Several weeks ago, my wife sent notices to every mystery bookstore we could find (nearly fifty) about my new book. Days later, they started coming back marked “Return to Sender, Address Unknown” (cue the Elvis soundtrack). For the next several weeks, they kept coming, until nearly a third returned. At first, I felt depressed at the failure of my marketing plan. Last time I trust the internet, I thought. Then I found another website listing a dozen more, and all but a few proved current, so I took the old fliers, stuffed them in new envelopes, and rereturned them. Recycling at its best.
A week before my first novel was set to debut, I learned that my website had been hacked. Apparently, I also sell pictures of little boys. When I tried to fix it myself, WP gave me an unintelligible strand of directions, so I enlisted my friend Don, who helped me build the site. Even he was stumped how to fix it.
This reminds me of an anecdote told to me by a friend who worked in Silicon Valley during the first boom. Computers now are like cars 100 years ago when there were no service stations or roadside assistance to help if things went wrong. Instead, everybody got to be his own mechanic.
Unfortunately, all I ever wanted to be was an author.
From watching “Younger,” the funny new sitcom about a single mother in her 40s who pretends to be 28 so she can land a job in publishing, I’m learning a great deal about selling books. For example, I knew that social media was key, but I didn’t know it had to involve nudity. On the show, Joyce Carol Oates uses “Topless Tuesday” to promote her latest release. Maybe I’ll co-opt the idea, such as with Wicked Wednesday or Murderous Monday.
I saw the ebook of my novel for the first time this morning. At long last, I can add published author to my resume.
I had an image in mind. I could previsualize the photo: the bridge at dusk, its golden glow reflecting off the river, the city lights humming beyond. I’d seen such a shot once before in a magazine but questioned if I could recreate it.
The boardwalk was dark and deserted, almost spooky, but I feared the presence of people more than their absence. Before setting up my tripod, I checked for sounds or shadows but found only the sulfurous mist. I’d timed it just right, the sky a deep indigo, the lights a burning orange, the moon just rising on the horizon.
Just as I was framing the shot, a creak alerted me to a bicyclist approaching. I watched with dread as a scruffy man skidded to a halt just before me.
What was I doing there alone, in the dark, a middle aged man with an overpriced camera, just waiting to be robbed? The police would lecture me, my wife excoriate me, my friends ridicule me. All for a stupid photo.
“Everybody takes that shot,” said the man through a gap in his teeth that whistled the sh in the final word.
“What?” I said, guardedly.
“It’s a cliché. Everybody here takes the same shot.”
I thought about his critique, rechecked the lighting.
Finally, I found the courage to say “I’m not everyone.”
Proof that Chicagoans like their politicians nasty
Big News! This week I signed a deal with Evolved Press for a series of three crime novels starring my aggrieved governor, Duncan Cochrane. The first should be published in August, the others to follow apx. 1 year later. Thanks to all those who helped, especially my insightful readers at Pac U.
Tonight I finally saw Whiplash, the movie about a teen drummer with a relentless and abusive teacher. First off, I’d recommend it to everyone. JK Simmons was a worthy Oscar winner as the monstrous mentor.
More importantly, it made me question the value of critical feedback. I often wonder if I would have become a better drummer if my teachers had pushed me more. I quit playing at 18 after I grew discouraged that others were far better than me, but I think I could have equal them had I practiced more and better
Likewise, the searing criticism I received in my MFA program made me improve my writing. Without that, I doubt I would have a book deal today.
So are tough teachers necessary to success? And should I apply that to my own teaching career?
Half way through the movie version of “Inherent Vice” I happily gave up on following the plot, let alone guessing who dunnit, and started enjoying the show.
Each scene could stand alone as a set piece of hysterical sets, costumes, and sight gags (to say nothing of the dialogue). Based in L.A. around 1970, it capitalizes on all the SoCal hippy stereotypes. My favorite bit was Josh Brolin as a buzz cut corrupt cop with a Sag card.
And that was a lucky thing, because not only was the mystery unintelligible, it was never solved. But who cares?