Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Let’s start with the A’s - Audience.  When I think about my audience, I visualize a bunch of people empathizing with the hardships of being a caregiver for the elderly.  I see them nodding their heads when they read about an elderly client farting in a waiting room, or laughing at the description of seniors road-testing electric scooters. I see a blue-collar people, some men, mostly women, who keep south west Florida’s economy running. They understand the subtleties of hurricanes, men in old pick-up trucks, armadillos, and sunbirds. I imagine reading to them during their lunch break, or on the ride home from yoga class, maybe even before they turn out the lights at night. I see people with dysfunctional families (pretty much everyone), who find levity in reading about the Delaneys, a functional-dysfunctional family much like my own family. And I don’t limit myself. I recently learned that YA’s relate to Milo Purdie as he struggles to find balance between the vicissitudes of dating and making a decent living.
There is probably a more scientific way to determine one’s audience, but this method works for me, and apparently my audience. Just try this exercise and see if it works for you: take a moment to picture yourself reading to a live audience (large or intimate).  Picture yourself sitting in front of this group of people who will enjoy your literary voice, who will laugh with you, and commiserate with your characters’ challenges. Hear yourself reading the last sentence and closing your book. See them beaming happily, clapping, and then asking when your next book will be available.

Friday, July 31, 2015

ABC's of self publishing

Writing is the easy part of self-publishing. The words flow, the pages fill, and then you’re sighing with satisfaction as you place that last period. After a year of self-discipline, concentrated story-telling, and four hundred pages later you experience closure. There is little time to celebrate as characters from the next story begin to stir to life. And this is, after all, why we write, right?
Yes, it is, but if you ever expect to share your story with readers beyond your circle of friends and family, and if you ever hope to recoup some remuneration for your hours of labor and imagination, you will, by necessity, find yourself wading into the swamp of editing, marketing, publicity, and accounting. It’s dirty, frustrating, and often humiliating, but it must be done if you want to call yourself a writer.

True, it wasn’t always like this. I’m sure Mark Twain didn’t have to worry about getting Huck and Tom from his imagination to the end-reader. And Virginia Woolf had a brother-in-law in the publishing business, so she never had to worry about how she would popularize The Lighthouse or Mrs. Dalloway. Self-publishing has leveled the playing field, but it is has also put the burden of every aspect of publishing on the writer. I hate it. But I don’t hate it enough to start submitting my books to traditional publishing houses again.

While I’m sharing, you may as well know, I have a B.S. in Marketing (B.S.- an apt abbreviation if ever I saw one).  Interestingly, most of what I know about marketing my books, I’m learning as I go.  

Thursday, April 9, 2015


R-17 - that was printed on my Pippin theatre ticket last Sunday.  Carolyn and I usually go to one show a year, so these tickets were purchased with much discussion and consideration in 2014.  We arrived about ten minutes before the show was scheduled to start and headed into the auditorium to find our seats. Aisle R was filled at both ends; in fact, seats 16 and 17 were the only empty ones left.  When I looked at my ticket and discovered that the man who was sitting in the seat next to mine was the biggest human I’ve ever seen, Carolyn bravely volunteered to switch with me.

You hear about people this size getting charged for two airline tickets, or you see them exploited on TV getting surgery or struggling through life.  I don’t watch those shows because they make my heart sad for the people, their families, and the viewers who find misery entertaining. 

But the fact is I’m a germaphobe and having to share personal space touching a perfect stranger makes me anxious.  I like to think I’m also a decent human being or at the very least a work in progress.  So, I resigned myself to the probability that I’m about to get a lesson in patience. God has been trying to teach me patience for a while . . . 53 years, six months and fourteen days. Yes, it was definitely about patience; right away I was forced up against Carolyn, which is fine for a few minutes, but then both of us need space. However, this man was so big I could not sit up straight in my seat even if I wanted to. Nothing good would come from complaining, that would waste the lesson, so I came up with a mantra be patient and breathe.

In my peripheral vision I could see that my neighbor’s knees were pressed into the seat in front of him, he physically spilled over the armrest between us; be patient and breathe. My head was even with his upper arm, I would have to look straight up at him to see into his eyes; be patient and breathe

Then it happened; the lesson came, and I nearly missed it. On stage, Pippin’s grandmother invited the audience to sing along with her, and the giant next to me lifted his voice. It came out pitch perfect, like a world-class instrument.  His was the only voice I could hear, and he sang from someplace so deep and full of joy, I thought he was an angel.  And then I realized . . . he was.

Intermission arrived and someone asked if I was miserable having to sit next to the, “fat, black guy.”  Be patient and breathe; I exhaled slowly and told her it was no problem at all in fact he had a beautiful voice that belonged on the stage.  This was not the answer she was expecting, but it was an opportunity for me to practice patience.

The lights dimmed and the stranger returned.  As he crushed me into Carolyn, he looked down into my eyes and said, “I’m sorry.”  I said, “No worries.  And by the way, you sing like an angel.”  He beamed and act two got underway.

