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 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.

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Hawk Who Came through the Window

Writing along when a hawk came though  the window outside the stairs leading to my office in the top of the garage. I opened the door and was met with a wide wing span and very large talons and an expression that did not care for me. The hawk landed several stairs down and blocked my exit. He did not move. I waited and he turned his head and watched me.

So I sat down after I grabbed my phone and took a couple of shots. The hawk did not care. He just kept his one eye on me and we began our waiting game. When I first moved into the house I found the head of a bunny on the roof. Apparently a hawk had decided he no longer needed it and left it for me. I had to go out on the roof and retrieve the bunny head.

And this hawk was big enough to do that. He covered the stair and didn't move. It had been a normal Monday up until now. Dealing with old and new problems. Trying to get things moving and I was headed downstairs for coffee when I met my predatory friend. I always admired the way hawks soared far up in the sky, drifting on the air currents. It did look like pure freedom.

But one of us had to go. I did have to get on with my day and the hawk I assumed had to get on with his. So I waited and watched him and he waited and watched me. And then. As if he had just had enough. He turned and flew out of the garage. I went down the stairs and looked up and just caught him flapping away.

He had his day to get to and I had mine.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Why Do Famous People Kill Themselves?

I was watching a special on Janis Joplin and how she was at the top of her fame when she killed herself with heroin. They found her wedged between a coffee table and a wall with a cigarette still in her hand.  And for some reason this question nagged me; why do famous people kill themselves? It is the American Dream to become rich and famous. To be a Rock Star or Movie Star has simply become the ultimate lottery of life. And for those who achieve this life becomes heaven on earth. So  the question nags us as we stand in line at the grocery store and read the headlines of the celebrity tabloids.

  This makes no sense to us as we worry about our jobs and make sure we have enough money for our groceries and drive for cheaper gas.  They have everything. They have fame. They have money. Yet we see in the news time and again the tragic story of another star who has died. The question remains from Marilyn Monroe to Phillip Seymour Hoffman: why do people who have everything the world can give find the urge to destroy themselves?
Our entire culture is geared toward this ultimate prize. Our reality shows tantalize us with the one in a million chance to become rich and famous. Sadly most do not. But a few do go on to touch the gold and then fall into obscurity. And then the chosen ones who make it enter the fabled kingdom and it seems it is not long before we are hearing stories of stints in rehab, personal life catastrophes, and then the final denouement…they are dead.

What is the lottery but a one in a million chance to at least be rich if not famous? This mega lottery if you will stands on the top of our age of Celebradom as Mecca. And we stare in wonder as we see our modern Gods on television and the movies and many go on and do lead lives that do no end up in the tabloids. But they do seem like the few. Our megastars more than not end up as legends through death. James Dean. Marilyn.  Jim Morrison.
 It is as if this is the final step in their career.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Shelf Space or why Books Fail

Books fail for the same reason they always have. NO ONE SEES THEM. Lets assume your book is good. Lets assume you have the reviews. Your book still fails. Now why is that? Once upon a time there were only the bookstores. The bookstores had shelf space. Limited shelf space. Your book came out and chances are it did not find space on these shelves. Or if your book ended up in the bookstore it was spine out in the stacks and only for a little while.

Bookselling then was based on the concept that someone walking by would see your book and buy it. But most people never saw your book. The book was buried under the Bestsellers and the publishers who paid for shelf space. Your book from the midsized or even large press never had a chance because they only pay for so many books to be there. Even the Independent bookstores have to be careful about their space and pick only the books that hit their radar.

So now lets fast forward to the cyber world. Your book is now in cyber space and the same problems apply. Book shelf space. Except now it is cyber shelves. And your book has to be seen. But now you have a chance. Now you can get it in front of people. You just have to promote it though the many promotion channels. And your book may not be seen by everyone but by working hard you can make sure it is seen by some. And this is better.

The author now has a choice. Work hard and get cyber space or let your book disappear. The choice is really now up to the writer.
The Pitcher

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Archiving Your LIife

Went down to the University the other day and dropped off ten computers and my son for a weekend at college. I got to stay in a dorm room and the Archives of the University added ten old computers to my earlier manuscripts. The Archivist looked at the coffee stained behemoths and shook his head. "What kind of operating system are these?" I told him they were Windows...maybe the first one.

And then I shipped off the son and walked around the University. Ok. Seven novels later and I am back where I started. So this is what I did after I graduated. I wrote novels that ended up back at the University in ancient computers. And what does it mean that there is up in the library a room with all my manuscripts and ten old computers that in theory will give up my efforts from the last fifteen years. And will give some scholar a glimpse of my life. I don't know.

I go to the English building and it is locked. Of course. Summer. Duh. I stare in the window and look for the guy who sat in those classes. So I just walk around campus aimlessly like that Undergraduate did so many years before. That night I go get a drink then come back to my dorm room. Laying in the bunk bed I can see the campus from my window and the library. In the other part of the dorm my son sleeps.

Everything is truly a circle.
The Pitcher

Books by William Hazelgrove