This past weekend marked another milestone. HOMER UNDERBY is now on pre-sale for Kindle with a launch date of August 14th. That also means the ARCs are available and being distributed for pre-launch reviews. I’m proud of this book, not that I haven’t been proud of my others. But this one is a little different because of the collaborative effort that went into its conceptualization.
If you’ve been following my blogs, I mentioned that the first draft of BECOMING THUPERMAN was written in the summer of 2013, while FRIED WINDOWS was in editing. I polished up the draft a bit and submitted it to my publisher who eventually put the book under contract a few months later. From the outset I intended the book to be a one of kind thing as an author. It is a story about kids, after all, and although my books have been kid-friendly for the most part, they have been intended to be YA or older. Despite the ages of the two main characters, BECOMING THUPERMAN is not a children’s book, per se.
During the editing process for BT, about a month before it was released, Jessica Reino, the substantive editor, suggested that a couple of story lines might be easily extended if I feathered in some foreshadowing earlier on in the story. And after an hour or so discussing the possibilities, I had two more books plotted out in a rough outline. I know that’s the way some writers work, but it was unusual for me. My first drafts tend to be free form. I create an outline after the fact to organize the resulting chaos. So, you see, HOMER UNDERBY is the first book I have ever composed according to an outline. The third book in the series, titled THUPERMAN AND CASSANDRA, will be the second book produced that way.
What about all my other manuscripts? They were created the old way. However, I am revising all my Wolfcat books and have begun imposing an outline structure for the sections that require some rewriting. And for those who are interested in following their favorite characters in other series, Brent from Fried Windows is in HOMER UNDERBY and THUPERMAN AND CASSANDRA as well as THE WOLFCAT CHRONICLES. Will and Sandra from the Thuperman Series are also in the sequel to FRIED WINDOWS, titled CASTLES OF NINJA BREAD. Ela’na from THE WOLFCAT CHRONICLES appears in other manuscripts the titles for which have not been determined. In some of those stories Brent, Will and Sandra are also included.
It takes a lot to rile
me, but I’m also a Taurus. Whenever someone has the misfortune of pushing me
past my limit, it can get messy for a while. It’s happened a few times, more
frequently lately. It could be age-related, though that shouldn’t be an excuse.
I’ve heard that older people have less patience. After all, who wants to die
while waiting in a line. But I have a different take. As I have gotten
older the quality (or lack thereof) of customer service in some places I shop
has gone from bad to abysmal.
Read my bio. I spent a
while working in retail, long enough to know that the adage of ‘the customer is
always right’ is absolute bullshit. And to an extent, extreme customers who
have wanted to take advantage of stores’ pledges to put the customer first are
to blame for the erosion. For 30 years I worked in retail. I assure you
customers are often wrong, not that it matters a whole lot in the balance. As a
manager, you still need to listen and try to see things from the customer’s
perspective, if possible. If you don’t take care of your customers, you will
lose them. Very likely they will tell their sad story to from 5 to 8 people and
each of them will be less likely to shop at your store. A business will not
survive losing 5 to 8 customers every time there is a problem.
It might also seem easy to blame the decline in customer service on Amazon and
the lack of personalization rooted in the expansion of online shopping. But the
long slide in customer service was well underway before the Internet exploded
in the late 90’s and changed everything forever. Amazon’s customer service
isn’t great but, compared to some stores I’ve dealt with in the past few years,
they aren’t terrible, either. I could tell you some stories about Amazon, but
then the online parts of traditional brick and mortar businesses are nothing to
cheer about either. I had one bad experience just this past weekend, in
fact. But I can’t blame the lack of service on corporate culture except that
most businesses, whether online or offline, seem reluctant to resolve systemic
and often chronic issues they have. Amazon’s delivery drivers that support
their Prime model are either stellar or forgettable with little between, from
my experience. Perhaps the companies are trying to give the employee the benefit
of the doubt in cases of customer dissatisfaction but when there is a pattern
of problems, it indicates something else is going on. There are some people who
have no business interfacing directly with customers. As Brent Woods, one of my
characters, is prone to say, “A turd is always a turd.”
