Friday, November 26, 2010

A Partial Inventory of Things I’d Rather Not Touch

photo by Joey Rozier
I'm not normally a germophobe, but now that we've entered the season in which everyone seems to be feverish, phlegmy, or recovering from some Unspeakable Gastric Event, I've definitely become sensitized to all the ways germs can be transmitted from person to person and (inevitably) to me.

I actually have fond memories of childhood colds, missing a day or two of school, stretched out on the couch watching reruns of “Alice” and “Diff'rent Strokes.” But as it has with everything else, adulthood has sucked all the fun out of illness. Now if I'm under the weather and I want to stay home, I have to take a vacation day. And really, is there anything worse than being sick on vacation?

My anti-germ strategy is as simple as it is ineffective: don't touch anything that a sick person might've touched in the last 72 hours, including: door knobs and handles, drawer pulls, light switches, and elevator buttons; other peoples' computer keyboards, mice, and cell phones; toilet handles, faucet handles, and paper-towel dispensers; shopping carts, self-checkout touchscreens, gas pump payment keys, all of the world's credit card signing pens, and anything in an ATM vestibule; and, naturally, the steering wheel and shifter of the loaner car I had to drive while my car was in the shop the other day.

Yes, this can be a challenging way to live, especially when you start counting the sheer number of doors you pass through on a daily basis. But this is why someone invented elbows, sleeves, and hand sanitizer, right?

I was bowling with my family recently when it struck me what a fantastic germ distribution apparatus the ball return system is. You grab a ball, rub your germy hands all over it, and then roll it off down the lane. The machine shoots the ball right back and somebody else grabs it—perhaps even someone from the next lane over—and adds their own personal microbial mélange to its surface before passing it along again. This happens over and over again…pretty much forever! Yum!

[Note: I love bowling so much that none of the above deters me in the slightest, so if you're ever in the mood to roll a few strings—something I recognize will now be even less likely—give me a call. I'll bring the Purell.]

Anyway, despite my efforts, I awoke one morning a few weeks back with a jagged lump in my throat that just wouldn't go away, and all I could think was, Where did I go wrong? What did I touch that I shouldn't have touched? And most importantly, Whose fault is this!?!?

If I had to put money on it, I'd blame the FedEx guy. He ambushed me with a package at work, popping out of nowhere and demanding a signature on his little electronic clipboard. Seeing no escape, I reluctantly signed using that plague-ridden plastic stylus he'd been dragging from delivery to delivery for his entire career.

But as I was signing, I wondered, Why is this even helpful? You can't read my signature...I could scribble anybody's name there. Couldn't he just snap a photo of me holding the package? That would be infinitely more sanitary, probably more useful, and way more fun. Just imagine the scrapbook he would've amassed by the end of the year! Like your picture? Send it to Facebook! Order Christmas cards! Or a framed 8 x 10!

Once I actually get sick though, it's almost a relief because I've got no choice but to look on the bright side. There's a passage from Douglas Coupland's novel The Gum Thief that I think of often in this regard:

“Well, it turns out that being sick is actually good for you. Colds and flus are like these constant refresher courses that teach your body how to combat cancers when they first occur. Some people think that the moment you get your diagnosis you should run out to the children's coloured plastic ball pit at IKEA and coat your body with kiddy germs and get as sick as you can. While you're in the process of fighting colds and flus, the cancer gets taken out with the trash.”

This quotation is from a character named Bethany who, even within the book's fictional world, is just a Gothed-out Staples employee with no medical training, but I find it reassuring nonetheless. I'm planning to have it engraved on a wall plaque for when I finally open my own bowling alley.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Spider and the Moth

Have you ever been reading on the couch late at night perhaps even just starting to nod off when in the dim periphery of your vision you glimpse movement something creeping across the armrest toward you something that as you snap to startled alertness resolves into the shape of a large-ish spider with striped legs and an athletic build BUT even as freaked-out as you are you don’t actually want to kill this spider because you know that they eat all of the other bugs you like even less so you grab a glass and you attempt to catch the spider in the glass but this spider moves so fast that it actually seems able to teleport itself six inches in any direction so every time you think you’re bringing the glass down over the spider it’s already somewhere else and you’re becoming just a little concerned that maybe the next time you bring the glass down the spider will be on your face but finally you trap it YESSS! and you cover the open end of the glass with a catalog and carry the whole silly contraption out the door across the front porch and down the walk chuckling uneasily as the spider hurls itself against the glass until you reach the sidewalk where you release it which is to say that you use the glass to fling the now furious spider as far from you as possible WHEW! and then heading back into the house just as you’re re-crossing the porch a teensy-weensy little moth that had been idly circling the porch light now flies right into your ear and disappears like RIGHT DIRECTLY INTO YOUR EAR CANAL and for a second or two you don’t hear anything at all and you’re wondering

Wait…did that really happen?

and then as if reading your mind which it might actually be able to do from its current vantage the moth starts flapping madly inside your ear or trying to flap anyway but there isn’t nearly enough room in there so it’s just like fltfltfltfltfltflt in your ear and you’re thinking oh crap oh crap oh crap it’s facing the wrong way it’s just going to push itself deeper and then

Oh wait…is it gone?

but then fltfltfltfltfltflt and now you’re digging at your ear and stumbling into the house oh crap oh crap oh crap and it’s flapping madly and then it stops and it’s flapping and then it stops and you’re trying to jam your finger in there but you don’t feel anything and you’re wondering How far can it go? How far is my ear drum? Will it stop at my ear drum or can it keep going and get totally stuck somewhere up against my brain? Can I somehow get tweezers in there and pull it out? and it just keeps flapping and flapping and CRAP! I’m going to end up at the hospital to get this fricking thing removed and in front of the bathroom mirror now you get a flashlight and point it into your ear not because you hope to see anything but because you remember some Saturday-morning cartoon PSA about how holding a light up to your ear will lure a bug out and fltfltfltfltfltflt and how could this possibly happen often enough to warrant a PSA? and anyway it’s not even working because the idiot moth is stuck facing the wrong fricking direction fltfltfltfltfltflt and you don’t want to jam anything in there because then you might have a dead squished moth stuck in your ear and THEN how would you get it out? and fltfltfltfltfltflt you’re digging and starting to imagine fltfltfltfltfltflt how you’ll describe this to the nurse and wondering whether fltfltfltfltfltflt you could actually even wait in the emergency room with this thing flapping without tearing your ear off or at least without losing your mind which you may’ve already done anyway fltfltfltfltfltflt and you’re jamming your finger in there and fltfltfltfltfltflt becoming more and more hopeless fltfltfltfltfltflt when


There it goes…

      the moth arcing away toward the ceiling
      as if nothing happened

I should probably kill it now, but…

you can't concern yourself with that now because you’re already rummaging for the Q-tips so you can clean that ear LIKE IT HAS NEVER BEEN CLEANED BEFORE and what’s more you are NEVER AGAIN going outside at night without ear protection or maybe you’ll just wear your iPod ear buds 24/7 NO POD JUST BUDS WHATEVER IT TAKES SO THAT THIS NEVER, EVER HAPPENS AGAIN!

