Saturday, January 30, 2010

Publishing and J. D. Salinger

Video of a reading of Motherless Soul.

In the movie Field of Dreams Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner's character) was instructed by the voices he heard to seek out Terence Mann (a reclusive author) and take the writer to a baseball game. The book the film was based on, Shoeless Joe by W. P. Kinsella, didn't pull punches. In the novel the author's name was J. D. Salinger.

The reclusive nature of this great writer is fascinating to me. Salinger was quoted in the NY Times in 1974 as saying, "Publishing is a terrible invasion of my privacy. I like to write. I love to write. But I write just for myself and my own pleasure."

I can identify with beauty of the relationship between a writer and his or her words, but if that's where it stops then a great deal is missing. Although most of my writing is fiction, it is always an expression of my thoughts and emotions. I want my words heard and contemplated. A friend of my is halfway through my book (Motherless Soul published by All Things That Matter Press) and everyday she comes to me to talk about one of my characters, Michael. Novels should be for the readers more than they are for the writer. It's as if I am a cook and my readers are the diners. I work hard to make my words as perfect as possible, but the readers are the ones who consume them.

Hopefully they appreciate the flavor of my thoughts.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Yesterday's Book Signing

Video of reading of Motherless Soul

My book signing at Park Road Books in Charlotte was a wonderful experience. As expected, my wife and I sat at a desk in front of the store and smiled at everyone who came in. A few people stopped to talk. These were interesting people who wanted to know about my book but also took time to tell us about their own lives. There was man of about seventy who declared that liquor and a good book were the only true necessities in life and a fascinating woman who described a magnificent vacation she’d taken with her husband, hiking through New Zealand.

Most people who walk into a book store either know specifically what they are after or have a general idea based on authors they’ve heard of. The percentage of customers who are searching for a new voice is relatively small. I know this because I’ve been there myself. So my expectations were low and when I made a few sales and met people who were looking for new and interesting ideas, I was very pleased.

At five o’clock, when we were starting to pack things up, a wonderful thing happened. Pat J. Schultz, the author of the memoir Making Sweet Lemonade arrived. She had bought Motherless Soul at Park Road Books a few days earlier. She explained that she had lost her mother when she was a young girl, just as my character Emily had. The book spoke to her and left her with a positive feeling about the story I had told and also about her own life. Her only complaint was that the novel kept her up late at night, reading furiously. She brought her copy in for me to sign. It was covered with underlines and questions that reflected her enormous enthusiasm. My wife found Pat’s book on the shelves, so we bought a copy. The picture above is of the two of us holding each other’s work. I can’t wait to read it. I believe that talking to Pat was not only fun, but enough encouragement to keep me disciplined with my work on the next book. We’ll see what happens there.

The next step is to find another place to hold another signing. I’m thinking Raleigh, but I’ll keep everyone posted when I’m certain.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Troilus and Cressida

Video of a reading of Motherless Soul.

Next week is my signing at Park Road Books in Charlotte. If anyone is in that area it would be great if you would drop by between 3 and 5.

But this week I’m turning sixty and that has caused me to reflect somewhat on some of the interesting parts of my life. Perhaps I should say our life, since my wife and I have shared everything since we were married in our early twenties. Some of our stories are worth repeating.

We received an odd wedding present in 1972, a couple of months after the ceremony. The gift was a pair of Desert Iguanas that Toni’s cousin had brought back from a college trip with his biology department. At the time I had a minor role in one of Shakespeare’s plays, Troilus and Cressida, so we named the lizards after the title characters.

These Iguanas do not get as huge as the green ones and they certainly don’t have reputations for biting off fingers as the others do. Ours only grew about fourteen to fifteen inches long and that was mostly tail. As I remember, they existed on a diet of mealworms along with lettuce and a few other greens, so (except for vet bills) they weren’t very expensive to keep.

