Monday, January 25, 2010

Ship Shape

In today's mail came a CD I have been waiting for. A book about the USS Anderson has been scanned and copies are available on CD. Luckily I had found a guy online who wasn't asking an arm and a (sea)leg for a copy. Several of the documents on the disk are pertinent only for navy personnel, and my dad was in the Army Air Corp. But the 95 page book on the CD is a treasure trove of information about the ship. Numerous photos accompany the text which describes life on board the "Andy". Ships logs are included for voyages 1-12. My dad traveled to India on Voyage 7, so we're covered there, but the book ends by stating that on Voyage 13 they headed to Karachi. Karachi is where dad boarded the ship for the return voyage. Bummer!

I emailed the man I got the CD from to inquire about a Volume 2. His response, were it a verbal conversation instead of text in an email, would have involved snickering. Apparently there are very few books out on these ship voyages, so I'm lucky to have found one on the "Andy". "That's all she wrote", he told me.

So, I count my blessings that I found this one (especially without paying $50 like some on the web are asking). I'll be able to add some nice background to my book regarding the ship transports. And some great photos as well.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Book 'em, Danno

Yesterday I spent a couple of hours at the St. Louis County Library headquarters. I want to add a little more color to a few of the areas in dad's book. I selected several nonfiction books about WWII to peruse. I struck gold with the first one, a short autobiography by one of the Hump pilots. The China-India-Burma campaign was involved with ensuring that troops and supplies got to China, which had basically been cut off by the Japanese. Utilizing air bases constructed in India, the pilots had to maneuver short runways quickly to gain enough altitude to clear the Himalayas in planes loaded with cargo. Hence the description of "flying the Hump". It was very dangerous, especially during the monsoons, and casualties were high.

My dad was not a pilot, but was the field supervisor at Chabua, the largest and most active air base in India. In reading the pilot's book, he really helped me picture the area and conditions these men and women lived in. He also took a couple of side excursions to villages my dad had taken photographs of, so that was interesting to read as well. It was disappointing to discover, though, that this pilot made no references to anyone else at the base during his long stay there except for the other pilots. I have to imagine that they all rubbed shoulders somewhere along the way on the base. It was in the middle of tea plantations, not a large metropolitan area. Nevertheless, the book was a nice find.

The other books on the CBI Campaign and the history of the Army Air Force were not as useful (or as interesting, for that matter). None of the books mentioned the particular unit my dad was in. I'm having little luck learning about the 1333rd unit.

I feel the need to comment briefly on a couple of the other patrons at the library. I sat in the reference section, because silence is golden in that area. While that does include cell phones, apparently bodily noises aren't covered by the sign. There was an elderly man with a runny nose a couple tables away. Sniff, sniff....crinkle, crinkle (his newspapers), sniff, sniff, etc. Seriously pal, go into the bathroom and blow your nose! But his annoyance factor was usurped by the oriental guy who plopped down at the table next to me. All of a sudden the silence was broken by the sound of a fart hitting the wooden chair. I about broke my neck swinging my head around. But no one else was looking, guilty or otherwise. I went back to my reading and shortly there was a repeat performance, and I knew it had come from the table next to me. I have to give the guy props for his demeanor. He kept his head down and went on reading. Seriously, pal, go to the bathroom if you need to do that. And take old man sniffles with you!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Soldier Boy

Today's contribution to my dad's book was filling out the e-form to request his military papers from the National Records Center, conveniently located in St. Louis, Mo. I think I have all of his papers, but I figured it doesn't hurt to ask. Besides, this was also the way to request the awards and medals he received. Believe it or not, all of this will be sent to me for free! My tax dollars at work for me for a change!

Because I am requesting the papers of someone other than myself, I had to print the form off so I can attach a copy of my dad's death certificate or obituary. Plus I had to sign the form because that proves I am who I say I am. Really? I'm sure no one would ever lie on the form since they have to sign their name to it. {says sarcastically} It will be interesting to see what comes in the mail.

