Tag Archives: writing

COPD Can’t Beat Me!

https://www.gofundme.com/copd-can039t-beat-me

I have started a Go Fund Me campaign. All contributions gratefully accepted…

Hi! I’m Richard, a 75 year old sailor with COPD and I need your help to write my SECOND book.

THE BACK STORY

In my early working life I was a newspaper reporter, a magazine editor and published many freelance magazine articles. But I’d always dreamed of being on a boat. I never wanted to sail around the world, though. I wanted more attainable goals…like doing The Great Loop, a circumnavigation of the eastern half of the United States. Sailing across the Atlantic Ocean had been a childhood dream.

A quote that changed my life came from Richard MacCullough’s book Viking’s Wake. He wrote: “And the bright horizon calls! Many a thing will keep till the world’s work is done, and youth is only a memory. When the old enchanter came to my door laden with dreams, I reached out with both hands. For I knew that he would not be lured with the gold that I might later offer, when age had come upon me.” So, at age thirty, I left a good-paying job as assistant PR Director at a large hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and became a minimum-wage deckhand on a dinner cruise boat I knew I could take up writing again at any age. I became a U.S. Coast Guard licensed captain of yachts and small commercial craft and spent the rest of my working life on boats. I did The Loop. I sailed across the Atlantic. I transited the Panama Canal. I lived out the dreams of my childhood.

In 2009 I retired and moved to the mountains of western Panama where I wrote my first book: “Adversity’s Wake: The Calamitous Fourth Voyage of Christopher Columbus.” The book was translated into Spanish by two girls at the Universidad Latina in David (dahVEED). I combined both versions into a dual-language book  available at Amazon.com.

In April, 2017, with my lung capacity down to only 34% of normal, I repatriated to the U.S. In spite of struggling for breath after even simple chores like making my bed, I knew I couldn’t let the COPD dominate my life. (Yes! I gave up smoking about six years ago.)

THE PAST YEAR

Back in the states I bought a small, 22-foot sailboat
on the “One Easy Payment Plan,” and cruised from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, across the state and up the shallow waters of the state’s Gulf Coast. I made it to Carrabelle in the eastern panhandle when total renal shut down caused by severe dehydration put me in Tallahassee hospitals for nearly three weeks. When I recovered enough to return to my boat I made my way back down the coast to the anchorage at Bradenton Beach, FL, a little ways south of Tampa Bay. In all the trip was around 800 miles.

I blogged about the trip and posted updates on Facebook as I cruised, but, wintering here at anchor in Bradenton Beach, an idea for a non-fiction, book has been germinating. It has a working title of: Four Feet or Less: A cruising guide for gunkholers.” Gunkholing is a boater’s term for wandering from place to place in shallow water and spending nights at anchor rather than in a marina. The name comes from the gunk, or mud, in creeks, coves, marshes, and rivers. “Boondocking” is the term used by RVers for a similar “off the grid” experience on land.

MOVING AHEAD

In order to finish researching the book I need to revisit many of the places I anchored before to gather more detailed information. To do this successfully I need some extra equipment. Subsisting entirely on Social Security alone it’s nearly impossible to put much aside after paying for dumb stuff like, oh, FOOD, meds, phone. What I need, in order of necessity, are: 1) a reliable, second outboard motor 2) a Go Pro-style action camera 3) a small drone so I can take aerial photos of many of the anchorages.

I need the outboard because I can’t sail anymore. My hands are too painfully gnarled from arthritis to haul on halyards and wrestling with flapping sails leaves me on my hands and knees gasping for air. In the roughly 800 miles I traveled in the past year I only actually sailed the boat about 4 times. Either there was NO wind, there was TOO MUCH wind for a 22 foot boat, or the wind was on the nose and it would have taken too long to tack my way to the next anchorage.

Since many of the places I need to return to are often out of cell phone range and far from the rescue services of Boat US or Sea Tow, a reliable second engine is a safety factor, not a luxury. I’m NOT looking to buy a NEW outboard. A second hand 6 to 9.9 hp two-stroke engine will do just fine. Good USED outboards run about $800 to $1,000. I already have a second outboard bracket on the transom.

I need an action camera because they’re waterproof. I took a lot of photos on my last trip but used it sparingly so it wouldn’t get it wet and be ruined. Again, I’m NOT looking for a top of the line model, just one that will take reasonably sharp photos under all conditions. These cost around $250.

