The Top Ten Things You Are Likely To Hear At My Launch Party
I was thrilled to get to speak with the Southeast Region Library’s Mystery Discussion group about The Land of Look Behind. I attempted to stream the event on Facebook Live with a few hiccups but here is the video from our discussion. Thank you again to all who came and watch online.
When your children are small, you run around the galaxy like Qui-Gon Jinn with a mostly obedient Obi-Wan Kenobi tagging along. You call the shots and mold your trusty young padawan, with the intention he’ll one day be like you. Although everyone warns you that the next phase is fraught with peril, and destined to end badly, you press on full of optimism. Alas, all too quickly, it comes to an abrupt end as you take a light saber to the gut from a mysterious dark force (adolescence).
All of a sudden you are a flustered and befuddled Obi-Wan, strapped with a moody, angry, slightly whiny padawan who thinks he knows everything. You see the great potential that Anakin possesses, but fear you are going to have to kill him before he reaches it. When Anakin isn’t busy not listening to you he is hanging out with shady figures who are bad influences. Inevitably comes the conflict that ends with you, literally or figuratively, screaming at him, through weary tear soaked eyes, “YOU WERE THE CHOSEN ONE!” while he growls up at you wallowing in his resentment and remorse. [Disclaimer: this isn’t indicative of all teenagers just those that eat and breathe.]
Your reward for those tumultuous Anakin years is a much more willing subject, Luke. You are older now and a little wiser and more patient. Your apprentice understands he doesn’t know everything and is eager to learn what you know. He is at times impatient, wanting to possess skills and knowledge it has taking you a lifetime to acquire. Still, you are grateful for a second chance and a more receptive vessel. While you want to instruct him in all things, you wisely decide that it’s best he learn for himself. As scary and painful as it may be, when the time is right, you will choose to leave him alone.
Although he is grown and more experienced, he will still seek for guidance. The years have given you additional knowledge that can benefit him but are too old to go chasing around the galaxy. If he wants your wisdom he’s going to have to come to Dagobah and put up with a heaping spoonful of your craziness, and eat whatever crap you cook up. If he shows the slightest disinterest or lack of faith you can hit him with your cane and say bad things to him and he just has to take it because you are old. Do or do not, there is no try.
One day you’ll fade away and all you can do is hope you’ve prepared him well enough to deal with crazy old Anakin and the dark side better than you did.
Chances are if you’re reading this you are A) my mother or B) an author interested in having a successful book signing. To the former I say, “Mom, you can stop reading. Also, your chocolate chip muffins were on point as usual.” To the latter, I hope you find this an informative and valuable use of your precious “non-writing” time.
Before I get into the details I’ve got to cover one critically important thing. You have to forget that you are an author and this is your book baby that you spent months and years birthing into the wide world of publishing. You are and it is, but nobody cares. At a book signing, especially for first time or little known authors, you are a salesman and your book is your product. I’ll give you a moment to let the bile settle back into your stomach. Ready? Is it okay to continue? Good. In a bookstore at a book signing you have an amazing chance to reach real live readers and let them know about your book; the more you embrace that the more successful you will be. Think of yourself as a glorified sign spinner pointing the way to an amazing story you want to share. Are you going to be okay? Suppress the gag. Suppress it. It’ll be fine. You’ll be all right. There you go. Shall I proceed? Okay then.
Here are ten things I learned on my very first book tour (because everybody loves a top ten).
So that’s it. You do those ten things and you just had a successful book signing regardless of how many books you signed. You’re welcome.
I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect at my launch party this past Friday but I was blown away by your response and love. I cannot thank my wife and my children enough for all their hard work in prepping for this amazing event. My house smelled like popcorn and cookies for days. Lola you are amazing, I truly could not have done any of this without you.
The party started promptly at 6pm as the guests began to arrive there was a steady stream of people all with copies of my book and then an unexpected guest arrived straight from the streets of Gotham. BATMAN!
That’s right, Batman was at my launch party. I’m not sure but I think the list of authors who can say that is pretty small.
And the hits just kept coming from there. I was delighted to see dear friends and family, coworkers and literary colleagues as well as new friends interested in my work and a few who just wanted to use the bathroom.
It was such an incredible evening and I’m so thankful for all those who came and especially all those who helped with food, prep, cleanup and support. Also thank you to Suzanne and company at the OneOhOne gallery for your help and hospitality.
I woke up Saturday morning exhausted but so happy. Then I thought of my book signing later that day at Costco and immediately my nerves began to tingle like they hadn’t in years. It felt like the pre-game jitters I used to get in high school before a big game. I was sure I had exhausted all goodwill and interest from my friends and family and did not expect to see any of them come out to my signing and wasn’t sure anyone else would even care that I was there at all. Thankfully I was wrong. I arrived at Costco about a half hour early and the staff set up a table for me near the books, got me a bottle of water and wished me luck.
