After having novels published, I thought I'd share some of my 'loves' and 'dislikes' on the journey in hopes it will help others about to be published or wanting to get published and/or entertain those interested in the process. LOVES: Amazing high after your agent informs you a publisher wants to publish your book. Working with your agent on the contract. Meeting the people at your publisher over lunch to talk about the novel and exchanging ideas. Makes all the hours spent alone in your writing space worthwhile. Although now with COVID 19 around, that doesn't happen as much likely. But it will come back. Working with editors. Seeing your novel’s jacket for the first time—that sure is a blood-rush moment—and the publisher actually listening and acting upon some of your suggestions to improve various drafts. (I must point out this was unusual and not all authors get such an experience as some publishers don’t do this.) Seeing the final typeset version of your manuscripts on the computer. Working with the publisher’s marketing people to discuss promotion ideas, etc. Great brain stimulation DISLIKES (and fears): Approaching peers for endorsements (blurbs) because I feel like a beggar and many decline or don’t bother to respond. (That’s not a complaint, just an observation.) There are many reasons why an author won’t blurb: too busy and have their own pressing deadlines; story doesn’t interest them; they get asked by hundreds of people; don’t want to blurb it for personal or professional reasons. Don’t take it personally or you’ll become bitter. Accept and move on. It’s part of the process. And celebrate when you get a great endorsement from a writer who gave his or her time to read your work and tendered the blurb. Make a commitment to do the same and be open to writers if you become well enough known and your opinion is sought. As authors nowadays have to get involved contacting influential book clubs and other important review sites to ask them to read your book or select it as one of their picks, etc—again, one feels like a beggar. View it as just another cog in the publishing machine. Often the response will be ‘no’ or there will be no response, which can disappoint and even hurt. That’s a normal emotion but don’t take it personally. Remember there are hundreds of books released every year and, while your book is your new baby, to them it is just another novel or memoir, etc. The terror when a pre-pub review has been published and you begin reading it. (You will also experience it on the book’s publication as, hopefully, you will get ink in newspapers and magazines, etc.) Whether it is a good or bad review, treat them the same and don’t take it personally. Try not to over celebrate if good and not get despondent or want to cut your wrists if it’s bad. Remember that reviews are subjective. Move on. I said, Move on. And if you’re really sensitive, don’t read reviews—good or bad. Same goes for Amazon reader reviews. And remember there will be trolls on the internet. Do not comment on reviews about your work that you don't on Amazon or Goodreads. As oxygen gives life to the body, responses give life to trolls.
Went shopping in New Orleans to help advise a senior friend buy a new computer and printer at Best Buy. He and his partner who celebrated his 92nd birthday have been having serious health problems including heart failure. Given he's not as sophisticated computer user, I suggested he buy a three-year contract for piece of mind. "I don't believe I have three years," he said. "A two year contract will do." He said it with such certainty and acceptance, I was incredibly moved. It made me think about the end of life amid the flippant buzz of commerce taking place in the store. The fact is he and his life partner of 62 years are down to two years or so of life. There is no more five or ten-year plan. A day will come when the sun rises and we are no longer on the planet breathing its air. We will no longer exist. Everything we have done begins to move into the dusty past. Our money and wealth gets distributed to offspring and friends whom we imagine will handle it with the care we did. It doesn't matter. Regardless of one's personal or religious beliefs, that should be enough to encourage us to live good and productive lives full of love and regard for one another.
Anybody watch 60 minutes last night. Thought-provoking segment from a former Google ethicist who left Google because he was unhappy with the way it and other social media companies like Facebook, Snapchat, etc are creating apps to create addictive behaviors in users. The Apps appeal to the lowest past of our brainstem where we feel anxiety, fear and other base emotions. It's geared at making users crave 'likes, etc' and they are even holding back on various User feedback and sending them in small bursts so the user gets an artificial high and keeps using the social media app, etc in an insatiable need for more and more. Research is showing that psychologically developed app programs to stimulate happiness and highs can create addition. Parents scoff at his warnings and compare it to them being nonstop on the phone in the 70s. The ethicist says it is NOT the same because at social media companies employ thousands of engineers working to stimulate the emotions that result in addiction. In the seventies, the phone companies did not employ engineers to target and monitor user responses, etc. When asked to comment, Apple, Google, Facebook, etc decline and refused to sanction Apps aimed at reducing one's appetite for artificial highs. The worse offender apparently is Snapchat aimed at young people and it's making them anxious, depressed and pressured. He says the industry needs to reform or there could be dire consequences psychologically for users in the longterm.
