Sunday, October 13, 2013

Give and you shall receive

The other day I had my weekly tutoring session with a young lad at the church that I attend.  After a few recent bouts with death I decided to cover all bases. I changed my diet and began exercising, buckled my seat belt and stopped texting while driving. I also joined the church that my wife belongs to.

Secretly, I believe there are infinite paths to God or the Divine or the Higgs-Boson God Particle—Guess the secret is out now . . . Oops.

 What ever gets you on the path of peace and love is fine by me. I believe the Australian Aborigines hit the nail on the head with their belief that God resides in everything: every rock, tree, waterfall and McDonald’s Big Mac.

Anyway, I digress. Back to tutoring. The young lad I tutor has trouble with math. He also has an attention span of about five seconds and constantly looks away while rummaging around in his schoolbag. All he really wants to do is draw with his crayons and work his way through a book of mazes.

It is extremely hard to keep him focused. I think this is because he feels frustrated that simple tasks are hard for him. That may be part of it. Whatever the reason, after a few futile sessions I decided to try a new approach, as flash cards and reasoning did not appear to be working.

I figured I should go with what I do best.
Take a nap.
I get most of my great and even some of my not so great ideas in the horizontal position. And this time was no different. As soon as I lay down it hit me. Write a story. So last week I wrote a chapter of a children’s book starring Elijah and his love of drawing robots and figuring his way out of mazes.


He loved it and asked me to write chapters 2 through 5 for the next session. Well, I was elated and got right to work on the next few chapters. Of course I thought it was brilliant, or else I wouldn’t have written it. So the other night armed with new chapters of the adventures of Elijah I returned to church for our weekly tutoring session. Elijah read aloud through chapter 2 and did the math sprinkled throughout the chapter. I even made up rhymes for him like, “Which equals 2? See what you can do,” and “Find the 4. Can you find more?”

I was so proud of myself. And happy for and proud of Elijah, too. He was doing great.
And then came chapter three where Elijah and his friends were trapped in the maze with the robots. He immediately put this masterpiece down, fumbled around in his schoolbag and started taking things out; ignoring my gentle pleas: “Elijah read a little more . . . okay, why don’t we do some flash cards . . . what is that you have? Homework? Great, let’s do that. . . . No? Okay, we’ll do that instead. Oh, I see, you want to do some more drawing. Well that’s fine too . . . what are you going to do?”

Guess chapter 3 needs a little more work. And I need to find more ways to connect with Elijah.

I feel bad. I gave so little to Elijah and he gave me so much more in return: a great idea for a children’s book. Guess it really is true: if you give you shall receive. Amen.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The UK falls! The Floating Man lands . . . and conquers?

 A red-letter day in the saga of The Floating Man and its slow methodical march up the ranks of the NY Times Bestseller List.  More slow than methodical, but every great publishing empire starts with a few missteps.  That’s what Steve my webguy says anyway.  Steve just finished putting up some of the 5 star reviews I have been receiving from Amazon and B&N readers.  He left out the 3 star one, although even that one said The Floating Man was an enjoyable read. I’ll take that.

Another digression.  I do that a lot.  Sorry.  Back to my conquest of the UK. The other day I decided to post a brief summary and thumbnail of my book cover on a Facebook page dedicated to eBook readers from the UK.

And lo and behold, I soon began a triumphant march up the bestseller ranks.  From nothing all the way up to 33,000 in a matter of hours!
It’s amazing what the sale of three books will do to your rankings.

Can France and Germany be far behind? I think not.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Take a walk on the wild side

Actually it’s just a walk in the woods—the Morton Arboretum in Lisle Illinois, to be exact.  It’s a great place to clear the mind and get inspiration. And sometimes you might even find a character or two. Last winter while on the trail, I met an elderly man named Lance—the inspiration for Jacques Allegre, one of the characters in my novel.

It was a bitterly cold January day. My brother and I were sitting on a bench, taking a quick break after walking three miles.  Lance, who we had passed on the trail earlier, caught up to us and decided to strike up a conversation. He stood in front of us and held court for the next two hours, retelling the story of his life; all the while peppering his recollections with “Question!” He would proceed to ask us about an obscure event from history which both my brother and I had no clue.  He would then recite the answer, after which he would shout “So!” and continue on with his life story.