My wife used to move around our apartment with Troilus and Cressida riding on her shoulders and often climbing to the top of her head. If someone knocked on our door she would forget they were up there and at least once she gave our neighbor quite a fright.

I had fixed a home for them in an aquarium that had a light on a timer. T & C would walk around their glass house when the light was on and stay absolutely still when it was off. If one of the Iguanas was in the process of taking a step when the light went off he (or she) would stop immediately with his (or her) leg raised up for the entire night. When the light came on in the morning the lizard would finish the step.

Another odd fact about them was that they had holes in the sides of their heads that were covered by thin membranes. I assumed these were ears, but I don’t know that for sure. We could look through one of those holes and see light and blurry objects on the other side.

We heard that we could put them in our refrigerator if we were planning to be away for an extended period of time and they would go into hibernation. Then we could take them out when we returned and they would be fine. But we never had the nerve to try that.

It might be fun to write a story about lizards sometime, just a thought.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Park Road Books Visit

Video of a reading from Motherless Soul.

Saturday was two weeks from the day I’ll be at Park Road Books in Charlotte (Jan 23 3:00 to 5:00), signing copies of my novel, Motherless Soul. So my wife, Toni, and I made the trip down I85 to see the store, put up posters and visit our son and daughter-in-law who live in that area. My father-in-law agreed to drop by our house to let Georgie, our lab/terrier mix, out in our backyard midway through the day. Our dog’s never been alone longer than six hours. If we left her for eight or ten hours, she would probably just sleep on the bed and wait for us to return. But since she’s not used to long periods without access to the yard and since we worry about her more than we should, we haven’t pushed her.

We listened to the beginning of Gilead by Marilynne Robinson as we drove. I’m only a little into the book at this point, so I can’t judge it fully at this point. So far it is a number of reminiscences by a minister nearing the end of his life and doesn’t seem to have a traditional plot. In a way it is a fictional memoir, which strikes me as odd. But the writing is good, the characters are appealing, and I’m enjoying it.

We went to Erik and Becky’s house first then tried to distribute a few posters. The plan was to hit the libraries. Unfortunately, I discovered that I should have called ahead. The Charlotte library system has a rule that all bulletin board items need to be approved first by someone who doesn’t work weekends. We also tried the library at Queens University and discovered that the college is still on break and the library won’t reopen until Monday. But we dropped two posters off at Park Road Books and another one at a bagel shop in the same shopping center. Those were the most important places. I also left a few others with my son and daughter-in-law, who said they would put some up at their offices and possibly try the libraries again, after I call.

At Park Road Books I met a couple of nice women who were working behind the counter. It’s a lovely book store, much more intimate than the big box stores. They have a good selection of books and it was a nice feeling to find mine on the shelf. The store owner likes to do signings there and has a table set up for the various authors. I’ll be sitting at that table on January 23 and, hopefully, meeting a number of interesting people while I’m there. If anyone is in the area, please drop by.

Sunday, January 3, 2010


Yesterday I posted a video of me reading from my book, Motherless Soul, on my blog and my website. I thoroughly enjoyed the process of recording it and posting it, but I'm not certain that's a good thing. Books are supposed to be an art form that has two creators, the writer and the reader. I love to read my work because I interpret it exactly the way I had in mind when I wrote the words. That may be satisfying to my ego, but it limits the final creation.

There is a difference, of course, when the reading is a public reading. (I had one of those in November.) When I participate in an event such as that I get feedback, either from people who have read my work or people who have listened to the ideas we discussed while talking about the book. I have a book signing scheduled for Jan 23 at Park Road Books in Charlotte, so I should have a chance to speak to some interesting people at that event. It should be fun.

I am also in the process of scheduling a discussion of my book during our church's Coffee and Conversation meeting that occurs each Sunday after the worship service. That should be very interesting because Motherless Soul is about past lives. I don't believe reincarnation and the Christian version of heaven are mutually exclusive, but it will be interesting to find out how others feel about that.