More lessons learned on the way to publication…

On the path to publishing my book, I’ve had to stop, step back, and start over more than once, but with increased effort, I still managed to stay fairly close to my original schedule.  Very close now, in fact, to the announcement of a firm release date.

My anthology of short fiction was more or less complete about a month ago, but there is more to publishing a book than most writers generally imagine.  It’s been a series of discoveries for me, not unpleasant, but a lot more work than I imagined when first I thought of taking this route.  There is so much to learn when you are publishing your own work and it is one reason, I suppose, that many writers don’t even try.

There was, in times past, a particular and forbidding stigma attached to “self-publishing” which was generally then referred to as “vanity publishing.” Perhaps that attitude still exists, prevalent, I am sure, among those who are fortunate enough to have successfully bypassed the formidable corps of gatekeepers who surround the modern publishing industry like a moat defending the castle keep, which may sound like hyperbole in metaphor, but not when you’ve tried to approach the industry without a bankable name or a record of previous success.

The decision, finally, to self publish was difficult for me because I am of an age that I felt a strong and personal disinclination to do so, specifically because of that stigma, the belief among writers from my generation that, if a writer was worth reading, he or she could certainly get published… that and the prevailing notion that all self-published books tended to be amateurish and generally bad… that all “vanity publishers” were scammers and thieves.  (Not an unfounded notion back then)

However, many publishers in the industry today drastically limit the number of new writers on whom they are willing to take a chance because of strict business guidelines and the corporate need for consistently high investor return. While I have enjoyed success in publishing shorter fiction in literary journals, the task of getting a book considered by a publisher becomes more difficult every year. The competition is more than fierce… it’s forbidding.  I know from experience how long and hard that process can be…. and it can take a year or more for a completed manuscript to finally get to print.

Even if a new writer manages to find a publisher willing to take a chance on them, they are expected to put in a great deal of effort into the marketing of the book themselves and for less return on the sale of it than they would get if they published the work themselves. If you are going to have to market the book anyway, why bother giving a publisher the lion’s share of the profits.  It’s more work, I would say, than is warranted for the return.

In light of these facts, self-publishing makes more sense than ever before.  Whether the stigma exists today or not, the process of self publishing through an entity like Amazon is relatively easy to learn and many writers already possess the skills necessary to do it.  But make no mistake, there is a lot to learn and it is very hard work if you want to provide the reader with the quality they expect when they purchase a book. It’s not for the hobbyist, but requires a serious commitment.

After catching up with editing and formatting corrections, I am ready to finalize work on the cover design this week and to do some research into the necessary metadata required for marketing the book. Hopefully, I will be able to order and survey a proof copy of the printed book and be ready to set a date for release in September, 2 to 3 weeks from today.  It’s hard to keep from accelerating the process.  The temptation to get ahead of myself is great, but there is something to be said for putting out the very best quality in a book that you can muster.

I’ve already started working on formatting a novel I’d already written and finished last year. I would like very much to have that one ready for release before the holidays.  Taking the experience I’ve gained in publishing Shrapnel will make the process more fluid in future projects.  It will not be less work in the long run, but that work will be more efficient with every book I produce.

There will be many, I can promise you that.

Watch this space.

New Anthology of Short Fiction coming soon

Publication for my anthology of short fiction, Shrapnel: Short Stories, may be only 2 – 3 weeks away.

The anthology will feature both new fiction and previously published work, such as the award winning short story, Knitting the Unraveled Sleeves, which appeared previously in the Eric Hoffer Award Anthology, Best New Writing, 2013, where it was featured as one of two short stories to receive the Editor’s Choice Award.  Other stories include those published previously in literary magazines around the world, along with many new and unpublished pieces as well, all selected from a huge body of work that spans nearly fifty years of writing.

Yesterday, a simultaneous edit of both the Kindle and print versions of Shrapnel was completed and the design for the cover will be finalized next week.

We are getting very close to a publication date for Shrapnel.  In the meantime, I’m getting a completed novel ready for publication some time before the holidays. It will be the first of many.  More about that later.

Watch this space !!