When I go shopping in
a big box retailer, I’m there for price not service. Let’s be honest, you are
too. But still, I should be able to expect a minimum acceptable level of common
courtesy. I don’t expect assistance loading large boxes into my cart of onto my
wagon. One must bring your own service for that sort of thing. But I can tell
you, there are ways of creating the illusion of customer service in big box
stores that doesn’t involve magic, smoke, and mirrors. It’s called putting a
few bodies on the floor and telling them to interact with customers. It’s
just the corporate bean counters with the MBA degrees have proliferated in
businesses ever since I was in college. They have made the strategic
choice to skimp at the store level to maintain six-and-seven-digit incomes of
those in the ivory tower. And if those people who made those choices earned
their pay by fielding customer complains from time to time, maybe things would
improve in the stores. But I wouldn’t hold my breath on that one. It’s
always easier to drop extra work on managers shoulders and let the front line
people figure out how to get it done.
The lack of customer service in large retailers and online should give rise to smaller shops, except their costs are higher and the prices are less attractive to those of us who count out pennies. If you need assistance, though, you balance that against the delivered price. Sometimes it’s worth it to patronize local, mom and pop shops. And those small store owners who understand how to compete with big box retailers, and even online behemoths like Amazon, know that you can survive by offering things the customer cannot get anywhere else.
I’m reminded of a
competitor in the same segment of retail as Home Depot and Lowes. Ace Hardware
survives and even thrives by offering items that require customer service to
complete the sale. They are a convenience store for those who need a few things
and don’t want to deal with the local Big Box. And frankly, the big guys suck
at doing little things well. Ace has people working there that know their
products, can give advice when necessary, and if you shop there frequently,
they may even know your name. That level of service used to set Home Depot
apart as well, but that ended around the time the bean counters in Atlanta
decided they could save so much money on payroll by becoming just like every
other retailer, shifting the preference in workforce to part time.
In other cases, a small
shop may include rare or unusual products in their assortment. Maybe even
locally made products that have an immediate interest or demand. Local
bookstores come to mind, and some have picked up on this, giving their
community’s authors a home to sell their books, do book signings and stage other
events. As a result, not only does the store survive, but also local authors
are able to grow a following organically, directing their readers, who want the
immediate gratification of holding a book in their hands, to a shop with an
intimate setting and the appeal of that printed book smell.
For the past couple of months I have been in revision mode working on some unfinished and unpublished manuscripts. Two of the novels-to-be serve as background on Brent Woods, the lead character in FRIED WINDOWS (IN A LIGHT WHITE SAUCE) published May 2014 and CASTLES OF NINJA BREAD (coming in 2020). Brent Woods also appears as a supporting character in the final two books of The Thuperman Trilogy, HOMER UNDERBY (Coming 2019) and THUPERMAN AND CASSANDRA (Coming 2020). So, it was important to sift through the background material I composed several years ago and flesh out something in book form about Brent’s past. His senior year of high school is chronicled in WRESTLING IT and HAVING IT as well as his first semester of college contained in Losing It.
WRESTLING IT and HAVING IT were originally contained in a draft that was over 2,000 pages. After revisions and putting the story that now spans two volumes on a strict diet, it’s now around 500 in total with the WRESTLING IT comprising about 275 pages while HAVING IT is around 235 pages. I’m hoping both will receive good haircuts in the editing process. The story covers a lot of ground and introduces several characters that become important to understanding Brent’s motivations and relationships. There is more story to be told, enough for a third book about Brent’s senior year but it feels anticlimactic. The draft of what part of the story was never finished.
LOSING IT, a book about Brent’s first semester of college, was already close to finished. In fact, I had arranged for an editor to take on the project and it was waiting in her queue. Over the past few years it existed under different working titles but has never been published. As originally composed, it was told in subjective as opposed to chronological order. So, one of the major revisions this year was to reformat its flow so that it events are presented sequentially. Some scenes were removed. These may appear in future novels or separately as short stories. Also, some sections needed to be rewritten to accommodate adjustments made to the WRESTLING IT and HAVING IT story lines, including the addition of new characters.
