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How I Wrote a 250+ Page Travel Guide eBook

As friends and family come visit us, I have been showing them my progress in producing a travel guide on the Everglades directed at those who depend on wheels to get around – using strollers, walker/rollators, or wheelchairs. They are fascinated with the approach I have used, and have asked questions in which you might be interested as well.

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Alligator along Anhinga Trail

Why the Everglades?

I have traveled all over the country and spent a lot of time at many other national parks and outdoor habitats. But the Everglades was the first place we ever visited that just wasn’t what we were expecting. It was so much more.

  • I didn’t expect to find so much to like – the weather (in the winter, of course), the birds, the landscape, the sheer size, the remoteness, the lack of human habitation, the solitude, the food, the people that we did encounter.
  • I didn’t realize how large the Everglades ecosystem is as compared with the Everglades National Park. It stretches from Orlando to the Keys including the water off the Gulf and Atlantic!

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    Wood stork in the Everglades
  • I didn’t know how much I didn’t know about the place. Its history, its survival in spite of our efforts to “drain” it, its uniqueness in the world’s habitats, the rare species of plants and animals that inhabit it, and most of all, how accessible the place is if you take the time to drive to and through it.
  • I didn’t know how accessible it was for those dependent upon wheels to get around. There are many boardwalks built into the landscape, lots of tours can accommodate wheelchairs, and there are many hotels that have roll-in showers and other accessible bathing equipment.

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    Anhinga drying its wings in the Everglades

 Why an iBook?

We started out to put together an album of our photos of the Everglades and neighboring parks and preserves. This grew into a mini research project as we studied where we had visited, planned more visits in the surrounding environs, and tried to identify the various flora and fauna we encountered behind the camera lens. We had tested the waters, so to speak, of producing an eBook and iBook, “A Garden for the Five Senses.” This book is only available in electronic form, either as an iBook for the Apple OS or as a Kindle Fire product (although I also produced a pdf for those without either Apple or Kindle hardware.)

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Sky over Everglades City

I liked the way the Apple could enlarge the photographs for the viewer with a touch on the screen. I also saw that there was a lot more that it could do if we wanted to reference other parts of the book or take the reader to the internet. This is not possible with an eBook for the Kindle or for pdf documents. So when I made the decision to produce a full fledged travel guide in electronic format, I also saw that only the Apple iBook would give the reader the full functionality that I wanted them to have. This limits me in readership, but until I figure out how to provide the guide in other formats that are still useful, I decided to go forward with the platform that provides the best reader experience and functionality.

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Cormorant at Big Cypress National Preserve

How Do You Use the Book?

When people use a travel guide, they don’t necessarily read the guide from beginning to end. They might approach it in a step-wise fashion:

  • Do I want to go to this place? To help the reader decide, we have included some of our favorite photographs of places we have visited and animals and plants we have seen. We have also included other photographers’ pictures that we think captures the ambiance and mood of the place. We even put bird sounds and alligator bellows into the book so you could hear the wild. (We could spend a lifetime photographing these special locales and not, by ourselves, convey the beauty and ethereal splendor of some of these places.) Thanks to our many underwater photographers and audio specialists for making what the book can share with its viewers and listeners.

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    Setting sun over Everglades water’s edge
  • Okay, I’ve decided I want to go. There are so many questions now: when to go, where to stay, how to get around. To help you decide, we have chapters up front on when to go, how to get accessibility equipment if you don’t bring your own, and where some nice lodging with accessible baths are located.
  • Okay, I’ve decided where I want to go. What can I do there? To help you decide, we included separate chapters on each park, preserve, and other location, with some parks having several chapters because there is so much to do.

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    Turkey vulture over the Everglades

How Did You Produce the Book?

  • I started with DH’s marvelous photographs and the application “iBooks Author.” We had done the research to get us nice places to stay overnight, tried out tours, navigated the trails, tried the food and shopping opportunities.
  • Organization began around Miami since that was the biggest (and so most likely) city from which travelers would start out. I decided it made sense then to move east coast to west in the chapters.

