Monthly Archives: December 2012

My Life on Mars

5121aGAA1WL._AA160_I have been back and forth to Mars many times, starting from when I was a kid. I love it when NASA has a probe, like Curiosity, on the planet that is sending back images. The Red Planet is fascinating and humans have observed and studied it for thousands of years. But I’ve been going there for decades due to great science fiction writers.

Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875-1950) was selling pencil sharpeners to make a living when he decided that he could write fiction as “rotten” as what he was reading in pulp-fiction novels. Under the Moons of Mars, his first fictional story, was published one hundred years ago. The Barsoom series, set on Mars, amounted to more than a dozen books in the next fifty years, while Burroughs rose to greater fame for his Tarzan books in those same years. I read every one of the books in both series and some of them two and three times. The Barsoom series is available today as Kindle books on Amazon.com. John Carter, his main character in the series, emerged recently as the title character in a major motion picture. I thought it had overdone special effects and was weak on story, but my imagination has locked those characters in my brain and the movie was totally unlike what I remember from the books.

51e+M8wOQEL._AA160_Robert Heinlein (1907-1988) was another great science fiction writer who took me to Mars. The Red Planet (1949) and Podkayne of Mars (1963) were memorable books by the man dubbed “The Dean of Science Fiction.” Many of his contemporaries, also well regarded, considered him the best sci-fi author ever. I was especially taken with his stories and read them over and over again through my high school years. Heinlein was a trained scientist in math and physics. He and his wife took many ocean voyages on freighters as well as passenger ships, which gave him ideas for journey on space vehicles. His books created other worlds and shipboard experiences that felt real. They still sell well and now have all new audiences as Kindle books for e-readers. Judging from the reviews of the Kindle versions, they are still finding an eager audience today.

512TZT2DLZL._AA160_Many other authors have taken on Mars as a subject. I just read Saving Mars and Defying Mars by Cidney Swanson. I was pulled through each of these highly rated books in a matter of hours. Like Heinlein’s best books they have believable stories, great characters and reveal the challenges of humans living in the sparse atmosphere of the red planet. Swanson’s books are considered young adult (YA) novels as our book, The Leopard Tree, is. I may not be in the target age market but I will follow this series as closely as any other reader. It is a great read on a subject I enjoy.

Books that are well-written with captivating characters and compelling stories will always have a much broader audience than their target markets. Some of the best books I have ever read were oriented toward younger readers. I will keep going to Mars via my iPad these days with hopes that the space program is allowed to continue real exploration.

-Tim Merriman

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Personal Interpretation, the Kindle Version Released

PI-CoverTen years ago Lisa Brochu and I wrote Personal Interpretation: Connecting Your Audience to Heritage Resources. National Association for Interpretation (NAI) published it as a printed book after a thorough review and approval by the NAI Board for use as the official text for the Certified Interpretive Guide training program. When it was written, Lisa had not yet come to work for NAI (though she did shortly after). Both of us worked on it at home on our own time, and the manuscript required a publishing contract spelling out the rights of all parties, that was approved and signed by both the NAI president and vice-president for programs at that time, in accordance with the NAI publications policy that regulates any staff involvement with publishing at InterpPress.

More than 10,000 copies have been sold and it has proven to be a useful resource over that period of time, connecting readers with other written resources and NAI’s programs. The book covers the history and theoretical underpinnings of the interpretive approach to communication, as well as providing clear guidance on improving delivery techniques and employing thematic interpretation as a way to accomplish specific objectives.

NAI continues to own the print rights to the book and sells copies of the paperback book through interpnet.com and Amazon.com. The publishing contract allows the authors to retain rights to publishing the book in languages other than English and Spanish and in other formats, including any electronic versions. Currently, NAI has published the book in Spanish and English. Additional translations may soon be available from Heartfelt Publications in Greek, French, and Mandarin as well.

TLT-BaskervilleWe created Heartfelt Publications in 2007 as a way of publishing books in a wide variety of genres. We currently sell fiction and non-fiction titles under that imprint both as print books and Kindle books. The Leopard Tree is our award-winning fiction title published that first year as a print book and later as a Kindle title. In 2011 we released a non-fiction title, Put the HEART Back In Your Community in both formats, print and Kindle. Hard copies of both of those books, along with the Kindle edition of Personal Interpretation, are available on Amazon.com and on our Heartfelt Publications website.

