While at Penn Treaty Middle School, writing became focused on creating and adapting material for use in teaching American History. Over the years, a number of units of study were created, printed, duplicated, and spiral bound. Occasionally I queried a publisher or movie producer. Results were always the same – not interested or doesn’t fit our needs.
Near the end of my teaching career I wrote an extended short story including character photographs. Once more multiple copies were produced and spiral bound. At one point there was a local news story in a neighborhood newspaper. At the end of my career, I started to attend Civil War living history encampments. At one event, I talked to an author who was selling his books, and asked how he got published. He introduced me to the concept of self-publishing and the publisher he worked with, Xlibris Company. We connected during the last half of my final year, at the end of which I retired.
Other things happened and my life changed forever that year of 2011. My wife passed away in January. I knew I didn’t want to stay in Philadelphia where my only friends were colleagues who would quickly go on with their professional careers without me, and a wanted a house big enough where I could take the accumulated materials of a teaching career, my whole household without trying to downsize, including my model railroad, and possibly do tutoring or become involved with home school. My daughter introduced me to a house on the market in Lancaster County near where she lived, in a rural setting.
I contacted the owners [it was the estate of their parents who had passed away]. With an agreement of sale, I contacted the contractor who had done significant work on our home in Philadelphia, to see if he could do renovations on the new home in Lancaster County. Over the next several months, I bought the house, had extensive work done on upgrades, and with the help of a neighbor and five students who had become a major part of my life, moved my classroom materials, a household, and a model train layout to the new home. Meanwhile, I began to work with Xlibris Publishing. In July of that year, 2011, Xlibris released my first book, Up From Corinth, the second book in the Civil War series, Journey Into Darkness. Two months later, I was settled in my new home.
Two years later, 2013, the remaining three books of the series were published. Initially there was interest. A local book store did a book signing and took my books on consignment. The visitors center at Gettysburg National Battlefield carried the series in hardback at their museum store. I did a book signing there as well. But the books didn’t sell. Xlibris had over priced them at $19.99 paperback and $29.99 hardback. Meanwhile I was assigned a marketing agent who sold me on tens of thousands of dollars of marketing packages, none of which sold a single book.
I began to reach out to libraries, schools, events to do presentations about the boys of the Civil War [an area of research begun in conjunction of Civil War history while teaching] to include book sales and signings.
In 2014, I decided to release all four books of the Journey series as a single 4-part novel.
In 2013 on a visit from my 10-year-old great-grandson, Bryson Brodzynski, I was asked if we could write a book he could be part of and could help create as well. The day he asked, we took some character shots in the back yard. It didn’t work out as planned. The following year, on a visit to family in North Carolina, we planned to get together and have some time to work on the story idea. On the Saturday of his birthday weekend we sat down together in the morning and he created the plot line for the story, which he typed into my computer, along with some story ideas and pieces. That afternoon, we did a photo shoot at Historic Brattonsville, a southern plantation at McConnells, South Carolina. It was decided that, due to his heavy soccer schedule and schooling, I would go ahead and research and write the story using his plot line and including his writings.
Blake’s Story, revenge and forgiveness was written over the next six weeks, composed entirely on the computer. A neighbor teen, with his parents’ permission, agreed to represent the second main character in the book. A photo session was arranged in the back yard. Working closely with the publisher, still Xlibris, it was scheduled to be published in early April. Working closely with Mom’s Choice Awards [they had already reviewed the five books of the Journey series/novel and knew my work], it was to be sent to them immediately to be reviewed and processed in time to participate at Book Expo America with the MCA exhibit at the end of May-June, 2014, with a scheduled book signing time slot with Bryson and me both signing. It was an exciting time. Four generations of family attended BEA and made a day of it in New York City. It was a nice photo opportunity and family day, but no book sales.
Another book was also published with Xlibris in 2014, Summer of Two Worlds. The original manuscript had been written in 1982, seven years before the Journey series was completed.
To sum it up, I now had seven books published with Xlibris – the five Journey books, Blake’s Story, and Summer. All were black and white and all were over priced.
The people I worked with at Xlibris were about to change the course of my publishing experience. KC Normanns was my publisher agent in the last years of my work with the publisher. She left and went with LitFire Publishing, then reached out to me with an offer to republish each of the three novels in full color with retail pricing the same as black and white. The first title released by LitFire was Blake’s Story, revenge and forgiveness in 2015. Blake’s Story was not yet complete. The remaining character photos had yet to be taken. Beginning in August of 2014 and lasting through February of 2015, a series of photo shoots for the remaining seven characters were taken. In the process, a minor character became a main character and a portion of the book was rewritten. A reference section with sources, map, historic background and more, was added at the back of the book.
As work began on Journey Into Darkness, KC was promoted away from me and another was assigned to the project. It was published later in 2015, but with an increase in retail price.
Summer of Two Worlds released in full color in 2016 with no changes to the original manuscript.
Journey and Blake’s Story were republished in 2017 with upgrades in informational content in the reference sections of each.
In the mean time, Jim Harris, a book distributor, contacted me offering to buy hundreds of books from the Journey series for his network of stores if I could get the publisher to lower the retail price. Since this was not an option, Jim recommended finding a publisher who would republish the books at a lower price. Two days later, I was contacted by Jayden Allen at Book Venture, whom, it turned out, I had known for the past three years as Andrew Miller, Marketing Advisor for Xlibris, the publisher who first published my books. At first, I thought this a lucky coincidence. However, as events played out, Jim made a number of requests and Jayden, conveniently, had related publisher packages available. There was, however, a due date set by Jim that all needed to be shipped to him. Delays from Jayden caused this to be missed by several months and the whole deal fell through, but not without Book Venture selling me a number of publisher packages. The Journey Into Darkness series was republished in a 2nd B&W edition with the addition of a significant reference section, including historic and battle action maps, bibliography, and articles about the history behind the story and the main character, at a significantly lower retail price of $10.99 per book in paperback only, in 2017. The purchased packages were never fulfilled and the whole shady experience went to credit card dispute resulting in a full refund of all payments made to Book Venture.
Throughout this period of time from 2011 through 2017 the books were submitted to various review and recognition awards programs. In the course of these submissions and some marketing and publisher contact efforts, three were adapted into screenplays. As a part of one of the awards submissions, these were all published by contest sponsor, dizzy emu publishing in 2016, and with the guidance of the first screenwriter, uploaded onto the film industry website at www.inktip.com. A number of awards and recognitions accumulated over the years as well as a significant collection of reviewer and reader comments. These will be shared at the end of this writing. But as far as income from the sale of these books, only one publisher, Xlibris, returned a regular quarterly royalty payment, never more than $50.00, for as long as they published the books over a period of six years, including the time during which the books were published by LitFire and Book Venture. LitFire made one payment for the sale of less than a dozen books, of less than $50.00, and otherwise claimed there were no book sales. There were never any royalty payments from Book Venture nor payments from dizzy emu. The listings for the three screenplays have been looked at by producers thousands of times with no further interest other than a glance at their log lines.