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    Little blue heron
  • I made most locations a separate chapter with its own history, ecology, what there is to do there, and sometimes special information like: the differences between crocodiles and alligators; or, how an ibis hunts for its food. Because there are so many accessible trails in the Everglades National Park, there are several chapters on it, with one for each trail.
  • I devoted a chapter on how to get special passes for entry into the national and state parks and a chapter on renting medical scooters, places to stay with accessible baths, and special tours and other stops.
  • I introduced a special chapter that is a kind of electronic index to plant and animal photographs to help newbies to identify visually some of the “strange” beings they might encounter. I wrote for permissions to reproduce photos, maps, and sounds if they were not available through Creative Commons for commercial use.

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    Swamp lily in the Everglades

Pretty soon, 50 pages turned into 100, then 150, then 200, then 250. One step, one word, one photo at a time.

What Took the Most Amount of Time?

I must admit that most of my time has been spent on editing the “bookmarks” that link the names of plants and animals to their

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Snowy egret in the Everglades

photographs in the book. This is, in my opinion, a deficiency in the iBook Author software. I cannot link the actual photograph or its caption to a word in the text. I can only link a word in the text to another word. So what I have done is link the word or phrase, for example, “ghost orchid” where ever it occurs in the text, to another word on the same page where the photo of a ghost orchid is shown. This means that every time a change is made in wording, organization, size of photograph, etc., the page where the bookmark word exists might shift from the page where the photograph is. So I recompile the book over and over and check like a reader would do to make sure when he clicks or touches a highlighted word, for example, “slash pine,” he is taken to a picture of a slash pine. And there are hundreds of highlighted animals and plants in the book.

Did You Do Everything Yourself?

No, I paid a professional graphics artist to produce the cover. I used many more photos than DH took most with Creative Commons licenses, but some snagged by their generous artists. I also used bird sounds from  Xeno-Canto.org, Creative Commons commercial use allowed by Jonathan Jongsma.

DH also edited the text, helped with layout, and general management.

What Now?

I have asked for volunteer readers and beta testers to see if they like the experience on their iPads and/or Macs. I hope that they can use the guide in the field to check out the bird or plant as they encounter it in the ‘Glades and that the guide is not too slow to use on their iPads. I ask any of my readers to volunteer, remembering that I need readers that have some type of Apple device to test it out. If this goes well, we’ll go live on iTunes for wider distribution.

Any thoughts or suggestions? Are any of you in the middle of a publication project?

As We Get Closer to Publication of Accessible Everglades

As we have told you earlier, we are producing an electronic book on the subject of accessible travel to the Everglades, for those who use a stroller or rollator/walker or wheelchair and still want to visit some of the wildest country left in our nation.

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At the head waters of the Everglades

Not Just About Everglades National Park

This is not a book just about Everglades National Park. It encompasses many other national and state parks, preserves, and refuges. The borders of the Everglades National Park was a compromise when it was carved out of the landscape in the late 1940’s. Other preservationists have added to the list of what was once uncharted territory as late as the 1850’s. We take you to find the famous Ghost Orchids in the Fakahatchee Strand State Park and to view the coral communities in John Pennekamp State Park, the first water park in the nation. We take you back in time to study the ecology and life’s blood of the land — the “River of Water” and how it has been changed by the hand of man and is being transformed again to sustain it.

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Great egret in flight

Travel Tips and Helps

There are sections of the book that take you on-line to get passes or discounts to various locations, checkout hotels, and study maps (the Everglades is a really large area comprising almost all of Southern Florida). And we give advice as to what to see, when to go, and what to take with you.

Unique iBook Format

It is a book uniquely fitting the Apple iBook format. You can touch the name of any creature that is highlighted in the text, and the book will show you a photo of the creature so you can familiarize yourself with it when you are traveling in the Everglades or before you go.

