I never saw the Detour sign. This blogsite was intended as a vehicle to cheer on fellow hot rod writers while promoting my own work. That lasted about three weeks before going horribly off course. There's just so much fun happening around me at any given time... And I don't know that I'll ever get comfortable with the self-promotional aspect of this work. But I hereby vow to make an effort to refocus, and right this ship. Somewhat.
You may have noticed that the blog posts here aren't as consistent as before. That's due to an ever-increasing workload that I just can't say no to. The Forrest Gumpisms keep happening and doors continue to open. Who am I to say, "No thanks"? So for the last five years or so, I work from waking until the wee hours, grab a few winks and hit it again. I've learned to pace my day with short breaks and naps, when possible. I'm the creepy shut-in that the neighbor kids whisper about. I usually wear pants, but don't always shave. I shuffle around in slippers a lot these days. My car is covered with leaves, pine needles, bird poop, dog pee, moss and slugs. I've never met the mailman. Or my neighbors.
Most of the heavy lifting is on the Cartech books. These projects have been a godsend of education, forcing me to hone skills that would otherwise atrophy and rust. It was a challenge to not repeat myself in my first book - now on my fourth, it's a grim quest. But it never ceases to amaze me how many (admittedly semi-lucid) combinations are available in our crude little 26 letter alphabet. Anyway, this is a great gig: CarTech lets me choose from a handful of subjects deemed profitable by their monstrous Marketing & Research Department, they mostly leave me alone for the nine month gestation period, then I give them the finished product and they let me choose the next project. Mind you, these "choices" are obviously "choices" that veteran authors have passed on as being a stupid amount of work for the money, but I'm relatively young (not even on Social Security yet) and ravenously hungry to feed my passion - in other words, doubly stupid. They love me at Cartech! As for the money, they give me an advance check roughly every 90ish days. After a book sells enough copies to pay back the advances, I get a percentage of the profits! I even have an official contract that says so. These guys are in business to make money though - the Accounting Department knows exactly how many book sales it takes to pay off my advance, and that's exactly how many get printed. I finally received my first royalty check last month and now it's framed and hanging on my wall - because it wouldn't have paid for the gas required to haul it to the bank. Nevertheless, this is my bread and butter now. Thanks to the advance money (and food stamps), I haven't come down with Rickets or Scurvy since signing on with this outfit, which is a major plus. Seriously, I'm very grateful to have this job.
I also work for Hot Rod Deluxe magazine. This is considered sexier work, as it often sends me to exotic locales to cover exciting events. It usually starts with an e-mail:
Editor Dave: "You available to cover the California Hot Rod Reunion this year?"
Scotty: "Sure thing! But, um, is there a travel budget?"
Editor Dave: "No budget.You're on your own dime. Plan on coming down a few days early and staying a few days late - I have some other stuff for you to do." (Red Flag!)
Scotty: "Jeepers! Thanks Chief! You won't regret this! I'll be there extra early to scout locations, parking, etc."
Editor Dave: (No reply) (He's a busy guy)
These events are not money makers for me, but are a relatively cheap way to experience an event from the inside out. This CHRR example is a 16 hour drive, each way. I sleep in the car at the event, and eat PB&J sandwiches from the trunk. And the really sad part: To me, it's totally worth it! I get my Nitro Jones fixed, while hobnobbing with my cronies and hopefully magically furthering my career.
The magazine work is usually done after hours, meaning between midnight and sunrise. It's nice supplemental income, and I get to write about my favorite subject, for one of my heroes (I literally learned to read on Editor Dave's stuff, and no one is more knowledgeable or has more hilarious first hand stories of drag racing's golden era). Just between us: If I had the money, I'd pay HR Deluxe to let me write for them - it's the only publication that still presents the world as I want to see it. Well, I guess Mad Magazine is still around, too...
About a year ago, I began organizing to self publish some books I wrote that CarTech considered incapable of meeting their profit standards. I get to pay for the up front production costs, out-of-pocket, but any profit is mine, all mine! So I'm slowly taking the leap of faith. These books are truly just spare-time kitchen table projects, but my goal is to eventually put out enough of these to become at least somewhat self sufficient.
And how does a worldly guy like me relax in his spare time? This week I began recording an album that ties in with the hot rod books. And when I'm not reading 18th century Slavic poetry to my girlfriend, or walking the dog in the rain, I find intimacy in a dimly lit garage, running my hands over bare naked steel (warmed by sizzling welds), while the frost gathers outside. I just resumed work on a Model A roadster project that I had to set aside over 15 years ago. Talk about your delayed gratification! It's hard to describe how good it feels to pick up where I left off. And as of today, there's a good chance that this project will culminate in a lowbuck how-to book, as well, also, too. Oh yeah, and I just edited a custom book from the Netherlands - kind of a translation deal. Look for The Jack Stewart Ford by Rik Hoving - an amazing labor of love!
Okay, automotive photojournalist students - it feels like we're getting back on track. Study your notes this week.
Next week: Saving big bucks on tools of the trade! Make your own camera from a cereal box, cellophane, a couple of rearview mirrors, and duct tape.