Friday, May 27, 2011

Birthing a book – part II


 Welcoming another book to the Rose/Nettleton shelf

        An Uncertain Refuge
        Born to Carolyn J. Rose
        May, 2011
        100,000 words





        Recently I compared writing a novel to being pregnant and compared publishing a book to delivering a baby.
        Well, here’s the official announcement. An Uncertain Refuge emerged from my keyboard and became a Kindle and Nook last week.
        So far, it seems happy and healthy in the e-nursery with thousands of others. The text is relatively free of blemishes and it has all (or almost all) of its commas and periods. It just got its first review and more readers every day ask to hold it.

        That’s gratifying because An Uncertain Refuge had a long gestation and a difficult birth. 
         235 agents turned down the opportunity to deliver it to a publisher.

        Eventually I considered the state of the publishing industry and decided on a “home delivery.” With the assistance of cover artist Allen Chiu and the support and coaching of digital conversion midwife Kimberly Hitchens of who kept telling me to keep breathing and schedule a panic attack later, An Uncertain Refuge became an e-book.
Next month Patty G. Henderson will create a print version and a friend whose job was out-sourced to India will help me wedge it all into a template and enable the book to stand on its own two covers.
        Given all that, it’s hard for me to let go, hard not to check on it several times a day to see if it’s still making friends.
And it’s harder still to admit that there’s nothing I can do if it isn’t. I’m not going to be the kind of author who jumps in to defend a book and ends up in a vitriolic exchange that goes viral.
I’m not.
I promise.


Monday, May 16, 2011

Show Bidness is/was My Life

 "I'm a little tea-pot, 
short and 
stout, this 
is my 

      A historic moment is just weeks away.
      My proudest moment in a long and checkered almost-show business career is about to be replaced on my life's highlight reel.
      It only took a summer pulling twenty-four foot boards off a planing mill's conveyor belt and another loading eighty pound bales of hay onto twin trailers of a semi truck in the August broiler of Klamath Falls to propel me into show business. There had to be a better way to make beer and cigarette money than sweating your noogies off and having to peel straw out of the crack of your buttocks. (Not that there's anything wrong with that or any other good honest work) I set off to find it.
       I'd dabbled in show business all of my life, of course. I think my older sister Lana said it best when she snapped at me—"Sit down and shut up, you tubby little show-off you! "—Or words to that effect. I may not be remembering the moment accurately, as I was ducking to avoid a steak knife she'd flung at me at the time.
       When I entered college, under the influence of a profoundly talented high school teacher, I began as a math major. This quickly changed during my Freshman year after drawing a calculus instructor whose voice was so flat and uninflected, it sounded like a Gregorian chant riddled with equations. Ninety minutes in his classroom was the spoken word equivalent of a Kenny G concert. Forget waterboarding—any suspected terrorist would break down and blurt out every secret he knew and several more he'd borrowed from his friends just to escape the lecture hall.
       Somehow, I drifted into the theatre department and soon found myself on stage as part of several graduate student thesis productions. (They were desperate, all the real actors were already in the mainstage show). From there I stumbled down the hall of the fine arts building and into the 5 watt student radio station. My career as a semi professional pronouncer had begun.
       "Here is my handle, here is my spout."
       Realizing I'd discovered a perfect match for my skill set (combining physical sloth, healthy ego and runaway mouth), plus a great scam (what could be better than being paid to talk?), I began a lifelong journey as a radio performer. My dulcet tones and rounded vowels, (I understand there is surgery to correct that painful condition these days) disarming wit ( some would say I'm overstating this boast by 50%), and first name relationship with local U-haul rental agencies, by career's end, I'd managed to claw my way up to the middle of the broadcast industry.
       I'd estimate, that over 43 year career as a radio performer, I've been in front of the mic somewhere in the neighborhood of, lessee now 43 years, 52 weeks each year, five or six days a week, plus more when somebody didn't show up on time, subtract vacations, mental health days and hangovers, carry the seven, divide by 43.8, factor in the square root of . . . Okay, a whole bunch of times. Plus I've performed on several thousand commercials, did promotional appearances, MC work and public address gigs. I even chewed up the scenery in several more stage plays in the years since I left college.
       If someone is assembling a life highlight reel as Albert Brook's proposes in his film Defending Your Life, I'd like to shuffle the order of my top five moments. There's a new kid at the top, thanks to director Nathan Markiewicz's drunken decision to cast me as Gonzalo in the Portland Actor's production of The Tempest in Lovejoy Fountain Park this summer. Actually, I have no evidence he was drunk, but it offers the only realistic explanation for his choice.
       But I digress (words that may appear on my tombstone). Let's run down the newly adjusted top five. Maestro, a little countin' 'em down music, please. (Kenny G's version of "Give My Regards To Broadway" plays under this segment.)
#5. Hosting the local segments of the Miss U.S.A. pageant in front of a crowd of 10,000 people. I shared a stage with 52 of America's most beautiful and voluptuous women (including queens from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands) without once having an embarrassing pants moment. If you catch my drift and I'm sure I do. To this day, I remember the reaction of my male friends to this news. "Dude, you gay, or what? It's okay, with us, but Duuuuuude !!!"

