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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Partners - Odyssey of the Phoenix

Direct Link to Prologue

This is a practice run at publishing in Libsyn and iTunes. If it works, it's my first attempt at podcasting and is the prologue (which I probably won't use) for my book.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Now, I Know What to Do ...

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Well, it seems a lot has happened since my podcasting class last week. First decision ... am I going to take this seriously? The fact I purchased and received an H2 Zoom recording device should answer that question. Secondly, podcast what? The obvious answer is my novel. That's why I got interested in this in the first place. The reality is though, it's not quite ready for prime time. Okay, so part of this is just reluctance to put it out to the world for scrutiny. Ideally, I would like to run the whole thing through the writer's group first. Their comments have been very positive and they feel it IS ready for prime time. At 4 pages a week though, it'll take about 2.5 years to get through the whole thing with them.

Anyway, I'm doing my regular Friday firefighter training yesterday and I get a call from my friend,TJ. I'm not using his real name because I didn't tell him everything I was going to say about him in this blog. He tells me he happens to have read my post about the podcasting idea on Facebook, and has some suggestions. Now here's an interesting story in itself. I met TJ in August 2001 when he entered my Emergency Medical Technician class at the community college. That, of course, was a unique semester because I disappeared for two weeks in October to work at Ground Zero with my federal disaster medical assistance team. He graduated and went on to work at the same ambulance company where I was working as a field supervisor/clinical coordinator. A few years later, he showed me something he had written about the student's perspective of experiencing their instructor going off to Ground Zero. It blew my socks off. Later, he showed me a story about some of his experiences early in his career and how they affected him. One thing was obvious ... the boy could write! We began sharing ideas about writing projects we were working on. I encouraged him to keep writing. He did ... right into his own business. He tired of working on an ambulance and began writing for hospitals. Yesterday he tells me his business has morphed into a writing/communications/IT type company. So, getting back to the podcasting thing, he had some great ideas about how to market a podcast, find sponsors, and was willing to help with a supporting website. Go figure. Maybe this thing is really supposed to happen. It's also interesting how my original teacher/student relationship with TJ may now become a professional collaboration.

So, back to the original question ... what to podcast while the novel is in final edits? I checked iTunes to see what was available for paramedics. My first surprise was ... well, me! This blog is up there and people can subscribe to it. I'd better make it interesting (and maybe come up with a new avatar). I found that the iTunes offerings for paramedics consisted of a few educational podcasts, but nothing like what I'm considering.

The idea came from a Facebook discussion I've been having with a local veteran firefighter. He mentioned that most people, even family, don't understand what we (paramedics, firefighters, EMTs, police ... and I would include disaster workers) really go through in our professional lives. It occurred to me that 1. Maybe there are people in the business who would like to share some of their experiences, 2. There are people that would like to hear them, 3. Writing itself can be cathartic when you're working through a tough call, and 4. Maybe the public could learn more (and appreciate) the lives of public safety/EMS/emergency room employees. So, I put the idea out last night to my almost 300 Facebook friends and am already getting responses. I also put it out on my Disaster EMS page on JEMS Connect ( I think it's an idea worth pursuing and it might do something positive for the public safety community.

What else? I haven't abandoned the idea of working on some stories with the writer's group. That's still a viable option. Seth suggested I go back to the beginning of his blog ( and read what he learned as he began podcasting. I'm doing that. There's some really useful (and interesting) stuff there. BTW, as I was talking to some folks on Facebook last night, Matthew Wayne Selznick, another podcast author, popped in to say hi. He's got an interesting thing going at Also, check iTunes for his podcast novel, "Brave Men Run -- A Novel of the Sovereign Era," which attracted 30,000 readers worldwide! Go Matt! I'm learning a lot about the marketing aspect from watching authors like him.

So, there ya go. This time last week I was on the cutting edge of learning this stuff, and this week ... iTunes? Obviously more to come. There's a light at the end of the tunnel, and I don't think it's a freight train. Thanks all, for the encouragement so far! Now, it's back to writing EMT textbook chapters so I can pay the mortgage ...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

So, now what do I do??

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I've had a number of people tell me I should be diligent about not letting this blog go stale. I've been thinking on and off all day about what to write that's interesting enough for my *two followers* to read, and compelling enough to attract some new folks to my site as well.

