Give and you shall receive

The other day I had my weekly tutoring session with a young lad at the church that I attend.  After a few recent bouts with death I decided to cover all bases. I changed my diet and began exercising, buckled my seat belt and stopped texting while driving. I also joined the church that my wife belongs to.

Secretly, I believe there are infinite paths to God or the Divine or the Higgs-Boson God Particle—Guess the secret is out now . . . Oops.

 What ever gets you on the path of peace and love is fine by me. I believe the Australian Aborigines hit the nail on the head with their belief that God resides in everything: every rock, tree, waterfall and McDonald’s Big Mac.

Anyway, I digress. Back to tutoring. The young lad I tutor has trouble with math. He also has an attention span of about five seconds and constantly looks away while rummaging around in his schoolbag. All he really wants to do is draw with his crayons and work his way through a book of mazes.

It is extremely hard to keep him focused. I think this is because he feels frustrated that simple tasks are hard for him. That may be part of it. Whatever the reason, after a few futile sessions I decided to try a new approach, as flash cards and reasoning did not appear to be working.

I figured I should go with what I do best.

Take a nap.

I get most of my great and even some of my not so great ideas in the horizontal position. And this time was no different. As soon as I lay down it hit me. Write a story. So last week I wrote a chapter of a children’s book starring Elijah and his love of drawing robots and figuring his way out of mazes.


He loved it and asked me to write chapters 2 through 5 for the next session. Well, I was elated and got right to work on the next few chapters. Of course I thought it was brilliant, or else I wouldn’t have written it. So the other night armed with new chapters of the adventures of Elijah I returned to church for our weekly tutoring session. Elijah read aloud through chapter 2 and did the math sprinkled throughout the chapter. I even made up rhymes for him like, “Which equals 2? See what you can do,” and “Find the 4. Can you find more?”

I was so proud of myself. And happy for and proud of Elijah, too. He was doing great.

And then came chapter three where Elijah and his friends were trapped in the maze with the robots. He immediately put this masterpiece down, fumbled around in his schoolbag and started taking things out; ignoring my gentle pleas: “Elijah read a little more . . . okay, why don’t we do some flash cards . . . what is that you have? Homework? Great, let’s do that. . . . No? Okay, we’ll do that instead. Oh, I see, you want to do some more drawing. Well that’s fine too . . . what are you going to do?”

Guess chapter 3 needs a little more work. And I need to find more ways to connect with Elijah.

I feel bad. I gave so little to Elijah and he gave me so much more in return: a great idea for a children’s book. Guess it really is true: if you give you shall receive. Amen.

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The UK falls! The Floating Man lands . . . and conquers?

A red-letter day in the saga of The Floating Man and its slow methodical march up the ranks of the NY Times Bestseller List.  More slow than methodical, but every great publishing empire starts with a few missteps.  That’s what Steve my webguy says anyway.  Steve just finished putting up some of the 5 star reviews I have been receiving from Amazon and B&N readers.  He left out the 3 star one, although even that one said The Floating Man was an enjoyable read. I’ll take that.

Another digression.  I do that a lot.  Sorry.  Back to my conquest of the UK. The other day I decided to post a brief summary and thumbnail of my book cover on a Facebook page dedicated to eBook readers from the UK.

And lo and behold, I soon began a triumphant march up the bestseller ranks.  From nothing all the way up to 33,000 in a matter of hours!

It’s amazing what the sale of three books will do to your rankings. 

Can France and Germany be far behind? I think not.

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Take a walk on the wild side

Actually it’s just a walk in the woods—the Morton Arboretum in Lisle Illinois, to be exact.  It’s a great place to clear the mind and get inspiration. And sometimes you might even find a character or two. Last winter while on the trail, I met an elderly man named Lance—the inspiration for Jacques Allegre, one of the characters in my novel.

It was a bitterly cold January day. My brother and I were sitting on a bench, taking a quick break after walking three miles.  Lance, who we had passed on the trail earlier, caught up to us and decided to strike up a conversation. He stood in front of us and held court for the next two hours, retelling the story of his life; all the while peppering his recollections with “Question!” He would proceed to ask us about an obscure event from history which both my brother and I had no clue.  He would then recite the answer, after which he would shout “So!” and continue on with his life story.

