Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Thanks so much, David, for letting me guest blog today at A Dark Planet. I am currently wrapping up a 45-day blog tour to help promote the release of my novel CLAWS. In the past six weeks, I’ve been visiting a good number of blogs to talk about my book and about marketing and book promotion. During that time, I’ve sold nearly 2,800 copies of CLAWS and The Colorado Sequence… this is so far beyond my expectation I just don’t even know what to say.
Actually, I do know what to say: Thank you Amazon Kindle!
98% of the books I’ve sold these past six weeks have been via Amazon Kindle.
I also owe a big fat thank you to everyone who hosted me on this tour. I owe a super-massive thank you to J.D. Rhoades and Sean Doolittle for the early blurbs that helped set the tone for early reviewers on Amazon.
And of course to all the Amazon Kindle readers and reviewers who have been so friggin’ cool I don’t know what to say other than thanks so very, very much.
So, here is my rough timeline for CLAWS:
2004 – wrote first draft; ran it through writing group; first major revision
2005 – found a literary agent after 74 queries who repped the novel without success
2006-2008 – CLAWS sat in a lonely Word file going nowhere
2008 – decided to self publish CLAWS, began booking it, formatting it, and contacted graphic designer friend to work on cover
2009 – February – cover done, started asking traditionally published authors for blurbs
March – book uploaded to CreateSpace, review copies sent out
May – Dusty and Sean’s blurbs come in; book launch on May 15; Kindle version published; blog tour begins
May 25 – seven reviews on Amazon page, and suddenly Kindle sales start taking off; based on early surge in sales (a few days selling 90/day) decided to release The Colorado Sequence on Kindle
May 30 - CLAWS event at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, packed house, sold 30 copies in paperback
June 1 – Sales for both books reach 750 on Kindle
June 29 – sales reach 2,000 for month of June; out of nowhere, a publisher contacts me and asks if I have other novels; wants me to send them
So that’s a little bit about what I’ve been up to; it’s been a fun summer. I am currently writing up this blog post in Sanibel Island, Florida, sitting at a kitchen table in a second floor condo that overlooks a deserted sliver of moonlit white sand beach and the crystal blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
My wife and two year old are asleep in the other room, and it is 1:18 AM.
Life ain’t all that bad sometimes.
Friday, June 26, 2009
This is still one of the coolest things ever. Goddamn but Michael Jackson was talented.
Let us mourn the loss of that entertainer, and not dwell on the obvious troubles that haunted the man.
We should all leave behind something this good.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
But every time I do check in I see this ad in the corner with the headline, "Who's been searching for you?" and a picture of a beautiful, often busty young girl staring out at me with the promise that maybe it's her, maybe that's the girl who's been Googling me, desperate for a romantic relationship with a short, 59-year-old, married man with a paunch.
Sure. And yes, those are monkeys flying out of my butt, why do you ask?
Most of these girls don't look old enough to buy alcohol, and if they can't make a mercy run down to the ABC store for me, what good are they?
And I seriously doubt they would appreciate my love of blues from the 50's, friends in their 50's, and my 50 Reasons to Go to Bed Early.
So, while the thought that a sweet young thing has a secret crush on me makes my old heart go pitty-pat (or is that arrhythmia?), I suspect that if anyone's looking for me, it's either the law, a guy with a grudge, or some dude from Nigeria who wants to give me money.
Either way, I'm not answering that call.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
And yet, conservatives like Newt Gingrich and John Ensign insist they know what makes a good marriage and that marriage is a sacred union between a man and a woman. But if Newt Gingrich and John Ensign haven't destroyed that narrow concept of marriage, I don't think two guys tying the knot in Carrboro is going to shake the foundations of matrimony any harder than Newt's serial marriages or John Ensign's infidelity.
In case you have a life and haven't been following the latest sex scandal, John Ensign (R-Weaseltown) is a conservative senator who is a member of the Promise Keepers. Promise Keepers is an organization that fills stadiums (stadia?) with right wing men who loudly and publicly declare their love for their wives, over and over and over.
There's a lot of Jesus talk in there, too, although even Jesus, who could walk on water and raise the dead couldn't make John Ensign keep his pud private. Because Senator Ensign, while making public stands of moral rectitude was privately boinking a married woman. A woman who worked for him. A woman married to his own legislative aide.