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Flocks in flight

We had a great deal of fun producing the book, and we think you will have fun reading it, whether you are on wheels or not.

If you have an iPad or other Mac computer, would you like to read an advance copy of the book and let us know what you think of it?

How Do You Decorate for Christmas?

It’s funny how traditions get started, get handed on, and then peter out. I grew up thinking that a Christmas tree was an indispensable part of everyone’s Christmas celebrations and decorations. Even during the years of the aluminum Christmas tree and colored spot lights. Do you remember THEM?

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Aluminum Christmas Tree by Theresa Thompson

I didn’t question this strange mix of symbols, that Christmas began with Christ’s birth some where in the Middle East, and maybe should be celebrated with palm trees, but not evergreen trees.

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Christmas tree by Christine Davis

Then I read somewhere that Christmas trees as we think of them today in the U.S. was a Victorian import from Queen Victoria’s consort, Prince Albert, from Germany.

And what does a Christmas tree signify? Whatever you want to ornament it with? When DH and I were first married, we couldn’t afford any ornaments, so we strung popcorn on string, tore bright yellow cotton yard goods into strips so we could tie yellow bows on the boughs. And strung a bag of cranberries into a garland so we could drape the tree with something red. I will always remember that tree. What did it signify? That one could start with practically nothing and make something truly beautiful: something anyone can do.

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Christmas at Longwood by Forsaken Fotos

When we moved into this house, we started with an 8-foot-tall tree made of some kind of green synthetic twisted into green metal boughs that fit into a wooden trunk (pole) that took at least an hour to unpack and reassemble, covered with at least 5 to 8 strings of lights that took the rest of the afternoon to cover the tree, and all of that before one could even hang a single ornament. The tree dated from before DH’s birth and I just couldn’t part with it, no matter how time consuming it was to pack and unpack. What did it signify? That it was important to establish a base for the beauty of the season, and that it was beautiful that we could keep something so old going year after year. We didn’t have to live in a disposable society.

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Day Lights by David DeHetre

And the boxes of ornaments! Old ones from DH’s grandmother, new ones from my mother, decorations by the children, and gifts from friends over 20 or 30 + years. What did they signify? Even though DH and I are only-children, we could share connections and love with a world full of wonderful people over years and pains and pleasures, remembering them all with a few baubles.

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Ornaments by woodleywonderworks

When DH’s parents passed away, and then my parents, and the children moved away, we had fewer and fewer holiday parties in our house. So the big tree got replaced with a 5 foot pre-assembled tree. That was replaced with a 3 foot tall tree made of pine cones. Then we shifted to  little miniatures of 1 foot height pre decorated with tiny ornaments. Now we have a little glass tree with ornaments that we keep in the front hall display case that we take out and put on DH’s desk.

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Tabletop feather tree by Maegan Tintari

But we still play the entire recording of Handel’s Messiah on Christmas Eve and call everyone whose telephone number we have to wish them a Merry Christmas, even our non-Christian friends, because we have all agreed that no one is offended by the sharing of Love no matter what the occasion, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, or Christian. What has this signified? That we can change in little ways and still remember the season and our connections in ways that our backs and arthritis will permit. It is a time when we really appreciate the cameras on our phones and Facetime or Skype to talk to each other as if we were there holding their hands!

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Handel’s Messiah sheet music by brownpau

DH still insists on placing a candle in every window and a spot light on the front door which is hung with a pretty wreath. I have gotten him to add a timer to every candle and the spot light so that he doesn’t have to go through the house and plug in the light every evening and turn each off each night. (Okay, I got a real deal on a case full of timers.) What has this signified? That we continue to age in place in graceful, imperceptible ways, even for our special events and memorable times.

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Candle in White House window by Tim Evanson

Have you made changes over the years in the way you decorate for the holidays? Can you share with us? Look forward to hearing from you!

An Ancient Gardener Aging in Place

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