Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Real Santa is Released

The Kindle Version of Real Santa is now out. The hard and soft cover will come out in October. When a book comes out there is a sort of great anticipation followed with a great Huh! It is inevitable. After all those years of thinking about the book then it just sort of falls out into the world and amazingly life goes on. After six books you begin to know what to expect.

Real Santa is about a man who realizes his daughter is starting to doubt the existence of Santa Claus and decides to do something about it. He notices the chimney outside his daughters bedroom is short and that the roof is almost flat. And from there this unemployed engineer begins to concoct a scheme that will include landing reindeer on his  roof and hiring a movie director to help him complete the special effects of a man floating down from the sky and rising up again.

Of course nothing goes right and when the big night comes much goes wrong. Becoming stuck in his own chimney on the way down to deliver the presents George contemplates his life and how a fifty year old man came to hover above his own fire place.

I wont give away anymore. You will have to read the rest to find out if George succeeds in restoring his daughters faith in Christmas. Enjoy.
Real Santa...Sometimes you just have to believe

Friday, August 29, 2014

Teaching Down in the South Side of Chicago

Your first thought is you are going to get shot.  Could GPS really have screwed up? No way. Turn around. But you don't you keep driving and looking for the school. And there it is between some run down homes and you park in the gated lot with razor wire along the top and go on in and face the room full of Latino men and women who have come to learn. And you are the only one who doesn't speak Spanish

So you trot out all your writer tricks. You have used them before with other students at more affluent schools and they worked but here not so much. The stakes are much higher and no one has time to lose. Everyone has children and everyone works several jobs. And it is a rough area and many live in even rougher areas. So you plow through looking for an alley to walk down where you can meet on neutral ground.

And they realize that you are not like the others. That you too are on the outside and the stories come out and the guards come down and they turn into students like any other students. And then they read their essays and you understand the odds. So you try harder and then it is over and you are driving back to the suburbs

Your wife asks you what it was like and you try and say how it was...but for once, words fail you.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Is Lit Dead?

Every time I begin teaching a Composition Class this question comes to me like a nagging pain. Is Lit Dead? And this comes from reading the opening to The Great Gatsby and having the students complain about the elevated language or the face that no one really reads literature anymore. And I don't teach Lit. I teach composition and so I am just skimming the surface but certainly my decision to bring blogging into Comp is based on the fact I blog quite a bit but also that Comp like so many other things has gone real time.

And Literature is anything but real time. The very opening of a novel lets us know that this story is happening somewhere in the hazy twilight of suspended time. Be it John Williams Stoner or Ishiguros Remains of the Day. The fact that old clocks are ticking somewhere in the room is evident in not only the pace but the viewpoint and of course the language. Literature is at heart a romantics language. There is something wonderfully tragic in the fact time has passed.

And yet in the year 2014 I wonder if this has a place. Certainly people still write literature but do they write it for those who expect literature to act like literature and what will happen when those people pass on. Will my bloggers rule the day with our real time commentary or will people year again for something not so in our reach?

Time will tell.


Monday, August 25, 2014

Jackie Robinson And The Best Years

Watching the Little League duel between Jackie Robinson and South Korea made me think of all the Little League games my son played and I managed to hang around as Assistant Coach. We had an amazing nine year run and now it seems almost amazing it has ended. Baseball is the ultimate kid sport. Something about swinging a bat and shagging balls in a dusty field makes you into a kid again and then of course the games are to die for.

Because in that moment nothing else matters but that game. And it is not just a Little League game anymore it is something between parents and their sons and daughters and it is a moment in time. Like the final game you just cant believe it will end and when it ends badly you don't really believe that either. You think you are immune to rooting for a bunch of kids in a life and death struggle but baseball doesn't put up with that. You are either in or out.

And when it does end you realize quite suddenly those were the best years. Parenting is a strange continuum of moments but doing something with  your kid that you can both participate in and both feel good about is a rare moment. And when it is over all you want to do is just have one more chance. One more game to capture all that youth again.

But of course the season is over and when they grow up all you can do is say...wow...those were the best years.

The Pitcher

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Baseball Fields in the Dusk

Had to go over and drop off some stuff before the signing on Saturday at the Kane County Cougars Stadium. I found the office and dropped off the sign and some cards and then was walking back to my car when I saw the open gate. Yeah. I had to do it. The sun was slanting down and there was no one there. What the hell. So I walked in and up to the edge of the ball field.

And I just stared at the empty field with the breeze blowing over it. Minor League Feeder Team For The Cubs. But how many guys make it? How many dreams go on and never come back. And while I'm standing there a guy walks up behind me. Yeah. I do it too he says. I stare at him. I mean stare at the field when no one is around. I mean its my job to keep the skunks out. You know the animals. But when no one is here. I go out there and sometimes I stand on the mound you know. And I wind up and just pitch.

He laughs. I cant do it very well. I had bone cancer and they put cement in my back but what the hell I can stand there and see what they see you know. He looks at me then. What do you do? I tell him and he smiles. So you wrote that book...wow thats' great. I guess you love the game about as much as I do. And then we just stand there not talking and staring at the field.  He shakes his head.

All those dreams huh?
Yeah. All those dreams.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Mark Twain and Subscription Books

We have authors putting 104,000 ads in the New York Times. We have authors who are starving and cant get their books in Barnes and Noble or just about anywhere else. We have authors who don't even bother and self publish on KDP and take their royalty checks Amazon sends them. We have Big Publishing screaming from the rooftops about the evil empire. We have the digitization of books following the digitization of music. When was the last time you bought a CD?

The first thing that hits you when you walk into Barnes and Noble is how does anybody sell anything anymore. There is just so much. And of course you cannot find your own book as an author unless you are the one percent who posted that ad (paid for by the wealthier authors) to complain about Amazonian treatment. And it is ruled by the few. We probably have the same gap in publishing that exists in the rest of the country. The few reap their profit while the many choke on the crumbs.

And yet the more things change the more they stay the same. Did you know how Mark Twains Books were first sold? They were not sold in stores. His books were not deemed worthy. They were sold by subscription services. In other words they were sold by mail and by door to door salesman. Subscription books were not deemed worthy of review then but of course that didn't bother Twain. He sold into best-sellerdom and beyond.

And now as the powers that be hack it out we are turning back to those subscription days. In a time when we are watching on our own individual screens our individual shows we now get our individual books recommended to us by Bookbub and Book Guerrilla. It is the future and it is now. Small bookstores will be that individual as well. Loyal patrons relying on their bookseller to hand sell them a book.

Mark Twain would get it. He surely would.



Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Afternoon of an Author

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote a piece in his later years called Afternoon of an Author. In it he went through his routine and it had all to do with writing. It is not uplifting as Fitzgerald knew he was on the far side of his career and his life. But at least it was still about the writing. In Afternoon of an Author there is not one smidge of promotion time. He did nothing to push his books and of course now he is the giant who sells hundreds of thousands of copies each year.

Now here is the new Afternoon of an Author. Writing 10 percent. Promotion 90. Time online. Incalculable. We are certainly living through the transition from print to the digital book. And for the authors it is unbelievable. We have become the bookstore in that we have to put our wares out there 24/7. It is in fact nuts. The days of Hemingway and Fitzgerald where all one did was write are so over it is hard to believe they ever existed.

Fitzgerald had a great line in Afternoon of an Author. Slag of a dream. That is how he saw himself at the end. Certainly as we grind through one cyber promotion after another you certainly feel like the slag of a dream...begun a long long time ago.


Books by William Hazelgrove