The third book I’ve been working on is titled DEADMEN DON’T WEAR WATCHES, another book with an odd title. Unlike the two FRIED WINDOWS books, this one is presented in third person. Brent Woods is a supporting character in this one and there are appearances of the grown-up Will and Sandra from The Thuperman Trilogy. The story is an urban fantasy, crime mystery thriller mash-up that follows Detective Mona Parker who is struggling with a perplexing serial murder case that threatens her job as well as her reputation for solving tough cases. DEADMEN is necessary to fill backstory elements for The WOLFCATS Series, book one of which is coming soon.
Writing is a curious habit by its
nature. Some attempt turning it into a profession with varying results. One
might have better odds winning the lottery than publishing a best seller that
makes the author wealthy. Don’t quote me on that. But I’ll bet the odds are
Creative people, like writers, analyze things, read things into situations
that others may not consider and, yes, see things that are not there. How else
could watching from your back porch as a bird sings in a tree in your garden
inspire you to write a murder mystery thriller? It happens.
With every book you write there comes a point, no matter what the book’s about
or how long or short it is, that you wonder if it is good enough to submit
for publication. If you have never experienced the magic of having someone else
validate your art by accepting your work for publication, you may only imagine
the exhilaration. It is a magical moment. But with each subsequent submission
you will always wonder if the magic is gone, especially if it takes months for
your publisher to get back to you.
In some ways I’ve had
an exceptional experience. Exceptional not in my subsequent success, but
in that it kind of goes against the grain and bucks the usual course. When
I wrote Fried Windows, I was in a bad place in my life. For many years
prior I’d been battling demons, both internal and external, imagined and real.
Toward the end of my tenure as a retail manager I was abusing alcohol
and frequently felt depressed. Often the two are linked. I’d been writing
for years. I’d published a few things, a couple of books through a small
publisher and others I’d self-published. I sold some books, but I didn’t feel
there was a great future ahead of me. Still, I never gave up on writing
because…well, if you’re a writer you know that stopping isn’t a
choice. It’s not how we are wired. I doubt my body would respond in the
same way as if I stopped breathing, but it would be close.
Work, my ‘day’ job that is, had long since ceased to inspire me. Since all my
kids had grown and were out on their own, I wasn’t sure why I was still going
through the motions any more. When I married, I made a commitment to family and
struggled a lot, putting in long hours, many too many times, to support them.
Although I wrote whenever I could, because, again, it is what writers do, I set
aside pursuit of my personal ambition of being a published author.
Every parent understands that a part of the job is subordinating private dreams
for the sake of putting your children first.
On February 22, 2012 I snapped. It occurred to me that no longer did I have a valid reason to continue putting up with my company’s abuse. It was my day off. Although I’d been scheduled to have at least one day off per week for the past 21 days, regularly, I was putting in 16-hour days and coming in on my days off. My masters were abusing their slave all because I was on salary and, let’s face it, they’d always gotten away the abuse before. Okay, technically they were paying me so it was not really slavery, but I wasn’t being fairly compensated for the hours I was working. You see, salaried = no overtime pay = abuse. They surely owned me for all intents and purposes. I received alarm calls waking me in the middle of the night that I had to respond to even when I had to come back later on to work an entire shift. And because my store was old the alarm system was buggy, It went off all the time. Only occasionally had there been a break-in.
I had been a manager all for the sake of getting paid a little more, never having my pay cut when business was soft, and maybe earning a bonus at the end of the year. That last part, by the way, is a moving target, a carrot that corporate dangles to entice while, in the background, doing everything they possibly can to make it unobtainable. If you have ever worked in retail management, you may have experienced some of that. Not every company does it, but the last couple for which I worked did.
It’s a given that nothing was ever good enough. And yet they told me I needed to be more positive. It’s damned hard to be positive when all you receive from your superiors is negative reinforcement. I was told to execute their plans not to think for myself. Hey, my last DM was an ex-Marine. He ran things as if he were still in the corps.
