Category Archives: digital publishing

FREE Books (Mine)

Recently a dear friend wrote and asked how I was progressing with my proposed book tentatively titled, “Four Feet of Less: A Gunkholer’s Guide to Florida’s West Coast.” Shamefacedly I had to confess, “Not very well.”

There are a number of reasons, and it’s hard to say which one carries most of the onus. So I’ll just say…I haven’t visited a lot of places I wanted to include in the a guide (Yet?). Last year I went to Cayo Costa, about 100 miles south. I was there for a couple of days and the water was taking on a strange, pinkish hue and my eyes started to burn as well as my lungs which isn’t good when you have serious COPD issues. It was Red Tide. So I pulled anchor and returned to Bradenton Beach. The tide followed me. In fact, at its worst it covered nearly 150 miles of Florida’s Gulf Coast and littered the littoral with thousands of dead fish.

I thought it would at least be a good time to get started with the writing. Then my beloved MacBook Air died! I’m an old guy living on a tiny 22-foot sailboat and subsisting entirely on Social Security. I didn’t have an extra $1,300 lying around to buy a replacement Mac. I thought about how I mainly used the Mac and it boiled down to emails and getting into arguments over politics with strangers online…So I sprung for an Acer Chromebook for less than $300. For the most part it does what I need it to do. The big BUT, though, is that instead of Microsoft Word, that I used to write my book “Adversity’s Wake,” I have to use Google Docs. Not nearly as good. And there has been a learning curve. It’s not easy to assemble and edit chapters. Move one thing and everything gets discombobulated resulting in extreme frustration so I move on to doing something else.

Here’s what I’ve decided to do since the gunkhole book is quite a ways from complete. This will take a little effort on your part, though.

I am offering my book “Adversity’s Wake” and the short story “Sailing Alone to Isla” FREE to anyone who wants them. BUT, you have to go and sign up with the site “SMASHWORDS.COM.” Don’t worry, they WON’T spam you or give your name to anyone else.

When you’ve registered, go to my page and select the two books. When you go to “check out” there is a space for entering a coupon number. Do that and when you complete your checkout you will NOT BE CHARGED for the books. This is a LIMITED TIME OFFER. After August 1 the price will go back to $4.99 for Adversity’s wake and 99¢ for Sailing Alone to Isla.

For Adversity’s Wake the Coupon Code is: QH93D (NOT case sensitive)
For Sailing Alone to Isla the code is: BB62U (NOT case sensitive)

There are different formats to choose from to read them. If you like them an HONEST review would be appreciated.


Filed under adventure, Anna Maria Island, Bradenton Beach, FL, digital books, digital publishing, Dual-Language Books, Dual-language books: English/Spanish, e-publishing, ebook, indie authors, indie writers, self publishing, Uncategorized, writing

Unique Dual-Language/Bilingual Book Formatting

When I decided to publish my book on Christopher Columbus’s calamitous fourth voyage along with the Spanish translation as an e-book I faced formatting problems.

In the days when books were printed on dead trees the solution for presenting dual-language/bilingual books was to place the two texts on separate pages. Usually the original text was on the left-hand page and the translation was on the right. This method had its problems. First of all, the two different languages don’t always have an equal number of lines in a paragraph because of spelling and other differences so one page of text might be longer than the other which can be visually unappealing.

Another problem with the two-page method is that the reader is forced to switch pages in order to check their reading comprehension making it easy to lose one’s original place.

Using a split screen on a Kindle or other electronic reading device isn’t very practical or visually appealing. You can turn the text on a kindle so that the screen presentation is wider but now there are too few lines on what is now the vertical screen, and again the reader has to take their eyes of the main text to follow the translation.

My solution for eliminating that problem was to present the main text in BOLDFACE followed immediately by the translation in italics. Like this:


The Old Man


El viejo


I don’t remember how the old man, Juan, came to live with my mother and me. It seemed he had always been there. He was no blood relation of ours. Not that I knew of, anyway. He was simply there.No recuerdo cómo el viejo, Juan, vino a vivir con mi madre y conmigo. Parecía que siempre había estado allí. Él no tenía ningún parentesco con nosotros. No que yo supiera, de todos modos. Él simplemente estaba ‘allí.’

