Bill Has a New Book Out!
The Inherited Heart: An American Memoir was self-published through Patricia Hamilton’s Park Place Publications in Pacific Grove, California, which does high quality work and with whom I’d already published a comic novel, Trek: Lips, Sunny, Pecker and Me–about an American family’s abortive pilgrimage during the American Bicentennial in 1976, a book that one reviewer described as “that rare thing in fiction these days, Twain-style, laugh-out-loud funny, tall-tale storytelling,” and another said was loaded with “colorful dialogue and steeped in cultural import.”
For The Inherited Heart, we worked in conjunction with Amazon.com Create Space, which provided excellent immediate service on every level: layout, proof pages, final printing, delivery. My son Stephen, a website designer and project manager by trade, set up the cover, based on a design we worked out together. I asked for and received “blurbs” from several writers I respect highly, and Patricia was of immense help throughout–just as she has been with this blog. Once I had received a hard copy sample of the book, I proofread “religiously” (endlessly, it seemed) and corrections were made digitally, and then submitted as “final.” Patricia came up with a brilliant idea regarding an 18-page Photo Gallery I wanted (to “flesh out” the book), a gallery positioned midway, but introduced up front, along with captions, by way of rows of small (smaller than postage stamps) replicas of the photos–an innovation that works well, I feel, for the sake of enticement. When I finally held “my baby” in my hands, I was well pleased with the results–but realized I’d have to find a whole new route in order to promote and “market” the book effectively.
Although I employed the traditional means of promoting a book–announcing its “arrival” on my website (www.bminor.org), showing where it is accessible (amazon.com, and from the author, firsthand), setting up two “launch parties,” giving talks (Rotary Clubs, Writers organizations, etc.) and solo readings, TV interviews, copies sent for review or just as gratitude to people who’d shown interest in my work along the way, and word of mouth spread among family and friends–one of the most productive and enjoyable means turned out to be music. Bassist Heath Proskin, Vocalist Jaqui Hope and I (piano and reading) put together a performance that included spoken word (a reading) with musical accompaniment, billed as a “Book Launch Party, with Live Music.” We presented this at The Works bookstore in Pacific Grove, California–a venue with a bandstand for just such “shows,” and again at Old Capitol Books in Monterey. For these, I designed and printed a flyer to send out to folks on a substantial list I have (I still enjoy doing this, “hard copy,” and addressing each envelope by hand!), and I passed copies–and a press release– along to editors who’ve been “good to me” at several newspapers.
The digital age has been characterized as “impersonal,” but when I look back at what it took to reach this point with the book, I realize it took the help, the personal assistance, of several friends and family members–lots of “hands on” or “homegrown” activity combined with State of the Art technical support. My conversion to a Brave New World of self-presentation and interaction had begun.
Here’s a portion of what appeared on the flyer: Jaqui Hope, the book, Heath Proskin and me.
The following is a description of the book that appears on its Amazon.com site:
Come enjoy the story–set to music—of a boy who grows up just outside of Detroit, Michigan. All he wants is to be a boy who plays hockey (a goalie, no less), likes to box (under the influence of Joe Louis and Sugar Ray Robinson), learns to play jazz piano (under the influence of Art Tatum and Nat “King” Cole), and perhaps find a genuine girlfriend—but he is inundated, imposed upon—to his mind—by stories his parents tell of illustrious ancestors, with the implication that he has much to “live up to.” Swamped with tales of ancestors who go back to 17th century New England and Middlesex County, Virginia; Civil War heroes on both sides (Southern and “Yankee”); notable authors who wrote praiseworthy memoirs and hobnobbed with Mark Twain and Walt Whitman—it would take this boy a number of years to “reconcile discordant elements.” The Inherited Heart: An American Memoir tells the story of that endeavor, directly, up to the age of nineteen, and indirectly—through simultaneous narration or “robbed time”—throughout a lifetime. The book tells the tale of many meaningful, invaluable discoveries made along the way. It’s a “trip,” an adventure, described in the author’s lucid, playful and purposeful prose—a book that will appeal to everyone with a family (which is all of us!), those interested in American history, American humor, boyhood adventures, adolescent agony, or just those who enjoy storytelling at its best. The book suggests that we are each linked, through inheritance, by all that surrounds us, to an extended family we may learn to love.
