Little Snippets

Clearly my world has changed in the last couple of days, and it’s fall. As I got ready for work this morning, I heard hard pinging on the skylight in the bathroom. At first I thought that strange, because we had no rain in the forecast. Then I realized it was acorns falling from the nearby oak tree. Not many branches extend as far as the skylight, but a couple do. However, this seemed to be too many pings relative to the probable supply of ready-to-fall acorns, and I realized it had to be wind pushing them from other branches onto the skylight.

Sure enough, when I went outside for my commute, a blustery wind greeted me; not strong enough to have been heard in the house, but strong enough to easily move leaves and push acorns. It’s definitely fall.

I got in my pickup and started it, and almost immediately lines for a haiku came to mind. This is my commuting writing endeavor. Either on the way to work or on the way home, though more often the former, a haiku will come to me while I’m driving. Typically the first line and perhaps the third line come right away. As I drive the 15.6 miles to my destination, I work on it in my mind. The second line will eventually come. By the time I get there, I have a completed haiku—subject to further revision, as always.

That’s if I don’t forget it between the time I park and get to a place where I can write it. So often the lines leave me, and another writing idea is lost. Today, however, the lines didn’t leave me. I had worked on them enough, especially massaging the second line, that by the time I got to my desk, then went and weighed and got coffee, came back to my desk, had my devotions, prayed, and woke up my computer, I pulled out one of the prior days from my desk calendar, and on the back of it wrote the haiku. I don’t know that it’s final, but it meets all the criteria I usually put into a haiku.

A haiku isn’t much, but it’s writing. It’s creativity focused. I’ll take it, and be glad for it during the Time Crunch. Just as I’ll take the little bit of research I can do a few days a week, in the letters of Thomas Carlyle, which will work towards a couple of future (maybe) projects.

The Time Crunch will pass and I’ll dedicate more time to writing. Meanwhile, I’ll have to find joy in these small snippets.


I know this is my day to post to this, my writing blog. But due to the busyness of life, and the Time Crunch that I’m in, my thoughts and actions are so far away from writing that I have nothing pertaining to writing to write about and post.

Sorry. Maybe the future will be better.

Writing in October

As I’ve said elsewhere, the Time Crunch has prevented me from working on my different writing projects. Alas, that’s how life is sometimes. That’s how it is now, and for the foreseeable future. I have no expectations of doing much writing for the rest of 2014.

But, yesterday, during my noon hour, I had a few moments to think about things, and decided to see exactly what I had written this month. Pulling things together, checking a few websites, I came up with a long list. It is summarized as follows.

  • 6 posts at this blog
  • 5 posts at my other blog
  • My first devotional, turned in on the 20th
  • 3 comments at the Books & Such blog
  • 2 brief comments at the Passive Voice blog
  • 1 comment at the Absolute Write forums
  • 17 personal e-mails, some of them one-liners
  • 39 work e-mails, some of them one-liners

All of these aren’t publishable writing pieces, but they are writing. It doesn’t include many posts on Facebook, both writing related and personal. Nor does it include a couple of things at work that are started only in outline form. These are “curriculum” type items, cobbling together various classes I’ve taught over the last eight years into eight to ten class courses. So far I haven’t done any original writing on them, but most likely will before the end of the month.

That also doesn’t include three new classes that I’m preparing to teach: one in November, one in December, and one probably next March. Each of these will require quite a bit of prep for a one hour class. At least one of them (the one in March) will have a significant essay as part of it.

So, I have been writing this month; just not publishable things, with one exception. I guess I need to take what writing I can find time to do.

My First Devotional

Writing time is still at a premium while I’m in the Time Crunch, but I actually produced something this week. I should have written about this yesterday, during my normal time slot for this blog, but had no energy for it, and so just made a quick post to my Facebook author page.

Back on October 1, our pastor sent out an e-mail to a number of people, asking them to write devotionals for our Advent season. He has a specific program laid out, with scripture on different days of Advent, some posts by him, some scripture studies, and then three posts a week by others in the church, each to a specific topic. At the end of the e-mail he wrote, “By the way, if your name is not David Todd, this may be your chance to be a published author for the first time.”

Ha! I thought about it, and decided I probably wouldn’t do it, though I’d have liked to try, and so didn’t reply to his e-mail. Devotionals are a different critter than anything I’ve written. I’ve thought about them, and “wrote” a couple in my mind. When I read the Bible subjects for a devotional on the passage just read frequently pass through my mind.

But devotionals, as normally written, are much different than what I’m used to writing: fiction and informational non-fiction. They need to be short, refer to scripture, and bring in a personal observation or illustration. It’s that latter requirement that turned me off from writing them.

