Monthly Archives: January 2010

The Write Stuff

Well, last night I attended the 44th Annual Local Author’s Exhibit held at the San Diego Public Library. I never knew there were so many writers in San Diego, and I’m sure a good number of them weren’t even there. I’d guess at least 125 writers showed up for this event, and each writer brought a guest—except for me. 

As luck would have it, my wife and a few of her workmates drove to Big Bear Mountain this weekend for a little skiing, snowboarding and female bonding. My wife rarely chums around with the “girls” so as much as I would have appreciated her accompanying me to this event, I encouraged her to go and enjoy herself. 

My contingency plan was to invite my dear friend, Paula, who is actually much more than a friend. Paula, a fellow writer, voracious reader, writer of musicals and plays, has been instrumental in nurturing my writing career. Did I just say, “career”? She helped me design my author’s web site, created a video to be used by Amazon to promote my book, and overall she’s been a very positive influence in my life. She’s a gal who always looks at the glass as full. Not half-full, but full. 

Unfortunately, Paula’s glass was empty yesterday. She had been fighting a terrible head cold and it got the best of her Saturday afternoon. Needless to say, there was no way she could accompany me to this event. As I’ve mentioned many times before, I’m not high on these social get-togethers, even though I realize they’re an important part of self-promotion and marketing. So, I pissed and moaned but went in spite of my discomfort. 

Most of the books on display from local authors were nonfiction. As I milled about checking out name tags and looking for at least one familiar face, it amazed me how many of the authors were PhD’s. One in particular overheard me talking to another writer about my Amazon Encore deal and he approached me. This Latino man, nearly 80 years old, was a natural storyteller. His energy level was that of a 30 year old man. We talked for over an hour. And I listened while he told me about his book and his struggles to get it published. 

This very colorful man writes every single day, and he writes longhand! He even showed me his calloused fingers from grasping a pen for hours and hours. His book is based on a true story. It’s about an organization that made millions of dollars smuggling illegal aliens into the United States.

I went into Amazon.com this morning and searched for his book. I used the “Look Inside” feature to read a few excerpts. The guy is a hell of a writer. If you’re interested in reading a remarkable story, his name is Manuel Vic Villalpando, and the book title is The Illicit American. I might even ask this guy for some coaching.

Advertisements

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Hobnobbing

As an author living in San Diego, I was invited to attend the 44th Annual Local Author’s Exhibit to be held at the main branch of the San Diego Public Library. This will be a great opportunity to meet other authors, share ideas, and hear about successes as well as failures. This event is a terrific networking opportunity.

To be frank, I’m not totally comfortable in crowds. Most people who know me would probably dispute this statement. I appear to be outgoing and an extrovert. But the truth is that I’m more comfortable with less people around. Now there are exceptions. When I’m with a group of people I know well, I have no problem getting in the groove and showing my gregarious nature. But with a group of strangers, I’d rather sit in a quiet corner counting the minutes until I can leave.

This hang up of mine hobnobbing with strange crowds, poses a major challenge for me as an author. I’m told by those who know marketing and promotion that in this day and age, a writer—particularly a novelist—needs to lead the charge and get as much public exposure as possible.

This event at the San Diego Public Library is merely the tip of the iceberg. As the publication date for They Never Die Quietly rapidly approaches, (the release date is February 16th), I will undoubtedly attend other such functions, not to mention book signings, interviews and God knows what else.

So, I guess it’s time for me to get over my phobia and learn how to be the life of the party. And I thought I was only a writer.

8 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Where’s my Ark?

I moved to California in 1993, and through all these years I have never seen rainstorms like this. Ugly grey skies. Blustery winds. Buckets of rain. If I didn’t know better, I’d think I was back in my hometown: Rochester, N.Y.—second only to Seattle for the title of cloudiest city in the country. 