Shrapnel: Short Stories…. Coming soon. An eclectic collection of short fiction selected by the author…

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This concept and the photo for the cover is my own and suits the thematic composition of the collection. The design, however, is tentative.

I have been working on this anthology over the past several months, revisiting all my short fiction, a huge body of work fifty years in the making… both published and unpublished work… selecting those stories that I consider to be my very best and combining them in some  kind of logical order… a difficult task, since this is an extremely eclectic collection of fiction.

Following months of work in compiling, editing, and formatting, the book, properly an anthology, is essentially complete and it has been put into the proper file configurations required to produce both print and e-book versions.  I will, hopefully, publish both versions simultaneously through Amazon in the very near future… perhaps sometime in early autumn… as my sainted grandmother might say, “…if the Good Lord is willing and the creek don’t rise….” which is a more colorful way of saying, “…barring any unforeseen impediments, difficulties, or calamitous events.”  We’ve seen a few of those in recent months, calamitous events.

The print version of book will be soft cover, 6″ x 9″ in size and approximately 170 pages in length.  Both print and Kindle versions include stories ranging in length from a very short 150-word experimental fragment in the style of magical realism… to an award-winning and more traditional short story of over 4,700 words.  Both published and unpublished work is included in the anthology, all newly edited, but representing my work from as early as 1973 through more recent times, the latest being a short story published in March of 2020.  The theme and the title of the book are derived from a poem I wrote a while back, and it is included in the front of the book as a kind of prologue:

Shrapnel: A modern American koan

Truth is never elusive.
It sits pretty on the table
like a hand grenade.
Pull the pin.

A good story does more than entertain.  It reaches out for the truth we need to hear… picks it up and pulls the pin.  Hopefully, one or several of the stories in my anthology will do just that for my readers, pull the pin on some truth we need to hear and consider.  Good fiction will rock your world.  Beyond mere entertainment, such is my intent.

It’s always been my belief that fiction is a more perfect way of telling the truth unimpeded by personal inhibitions and fear.  When the story is divorced from the reality of a personal connection on the part of an author, we can express those hidden things we never otherwise would even so much as whisper to ourselves in the dark night of our dreams.  If the writer dares and succeeds in the risk, the reader will be changed accordingly.  As Norman Mailer suggested, writing is the “spooky art” and I maintain that it can be entirely subversive when properly applied.  Even dangerous.

Once this preliminary project is completed and out there, I have about a dozen novels in various stages of preparedness for publication that could follow in its wake at the rate of about two or three per year.   More about that later.

Watch this space for further announcements as the publication date draws near.

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 Creative Commons License “Shrapnel: Short Stories…. Coming soon. An eclectic collection of short fiction selected by the author.” by James Lloyd Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Exception to the CC License as follows: The poem, Shrapnel: A modern American koan (© 2020 James Lloyd Davis) and the book cover rendered above and for the book, Shrapnel: Short Stories are covered by applicable US copyright law and may not be reproduced without permission by the author.

Peoples’ Daily Brief – Announcement

It’s now been ten days since the launch of the Peoples’ Daily Brief  and though participation was encouraging, it’s dropped off considerably, so the work I’m putting into it is difficult to justify.

Although I sometimes use the pronoun “we” while writing these reports, it’s just me, myself and I behind the curtain, so there is that…. and while there are ways to expand readership, they generally require either money, enormous time expenditure, or famous friends. Having none of the above, I’m going to have to stick with slow, steady growth.

In the meantime… and without any help, a daily report is proving too ambitious, considering the time required, both for research and for production… writing, editing, etc… so I’m going to reconsider, rethink, reschedule, repurpose, and possibly even rename the project and will, in a few days, announce the results.

We’re not giving up.  So… watch this space.

For those of you who’ve been reading the PBD, thanks.  We love you… all of us… me, my head, and all the many alter egos that therein dwell.

