Tuesday, April 9, 2013


I became enamored of the idea of writing a book some years back. Ultimately, does it matter why? One inconsequential problem, I had no story to tell. Fortunately, the hands of divine intervention appeared, sparing me the necessity of creative thinking. A buddy gave me a book for Christmas – a simple field guide to Birds of North America. I didn't have much interest in the subject but the dryly laid-out text began to interest me with its repetitive minutiae.

It wasn't enough but again, happenstance. I was in the Pasadena Library, standing in front of rows of musty books and closed my eyes, let my hands trail and randomly stopped on A Unit of Time, A Unit of Water: Joel White's Last Boat. It was a beautifully written accounting of the last days of a legendary boat builder, dying of cancer. It was not only about Joel's life and his boats, but his relationship with his father – none other than E.B. White, author of marvelous children's literature and scholarly essays and my favorite writer growing up. Now I was intrigued.

I needed more though and after a considerable struggle, came up the idea of writing about a guy who doesn't know what comes next. I had my book! I would write about Harold, a middle-aged advertising executive who sails his boat up along the Atlantic seaboard, following the migratory path of birds. I even came up with a brilliant title – Birds, Boats and Middle Age.

I wrote at a snails pace, day in, day out. Slowly amassed details, lots and lots of details. This was important stuff. The Birds of North American Guide was not enough – I purchased the definitive work on the subject – the Sibley Guide to Birds. There would be nothing left out. And books about boats. Lots of books about boats. About a year went by. I now had 300 pages with lots of marshes and birds and plant life and sailing and a guy named Harry who's kind of a dick.

The next logical step was to dump the manuscript off on a good friend who was also a very good writer. I needed affirmation. My friend found it to be boring and repetitive with an unlikable main character. He had enjoyed one random section however, in which Harry flies out to Hollywood to meet with studio types about running the ad campaign for a hopelessly snake-bitten sequel to a talking dog movie.

The scrapping of all but 40 pages didn't come easily. But it came, along with other characters and story devices and drafts that topped out at 450 pages and were again stripped down. And years of stops and starts and crashing computers and lost files and lost interest and eventually a found memory stick with an old draft and more revisions and at the end, an unstable mess as a result of different software systems and who knows what.

Perhaps the best thing about the process is just that – the process. The story about an ad exec and a dog with diabetes, a trio of entitled white wannabe gangstas and a Hungarian junkie director won't win any awards but it will exist in cyberspace as a drawn-out exercise that hopefully helped me become a better writer.

One final circle of hell presented itself – an abomination called e-formatting. I basically gave up on that battle – Coma Dog is on Smashwords, Nook and Kindle for 0.99 cents and there's free chapter samples available. The Smashwords reader is the larger widget to the right and there's about 58 free pages - click the arrow at the lower left corner, choose your fonts and spacing and you're all set. 


  1. Congrats on finishing the book Dave, you must feel proud -
    I, alas, don´t have a credit card nor am i in the states (i´m down in Patagonia) so it´ll be difficult to purchase your prose. I will, though, check out the chapters on Smashwords -
    I´ve enjoyed your pieces on FB&G (the piece on the ghost visiting you in the middle of the night was excellent (& pardon my memory but it was Jerry B´s phantom, wasn´t it?) and of course the references to rock lyrics!
    Congrats again, take it easy, Purple Blood

  2. Thanks PB, sorry it took a while for the comment to go through. This blog has been overrun by spammers lately so I had to enable moderation, ha! I appreciate your kind words.

  3. Just finished Coma Dog, was a fun read, especially since I knew the background from this blog post, made the bird references make much more sense. Came for the basketball stayed for the books ;-)