Monday, October 15, 2018

A Political Screed (With No Politics Included)

Politics, anyone?

I didn't think so. We've all had politics up to our eyeballs (and above, for those of us under 5'10") for years now, and it's showing no signs of letting up. No matter which side of the virtual aisle you might inhabit, there's been plenty to drive you bonkers for quite some time.

Those who know me even fairly well understand that I have very definite political opinions, which I am not shy about sharing. Sometimes I share them through my social media accounts, which I promise myself I will not do and then immediately break that promise. It's like the idea of dieting.

As an author, I'm naturally aware that the more people who buy my books the better off I will be personally. That's no small thing--this is my full-time job and I'd like to keep it for as long as I can. Those who will stop reading E.J. Copperman books because my politics disagree with theirs have every right to do so, but I need to be aware that their decision to do so will cost me directly.

So it's a difficult conundrum: On the one hand, we are clearly a divided nation (and world) at the moment and that does not seem like it will heal itself anytime in the foreseeable future. The stakes are indeed high, and not speaking out seems like a cowardly thing to do. One either has principles or one doesn't. On the other hand, if one doesn't have a source of income (or has a smaller one than before), one's possibilities are more limited. Besides, I want people to read my books. It's not something you do because you'd prefer nobody would take a look.

I know that I've offended some people with my statements politically. Probably not a lot of people but certainly some. I'm aware that I've had some readers turn off my Twitter feed or my Facebook posts because we disagree. And I'm no saint, either: I have unfriended a few whose posts had become, to my sensibility, infuriating. I will scrutinize the Likes and newsfeed of a friend request carefully.

Rest assured I'm not asking you to do anything at all. I'm not asking for advice about whether I should continue to share political opinions publicly. I know that from a marketing viewpoint I should not but I'm equally aware that won't stop me. I'm not asking you to change your political opinion if it differs with mine. We each think the issues are so clear it's ridiculous anyone would believe otherwise. So no minds will be changed. I'm not even suggesting you don't turn off my feed if it irritates you enough. I can't insist someone do something I wouldn't do.

It's more that I want you to know I understand if you disagree. I don't necessarily understand why but I definitely get what it's like. I have stopped listening to some musicians, watching some actors and shopping in some stores because I had serious disagreements with their positions. If you don't buy my books anymore, I'll understand. I'll regret it, but that's the price one pays.

I hope you won't. I'd like to make that clear. I'd like everyone to read everything I write and not just for financial reasons. It's nice to get feedback on the work.

But these are unique times. Pretending they aren't would be lying, and I try to avoid that whenever possible. Feel free to disagree. That's what an open society is supposed to be about.

Sorry. Was that too political?

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Get a copy of WRITTEN OFF (almost entirely) FREE!

Okay, here's the deal: I'm giving away 20 copies (yes, 20!) of the mass market edition of WRITTEN OFF, the first Mysterious Detective Mystery. In order to get one, all you need to do is Message me, give me your mailing address and agree to pay the postage ($2.65) for Media Mail delivery via PayPal ONLY--be careful about that. That's it. Once 20 people have done so, I'll mail them out and see how many I have left. These things are taking over my house. So get in touch!

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

What's Going On. Today.

So here's where we stand right now:

Right at this moment, on Wednesday, July 18, 2018, I have no current book contracts. None. Zero. Nary a one. Which is interesting, because not that long ago I had four series going at the same time. Those, apparently, were the days.

Now, my extremely talented and dedicated agent Josh Getzler is working on alleviating this appalling circumstance, but until that happens there isn't anything I have an obligation to write aside from the occasional newspaper piece. I'll start teaching again in September, so there's that (which requires more reading than writing), but right now... nothin'.

I know what you're shouting at your screen: 1. Stop whining! You've already had 24 books published! You know how many people don't get one? 2. Just write something for yourself, something you've always wanted to write. Oh, and stop whining.

You're right with both comments (although you might have phrased them a little more charitably). But here's the thing about each: I do this for a living, and while I am inexpressibly grateful for the good fortune I've had publishing books, I need to keep doing so in order to put gas in the Prius. (Even though it uses much less than other cars.) So this waiting period while the noble Mr. G. works on my behalf is excruciating exactly because of its unpredictability. I honestly don't know where my next paycheck is coming from.

