Tag Archives: latte literature

Rocking and rollerskating: Books and Authors Event at Leon & Lulu

27 Oct

Cross that item off my bucket list: I have now sold my book to complete strangers!

My first-ever book signingLeon & Lulu - 102614 was a total delight at Leon & Lulu. The store, which offers an eclectic mix of gifts, clothing and furniture, is in a former roller rink in Clawson, Michigan. Clerks often zip around the store on skates; signs outlining proper skater etiquette decorate the bathrooms. It’s one of those stores where you go to get presents for people you don’t know how to buy for; it’s a lot of fun.

Leon & Lulu hosts an annual Books & Authors event featuring local writers, many of whom like me are self-published (or “independent,” as one author was quick to point out), with a percentage of proceeds going to a local literacy charity. The 30+ of us were stationed at furniture displays around the floor. As you can see from the photo, I scored a sectional with side chair which, after sitting on them for six hours, I highly recommend for comfy-ness. (Store management also trusted me to be tidy to an amazing degree: I used the sectional’s $3400 price tag as my coaster so I wouldn’t have to take repairs out of my limited royalties.)

Three things I loved about this event:

  1. Mary Liz Curtin, who co-owns Leon & Lulu with her husband, Stephen Scannell, championed us from the start, swooping through the store on crutches (due to a recent tumble) and rearranging store displays to reflect the authors’ works. Also, the staff was utterly terrific, bringing us drinks and food and acting as our cheerleaders throughout the day.
  2. The other authors, who were nothing but friendly and kind. Some of us were hawking our first book; others had series that are nationally known. They were eager to share their tips on writers’ conferences, printers and other sales opportunities, and their lack of ego proves that art is never a zero-sum game: instead, when one wins we all do.
  3. My friends and family who turned out, picked up first copies for themselves or second copies of my book as presents for others, and walked through the store with my book prominently displayed.

I sold well, particularly for my first such experience. Perhaps no sale meant more to me than one late in the afternoon to a woman I’d never met before. She confessed in hushed tones – as a lot of us do – that she was an aspiring writer who had a book she’d love to publish some day. I told her what I’d been told all day: “Congratulations and keep going because, hey, here I am as proof it can be done.”

See you on the flip side …

P.S. If you weren’t able to make it to Clawson or you prefer an electronic version of Love and Other B-Sides, you can pick it up on Amazon 24/7!

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Intermission: Join me on a Blog Hop

5 May

American Craftsmen book coverTom Doyle, my college friend who just published his debut science fiction thriller American Craftsmen (“Seal Team Six meets ancient magic” – order your copy now!) invited me to participate in a blog hop; here’s a link to Tom’s blog. He is giving me the opportunity to gab about my writing process while promoting his great work, then I introduce you to three of my friends with great blogs of their own. How could I say no? So here goes:

What am I working on?

I am writing the first draft of the sequel to my first novel, Love and Other B-Sides, with a goal of having at least half a manuscript by Christmas this year. This gives me a chance to spend time with characters I love and answer the demands of my legion of fans (ahem) who asked for another Stee Walsh tale.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I listed the book on Amazon under “romantic comedy” and “humor,” which are pretty broad. Another writer friend of mine, Sheri Holman, suggested that my genre instead was “latte literature,” which I take to mean that it’s intelligent and entertaining enough that a person wouldn’t feel guilty about reading in public at a Starbucks.

Until that genre becomes a thing, you could say that Love and Other B-Sides is a rock-and-roll romance, of which there really aren’t that many; most rock novels are angsty and important and not much of a hoot.

Why do I write what I do?

My past career as an actor gave me plenty of time to contemplate fame, especially given my lack of it. So I’m fascinated by the intersection of art, stardom, craft and “cool,” and how that’s baked into the American psyche.

How does my writing process work?

I work a full-time job and have a daughter in middle school who flatters me by asking for my help editing her writing projects. I’m also not the type who can get up at 5:00 a.m. to write uninterrupted. Let’s just say my time is not always my own. I have a goal of writing at least six hours a week, which would include drafting new parts of the manuscript, editing existing material and posting an occasional blog plus trying to market my existing work on the side. In a good week, I put in a couple of sessions over the weekends plus one or two nights as well. In a bad week, my promise to myself is to do something for the book every day, even if it is just opening it and checking a paragraph for grammar.

When I wrote B-Sides, I would take any time anywhere to write: the library; a coffee shop; McDonald’s; our dining room. Now that my older daughter went to college, I have had the luxury of reclaiming a bedroom as my office, which is where I do most of my writing. I write the scenes I’m drawn to first then see how I can bring them together in an overall narrative. That’s fun but not very efficient; at this rate, I will run out of lifespan before I finish all I’m setting out to do.

Enough about me. Next up are my three blog friends:

Pam Houghton is a freelance feature, essay and marketing communications writer. Her work has appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, Michigan Prime, Metro Parent, Michigan College Guide, Birmingham Patch, and numerous other publications. Visit Pam at http://pamhoughton.com/category/soul-searching-at-starbucks.