Times like this really make me appreciate typical San Diego weather. Year after year we enjoy 300+ days of sunshine, blue skies, ocean breezes and low humidity. Yet when we have to deal with a rainstorm we bellyache like a child. We are so spoiled. 

I remember my first winter here. I was watching the local news when suddenly a red banner crawled across the screen, warning of a major winter storm. I stood by the window, waiting for something to happen. It rained hard for an hour and then the sun came out. Major storm? Are they kidding me, I thought? Anyone who complains about San Diego winters needs a reality check. 

When the wind chill factor is below zero, snow is drifted up to the gutters, and the wind whistles through the eaves, trust me, that’s winter. Every San Diegan who ever complained about our weather should spend a few months in the Northeast or Midwest in February. I guarantee that they would never complain again about a silly rainstorm.  

Now where the hell is my umbrella?

5 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Coming Together

As the release date for my novel quickly approaches (February 16th), the reality of it all seems surreal. I know I harp on this issue more than I should, but try to imagine what it would be like if you went to bed an average working soul, and woke up a bestselling author.

I have no preconceived notions or lofty expectations about overnight success. And although the odds are against me when you realistically weigh all the factors, there is a possibility, slim as it might be, for my novel to take off. I’m not talking Dan Brown success, but noteworthy success.

Since first signing the contract with Amazon Encore, each day opened a new door. E-mail after e-mail, phone call after phone call unfolded a perfect script; almost as if I controlled the direction of my life. Today was yet another exciting day.

My publicist sent me an e-mail and told me that six different bookstores in San Diego want a copy of my novel. If they like it they will not only order some books for their inventory, they will also agree to a book signing. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to sit down at a table and autograph books. It has to be a total rush. But the thought of it does evoke a little fear.

What does an author write when he/she signs a book? Are there standard phrases and scripted sentences? How much should you write? One sentence? A paragraph? And on what page do you sign the book? I actually searched the Internet for advice but couldn’t really find anything specific. I don’t want to be boring, yet I would like to write more than, “Thanks for buying my book.”

Any suggestions?

8 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Licking My Wounds

I knew it was inevitable. All things must pass. But even when you mentally and emotionally prepare yourself for something, still it gets under your skin. I checked the Amazon web site today to see if any more reviews came in from members of the Amazon Vine, readers who received advanced copies of my novel. Sure enough, I got my first 2-star review. And it really stings.

I’m not naïve or idealistic enough to believe that the 5-star reviews would go on forever, but I wasn’t really prepared to get slammed. Writing, like any art form, is subjective. But when I read the review, the woman who wrote it portrayed me as a terrible, immature amateur. Couldn’t she have been a little gentler with her criticisms?

Having suffered from a chronic case of rejection over the last 15 years, one would think that my skin is pretty darn thick. And for anyone pursuing a writing career, your skin had better be thick. I thought mine was until I read and reread the horrible review.

Not able to clear it out of my head, I got a brainstorm. I wondered how many prolific, award-winning novelists had gotten poor readers’ reviews. I guess I was buying in to the misery loves company philosophy. So I searched James Patterson, Dan Brown, Michael Connelly, Pat Conroy, John Grisham, Stephen King—and a few more notable writers. Guess what I found? Dozens of 2-star and 1-star reviews, many of them brutal and merciless. Did I feel any relief knowing that the contemporary masters of fiction got crappy reviews? Not by a long shot.

So I took it a step further and searched the classics: Gone with the Wind, Grapes of Wrath, For Whom the Bell Tolls—just to name a few. And even the most famous novelists in history got some pretty terrible reviews.

I pondered my findings for a long time; searching for solace in knowing that even the great ones got kicked in the chops. But you know what? It didn’t help me deal with it one bit. I’m still pissed off and that’s dealing with only one 2-star review. What do you suppose is going to happen when I get a few 1-star reviews? Better fasten your seatbelt.

