A New Life in Seattle

A New Life in Seattle
August, 2018

Sunday, October 30, 2016

How to Help Lightning Strike Twice

Once something magical happened to us--some incredible blessed-by-the-gods stroke of luck. And we spend our lives waiting for it to return. There's little that we wouldn't do to see it one more time. How we wait...and we wait...and we wait.


The time I've returned to again and again: 1988. A year of glory and heartache: I had a literary agent, my first book was in print--but I couldn't find it anywhere. My publisher, I learned, had failed to list it in their catalogue. I knew who would take the hit if I had zero sales. But lightning struck. I'd joined one writers' group and had their newest mailing list. I was widely read in my genre and started ticking off the names of those I would approach. Next, I and my agent worked on obtaining free copies of my novel from the publisher. They complied because they owed me. What next?

From there, the pieces all fell into place as I heeded both instincts and logic:
--I had a hardcover novel with a first-rate cover, a story of a stolen custom-tailored suit. Though the gift of a paperback book's no big thing, I thought my book might be well-received: a hardcover horror novel sent out to horror writers.
--Better yet, I could gift wrap each copy, including a personalized note.
--Also, I'd only approach writers who'd work I had read. And instead asking for favors, I'd the book as an expression of thanks for the pleasure their work had brought me.

Well, the gifts were well-received and the book was nominated for an award...which it went on to receive.


Now, here I am all these years later, wondering if lightning can strike twice.


Common sense tells me that it can't strike in the same way. I'm no longer a first-time novelist and won't pretend I am. For now I'm publishing original ebooks, which don't translate to my ancient strategy. And, sad to say, I've put on a few years. So looking back on the opening quote, the same place simply isn't here for lightning to strike twice in.


If I turn my focus from blessings that I can't repeat to new blessings I possess, I see ways to encourage the return of that groovy old lightning. I'm doing better work today and I've built a considerable body of work since my traditional publishing luck headed south. Furthermore, if I can't repeat my strategy, I'm free to draw on the principles behind it:
--Have a gift I can send that is cool in itself--and totally appropriate to the book, or books, in mind.
--Make the packaging striking, memorable--and equally appropriate.
--There must be no strings attached--not the tiniest whiff of 'I'm sending you this in exchange for or with hopes of a review, an awards vote or a date your daughter or sister.
--The goal should be both pure and simple: introduce myself to those whose books or reviews or service I enjoy. Regardless of their reaction, I have high hopes that the gift is enjoyed.

Now, I'm not giving the store away as far as far as the particulars of the gift this time around...or the ingenious packaging...or my mailing list. But in the end I've offered something far more valuables: a short list of working principles to try out in your own campaigns.

1) Don't ask for favors from strangers who are already under siege.
2) Let your introduction in itself be a memorable gift, without strings.
3) Ground your approach in your own reality. Once upon a time I had a hardcover novel...now I have a series of ebooks. Different hooks for different books.
4) Whatever else you do, project this aura: I'm looking at you.

This is my report.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Man Flu Blues Plus Teaser

Sorry, all. No post this week, since I've been down for three days with a cold.

But I'll make it up to you next weekend with an extra-lively post on two promotional projects nearly thirty years apart. Can lightning strike again?

Stay tuned.

All the more reason to change the place, eh?

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Thug City

So, here I am in a place I adore, writing of it as Thug City.

Almost all of the new Boss MacTavin novel will be centered in the notorious part of town known as Third and Pike. Aka, The Scourge of Seattle. And the crime here is horrendous: drive-by shootings, stabbings, beatings with ball pein hammers, muggings, corner drug deals, rape....and theft, theft and still more theft.

My forced research on the area involved my working for six months in a retail store at Third and Pike. I saw it all in my six months: petty theft, grand larceny, rumbles at the entrance, bloodied women weeping that they'd just been raped, security guards beaten and thrown to the ground...And this was in our store alone. Over and over, armed cops would do one freelance security gig--and swear never to return. One very large veteran cop warned me: "Man, your job's more dangerous than mine is. Get out."

Get out I did, and as fast as I could. I'd transferred here from a store location in Charlotte. Now that I had a studio and had gotten on my feet, I vowed to write of what I'd learned and seen. I also swore to learn still more about retail theft. 

I have and I've got a strong book in the works, one based on real experience. It's something new and exciting, I think. At the same time, however, I feel an obligation to do right by the city. Doing right would entail finding something between two classic visions of New York:

Scorcese's hellish Taxi Driver vision:

And Woody Allen's romanticized Manhattan:

For a tight thriller, the challenge is daunting. The focus must be Third and Pike, the horrors I saw daily. The blood and degradation. Yet it's not enough to plunge our hero into this pocket of pus, pretending that it is the city. It's not. Undercover, Boss may grow more sickened with each chapter. But he must catch scattered glimpses of the beauty of Seattle. And at some point he must seek them out to counter the poison that's flooding his soul. 

