Self-Publishing Nightmare

Setting your foot in a bear trap is a painful experience. I know. I’ve done it. It hurts. But as the Lord once said to the prophet, Joseph Smith, “All these things shall give thee experience.” And so it goes. Self publishing a book is a study in adversity. It also can be expensive. But there certainly is a light looming ahead. I can remove my foot from the bear trap and refuse to put it in there again.

So now I’m searching for a literary agent. One who will be kind, and gentle, and easy on my wallet. I’m learning how to write in a new genre: query letters. Like most everything else in life, it’ mostly about learning. The trick is to love it, which I do.

Lessons in Life

Life’s lessons never seem to end. Recently I learned that it doesn’t pay to rewrite a book and use the same title. Boyhood Adventures – Second Edition seemed like a good idea at the time, but now … not so much.In my effort to market my new book, I have found I have made it difficult for folks to run a Google search. The original book shows up instead of the second edition.

Countdown to 2nd Edition

Page Publishing is working on the cover design for the 2nd. edition of Boyhood Adventures. I’m very excited about the pending launch of this new book. I think I’ve improved the humorous aspects of the work, as well as increasing the dramatic tones. I will post the enhanced cover image as soon as I approve the final version. I would appreciate feedback from my followers.

Work Continues

Recently I decided to write a second edition of Boyhood Adventures. I was unhappy with much of the self-editing I had done and there was much I wanted to add to the book. Battling the forces of procrastination and writer’s block, I finally submitted my project for professional editing and publication. I chose Page Publishing to work with me on this and, so far, I am very pleased with them. To date, the text has been edited and formatted to my satisfaction. There is a bit of art work being processed and that will take another 3/5 weeks to complete. After that comes the cover design, then final approval for publication.

Depicting the Bad Guy as a Good Guy

One of my current projects is a book entitled, The Troubleshooter. The story features a newly-trained Army OSS officer tasked with bringing Waffen-SS war criminals to justice. Fresh out of spy school, our hero quickly discovers that the world of clandestine combat conflicts in a big way with his Christian values.

The stark realities of capital punishment become all too vivid, and, in short, our would-be hero finds himself ensnared by a military justice system that he feels may destroy his soul. Upon reporting for duty in Holland, he finds himself the newest member of a squad of OSS operatives known only to themselves as, “The Troubleshooters.”

As a writer, I will be maneuvering under, over, around, and through the ethics of an honorable man. The story describes how the values of this man are stressed as he witnesses the residual fragments of humanity left in the wake of evil men committing heinous and barbarous acts. Our hero reassesses his moral paradigm and attempts to answer a question that haunts him: “What is justice?”

The literary process of altering a human value system is truly challenging. Equally demanding is satisfying readers that the main character is a hero, and is justified in exacting capital punishment without “due process.” World history helps me out a bit.

History has depicted members of the Nazi Waffen-SS as examples of the darkest form of evil. The war criminals being pursued by the Troubleshooters were barbaric and unfeeling as they used torture and agonizing death as tools of demonic acts of terror. It’s tough to tell the story in a manner wherein the reader approves of summary execution, notwithstanding the villainous nature of Waffen-SS soldiers. But the story reveals them as merciless (and even enthusiastic) executioners of helpless victims, including members of the French underground, and American and Allied prisoners of war.

So, there it is. Is the hero of the story a Bad Guy – or is he a Good Guy? Will he inherit eternal damnation for his sins or will he have earned a place in a glorified kingdom?

I suppose the readers of the story will sit in judgment.

Converting Blank Page to Enthralling Episode

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I’ve learned some great lessons by paying attention to TV and screen writers’ methodology. What I’ve learned has helped me – I hope – to improve the quality of my own books. Most importantly for me – and my readers – I’ve made two significant observations:

  1. Action shows begin with action!  In the gool-ol’ days, movie goers expected to see the movie begin with the title, and the names of the stars they came to see. Then they munched on their popcorn while enduring the obligatory tribute to writers, musical artists, cinematographers, and producers. At length, the viewer knew the movie was about to begin when they saw the name of the director displayed on the screen. Today, viewers expect an immediate onslaught of dramatic music and sound effects designed to blast the ear drums of elderly folks like me. They do this, of course, to heighten the intensity of beginning an action movie. The viewer loses control of the popcorn (50% of which now ends up underfoot on the theater floor). It’s time to buckles up! The credits now displayed are almost invisible as viewer attention is focused intently upon the ebbing intensity of action on the screen.
  2. Dramatic TV show writers work their artistic craft by skillfully conjoining episodes with an ominous and opaque backdrop of suspense. Something sinister is brewing in the background. It’s an adjunct to the main plot, but viewers are enthralled by it; almost distracted by the dark shadow of intrigue that threatens to upset the apple cart. The viewer is given just enough information to realize that something ominous and unsettling will – at some point – rear its ugly head to obliterate lesser concerns. The viewer will enjoy a satisfying conclusion to the episode, but will be left in suspense, wondering when the mystery of the ominous specter will be resolved. A skilled writer will keep this foreboding monster alive through two or more seasons of episodes.

