Getting closer to a release date – watch this space

Finished the full review of the proof copy for Shrapnel this evening and made the necessary alterations and corrections to the basic revised file for the printers. I will upload the changes tomorrow and, essentially, the print edition should be ready for release after a couple of days. I still have to make the final review of the file for the Kindle edition, which has a different format and that should be ready to upload sometime on Thursday. Shrapnel: Short Stories is an eclectic collection of my literary short fiction and the release for both print and Kindle versions will be on the same day next week. I’ll announce the firm release date when it’s known. This anthology was my first venture into publishing, but it will not be the last. Frankly? I love it.

This process has been an education and a grand preparation for publishing one of my novels in the near future.
The novel I plan to work on next was completed last year and it will now be reworked, edited, and refined. It’s a thriller with a twist and it represents an opportunity for me to appeal to a much wider audience than that which appreciates a literary anthology, so it will also be a grand experiment in marketing… now that I have learned the basic “mechanical” aspects of the process. With that first novel, I will likely consider expanded distribution and some of the more sophisticated methods for cover design and interior layout. At this point there is absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Watch this space.

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 !!

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.

Dinner with Don Quixote

Don Quixote by Honoré Daumier (1868)

I have always admired the character of Don Quixote.  Why?  Because of his marvelous blindness.  He could see, yes, but only vague shapes he was forced to interpret with his fine imagination… a wonderful and singular imagination that was formed in the novels of old, novels with heroes and villains, novels from the perspective of romance, novels rife with idyllic ideals that were conceived by the minds of men like himself, men who longed for some sense of nobility in mankind, a mystical concept that was expressed in the code of the chevalier, a notion of heroics and the grandeur of chivalric valor, unwritten codes that prevailed in the novels written in the time of the Don’s creator… though not on the muddy highways, nor in the poor villages of Spain, nor in its people… nor in any other nation then or now… which notion likely never really existed at all in fact, beyond the hopeful fictions, the beautiful words that molded their illusory landscape.

Of course, neither did Don Quixote exist.  The old man was a character in a book, a novel at that, an intellectual vehicle, a literary trope, the projection of someone like myself, a writer, a man or woman… in this case a man, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra.

A writer tries to rebuild the world with a framework of words and the substance of figuration. So, by that token, in such a world, I can have dinner with Don Quixote. Perhaps a meal in my kitchen, simple  fare consisting of tuna fish sandwiches on soft rye bread. Cold iced tea or maybe beer… in big chilled mugs. For dessert, maybe fresh cinnamon and raisin spice cake with sweet, thick, rich, rich, rich butter icing and coffee. Of course, the food would not really matter. It could be anything really … roast beef, chicken, lamb, pulled pork. Food is only food.  The dinner is only a platform on which to build a conversation.  In that conversation, perhaps I could tell a story, inject an opinion, betray confidences. Because I so love the heart of Don Quixote, perhaps I would only listen.

Cervantes is dead … though his words, his mind, and the Don live on.

I suppose that I was saddened by the fact that Cervantes wrote the books in such a way that the Don eventually died of a broken heart… but isn’t that the fate of any man or woman who aspires to an ideal and does not settle for the way things are? It’s no coincidence that the brain is the organ within us that is closest to the heavens, or that the bowels are closest to the earth.  Our heart, however, lies somewhere between the two. In a way, the concept is comedic and so it is, or was, that in the cynical mind of Cervantes, Don Quixote must surely die aggrieved for his lofty and insensible perceptions.

It’s the natural consequence of truth.

The world could care less about any individual soul, man or woman, when there are so many… more than seven and a half billion last time I checked.

“Hah…” they seem to say, if not aloud… surely they’d never say it aloud, but you read the words in their tones and their eyes, “…foolish old man.  Where do you get such impertinent notions?  Just die, fool. We need the bed. We need the space you’re taking up, the air you’re sucking in, the food you turn to waste.  Die already!”

So it is… and to say to hell with the world, I have dinner with Don Quixote.  This meal we share is not unusual, I think. Maybe an early supper in a clean, noisy diner in a truck stop on the Interstate.  Perhaps in Missouri or Oklahoma where the food is seasoned with pity and priceless understanding by immigrant cooks with fresh spices and hope… food meant to caress the troubled soul, quiet the restless mind, and leave the appetite sated. Meatloaf, perhaps, with mashed potatoes, peas and corn… or maybe with gravy and rich mac and cheese, a bowl on the side with sweet black-eyed peas. The meatloaf has this crispy, dark brown edge and on the top of every slice, a thin red tasty glaze of baked sweet ketchup.  Lots of coffee.  Pretty waitress.

The conversation?  Dreams. Beautiful dreams… and maybe dark dreams as well, but dark with a twist of charity.  Laughter, tears, emotions swell.  I am a writer. This is what I do.  This is who I am.