10 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

MyTube

Unless you live in a vacuum, you’ve  likely heard of YouTube; a collection of videos from Prince to pauper and everything in-between. Well, I had my shot for fame on Sunday, but I will never make it as a Hollywood actor.

Amazon Encore tasked me with the responsibility to produce a 2 to 3 minute author’s video for the Amazon web site. This video will be used on my author’s page to help promote my novel, They Never Die Quietly. The logic here is that many fiction readers want to learn more about the author—what makes them tick, how they came up with the idea, etc. Understandably, when you read a novel and like what you read, it’s only logical that you would want to learn a little about the author.

Amazon was kind enough to loan me their Flip Video, which is a remarkable example of electronic genius. The size of a cell phone, this device can record video for 120 minutes. And it’s really simple to use, even for a technically challenged guy like me.

So, I called my friend, Paula, and asked her if she would help me make the video. We met for coffee and talked a bit about how we should approach this task. She’s much more creative than I, so I let her lead the way. We drove to the tiniest public park in the universe. When I say small, I mean small. The entire park was about the size of a two-car garage. I’m talking little. In spite of its size, it was charming.

Without a script or having any idea what the hell I would say, Paula instructed me to lean against a fence that overlooked a canyon, she pushed the record button on the Flip Video, and my début as a ham was launched.  We did 7 takes totally 5 minutes and I felt that there was enough footage for the editing wizards at Amazon to come up with a two-minute video.

When I got home I watched the videos again and showed them to my wife. I could tell by the look on her face that I hadn’t won an Academy Award. She told me I was much too serious. Hey, my novel is about a serial killer. What’s humorous about that? I must have watched the videos a dozen times, hoping that by some act of magic, they might change. No such luck. My wife was right: I looked way too serious and my voice was totally unanimated. I thought about a reshoot, but quickly put that idea to rest.

Why do I have to be a promoter, marketing wiz, salesman, and filmmaker? Why can’t I just do what a writer does and write?

8 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

No Excuses

Well, if you’re a regular visitor to my blog, then I’m sure you noticed that I haven’t written a dang-blasted word since January 2nd. I could engage in a full-blown tirade of how busy I’ve been, or how hard I tried to write but got caught up in other tasks. I could claim to have writer’s block. And I could even tell you I’ve been held hostage for over a week. But I’d rather come clean. Basically, I just wasn’t motivated. Pure and simple.

Even writers sometimes don’t want to write. Such was the case with me. I did, however, force myself to write the text for the link “About Daniel”. It’s a bit autobiographical, but my intent was to give my readers a brief overview of where I was and how I got to where I am. Read it. I think you’ll enjoy it.

Switching gears, I reconnected with a guy I haven’t seen in nearly two decades. Back in the 80’s Rich and I worked together in the automobile business. He is also a writer; a very talented writer. Writing may be the common denominator that built our friendship. Rich has been operating a successful resume writing business for years, but he just finished a book and wants to pursue publication.

My son was one of the many victims of the General Motors meltdown and lost his job a few months back. Believing that Rich was still writing resumes, I referred my son to him.  Naturally, when Rich saw my son’s last name, he asked about me and my son brought him up to speed on my publishing contract with Amazon Encore.  Naturally, Rich wanted to hear my story. A few days later, I opened my e-mail and found a letter from Rich. We set up a time to talk on the telephone and I bent his ear for nearly an hour.

After speaking to Rich, I got to thinking about friendships. But in particular about how many friends we make over the years, only for them to fade away. People move. Change jobs. Get married. And suddenly someone close to you is no longer part of your life. It’s not with intent that the communication stops. It’s just that sometimes we get so caught up in the nitty-gritty part of our lives that we don’t pay attention to our friendships and do nothing to sustain them. One day leads to a week, and then to a month, and before you know it you haven’t spoken to certain friends for years.

I can think of a dozen people I haven’t spoken to in years. Maybe it’s time for me to go through my contact list and seek out some long-lost friends. How about you?

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized