Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Gun Confiscators Read & Heed

Anyone think that the relationship between citizen and government is business as usual?
Sipsy Street Irregulars

Friday, February 24, 2012

Gopher Tails for Papa

Reading Jesse Veeder's blog about being a child in rural North Dakota, reminded me of a book I read while attending our one room country school.
The teacher encouraged us to read the story because it was written by Erling Rolfsrud, who was born and raised not far from where we lived...and very near where Jesse now lives.

Not surprising, even this simple children's book, written by a farm kid in a backward little state, managed to make it on you tube.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Feeling Better

Getting the rant off my mind worked. With the thermometer at 79 degrees and a warm south wind blowing, I decided to do some yard work. Spread fire ant bait, Cleaned some flower beds, dug up, raked and weeded my little garden, and planted sugar peas and bibb lettuce.

Also cleaned some parts from my '56 Plymouth restoration project. FWIW, a mixture of lemon juice and vinegar does a fantastic job of rust removal. I tried the molasses and water formula, but it's slow and not very effective...and it smells terrible!

I feel much better now...but the news will be on in a few minutes, so my cynicism might soon be back.

Periodic Rant

Like a dog shaking to straighten its fur, the earth seems to be juggling its occupants to get things back in place. Either that, or it's playing a cruel joke on us. Everyone seems to hate everyone else, and what once seemed to be a slow but steady crawl toward an advanced level of civility, has turned into a high speed slide back to the cave.

Women, who once led the way to civil appearance and conduct, are now leading the species back toward that cave. Bodies covered with ugly artwork, hardware hanging from a multitude of painful punctures, and a mouth like a sewer are no longer an oddity, they are the norm.

Men have always been slobs below a veneer of civility demanded by women, but now that women don't care, the slob factor has taken over. Unshaved, unwashed, foul mouthed, ill-mannered, lazy, ignorant, and sporting even more ink and hardware than women, many of today's men are walking, talking, arguments for abortion.

With nearly half our population living on some form of government largess and totally ignorant of simple economics, how can we ever get back on the road to becoming a civilized society.

Religions have become less tolerant, as have the non-religious. Politicians no longer legislate for the good of the country, but rather for the good of their cronies.

I see nothing but increasing violence down the road as the new "tribes" continue to choose sides and make demands. American greatness is dead and once the body is cool and the flesh begins to stink, the vultures can begin their feast.

Rant off.

Friday, February 17, 2012

TL in Exile

More distant drums.
TL in Exile

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Part 3, Reviews and Sales

I read somewhere that the average book sells only a few hundred copies, and based on sales to date I’ll probably be in the average category. No bestseller list for me! The book is now available in several European countries, but I have no idea if any copies have been purchased outside the US. It takes several months for sales figures to be reported from some sources.

Promoting is the most difficult thing for me to do. Some serious writers send out dozens of complimentary copies to professional reviewers and lobby for a good review, but I can’t bring myself to do that…even if it made economic sense. In my opinion, that almost amounts to bribery. I had one solicitation offering a free review, which I accepted, but after seeing what she wrote I suspected she had only glanced through a few chapters and hadn’t actually read much of the story, so I won’t link to that review. Like everyone with even a hint of an ego, I find praise easier to accept than criticism, but I would rather have an honest review that said the story was garbage, than to see it praised without the person having read it.

Amazon has several active, semi-professional reviewers, but getting on their list is difficult. I plan to contact some of them, since the more reviews that show up on Amazon, either from professionals or readers, the higher the sales potential. (Self-serving, shameless hint!)

I did a search a few weeks ago, and found a nice, independent review in a Romance Writers of America newsletter in California. Even though the plot doesn’t conform to the accepted rules for the Romance genre, it apparently caught the interest of at least one person with that reading preference.

I also found it included in Christmas gift-list suggestions on two Internet shopping websites, and on a Chrysler club website in Germany, but how it got there is a mystery.

Some folks have asked when I will finish another book, but I’m ashamed to admit that I have no idea when that will be. The one I have in work is perhaps twenty-five percent complete, but I can’t find the fire to finish it. Maybe the fire will return, but as a habitual jack-of-all-trades, master of none, there are too many other projects that for the moment I find more interesting than writing.

I hope your questions about my novel have all been answered.

