Writing the Book

As I note in the Preface to Walking in Darkness at Noonday, this writing was not intended to be a book when I began in 1995. It was just me trying to explain to myself in an orderly way why I think what I think. But I loved writing so much, and love the subject of liberty so much in all of it’s manifestations, that I returned to it often and it grew steadily. I called my little file Exegesis, which means “critical explanation.” The only real effort at writing I had done previous to Exegesis was an occasional letter to the editors of newspapers, usually on some political issue. I enjoyed writing these letters and particularly enjoyed it when they were published.

In about the year 2000 I came across the Nutmeg Political Report (NPR), an e-mail opinion journal. NPR was blogging before anyone knew what blogging was. I immediately submitted an opinion piece,  it was published, and it received a positive response. NPR was published weekly and sent via e-mail to a growing list of recipients. I continued to submit articles. Then one day the publisher of NPR called me and asked me to become the editor. I had never done anything like this before and wasn’t sure what it entailed. But I was up for the challenge and agreed. Each week I assembled NPR and usually included an article of my own. I also worked at increasing the readership by adding e-mail addresses of politicians, educators, and anyone else we could find who we thought might read NPR. I don’t know that there was a name for this promotional strategy ten years ago, but today it’s called spamming.

I brought William R. Darcy (the author of the article “Christ Shall Have None but Volunteers” which I quote in Walking in Darkness at Noonday) on board and he began providing articles for NPR. One fateful day I submitted an article which caused the publisher such angst that he threatened to shut NPR down. He had never been critical of anything I had previously written, but this article sent him over the edge. I don’t even recall what it was I said that so offended him. In any case, Bill Darcy came to my defense. This episode inspired Bill to propose that we leave NPR and start our own blog.  He put together Ship of State, with Bill as publisher and me as editor. We brought some other excellent writers on board and published weekly for about two years. My efforts with NPR and Ship of State was a very time consuming commitment and precluded working on Exegesis. Eventually, Bill decided he needed to shut Ship of State down and move on to other ventures. I was sorry to see the end of Ship of State, but the writing and editing experience I gained with NPR and Ship of State was invaluable to me. Now, I was able to return to Exegesis.

The year 2004 was a watershed for me. It was the year I decided to get serious about writing. First, I realized that the thread that ran through all of what I was writing was the agency of man. I decided to rename my burgeoning file Politics, Religion, and the Agency of Man. A great title, I thought. It was about that time that my wife Kyong Sook, who is Korean, purchased a Korean TV service with a dish on the roof. I had been thinking for some time that I was wasting too much time watching TV. I had stopped watching TV altogether on Sundays in an effort to better keep the Sabbath day. I noticed a real improvement in the spirituality of the Sabbath day for me. But I would still come home tired after work during the week and drop onto the couch to watch the Red Sox, or the Celtics, or the UCONN men or women basketball teams.  I thought of Mormon and the writing project he was given by the Lord. He didn’t have a word processor with features like “backspace,” “cut and paste,” “save,” or even “spell check.” Writing a book is laborious work, but when Mormon wrote his book, the task must have been far more difficult than it is today. Mormon had a full time job too. He was the general of the Nephite army. He must have come home tired at night too. But whatever the popular after work leisure activities of his day were, he must have set them aside, determined to complete the writing and editing task before him. Otherwise, how could he have produced such a monumental work as the Book of Mormon? The thought of Mormon’s great accomplishment impressed me. I pictured myself looking back on my mortal probation one hundred years from now. What would I want to see, that I had spent hours sitting passively in front of the TV filling my time with sports that will ultimately mean nothing to me or anyone else? Or would I want to see that I had spent my time productively working on a project that had the potential to be of some worth? Since my wife had her own TV service I decided to cancel my cable TV. Now, I would not be distracted from completing the work on Politics, Religion, and the Agency of Man. Of course, the Fall of 2004 saw the Red Sox come back from a three game deficit in the playoffs against the Yankees to go on an eight game win streak that won their first World Series in eighty six years. I saw not one inning of that remarkable finish. It was very difficult. I considered reinstating my cable. Temporarily, of course. But I didn’t. Sacrifice brings forth the blessing of heaven, I kept telling myself.