Has that ever happened to you?

Yeah, me neither.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Testing the Invisible Fence

I've been writing fiction for more than 20 years now, and collecting rejections for nearly as long.

For me, the rejections really started flowing in 1993, when I applied to graduate programs in creative writing. I shipped writing samples off to six schools and somehow received eight rejections...

The University of Arizona just kept sending them, one after another, three in total. And naturally, the arrival of each subsequent envelope would lift my hopes anew: Maybe they changed their minds! Maybe it was a mistake! Or a computer gli

Oh…fine. Whatever.

No, it wasn’t a good feeling, but it was an excellent preparation for a writing career—perhaps even better than attending any of the programs themselves. Since then, I’ve been rejected another 200 times—by magazines, journals, literary agents, and publishers large and small—which averages out to one rejection every month for the last seventeen years.

I’m still not sure what to make of that information, whether I should be proud or ashamed. At the very least, it seems interesting that an utterly unnecessary behavior could persist for so long in the face of such unrelenting negative feedback.

The only thing I've been able to compare it to is a dog and an invisible fence. Most dogs learn within minutes that, if they cross a certain line, they’ll get shocked. But occasionally you’ll find one who just keeps at it, hurling himself into that fence again and again, getting zapped every time. Is it perseverance or stupidity? I have no idea, but after 200 shocks, it probably doesn’t matter.

Old School Rejection
I finished writing my first first novel (everybody has a few, right?) in late-1996 and began submitting it to agents and editors shortly thereafter. The publishing world hadn’t fully accepted e-mail yet, so my query process involved mailing out hard-copy letters with self-addressed envelopes, which would boomerang back to me with rejections two months later.

Thank you for submitting, blah blah blah… These rejections were form letters in the truest sense—crooked, fading, third-generation photocopies of letters that probably hadn’t been re-worded since WWII, no longer bearing any sign that human hands had been involved in their production.

I did get a handful of requests to see my manuscript though, and although these flirtations all ended in rejection as well, those letters were often personalized, offering something meaningful (or at least entertaining) about what had motivated the sender to stomp all over my dreams.

My all-time favorite rejection came from an editor at the SOHO Press. He'd asked to see my novel, The Projectionist, which I was learning fell into the rather unloved "experimental" category. The editor sent back a hand-written card, which I still cherish. (Click the image below to enlarge.)

There are just so many things I love about this rejection. Who ever thought you could use the words oblique, quotidian, and banal in a single sentence? I also love the unflinching certainty of that last line: we could not possibly publish this successfully.

To this day, I’m still not sure if Bryan always intended to include the sentence tacked onto the card’s reverse side, or if that had been an afterthought, something he added only after realizing how harsh his initial assessment sounded. (I almost missed it altogether.)

21st Century Rejection
Then the Internet came along and ruined everything.

These days, no sane editor or agent would ever write a rejection as honest or as helpful as Bryan's because they wouldn’t want to invite a retaliatory cyber-assault from some unbalanced writer (which most of us are at certain times of the night).

So even if someone has all kinds of colorful thoughts about your manuscript, they’ll reject you as politely as possible without saying anything at all. It usually boils down to three words: “Not for me.”

Thankfully, we writers possess a heightened ability to read for subtext, so we know exactly what our rejectors mean anyway. Below are some different types of rejections I collected for Here Comes Your Man, and what each of them meant to me:

The plain vanilla rejection.
You send an e-mail query, and a week or two later, you get a form e-mail back saying something like “Thank you for submitting. I have to be very selective in what I take on. Taste is subjective. Best of luck at finding representation elsewhere.”

Translation: Your book was so mundane in its awfulness that I'm unable to respond with anything but a form e-mail. Nobody else will like your work either, but I’m not going to be the fool who tries to break it to you.

The plain vanilla rejection, extended dance mix.
Similar to the above, except the rejection takes 2-3 months to come back with the same message. That delay speaks volumes though, further implying: I am so busy and important that I’m just getting around to rejecting you now. Frankly, I’m surprised you even bothered!

The no-response rejection.
You send an e-mail query to an agent and spend the next several weeks wondering what they’ll think and when you might hear back. After three months with no reply, you finally realize that they probably glanced at your query the day it arrived, hit delete, and were finished with you forever. Whereas you, even now, are still thinking about them and wondering where it all went wrong...

The instantaneous rejection.
Once in a blue moon, you’ll get a rejection that comes back within hours, or even minutes. And sometimes it’s even personalized!

This is wonderful because it temporarily bats down your suspicion that the publishing industry—and maybe the whole world?—is controlled by androids and that you’re the only real human being left in the universe. This is almost as good as an acceptance. (Or so I imagine...)

Although, I did encounter one ugly variant of the instantaneous rejection: an agency read the first chapter of my book, requested the rest with great interest, and then form-rejected me less than two hours after I'd e-mailed it over. And still I wonder: what was so freaking awful about Chapter 2?

The delayed response rejection.
Occasionally you’ll get a rejection that initially masquerades as a no-response, but is actually something far more sinister. You send a query and don’t hear anything for a while, and then nine months later, when you no longer even remember who this person is, they send you a rejection out of the blue. It’s like having a total stranger run up to you in a crowd and punch you in the stomach.

Translation: I just found your query kicking around in my mailbox, and I was so offended by it that I couldn't help but respond!

Rejected No More!
But I’m done with all that now. Having published Here Comes Your Man in April, I’m enjoying the first rejection-free period of my adult life.

