Archive for December, 2008

LAST TANGO OUT OF HOBOKEN…

Saturday, December 27th, 2008

Wall Street towers dissolving in the chill Christmas fog…steel rails flying behind the day’s final string of day coaches…greetings at the station, back seat full of kids and dogs, then over the Raritan River through snowy fields; horses chomping happy Christmas oats and hay in the long steamy stables; enormous house set well out from the deeper woods, windows aflame with Christmas lights; inside, at one end of the great room, was Uncle Sammy rising slowly from his leather wingback chair, arms wrapping ’round me, “Great to see you, son, great to see you, siddown, food! food! You need something to eat…” slumping happily back into his chair; dogs, kids well out of the Hummer now, charging into the long room, gifts stacked head high against the wall behind a great, glistening Christmas tree – striking me that I’d entered some gift storage facility jointly operated by Saks Fifth Avenue; Berghdorf’s; Tiffany; and Abercrombie – an explosion of wrappings as the kids tore into their packages, dogs barking, racing through the wrappings; maids and Mrs. Sammy tending to a seafood prelude of the feast to come at the table at the far end of the great hall…food quantity = gift quantity X two… squalling kids now – the offspring of my own two children: “NO-NO-NO!” the three year old already issuing executive orders (Uncle Sammy smiling sagely) – the dozen other aunts and uncles, mothers, fathers, boyfriends-girlfriends, into their gifts too; and Mrs. Sammy patting my head, dumping gift after gift at my feet – stuffed stocking first – candies; tools; crazy stuff I’d never use – then the big stuff; the electronics, clothing (stuff I COULD use, WOULD use!), the surprise, a museum quality Steuben Glass type thingy to crown my own home table; dogs into my wrappings now, the Mastiff nailing the Pit Bull and both of them tumbling into the ancient Beagle mutt (Uncle Sammy breaking up the dog fight with a folded London Financial Times); then everyone working down the length of the buffet table, plate in hand, shrimp, lobster neuberg, domestic and imported wines and beers, salads, cheeses, catered dishes I failed to even identify, the conversations, shouting, laughter, barking again…until, seeking temporary relief, I carried my plate through the kitchen pantry and back terrace out into the starry night – the quiet broken only by a snort and stomp from the stables, the scrape of a groom’s fork or two against a Christmas plate – and wading out into the snowy field, a bit drunk and nibbling a radish from my own plate, I spotted before me a shivering white rabbit; it rolled its pinkish eyes upward and I threw it two carrot sticks which it took and in two hops disappeared into the night – the thought hitting me, as I turned back toward the house, that not everyone on Earth this Christmas night might be as blessed as we.

THE MAGNANIMOUS MOOCHER…

Sunday, December 7th, 2008

It’s a kinda tough one to write; but anyhow, here goes…

They sidle up to you, a knowing smile on that uplifted face: “Unh – I hear you wrote a book?” Yep, sure did. “Well – what’s it about?” You give them your ‘elevator pitch,’ the telling phrase or two you’ve concocted for the curious. There’s a breathless gasp, a series of ooo’s and ahhh’s and the predictable rejoinder, “Oh yeah, sounds really great! You going to let me read it?”

Now here is where the where the rubber meets the road (or where the book spine cracks and snaps when the covers are  too roughly bent back). The question has been deftly advanced by the interrogator, and the interrogee (the author) will be – it is hoped – set so far off balance with the boldness of this request that a copy of the volume in question will be handed over on the spot. In the wistful eye of the book moocher there is the promise of an explosive read, a treatment that will propel your work – beyond even the reaches of Publishers Weekly and the Book Section of the New York Times – to fame and glory. Here stands a willing reader whom you cannot possibly ignore.

Notice there has been no mention of money changing hands. That’s the last thing in your benefactor’s mind; and certainly you are not going to embarrass yourself reducing literary status to that of the aggressive street beggar demanding coins be clinked into his cup. A reflective afternoon has been changed to a nasty run-in: here stands your newest fan, a potential disseminator of glad tidings – whose tortured expression now hints equally of a willingness to vilify your work should you not fork over a gift copy.

Okay…all right,  so I donated the copy – fool that I was – swearing it would be the last time I did so.

