Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Trek of a Lifetime: Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail

Those of us that are fortunate enough to live in the Pacific Northwest have likely heard of the Pacific Crest Trail, and know that it runs the length of Washington State (North to South).

The National Trails System act was created in 1968 by President Johnson, thereby defining both the Pacific Crest Trail and the Appalachian Trail. The PCT had been previously scouted by the YMCA from 1935-1938 and the final trail closely followed it.

At present, it is 2,663 miles long and connects Mexico to Canada. It's an amazing trail and the stories that come from it's crossing are equally inspiring. Many lives are forever changed (or saved) deep in those mountains and it doesn't take one long to understand that it's a special journey, while browsing through the videos, blogs, and even movies that document it.

Today, I saw a man with a large hiking pack standing on the sidewalk on Burlington Blvd (in Burlington, WA). As I approached him from the North, I saw that he was holding a sign that read "HWY 20...PCT...trail head". Even though this is a well-known trail, I was concerned that most people passing by wouldn't know what the sign meant. Or think that he was trying to go to PCN (Pioneer Center North), which houses one of the few detox centers around.  While stopped at a light, I asked him how far he was trying to get, and he said to the trail head at Rainy Pass, which is about two hours East. I suggested he go up a few blocks so that he was actually on hwy 20, so he'd have better luck finding a ride.

After completing my brief shopping, I decided that if he were still out there, I would offer him a ride as far as East of Sedro Woolley. I wasn't able to go further than that today, due to other obligations. I found him a few blocks out on Hwy 20, and since there was a driveway I could pull into, I went ahead and stopped. Turns out that someone else had just offered him a ride, but would be back in an hour. (he hoped!) I chatted with him a bit more, and then asked if I could share his story, which he was happy to do. Here it is!

Meet Jason, a mid 30's Army vet from Queens, New York. He was deployed in Iraq in 2005 and had heard in the past that hiking was a good way for soldiers to decompress. About nine months ago, he saw the movie, 'Wild', staring Reese Witherspoon, which is based on Cheryl Strayed's 2012 memoir. Jason knew of the Appalachian trail, but it was the first time he had heard of the Pacific Crest Trail, and it was the beginning of what has turned into a life changing quest.

For the past nine months, Jason thought about and planned his hike, which will start at Rainy Pass (hwy 20) and end around 900 miles south in Ashland, Oregon. Last night he flew into Seattle from New York, and was going to take Amtrak into Mount Vernon. But while at an REI in Seattle, he got to talking with another hiker, who offered to give him a ride to Burlington. He stayed at a local hotel last night and his goal today is to make it to the Rainy Pass trail head, which is about a two hour drive East from where I found him.

For those of us that are avid hikers, the PCT is a often a dream or a goal that we fantasize about. To make the trek a reality is something few of us see. Why do people even want to submerse themselves so deeply into nature, that they are completely isolated from the rest of the world? I can't speak for everyone, but I know that for me, it's all about stripping yourself down to what's really at the center, and then examining what you find. You can then use the calm and healing presence of nature to build and restore, leaving a clear sense of what is truly important in this life. As Jason said, he expects to be humbled, and to experience extreme highs and lows, which he hopes to grow from.

I wish Jason a safe and fulfilling journey, and I ask that if you are traveling East this weekend, and see a man in clean fatigues with a large, green pack and a cardboard sign asking for help to begin his trek...that you consider extending a hand. He's a nice guy, and if it is within your comfort zone (and ability), maybe you can become a part of his story.

"Pacific crest trail route overview" by w:USFS and EncMstr - Adapted from

(looking for more info on the PCT? Find it here , at the official organization site)

Sunday, July 12, 2015

New Book Release! The Beach House Mystery

I am thrilled to announce the release of my next book! It is book #3 in my middle grade mystery series, (Samantha Wolf Mysteries) and is titled, 'The Beach House Mystery'.

This is another light hearted and fun installment in the series, good for young and old! If you are a Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys or Trixie Beldon fan then you should really check this series out! :)

Amazon link

For just $2.99 (ebook) you get a full length novel to enjoy!

What should be a quiet week at the beach turns into the most challenging mystery that Sam and Ally have uncovered yet. What’s the truth behind the odd family renting the cabin next-door? Is the tale of a sea creature and haunted lighthouse just a myth? How does a missing girl, and suspicious boat tie into all of it? The girls can’t solve this puzzle on their own, so they turn to their brothers for help. 