Let me expand that timeline for you, just so we're clear:
  1. I finish college, apply to grad school, and the rejections start rolling in.
  2. This continues for the next seventeen years. While I’m working for three different companies, getting married, buying a house, having a child, and giving my diabetic cat twice-daily insulin injections, the one absolute constant in my life is literary rejection.
  3. April 1, 2010—yes, April Fool’s Day—the rejections stop.
I can't express how much my life has changed, post-rejection. These days, people even e-mail me out of the blue to tell me how much they enjoyed my book. People I don’t even know! No, I’m not "high or something," thank you very much—that’s just how I smile, which is something I do more often now!

And honestly, I wouldn’t be bothered if someone e-mailed me to say how much they hated my book, because that would still mean they’d read it. And that’s really all I ever wanted—to write something and share it, and have people respond to it and maybe even derive a little enjoyment from it.

And then of course to have it adapted into an Academy Award-winning film directed by Noah Baumbach, Sofia Coppola, Richard Linklater, Mira Nair, Krzysztof Kieslowski (deceased), Terry Gilliam, David O. Russell, Wes Anderson, or Jonathan Demme.

That's next on my To Do list anyway. But I’m confident that there won’t be any rejection involved with that process.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

My New Fitness Regime

As a writer/computer geek, aerobic activity has never come naturally to me, but I've long recognized its value in compensating for the things that do come naturally to me…like cookies, brownies, and cake.

I've spent years searching for the ideal fitness program and (fingers crossed)—I may've found it. But before I get into that, here's a summary of the other activities I've tried and my lame excuses for abandoning them all.

It's easy to understand why so many people run—it's cheap, it's effective, and it fills you with a wonderful sense of superiority over everyone who doesn't run. I experimented with running briefly during college, and I immediately saw how I might've become addicted to it, if not for the fact that actually I hated it with every fiber of my being.

I really want to like running, but frankly, running makes itself pretty hard to like, what with all the sweating, and muscle-cramping, and traffic-dodging, plus the incessant pounding on your joints, and even worse, my incessant whining about being tired and wanting to quit. (OMG, the whining…)

Nevertheless, I still have great respect for running as a means to get someplace quickly on foot. If I'm in a hurry, I'll power through my own protests and run like the pigeon-toed wind. And if I happen to be late for something like school or a piano lesson, I might even throw a 55-pound child on my back, just for the challenge.

But when I'm running for running's sake, my motivation evaporates. Try as I might, I've never been able to fool myself into thinking that I'm late for something important. I know exactly where I'm going: home. So why not just turn around now? Or better yet—just never leave?

It's fun to swim at the…Y-M-C-A!
When I was in my mid-twenties, I often swam laps at the YMCA after work. I've always loved swimming, that feeling of cutting weightlessly through the water, almost as if flying. There's something so meditative about it, a kind of quiet I find nowhere else.

But our local YMCA had a smallish pool, and if enough people showed up, we were forced to share lanes. This might work if everyone swam at the same pace, but there was always one person in the water who was more of a "floater" than a "swimmer," someone who also managed to remain oblivious to the fact that the rest of us were constantly fighting to pass them (preferably without colliding or getting kicked in the head), which I guess made the whole experience more exciting, but far less meditative.

I'm sure the floaters were lovely people in other areas of their lives, but I invariably despised them by the end of my swim, and I just as invariably ended up showering beside them, at which point they would talk my ears off in their slow and steady way, because floaters are also notoriously chatty, particularly once you get them naked (which I really don't recommend).

Looking back, I think my YMCA experience just delivered more sharing and togetherness than I was prepared for. Plus, I always left the building with that infernal song stuck in my head.

You know how it goes, right? Sing it with me! (Or just click the picture above to watch the video.)

It's fun to stay at the
Y- M-C-A!
It's fun to stay at the
Y - M - C – A!
They have everything for young men to enjoy,
You can hang out with all the boys!

(In my experience, it takes 23 hours and 55 minutes to rid yourself of "YMCA" once it's lodged in your brain...but let me know how it goes for you.)

As a kid, I always thought tennis was something of a sissy sport. Then around the time I turned 30, I finally realized that I myself was something of a sissy, and I gave tennis a try.

And I loved it. Apparently I was a Labrador retriever in a previous life because, despite my aversion to running, I would happily chase one bouncing ball after another in all kinds of weather until I collapsed from exhaustion. For a brief, magical period—this was post-YMCA and pre-parenthood—I belonged to a tennis club and played there four times a week.

I only had one quibble with the club: their "tennis whites" dress code, which required that every article of clothing worn on the court be at least 50% white (to ensure that we all looked uniformly ridiculous I assume).

I'll never forget the day my partner got hassled by wardrobe security on the way out to play: he'd really pushed the envelope by wearing a striped shirt, and the black stripes appeared to be wider than the white ones. After some passive-aggressive sniping from both sides, he was finally allowed to play in the offending sportswear, and to everyone's surprise, the Earth continued rotating on its axis just as before.

But honestly, the club's dress code wasn't a big deal for me—I derived so much enjoyment from tennis, I would've played in lederhosen if they asked nicely (or even just hinted around a bit). In fact, I have every intention of re-joining the club as soon as possible, which is to say: the very moment that Congress finally extends days to 27 hours and money starts growing on trees.

And Speaking of Trees...
Whew—This is a long post, eh? Congratulations on sticking with me this far!

I'm pleased to say that you've reached the big payoff, where I reveal the fitness regime that has changed my life and given me the (marginally improved) body I have today: staring at lumber in my basement.

Yes, it sounded strange to me too, but you simply cannot argue with the results: improved cardiovascular performance, mood elevation, weight loss, slight hearing loss, and a few minor scrapes and bruises.

I'm not sure if the type of lumber is important—it our case, it's a collection of flooring scraps and decorative molding abandoned in our basement by our house's previous owners (see photo below).

Now, I don't think it's essential that you stand on an elliptical machine and flail all of your limbs as fast as you can while doing your lumber-staring, but that's my personal routine, mostly because our basement is completely packed with crap and the elliptical machine blocks the view of the lumber.

And I'm certain that you don't need to do this in a dim, damp basement so low-ceilinged that, while standing on said elliptical machine, your head just barely fits up between the floor joists, scarcely avoiding the plumbing, wiring, spider webs, and rusty nail-heads. (Not everybody will be lucky enough to make that work, so just do the best you can.)