I must stop here and thank all the columnists, publicity people, and reporters who wrote article after article about “3 ACES.” Without them, I would not have enjoyed a brisk several months of sales…with special thanks to the Barnes & Noble University Store and the local department store, Fitze’s, who sponsored book signings. And thanks to all those who bought books, coming up to me later with a wink and a smile, telling me how much they’d enjoyed reading about the dual worlds (trucking and Vietnam) that most of them had known precious little of.

Yet, what to do with the occasional book moocher? Kicking the problem around at a writers’ convention, it seemed I’d not been the lone ranger. I had never considered the fact that many people think that all writers are rich, don’t give a hang about money, and are furnished by their publishers with a truckload of books to give away as publicity. Not an item of that being true, I discovered you must tell the moocher so – sometimes in no uncertain terms! I’ve gone so far as to point out to some that I must pay the wholesale cost of any books obtained from the publisher – and that cost is the full selling price of the book minus a modest discount, a fact most people are totally unaware of. And if you happen to be your own publisher, you are literally giving away all your costs of editing, cover art, printing, shipping, and payment for the years of work you invested in writing the book, a TOTAL LOSS every time you give away a copy of your book!

It’s also important to see that your local library has a copy on the shelves, even if it comes down to donating one. What can the moochers say when you recommend them to the public library? But what of the seriously ill, who can’t otherwise get to the library or a bookstore – and, truly, there are always a few such unfortunates. For them, I reserve one copy on my shelf, passing that copy on down the waiting list as it is returned to me.

“What’s that? You say you want to read a copy of my new book – that you know I’ve got a bunch of free copies lying around the office?”

Oh, for Pete’s sake – get lost.

“The River” meanders to Fox & Quill…

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008

BY now, readers of this column are aware that Dawn Carlisle and Abner Weaver, the lead characters of my novel, “3 ACES,”  have crisscrossed America many times with a long haul rig powered by Abner’s vaunted 379 “Pete.” The constant pressure of long running exacts a toll on the nerves, and a good dinner in a picturesque setting is always appreciated – especially when drivers find themselves in the presence of interesting company.

During a holdover in San Diego – waiting for a load of canned tuna – Dawn and Abner decided to leave the truck in the cannery yard and take a taxi to Balboa Park. In the tropical setting of Albert’s Restaurant – a waterfall in the background and Silver-back gorillas staring at them from the Gorilla Tropics area outside –  Dawn and Abner were finishing their seafood luncheon when two men at the next table began discussing aerial aspects of the former war in Vietnam.

Being a SOG recon veteran of the conflict, Abner couldn’t help adding his opinion to a particular point one of the men was making about the role of 0-2 Skymasters as surveillance covies in recon operations. It turned out that the second man was John Wolf, an engineer by trade, an Air Force navigator during the conflict, and later an employee of such firms as General Dynamics, Hughes Aircraft, and Raytheon. After introductions all around, John Wolf professed the war and aviation were now far behind him: “I am a slave of the pen and must commit my mind’s expressions to acccount for what I dream.” It seems that for some time Wolf had been writing words and music to original songs and, as well,  collecting and featuring the short stories of budding writers in a monthly newsletter he published.

Dawn thought of Richard Ide, a forlorn former driver they had met weeks ago, back in Pennsylvania, who had just self published a book on long haul trucking, entitled “3 ACES.” Ide had dug an old short story out of a cardboard folder in his battered car and had given it to Dawn as a sample of his work. She still carried the story stuffed in her leather drawstring bag. Hoping in some way it might  help Ide, that afternoon in Balboa Park she passed “The River” on to Wolf.

Part of the fictional account above is not too far removed from what really occurred –  resulting in John Wolf’s decision to publish Richard Ide’s short story, “The River.” The story is featured in the December, 2008 Issue (Volume 3, Issue 12) of “Fox & Quill,” Wolf’s well-known West Coast newsletter.  John also devoted an introductory page to Richard Ide’s new novel, “3 ACES,” accompanying that rundown with a brief biography.

It takes a thoughtful writer like John Wolf to bestow an act of kindness on another writer. Put aside your own interests – just for a moment today – and spend some time promoting someone else’s worthy cause. Well, why not?…

NOTE:“3 ACES” is available on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com

 

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