I also found a guy online who has scanned the 95 page log book of the USS A.E. Anderson ship. For a contribution to a the restoration of the USS Slater, he will burn me a copy of the CD and mail it to me. Sounded like more than a fair trade, so I made a donation via Paypal and he will send me the CD tomorrow. Can't wait to see if there are some other goodies in there I can add to the book. Anchors aweigh!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

You Just Never Know

As I have been going through my dad's book hitting the delete button on anything that might land me in a $150,000 pile of trouble, I came upon the section about the General A.E. Anderson. This was the ship that not only transported my dad to India in 1944 but brought him back home in 1945. There is a great website about the ship, maintained by the men who served on the ship or descendants who are interested in this part of their family history. A couple of photos from the ship and copies of the ship's log from my dad's two trips had made their way into my book. Keep or delete?

I had tried to contact the organization via email a few years ago as I have some original "newsletters" from the return trip. Apparently someone on the ship typed up interesting tidbits and pieces of information the men on board might want to know, including their current location. I can just see the poor guy sitting at a Royal manual typewriter trying to time his down strokes with the up motion of the ship. And then how did they make the copies? But I digress...I never received an email back from anyone at the organization at that time.

So it was with little anticipation that I emailed both the CEO and Secretary of the organization last night. I explained what I was doing and what I would like to include from their website in my book. At 1:42 AM my time I received a response from the CEO. I point out the time not because I was up to read it then, but he certainly was up to send it! You know what they say about our sleeping habits as we grow older...

Harry was delighted about my book, and said to go ahead and use anything I want off of their site. Then he dropped a bomb on me. He was on both of the trips with my dad! What are the odds? First of all that he is still alive, as my dad would now be 92. And second that he was on both voyages with dad. He is going to look through his stuff and see if he has anything additional for me. He also asked that I send him information about my book as he would like to include something in the member newsletter about it. How about that?

Sunday, January 17, 2010


There will be an ISBN on my dad's book I've decided, after much deliberation and input on the LinkedIn Forums I belong to on the Internet. That means I have to step up my game on the design of the book though. As it will be published by my company, Provenance Publishing LLC, I want it to look professional and not like I did it in Microsoft Word. Which is what I did.

Katie came up with a nice cover design, I think. She did it in a 6" x 9" format as she understood that was the size I was doing the book in. I actually had decided to go with 8 1/2" x 11" because of all the documents I have in the book. I like the smaller size idea because I think it fits the type of book better; I'll just have to see if my illustrations are legible in that size.

On a different note, I just secured my first speaking engagement for my "Who's Been Sleeping..." book. The Webster Groves Historical Society has invited me to give a presentation on how to research house history on March 21st in the Hearth Room behind the Hawken House. They will provide the marketing and the refreshments; I just have to bring books to sell. Sounds like a winner all the way around!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Numbers Game

As I review dad's book to determine what copy needs to be cut in order to avoid a $150,000 copyright infringement judgement, I have also been giving some thought as to whether I should put an ISBN number on this book. At first glance the answer would seem to be no. If the book is only going to my family, there is no need to have an ISBN on it. But what if the Cincinnati library wants to buy a copy? Or the Delhi Historical Society? I posted the number question on the discussion boards of several author/publisher groups I belong to on LinkedIn. The responses have been overwhelmingly positive for putting a number on the book.

As one woman in Canada stated, "Who knows what roads your book will travel?" Another added that there is a lot of interest in WWII history right now, and felt sales would come from not-so-obvious places. A third woman advised that a book she wrote about her daughter's recent service in the military has sold surprisingly well on Amazon. Who knew?

The bigger issue for me is not whether I want to use one of my precious ISBN numbers on a family book. It is that in using a number the book then becomes published under my publishing company. And anything that comes out of my publishing company needs to look good. I don't want a book that looks home grown to have Provenance Publishing's name on the inside cover. Because I don't have the skill set to lay this book out in a more interesting manner, that means hiring a designer. Which brings me full circle. How much money do I want to invest in a book that may only be purchased by a few family members?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Copy Write

Last night the St. Louis Publishers Associations monthly meeting covered the topic of copyright. Two attorneys discussed the concept of copyright, public domain, fair use and a new area called creative commons. It got to be a little confusing and, as the attorney joked, you can see why he will never have to worry about being laid off as a specialist in copyright law. It seems there are a lot of gray areas.

