The Guilty Party

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

I Hope Their Books Are Better Than Their Hooks

Lured in by an irresistibly low "Professional Introductory Rate", I have been receiving The New York Review of Books for the past few months. It is almost always a fascinating and informative read and I look forward to receiving each issue. There is just one thing that darned near every issue includes that I find, well, disturbing, and that is the two page spread advertisements featuring books by Author Solutions authors. As someone who several years ago squandered over seven hundred of the family dollars to have iUniverse format, produce a cover design and arrange for the most basic of distribution of what was then called Close Enough for Government Work (please do not purchase it, link provided for reference and veracity only), I know what it is to invest in one's own work when the major publishers have declined to do so. One fools oneself into thinking that if only the product can finally be put together and made available, the inevitable will happen and a Career Will Be Born. Of course, it don't quite happen like that. No indeed. But as long as there are folks out there churning out manuscripts the publishers don't want (or won't look at) and as long as a fair percentage of those would-be authors have more money than inclination to learn about the brave new world of real independent publishing that has sprung up in the last few years, there will be companies like Author Solutions (of which iUniverse is now but one of its "imprints") ready to make a buck off the hopes and dreams of the hopeful and poorly informed.

Even though it is at least five years since I told them to Leave Me Be, I still receive emails and phone calls from the reps at iUniverse trying to rope me into some lame promotional scheme or other sure to vault my creation into the stratosphere of international literary celebrity and riches. One of the perennials amongst their "Here's How We Can Help You Promote Your Masterpiece" swindles is the shared ad in The New York Review of Books. A double page spread with two dozen Author Solutions books lined up in four vertical columns, featuring cover art, title, author and appropriate ISBN info right smack dab in one of the most prestigious periodicals in the literary world. All this for a mere pittance of around a thousand dollars or so if I recall correctly, it could be more by now, payable directly to Author Solutions, of course. So far so good, if they truly had anything close to their customers' best interests at heart that is where they should have stopped, with cover art and vitals and cash changing hands. But instead, as part of Author Solutions' formula to assist their customers (sorry, authors) in reaching as wide a readership as possible, they allow them to include a three or four line description/hook. Problem is in almost every instance it is as if an advertising firm had been hired to produce copy specifically designed to torpedo any chance of selling the product they were representing. Kind of like a really sneaky Super-PAC ad that finds a way to destroy an opposing candidate by praising him in the clumsiest manner imaginable.

Here, for example, is the blurb for Unlimited Progress: The Grand Delusion of the Modern World by one Dennis Knight Heffner, M.D. (see cover above)

In Unlimited Progress: The Grand Delusion of the Modern World, author Dennis Knight Heffner, M.D. uses a lifetime's worth of experience in the medical field to examine the truths and myths of progress and change.

The first half of this is completely wasted since it is nothing but a repeat of information about in inch north on the page. And just what makes a doctor, with or without a lifetime of experience, which, by the way, we all have, an expert in progress and change? And what does it all have to do with rockets?

A couple more for your consideration. Please let me know if either of them entice you to read the books.

The Legend of Demnog

The Legend of Demnog follows the last of the Narethemar as they search for the Legend of Demnog, an ancient treasure and suit of armor greedily sought after by the two opposing governments of the lands of Demnog and Wooernog.

For Widows Only!

For Widows Only! is an extraordinary book for widows. Personal, intimate, and honest, it contains straight from the hip girl talk, strictly for widows only!

All !'s are provided by the original felon, not me.

Just one more.

Sardinian Silver

In Sardinian Silver, Wright (that would be A. Colin Wright, the guilty party) masterfully (if he does say so himself) evokes a mysterious society, its flamboyant people and the island's beauty. Like Arthur (took me a minute, but I think that is what the "A." in A. Colin Wright stands for) you'll never want to leave Sardinia, with its wide sands, low hills, sun and blue sea and its superficial pleasantness of life.

Yep, nothing I aspire to more than a wide, low, superficial life.

Here's the thing. For all you or I know, any or all of these books could actually be fall down wonderful. Captivating reads and all that. No way to know from these ads, is there? The only things we know for sure are that these authors can't craft a short and enticing description of their own books and Author Solutions honestly doesn't care because they have already extracted a tidy sum from the Clueless Hopefuls and moved on to the next batch.