Travel with them to the scenic Washington Coast and into the Olympic Rainforest, where the four have to work together to untangle the clues and fit the mysterious pieces together. 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

My Experience So Far With the KENP (new Kindle Unlimited Program)

There are a WHOLE lot of varying opinions out there right now among authors, on the new KENP program.

First of all:  What is it?

The Kindle Edition Normalized Pages, is a new way of measuring pages read in the Kindle Unlimited Program. The Kindle Unlimited Program is offered through Amazon to readers. For $10 a month, they gain unlimited access to over 800,000 books and audible books. I think it's a great program, and for avid readers, it is certainly worth the money. How does a book become part of the program? By being offered exclusively through Amazon, or the KDP (Kindle Direct Program). This is where it gets a little more complicated.

Kindle Unlimited

I see it as a good opportunity for Indie Authors, so long as they have the right sort of product. For example, I chose to list my novels exclusively through Amazon, because it just made sense for me. I wasn't already a part of any on-line social media forums where I could take advantage of say...Smashwords or KOBO. I was also pretty much social media and ebook platform illiterate. So I just took advantage of the free information through Amazon and taught myself how to do all of the formatting, etc. and it has worked well for me.

The downside for an author with the Kindle Unlimited 'borrows' was the decreased revenue. I will use my first novel, Bloodline as an example. I have it for sale as an ebook on Amazon for $2.99. At %70, I get $2.05 per ebook sale. I averaged about $1.05 for each KU (Kindle Unlimited) download, after %10 of the book had been read. I probably received around $5-$10 in a month between all of my books (five).  (Please keep in mind that I am your typical Indie Author...meaning that if I have one or two sales a day, it's a good day)

(screen shot from my KDP page explaining the program)

That is how it used work. With the introduction of the new KENP program, they (Amazon) now keep track of all pages read, vs just the first 10%. We are yet to get through the first month so I haven't seen where the chips will fall, but basically, this is how they will figure out payment from now on:

They take the gross amount of money received from subscribers and divide that by the total number of pages read that month. That will give them the payment per page. For example: If KU took in ten million this month, and had 100,000,000 pages read, then us authors would be paid one cent per KENP read.

This started on July first, so lets' take a close and personal look at how it's going for me so far:

Here is the graph provided to me for tracking how pages have been read in the program:

I find this rather cool. So now, instead of having a dollar payment pop up once someone reads ten percent of a book borrowed through the program, it actually tracks each page read. I can also narrow the above graph to each individual book. Then...I can go to the 'Month to Date' unit sales, and get that breakdown. Here is my current stat for Bloodline:

As you can see, I haven't sold any ebooks yet this past month, but there have been 754 KENP pages read. 

You can find out how many 'pages' your ebook is calculated at by going to your KDP bookshelf and selecting 'Promote and Advertise' button. There is a box there that has the count. Bloodline is 252 pages (the paperback is 238)

If I were to get one cent per read page, then it would equal $7.54 so far. I am hoping for at least half a cent per page, which would be 3.77. I know by the number of pages that three books were borrowed and they read all of the pages (yay!) In the old program, I would have made $3.15, so even if the payout is a low I still stand to profit more from it.

If I look at how many pages have been read for all five of my books, it totals 2,844. I'm pretty excited about that number. For whatever reason, this has been a very good week for me as far as Kindle Unlimited borrows goes...and it is very encouraging to see that they appear to be reading the whole book once they start. Because that is where some authors are going to be in trouble.

This brings me to why some authors despise this new calculation method. First of all, if an author has forty titles out there, but they all average around 30 pages in length, they stand to loose a lot. Before, they would get a payout at 10% read...which would be three pages (the front matter of the book, basically) and they would make the same $1.05 that I would get for 40 pages read of my full-length novel. NOW...if someone were to read their whole novelette, they would get .30, (if we use the one cent a page formula) and I will get $2.54. Is that fair? HECK YES! 

I want to take this another step further, and I am sure there will be some who disagree with me. I have seen a WHOLE lot of poorly written short 'stories' out there that I am quite certain someone might pick up for free, but as soon as they get part way into it will quickly stop. Why should that author get paid the same amount of money for a full length, professionally put together novel that is read in its entirety? 

I feel that this new method of payout (KENP) will result in a much better and fair form of payment for the more professional, deserving novels. I have absolutely nothing against short stories and I think that the ones that are done well will also eventually pay off in this program. But I think it is just common sense to say that a 250+ page novel should have a higher pay-out than a 30-40 page novelette. 

This is my personal take on the KENP program so far. What is YOURS? I would really like to hear back from others and your own experiences to date. Have you seen a uptake in borrows on your books, too?