A drone that can carry that action camera aloft for photos of the anchorages would be fantastic! I have photo editing programs I can use to mark routes to the anchorages. A decent drone would cost about $250.

ADDING IT UP

Altogether I should be able to purchase the equipment I need for around $2,000.

Donations of $25 or more will receive a free electronic edition of Adversity’s Wake: The Calamitous Fourth Voyage of Christopher Columbus.

Donations received above and beyond what is needed for buying the equipment will be donated to the American Lung Association.

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Here’s what I’ve been working on…

When people start a blog they go at it with great vigor, posting daily. Usually they taper off after a while and then they post every now and then. I’m a good, or perhaps poor, example of that kind of blogger. But that doesn’t mean I’m not writing. I am, it’s just not for the blog.

So, what is it I’ve been doing lately? I’ve been re-writing a century-old tale of the sea written by a master, Harry Collingwood. Harry Collingwood is the pen name of William Joseph Cosens Lancaster (1851-1922), the son of a Royal Navy captain and educated at the Naval College, Greenwich. He was at sea from the age of 15 but had to abandon his Royal Navy career because of severe myopia. Between 1886 and 1913, whilst working as a marine engineer specializing in harbor design, he wrote 23 nautically based novels as “Harry Collingwood” which honoured his hero Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood, Nelson’s second in command at Trafalgar. (Source: Historical Naval Fiction).

Collingwoods STORIES are excellent, but the style is old and turgid compared to today’s standards. I think it’s a shame that such good stories are left to wither and die of old age. I find stories like “The Log of a Privateersman” at Project Gutenberg. The copyright has long since expired, and this story is over 100 years old. There are a lot of people who download Public Domain books, slap a preface on them while leaving the old text intact, and then offer them for sale online for as much as they possibly can.

What I do is try and make the book read as though it was written in the 21st century, not the 19th. There is hardly a paragraph that I’ve left intact. And it’s not a fast, slash and burn edit, either. This book, which I’m now going through for the final edit, is well over 400 pages long. Collingwood, while writing vividly about action at sea, rarely gets into descriptions of the characters in his books. Almost never. I try to overcome that deficiency.

What follows are the first couple of paragraphs from the book…Collingwood’s original text and my rewrite.

CHAPTER ONE.

THE CAPTURE OF THE WEYMOUTH–AND WHAT IT LED TO.

The French probably never did a more audacious thing than when, on the

night of October 26th, 1804, a party of forty odd of them left the

lugger _Belle Marie_ hove-to in Weymouth Roads and pulled, with muffled

oars, in three boats, into the harbour; from whence they succeeded in

carrying out to sea the newly-arrived West Indian trader _Weymouth_,

loaded with a full cargo of rum, sugar, and tobacco.  The expedition was

admirably planned, the night chosen being that upon which the new moon

occurred; it was a dismal, rainy, and exceptionally dark night, with a

strong breeze blowing from the south-west; the hour was about two

o’clock a.m.; there was an ebb tide running; and the ship–which had

only arrived late in the afternoon of the previous day–was the outside

vessel in a tier of three; the Frenchman had, therefore, nothing

whatever to do but to cut the craft adrift and allow her to glide,

silent as a ghost, down the harbour with bare poles, under the combined

influence of the strong wind and the ebb tide.  There was not a soul

stirring about the quays at that hour; nobody, therefore, saw the ship

go out; and the two custom-house officers and the watchman–the only

Englishmen aboard her–were fast asleep, and were secured before they

had time or opportunity to raise an alarm.  So neatly, indeed, was the

trick done that the first intimation poor old Peter White–the owner of

the ship and cargo–had of his loss was when, at the first streak of

dawn, he slipped out of bed and went to the window to gloat over the

sight of the safely-arrived ship, moored immediately opposite his house

but on the other side of the harbour, where she had been berthed upon

her arrival on the previous afternoon.  The poor old gentleman could

scarcely credit his eyes when those organs informed him that the berth,

occupied but a few hours previously, was now vacant.  He looked, and

looked, and looked again; and finally he caught sight of the ropes by

which the _Weymouth_ had been moored, dangling in the water from the

bows and quarters of the ships to which she had been made fast.  Then an

inkling of the truth burst upon him, and, hastily donning his clothes,

he rushed downstairs, let himself out of the house, and sped like a

madman down the High Street, across Hope Square, and so on to the Nothe,

in the forlorn hope that the ship, which, with her cargo, represented

the bulk of the savings of a lifetime, might still be in sight.  And to

his inexpressible joy she was; not only so, she was scarcely two miles

off the port, under sail, and heading for the harbour in company with a

British sloop-of-war.  She had been recaptured, and ere the news of her

audacious seizure had reached the ears of more than a few of the

townspeople she was back again in her former berth, and safely moored by

chains to the quay.