As for writing something on spec that I've always wanted to write, I'm reminded of a story Harpo Marx (really Rowland Barber, but Harpo was in on it) told in his autobiography Harpo Speaks!, which is really good and should be read by all.

Harpo was friends with Alexander Woollcott, the famous theater critic, essayist, radio host and you-name-it in society in the 1920s through 40s. And Woollcott liked to mix up the people he knew, so he invited Harpo to a party Woollcott was hosting which was attended by George Bernard Shaw. Woollcott probably thought it would be funny to see the two such different men be uncomfortable in each other's presence.

Instead, Harpo and Shaw hit it off very well, so much so that at lunch (I think) that day Harpo felt he could ask Shaw, who had not written in some time, why he wasn't working on another play.

The table fell silent and Shaw's piercing eyes looked straight at Harpo. There was a pregnant pause until Shaw asked, "Got any ideas?" and the place burst into laughter.

That's the thing with me right now. I have some ideas, but I'm not crazy about any of them. I've started two books and haven't written on either of them in days. They're just not hitting the spot, and if I'm not interested in the stories, you can bet your last dime you won't be interested in them, either. No really good book has ever been written when the author didn't care.

So that's the state of affairs here at Castle Copperman these days. It's a temporary state I'm certain, but while it goes on it's making me just a little more crazy than usual. The only thing more torturous than writing, it turns out, is not writing.

Oh and P.S.: No, we don't have any current contracts for audiobooks. It's not our choice, but we (and by "we" I mean the aforementioned Mr. Getzler) are working on it. It's in good hands, but I have no news to impart at the moment. I'm touched so many people have been asking. Wish I had something to tell you.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

1000 Words a Day. Except...

I have often said (bragged, some would assert) that I write 1,000 words every day. And that's almost completely true. I write 1,000 words every day--including weekends and holidays--when I'm working on a project. If I finish one I don't feel obligated to start another the next day. Sometimes I'll take a week off.

But not writing makes me anxious and cranky so the breaks don't last very long. One exception: I'm going on vacation at the end of this week and don't intend to write while I'm away. It'll be my longest break in probably five years at least.

That's not what I'm posting about today, though. What you read above was mostly a digression.

The thing about writing 1,000 words a day is that it seems like a goal but it can easily become a limit. Before I imposed that minimum on myself I would sometimes write all day long and produce who knows how many words. Other days I wouldn't write at all. The 1,000-word thing was meant to provide some order when I had a number of book contracts that all needed to be fulfilled and I wanted to be sure I wasn't falling badly behind.

So writing 1,000 words a day became very useful. In years when I was writing four books almost nonstop, it was essential to know where I was on any given day in terms of my obligations and when I would have to start the next project to get it finished on time. I have never missed a deadline and I am proud of that.

The problem, though, was that after it became a habit, writing 1,000 words a day became the goal and therefore the end point. So I would aim at writing exactly 1,000 words on any given day and stop sometimes in the middle of a sentence when I hit that mark.

Now I rarely write more than 1,000 words a day. Sometimes, when I have fewer obligations elsewhere, (or if I was forced to miss one day and have to catch up) I will go 2,000 words, but I never stop on a random number. It's writing in the thousands, usually one and occasionally two. A couple of weeks ago I wrote 3,000 words in a day and thought I had accomplished something on the level of  inventing gravity.

What I'm saying is: Don't set a goal and then let it rule your day. I'm working on writing at least 1,000 words a day but not caring if the number that I finish with at night is random. To keep writing until I don't feel like it or don't have the time anymore. But it's not easy because I've settled into this routine and it feels weird to break it. I'll get to a point where I can do what I aim to do, but it's not easy and it's not going to happen quickly. Maybe after the vacation I'll be ready to start on a different routine.

Your takeaway should be: Do as I say, not as I do.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Whither, Irwin Shaw?

It astonishes me that the works of Irwin Shaw have gone out of print.

Shaw, once among the most famous of contemporary American authors, was an inspiration to me even before I knew I'd ever write a novel. His books took in large casts of characters, included big, life-changing events and never really ended the way the most optimistic reader would hope they might.

He was a storyteller before all else, and the peerless screenwriter/novelist William Goldman (The Princess Bride, Marathon Man, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) once told me Shaw was his idol before he knew he'd ever write a novel.