#4. Conceiving and collaborating with my unindicted co-conspirator Rick Huff on the "First and Only Annual Albuquerque April Fool's Day Parade." This imaginary procession existed only on the radio. Thanks to my multi-voiced friend Huff, we managed to check in throughout the morning from our reviewing stand at the intersection of two streets that ran parallel to each other, several miles apart. Featured performers included: The Amalgamated Burrito Folders Precision Refried Bean and Baton Drill Team, The "Hang 'em All Now, Let God Sort It Out Later Mounted Vigilante Posse, and marching bands from non-existent area high schools tromping out-of-step while playing medleys of movie music, television themes and Broadway show-stoppers. All of which, strangely enough sounded exactly like a very discordant version of "The Stars and Stripes Forever." This bizarre broadcast caused lots of local buzz and got the radio station sued by a listener who'd packed his wife and kids into the family station wagon and spent the next three hours trying to find the parade. The "First and Only Annual Albuquerque April Fool's Day Parade" probably contributed to my next career move, collecting unemployment.

#3. The reaction of my parents after they watched me perform as Wong, the Chinese water boy in a college production of Berthold Brecht's brilliant and supremely confusing musical "The Good Woman of Sezuan." Smeared with almond-tinted body makeup and sporting an unconvincing Queue (Chinese ponytail), I'd spent two and a half hours on stage warbling songs in Mandarin, running away from the angry gods and trying to convince the good woman (a hooker with a heart of gold) to take pity and offer a freebie. My mother, whose gaping open mouth had to be surgically closed could only beam and pat my head. My father on the other hand bellowed "I thought you were a math major."

#2. "When I get steamed up, hear me shout. I'm a little teapot, short and stout." For years the unquestioned number one show biz moment in my life was my triumphant performance, as a seven-year old musical theatre prodigy of "I'm A Little Teapot Short and Stout" in the Bandon, Oregon Cranberry Festival talent show. Pushed on stage by my beaming mother and sniggering older sister I nailed it. Not only was I the physical personification of the little teapot, both short and stout, but I "became" the teapot on stage. The U.S. Savings Bond I won, had it been left to mature in seven years would have been worth a mind-boggling twenty-five dollars. However, I invested heavily in Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and Batman comic books and only realized twelve dollars and fourteen cents. An early reminder of the fickle nature of show business.