I've been slogging through the writing of textbook chapters for a medical book publisher. Exciting, no. Does it pay the mortgage, yes. I've been distracted all day by Tweetdeck. It's an application that Seth and Scott recommended during the Author Bootcamp. Twitter applications have become as bountiful as tics on a mountain dog. Trust me tough, this is the one. I have columns that show updates from all the friends I follow, tweets that have mentioned me, and direct messages. There's also a column for recommendations on people I might want to follow. I noticed a lot of writers in there. Then, believe it or not, I have a column with updates for my Facebook friends. One stop shopping. If you put the cursor over a tweeter's picture you can decide if you want to reply, retweet, direct message or "other". A little notice comes up whenever a new message comes in. That was a little annoying at first but it's a pretty sweet application overall. The only downside is trying to provide an enthusiastic reply to a tweet of someone you're following only to be told "that person doesn't follow you". I hate rejection. Scott Sigler, where are you? I thought we bonded last weekend. Well, I have Seth.

Anyway, since Twitter posts have been more easily available, I'm picking up a lot of articles, blogs, websites and good ideas on writing and podcasting from the people I follow. I've been thinking about how I'm going to launch my podcasting career. My novel, going through final edits, was the main reason I considered doing this. I'm petty sold on what I learned last weekend in terms of the difficulty of publishing a first novel through a print house vs the more fun, easy and less expensive means of podcasting it and building a fan base that way.

When I enthusiastically announced my intention to podcast my book to my writer's group, many of them gave me the 1000 yard stare. It wasn't to quell my enthusiasm, but they had no idea what podcasting was. It reminded me that I've been so entrenched in the world of, iPod, iTunes and social media for the last few years, that I've fallen out of the mainstream. Does this mean I'm officially a geek?

One of the writer's club members was sincere in his enthusiasm not only hear about it but to take part. He's published several books, has a few more in the hopper and is also an artist and a columnist for the county paper. He has some wonderful humor material that would be just the right length for a podcast. The larger idea was to have a podcast for the whole writer's group and highlight different members each week. That idea met with a varied response. One podcaster-author friend reminded me how time consuming the production would be, another said "just focus on the book", and yet another thought it was a stellar idea. The fact is, the book isn't quiet ready yet, so I have to give this some more thought.

Then, there's the reality of putting the book in cyberspace for all to hear. The mechanics are much simpler than I thought, but I have to get over disliking the sound of my own recorded voice. We were told a "straight read" would be fine for the first time out if people like the book. You can get so caught up in music and sound effects that the story gets lost. Trying to do a production with guest voices is only for the foolhardy or those with much more time and patience than I have. I do wonder though, about managing different voices in the book. I have several characters with accents. Maybe I should do a test run and see what people think. I don't want my listeners to be so distracted by crappy accents that it detracts from the story.

The biggest psychological hurdle, even more than giving away the book for free, is the fact that there will be people who won't like it. There are parts that are dark and edgy and won't appeal to an average reader. This isn't "Alice in Wonderland". It's more like 'firefighter going through dark night of the soul'. I guess I have to expect that I will have negative reviews. It's all part of the game, eh. An expression I heard lately was something like "you can face negativity or just live in obscurity." I guess it's a modern take on "nothing ventured, nothing gained". So true ...

And I was worried about having enough to write tonight ...

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Author's Bootcamp

Sunday, June 21, 2009

I remember how Baby Boomer pre-teen girls kept their most personal thoughts written in a small book secured with an equally small lock and key. This was to keep their pre-pubescent revelations out of the hands of little brothers. Thank God there was no internet back then. The worst he could do was share the curious findings with a few young friends. Now, when one blogs, thoughts, feelings and opinions go out to the world. Quite intimidating, actually. Well, I'm not here to tell you about my pre-pubescent musings, but about the Author's Bootcamp I attended over the last two days in San Francisco.

In way of introduction, I'm a published non fiction writer and am doing final edits on a novel. It's a story that pulls heavily from my career as a paramedic. For the last several years (since that same little brother gave me my first iPod), I've fallen in love with the world of iTunes, podcasting, and those who share their novels through that medium. I watched their careers blossom and listened to their struggles as they tried to convince print markets that building an audience by *giving away your stuff* actually does make sense.