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Best Aren't Always the Bestsellers

One of the Great and Possibly Unfortunate Truths in this world is the fact that the most talented, hardest working and nicest among us seldom achieve the sort of widespread fame and fortune often bestowed on folks who offer little in any or all of those three categories. The reason I say this is possibly unfortunate instead of an honest to gosh darned shame is that the older I get the less I equate fame and fortune with success. The former two may show up, or not, for the most arbitrary of reasons and have little to do with anything that truly matters. Success, on the other hand, true success, means finding your place,doing your best and conducting yourself with grace and humility. For most of us that formula will never translate into private jets, multiple mansions and penthouses or recognition from the vast majority of people. Our circle may be small, medium or relatively large, but if we can find our place, do our best and be Good People, we are successful.

Now what does all this have to do with the fellows pictured above? Well, Frank Vignola (front, wearing specs) and Vinnie Raniolo are two absolutely incredible musicians. Frank has been one of the foremost guitarists in the world for many years, performing and recording both as a leader/soloist and along with Big Names like Ringo Starr, Mark O'Connor and Les Paul. I have been bothering the Musical Instrument Museum folks for months to book Frank in their acoustically perfect 299 seat concert hall. So I was excited to see he had a Phoenix date near the end of his West Coast tour. But it wasn't at the MIM, nor was it at any of the other high profile concert venues in town. Nope, Frank and Vinnie were going to be appearing at the Roberto-Venn School of Luthiery (that's a place where students learn how to make and repair guitars). It was listed as a private event with a note to "email for details". I was bummed about the private event status, but I took a chance and emailed to ask about it. I had no expectations of hearing back at all, much less receiving anything encouraging regarding being able to attend. I was surprised and not a little stunned when I received an answer from Frank inviting me to attend. I am not a party crashing sort of fellow, but this I could not pass up. So I arranged to leave work a little early on that day and drove over to 10th Avenue and Grand.

Before things started there was time to check out the guitars hanging in the front gallery, all of them made by members of the Fall 2011 class at Roberto-Venn. Beautiful instruments.

And then William Eaton, the director of the school, introduced the staff and graduates, and finally, Frank and Vinnie. Those of us in that workshop turned concert hall were then treated to some jaw droppingly beautiful music. They performed for nearly an hour, had some nice, warm exchanges with the audience and then stayed around to meet and greet. I introduced myself to Frank. He greeted me with "Alan! My new friend!" and embraced me. We talked for a moment or two, he remembered that I had said in an email that I would be attending the concert the next evening in Cottonwood, and when I left it was with an even higher regard for this incredibly talented and gracious artist. He may not be playing the largest concert halls or commanding the highest ticket prices (the show at the school cost nothing and the next evening's concert at the Cottonwood Old Town Center was an incredible bargain at just fifteen dollars) but the music he makes is priceless and from all appearances he is the definition of success as I see it. Don't get the wrong idea, from what I can tell Frank has performed all over the world and cannot be described as an undiscovered artist by any means. But let me ask you this: have you heard of him before this? Probably not, and I hope you are glad you know about him now. Does he deserve more prestigious venues, larger audiences and higher ticket prices? Absolutely, and I hope that comes to pass for him. But in the meantime he is doing what he was born to do, working hard at it, making what I hope is a good living at it and touching lives in a positive way. I hope he doesn't mind, but he has also become a role model for this fifty-six year old aspiring writer.

Here are a couple more shots from that evening.

And here is a link to a video that will give you some idea of just how amazing these two musicians are.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Fun with the old 135

Decades ago I saved up and bought a Nikon FM camera. I loved that camera. Sturdy, reliable, just a wonderfully designed and built instrument. And it got even better when I was able to purchase a couple of extra lenses for it. The first quickly became my favorite. A 135mnm telephoto lens made by Vivitar that can focus all the way down to a 1 to 2 ratio. In other words, when cranked all the way to minimum distance focus the image on the negative or slide (remember those?) comes out half life size. Pretty close. For years now the ol' Nikon and its lenses have been sitting in the closet, victim to first Lack of Time and Funds (film and processing costs) and then the Digital Revolution. Recently, I was able to acquire a Nikon digital SLR that came with a couple of lovely zoom lenses. Very versatile, but no real macro capabilities. Lucky for me the 135mm fits. All the settings have to be done manually, just like in the good ol' FM days, but it's a fun one to trot out every once in a while when I'm in the mood for getting up close and detailed.

Had so much fun I just had to do a few more. This time I tried to use the maximum minimum, as it were, for each shot.


A Bit About Me

My photo
I am a writer with a longtime interest in photography. I'm a dad, husband, photographer, and not very good guitarist. My first novel, Boomerang, is available in both paperback and ebook form at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and As a matter of fact, my second novel, The Baer Boys, can be found at exactly the same places.