I really had no idea what to do so I just stood by my sign and began greeting people. Before too long a wonderful family (the Moore’s) stopped by the table and introduced themselves. They knew my parents and their son is a school friend with my oldest boy. They bought the first copy of the day and I was so relieved that I wouldn’t leave with a goose egg.
From that point on it was miraculous. With a steady flow of shoppers passing by my table I was able to attract their attention with a beautiful book cover, popcorn and my charming personality (yes, in that order). One by one the books were signed and sold. I had to make two trips back to the book section to get another stack. After just two and a half hours of conversing with people about a story I had work on for so long to bring to life, BOOM, I sold out. It was an incredible feeling.
I feel so blessed for the reception my story has received thus far and cannot wait for my next signing. When is that you say? I’m glad you asked. It’s this Friday February 19th at Barnes & Noble in Dana Park Village Square. Spread the word. Hope to see you there.
In high school I was on the varsity football team. I don’t say I was a football player because that would imply something other than my unremarkably average athletic prowess. Matter of fact, my most memorable contribution to my teammate’s memories was from a hotly contested game about midway through my junior year. We were down by a touchdown and had the ball on our own twenty-seven yard line. It was third and three and we gave the ball to our tailback on a dive up the middle. He plowed ahead for a five yard gain as we converted the third down. The only problem was the yellow handkerchief that lay back on the white chalk just beyond left hash mark. The call was holding. Coach went ballistic and demanded to know who the perpetrator was. He yelled and waved his arms at the referees until at long last he got the attention he desired. In an effort to calm my coach and maintain some control of the game the ref stated with all certainty that the infraction had been committed by number 53. My coach’s adamant and passionate reply was, “53?! We don’t even have a 53!” I stood two feet behind my coach wearing a white and pristine jersey with the large green numbers five and three on it. Although I had yet to appear in the game, and most certainly did not hold anything other than a Gatorade bottle, I was not about to correct him at that moment and remind him that we did indeed have a 53. Instead I quietly faded back among my teammates and embraced the obscurity.
Now that I’ve written a book I hesitate to call myself an author for similar reasons. I am comfortable saying I’m on the team but an author implies a skill set that I have yet to fully realize. ‘Work in progress’ comes to mind when assessing my own writing prowess. Case in point, my wife is the first line editor on everything that I write. She has spent the better part of the past two years trying to teach me the difference between past and passed (did I get that right?). I’ll take a first pass on a chapter, post or short story and read over it two and even three times, cleaning it up and fixing mistakes and still she will find errors that I’ve missed. It’s maddening. I mean I have spell check, I have a college degree and have written professionally for nearly a decade and still I not only make grammatical and spelling errors but fail to spot them upon closer inspection. I recognize that editing is a different talent and skill set than writing and accept that it’s not something I can put on my resume but that doesn’t stop me from trying to improve my typographical horror shows.
As a blogger I took great comfort in leaning on my wife’s talent as an editor but also found it nearly unbearable each and every time she found a mistake. Working with the wonderful and talented editors employed by my publisher was the same. I was grateful they were there and happy for several other sets of eyes but each time they found an error I wanted to scream. After months and months of edits, sub-edits and rewrites the day arrived when The Land of Look Behind needed to go to the printers. I made one last frantic pass through the manuscript where I made forty one changes/additions/corrections and handed it off with a stamp of approval. Weeks passed (was that the correct passed? I still don’t know) and the advanced copies went out for review. In concert with that I posted the first chapter online to give readers a sample and the feedback was all good. Then I received an email from a concerned reviewer asking if she’d received a final copy because she had found multiple errors in the first chapter. I poured over my copy while I waited for her response on what errors she found. I finished the first ten pages and could not find anything amiss. She replied with what she found and sure enough there it was. I had used “waste” when I should have used “waist” and “of” when I meant to say “a”. I was mortified. I even went back and looked at my first (wife approved) draft and neither mistake was there. The err came in one of my attempts at cleaning up my story and none of us caught it. I couldn’t even find it on my own when given the targeted area. I felt like I was wearing that gleaming white jersey all over again and wished I could simply fade back into a throng of teammates and wait for time to expire. However, there is no hiding your shame in the world of publishing. So I had to come to terms with the fact that, despite my best efforts and the best efforts of several talented eyes, a less than perfect version of my story now exists. In the sleepless nights that followed I have researched this topic and tried to find ways to ease my mind. I’ve been told repeatedly by many friends and avid readers that these things happen and even found that I am in the company of many all-time great writers who were terrible spellers with atrocious grammar (Austen, Fitzgerald, Christie, and Hemingway to name a few). None of that dulled the pain or the reality of the tarnish that was now upon a story that I am immensely proud of. I considered just owning it and making it a game for the readers. “Hey kids, find all the errors in my book and you win a prize!” But that would take the focus off what I believe to be a truly entertaining and worthwhile story and I don’t want that. Instead I wrote this post.