And what a story it was. Lance was taken prisoner by the Germans when Finland fell to the Nazis. Tortured and castrated by the Germans, he eventually escaped and joined the resistance in Norway. After the war he was able to emigrate to America where he married and adopted several children.  Lance wrote and self-published a book about his life: Rendezvous With Destiny.  I told him I would look it up. When I googled it, I came up with a slew of books with that title, none by Lance. Guess he had a little trouble marketing the book. A story I am all too familiar with. Never did get his last name. But Lance lives on as a character in my book.

“So!” If you want to read a really interesting book, try to find Lance’s Rendezvous With Destiny.

And if you can’t find his book, you can always read mine.

When you get to Chapter 33 think of Lance as you listen to Jacques Allegre talk about The Secrets of Chateau Saint-Julien de Mailloc. And think of me and my brother freezing are rear-ends off as we sat for two hours listening to Lance tell us his entire life story that wintery day on the trail.

You know what? It was worth every second.

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Mind over matter . . . does it matter?

In my last blog I outlined one of my outside the box schemes to promote my book. It involved going back to my old alma mater. The plan essentially boiled down to finding a student who was a whiz at social media. As a member of the Twitter universe, I now follow and am followed by over 200 twitterers (or is it tweeters? Possibly twits? Or maybe nitwits). I’ve probably read a dozen tweets and sent out about twenty; I doubt I have sold one book through my tweets.

Okay, so I’m back on campus. Then what? I start walking around campus and look for the nerdiest kid?

What do I say?

“Hey there young man/woman. Do you like to do the tweet? Would you mind tweeting for me? If you’re good, I’ll even pay you.”

In that scenario, I can see myself being arrested for solicitation.

Maybe I should just walk up to the prettiest girl I can find and offer to buy her a cup of coffee, or lunch, if she would be willing to share some thoughts on how I could find the nerdiest kid on campus to help promote my novel.

I just blew that idea.

My wife enjoys reading my blog—so that’s out. And now she wants to go with me on my campus outing.


But no . . . wait a minute, this could work out perfectly.

What is more adorable than a middle-aged man and his wife, sharing a walk down memory lane? I’ll point out various landmarks on campus. We’ll smile a lot, and I’ll tell everyone we meet, “You know me and my wife first met and fell in love on this very spot.” It’ll be a lie, but my God what an opening. Naturally, we’ll fall into a patter of banal inanities: “So, what are you majoring in? . . . That’s nice. . . . Can I give you some sage advice on meeting the perfect guy/girl?”

At this point my wife will elbow me in the ribs; we’ll all laugh. And taking the bait, he/she will ask what we majored in and what we’re doing now.

Once hooked, all I have to do is reel them in. It’ll be perfect.

God, it’s really great living inside my mind. Wish reality was this easy.


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The best laid plans of mice and men

Well, that didn’t work out too well. In my last blog I committed myself to drinking my celebratory bottle of Absinthe and cleaning the house from top to bottom in lieu of making the NY Times bestseller list. I only got a couple shots down and the bathroom cleaned. That award winning Absinthe from France which uses the original 1834 recipe is horrible. No wonder Van Gogh cut his ear off. And Toulouse Lautrec was probably short because he started drinking it at an early age.

The stuff tastes like rubbing alcohol mixed with the breath freshener sen-sen (a tiny horrible gray licorice flavored square my mom used to torture me with when I was a kid). For all you parents out there that are worried that your teenage sons and daughters might be tempted to drink, you can nip it in the bud by giving them a bottle of this stuff. And if it turns out they can actually stomach the stuff, don’t feel guilty—there was never any hope for them anyway.

Starting Monday I begin promoting The Floating Man in earnest once again. I want to try a couple outside the box ideas I have. One is to go to my old alma mater and talk with a marketing professor and see if he has any super sharp students that are a whiz at this social media thing. Because let me tell you, I am certainly not a whiz. I am now on twitter; following and being followed by a bunch of authors who all want me to buy their book. 

See the problem? 

I have no intention of buying their book and they have no intention of buying mine. Need to find twitter followers that only read books, not write them.