As a result of the pressure and stress, I drank to excess. Whatever didn’t hurt was so tense that I couldn’t sleep without putting myself into a stupor. Yeah, I know that’s an excuse. But it was why I drank so much. And so, roughly 7 years ago, I was enjoying my first day off in three solid weeks. Then, around 1 PM, I received the dreaded call from my boss telling me I needed to come in to work because his boss was there, in the store, raising hell about all the stuff that needed to be done. For some reason I was the only one on the planet who could do the work – oh wait, I’m salaried, so they were already paying me for doing it. Like Inspector Gadget, I was always on duty.
Like a good obedient dog, I went to the store. The guy I worked for was a new boss. In many ways he was the same as my old boss who had just retired about a month before, but in other ways he was not. My past manager was reasonable about dressing down if I was going to be doing physical lab, as in sweating a lot and getting dirty. Since the new guy told me I needed to put away freight, I assumed I could dress to make a mess. Ever before, when I came in to work ‘for a few hours’ to slam freight, that was what I did.. So, wearing casual clothes, I reported to work. When I saw my boss, he asked me why I wasn’t in uniform. I explained. He told me to go home and change. I started to do that, got all the way to the front doors and was about to go home and comply fully, when I asked myself, why am I still putting up with this crap?
Why was I killing myself – figuratively and literally, enduring the torment? My job was interfering with what I wanted to do with my life, what I loved to do, what I had been doing that day (my day off) prior to receiving the call – writing. I was divorced, my kids no longer needed Dad breaking his back to support them. Why was I doing it again and again and again? Because it was routine? Because I had bills to pay? Because it was force of habit?
There is an old saying that most managers know but few heed. Never allow your subordinate to reach the point of not caring. I’d been pushed well past that and, although everyone told me after the fact that I was crazy to do such a rash thing, I handed in my keys and never looked back.
What are you going to do now?
I don’t know, look for another job,
maybe something with lower stress. Or maybe I’ll just focus on writing. I’ve
always wanted to do that, and I got sidetracked.
Are you nuts?
I thought you knew me well enough for that to be established. Yes, I am nuts. That’s part of the reason why I write.
For a few years I’d belonged to an online writing community. I won a couple of feel-good trophies for my writing. But being among other creative people served a valuable purpose, validating what I wrote in draft and posted online for all to read. Having the almost immediate feedback of other writers, be they poets, novelists, script writers or short story writers bolstered my confidence in storytelling. It helped me improve basic writing skills and allowed me to explore and expand the range of my author’s voice. Without that experience I would have never evolved past where the brute force of hammering out words led me, a.k.a. nowhere.
For several years before that, I’d worked on downsizing my life. I’d started walking or riding a bike to work. Getting rid of my car was one huge expense eliminated. You see, subconsciously perhaps, I’d been adjusting for the inevitable all along. Something told me that I needed to learn how to survive on next to nothing because that was what it would take to become a full-time writer
I stopped drinking beer, not only
out of necessity because there was no money for it. but also, because the
reason for my drinking was gone. One day in March 2012, one of the people I
knew in the online writing community challenged me to write a poem about being
a child at a carnival. Not being a poet per se, what I wrote was
of dubious merit. But the poets in the community were kind and encouraging
about the noob’s effort. They wanted more of the same. But
the well had already dried up. Instead, I wrote a short story. And,
because that went over well. I wrote another story based on the first,
receiving a stronger response than before. I continued, for 16 days,
composing a story a day. Each story was part of a series that collectively I
had called Fried Windows (In a Light White Sauce), based on a scene in the
first story. Still, titling them as a bundle was for my sake and did not
necessarily imply intent for them to ever be a contiguous story.
When I finished, I set all that work aside to pursue other works in progress that, at the time, felt more important. Around me, my world continued falling to ruin. With no job, and no money. I was living with relatives. And, as every writer knows, relatives don’t usually consider writing a valid endeavor – because it doesn’t generate a weekly paycheck and all you appear to do is sit in your room staring at a computer screen.
Have you ever considered the lunacy of that last part? You can sit all day staring at a computer screen in an office somewhere outside of the home and no one has an issue with it (maybe because someone is writing you a check for your attention). But an author gets paid long after the fact – if at all. Therefore, that’s not a job at all. Uh, isn’t that the point? I want a profession not a job.