We’re excited about the release of Personal Interpretation as an e-book. Dr. Sam Ham kindly wrote the foreword for this new edition. Sam’s legendary influence on the interpretation profession has been expressed through his 1992 book, Environmental Interpretation, exceptional research articles and keynote addresses over the last three decades. His new book will be available in 2013 and we look forward to that release. In the meantime, we appreciate his introduction to this unique resource that can be read on Kindles, iPads, Heart cover finaliPhones and other e-reader devices.

For students this creates an affordable option at $7.99 for the Kindle version. Many universities use the book as one of several basic textbooks in introductory interpretive courses. Students often prefer a digital resource book, easily accessible on a computer or e-reader.

We expect and hope many will still prefer the printed copy as we’ve been told that this is one of those books people write notes in and highlight extensively. The Kindle edition includes a few different photos and some slight updates in the text, which will eventually show up in the printed version when the third edition is printed by NAI, but is not substantially different than the currently available second edition print copy. We hope you will also want an electronic version of the book on your Kindle or iPad to make carrying it with you even easier.

– Tim Merriman

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Writing to Inspire – A Story of Malawi

We wrote The Leopard Tree in 2007 to inspire people to look for ways to help people who face great challenges. We have had almost 30,000 downloads of the book through Amazon’s Select Program using occasional FREE days as a promotional tool. Although these free days generate no immediate revenue, we always hope those who take advantage of the free download will invite their friends to buy a book at the reasonable price of $2.99 for the e-book or $9.99 for a hard copy. Since the book was published, we have donated more than the book sales have produced to a program of the Museums of Malawi that inspires us.

malawiThe program began when museum educators Aaron Maluwa and Michael Gondwe developed the concept of taking it directly to rural villages to help people understand the need to address HIV/AIDS and malaria. The program uses the songs, dances and stories of their people to deliver life-saving messages. They call it the “Theater of Change,” an apt name for this passionate program. We visited the village of Chikwawa in 2009 with Aaron and Mike and watched villagers line up to be tested for HIV after hearing their inspirational messages. Our small donations over the years have helped cover the costs of gas, medical supplies, and other expenses involved in taking this program to rural Malawi. More importantly, the effects of the small amount of money we are able to provide has begun to multiply as awareness of this program has grown and others have been able to expand assistance.

Aaron listening to stories of challenge from a woman who spoke up about their needs.

Aaron listening to stories of challenge from a woman who spoke up about their needs.

If you ever wonder whether a small donation of time or money can make a difference, we can guarantee that it does, especially when it inspires others to do whatever they can. Although Mike has now retired from the museum, he is setting up a nonprofit organization to continue his work, while Aaron manages and expands the programming through Museums of Malawi. The dedication of these gentlemen in helping others is unwavering and we will continue to find ways to support them and encourage others to do the same.

On our 2009 trip, we took along a SkyHydrant we purchased through the SkyJuice program in Australia. This simple piece of equipment helps remote communities establish a clean drinking water supply by using reverse osmosis filtration with a Siemens system. We hope it will become a prototype project that can be duplicated in other communities with additional support. Aaron just sent us a report of the installation in which he says:

BRIEF REPORT ON THE INSTALLATION OF WATER HYDRANT/FILTER IN AARON’S VILLAGE

 

Aaron Maluwa (center) with the plumbers who installed the SkyHydrant.

Aaron Maluwa (center) with the plumbers who installed the SkyHydrant.

It was during the course of the continued assistance by National Association of Interpretation (NAI) under the leadership of Professor Tim Merriman and Lisa Brochu that after their visit to Malawi three years ago that they saw people drinking from wells, rivers, borehole among other that they felt so bad with many people drinking unsafe water leading to the spread of many diseases such as diorrhoea, dysentery cholera among others that the two asked if they could help my family/village with Water Hydrant/Filter so that my community may have safe drinking water.

 

Tim and Lisa bought the machine in Australia at a cost of $2300 plus shipping. They also paid for duty clearing here in Malawi. I processed the clearing and the machine was taken home for installation.

 

Being the first of its kind, the Plumbers from Blantyre Water Board were to install it in my village which is about 500 km away from Blantyre where I work.

 

Though the installation work was simple, about 7 plumbers did not think they could install it hence it took a long time to install it.

