Who Has Time To Publish?

When I was young and dreaming dreams of my future, it never occurred to me that I could write for a living. I got compliments on my writing from an early age, at least the sixth grade, and I received high marks on nearly all the reports or essays or stories written as school assignments, right on up to college where I majored in Computer Science, and Business, and Criminal Justice, and at least two other disciplines before finally graduating.

But never English, or Creative Writing, or even Journalism. For whatever reason, those options never clicked when considering a possible career path. So I got my lovely degree in Criminal Justice and have spent the subsequent twenty years as a supervisor / manager / instructor, with little or no writing required.

Is it too late to do something about that? Too late to publish something grand? As I look at the writing / publishing landscape today I see an incredibly complex web of options and advice. The opportunities to be published or to self-publish are astounding when compared to days past, when one simply submitted to various hard-format magazines or book publishers and waited for a response.

Trouble is, the complexity can be intimidating. My eyes go crossed just reading all the advice about publishing through Amazon KDP or Smashwords or Barnes & Noble Press, and how to build one’s “platform” and track sales and participate in the many options to maximize visibility and sales, etc.

Authors don’t just write and get published anymore. They can’t get away with only a few public appearances and a minimal website presence. It seems they have to invest as much time and energy into marketing and analytics and technical know-how as they do writing, as if writing wasn’t challenging enough!

So I write, and I publish a fraction on my fiction blog, and the rest mostly sits on a flash drive. Maybe someday, on my day off, if I’m all caught up on the grocery shopping and the cleaning and the errands and the repairs and the _____ (fill in blank), I’ll have time to sit down and digest some of the latest how-to advice and form a plan to actually publish something, in some format, someday.

Until then, I’ll just keep writing when I can (read: when I’m at work, like now) and maybe set aside some vacation days to get caught up on whatever KDP stands for. And that’s my wistful rant. 🙂

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Doctor Dogbody’s Leg

Doctor Dogbody’s Leg is one of the most entertaining books I’ve had the pleasure of reading. It is a series of short, seafaring adventures written by none other than James Norman Hall, one-half of the duo who authored the Bounty Trilogy.

Dr Dogbody

In this 272-page collection, Hall conjures the character of F. Dogbody, retired ship’s surgeon of Her majesty’s Royal Navy, whose left (larboard) leg was lost in action during the Napoleonic Wars.

As the good Doctor gathers with old friends and fellow seamen at The Cheerful Tortoise, he is repeatedly cajoled into recounting how he came to lose his leg, which he does with hilarious panache. The story changes with every telling, a series of “ludicrous but expertly executed fibs” that leave his listeners dumbfounded.  

For those who enjoy nautical adventures, Doctor Dogbody’s Leg is a treasure of short, funny tales of the sea. I shall never relinquish my Heart of Oak’s Classic edition. 🙂 

(Holt paperback; Reprint Edition, 1998)

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The Happy Hollisters

I did a lot of reading as a child, and I can recall many excellent books that were enjoyed along the way, but my hands-down childhood favorites were The Happy Hollisters series by Jerry West (Andrew E. Svenson). This series chronicled the adventures of the Hollister family consisting of Mom & Dad, along with children Pete (12), Pam (10), Ricky (7), Holly (6), and Sue (4), plus Zip the Collie and White Nose the cat.

Some of the stories took place around their new hometown of Shoreham, while others took place at various locations within the U.S. or other countries. Each book provided plenty of adventure and always a mystery, with lots of clues and humorous mishaps along the way. The fun was wholesome, and good triumphed over evil. Illustrations by Helen S. Hamilton also helped to fuel my imagination.

The author, Andrew E. Svenson, also wrote books for other popular series including The Hardy Boys and The Bobbsey Twins, and his Hollister adventures were loosely based on the experiences of his own large family growing up. I was recently delighted to discover that the books are now being reprinted in paperback and are available through Amazon at $9.95 each! This has allowed me to purchase some of the books missing from my own collection. If I had kids age 8-12, they would be reading these! 🙂 (Doubleday & Co. 1953)

 

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Inspiration – Write It Down!