On Oct 8 the pastor e-mailed again, repeating his request, saying he had a few more slots to fill. This time I wrote him back and said I would love to but I wasn’t sure I could write a devotional and that the Time Crunch worked against me. He wrote back to say no problem, why don’t you just take this one, mentioning a specific one that hadn’t been taken. It’s the Christmas Eve one. Nothing like pressure.

I said okay, and learned that the deadline was Oct 20, Monday this week. Saturday I finally sat down, reviewed the scripture, thought about how to tie reconciliation to Christmas, and started writing in manuscript. Pastor asked that they be 400 to 700 words. By the end of an hour or so, I estimated I had 400 words, including quoted scripture. And I had more to write. Whether what I had just produced was any good or not I didn’t know, but I was on my way.

Monday, Deadline Day, in my pre-work hour and on the noon hour, I worked on it some more, and had it pretty much finished except for editing. I snuck in a couple of read-throughs during the afternoon, tweaked it, back-checked it against the scripture, and decided it was the best I could do, coming in at 706 words. I e-mailed it to the pastor. That evening he wrote back saying, “Perfect, David! This will be a great addition to our devotional guide.” I hope he’s not into hyperbole.

So, I have now written a devotional. It’s the only writing I’ve produced in over a month, except for blog posts. I have only blogs posts planned for another month at least. Will more devotionals be in my future? Stay tuned.

How Much Does It Cost To Trade Publish

For most unpublished authors, obtaining a contract with a trade (a.k.a. traditional, royalty paying) publisher is the dream, the goal, the end of a lengthy and frustrating pursuit. Many chase that dream for years. I did. For eight years to be exact. Some days I still think that I’d like that, have a book trade published.

Then I wake up, and realize chasing that dream didn’t make much sense. I still follow a couple of agent blogs, which keeps me up on the news and mindset of that industry.  On one of those blogs, I had the following exchange earlier this week.

[The Agent] …Quotes from a significant endorser or a phrase from a fabulous review will appear on the cover of the print version, but they wouldn’t be visible digitally.  Quotes or a “burst” that announces the book has won has award, must be handled differently online. Ask the marketing staff at your publishing house to have that cover quote start out the book’s online description. Having that quote in bold or a larger font and separated from the rest of the description will help to convey its importance….

[Me] “Ask the marketing staff at your publishing house to have that cover quote start out the book’s online description.” You mean a publisher’s professional and experienced marketing staff won’t know enough to do this on their own?

[Another commenter; call her "Jane"] Not a lot of publishers like that. I know a couple I work with that won’t even put quotes or tagline on the front cover. Every PH has their own style and preferences. Besides, they have a lot more going on to get a single book out that to worry about marketing details. Most marketing is up to the author, these days to cut expenses.

[The Agent] “Jane” is correct, David, in that the publisher’s marketing department is working on providing marketing for so many titles at one time that taking an endorsement or mention of an award from the cover and highlighting it in the book’s online description isn’t a thought that is likely to occur to them. Authors will probably have to offer the marketer a prompt.

A trade publisher pays royalties in the range of 8 to 15 percent of the book price.  Maybe that’s of the net the publisher receives, which would make it about half that amount, but let’s just leave those as the range. A bestselling author might get the 15, a debut author will probably get the 8, with close to no advance. So essentially the author is paying the publisher 85 to 92 percent of the revenue of each book for services the publisher is providing, and for providing these services the publisher retains a portion of that 85 to 92 percent as profit.

But what does the author receive for paying this? One thing they don’t seem to get is marketing or promotion. “Jane” said what I suggested should be done by the marketing staff would be unusual, not the norm. So it seems the author is not getting any work done by an experienced, professional marketing staff, other than an entry in a catalog, and a very deficient entry at that.

More and more I’m glad I made the decision to self-publish. Sure, I don’t get many sales. But if I had continued to pursue trade publishing I’d probably still be out in the cold, chasing a dream, never waking up.


No Writing Tasks Yesterday

I’m in the midst of the Time Crunch (which I may re-label the Great Time Crunch), as I reported before.  My time is being consumed with normal gotta-do-it-to-live activities, as well as this new stock trading education program we’re in. That especially is taking up a lot of time, more even than I expected when we started.

Saturday I did nothing at all on writing, except maybe look at a writing blog or two. Well, thinking back and trying to remember, I may have found time to look at a few a Thomas Carlyle’s letters, researching for a future book. So maybe I can’t say I didn’t get to do anything that day.

Sunday I know for sure that my only writing tasks was research into those letters. I did that while watching Sunday night football, and think I may have gone through almost two dozen of them. But as far as putting words on paper, words of my own, nothing.