But for me, the one absolutely essential element of the whole activity is finding some good music on my iPod and cranking it up so loud that it drowns out the sound of my own ragged breathing, the creaking and cracking of my 40-year-old joints, and the voices in my head that scream the whole time, "STOP IT RIGHT NOW I MEAN IT STOP IT STOP IT STOP IT!!!!"

Note: If you do try this with the elliptical machine, do not bend down to scratch your knee while in motion, no matter how much it itches. Those handles may be padded, but you'll still feel it when they hit you in the face, and you'll feel it again when you fall backward off the machine. Just trust me on this.

But wait—there's more!
I know what you're probably thinking—there's no way you could improve on the experience of staring at lumber in your basement. Well, I thought the same thing…until I got an iPad.

With the iPad, I'm no longer forced to stare at lumber in my basement. Now I can stare at absolutely anything—art by my favorite authors, Twinkies, or even bunnies in high chairs. But of course I still choose to stare at lumber because I like it, and because it's the right thing to do.

And the iPad allows me to take the lumber with me everywhere I go. To the beach! To a restaurant! To the theater! Just imagine: lumber lumber lumber 24/7, but without any of the bulkiness or splinters!

Best of all, I can finally share my lumber with everyone I know. For example, our dog Hugo refuses to visit the lumber because he assumes, based on the distressing sounds I emit while exercising, that our basement is some kind of CIA enhanced interrogation / pet grooming area. But now even Hugo can enjoy the benefits of lumber-staring from the safety and comfort of his own crate. Doesn't he look like he's having a fantastic time?

Oh, whatever...

Don't mind Hugo—he's just in a snit about that Labrador retriever crack. Or maybe it was the tennis whites thing?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Writing Spaces

One of my favorite bloggers, The Rejectionist, today posted photos of her writing room and suggested that others do the same. Anyone who knows The Rejectionist (a.k.a. Le R) understands that it's always best to do as she says, so I will. But first, a little background:

Once upon a time, we lived in a tiny house with a tiny office where I did all my writing. Then, we moved to a bigger house with, office of any kind.

Which was an excellent thing, because it liberated me from the notion that I needed a quiet, comfortable space in which to write. And so, in the tradition of so many great writers before me (none of whom I can recall at this time), I've become a wanderer...a kind of literary hobo. In that spirit, here are two of my most frequent loitering spots:

The North End (of our dining room table)
10:30 p.m. - 12:00 a.m.

For 22.5 hours of the day, it's an ordinary dining room, albeit a rather small one with with four doors, three windows, and a closet. And then on the dot of 10:30—or earlier, or later, depending on when everybody else goes to bed—I open my laptop and the place goes absolutely bonkers, as the above photo illustrates.

2001 Saab 9-3 Viggen,
Mon-Fri, 12:15 - 12:45 p.m.
There's a certain stigma attached to non-driving activities that occur in vehicles, but I'm well past the point of such shame. On a typical workday, I inhale a sandwich at my desk and then drive off to a quiet, tree-lined street where I can write on my Blackberry for 30 minutes. (I respectfully decline to provide the address lest others try to steal my shady spot.)
Some might be surprised that I'd attempt any substantive writing on a phone, but I've found it to be better than a computer in several important ways: it's always in my pocket, it never crashes, and the web browser is sufficiently horrible that I'm never distracted by Facebook, YouTube, or even a certain someone's blog.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Book Club!

I had no idea how much literary stardom would change my life.

Since the release of Here Comes Your Man, people have started recognizing me on the street (yes, mostly our neighbors), I get constant requests for autographs (particularly when paying with Visa), and the invitations to exclusive events just keep coming...

Okay, so maybe I've only been invited to one exclusive event so far, but it was a good one: the June meeting of my friend Carrie’s book group, which steadfastly excludes anyone possessing a Y chromosome. Unless—and here comes my big loophole—you happen to have written the book they’re discussing!

When Carrie asked if I'd be interested in joining them, I did my best to act cool and breezy, as if accustomed to fielding such requests, but...seriously? Lasagna and Ring Dings with seven women who all read my book? I wouldn't have missed that meeting even if it was being held in the wilds of New Hampshire (which it was), and even if they'd wanted to discuss the right & wrong ways to euthanize a chicken (which, um, we did).

And about the chicken thing: there are more wrong ways than I'd ever imagined, particularly if the chicken is suffering from acute smoke-inhalation, you’re already late for an appointment, and soiling your outfit is simply not an option. (But I think that's a topic for an entirely different blog. Perhaps Julie Powell would like to take it up?)

Regardless, we still managed to stage a lively discussion of Here Comes Your Man, which included a group effort to cast the inevitable film adaptation. A number of excellent actors were mentioned—Mark Ruffalo, Ellen Page, John Krasinski, Scarlett Johansson—all of whom we agreed would have to be younger, older, blonder, less blonde, or less handsome to fit any of the available roles. (One possible solution: have Mr. Krasinski direct it, and invent some new characters for the rest of them.)

As much as I love movies, I didn't volunteer any casting thoughts, worrying that rendering the official "author's opinion" might suck the fun out of the whole exercise. Having already written 89,000 words about these characters, I’m happy to sit back and let readers imagine whomever they like.

Although, while we're on the topic, there is one classic duo that I think would be fantastic as Garrett and Clay. The only real question: Would Bert be willing to shave his head?

I'd like to send out big thanks to the whole book group for hosting me and feeding me so well: Carrie, Carol, Astrid, Alison, Sarah, Kristin, and Liz (who brought the Ring Dings), and also to my friend John (who was present but barred from participation owing to his incontrovertible maleness).

See you all at the premiere!

Monday, June 21, 2010

A Dream Within a Dream, Within an Air Conditioner

I have a tradition of lying to myself every year around this time.

Although the exact date is a moving target (like Easter, or Chinese New Year), this lie always coincides our first sustained wave of summer swelter, when our house finally becomes so unbearable for sleeping that I’m forced to haul our unholy trio of 70-pound window air conditioners down from the attic.

And I recognize that, to the untrained eye, this operation might appear a tad haphazard, almost as if the AC units and I are actually falling down the steep attic stairs together, but rest assured that every knuckle-bashing breath of profanity has been carefully scripted, and it's all part of a time-honored technique passed down over the generations (provided that none of the previous generations have actually killed themselves executing it).

Oh, and here’s the lie, the angry little mantra I mutter over and over throughout the process. I tell myself: "This is the last [flunking] time I will ever do this. Before next summer, we're [flunking] getting central [flunking] air."

It's a lovely little daydream, and I cling to it while dead-lifting the AC units into our house's decaying window frames, a step that spawns a new "replace all the [flunking] windows" daydream within the original...

Imagine having windows that go up and down like they’re supposed to? That actually keep the cold outside in the winter?

...And really, if you’re already having the "replace the windows" daydream, you might as well save yourself a few bucks and have the "replace our rotting shingles daydream" at the same time. So I do...

And with my attention thus divided during the job's most dangerous maneuver—steadying the AC unit in the window with one hand while lowering the balky sash with the other—there’s always at least one moment when I nearly lose my grip on everything and drop the air conditioner directly onto my car, sitting defenseless in the driveway ten feet below. (Alex, from downstairs: Need any help up there? Me: No, I've got it—thanks!)

But of course the car wouldn’t even be there if we could just rip down our dilapidated tin can of a garage and replace it with something sturdy enough to house a vehicle. Maybe a nice two-car garage with a finished second floor that we could use as an office? With enough room for a ping-pong table perhaps?

But by the time I’ve got the AC unit shimmed, wedged, and duct-taped into place, with that first sour blast of cool-ish air hitting my face, I'm already regaining the ability to distinguish between my daydreams and the facts, which are these: our house is old and ductless, and so retrofitting it for central air would be prohibitively expensive, although not quite as expensive as new windows, new siding, or new garages with second-floor offices.

Regardless, we don't have thousands of dollars sitting around for any of these projects, and even if we did, we’d probably just blow it all on fine wine, Twinkies and Silly Bandz.

I’m proud to say that this year was different though—I turned 40 recently, and I'm already seeing the benefits of my increased wisdom and maturity. This year, I even installed our air conditioners before the heat became totally unbearable. Sure, I still worked up a sweat, I still bloodied my knuckles, and I nearly lost two units right out the window. But I didn’t say [flunking] once, and I didn’t tell myself any lies.

No, we're not getting central air next year. Just the garage and the ping-pong table.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

iPad, iKindle, iTwinkie?

Amid all the iPhone 4 blah blah blah at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference last week, CEO Steve Jobs somehow forgot to mention the biggest, most magical Apple news of the year: Here Comes Your Man is now available in the iBookstore! And for just $2.99!

Yup, you heard right—$2.99 for 89,134 of my favorite words (with a few repeats) in electronic form.

For now, you can only access the iBookstore from an iPad, but iUnderstand that Apple will be iOpening the iBookstore to iPhone and iPod touch users iLater this iMonth. (iThink Apple iSpeak is a linguistic sibling of iPig iLatin.)

If you're as concerned as I am about maintaining the delicate balance of the e-book universe, you'll be relieved to know that I've simultaneously lowered the price of the Amazon Kindle edition of Here Comes Your Man to $2.99 as well.

Why so low? Well, I'm about to embark on a small advertising campaign, my first real effort to market my book to people who don't already know me (or my wife, or my daughter). Printing costs prevent me from pricing the paperback more aggressively than I already have, but electrons are cheap. My hope is that offering an inexpensive e-book will allow readers to try an unknown author like me with very little risk.

And honestly, I can't think of many interesting things you can buy for $2.99. A box of Twinkies maybe? Yeah, okay, that would be pretty interesting, but even still, you'd have to catch them on sale. (Don't ask me how I know that.)

(Note to self: contact Amazon & Hostess about cross-marketing opportunities.)

(Additional note to self: My book cover "man" appears to be Twinkie yellowis that just a coincidence? And more importantly, could I possibly convince Hostess to bake a life-size Twinkie Man???)

Of course, e-books themselves are still unexplored territory for many readers, which is probably one reason why Amazon offers free Kindle apps for Windows, Mac, iPhone/iPad, and Blackberry devices. If you’re even a teensy bit curious about e-books, you can download the Kindle software (pictured below) and test-drive the experience without buying any hardware.

As much as I do love paper books, I'm beginning to see the advantages of their electronic brethren. Beyond allowing you to adjust your books' text size and even background color, they're easier on the environment, easier to carry, and far easier to read while eating a burrito. (Or a pizza, or a box of Twinkies...)

Physical books are still superior for certain purposes though. Years ago, when I was reading The Accidental Tourist for the first time, I remember becoming so exasperated with Macon Leary at one point that I actually threw my little red paperback clear across my bedroom. I can still hear the book's pages flapping in the air and the satisfying THWACK! of its spine smacking the wall. (And then I ran to retrieve the book, because I desperately needed to know if Macon ever smartened up.)

I'd probably never throw a $500 iPad across the room, no matter how Frisbee-like it might feel. But then again, this guy put one in a blender, so who knows?

Friday, May 7, 2010

This Is Your Brain on I-95

For April school vacation, I drove my family from Massachusetts to South Carolina and back. I’m pretty sure we did some other stuff too—I vaguely recall something about a beach, and maybe some miniature golf?—but the 2,200-mile round-trip drive effectively erased everything else from my memory.

As you might imagine, I had a few thoughts during my 30+ hours behind the wheel. Very few thoughts, actually, most of them over and over again. Here are all six of them:

#1. Some deep-pocketed developer should buy a bunch of land and create a place of such concentrated Connecticutness that it can only be called East Newfieldingtonsbury. Will it ever be as posh or fashionable as West Newfieldingtonsbury? Probably not, but really, what is?

#2. The Commonwealth of Virginia manufactures some of the finest traffic you’ll find anywhere—interminable, impenetrable, and utterly inexplicable.

#3. Luckily, Virginia also has some excellent traffic signage. For example, a flashing display near Exit 162 informed us that Delays Continue Until Exit 148. I was skeptical at first—Fourteen miles of stop-and-go? At nine o’clock at night? But darnit-it-all-to-hell if that sign wasn’t right! Well done, Virginia!

#4. One Virginia sign was a BIG disappointment though: Speed Limit Enforced by Aircraft. I’m sorry, but if you're going to promise something this exciting, I want an attack helicopter to swoop down out of the sky, latch onto my roof, and forcibly slow me down. At the very least, I expect to have the opportunity to break the speed limit...somewhere. Otherwise, y’all should just get real and change the signs to say Speed Controlled By God-Awful Traffic.

#5. Our home state of Massachusetts is no signage slouch either. The examples of this are many, but my current favorite is: Speed Limit as Posted. I like the subtle implication that there are other, more mysterious regions where the speed limit is posted as one thing, but is secretly something else.

#6. If there were a Nobel or Pulitzer Prize for signage though, you’d have to give them both to South of the Border, the sprawling South Carolina roadside attraction (restrooms, "food," souvenirs, fireworks, etc.) that narrates its approach through 200 ethnically insensitive billboards spread over 350 highway miles.

Fill Up Yo’ Trunque Weeth Pedro’s Junque!
South of the Border: 65 mi.

Pedro No Shoot Ze Bool! Who Dunnit?
South of the Border: 58 mi.

Pedro’s Weather Report: CHILI TODAY – HOT TAMALE!
South of the Border: 23 mi.

None of them are exactly funny, and many are just moronic, but they gain power as a complete body of work, wearing you down with their persistence and omnipresence. Case in point: I never wanted to stop at South of the Border, and yet…I still kinda wanted to stop there.

And right now? I sorta wish I could go back…

Friday, April 23, 2010

Getting to Know Eileen Cook

I've always said that the best thing about writing Here Comes Your Man was making so many wonderful new friends.

Well, it has recently come to my attention that the vast majority of these new "friends" are imaginary, but no matter—I'm 97% sure that novelist Eileen Cook is a real person, and she more than makes up for all the rest.

Eileen is the author of three novels—Unpredictable, What Would Emma Do?, and Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood—all of which I absolutely loved. A few years ago, Eileen did me the great favor of reading an early draft of Here Comes Your Man, offering a slew of valuable feedback. She also wrote the beautiful blurb that now graces my book's back cover. (Okay, so now she's starting to sound too good to be true, even to me...)

Eileen recently interviewed me on her own blog, and now I have the pleasure of hosting her here. (I'll let you decide for yourself whether or not I made her up...)

You’ve said that Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood was inspired by The Count of Monte Cristo—what drew you to that particular story?
My undergrad degree was in English Literature. Because I think it makes me look smart, combined with my obsessive hoarding disorder when it comes to books, I still have most of the books I had to read in University. Now that I have time, I enjoy pulling them off the shelf and reading them again without worrying about a test or having to write a paper on some obscure image or theme. When I was re-reading The Count of Monte Cristo I realized how delightful it is to watch someone go after revenge. Most of us think about it at some point, but to see someone really go for it, makes for a great guilty pleasure. I started thinking how the story would play out in a high school setting. I loved the idea of being able to go back to high school under an assumed identity and right some wrongs. The story wrote itself quickly which leads me to believe I had some unresolved issues from high school.

Your protagonist Helen gets a chance to start over with a whole new identity. Is there anything from your own teen years that, given the chance, you might go back and do differently?
I can think of approximately a zillion things that I would do differently. Note to my teen self: There is such a thing as hair that is "too big." Duran Duran is not the best music known to man. Invest in Apple stock. Getting a part in the school play is not the most important thing that will ever happen in your life. Even though you will get stood up for your junior prom and you will be crushed, later you will realize he was a huge weenie and you had a far better time going with your friends.

Of course the problem is that if I took all the pain out of my teen years then I wouldn't have anything to write about now.

I read in another interview that your wish to be a writer started pretty young. Do you remember the first piece of fiction you ever finished and what it was about?
My parents framed for me the first story I ever wrote. It was in second grade, I called it "George the Sighkyatrist." (That would be Psychiatrist - except for the fact I couldn't spell). While the story does have a plot, a man seeks psychological support for sleepwalking, it isn't exactly a page turner. In fairness, it was only one page long. I think it is safe to say I have improved.

I also have notebooks full of angst filled poetry that I wrote as a teen. I made emo kids look upbeat. I was a huge fan of the repeat line.

My heart throbs,
A dark and empty drum.

I plan to burn these notebooks before I die.

Your Simon & Schuster profile says that you’ve read A Prayer for Owen Meany five times. John Irving is one of my favorite writers too, so I’m curious—what keeps bringing you back to Owen Meany?
I love this book. I find something knew in it every time I read it. I love the themes of destiny and redemption and the characters pull me in every time. It's a wonderfully quirky book, but somehow he pulls it together so that it feels honest and true. I'm thinking it takes special talent to make stuffed armadillos and killer baseballs work.

Everyone who visits your adopted hometown of Vancouver comes back talking about how beautiful it is. Is it really a wonderful place, or do they just brainwash the tourists?
Despite common wisdom that would have people believe Canada is all igloos, mounties, and lumberjacks, there is more. Vancouver is great and we rarely have to cope with stray moose in our backyard. (Although if I'm honest we have had a couple of bears.) When we first moved here in 1994, it was supposed to be for a year. We just never left. Now I say "eh" and watch hockey. I've gone native.

Now we just have to get you and your family to come visit.

What are you working on now? (And when do we get to read it?)
I am working on a YA that was inspired by The Scarlet Letter. (I knew that English degree would come in handy) It is tentatively titled The Vindication of Hailey Kendrick and will be out next January. Stay tuned as the title may change. The truth is, I stink at titles. How it is possible that I can write a whole book and be unable to come up with a catchy title is a mystery to me. This is why I need an editor.

Thanks for coming, Eileen!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Amazon, je t'aime!

Okay, so Amazon was a little slower than Barnes & Noble to start selling my book. And yeah, it hurt a little...I thought Amazon and I had something pretty special.

All is forgiven now though, because Amazon has not only started selling Here Comes Your Man in the US, they've also got it listed on their sites in the UK, France, Germany, and Japan!

For the moment, there do seem to be some international supply issues—the French site lists the book as "temporairement en rupture de stock," which sounds extraordinarily painful. But's exciting just to be listed.

I'm still waiting for Amazon to activate the LOOK INSIDE! feature that will allow you to flip through a few pages online, but until they do, you can view a 14-page PDF sample right here. (And if you don't have Acrobat on your computer, you can view the sample through Google Docs here.)

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Ready or Not, Here Comes Your Man!

I approved the final proof of Here Comes Your Man on Tuesday, and I've been anxiously checking for a listing ever since. Just for kicks, I decided to give Barnes & Noble a try, and there it was...

Am I excited? Well, my hands are shaking and I'm having some difficulty breathing...does that count?

Holy crap.

For the record, the pricing here is a little wonky—the book is supposed to list for $12—but B&N has discounted it below that anyway, so it's all good!

