Nature’s Gifts

To celebrate Earth Day and the work of the Nature Conservancy Council, Vanilla Heart Publishing has released ‘Nature’s Gifts.’

More than twenty pieces, from haiku to villanelles, from essays to short stories, will delight nature lovers everywhere. Take a walk in a garden or hike in a national park. Reflect on the moon. Learn something new. Laugh—and cry—with our writers as they discover the beauty, the joys, and the raw power of nature.

The Nature Conservancy will receive a donation of 50 percent of the profits for every book sold in both print and e-book editions for one year. Dedicated to protecting our rapidly vanishing natural environment, The Nature Conservancy has protected more than 117 million acres of land in 28 countries.

The selected poets and authors are:

Kathi Anderson, Douglas G. Campbell, Malcolm Campbell, Sam Cash, Chelle Cordero, Helen Haught Fanick, jeglaze, S. Kelley Harrell, Robert Hays, Donna Henes, Lisa Mayers Houff, Victoria Howard, Leah Mooney, Thom Newnham, Deanne Quarrie, Connie Spittler, Smoky Trudeau, Kimberlee Williams , and Scott Zeidel

Nature’s gifts is available from Amazon.com and in e-bookformat from Smashwords.com

Here’s a short excerpt from my contribuition, ‘Man’s Complacency.’

A heavy sea fog rolled in along the Strait of Juan de Fuca catching everyone, including the weathermen, by surprise. By early evening it covered the coastline from Port Angeles in the west, to Seattle and Tacoma in the east, and as far north as Anacortes. Traffic on the freeway slowed to a crawl. Planes were grounded, and ships were confined to port or instructed by the Coast Guard to keep station and wait for the fog to disperse.

Most residents of the Pacific Northwest were used to the fogbanks that settled over their cities in spring and autumn, but this fog was different. Thick and cloying, it hung heavily in the air, covering everything in a fine mist and reducing visibility to a matter of yards. Formed when a warm air mass moved over a colder area, the fog hung around for days, and resulted in a backlog of shipping. Ships’ masters, desperate to keep to schedule to avoid lost revenue and additional operating costs, often became frustrated, over self-confident and complacent.

Joe McCabe, head of the department of Fish and Wildlife, had just finished breakfast the following morning when his cell phone rang.

“McCabe.”

“Hi Joe, it’s Steve Jones from the Department of Ecology. I hope I’m not disturbing you.”

“I was just about to leave for the office. What gives, Steve?”

“Just thought I’d give you a heads up. A seine netter out of Anacortes has reported seeing an oil slick in the Rosario Strait. The skipper was about to put his nets out when he spotted it. He thought it was fairly well localized, but I’ve asked the Coast Guard send up a spotter plane to check it out. But this darned fog is making things difficult. In the meantime, I want you to take charge of any cleanup operation.”

Joe rubbed his bald head. “Why not use someone from your department?”

“Because all I have is Bryant, who only joined us a couple of months ago, and I need someone with experience.”

“I see. With any luck the slick will be small enough to disperse, but better ask the Coast Guard to fax me a list of vessels that went through the Strait in the last forty-eight hours. While we wait for news, I’ll contact the oil spill team and have them standby. Have… what’s his name? Oh, yeah, Bryant. Have him meet me in my office in an hour.”

“Her. Bryant is a woman.”

“No kidding?”

“No kidding.”

McCabe hung up without another word. The last thing he needed was some namby-pamby woman traipsing around him in a day-glow survival suit.

Thanks to a jack-knifed truck on the I-90, the drive from his home on Mercer Island to downtown Seattle took nearly forty minutes. While he waited for the cops to clear the freeway, McCabe thought about the last major oil spill he’d been involved with. Twenty five years before, the Exxon Valdez had dumped approximately ten million gallons—one fifth of her cargo of crude oil in Prince William Sound, Alaska. He’d been part of one of the many cleanup crews tasked to remove the clumps of oil from the shoreline. The memory of the devastation had lived with him ever since, which was why he’d been a driving force behind the state’s oil spill contingency plan. He just hoped he wouldn’t have to implement it now.

When he reached his office, a slim young woman with her hair up in a silky blonde ponytail stood as he entered.

“Mr McCabe?” She extended a hand. “Faith Bryant, Department of Ecology.”

McCabe paused before he shook her hand, then stepped back from the door and motioned her to take a seat. “You’d better come in. Steve Jones tells me this is your first spill investigation.”

“That’s right. I studied marine biology and wrote my thesis on the challenges facing Puget Sound. Steve thought it would be good experience for me to be part of the investigation and cleanup process.”

