After a score of years thinking about it; one year of honing my craft, writing my first (but unpublished) manuscript; 74 queries and rejections; and another four months of writing _THE WATCHMAN OF EPHRAIM_ … on January 21, 2011, I became a published author. It’s amazing the changes that have taken place since then – changes for me personally and changes for the entire publishing industry. Those changes have been well publicized by so many already, I won’t rehash them in detail, but I will share with you two of my objectives for 2012, along with a few friendly suggestions for my brutha and sista neo-pro writers out there.
Before I do, let me tell you some of what I accomplished in 2011. Keep in mind, I started at virtually 0 with everything. As of January 21, 2011, I had 0 sales, 0 Facebook Likes, and 0 Twitter followers.
Today, December 31, 2011, I have two published novels that have made a total of six Amazon Bestseller’s lists in four countries (2 in US; 1 in UK; 2 in Germany; 1 in France); I’ve now sold THOUSANDS of my novels around the world; and I grew my total LinkedIn/Facebook/Twitter/Goodreads/MyWebsite followers to over 22,000! All praise to Him! You can also take a look at the Popularity Rankings of _THE WATCHMAN OF EPHRAIM_ and _SIGNS OF WAR_ on the right of my home page here. As you see, pretty impressive rankings across a number of sub-genres ... again, all praise to Him Almighty!I want to stop here and shout out special thanks to the following author/friends of mine for their guidance, motivation, support, and friendship ... I simply could not have accomplished the above without them:
Thanks so much to all of you! Also, keep in mind, neither of my books were break-out successes. In fact, in the entire first quarter of 2011, I had only sold a total of 21 books … not exactly “The Help” numbers. c”,)
- Scott Nicholson
- Jeff Bennington
- Dean Wesley Smith
- Joe Konrath
- a bunch of other self-published authors who have taken the time to offer their advice, look up stats, investigate selling methods, and ultimately share their experiences
One more thing … though it seems to irk so many whenever I mention my mantra for success, I’m gonna say it again here – the mantra that has most influenced my success so far has been something my older brother Peter taught me “ALL THINGS, ALL THE TIME!” That means sacrificing time with my sons and friends, time in front of the ‘idiot box’ (my mom used to refer to the TV as the Idiot Box, when we were young) or playing video games or just ‘taking a day off’ during the week, other than on Sabbaths (that’s what God made the weekly Sabbath for, in the first place). It also means turning over every shell, constantly investigating new ways to market and promote, constantly engaging with the global audience, constantly working on my writing, constantly edifying myself in my craft – keeping up on the new technologies …. Interacting with other writers, sharing ideas and cross-promoting … and all of it every day! I apply the exact same work ethic that I utilized for working in four other industries to writing … yes it’s an art form but to professionals, it’s also our business.
Final thought on this: The actor Will Smith was once asked in an interview what he attributed most to his great success. He said unequivocally that it was the fact that he was “willing to DIE” in order to achieve his objectives and goals in life. I’ve personally made a bunch of sacrifices in pursuit of my goal of becoming one of the most successful published authors of my generation someday. My wife and sons also had to make sacrifices … I couldn’t do it without them. I’m willing to die to achieve my goals … so failure is not an option!
Now for two of my objectives and suggestions:
WRITING: Being a student of Dean Wesley Smith, I’ve set my writing objective at three full-length novels for 2012. In 2011, I was able to publish two full-length novels and have begun the third, so I’m optimistic that I will accomplish this objective. I may even be able to begin work on a fourth novel, sometime in December ’12. I may also experiment with something a number of prolific authors do – that is, to work on more than one novel at a time. I listened to James Patterson talk about how he was working on 37 novels at the same time. He explained that some were in concept stage and others in various stages of completion. I figure if Patterson can work on 37, I should be able to work on two at the same time. I’m a contiguous personality-type (I like to finish one thing first then move on), so to make it easier for me, I will attempt working on two novels in two different series. That could work and even end up benefiting my creativeness with each series, as they are so diverse – switching between the two could offer me a bit of a respite while still writing.
My suggestion: Set your writing objectives for 2012 now! Consider what you want to accomplish - the body of work you would like to complete by 31 December, 2012. Instead of setting deadlines that could cause distraction, set time-frames for completion. Perhaps an entire month as your time-frame for completion (for example, I’m using April, 2012 for my next novel, _RISE TO THE CALL_). I believe the most important aspect of developing a successful writing career is not marketing or social networking … it’s WRITING & PUBLISHING! Final though: Don’t set your objectives to low … push yourself. You’ll be surprised with what you can accomplish when you do.