Scott Sigler is one author who has not only made that leap and published a number of novels, but made it to the new York Times best seller list. He went to publishers with a solid fan base including people who were willing to make a grass roots contribution to his success by helping to build his website, create art and merchandise, or do viral marketing through the internet. Do people do that for Stephen King? Does Stephen send them e-mail updates or personally respond to their posts and tweets? Scott does. Seth does. Seth Harwood is another writer who just broke into print with his novel, "Jack Wakes Up". He's putting a lot of time and effort into marketing his book, and is a genuinely nice guy who is sincere in his desire to help other authors become successful

How did I get there? Following a link from Twitter (from Seth, I believe), to the Author Bootcamp website. It was explained there that "Scott & Seth want to share their method for building an audience
before you approach publishers and agents. If you can show that your work has fans, fans that will buy your books, it changes the game and elevates you in the eyes of publishers." It seemed to be just the right time for me with a book almost completed and wondering what I was going to do with it. I decided San Francisco was only a short train ride away and that this class might give me the knowledge and encouragement I needed to take my efforts to the next level.

We started before the class with "homework" which included gathering pictures and bios, then downloading music and the specific programs we would be using. We came with our laptops and headsets. Interestingly, it was a predominantly MAC crowd. It was also a small class, which was great. Scott and Seth talked about their own writing careers; the state of publishing; how to understand blogs, hosting, domains and RSS feeds; and the most fun ... actually recording a short piece of text and adding intro and outro music. We learned how to manage the software, fade in, fade out, normalize, and do stuff I thought you had to be a major techie to manage. Seth worked 1:1 with the MAC people and Scott with we PC people. Wow, what a sense of accomplishment! I was so inspired, Seth loaned me his H2 recording device to play with at the hotel that night. That was another thing that fostered a lot of questions ... what device do I use? There were three of them that we experimented with. Seth and Scott were very clear on the ones they preferred, which, unfortunately, weren't the same. Decisions, decisions.

Day two found us feeling much more comfortable as we launched into a discussion of "what do we do now with this first podcast we created". The nice thing was that accounts were already set up for us on blogging and host sites. The only glitch for me that morning, was when I started having Internet Explorer connectivity problems with my PC. Maybe it's time for a MAC. Seth swears these things just don't happen to him! Scott wondered if there wasn't virus (or poltergeist, I was thinking) lurking in my Sony Vaio. One of the other students, deemed the technical advisor for the day, was able to give me the electronic file for Firefox, which seemed to resolve the problem.

I really enjoyed the afternoon which was about marketing your work (or in Scott's word, "pimping"); creating and sharing promos; social networking tools;; and how to build (and keep) an audience. Although they followed a schedule, they were flexible enough to understand and adjust to their students as far as our writing , publishing , and computer experience went. They answered all our questions and shared anything we wanted to know about what it was like in the beginning of podcasting (what, four years ago?) The other thing Scott made clear was that podcasting is still a cutting edge phenomena. There isn't a lot of people who have figured out that this is a great way to build a following. It's not just throwing up a website, that your publisher might require you have, and let someone else manage it. It's constantly blogging, researching what's out there; and making yourself visible to your audience through your own website and the social media sites. They told us to use our author name liberally to build our "brand".

At the end of the second day we were all pretty much on information overload, but happy and satisfied with what we'd gotten out of this class. Although Seth was tired (keeping up with Scott's high energy is a challenge), we ended the day with some food and drink and casual conversation. We all learned more each other as writers, and where we're planning to go with our careers. The nice thing is that I can still stay in touch with them through the Author Bootcamp website forum.

As I reflect on this today, I know I'll always think of Seth and Scott as my mentors and credit them for giving me the tools and inspiration to help me become successful. If anyone out there is considering taking advantage of this class, check the schedule at They plan to take it around the country. If you're a writer and want to learn the secrets of marketing in the new world, take advantage of this opportunity and remember these three words: Content, consistency and promotion. If you're not sure what they mean in the context of writing and podcasting... well, I guess you'll just have to take the class!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

First Post - Author Bootcamp

Here at Author's Bootcamp with Seth Harwood and Scott Sigler. It doesn't get any better than this.

First episode (right click to download)

Here is a link to the practice piece