Around a year from the initial creative spurt that produced the nucleus of Fried Windows, I decided to stitch the sixteen pieces together, adjusting and amplifying the story arc that was there. You see, I’d always thought of the individual parts as a series of stories. But once i read it as a whole, there was some continuity. There were common characters and the same fantastic world. Why had I never read through the entire thing as if it were a novel? I saw the potential immediately. Sure, it was missing stuff. But there was magic in those pages. Somehow, I needed to continue that. Still, I wondered if I had it in me to transform what several people had validated as good, into something better.
Further validation came in a few
months later when I signed a publishing contract for the book. Still,
each time I write a novel there is concern about the magic – if it is still
there. Do I still have what my publisher saw in my first or every previous
work they have accepted? The answer is always ‘we’ll see’ as I send it
off. The only way you ever answer that question is to finish your work in
progress and push it out into the world.
These days there are many books that bend genres, making them next to impossible to classify. It’s to the point that lately, I’m not sure that any book deserves its pigeon hole. But people like making comparisons to whatever they know. That’s why genres are assigned. I’m not sure they are as relevant as they once were, though. When a reader has fallen in love with a given author’s work the importance of artificial categorizations diminishes. You read a book expecting the author to deliver and you follow no matter where his or her imagination takes you.
Steph Post writes Southern Noir, what a lot of people refer to as Grit Lit. Her novels are about rural Southerners who often get sucked into get rich quick schemes that are illegal. But people who live on society’s fringe face hardship daily and must make desperate choices.
Post’s previous works are A Tree Born Crooked, Lightwood, and Walk in the Fire. If you have already read those you respect Steph Post’s writing chops. You know her characters are lifelike down to the grit under their fingernails and the grease that doesn’t wash off their calloused hands. Her gut-wrenching scenarios present authentic dilemmas. Her settings are based on her experiences growing up in a part of Florida far removed from the resorts and amusement parks. In Post’s books the American South feels genuine down to cypress knees jutting up from the oozing mud. Snakes hide in the tall grasses and gators lurk in fowl smelling, murky waters. If you know Steph Post’s stories you have probably been waiting eagerly for the release of Miraculum, which entered our edge of the universe on 1/22/2019.
From the first page, Post grabs hold of your faculties and doesn’t let go for the duration of the strange ride that often dips into the darkness that underlies the superficial world that others, those who are invested in the systems and institutions of decent society, believe is real. Ostensibly, the story is about a carnival/circus experiencing an identity crisis as it struggles to adjust to changes in the early 1920’s. America has emerged as a major industrial power having survived intact while Europe was devastated by The Great War. To compete with other forms of entertainment for the nickels and dimes in the audience’s pockets, the circus must exhibit what people can’t find anywhere else, or at least convince them that its assortment of geeks, freaks and exotic enhancements is unique.
In the circus Ruby is the snake charmer. Most of her body is decorated with multiple tattoos – not particularly well-done ones at that. She’s a survivor and, as the story unfolds, we are privy to some of her secrets, her origins, her past relationships, and her few aspirations. We understand how much the world around her limits her life.
Daniel, a stranger, who is a study in contradiction, joins the circus as a glommering geek. Yet he always wears an immaculate and obviously expensive suit that never seems to soil. He never appears to sweat, despite the muggy heat of summer int he deep South. Apart from the side show performance, he’s urbane, well-educated, and well-traveled, leading most everyone to wonder whatever he is doing there. Of course, Daniel is attracted to Ruby but not for obvious reasons. Where he can control others, she is exempt. He finds this both frustrating and fascinating.
As always, Post breathes life into her characters with a careful eye for detail and well-tuned ear for dialogue. Her research into the period and the nuances of backstory are evident as the past collides with a present that cannot possibly be. Still, the haves shun the have nots. Shady people pop out of dark corners, trying to make a fast buck, even if it’s not completely legal. Rejected people, those who are discarded through no fault of their own, congregate in the only place that allows them to make a living, as freaks in the circus side shows.
