A YEAR TO THINK ABOUT
I use a large format calendar to keep up with my activities. Each day has an inch-and-a-half square in which I write appointments, meetings, tasks, TV programs, and other things for the weeks ahead. This helps compensate for my poor memory and it works, if I remember to look at the calendar.
One of the best uses is during the last week of December. I review all the daily entries for the year and compile a list of the major events, projects, trips, people, milestones, accomplishments, and whatever else I’m prompted to remember. Having the list is encouraging and fulfilling; my list this year had sixty distinct entries. It’s nice to see how active I was, how much I accomplished, who I did things for, and if I had a good balance between, for example, days with some writing versus days with no writing.
My objective is not just to track what I did, but to have a way to judge that my life is busy doing something worthwhile rather than watching reruns of Bonanza. I’m old but I don’t have to act like it.
I expected a big impact from COVID but nothing, with one exception, was significant. I’m mostly a recluse so social distancing and staying at home was not hard to accommodate. Among the things I did miss was a trip to San Diego in the Spring, a trip to Germany in the Fall, and a trip to Costco at Christmas.
I also missed my restaurant lunches. I love to eat in restaurants with friends--you know, where you actually go in and sit down at a table and somebody brings you food? On plates that will break if you drop them? With tableware that isn’t plastic? Remember? With restaurants closed, ordering take-out and eating in the front seat of my pickup severely cut back on any semblance of a real social life. Which reminds me: I need to clean the front seat of my pickup; I’ll put that on my new calendar.
Nonetheless, I did publish one book this year – Teddy’s War – and I have another Mogi Franklin Mystery – The Lady in Black - being edited as we speak. It should be published in March or April.
I’m also in the middle of writing a sequel to Smoke Dreams, which was published in 2013. I’m having a great time being back in the 1870s in the wilds of Texas, as well as being back on the Canadian River with a house that has a heartbeat. Smoke Dreams was self-published and I may also self-publish the new novel, requiring me to hire an independent editor and go through the processes of formatting, proofreading, creating the cover, and then working with Amazon to get it printed. All of this is more expensive than time-consuming, but it still may not be out until Fall.
I created a two-minute book trailer for Teddy’s War, a thirty-minute video about my dad’s travels during WWII, and produced an hour-long video giving an overview of my being a writer. The hour-long video was purely an amateur production and is not likely to see the light of day, but I had fun doing it. It was intended to be shown in conjunction with George RR Martin’s bookstore in Santa Fe, but I think that opportunity evaporated in the mist. Nice idea, but my book isn’t fantasy or science fiction and that’s mainly what the bookstore deals in.
I started a sequel for Teddy’s War but didn’t get very far; the story hasn’t had time to jell enough. It concerns what I talked about in one of my blogs – the ethnic cleansing in Eastern Europe during 1945 to 1946. I also started a story that combined the Super Collider at CERN with the Shroud of Turin. I made it far enough to get lost in the technical details and I suspect that it’s DOA. I may come back to it in the future. The idea came from a short story I wrote several years ago.
With the publication of Teddy’s War, which didn’t show up on Amazon until December 1, I launched a marketing effort to see if I could make any difference in the number of copies sold. That effort is now finished and it turns out that I really can’t tell the number of books sold until a number of months after the book became available. My publisher is working with me to get the data, but it’s a game of monitoring the printer (the number of books printed) and the distributor (what outlets bought how many books), then subtracting the number of books returned by the outlets. Someplace in there is how many books were actually bought.
Just between me and you, the whole book publishing business is deliberately opaque. It’s not precise in the number of books sold, the amount of money that goes into various pockets during the process, or even whether readers like the books or not. I suspect that each entity (publishers, distributors, reviewers, booksellers, etc.) making money from any individual book doesn’t want the other entities to know exactly how much money they made. So far, my books rarely produce money going into my pocket. As long as I have my retirement pension, my social security, and I like writing books, I can live with that. At least my grandkids can point to the spines of a few books with their grandfather’s name on them. Hopefully, they’ll even read the books someday.
It was also 2020, a year that will be go down in history as being perfectly awful. Paper manufacturers, printers, distributors, publishers, booksellers, and writers were not considered essential, so the interruptions and delays in the product chain were significant.
My one-hour ZOOM presentation scheduled for December 17 was cancelled because no one signed up to watch it. My publisher will try again in the March/April timeframe.
Having finished 2020 with a good list of accomplishments, I’m steadily writing, rewriting, and editing in the days of the new year and enjoying it. That’s good enough and I’m a happy man.
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Don Willerton has been a reader all his life and yearns to write words like the authors he has read. He's working hard at it and invites others to share their experiences.