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Creative Commons License Peoples’ Daily Brief by James Lloyd Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Coming Soon -The Peoples’ Daily Brief, news & analysis from your very own CIA

download (1)“Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”

James Madison

We sometimes forget this essential truth, but… in a nation whose government purports… or at least aspires to be, as stated by Abraham Lincoln in his brief, but continuously relevant Gettysburg Address, a “…government of the people, by the people, for the people…” the American electorate is infinitely more important than the people they choose to represent them.  Even more important than the one they choose for the White House.  Those Presidents we elect are afforded the very best relevant and timely information gleaned from sources around the world, summarized and provided daily with analysis in a concise but comprehensive report from professionals in the Central Intelligence Agency.  That report is known as “The President’s Daily Brief” or the PBD.

z01Should not “We, the people…” also be as well-informed and as often, in similar depth and by analysts of our own, people who are willing to cull the infinite sources of news and provide a concise report on the issues that affect us… especially when it is “We, the people…” who will judge this President according to what we know about him at the ballot box every four years?  We used to have such a report and it was called the “daily local paper”, available in just about every town and city in America.  These newspapers have declined in number and significance and are disappearing at an alarming rate, creating “news  deserts” and forcing many Americans to rely on media increasingly controlled and dominated by people who use them to propagate an agenda.  Be it political, social, or financial, the motivations of these journalistic conglomerates do more to contribute to disinformation than small independent dailies could have ever accomplished, which generally they did not because their integrity was a huge part in the sum of their value to their readership.  For those of you who weren’t there when daily papers were the main source of the news in this country, the words “journalism” and “integrity” were once synonymous, a thing we quite took for granted, if not true universally in fact, at the very least in universal aspirations.

Today?  I mean today, this day… as opposed to yesterday.  So many “things” are going on and grabbing the attention of the corporate media which is available and on line 24/7/365… a flood of troubles and strife… such that so many other “things” are slipping under the radar. In order to remain intelligently informed, the average American would have to have an analyst on staff in the kitchen just to keep up with how their government is slowly slip-sliding away into oligarchy.

Consider me your own personal Kitchen Cabinet CIA analyst. And when I say CIA, I am saying that I will be an analyst of events from your very own Citizens’ Intelligence Agency and I will cull multiple news outlets and give you considered analysis of what the media seems to be missing.  I’ll do it as often as I can and if it catches on, I will do it on a daily basis

These reports will be posted here my web site and it will be known as the CIA/PBD… or more specifically, the Citizens’ Intelligence Agency’s report, the People’s Daily Brief… your very own CIA/PBD, not unlike the President would get if our President bothered to read anything at all beyond a Tweet or a headline.  It will be comprehensive, complete with links and references to relevant and timely articles from multiple news sources at home and abroad… and not merely links to those sources but a perspective and thoughtful analysis of the events as I perceive them.

Follow my reports and I will keep you informed.

Watch this space.

Creative Commons License The Citizens’ Intelligence Agency’s Report and The People’s Daily Brief by James Lloyd Davis are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

New stuff is on the way

Presently working on an anthology of published and unpublished short fiction, a 2guysonballpersonal selection of my best work, going back as far as 1973… including a new short story that has never before seen the light of day.

My wife, MaryAnne Kolton and I have both been widely published in literary magazines, in the USA and abroad.  I know the market, follow the vicissitudes of the industry, so of course I know that short story anthologies these days are just about as hot as a minor iceberg… and as welcome in the slush piles of book publishers as Covid-19.  Agents?  Forget about it.

Accordingly, I’ve done some research on the available alternatives and will likely self-publish one anthology of my work and one of hers as well sometime this year.  KDP Amazon seems, for us anyway, the best venue, since there is no real investment involved, no cost to us other than our time, though a lot of time is required.  I have plenty of that and I want to get a collection out there for the least reason that everyone who knows my work is hounding me to do something.

This seemed like the answer to that small demand… plus, I am fascinated by the possibilities here.  Were I a young man, I would probably start a publishing company:

1:  Because I’m crazy.

2:  Because writing is my passion.

3:  The industry is fundamentally changing, quite ready for a tectonic shift… and now is the time to leap into it, when everybody is moaning about the demise thereof and one can define the way forward, for better or worse.

