Slow Moving Dreams

Thursday, August 11, 2005 at 12:18 PM

Writing

My son suggested that I talk (or write) a little bit about my experience writing a book. It's a little awkward for me because this is only my first book and I really don't know how successful it's going to be. I have faith in the book itself. I think it is a good book and everybody who has read it thinks so, including Nelson DeMille. But there are a lot of good books that are not commercially successful. Marketing plays a big part.
Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, I was going to talk(write) about my writing experience. First of all, I don't consider myself a writer just yet. A writer is somebody who makes a living writing. I make a living practicing law. I'd like to make a living writing because my passion for writing now exceeds my passion for practicing law. There's the practical issues though. There always are. Most people don't ever get the opportunity to fulfill their passions because of responsibilities and circumstances. When there are mouths to feed, personal preferences have to take a back seat. I don't have any mouths to feed anymore so I can step off the precipice somewhat. I say somewhat because I, like everybody else, still have to meet the monthly payments and as you get older and more established the responsibilities change--i.e., no more mouths to feed-- but that doesn't mean life necessarily gets less expensive. I'm still chasing the rat.
My writing experience: I began writing many years ago as kind of an outlet, a stress reliever. I would get up early in the morning and just write for an hour or so. In the beginning it was just dialogue. Then I graduated to trying to create scenes. I should tell you that, as a lawyer, I have considerable writing experience. I have written literally hundreds of legal memorandums and appellate briefs. But that's a different kind of writing. It's an exercise in logic and applying abstract legal principles to a particular set of facts. It does teach you to be concise and direct and you do hone the ability to get thoughts from your brain onto the paper. You also learn how to rewrite and rewrite and rewrite. Those are valuable tools but having those tools does not mean you will be a good fiction writer.
What does it take to be a good fiction writer? I don't know if I have the credentials to answer that question at this point but I can provide an opinion, for what its worth. Here's my opinion for today because I have to stop my passion to go back to my responsibility, and really my other passion-- practicing law.In any writing you have to be true to yourself. There's an old saying-write about what you know. I think that's true. I'm a lawyer so I wrote a legal thriller. The law is certainly something I know about although some judges might want to weigh in on that statement. I certainly don't think I could write a medical thriller unless I did some extensive research. Of course, if I did the research, then I would know about my subject matter.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005 at 5:46 AM

The Big Day

Today is the big day! Today is the day my first book comes out in the stores although I'm not sure if anyone has the books yet. I'm excited but I'm also a little apprehensive. What if nobody buys it? I've always thought that at my age it really didn't matter if anybody bought my book. I wasn't writing for the applause or the money, I was writing for myself. But now the big day is here and I realize that I do want recognition and success. I guess that's part of the human condition. No matter what, I'm going to keep writing. It's cheaper than therapy and it makes me happy. In the interim, I'll be pounding the streets, knocking on doors, making sure the independant bookstores are carrying my book. Even that is fun though. You get to meet people. You get to schmooze a little. It's a hoot. Last week I was in New York City, stopping in bookstores all over town, smiling, trying to get them to order a few copies. Getting the book out there is priority number one. If it's good, it should sell itself. I don't have the big name and I don't have the big publishing house behind me-- I have to rely on the product, the book itself. Substance over form. Today is the beginning!

Sunday, August 07, 2005 at 12:09 PM

Traveling

I've been traveling the last week in New York trying to visit bookstores and promote my book. It's certainly not as glamorous as it seems. Here's a problem that I have all the time. I'm either staying with family or in a motel room. When I take a shower, nothing is familiar to me and I can't see without my glasses. The other day I was at a motel taking a shower and they provided little gel bags of shampoo and conditioner and "other things". As I said, I can't read in the shower and I can't really tell what the substance is when it comes out. So I first put conditioner in my hair, which isn't too bad, and then mouthwash, which was terrible. My third try was bodywash. I finally found the shampoo. Some days I just give up and settle for conditioner, or mouthwash. On those days, my breath is awful but you should smell my hair.

