Froma Bird's Eye View

By Raven West

History of an Unpublished Novel


It started with a title, which became an idea, which became a story, which became a manuscript, then became a book.

Red Wine for Breakfast is the most published novel you’ve never heard of. The novel has had three agents, been optioned for a movie, has five publishers and was one of the very first print-on-demand titles to hit book store shelves.

Before M.J. Rose reached fame for her e-book on a disk, Red Wine For Breakfast was published by Book-On-Disc.Com (June 24, 1999). Before Dan Poynter made his fortune as the marketing guru in the Print-On-Demand industry, Red Wine for Breakfast was one of the first books published in that format by iUniverse, (July 2, 1999).

To say the novel has been there, did that, is an understatement and the fact that with all it had going for it, sold a mere 5,000 copies is a mystery every author has been trying to solve since the first time a pen and ink was put on paper.

But this isn’t a tale of what might have been, only what was and sharing it with all who have interest may entertain, or delight, or bore you to tears, but for better or worse, here it is;

The title was derived from a conversation I had in a bar with a good friend who mentioned that he enjoyed a glass of Beaujolais in the morning. I joked why would anyone have red wine for breakfast? Later that night wrote it in my diary that it sounded like a great title for a book.

That was 1972.

Two marriages, three daughters and 25 years later Red Wine for Breakfast did indeed become a novel. In 1996, for those of you who remember that long ago, the internet was in its infancy. Cell phones were a luxury and ebook readers were a device used by the crew of the Starship Enterprise. None of which I owned at the time. What I did own was a computer, HP laser jet printer and a WordPerfect program that would format a document in a book format.

What I also owned was a stationery store which was conveniently located next to a full service print store. The first printing of Red Wine for Breakfast was spiral bound with a red card-stock cover that cost me $10.00 per copy to print that I sold at my store for $14.95. Customers would buy the book, I’d sell out the five or so I printed, then walk over to the print store and print another five and sell them one at a time. You could say I was the original “Print-On-Demand” publisher long before the term, or the industry was ever heard of.

I did sign with an agent in Los Angeles who sent the manuscript off to several mainstream publishers, most of which are no longer in business. With each rejection, I found something positive to spin, but when Doubleday rejected the manuscript after 9 months, my agent gave up and we parted ways.

Then came the movie producers. I won’t bore you with the details; you can read the nasty tale here: A Hollywood Horror Story 

A few months later, AOL was forming a new club for aspiring writers who wanted to have their books published at very little cost. I was looking for a printer who would charge me less that $10.00 per book and also provide something called an ISBN number so my books could be sold in stores other than mine.

AOL Writer’s Club became the first publisher of Red Wine for Breakfast.  As a published author, I began going to writer’s meetings and events. I met another author who had published her books in a CD format for people who wanted to read her books on their computer. I met her published, he liked my book, so became the third publisher of Red Wine for Breakfast.

Shortly after the novel was on Amazon in CD format, I receive an offer I couldn’t refuse from a new publisher who was in the process of buying out the Writer’s Club and wanted all the titles and a new contract with all their authors. The company was iUniverse. the fourth publisher of Red Wine for Breakfast.

Because they were buying out our contracts, there was no charge for any of the authors to had iUniverse publish our books. It didn’t take very long for that promise to go the way of the “Be a published author for only $99” deal. The Print-On-Demand revolution was fading quickly. At that time another author who had also signed with the Writers Club decided to open his own publishing business and wanted me to join him as his premier author.

Lighthouse Press became publisher #5 in 2001. Red Wine for Breakfast also received a new cover and a new author; Raven West. The book did fairly well for a number of years, then another new publisher who was branching out internationally contacted me with what was a too good to be true deal and Lighthouse and I parted ways in 2009. Chalet publishers were now #6 for about five weeks.  Not unlike iUniverse way back the day, most of what they promised never materialized. I wasn’t that surprised to discover they went out of business in 2012.

Red Wine For Breakfast is now in the digital world of ebooks with Smashwords, publisher #7. I still own all the rights and occasionally when I have a few hours, will pick it up and re-read the story. As soon as I can reformat the cover, I’ve since re-published with Amazon’s Createspace and Kindle, who will be publisher #8.

I always said that overnight success takes about 20 years. I have at least another 2 to go!


The Dilemma of Daylight Savings

Every six months, by government law, we are forced to endure the out-dated practice of moving our clocks one full hour, either forward or backward. This practice has been an on-going habit since World War I, when this annoying system was adopted to conserve fuel needed to produce electric power. During World War II, our wonderful Congress passed a law which is still in effect today. It seemed like a good idea at the time, saving an hour of daylight, but no one could have predicted the amount of TIME we waste having to make the adjustment in our homes and in our lives.

