Monthly Archives: December 2011

Put a Little Adult Historical Romantic Suspense on Your EReader


Our books don’t quite pigeonhole easily into one genre, so we try to give them descriptions like the one above. The three books featured today are Send a White Rose, The Baron of Larcondale, and Vienta. In the spirit of romance, we include here some excerpts from these three books on the subject of true love. Most people think love is impossible to define but the Scriptures have many examples of people who exemplify true love and serve as examples to fiction writers. Adam called his wife Eve “bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh.” She was a helper suitable for him.

Isaac’s wife was also picked out and brought to him. He had never seen Rebecca before, yet it was love at first sight when they met. Jacob served, in spite of the deception practiced on him, to get his Rachel, and even learned to respect and seek counsel from Leah and his other wives. Solomon wrote of the ultimate love story with his Shulamite, his snapshots full of scents and sounds and images of intimacy within marriage.

From Send a White Rose comes New Mexico Federal Judge Bartholomew Durant’s musings on what a wife should be.

“You’ve always been so unselfish, only wanting to draw me closer to the Lord and see me become more like Him.”

“Judge, I—”

“Let me finish. I have been so blind all these years that I couldn’t see what I needed most. You know I was thinking of choosing a wife before all this happened. After it came I thought I couldn’t burden anyone with caring for me. Now I can do most things for myself, or, at least, Asa thinks I’ll learn to soon. It’s still a lot to ask of someone to take a cripple like myself, but I can’t help but see that I need a woman to be with me, help me, be my guide and friend and lover.”

……………………………………………………………

“I have sent you this rose in the hope that you will remember another, sent as an urgent summons to save my physical life. This one I send in the hope of completing my life. My spirit, my soul, my whole being are incomplete, and I believe you alone can complete them. I have learned a little about being patient, but I hope I have been patient long enough.”

…………………………………………………………..

“I have grown up among a lot of men, and though my mother tried to make a gentleman of me I fear I have forgotten too much of her teaching. I was hoping I could rely on your help to mend my manners, and in general. I think that’s what a wife is for, to be a help where a man most needs help.”

The Baron of Larcondale is set in two neighboring fictional countries, but it still fits the pattern of a historical novel. Tristan of Parangor finds a most unexpected kind of love in the neighboring country of Tarraskida, and is a little reluctant to embrace it, and his future wife.

“Mayra, I would have worked and saved to pay for your freedom, and I would have made you my wife,” Tristan cried, “but now I can’t –”

“You would’ve wed me before you learned what I was,” Mayra said in a flat voice, her dress rustling and her voice retreating upward. “But now you understand that it’s impossible.”

“No, no, you misunderstand! Mayra, What your mistress forced you to do doesn’t matter to me. But I can’t force you to marry me knowing that I will always be helpless and useless and –”

“Oh, my prince, such a thing could never be!” Mayra laughed out loud, startling Tristan and confusing him utterly. ” … She had knelt before him again, and taken his hand in hers, twirling the ring on his finger as she had done that other time.

“I –I did –” Tristan faltered, feeling the softness of her fingers, the warmth of her touch, smelling her fragrance, and seeing in an instant her beautiful face before his mind’s eye, clear and luminous in the overwhelming darkness.

Mayra’s hand touched the hollow of his throat, pushed his hair aside, smoothed her fingers over his shoulder.

“You and I together, we will see, my prince,” Mayra said in a low, earnest voice. “I didn’t dare to speak until I knew you loved me – ”

“I’ve always loved you, Mayra,” Tristan groaned. “That’s why I didn’t want to –”

“Shh,” Mayra whispered. She put her hand on his lips. “Master Thomas,” she called. Tristan heard someone come into the room. “My prince is ready to make me his princess, now. I’ve helped him see, just as I promised. Just as I always will.”

Vienta is set in Texas between the time of the battles at the Alamo and at Monterrey. Hamilton Jessup enters into an empty marriage contract but before long finds himself not only falling in love with his sham wife, but daring to hope she has done the same.

“My boy, there is nothing more important than the right woman,” Ham said fervently. “God made Eve for Adam. Abraham’s Sarah was still turning the heads of kings at ninety. Rebecca just hopped off a camel and Isaac loved her. Solomon’s wives turned his heart from the Lord and brought down the wisest king the world ever had. The right woman can give you something to do your job for. The wrong one can destroy you. Women are so powerful. Women are so wonderful. Sure, they’re dangerous, but only if they’re bad ones. It’s up to you to keep your eyes on the prize – the job to be done and the woman just past the end of it who is your very great reward. I’m not saying your woman is Angelita. I just don’t want you to be so sure you don’t need one.”

……………………………………………………………

“Mrs. Jessup,” Ham said finally, finding that the words stuck in his throat and he felt most unworthy to say them, “I was wondering if we could talk about something. I was telling Zachary I’m keeping my eyes on the prize but the truth is I don’t know if there really is one for me. You being the prize I mean. You’ve said you only have eyes for me but that sounded like a joke. I want you to understand this is the one thing I don’t want to joke about. I love you. I want to marry you, especially now that you’re a believer.”

……………………………………………………………

“I don’t know much about astronomy, but I hear there are supposed to be twin stars that always keep together in the same orbit. Maybe we can be content to be like that, always remembering how we’re not worthy of that other bright star sailing over there through Heaven, but knowing God made us to go on together. Think we can do that?”

