Stoking the star-making machinery.

With apologies to Joni Mitchell’s “Free Man in Paris” song about shilling for one’s art. It’s similar to promoting a new book. And I’m stoking that machinery myself with launch parties, book signings, media appearances, and social media postings.

This is all part of publishing a book these days. If you’re not John Grisham, then you have to do all the heavy lifting yourself, regardless if the book is published by an established publisher or by yourself. Please don’t view this as a complaint, it isn’t. There is nothing like going out and meeting your potential audience face-to-face. It’s also not for the faint of heart. You’re out there, exposed. Your work is out there for all to see. What is this all about?

Norman Mailer once wrote and I paraphrase: A writer must have an enormous ego to believe anyone would want to read what he has to say.”

So, yes, it is about ego.

He also said the following: “Writing books is the closest men ever come to childbearing.” and When I read it, I don’t wince, which is all I ever ask for a book I write.”

And about pain. And hopefully, acceptance. What do you think?

Now what?

That’s the question every author faces when his/her book is released upon the world. The endless hours of writing, rewriting, editing, and then editing some more are now over. What’s next?

If you’re someone like James Patterson who seems to write a new book before breakfast each day, that’s an easy question. If you’re like the rest of us, now comes the hard work – marketing your book, getting it into stores, getting media attention, and ultimately sales. None of this will make us rich though complaints on that would be far and few. That’s not what we’re in it for.

So, we do all of that. But then, if we’re lucky, a new idea bubbles up through the dark tar pit of our minds. And we’re off again, unless… it’s not a good idea. We start to write only to discover it fizzles out after a few chapters. There are very few writers who don’t have a plethora of book ideas that went nowhere. Maybe you think you’re devoid of new ideas, a possibility for sure, but not terminal. Ideas are like trains, there’s always another coming around the bend. It may not be on your time schedule, but you’re not driving that train…yet. Just be ready to board it when it does come.

Oh, by the way, Gwendoline Christie as Hannah.

As described in A Coward’s Guide to Living, Jacob Will’s love interest Hannah Bishop is described as “intimidating…tall, striking, very fit, almost muscular…and extremely attractive in a Brienne of Tarth (Game of Thrones) sort of way.” So who better to assume the role than the actual Brienne herself, but Gwendoline Christie.

She’ll need no sword in this role, her strengths will always carry the day.

There are many other roles to fill, but I’ll wait until the director(s) call and ask for my thoughts. Wait, is that my phone ringing?

And while I’m thinking about it, Jessica Chastain. And Lasse Hallstrom for director.

Continuing the casting fantasy of my book A Coward’s Guide to Living, the pivotal role of the red-headed Reverend Rose Beecham should go to Jessica Chastain. As Beecham is described as an unusually good looking minister, Chastain is the natural choice.

Her previous roles as a gambling entrepreneur (Molly’s Game), political operative (Miss Sloane), and author (The Help), position her as perfectly suited for the demands of a minister.

And as her last role as Tammy Faye Baker was that of a minister’s wife, she can take the pulpit for real in this one.

Lasse Hallstrom would be a great director for this. His story telling in The Cider House Rules; The Shipping News; Haachi, A Dog’s Tale; and The Hundred Foot Journey, among others, points to his understanding of the human condition in all its forms.

Adam Driver? Really?

When writing a book, it’s hard not to imagine who, if cast in a movie of it, would play the lead. Jacob Will, the protagonist in my new book A Coward’s Guide to Living, is a complex and flawed individual. I can’t think of a better or more appropriate actor than Adam Driver to portray him.

Driver is an actor of uncanny ability whose range and physical attributes make him perfect for this role. There’s no need for a Kylo Ren version of Jacob. The role that most closely resembles that is his portrayal of the eponymous Paterson in Jim Jarmusch’s film Paterson. Here he plays a poetry writing bus driver in, where else, Paterson, New Jersey. His character’s observances of life around him indicate a very savvy and aware actor, perfect for the role of Jacob Will.

So, Hollywood, that’s my two cents. What do you think?

Note to Steven Spielberg: it’s available at Amazon.

A cast of thousands (well, maybe not quite that many), years in the making, and best of all, no animals were harmed in the production of this book.

All of that is true. And that’s about it as this is a fictional tale of a man charged with getting his s___ together. How many of us can honestly say we have our act together? How many of us have gotten ill-advised tattoos? Been assaulted with a metal detector and then treated to lunch? Or wasted a bottle of expensive champagne and not by drinking it? Fortune told? Yes, twice. Or… ah, the list goes on.

