Friday, April 5, 2013

WRITE YOUR MEMOIRS

I have made the mistake that so many others have experienced when they've attempted to write their life story - I started, sputtered, stopped, started again, stopped again, and finally just quit. It takes discipline to write about yourself, and I've lacked it. So, how do you and I avoid such, and just sit down and write our story?

For one, you and I may think of our lives as boring and unworthy of the effort. Who would want to read about our tedious experiences in high school, our failed marriages, our mediocre kids and their mediocre friends? Would our children even have enough interest that they would take the time to read about their parent's experiences before (and after) they were born?

I just finished an autobiography by a person who was average in just about every way. But his story was interesting to me because he faced some of the same challenges in his life that I've faced in mine. How he managed them gave me insight to my mistakes and will probably help me to face similar challenges in a better way in the future. Besides, it was a fun, hilarious read.

Where I've made my mistake is that I failed in my commitment to the project. Perhaps one way to avoid such an end is to force myself to write at least one page every day. If I manage that, I'll have 365 pages at the end of one year. That's a book.

I've always said that when you write you learn more about yourself than you could ever learn otherwise. That's probably especially true when we write our memoirs. After all, we have to confront the trials of our lives, as well as relive and enjoy the successes. Putting pen to paper (or fingertips to keys) forces us to explore the tiniest details of our past. What previously hidden motivations for our actions or inactions will we discover?

There are many websites devoted to writing memoirs. These are just a few I found with a web search:

http://www.rd.com/advice/great-tips-on-how-to-write-your-memoir/

http://www.ghostwriter-needed.com/how-to-write-a-memoir.html

http://voices.yahoo.com/6-tips-write-memoir-autobiography-2311948.html

I'm going to go back to my memoir and commit to finishing it. And who knows? There may be people out there who will benefit from reading your story!





Monday, March 25, 2013

SUCCESS WITH CREATESPACE




I am very impressed with the ease with which my latest novel, My Handle is Desolation, was published by Createspace. Amazon has done a great job in designing the system - manuscripts can be uploaded and revised with ease, the covers come predesigned - you can add your own photos or cover art - and best of all, it costs practically nothing! The only expense I had was the $25.00 I paid for expanded market availability. Contrasts that with the last book I published through Booklocker that cost me over $600.00, and that without any cover art. The latter would have cost another $100 - $300. If it sounds like I'll never use anyone else for my publishing needs, well, that's pretty much certain.

Monday, March 18, 2013

ANALYZING AMAZON BOOK REVIEWS


I've been fortunate in that several people (5) who have read my "HOW TO HUNT TREASURE" have taken time to write reviews on Amazon. Four are "good" (4, 5 star), with only one "bad" (3 star). After reading them, I'm quite satisfied with the ratings, though I gained insight into how I might have improved my writing:


1) Let's face it--if you've ever read a book on metal detecting, you know most are B-O-R-I-N-G and so basic they're not worth the money. This volume is different. It's funny and engaging and full of ideas, tips, and instructions to increase your detecting skills. I would have given it 5 stars except Malcolm tries to be a little too broad in his approach to treasure hunting and includes a small section on flea markets and internet searches for "treasure". This section was unnecessary. The majority of the book presents good, solid advice for metal detecting and does so in a way that not only does NOT put you to sleep--but makes you laugh with his good old boy humor. If you're new to detecting, the few pages on ground balancing your detector is worth the cost of the book. If you like humor, his story of diving for cannon balls is priceless.

2) A poor forum for the frustrated novelist. There is some good information if you are willing to wade through countless pages of "sea stories".

3) This is only the second book I've purchased on the subject. I am specifically interested in metal detecting, and I bought this book mainly for his description of how to use electrolysis to clean relics. I found this short book to be funny and wildly accurate regarding those types of people who are addicted to treasure hunting. He described me perfectly as a "Dabbler," someone who is not so consumed with the hobby that they are still able to maintain a balanced life, though they really would rather be digging holes or going to the flea market than working. He includes many stories from his own treasure hunting experiences, but most of them are lengthy and full of banter so I skimmed over them and just read the pertinent information. I like his personality, though he definitely does seem odd (he referred to the Civil War as "the war for southern independance.") Overall, he is motivational and does offer good advice for perservering and finding that treasure. I also found his tips on using a metal detector to its full advantage particularly helpful. A-

4) I metal detected with the author for years and never found as much as he did; I thought that he was just luckier than me. After reading his book, I know the secrets of his success.

Along with the author, I found my share of civil war artifacts and coins; but I was never as good as he was with a metal detector, and he found much more than me.

Every metal detector user, who wants to be very successful at finding treasure, should read his book. The author's metal detecting techniques are explained fully and will help you to find even more treasure.

I wish he had written his book years ago; I would have found much more.

Thanks, Malcolm. We had some great times together hunting and finding treasure.

5) As a newbie to metal detecting, I have attempted to gather the knowledge and experience of others to help me shorten my learning curve. Most of the books I have gathered offered some useful information, but How to Hunt Treasure was the complete package. Malcolm Allred has written an entertaining and valuable resource for new metal detector enthusiasts. I enjoyed and hopefully learned from the humorous anecdotes about mistakes he has made. As with any book that discusses technology, some of the information can become dated quickly; so, I hope Malcolm writes a second edition in the near future. However, the current edition of How to Hunt Treasure is well worth the purchase price and full of helpful information written with an entertaining style.