This topic was covered last year as well, so I was very careful in writing "Who's Been Sleeping..." to make sure that I only used pictures that were owned by me, the descendant of my homeowner who had given me written permission to use her photos, or photos I had taken of books that are now in public domain, i.e. published before 1923.

I have a different issue with my dad's book. In order to really flesh out his story, I have found photos of the ship he was transported on and the various bases he was stationed at online. There is also good information about the history of the camps on the Internet. I mistakenly thought that if I was only making the book for myself or a few family members, then I didn't need to worry about the copyright issue. Wrong! Obviously the information I have obtained is not in public domain yet, except for any information that the government puts out, which is not copyrightable. So I will need to either cut the information from the book, or seek permission to reproduce the photos and/or text. I probably can find government sites to fill in most of what I found on private sites.

I guess the bottom line is that as authors we can't have it both ways. If we want to make sure that our work is protected, we have to respect the protection of others as well. Besides, I can't afford a $150,000 per violation judgment!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

G.I. Roy

I've been diligently working on my dad's book about his service in WWII. I have a few more photographs that I want to fit in, then I want to take one final look in my genealogy files to make sure there aren't any other documents that would be appropriate to include. Then I'll print it out and see if everything flows okay. My niece has agreed to read it over since she also talked a bit with my dad about his war years.

In the meantime I have been playing around a bit with Booksmart, which is a free book layout software program I found on the Internet. Obviously the people offering the software are hopeful that you will then upload your book and have them print it, which I may ultimately do. But I have already struggled with getting the program to accept my Word document. Apparently it is not happy that I have the photos and the text in one document. I'll either need to copy and paste, or separate out the photos. is always something. This is why the book designers get the big bucks to lay the book out for you. I didn't mind paying for the service on my house research book, but this book is only going to go to a few people in my immediate family. I just can't afford to put any money into design and layout. I really wish that I knew how to use InDesign, but I am afraid the learning curve on that program would drive me batty. We'll see how the template goes first.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

I'm Excited!

Tonight the President of the Webster Groves Historical Society called and asked if I would be interested in doing a talk on house research for the society. Would I, would I? Peg leg, peg leg. Oh wait, that's an old joke. They would like to hold it in the Hearth Room behind the Hawken House, and of course they would want me to have my books available as well. They will take care of all the publicity. She said she thinks it is a really interesting topic, and mentioned how great it would be for the audience to hear about it from the author. That's me! How cool is that?

This is exactly what I want to do with my book - help people get started with the researching process. I always figured that I would be able to sell more books with presentations than through a book store, and I really enjoy public speaking. Weird, I know. I used to do it all the time at my old job, and still give classroom presentations to kids about composting. But I love working with adults, especially if they are interested in the topic. (Not always the case in my former job - doctors did not always like to learn about why they were being sued for malpractice.)

The calendar has not been set yet, so I don't know when my talk will be (somewhere between March and August was all she knows at this point), but now I have the proper motivation to get my presentation put together. Who's been sleeping in YOUR bedroom?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

My Dad's Book

Even before I was finished with "Who's Been Sleeping..." I had begun to put together a book about my dad's service in WWII. Because I have all of my dad's papers (as well as photographs, record albums, sheet music, etc.), I have an interesting assortment of items from his years in the military. It seemed like a shame to keep the memories in a box. I had talked with dad a bit about his service and fortunately I wrote a bit of it down. Building on my notes and his photos, I researched his army air corp unit (not much there0, the ship he was transported on, and all the cities and bases he had mentioned. It's all together now in a tidy little book.

I was debating whether to just run off a few copies for my family, which would be the easiest way to go about this, or actually publish the book through my publishing company so that I could possible sell a few copies to the libraries and historical societies in Cincinnati. If I go with the second approach, I would have some copyright issues. I have used some photographs of the ship, planes and military bases which I found on the Internet. I would need to secure permission to reproduce the photos if I do anything beyond making a few copies for my siblings.

In the meantime I have been looking at options for laying out the book. I obviously can't afford to hire a book designer for this particular book, and I just don't know how to use Indesign. As I was looking at options on the Internet, I came across a site called They offer a free book template which is fairly customizable. I downloaded the program last night and have begun looking at it. Of course they would like for you to print the books through them, and I certainly would be willing to check out their pricing. We'll see how user friendly the program is first. I'll keep you posted.