McCabe thought about his friend, Jedediah Walker, another marine biologist. They’d worked together on a number of investigations and projects over the years. Right now he could do with Walker’s expertise rather than this pretty young woman straight out of college. But Walker and his wife, Skye, were in China helping the Chinese Government investigate the reason why the Yangtze River Dolphin had become extinct.

“Well, listen carefully and learn. Any news on the slick or what vessel might have caused it?”

“Unfortunately, yes. The McMinnville, a tanker headed for the refinery at Cherry Point, failed to pick up a pilot at Port Angeles. At the time, the Coast Guard tried to raise her on the radio, but got no response. Around midnight, the third mate reported that the engine had failed and the vessel was drifting out of control in the Rosario Strait.”

McCabe knew that hundreds of ships and ferries passed through Puget Sound, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and the Rosario Strait every day. Add commercial fishing boats and pleasure craft into the mix, and the fishing lanes of Puget Sound were the busiest in the nation. In good conditions it could take a tanker more than a mile to stop. But with no means of propulsion, the McMinnville was at the mercy wind and tide.

An author’s Guide to Promotion

Congratulations! Your book has been published. The hard work of writing, editing, and sweating over just the right word, are over. You can sit back and relax.

Or can you?

Now is the time to take off your “writer’s” hat and put on the “marketing” hat.

But surely marketing my book is down to the publisher?

Not quite. You, the author, are expected to promote your book. Publishers, even the big houses like Penguin and Simon and Schuster, have only so much money to spend on marketing, and most of that goes into a few big blockbuster titles. The more you can help to promote your book and increase sales, the happier your publisher will be.

Remember, marketing is about building relationships—with readers, bookstore owners who often recommend books, with the media, and with others who can help you reach them.

So how do you promote your book?

1. Create a website.

Every author should have their own, preferably with a domain name that people can easily search for. Your site can be as simple or as detailed as you like, but make sure it includes your name, the cover of your book, a news and events section, a contact section, and most of all, a link to purchase your book.

If you don’t have the skill to design your own site, there are many web designers who will build a site for you for a fee.

2. Hold a book launch

Independent bookstores and local libraries are often willing to host book launch parties for local authors. It need not be an expensive exercise, but be sure to contact the local media and let them know. There are also many web sites, such as www.britevents.com, where you can list your event for free. And don’t forget social networking sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, Myspace LinkedInetc.

If your budget can stretch to it mail out invitations. There are numerous online printers available. Vistaprint’s marketing postcards make excellent invitations, or if you have the computer skills, why not use Photoshop or Microsoft Publisher to design your own? Make sure you display your book cover, book title and your name in large print. I would also suggest you include some one-liners from positive reviews your book has received. (More on reviews shortly).

Don’t go overboard on catering. Most people will be happy with a cup of tea and a bun.

Make sure your book is in high profile – centre stage on a table. It’s also helpful to have a friend or relative willing to act as booksellers and manage the money.

3. Bookmarks, flyers, and business cards, etc.

Bookmarks are a great way of getting details of your book out there. Again, if you feel confident, you can design these yourself, or if you’re like me and don’t have an artistic bone in your body, I can recommend Mae at Baby Fresh Designs, http://www.babyfreshdesigns.com/authors.htm

4. Blogs, Twitter, and Author Forums.

Choose ones that work for you, are enjoyable, and reach your target audience. A quick search on Google will pull up hundreds of sites.

5. Book Reviews.

It is essential that you get your book reviewed. Most publishers are happy to send out review copies of your book – just ask. You can also check out your local newspaper to see if they have a book section. If they do, consider sending the reporter a copy of your book. There are numerous online review sites, such as Apex Reviews, and Front Street Reviews, who will accept galley proofs of novels, the review being published on their website.

6. Book signings.

Not to be confused with book launch parties, booksignings are usually held in bookstores. They can either be very successful or complete flops. I know—I’ve experienced both ends of the scale! Most bookstores are happy to host signings as it helps draw customers into the store. The store will usually advertise the event and put up posters. Some will even contact the local paper. Chat with the store manager to find out exactly what his/her requirements are and what he/she expects of you as the author.

Saturday morning is usually best. Too late in the day, and people are busy doing other things. Try to avoid clashing with the local football team’s home game and local holidays! Surprisingly, the weather can also influence the number of potential sales. Everyone wants to be outside on a hot sunny day. If the weather is bad, people are less likely to drive to the bookstore.

7. A final word.

There are hundreds of ways to promote your book. The above are just a few ideas to get your started. If you’re serious about marketing your book, be sure to read all you can about book promotion. I can recommend “A Seriously Useful Author’s Guide to Marketing and Publicising Books” by Mary Cavanagh.