Back from Chicago!

The ups and downs of my adventure to meet my two favorite authors. In the end, it was definitely worth it.

Having never been to Chicago before, the first “down” was when I spent an hour and a half going the wrong direction on I-90 at rush hour, in the rain—then another hour and forty-five going back the other way to get to my hotel. An inauspicious beginning to my weekend to be sure…

But Saturday arrived, full of hope and excitement—even though I lazed out and slept in until 10:30 AM and consequently missed my chance to visit Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House (steeeerike two!). I did go see the Home and Studio in Oak Park, with just enough time to visit nearby homes to take pictures. I ended up going back for the Home & Studio tour (which was awesome) Sunday morning.

I arrived a fashionable 30 minutes after the book signing started and was both thrilled and disappointed: Mark Kendrick was speaking to the audience and recognized & acknowledged me as soon as I walked in the door as did Mark Roeder. That made me feel pretty good, and I was really happy to have come.

The disappointment came when I realized that I was the seventh person comprising the audience—counting Mark R’s friend Eric and the guy who ran the library where it was being held. I had certainly expected that this was going to be a bigger deal and that there would be more in attendance. Their writing certainly warrants that.

Anyway, one of the things that they ended up discussing—along with Josh Thomas, the other author speaking with them—was how they as midwestern authors are often overlooked by the LA and NY publishers: the literary equivalent of “fly-over country syndrome”. Each had previously attempted to contact larger, more established publishing houses, but couldn’t get the time of day. Fortunately, through the wonders of on-demand publishing and the internet (not to say a publisher located in Lincoln, Nebraska), their books have been printed and are reaching a wider audience. It made me realize just how important my involvement with word-of-mouth promotion of their works is. I resolved then and there to redouble my efforts and look for new ways to bring these important novels to the folks that need to read them.

Another discussion that was interesting was their readership demographics. Given that their novels are basically young love/coming out stories, it was interesting to note that their biggest demographic was 40–80 years old—older men reliving their youths or happy to imagine a youth they wish they’d had. The other major group is teenagers, which is right on the money for who should be reading their works. The lowest is the 20- and 30-somethings who’ve obviously bought into the pop-culture, glamour, big stars vision of literature (in other words, the crap that those big NY and LA publishers churn out).

After the book signing, taking a few pictures and buying Josh’s two novels (Murder at Willow Slough and Andy’s Big Idea, both of which I’m now anxious to read), Mark K. & partner, Mark R. and Eric and I all went out and had a nice dinner. I tell you—they’re every bit as nice, decent and cool as I’d expected, and I finally started to relax a bit. It was weird that I was so nervous meeting them—I’m usually pretty gregarious and confident, but somehow I felt slightly uneasy when confronted with greatness!

Anyway, it was a great time and I feel as though I’ve made some new, close friends with whom I hope to stay in touch over the years. As important, it once again reinforced my desire to join their ranks by completing my own novel.

One last thing—two, actually: before dinner when we were sitting in Mark K’s beautiful home, he pulled out an old scrapbook of his from when he lived in California. He showed me two snapshots he had of the guy he based Scott Faraday’s character from Desert Sons upon. It was like being given a special little glimpse into the parallel reality of that book, that time and that place. I secretly wished I could get copies for myself—it was totally cool.

A little after that, Mark R. was talking about getting Summer of My Discontent ready for publishing. He said it was kind of slow going when he got my final review version back, so he just clicked on “Accept all changes” and took my word for it. I was extremely flattered and honored to think that he’d trust my judgment and abilities so highly. It also makes me realize how important it is that I uphold my highest standards and always give my best effort.

Anyway, thanks to Mark and Mark for being terrific authors, great people and for showing me a wonderful time. I wish you all the best of success, and want you to know that I’ll be out here doing my best to bring your books the attention and audience they deserve.

Here’s a picture of the panel at the event:
(L to R Mark Roeder, Mark Kendrick, Josh Thomas)

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