As a young child he scared me. It wasn’t anything he did. It was just him. Short of stature, tiny almost, his sun-weathered skin was wrinkled like a piece of dried up discarded fruit. He was forever hunched over. Even standing and leaning on the old piece of tree limb he carried with him everywhere he was never straight. His back was always bent as if he’d just spotted something on the ground and had stopped for a second to get a better look at it. When he’d been drinking he wasn’t just bent forward, he leaned to one side or the other, too.  You could tell, looking at his arms, that he had once been very strong. The muscles still rippled under the faded designs permanently inked into his skin.De niño él me asustaba. No era nada por lo que él hiciese. Era sólo él. Corto de estatura, casi diminuto, su piel quemada por el sol estaba arrugada como una pieza de fruta seca. Siempre estaba encorvado. Aún de pie y apoyado en el viejo pedazo de rama de árbol que llevaba consigo a todas partes, él nunca estuvo erguido. Su espalda siempre estuvo doblada como si hubiera visto algo en el suelo y se había detenido por un segundo para obtener una mejor visión de ella. Cuando él había estado bebiendo no solamente se inclinaba ligeramente hacia adelante también se inclinaba de un lado al otro. Viendo sus brazos podrías decir, que alguna vez él había sido muy fuerte. Todavía se veían los músculos fornidos debajo de los diseños de tinta permanente en su piel.

He never combed or brushed his hair.  It was blindingly white and what little there was of it grew in isolated spots on his head. It was as light and fine as dandelion fuzz and the slightest suggestion of a breeze would cause it to flutter nervously.Él nunca peinó su cabello. Era un blanco cegador y lo poco que quedaba de él creció en lugares aislados en la cabeza. Estaba como ligero y fino, cual la pelusa, como la flor de la planta del diente de león y que ni la más leve brisa lo haría agitarse.

His eyes were the darkest blue; like the color of the sea where the straight line of the horizon meets the lighter blue of the sky and it often seemed that he was staring intently at that distant line where whatever a seaman is looking for will first appear. And his large, hawk-like nose cleaved the sea of his face like a shark’s fin slicing through the calm waters inside a reef.Sus ojos eran del azul más oscuro, como el color del mar, donde la línea recta del horizonte reúne el azul claro del cielo y que a menudo parecía que él estaba mirando fijamente a esa línea lejana donde todo lo que un marinero busca aparecerá en primer lugar. Y su nariz grande, como la de un halcón, hendida en el mar de su cara como la aleta de un tiburón surcando las tranquilas aguas dentro de un arrecife.

He scared me, old Juan did, but that was when I was young. As I got older and he slowly revealed his story to me I grew to love the man and marveled at the adventure of his life. Él me dio miedo, el viejo Juan lo hizo, pero eso era cuando yo era joven. A medida que fui creciendo y poco a poco él reveló su historia, yo crecí con el amor del hombre y la maravilla de la aventura de su vida.

Juan would spend his afternoons at one or another of the taverns on the waterfront in the port of Cadiz below our house. I don’t know where he got the money to buy his wine but the old sailors, merchants and dock hands who worked along the waterfront always paid him some deference and bought him a cup every now and then. I had also seen him, once or twice, pouring the leftovers from someone else’s cup into his own when they left their tables to answer a call of nature. If he moved from one bar to another during an afternoon he was usually able to cage enough so he would be staggering as he climbed the small hill to our house in the evening. Juan podía pasar sus tardes en una u otra de las tabernas en el paseo marítimo en el puerto de Cádiz, más abajo de nuestra casa. No sé de dónde sacó el dinero para comprar su vino, pero los viejos marineros, comerciantes y los ensambladores de muelles, quienes trabajaron a lo largo de la costa, siempre le pagaban cierta deferencia y le compraban una copa de vez en cuando.Yo también lo había visto, una o dos veces, verter los restos de la copa de otra persona en su propia copa cuando dejaban sus mesas para responder a una llamada de la naturaleza. Si él fuera de bar en bar durante una tarde, usualmente podría guardar bastante, así que estaría tambaleante mientras subía la colina a nuestra casa por la noche

It was a rainy, early spring evening when my mother insisted I go down to the docks and fetch Juan back to the house for dinner. He and I stood in the doorway of the tavern looking out at the rain-soaked street and the caravels anchored in the river dreading the idea of having to leave the cozy warmth of the bar to journey into the cold night air when Juan mumbled, “It was just like this on the night I first met them.Era una tarde lluviosa a principios de la primavera temprana, cuando mi madre insistió en que fuese a los muelles a buscar a Juan para la cena. Él y yo estábamos en la puerta de la taberna mirando hacia la calle empapada por la lluvia y las carabelas ancladas en el río, temiendo a la idea de tener que abandonar el calor acogedor de la barra para viajar en el aire frío de la noche, cuando Juan murmuró, “Era como ésta, la noche en que los conocí.”