 

It was in September this year that two plumbers who have just graduated from the University agreed to do it and they did it very well. It took them two days to install it.

 

Women from local villages in Malawi gather to fill their buckets with safe drinking water for their families.

Women from local villages in Malawi gather to fill their buckets with safe drinking water for their families.

The installation of the life saving machine which is easy to operate and care has changed people’s lives. They drink safe and clean water now from the three taps installed. Pumping is easy and putting chlorine is easy too. People are very happy with the donation and they owe it to the wonderful people in the name of Tim and Lisa.

 

I would like to personally thank both Tim and Lisa for your support, which has made a huge difference. The Hydrant is serving not only people in my village but many villages too.  There is no single borehole or tap in the communities around my village. Many people have been drinking from the wells since they were born. The Hydrant is unique and attracts more people to come and fetch water, something that makes me very happy.

 

Tim and Lisa, you have your names written: Donated by Tim and Lisa of USA. Everyone Who comes reads it as my acknowledgement. THANK, (ZIKOMO) in my language.

You can find other worthy programs helping people in Africa at “What Can I Do To Help” on our book website, http://theleopardtree.com.

Zikomo  (thanks) Aaron and Mike for being the good people of change in your communities.

–       Tim Merriman and Lisa Brochu

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Your Review on Amazon.UK Will Help

Many of us have come to trust reviews as a way of finding out whether we might enjoy a book from Amazon before downloading or ordering it.. And the marketplace for a book is no longer confined to one nation, waiting for export to another market that reads the same language. People in the U.K. can download any Amazon digital title easily to their digital reading device.

There’s just one little problem. Software at Amazon.com does not connect in some areas of information. Reviews on the U.S. Amazon site will not show up on the U.K. site or in any of the other countries through which Amazon sells – Germany, Italy, Spain, and Japan. So a reader will really have to want a book to buy with absolutely no endorsements from other readers.

Screen Shot 2012-12-04 at 2.33.31 PMI recently put an ad for our novel, The Leopard Tree, on a UK Kindle Forum site and expected some sales, but no purchases resulted from a month-long ad. An ad of the same kind on any American site would have sold some books. After weeks of no sales, it suddenly occurred to me to look at the reviews on the U.K. site. We have 72 reviews with a 4.8 average on the U.S. site. We had none – 0 – zilch on the Amazon site in the U.K. Now we have four by asking some of our loyal readers to post both places.

Amazon is absolutely amazing as a vendor in that they empower authors and publishers to sell books through their sites easily. We sell both our digital titles and print books through Amazon and we handle shipment of the printed books to customers. It is all easy to do with their user-friendly software. When you have a question of Customer Support for sellers, it happens quickly in my experience, so I  asked them if they could link our U.S. reviews to the U.K. Amazon site.

Screen Shot 2012-12-04 at 2.50.54 PMTwo hours later I had answers – not NO, but we will work on it! They are always polite and helpful through a great feedback system. I made the suggestion that they figure out how to do that. It’s hurting sales of books in the U.K. for Amazon and American authors. Our books with great reviews simply do not show up there. The Amazon support staff assured me they will work on it but it’s a software issue and will not happen quickly. Three days later I checked our non-fiction book, Put the HEART Back In Your Community at Amazon.UK and they had four of our 12 reviews from the U.S. site and a small “Beta” test marker. They have already found a potential work around and it links to the twelve 5.0 star reviews for the book on Amazon.com.

If you review on Amazon because you want to support good books and tell others of clunkers so they don’t buy them, keep reviewing. Those of us who write or read appreciate thoughtful  reviews. But after you post your review on the U.S. Amazon site, use Google to locate UK Amazon and search for the book you are reviewing there. They have the same books for the most part, but you will see much smaller review numbers unless it is a book by a British author, who posted there first.

You can do a cut and paste from your review on the Amazon site easily and put the very same review on the British site, no matter where you purchased or downloaded the title. This gives your reviews greater exposure all over the English-speaking world and authors/publishers/readers will appreciate your extra effort.

We hope you will keep reviewing, but expand your efforts in the U.K. for English readers all over Europe. If you have read The Leopard Tree, please review it at the U.S. Amazon site and UK Amazon. Thanks for reviewing.

–Tim Merriman

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