Maeve sprang out of her chair and threw herself into Ham’s arms. He embraced her also, breathed her in, kissed her, and then set her carefully back down in the chair.

“There, now,” he said with a sigh. “Zachary was right. Sometimes a woman can keep you from thinking about the job.”

Let God show you a little true love this Christmas with one, two, or even all three, of these non-formula romances.

Here’s another author’s book and trailer links:

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Filed under Excerpts from our Fiction Books, Uncategorized, Writing, Reviewing, Publishing, and about Blogging

Review of Karis by R.M. Strong

We all need heroes, and some of us even need to be heroes. The vigilante seeking justice is certainly not a new or original idea, but R.M. Strong has put, for me, a highly desirable twist on it with the story teenaged Tamara Weatherby. I’ll talk about the twist shortly. Tamara’s family and scores of others fall victim to a deranged bad-guy, Nothos, who uses gasses to force his victims to fear him but normally does not kill. He takes hostages, makes demands, and releases them. This time, however, when costumed crimefighters Krino and Krisis do not make an appearance (the police commissioner forbids them), Nothos uncharacteristically shoots everyone in the art museum. Tamara ends up being the only survivor.

I have to state that I believe this story is handled clumsily and the whys and wherefores of the plot elements are sometimes not explained at all. Sometimes the explanations just don’t satisfy. The book includes a lot of social commentary, about the rich and how people treat (but should not treat) them, but it doesn’t give the right answers for change. It also gives its heroine too much power and “attitude” for my taste.

Several times the point is made that Tamara should have a “female figure” in her life but it’s made weakly and shouted down. It shouldn’t have been. Questions about her new living arrangements and threats against her purity are dealt with too lightly for my taste. I wish the character Kuria had been developed more and put into that “female figure” role. I think that would have been a great help. Even her “disability” would have been an intriguing plot element.

The book ends at an odd place, even understanding that it begins a series. There was a potentially great climax point and though it wasn’t handled as well as it could have, it would have made a better ending.

The twist Strong puts on this is to add Christianity into the mix. Karis, the title character, goes through the same struggles all budding crimefighters do: the sense of loss, the realization that her ordinary friends can’t offer her the sympathy and understanding she wants, the rage and thirst for revenge. But over and over she is forced to examine her feelings, her actions, her decisions, and those of others, in the light of God’s Word and her upbringing in a Christian home with active church involvement. Christian readers need to know that there is some profanity, but a pleasing evangelistic and Christian growth emphasis balanced that out for me. There are also two pretty strong instances of attempted rape, clearly presented as evil and wrong.

R.M. Strong as an author and Karis as a character don’t always make the right decisions in this book. We all fail, and can learn from our failures to turn them into opportunities for growth. I am certainly not saying this book is a complete failure. It is an opportunity for growth, and a hopeful sign in a world, and a writing genre, where Christianity is so marginalized. The author seems to have promise of growth as a writer, and here’s hoping Karis will grow along with her.

I give it three stars

Also, here is a link to a blogger interview for our writing:

http://vickiejohnstone.blogspot.com/2011/12/words-with-mary-campagna-findley.html

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Historical Fiction for the Young and the Young Adult

Writing fiction for and/or about children (roughly eight to fifteen years of age) is a tricky business. It is easy to appeal to their vivid imaginations, their need to be “special,” accepted by peers, to become independent of adults, and to explore relationships with the opposite sex. None of these popular topics for children’s books is really appropriate or necessary, however, in the way they are usually treated, and sometimes they shouldn’t be a topic for this age level at all.

Books and movies that give children unusual powers are extremely popular. Harry Potter is a wizard. The Animorphs series had children changing into animals. In a recent movie young people are the children of ancient gods. These children are definitely “special,” but in most cases these powers give them a license to avoid adult control, to get revenge on people they perceive as enemies, and give them an arbitrary superiority over others. They do not learn obedience, submission, or reliance upon the true God. They learn self-centeredness, contempt for adults who aren’t as powerful as they are, and are convinced that the world is full of arbitrary happenings with no purpose or design.

Being accepted by peers seems essential for happiness, but the reality is that your peers are immature, sinful, change their minds about what they want from you frequently, and rarely understand or care about the essential concepts of self-control, self-sacrifice or especially reliance upon the true God. Only people with experience in life can teach these things, and they are adults. Children must respect and take advice from adults, not despise them and think they are old-fashioned, out of touch or too narrow-minded.

Becoming independent from adults is something of a myth. Yes, children grow to adulthood, leave home, get jobs, and live lives apart from their parents, but they don’t do that successfully without reliance on wise and godly counsel. In most children’s books today the main character finds the adults he deals with outright stupid, disgusting, indecisive, or too far away (sometimes dead) to do any good. Mark Twain popularized the philosophy that children need to get away from the adults in their lives. Aunt Polly is dictatorial. Tom Sawyer deserves his freedom. Huckleberry Finn thinks of his abduction by his father as an escape of sorts from the confining life he finds with the Widow Douglas, but his father is an abusive drunk from whom he also ends up escaping.

