In the Park with David McCullough

Last night, while out walking my dog, I ran into my neighbor author David McCullough. If you aren’t familiar with his books, a quick Internet search will give you a plethora of titles to choose from. His book John Adams is a fantastic read.

We sat on the park bench and had a wonderful discussion about books and writing, more specifically, writing fiction. He concluded by saying, “Follow your aspirations.” That’s all the encouragement that I needed to hear. Back to writing.

david mccullough, author, writer, books

Summer Reading List

tim horvath, understories, book, author, writerWell, summer is right around the corner for us New Englanders. The warmer weather gets us outdoors into the parks, onto our brownstone stoops, and to the beaches. Hopefully, if you’re like me, you’ll be bringing a book with you.

Two years ago when I was knee-deep in writing Instant Connections, I was reading a lot of non-fiction books: Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, Tina Fey’s Bossypants, Jenny Lawson’s Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, just to name a few.

This year, as I just started a new challenge––writing a historical fiction book, I’ve been reading and re-reading books in that genre to learn more about how authors tackle plot lines and building interesting and dynamic characters.

So, yeah, I’ve tackled all of Dan Brown’s books. They are easy to read and he tells a good story. William Martin is another favorite of mine. In the last year I have read his books Back Bay, The Lincoln Letter, and most recently Harvard Yard. His approach to writing gets you reading in the present day, in one chapter, and then in the next, you are reading about something that happened back in time.  The story volleys back and forth like this throughout the book.

As for me, I have finished some of the research for my new book and have about 10% of the writing started. For a historical fiction book, most average between 90-120,000 words, so I’ve got a ways to go.

In between my writing this summer, I have added these six books to my Summer Reading List:

The Ocean at The End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman.
Tinkers by Paul Harding
Understories by Tim Horvath
Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer
REMOTE by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
My Life in Heavy Metal by Steve Almond

The first two I’ve had on my shelf for a while, the third book is by a colleague of mine, the forth book I’ve started but need to pick back up, the fifth book I bought and will read because I liked their first book REWORK, and the last book I have also started but need to finish.

What are you reading?

Read More. Pretty Please.

I hope you read more in 2014. I read a statistic somewhere that said that Americans are reading less and less, and we are also buying fewer and fewer books.

Boooooooooo!

book, eyes, funny, photograph

Image via www.webneel.com

I don’t like these statistic for a few reasons:

1.) I just wrote a book and I want people to buy books.
2.) You can learn a lot from reading.
3.) Without books, life would be boring.
4.) Reading a book is a great way to decompress after a long, busy day.
5.) Bookstores need readers.
6.) Having a bookstore in your neighborhood is good for the community.
7.) You will learn more from reading a book, than you will from watching those crappy reality television shows (I had to put this one it in there!)

Think back to the last book that you read. How did it make you feel? Did you learn something new? Did you get inspired?
I hope you consider buying another book soon. Maybe it’s a paperback, maybe it’s an eBook, or maybe it’s even my book, and then I’d be excited and honored.

Whatever book you choose, enjoy it thoroughly.

How do you define self-publishing?

jason landry, instant connections, book signing, author, book, writingHow do you define self-publishing? I’m not sure the term “self-published book” is accurate. I struggle with this term because there is so much to do in order to get a book published. I learned this first hand when I began to query agents and publishers about my first book. In order to “self-publish” a book, you would have to be a jack-of-all-trades and cover everything from A to Z. And when I mean “cover everything’, I mean:

a.) Be able to write a book
b.) Then edit the book with a critical eye
c.) Know when to tell yourself that the story you just wrote sucked and you need to go back to the drawing board.
d.) Know how to create track changes in Microsoft Word, then decide which ones to fix and which ones to debate against yourself to leave in the book.
e.) Know how to layout a book in Adobe InDesign
f.) Know which fonts are best for readability and then find out that some aren’t good for eBooks.
g.) Know how to design the cover art
h.) Know why you should have a color cover
i.) Know when to say that your cover art was a bad choice, and select something different.
j.) Know how to create and edit eBooks
k.) Know that there is a difference between the files that you have to make for the Kindle, Nook and iTunes.
l.) Know how to purchase an ISBN number or numbers, since you need more than one if you plan to have a hard cover, paperback and various eBook editions.
m.) Know how to hire a company to print your book
n.) Know how to hire a company to distribute your book
o.) Know how to get your book listed with the Library of Congress
p.) Know how to get the press to notice your book
q.) Know how to market yourself so people will know about your book and buy your book
r.) Know how to build a website for your book or for you the author
s.) Know how to contact bookstores to set up book signings
t.) Know how much to discount your book so that book stores will carry your book
u.) Know how to prepare yourself to give an artist talk.
v.) Know how to design an advertisement for your book
w.) Know how to use social media sites in order to promote your book
x.) Know how to convince book stores to short order your book
y.) Know what to say when bookstores won’t carry your book because it’s “self-published’ or “print-on-demand’
z.) Know how to stay calm and carry on, even when someone gives you a bad review on Amazon.com.

