer who, faced with that question, says, “I don’t know.” You get so entangled in the lives of the characters that their lives are almost YOUR life. What would I say if someone said, “Hey, Martha, what’s the central theme of your life?”

“Uh, it changes.”

“Yeah, but there must be a POINT. What does your life SAY?”


Seriously, it’s like that. It would be interesting if we went to someone’s funeral and the officiating person said, “And so, the moral of Lamont’s life is XYZ.”

In any case, having been through this (grueling and strange) process so many times now, and having experienced several different levels of disappointment over the years (most important, disappointment with myself for submitting a manuscript before it was as good as it could be and killing its chances, sort of like cutting off your legs and going out for track) I’m older and wiser. I will go through this, hope for the best and realize there’s no losing, anyway.