Fortunately, I’m at a stage in my current writing project that I can implement that which I’ve learned about these two important lessons. Converting a blank page to an enthralling episode is not easy, but the challenge of doing so is an enjoyable task.

The Sikorsky UH-34D Helicopter

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It’s challenging to write a book containing technical elements. My current novel, “Wings of Valor,” features the Sikorsky UH-34D helicopter as much as any character in the book. Describing a character is challenging all by itself. Describing a mechanical entity, without boring the reader to death, is even more challenging. There are many facets to describing the operation of a helicopter: sights, sounds, scents, vibrations, heat, aerodynamic effects, etc.

Describing one’s own sensory perception is another technical challenge. Helicopter pilots and crew members often speak of their aircraft as if it were a living entity. “She was cranky today,” is something a pilot once said to me. And, as it happened, I agreed with him.

I’ve observed that my sensory perception seemed to have peaked at times when I knew my aircraft was laboring under the demands of maximum military power. I vividly recall the scent of overheating transmission oil as the pilot pulled the collective stick to the maximum, while performing a rotor climb at eight thousand feet above sea level.

Writing a description of the sound of a Pratt & Whitney R1820-84C radial engine, as it cranks to life, is something I want to describe without rhetoric. Including excessive technical information could cause a reader to lose interest. But, I don’t want to leave the reader wondering what the heck I’m talking about either. I may have a crystal clear idea of the sound I have in mind as I describe the cranking radial engine as a “chugging” sound, but what will my readers hear with their virtual ears?

Then there are the issues of, does it really matter? Is it important to the story? This is something I must constantly keep in mind. Honestly, I don’t know how Tom Clancy does it. Maybe, as I continue to study his descriptive writing, I’ll learn. He certainly has a way of pulling such things off in a most impressive manner.

No … Not Battling Banjos … It’s Battling Novels

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My mental process is enough to make most any publisher scream in despair. Maybe it’s my attention deficit syndrome, I’m not sure. Day to day, my focus changes from one novel to another. Mine is not a writing process I recommend, but it seems to be unavoidable for me.

My top priority is to complete a book entitled, Wings of Valor. It’s a long novel about combat helicopter crews set in the Republic of South Vietnam circa 1966-1968. When I’m on a roll, the story moves along with satisfying progress. However, my attention is often diverted by the formation of scenes in my mind, having to do with another project: The Troubleshooter. That book is about a U.S. Army intelligence officer (Captain Frank West) assigned to bring WWII war criminals to justice. Beginning in 1944, the story moves through the countries of France, Belgium, Holland, Norway, and Germany.

For the most part, I’ve been able to stick with my primary project. But I find it difficult to disregard the creative flow that percolates in my mind at random times and places. I would say that moving from one project to another is quite counterproductive, but the end result – for me – seems strangely satisfying.

Most of last week found me working happily on Wings of Valor. I was making great progress. Then, late one night, I found myself awakened by questions of protocol for O.S.S. operatives pursuing WWII war criminals. This, of course, had nothing to do with Wings of Valor, but was key to many action scenes in The Troubleshooter. So, after having my REM’s so blatantly interrupted, a new restlessness compelled me to search for answers. By 2 AM, I was searching for answers to questions such as: How does a U.S. Army intelligence officer pursue a German Waffen SS war criminal in the middle of war-torn Europe? How would Capt. West be attired? How would he blend in? How would he apprehend the war criminal? How would he transport his prisoner for trial?

History plays a big part in my two books. Historical facts regarding military protocol are key ingredient in the believability of my two books. So, for me, researching history is as important as writing fiction … writing believable fiction. But, as helpful as Google research and history books are, I have discovered that nothing is quite as helpful as listening to the still, small voice of inspiration. Combining history research with inspiration led me to the answers I sought, much to my relief.

So, having found my answers, I returned my attention to Wings of Valor. I never planned on working on two books at one time, but it seems clear to me that such is my lot in life. I don’t know if other writers face such a delima, but it certainly is a fact of life for me. I hope I don’t come up with a third idea for a book before I finish those I’m working on now. I don’t think my coping mechanism could handle it.