Also hopping is Scott Spielman, a work colleague who is also a prolific fiction writer in multiple genres – mystery, fantasy, historical fiction and probably others that I haven’t been privy to. Buy his work on Amazon and read his blog at http://karaokejournalist.blogspot.com

Jason Wendleton lives and breathes rock music.  His blog Defending Axl Rose is less about Guns N’ Roses and more about whatever earworm he can’t get out of his head. Jason lives in Denver and is attempting to write a book. Read his trenchant rock blog at defendingaxlrose.com.

See you on the flip side … and enjoy the Kinks: 

Tweedily-Tweedily Tweet!

17 Feb

As most of you know – because you are dear friends and are nice enough to read my material whether or not you care about the subtle differences among Fleet Foxes, Band of Horses and The Decemberists (hint: there aren’t any) – I published my first novel as an e-book a couple of months ago: Love and Other B-Sides.

Love and Other B-Sides - ebook cover

Shameless plug …

I am insanely grateful to everyone – many of you reading this, in fact – who bought, read, reviewed, praised and spread the word about my book. Sadly my sales have plateaued, so the challenge now is to go beyond just convincing those I know to read it. I have to convince total strangers that it’s worth forgoing their Starbucks run to pay for a virtual copy.

Since I don’t know any strangers personally, I had to go where they hang out: Twitter.

Despite being a communications professional I had never been a Twitterer (Tweeter? Tweetster? Twit?). Up until two weeks ago I hadn’t used the site beyond a couple of botched tweets on behalf of my employer (one of which, touting our Red Tie Ball fundraiser, thanked people for their support of the Red Toe Ball). Fresh off of a terrific Twitter course offered by the The Story Cartel, I started to invest time and pithiness into posting regularly. What I learned from the course is: if you devote some time to follow and be followed, starting conversations and sharing observations as if at a world-wide cocktail party, after a while people will care enough about what you think and what you write that they’ll read your blog and buy your book. If you shill too early, though,  you’ll be that guy, the one forcing business cards into everyone’s hands before being sent to a corner to nurse a rum and Coke Zero, alone, behind a potted plant.

The course required us to follow at least 25 new people by the end of each lesson. I quickly ran low on people to follow: there are only so many personal friends, fellow writers, and fake news correspondents I could think of. So I started following rock musicians who, like me, crave an audience and seek validation at every turn.

The first was – surprise, surprise – @TomPetty, which seems to be written by whomever’s lowest on the totem pole of his PR firm: it’s uninspired marketing with a few old photos thrown in. But within seconds of following the real Tom Petty I was followed by @ImTomPetty, a parody site. The faker posts on an hourly basis in a way that that the tweets might be from TP himself … if he was trying to get to second base with a girl by telling her exactly what she wants to hear:

ImTomPetty

I figured that younger, more alternative bands would have better feeds so I signed up for a slew of my favorites – @Airborne_Toxic, @FitzAndTantrums, @SpoonTheBand. I actually hit pay dirt when I learned via @theholdsteady that they have a new album (!) and are coming to the Crowfoot (!!). And lo and behold, I got this in my feed this morning:

Peter Bjorn And John

Yep, the whistling “Young Folks” guys like what I have to say about music, writing and the Westminster Dog Show enough to add me to their feeds.

I’ve been at the virtual cocktail party long enough for a band to come out from behind the potted plant and tweet me directly:

Dirty Angels

Of course, I replied:

Dirty Angels reply

It’s a brave new world out there.

See you on the flip side … and so, what bands do you follow on Twitter? Tell me in the comments!

We’re only human after all: The healing power of Level 42

3 Jan

I'm just glad that the Gene Simmons one doesn't dispense blood ...

I’m just glad the Gene Simmons one doesn’t dispense blood …

Each Christmas, I am grateful that my family indulges me in my predilection for rock-related everything. On CD, I received both volumes of the Ann Peebles Hi Records collection, the Albert King/Stevie Ray Vaughn live sessions and Jeff Beck’s Truth, along with Foreverly, featuring the delightful duo of Billie Joe Armstrong and Norah Jones covering the Everly Brothers. I also got the fantastic Johnny Cash biography as well as Tune In, the first of a well-received multi-volume history of the Beatles. And a couple other things (see photo).

I also got a trip to the emergency room and a three-night stay in the hospital. (That was not a gift from my family, unless you count genetics.) Between Christmas and New Year’s Eve I had a gallstone removed via endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatogram (ERCP is its kicky nickname), then laparoscopic surgery to take out my gall bladder.

I hadn’t been admitted to a hospital since my youngest was born nearly twelve years ago, and I hadn’t had surgery since my wisdom teeth were taken out twelve years before that. All the pre-op questions about whether I had bad reactions to anesthesia and if I had anything removable in my mouth were unsettling. Since I’d been taken in ahead of schedule I had no idea if my partner was in the waiting room. Even if she was, she wasn’t going to be able to see me until after the procedure several hours later. Still, I had full confidence in the medical team and that I would feel immediately better once the ERCP was done. All I had to do was wait my turn.

Alone.