Hopefully Amazon adds the paperback to their system soon. Even if they don't, I should have the Kindle version available over there later today, for those of you who prefer your books sans papier. I'll also try to get a sample of the book up somewhere here...and then the entire Hysterical Publishing team and I are going to take a nap!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Keepin' It Real

After several days of proofing my proof of Here Comes Your Man, I finally submitted the FINAL corrected files to the printer on Thursday. (Now I just wait for one more proof...)

Whew...this process has given me newfound respect for copyeditors, proofreaders, and fact-checkers. Even though I've been over this manuscript a million times, I was still fixing weirdnesses to the very last minute: missing or extra words...punctuation problems...gender-switching siblings...over-hyphenation...excessive ellipsizing...even misspellings of words that I made up myself. (Seriously...spell check is useless with those.)

However, I am proud to say that my book is now officially flawless—it contains ZERO typos or errors of any kind!

One small note: those of you who do read Here Comes Your Man may encounter things that look like mistakes, but please don't be fooled—these are actually what I like to call "authenticities," simulated imperfections reintroduced to the text at great expense (much like the factory-made rips in the Gap's "Authentic" jeans).

Why do this? Well, the book had become so polished, I feared that people wouldn't believe I'd self-published it...and what would be the point of that? It would almost be like McDonald's making hamburgers that tasted like real beef, or someone creating "folk art" that was actually attractive. And nobody wants that.

A note on the process: Yes, I could've saved a few bucks by shipping this "imperfecting" work overseas, but my conscience wouldn't allow it. Plus, nobody does screw-ups the way we does them right here in the good old U.S. of A. (Except maybe Toyota, and I don't want my book to terrify people.)

Yet another note: If your eventual copy of Here Comes Your Man still isn't real enough for you, I can help! At no extra charge, I can paw through it while eating pizza, spill a soda of your choosing on the cover, or even dunk it in the bath. Also be sure to ask about our special treatments for pet lovers (slobbery, nibbled corners) and new parents (pages fused with oatmeal cereal).

One final note: If you find "errors" that actually interfere with your enjoyment of the text, please let me know—I don't want to be overly authentic. And I've never liked folk art.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


I'd just finished my lunch yesterday when I heard a heavy KA-CHUNK! at the front door. The UPS guy was already fleeing the scene when I arrived, but he’d left behind the proof of Here Comes Your Man. So here it is, in all of its glossy, paperback glory...

And here's the back cover, complete with one of those oh-so-sexy barcode tattoos all the young books are getting these days...

And the best part—there are lots and lots of words inside! (Very few of them made-up!)

Late last night, Here Comes Your Man spent some time mingling (alphabetically, of course) with the other books in my library. It was gratifying to see them all get along so well. Even Breakfast of Champions behaved itself for once (it went through an ugly little phase where it kept trying to pee on all the other books).

So, am I done yet?

No, not quite. Now I need to read through the proof, just to make sure the printer didn't add any characters or change the ending on me. But barring a nervous breakdown or similar catastrophe, my April 1st deadline still seems to be within reach!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Burning the Midnight Oil at Both Ends

While things may seem quiet here right now, rest assured that the Hysterical Publishing team and I have got our shoulders to the wheel and our noses to the grindstone preparing Here Comes Your Man for worldwide release.

Here's what we've discovered along the way: publishing a book is extremely time-consuming. (Who knew?) Thankfully, it's also kinda fun. Some recent highlights:

From the beginning, the self-publishing task that scared me the most was the page layout. I've designed a number of flyers and newsletters over the years, but never anything close to this size—89,134 words spread over 352 pages.

I'm glad to say that I've now crossed the layout task off my list. On Tuesday, I uploaded the exterior and interior files for Here Comes Your Man to my printer and ordered a proof of the paperback. As you might imagine, I'm pretty excited to see this prototype when it arrives next week, but I'm also relieved to have someone else babysit the little monster for a few days.

Funny and talented Vancouver novelist Eileen Cook was kind enough to read Here Comes Your Man, and even better, she gave me a fantastic blurb:
"With wit, heart and intelligence, Derek Gentry's Here Comes Your Man  reminds readers that you never know what is around the next corner or on the next page. Those who enjoy Nick Hornby will devour this book."
I've told Eileen that I'm going to print her blurb on a t-shirt that I can wear when I need a boost, but honestly, visiting her blog usually has the same anti-depressive effect without adding to my laundry pile. I also just finished reading Eileen's latest teen triumph, Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood, which I highly recommend, whether you're actually a Young Adult or just recall what it was like being one.

In my favorite development thus far, my daughter Lilah agreed to take my author photo for the back cover of Here Comes Your Man. Though our travel budget was limited, we still managed to shoot in several exotic locales, including the dining room, the playroom, and the front and back yards (the latter being quite dangerous because of the giant spiders reputed to live there).

Spiders aside, Lilah and I make a pretty good photo team: since she's only 4' 3", all of her shots make me look tall and powerful, and she never fails to make me smile (yes, that's a smile you see there). She also works for free (as long as you're willing to feed her, clothe her, and put her through college).

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Blurry Eye of the Beholder

It was my eighth-grade social studies teacher who, after watching me squint at the blackboard, first urged me to get my eyes checked.

I felt silly visiting the optometrist—I had enough friends with legitimate vision issues to know that my eyes weren't that bad—but eventually I went, and the results bore out Mr. Martinez's impression: nearsighted with a touch of astigmatism.

I wore glasses for the next eighteen years, mostly for distance at first, but eventually all the time. They just made so many things clearer—street signs, movies, sheet music—that wearing them became a habit. Unfortunately, I also had other habits, like dropping my glasses on driveways and sidewalks, and sitting on them, usually just after getting a new pair.

And then, eight-or-so years ago, having scratched and bent my latest pair beyond usefulness, I just stopped wearing them. I didn't feel like coughing up $300 for new ones, so I decided to try getting by without. And mostly, I did fine. If I couldn't see something, I just squinted harder or moved closer. Soon enough, I forgot that I'd ever seen the world any other way.

When I finally returned to the optometrist last spring, he asked what had brought me in. I told him that I'd recently become more uncomfortable driving at night. He nodded; this was the most common reason people visited him.

I first wore my new frames when taking Hugo for a walk one night. I certainly didn't need glasses for this activity—I just wanted to start getting comfortable with them, to work through that dizzy, new-prescription feeling.