Just for the record, this is the same John Ensign who was in high dudgeon over Bill Clinton's White House hummer.
OK, now that we're caught up, let's get back to what makes a marriage work.
Last weekend The Nephew's smart and patient wife said something that gave me a clue as to what makes a happy union. She said that The Nephew makes her laugh every day.
Think of that. How can a marriage go south if your partner is always making you laugh? And if you're laughing, that means the rest of the marriage must be in a good place, too.
But marriage, at its core, is a mysterious enterprise, which is why I can't judge John Ensign's wife for standing by the moralistic ass. Who knows what makes that marriage work?
But I don't think John Ensign has made his wife laugh in a long time. And I doubt that she's laughing now.
Saturday, June 20, 2009
This is the great Chet Baker singing My Buddy, one of my father's favorite songs.Each time he heard it he would wipe an eye and look away at something distant.
I never asked why, because we're men and we don't intrude on moments like that, but I always assumed it had to do with his younger brother, the brother he couldn't protect from the war.
Dad was a sentimental guy, something I inherited from him, along with a stubborn streak of right and wrong and a willingness to express an opinion, loudly, on almost any topic. This is a characteristic (I can't call it a virtue) that will be familiar to readers and one that didn't do either of us much good in our careers.
My father was also quick to forgive. God knows he forgave me a million times, when I disappointed or baffled him, which was almost daily.
He was, like most of us, a bag full of contradictions. He was restless to do something new, push a project forward, make something better than it was when he found it. But if he stopped for a moment he was asleep.
He was the kind of guy you wanted to have a drink with and yet I never saw him drunk.
His mother never let him forget that the wrong son came home from the war, and yet he took care of her until the day she died.
He loved music but sadly, couldn't carry a tune or strike a beat.
So this song is for you, Dad. I think of you every time I hear this. Happy father's day.
Your buddy misses you.
Friday, June 19, 2009
Thursday, June 18, 2009
As usual, I'm going to ignore good advice.
Yesterday we had an anonymous visitor, what we used to call a troll in the early days. Then, as now, it's best not to engage trolls because they crave attention and have no interest in doing anything but toss crap about, like the other lower apes.
But he touched on something serious, something that deserves a response. He asked why I don't scorch Obama the way I used to scorch Bush. The most obvious answer is that Obama isn't Bush, thank God, but that doesn't mean I'm ecstatic about everything Obama's done. Yesterday's weasel on gay rights is a good example. I think he's playing too cautious with what is a basic civil rights issue.
There are other issues where Obama and I depart. But before we get into that, let's hear from our anonymous troll and his speculation as to why I've been less political this year than I was last, besides last year was an election year, that is:
"...you realized that your boy "the Messiah" has proven to be even worse than Rush and Sean told you he would be."
OK. First, he's not my boy. He's no one's boy except his momma's. To use that word in relation to a grown African American man brands you as a racist jackass. Second, I never suggested he was the Messiah. I don't believe in Messiahs.
And if Rush or Hannity told me that water was wet, I'd have to stick my hand in before I believed them.
Obama is not the Messiah. He's a politician. I know what to expect from politicians and that's compromise. That's if the politician is any good.
No politician is going to make me happy all the time. I'm just a blogger with an opinion. He's a politician who has to maneuver his way through a maze of competing constituents while wankers like Anonymous toss poo from the sidelines.
When I was young, back in the early days of the Nixon administration, I bitched about Dick being a dick. My uncle, a wise man, said that Nixon was a politician, and when we elect politicians we should expect them to act like politicians. As the scorpion said to the frog, you knew what I was when you offered me the ride.
The reason I voted for and supported Obama is that he was the first politician since I've been old enough to vote who didn't want to refight the sixties. I think that's why he did so well with young people. We're all heartily sick of refighting the same old battles. This forward look was refreshing.
Now that he falls short is disappointing, yes. But he's a politician. They are inherently disappointing. Back to Anonymous:
"He ignores the constitution, scoffs at the free market system, seeks to limit free speech, is on a mission to enact a healthcare system that has failed miserably all across Europe and in Canada ..."
One at a time.
