Column No. 46

So You Want to Write a Book

Bob Ring, Al Ring, Tallia Pfrimmer Cahoon

When this column started in October 2003, we told you that we were writing a book on the history of the Montana mine and other Oro Blanco area mines, with special emphasis on the history of the Ruby mining camp – subjects we have addressed in 45 columns so far. We happily announce that we finally finished the book, Ruby, Arizona – Mining, Mayhem, and Murder. Today, we’d like to share some of the “ups and downs” of our experience and thank some people who really made a difference along the way.

You may recall that our project started in the 1990s when the Ring family rediscovered some old family photographs taken in 1905 in Oro Blanco. A few years of exploratory trips on rocky dirt roads in that south-central Arizona border region, plus a bunch of parallel research, generated some answers to our questions about the circumstances behind the photos, as well as a keen desire to find out more about the history of the area.

In 2000 we began to use the forum of the annual Arizona History Conventions to share our research. Along the way, Bob and Al Ring ran into Tallia Pfrimmer Cahoon, who actually lived in Ruby as a youngster and hasn’t forgotten a single thing about that experience. In addition, Tallia hosts Pima Community College’s tours of the Ruby ghost town. So a happy collaboration started that resulted in seven history papers that we presented at five state history conventions. Thanks to Dr. Bruce Dinges, Director of Publications at the Arizona Historical Society for encouraging our work. And thanks to the library staff for their assistance and support.

The idea for a book came out of those history papers and the mountain of data that principal researcher Al has collected over the years (about big 100 three-ring notebooks and 33 gigabytes of computer storage). This must be a “labor of love!”

Serious research continued in county records offices, libraries, historical societies, museums – you name it, we were there. Al made so many trips to Nogales to look at old mining records that Santa Cruz County Recorder Suzanne Sainz knows Al on a first name basis. She and her staff were most helpful.

Our research in Nogales was complicated by the fact that Santa Cruz County was partitioned from Pima County in 1899, so earlier mining records are held in Pima County or Maricopa County. We found and reviewed over 5000 location notices from the Oro Blanco Mining District dating from 1873. (By the way, those old handwritten mining location notices are not so easy to decipher.)

At the Arizona State Library in Phoenix we worked closely with Dr. Melanie Sturgeon, Director of the History and Archives Division. We appreciate all the help and encouragement from Melanie and her staff.

Bill Daffron, a retired geologist living in Arivaca educated us on the forces that deposited the minerals in the Oro Blanco Mining District.

Mary Bingham, Librarian of the Tubac Historical Society, volunteered to analyze old census records and was a constant source of encouragement and information.

Pat and Howard Frederick, contacts for the current owners of the Ruby ghost town, literally opened their doors, both to the old mining camp and to their historical records.

In our search for relevant data, we reviewed almost every available issue of the newspapers published since the mid 1850s in Nogales, Bisbee, Tucson, Arivaca, and Green Valley. We are especially grateful to Sigrig Maijreagleu and Teresa Leal at the Pimeria Alta Historical Society in Nogales for their help with those very old Nogales newspapers.

To complete the biographical sketches of some of our story’s important personalities, we extended our research to Liberty, Colorado; Reno, Nevada; Boston, Massachusetts; San Diego, California; and Liberty Hill, Texas. Through historical societies, newspapers, and personal contacts, we collected information from almost every state in the nation and several countries.

Principal interviewer Tallia talked to over 30 former Ruby residents and family members who shared their remarkable experiences in the old mining camp. Tallia recorded these conversations and typed every word – part of our computerized database. Thanks to all of you who opened your memory banks to us.

One of the more satisfying aspects of our research was getting to know the descendants of some of the heros of our book. Al was able to track down several living relatives of the Fraser brothers and Mr. & Mrs. Frank Pearson, who were murdered in the Ruby general store in the early 1920s. Mary Noon Kasulaitis, the Librarian at the Arivaca Library and author of the “Arivaca Yesterdays” column in The Connection, graciously provided her insights on many of our history questions, including background on her great grandfather, Adolphus Noon, an important Oro Blanco area pioneer.

Principal writer Bob had to pick the “gems” out of all this information and put the whole story together. We were sternly advised that any book on our subject would have to answer questions like, “Who cares?” We needed to establish the historical importance and context of our story. We realized immediately that we had a complicated tale to tell, trying to “weave” the mining and people stories together. Not surprisingly we wrestled for a long time over how to organize the book.