Are there any really good adults in Mark Twain’s books for children? Jim, the Negro slave with whom Huck takes his raft trip, is hardly a conventional adult, and this is the key to understanding the “right” kind of adult in modern children’s books. There is no issue with his being black, as far as his fitness as an adult is concerned. But he is a being apart in the children’s perception Jim knows magic, like charms to get rid of warts and how to divine the future from a hairball. He is childlike in his approach to life, and he wants to be free as much as the children do. Of course slaves needed to be freed, but this is almost irrelevant in the treatment of Jim in Mark Twain’s books.

Huck’s decision to go to Hell rather than return Jim to slavery sounds noble on the surface, but he is wrong in the foundation of his thinking. He has no conception of what the Scriptures teach or do not teach about slavery. In fact his whole perception of Christianity is based on willful ignorance. Church is a plague of boredom and a prison. Reading or studying anything is punishment to these free spirits, so reading the Bible to find out true and right thinking is out of the question. Huck and Tom reason things out in their heads and they are “right.” There is no perfect standard, just whatever they think.

Most modern fiction has relationships with the opposite sex starting very early, and they are not friendships. Some are quite innocent, but sexuality is no foundation for a children’s book. No child is “wise beyond his years” enough to make his own decisions about having sex, getting abortions, or dressing to attract the opposite sex. This is selfishness and self-deception. If you have to sneak around and hide a relationship from parents because they wouldn’t approve, it’s wrong. Sometimes a distracting device is used, like making the issue of parental disapproval one of race or social position so that it seems justified to hide it. But the issue is sex without maturity or marriage or responsibility, not whatever smokescreen the author tries to throw up in front of the reader’s face.

These are just some of the issues to consider in writing for children. Paramount is to make sure readers receive solid training in the Scriptures. They will end up like Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn if given their “freedom,” ignorant of everything that really matters and reliant on flawed human reason to survive.

Benny and the Bank Robber begins a Youth and Young Adult Historical Adventure. Benny Richardson loses his father at the age of ten and travels from Philadelphia to frontier Missouri in the 1800’s. Though his story includes riverboats and rafts, it is a very different one from Tom Sawyer’s. Both Tom and Huck would have scoffed at the verse that keeps bringing Benny back to remember what all of us must take to heart, God’s promise, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”

Young Adult Fiction is roughly aimed at people in their late teens to late twenties. This is a time when they are essentially adults, but may still be under the authority of parents or other adults. Stories for this age group frequently focus on independence, the freedom to make choices about the future, and especially love relationships. Too often these immensely popular books only reinforce the secularist idea that human reason can provide answers to these critical issues of entering adulthood.

Many young people in books want a complete break from parents, to “Shake off the dust of this crummy little town,” as George Bailey wished to do in the movie It’s a Wonderful Life. They want “adventure in the great wide somewhere,” like Belle in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. They have dreams and wishes for a future doing what makes them happy. Unfortunately, secularist society has ill-prepared them to face the reality that you can’t always do what you dream, that you have to get a job that makes money, that college is often bankruptingly expensive, and that true love is not easy to recognize and true lust is all too common.

The Twilight series of books and movies focuses on the dilemma of a young woman. She’s in love with a vampire. Vampires are epidemic in young adult fiction and it’s simply shameful how often they are portrayed as the “forbidden fruit,” the lover a young woman can’t resist. Dracula in the Bram Stoker novel (not any of the movie or spinoff reinventions) was irresistible to women, but he was portrayed as evil and it was clear that a relationship with him didn’t end well.

How dare writers say that damnation is worth it to have the ultimate love? They don’t even know what damnation is. They think it’s a sad state that can be altered. Vampires (aka demons) can regain their souls. It’s the gospel according to Buffy. People can make deals with the devil and then weasel out of them. There is no knowledge of the Scriptures in any of these twisted fairy tales. They tell lies about the nature of the soul, man’s ability to save himself or others, and say that true love fulfilled is worth any risk.

Homosexuality is also a popular subject for this age group. Even if you don’t practice it, you must be tolerant of it, embrace it. Girls must make a gay guy their shopping buddy. But you should at least experiment with it. Really mature adults have at least tried “swinging both ways,” and people like “Captain Jack” in the Dr. Who/Torchwood SciFi series are so cool. Note that there’s more than a hint of bestiality when Twilight turns to the subject of werewolves as boyfriends. Positive portrayals of sexual perversions are becoming so pervasive in young adult fiction that no one can say this is pure entertainment. It is indoctrination in sexual wickedness no young person should subject himself to. It should not be the mission of this group to break down every traditional barrier possible before the age of thirty.

The corporate world is a place young college graduates dream of entering. Rich, powerful, successful people ooze out of boardrooms and why wouldn’t we want to be just like them? Yet that culture is openly portrayed as being selfish, utterly materialistic, living in debt to impress, counting on the next big deal and willing to lie, cheat, steal or sleep with anyone to get it.

There are, however, simple principles to guide what you should write about for young adults and also to help them choose what they should read. Self-control, self-sacrifice, never believing that things happen without a Designer behind them, even things that seem bad. Get these new adults out of themselves and into a work ethic. No more shopping for thousand dollar purses and five hundred dollar shoes (or shoplifting them because you’ve got to have them.) No more joining a gang or becoming a prostitute because it’s the only way you can live. No more “attitude.” Practice humility, purity, hard work, and love your family and your God. No obsessions with death, the supernatural and the occult. Demons are real, but we fight them through God’s Word, not with sharpened sticks. And we don’t fall in love with them. We fall in love with the Lord, with people of like precious faith, and with reality in serving God and not ourselves.