He ignores the Constitution - I really don't like that Obama has extended the Bush policy on wiretapping, holding prisoners without trial, and a handful of other things. I think a lot of it is unConstitutional. But if that's ignoring the Constitution, the previous administration made it into a pinata.
Part of the problem is that the Bush people created a completely new category of prisoner - not criminal, not POW, but a limbo detainee where laws are selective and men are held at the whim of the president. Obama, a man who knows the Constitution, is trying to figure out a way to get those people back under the rule of law and it's not easy.
He scoffs at the free market system - Obama was handed a pretty shitty stick when he took office. Both parties had spent a lot of money rescuing banks and bankers. Now he's throwing money trying to rescue GM after decades of mismanagment. I don't think he's scoffing at the free market. I think he's trying to rescue it. This after the free marketeers like Anonymous had treated the market the way a baby treats a diaper.
He seeks to limit free speech - Really? It's tough to argue this when you give no examples. More poo-flinging.
He is on a mission to enact a healthcare system that has failed miserably all across Europe and in Canada - Wow, Anon, your Scopes link pretty much debunked your assertion that the Canadian healthcare system is a miserable failure and even your second source, no fan of Canada's system said this about our own:
"There’s no question that American health care, a mixture of private insurance and public programs, is a mess. Over the last five years, health-insurance premiums have more than doubled, leaving firms like General Motors on the brink of bankruptcy. Expensive health care has also hit workers in the pocketbook: it’s one of the reasons that median family income fell between 2000 and 2005 (despite a rise in overall labor costs). Health spending has surged past 16 percent of GDP. The number of ininsured Americans has risen, and even the insured seem dissatisfied. "
Not quite a ringing endorsement of our way, is it, Anonymous? And this was your source.
I was in the Army for almost 3 years and I know how dismal socialized medicine can be. But the people in France and Scandinavia seem quite happy with their health care systems.
Are you suggesting that they're smarter than we are, that they've somehow managed to do something that is beyond our intelligence and skill? Because that sounds like you hate America, Anonymous. That sounds like you think we're second-rate compared to France, and that can get you shot in some counties in Texas.
I, on the other hand, think America is quite capable of crafting a healthcare system that works.
But if you think Obama is trying to build that European model, you could not be more wrong. No, Obama's health plan uses the free market to spur insurance companies to compete with the same insurance coverage we give Republicans in Congress. He's not going for single-payer, and I think that's a mistake and I've written as much.
But Obama is smarter than both of us (judging by your comments) and he's been proven right before by going for what's practical versus what is ideological. In other words, he compromises. And that may just be a way out of the mess he's inherited.
But if you want to keep flinging around opinions that smell like you pulled them straight out of your ass, you go right ahead, Anonymous.
One last thing that bothered me about your comments: Your interpretation of Obama's failure is a little too gleeful for someone who wishes the best for his country. I think that glee reveals you to be more partisan than patriot.
But then true patriots have the guts to sign their names to their opinions.
Tomorrow: Making people you love laugh every day.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
I knew the museum covered Korea, and that a big chunk of that was about Fox Company, so I thought I'd check it out.
This is part of a life-size diorama showing a Fox mortar crew. It's in a large room where the tracers fly in, artillery lights up a distant hill, explosions rock the floor and the taped voice of an actor playing the CO calls in artillery strikes. They also lowered the AC to simulate the cold these Marines had to endure.
Which, I'm really sorry to report, was one of the lamest goddamn things I've ever witnessed. These men fought through nights of 30-below temperatures. Guns froze. Grenades didn't go off. Almost all the men suffered from frostbite.
Dropping the AC so a bunch of flip-flopped, T-shirt-wearing tourists could get a little chill is bullshit. Sorry. It's a nice try, but no cigar for this one. And I know I'm a geek about these things, but I wanted more about this battle, not just a cold room with mannequins and special effects.
The museum tries to illustrate with these dioramas the significant battles that shaped the Marine ethos, from Guadalcanal and Iwo to Hue and Khe San. But for some reason, they gloss over WWI and the battle that gave the Marines their nickname, Devil Dogs.
My first imporession of the museum was OK. They really tried to make it interesting and instructive, even giving people a taste of boot camp.
