I am a middle aged guy who had no idea a few short years ago, that I would write and publish a book that I could be proud of. I was not a particularly good student when it came to English and Literature classes in my early schooling. Being a farm boy, my interests were technical, not literary. Math and physics captured my interest. I went on to become involved in television broadcast engineering. There I met a man who introduced me to flying. I had little clue that flying would one day become a central theme in my life. Soon I was the owner of a classic 1958 Piper Tri-Pacer that took me and my family on a series of outstanding adventures over the next twenty years. The next discovery that grabbed my attention was the internet. Again, I approached this new interest as a technical challenge, building my first website within weeks.
Perhaps I became more reflective as I reached middle age, or perhaps I simply had space to fill on my home page. Weblogs wouldn't become established or popular for several years, but I was a blogger. Maybe I was inspired by Richard Bach's account of his journey across America in Biplane, or his trek across North America as a barnstormer in Nothing By Chance. In any case, I began to put into words the beauty I had seen, the joy I had felt, and even the fear I had experienced at the controls of my flying machine. I was pleased with the results, and as pilots and others read my stories, their positive reactions encouraged me to write more. The process would have ended there, had I not walked into a seminar at the Experimental Aircraft Associationís SuníNíFun Fly-in. Chevy Alden was presenting the talk based on his book, "How to Write, Publish & Sell Your Own Aviation Books." He had successfully self published an aviation novel and was sharing everything I needed to know to do the same. I was intrigued. I left with a copy of his book and a new ambition.
I combined my existing writings into a core manuscript and over the next two years, added, rearranged, edited, tweaked, cut, fine tuned, wrote and re-wrote. My flights during this period took on new significance and each detail was weighed for relevance to the growing saga of my life. I dug through logbooks and photographs, trying to re-create details of the memories that had buried themselves deep into my past. Then the time came when I felt a closure to the project. It was confirmed a couple months later when my trusty Tri-Pacer was destroyed by a fifty knot gust of wind - a fitting, though not welcome epilogue to the book.
Chevyís guidebook had painted a path that I was following as closely as possible. I chose to bypass the submissions to and subsequent rejections from publishers.
Even if I were to be accepted by a publisher, I was not prepared to turn the fate of my treasured work over to faceless bureaucrats whose decisions hinged on their dollars and cents. I set myself up as a self-publisher under the name Pad39A and began the search for a printer. Judging by their free publishing guide, Morris Publishing, located in the nearby state of Nebraska appeared to be a good candidate. I hopped into the airplane and flew up for a personal visit that confirmed my initial impression. They answered my every question. I found that I could do my own typesetting, making printing costs quite reasonable. My expectations escalated. I began laying out my manuscript in preparation for the day I would print the final camera ready pages. I researched all the necessary requirements for a professionally printed book. I learned about copyrights, ISBN numbers, and bar codes.
See the book!
It was soon time to begin getting opinions on the manuscript from those more knowledgeable than I. My sister the teacher, my wife the tutor, my daughter the college student, and other friends each assisted in filtering out misprints and mistakes.
After reading an excerpt, one friend concluded that I was a danger to myself and society. This made me realize that I was confessing to a number of events that had been somewhat risky, leading to the title and ominous silhouette on the cover. My plans to take additional photographs for the covers were thwarted by the airplane being destroyed, so I was limited to choosing from what I had. An attempt to have a local graphic artist create the cover did not yield the best results, but the fine folks at Morris quickly and professionally finished the job.
The manuscript - flying off to the printer.
I paid the printing costs and my first thousand books soon arrived on that memorable day in August. I couldnít have been prouder of the professional-looking final product. It was the climax of an absolutely wonderful chapter in my life. In five years I had come from knowing nothing about about writing or publishing to becoming both an author and a publisher. Now I stand on the threshold of a new and unknown adventure - promoting and distributing a book. At this point, nothing is impossible.
If you have an urge to write, I encourage you to go for it. Begin putting your thoughts on paper. At this point, you may not know everything about language, grammar and style, but that will come with re-writes and editing. Once you see the words on paper, the good, the bad and the ugly will become much more apparent. Then share your writing with others and get constructive comments and suggestions on websites such as RateYourWriting.com. Remember, you won't fly until you jump out of the nest.
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