Benny and the Bank Robber Two: Doctor Dad takes Benny through the troubles and delays of his mother’s remarriage, a boarding school with a deadly secret society, and a Christmas ending where Benny has to remind friends and family, even at the cost of losing them, that Christ came into the world with nothing to be the Prince of Peace.

Hope and the Knight of the Black Lion has no vampires, werewolves, or budding sorcerers. It does have a mysterious returned crusader who alone believes Hope’s tale of a scheming kidnapper and pledges his life and honor to the cause of getting her justice. This book is also available with illustrations in the style of a medieval manuscript. Click on the page link “Illuminated Hope and the Knight of the Black Lion” above to see a gallery of images from the book. Your Kindle Fire or other color e-reader is waiting for this one!

P.S. — Giving a shout-out to some great folks from the Indie Writers Unite Facebook page who graciously encouraged, offered space for interviews, gave links and excerpt space. I can’t necessarily endorse all their books or content, but I  so much appreciated their “uppers” when I was down!

http://www.shewrites.com/profile/ChristineDeMaioRice

http://www.sarahwoodbury.com/?page_id=3923

vickiejohnstone.blogspot.com/

http://jm-harrison.com/2011/12/19/a-story-for-the-holidays/

http://thereforyoumelissa.blogspot.com/

http://freebookreviews.blogspot.com/

http://www.indiedesignz.com/blog/

www.mad-gods.com

http://www.liafairchild.com/?p=472

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Kindle Keyboard Compared to Kindle Fire

Michael’s further observations on the two devices:

In May 2011 our son bought me a Kindle. Though we own hundreds of paperbound print books, this one device has almost completely replaced our entire library. Print books are just too large and bulky. All but a handful are now in storage. We use our laptops for study because we can multitask, use a full size keyboard with keyboard commands to quickly look at multiple open books, surf the web and use the larger color screen.

But for simply reading a book, a laptop is too large and bulky. The Kindle is the size of a small print book and just as easy to read. As with any new device, the navigation menu and buttons take some getting used to. We have taken our Keyboard Kindle with us into restaurants, on walks, to read in bed, and just about anywhere else you can think of.

We bought our Kindle Fire about three weeks ago. The Fire is Mary’s Christmas present. The first problem we had with the Fire was finding a WiFi to which we could connect so that we could register it. We bought the Fire just South of Madison, Wisconsin, and were unable to find a WiFi until a McDonalds in Fargo, ND. We have rarely even tried to use the Fire for apps, video, surfing the web or music. All we use the Fire for is reading books. The touch keypad is slow and awkward, but unimportant. If you want a Galaxy or iPad, then spend three times as much money for a Galaxy or iPad.

Compared to an iPad, the touch features are awkward and slow. Compared to the keys on a keyboard Kindle, the touch features are a wonderful blessing. The size of the screen is almost perfect. The larger reading area compared to the keyboard Kindle is an improvement and the lighted screen is great. It makes reading in the dark easy. The reduced battery life is not so great. Once we had the registration issues straightened out, which took weeks, ordering books off the laptop’s aircard and transferring them to the Kindle is easy.

What I like most about the Kindle Fire is the lighted color screen, the cost, the ease of use and the number of books it stores. What I dislike is the “fat finger” problem, the working icons that are too small; the short battery life and difficulty finding a WiFi connection.

In addition:

We have actually learned more about how the Kindles work since getting the Fire, since the controls are easier to use in touch-mode. Our disappointingly small illustrations in or books jump to full-screen with a couple of touches on the Fire, and this feature is also available with buttons on the keyboard model.  The dictionary function we knew about, but there is actually a dictionary for Greek words in Michael’s Interlinear Septuagint and Koine Greek New Testament books.

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Books for All Kinds of Readers (Devices and People) Part One: Non-Fiction

Recently I joined my first forum claiming to be especially for Christians. I won’t name it, but I will say in my brief experience poking around over the last few days I am amazed at the wide variety of people who post on a Christian forum, and what they post. There are Pro-Choice Christians on there. There are Harry Potter fans on there. There are skeptics on there. There are people lamenting the death of Christopher Hitchens, an avowed atheist and and author of, among many other things, the book “God Is Not Great.”

I posted on my Facebook page the following status on the day I heard that news. “Christopher Hitchens, author of the book ‘God Is Not Great,’ has died. He knows better now, I think.” A pastor friend said how sad it was that he had died without Christ. I responded, “It is not as if he was misled or deceived in the way that some are, worthy of pity. I wish no one had to go to Hell, but such as he send themselves there. No one makes them go.”

The pastor took me to task, basically, for being unloving and apparently not having the heart of God. I am not unloving. It is sad, and saddens God, I am certain, when the unsaved die unrepentant, but once they actually are where they do “know better,” my tears cannot bring them back. Let me spend them on the still-living unsaved, please, and my prayers as well, rather than browbeating me over the ones who now know better but are past doing anything about it.