But the more I thought about it, the more it all seemed like that chilly room. It's a santitized view of service. We see pink wounds on mannequins but no dead. They write about the mines in Vietnam, but not about the horror of Bouncing Betties that tore through young men's thighs and genitals.
There is none of the sad brutality of combat. We're told about sacrifice, but it's held at a distance. It's as if they took to heart Tim O'Brien's observation that if we told young men the truth about war, no one would ever sign up again.
One oversight that really struck home was the display of Marine and Navy insignias that represented the dead of Iwo Jima. There were more than 5000 of them stuck to a large sheet of plexiglass.
No names, just insignia, as if the emotions we feel at the Wall in DC are inappropriate here. I know, I looked for the name of a young Marine private named Prosper Terrenoire and he wasn't there. That's because in this museum, war is fought without death. They display numbers of dead, but you don't see their faces.
And I think that's a disservice to the men and women of the Corps. I think we owe them a museum that not only celebrates their honor, duty and valor, but shows us why those are rare and important virtues, worthy of our reflection and admiration.
I wanted to like this museum. I really did. But I think our Marines deserve something better. I think they deserve a museum that isn't afraid to show what it really means to be a Marine.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Thanks to Annie Chernow for reminding us that today is the birthday of the great Stan Laurel.
Stan and Ollie were a rare team, good friends on and off the screen, and I think they're friendship shows in their work. This scene is a classic with one of their favorite foils, the incomparable Jimmy Finlayson.
When I'm sick or feeling blue, nothing picks me up quite like the boys.
So tonight, raise a glass to the art of Stan and Ollie. And make mine sassafras.
Now that Obama is in power, everywhere you look in Washington you see art that celebrates the collective.
The Nephew and I spent most of the day at the NPG. We wanted to see, but didn't, the Hawaiian exhibit at the Native American Museum. So we missed the art of the lei and poi pounding.
The museum missed two grown men giggling like school girls.
But what we did see was great. Below is a Winged Dog from the NPG's collection of folk art. I want this dog. I so want this dog.
Monday, June 15, 2009
I took Friday off and drove up to Virginia for GC Myers' 10th show at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria. That's Mr. Myers up there, in front of one of his paintings and standing beside an alcoholic hobo who had staggered into the gallery and pestered the more cultured patrons. This was taken shortly before the police arrived. You can see the look of discomfort, bordering on fear, on Gary's face.
As always, The Nephew and his ever-patient wife (Mrs. Nephew) treated me like visiting royalty. But this trip I was more like the visiting senile uncle, forgetting small, unimportant things like my toothbrush, walking shoes and money.
On the evening of the show, Gary and his lovely wife Cheri could not have been more gracious or entertaining even though the last words out of Jenny's mouth as I left North Carolina were, "We can't afford a painting."
And the temptation could not have been greater. The gallery walls were covered in work that whispered, "Take me home." To Gary's benefit, quite a few people succumbed to the voices and red dots proliferated like zits on a teenager's face the week before the prom. This painting I know went to a happy young couple. Congratulations HYC!
Gary was toasted (as was I, but in a completely different way) by collectors who spoke touchingly about what his paintings mean to them. More than one couple use a purchase of Gary's art to mark an important day like the birth of a child or an anniversary.
Wow. No one has ever said about my work, "Yes, we saw on Amazon that your book contains the words 'goat fucker' and we just had to have it to celebrate our daughter's engagement."
I'm obviously doing something wrong.
So, congratulations on a good show, Gary, and we promise not to violate the restraining order again until next year.
Tomorrow! More art!
Thursday, June 11, 2009
this just in from the water cooler... we need more water!
I have over 200 pair of suspenders
what ever happened to galoshes?
What’s the difference between: a frankfurter and a hot dog? Root beer and sarsaparilla? Carmel and butterscotch?
one of my new favorite foods is peanut butter
Does anybody smoke a pipe anymore? What about wear a bow tie? When was the last time you saw a guy wearing a bow tie? Or a vest?
Wow. Really makes you want to sign up for a Twitter account, doesn't it?
Now you're wondering what Larry King's tweets have to do with my meditation. Just hang on, patchouli breath.
For those of you following along at home, I started meditating in the hopes that my blood pressure would come down and I'd be a more pleasant person to live with.
