We all have tales to tell from book events. What is your best experience and what is your worst?
by Paul D. Marks
Since I pretty much answered this question some time ago when we were asked about best and worst convention experiences...because it amounts to the same thing as book events, I’m going to give a short response to the “worst” experience here. And just quickly mention that the best – and worst – was winning the Shamus, from the Private Eye Writers of America, at last year’s (2013) Shamus Awards. (If interested in that whole story and to see why it’s both best and worst, see What is your best experience at a mystery convention? Your worst? posted on Criminal Minds, I believe, on 4/11/14). But after my brief other worst experience below, I have some reflections on the past year.
The other worst: though one that didn’t actually happen...’cause I was too chicken to try. Some of you might remember the old expression “What if they gave a war and nobody came?” Well, when White Heat came out I adamantly did not want to do signings in bookstores because I thought...“What if I gave a signing and nobody came.”
Vampires and zombies don’t scare me, though when I was a kid I did pull the blankets over my neck so if Dracula happened to fly in my window he couldn’t bite me (as if the blankets would stop him). But one hears horror stories of writers going to signings and nobody showing up. And I figured that’s what would happen to me as an unknown. So I did most of my promotion via the web or going to mass signings like the LA Times Festival of Books with Sisters in Crime, etc. And, all in all, it worked out pretty good.
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And now, since this is the last official post of the year, I thought I’d reflect a bit before signing off.
As some of you may know, my mom died in September. I don’t have anything particularly profound to say about it, but I thought I’d offer some end-of-the-year thoughts about that and some other things.
It’s hard losing a parent or anyone who’s close to you. And I was pretty close to my mom. I might not have seen her a lot, though I did see her, but we talked on the phone frequently. Sometimes we didn’t have much to say to each other because we talked so much. But I guess she liked to hear my voice—her words, not mine. There was a time years ago when I didn’t want to talk to her so frequently and told her we shouldn’t talk more than once a week or even less than that. But then I realized she wouldn’t be here forever, so I gave in and we talked several times a week. She would ask me about the stuff I was bidding on on eBay (I collect toys, Beatles stuff and other “junk”), or about our animals (most of the time 2 dogs and 2 cats, but now down to 1 dog and 2 cats) or other things. Usually nothing of heavy import. And I don’t regret all those conversations at all. I guess you could say I was “stocking up” for that time—now—when she wouldn’t be here anymore.
Her last year was not a good one. She had breast cancer that spread throughout her body. She was in a lot of pain, but still thought she’d beat it. She’d beaten it before. But I guess none of us can stave death off forever unless you’re a better chess player than he is.
There was a time when she was younger that she had wanted to be a writer. And maybe that’s where I got the bug from. I tried to encourage her to write throughout the years, but she never did. But she did read to me as a child, and not just children’s books. Two pieces that I very distinctly remember her reading me as a young child were Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Ozymandius,” and Edwin Arlington Robinson’s “Richard Cory.” Two of my favorite poems to this day. (Simon and Garfunkel doing their version of Richard Cory: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=euuCiSY0qYs ):
We had our share of disagreements, even full blown arguments about one thing or another. She didn’t always agree with my choices as a teenager or an adult, but she always stood by me, no matter what. Of course, I didn’t always agree with her choices either. But if you can’t disagree with someone and still have a relationship, then maybe you don’t really have a relationship. The closest human beings can be is when we can accept the other person and accept their differences.
L to R: My wife Amy and my mom. My mom’s high school pic. Somewhere in the 80s/90s, I’m guessing. And her and I at a book signing a couple of years ago:
And she truly loved and accepted my wife, Amy, and that always made me very happy. On the other hand, I don’t think she loved our last house as much as we did—too modern. But did love our current house and would comment on that all the time.
I suppose I could reflect on this for pages, but I’ll wind it down. So summing up the year, like most years, 2014 had some good and some bad. Some frustrating luck with projects falling through, not happening and one big media project biting the dust. So it’s been tough. But like Gene Autry says in “Tumbling Tumbleweeds” “I know when night has gone that a new world's born at dawn.” And the New Year is coming and hopefully a clean slate with it.
So Happy Holidays and a Good New Year to Everyone! And look for the holiday greeting from the Criminal Minds going up this Sunday.
Gene Autry: Tumbling Tumbleweeds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=96XDEMh4Kis