On Monday afternoon, I dropped off at the post office manuscript number nineteen. This is a manuscript I mentioned sometime back. It deals with Grandfather Mountain, and will be a part of the Images of America series for Arcadia Publishers.
I've been taking a little time to reflect as of late, trying to figure out where to go next. Yes, I already have that next contract, a book dealing with the Branch-Lane brigade to be published by Savas-Beatie. I've been looking beyond that. Almost seven years ago, I gave up my job in a library at a local community college to write full time. And it has been an increasable experience. I've been to hordes of neat (historic) places, and met great people, and I believe, or at least hope, that I have been able to make some type of contribution to enrich the lives of people by my obsession with the past.
But it has not always been the most profitable of exercises. No, I never expected to get rich, and my writing at least pays for itself. But ever since the economy tanked, it just seems harder and harder to sell anything, even good history. So, I've been trying to step back and evaluate where I am and what I need to do next. So here are the choices that I've come up with so far:
1. Keep doing what I am doing - plugging along trying to turn out well-researched books that help preserve the past.
2. Kick up my travels a notch. Last year, I did a little over seventy public appearances. Maybe I need to try doing more events, like reenactments and civil war shows, etc. The problem with these events is that that they wear me out. I have no problems jumping into the car and driving two hours to spend another two hours with a group before coming home. I can handle that. It is the two days of almost constant conversation that wear me down. Plus, there is the added expense of traveling. For my short jaunts, I drive a Honda Civic - gets great gas millage. For a weekend event at a reenactment, I drive an F150 (crew cab, 4x4) - not so great gas millage, plus, some events charge a fee for me to set up, so the chances to make a profit are slim. If I go to a show, then there is the added expense of hotel rooms.
3. Change my focus. I write about the Civil War (mostly) because it is what I know, what I understand, what I am passionate about. But over the past two years I have become keenly aware of how other areas of history, and other locations, suffer greatly for someone with a pen to write about that place or time period. Maybe I am that person. Maybe diversifying even more would be better.
4. Go back to school and finish that MA in history. This would at least give me a chance to adjunct teach and make a dollar or two, while still researching and writing, to a degree. Of course, it would also limit my ability to travel. Any grad schools interested in a well-published, non-traditional student?
5. Become more of an activist. If you follow me on facebook, you probably know that from time to time, I post about the lack of historical education, the lack of interest, or about the lack of people who read. Maybe I need to cut back on my writing a little to work more on getting people involved. I'm not quite sure how this would work, but it is a possibility.
6. Go find a real job - park service or historic site or something. Anyone interested in someone who has a really good understanding of mid-nineteenth century American history, with a very strong concentration in North Carolina?