We have known so many people who were not atheists, who professed Christianity, but of a very different brand from mine. We know God will sort it out. We have to take them at face value, yet be a “Fruit Inspector,” and try to discern from God’s Word what We should be before Christ. We also have to try to minister to Christians. The talents with which we believe God has led us to minister include our writing and our ability to create our website, our e-books and blog, and to try to make people aware of them.

Back to the posters on the Christian forum. Most importantly to us, regarding the different kinds of Christians we have encountered, there are people on that site, quite a number of people, asking where they can find Christian fiction and non-fiction on there. Many people recommended classic authors of Christian fiction and non-fiction, like C.S. Lewis, who wrote both, but we have a more modern recommendation to make.

Since it’s the week before Christmas, we hope you’re giving or getting an e-reader, and we hope you’ll consider some of our books to help fill it up. Our posts this week will, we hope, give you a push in the right direction.

First of all we have non-fiction. Included on this blog are posts that are excerpts from Antidisestablishmentarianism, our non-fiction book about Secular Humanism, its history, and our future if we don’t disestablish it as our established religion in America and most of the rest of the world.

https://elkjerkyforthesoul.wordpress.com/images-from-illustrated-antidisestablishmentarianism/ is a photo gallery of images from the illustrated version of the book.

https://elkjerkyforthesoul.wordpress.com/2011/09/05/introduction-to-antidisestablishmentarianism/ is the preface to the book.

https://elkjerkyforthesoul.wordpress.com/2011/09/22/introduction-to-antidisestablishmentarianism-2/ is the introduction to the book.

https://elkjerkyforthesoul.wordpress.com/2011/09/30/chapter-fourteen-from-antidisestablishmentarianism-what-does-the-scientific-evidence-prove/ is an abbreviated version of Chapter Fourteen of the book,

https://elkjerkyforthesoul.wordpress.com/2011/10/08/secular-humanism-americas-establishment-of-religion/ is from Chapter Six.

The unillustrated version of Antidisestablishmentarianism  is 4.99, and the Illustrated version (200 full-color, full-page illustrations of major points) is 9.99.

Our second non-fiction title is Biblical Studies, student and teacher editions, designed especially for homeschoolers. Homeschooling curriculum can be expensive and our curriculum is designed to help with that problem. Both versions are over 600 pages long, with illustrated portions, materials for all ages, Old Testament, New Testament, background historical studies, and more.

Our YouTube Channel, ffvp5657, has free videos correlated with many of the studies, including full 3D animated Jonah and Ruth video studies with digital puppets giving commentary. The Revelation video set alone has more than 30 ten-minute segments. The student manual is 4.99. The Teacher’s Manual has the full Student Text, answer keys, and extra projects. It is 99 cents. A new photo gallery in the blog, “Images from Biblical Studies,” linked at the top with the blog’s pages, has pictures from this curriculum.

The links on the right side of the page go to Smashwords and Amazon, where you can read more details about all our books, and see more samples. We hope this season you will consider adding to your library of Christian reading.

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Part Three: Your Book, Where It Should Go, How It Will Look

Our e-publishing journey now comes to the formats and how your book will look in each one. Smashwords has great information on this topic from a mechanics standpoint. As a previous post we made on the subject said, https://elkjerkyforthesoul.wordpress.com/2011/10/19/the-hows-and-whys-of-e-books/ , although almost all devices can read the pdf format, consider that people might get your books on anything from a full-screen laptop to a pretty small smart phone. A pdf will look wonderful on that laptop screen. It’ll seem a lot like a real book, except for not being able to turn the pages. But if you try to cram that pdf image into your iPhone, the latest model brags about having a 3.5″ diagonal display, and it seems unlikely that it will look just right. Even in a traditional Kindle, pdfs do not really work all that well.

It is possible to convert a pdf into a format that the smaller machines can display. Calibre is one progam that makes file conversions. It is even free. If you have an HTML version of your document, the conversion is even easier. The question is, will a reader go to the trouble of doing that? Some will, but most will want a document that they can just open up and begin reading. So it is a good idea to make your document available in multiple formats, so that all the trouble your prospective customer has to go to is to get the right one off the internet and into his device.

This is what makes Smashwords such a great e-book creation site. You upload a simple Microsoft Word document. Smashwords runs it through the Meatgrinder and produces HTML (good for computer reading), JavaScript, mobi (Kindle format) EPub, which as Smashwords says on its site, works on “Apple iPad/iBooks, Nook, Sony Reader, Kobo, and most e-reading apps including Stanza, Aldiko, Adobe Digital Editions, others.” The Meatgrinder also churns out RTF, PDF, LRF for older Sony readers, PDB (Palm Document files), and two versions of plain text.

Please bear in mind that although you as the author can download any format of your book for free, you cannot redistribute these files on other sites where you can upload and sell your works. Smashwords creates them, doesn’t charge you anything, puts you into premium distribution, and asks in return only that you don’t re-use the files the Meatgrinder creates. You might say, “But it’s my book.” That’s kind of like an architect making plans to build one house and someone stealing and using those plans to build a bunch more houses. And you didn’t even pay Smashwords like you paid the architect. Nope. Can’t do it. Sorry.