Friday, February 10, 2012

In Dreams, Part 2

Over the next three years, I worked on the story off and on, but mostly off. I was certain I could never write well enough to have something published, so I simply wrote for practice and for my own entertainment. As the story neared completion, I asked several people to “beta read” the manuscript and critique it. The reviews were frustratingly mixed. Women said there was too much car stuff, while men said the plot was lacking in action and was too mushy, so I quickly learned that there was no way to please everyone. It was suggested that I change the story to make it more palatable to either men or women and to forget trying to appeal to both. Since the main story was about relationships, which might appeal more to the ladies, I decided to remove some guy stuff and concentrate more on the characters with hopes of making it a better read for women.

The manuscript languished for another two years while I fiddled with the plot, but with much prodding I eventually decided to attempt marketing the manuscript. After being rejected by one agent, it dawned on me that trying to land an agent was a waste of time. Their understandable goal is to make money, so their focus is in signing talented authors who write for a large audience and who are young enough to have a long writing career. A book written by an old guy, targeted to readers from his generation, doesn’t merit serious attention from successful agents.

I also knew that most large publishing houses will only consider the works of agented writers, so it would be extremely difficult for a new author to place a manuscript before their editors. That left two ways to get the book published. I could self-publish, which meant I would have to assume all the editing, printing, marketing, and promotion costs. That route would only serve to satisfy my ego, and those who know me won’t be surprised by the fact that I’m too frugal to spend money in that way.

The only other option to see my book in print was to shop the story to small publishers, some of whom will accept un-agented manuscripts. The first publisher expressed no interest, but the second one I contacted, Wings e-press, dumfounded me by offering a contract only a few days after asking to see the full manuscript. Their offer was fair, and unlike some unscrupulous publishers they asked no financial investment from me. I would receive no money upfront, but they were willing to invest in my novel to the extent of absorbing all editing, publication and marketing costs for both the e-book and paperback versions. Needless to say, I quickly signed, and they have been wonderful to deal with.

Then the real work began, and it was hectic for a couple of weeks.

While the first editor was busy correcting my grammar, punctuation and typos, I worked with one of their contract artists to design a cover. I was shown samples from several contract artists and selected Robert Stroud to create the cover. I was allowed quite a bit of input in the design, but the final layout was the artist’s responsibility. It took about a week from the day we first talked on the phone until we agreed on the final rendering.

I was amazed by all the work that goes into publishing a book. Three editors reviewed the manuscript before it went off to the printer, and I was horrified to see all the stupid mistakes they caught. When you try to correct your own work, it’s all too easy to overlook the same mistakes every time you read it. I find myself “comma-ly challenged” in a major way, so there were a lot of corrections in that area.

The first editor just laughed at my embarrassment and explained that it’s normal, and that’s why editors are needed. Even after all that work, I’ve spotted a couple of errors in the published version, but then I also found a major typo in a recently released New York Times bestseller.

I was pleased that there were only three paragraphs she requested I change. I did rewrite two of them, as I agreed the editor’s suggested version was better, but I argued and won a debate on the third. However, as I now reread the story after months have gone by, I ask myself why I wrote so many clunky paragraphs! The editors were being too kind to let me get by with some of the weak writing.

After the majority of errors were corrected with the first edit, we had to format for publication. The publisher has a preferred format for their books, and it was different than the way I originally had set up in my computer. Thank goodness Microsoft Word is so versatile!

After completing the edits, deciding what scenes to use for teasers, and writing a synopsis, bio, and other info for promoting, it took about three weeks before it was available in e-published form and a few more weeks until the print copy was released.

Final thoughts tomorrow.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

In Dreams...The Real Story Exposed! Part 1

I never expected my little novel to generate so much speculation about the identity of characters, and even more curiosity about the plot. So, to pacify inquiring minds, I’ll reveal the story behind the story and relate what led up to its publication.

Despite terminal antipathy when it came to high school English, combined with an inherent streak of learning laziness, I somehow acquired a latent interest in writing and over the years have had a few articles published in automotive enthusiast magazines, newsletters and local newspapers. They were nothing that required much thought or effort, and I had never seriously considered tackling a project as big as a novel.