SOCIAL NETWORKING: There is no doubt that social networking will continue to play an important part of promotion and marketing for most writers. I utilize my blogs, LinkedIn, Facebook & Twitter to stay connected with my friends and potential readers. There’s little I need to do in this area except more of the same. The #1 most important thing to remember when utilizing your social networking is NOT to talk AT people … talk TO them! So many people are advertising and promoting nowadays that the general population is becoming deaf and dumb to most of it. Simply tweeting a promo of your book won’t cut it – you first need to ENGAGE with your audience! Granted, not everyone is comfortable interacting with other folks, but I know for a fact that virtually everyone has something to offer – either informative – compassionate – passionate (about something) – funny … or even just a good listener. If you can’t offer one of those things, you shouldn’t be a professional writer anyway. And remember, informal is what you want to convey but always be PROFESSIONAL. Consider every single public or private communication as communicating your brand … and for pity’s sake spell check … nothing like trying to get readers to buy your books by sending out messages like “For a limit time …” or “I would aprreciate it if you take a look at my book …” Yeah … that’s the author I want to read!
My suggestion: The most important aspect about social networking, for a professional utilizing it as a form of marketing and promotion, is to do it CONSISTENTLY! Social networking isn’t about ‘firing & forgetting’ … it’s about communicating every day. I never take a day off from it. To give you an idea, in 2011, I sent out over 27,000 personal messages – mostly in the form of replies to requests to connect or my introducing myself to someone. In every single one of them, I addressed the individual by their name (spelled correctly) – not bulk messages … treating people the way I like to be treated. The only way to send out that many messages is to social network EVERY DAY, on a schedule – as part of my ‘work day.’
2011 will go down as the year Self-Publishing broke wide. A critical mass of eReaders has now been sold, which means the paradigm has forever altered in literary publishing. eBook is now king. Paper will continue to be around, but it will find its new place as a less important medium … just like faxes are still around but they’ve given way to email.
I won’t go on and on with predictions but I will make one for you to keep in mind: Now that ePub 3 and Kindle’s new format has been approved, it will most likely make a beachhead by fall of next year. Along with those new formats will come a new generation of eBooks. In fact, I’d go on to say that it will spark a dawn of an entirely new MEDIUM … fully interactive eBooks with embedded multimedia – music, video, animation, etc.
2012 will see the birth of the OMNI-BOOK!
And as more stuff get's published QUALITY content will begin to rule the day!I can't wait!Blessings, health, joy and success in 2012!
Check out my new novel, _Signs of War_! (Click on the cover to check it out on Amazon)
The ever-informative Passive Guy published a provocative article this morning, “Publishers Constantly Mistreat Their Suppliers” that made me recall my time querying agents. All in all, I only queried for a period of two years (2009-2010), longer than some, but not nearly as long as many other writers. Totally, my count was 74 agents queried; 10 who asked for full or partial manuscripts; and ultimately 0 that thought my works were worthy of their time (I never even received the dignity of a reply from 19 of them and one took 16 months to reply – my reaction, “Get over your friggin’ self!”). Looking back on the entire process now, it leaves me shaking my head in utter amusement. What an insane situation … a writer writes a manuscript and then, in order to try and get it published, has to contact an agent to give themselves the best chance at getting a legacy publisher to even look at it. The big question I asked myself back then, even as I was preparing and sending out queries was: If an agent, by the very name, is the person who is supposed to represent me, then why is he/she acting as the gatekeeper to the publishing houses? Can anyone say ‘conflict of interest'? You can tell that things needed to be changed by how inane the requirements of some of the agents were becoming, with respect to querying them. A small library of books was written on the subject (I own a few of them) – the form of the query … how to address it … how long it should be … what should and should NOT be included in them, etc., ad nauseum. Then there were the specific, individual guidelines of each prospective agent. Now that’s where the fun really started! I won’t use agent names but I’m sure writers reading this will smile … some of my favorite requirements and guidelines from agents, with respect to querying: + “Write ‘QUERY’ in the subject line or I will DELETE your email!!" The exclamation points still make me feel like I was being scolded. + “I take between 12-20 weeks to respond to queries on average and sometimes longer …” Okay, by their own guidelines, queries are only short summaries. I’m personally on a pace to respond to over 27,000 emails this year alone (I reply to everyone that’s nice enough to write to me or invite me to link to them via social networking) and usually reply to everyone in under 72 hours, with most of my replies averaging within 24 hours. Since the usual response of an agent to a query is (by their own admission) >95% to just reject via a short scripted reply and for the rest, simply to request a full or partial manuscript … why exactly would it take anyone 20+ weeks?? Just sayin … + (I call this one “The Double Whammy) “I only accept exclusive queries, so if you query anyone else, don’t query me! + “I take between 12-20 weeks to reply to queries!” Riiiiiight, so, in other words, I have to query this agent first and then put my manuscript on ice for the next three to five MONTHS … only to possibly get a scripted rejection … maybe. + (And my favorite) “I DON’T ACCEPT UNSOLICITED QUERIES!” Wha … huh??? You have a friggin’ website DEDICATED to telling aspiring authors (read: paying clients) all about you, your agency, who you represent, the genres in which you’re interested, the books you’ve represented … WHY??? My point: If you only accept ‘SOLICITED’ queries … THEN WHAT’S WITH YOUR FRIGGIN’ WEBSITE WITH THE 20 PAGES THAT YOU MADE ME READ ONLY TO TELL ME YOU DON’T ACCEPT UNSOLICITED QUERIES?! One particular agent only wrote that she didn’t accept unsolicited queries at the very last page of her website, AFTER specifying on the home page that writers are to “read ALL of the instructions and information in the order presented!” I wasted an hour …why I oughta! Back then, I was also told by not a few agents that even though they were rejecting my manuscript, self-publishing it would be like my pinning the scarlet letter to my lapel. So, basically they were telling me, #1 – I’m your only shot at getting published … #2 – I’m not interested, better luck next time AND #3 oh yeah, and if you even try to publish the manuscript that I turned down, your career is effectively over. To all those agents all I have to say is “… I don’t accept unsolicited advice!” c”,) Some writers continue to wonder whether things are better now … I don’t. This past July, my debut novel (the one that received 54 rejections) _The Watchman of Ephraim_ became a #1 Amazon-Bestselling Geopolitical Thriller and remained #1 for 26 days. All praise to Him! My continual and infinite thanks to the following authors that showed me the light of self-publishing: Thanks …Laura Resnick ... Dean Wesley Smith ... K.K. Rusch ... and my man, Joe Konrath!