Lying on a stretcher in the pre-op unit, trying to keep my thoughts from migrating toward the morbid the closer I got to being intubated, I focused on the non-threatening classic rock music playing overhead and identified a personal connection to each song that came up:

  • “Dance to the Music,” Sly and the Family Stone. That was the song playing as I was wheeled into the pod – a great song for making a grand entrance!
  • “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” Pat Benatar. As much as I made fun of her angry Bambi eye makeup in the Eighties, I was secretly jealous that I could never master her combination of highlight and contour to sculpt my own chipmunk cheeks.
  • “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’,” Journey. Ah, the guilty pleasure I analyzed in one of my first blog posts.

Then came a tune that reached out from the overhead speakers and held me in its arms: Level 42’s “Something About You.”

[The only version I could find of the original MTV video was insanely buggy so this will have to do instead … enjoy the fashion parade.]

For all its synthesizers and glossy production values, it’s an achingly beautiful depiction of a long-term relationship on the wane:

Now, how can it be
That a love carved out of caring
Fashioned by fate could suffer so hard
From the games played once too often
But making mistakes is a part of life’s imperfection
Born of the years
Is it so wrong to be human after all?

I know, a song about making mistakes is hardly a reassuring message for someone facing a medical procedure. Yet the fact that this song played when it did made me feel better immediately. It’s not on the radio much and it’s rarely included in Eighties compilations, but it’s an all-time favorite of mine and one of my first iTunes purchases. Listening to this bittersweet tune, in my hospital gown and fall-prevention footies, I felt like it was playing just for me, to keep me company and see me through. I wasn’t alone anymore.

I am glad to report that I’m home now and recovering well, thanks to the exceptional care team at the hospital and the loving attention of my family and friends … and the mystical power of a great song from a one-hit wonder. What a way to start the New Year!

See you on the flip side …

P.S. Did you get a new Kindle or iPad during the holidays? Start building your ebook library by downloading my new novel, Love and Other B-Sides, now available on Amazon!

The Rock and Roll Bookshelf has a new author: me!

12 Dec

Love and Other B-Sides - ebook cover

Love surprises an aging rock star when he meets his newest fan in his old home town.

I’ve got the world’s best reason for not posting for the last several weeks: I was busy publishing my first novel.  I am now officially an authoress!

Surprise, surprise: it’s a rock-and-roll novel. Who’da thunk?

Love and Other B-Sides began five years ago when I started getting into rock-and-roll in a big way. I began to wonder what daily life was like for a name-brand rock musician: like, does Bruce Springsteen pump his own gas? And, if you are at the level of a Bruce Springsteen, what do you aspire to when people will pay you millions to play the hits from thirty years ago? Plus, what happens when a musician falls in love with a civilian girl? Could she possibly keep her day job?

This fueled my story about Stee Walsh, my fictional “seventh most successful American rock musician still performing today.” I had a first draft well underway and was feeling really good about my unique take on a fairly unexplored topic  …

Juliet, Naked cover

After getting out of a long-term relationship with a man obsessed with a reclusive singer, a woman begins a flirtatious email correspondence with that singer.

and then Nick Hornby published Juliet, Naked in 2009, two days before my birthday, no less. My heart nearly broke.

Nick Hornby is one of my favorite storytellers – no surprise there. He is able to put words to the pleasures and pitfalls of being righteously self-absorbed and the desperate need for music like no other. Here’s an example from About a Boy:

But later that night, when [Will] was home on his own and listening to the sort of music he needed to listen to when he felt like this, music that seemed to find the sore spot in him and press hard up against it, he remember the deal Marcus was prepared to strike.

That his books were also the basis of three of my favorite movies – High Fidelity, About a Boy and Fever Pitch – just adds to my awe.

Here I was with a manuscript barely begun and an idol of mine goes and publishes a novel (with a relentlessly cool book cover) that riffs on my premise. And the deluge of rock novels had only just begun. The next year Jennifer Egan won a Pulitzer for the Möbius strip of a story rooted in the San Francisco punk scene, A Visit from the Goon Squad. Jonathan Franzen – who in my opinion spills way too much ink creating characters he despises – had a minor character find some musical success in Freedom. There was Dana Spiotta’s Stone Arabia which made several top 10 lists that year, about a brilliant recluse of a rocker whose only audience is his sister. Then Jonathan Tropper’s One Last Thing Before I Go and Michael Chabon’s Telegraph Avenue (not about rock and roll, but close enough) came out in time to be on my Christmas list in 2012.

Clearly I was not the only writer swept up in the rock-and-roll zeitgeist. I was in good company … good, famous, already published company. Crap.

Then it occurred to me: so what? There is room on the virtual bookshelf for everyone. Hey, a lot of great songs use the exact same chord progressions and we love them in their own ways. (Listen to this mashup of “25 or 6 to 4” by Chicago, Led Zeppelin’s “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” and “Brain Stew” by Green Day to hear what I mean.)

So I am proud of my book and I sincerely hope you’ll buy it,  enjoy it, write a review and recommend it to your friends … all the while listening to the music you love most.

See you on the flip side …

P.S. Even though Love and Other B-Sides is only available through Amazon, you can download it using the Kindle App onto your Nook, iPad, smart phones (if you like tiny, tiny screens) and even desktops. Hard covers may be available in the near future depending on demand. So, demand already!

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