It was clear to me, and to the rest of the _Weymouth’s_ crew, when we

mustered that same morning to be paid off, that the incident had

inflicted a terribly severe shock upon Mr White’s nerves.  The poor old

boy looked a good ten years older than when he had boarded us in the

roads on the previous afternoon and had shaken hands with Captain Winter

as he welcomed him home and congratulated him upon having successfully

eluded the enemy’s cruisers and privateers; but there was a fierce

glitter in his eyes and a firm, determined look about his mouth which I,

for one, took as an indication that the fright, severe as it undoubtedly

was, had not quelled the old man’s courage.

It was a miserably rainy night in late October, 1804, when the French lugger Belle Mere hove-to in Weymouth Roads. Silently, three boats were lowered over the side and about forty men, manning muffled oars, snuck into the harbor and boarded the West Indian trader Weymouth loaded with a full cargo of rum, sugar and tobacco that had just arrived the previous afternoon.

The Weymouth was the outside vessel in a tier of three at the dock waiting to be unloaded, so the boarders had nothing more to do when they boarded her then cut her adrift and allow her to glide quietly down the harbor with bare poles influenced by the strong wind and ebb tide.

Because the weather was so foul there wasn’t a soul stirring on the quays at that hour so no one saw the ship leaving. The two customs-house officers and the watchman, the only Englishmen aboard, were fast asleep when the boarding party swarmed over the side of the ship and they were trussed up and gagged before they had a chance to raise an alarm.

The whole operation had been pulled off so smoothly that poor, portly Peter White, the ship’s owner, didn’t know his ship was missing when he got out of bed at the first hint of dawn. He slipped his feet into a pair of slippers and shuffled to his bedroom window to gloat over the sight of his new ship, moored opposite his house on the other side of the harbor. He stared out the window; his mouth opening and closing like a fish’s while his brain tried to process the fact that his pretty ship was missing. He looked, looked again and it finally registered that the ropes that had tethered the Weymouth to the bows and quarters of the ship she’d been tied to the night before were dangling limply into the gray water of Weymouth harbor.

When he finally accepted that his eyes weren’t playing tricks on him he struggled to get into his clothes, hopping first on one foot and then the other as he battled to pull his pants over his heavy, stubby legs and he didn’t bother wasting time trying to don any hose. Huffing and puffing he had little success buttoning his great coat over his massive stomach as he rumbled down High Street, and across Hope Square, scattering fishwives and draymen in his path while leaving a string of oaths distinctly heard above the sound of horse’s hooves and iron-bound wheels rumbling over the cobble stones. Little flecks of white spittle gathered at the corners of his tiny, oddly-shaped mouth as he prayed aloud that the ship, along with her cargo, which represented the bulk of his lifetime savings might, against all hope, still be where she had been when he’d gone to bed the night before. She wasn’t.

Miraculously, though, about two miles off shore, under sail, and headed for the harbor in the company of a British sloop-of-war, was the Weymouth! An hour later she was back in her former berth and made fast to the quay with chains this time, rather than rope.

I had been about 3/4 of the way through this when my old Hewlitt-Packard notebook computer died. I hadn’t been good about backing my work up and lost about 2/3rds of what I’d done. Now I’ve finished the first go-round, backing up to an external drive at the end of each chapter. I’ll run through it once more, adding here, snipping there, and probably around the first of April I’ll put it up for sale.

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The Fog Horn

To my everlasting shame I have a Facebook page. I belong to a couple of Facebook “Groups,” too. One is about the family restaurant, Philbrick’s Snack Shack, that was created by someone who worked for my brother, Jeff, when he owned the place. It was set up for former employees and people who loved the iconic dispenser of the world’s best onion rings.