I was sitting at my desk typing the last few words to an email when I saw a news flash on FoxNews.com light up on my screen. It read, "President to make an announcement later tonight." I said to my wife, "I wonder if they got Qaddafi!" Well, As we all know now, it was Bin Laden who we got – and by 'we' I mean America's Special Forces – the best trained, bravest patriots on earth!
After cheering along with Geraldo Rivera and high-fiving my wife, we both sat for a moment in silence. Lisa turned to me and said, "That bastard is finally dead and good riddance – he changed everything!"
I thought about that – he did change everything. Think about it. The world was different before 9/11. It seemed safer somehow. Bin Laden took that away from us!
Watch the movies pre-9/11 – the plots seem so naïve … the villains seem a bit light-weight. Before 9/11 we had Rambo and the Terminator and RoboCop. After 9/11, so many plots revolved around terrorism. Bin Laden caused that!
I remember Tom Clancy wrote a book called 'Debt of Honor' where the plot line was about someone crashing a plane into the White House. Most people thought that was impossible. America isn't that vulnerable! Most of us believed that right up until the first plane crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. To quote another Tom Clancy novel's title, in many ways 9/11 was "The Sum of all (our) Fears!" Bin Laden made us afraid!
9/11 destroyed so much business especially in and around New York City. My little transportation agency was devastated when a number of large customers stopped moving freight because of their New York City locations being considered unsafe after 9/11. Four years of hard work down the drain. Bin Laden was to blame!
None of this compares though … none of this compares to the pain that murderer caused so many people … so many Americans.
People lost their husbands, wives, sons, daughters, dads and moms. People lost friends.
Our lives changed that day – our freedoms were diminished that day and just as the generation of December 7th, 1941's was … the innocence of our generation was stripped away that day.
One man was most responsible.
… Tonight we found out that that man is dead.
I'm not happy … I don't feel joyous … I feel satisfied and I still feel very, very angry!
I take consolation in one fact though … Usama Bin Laden will NOT be remembered in the Kingdom that comes! All praise to Him!
God bless America's military ... God bless our Special Forces ... and God bless America!
You know how I know that my book is getting popular … from the amount of advice I'm getting from everyone! (grin) For those who don't know, back in January, I published my debut novel, _The Watchman of Ephraim_ (click the title and it'll take you to Amazon.com, where you can purchase it – thanks in advance! 9-))
Hey, I'm LUVIN' IT, so keep it comin' y'all! But I have to say, I'm really impressed with just how many people … have SO MANY ideas for my next novel!
So, I'm at one of my son's little league games last week – minding my own business … actually, yelling at my boy to 'ONLY SWING AT GOOD PITCHES!' … but I digress … and an acquaintance walks up to me …
Acquaintance: "Hey g! I just bought your book bro! Yo … it's GREAT! I love that guy Robert De Niro!
Me: "That's great bro, thank you so much! Yeah, I'm so happy that so many people like CRIS De Niro—"
Acquaintance: "Yeah man, he's my favorite actor! I loved him in The Godfather!"
(Before I could reply, a friend of mine walked over)
Friend: "Yo g … what up?! Your book is great man! I can't believe it!"
Me: "Can't believe what?"
Acquaintance: "You know what, I didn't know he lost his wife in the Trade Center, that sucks!"
Friend: "I mean, who would have thought YOU would write a book that good …"
Acquaintance: "Robert De Niro … yo g, how do you know him anyway? Do you know him from when you grew up in New York?"