“Met who?” I asked.“¿Conociste a quién?” le pregunté.

“My friend Ferdinand and his father, the Admiral.”“A mi amigo Ferdinand y a su padre, el Almirante .”

We stepped out into the rain, our chins tucked deep into our soggy cloaks in a vain attempt at keeping out the cold, and trudged back to the house. Juan didn’t utter another word the rest of the evening.Caminamos bajo la lluvia, nuestras barbillas metidas profundamente en nuestros capotes empapados en un vano intento de alejarnos del frío y nos encaminamos a la casa. Juan no dijo ni una palabra más el resto de la noche.

As you can see it’s easy to follow the main text and if a reader wants to check if their comprehension is up to par the translation is right there without having to go to another page.

The book is available in two versions: English/Spanish (for Spanish-speakers learning English) and Spanish/English (for English-speaking readers studying Spanish) at the Kindle Store, Barnes & Noble, the Sony Store, Apple, Page and Baker-Taylor for $4.99.

 However, I’ve decided to give readers of this blog a discount. First you have to sign up for an account with I know some of you might be reluctant to do that but I can assure you they DON’T give away your e-mail address and they DON’T SPAM YOU.

At Smashwords the books can be downloaded in a number of different formats:

Kindle (.mobi for Kindle devices and Kindle apps), Epub (Apple iPad/iBooks, Nook, Sony Reader, Kobo, and most e-reading apps including Stanza, Aldiko, Adobe Digital Editions, others), PDF (good for reading on PC, or for home printing), RTF (readable on most word processors), Palm Doc (PDB) (for Palm reading devices), and Plain Text (download) (flexible, but lacks much formatting).

For those of you who don’t own a Kindle, and iPad or any other “tablet” you can read the books by downloading the free app Kindle for PC or Kindle for Mac which simulated those readers on your home computer.

If you want to buy the English/Spanish version,

“Buy” it and when you go to check out of the site insert the following code (VB92L) where it says “price” and you will pay only $2.99.

For the Spanish/English version

use the code (PE75U).

You can also buy the books in paperback for $9.99 at

English/Spanish version:

Spanish/English version:

Because of printing and shipping costs there is no discount available for the paperback versions.

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Filed under Bilingual Books, Christopher Columbus, digital books, digital publishing, Dual-Language Books, Dual-language books: English/Spanish, e-publishing, ebook, indie authors, indie writers, Learning a new language, Uncategorized, writing

I’ve Started A Third Blog

I don’t know why I do this to myself, but I’ve started a third blog. The second blog I created is:

Since I bought my Kindle I’ve been reading a LOT! And most of what I’ve downloaded to my reader are either FREE books or books costing less than $3.00. A lot of the authors are self-published like myself or are offering their books at drastically discounted prices or absolutely free in hopes of attracting an audience that will shell out some cash to read their other work.

I’ve run across some really good stuff and, of course, some real trash. So I thought I’d start a blog giving my opinions on what I’ve found on line.

I call the blog Cheap Reads On Your Kindle.

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Filed under digital books, digital publishing, e-publishing, ebook, Uncategorized

e-Book Covers

It’s said you “can’t tell a book by its cover” but every book needs a cover that will “hook” the prospective reader so they’ll pick it up and look inside.

I’ve just finished editing and rewriting A Pirate of the Caribbees by Harry Collingwood. When I say rewriting I mean I converted a 100 year-old text with such archaic writing as:

“For pity’s sake,” I ejaculated, “give me something to drink!”

“Ten thousand pounds?” I ejaculated.

“Thanks,” answered I, with alacrity.

