Me in a replica Hollywood Stars cap

Lessons from stories past

Book promotion can be fun, but at some point, you have to get back to writing. When deciding what to do next, I like to look through my boneyard and see what materials I can use. In the process, I can revisit lessons I’ve learned from past writing projects.

Me in a replica Hollywood Stars cap

The baseball cap I’m wearing is for a screenplay I wrote in the 1990s called Gilmore Field. It involves the Hollywood Stars, one of the minor league teams that played in Los Angeles before the Dodgers came west. In researching the script, I came in contact with the Pacific Coast League Historical Society and attended several of their conventions. Listening to fans, former ballplayers, and umpires helped me build the world of my story. I could feel the ambiance of the old wooden ballparks. I could smell the beer, hot dogs, and roasted peanuts. I could hear the smack of the ball off the bat and the cheers of the crowd.

I bought the Hollywood Stars cap from a company called Ebbets Field Flannels, which makes replicas of old uniforms, jackets, and baseball caps from a variety of teams, including the NFL.

Gilmore Field didn’t go anywhere, but it reinforced for me the value of research. When you immerse yourself in the world of the story, it’s easy to develop characters and plot points that fit into it. You can make your stories believable and give the readers the pleasure of learning as they explore the world of your novel. This experience helped me in writing Amiga. I had to reconnect with my past in the computer industry and relearn a computer I hadn’t used in decades.

Doria front coverAnother set of lessons comes from a novel I did finish, but it never went anywhere. The novel is Doria, and it drives me nuts.

Doria comes from a story I’ve been working on since I was a teenager. I had been formulating and polishing it in my mind for decades until I decided to put it into words. It took months to write, and it remains the longest novel I’ve ever completed. I had intended it to be the start of a series. I was excited about bringing a story I cherished to life, as you can tell from the many blog posts I’ve made on this site about it.

But I made a critical mistake. I self-published it.

Self-publishing Offline was such a positive experience that I thought I’d try it again for this book. Until I worked with an actual publisher as I did with Black Rose Writing, I didn’t realize how much I was missing by trying to do it alone. It obviously needed a better cover, and it definitely needed editing. There were many other things I should have done if I had the time and money. Doria could have used a map. And there are flag and logo designs I needed to trademark if the series ever caught on.

Doria is a book I’ve been meaning to get back to. And with the situation in the world today, the story is more relevant than ever. (Capitalism versus communism? Democracy versus dictatorship? Conflicts with Russia?) The question is how to start. I can’t use the original book because it has already been published. I also don’t know if in 2020 I can get away with writing a book about a fictional South American country. It took Chadwick Boseman (RIP) to pull off Wakanda. But I’ve been able to revive stories before. It took a number of tries before I could put together Amiga. The right type of Doria book may still be possible.

A project I am working now on is a collection of my essays, short stories, blog posts, and poems. I’m also writing some new materials. I was originally going to make it a giveaway to promote my other books, but it’s shaping up to be good enough to sell on its own. And I want to do it through a publisher.

Writing is a journey with plenty of false starts, dead ends, detours, and side treks along the way. The value comes from the lessons we’ve learned, the connections we’ve made, and the friends we’ve gained. I might not become the next John Green, and Doria may never become the next big book franchise. But as long as there are new things to experience, the chance to create something new, and the possibility to reach an audience, it is still fun to try. That is the value of writing.