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Allen J. Wiener

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By Allen J. Wiener
Saturday, July 23, 2011

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How I wrote two books simultaneously, with two different co-authors, got both published, and remained reasonably sane.

Be careful what you wish for, especially if you are tempted to take on two book projects at once. Still, it can be done. Retirement and a lifelong interest in the Alamo got me started on the “fun” project of collecting all the music that had been written about the famous battle and publishing what I found. Countless trips to the Library of Congress and various websites gleaned piles of sheet music, fragile 78 RPM records, and tons of downloaded music. Soon, I joined forces with Bill Chemerka, a fellow “Alamo sufferer,” who had been doing similar work and we embarked on a two year quest for Alamo music -- and a publisher.

We scoured the Alamo’s Library in San Antonio and met friends who shared our Alamo addiction. While chatting over beers one night, Jim Boylston casually mentioned that he’d been collecting David (“Davy”) Crockett’s letters and asked if I’d like to join that search. It may have been the beer, but I readily accepted, as if I had nothing but time on my hands, and suddenly found myself working on two books at once. What was I thinking? Clearly, I wasn’t.

The pace quickened when we signed with Bright Sky Press to publish Music of the Alamo and we were suddenly under a deadline. Days were filled with completing research, drafting chapters, and periodically being yanked over to the Crockett project. Since I was spending my days at the Library of Congress anyway, what better time to begin looking for all of those Crockett letters? As the music project wound down, the Crockett book grew far beyond our original concept.

Jim and I had been reading about Crockett since we were kids and we pored over every book ever published on the Tennessean. As we read and transcribed Crockett’s letters we became increasingly aware that the conventional wisdom about the frontiersman was completely wrong. Instead of a clueless bumpkin, we found a dedicated public servant, determined to give his poor constituents a voice in government. As our thinking evolved, our book grew into a new political biography based largely on Crockett’s own words and Bright Sky Press agreed to publish David Crockett in Congress: The Rise and Fall of the Poor Man’s Friend. At least I would have the benefit of dealing with only one publisher!

Still, much remained to be done on Music of the Alamo and I shifted between the two projects, perpetually bringing myself back up to speed on each. This literary schizophrenia finally came to a merciful end when Music of the Alamo went to press and, at long last, I had only one book to work on.

Finally, the day came when David Crockett in Congress also went to press and I could, at last, stand down. All that remained was the hectic promotional schedule for both books, which was mercifully staggered since the books were released nine months apart. Nonetheless, I found myself at the Texas Book Festival in Austin, Texas, in 2009 giving presentations for, and signing copies of, both books.

Writing two books at once was a real test. I’m glad that I did it, and even happier that I survived to see both books published to excellent reviews. But, believe me when I say “don’t try this at home!”

[From Helen Ginger's website, "Straight from Hel."

       Web Site: Straight from Hel

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