Quick Commentary

Nature’s Poisons, the Book!

I have some very exciting news! You can probably guess what it is based on the title of this post, but that’s OK, I’ll say it again. I’m writing a book!

I always wanted to write and be a writer. Even as a little kid, I envisioned living in Maine (why I don’t know, but probably because Hawkeye Pierce from M*A*S*H hailed from the state) and being a writer. I had no idea how to do that, so I went into chemistry, instead.

Fast-forward a few decades, through grad-school and a post-doctoral fellowship, doing drug discovery in pharma, and now a forensic toxicologist, I still wanted to write. But things…life…was always an obstacle. Kids, work, there’s always something. Sure, it’s not insurmountable. People write every day with far greater challenges and responsibilities. By all accounts, I have it pretty good, but I still wasn’t writing.

I started this blog for a number of reasons. One was to learn more about poisons that I likely wouldn’t encounter in my job as a forensic toxicologist. Another was to actually write, as in, butt in the chair and pound on the keyboard until words appear. Hopefully in the right order.

My goal was to get in the habit of writing, hone the craft a bit, and write a book. I thought I would write on the blog for a year then do the things I needed to do to get a book deal – get an agent and sell a book proposal. That is not a trivial step, and I’ll have a post up on how exactly to write a proposal, write a query letter, and get an agent later.

My one-year plan took five. Again…life gets in the way. That’s not entirely true, I got in my own way. I finally realized that as much as I loved my work, it ultimately is just a way to make money. It doesn’t define me and certainly won’t bring me real happiness. So after I finally picked up on the clues that the universe was throwing down, I put a proposal together, researched agents, and sent in a few query letters. Several responded right away and a week later I had an agent. We polished the proposal and sample chapter and she sold it to a publisher, W.W. Norton.

I’m very fortunate. I have the perfect agent and editor for me, my style, and my personality. But I had help along the way. A great friend is a non-fiction writer – an excellent writer – and she knew the process and guided me along the way. I also have an amazing wife and online writer friends that knew of my dreams and gently pushed me to write.

Anyways, this isn’t meant to be an Academy Award acceptance speech and drone on for hours, I just wanted to let people into my world a bit. My unsolicited advice for you though is that there will never be a perfect time in life for things you want to do, so just do it. So about the book.

THE BOOK will be about nature’s poisons, of course! Here’s the brief synopsis:

From plants and animals, from fungi to food, poisons surround us. In a format that will educate and entertain both general audiences and seasoned experts alike, Nature’s Poisons looks at the toxins that kill, maim, injure, and sicken. Interwoven with the science and history of these poisons are stories of true crime and real-life intoxications, making for a compelling, and sometimes humorous, journey into nature’s most vicious creations.

It will come out sometime in 2022. It’s a process, and writing the book is only half of it. Going into this I had no idea how the publishing industry worked. Seeing how the sausage is made, or how the book is bound, is an experience, and I’ll use this blog as I have before, telling tales of toxins and also to keep you posted on the journey.

I mentioned it earlier, but the next post will be on the process of writing a non-fiction book: the proposal, the agents, the query letters. All of this information is online in various places and forms, but I didn’t always find it helpful. It just wasn’t detailed enough for my brain and much of the process is geared towards fiction, which is a totally different beast. I was fortunate to have guidance, but I know not everyone does, so I’ll give back to you and tell you what I know and what worked for me in the next post!

So thank you for reading, supporting this blog, and help make my writing dreams come true. I couldn’t have done it without you!


15 thoughts on “Nature’s Poisons, the Book!

  1. Woohoo! Congratulations to finding a good, fitting editor and a book deal. Self-publishing is just not the same. Finding an editor that responds well to personal style but keeps an unwavering eye on details, references, and contacts peers when necessary, is key to a coherent and factual publication.
    Let us know when we can start pre-ordering your book.

  2. That’s great, congratulations! I hope the publisher doesn’t make you dumb it down – I enjoy the level of detail in your blog posts even if I don’t always understand fully. You’re such an engaging writer you can get away with adding in the more technical stuff.

  3. 9-8-20
    Congrats on getting an agent and publisher! I can tell you from a self publishing point of view that writing a non fiction book takes bunches of time and effort to do it right and properly reference and footnote your work without boring your readers. Fiction allows all kinds of latitude with the facts, but good non fiction requires backing up your work and that takes time. It’s work. And then there is the editing process, cover design, marketing strategy, etc. etc. Have fun! You probably helped yourself by publishing your blog online before seeking out an agent. Gave you credibility and hopefully a core readership market for your book.

    I look forward to reading your book upon publication. Keep us posted. (:

    Douglas Laubach

  4. Congratulations!  I’m buying the first copy!! Martha Ture Mt. Tamalpais Photographyhttps://mttamalpaisphotos.com

  5. Great news – always said your posts would make an interesting book. Look forward to buying a copy for my toxicology collection.

  6. Pingback: So You Want to Write a Book, Part I: The Proposal | Nature's Poisons

  7. Pingback: So You Want to Write a Book, Part II: The Agent | Nature's Poisons

  8. I will definitely add that book to my collection. I teach three classes on poisons in medieval times in the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) and it’s the only topic I’ve taught on that really draws a crowd. I feel sort of morally obligated to teach it as though everything will kill anyone with just a pinch of it in their wine, which is not accurate.

    There’s a lot of mis-information out there about de-toxing from various poisons like lead. I’m not a toxicologist, I’m somebody who knows about herbs, so I don’t really understand de-toxing. I mean, I know it’s a big industry, but I don’t know what’s real and what’s not. I worked at a health food store and most of the de-tox stuff was fiber and B vitamins. So…when I get to theriac in my class I just say it didn’t work very well, with the viper flesh or without. And with lead and other heavy metals? I don’t mention the idea that a person can get them out with chelation. Not with medieval technology, eating a lot of garlic, onions, and broccoli. (What if people actually tried it? I’m in the States, I can’t open myself up to that kind of liability!)

    I also talk about opium just straight up being poisonous because what really got me to teach the class in the first place was some women I knew talking about the casual recreational use of opium like that was a good idea. And likewise ergot as happy organic LSD. Seriously, how do some of these people make it to adulthood? That was rhetorical, don’t answer.

    But maybe when I get your book I can include some stuff I didn’t have answers about before. That would be very good.

    Ooh, will you talk about sea slugs? There was a guy named Learchus who used a sea hare to murder his king. That’s going into the class, but it was so weird I haven’t done enough research on it yet.

  9. Is this book out yet?

    Have seen this a while ago, was excited, came back around

    See you had planned 2022 as final date, how is it going now?


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