The trail for a missing teenage girl grows colder every hour after her car is found partially submerged in a creek.
The story reads like a newspaper article, but it's fiction written by local author Wm. Edward Miles in his first book, "Sanctioned."
"My inspiration comes from an obsessive infatuation with law enforcement, crime scene analysis, forensics and criminal investigation," Miles said.
He selected mystery as a genre after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
"Storytelling provides the therapy I need for situations and incidents for which I have no control except through my writing," he said.
Miles is retired from a 20-year career in the U.S. Air Force and 16 years with the National Parks Service.
His first attempt to write was in high school, and he wrote articles for internal publications during both his careers.
"I've always had a burning desire to write a novel, but didn't think I had it in me," Miles said.
The Chief of Public Affairs for the Phoenix Area Office, Pat Cox, encouraged him to get serious about writing a novel.
The first draft took him six months and several reams of paper. He sent copies to an editor and seven close friends. The fifth and final draft he sent to Publish America.
"Exhausting" is the first word that came to Miles' mind when he thinks about the search for a publisher.
"I understand that 10,000 new novels are printed every year," he said. "With that in mind, one might begin to understand why so many novels are rejected time after time."
Miles said he is happy with Publish America.
They notified major book retailers of his book's availability. Now the promotion is up to him.
He has fliers posted around town. On March 6, he will be at the Payson Public Library for a book signing.
"Promotion and marketing is very labor intensive," he said. "The big bookstores won't give a new first time author the time of day. Therefore, you must rely on the good graces of the smaller independent bookstore owners, librarians, gourmet coffee shops or established reader groups to market your work."
His Web site www.wmedwardmiles. com promotes his first novel now and will promote "Branded for Death," which should be out in July or August 2006 and "Vertical Sanction," which he plans to complete by September.
"Publish America and a number of ‘publish on demand' publishers get an enormous amount of bad press," he said. "Personally I think its sour grapes."
The process of acceptance is not a "slam dunk."
"If you have the desire to see your work published, and your skin or your ability to withstand rejection can't withstand the sometimes cruel world of publishing, then a company that specializes in Print on Demand novels is for you," he said.
"Sanctioned" is available to order at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, bamm.com and publishamerica.com.
Since "Sanctioned" came out in October 2005, Miles believes he has sold between 300 and 400 copies. He won't get his first royalty check until March.
A new kind of publisher
Print on demand (POD) technology is changing the face of the traditional book publishing industry of large and small presses that choose the books they want to produce and market with no fees to the author.
New novelists have a better chance at seeing their work in print. Educators, speakers, cowboy poets and other authors whose books have appeal to a niche audience can keep a bigger portion of their profits.
"Writing is an art, but publishing is a business," said Mary Erickson, Chief Operating Officer of the Ice Escape Writer's Conference. "If there was ever a time where knowledge was power, this is it. Learn the business."
A writer who wants to self publish their books needs to be educated and aware of what their expenses are versus what they expect to earn from their book. Don't be taken in by companies preying on hopes of a bestseller.
While there are risks involved, self-publishing gives the author creative control of their words.
Local cowboy poet Dee Strickland Johnson, aka "Buckshot Dot" and local Western authors Jayne Peace and Jinx Pyle have both been successful self-publishing and selling their works.
Johnson uses Cowboy Miner Productions to print her books and is happy with the result. The company has won the Will Rogers Medallion awarded by the Academy of Western Artists in 2004 and 2005 for meeting the highest criteria for artistic merit, quality presentation and universal appeal in the publication of Cowboy Poetry.
After listening to Buckshot Dot perform poems "A Cowpoke's Prayer" and "Dang Fool Nonsense," audience members can purchase her books, "Cowman's Wife Western Ballad" and "First Roundup Western Ballads" at the reading.
She has been self-publishing for at least 10 years and usually prints 1,000 copies of a book at a time because it is more cost effective than just printing 500.
Peace and Pyle formed their own publishing company, Git A Rope. Together and separately, they have authored nine books, including "History of Gisela" and "Rodeo 101."
Presses and publishers
Erickson foresees a balance several years down the road between traditional publishers who will always see a good investment and want to have a piece of it and self-publishers.
Vanity publishers and subsidy publishers typically derive their profits from printing and binding.
A traditional publishing house will use its own editors.
As a self-publisher it can be worthwhile to hire an editor.
"While people you know might be able to look (your book) over for you, proofread or give feedback, nothing is as good as a professional, objective editor who does this for a living," Erickson said.
Author House offers their authors copy editing services for a fee.
Publish America edits books they accept for grammar, punctuation and mechanics, then pay their authors a percentage based on sales. But research should precede investment in one particular publishing company.
Author testimonials for all companies abound. So do arbitrations, lawsuits and negative experiences.
According to Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, last year 30 plus professional science fiction writers set out to write a novel with no literary merit and submitted it to Publish America.
It was accepted. Yet, according to Publish America, 70 percent of the 70 new authors who contact them a day, will be rejected.
Cost of promotion
Marketing packages are another expense that can take a lot of money out of an author's limited budget, according to Erickson.
"If you're an author who wants to sell, you have to become a marketer who knows how to promote," she said. "Unless your name is Grisham or Clinton (as a self published author), be prepared to do (and pay for) it all."
From bookstores to an inexpensive Web site to selling on eBay, there are many ways to sell a book.
The Ice Escape three-day convention is aimed at bringing together writers who want to be published with service providers, agents and informative speakers.
The event is held March 17 to 19 in Mesa. For more information, call(480) 236-4314 or visit www.IceEscape.com.