Tuesday, October 5, 2021

The Proposal


As I mentioned in my last blog entry, I am at a quandary over my next book project and the perplexity continues. This interim period for me between books is an odd time. As I close out the editing process on my latest two titles, Hiking Alabama 5th Edition and Space Oddities:Forgotten Stories of Mankind’s Exploration of Space, I get the bug. It’s a feeling that I really need to write another book. These last two books have led me to a thousand new ideas for other titles. They are rushing around in my head, each one shouting at me that it needs to be the next one I need to pursue.

Unlike big name and world famous authors, writers like me are not under long term book deals. It’s a fight to get the attention of a publisher and have our book ideas get past the dreaded Acquisition Editor. We do this through query letters first where on a single page we have to describe our idea by making the words jump off the page and smack the editor in the face making them sit up and take notice and say, “Hm, interesting idea.”

 I have been very fortunate since my first book, “Hike America Alabama” (later renamed “Hiking Alabama”) was published in 2000. That book offer came to me by chance when I approached the publisher, Beachway Press (later Falcon Guides) with another project. They declined my idea and offered me the Alabama book. Sweet. My third career was born and ever since, I have been able to skirt around the query letter step.

When it comes to my outdoor recreation books, since I have been with Falcon so long, they usually come to me when it’s time to update my previous titles or to ask if I would be interested in writing this book or that book. That has been the case with PaddlingAlabama, Best Dog Hikes Alabama, Hiking Through History, Hiking the Gulf Coast, and Hiking Waterfalls Alabama. For my non-fiction history books, that is another story.

For my history titles, I make the bold move and skip the query step and go right to the proposal. A proposal is the blueprint of a book that outlines every detail, every nook and cranny of what I envision a book to be complete with a detailed outline of each and every chapter, how it should be marketed, and so on. Not to pat myself on the back but my proposals usually hit the mark and spur the Acquisition Editors to call, ask questions, and sign me on. That has been my experience with Baseball in Mobile, Hidden History of Mobile, and my latest, SpaceOddities: Forgotten Stories of Mankind’s Exploration of Space.

That last title, “Space Oddities”, was the most fun I had writing. The researching and writing was everything I believed writing should be and it spawned a dozen different ideas for future books, each one more exciting and interesting to me than the first. That is where my problem lies. 

As I said in the beginning, each one of these ideas are shouting at me, “Write me! Write me!” I literally have five proposals started for different titles. While researching the proposal for one book I’ll stumble on some interesting facts for another that sucks me into the proverbial rabbit hole and the next thing I know, I’m working on that proposal instead of the first one that I originally started on.

But this is a good problem to have. With retirement from my day job imminent, I see a whole new world opening up. I can’t wait for that adventure to begin. But before that time, I have a proposal to finish writing. Oh, wait. Look at that over there. That would make a good book.

The journey continues.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

On Deck


I took a short break from writing after I worked through the final edits for Hiking Alabama 5th Edition and Space Oddities: Forgotten Stories of Mankind’s Exploration of Space. It’s a waiting game now until the initial proofs arrive for my final blessing. In the meantime, as I relaxed by mowing our pasture over and over and over again (I miss the horses!), I began thinking about what the next book would be.

Hopping off the mower I went inside the house and dug out my bajillion notebooks, each with ideas scribbled in them with possible ideas that date back to my high school days. Most of those will NEVER see the light of day. Out of the stack, five options leapt out at me. One of those is the mystery that I had started working on two years ago, Dead Air, a good old fashioned mystery based at a local radio station in the 1940s. (The rough - and I mean rough - first chapter can be read here.) The concept is good, the rough draft was mediocre at best, so that one would need a lot of work. 

As for the others, I had already started fleshing out the material, doing enough basic research, and writing sample chapters to include in possible proposals to publishers. Before going down the long and winding road of creating a lengthy proposal, I put together a query letter for each one and will be submitting them to a few publishers to see what will stir up interest 

As I have mentioned previously and in earlier blogs, my writing began in high school. After graduation, I wrote many articles and short stories which led to a new pastime – rejection letter collecting. I have quite the collection, too, all in three ring binders neatly tucked away on bookshelves in my writing room. 

The first is my collection of short stories about growing up, all loosely based on faulty memories. Many of you have either read or heard some of these stories on my podcast, Joe’s Shorts. They need a good re-working plus several new stories will be added. 

The next three are non-fiction historical books. One came to me as I was writing Space Oddities. It is the story of how pop culture and the space race ran parallel courses between 1958 and 1971, many times intersecting to create unusual results. 

In that same vein, I had started another book five years ago that recounts the history of July 1969 as the first humans walked on another world. The manuscript titled Everyone's Gone to the Moon (after the 1965 Jonathan King song) was centered around the entire month from July 1st to 31st. The book would chronicle interesting and unusual new stories and pop culture events that occurred during the month as well as present interesting and lesser known stories of the preparations and eventual first landing on the moon.