To those of you who’ll read my book, I ask for your forgiveness for the flaws of a first time writer and echo the words of the great philosopher Joss Whedon, “Humans are odd. They think order and chaos are somehow opposites and try to control what won’t be. But there is grace in their failings. I think [we] miss that.”
1. President Snow is Katniss’s father.
2. Ebenezer Scrooge was dead the whole time.
3. Meg, Beth, Jo and Amy are all hobbits.
4. Jay Gatsby is really only average.
5. The ham was spoiled and the eggs rotten.
6. Moby dick had a pet cat named Ishmael.
7. Tumnus is Lucy’s monster.
8. The Picture of Dorian Gray is just a blurry selfie.
9. Percy is the sixth Jackson.
10. Old Dan and Little Ann suffer from coonophobia.
11. Charlotte bites Peter Parker in the end.
Anyone who has ever tried to create something new has at some time ran into a brick wall. You begin with the best of intentions and the highest hopes. You select the necessary tool in your preferred medium dedicate an indefinite amount of time to your project. Then it happens (or rather doesn’t happen). Nothing. No ideas. No inspiration. Just the taunting silence of a stalled mind. At that point you have a choice, you can retreat (Twitter, Netflix, YouTube, Facebook. Pick your distraction.) or start desperately chucking stuff against the wall until something sticks. This is my salute to all those who seek to create. Stay with it…or go get a snack.
For your consideration; a low stress high reward Christmas shopping experience. There is an easy way to complete all you Christmas shopping for your friends and family in just three simple steps.
Step 2: Print this delightful card/invitation.
Done and done. You’ve just given the gift of reading. Plus, one of the best parts of opening a gift is the anticipation. You’ve just gifted them several more weeks of anticipation, as they can now look forward to all the mystery and majesty of a brand new story. What could be better than that, you say? Well as an added bonus they have an invitation to a party. Whaaaaaaaat?! That’s right, who doesn’t like a party? Not only do they get a book but they get to go to a celebration about the book and meet the guy who wrote it. As a double bonus when they present their invitation at the party and bring their book to get signed they will be entered into the grand prize drawing for a door prize. I know what you are thinking, this keeps getting better and better. But wait there’s more, for every copy you by an angel gets their wings. You’re welcome.
Like most of you voluntarily reading this, I love Star Wars. One of my most vivid childhood memories is going to see Return of the Jedi in theaters when I was six (I wanted an Ewok so bad). I watched Empire Strikes Back on HBO repeatedly one summer, seriously every time it was on (Obsessed I was). When I was eighteen and hungry for more Star Wars I read a series of books that were set several decades after Episode VI and was able to catch up with Han, Luke and Leia as generals, parents and Jedi masters. I dreamed that one day I would see those stories on the big screen and on December 18th that dream will become a reality. I still cannot believe it.
I have followed the news and consumed the promotional materials and trailers like a wampa at a free tauntaun buffet. As JJ Abrams is famously secretive, there is still much we do not yet know about the story for the new film but I thought I would take a stab at guessing the identity of some of the characters and the plot. This is strictly my theory based solely on the trailers and the interviews I have read from the cast and crew, so these cannot be considered spoilers (The odds of me correctly guessing the plot are approximately 3,720 to 1). And yes, I put way too much thought into this.
First, I believe that Rey, played by Daisy Ridley, is without a doubt Luke Skywalker’s daughter. They have purposefully withheld her last name and from the international trailer we hear her say she is waiting for her family. Furthermore in an interview Ridley said her character was abandoned on Jakku when she was five years old. Combine that with the knowledge that the First Order is the re-incarnation of The Empire and has been hunting Luke Skywalker as the despot who murdered the noble Emperor Palpotine and spread chaos through the galaxy (which I believe will be the propaganda The First Order uses to recruit people to their cause). Giving further credence is the fact that we have not yet seen Luke and much focus in the marketing has been on Rey.
We know from Abrams and Kathleen Kennedy that Episodes VII, VIII and IX are a continuation of the Skywalker saga so we are going to be introduced to the next generation in this film. Could she be Han and Leia’s daughter? Sure, and she would still technically be a Skywalker, but why would Han and Leia, who are still clearly around and capable, abandoned their daughter on a desert planet? It doesn’t make sense.