Yesterday was a null day as far as writing was concerned. I checked in on a couple of writing blogs, and was able to hurry a post on to my other blog, but as far as preparing new works, nothing. No research. No writing. Nothing. That may be the first weekday in a long, long time where I haven’t done something to further my writing career. Since blogging doesn’t seem to be doing anything for that, I don’t think I can count it.

Today doesn’t look any better. Lynda will be coming home with Elise, our granddaughter, who we’ll watch for a few days. The stock trading educational activities continue, including a webinar tonight, as well as homework assignments.

I don’t know when writing will resume. Right now it’s not in the foreseeable future.

Adjusting to the Time Crunch

So, as I said in my last post, the Time Crunch is here. Finding time to write will be difficult. Therefore, it’s time to make adjustments.

What I find so far in my new schedule is that I have snippets of time—a half hour here, forty-five minutes there—in which I can do something. That includes minor time at work, before and after being “on the clock,” but also some time in the evenings. I may have 30 minutes before we watch a webinar, or a similar amount of time after a conference call with our mentor. How do I fill that time?

To work on the formatting of Father Daughter Day I would have to go to The Dungeon and work on the computer there. That would be the same for the formatting of my next Thomas Carlyle book (which I’ve never posted about in detail; must put it on the schedule to do so). If I want to sit upstairs next to Lynda rather than abandon her, I need to find something to do with my Nook tablet, or even with paper books.

For the moment, I’ve found the solution. For my Carlyle book on his book Chartism, my intention is to add excerpts from some of his letters. In pursuit of that I’ve skimmed/half read his letters from 1838-1839 and a little into 1840, looking for those references. I could finish 1840. I’m writing notes on paper, and someday, after the Time Crunch, will be able to use those notes to go back to the right letters, pull the excerpts, and dump them into the Word document on the computer in The Dungeon. Or maybe, by that time, we’ll have a second laptop and I’ll be able to work upstairs.

But, I’m using Carlyle’s letters for a second project, a chronological bibliography of his works based on date of writing rather than date of publication. I can’t remember if I’ve ever written about this before on this blog. Two older bibliographies of his works are arrange based on publication date. Another partial bibliography of his early works is by date. It was published as a short magazine article, and doesn’t give much information as to why the writer places certain things where he does. Don’t get me wrong: it’s a great partial bibliography, and I’ll certainly incorporate his findings and conclusions in mine, but it’s somewhat short compared to what I’d like to see. And, of course, it’s only a partial.

I’d like to do a full one, with plenty of references. I’d like to include a list of Carlyle’s letters interspersed with the other works, to show researchers/scholars what exactly he was working on at different times. I started on this some years ago, long before I found the published bibliographies. This past spring I went back to it. I decided on a format, and spent some time placing Carlyle’s works in an order, starting at the beginning, coordinating the four published bibliographies (including the very incomplete earliest and the partial), and making some good progress.

It was a bigger job than I realized, but I was actually pleased with it when, sometime around March or April, I laid it aside in favor of other writing tasks. But during the Time Crunch, I realized I could easily access the Carlyle Letters Online in the snippets of time I had, skim them for references to his works, and write paper notes about what I find. Having a printout of the bibliography as it currently stands, I can handwrite edits. At work, where the electronic file resides at present, when not on the clock I can type the edits.

So, the last three or four evenings I’ve been doing just that. Actually, I started it last week. I’m making progress. I have several pages of notes about the letters and references therein to Carlyle’s writings, nicely organized to be savable, retrievable, and searchable. Right now I’m in 1822. Since he lived till 1881 I still have a long ways to go, but that’s okay. My immediate goal is to get through 1825, at the time when Carlyle began publishing book-length translations with commentary.  I’d like to settle on an order of writings, complete with all references, correct any formatting problems I may have, and come to a resting point.

The next segment after that will be 1826-1833, about the time Carlyle finished what may be his best-known work, Sartor Resartus. After that, we’ll see. Perhaps I’ll tire of this and be ready for other snippets of work. Perhaps the Time Crunch will be over by then, and I can resume a more normal mix of activities, a mix that includes more writing time.  That’s what I’m hoping for.

A Time Crunch is Here

Time has always been a factor in how much writing I can accomplish. The day job sure gets in the way of writing production! Still, I’ve been able to manage, and think I’ve published quite a lot the last (almost) four years.

But, I think I’m heading into a very dry six-month period right now. Lynda and I have signed up for some intensive training in stock trading, in an attempt to figure out what we’ve been doing wrong and, as a result, get to the point where we will be more consistently profitable. We are paying for this training, of course. Upon starting it we learned it is much more intense and time consuming than expected. It consumed parts of the last two evenings, enough of them that I had no time for anything else; or at least the time chunks left over were not long enough to entice me to pick up my pen, or read for research.

