the making of a book

I didn’t wake up one day and say to my self, Hey, I should write a book. It was a process. And it took some prodding from others. And I thunk about it. And I finally decided to do it.

So I thought I’d share the process of how I came to write my current book, CURVEBALLS: SWEET & SMOKEY DOWN THE BARBEQUE TRAIL. To begin with, I’ve always loved to travel. And deep down I’ve always had a thing for barbeque. They always say Do what you love and let it pay. But who are they? I don’t know and I don’t care.

So in that vain it’s why I wrote GUIDE TO INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY. “But Tim,” you say, “how does Intellectual Property connect to barbeque? Those are opposite ends of the spectrum?” Why yes they are, but believe me, there is a connection. I took a class on trademarks while getting my Masters Degree at the University of St. Thomas. This was way, way back in the day. I really loved that class and based on that I did my Masters Project on trademarks. I was informed by my adviser that I had “the biggest project to date.” It was supposed to be something like 30-60 pages tops. But mine bumped up against 100 pages. I was that enthused.

“You should turn your project into a book,” my advisor told me. I thought about it and thought, mmm, not a bad idea. Up until that point I really had never thought about writing a book, although that isn’t entirely true. At one point I wrote a few pages of TIM THE T-SHIRT MAN, a novel based on my experiences selling sweaters and t-shirts all over the country. I really enjoyed that experience although I only wrote about 15 pages and stopped. Not a game changer.

But my adviser had planted a seed in my brain. Someday, I thought, someday. Well, someday never materialized anytime soon. Try about 15 years or so. I finally got to a point that it’s time to get it out of the brain and on to paper. Even that was a process.

At the time I was an adjunct professor for Cardinal Stritch University. I thoroughly enjoyed that job. And I was assigned to teach a survey class on Intellectual Property. I consulted quite a bit with a veteran Intellectual Property attorney regarding how I should conduct the class. We had mock trials and witnesses and prosecutors and defendants. Wow, I thought, this is way too much fun. Soon I realized that in all the classes I taught, from computers to ethics to communications, there were threads of Intellectual Property that ran through all of them.

This got me thinking about those conversations with my adviser those years ago. And I got to work. My initial thinking was to focus on trademarks, since that was the focus of my Masters Project, but I soon realized so many small businesses know nothing abut any aspects of Intellectual Property. They were lost and didn’t know a patent from a trademark. The kicker came when an ice cream shop in Burnsville opened with the same exact name as the one in Bloomington. I asked the owner of the Bloomington shop about this and no, the Burnsville shop wasn’t connected to him. But also no, he didn’t have any concerns about consumer confusion. He should have. He didn’t know a thing about Intellectual Property, but wished he did.

This got me thinking. I ran into the same thing with my students too. They didn’t know a thing about Intellectual Property and the book we were using for class was written by an Intellectual Property Attorney, and was thick with every detail imaginable. The students came to class starry-eyed. Like the deer in the headlights look. All that detail, all that gore, became overwhelming. So during class we simplified it, and turned it into easy to follow bullet points up on the white board. This got me thinking too.

I made the decision to change the focus of my book to a beginner’s guide for the person that knows nothing about Intellectual Property, like the small business owners I talked to and the students in my classes. Thus, GUIDE TO INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY was born.

I toiled and toiled, reshaping and rewriting it numerous times. And this is where Lisa Ocone enters the picture. I hired her as an editor, along with others. During this process she would constantly tell me, “You should write a book about your travels. Your good at writing, I see it when I edit your book. You should write a book about your travels. This guy wrote one about walking the Appalachian Trail and hit it big. It became a New York Times Bestseller.”

A New York Times Bestseller, I thought. I could get into that. If he can do it, I can do it too. “What’s the name of the book?” I asked Lisa Ocone. She didn’t know off the top of her head, but reported back it was A WALK IN THE WOODS by Bill Bryson. The truth is I’d never heard of this Bill Bryson fellow or of his book. I thought that he was some Joe Blow who hiked the Appalachian Trail, wrote a book about it, and hit it big. Little did I know. I admit, jealousy and greed entered the picture. It wasn’t until I bought the book and started reading and researching Bill Bryson that I understood he is the King of travel writing. And I loved his book, which gave me more inspiration to pursue mine.

But those little demons, they are persistent. Those little voices in my head that tell me, you can’t do that, you won’t succeed, you’ll fail. The ones that repeat, it’s a waste of time, you’ll fail, you won’t make any money at it, why bother.