4:  The available technology is incredible and anyone who possesses the least technical capability can literally launch an empire with little or no capital or resources other than a decent desktop and a willingness to learn new ways of doing things.  Add some creativity and an artistic predilection and you too can be a media magnate.

Or something like that.

New short story from James Lloyd Davis

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My new short story, “Way Cross, Georgia, 1937” is now available in Thrice Fiction Magazine Issue Number 26.
It’s a different kind of story, hard to describe or categorize.  The style? “Faulkner, Ray Bradbury, and Steinbeck walk into this bar… get drunk… write a screenplay.”
Definitely mumblecore.
Two con men come to an unhappy end in Georgia.
Thanks to RW Spryszak and his friends at Thrice Fiction.

“What? Another damned literary magazine? Are you quite mad?”

Short answer?  Absolutely.

Although it’s just an idea I’ve been kicking around for a while and never really considered it a personal priority, I’m actually getting serious and presently researching the possibilities… even looking into the actual costs involved in establishing a writers collective that would be centered around the production and publishing of a regional quarterly literary review and… possibly… an annual foray into book publishing… anthologies, perhaps, or even novels.

Logistical support for this venture would be limited, physically, to Northeast Ohio, specifically to the area in and around Cleveland and Akron, however, technology enables participation from virtually any location these days. Accordingly, if those who wish to be involved in the collective possess the necessary skill set and the equipment required, their location doesn’t really matter. 

In a month or so, I will have the draft of a business plan that would summarize the scope of the project and provide an outline of the specific literary perspective for the quarterly journal.

If anyone is interested in getting involved, send me an email and I will put your name on a list to receive the prospectus when it’s ready. You need only give me your name and what manner and level of involvement you would consider (i.e. editor, columnist, essayist, writer, fiction or non-fiction, graphic arts, etc.)

I’m not looking for investors, but if you have a few million laying around and you don’t know what to do with it, you could consider underwriting the project and earn yourself the gratitude of the writers and artists who may decide to get involved and maybe even a full page dedication in the first issue, but hey… your name on page one and artistic gratitude, along with $5 might get you a fair cup of coffee and a donut… or maybe even an eclair, but not much more than that.

Anyway if you think you might be interested in getting involved with this project in any way at all… send your email to me at:

jameslloyddavisalf@gmail.com

There’s no guarantee this thing will ever get off the ground, but if there is enough interest, it might be worth the effort. Of course, even if it did get underway, projects like this are a dime a dozen and they tend to fall flat more often than not, so there is that. But hey… if you believe in writing and the arts, what’s to lose?

At least you can’t say I promised you the moon.

Night Letters to America

UntitledFrom the Merriam Webster Dictionary online…
night letter (n): a telegram sent at night at a reduced rate for delivery the following morning

Back in the days when Western Union telegrams were a common method of communication across great distances, much of what needed to be said took more than the few words condensed and clipped into phrases that were applied to the text in order to save the sender money.  The sender paid for the service at a rate of so many cents per word with a minimum, usually of nine to twelve words.  These telegrams would be sent immediately and delivered by phone or by hand.  When a customer wanted to send more than just a line or two, they could pay a cheaper rate per word, with a minimum of about 25 words.  These longer, less expensive telegram were called Night Letters.  They would be held overnight to be sent the following morning in the early hours when traffic on the wire was light and were delivered the following day.

Before I began writing full time and while I was working in the daytime, I wrote whenever I could, usually when my wife and children were sleeping, sometimes long into the night.  It was difficult to write something like a novel and sometimes, when I was forced to work long hours in harsh physical conditions, I was too tired to take on a large project and wrote what could be called vignettes, short pieces that were complete and not reliant on sequential, periodic progression, not unlike the pieces we call flash or micro fiction today… vignettes that I sometimes referred to as night letters.

They kept me going, progressing as a writer, developing perspectives and a style that I would have lost had I entirely abandoned the idea of writing… the hope of becoming a writer… which is itself, these days, an abstract notion in terms of a profession.  More of a calling now, than a career, since few can make a living at it, commercial success being no great measure of quality in literature, but of value beyond its artistic appeal.  The art has taken a back seat to the value of writing as either a tool of influence in the marketing or political arena… or as one of many inputs to a cinematic product.  Even literature for the sake of literature as art is ordered and licensed in a rigid, somewhat cloistered academic construct.