Shaw's most famous work, Rich Man, Poor Man was turned into a television miniseries that became something of a phenomenon and launched the career of Nick Nolte, for better or worse. It spawned a sequel (Beggarman, Thief) and cemented Shaw on the top of the 1970s bestseller lists.

I knew his novels because my mother never missed a Shaw book and I read them when she had finished. He never wrote about the kind of people or events I would end up using in my stories, but his style was direct and he never got flowery. Some writers never met an adjective they didn't like; Shaw told you what was happening and shoehorned in description so quietly it never announced itself to the reader.

Because there are some Shaw books I've never read I checked around online for copies and was amazed to discover that pretty much all his works are no longer in print. A search on Audible indicates that there are two Shaw books recorded on audio; they're both translated into Russian. Which doesn't help me much.

It's a sign that although books last forever, only a tiny fraction of authors are remembered much longer than their careers last. Perhaps that is a testament to those whose names we can recall decades or centuries after their deaths. But maybe it's also an indictment of a society that lets some of the best storytellers vanish with their times.

Above is the cover of one of my favorite Irwin Shaw novels. If you can find a copy in a used bookstore, I urge you to try it out. If not, I urge you to try one of mine. I'm not totally altruistic.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Rules For Living

  1. Respect others until they don't respect you.
  2. Try and see the other person's side, but not at the expense of your principles.
  3. Look for what's funny.
  4. Eat less; move around more. (Borrowed from Craig Ferguson)
  5. Stop worrying about your dignity. It's overrated.
  6. Write (if you write) what you want to read.
  7. Treat your children--if you have any--like people, because that's what they are.
  8. Treat other people's children like they are other people's children.
  9. Cereal is good. Eat cereal. 
  10. If you're angry, be angry. But try to take some action that will help you to not be angry.
  11. Never read the newspaper on an empty stomach.
  12. Read the newspaper. The internet only gives you the news you ask for. TV news isn't news.
  13. Listen to music. Use headphones when you can.
  14. Take in comedy. Listen, watch, create, but do something with comedy. 
  15. Avoid any movie whose ads say it's "shattering." Who wants to be shattered?
  16. Listen to scientists. If it's about science.
  17. Respect good teachers. Most teachers are good.
  18. Do your laundry at least every 10 days.
  19. Be open to new experiences as long as they don't involve risking your life.
  20. Don't engage in a political argument. No one has ever changed anyone else's mind.
  21. Get a pet or don't get a pet. You know what kind of person you are.
  22. Introduce people to things you love but don't force your views on them.
  23. Never dismiss any medium or genre until you've experienced it.
  24. Respect artists. They are walking on a tightrope naked with Vaseline on their soles.
  25. Pay attention to punctuation and spelling. You look like a dope when you don't.
  26. Vent your frustrations; don't let them build. Find an outlet. A non-violent outlet.
  27. Some people are in fact idiots. But they're still people.
  28. Don't live each day like it's your last. You'll be flat broke tomorrow.
  29. Reading isn't inherently better than TV, movies or theater. All should be enjoyed.
  30. If you're not funny, don't pretend to be. If you're not serious, pretending is possible.
  31. Eat what you want. If you'd like to lose weight, eat less of it.
  32. Never toast a fresh bagel. You can toast a day-old bagel.
  33. Look up from your phone once in a while. 
  34. Don't ever impose your religious beliefs on anyone else no matter what they are.
  35. Quote Bullwinkle as often as possible.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

About the Audiobooks...

Many people (okay, some people) have been asking me why there is no listing on Audible for an audiobook version of THE HOSTESS WITH THE GHOSTESS. And I'm sorry to say that's because there is currently no such version planned for release.

We are working on it, I promise. Audible's criteria for buying audio rights are constantly changing. So when I can tell you something, you can rest assured that I will. All I can say at the moment is that we're very eager to get you the rest of the Guesthouse books (#10 is almost done right now and will appear early next year, I'd guess), the Mysterious Detective books and the Asperger's mysteries on audio as soon as we can.

BIRD, BATH AND BEYOND, the second Agent to the Paws mystery, will appear on Audible when it's published by Minotaur Books later this year.

I wish I had better news to bring you, but Audible felt it best not to continue with the series. If and when they change their minds or we find an alternative, you'll hear it from me.