Some dink from West Virginia pulled out in front of my car this afternoon, and you’ll never guess how I responded . . . yep, still working on patience apparently. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Mardi Gras in Bonita Shores

So my plan to celebrate Mardi Gras involved the purchase of a King Cake from Fresh Market.  As I was checking out, the store manager presented me with a strand of purple Mardi Gras beads.  I proudly wore them the rest of the day because they actually complimented what I was wearing.  And then in the blink of an eye, I experienced one of those moments that confirms I’m living in the right place.  I went to pick up an invoice from a neighbor and while standing in his driveway was introduced to an interesting man whom I shall call Bud in order to protect his identity.  Tall, wiry, sixtyish, Bud is handsome in that grizzled, all-the-grass-I’ve-ever-consumed-finally-caught-up-to-me kind of way.  And Bud is hairy; it’s growing out of the neckline of his t-shirt while he is standing there.  “This is Bud,” my neighbor said.  “Hey, Bud,” I answered and we shook hands.  “I like those beads,” Bud said, eyeing my shiny bright purple strand.  “Thank you.  They’re Mardi Gras beads, today is Mar ---” but before I could finish the sentence, Bud grabbed the hem of his Jimmy Buffet t-shirt and yanked it up, covering his face.  Good thing too since I experienced a full body convolution followed by an unconcealed look of horror which might have been perceived as rude.   

As the wall-o-fur, burned itself onto my retina, I managed to compose myself and said in a calm but no-nonsense voice, “For the love of all that is holy pull your shirt down.”  He did.  I continued, “Despite cleavage that might titillate the lonely and bored “Fifty Shades of Gray” crowd, I remain unimpressed.  You need to find another way to get Mardi Gras beads.  May I suggest Fresh Market where you can also sample coffee and a variety of cheeses.”  Bud beamed, “Well it was nice to meet you,” he said.  And as he walked to his home across the street he waved over his shoulder and wished me a happy Mardi Gras.  I probably should have called the manager at Fresh Market and given her a head’s up in case Bud showed up later.   

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Throwback Thursday

    Back in 1979, before gay marriage was even on the radar, I went in search of an anniversary card for my then girlfriend. I know that I shouldn't have been surprised when I couldn't find one, not even a suitable generic one, but I was, and angry, too. After all, I was living in Atlanta, the gay capital of the south. Then, like the launching of so many of my projects, my mantra, “fuck it; I’ll do it myself,” set me in motion. The adventure started with a need and visualization. In 1980, I began selling heartfelt cards and posters for gays that portrayed us authentically. They took flight because there was a great need; Thousands of those posters and cards ended up being sold in gay stores all over the country (and two beyond the borders).
    Fast forward 24 years. Today, my aunt sent me to buy a wedding card for my first cousin, who will marry the man of her dreams later this month. So I dutifully headed to the card aisle at Publix. Putting down my basket, I reached for the first card that caught my attention . . . “For the Brides.” And with a sigh of relief, I put it back on the rack . . . how far we have come. But the best part of this tale is my invitation to this wedding. It was addressed to Mrs. Danford and Mrs. Hawkins. Can I get a witness?!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Outside my comfort zone

So I've always wanted to learn how to salsa. No, I’m not kidding. Stop laughing. I know, you keep picturing what Miss Hathaway from the Beverly Hillbillies would look like on the dance floor. But after passing the real estate exam, I feel empowered to do anything, including salsa . . . with another person. The truth is, I’ve been trying to teach myself from the computer. It doesn’t work. So I found a Groupon and signed up for a few classes at Fred Astaire. Let me just say I’ve walked up on water moccasins and felt less trepidation than I had stepping into that dance studio. But I’ve got my cross, my wedding band, and Frozen sisters-pendant around my neck, so I took a deep breath and jumped off the cliff with complete, unadulterated trust. Not until the teacher, a very handsome, professional young man took me by the hand did I realize just how far I was outside my comfort zone; it wasn’t just unsettling on every level, I had the sensation that someone shut the door behind me and locked it. For a sold half an hour I danced . . .with a man. Now I’m picturing Miss Hathaway. And if holding hands with a man wasn’t weird enough, I let him lead and (this is unprecedented) tell me what to do. I’m not just outside my comfort zone now; I’m on an alien planet. But I kept telling myself, be open and find the joy in the exploration of something new. And then it happened! After a mighty effort to teach me how to turn, my teacher finally succeeded. The thrill of success was overwhelming; I stopped dead, and lifted my arms for a double, overhead high five. He laughed as our hands met in victory then calmly said, “You know you can’t do that in the middle of a dance.” The moral of the story is this - even though I found myself so far outside my comfort zone, I still managed to bring the essentials, humor and a willingness to test the edges.

Friday, June 13, 2014

wolves in the neighborhood

A few years ago, I watched a full moon rise and turn orange in the month of October.  I won't even attempt to try and explain why, but I felt the need to howl.  So I did.  Right there in the 7-eleven parking lot.  And it was so liberating that whenever I see a full moon and feel so inspired I go outside and howl.  I can ignore the sound of my phone, the doorbell, and people, but not the call of the moon.  

Two friends emailed me today as a reminder that Friday the thirteenth, the moon would be glorious.  So tonight, I went out when the moon was high around 10 p.m., threw back my head and howled like there was no tomorrow . . . and the strangest thing happened.  One of my neighbors joined in, then another, then another.  And no I don't know which neighbors were howling but I'm pretty sure I have a pack!

So the next time the moon calls to you, don't question it, just answer.  You might be surprised to know you're not the only wolf in the 'hood.