This will last for the next six months, possibly longer. I don’t foresee being able to give more than a couple of hours a week to writing before that’s over, i.e. before April 2015. That means I probably won’t have any new items published much before June-July 2015.  That’s an unfortunate side effect, one I’m not real happy with, but, as they say now a days, it is what it is.

I’ll still try to post here twice a week, but for sure a minimum of once a week. I don’t know what I’ll have to report, but I’ll figure something out.

Work on my two Carlyle Projects

Saturday I woke up with my knee hurting more than it has been lately. Friday evening it felt good, and I wanted to walk to the highway and back, a 1.3 mile round trip. However, I was barely out of the driveway when the pain told me I wasn’t going that far. I walked a total of 15 minutes, more or less hobbling back.

Yet, Saturday morning I was determined to work in the yard rather than baby my knee. So I went outside early and began sawing logs, along with bringing a large tree cutting up from halfway down the yard. I cut for over an hour, adding about 25 logs to the pile. I didn’t finish the big one, but I made a start on it, cutting two or three logs off of it. After that I raked for a while, then went up to the front of the house and swept and did other minor work. I had hoped to go for two hours, but after an hour and forty-five minutes I was done, heading back inside for some rest. In fact, I laid on the couch and slept for an hour or two. My knee hurt, but probably no worse than Friday evening.

Later in the day I vacuumed the basement, including The Dungeon portion of it; changed batteries in a couple of key technology pieces; washed out the furnace screens; put the recyclables into the van for delivery on Sunday; and made the weekly Wal-Mart grocery run. All in all, it was a busy and active day. I didn’t try walking in the evening.

What does that have to do with writing, you ask, which is, after all, the supposed subject of this blog? The activity, the busyness of the day, left my brain in no condition to work on my writing. I had two chapters to read to prepare to teach Life Group on Sunday, and barely had the brainpower to read them and prepare. In an unheard of event for a weekend night, we were in bed by 10:30 p.m.

Sunday afternoon found me ready for a nap, but I think I only slept 30 minutes at most, and was at my computer. Logic told me I should work on my Civil War book, still standing at 40 or so percent complete. Instead, still being somewhat below par in brainpower, I decided to format my book on Carlyle’s Chartism. I haven’t worked on this since March or April, when I downloaded most of the source documents into it and planned the purpose, contents, and order of the book. I decided to work on the formatting. I had pulled in things from at least 15 different websites, and had over 50 different text styles, all of which needed to be regularized.

I worked on this for about an hour and a half (after writing and posting at my other blog). I’m a long, long way from finishing the formatting, but it’s certainly in much better shape. I need to do some more searching for related out-of-copyright documents: contemporaneous reviews, historical reviews, and even some predecessor documents. I’ve also identified three copyrighted reviews from 1990 onwards that I’d like to include in it. I contacted one copyright holder about a different matter, so know where and how to reach them. I need to determine the other two copyright holders and contact all three to see if I can get permission to republish their articles.

So, I made progress on Sunday. It’s nothing that I can say, “Oh, three more hours and I’ll be done with that.” I don’t know how long the formatting will take me. If I were forced to guess, I’d say two more days like Sunday and the formatting of what I have in hand would be done. I need to find other documents and include them. And I need to write my own essay, or perhaps a couple, about Carlyle’s Chartism, but those are down the line. I think, if I concentrated on this only, I’d be a year or so away from having it done.

In my next post, possibly I’ll explain exactly what this book is, and its purpose.

Going with Where Inspiration Leads Me

Last night I went home after two days of intense training (as facilitator, not trainer or trainee) and urgent work. I was bushed. Yet, my mind remained somewhat active. Right after eating supper I couldn’t get on the Internet on my Nook. So I went to look for something printed on paper to read, and pulled out a literary magazine special issue about Thomas Carlyle.

Now, except for occasionally reading a little in the Carlyle Letters Online, I haven’t thought much about him since some time in April. But reading this caused me to think about my two unfinished Carlyle projects: the book about his book Chartism; and the composition bibliography. I spent a little time in both last evening.

Now, today, my mind won’t leave the composition biography. I’ve been fixated on it all day, to the detriment of it getting in the way of thinking about my day job. Oh, I’ve done my work, but with half my mind elsewhere. Fortunately I didn’t have any tasks requiring major concentration laid on for today.

How long will this sojourn with the sage of Chelsea last? I don’t know. I don’t want to leave my Civil War book for long, nor abandon Father Daughter Day. But, for a day or too, or even a weekend, this is a good, intellectual pursuit that should stimulate some atrophying gray cells.

Author | Engineer