Literary Dispatches from London -- J.R.R. Tolkein

As you can tell from my other literary dispatches, I had a great time touring Oxford, visiting the pub where the Inklings writing group met and being wowed in the St. Mary’s passage, which was leading to Narnia. Of all the places I visited, I wish more than anything I had more time in Oxford.

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Darrin Friedman
Literary Dispatches from London - The "Narnia door" and C.S. Lewis

On a day trip to Oxford, it is hard to escape its place in history and influence on the many people who studied and taught there. One of Oxford’s former students and professors was none other than C.S. Lewis, author of the Chronicles of Narnia. He was a student at Oxford beginning in 1917, and he graduated after serving in the military during World War I. Later, he taught and Magdalen College at Oxford University. 

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JD Trafford
Literary Dispatches from London-The Inklings and a Writers Group

I must admit that I have never been a member of a writing group. I know from conversations with other writers that they can be helpful and provide a sense of community in the otherwise solitary pursuit of crafting a novel. But for me, writing a book is too scary. Particularly at the beginning stages of writing a book, I think the idea itself is too fragile.

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JD Trafford
Literary Dispatches from London-Charles Dickens

It’s Friday night and the final stop on our pub crawl along the Thames was my favorite pub of the night. Not only was it my favorite because of the history, it was also my favorite because of its connection to Charles Dickens. It’s called The George or the The George Inn, and it was established in the medieval period. The first map of the area circa 1543 had the site of the pub/inn marked, and it has been in continuous operation for over 470 years. 

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JD Trafford
Literary Dispatches from London-William Shakespeare

t’s Friday night, and where can you find us? A pub crawl along the east bank of the Thames River, of course. We met up with our guide from London Walks (http://www.walks.com/) outside the Blackfriars tube station. To be honest, this had already been a long, fun day and I was pretty tired. We’d gotten up early and were among the first twenty people admitted into the Tower of London when it opened.

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JD Trafford
Literary Dispatches from London: Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit

As a kid, I loved Peter Rabbit. He was naughty and fun. Stories about him in Mr. McGregor’s garden were engaging, but Potter’s drawings were really what makes the books so engaging and unique. Whether it is The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Squirrel Nutkin, or Jemima Puddle-Duck, there is nothing dumbed down for kids. The illustrations were detailed and real, and they helped tell the story. You could get lost in those drawings. Reading them as a kid, and then rediscovering them with my own children has been a joy. It wasn’t, however, until I traveled to her home in the Lake District of England that I came to appreciate how remarkable Beatrix Potter was as an artist, writer, and person on the leading edge of feminism and environmentalism long before those terms were ever coined.



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JD Trafford
Literary Dispatches from London: An Introduction

I recently returned from a great vacation in London with my sisters and my mother. No kids. No spouses. Just us. It was the first time that we’d ever done anything like that and this trip was incredibly healing and fun, too. It’s been a little over a year since my dad passed away, and here was an opportunity to reconnect, recharge, and experience something new. 

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JD Trafford
The Turning Point

After posting “No Time To Run” up on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, the real turning point came a few months later when I decided to run an advertisement on Kindle Nation Daily. Kindle Nation Daily was a newsletter sent out to thousands of subscribers that highlights free and discounted ebooks. It was one of the first of its kind, and now it has morphed into Book Gorilla and also competes with websites like BookBub.

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JD Trafford
Taking a chance at 2:00 in the morning

It was 2011, and the world was changing. It had become “flatter” in the words of Thomas Friedman. The technology was changing. The internet was becoming faster, and the storage/memory capacity of all devices from computers to laptops to phones was growing exponentially. Another thing happened during my dark years---these are the years when I gave up on writing and “No Time To Run” sat unloved in an electronic folder in my laptop---Amazon released the Kindle.

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JD Trafford
Rejection and more rejection

After the initial rejection of “No Time To Run” by an agent, I did what writers were supposed to do. I continued to revise the manuscript and I continued to submit it to literary agents. This was over fifteen years ago. Independent bookstores were not complaining about Amazon so much back then, they were complaining about Barnes & Nobles and Borders (remember that Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan movie?). Amazon certainly sold books, but it wasn’t what it is today.writ

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JD Trafford
Early success, and then reality

Not long after I started writing “No Time To Run,” there was a national contest announced in our local bar association’s magazine. Evidently, I was not the only lawyer in America who was unhappy with his job and longed to leave the billable hours behind to become the next John Grisham. This is not a shock. The often depressing life of practicing law, however, should be the subject for a different blog post. Anyway, my wife showed me the article about the contest and encouraged me to enter.

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JD Trafford
My first book that was not crap

A year later I was back at it, and this time I came up with a new story. I’d learned valuable lessons from my first crappy book and my second crappy book. This new one had a plot, and my characters had a motive.

I first started working on “No Time To Run” in an Irish pub over my lunch. I wasn’t drinking (I swear), but, I wanted too.

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JD Trafford
Lessons learned from my second crappy

Okay folks, so I wrote my first crappy book. It had no plot. It had no action. It was just two dudes living in a trailer in a Texas prison. Why were they in the trailer? I had no idea. The words were pretty, but there was no journey for the reader. So, those three months (probably more) of my life went into the garbage can, and I set off with new determination to write the most exciting darn book ever written.

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JD Trafford
Lessons Learned From My First Crappy Book

About eighteen years ago, I had begun the practice of getting up in the morning and writing. It was an attempt to keep some balance in my life as a new lawyer. This is sort of like my origin story, like when Superman was put in a pod and blasted into space only this origin story does not include rippling muscles, x-ray vision, or an impressive square-dimpled chin.

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JD Trafford
Save the little neighborhood library

People always ask, “how did you become a writer?” It’s not an easy question. I think I could start by responding, “In the beginning, there was a blank page.” But long before that, there was a love an appreciation for the written word that I developed at my local public library.

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JD Trafford