A Real American Book! 2017 in Review

Sometimes I get antsy when people ask “How’s the book going?” or “Is there an end in sight?” So much happens behind the scenes that I don’t write about here, but it would be untoward to go around flapping my arms and pre-emptively yelling “I think about my book every day!” Part of why I write these Years-in-Review is to offer some proof.

In addition to teaching, much dust was kicked up above and below my comic book store this year, taking up time and energy. Good news! The building won’t fall over now. There’s also that “Project X” I mentioned a year ago in the ’16 Review, connected to a guy I interviewed for the book in ’07 and followed up with last year. I still won’t yet tell you what it is — sorry — but it’s still tangentially related to G.I. Joe.

Since the end of January last year (I count my book years from February to January rather than the standard calendar January to December so as to include my school’s winter break), I…

-Wrote and posted four blog articles here. Not great, but that’s more than last year.

-Phone-talked with editor Nick on his notes for Chapters 16 and 17. Probably some others I can’t track.

-Realized that 12 would have to be broken in two, making it 12 and 13, and turning 13 into 14 and 14 into 15 and 15 into 16 and 16 into 17. Chapter 17 got pushed ahead to become 19, and Chapter X became, finally, Chapter 18.

-Designer Liz sent back layouts for 13 and 14 (which will easily get tweaked to become 14 and 15). Designer Liz also sent a first pass at Chapter 17, which is quite close to a final draft.

-Extended my honeymoon by two days (wotta wife!) so I could find G.I. Joe treasure in Santa Monica and in Simi Valley, California. These are important for Chapters 8 and 16.

Traveled to Orlando, Florida for the official 2017 G.I. Joe Convention.

-Traveled to Providence, RI for HASCON 2017. (That blog post is a third-done. Sorry, it is on my to-do list!)

-Secured the original art to an(other!!!!!) unpublished G.I. Joe story. Such a tease.

-Bought a few toys on ebay for photoshoots. I own many Joe figures, but honestly, sometimes I just can’t find the one I’ve owned since the ’80s — is it in my basement? is it in that box over there? — and there’s a chance it’s missing an accessory. So yes, I’ve re-bought a few toys I already own. Also, a few mint-sealed ones I don’t.

Executed one new photoshoot with photographer Tim. (Maybe I’ll just call him by his last name, since I’m already the Tim of this story. Marshall. Executed one new photoshoot with photographer Marshall.) That makes photoshoot #16, for those of you keeping count. I can vaguely see needing another in the spring, but like this one, it’ll be straight forward “product” photography of a figure in front of a blank color or a mint-sealed one in front of same. I try not to do too much of this since, book-design-wise, it lacks flair, but sometimes it’s necessary. As the book develops, chapters start to tell me they need something, like “Oh, I’m writing about Tiger Force and Night Force for a paragraph, but I’m only showing some Tiger Force logo concept sketches. Maybe I need to show a figure or vehicle. Okay, in package, or out?” That kind of thing. I’ll need another photoshoot in the spring for the one or two things we didn’t get, plus some stuff that needs to be added into early chapters that now need rewrites.

-Conducted four new interviews. One was with a fan who attended the ’94 convention, another who knows much of the history of Joe fandom in the ’80s and ’90s, a duo who were significantly involved in the 30th Salute, and a film director involved around ’95. This is all material for Chapters 15 and 18.

-Sent follow-up questions to about eight previous interviewees. Got back some details and photos.

-Met Christopher Irving. Good guy to know. He, like me, teaches at a university.

-Interfaced with Dan Klingensmith. His books and my books cover some similar ground, but also diverge in significant ways. We chatted by phone recently, and he did me a favor in exchange for a favor I had done him. (Dan did a great job with HASCON, one of the points I’ll make in the HASCON review blog post.)

-Dealer/fan Drew Haggerty lent me some treasure that will aid Chapters 11 and 12.

-Bought some art. Fancy. Quiet-like.

-Considered, collated, wrote, and sent to Designer Liz a massive email (2300 words) of notes on Chapters 11, 14, 15, and 17. This took days. This was the culmination of the entire year, actually, but more locally, the culmination of Winter Break, when there’s no school and holidays are over and I can focus.

-Contributed to Andrew Farago‘s book Totally Awesome: The Greatest Cartoons of the Eighties. Well, I contributed to this a year or so back, but the book was published this year, so a bit of my collection of Joe, Transformers, DuckTales, and Real Ghostbusters art is now on display, and Mr. Farago and his editor, Chris Prince, kindly gave me some extra credit at the back of the book. If you bought Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Visual History in 2014, you are already familiar with Farago’s work.

So what’s left?

I need to transcribe (read: get transcribed) an interview and track down one person to incorporate some changes into Chapter 12. When that first draft is done, I can send it to Editor Nick. I’m close to locking text on Chapter 16. I’m close to a first draft of 18, which is all about so-and-so and hope to get one more interview, and 19, which is all about GI Joe Extreme. I’m waiting on two interviews. Chapter 20, sort of the end of the book, is just a notion in my mind. I’ve never written anything for it, and there isn’t even an empty Word document named “Chapter 20” on my hard drive. 2018 will need one more photoshoot, but probably get two more. Then I need to compare Chapters 1 through 10 with 11 through 20 and make sure the two halves of the book are balanced, which they right now decidedly are not. Then I need to revise 1 through 10 and incorporate some of the interviews I got in the last five years that haven’t been incorporated. Then Designer Liz tweaks those chapters for text changes and art additions. Then I’m done.

I usually end these blog posts with a question to encourage comments below, but I’ll just sign off by stating that this year felt great for the book, and a lot of things came together.


Filed under Behind the Scenes, Book Behind the Scenes, Photography, Writing Process

3 responses to “A Real American Book! 2017 in Review

  1. Dan

    Geez all this behind the scenes stuff which goes on when putting a book together. Maybe you should….write a book about it. Kidding!!

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