My next book, coming soon: A Place to Start

I’ve been writing this blog since 2007. It’s become largely about my hobbies: photography, old cameras, and old roads. But I’ve always written personal essays, that is, stories from my life and the lessons I’ve learned along the way. These posts never get the most pageviews, but you tell me time and again that they’re the ones you like best.

My next book collects the best stories and essays from this blog’s first two years, 2007 and 2008. My horrible first marriage had finally ended after a protracted and brutal divorce. I was left to build a new life, to go in a direction I didn’t foresee when I made my wedding vow, a direction I didn’t want. But our marriage was truly destructive. We weren’t able to fix what was broken about us. Our home was desperately unhealthy for everyone, including our children. The end of our marriage left us both broke, but in every other way our family was better off.

Down the Road, v. 1.0

I needed a hobby. Money was tight. Blogging was free. And so I started to write my stories and share them here. Not the ones from the bad marriage — I decided straight off that I would not air our dirty laundry, would not work through my pain by sharing its causes with the world. It would have been cathartic to do it, as my ex had done some breathtakingly awful things. But I had done some breathtakingly awful things, too. I didn’t want her telling my stories. I wasn’t going to tell hers.

Instead, I wrote about my childhood and my young adulthood. I wrote about the challenges of adapting to newly single life. I also wrote about my faith, which the divorce challenged to the core. Through it I lost my childish ideas of what following God was about, and gained a genuine, sustaining relationship with my creator.

Reading the Sunday funnies in my living room, age 22

I’m titling the book A Place to Start. It’s the same name as a story I first published a month after I started this blog. You can read that story here. I wrote of my first apartment after graduating from engineering school and landing a job. I lucked into a great apartment, one much nicer than my meager income could ordinarily have afforded. There I figured out a new adult life. There I also started to see some of the baggage I was carrying from my childhood — baggage that led me to form unhealthy relationships. I began the hard work to change my thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors, so I could be a better man. That apartment truly was a place to start.

I’m on track to publish my book in November. When you read it, you’ll see that neither I nor my blog had fully found our voices yet. But I had started. There is so much power in starting. From there, you can find your way. You can’t find your way until you start.

With this book I start my publishing journey. Who knows where it will take me? I get to enjoy finding my way with it, just as I still enjoy finding my way with my blog. Just as, now that I can look back on it, I enjoyed building a new life after my marriage ended.

Blogging for so many years has made me a much better writer. As I laid these stories and essays into this book, I revised them all to better tell my story and to make it more interesting.

I think everybody’s life is interesting — yours too. It’s all in how you tell the stories. I’m an ordinary man with an ordinary life, but these stories together form a memoir that tells how rich even an ordinary life can be.

I’ll share more about A Place to Start in the weeks to come as I finish it and prepare it to be published. I have a lot to figure out between now and then!

If you take my monthly email newsletter, Back Roads, you already knew I was working on this book. I even offered you the chance to review an early draft of it, and give me feedback. On Back Roads I share a little more personally than I do here, and you get to see what I’m working on before everyone else. If you want in, sign up here.

I dipped my toe into the publishing waters a couple years ago by releasing two books of my photographs. If you’re interested, have a look at them here.

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12 thoughts on “My next book, coming soon: A Place to Start

    • Yes! Someone suggested I do this because I have so much in the archive that most readers haven’t seen. It’s been interesting to go through this process.

  1. Kurt Ingham says:

    Oh boy something to look forward to- I really liked you earlier books. The Pentax ME book is a model of what a small run, specialty book can be

    • What a nice thing to say about my Pentax ME book! I wish only that I could figure out how to do more books like that charging half the price and still make a small sum on each one.

  2. Kurt Ingham says:

    The financial aspect of any sort of publishing are a mystery to most. My observation over the years for small run is that a pretty high price is probably most effective. You won’t lose many buyers (compared to a cheaper version) and you might make some money. I’m not sure if this is true or not…

    • I have a couple goals for my books: (1) put my work out there into the great wide world and (2) make a few bucks, in that order. That’s why for my photo books I’d like to charge $10. That’s a low-friction price. But the Pentax ME book’s cost to me was greater than that. I suppose $15 isn’t a terrible price but it does increase the purchase friction a little bit. I use print on demand so I don’t have to put up anything up front, and that is where the high per-unit cost comes from.

  3. Eileen De Guire says:

    Jim — You should charge at least as much for the book as the number of Starbucks coffees a person would consume while reading the book cover-to-cover. As a publishing professional, I think you’re undercharging by at least 5 Grande Decaf Americanos!

    I’m looking forward to the book!

    • You know how much pricing is dark magic! I’m trying to find that sweet spot: enough that my cut is generous, but not so much that it keeps people from clicking the Buy button!

  4. Darts and Letters says:

    Jim, I really enjoyed your essay A Place to Start, that was great. Unfortunately, I’ve been having problems the past few days commenting on posts outside of the WP Reader so I can’t like or leave remarks directly on it. WP wouldn’t display comments in this post for me last night, either. Everything seems normal now. But at any rate, that was a charmingly told narrative, really, really nice. As for above, it’s neat to hear other stories about the rewards of journaling/blogging. How could you have known you would build up such a remarkable archive? The book should be wonderful, you’re a good storyteller.

    • Thank you for saying such nice things about my writing. I’m happy not only that I can scratch my writing itch here, but that others come and read it and mostly like it.

      I’m not entirely sure why I do this. Maybe it’s just that: I write what I want to write and people come and read it. Not huge numbers of people, I figure my regular readership numbers a couple hundred. I’m pretty sure I would have let this all go had people not come and engaged with my posts.

      Every now and again I get reports of WordPress funkiness like you experienced. I’m not sure what it’s about. I’m happy it resolved on its own for you.

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