Fifty years ago, only the clocks on the walls and on our wrists needed to be reset. In our modern computer aged society, this bi-annual task takes up much, if not more, the hour it was intended to save! I reset my bedside clock before I went to sleep last night, but almost forgot to re-adjust my VCR, which is programmed to tape early morning news programs. This morning, I spent the next Asaved@ hour on three VCR=s, four television sets, eight digital clocks, four battery operated clocks, the microwave, the oven, the coffee maker, the lawn sprinklers, the light timer, the answering machine, all the pagers, cell phones, and at least a half hour on three digital watches, and the clocks in all three cars. And when I go to work tomorrow, there are only six different clocks that will have to be adjusted.

On the wider scale, all the clocks in each classroom of our school must be changed, not to mention government facilities, Wall Street, ships at sea and planes in the air. Yet, like sheep, we all do it, every year, putting up with the darker days and longer nights just because no one but a few states such as Hawaii, Arizona, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and the Eastern Time Zone portion of the State of Indiana dare keep their clocks and their sanity set at the same time throughout the year.

Forget social security. Forget guns and abortion. Forget all those less important issues that will fact the next Congress, or the 2020 President of the United States.   I’m voting for the  candidates  who will put an END to clock-adjusting madness once an for all!

Is anyone listening?

No? I guess they all forgot to re-set their watches and overslept!

Technology is Robbing Authors of Our Immortality


Pick up a pencil.

Right NOW pick up a pencil. Or if you prefer a pen, if you can find one, and write you name. In script.  If you remember how.

Now, look at your signature. The name you wrote is probably shared by millions, but the way you wrote it is unique and special and no one else in the entire world can write your name the way that you do. It’s yours alone.

Now, on your keyboard, or your laptop, or whatever device you’re reading this right now, type your name.  Use whatever font, size or color you want, it won’t matter because all those millions who shares your name can do the exact same thing in the exact same way. Electronically typed, your name is indistinguishable millions of others and what makes that name truly your own is gone.

Your signature contains a small piece of your personality, a tiny microscopic atom of your very soul that flows from your brain down your arm, to your hand and fingers, through the instrument that writes the word onto a piece of paper. For an author, their signature scrawled on the face page of your book is forever inscribed on the first page of our book.

Artists sign their paintings; chisel their name in sculptures made of marble, or glass, or bronze. Their unique signature tells the world that their creation is theirs and theirs alone.  For as long as that piece of art exists the artist’s signature, and in a way the artist themselves, lives on for eternity.

But you can’t sign an ebook.

There was a time, not that long ago, that bookstores would hold book signing events for authors. There would be lines of fans waiting for a chance to see the creator of the worlds that existed within the covers of the books they carried with them for the author to sign. Each signature, a unique, individual part of that authors personality that each fan took with them when that brief moment in the presence of the author had passed. That signature would last many years, sometimes long after the author had also passed on.

But those days are long gone. Bookstores are vanishing, and book signings are vanishing with them. The birth of the ebook was the death of personally signed books.

With every new technological advancement, we are moving further and further away from personal contact. We don’t hear other’s voices, we read text messages. We don’t interact at social functions, we “go to meetings” on webinars, or video conference. We are so desperate for physical contact there is now a new cottage industry of paid “huggers” those who will cuddle with you for a price.

Our new “social media” is anything BUT, and we’re all jumping on the anti-social bandwagon.

Why write a letter when an email will do? Why take the time to shop for that perfect card , sign your name and hand write the address when it is so much quicker and easier to send an ecard?  Why buy a book when you can read electronic texts, one that looks exactly like the other, lacking any personality or uniqueness.  We are becoming homogenized clones, losing our individuality and uniqueness to the technological cyber world.

Text all looks exactly the same no matter who the writer. One book looks exactly the same as another. Words on a computer screen, ipad or cellphone are cold disconnected and distant. There was a reason we used to cuddle up with a good book, now we pay to cuddle up with a perfect stranger.

As authors, we must strive to keep that very special part of ourselves alive. On one hand, we want to sell as many books as we can, whether they are hard copies or ebooks. I recently sold several copies of Undercover Reunion to one of the organizers of Arundel – 17, an annual Man from U.N.C.L.E. convention which takes place in Sussex, England. Although I was unable to attend the event in person, I printed labels with the organization’s logo, signed each one and mailed it to her to put on the front page of the books.

I sent a few extras in the event that other attendees wanted to purchase the “signed” book. Each label was personally signed by me. Knowing my signature, a tiny part of me, would be traveling across the ocean to attend a convention, I was very careful to make each letter look a bit like the author who could not attend in person.  It felt wonderful!

Now, pick up that pen write your name. Then look at your signature. That very unique individual signature that represents you and only you and write it again. Now, imagine you’re sitting at a table, a stack of your best- selling novel on your left and a huge line of fans in front of you waiting for you to give them that unique part of you that only you can give. Your signature. Your first edition will be passed on to their children and grandchildren and even if it ends up at a garage sale or a used bookstore, it will always have a part of you that flowed from your hand through the pen onto that page.

That is immortality.

And it is what we have all lost because you can’t sign an ebook.

Now, I need a hug.


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