I spent the last four months working to turn the book into something that reads as if it were written in the 21st Century. I pared out nearly 9,000 words from the original text that were just unnecessary but left the basic story line intact.

Next I had to come up with a cover for the book.

Getting cover art isn’t easy. Most writers hire an artist to do this for them. Fortunately I’m working in a genre where there are plenty of images in the public domain. That is they aren’t covered by copyright and can be used by anyone.  In my search I came across a fantastic illustrator named Howard Pyle. Pyle even opened his own art school and one of his students was N. C. Wyeth who did the illustrations for Treasure Island that those of us of a “certain” age surely remember.

I loved Pyle’s pirate illustrations and it was a tough job picking the one to use for the cover of my latest effort.

There are certain things you have to look for in a picture when you’re choosing cover art. Your first consideration is, where are you going to put the text so that it doesn’t interfere with the picture. There has to be enough blank, or empty space for you to do this. Next, you have to go to some sort of photo tampering program and create the cover.

For my first four efforts I used the Microsoft program. It was fairly easy to use,”user friendly” and quite intuitive. But then I got hit with an incredibly vicious virus that forced me to reformat my hard drive back to the original factory settings. Fortunately I’m pretty good at saving my work as I go along so I didn’t lose a whole lot of stuff when I reformatted. However, no matter what I tried I couldn’t get to reinstall.

I searched all over for another program to use and believe me there are a ton of programs out there. I needed simple and I needed FREE. I downloaded several that just didn’t meet my needs. One that kept popping up and that I loaded is called GIMP. It’s a great program, so I’m told, but the learning curve would challenge a PhD candidate at MIT. I downloaded YouTube videos showing how to “work with layers,” resize photos and everything you need to monkey around with a picture to get a cover you wanted. I couldn’t figure out how to make the damned thing do what I wanted. The frustration kept building. I didn’t want to spend days learning how to make the program work.

Then I found something called Photo Pad Image Editor. It’s WAY better than in what it does and within less than an hour I got it to do what I wanted. Talk about “intuitive” and “user friendly.” This is the program to have.

So this is what I came up with:

What do you think?


Filed under digital books, digital publishing, e-publishing, ebook, indie authors, indie writers, writing

Getting Use To My Kindle

Okay, I’ve had my Kindle for a couple of weeks now and here’s what I think of it.

I like it a lot but it’s definitely NOT like reading a dead tree book and in some ways that’s a shame. The tactile experience is missing. You don’t get to actually turn the pages, and while playing with font size makes the page you’re reading about the same size and word count of a paperback book it’s just not the same thing.

Since I got the Kindle I’ve been doing a LOT of reading. I actually wander away from the computer, dig out the Kindle and read a book. I read Teddy Roosevelt’s account of the Rough Riders. Not only was it an interesting story but so well written that you’d never guess it was penned a century ago. Reading the Roman histories by Tacitus and Caesar’s Commentaries, books I’ve wanted to read for years but just didn’t want to spend the money on to buy even in paperback.

While my literary tastes may run towards detective stories like the Dave Robicheaux series by James Lee Burke and the Prey series by John Sandford or the complete Butch Karp saga by Robert K. Tanenbaum I’ve been absolutely delighted with a couple of free books I downloaded by some female authors: Talk of the Town by Lisa Wingate (when it was available free) and Charlotte Figg Takes Over Paradise by Joyce Magnin. I enjoyed Charlotte Figg so much I had a hard time putting it down the first night so I could get some sleep and finished it off the next day.

One thing I like about the Kindle is the included Oxford Dictionary of English. Occasionally I come across a word I’m not sure of and you simply scroll down to it and it’s defined for you. A great feature.

I naturally bought a cover for the Kindle to protect it from getting scratched up just through the process of daily reading and carrying it around in my knapsack for my trips down the mountain to do my shopping. Holding it open with the unit on the right hand side and the cover to the left it’s almost like reading a real book except you only have a right-hand page.

My only real objection to the unit is that the little thing-a-ma-doodles that you press to “turn” the pages happen to be right under your thumb as you hold it and the slightest pressure flips you to the next page. However, you can configure the screen in several different ways but I’m just too lazy to do that.

I’d give it 4-1/2 stars and am glad I finally caved in and bought one.