As to the underlined comments…

I originally intend the book to be very broad… that's why the title: "How to Hunt Treasure." If I had wanted to concentrate on just one aspect of treasure hunting, e.g., metal detecting, I would not have chosen such a title. Still, I think the critics make a valid point. Perhaps I should write that second edition on a much more narrow range of subjects.

The criticism that there were too many "sea stories" is justifiable, but if it were all removed the book would be a third its present length… and not nearly as interesting. See the comment about "B-O-R-I-N-G" above. That suggestion is one to which I probably will not adhere. 

Overall, the reviewers' comments were positive. Now I'll plan that second volume…





Monday, March 4, 2013

PUBLISH VIA AMAZON.COM'S CREATESPACE???

I've debated for some time whether or not to publish a novel that I wrote some ten years ago called "My Handle is Desolation." It's about a barkeep in downtown Vicksburg who becomes (hopefully) wealthy overnight when casino gaming is approved by the Mississippi legislator. The bad guys, of course, are intent upon stealing his land, located on the river in just the right spot for a casino. That aside, I did a bit more research to try and determine the best means for publishing the work, and finally decided to give Amazon.com's "createspace" a try. Let me tell you… I have been very impressed with the results! Although I haven't decided whether to publish or not, only a very short time was required for me to prepare the book and cover for publication. I took my wife to the local cemetery, where she took some photographs that I planned to use for the cover. Back home I edited the photos, then decided on one for the cover:

After picking out a "style" for the cover and writing a few words for the back cover, I uploaded all of this and the photo to createspace. The preview looked okay, so I ordered a proof copy for review. Here it is:


The cover photo is a bit different from the first photo shown above because I edited the image a bit. Anyway, the whole process was easy as pie. I just may go ahead and publish the thing. If you have a manuscript ready ( or even partially written), you might give creatspace a try. It's easy, and it doesn't cost you a thing!



Wednesday, February 27, 2013

AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARY HAMILTON

I just completed reading "Trials of the Earth," the autobiography of Mary Hamilton. I could hardly put it down once I began. From the Amazon site:

The Autobiography of Mary Hamilton; Foreword by Ellen Douglas; Introduction by Morgan Freeman. From a manuscript that surfaced more than a half century after it was written, here are the recollections of a Mississippi pioneer oman who survived merciless obstacles to save her family and home.


From Publishers Weekly

This remarkable memoir owes its existence to the indefatigable Davis ( Shim ), who met the elderly Mary Hamilton in 1931 and encouraged her to set down her recollections of life in the Mississippi Delta backwoods during the latter part of the 19th century. Rejected by Little, Brown in 1933, the manuscript, edited by Davis from Hamilton's handwritten original, resurfaced in 1991; Davis copy-edited it and approved its publication before her recent death. The unlettered yet vividly expressive Hamilton writes graphically of her arduous work, deep sorrows and exalting joys. She begins her account in Arkansas in the early 1880s, when the teenage Mary met and married Frank Hamilton, an Englishman who was manager of a lumber camp charged with clearing the forests of the Delta. Her straightforward narrative details cooking for large groups of lumberjacks, childrens' births and deaths, impermanent homes in camps and farms, loneliness, natural disasters and her husband's death in 1914. The book includes holograph pages from the original manuscript and a preface by Davis. A unique autobiography of a Southern pioneer woman.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

To read Hamilton's autobiography is to experience an extraordinary life of courage and hardship. Born in 1867 and married at age 18 to a man 12 years her senior, Hamilton found herself raising (and, sadly, burying) children in a variety of Mississippi delta farms and boarding houses. In addition to hardship, her life was tinged with mystery; her husband, Frank, came from an upper-class English family but refused to speak of his past or allow his children to claim their possible foreign inheritance. Hamilton, a born storyteller, has written a rich, simple narrative; her personal strength is surpassed only by the strength of her writing abilities. This work ranks with Martha Summerhayes's Vanished Arizona (1911). Originally turned down by a publisher in 1933, Trials of the Earth is long overdue in its chance to win readers and tell of a time long gone.
- Katherine Gillen, Mesa P.L., Ariz.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
I can say little more about the book except that my emotions ran the gauntlet. Mental images of the trials of this remarkable woman, of her love and her losses, still affect me, days after completing the manuscript. I highly recommend it, especially to the younger generation who apparently have no idea of the ordeals faced by the pioneers who built this country.

Monday, February 18, 2013

ADVERTISE FOR STORIES?

I placed an ad in the local newspaper which basically asked for "your story - or your ancestors." I referenced diaries and even word-of-mouth recitals that involved historical, military, or just unusual events or lives. So far I've had one response - from a WWII vet who also served in Korea and Vietnam. Although I hope to receive additional calls, this one contact may be worth it all.

Friday, February 8, 2013

WANTED: YOUR STORY (OR THAT OF YOUR ANCESTORS)

Some of the finest reading material I've come across has as its basis either diaries from long dead ancestors or firsthand interviews of people who have significant stories to tell. I'm searching now for just that type of material as basis for another non-fiction work. If you think you have a story worth recording for posterior, or an unpublished diary from one of your ancestors, please contact me. My cell number is 601-618-7478, or if writing, send details to Malcolm Allred, 717 Clay Street, Vicksburg, MS, 39183. Not all material will be acceptable, but it will certainly be scrutinized with a view to publication.