If you’ve written fiction for any length of time you know how important it is to seize upon ideas when they come, and not put them off until later. When a plot point, a character, a title or a perfect ending pops into your head at 3:00 a.m. you’d better roll over, grab a notepad and write it down. Don’t expect it to linger til dawn; chances are it won’t. How many inspired ideas slip into the abyss every year simply because we were too busy at that moment to write or record them?

Early last week I left my desk at the library to run an errand upstairs. By the time I returned a few minutes later, an opening line had popped into my head, followed by two more sentences. Business was slow at that moment, and so within twenty minutes I had composed a little slice of flash fiction – only 280 words. But it was something – a complete little vignette that had not existed less than an hour prior.

That’s why it is so important to write or record ideas when they come, to somehow find a way of capturing them before they escape. You never know when that particular thought will lead to a poem, a short story or a novel, an international bestseller or a tiny bit of flash fiction published only on your blog.

You can read that tiny bit of flash at my fiction site – D.A. Donaldson.

Remember: Inspiration that gets pushed to the back burner is in danger of burning up!

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Fireweed & Scarlet Sails

Note: Neither of the following books is action-packed. They are dramas – well written and good enough to keep me reading, which says something. They are literature, but not pretentious, and a good read for kids or adults who are not hyped up on space battles and kung-fu.

Fireweed Multi

Fireweed is the story of two runaways – boy and girl – who form a bond of friendship after discovering each other during the WWII London Blitz. There is fear and danger, and a bit of romance, as the kids learn to live and survive together. This story also has a realistic ending, always a plus. (Penguin, 1969)

 

Scarlet Sails is one of the very few books I’ve read that were translated into English. In this case, Russian author Alexander Grin (Aleksandr Stepanovich Grinevsky) has written a love story that takes place in an unnamed and somewhat surreal town by the sea. I’m no expert on translations, but I thought the English version was well-written, with a different “vibe” than many of the books I’ve read. I’m also not a romance fan but this story transcended that for me. I’m pretty sure it’s out-of-print but available used, and has been published in many editions, both English and Russian. (Scribner, 1967)

Scarlet

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Sci-Fi Favorites

SDFirst published by Doubleday in 1967, Stranger from the Depths was a delight to read as a boy in the 1970’s, conjuring an amphibious humanoid from a long dormant undersea culture, full of advanced technology and undersea adventure. The science may be a bit dated but the story was a page-turner. Unfortunately, my childhood copy slipped away at some point and it’s pretty hard to come by an unabridged hardcover edition anywhere, at a reasonable price. But I’m determined to read it again so my search goes on…

 

 

 

SP

Splinter of the Mind’s Eye was, to my recollection, the first attempted sequel to Star Wars. Written by Alan Dean Foster and published in 1978, it took the Luke Skywalker storyline in a whole different direction from the later movie sequels. Let’s just say that Luke and Leia are definitely not brother and sister! But it’s an enjoyable story for any Star Wars fan, and as a first sequel that doesn’t fit into the later official chronologies, it makes a very special addition to any SW book collection.

 

 

 

 

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Gun Repair

A while back I acquired a non-firing replica of the Colt 1848 “Baby Dragoon” pocket revolver. Although it is non-firing, it has a working trigger / hammer mechanism and rotating cylinder. Somehow I managed to break it so there was no spring tension in the hammer, and I finally decided to disassemble the gun and figure out what went wrong.gun1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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gun4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After examining the mechanism and fiddling with a couple of improvised springs – to no avail – I decided to remove one side of the grip and check out the innards. Since the grips were not made to remove, I actually broke off the left side, and what do you know? A big tension spring…gun5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The spring had an obvious misalignment, so I worked it back into place, reassembled the gun and re-glued the grip. All is well.

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