The initial impulse was innocent enough.
After Apple canned me in January ’22 and I had nothing but time on my hands, I started to wonder two things: 1) what to do with the time and 2) how to restore that little bit of income, which for five years had made the difference between living on ‘portfolio income’ and running out of capital before I run out of breath.
A couple of months after I’d hung up my Apple T-shirts I got a check from the self-publishing service called ‘Lulu.com‘ – which I’d used to publish the unfinished Townsend Brown biography after I abandoned the project back in 2009. The check was not very much, maybe $60 or $80 for a quarter.
Necessity being the mother of invention stories, that was enough to get me wondering: if I dusted off the manuscript, could that trickle be turned into an actual stream?
By then I’d had Mike Williams’ rewrite for several years. I tried to do something with it when Mike first presented it to me in 2018, but I didn’t have the patience then for the very granular work of restoring my ‘voice’ to the expedited narrative Mike had distilled.
It’s not like I’d ever stoped thinking about what-the-hell had happened back in 2009 – when my collaboration with Brown’s daugther went off the rails, when the only interested agent rejected the proposal, saying “there’s no meat on the bones” – when I closed the book and put it away. I did expect I might return to it some day. I just didn’t think it would be another twelve years.
Still, over the ensuing years I found myself returning to certain themes I could dwell on and some story points I could focus on.
With nothing but time on my hands (and, more importantly, no co-habitant telling me not to) I re-visited the files in the spring of 2022.
I opened three windows on my 27″ display: my 2009 manuscript, Mike’s 2018 rewrite, and a new window where I cobbled the pieces back together. It took about six months to reconcile my original manuscript with the Mike’s scaled down version.
Fast forward to this recent spring. With the help of designers in Pakistan and Bangladesh I found through Fiverr.com, I had a book ready to upload to Amazon’s Kindle Direct platform.
I didn’t stop there.
Not only had I thought a lot about the themes running through the Townsend Brown story, I also thought a lot about what that story had in common with the Philo Farnsworth story that was published back in 2002.1 And it occurred to me that so much has happened since that book was first published that it was time for an update – and a new introduction to explore what ties the two books together.
These two stories – Farnsworth and Brown – are like swamp creatures crawling out of the priordial soup of 20th century cosmology – that bubbling cauldron of novel thinking from the likes of Planck, Einstein, Bohr, Schroedinger and all the others that gave us Relativty and Quantum Mechanics.
For example: You might be surprised to learn that Albert Einstein did not win his Nobel Prize in 1921 for either his Theories of Relativey or E=mc2. No, Einstein won his Nobel for the first paper he published in 1905 on the Photoelectric Effect.
You’ll be hearing a lot about the bomb and E=mc2 in a few weeks when the big feature film Oppenheimer is released. In the meantime, think about this:
E=mc2 gave us the atomic bomb, but the Photoelectric Effect gave us television and every video screen on the planet (including the one you are looking at now).
Both came out of the New Cosmology of the 20th Century.
Now I have two books in circulation. They both draw from that well.
And now, this: Last month Amazon put more money in my bank account than I have ever earned from something I created and put into the world.2
At the ripe age of 72, I am actually earning a living (well, subsidizing my retirement) as an author. I’m not certain yet that the model is sustainable, but I’ve been learning how to run ads on Amazon and the results are quite encouraging.
In addition to the targeted advertising I’ve been doing on Amazon (thanks again, Holly Butler), I have also been interviewed for a couple of podcasts in the past few weeks, and each conversation has given me an opportunity to articulate some of the not-yet-fully-formed things I’ve been thinking about since I went back down the rabbit hole last year.
You can read all about that in “A Tale of Two Biographies, Part 2.“
Or you could watch the trailer for Oppenheimer:
CYA at the bijou… and bring plenty of popcorn, it’s long one!
2 songs.com not withstanding – that was mostly an aid to others putting their creative work into the world.
3 Certainly not my ex-wife.