A problem I had in my early days of writing was coming up with an original storyline. I thought, if I had an experience, a real, mind-blowing experience, the story would write itself. The world would read it. I then tried my hand at travel writing. I rode my bicycle across Alaska. I kept a journal along the way and when I got home I typed it up. That was just over 60,000 words and no publisher would touch it. The thing was, I’d planned my bike ride really well. Nothing terrible ever happened. There wasn’t much tension in the story. Sure, I ran into bears and wolves. But if I’d crawled across Alaska on broken legs, backwards, while feeding on moose droppings, then, maybe then, people would want to read about it. While I had the experience of a lifetime in Alaska, I soon gave up on travel writing.
I started writing a column for a company newsletter. To my surprise, people read it. From there, the school I was working for asked me to write a children’s book. It was to be 500 words long. I thought, how hard can that be? It took months to finish. Here are some pictures, including the cover and an inner page.
My first children’s book. Does that clown look a lot like Ronald McDonald to you? He’s selling pizza. Little did the illustrators know that McDonald’s would attempt to sell pizza, a product that flopped.
The school liked my work and asked me to sit in on a committee writing textbooks. Mostly I was advising at this point, not writing. But it gave me an idea. I went back to school and got an MBA degree and started a publishing company of my own. We had a big hit. We sold hundreds of copies of Work and Play Abroad to a school in Korea. My company was called Pebblefoot Press. Here’s the cover. This book is still available on Amazon.
By this time the self-publishing revolution was fully underway. I still had a problem with the whole process, though. With a typical book, you might spend a year writing it and then another six months getting it ready to sell, between hiring an editor, coming up with a book cover, and formatting it. I needed to write faster.
I put together a story about a magical world with elements of science fiction, set in the future. It seems like most fantasy books I’ve read are always set in the past. Why not the future? Genre-wise, I call it futuristic fantasy. And I wrote it really fast, because the idea was fresh in my mind.
My book is called Where’s Tarkentower? It’s around 60k words long and took me three months to write. I also paid an editor who worked with me over the next three months to refine it. After publication, at one point it took on a life of its own. People were reading it and commenting about it online. One woman said, “It could have been a great book if…”. I took that as a total compliment. I’d almost written a great book!
The publisher is Longshot Press. It’s gone through three major revisions. About every two years I take another look at it and realize how much better it could be. If anyone has read the older copy and wants a new one, let me know.
But the problem was still the same. It takes a lot of time to write a book and nobody these days seems to have a lot of time to read. I’ve always enjoyed reading short stories. And as a writer, they don’t take long to put together. In fact, when you do the research, you discover that a lot of famous writers went the route of perfecting their short story long before ever attempting to write a book.
The idea of being an anthologist also started to grow on me. I worked as the editor for Thinkerbeat Press putting together my first anthology, The Art of Losing. In the book are twenty-four stories by writers from all over the world. It took me a year to find them and edit the stories and put them in sequence. I bled and sweat and cried along the way. And along the way I met a lot of really exciting people.
This was a fantastic project, but also an experimental one. Eventually Thinkerbeat Press found itself in financial trouble and went out of business. The book is no longer in print.
A short story of mine, The War Machine, was published in a Novopulp anthology and my name landed on the front cover. The publisher is out of business but the book is still available. Incidentally, I never got paid for it. Beware. There are a lot of con-artists in this business.
My collection of short stories is available under the name The Land of Words, much like this blogsite. It’s published under Longshot Press and is available in print and ebook formats. I have plans for a second book somewhere down the road.
It occurred to me about this point in time that anthologies, or collections of stories, don’t sell as well as stories in magazines. I put together a collection called Face Forward but this time we made it as a magazine.
I’m happy to say that Longshot Island as a magazine reached the great old age of issue No. 2! Here are some pictures of Fallen Leaves.
And now, our best issue ever, featuring art by Mr. G. Wise. This one is called Leaving Home.
Email me if you have any questions or a project you’d like me to work on. Check out Longshot Island online, where we put our short stories for your reading pleasure.
The future looks bright. Here’s to another good story.