The first thoughts about writing In Dreams entered my mind several years ago as I was passing through Denver on a trip from Texas to visit my parents in Montana. As I inched across the city in rush hour traffic, I passed exits with familiar street names that brought back memories of my time in that city. Denver was a great Air Force assignment and I came to love the area in the short time I was stationed there.

Yes, I had dated a girl while attending missile school at Lowry AFB, and I guess our relationship had become as serious as a relationship between seventeen year old kids can be. Naturally, I wondered if she might still live in the area and I contemplated what it would be like to meet a former girlfriend again after decades had passed. I also contemplated what life might have been like had I made different choices when I was young.

Contemplation was as far as it went, but the seed was planted and since long drives are little more than hours and hours of boredom, I passed time by writing a story in my mind. Before the trip was over I had the basic plot formulated and when I arrived home I drafted an outline for future reference, but it would be many months before I took the next step.

Although the idea of writing a novel was now a semi-serious consideration, I really didn’t know how to begin, so I browsed the appropriate Internet forums and tried to soak up enough knowledge to take the first step. Experienced writers advised me to first write about what I know, and to borrow the personalities of real people to develop believable characters. That seemed logical and easy, and by recreating bits of my own early life and military experiences, I had a background for the main character. The girl I had dated would be the inspiration for the female character, and while there would naturally be some similarities, almost everything about her would have to be changed for obvious reasons.

Yes, the main character resembles me to those who knew me when I was young…and that was intentional because the character was easier to realistically create. I learned that most writers include themselves in their stories in one form or another.

Conceding that much to the speculators, I don’t believe the protagonist(s) in the modern segments of In Dreams contain(s) much of who I am today. However, I don’t know how others see me, so maybe I did inject more of “me” into the role than I realized. It wasn’t intentional, but others will have to decide that.

The main female character is far less similar to the real person from the past, and I have no idea what she might be like today. While researching background for the story, I learned that she is still alive and living in the Denver area, but I have not talked to her. When I finished the first draft of the manuscript I did send her a copy, only to let her review it to make sure there were no coincidental similarities to her real life that could be recognizable and embarrassing if revealed. She never responded, so I assumed there were no issues with the plot, and there was obviously no interest in making contact. I also sent her a copy of book, with the same response.

Except for “Dean”, whose character was affectionately based on my old Air Force buddy to whom the book was dedicated, the other characters were entirely fictional with names derived from friends and relatives, and even pets. All of them are composites, but they too were inspired by people I know. None were intended to be anything like the individuals might be today, especially since they were constructed from a collection of dimming memories, imagination, conjecture and embellishment.

The most enjoyable part of the writing experience was researching the past and present, and discovering little nuggets of information on the Internet. Along with relearning the physical layout of Denver in 1959, I found weather records of the local conditions during Christmas week of that year, as well as the phase of the moon and the number one song on the top 40. For some reason, trying to be factually correct for little things seemed important, though I doubt anyone would have been too critical had I only guessed at those relatively unimportant facts.

Radio station KIMN…my favorite at the time...was one of the two top AM stations serving the Front Range for many years, and if I expected to evoke nostalgic thoughts from local readers when it came to their long-ago favorite radio, I had to be accurate. The highlight was when I located the KIMN disc jockey that was working at the station during that time. I had earlier found an audio clip of an actual radio show from KIMN that was recorded only a few weeks from the date I wanted, though it was from a different DJ’s program. I tweaked the wording slightly to make it fit a Christmas broadcast, and then emailed it to “Dapper Dan” at his retirement home in Hawaii, and asked him if the final result closely represented DJ chatter that might have taken place at the time. He responded with a very nice letter, and verified that it was accurate to the best of his recollection.

Fast forward a couple of years.

It was a long weekend and Judy was away visiting family. The weather was dreary and there was nothing of interest on television, so I decided to see if I could put the conceptual plot into actual text. I was surprised to discover that the words came easily and at the end of three very long days I had consumed several pots of coffee, had a pounding headache, my eyes were on fire, and I was totally exhausted. The good news was that I had 30,000 words on paper. While that was less than half the number the final version contained, it formed a skeleton on which to build.

More tomorrow.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Another February 3rd...and More Memories

I guess it was because of my age at the time, but this event will stick with me forever. Maybe this was the day the United States began to lose some of its greatness.