A problem I had in my early days of writing, at that point where I started trying to be a professional writer, 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 none of them attacked me. Possibly 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. 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.
The book was called Where’s Tarkentower? 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 big compliment. I’d almost written a great book!
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 an editor putting together my first anthology, The Art of Losing. In the book were 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. But I wanted to be a short story writer as well as a publisher.
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 was then made available under the name, The Land of Words, much like this blog. It did well in sales, breaking the top 50 on Amazon, before falling back down into the basement along with everyone else. 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 had just put together another collection called, Face Forward, but this time we released it as a magazine.
It was pretty roughly thrown together and we got shredded in the reviews. Then, I’m happy to say, Longshot Island as a magazine easily reached the great old age of issue No. 2! Here are some pictures of Fallen Leaves.
And then, we continued the climb, with our best issue ever, featuring art by Mr. Wise. This one is called Leaving Home.
Today, as I write this, the magazine is approaching its third year, with talented authors like Daniel Wallace and Christine Rice on the pages.
The future looks bright. Here’s to another good story.