Even in the dark, the difference was remarkable. The tree in front of our house, once just a shadowy mass, resolved into the outlines of droopy spring leaves, tinged yellow by the streetlight.

Then I looked up, and instead of a brilliant blob I saw the crisp crescent of the moon, the shaded portion still discernible against the even darker sky. It was the one thing that no amount of squinting would ever bring into focus, the one thing that I was powerless to get closer to, and it was beautiful.

The next night, I would confirm that driving was indeed easier. But I still wonder, why in seven years did I not miss the moon?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Hysterical Publishing: Because we're all a little hysterical on the inside.

When I decided to self-publish Here Comes Your Man, I naturally understood that the book’s success would depend on the selection of a sufficiently awesome name for my fake1 publishing company.

So I started a list, and for the next two weeks, everything I encountered gave me an idea that I liked for roughly four minutes. One night, my daughter was instructing me on the correct pronunciation of “opossum” and I thought: Nocturnal Books! The next day, I drove past the Riverside MBTA station and thought: D-Train Publishing! We ordered pizza for dinner, and I thought: Mushroom & Olive Press!

This little branding exercise reminded me of every attempt my high school friends and I made to start a rock band. Since we were usually short a drummer and/or bassist, we spent far more time thinking up cool band names than we did playing music. And since we weren’t even vaguely cool ourselves2, we never had much luck with the names either.

In fact, the only band name I can even remember now was one jokingly suggested by my friend Matt’s father: "Joe Banana & the Bunch—The band with appeal." I briefly considered employing some version of that moniker for my publishing company, at least until I discovered that the Joe Banana name and slogan are both already in use by a real band. (On the bright side, the band sells t-shirts, which I plan to buy for my entire staff.)

So I continued brainstorming, a process I now realize isn't nearly as much fun without a group of teenage bandmates to snicker at my inappropriate suggestions. Eventually, I circled back to my very first idea: Hysterical Publishing.

I’ve always liked the word hysterical—its sound and architecture as much as its divergent connotations. For a while, Here Comes Your Man was actually called Hysterical & Useless (a fragment from the Radiohead song “Let Down”). And I've also noticed that sticking "hysterical" in front of just about any "-ing" word improves it tremendously: hysterical accelerating, hysterical accentuating, hysterical accessorizing, hysterical acclimatizing etc. (Note: there are several thousand more -ing words here in case you're already bored with this post. My personal favorite: absquatulating.)

But anyway...with the name decided, I just needed a snazzy logo to back it up. And since Hysterical Publishing's Chief Illustrator once again blew all her screen time for the week playing Wii Sports Resort, I was forced to sit down at the computer and work something up myself. I think you'll agree that the results were pretty awesome, even employing a rather Joe Banana-esque color scheme:
Now, a few naysayers within the Hysterical Publishing team have suggested that this logo is perhaps 10-15% too awesome (i.e. manic and distracting) for use anywhere on our otherwise minimalist cover design. But even if that does prove true, it will not mean that this effort was a complete waste of time. On the contrary, the new logo will be emblazoned throughout the Hysterical Publishing campus, as well as being the centerpiece of the outdoor advertising campaign we're rolling out this spring.

Oh, and in case you can’t quite make it out, the pattern of 1s and 0s washed faintly across the logo spells "Hysterical Publishing" in binary code. (See—I told you I wasn’t cool.)

1Correction: Hysterical Publishing received its first piece of junk mail this week and thus is no longer fake or imaginary.

2Shocking, I know. Though I should clarify that, in the years since high-school, my friend Matt has acquired a certain full-bearded, acoustic coolness that continues to elude me (despite anything my kindhearted cousin Jennifer might tell you).

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Here Comes Your Man

It gives me great pleasure—and just a hint of queasiness—to announce that my novel Here Comes Your Man will be released on April 1, 2010 by Hysterical Publishing.


Now, as exciting as that sounds, there are a couple of caveats I should share:

About the publisher:
Hysterical Publishing is an extremely small, independent press that has (to my knowledge) just one employee: me. So while I do plan to talk about myself in the third-person as much as possible, you should know that this is really a self-publishing effort. I’m handling everything from cover art, to page layout, to satisfying the diva author’s incessant demands for more PBJ sandwiches and Diet Coke. (And if this self-publishing venture follows the script of most others, I will also be buying the bulk of the books myself as well.)

About the release date:
Since Hysterical Publishing is such a tiny operation, they can't actually guarantee that Here Comes Your Man will be released on April 1st. They say they're going to try really really hard, and they've promised that, if the book isn't released on April 1st, it will definitely be released at some time before or after that. (And that's way more than any other publisher has promised me, so I'm going with it.)

About distribution:
Once Here Comes Your Man is released, whenever that might be, you’ll be able to get it in both paperback and e-book format from,, and a variety of other outlets. (And if my daughter has her way, one of those other outlets will be a little stand in front of our house, where you’ll get a handmade "friendship bracelet" with every book.)

Anyway, I think that’s enough fine print for now. What’s the book about?

Whenever people ask me this question in person, I usually look down at my shoes and say something like, “Uhhhhhhhh…”

Lucky for you, this is not a real, in-person conversation, so you can just read the book's back-cover blurb instead. Here goes...

Here Comes Your Man

Meet Garrett: 30-year-old computer geek, master of irrational optimism, and serial-kisser of women who (it turns out) don’t like him that way. After three blurry years of business travel and inadvertent celibacy, Garrett is so ready for a serious relationship that he’s a little bit dangerous.

Inspired by a romantic near-miss on a flight home to Seattle, Garrett hurls himself into the deep end of the dating pool, determined to find happiness no matter how miserable it makes him. Too bad the women he falls for don't share his sense of urgency: Froot Loop sculptress April worries she’s warping his personality, cynical attorney Corinne suspects he likes her too much, and upstairs neighbor Meryl just wants to be friends.

Garrett refuses to give up though… well, at least until he does. But sometimes, after you’ve finally abandoned hope, you find that someone else hasn’t given up on you.

So that's my big announcement for today! I'll be blogging more in the coming days and weeks about books, carrot cake, Andre Agassi, and the whole self-publishing process, so...stay tuned! Or at the very least, drop by on April 1st to see if the Hysterical Publishing team and I can hit our deadline: We guarantee you a book, or a really solid excuse!