All the elements that have made Post’s past novels visceral and gripping anchor what becomes a bizarrely compelling novel that dabbles in beliefs apart from the mainstream. Miraculum offers a weird, creepy, supernatural vibe beginning on page one. Along the way it simmers just beneath the surface while the story gains its legs. And then, it bubbles up violently toward a tumultuous and inevitable climax.
Miraculum by Steph Post Available in eBook, Hardcover from Polis Books
A couple of people have asked me about my first publication, ONE OVER X: FROM THE INSIDE TO THE CLOSER. They saw there were two books offered in eBook under similar titles. Here’s the story behind that.
In the mid-90’s I spent a lot of time digitizing a stack of typewritten pages. My now ex-wife regretted talking me into getting a home computer as every waking hour I was home I worked on that project. I had some stuff that dated back to my college years, a rough draft that has been titled TAROT, which as the title suggests had something to do with the fortune telling cards. I made an attempt to create characters based on the Major Arcana. I still have that rough draft, by the way. I’ve kept it around for humility’s sake. It reminds me of how badly I wrote at a time when I believed I wrote well.
Most of the material that I transcribed into computer files came from the period directly after my military service. You see, just prior to leaving Texas where I received a degree in Marketing, I threw away roughly 20,000 typewritten pages of accumulated bits of pieces of novels, short stories, and poetry along with the personal journal I kept throughout college. Trust me, it was trash and needed to be discarded. I’d say 95% if what I’ve written into draft manuscripts and published novels came from ideas I’ve had since 1987. However, ONE OVER X: FROM THE INSIDE TO THE CLOSER has roots in TAROT and shares many of the characters of a larger work, WOLFCATS, that date back to the late 70’s.
My wife and I separated in late ’97. For the next two years, in my spare time, I revised the material I had digitized. I wrote some connective material and rewrote large sections creating an extreme rough framework that would eventually become my first publication. While my first publisher wrestled with the editing, which all told took two years, I began writing a sequel titled A GAME OF HANGMAN. Roughly half of that book, which was also published through the same publisher, Ash Creek, and like FROM THE INSIDE TO THE CLOSER, is now out of print, became the core of the WOLFCATS story, which spans 10 as yet unpublished novels. I wrote that material in the summer of 2000, about a year before FROM THE INSIDE TO THE CLOSER was finally published.
I was never satisfied with either FROM THE INSIDE TO THE CLOSER or A GAME OF HANGMAN. The editing was sub par. At the time I was working in retail management, averaging over 60 hours a week and could not afforded the time to properly promote the books. However, I did not abandon the story. It is a series I plan to continue. There are drafts of two more novels. However, when the two ONE OVER X series books went out of print, I did a heavy revision of the material, using notes and comments from several readers as the basis for revision. Also, I split the book into two parts due to the length of the original material. In my opinion the story’s flow is much better. It is easier to follow Andy Hunter’s leaps and hops throughout the span of his multiple lifetimes. Also, it doesn’t take the reader over a hundred pages to figure out what is going on. Those books are available in Kindle format on Amazon.
Eventually, there will be a revised version of A GAME OF HANGMAN, though the WOLFCATS material has been extracted from the manuscript. There may or may not be two more novels in that series. There are additional stories involving Andy Hunter and Lee Anders Johnston of ONE OVER X, though some of that material falls into the FRIED WINDOWS series and THUPERMAN TRILOGY. So, the remaining story may be told as part of different series.
You may also notice another out of print book titled CURSE OF THE SPECTRE. The material contained in that book has been revised extensively, rewritten and reformatted. It is the prequel to the foundation material of the WOLFCATS series that I wrote int he summer of 2000. Much of the prequel is now contained in WOLFCATS I and II. Both are currently under contact with Pandamoon Publishing and I hope that one or both will be published later this year. The material that was extracted from A GAME OF HANGMAN is contained in WOLFCATS III. The remainder of the story I wrote as a separate volume during the summer of 2000 is contained in WOLFCATS IV through VII. Volumes VIII through X were written between 2005 and 2007, in response to several beta readers telling me they wanted to know how this, that and the other played out. Although there is a somewhat natural conclusion to WOLFCATS VII there are two major story arcs left unresolved. Those are completed in the final three books.
