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Steelhammer: Still working on that bestseller

After spending many weekends during the past several years attempting to augment my long-frozen salary as a bush league reporter/columnist by cranking out bush league books, I may soon find myself with a little time on my hands.

"The Ultimate Book of West Virginia Lists" has just been released by Charleston's own Quarrier Press, and is already making its way into the better bookstores, truck stops and flea markets within the boundaries of its namesake state. Meanwhile, I am in the final editing phase of "It Happened in West Virginia," a collection of often offbeat historical vignettes covering several hundred years, yet condensed into only about 100 pages, due for release next year by Globe-Pequot Press.

The two books, plus 2010's "West Virginia Curiosities," have accounted for much of my free time in recent history, and I hope to reacquaint myself soon with my former fall lineup of recreational activities -- football, fishing and firewood.

A higher priority should go to the abundance of home and vehicle maintenance work I've neglected all this time. But I'm still holding on to the fantasy that earthbound space debris will pare down my "honey-do" list while the Compound is unoccupied, or that a winning lottery ticket will allow me to contract the work out.

I enjoyed doing the research for the books, but not so much the grunt work of organizing the material into words, sentences, paragraphs and chapters. As I frequently complained to Patty Vandergrift Tompkins, my former editor here at the Gazette, "This job would be great if we didn't have to write all these stories."

The same holds true for books. But it wasn't always thus.

When I first began working as a reporter, I was painfully shy -- a trait that doesn't lend itself to forcing one's presence on those making news and encouraging them to talk to you. I couldn't wait to get interviews over with so I could get busy writing -- an activity in which I felt much more comfortable and competent. These days, the interview's the fun part and the writing is the grunt work.

Early in my career, like many reporters, I daydreamed of writing a bestseller that would be my ticket to fame and fortune. These days, my book-writing daydreams reflect diminished expectations -- a ticket to regular meals, or perhaps a long-delayed vacation.

But I've kind of developed a taste for writing projects in which I control the subject, pace and style, if not the income. In fact, I've got another book in mind, which I've already started to research.

Hope the compound holds together until I can get it done.


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