When I was a kid in the 60s, everybody told me I should be a writer.  I wrote “great stuff” for the school paper, wrote “can’t-wait-for-your-next-one” letters to my friends in far away places before PCs, email, the internet and texting were even a gleam in the eyes on Silicon Valley. I even produced an improv Senior talent show that would have put SNL to shame.

But I struggeld to get Bs in English classes while my best friends always seemed to excel at writing within the structured literary world.  One of my friends, Gary Nabhan, was considered a “poet genius” at 16 and left high school to pen great works in college.    

Television, “the vast wasteland” became my media of choice, finding the appeal of a story, well told, in 30-90 minutes much more satisfying than the artful use of words on hundreds of pages.  AND if I didn’t like what was on, I could always change the channel.  After all we had 3 network channels to choose from in those days. If we still couldn’t find a compelling story we could always tune in to UHF and the grandaddy of all reality TV, “Championship Wrestling”.

For a time I pursued a career in this old world “new media” Entertainment industry, but there were significant barriers to entry and I wasn’t willing to pay the price for a very slim chance at success.  Instead, I got married, started a family, got a degree in accounting, and ended up working in the fledgling computer industry.   I stole time from my sleep to keep a journal and write a screen play, but there were so many other priorities, writing eventually fell off my list of things to do.  I was convinced I would never earn a living producing entertainment. 

Then boy George got “Selected”,  9/11 happened and my once lucrative career imploded. With nothing to do but collect unemployment, I started to write again.  It was great.  I felt productive and engaged and I could express all of the frustrations of the time.

BUT, I had to pay the bills. My sabbatical from reality would only produce the first 30 pages of a novel and I would just set it aside until one fateful day this year(2007).  There is a magical place here in Arizona, called Changing Hands Bookstore .
My genius friend Gary, had signed his books there and I had been placed on their emailing list.  For some reason, I decided to open their calendar of events and saw a “writers workshop” for aspiring authors.  I signed up, sent the writing coach my 30 pages and the next thing I knew, she was asking to read the rest of the book.

There was no rest of the book, so she told me to go write it and pursue having it published.
Published? Me? Thirty pages were enough to warrant this kind of response?  Wow.  But I was in a different place.
I was back to earning a comfortable living as writer of software.  I was flattered, but not motivated enough to write 10 times as many words.  What would I say?  Did I have that much to say?  This was fiction.  Did I have that much imagination?

A month went by and fate practically knocked down my door.  While searching for a beginning guitar class at the local community college, I came upon the class “You were born to be published” taught by some guy named Tom Bird .  It wasn’t another how to write class, rather it was a how to get published class.  So I thought, hey why not?  I can’t get my ego bruised in this and I didn’t really want to learn the guitar anyway.   He was offering a discount if you signed up for his “Releasing your author within” class so I signed up for both of them.   

In the month before the class, I managed to squeeze out another 30 pages, but I had no idea where the rest of this novel would come from.

It turns out this Tom Bird guy is a published author and knows quite a bit about what it takes to get published. BUT he knows even more about how many different ways there are to get published and how many people are out there ready to victimize you when you are trying. 

The 99 bucks I paid for the classes denied thousands of dollars to those waiting to prey on my naivete.  But the motivation I acquired was priceless.  Tom’s theory of writing is based on releasing, unfettered, the writer that’s inside you.  I’ve never had a problem with a suppressed inner author, but most of the time my inner author just doesn’t want to write.

I discovered I need a reason to write.  I used to think getting that opening sentence out was all I needed like in the ultimate writer’s movie Throw Mama From the Train. When Billy Crystal shows us the marvelous pain of finding the right phrase to jump start the creative process as he utters “The night was…The night was”.
But I had the opening sentence, in fact I had the opening sixty pages, but my inner author was just not interested.

So, I decided to take Tom’s advice and send out some query letters, just to see if anyone would care if I wrote this book.
Of course in order to write a query letter, you have to know what your book is about.  And, if it’s fiction, like mine, you have to know your characters and your plot.  So I set about defining these things in 4 short paragraphs. After my third or forth draft my characters started developing the plot for me and by the time I started emailing the query, they were crying out to be written.  Yet, somehow, my inner author remained indifferent.

Within days I started getting favorable reactions from the query letters sent.  My inner author began to sense he had an audience and when four agents asked for a copy of the full manuscript and a one to two page synopsis of the book,  I started to write with abandon.   My characters came alive and led me through chapter after chapter.  Sometimes they would awaken me at night entreating me to write them out of their predicament.  Other times they would nudge me from my daily tasks and say, why can’t I do this or that?

So I wrote this book…In just 30 days I had 60,000 words, an original plot, real characters and maybe, just maybe, a good story. 

Over the next four months I hired readers and editors to review my work.  I struggled with some of their recommendations and embraced others.  After all the tweaking and critiquing the novel had become a 92,000 word modern myth complete with heroes, deities and explanations of “Natural” phenomena.  And, most importantly, it was a story I could still call my own.     

My novel is called Considering SomeplacElse  and I published it as a 3D ebook in early November(2007).   Total cost was 200 bucks for a copy of dnaml DeskTopAuthor  software. (which I can now use for all future e-books)

DeskTopAuthor isn’t compatible with Mac YET, but ebook systems Flip Publisher  is. 
I went with dnaml’s product initially, because it’s very easy to get your ebook to market with them.  I remain hopeful that the sales process can be worked out on Flip Publisher, but so far it hasn’t happened. 

Anyway, since less than 5% of book readers have gone ebook, I’m also publishing hardcopy through Dog Ear a Print on Demand Publisher.  This will cost me just under a $1000 and will put my book in the big online book stores in February next year(2008).

I did most of the final editing myself, but there are plenty of proof readers out there as well as literary and content editors that you can pay to “make it right”. 

I set my own price on the ebook AND the hardcopy. I would like to sell this in book stores at a reasonable price but a hard copy sold in a store will make me about 1/3 the profit my e-book will generate, even though my ebook is priced at 1/4 the price of my hardcopy.  It really pays to save those trees. 

Now, if I can just get people to read it!

Brain on Books