Friday, December 19, 2014

What If They Gave a Signing and Nobody Came?

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.

 *          *          *

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: ):

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:


Catriona McPherson said...

It's lovely you hear you talking about your mom, Paul. This first year is some hard work. Lots of love and wishing you all the best, Cx

Catriona McPherson said...

Bah - first cup of coffee is only halfway down. "to hear you".

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks for your thoughts, Catriona. I debated a while if I should talk about that but decided to go for it. Thanks again.

GBPool said...

Good memories will always push the bad or sad ones out of the way. You will have many good ones waiting for you.

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks, Gayle. I appreciate it! And for you too, many good things.

Meredith Cole said...

It's been great getting to know you through this blog, Paul! And getting to know your mom a little through your post today. Hope you have a wonderful holiday and the new year brings you much joy and many happy memories!

Robin Spano said...

Paul, what a beautiful post to close out the year. Your mom would love this.

Unknown said...

Great post, as always, Paul. Glad you ended the year with your best. Your mamma would be proud.

Paul D. Marks said...

Hi Meredith, It’s been great getting to know you, and all the Crim Minds, too! And I hope you have a great holiday and a very good New Year!

Thank you, Robin. I appreciate it. And a great New Year and Happy Holidays to you.

Thanks, Kat. Glad you think so. And have a great holiday and a great New Year too.

Susan C Shea said...

Paul, My mother died when she was 53 and we had some tough times before that, so I hear other people talking about their closer relationship with mothers, I am definitely looking in from the outside. You describe a real relationship and it sounds as though it was solid and supportive. Lovely grace note to end 2014. Thanks.

Evelyn Moore said...

Great thoughts, poignant and painful, yet full of hope and faith in the future. You were so insightful to realize that you needed maintain that communication with your mother. One of life's biggest regrets can be "I wish I would have said (fill in the blank) to her/him, but now it's too late." Here's hoping for a good New Year.

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks Susan, and I’m sorry you lost your mother when she was so young. My relationship with my mom wasn’t perfect, many family issues. But we persevered and I guess that made it work.

Thank you, Evelyn. I have a lot of regrets about a lot of things, but at least on that one thing I did realize she wouldn’t be around forever and changed my mind.

RJ Harlick said...

A lovely post, Paul. It's not easy losing one's mother, but you write about it beautifully.

Paul D. Marks said...

Thank you, RJ. I couldn't decide if I should do it, but I'm glad I did.