Weekly Meeting- A25: Stories From Lowell’s First Arson Squad


Title: A25: Stories From Lowell’s First Arson Squad


  • None

What you should know: 

  • This book is self-published by the author.
  • If you live in Massachusetts and only know bad things about Lowell, this book may help explain some of those reasons.
  • There are some difficult stories about death and children.


As a writer, I understand the difficulty of writing and crafting a story.  There is no denying A25 is a good book.  The subject is compelling.  The idea of arson investigations when the field was born in a city that was ripe for arson problems in the 70s and 80s is very compelling.  I will cover Strunk’s previous book, an Arcadia Images of America book, on Wednesday.  What I want to talk about here is the struggles of self-publishing.

Make no mistake: typing words is easy, but writing a book is not easy.  Having done National Novel Writing Month for 11 years, I understand the desire to put out a final product and call it a day.  In 11 years I have only done that with 1 short story.  I am only now feeling comfortable enough to do more.  Much like I am experiencing with Wikipedia editing, once I let go of the anxiety, it all flows so easily.  I can be anal about final products.  I want the final product to be the best I can make it.  I want it to look professional and feel like someone cared enough to make sure it was ready for a reader.  You still have to give yourself a cut off.  That is the point when you know you could keep working on it, but it is time for it to be shared.

It is far easier to do this with a traditional publisher who comes with editors, publicity teams, and deadlines.  Even then it’s not easy, but it can be forced.  In self-publishing that isn’t always the case.  Self-publishing is a mix of independent publishing mixed with vanity publishing.  Vanity publishing, for those who don’t know, was a huge money maker back in the day.  You basically paid the publisher to print copies of your book.  You were in charge of any and all promotion.  They did nothing but print the copies.  People who did it were often convinced they had written something good, but no editor, agent or publisher was willing to take a chance (or even think it was good).  It was the vanity of the author that kept them pushing to publish.  Now, with programs like NaNoWriMo, more writers are writing and there are more books like this in the world.  Now it is easy to publish a book that is ignored by traditional publishing.

As wonderful as NaNoWriMo is, it is part of a bigger problem.  That problem is that many participants think their first draft is their last draft.  It plays out in the desire to write to perfection as you write the very first time.  You must have completely developed characters, you much know your plot, your characters can’t deviate from your plan, and your writing must be perfect.  Seasoned vets have learned to use the month to just write and then edit in the future.  These people are more successful reaching the 50,000 word goal.

People forget that a first draft is just that.  They don’t realize the use of an editor as someone who can help take that draft and shape it into a compelling story.  A good editor helps you put things in the correct order and helps you pull out deeper interactions between characters.  With non-fiction an editor can help you identify where more details needs to be added or removed.  Your editor is your first reader and my biggest problem with A25 was that there was no editor.

As I read more independently published and self-published books, I learn more about what I need to do as someone who is ready to publish.  I know I have a good story that needs work.  I am letting people beyond my close circle read as editors so I can get honest opinions from people who don’t want to just be encouraging.  I love the people who encourage me regardless of quality, but at the same time I want my output to actually be something enjoyed by those who don’t love me.  I wish other authors did this too.  When you don’t, you risk the success of your book.

Who will like it:

  • People who like reading local history books- especially about Massachusetts and Lowell.
  • People who are interested in Arson Squads or firefighting in general.

Other books read this week:

December Recap:

This is the last meeting for the month and the year.  Here are the books I had wanted to read this month and their statuses:

  • Revealing Hannah: The Myth of Cassandra – going to be my Real Life Book Club’s selection for February, so I didn’t read it yet.
  • A25: Stories From Lowell’s First Arson Squad 
  • Lumberjanes, Vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy
  • The Road from Coorain – didn’t get to it yet, so it is being add to my remainders list. 
  • The Witches 
  • Library of Souls 

The remainders list is my list of books I picked for a month, but never got to.  Here is the status of those books from previous months:

  • In the Unlikely Event
  • The Martian – waiting to see the movie first
  • The Golden Bowl – not yet, but maybe in January.
  • Dead Wake – I am still on the waiting list on OverDrive.

Last, books for January 2016:


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