So I'm one for two.
Meditation is the art of concentrating on nothing, not an easy thing to do. Every morning I sit quietly and try to empty my head of all the crap zipping around in there and I'm getting better at it. Not good, but better.
But even on my best days, as my mind goes clear as an empty movie screen, a guy from the back row whispers,
"Ripe tomatoes are good with salt."
"Earbuds are more comfortable than headphones."
And I think Larry King has set up a Twitter feed in my head.
"Steve Earle's beard is as long as the Maharishi's."
"Mint, bamboo and kudzu are taking over the world."
"I like toast."
Larry King for fuck's sake. Dear God, make him stop. Please, somebody make him stop.
Tuesday, June 09, 2009
”What is happening to white men right now is exactly what was done to black folks for years.” - Pat Buchanan
Pat Buchanan hasn't held a real job since the Nixon administration. He's made a fortune by being on the wrong side of history and being vocal about it.
And Pat's feeling oppressed, disenfranchised, enslaved even.
Sweet Jesus on a Vespa.
What is it with all the angry old white men? Speaking as an old white man, I've had it pretty damn sweet. I've never been denied a loan, a job, or an opportunity because I was y-chromosomed and white. And I'm far from being privileged and rich like the white guys who are howling outrage over the airwaves.
Last fall one of my readers asked me what, in my opinion, qualified Obama to be president. I took the time to answer, as thoroughly and as honestly as I could.
He responded with an email that, among other grievances, included his assertion that white men were being repressed in the US and that Obama's campaign was just reverse racism.
Holy cow, I thought, this guy is angry.
I've known angry white men all my life. My brother is an angry white man. He's smart, he's informed, and he helped raise three really good kids, but there's something in him that's unfulfilled, and he blames someone else for that.
He's an angry white man.
I had dinner with Ed a few months ago, and he brought a friend of his, an old pal from high school. This friend complained about the spicy Cajun food, the existence of oysters, his ex-wife's bitchery and his children's ingratitude. His shoes were too tight, the waitress too slow, and he'd forgotten to bring his guitar which, for some reason, was Ed's fault. I couldn't wait for dinner to be over.
He was an angry white man.
They seem to grow well in the small confines of small towns with their small opportunities, but I'm sure cities have their share too.
Rush, Bill, Sean, Glen, Pat, Lou and Ann, all rich, privileged and pampered white men. None of them has ever known a really hard day. No one is shooting at them. They probably won't be beaten and jailed any time soon (and more's the pity). They're all enormously fortunate to have been born white, male and American in the late 20th century and yet they squeal like oppressed piggies. Why?
Angry white men. I don't get it.
But I am grateful they gave me a reason to post one of my favorite Monty Python bits ever. Enjoy.
Monday, June 08, 2009
Some critics work hard at their craft, which is different than writing a novel, etc. But some are just the dog in the manger, snarling at anyone who moves. Or moos.
Our friend, J.D. Rhoades had a positive Kirkus review (an achievement in itself) end with this glowing recommendation:
"Better than average, but not by much."
Writers in particular have the added joy of seeing their books reviewed on Amazon by people who have obviously suffered a head wound.
But of all the critics a writer can attract, and they are legion, none can be so toothless and random as those in a writers' group. I was in a great group for about ten years, and I still respect the people in that group because, through the process, they always made my work better. But every now and then I got a comment that made my eyebrows jump.
In my marathon WIP, one early reader complained that I mentioned big bands he'd never heard of, as if I should vet every cultural reference from the 40's with him, just in case.
I ran across this piece in McSweeney's. It's called “Comments Written by Actual Students Extracted From Workshopped Manuscripts at a Major University.” These are just a few and I encourage you to read the whole piece. Now, hang onto your hat.
"When this character says things like 'my sweaty balls,' he needs to say them more awkwardly."and my favorite:
"You talk about pregnant raindrops and chaos and auditory canals and 'the passing of time' as 'an orifice,' when you could really just be talking about humidity and ears."
"The one small area where I questioned the narrator's voice was in the section about the bathtub when he explicitly mentioned his shriveled penis and his use of prostitutes."
"You should really think about what it's like to find your daughter in bed with a butcher knife before you do the rewrite of this."