Those little voices, those demons, are persistent, but so is Lisa Ocone. She kept after me. And after me. And after me. About this time I began working at the special education school I currently work at. And then it began.

Those frequent conversations about barbeque. You see, we organized potlucks at work all year long, from tacos to chili to Italian. Sandifer and McCoy were at the center of it. They’ll claim I was, which is true, but they weren’t far behind. Food flowed like a river that year on our pod. It’s how we moved time, how we kept our focus, how we stayed sane. And it was fun! Way fun! Soon, those conversations turned to barbeque for all of them claimed rights to the best barbeque on the planet. Debates ensued, and then the whole building joined in. At my urging of course.

My co-workers came from all over the country. Sandifer’s family originates from Arkansas, and his dad owned a barbeque restaurant for four years. McCoy’s family hails from Dallas, Texas, and all through their family tree exists down home barbeque recipes. This became a truism for so many of my other co-workers, too. And I began to expand the question from who has the best barbeque to where is the best barbeque.

The answers I got covered the spectrum of United States. I began to warn them, “I’m going to do it. I’m going to go on a barbeque tour and settle this question. You don’t believe me, but I’m going to do it.” They laughed and smirked, but I warned them. And Lisa Ocone didn’t stop her March of Persistence either.

Finally, I cracked. I had a small sliver of time between the end of the regular school and summer school, and that is when I decided I would go on my barbeque tour. I warned them. And I threw the switch. I would write about my tour and that would be the basis for my book.

What started out as a simple project where I would write and edit a modest sized book in no time flat turned into something much larger. For starters, I ended up traveling to Los Angeles, and I threw that trip into my book. And then I traveled to different places in Minnesota, and threw that in my book. And then The Fever entered the picture and then Chicago, and all that got thrown in. And McCoy entered the picture again, and don’t forget about that Sandifer guy. The truth is that editing takes a long time.

And I’m a perfectionist. I had like 3 editors work on the book and I had numerous reviewers. I edited it myself something like a billion times, or so it seemed. And I still found errors. I went through cycle after cycle of edits. And time flew. Between writing the original drafts and all the edits a year flew by in a heartbeat. And more edits, and don’t forget, I had those other trips I threw in, and another year flew by. TWO YEARS! Yes, it took that long. Okay, I’m done, I thought. And then I found more errors and re-wrote sections and reorganized. And then I went on another trip.

At this moment in time the school union sent me to Atlanta to be a voting delegate for the National Education Association (NEA) Representative Assembly. 10,000 people came for that, and I was in the heart of it. One thought raced through my brain. BARBEQUE! When I wasn’t doing the work of a delegate I hit barbeque establishments, made little YouTube videos, and took notes. Atlanta, it seemed, warranted a separate book all by itself. I therefore began work on a draft for a second book. But that would be it! No more writing. No more editing. Time to get these books to market! So I spent the entire next year writing and editing the second book.

And then they sent me to Denver. Nooo, I thought. I’ve got to get a life. I can’t write another book about Denver. So I made the decision not to. I would write a simple 30 pages summary, tops, of my experiences in Denver, attach it to Atlanta, and I’d be done. Simple as pie. But I was wrong. As I started typing I found I had more to say. My nephew had burned into my brain the greatness of this one barbeque place. And I went to another barbeque place, too. I did a lot of stuff there. And a lot went on at the NEA. And I wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote. Before I knew it I had the makings of another book. Now the 3rd in my Travelogue Trilogy. But no more!

But doggonit they sent me to the NEA in Orlando Florida this past summer. I couldn’t say no. And yes, I’ve started the draft, but I haven’t finished it. I’m still working on getting the first 3 books ready. When I’m done with this one I’ll call it my trilogy+One. Pretty snappy, huh?

Okay, so let me summarize all that has gone one. What started as a small, simple book has turned into something much larger, a trilogy. Cool. And I’m working on a 4th. But for now I’ve only released the 1st one in the trilogy, CURVEBALLS: SWEET & SMOKEY DOWN THE BARBEQUE TRAIL. I have edited the other two in the trilogy, and started preliminary designs for the book cover for the second one. But I have to stay focused. One step at a time. For now I’m content with just releasing the first one and building my platform for it. That’s what all the books on self-publishing say to do anyways. And since the authors of those books have succeeded far more than I have, I’m all ears.

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