I don’t know when it happened that most people in American lived in or around cities. When I grew up on a farm in the 1960’s and early 1970’s it didn’t feel that way. In the part of Ohio where I lived, I think roughly half the people at that time lived in small towns, on farms, or in the countryside. After visiting my old hometown, I get the feeling that things haven’t changed all that much in the past 50 or so years.
A few months ago, I wrote a piece about going home to South Charleston, Ohio. The visit was rushed because of the schedule my publicist and I were on. We had less than a week to cover scheduled and unscheduled visits in three states. It was interesting seeing some of the places I used to live, though. Noting what had changed and what had not (most things hadn’t changed all that much) fascinated me.
I had a crazy idea about visiting my old library, the place I learned to love books. I thought I’d donate my most recent books, the ones of which I’m proudest and a few others titles from my publisher, the great and underappreciated works of some of my dearest colleagues. Disappointingly, the librarians at the Houston Library of South Charleston were at best cool to the idea. To them, I was just another author (maybe they thought I was self-published) who wanted to get my opus onto the shelves of their hallowed halls. Really, what I expected was a brief conversation about my connection to the town and perhaps sharing a few anecdotes from the past – things that only someone my age might remember about the curious little town. That part of the conversation never happened.
It is a rite of passage for an author to have a book on the shelves of a library. It’s not as easily accomplished as you might think. Space in a library is at a premium. Although they may want to support authors, especially local ones, they also have to answer to superiors about their borrowing rates.
When I lived in Melbourne, FL, the local library was more receptive to my first two publications. I recall the feeling of accomplishment I had when later on I visited the library with my daughters and together we perused the stacks until we found my books, alphabetical by author. No, it didn’t appear that anyone had checked either of them out. But still, that ranked high on the cool factor for all concerned.
I was speechless after the reception I received in my hometown, which is something for me to say. My publicist commented that the ladies were rather rude. As I said in the previous blog post, they weren’t expecting me.
Since then, a lot of things have changed. I moved to Southern California, meaning I’m farther away from my roots. Although I have visited Ohio several times in the past few years, always before I stayed around Cleveland. The visits were intended to have a more local base of operation for other excursions. One year Christine and I went to Chicago, for example. As my publicist lives less than a hour to the west of the Cleveland, it made some sense going there and driving to various places across the Midwest.
Since I’m now three time zones distant, I’m not sure when I’ll next be able to swing a trip to the Ohio. I know that if I do return I want to have something scheduled for South Charleston, perhaps at the library of maybe Miami View Elementary. I’d also like to visit Shawnee High School in Springfield. That is where I graduated in ’74. Actually, I’d like to spend a few days in the general area, connecting with some old friends and relatives. On the past trip I was able to meet up with two of my cousins, Randy and Lanelle, but the schedule was so tight that even that almost didn’t happen.
I realize that everything in the world has grown older around me. I refuse to admit that I’ve changed too. I’m stubborn like that. There is a scene in one of my books where a guy who is my age is talking to a slightly older man who says, “When you get old everything starts falling apart, not just your body but the world around you, too.” To which the slightly younger character responds, “I’ll try to keep that in mind.”
Truth is that the potential I had at eighteen years of age when I went off to college has greatly diminished. I had lots of dreams, and some were pretty big. Forty-four years later, I’ve accomplished some things I set out to do, but certainly not everything. I have seen a lot of the world, places the average person from South Charleston, Ohio never has. I’ve lived here and there throughout the US. And I have friends from all over the country and many around the world.
I guess I’d like to go back home to tell the people who live there, people I have never met (or the sons and daughters of people I grew up with), that as scary as the big bad world may seem when you’re a teenager in a small town, there are enchanting places to see and wonderful people to meet everywhere you go. Most people are wonderful, you know – once you get to know them, once you get past the artificial barriers that separate us. Also, I’d tell them not to sell themselves short of the opportunity of stepping out and making a lasting mark. And, by all means, NEVER stop dreaming.