Taking a cue from Jeff Foxworthy, "if you like hanging around libraries, you just might become an author."
CAN I WRITE A BOOK?
First off: these five words are asked by countless people around the world every day. I once read that approximately 65,000 books are written every year by people all around the world. Written by people of diverse backgrounds, races, ethnicities. Books of as many varied interests as there are authors. People with amazing and perhaps unimaginable experiences, good or bad - at least until they write them down. Writing can be cathartic. Sadly, only a few of these books and their authors ever achieve recognition, fame and notoriety.
But that’s okay. Throughout history, men and women have written great books, wonderful poems, prodigious musical compositions, painted glorious masterpieces, created marvellous works of art and invention, only to achieve recognition long after they’re gone.
Secondly: writing can be a daunting task and compels many would be authors to engage in serious soul searching. Questions like ‘am I qualified or knowledgeable enough to write my book’. Are my personal experiences really that unique. Are my ideas original or as Marty McFly in Back To The Future fretted "what if they don’t like it?"
Thirdly: publishing can be extremely overwhelming and very frustrating. Getting countless rejections from traditional publishers might be soul crushing, but never publishing, creating or pursuing ‘your thing’ will haunt a person with remorse and regret all their lives having never even tried.
Finally: as for ‘Self publishing, or POD – print on demand publishing - that comes with its own categories of pitfalls and obstacles. There’s the initial costs, there are the risks, and there’s the challenge of having to do much of the work yourself even if you’re with a good publisher.
For my first book ABAJAM Chronicles, Two Families Lost In Time, I personally arranged and went on my own book signing tour, visiting 12 or 13 different stops or locations; from California to Texas, Iowa to Florida. In Canada I held two events in Winnipeg Manitoba, one in Kitchener, one in Waterloo and finally Woodstock Ontario. It was both interesting and educational to say the least. And yes, I’d do it all over again, only next time I would change some of the venues that I hold my events at. NO MORE TRUCK STOPS!
I was initially inspired to write my book by something I had heard on the radio – it was a biographical profile on a newly successful children’s book author named J.K. Rowling. And FTR, she now has my book, I have a letter somewhere from her people acknowledging receipt…as to whether she’ll ever read it, very unlikely.
Sure, success would be nice but I wrote my first book primarily to both amuse and prove something to myself. It kept me preoccupied when I was bored. It provided me motivation to do research, a reason to go on adventures – like spending a working week on a tall ship - attend re-enactment’s and events related to the storyline, visit interesting locations, museums and interpretive centres.
I got to explore archeological sites, interview people – from police and military officers including an INSET agent; Integrated National Security Enforcement Team – Canada’s real spooks. I enjoyed breakfast meetings with a physics teacher, etc., as well as anyone who could contribute to the story for accuracy, clarity and of course, authenticity. Science fiction should at least sound credible.
Writing my first book inspired me to start collecting ‘props’ – such as replica black powder firearms, swords and knives, models, a science kit with microscope, historical maps and charts, antique clocks – they factor in the story - including interesting samples and knick-knacks that were associated with the story.
I bought books, magazine subscriptions, sought out-of-print memoirs and records. For one out of print book, I had to visit a distant library, go into a special sealed room, and have the librarian photocopy the pages I required.
I’ve conducted experiments – like making alcohol or preparing or smoking various food - that readers would find interesting in my books.
Yes, my intention was to write several books, but…
…regrettably life got in the way, I put it on a shelf and forgot about it… That is until I met someone who was willing to read it, assess it and encouraged me to consider publishing it. This is by far the most important aspect of writing and getting published; constructive criticism and encouragement by a credible authority, be they a publisher, writer or an editor. Even supportive family members.
So what makes me a credible writer and or author you ask?
a) First of all: I have had a number of articles published in several trade magazines for which I got paid, rather handsomely I will admit. That distinction alone – getting paid - qualifies me as a professional writer.
b) For over 39 years, I was a professional over the road truck driver. Eventually I became an owner operator, buying my own truck - making me a small business man. And that too factors into my books storyline. Consider the axiom of ‘write about what you know’.
c) I am now semi-retired, but during my illustrious driving career I got to visit almost every state in the USA save for two. I got to visit every province in Canada, save for one. I’ve delivered to countless large cities, small rural towns, unusual locations – from farm fields to underground caves. I’ve sat on the runways and tarmacs of airports, both commercial and military. I regularly delivered to secret submarine bases in Connecticut – that is until they found out I was a Canadian and a threat to their national security. I’ve even made several deliveries to West Point Military Academy in NY state.
d) As a long distance driver, I had incalculable hours available to me – literally several hours every day for years on end - to listen to:
1. educational radio programs on public radio,
2. audio book tapes,
3. interesting informative interviews, on public radio.
4. and of course beautiful music in this crazy world.
e) I also had countless hours to read when not driving. Drivers sometimes sit at a customers docks for hours, even days at a time. Fortunately, I have eclectic taste in what I read; I’ve read everything from books on theology to psychology, history to fantasy, some financial books as well as a few motivational books. They never helped.
I enjoy reading mysteries along with science fiction, an occasional auto-biography including some cook books.
As for magazines, I'd buy whatever might be applicable to my book, whether it was in Popular Science or Astronomy, I had subscriptions to National Geographic as well as Canada's premier history magazine once called The Beaver.
For some inexplicable reason they had to change their name…