Speaking of traveling, I had a unique experience on this trip. I stayed with some monks in upstate New York. I've read about monks and I'm somewhat familiar with their lifestyle but the experience is unique. It was an idyllic setting in the mountains: very peaceful, very tranquil, yet we had great conversations and we laughed a lot. I came away really enjoying my stay, and the monks and their individual personalities. Monks are unlike priests in that they choose to withdraw from the world and live a celibate life. It takes a unique individual to want to live that way. It's not boring though. Each community has to support itself, which means they have to provide a commodity to sell to the outside world whether it be bread or cheesecake or a service such as dog training. So they are busy all the time. As I was driving away, I wondered whether I could live such a rigorous, contemplative lifestyle. Not just yet.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005 at 8:44 AM

The Mayor of Lexington Avenue



FYI, my book is now online. Use the link below to read the first three chapters:

Preview Mayor


Looking forward to plenty of feedback.

Thursday, July 14, 2005 at 10:07 PM

Maybe Howard Dean Really Is Onto Something

Illustrating how traditional book promotion is being modified, in some circles, to reach the grass roots efficiency of the online literary community VAUHINI VARA writes:

"Book publishers generally stick to their tried-and-true formula for promoting a new novel: send the writer on tour, slip review copies to critics and negotiate strategic displays in bookstores. The Internet has been used to create barebones Web sites tied to new books, and the occasional advertising campaign on popular online destinations, but little more. Now, publishers like Knopf are hoping to supplement their traditional campaigns by wooing bloggers, giving away free copies online, and other initiatives."
The Wall Street Journal
Using Fiction to Sell Fiction

Tuesday, July 05, 2005 at 9:43 AM

California dreaming

July 5th-- I took a trip to California to visit the independant bookstores on the coast to try and promote some interest in my book. We started in San Diego and headed north. I should tell you that before this year, I had never spent any time in California. I'd popped in a couple of times for depositions but i never saw anything. It is a beautiful state and the Pacific Coast Highway drive is one of the most spectacular scenic routes in the world. in fact, the mountanous coastal terrain, the rocky coast and the overhead vistas reminded me of the west coast of Ireland, in particular, the Ring of Kerry. that's no small praise coming from an Irishman.

Back to the bookstores. I'm a novice at this stuff and I'm not the best self promoter in the world so I was a little apprehensive. On the whole, the California booksellers treated me very well. In L.A., Doug, the owner of Dutton's came out to meet me personally and told me that when I'm in L.A. to consider this my home base. What a nice thing to say to a first time author from a small publishing company. He could have been busy. In Santa Cruz, Neil, the owner of Bookshop Santa Cruz fired me up. He told me that the independant bookstores are the ones that make a first time author a success. In Menlo Park, at Kepler's Books, Joe showed me where my book would be on the shelf and told me what a great spot it was because of the authors that surrounded me.

All in all, it was a great trip and I began to see what makes independant bookstores so great. It's the soul, the flavor, the dust, the character and the characters. As a special treat, I stopped into Clint Eastwood's restaurant in Carmel for a beer and while I was taking my first sip, the man himself walked in. It's funny when you see a real big celebrity like Clint-- it's almost as if he's not real. And on the other hand, you feel like you know him because you've seen him so much over the years.

I was in a quandry. My wife was back at the hotel. I could stay there and drink my beer and strike up a conversation with old Clint who was now standing almost right next to me, and tell me wife about it later and live in Purgatory for the rest of my life, or I could finish my beer and rush home and get her. Of course, you know what I did. But I hedged my bets. I turned to Clint, politely interrupting his conversation with somebody else and asked: "Clint are you going to be here for ten minutes. My wife will kill me if I don't go back to the hotel and get her." He very nicely told me that he was leaving right away. I went back to the hotel anyway, brought my wife back and Clint was still there. He was a true gentleman too. He came over, held her hand, looked in her eyes and talked to her for a few minutes. I couldn't hear the conversation because she was seated and he actually knelt down to talk to her, but I don't think it really mattered what was said. When he left, she turned to me and said: "I just touched the hand that touched an Oscar." I knew then that I had made the right decision.