What does make sense is that Luke had a child and for her protection left her on an isolated desert planet just as was done for him. Luke separated himself from her so she would not be hunted and nobody would know of her relationship to him. Meanwhile, Luke goes off and lives in seclusion to hone his connection with the Force like his mentors Yoda and Obi Wan. And this is where the action picks up in The Force Awakens.
Finn, played by John Boyega, is a Stormtrooper with The First Order. He sees some things that make him question the propaganda he has been fed his whole life. Possibly the torturing of Poe Dameron, played by Oscar Isaac, or the burning of the settlement by Captain Phasma, played by Gwendoline Christie. Finn helps Dameron escape from a star destroyer and he himself is shot down in the process, crash landing on Jakku. He meets Rey, who has returned from a successful scavenging run inside a fallen star destroyer, just as TIE Fighters show up and start blasting the Hoth out of everything. They escape in the Millennium Falcon where they meet Han and Chewbacca. “Chewie, we’re home.”
Uncle Han has been searching for Rey since they learned of her existence and needs her to help find Luke and bring him back out of hiding because there is a emerging threat to the galaxy. The new quartette travel to a distance planet to speak with the pirate Maz Kanata, played by Lupita Nyong’o, as they believe she has knowledge of Luke’s whereabouts, or possibly because she has his lightsaber. Or both? Kanata, who lives in the temple with all the flags, fills Rey in (and also the audience) as to some of the events of the last thirty years and a bit of her family history and why Luke left her. (I’ll hedge my bet slightly here and say that since Kanata is described as a pirate the temple might not be her base of operation, it could very well be the headquarters of The Resistance and Han is taking her to Aunt Leia.)
In the meantime, Captain Phasma and The First Order shows up and starts wrecking shop outside the temple. Troopers capture Han, Chewie and Finn but just in the nick of time they are rescued when Poe Dameron and the rest of The Resistance show up and an epic X-wing/TIE Fighter battle ensues. General Leia, who orchestrated their rescue, arrives and is reunited with Han. Rey meets Aunt Leia and Finn officially joins The Resistance.
The First Order is forced to retreat and Captain Phasma must report their failure to General Hux, played by Domhnall Gleeson. From interviews by Gleeson and Abrams, Hux is an ambitious General who has his sights set on running The First Order. His rival is the Vader fanatic Kylo Ren, played by Adam Driver, who is the disciple of Supreme Leader Snoke, played by motion capture wizard Andy Serkis. Kylo Ren, if that is his real name, is obsessed with Vader and the dark side and collects Syth relics. He wants to finish the work of his grandfather to bring order to the galaxy and turn Luke to the dark side. “Nothing will stand in our way. I will finish what you started.” That’s right I said it, his grandfather. Kylo Ren is none other than Han and Leia’s prodigal son. Boom! (Whaaaaaaat??)
Snoke is the master behind the scenes and while General Hux is focused on completing and activating their terrifying weapon (a new Death Star) from the Star Killer base on the ice planet, Kylo Ren is tasked with hunting down Luke and any potentially Force-sensitive life forms, a.k.a. his cousin.
While General Leia, Admiral Ackbar (that’s right, he’s back), Poe Dameron and the rest of The Resistance address the impending threat posed by the new Death Star; Han, Rey, Chewie and Finn continue on the search for Luke.
I have no idea what happens from here but this is how I would love to see Episode VII end. Kylo Ren catches up with his father, his cousin and Finn on a remote forest planet where both parties believe Luke to be hiding. Ren attacks them and cuts off Han’s hand (it’s Star Wars, you know it’s gonna happen) and is bearing down on Finn. Finn produces Luke’s lightsaber (which he’s only wielded a couple of times) and prepares to defend himself. Ren soundly defeats Finn and is about to end him when out of nowhere a cloaked figure appears and Force pushes Ren through about a dozen trees with power and intensity we have never seen. The figure turns to Rey and Finn and removes his hood to reveal a grizzled and bearded Luke Skywalker. [Cut to black] Bring on Episode VIII!
Things I hope “I’m Luke Skywalker. I’m here to rescue you.”
-Han and Leia are indeed together in this movie.
-Leia will have honed the Force and will have senses and abilities of a Jedi
-Rey has Darth Plagueis’s staff.
-Supreme Leader Snoke turns out to be Darth Plagueis.
-We see the bones and skull of a certain Gungan Senator in the background of a shot.
-Any character who says “midi-chlorians” is immediately dismembered and thrown down a long shaft.
Things I fear “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”
-Finn is Lando Calrissian’s son. That’s just stupid.
-Rey built BB-8. It was idiotic to have Anakin be the creator of C3-PO, don’t do that again.
-Han dies in this movie.
-Chewie dies in this movie.
-Luke has turned to the dark side.