Finally, I have always been fascinated with the music of the 1940s, particularly during the war years. I have a proposal for another non-fiction historical book tentatively titled, GI Jive. The title was taken from the great song composed and sung by Johnny Mercer and also sung by Louis Jordan. The goal of the book is to document not only the history of many of these tunes – how they were written and recorded – but to also put them into context as to what was occurring during the war at the time of their release and how the songs related to the people fighting overseas and those fighting the war on the home front through interviews. 

So, now I need to figure out which one to pursue. Can’t do them all at once, you know. Or can I? Hm. Who needs sleep! I’ll keep you posted and let you know what the final decision is.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Rest & Relaxation...Not.


I've taken a few days off from the day job to just take a break and relax for a bit. It has been a hectic few weeks. It has been very busy at the day job (yes, friends. Don't let anyone kid you - writing does not necessarily pay the bills.) Then there is the writing. I had to complete the second round of text and map edits for the new edition of Hiking Alabama (which is due out April 2022) and at the same time, run through the second and final round of edits before the galley proofs arrive for the book Space Oddities: Forgotten Stories of Mankind's Exploration of Space. And there are constant articles I have to write for various online sites.

Don't get me wrong. I love it. But sometimes you need a break and that's what I've been up to. Trouble is, within a few days of saying that, I get the itch. In fact, as I take a couple days off from that day job to do absolutely nothing, three new book ideas popped into my head and all thought of relaxing have been put on the back burner as I sit here and begin writing the proposals.

As I was writing the proposals, I got the bug to do a little audio and video production again so now I am working on the book trailer and an interview for the Space Oddities book.

I guess I should face the fact that letting my imagination run wild on the printed page IS my relaxation. So, I'm back from my little vacation and at it again. Much more to come.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

First Review


Don't get me wrong. I love all of the 12 outdoor recreation books and two non-fiction history books that I have written over the past 20 years and think they all turned out great, but my latest title, "Space Oddities: Forgotten Stories of Mankind's Exploration of Space" is my absolute favorite. I jokingly call it my "real book" only because of the amount and depth of research I had to do to and how the words flowed as I wrote it. It was liberating not having a strict format to follow and being given complete artistic license to actually write.

I put the manuscript to bed several weeks ago and shipped it off (ok, emailed it) to the editor and last night received an incredible reply, the most glowing review I have ever received. It is the proudest I have ever been about any of my works which made it difficult to sleep last night. The review said:
"What a joy to read! Loved every minute of it. Interesting, well-researched, compellingly written, full of “what! Really?!” moments – exactly what we had in mind for this book. Excellent work, and a squeaky clean manuscript to boot – I wish every author that I worked with submitted a manuscript as clean as this."
WOW! Nice! I can't wait for it to hit bookshelves but unfortunately, we'll all have to wait until July 2022.

Photo courtesy NASA

Friday, July 16, 2021

Coming Soon..Well, a Year from Now

Guess I better get cracking finishing the new book, "Space Oddities..." Looks like the publisher is serious about releasing it. LOL! This is a great write up (click here) that explains the book (that will be out July 2022) except they messed up the bit about the First Lady Astronaut Trainees. There were 13 selected, not 25. But still, good write up. The book will sell for $19.95 (or 13 pounds 75 if you're buying it in England. :) )'s-Exploration-of-Space

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Now Available!

UPDATE (6/10/21)

Sorry, friends. But the few copies I have to sell and autograph are sold out! Thanks to all who purchased a copy. But don't worry if you didn't get one. I'm scheduling book signings and presentations now across the state and they are available at your favorite bookstore or online at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Books-a-Million, etc.


 One of the best feelings is when that book that you've been working so hard on for the past year finally arrives in book stores and on your doorstep. I was thrilled the other day when my latest two titles, Hiking Waterfalls Alabama and Paddling Alabama 2nd Edition, arrived.

Both books are available through your local book store or online retailers but I have a limited number of copies of each for sale through PayPal. 

<Links Not Available>

If you order a copy, I will be more than happy to sign and personalize it for you.

Thanks for your continued support of my writing over the years! Happy Trails!

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

New Releases


Good morning, all! There are so many aspects to writing a book - any book, any genre - that brings joy to my heart: Beginning the research and the possibilities that blank page holds, the writing process to bring all of the pieces together, seeing the cover photo for the first time, even the editing process. But the one thing that makes me really happy is opening the front door and there sits a box from the publisher with copies of my latest book hot of the press.

And yesterday, there they were! The brand new book, Hiking Waterfalls Alabama, and copies of Paddling Alabama 2nd Edition.

Both books are now available online or at your favorite brick and mortar book store. I'm lining up some book signings and presentations so be on the look out for those and (hopefully) will have some autographed copies available online soon.

Now to finish the next two books - Hiking Alabama 5th Edition and Space Oddities: Forgotten Tales of Mankind's Exploration of Space. It won't be long before there will be a knock on the door and again, I will feel this feeling again.

Have a safe Memorial Day weekend, everyone. Until next time...