And what a story it was. Lance was taken prisoner by the Germans when Finland fell to the Nazis. Tortured and castrated by the Germans, he eventually escaped and joined the resistance in Norway. After the war he was able to emigrate to America where he married and adopted several children.  Lance wrote and self-published a book about his life: Rendezvous With Destiny.  I told him I would look it up. When I googled it, I came up with a slew of books with that title, none by Lance. Guess he had a little trouble marketing the book. A story I am all too familiar with. Never did get his last name. But Lance lives on as a character in my book.

“So!” If you want to read a really interesting book, try to find Lance’s Rendezvous With Destiny.
And if you can’t find his book, you can always read mine.
When you get to Chapter 33 think of Lance as you listen to Jacques Allegre talk about The Secrets of Chateau Saint-Julien de Mailloc. And think of me and my brother freezing are rear-ends off as we sat for two hours listening to Lance tell us his entire life story that wintery day on the trail.

You know what? It was worth every second.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Mind over matter . . . does it matter?

In my last blog I outlined one of my outside the box schemes to promote my book. It involved going back to my old alma mater. The plan essentially boiled down to finding a student who was a whiz at social media. As a member of the Twitter universe, I now follow and am followed by over 200 twitterers (or is it tweeters? Possibly twits? Or maybe nitwits). I’ve probably read a dozen tweets and sent out about twenty; I doubt I have sold one book through my tweets.

Okay, so I’m back on campus. Then what? I start walking around campus and look for the nerdiest kid?
What do I say?
“Hey there young man/woman. Do you like to do the tweet? Would you mind tweeting for me? If you’re good, I’ll even pay you.”
In that scenario, I see myself being arrested for solicitation.

Maybe I should just walk up to the prettiest girl I find, and offer to buy her a cup of coffee, or lunch, if she would be willing to share some thoughts on how I could find the nerdiest kid on campus to help promote my novel.

I just blew that idea.
My wife enjoys reading my blog—so that’s out. And now she wants to go with me on my campus outing.

But no . . . wait a minute, this could work out perfectly.
What is more adorable than a middle-aged man and his wife, sharing a walk down memory lane? I’ll point out various landmarks on campus. We’ll smile a lot, and I’ll tell everyone we meet, “You know me and my wife first met and fell in love on this very spot.” It’ll be a lie, but my God what an opening. Naturally, we’ll fall into a patter of banal inanities: “So, what are you majoring in? . . . That’s nice. . . . Can I give you some sage advice on meeting the perfect guy/girl?”
At this point my wife will elbow me in the ribs; we’ll all laugh.
And taking the bait, he/she will ask what we majored in and what we’re doing now.
Once hooked, all I have to do is reel them in. It’ll be perfect.

God, it’s really great living inside my mind. Wish reality were this easy.

Friday, September 20, 2013

The best laid plans of mice and men

Well, that didn’t work out too well. In my last blog I committed myself to drinking my celebratory bottle of Absinthe and cleaning the house from top to bottom in lieu of making the NY Times bestseller list. I only got a couple shots down and the bathroom cleaned. That award winning Absinthe from France which uses the original 1834 recipe is horrible. No wonder Van Gogh cut his ear off. And Toulouse Lautrec was probably short because he started drinking it at an early age.

The stuff tastes like rubbing alcohol mixed with the breath freshener sen-sen (a tiny horrible gray licorice flavored square my mom used to torture me with when I was a kid). For all you parents out there that are worried that your teenage sons and daughters might be tempted to drink, you can nip it in the bud by giving them a bottle of this stuff. And if it turns out they can actually stomach the stuff, don’t feel guilty—there was never any hope for them anyway.

Starting Monday I begin promoting The Floating Man in earnest once again. I want to try a couple outside the box ideas I have. One is to go to my old alma mater and talk with a marketing professor and see if he has any super sharp students that are a whiz at this social media thing. Because let me tell you, I am certainly not a whiz. I am now on twitter; following and being followed by a bunch of authors who all want me to buy their book. 

See the problem? 

I have no intention of buying their book and they have no intention of buying mine. Need to find twitter followers that only read books, not write them.

So next week it’s back to college. Maybe the next Mark Zuckerberg is out there walking around campus, waiting to find me and spread my book to the teeming masses.