#1. During the early rehearsals of the opening scene from Shakespeare's The Tempest director Nathan Markiewicz told us; "It's a huge storm, the boat is tossed on the sea like a leaf in a wind storm. Everybody on board the ship is terrified and seasick. Who wants to vomit on stage?" Without a moment's thought I raised my hand and began waving it back and forth. "Me, Nathan, Me. Pick me. I want to do it." Though I hadn't known it until that moment, this was my chance to cap my show business career with a supremely dramatic reading of the upchuck chronicles. Despite the rabid competition for the honor, I won the great honor of feeding the fish in front of culture-loving outdoor audiences during some sixteen performances. If you're planning on attending one of our free shows (donations happily accepted) at Lovejoy Fountain Park, Thursday-Saturday from mid June through mid-July, and were planning on sitting up front, have no fear. No Koi will be harmed during my on-stage antics and no actual projectiles are involved in the aforementioned Ralph-a-thon. Thanks to my imagination, vocal chords and a handy nearby white five gallon bucket I'll be able to create the illusion without paying anyone's dry cleaning bill.

I anticipate that nothing will ever replace this crowning achievement.  After all, come on, shouting at my shoes on stage? How much better could it get? Unless my other, long repressed fantasy somehow becomes reality. But somebody's going to have to pour a lot of liquor into the director of a production of Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake, for that to happen. Anybody know where I can find a tutu in a 38 long?

Saturday, May 7, 2011



 Any day now I’ll release a suspense novel titled An Uncertain Refuge.
Because it seems that this book is a lot like a baby, I’ve been thinking about the process of writing and comparing it to pregnancy.
        But before I blog further, let me make it clear that I’ve never given birth, so the comparisons I’ll make here are based on guesswork and extrapolation from the information—sometimes WAY TOO MUCH information—that friends and relatives have shared. If I miss the mark, please leave a comment below and set me straight.

        Like a pregnancy begins when a speedy and determined sperm collides with an egg primed for fertilization, a book begins when a tiny idea that won’t be denied discovers a warm and nurturing niche in the brain.
        Immediately, the idea explodes in all directions, creating a wave of euphoria. I dream about its future. I dream it will be popular, maybe even win a prize. People will talk about it, be unable to forgot the chapter where the protagonist . . .
        Well, you all know how dreams go, right?

Rocky Reality

        Then, like morning sickness, I’m seized with bouts of cold and queasy doubt. I consider the long months ahead when ever-expanding plotlines will grow fat with scenes and characters and I feel already weary with the strain of carrying them all to the conclusion. I dread the days when the characters will feed on me, sapping the brainpower I need for other tasks. And I cringe at the thought of the logic holes that won’t seem to knit closed, and the sleepless midnight hours when I’ll wish I never allowed that tiny idea inside my skull.
        And I worry about whether the original idea will prove to be strong enough to become a fully developed story with a clear theme supported by plot, with characters that feel human, and a setting that seems real.

Serene Acceptance/Attitude Adjustment

        At some point in all of my novels, the characters take control and it seems they need only my fingers on the keyboard to grow. At this point, I no longer worry about whether I’ll be able to carry this book to term. Instead, I worry about what will happen after complete it.

Delaying the Due Date

        I spend days revising and re-revising, tweaking and over-thinking that first paragraph. As long as I hold onto the story, no one will see it, no one will criticize it, or give it a no-star review. No one will say the kinds of things I blurt in desperation when someone thrusts a homely baby at me. Things like, “Well, he certainly won’t have problems hearing.” Or, “She certainly has hair.” Or, “Plenty of room for teeth in that mouth.”
        On the other hand, if I don’t let go, no one will ever say anything positive, either.
        So, I dither, worrying about this book being out there on its own.
Then I remember that my mother once told me the mark of success as a mother was that your children were eager to leave home and be on their own, not because they didn’t like it there, but because they were prepared and ready for that next step.


        Whether I’m ready or not, this book is. So I’m taking a deep breath and pushing it down the publishing chute.
        Like labor itself that will take a little time, a lot of effort, and some professional assistance.
        I’ll tell you more about that the next time the dogs let me have a turn on this blog. 

         Watch this space for an announcement of the birth of An Uncertain Refuge