So next week it’s back to college. Maybe the next Mark Zuckerberg is out there walking around campus, waiting to find me and spread my book to the teeming masses. 

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Time to take a step back . . . and relax

This book promotion thing can get a person down. Sometimes you just need to kick back and relax for a while. Get a fresh perspective on things.

After coming down with food poisoning for a few days, and no, it wasn’t my wife’s cooking, I have decided to take my insurance agent’s advice concerning my bottle of Absinthe that I purchased from France to help me celebrate.

I originally had planned to pop the cork when my book was published, but for some strange reason I didn’t feel much like celebrating. Then I was going to celebrate when I sold my first 100 books. Still didn’t feel it. Next was receiving my tenth 5 star review on Amazon. That didn’t do the trick either.

And then the other day my friend and insurance agent, Marci (another coincidence; she’s French and so is my fictional character, Henri Richaud) gave me a great idea for drinking that bottle of Absinthe. While I was lamenting the fact that I haven’t cleaned the house in over two months, Marci shared with me her secret.

Her preferred method of cleaning a house from top to bottom is to start early in the afternoon with a bottle of wine. By the time she finishes the bottle, she is also finished cleaning the house. And the wine helps put her to sleep after a long day of cleaning. 

Due to my size, Marci says a bottle of wine probably won’t suffice. But a bottle of Absinthe? Now that would be just the ticket, and it’ll solve both my problems: a dirty house and an unpopped celebratory bottle. And when my book hits the NY Times bestseller list I can take my wife to Paris and have a proper celebration.

So that is my plan for today. I will pop the bottle of Absinthe at 2PM Central Standard Time and drink two shots an hour for the first two hours, followed by one shot every hour thereafter . . . subject of course to modification at the author’s discretion. And when I wake up tomorrow, I’m just going to kick back and relax. Maybe go to the lakefront or visit the Art Institute. Have a few Tacos Carne Asada and a glass of water (I figure I will be hung-over from the Absinthe).

And if you don’t hear from me for a few days? That means the house was dirtier than I had thought.

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You may say I’m a dreamer . . . and you would be write

Like I said in my previous blog, thinking outside the box is highly overrated. When I was part of the corporate world—okay, that’s a real stretch—bosses would always harp on the need to think outside the box. And when an underling would actually propose a novel creative approach, the boss would invariably give the guy a look that said, “where did we get this schmuck?”

Thankfully, I no longer have a boss giving me those looks. Now when I propose one of my outside the box strategies I get a laugh and shake of the head from my wife accompanied by a look that says, “God, I love him . . . even if he is a bit strange and still acts like an overgrown child.” Or that’s what I imagine anyway.

This morning I was doing a little research on book promotion and realized I had forgot one of the basic rules: Beg, plead and cry—no, wait a minute, that’s how I got my wife to marry me. I don’t think that will work in selling books, except for close friends and family. Sorry, another one of my digressions that faithful readers of this blog are all too familiar with.

Again, back to the basics.

First rule of promotion is the press release. Gotta let the world know that you have arrived on the stage. A well-written press release can get your book out there on a slow news day. One author’s blog recommended Free Press Release as a site to build your press release. And for free! But then again, nothing is really free, is it? No, the site wants you to spend $19/PR for a Premier Account; $59/PR for a Customized Account; and $399/PR for an advanced account. What does that /PR mean? Press Release? Per Release? Pretty Ridiculous?  Wait—

I’ve just had an epiphany.

I am a real schmuck!

Here I am, contemplating spending more money promoting a book—albeit a good book in my biased opinion—for a chance at winning the book lottery. For every PJ Rolling or whatever the hell her name is, there are millions of Art Dumphies (I couldn’t bear to use my own name, so I substituted Art). If there is a real Art Dumphie out there, please, accept my apology. And Art, if you’re out there and have an eBook for sale, I’ll buy it. As long as it is not more than $2.99. Because, I’m a real Schmuck.

Should have gotten my MBA and started a company that takes advantage of hopeless dreamers like myself, and the millions of other aspiring authors out there. Nahhhhhhhhhhh. I’ll stick to writing and dreaming—but I’m not the only one.

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