Smashwords also gives you coupon codes so you can give copies away for free. This is useful for reviewers and for contests or promotionals. Instead of just pricing your book at free, which you can do on Smashwords, just offer a coupon, so that you know who’s getting your book. Amazon makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to get your book priced “free,” and they don’t give any copies away otherwise. You have to buy your own book yourself if you want to be sure it was formatted correctly.

Smashwords premium distribution gets you into Barnes and Noble and the iBookstore, among others. Customers can buy the mobi format from them to read on a Kindle. Even so, Amazon clearly has the largest and most successful marketing apparatus, and your best chance to be noticed and purchased is on Amazon. Many authors have chosen to pull their books from general distribution and make them exclusive under Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing Select plan. Indie authors in all the forums and discussion sites I belong to are extremely polarized about this. It is a personal decision, but the author must be sure to read and understand the agreement thoroughly. It’s not a boilerplate terms of use like we all unthinkingly agree to get on many sites to promote our books.

https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/help?ie=UTF8&topicId=APILE934L348N#Select

Please read the entire agreement carefully, and especially pay attention to these two points.

1 Exclusivity. When you include a Digital Book in KDP Select, you give us the exclusive right to sell and distribute your Digital Book in digital format while your book is in KDP Select. During this period of exclusivity, you cannot sell or distribute, or give anyone else the right to sell or distribute, your Digital Book (or content that is reasonably likely to compete commercially with your Digital Book, diminish its value, or be confused with it), in digital format in any territory where you have rights.

 

5 Your Commitment. Your commitment to these terms and conditions is important, and the benefits we provide to you as part of this option are conditioned on your following through on your commitments. If you un-publish your Digital Book, we will remove it from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, but you must continue to comply with these commitments, including exclusivity, through the remainder of the Digital Book’s then-current 90-day period of participation in KDP Select. If you don’t comply with these KDP Select terms and conditions, we will not owe you Royalties for that Digital Book earned through the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library Program, and we may offset any of those Royalties that were previously paid against future Royalties, or require you to remit them to us. We may also withhold your Royalty payments on all your Digital Books for a period of up to 90 days while we investigate. This doesn’t limit other remedies we have, such as prohibiting your future participation in KDP Select or KDP generally.

Remember, all you’re getting is inclusion in the lending program for Amazon Prime Members. In return, it seems to me that you’re giving up a lot, and taking a big risk that Amazon can deny you royalties and revenue if you don’t do exactly what they say.

But there’s nothing wrong with having your books in the KDP program generally. In fact, the Kindle is a great reader, and your books will look fantastic on it. We have both the Kindle Keyboard model and the Kindle Fire. Both are great readers and both are easy to use and look wonderful. I prefer the Kindle Fire display because it allows the full screen illustrations we have created for our two illustrated books to show in full color and full size. And the ease of buying (or getting free) the bunches and bunches of books Amazon has for Kindle is hard to beat.

http://reviews.cnet.com/2300-3126_7-10010211.html

Here is a link to CNET’s Kindle Fire review and the screenshots they show. It really does look that good. Fun to read in bed, and, though the battery only lasts about 4 hours, compared to the keyboard model’s lifespan of a month or more, it’s the perfect in-bed reader.

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The Camel’s Complaint: A Christmas Puppet Play

Our Christmas gift to all: A puppet play I wrote some years ago. Merry Christmas!

The Camel’s Complaint

Characters:
Caliph the Camel
Hannah the Horse
Daniel the Donkey
Lucius the Lion
Ollie the Ox
Sarah the Sheep

Scene One|
Setting: Desert oasis. Palm trees, green plants such as aloe, yucca, water hole off to side. Tents visible in background.
Lighting: Outdoor sunset.
At Rise: Hannah enters left, whinnies loudly. Caliph stumbles on behind her, sinks down, begins to snore.

Hannah: Caliph! Caliph! Wake up, great ship of the desert!

Caliph (Grumbling, not looking up): May a thousand fleas make their nests in your tail. Can’t you be quiet?

(Daniel enters right.)

Daniel: Ah, the most beautiful flower of the desert. What’s the matter, Hannah?

Hannah: Caliph won’t get up again, Daniel. The caravan’s going to leave without him.

Daniel: They won’t leave without that sorry excuse for a camel.  Remember what he’s carrying?

Hannah: but he’s got to get up. He’s making us lose time every day. What if we’re too late?

Daniel: Get up, son of a sand-slug. Caliph! You ought to be ashamed of yourself.

Caliph: It’s fine if you want to keep walking all night, every night. This load of mine is much too heavy.

Daniel: It should be heavy. That’s gold you’re carrying, O grandfather of grouches.

Caliph: Sand for breakfast, dust for lunch, cactus spines for supper. What a life! I’ve had enough.

Daniel: You haven’t got any choice. Our masters are headed for Judea. I know that much.

Caliph: Why Judea? The whole place smells like Caesar’s armpits.

Hannah: They follow the Star.

Caliph: The sky is full of stars! Can’t they pick one going to the Caspian Sea Resort? I need a vacation!

Daniel: I’ve heard them talk about a new King.

Hannah: This King is greater than Herod or Caesar, the masters say. They call Him the King of kings.