I've no plans to hold back on Thug City. But if balance is all, then let's have it here too: the city as a character that's flawed but lovely nonetheless.

Yes, by all means let's get Boss to Capitol Hill!

Saturday, October 8, 2016

A Reb Van Winkling We Will Go

In the past couple of years I've done a lot of Reb Van Winkling. And I'm of two minds about it. Waking up to things you've missed over the course of your life can be sad:

My own Winkle-ization went something like this
-- A somewhat wild Canadian decade after college, with beer-drinking playing a prominent part. No interest in music at all through those years. No interest in anything except writing and the bar scene and getting back home to the States.
--My return to the States in 1980 and a bold move to San Francisco. There I stopped drinking and began working out and committed myself more seriously to writing as a career. I knuckled in, moving on to New York, determined to conquer the city. There I finally succeed in publishing my first novel, began the second...and married badly. Really badly. Crash. No time for anything now but writing and recovering from the divorce.
--Onward to Atlanta in 1988, with hopes to start over again. No music, no TV or workouts. Working, writing and recovering,
--From Atlanta to San Francisco again to Atlanta again and on to Portland, then on Charlotte for six miserable years. I yo-yo'd and ran and reacted, and did nothing but work and write, even after my career in traditional publishing had ended.

Whoa, dude--glum stuff!

I know, I know. And I wouldn't have started this blog post if there hadn't been a turn.

It's tough enough being Van Winkle. But the tougher part comes when you learn that you've slept--and realize the time that you've lost.

Two years ago my awakening came after summoning the courage for one last cross-country move: from Charlotte to a city where I'd never been. And Seattle has been both good to me and for me. The first truly great adventure since my positive moves to San Francisco and New York. Here old Reb Van Winkle awakened more each day. And while learning ruefully how much I'd missed, I learned to rejoice in my late in life discoveries. 

Allow me to share a few.

1) Last night I discovered--God's truth, I swear--a DVD I'd bought but forgotten: Wayne's World. From 1992! Yes, Reb Van Winkle 'discovered' this classic 24 freaking years after it's release.

2) I 'discovered' this great band approximately 46 years after it began:

3)  After working two job for most of my life--many of those years in retail--I cut back to one job...with a boost from Soc Security. Better yet, the job was clerical, M-F, weekends and holidays off. Time to write!

4) I graduated from a flip phone to a smart phone, no longer reliant on free Wi-Fi to access the Web or my emails.

5) I checked out and fell hard for Uber, decreasing my morning commute time at a reasonable price...and buying still more time for writing.

I've awakened in so many ways that my general facial expression is one of a wonderstruck kid. And while it's true that I wish I'd not slept for so long, it's also sweet in later life to take pleasure in daily discoveries.

And if any of you are Van Winkling:

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Business Cards: Make the Back the Livin' End

You haven't closed any sales with the eye-catching front of your two-sided card. You've compelled your card recipients to have a look at the back. And that's where the real magic can start to occur.

Now, that's not a card but it gives sound advice. No business card, even the greatest, will in itself close any sale. That can only be done by you writing, your art or your service. But how do you persuade folks to try you? By planting strong thoughts about wanting to have a relationship with you and that special thing you do.

And you've got 3.5 x 2 inches to do that. Has your jaw dropped yet? It should have, for the challenge is formidable. And the reverse sides of many cards prove it by looking too cluttered.

The absolute essentials are:

1) Your real mojo manifested in only 4 or 5 words. Put this at the top or the middle or the bottom, depending your taste. As for me, I say the top. And this is one of the most difficult things you'll ever do in your life: nailing what's different about you or your work, what should take our breath away, in just handful. It can be done--and must be done--neatly placed on a 3.5 x 2 inch card.
    Award-Winning Author
    Graduate of (Famous Writing School)
2) A small photo taken by a pro
3) Name
4) Email address 
5) Professional links: Facebook/blog/Amazon Author Page

You may wish to add your address and/or phone number, depending on your business. In general, though, I'd avoid offering that till contact's been first made through email.

Remember: you aren't closing anything with your business card. You're planting seeds of wonder. And you want folks to wonder increasingly how cool it would be to enter a relationship with you: reading your books or using your service for many years to come.

Don't place the order for your cards until your mojo's smoking.

Image result for mojo images

Take the test today. Don't wait: how, in 4 or 5 words, can you stand apart from the pack?