To be sure, I am glad that I kept the practice going throughout my life and, eventually, I enjoyed some small success in publishing shorter works in literary magazines worldwide and, today, in addition to ongoing efforts to succeed as a novelist, I have written many essays, composed in those hours while others are sleeping… night letters.

Beginning next week, I will attempt to produce one serious essay per week and post them on my web page.  I’m calling them, Night Letters to America and invite you to read them and comment, as your feedback is helpful to me always.  I will announce on both Facebook and Twitter when the series begins and whenever there is a new posting.

Creative Commons License
Night Letters to America by James Lloyd Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Socialism, American Style – The Book

If you’ve been reading here, you know that I have been writing a series of essays, titled Socialism, American Style, essays that are more of a voyage of discovery for me,,, an attempt to find a uniquely American approach to the concept of socialism. Although I’ve put the essays temporarily on hold, I have continued to work on the concept.   last week, while doing some research and writing down my thoughts, I had an idea, something a little different, which may or may not be one of those big ideas you just happen to stumble upon like someone groping their way through the dark… a flash of light, maybe, a serendipitous thought that starts with a question…

In the United States, certain trends in the political realm have resulted in what can only be called a conservative bias in both political parties, marked by corporatism and autocratic tendencies, the result of influences that are subtle, even invisible to the electorate, but which lead to an untenable condition of economic and social inequality that feels as though we are going backwards, not forward into any recognizable semblance of a better world.

For instance, a firm cultural bias toward specialists, so-called “experts” has become increasingly evident in government. Technocrats, we call them, or we did at one time. Today? Their role is less visible, but their influence?  More profound.

Both parties love them and employ them regularly in roles that often usurp those which our Constitution reserves to our elected representatives. They save legislators time and effort by providing their “expertise” in writing legislation, so our Senators and Representatives don’t have to do the work of research and needn’t try to understand the complexities involved. Unfortunately, these technocrats also bring their predilection for satisfying their industry’s own special interests and their corresponding professional biases to the task as well.   The common welfare of the American people will always and thus be of little… if any… consideration for cause in the drafting of legislation or the writing of policies affecting the corresponding commercial interests of their unelected authors.

“What’s good for Goldman Sachs is good for America.”

Accordingly, we have people from the insurance industry composing legislation like the Affordable Care Act… lobbyists from the pharmaceutical industry composing the language and provisions for Medicare Part D… or “experts” from the alumni of Goldman Sachs and other financial organization recruited by the Executive branch to write the policies by which the same institutions will be regulated.

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“Morning, ladies. My name is A. Faufox McChicken and I’m announcing my candidacy for Congress.”

Fox in the henhouse metaphors, if you will, are entirely relevant here.

So… if both political parties are thus corrupted, determined to serve the interests of commerce and corporations over the common welfare of the average American… and we, the people, are limited by tradition to only two relevant political parties… both of which are dominated by wealthy families, corporate donors, lobbyists and special interests, what is the answer to our dilemma?

Third parties have seldom been successful in modern times and efforts to reform both parties from within only seem to further advance the creep of autocracy in the inevitable reactionary blow-back. And the public is further frustrated in attempts at reform by very subtle campaigns of genetically modified “populist” movements influenced from abroad and from within… and, again, by profoundly powerful special interest groups with buckets of cash and opportunistic, amoral leadership. Witness the Tea Party.

So… here is the question I posed to myself last week:
If not a Third Party… what’s the answer?

Now? I think I have it… the answer. A new idea. A way forward where there seems… at least to me… to be none. A totally different approach and maybe even a unique solution. Now all I have to do is find a way to adequately communicate its construct. So… for now? I’m suspending the essays and working on what will probably be a project the size of a book that will attempt to offer a solution to our very present and frustrating political impasse.

Conventional-Steel-Fabrication-450x194Watch this space.