Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The long road to here

(Originally posted April 17. 2013)

Hey, wasn’t that fun? The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest has pared its original 10,000 entries to a semi-final list of 25. As expected they are moving on without me. But how can I be too disappointed---having made it to the final 500, and winning three very complimentary reviews along the way?
I took a few minutes the other evening to revisit the earlier blogs I have posted here, beginning four years ago. From beginning to end it reads like a travel diary of this retirement journey I’ve been on. I read of the bold decision to serialize my first stories here on the website. At the time they resided in three ring binders on my bookshelf. After daughter Amy created the appropriate format I started posting serialized entries of 6-8 pages twice a week.
I remember the anxiety that accompanied those first entries. For the first time I was going public---offering stories written by an amateur, about seventy year-olds who wanted to feel that way again. What would people think? The first one begins at a fiftieth class reunion. How bizarre was that? No wonder I was second guessing myself. In truth, I can’t imagine why I was so uptight. After all, until I told someone about the stories, no one would even know they were there.
I posted those serialized stories (there would be eight in all) twice a week for nearly two years before the notion of turning them into ebooks took hold. My first excursions on the internet to learn about that process were a bit depressing. The ebook revolution was just taking off, spawning dozens of would-be publishers, all of them wanting to cash in.
 I had decided long before that my stories, and my budget, did not warrant sinking dollars into vanity publishing schemes or pricey ebook providers. Not for the stories I was writing. Instead, my nationwide search led me all the way to Corvallis, Oregon, thirty miles from home. Ray Hoy’s Fictionworks would design and create the ebook files, then send them off to all the major ebook sellers. With no out-of-pocket cost to me my stories were available as ebooks, earning a modest royalty.
Just as remarkable, Ray and I finalized our deal over lunch---discussing my books and talking about the next night’s football game, when the two Corvallis high schools would play each other. His grandson was a starter for Crescent Valley HS. My grandson started for Corvallis High. The next night we both watched Corvallis win by a single point.
I was in the ebook business. And still, until I personally told my prospective audience about it, no one would know the books were available. That same truth applied to my first Print-on-Demand paperback---a handsome volume, badly in need of proofing---that I ordered in mid-2012. It was a great feeling, having a book of my own sitting there on my shelf. But it was expensive. Getting all eight books on that shelf would cost more than I was willing to spend.
Then, along came Create Space. I’ve mentioned in recent blogs how that low-cost, do-it-yourself approach to Print-on-Demand self-publishing fits me like a glove. In a matter of three months all eight titles were on my shelf, and available online in very affordable paperback and Kindle versions. What’s not to like about that?
Just as that task was accomplished, I was surprised to find a pair of very special desserts on my plate. Barbara Curtin of the Salem Statesman-Journal wrote a very nice article about my efforts. Though I wish she had said more about the stories themselves, instead of her fascination with an old fossil who writes love stories about old fossils, I definitely appreciated her article. Then, just weeks after that came news of the Breakthrough Novel results. My last posting told of that, and the first professional reviews I’ve ever received. That was seriously gratifying.
And now? In one of my earlier blogs I wondered out loud about how many unpublished (in the generally accepted sense) writers there are out there. Amazon’s 10,000 entry limit was filled in two or three days. In fact, millions of us are writing the stories we want to tell. We may spend years bringing our characters to life, the ones who live out the tales we create. Every story, no matter the genre or style, represents an extraordinary investment of time and self.
Having made that investment, what are we hoping for in return? There are probably as many answers as there are writers. Some may be seeking fame and fortune---a viable career. Chances are most of us would settle for a piece of that. But the odds are not in our favor. Yet I’m certain that most of my writing peers would agree on at least some things.

1) Each of us revels in the opportunity to pursue our own, very personal way of expressing ourselves---of saying what we want to say, in ways and settings that we have created.
2) Each of us longs to have our stories read and hopefully appreciated. There is a fine line between being appreciated for our efforts, and our results. Most of us are hoping for both.
3) Having invested so much of ourselves in that process we hope the reason you have passed on any given book of ours is because you have checked it out and decided it’s not for you, instead of not giving it a look.
With that in mind I hope you’ll follow this “Author’s Page” to the brief descriptions of all eight books and how they can be ordered.
Finally, as I prepare to return to the writing I set aside to focus on creating the paperbacks, I am reminding myself of the many ways this retirement project of mine has become such an eventful journey---always interesting and full of surprises, with so much to be learned. Who knows what I’ll be posting about in the months ahead? I hope you'll come back to see for yourself.

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