Two Exciting New Releases for the Price of Less-Than-One

untitledAlthough the Pubslush campaign has finished, I am still a bit short of where I wanted to be. (I raised $1,200 towards my $2,000 goal.) So I am still taking advance orders. As an incentive, the first five who place an advance order will get a free download of the just-released audio version of Angel. This is, itself, a $19.95 value. So for $15 you get a $19.95 audiobook now plus you will be one of the first to get Identity Theft as soon as it comes out– essentially for free! Hurry. This will only be available to the first five to place an order.

Writers and Rock Star Envy

IT IS A TRUTH universally acknowledged that young male writers, in a shadowed corner of their dream selves, would much rather be rock stars. And not (just) for the girls, fame, and money. The thing is, if you’re a writer, you’re supposed to think, “I can’t even imagine not writing,” and “Writing’s not a choice, it’s what I do.” You’ve said such things a thousand times, and you know that if you don’t believe it in the rag-and-bone-shop of the heart, you’re dead. But writing is wicked rough: on the best days your creative juices can make you come away from your desk smelling like a barnyard animal; on the worst, nothing flows and it’s all Kafka: labyrinths of mind-sludge, dead-end isolation, bad shit all around. And because the proportions of workload-to-eventual-payoff are so unbelievably sad, you fight a constant war against cynicism (toward clueless editors, publishers, Philistinism in America), resentment (toward friends flourishing in finance or tech), and a competitiveness towards other writers that is just so self-demeaning. In the middle years of writing your book, doubts pervade your inner weather: you stew in them the way Manhattan subway riders marinate in July humidity. And so you think, oh, for a draught of vintage! That you might drink, and leave the world unseen! Or, failing Keatsian transport, if you could just execute a document dump — digitally toss your manuscript in the fire — flee your writing room and head down to a sweaty rock ’n’ roll club where walls rumble, beer flows, people dance, and — hey, look — there’s this guy on stage who’s screaming the secrets of his frustration, anger, and longing, and who’s found a way to do it that’s nearly as subtle and penetrating as your novel!

Plus it’s cathartic and sexy and fun.

And you say to yourself, “how do I get to be that guy?”

-Corel Banca writing in the L.A. Review of Books

Life Soundtrack Part II: Cuing Vinyl and Restroom Songs

DJYesterday I wrote a post called “What is Your Life’s Soundtrack?” In it, I wrote about the songs that were part of my story from childhood through college. I promised that I would continue my narrative with the music of my adult life. I realized that I have already written some of this, however, and so I give you this excerpt from the book Arlo, Alice and Anglicans. It discusses my first radio job after graduating from broadcast school:

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What Can I Say to Move You in The Last 14 Hours?

For the past 15 years I have been working on the story that would become the novel Identity Theft.  Now I have 14 hours to persuade you to place your advance order before my Pubslush crowdfunding campaign is over.  I’m not sure how to do that.

I had a theme song written. I had a video made. I made a video myself. I did this interview. And this one. And this oneAnd this one. I made a Facebook fan page for the book. I sent e-mails to my friends. I posted on Facebook and Twitter and Facebook and Twitter and… Some of my friends took up the cause and sent out their own appeal on my behalf.

Now it’s down to the wire and down to me and you.

I’m not going to do a hard sell. I will just tell you a bit about my back story and how Identity Theft fits into it.

My father’s novel was called Mistaken Identity. I would like to say Identity Theft is a direct homage, but the similarity just happened. Nevertheless, the similar titles and theme have made me think about where I came from.

My father had literary dreams and the talent to back them up. But Mistaken Identity was not published or finished.

I grew up in a household where being a fiction writer was the highest aspiration and the pinnacle of achievement. So it was never something I took lightly.

I have already written about how I wanted to be an actress and how I did not recognize that writing was a special skill that not everyone could do. I have written about how I had the fortune, or mis-fortune of early success when I did embark on a writing career. I got a job at a large newspaper on the strength of writing samples with no previous journalism experience or formal education. My first non-fiction books sold immediately.

I never shook the idea, though, that it was the novel that would prove my worth as a writer. As a result of this, the first one I completed was trying too hard to be important. It was autobiographical and self-indulgent. I cannot tell you how happy I am that self-publishing was not an easy option then.  Otherwise I would never have lived that horrible novel down. I was not deterred, though. I filled journal after journal. There were three ideas in particular that I kept coming back to. One evolved into Angel. The second into an as-yet unpublished novel Worthless Gods and the third is Identity Theft. It took a long time for each of these concepts to bake.

Interestingly, it was an agent who was pushing me to do more “serious” work who gave me my fiction breakthrough– although not in the way you might imagine.  I’d built up a reputation for fact-based books full of dry humor. My agent felt these kinds of books were not ambitious and that, perhaps, I was lazy. I pushed back about this. I realized that being able to do fun books that entertain people and make them laugh is a talent and that I was not going to accept the notion that it was less “important” than any other kind of writing.