Me: "Know, ROBERT De Niro? … Bro, I don't know ROBERT De Niro. You mean CRIS—"
Friend: "g, you know Robert De Niro? From where?!"
Acquaintance: (Unsure I'm telling him the truth) "You don't … then how did you know his wife died in the Tower? I mean, NO ONE that I know, knew that!"
Friend: "Wait, g, you know Robert De Niro and his wife died in the Tower? So THAT'S who CRIS De Niro is … I thought he was you and it was YOUR wife that died in the tower!"
(Just then, as if on cue, my wife strolls over … a rare occurrence, since we split up and go to different little league games of our four sons. As usual with her, she adds to the confusion)
My Wife: "Hey … you talkin' about me? Yeah, g killed me off in the first chapter!"
Me: "Actually, it was the second chapter … but it wasn't—"
Acquaintance: (Unaware that my wife is … my wife, checking her out and now twice as confused) "Wo wo wo wo … g … dude, I'm SO SORRY … you lost YOUR wife in the trade center too?! Is that how you know about Robert De Niro's wife?"
Friend: "You know Robert De Niro's wife, g?"
(Another friend walks over and high-fives me … I wasn't sure if he did so because my son did something good on the field or not … since …I'm no longer watching the game!)
Friend #2: "g, GREAT BOOK BRO! I can't wait for the new one to come out!"
Me: (proud but still very confused) "Thanks man, the sequel is called _Signs of War_ it'll be out in September—"
Friend #2: "g, I told my wife this and she agreed. You know what YOU HAVE TO put into the sequel—"
Acquaintance: (to my wife, I'm straining to hear) "So, you come here often?"
My wife: (now as confused as I am) "Well, I'm usually at our other son's game but it ended early—"
Acquaintance: (smiling at my wife) "Cool, so you have kids … wow!"
My wife: (now confused and concerned – her South Philly wit comes alive) "Uh … yeah, why else would I be at a little league game?"
Friend #2: (Stepping in front of me to get my full attention) "DOGS!"
Me: (Confused and distracted) "Dogs … right … what about … dogs?"
Friend: "I told my wife about an idea I had for your next book … either that or I may write a book!"
Friend #2: (Smiling ear to ear, obviously proud of his idea) "DOGS! De Niro needs a dog, bro! Everyone loves dogs!"
Acquaintance: (breaking his lustful gaze on my wife momentarily) "I love dogs!" (Turning back to my wife, using a Latino version of a Cary Grant impression) "Do you like dogs, senorita?"
Friend: "I hate dogs … my wife had a dog when we first met. I hated that dog! No … g … here's the next book … either you write it or I write it! It's about a man who loses his job with the city because the city has a bunch of morons working for it who gave the guy WAAAAAYYY too much work to do … AND THEN expected the guy to work on a Sunday once. So when I … I mean … when THE GUY didn't show up for work on that Sunday, the morons that work for the city decide to call the guy into their office and tell me … I mean … the GUY … they tell us … that either we work the FOLLOWING SUNDAY or … get this—"
Me: "You lost your job with the city?"
(I hear out of one ear, my wife saying, "I'm married!" to which the acquaintance replies, "So am I chica!")
Friend: (Surprised, he whispers into my ear) "How did you know? No one's supposed to know!"
Friend #2: "A pit bull or a dobey … my wife wants De Niro to have a poodle or a pug but no way De Niro has one of those 'girlie' dogs! I'm thinking a ROTTY!"
Me: (Doing my best to 'save' my wife, I step over to her and the acquaintance)
Acquaintance: (Seizing even that opportunity) "Senorita, let me introduce you to a VERY GOOD friend of mine, the famous author … g … what's your name, anyway?"
Friend: (Follows me over to my wife, still whispering in my ear – like a bee buzzing around my head … or my conscience speaking to me) "Do me a favor, g … don't tell anyone, okay?"
Me: (Confused, distracted, and slightly … .insulted that my acquaintance/fan doesn't even know my name) "Tell anyone what, your book idea?"
Friend #2: (Stepping in front of me again) "I was thinking … 'Diablo' for his name. That's my rotty's name. Whattya think?"
Friend: (STILL whispering in my ear, his lips are touching my ear, making me feel very … uncomfortable) "NO dummy, that I lost my job!"
Me: (at the breaking point and forgetting my friend's request) "YOU LOST YOUR JOB?!"
Friend #2: "YOU LOST YOUR JOB?!"
My wife: "YOU LOST YOUR JOB?!"
Half of the people sitting in the bleachers behind us: "HE LOST HIS JOB?!"
Acquaintance: (to my wife) "Give me your number?"
Friend: "Thanks g …" (Shaking his head in utter disgust and walking away)
Friend #2: "Think about it g … that's all I ask!" (Walking away, he turns back to me and yells in everyone's earshot) "DIABLO … ROBERT DE NIRO"S DOG'S NAME IS …DIABLO!"