"It's your story, your voice, your choices, and I don't want to question them, but why these words?"
"You probably don't need about half of what's written here."That could apply to most of our work, couldn't it?
So, good luck with the show, Gary, and we hope you sell every painting.
Like this one:
Friday, June 05, 2009
“There are only two kinds of songs; there’s the blues, and there’s Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah.” - - Townes Van Zandt (1944-1997)
In honor of the great Koko Taylor who left us earlier this week, and Townes Van Zandt, who left us far too early.
Thanks to Neil Smith over at First Offenders for reminding us how much we gained from their being here and how much we've lost by their passing.
Wednesday, June 03, 2009
I thought I had seen Mrs. Newt before and it turns out she was in show business. Here's a clip from her old show:
Newt, being a man of the future, is a Twitter who last week tweeted a suggestion that Ms. Sotomayor was a racist because she suggested that the experiences of a Latina woman might make her a better judge than a white dude like Newt, which made Newt cranky.
Of course, Newt conveniently ignored the rest of Sotomayor's comments:
"...until 1972, no Supreme Court case ever upheld the claim of a woman in a gender discrimination case...we should not be so myopic as to believe that others of different experiences or backgrounds are incapable of understanding the values and needs of people from a different group...”
Wow, that sounds pretty open-minded for a bigot.
And I have to wonder just how much her critics would complain if she'd said, "I would hope that a wise southern woman, with the richness of her experiences, would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life.”
Or, "I would hope that a wise Christian woman, with the richness of her experiences, would more often than not reach a better conclusion..."
I doubt if Newt's tweet would have been in such a twist.
But Newt has backed away from his original twat. Today he said that Sotomayor's judicial rulings have "shown more caution and moderation" than that other stuff. Then, being incapable of undicklike behavior, even in apology, he added that her comments, not her judicial decisions but her off- the-bench remarks "reveal a betrayal of a fundamental principle of the American system — that everyone is equal before the law."
HA! See how he did that? This punchline is from Newt Gingrich, no stranger to irony.
I love Sonia Sotomayor, not because I know anything about her, but because her nomination has inspired this unending and unintentional hilarity from wingnuts. Like the guy who thought Sotomayor's food choices might disqualify her as a judge (too gassy?), or convicted felon G. Gordon Liddy hoping that no decisions would have to be made while Ms. Sotomayor was menstruating.
I think that last was an intentional joke, but who can tell?
This slapstick logic is nothing new, of course. We've always been able to count on the right wing for political moments more in tune with America's Funniest Home Videos.
Remember when Gingrich tried to kick Bill Clinton in the balls over a blow job and instead fell on his own philandering fat ass? Wasn't that great? Don't you wish you could see it again in slow motion?
Meanwhile, back in the Senate where actual elected Republicans opine, Jeff Sessions (R-Peckerwood) said he was still concerned that Sotomayor's earlier remark might reveal her to be a (gasp) human being.
Sessions, wringing his hands, said that Sotomayor's comments suggested "...that a judge should not aspire to be objective since that's impossible to do. It's inevitable that your personal views would affect your decision-making. And to me, that's directly contrary to our great history of blind justice in America."
I remind you that Senator Sessions is from Alabama. Ala-freakin'-bama.
Really, you can't make this shit up.
Monday, June 01, 2009
For those of you who, for whatever reason, read this blog, you'll remember that I ran over this amp last year. Then CH, my friend (another unsung hero) put it back together for me and it worked, surprisingly. That earned this amp the name of Lazarus.
Lazarus is 61 years old and from the looks of her,* she's been around the block a few times. Built for a lap steel guitar, she's got the right industrial mojo for a harp amp and I've always loved her voice.
But Tim took her and breathed new life into her old tube chassis, taking her from a good amp to a great amp. I brought her home on Saturday and played for hours, still not believing how good she sounds.
Yes, children, there are heroes in our midst. They don't get on Fox News. They don't squeeze 17-year-old pages. They just do their jobs brilliantly and for that, I am grateful.
To leave you with some musician eye candy, I found this guy, David Barnes, who builds new amps to the specs of the old Valco amps from the 40's. His work is incredible. Take a look.
*I know Lazarus was a man. I can live with cognitive dissonance just fine, thank you.