It was only when I gave myself permission never to write a novel that I was able to relax, enjoy the process and to finish Angel, which has been very well received. I feel as though that book was the moment I learned to be a writer.   Identity Theft combines the serious side I presented in Angel with the humor of my non-fiction work.  I was not afraid to have fun with it. I hope you, as a reader, will have fun with it too.

After publishing Angel, and becoming freshly excited about the many aspects of my writing that have yet to be revealed, I have been extremely prolific. I have not had the immediate publishing success, however, that I enjoyed in my first years as a writer. The results of all of these years of learning to be a writer sit on my hard drive. I want to find a path to bring them into the world. If that sounds far too heavy and serious for a humorous, fast paced novel with a rock star in it, let’s put it this way: Let me entertain you.

And so I am here. Asking for your help.

Please visit the Identity Theft page. Read the interviews posted there.  Read the excerpts.  I hope that you will enjoy what you read. Think about whether it is worth $10 or $15 to help make this dream happen.

There are only 14 hours left.

What is Your Life’s Soundtrack?

Yesterday I participated in the Books & Authors event at Leon & Lulu. And, like you do, I have been looking up the web pages and blogs of some of the fellow authors I met there. My immediate neighbor across the aisle was Birmingham, Michigan author Lisa Peers whose book Love and Other B-Sides is a rock n’ roll themed romance. (You can see her booth on her own post about the event.)

Her blog, LP on 45, is also music-themed. While browsing her concert reviews and so on I came across a video of Sisters of Mercy- “This Corrosion” and I experienced a bit of warm nostalgia for my college days and the various “alternative music” clubs that played a few requisite tracks: the full version of “This Corrosion,”  Shriekback’s “Nemesis.” (“Big black nemesis, parthenogenesis no one move a muscle as the dead come home”), The Cult-“She Sells Sanctuary” and Tones on Tail- “Go.” (Also known as the ya ya song.) along with some harsher stuff by Ministry.  I pretended I was cool enough for City Club, but I was actually intimidated by the goth and punk kids. What I did not yet realize is what a thin, thin line there is between nerd and cool.

What occurred to me, thinking about these tracks, is that I could write an entire musical autobiography– I bet you could too.

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What Do You Expect Me to Do With Your Disapproval?

AngelLargeSquareToday I attended a books and authors event at Leon & Lulu, a great shop in Clarkston. There were 30 writers there showcasing their books and I met some wonderful people.

I brought along only one book, my first novel Angel.  (The cover image here is actually the one for the audio version.)

Angel, of course, is the story of a minister whose sense of identity, his worldview and his relationship to his community are challenged when he becomes attracted to a young man.

Most of the people I talked to about the book were positive and friendly even if it was not something they thought they would like to read.

Towards the end of the event, however, there was one woman who asked me about my book. I told her its theme and she set the book down quickly and said, “I’m certainly not reading this one. I don’t approve of that.”

I was not upset by her reaction. You would have to live under a rock to be unaware that there are people who feel that way. I was, instead, interested in why she felt it important to share her disapproval with me. What exactly did she want me to do with that information?

Feel ashamed? Not likely. Think more highly of her? Also not likely.  Change my point of view in deference to a stranger?

There are a lot of things that characters do in books that one might disapprove of. In fact, there are few books that contain characters that do nothing worthy of disapproval or there would be no drama. But imagine if I had said, “My book is about a corrupt politician.”

You would not expect someone to respond by saying, “I am certainly not going to read that. I don’t approve of that.”

Imagine a conversation that went like this:

“What is your book about?”

“It’s a romance novel.”

“I’m certainly not going to read that. I don’t approve of romance novels.”

This would come across as inappropriate and obviously rude, would it not?

I have to assume that my visitor was not really trying to tell me anything about homosexuality. She was trying to tell me something about herself. “I am the kind of person who does not approve of that.” Not approving of homosexuality is part of her sense of identity.

Some time ago I wrote an article here called The Lifestyle.  It dealt with some of my thoughts after a similar conversation with a friend.

Disapproving is more than not liking or opting out.  It assumes, in essence, that your opinion matters.  It assumes that you get a vote.  You can really only “disapprove” from a position of power and security and the assumption that society is on your side.

In general, we do not welcome the views of others when it comes to our “lifestyle choices.”  How would you feel about someone who said she disapproved of your choice of religion or how many children you had or what you did on the weekends or how many hours you worked or what kind of career you had or how you spent your money?  These are all “lifestyle choices.”

Would you thank such a person for her thoughtfulness and concern for your well-being or would you instead reply with something along the lines of “well who asked you?”

I did not reply with “well who asked you?”

Unlike the stranger, I did not feel compelled to voice my disapproval. But I have been giving a lot of thought as to why.