The other half of the people sitting in the bleachers behind us: "Robert De Niro's dog's name is Diablo?!"
My wife: (Takes her turn whispering into my ear … it makes me feel … less uncomfortable) "SAVE ME!"
Me: (to Acquaintance): "Uh ... let me introduce you to MY WIFE …"
Acquaintance: (Not believing entirely that my wife is … my wife, but the thought embarrasses him just enough to start to walk away) "Well, whoever she is … she's beautiful! (After winking at my wife and walking away, he turns back and yells out to me) "YO G … I HOPE YOUR NEXT BOOK HAS ROBERT DE NIRO IN IT TOO!"
Everyone sitting in the stands behind me: "YOU'RE WRITING A BOOK ABOUT ROBERT DE NIRO?!"
My son: "Daddy, did you see that hit I got?!"
… so how was your day? (grin)
Anybody who knows me knows I'm a bit deaf. Too many years standing in front of too many speakers punching out too many decibels = Deaf g.
But that doesn't explain why I can't seem to understand anyone anymore!
Like the lady that works at the local Baja Fresh. For those of you who don't know what Baja Fresh is, it's a fast food franchise that specializes in Mexican food – especially the BORE_EAT_TOES (as my youngest son Noah calls them).
Here's the thing … I won't go there anymore. Why, you ask? 'Cause the last time I went there, the little (and I mean little, as in a Mexican Oompa Loompa) lady humiliated and shamed me into total defeat. With just one unintelligible question, a question I'm still utterly unable to answer. Here's how it went:
<The line was long both ahead of me and behind me. When it was my turn, I stepped up to the counter confidently.>
Me: "Hi, I'd like one Ultimate beef burrito please."
Mexican Oompa Loompa lady: <staring up at me devoid of any emotion> "Blacbince o pintobince?"
Me: <Not expecting …whatever she just said> "No, I want one ultimate beef burrito, please."
Mexican Oompa Loompa lady: <Now seeming to peer into my soul with her ink-black evil eyes> "Blacbince o pintobince?"
Me: <speaking ver-ry slow-ly and loud-er> "No! I WANT ONE UL-TI-MATE BO-REE-TOE … please!"
Mexican Oompa Loompa lady: <not blinking, not laughing, not amused … but now vexing my SOUL> "Blacbince o pintobince?"
Mexican Oompa Loompa lady: "Blacbince o pintobince?"
Mexican Oompa Loompa lady: "Blacbince o pintobince?"
<My eyes now bloodshot, sweat pouring down my forehead>
Mexican Oompa Loompa lady: <Blinks. I thought I had her just where I wanted her! But then she pursed her hateful brownish lips and regained her mojo> "… Blacbince o pintobince?"
Me: <I looked behind me for help – all I saw was a growing line of impatient people, looking back at me with no emotion, uninvolved, uncaring wretches! I asked myself, Could they be in league with Senora Mini-Witch?>
Mexican Oompa Loompa lady: <more aggressive> "Blacbince o pintobince?!"
Me: <Helpless, emotionally-naked, stripped of my dignity> No reply.
Mexican Oompa Loompa lady: <now doubling up - goin' for my jugular> "Blacbince o pintobince?!" "Blacbince o pintobince?!"
Me: <tears forming in my eyes> "I want to speak … to the manager!"
Mexican Oompa Loompa lady: <cold … relentless … heartless … just noticeably grinning like a female, south-of-the-border, pygmy Hannibal Lecter > "Blacbince o pintobince?!"
Me: <lower lip quivering, manhood stripped away, in a last ditch effort I reached for my cell phone like it was some kind of medieval shield. I punched the speed dial button for my wife. I didn't even say hello to her, I just yelled into it, "WHAT … IS … SHE … SAYING??!!" then pointed it at the Mexican Oompa Loompa lady like it was a crucifix and she was a vampire>
Mexican Oompa Loompa lady: <silent>
Me: "SAY IT!!! SAYYY IT!!!! For all that is Holy SAY … it …"
Mexican Oompa Loompa lady: <silent>
ME: <half-threatening, half-pleading, through my clenched teeth> SAY … IT … please, PLEASE … just SAYit sayit sayit sayit …!
Mexican Oompa Loompa lady: <silent>
Baja Fresh Manager: "Sir, I'm going to have to ask you to leave."
The crowd behind me parted like they were the Red Sea as I turned on my heels, trying to regain some shred of my dignity and began to exit the establishment, in shame. As I got to the door, I turned and looked back at my short, mustachioed, chubbita nemesis. With my last iota of manliness, I thrust my chin up at her.
The Mexican Oompa Loompa lady finally showed some hint of human emotion … but it wasn't charity … it wasn't consideration or empathy … it was Mexican Oompa Loompa lady superiority!