And that’s just a hint of what Jacob Will (think Adam Driver) encounters in A Coward’s Guide to Living, now available in paperback here.

A Day-Glo, Chromium Yellow Panda Bear? Well, of course. And now you can find out why.

That Panda Bear is only one of the characters in my new book, A Coward’s Guide to Living. In this coming-of-middle-age story, Jacob Will is charged with getting his life together via a most unusual method. He must commit a number of little deaths, “killing” those things preventing him from living a genuine life. Be assured, no animals or people were harmed during his quest.

His adventures will take him across the United States in an an attempt to fulfill that charge. Why did he destroy an expensive bottle of Champagne? What’s the meaning of that tattoo? And will he sue the manufacturer of a metal detector? Will he discover what love is?

These and more questions are answered in A Coward’s Guide to Living. Available now through Amazon on Kindle and paperback.

Coming soon, real soon… really.

What’s the phrase ‘All things come to those who wait?’ actually mean? If one is patient and willing to endure the interminable time before the dream becomes a reality (if indeed it ever does), then surely it will materialize. R-i-i-i-ght!

Or you can take the bull by the damn horns yourself. And that’s what I’m about to do. Now I do not equate this with something as perilous as running with the bulls in Pamplona, but it is a little risky and more than a little scary.

After trying for several years to get my latest book published the traditional way (query, agent, publisher, remainder rack), I’m going to creep out on the ledge of self-publishing, trying not to fall off in the process.

The book is one that has gone through a number of titles before its current one, A Coward’s Guide to Living. It’s a coming-of-middle-age story about a man charged with learning who he really is. He is charged will “killing” those things internally that prevent him from growing.

It started as My Eleven Suicides, Eleven Little Deaths, A Coward’s Guide to Living, and Jacob Will 2.0: A Coward’s Guide to Living. I have a favorite among these, but am interested in what you think works best: a hybrid of these or something new. Who knows, you may wind up creating the new title for it. If so, I’ll send you a copy of the book.

I look forward to your thoughts.

It’s for you.

That’s what I hear way too many times at home when the phone rings, regardless of what the caller ID says. “It’s for you” is what I get.

And it’s never good news. Now let me set this straight – it’s not usually bad news either. Many of the calls I get must be a measurement of my popularity. That’s what I keep telling myself. Why else would I be getting so many of them??

The one thing they all have in common is an interest in: my health, my political leanings, my business listing, is my house for sale, car warranties, financial aid, medicare, animals in need of rescue, some obscure disease foundation dedicated to ending avian obesity, police and firemen, and of course will I support their obviously well-meaning and charitable organization. Though many of them are prerecorded, they all sound really sincere. I almost want to talk with them. Maybe we can become good friends. However, they all sound like either the same woman or man. Someone is working really hard.

Smartphones today enable one to block such calls, but only after the call had been made. So I assiduously block them. But this man or woman must have multiple phone lines to inquire after me as they keep calling. I wonder why are they so insistent upon talking with me. One might get the hint that a continued inability to speak with me is an indication of my interest in what they have to sell. But no.

So let’s set the record straight for that woman and man who are trying to reach me. If I need what you’re hawking, I’ll reach out to you. Really, I will. I’ll keep your toll-free number right by my phone. But in the meantime, I’ll…, wait, I got to pick up this call.

Who am I? Who wants to know?

Recently, an acquaintance of mine sent out a newsletter with the question: “Who am I?”

As he confronts a new period in his life, retirement, he finds himself questioning that now as he’s out of the work force. We so often define ourselves by our profession and the other roles we play in our lives as he has. In doing so, we may lose sight of another answer, one that is more accurate.

Then, I ask the question, “does it matter?” What does it matter if one is a physician, a plumber, a writer, or a politician (let’s not get into that last one, it will have to wait for another time).

I offer that it doesn’t matter. What matters, or should, is what we are. Not cultural, race, religion, politics. No. Are we good? Do we look out for others? Do we care about them? How do we help them? How do we make things better?

This is not a screed against work and the benefits it offers. It’s necessary. And yes, sometimes it may do more harm than good and that’s something to be addressed. It should not be a, or the, defining factor of who we are.

Rather, how do we live our lives? Hopefully as a positive force for good in any of the arenas in which we dwell. That’s who we should be. Who we are should be measured by deeds, not occupation.

Me? I’m trying my hardest to live into that.