Caliph: Humph! All I know is, my load’s too heavy and I’m tired of walking. I don’t care about any king of kings. See you at the waterhole. (Caliph exits left.)

Hannah: What if we miss the King of kings, Daniel?

Daniel: We’ll have to think of a way to hurry Caliph up. Hmmm … I have an idea. Follow me. (Both exit left.)

Scene Two
Lighting: Desert sunrise.
Setting: Similar to scene one, but plants, etc., rearranged to show it is a different location.
At Rise: Caliph runs onstage from left.

Caliph: We can make another few miles before it gets too hot. Come on, come on!

(Hannah and Daniel stagger onstage behind Caliph, panting, exhausted.)

Daniel: Caliph, stop! We’ve got to rest! You mangy, flea-bitten son of a jackal, stop! (collapses)

Caliph: Is that lion still following us?

Hannah: Oh, Caliph, there isn’t any lion! Daniel made up that story to scare you so we could go faster!

(Caliph stops dead, turns, butts heads with Daniel.)

Caliph: No lion?

Daniel: No lion, Caliph.

Caliph: I ran all night long, and now you tell me there’s no lion? Why I should —

Daniel: Go ahead. I’m so tired I don’t care what you do.

Caliph: Fortunately for you, my long-eared friend, I am also too tired. But I’ll have my revenge. (Caliph lies down heavily, and begins to snore.)

Hannah: We certainly made up for lost time today, Daniel. It was a good idea.

Daniel: We’ll be in Jerusalem tomorrow night. Get some sleep, fairest Hannah. King of kings, here we come.

(He gives her a peck on the nose. She nuzzles him, and they go to sleep. Lucius the Lion enters quietly from right and looks at the three sleeping animals, walks all around them, sniffing, and stops over Caliph. Caliph suddenly snorts, shaking his head with a loud jingle of bells. Lucius runs off right. A distant roar is heard offstage. Caliph jumps up.)

Caliph (Whispering): What was that? It couldn’t be. Could it? (He looks around fearfully, then drops off to sleep again. After a pause, lighting dims to signify sunset, and animals get up and exit.)

Scene Three
Setting: Bethlehem. Stable with hay in manger, buildings visible at sides.
Lighting: Night outdoor in town.
At Rise: Ollie and Sarah enter, munching.

Ollie: By all the boils on Job’s back, I’m glad it’s calmed down around here, Sarah.

Sarah: It was a madhouse during that census, wasn’t it, Ollie? So many strange animals and  people.

Ollie: Even people staying in the stables with us! And giving birth to babies, by every pair of unclean animals on the ark!

Sarah: What a strange place for the Lamb of God to be born. But I’m glad we got to see Him.

Ollie: Yes, indeed, but it’s better for Him to be living in a house, by all the salt in Elisha’s cruise.

Sarah: Ollie, I heard a lion last night.

Ollie: By the four hundred prophets of Baal, Sarah, this is Bethlehem — civilization. A lion! Don’t be silly.

Sarah: I know I heard it. It was scary. Ollie! There it is!

(Caliph runs onstage right, pushes between Sarah and Ollie, tries to hide.)

Ollie: By all the water in the Red Sea, I’ll have my horns in you, you — CAMEL?

Caliph: Hide me! Hide me, quick! I’ll be dead and lying in a sand-swept grave if I go back to that caravan!

Sarah: You scared us half to death! Who are you, and what are you doing here?

Caliph: I am Caliph, son of Casbah, son of Cashmir, heir to the royal line of blue-blooded Bactrian —

Ollie: Spare us the pedigree. By all the soldiers in David’s army, what are you doing in our stable?

Caliph (munching a mouthful of hay): Enjoying your fabulous fodder. I’ve run away from a caravan. They were bound for Jerusalem, but I gave them the slip in Jericho. I’m a free camel! Ha – ha – ha – ha – ha! Eh — by the way, where am I?

Ollie: Out in the cold, by all the Philistines Samson killed! (He shoves Caliph with his horns.) We’re done feeding strangers, thank you very much.

Caliph: Ouch! Those horns are sharp! Am I bleeding? You’ll be hearing from my attorneys!

Sarah: We work for our food, you silly camel. If you want our master to feed you, maybe you could help him at his inn.

Caliph: Work! I’m through working! But I do have something that will make your master take care of me for the rest of my life. My packs are full of gold!

Sarah: Gold! You ran away with your master’s gold? Stay out of our stable. This is where the Lamb of God was born.

Caliph: Well … it wasn’t really my master’s gold. It was for some King … the King … uh … the King of … a king of … some sort.

Ollie: That’s all we need — someone who steals a king’s gold. You get out of here, or by all the spices of Sheba’s queen, you’ll need more than an attorney when I get through with you! Go on, get out!

(Ollie jabs Caliph again. Caliph runs off right. Ollie and Sarah exit left.)

Scene Four
Setting: Barren desert. No plants of any kind except dead brush. Jagged rocks.
Lighting: bright daylight.
At Rise: Caliph stumbles on from left, falls exhausted.

Caliph (gasping): No food … no water … this pack … still on my back. How could things get worse?

(Lucius enters right, stands directly over Caliph, sniffs him. Caliph slowly looks up, then jumps away.)

Caliph: Aaaah! Now I’m going to be lion lunch! I knew it could get worse!