She smiled broadly enough for me to see her gold tooth sparkling in the late afternoon sun as she silently mouthed "Blacbince o pintobince …"
I'm a friggin' author (my wife's complimentary way of putting it – as in, "So NOW, you're a—") which means I have to frequent my local post office to mail the signed copies that good folks are kind enough to order from my website. If you didn't know already, you can order signed copies of _The Watchman of Ephraim_ directly from my website at: www.GerarddeMarigny.com. The entire transaction is handled by PayPal, so it's secure and I even personalize your signed copy … but I digress …
Okay, I'm a fiction writer so yes, I do see story-lines in my everyday life – but my trip to the post office today would be more of something that Stephen King would write, like a chilling horror tale!
The post office itself is quaint – Henderson, NV is basically like a small town (at least to someone raised in NYC). Desert landscape surrounds the architecturally-pleasing building and you can even easily find a parking spot. That's where the tale of Mayberry RFD ends though!
Upon entering, my old-neighborhood upbringing kicks in so I immediately case the joint. I won't exaggerate (too much) so I'll admit – most days it's all quiet on the western front – but today, my worst fears were realized!
The line was unusually long – in Henderson, that means three people were there with me – but it wasn't the amount of people that terrified me, it was who the three people were!
Starting at the front desk:
College student/Unabomber type: I can't help listening to everyone's yapping. So first I focused my bionic hearing on the college kid at the front desk (actually I'm mostly deaf from a decade of being in a heavy metal band, so who knows what really was said).
Long straggly dreadlocks on a Caucasian, hmmm … baggy shorts (we live in the desert) … baggy t-shirt and sneakers that Richard Reid would be proud of (The Shoe Bomber, remember him?) But it was the way he was acting that started me vexing. Here's how it went:
Postal Employee (who looked like Nicholas Cage in 'Con Air'): "May I help you?"
College Student/Unabomber-type: <wiping his finger under his nose and looking around> No answer
Postal Employee (who looked like Nicholas Cage in 'Con Air'): "Sir, may I help you?"
College Student/Unabomber-type: <sniff> Now staring at the Postal Employee (who looked like Nicholas Cage in 'Con Air') – no reply.
Now I'm worried.
Postal Employee (who looked like Nicholas Cage in 'Con Air'): "Sir, do you want to mail that package?"
Obviously, a rhetoric question I thought since we were … in … a post office.
College Student/Unabomber-type: <Places the crumpled box on the counter> "No."
Okay, now I'm really worried.
The Postal Employee (who looked like Nicholas Cage in 'Con Air') silently processes the package for shipment while never taking his eyes off of the College Student/Unabomber-type who proceeds to pay for the shipment then heads for the exit.
Me: <Whew! … But wait>
An older man with longish blonde hair, mustache and beard (only in Las Vegas) walked in just as the College Student/Unabomber-type exited. The old gentleman carried a briefcase and was wearing a slightly crumpled blonde suit with blonde cowboy boots (only in Las Vegas). He proceeds to get on the line directly behind me and announce to the entire post office in a voice that was identical to Howard Hesseman's in WKRP Cincinnati.
Blonde man in blonde suite and blonde cowboy boots: "Excuse me! I need to speak to the Postmaster General!"
I'm worried again.
Postal Employee (who looked like Nicholas Cage in 'Con Air'): "I'm sorry sir, but the postmaster general doesn't work here."
Blonde man in blonde suite and blonde cowboy boots: <impatient> "OKAAY, then let me speak to the Postal Superintendent!"
Postal Employee (who looked like Nicholas Cage in 'Con Air'): "Sir, we have no postal superintendent in this post office."
Blonde man in blonde suite and blonde cowboy boots: <Agitated> "Then let me speak to your manager, you DO have a manager, don't you?"
Postal Employee (who looked like Nicholas Cage in 'Con Air'): <Yells into the back while keeping his eyes glued to the Blonde man in blonde suite and blonde cowboy boots> "HEY DARLENE, WHO'S THE MANAGER TODAY?"
Blonde man in blonde suite and blonde cowboy boots: <Very agitated>
Me: <Very worried>
Just then, the old wrinkled Mexican gentleman wearing a cowboy hat and holding a stack of documents turns to me and says: "Disculpe señor, pero ¿sabe usted si puede procesar papeles de inmigración en esta línea?"
Postal Employee (who looked like Nicholas Cage in 'Con Air') to Blonde man in blonde suite and blonde cowboy boots: "I'm sorry sir, but our manager isn't here today" (grin)
Old wrinkled Mexican gentleman wearing a cowboy hat and holding a stack of documents now puts his hand on my shoulder and repeats: "Disculpe señor, pero ¿sabe usted si puede procesar papeles de inmigración en esta línea?!"
Blonde man in blonde suite and blonde cowboy boots: <Really !@#$ agitated> "You don't UNDERSTAND, I'm here to report a CRIME … a FEDERAL CRIME!"
Old wrinkled Mexican gentleman wearing a cowboy hat and holding a stack of documents: <Agitated at me> "Disculpe señor, pero ¿sabe usted si puede procesar papeles de inmigración en esta línea?!!"
