Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Transformation of Walter Mitty

A young couple whose baby was allergic to cats gave us Walter Mitty. They had never formally named him but he answered to “Kitty.” We wanted something a little less generic than that, so we settled on “Walter Mitty.” He quickly adjusted to being called “Mitty.”

In addition to the obvious advantage of rhyming with his earlier name, we found “Walter Mitty” an appropriate name because he was a very timid cat. During his first week at our house, we saw him only if we looked behind the washer and dryer or under the guest room bed. He ate his food and used his box, but not when we were awake and watching.

After a week, Mitty decided he was safe with us and he came out from behind-or-under and joined the family. He even became my lap cat in short order. If the doorbell rang, however, he was instantly out of sight. Visitors had to take our word for it that we had a cat.

Mitty was solely an indoor pet. When we moved to Westminster Village he adapted well to apartment living. Even the hall outside our apartment door seemed like another world to Mitty. He did not venture out and he did not show himself to people who entered the apartment. When we had lived here two or three months, I pulled him out from under the bed one morning and introduced him to our maid, who came on alternate Tuesdays. “Debra, this is Mitty, just in case you thought he was a phantom.”

Mitty was about three years old when he came to live with us, not much more than an adolescent as cats go, maybe a young adult. He’s now a middle aged nine-year-old, and has outgrown almost all of his earlier inhibitions. He is Debra’s good buddy, and is more likely to be on the bed than under it when she changes the sheets.

No visitor comes who isn’t properly greeted and sniffed out. And though he rarely ventures more than twenty feet from our door, Mitty insists on being allowed into the hall for a few minutes first thing in the morning and last thing at night.

All of which is to say, timidity is not always a lifelong affliction. Given a lot of love and a little encouragement, the Walter Mittys of this world sometimes morph into extroverts. Not quite? Well, at least into social beings.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

From Hoops to Hurdles

Yesterday it arrived: the third proof-copy of my novel, Parson Campbell’s Breakthrough. This time the cover was perfect. Light enough to show the wood grain, but with enough contrast to show effectively the notice that is tacked to it.

What to do first? I e-mailed Lindsey Archer, who designed the cover and then patiently submitted three amended versions to adapt to the publisher’s printing process. At the same time, a message to my son Mike, whose savvy about writing and technology has been an indispensable help along the way. I am grateful to both of them.

Then, this morning, I clicked on a button on the Create Space website to move the publishing process forward. Today is officially the date of publication, a red-letter day on my calendar. Now I wait to see how soon shows it on their online catalog.

Along with the congratulatory replies from Lindsey and Mike was Mike’s reminder of the work ahead: “Now to develop a marketing plan.” Ah, yes. We move from jumping through hoops to leaping over the hurdles of the marketplace.

For the time being my second novel is in "Park." The engine is still running but it is not moving forward.
Oh, for the good old days when the publishers did the marketing and writers got on with the writing of the next one.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Adventuresome Life

Ian Fleming, author of all those James Bond novels, also wrote Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, a novel in which he offered a philosophy of life that was probably his own: “Never say ‘no’ to adventures. Always say ‘yes,’ otherwise you’ll lead a very dull life.”

Arnold J. Jacobs, in The Know-It-All, calls that “moderately profound….not quite Ecclesiastes, but it’s pretty good advice.”

It reminds me of the old saying, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

I would add my own caveat: some adventures, though admittedly exciting, are morally adverse from the start and, in the end, bear sour fruit. I’d like to amend Fleming’s advice to “Go with God, and never look back.”

That’s adventuresome enough to make any life exciting and, at the same time, deeply satisfying.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A Lasting Happiness

F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote of a time, shortly after his marriage to Zelda and the publication of This Side of Paradise, when he experienced a moment of depression so extreme that he burst into tears while riding through the city in a taxi. He cried, he said, “because I had everything I wanted and knew I would never be so happy again.”

Now there are all sorts of reasons for depression, but if he was anywhere within shouting distance I’d say, ”Come off it, Fitzi, this one just doesn’t meet the test.”

I am past the point of having everything I ever wanted. I can remember having a stimulating and challenging vocation, a large and comfortable home with my family close around me, vigorous health, and a growing investment account. That was then.

Now I have reached the point in my retirement years where I have to pause to consider why I am getting out of bed in the morning; I have no job to go to, no yard to mow or flower beds to weed. My wife and I have downsized, our investment accounts are flowing in the wrong direction, our nearest family member is six hours away, and advancing years are taking their toll on our health and vigor.

But I do get up every morning, and I remain as happy as I was in “better” years. It’s a simple matter of faith and trust. Early in life, before I achieved what I could later recognize as success, even before I married and had a family, I latched onto a saying of the Apostle Paul that has been a watchword during every stage of my life. Paul wrote from prison to his friends at Philippi at what was obviously a low, low point in his life:

“Not that I complain of want; for I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content.”

Grab hold of that. It’s the formula for a happiness that will not go away, come hell or high water.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The End Is in Sight

At last. A week or so ago, after two and a half years of labor, I uploaded the interior file for my novel, Parson Campbell’s Breakthrough, to CreateSpace, the company that will produce it. Back came an e-mail. There was a “properties” problem, which I decoded as a problem with page count. I resolved that; then Lindsey Archer adjusted her cover design for spine width and sent me the file.

I uploaded my interior file again, this time successfully. Another hoop behind me. I uploaded Lindsey’s cover file. A message came back, a successful upload. But then another message: some elements of the cover needed a higher resolution. Lindsey dealt with that, and it appeared we could go back through that hoop again. Then, a message from Lindsey. Another hoop. The higher dots-per-inch count resulted in a file too large to send by e-mail. My son Mike found a way around that. The cover file came through, and I uploaded it successfully to CreateSpace.

Three days later, the proof copy of the book arrived in the mail, days before I had dared to expect it. The book is in sight, which is more progress than I made in the dream of my walk with Walter Mitty (see post of June 29). How many more hoops to jump through yet before this appears in the catalog? Surely not many.

I’m almost ready now for all those marketing hoops. Hooray? Or aw shucks? I’m not sure which.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Jumping Through the Hoops.

Back to the twists and turns of self-publishing a book.
When I decided I would s
elf- publish my novel, Parson Campbell’s Breakthrough, I determined I would not invest cash in a stash of books to be parked in some storage locker (I have no garage) until sold.

I decided to go with CreateSpace, an offshoot that publishes on a print-on-demand basis at virtually no up-front cost to the author IF the author produces a manuscript already formatted for the page and already proof read. That, of course, is a big IF.

It took some doing, and I thought I would be blind before I finished the proofing. Each time I thought I had perfect copy, I would read it through and find more typos. At last I am through that hoop. There may still be errors in the finished book, but I hope very few, and with the print-on-demand system I won’t have to wait for a second edition to correct them. If I upload an amended file to CreateSpace’s computer, the next book printed will be a corrected copy. Neat!

In the midst of all this there was the question of a cover. Before I was quite aware that CreateSpace offers cover templates that can be adapted by the author, I sought an original design. My son Mike enlisted the services of Lindsey Archer, a young designer in Memphis. While I was still proofing my text, she produced six cover designs among which I could choose. All were good, nothing “cookie cutter” about them, but one stood out. When I knew my final page count, which affects spine width, she e-mailed me a cover file to upload to Create/Space.

End of process? Not quite. There always seems to be one more jog in the road, another hoop to jump through but the book is now in sight. We'll get there yet.

(To be continued.)