Another group is for people who grew up on Cape Cod as I did. Today someone posted about how he loved the sound of fog horns. There is plenty of fog on the Cape. This immediately reminded me of a paragraph by the great science-fiction writer Ray Bradbury about fog horns…

“One day many years ago a man walked along and stood in the sound of the ocean on a cold, sunless shore and said, ‘We need a voice to call across the water, to warn ships; I’ll make one. I’ll make a voice like all of time and all the fog that ever was; I’ll make a voice that is like an empty bed beside you all night long, and like an empty house when you open the door, and like trees in autumn with no leaves. A sound like the birds flying south, crying, and a sound like November wind and the sea on the hard cold shore. I’ll make a sound that’s so alone that no one can miss it, that whoever hears it will weep in their soul, and hearths will seem warmer, and being inside will seem better to all who hear it in distant towns. I’ll make me a sound and an apparatus and they’ll call it a foghorn and whoever hears it will know the sadness of eternity and the briefness of life.'”

I doubt that I’ve ever been able to write something as lovely as that.

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Mi Libro en Español

Last night the English Department of the Universidad Latina in David held an event to honor the authors who wrote the books that students translated as a requisite for graduation. I was one of the authors. Before the event Stephany Michell Peñaloza, who translated the first half of my book Despair! The Ill-Fated Last Voyage of the Admiral of the Ocean Sea, presented me with a bound copy of her portion of the book. She received a grade of 100 for her work!

This is Stephany:

She’s as smart as she is beautiful.

I know they say “pride goeth before a fall,” but I think this is pretty damned cool!!!

I don’t know what happened with the other girl, Deyreth, who was translating the other half of the book and Stephany either didn’t know or wouldn’t say. I stayed up late into the night when I got home reading the book.  While it was, of course, in Spanish, I didn’t have a problem reading it because I knew what it said, anyway. It was just neat seeing it in another language.

The event was kind of funny. While it was for the School of English I was stuck at a table with nine people who didn’t speak a word of the language and my meager Spanish was pushed to the breaking point. One of the gentlemen at the table coined a new word, I believe. David is the capitol city of the Province of Chiriqui. Chiriqui is a unique place and I truly believe if the people here had a choice they would choose to be their own independent country.

The residents of the province are referred to as “Chiricanos.” This one gentleman, whose name I don’t remember, asked me where I lived. I said, “Yo soy gringo.” (I’m a gringo.) He laughed and asked if I lived here. I said I did, in Boquerón. “Ah,” he said with a sly smile, “then you’re a ‘Chiringo’.”

I can live with that.

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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 Paint.net 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 Paint.net 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 Paint.net 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?

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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: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/ 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¢. http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2011/02/list-experiment-update.html

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: http://www.amazon.com/Despair-ebook/dp/B004LLIXT4/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1311258431&sr=1-2. 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: Smashwords.com: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/39473 where it’s available for download to a Kindle or Nook reader.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Interesting Sales Info On My Books

As I was finishing my fictionalized account of Christopher Columbus’s ill-fated fourth voyage I knew I was going to publish it as an e-book and not try to have a “traditional” publisher. With 68 summers behind me, and hopefully a bunch more ahead, I knew I didn’t have the time to find an agent who would then try and market it to a publisher and then wait another year of more to actually get it printed and into bookstores. I wanted to get it up and out to the public as fast as possible. That meant going “electronic.”

I knew it was possible to “publish” your own book on Amazon’s Kindle site. But it seems every company that has a “reader” also sells e-books and each has a proprietary format. Besides the Kindle there’s the Barnes & Noble “Nook.”  Apple, of course has a store for it’s iPad, and there’s the Diesel ebook store.

I don’t remember how I stumbled upon the Smashwords site. Probably through a Google search or from reading a blog post about e-book publishing. Smashwords. The brilliance of Smashwords is that if you properly format your book when you submit it to them it converts it to all the different e-book formats and distributes your work to the different booksellers as you can see if you click any of the links above.

Today I checked my Smashwords “sales report” and found some interesting information. It seems I’ve made sales through the Smashwords site as well as Kindle, Barnes & Noble and the Apple Store. What really surprise me was where I’ve made sales. Naturally the U.S. is where most of the sales have come from but I’ve also sold my offerings in Canada, Great Britain and Australia.

By far my best seller is my short story “Sailing Alone To Isla.” It’s priced at 99¢ which is the magic number for “impulse” purchases. Of course at 99¢ the royalty isn’t huge, between 55¢ and 65¢ for each sale, but, believe it or not, that’s generally more than most “traditionally” published authors receive for a $14.99 book!

I’m certainly not getting rich off of these things, but I don’t care. I still think it’s cool that the books are out there and that some people are finding them and actually buying them, even on both sides of the two greatest oceans.

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