Me: <I'm sweatin; bullets and I have to pee now> humina humina humina humina …
Blonde man in blonde suite and blonde cowboy boots: <opens his briefcase>
I grabbed the Old wrinkled Mexican gentleman wearing a cowboy hat and holding a stack of documents and HIT THE FLOOR, PLACED MY HANDS BEHIND MY HEAD AND INTERLOCKED MY FINGERS (an old habit from the old neighborhood, I don't want to talk about it)
The Blonde man in blonde suite and blonde cowboy boots proceeded to produce … his business card … and handed it to the Postal Employee (who looked like Nicholas Cage in 'Con Air') – both of them looking at me and the Old wrinkled Mexican gentleman wearing a cowboy hat – no longer holding a stack of documents, both of us now laying prone on the floor.
… 'cause I inadvertently knocked the stack of documents – apparently his immigration documents that he was asking me if he was on the right line to process – out of his hands.
I simply helped the old man pick up his papers, paid to mail the signed copy of my book and left.
How was your day? (grin)
Okay, I'm well past 40, actually closer to … I can't say it, but my point is that I learned these things after turning the (not-so) big 40. Here we go:
1-I'm not as smart as I thought I was when I was younger. Not that I'm dumb, mind you, but WOW if there aren't a bunch brainiacs out there that are smarter than I ever was or will ever be! I'll tell you what though, I'm at an age now where I'm smart enough to know what I don't know - that's something you don't learn when you're young. So I tend to keep my mouth shut when it comes to things about which I'm not sure. My motto is, 'Listen and learn from those wiser then thee,' or the way they'd put it in the old neighborhood, 'Shut your trap and open your ears!'
2- I like food, but it doesn't like me anymore. Anyone who knew me when I was younger knows that I was thin. I was thin but I always had a BIG appetite! I could eat 10 hotdogs, or an entire pizza, or a pound of pasta by myself. Guess what, I still can, except before I turned 40 the food seemed to vanish after leaving my mouth - now, it goes directly to my gut and my butt. I've been working hard to make food my friend again - by eating better and smarter - it's a work in progress.
3-I can't drink as much as I used to. Started learning this one after age 40 but lesson learned after a little party my wife and I hosted a year back - I won't give details, except to say my days of having drinking contests are over. Going forward, I'm very happy though sharing a nice bottle of wine with Lisa, a good brew, or enjoying a glass of fine single malt (one glass and sipping it).
4- Age is just a number. That's something we all heard others say (mostly older folks) when we were younger. It's not a concept the young can get their heads around, mostly because when you're younger, age matters! After turning 40 though, it just started occurring to me that you're only as old as you feel … and act. My dad used to get behind someone driving slowly in their car and he would say, "Come on, you old geezer, move it!" I used to laugh and say to him, "Pop, that old man is probably younger than you are!" He'd look at me and wink. Now I understand why.
5- (And this is the most important one) There are only three things important in life. When I was younger, I thought money was important, power was important, strength was important, popularity was important, looks were important, education was important, what I wore, the car I drove, the places I went, etc. etc. etc. This one I started to learn a bit younger though, to be honest, but only after 40 did I really start to focus on them. I learned it when I was diagnosed with cancer back in 1996. There are only three things important in life (at least to me): My Faith, My Family, and My Friends… the rest is just noise!
What have you learned … come one, give it up!
I just wrote this to another 'storyteller' (author). After I finished it, I thought it would put a smile on everyone's face and after all ... that's all I'm really interested in! It's also an insight into the way I really look at things and since this blog is 'The world according to yours truly,' I guess it's okay. So keep reading and smile!
(I'm already opining where this starts ...)
Re: importance of story/voice and what we (fiction writers) should call ourselves – I’m creating my own science here but hey, it’s my world – I think of storytellers, songwriters, artists, sculptors, engineers, etc. – all of the genus: Creators. This is my Judeo-Christian faith speaking now but I consider all who create beauty (the definition of beauty is in the eye of … well you know who) to be doing something our Creator does (hence calling Him Creator) and that is very powerful!
My point and what I’ve learned from a few decades of creating music, machinery and stories is that the very best creators never focus on the tools … and to a creator EVERYTHING becomes a tool that they may use to create their works.
I learned this as a journeyman mechanical engineer from one of the greatest inventors of our time (his name is Venerio J. Rigolini, an Iwo Jima Marine who holds 22 patents in everything from cameras to plastics). What I found fascinating was how he utilized everything around him as a potential tool, in order to create/invent.
At first, his cavalier attitude towards the way he treated his tools really upset me. For instance, he would be staring at something on a machine he was inventing and without even looking up, he’d grab basically anything resembling the tool he needed. So in order to pry a gear loose, he may grab a brand-new shiny phillips-head screwdriver (that he just had me clean) and proceed to bend it by using it as a crowbar. The bottom line … he fixed the jam, the machine started working and that’s where the beauty (and profits) came from.
