Yeah, I know… I’ve been missing in action in terms of the blog for another very long time. Truth is, for a retired guy I’ve been busy!
So this new book project… Have you heard about it? It’s basically amazing on all fronts. If you haven’t been following on my other social media platforms (yes, I’m on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram and you SHOULD follow me there to keep up with all this) there’s a new writing and editing passion that’s on fire here that I never saw coming. No, I actually mean that literally! I never saw it coming.
Oh, I remembered writing a diary about a full season of NHRA Funny Car racing back in 2001. Like a naive fool, I just had the idea and dove in, starting right after the 2000 season ended. I kept after it, finding ways to write in addition to all the PR work I was actually getting paid to do. At the end of that season, I printed one copy of it. I kept it over the always-short NHRA off-season, and in 2002 I actually shared it with a couple of crew guys and writers. The responses varied from “You wrote a book here, Bob. This is a book!” to “Kinda neat, but nobody knows who you are…” I’m just glad they gave it back to me and no one dropped it on the floor and scrambled all the pages.
Keep in mind, I wrote it in 2001 but even in early 2002 I was still a total nobody. It was still three and a half years from when blogs became a thing and I was recruited to write one. In the pit area, I was getting known and respected, but to the public I was still invisible. That’s kinda how it works for PR people. You publicize your team, your drivers, and your sponsors. I was good with that and I was good at doing that. It was the blog on NHRA.com that made me “somebody” although even that was a strange thing for me. Enjoyable, but strange, because I never had blog writing on my radar screen. Until 2005, I’d never heard of blogs.
So I put the printed manuscript away. Apparently I put it away pretty well, because I lost track of it. Did I keep a digital copy? Yeah, at the time I did but software and operating systems changed, and I lost the disc anyway, so the printed copy was all there was. And for much of the last 22 years I had no idea what had happened to it. It was still a memory, but it was gone. That’s all I knew.
Let’s fast forward to now. I’m not big on garage sales (either in the buying or selling mode) but our ever-growing town of Woodbury has a giant garage sale weekend, and I got signed up to help us fill our garage and driveway with stuff we didn’t want anymore. Why other people would want stuff we didn’t want was a mystery to me, but I dutifully cleaned the garage, arranged some things we could live without, and got ready.
I can’t recall what Barbara was looking for in particular, but our utility room sure was a trove of that sort of stuff. Including an entire cardboard banker’s box of Del Worsham and Tim Wilkerson die-cast cars. While I was balancing on a ladder to get that box down, Barbara opened a drawer in a cheap old plastic chest that probably cost $10 two and a half decades ago at Target, but she didn’t see what she was searching for. I had gotten off the ladder by then, and looked inside the drawer with her.
I said, “Wait! Hang on a sec… What’s that???”
It was the long-lost only printed copy of that diary. 22 years had passed since I wrote it. We moved from Austin to the Twin Cities, and then to Spokane, and then back “home” to the Twin Cities again. Things get packed up. Movers take over. Some of those boxes just blend into the the new house without being unpacked. The manuscript had been found, and if an actual lightbulb didn’t go on over my head, a figurative one definitely did.
I had been planning to write the sequel to How Far? for a while. I started doing the research. I wrote a rudimentary timeline. I wrote some character studies. But, it wasn’t gaining traction in my brain. This long lost manuscript fired my neurons up as if I’d put nitromethane in the tank.
This was it. This was what I was supposed to be doing.
Step 1: I had to read it. This thing was written 22 years ago when I was a rube and a newbie in terms of PR. To me, the odds were about 80/20 that it would be embarrassing, full of bravado and over-writing, with me trying too hard to be an author when all I really could be classified as was a writer. I read it. It didn’t suck. I actually surprised myself by how good it was.
Step 2: Have Barbara read it. She dove in and basically said “I love it. It leaps off the page. I was back in 2001 with you.”
So we decided to publish it.
Step 3: Find a new publisher or go back to the publisher I’d used for Bats, Balls, & Burnouts and then How Far? To be blunt, I had some good luck and help with that publisher, and I never wrote either book to make a living off the royalties, but it was time to look around and hope for a little more financial reward. Not a fortune, but not a pittance either. I felt I’d earned that status. My last publisher still owes me $1.61 and I’ll probably never see it.
Hey, here’s a thought. If 25 of you want to order either of my first two books on Amazon (they’re even both discounted now) I might get above the $25 threshold to actually get a final royalty check from them, that would be awesome. Just sayin’…
Through my research, I found Palmetto Publishing. Again, since I don’t have a traditional publishing deal nor do I have an agent, I’d be paying to play, but the terms were actually way better, the royalty percentage was better, the reviews about them were good, and our initial conversations were right on target as to what I was looking for. I signed with them, and we were off to the races (pun intended).