In time, I began to realize that turning off the TV was as positive a decision in my life as was giving up cigarettes. Life is better without addictions.

I devoted hours each day to the work, year after year. I loved it. I edited continually, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, chapter by chapter, never satisfied that I had been clear enough, thorough enough, persuasive enough. I finally finished it in April 2009. The manuscript was 350+ pages in Times New Roman 12-font, or 155,000 words. I was ready to submit it to publishers. I started with the large LDS publishers: Deseret and Cedar Fort. Each of them give complete instructions on their websites for submitting a manuscript. I followed those instructions to the letter. Deseret asks that they be the only publisher considering the manuscript. I followed their instructions, mailing the carefully assembled and neatly packaged manuscript to them and them only. About six weeks later came the letter: “I am sorry to inform you that we are not in a position to pursue this project with you at this time….”

Next was Cedar Fort. Same drill: carefully packaged manuscript, follow the instructions. Do everything as they require. Same result: “After careful consideration, we have decided not to publish your manuscript at this time.”

After four submissions, one at a time, waiting for a response before moving on to the next publisher, I realized that this approach wasn’t working for me. I decided to change my approach. I was not going to send any more 350 page manuscripts out unless it was requested by an interested publisher. I searched for all the LDS publishers I could find, created a letter of inquiry which included a synopsis of the book, and e-mailed it to about a half dozen publishers. I got one positive response from Duane Crowther of Horizon Publishers. I have several of Brother Crowther’s excellent books and have great respect for him. However, I didn’t realize that Horizon had become an imprint of Cedar Fort, which had already declined my manuscript. But he thought the manuscript might have some merit. He was kind enough to offer some counsel to this aspiring author. The manuscript was too large, he said, especially for a never-before-published author. If I trim it down I might find that it is a leaner, better, less costly to publish manuscript. Also, since I had already sent it to Cedar Fort, he suggested I change the title before sending it to him. I took Brother Crowther’s counsel to heart. Although it was very painful to do, I axed large sections of the manuscript, leaving only the bare bones that I thought would be essential to making the necessary points. When I was finished, the manuscript was about 72,000 words. This time, the title was The Great Division. I submitted the manuscript to Horizon Publishers and Brother Crowther. He also declined to publish because, he said, he had a difficult time understanding the concepts I was writing about and didn’t think they would be understood by a general audience. But he encouraged me to keep working on it.

I was discouraged. There are only so many publishers and I had made no progress with about a dozen of them so far. I kept a list of publishers I had researched on the internet, including those I had already sent an inquiry to. Some of them had responded, some hadn’t. I geared up for another try, assembling a list of another dozen prospects. This time, the title was simply The Agency of Man. As I went over my list, I came to Digital Legend Press. I had already sent them an inquiry in the first group of e-mails, but received no response. I don’t know why, but I decided to send them a second letter. Within a few days I received a response from Boyd Tuttle, the owner of Digital Legend Press. He said he didn’t know how I had found him, but he had been looking for this book for years and he would publish it.

Finally, an open door.

It was David Tuttle, Boyd’s brother and the editor at Digital Legend Press, who first suggested changing the title to Walking in Darkness at Noonday. I mounted an articulate, principled defense of the The Agency of Man as the title. But, as I had done with Duane Crowther’s counsel, I decided to listen to what these professionals were saying. I would conduct a focus group survey. I sent out an e-mail to well over one hundred LDS friends, none of whom knew I was writing a book, and asked them which title they would most likely be interested in reading: The Agency of Man or Walking in Darkness at Noonday? By almost three to one they said the latter title was more intriguing. I was convinced. Eventually, we settled on Walking in Darkness at Noonday: The Cunning Plan to Destroy the Agency of Man. One good friend of mine, well versed in the scriptures, did not realize that the phrase “walking in darkness at noonday” comes from the scriptures. He thought I had come up with that phrase myself. Not so. I’m not that clever. Actually, the full title is based on three scriptures: Doctrine and Covenants 95:6; 2 Nephi 9:28; and Moses 4:3.

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