Filed under digital books, digital publishing, e-publishing, Uncategorized


Let me say in my defense that I am not a complete Luddite. I have had a computer for over 15 years but it took me a while to overcome the technophobia attached with such a purchase. At the time I was living on a small sailboat so a desk-top model was out of the question and the price of a notebook back then was simply out of the question. Not only was it a question of space and money but it centered around what I wanted to do with the equipment. All I wanted to do then was to write about the previous five years in France, sailing across the Atlantic and my single-handed, nine-month trip to Mexico, Belize and Guatemala, and I couldn’t justify the expense of a notebook computer to do that and to play a few games when I got bored.

One day when I was at one of the big box stores looking at the notebooks I came across a Brother notebook word processor. Perfect. It would do what I wanted and it was about a fifth of the cost of a “real” notebook computer. It also had a version of the Tetris game which I became really, really good at. But the machine was also very, very, I mean molasses slow. I believe it probably used an old 286 chip and you had to store whatever you’d written onto a floppy disk. Remember those? It wasn’t one of the big floppies but the ones with the plastic shell. As my stories got longer it took forever for the machine to work its way to the end so I could continue writing.

In 1994 the Pentium chip was introduced to the market and I boldly entered the computer age. But my Luddite gene did influence my purchase. My first notebook had a 486 processor, not a Pentium. Naturally the prices were slashed on the 486 hardware and I also figured it was probably better to have the last of the old technology than it was to have the first of the new that didn’t have all the kinks worked out of it. I was very happy with that piece of equipment. It had MS Word on it and when I wanted to get to the end of a piece I was working on it went there instantly instead of taking two or three minutes, literally, for the old word processor to work its way to the last word in a story.

I am not technophobic, but you’re not going to find me camping out all night waiting to be one of the first to buy a new iPad or anything like that. I don’t have a “smart” phone. The one I have is a “dumb” phone. It does one thing. It makes phone calls. Period.

Now, I love to read. Have since I was a kid. I mean when I took the standardized tests in school I had the reading level of a college freshman before I even hit junior high. But when Amazon came out with the Kindle and Barnes & Noble introduced the Nook I didn’t run right out and buy one. No, I like “dead tree” books. No way did I need or was I going to buy one of those electronic doo hickies.

But I moved to Panama. Do you have any idea how hard it is to find books in English here? There’s a terrific used book store in Dolega called the Bookmark and they fill a very big niche. But over the years of living on boats I’ve developed an aversion to collecting books. They’re big and bulky and a real pain in the old wazoo when you move from one place to another.

But still I avoided the temptation to buy an electronic reader even though I wrote and published a book that is only available in electronic form. I got my reading material in a couple of ways that bow to modern technology. I subscribed to and download wonderful books to my iPod. Yes, I’ve had one of those for quite a few years and it’s loaded down with over 3,000 songs. I “read” 40 hour-long books when I would take my dog Penny for her afternoon walks and I listened to books when I was living in Boqueron and didn’t have a television. Listening to audio books takes me back to the days of my early childhood when I’d sit on my maternal grandfather’s lap and we’d listen to the evening news with H. V. “There’s gooood news tonight” Kaltenborn, Jack Benny, Amos and Andy et al on the big console radio in the living room together.

I’d also discovered Project Gutenberg with over 36,000 free public domain ebooks. I’d download the ones I wanted, copy them and paste them into a Word document and save that into a special folder in My Documents to be read at my leisure.

When it was announced that Amazon had come out with an app you could download for free that simulated their Kindle for your PC or Mac, I did it instantly. The only problem with this solution is that it’s not easy to read a book outside in a hammock. The glare on the notebook’s screen makes it nearly impossible to read. Besides that the computer is heavy, it gets damned hot sitting on your stomach or in your lap and the battery life is quite limited.

Slowly I developed the urge to actually get a Kindle or my own. Trying to get one delivered down here isn’t easy. First of all there is no home mail delivery and I don’t have a mailbox at the post office. Also there are no real addresses. For example, on the water bill the address for the house in Boqueron is listed as “The two-story house near the health clinic.” Personally, I think that’s priceless. I mean no company in the States is going to deliver something to The two-story house near the health clinic, Boqueron, Republica de Panama.

