Book Update #3

The Sea Trials of an Unfortunate Sailor
Book Cover

It has been a while since my last book update and several things have happened in the interim that impacts the story. For instance, there has been the repeal of the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy, there is the feedback that I have been receiving from those I asked to read and criticize the story for me, and there is the near collapse of the traditional publishing industry right before our eyes. So, how does all of this impact the story you ask?

As you are probably aware, Congress passed and the president signed into law the repeal of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy right before the end of 2010. This is significant, not just because it finally ends a discriminatory and un-American policy, but also because it forces me to consider making serious changes to my novel. Currently, the novel is set in the mid-1990s, sometime not long after the implementation of the DADT policy; however, I’m wondering if I should update the story to the present time and have the characters behave as if there is no longer the DADT policy to contend with. That would require major rewrites and I’m not sure if I’m up for that. I’m rather looking forward to moving on to my next writing project. We’ll just have to wait and see.

One reason I’m not up for major rewrites of the story is because I’m already in the midst of, if not major rewrites, than major edits. Soon after declaring my story “finished” in my last book update, I asked several of my friends to read it and to let me know what worked and what didn’t work. What I have learned from the feedback I have received so far is that overall the story is pretty good but it moves too fast in places and some of the characters need to be fleshed out more.

I’m going through the story now and trying to patch it up where I can. I want to be careful though because I intentionally wanted the story to do a couple of things.

First, I wanted to create a verisimilitude for the reader where he or she can feel how overwhelming it is for someone, especially someone new to the navy, to report to a ship for the first time. Ships are their own little worlds with their own social structures, laws, and language. When you first report onboard everything seems to be happening so fast and, until you learn the rules and are accepted, it all can be more than a little intimidating, and sometimes even dangerous. So I wanted to keep the story moving fast and try to create a surreal pace where you always feel like you are one step behind of where it is you are supposed to be going, but barely one step ahead of the forces intent on preventing you from getting there.

Second, I wanted to force the reader to have to rely on his or her own stereotypes and prejudices to draw conclusions about characters and events in the story. The reason for this is, since DADT policy forbade service members from asking other service members what their sexual orientation is and it forbade homosexuals from openly admitting their homosexuality, harassment and physical abuse against homosexuals during the era of DADT were perpetrated based on the stereotypes, prejudices, and perceptions of those who committed the harassment and abuse. They didn’t know for sure that they guy they were picking on was gay, they were just reacting to what they thought a gay person was supposed to be like.

Anyway, that is the rationale for the limited character descriptions in the story. I know it may sound like I’m trying to rationalize away the criticism I have been receiving (and maybe at some level I am) but I do understand that I need to make editing improvements to the story but I need to make them in a way that is mindful to my original intent. Hopefully I can pull it off. Again, we’ll just have to wait and see how it turns out in the end.

During Christmas 2009, my sister came to visit and during her visit she proudly showed off her new gift: an Amazon Kindle e-reader. Everyone wanted to take a look at it so she handed it to the relative next to her and it slowly made its way around the horn to me. When it arrived, tucked neatly inside a svelte and stylish binder, I gave it a cursory, dismissive once-over and quickly passed it on for someone else to ogle over while I snobbishly declared that e-readers weren’t for serious readers like me, even though secretly, I thought that sucker was pretty cool.

That was my first look at the growing e-book revolution. During the year between Christmas 2009 and Christmas 2010, I had been intent on finishing my book and getting it published by one of the “Big Six” or, at least, one of the smaller book publishers.  I was the old fashioned way, through one of the traditional publishers in the traditional, slow, way. I did not pay much attention to the e-reader revolution that was taking the industry by storm.

When I did finally begin to notice, I told myself it would all soon pass after everyone realized that e-books could never replace the feel and comfort and friendliness of a real book. Well, that’s probably what the music executives thought about CDs, too, as they stood by and watched their traditional music publishing industry collapse before their eyes.

So, this year for Christmas, when my son showed me his new gift, an iPad, and I saw how transformative and cool that thing is, I decided I better take another look at what is going on in the state of the book publishing world.

What I found was pretty bloody. The e-publishing revolution, instead of abating, has continued to spread. E-book and self-publishing sales are on the advance while brick-and-mortar book stores are running up the white flags of surrender like there is no tomorrow…which, for them, there probably isn’t. They are closing their doors, filing for bankruptcy, and wiping out millions of dollars worth of potential sales for publishers and writers.

With this revolution, self-publishers are no longer considered quite the pariahs that they used to be–they are now the revolutionaries, the subversives. With the ease and convenience that the e-readers bring to self-publishing, along with a growing market of dedicated e-reader readers like my sister, some writers are making some very serious coin by skipping all of the overhead and hassle that the traditional publishing industry brings (while taking a hefty cut of the profits) and bringing their stories directly to market themselves.

With all this in mind, and keeping in mind that it may benefit me to get my story to market as quickly as I can while DADT is still fresh in the mind, I have pretty much decided to self-publish my book, first by submitting it directly to the e-reader market and then to a print service like lulu.com or one of the others out there.  Wish me luck…I’ll need it.

Lastly, as far as things that have happened since my last book update, if you haven’t noticed just by looking around on this site or my facebook page, I have now the artwork for the cover of my book.

When I decided to self-publish, I started checking out the cover artists that other self-publishers use and I quickly realized that I knew someone who could create something just as good, if not better. Of course there is parental prejudice and preference, but he always has been very artist and creative. I’m referring to my son Willis.

He, like others of his twenty-something generation, have grown up with this technology, he has studied graphic design in college, and he does most of the design work for his band’s website.

I am so glad I asked him to design the cover for me because, well, you can see how kick-ass it is, but more importantly, I had a blast sitting down with him during the course of a week or so, usually sometime after midnight (we are both night owls), and watch the cover transform from a simple concept into the artwork that it is now.

To get there he spent many hours researching other cover artists and designers, as well as the technical specifications that the cover designs must meet in order to be submitted to the major e-reader sights. Plus, it was good for me as I go through an editing process to talk with him about the concepts and fundamentals of the story as I envision them to be.

The cover that he created is a beautifully, and somewhat eerily, accurate artistic representation and psychological translation of what I see in my mind when I think about the story. After you read the story, I think you will agree.

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