Lucius: You must get back to the caravan at once.

Caliph: Oh, O get it. I’m hallucinating. You’re just a mirage of a lion, right?

Lucius: The Lion of Judah is in great danger. You must get the gold to Him.  He will need it to escape.  Do not let the Enemy win! Go! Go!

(Lucius roars and chases Caliph offstage left. Roaring continues, then fades away.)

Scene Five
Setting: Bethlehem stable as before.
Lighting: Night in town.
At Rise: Ollie and Sarah enter left, heads nod, they fall asleep. Lucius enters quietly from right, comes up to Ollie.

Lucius: Where is the Lion of Judah?

Ollie (Startled awake, he snorts and waves his horns.): What? Keep away! By all the straw in Pharaoh’s bricks, there’ll be no mutton or porterhouse for you tonight, lion!

Lucius: The Lion of Judah! Quickly! Where is He?

Sarah (cringing): You’re the only lion we’ve seen.

Lucius: He was born in this very place not long ago. A baby — the travelers from Nazareth. Where is He?

Ollie: By every grain of feed in Joseph’s brothers’ sacks, He’s well-guarded from hungry lions.

Lucius: I do not want to eat Him, my foolish friends. I only want —

Lighting: Star appears in sky above set, fills scene with bright light.

Lucius: Ah! It is the sign. They will find Him now.

Ollie: Who are you?

Lucius: My name is Lucius. The Star and I are both sent to lighten that which is dark. You and your fleecy friend have helped the One Who has come. Others will help Him too.  Even stubborn old Caliph. We will see Him safely all the way. I must go now and make sure my reluctant friend has returned to his duty. Farewell, Ollie and Sarah.

(Lucius exits right.)

Ollie: The Lion of Judah? Didn’t you call Him the Lamb of God, Sarah — that baby, I mean?  By all the stones in Solomon’s temple, I —

(Ollie and Sarah exit left, talking. Daniel and Hannah enter right.)

Daniel: I can’t believe Caliph would really run away.  We came all this way to find the King of Kings, and Caliph ran off with the most important gift of all.

Hannah: Our masters are so sad.  This may be the town where we will find Him — the star stopped right here, but without the gold —

(Faint sound of roaring. Caliph runs in left, panting.)

Caliph: The lion! Is it still after me? I’ve been running and running, but I couldn’t get away! I — Daniel! Hannah!  Look out! There’s a lion! It chased me all the way across the desert! Run!

Hannah: Caliph! You’re back! Is the gold safe?

Caliph: Gold! How can you think of gold at a time like this?  Our lives are in danger! Didn’t you hear me say there’s a lion chasing me?

Daniel: I told you that story wasn’t true, Caliph. How could you run away with the gold? It was a gift for the King of kings!

Caliph: The gold is perfectly safe, strapped to my back, weighing at least ten thousand pounds — it would have been safe if that lion had eaten me, not that either of you care.  Say, a minute ago it was dark. Where’d that bright light come from?

Hannah: It’s the Star, silly! See it up there? This is where the King of kings is.

Caliph: The King of kings? That was it! But that lion — he said something about the Lion of Judah — and there was a sheep talking about the Lamb of God — I am so confused!

(Lucius enters left. Daniel and Hannah run off right.)

Caliph: I’m too tired to run anymore. Go ahead and eat me. The gold is here. You can give it to the King of kings, or the Lion of Judah, or the Lamb of God, or whoever’s supposed to get it. Bon appetit!

Lucius: Your masters will be here in a moment, and you will live to serve them a long time, silly, stubborn Caliph. Thanks to you, the Bright and Morning Star will be safe.

Caliph: Don’t tell me, let me guess. This Bright and Morning Star — He’s the same as the King of kings, and the Lion of Judah, and the Lamb of God — Have I got it all straight now?

Lucius: He is all those things, and many more. Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace …

Caliph: You mean He’s — He’s the One? THAT One?  I ran off with His gold? Oh, you’ve just got to eat me. I can’t live knowing what I almost did.

Lucius: What you almost did is not as important as what you really did, Caliph. You brought the gold that will get Him safely to Egypt, away from Herod. All is well.

Caliph: What can I do? I can never make up for all the trouble I’ve caused.

Lucius: Be faithful to your masters from now on. Be faithful, Caliph, and you will be faithful to Him.

(Caliph turns and looks up at the star. Lucius exits left.)

Caliph: The Bright and Morning Star. I think I like that name best of all. I’d better go find my masters now. Faithful Caliph.  Hmmm … I like the sound of that. (Exit right.)

Production Notes for The Camel’s Complaint

Settings: Scenes One and Two are desert oasis with plants which can be changed around to show two different locations. Scenes Three and Five are Bethlehem stable with hay in manger. Scene Four is barren desert with scrub brush, jagged rocks.

Lighting: All outdoor. Scene One is sunset, Scene Two sunrise, Scene Three city at night, Scene Four bright desert day, Scene Five same as Three but add Star shining like daylight at appropriate time.

Props: Bundles or chests for Caliph’s back. Jeweled harnesses can be made from costume jewelry to decorate Caliph and Hannah. Daniel and Ollie wear plain rope halters.

Puppets: Camel, Horse, Donkey, Lion, Ox, and Sheep.

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