I know some of you wonder why my new historical novel deals with bullfighting because today, as opposed to the 1950s when the story takes place, it's seen as a cruel bloodsport and politically incorrect. I understand and respect these sentiments, but does that mean such an historical subject should not be examined today? Especially since the book is inspired by Patricia McCormick, America's first female bullfighter, although not based on her life. The work is so much more than a story about fighting the bulls. It's the story of mid-century feminism and how a young woman defies societal expectations and sets out against all odds to prove herself the equal of any man. As I had to do much, much research, I was terrified when the novel was sent to John Hemingway for his opinion. Given his name and familial connections to the world of the bulls, I was terrified he'd find my research woefully inadequate and decline to tender his view. I am thrilled he did not. Here is Mr. Hemingway's opinion: The Moment of Truth is the best book I've read on bullfighting in a long time. Damian McNicholl tells this story with consummate ease and compelling imagery. A book for aficionados and for those who want to feel what it's like to be a woman competing in the very masculine world of corrida." John Hemingway, writer, journalist and aficionado
Despite the rather exciting Price Waterhouse Best Picture screwup, I found last night's event was a petri dish ripe for analysis of human behavior. It did not hold up well regards human behavior and empathy. When Jimmy Kimmel had the bus load of unsuspecting tourists enter the theater, I was astonished by the reactions and behavior. The majority brandished their cell phones and started making insta-movies as opposed to living their lives in the moment and enjoying an unprecedented opportunity to meet and greet movie stars whom they obviously adore and perhaps even dream of meeting as fellow human beings. Their one and only chance was given up to capturing the moment as digital bits to share on Facebook and Twitter, etc. I learned something last night. We have rapidly losing the ability to connect face-to-face. Technology is rendering us courser and we've sold our souls to the machines. We embrace the fake at the expense of the real. And as the great bard said, 'All the world's a stage.' A great big unrelenting stage.
Just listened to a fascinating interview on NPR's Radio Times with Marty Moss Coane. Erica Armstrong Dunbar talked about her book, Never Caught:The Washington's Relentless Pursuit of their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge. Though George Washington did change his mind about slavery and freed his slaves after his death, his wife did not. She owned more slaves than Washington and her attitude was quite different to her husband. She liked light-colored slaves to serve in her home as she deemed them more intelligent. Nor did she or Washington wish to deprive themselves of luxury during their lives by liberating their slaves. Ona Judge was a remarkable woman who ran away to freedom after learning she was to be 'gifted' to Martha's granddaughter. The interview made me think how superficially many of us think about slavery. Imagine spending your whole life spent as the property of another human being. Your whole life. Imagine this every day. Imagine the silent despair. How horrid. Washington was a brilliant man but in this issue he was wrong. One can't excuse him because of the times in which he lived. John and Abigail Adams found slavery abhorrent and spoke out. Washington signed the Fugitive Slave Act requiring Northern States to return runaway slaves to their masters.
I got a wonderful unexpected Valentine's Gift about my new novel. Here's what she said about it: Damian McNicholl’s stunning novel unflinchingly tracks the journey of following one’s dream and all the triumphs and setbacks that are a part of making that dream a reality –especially when the dreamer is a young woman determined to enter an all-male world. With a vibrant cast of characters and evocative prose, McNicholl brings the world of 1950s Mexico and the rarified circle of bullfighters to glorious life. By turns exhilarating and heartbreaking, The Moment of Truth is a story that goes in unexpected directions and is as memorable as it is unfailingly honest. --Sarah-Jane Stratford, bestselling author of Radio Girls I am absolutely thrilled.