Here are two photos my son Steve took at the first “Book Launch Party, with Music”:
And two photos of our “troupe” that David Royal took on a promo “shoot”:
I’m happy to report that doing things the “old way” (after having made good use of the new in terms of obtaining a “product”)—taking the show on the road, going from “town to town” so to speak, employing actual rather than virtual public appearances–still works, still, literally, “pays off.” But I also learned that it’s just not enough. The first phase of my conversion, the first alternative means I tried on for size was to post some of what I did by way of music on YouTube—and this source has proved so enjoyable and, in a world with so many sources competing for attention, effective in attracting it, that I’ve become a True Believer. I’ll save examples of music I placed there for another post (and the “music” section of the menu), but I will say now that having gone from “manufacturing” homegrown CDs with the assistance of a digital-savvy friend and accomplished musician, Richard Mayer (and NEATO jewel case tray liners and liner notes; Media Face II labels, and Adobe PageMaker 7.0) and having moved on “up” to Movie Maker and actually learning how to edit videos myself has also been an Adventure, in and of itself!
I would also like, in a future blog post, to talk about the sort of pleasant surprise that can come about when you undertake a major project related to family history–a fortunate (“lucky?”) spinoff project from the book: a spoken word/original music CD called Love Letters of Lynchburg that was commissioned by The Historic Sandusky Foundation in Virginia, prompted by chapters from the book I discussed with its Executive Director, Gregory Starbuck, chapters focused on Charles Minor Blackford (my great-grandfather’s first cousin’s son) and his wife, Susan Leigh Blackford, who exchanged, throughout the Civil War, some of the most beautiful love letters I’ve ever read. I prepared a script and wrote an original score for flute, bass, piano, and two voices (this work has been performed, live, four times in the Monterey Bay area). The CD, (and Greg just asked me to send more copies, so I guess it’s doing OK!) , is available at: http://www.historicsandusky.org/shop.htm
I’ll close out this introduction to The Inherited Heart: An American Memoir (and post testimonials for the book on another occasion) with an “aside.” The era in which I “came of age” discouraged nearly all attempts at diversification of interests. It was an era of “specialization,” and if you attempted to do many things, the prevailing belief was that you did not do any one of them very well. I suffered at the hands of this attitude all of my life, and still do to a certain extent—at least up until now. I took my first teaching job in 1963 at the University of Hawaii, and then another at Wisconsin State University-Whitewater in 1966. By then, I was exhibiting woodcut prints in places such as the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and Smithsonian Institution (I was originally trained as a visual artist—at Pratt Institute and the University of California-Berkeley), had a short story selected for inclusion in an anthology called Best Little Magazine Fiction (I appeared there with Raymond Carver and Joyce Carol Oates), and was playing keyboards with a folk-rock group called The Salty Dogs (our seventeen year old lead guitar player claimed he was merely using the rest of us as a “stepping stone to the Ed Sullivan Show”). Yet my English Department chairman, when I came up for “tenure,” looked me right in the eye and asked, “Bill, what is it you really do?”
What I really did was what I’d always done: many things. I realized that however diverse they might be, they were all coming out of me, out of my very own self, my own soul. And now, at last, it seems we’ve reached an era when doing many things–“multi-tasking” in the lingo of the times–is no longer a crime, but respectable. The Brave New World of digital self-presentation and interaction has made a wide range of creative activity not just possible but perhaps even admirable. I have an “Art Gallery” on my website (www.bminor.org). Prints and paintings that include the text of Russian, Greek, and Japanese poetry are on display in that “museum,” alongside my own translations. Perhaps, in the future, I can take you on a tour of that same gallery—or a portion of it—on this blog site.
Other possibilities, related directly to The Inherited Heart: An American Memoir would be to directly address and open for online discussion general issues related to genealogy (what to do with your ancestors once you’ve found them), memoir itself (how to make the past come alive again), research (what and where are the best sources of information), and disclosure (what not to tell about your relatives!)—to name just a few.
If you are working on a memoir or have written one, or have interest in family history in general, let me know what you’d like to talk about online–and we’ll get started!