In other words and something I learned … the bent screwdriver didn’t matter (I still battle with that). My point: to storytellers, words are merely tools, just like the programs, machines or pens we use, the paper we use, the reference materials, etc. So there is NO misusing of words (grammar, punc., blah blah blah) IF their misuse produces beauty.
As old William S. would say, … the story’s the thing!
Words for storytellers, musical notes for songwriters, clay for sculptors, paint and brushes for artists – all just tools of our creativity.
I shall now return to the top of the mountain upon which I was sitting and meditate some more (grin).
On another note, I really do struggle when someone asks me what I do for a few reasons. First, I’m not even sure what they mean by ‘do.’ Do they mean, ‘do to pay my mortgage?’ or ‘do to pass the time?’ or ‘do when I’m not watching Star Trek reruns?’
Then I stumble over my answer. I tried ‘I’m an author,’ but my wife, in her South Philly bravado and wit added, “So, now your a friggin’ author?” <sigh> I confess, I don’t feel worthy to say I’m an author, since people like Tom Clancy and WEB Griffin can call themselves that.
Then I tried ‘I’m a writer,’ but every time I said that, this mental picture of my wearing a fedora with a press pass sticking out of the band and rushing towards a phone booth with a little note pad and pencil in my hand made it feel … wrong.
So I’ll try your idea Kris (Kris Rusch is the author to whom I wrote this), the next time I’m asked, “What do you do?” my reply will be “I’m a storyteller!”
Then I’ll ask them if they wouldn’t mind dropping a nickel into my tin cup. (grin)
g 'Social Networking' old neighborhood-style ...bending an arm with friends at a local establishment! (Friends: Louis Prima Jr., Mikey 'Bones' Gerbino and wife and Greg Smith)
Social networking … the term sounds cold and wicked to me. Every time I use the term it makes me feel like a 'greasy' used car salesman (no offense to all you 'greasy' used car salesmen out there). The other connotation makes me feel like a gigolo trying to put a high-tech spin on … being called a gigolo …Yikes!
You know what, when I thought about it, all we did in the old neighborhood was social networking. We ran into each other at delis (mine was 'Cozy Shack'), at parks (mine were 'The Car Barns,' 'Cleveland' and 'Starr' parks), at the candy store and at school. We sat on each other's stoops and hung out at each other's basements and backyards and on our street corners … and we bent our arms at our local pubs (like 'Eagles Nest,' best hamburgers in 20 miles of Ridgewood).
…And we did what social networking really is …we communicated …we yapped …we complained …we joked and commented and opined and gossiped.
So now it's the year 25-25 (sorry broke into song). Try that again … so now, it's the year 2011 and we are all married, divorced, single, divorced and re-married, divorced and single, etc. with kids or no kids, pets or no pets, kids that act like pets, pets that act like kids, day jobs, night jobs, in-between jobs, house-cleaning, dentist appointments, nail appointments (threw that one in for my wife) - and NO time to sit on stoops! Add to that, the fact that many of us moved away from the old neighborhood, which means we have no stoops to sit on, even if we wanted to sit on one. Where I am, the closest thing to a stoop is a cactus and I definitely DON'T want to sit on one of those!
So what do we do? We 'social network.' Basically, go online, find a place to sit and mingle (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace, etc.), look for friends and yap! Nothing wrong with yapping - some like to yap, some like to listen, some like to stare at their computer screen blankly (the latter group doesn't count in this blog).
My point is … I think that we should drop the term 'social networking' and let the online dating services take it over. For the rest of us, why don't we come up with a friendly, more old-neighborhood term for it? How about Cyber-Stoop …haha!
Can you come up with a better term? I'm all ears!
Finally! My debut novel, the political thriller, _The Watchman of Ephraim_ is available in eBook format (Kindle, Nook, iBook, SONY, Kobo, Diesel, etc…). The paperback version should be available in March! If you don’t own the eReaders (I still don’t), you can download the various readers for your PC/Mac at the sites below, right on the same page where my novel is on sale. Just go to the links below my signature!
If you enjoy reading a good thriller, you should enjoy TWOE! If you do enjoy the book, please post your review/feedback on the same page from where you purchased it (the reviews are THE most important marketing for novels). Let me know what you think and let me know if you have any problems downloading, etc. If you like it, please tell others about it, thanks!
Oh yeah, if you purchase from Smashwords, punch in this code for $1 off retail: JX72B.
Also, if you haven’t already, follow me on Facebook (the link’s below)… and let me hear from you! Peace, g
Available for Kindle at: Amazon.com
Available for Nook at: BarnesandNoble.com
Available for SONY, Kobo, Apple, and Diesel at: Smashwords.com
Follow me on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Gerard-de-Marigny/344186753211
Coming: Available in Paperback - March 2011!