There is a gringo couple I know who live in the third house up the mountain from me. They’re in the States right now but will be returning in October. I thought that I’d buy a Kindle, have it delivered to them in Montana and have them bring it to me. Since they could declare it as their own personal property it would circumvent having to pay import duties on it. So, I’d only have to wait another couple of months or so and I could have my own Kindle and be able to lay out in the hammock and read on a lazy, rainy afternoon. That’s like every afternoon, folks, since we’re now deep into the rainy season here.

Then I saw a post on the Yahoo “Gringos in David” group from someone who said they were coming to Boquete and did anyone here need anything brought down from the States. A Kindle is quite small and light and wouldn’t take up much luggage space so I immediately got in touch with Al and we made arrangements for him to bring down a Kindle for me. We got together this past Thursday and voila as they say in Antibes, here it is along with the holder I bought to protect it:

I’ve used it in the hammock and it’s great. Yesterday I spent a lot of time riding buses. I went from  home to Bugaba to buy some cigars from the factory there and then from there to Boquete to pick up the charger for the Kindle since Al forgot it when he came to Potrerillos to give me the unit. Then I had to ride the bus back down from Boquete to Dolega in order to get the bus back to Potrerillos. In all I was on the road for nearly eight hours and while I ususally listen to an audio book while riding on the buses I read my Kindle instead. On the ride from David to Bugaba a young guy sat next to me who was fascinated with the Kindle. He’d never even heard of such a thing. So, it’s turned out to be a way of meeting people, too. Turns out the young man is a border patrol agent. He showed me his I.D. I guess if I ever have any problems trying to get into or out of Costa Rica I’ll have someone I can appeal to. Who knows?




Filed under digital books, digital publishing, e-publishing, ebook, Living Abroad, Retirement Abroad

The 99¢ Experiment

I’ve decided to try an experiment with the pricing of my book Despair and drop the price to 99¢ for one month.

This isn’t a desperate move. It shouldn’t be a surprise that I read a lot of blogs written by successful indie, self-published authors. One who has a lot of good advice for the likes of myself is J. A. Konrath and his blog: This guy is literally making tens of thousands of dollars a month from his ebook novels. The fact that they’re good reads certainly doesn’t hurt.

In several of his posts he’s talked about pricing of his books. Naturally there are different royalty payments depending on the price of your book. Sometimes dropping the price of a book and taking a smaller royalty payment you can actually make more money.Konrath had an interesting post about dropping the price of his book The List from $2.99 down to a bargain 99¢.

You can read his post but I’ll give you some of the highlights here.

“At $2.99, I was earning $2.03 per download. And I was selling an average of 43 ebooks a day.”

“At 99 cents, I only earn 35 cents per download. I’m now averaging 205 sales a day.”

“At $2.99, I made $87 a day.”

“At 99 cents, I’m making $71 a day.”

“But in the last few days, The List has been selling stronger, averaging about 250 sales a day. If it can hold that number, or do even better, that’s $87 a day–matching what it made at $2.99.”

It’s not that the book hasn’t been selling. It has and I’ve been surprised to discover that people in Canada, Great Britain and Australia have bought it. Not only that, it’s being translated into Spanish by a couple of students here in Panama who are working on their Master’s degrees in English. Despair has been selling at $2.99 but my short story Sailing Alone To Isla priced at 99¢ has been moving off the rack at a pretty decent pace. I certainly don’t ever expect to match Konrath’s numbers but it should be interesting to see what happens.

All school children in the western hemisphere know that “in 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” Other than that ditty few people know that the Admiral of the Ocean Sea made three subsequent voyages to what was to become known as “The New World.” It was probably the most interesting of the four. It was the stuff of fiction: battling fierce storms, contrary currents and hurricanes. Pitched battles with hostile natives and former companions. Ship wrecks, marooning, mutiny, trickery, deceit, greed, dashed dreams, despair, extraordinary heroism and rescue. But truth is stranger than fiction. All of it is documented. The only license I’ve taken with the story is to create the fictional narrator of the events.

The book is available at: I just made the change and it may take a day or two for the change to appear on their site. If you don’t want to wait you can get it at: where it’s available for download to a Kindle or Nook reader.







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Filed under Christopher Columbus, digital books, digital publishing, e-publishing, ebook, indie authors, indie writers, self publishing, writing