Do you see what I mean? Everything from A to Z. There are probably more things to add to this list. These just happen to be things I had to learn about or research when I started writing. This is why I worked with a TEAM of professionals on my book Instant Connections: Essays and Interviews on Photography. You need to have many sets of eyes on everything that you do when taking on the challenge of writing a book and actually seeing it through to the end. I am grateful to my amazing editor, to my proof readers, and for the design team who worked on the layout and cover for the paperback, Kindle. Nook and iTunes eBook versions. And I shouldn’t forget the friend who took the photo for the cover. I couldn’t have done this without my team. I think when you have a good team, you come away with a great end product. Whether you’re working with a large publisher or an indie publisher, there is always a team of people working with you every step of the way. And when you have a great end product, less people will care who the publisher is. Am I bummed out that one of those big named publishers didn’t pick up my book––of course––who wouldn’t want their large marketing budgets. Am I happy with how my book came out in the end––absolutely.

If you know anyone that has every single one of the qualifications that are listed above, kudos to them. In the meantime, please support all authors, whether they are published by a large publisher or an indie publisher. The publishing industry has changed dramatically over the past few years. You can no longer dismiss the little guys. And by the way, all big publishers had to start somewhere, right? And this holds true for bookstores too. Support those indie stores as much as the big box stores and Amazon.

Keep writing. Keep reading.

The Bookmobile, not the Batmobile

Batman was ‘the caped crusader’ and he drove the Batmobile.  What would you call someone who drove the Bookmobile.  Yes, there was such a thing and such a person as seen here in this photograph circa 1913.  bookmobile, batmobile, books, library

An International Auto Wagon with a rear compartment containing shelves of books is parked outside a library. A man in a bowler hat is selecting a book from what appears to be a “bookmobile.”

Image appeared in the May 1913 issue of Harvester World magazine on page 4. According to the accompanying article, the “book wagon” traveled through Washington County, Maryland under the supervision of Hagerstown Librarian Miss Mary L. Titcomb.

(Image and text courtesy Wisconsin Historical Society)

Adding a few books to my shelf

So yes, we are now aware that GoodReads has been acquired by Amazon.  There seems to be mixed emotions about this throughout the social media circles that I’m in, and that’s normal when any change happens.  It’s a great website, and if you’re into books, then check it out.  In fact, check out my GoodReads page (see link at the bottom of this post).

I’ve been on a memoir quest this year, both writing one and reading many.  Actually, I have another memoir idea that I’m trying to formulate now concerning my paternal grandfather.  Born a twin on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, Canada, as a young boy he was shipped off to the United States to live with his aunt and uncle.  The specifics of why this happened are vague.  I plan to go to Nova Scotia this summer to research my heritage and hopefully learn a little more about my family and myself.

elsewhere, richard russo, the shipping news, annie proulx, books, book suggestions, reading, amreading, Pulitzer Prize

Anyhow, I’ve been getting some nice support from friends and fellow artists about my writing process and suggestions on books to read.  These are the two newest additions to my list.  I will be reading Elsewhere by Richard Russo first, then will tackle The Shipping News by Annie Proulx next––two Pulitzer Prize winners that I probably wouldn’t have picked up on my own.

If anyone is curious what books I’ve been reading or what books are on my shelf, visit my GoodReads page (here).

World Book Day: Read Some Memoirs!

jenny lawson, let's pretend this never happened, author, book, world book day, memoir, taxidermyToday is World Book Day.  Mostly geared toward children and young adults, I don’t see why it can’t be geared toward everyone.  Everyone should know how to read, right?  I used to hate reading.  I always had a list of better things to do with my time.  Later in life I learned that relaxing with a good book is a good way to spend my time.

Since I’m writing a memoir, I’ve been reading a lot of memoirs.  I’d like to share with you a few books that I thought were particularly interesting.  My selections are all over the map: business, cooking, comedy, music, movies––because when you are trying to write a memoir, you need to get various points of view.  By reading, you learn new ways to say what you want to say.  I’m not looking for big words…I’m looking for the right words.  The right words take time and come when you least expect them––when you’re out walking, running, grocery shopping or even on the toilet.

My wife isn’t going to let me go back to college to earn any more degrees, so my MFA in Creative Writing is going to come from the books that I buy on a weekly basis from all of my favorite bookstore haunts, and a few workshops through Grub Street.

Here is a list of my:
Top 8 Memoirs to Read if you’re Trying to Write a Memoir.

1.)  Patti Smith, Just Kids
2.)  Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential  — Twitter @bourdain
3.)  Jenny Lawson, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened. — Twitter @TheBloggess
4.)  Tina Fey, Bossypants
5.)  Kevin Smith, Tough Shit — Twitter @ThatKevinSmith
6.)  Nikki Sixx, This Is Gonna Hurt — Twitter @NikkiSixx
7.)  David Sedaris, Me talk Pretty Someday
8.)  Mitch Albom, Tuesday’s with Morrie — Twitter @MitchAlbom

Oh yeah.  You can follow me on Twitter too if you feel so inclined. Twitter @Lanrod