Step 4: How do I take this printed document and make it a digital version? I sure as heck was not excited about rewriting it all, although when I initially mentioned this on social media I got too many “Can you just make a copy and sell it to me?” requests to count. That’s when I knew this project had legs and buzz. The response has been incredible since the day I let my small portion of the world know it had been found.
So, we took it up to a copy store and they scanned the whole thing, then digitized it into a PDF. From there, they turned it into a Word document. Badda Boom, Badda Bing, right? Not so fast good buddy.
It was a mess. 22 years had passed. The document we had on our hands was full of glitches. Too many to fathom. There was not a single page that didn’t have at least a dozen problems, from missing spaces to too many spaces. From letters turned into numbers to punctuation completely missing. This was going to take some work.
That was a month and a half ago. We’ve both been working on it since then. It’s been my full-time job and Barbara has helped in the role of “a new set of eyes” which any author or editor knows is critical. If you look at it too long, you just start reading instead of analyzing. You miss a LOT of stuff.
Today, on this fine Saturday on the first day of July, I’m just two days away from finishing the file and sending it off to Palmetto.
Is it perfect? I’m sure it’s not. I very much liked the fact I wrote it in “real time” back in 2001. It’s raw, it’s hurried, it’s heartfelt and just plain real. It is a true look into what happens with a professional Funny Car team over the course of a year. There are plenty of details, but what I really felt good about was that the emotion was there in the words. I felt like I was back there again. I think I nailed it, and that surprised me in a wonderful way.
But those glitches are insidious. I’ve been through it five times. Barbara’s been through it twice. I’m still spotting stuff, including the fact I never proofed it to begin with after I wrote it, so there are good old-fashioned typos and grammar errors mixed in too. According to Barbara’s red ink marks, I was infatuated with quotation marks back then. She was “right” on that account. It’s a handful, but at this point I just want to present this gift to all of you and anyone else who wants to read it. Glitches and all.
As I posted on Facebook recently, it’s like your Funny Car is showing low oil pressure after the burnout, but it’s the final round and it’s all on the line. What do you do? If you’re Del Worsham you point forward to your dad to let him know “Send it.”
Here’s what has me most excited about it. I have no recollection of what motivated me to write this throughout the 2001 season. I’d been with the Worshams for four years, so 2001 would be my fifth. We’d won one race since landing the CSK sponsorship in ’97, on a hot track in Seattle in ’99 where we had the ability to finesse the tuneup while a lot of other cars were smoking the tires. There was no real reason to think 2001 was going to be a breakout year for us.
That’s the great thing about it. I was talking to Del about it a few days ago and he said “2001 changed our lives and careers…”
And I got to write it all down. I’m so glad I did, but I’m even happier that Barbara opened that drawer and we saw it. Now, it’s finally coming to life.
For those who did see it in the initial printed version (I will never let this original out of my sight again) and who motivated me and complimented what I’d done, I thank you for that support because it still motivates me. It gave me confidence. Maybe the whole exercise was just a “test lap” to see if I could write in this long form. To see if I could actually write a book one day, one year, somewhere off in the distance. It was 15 years later when I wrote Bats, Balls, & Burnouts. I knew I could do that. The Lost Manuscript was still within me. I knew I had the skills to do it.
For anyone who felt like I was way out of bounds, as an invisible PR guy, to write it from my perspective, including the off-the-track stuff and my personal life, I totally get it. I probably felt that way too, or I would’ve tried to get it published then. I was a certified nobody, but my mom’s DNA has always been in me. She was a brilliant writer. I just strive to be a decent one, in her honor.
It was an amazing year, and what I like the most about it was how I didn’t just recite what we did at the races. I did that, and I did it in detail, while I also wrote it emotionally as a guy who was completely a part of it and invested in it. But in addition to that I wrote it in my own personal way, not as the team PR rep but also the team manager. We were making the transition from losers to winners, we were building our organization, and we were doing it quickly. I was in the middle of so much of that off-the-track stuff, working daily with CSK and all of our sponsors. There were personal hardships, lessons learned, and the fact Barbara and I were actually living in two different places that year, when she was on an assignment for IBM in Connecticut while I was still minding the home we loved in Austin. It was not easy. The travel was brutal. Life was both incredible and very hard at the same time. What a year I documented.
There was a lot of drama, as things unfolded before me. There was a ton of intrigue. Heartbreak and over-the-top exhilaration. I could hardly have picked a better year to do this diary.
It made for a helluva story!
I hope we have it in your hands within three months, but that’s going to be a matter of how my new publisher Palmetto gets it done, so I’ll be waiting just like you are. I’ll keep you posted and hope your browser is set up for it on Amazon the day it comes out. I think you’ll love it. I’m extremely proud of it.
There’s so much more to write about, but I’ve got to get back to fixing glitches and typos if I want to send this off to Palmetto in the next few days.
In the meantime, a look at the proposed front cover is below.
And, as always, if you liked what you just read and are excited about The Lost Manuscript please do me a favor and click on that “LIKE” button below.
Back to work…