As we struggled towards a complete manuscript, we were increasingly invited to speak to local history, rock hounds, and hiking groups. We found these events both pleasurable and educational. The positive response helped motivate us to complete our book and we received many useful leads and pieces of new information.

Mary Bingham suggested that we write a regular newspaper column on the “fruits” of our research. Jim Lamb, reporter and columnist for the Green Valley News and Sun, who had attended and reported on one of our talks, supported the idea of a column and broached the idea to Managing Editor Kathy Engle. As they say, the rest is history … We thank Kathy for her continued support. We have received several good pieces of new data from you readers. So thanks to you too.

Last summer we achieved the significant milestone of producing the first draft of our book (we didn’t know at the time it was a first draft; but read on). We folded our fantastic photos and figures into our text draft, comb-bound some copies and eagerly sent the good-looking manuscript to a group of “first readers” for comments.

You really find out who your friends are in a situation like this. … Just kidding. Our first readers included the aforementioned Bruce Dinges, Mary Bingham, Melanie Sturgeon, plus Bette Waters, an independent publisher in New Mexico.

So … the draft wasn’t perfect. Our first readers suggested that we cut the overlong “Introduction” in half or delete it entirely, i.e., “Get to the point!” They told us that we should identify and periodically remind the reader of the book’s major themes, better integrate the story of the “other” mines, and tell the story in more narrative style while cutting the number of words by a third. The review copies were also heavily edited with bright red marks. What a challenge!

Draft number two was ready last fall. We had addressed the comments on Draft 1. We were so confident in our revision that we decided to show Draft 2 to a carefully selected potential publisher, you know -- someone who pays the upfront costs and then makes the book a bestseller. Good news and bad news. The bad news was that the publisher burst our confidence bubble with comments like, “This is just a bunch of facts, not a story. It sounds like an engineering report guess who is a retired engineer. Lots of redundancy, chapter by chapter. Too many one-sentence paragraphs influence of writing this column?. Too long and wordy. Too many long quotations from sources.” The publisher also provided a “clinic” on editing of the text towards a more readable style.

Principal writer Bob was not in a good mood for weeks.

Oh yeah, the good news. After growing another layer of skin, we decided the publisher’s comments were “right on” and very useful feedback.

We completed a significantly reworked third draft early this year. The publisher had actually worked with us chapter by chapter, giving us feedback on our progress. We finally passed his tests for a reasonable manuscript. At that point, he (and we) thought he would publish the book. But an old concern, the projected limited sales market, surfaced again and finally persuaded the publisher to decline to publish the book.

We tried a few other publishers, but kept running into their specialized content requirements or the limited-sales opinion. One academic press said they’d consider the manuscript, but required a lengthy review process. Interestingly, this same press severely limits the total number of figures in their books. One of our book’s strengths is its 115 photos plus another 50 or so maps, charts, documents, etc. Didn’t seem like a match; besides, we’d had it with lengthy review processes.

You can see where this is heading. We decided to publish the book ourselves. We thought we had a good product.

Self-publishing gives you total control over the content of the book and the entire publishing process (a truly liberating feeling after what we’d been through). But you are paying the upfront costs (mostly printing), rather than having a publisher pay those costs. Moreover, after the book is printed, you have to handle the marketing, sales, and distribution. This must be a labor of love!

We did have a secret weapon. Last summer Al wrote and self-published St. Matthews Firefighters, 84 years of firefighting in St. Matthews, Kentucky, and was familiar with the process.

Melanie Sturgeon from Arizona State Archives wrote a nice Foreword. We prepared our own maps and charts. We spent hours selecting pictures to use from the thousands in our database. It took Bob a week to make an index with every mine, every miner, every former Ruby resident, every …

Al found a Tucson printer, U. S. Press and Graphics, and did the book design, formatting the manuscript for compatibility with printing books. With a lot of input from Al, the printer produced a beautiful 4-color cover. Bob and Tallia reviewed the reformatted manuscript about a zillion times; we added material and found errors right up to the last minute. The book contains all of the material printed in the newspaper columns plus much, much more.

We picked up the newly printed copies of the book on June 27th. What a feeling! Is this great or what? Then reality set in. What in the hell are we going to with all these books?

That’s where you come in. Books are now available.

While we’re out madly selling books, we’d like to go back and fill in a few holes that we left in our newspaper stories. So, if you keep reading, we’ll write some more columns.

Your “Along the Ruby Road” columnists happily announce the printing of their book, Ruby, Arizona – Mining, Mayhem, and Murder.

Next Time: Mercantile Murders Epilog – Fraser and Pearson Families

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