A final memory.
You rarely see them these days, though in some countries, I hear, they are still made and filled with warm breath from a small straw fire hung beneath.
But in 1925 Illinois, we still had them, and one of the last memories I have of my grandfather is the last hour of a Fourth of July night forty-eight years ago when Grandpa and I walked out on the lawn and lit a small fire and filled the pear-shaped red-white-and-blue-striped paper balloon with hot air, and held the flickering bright-angel presence in our hands a final moment in front of a porch lined with uncles and aunts and cousins and mothers and fathers, and then, very softly, let the thing that was life and light and mystery go out of our fingers up on the summer air and away over the beginning-to-sleep houses, among the stars, as fragile, as wondrous, as vulnerable, as lovely as life itself.
I see my grandfather there looking up at that strange drifting light, thinking his own still thoughts. I see me, my eyes filled with tears, because it was all over, the night was done, I knew there would never be another night like this.
No one said anything. We all just looked up at the sky and we breathed out and in and we all thought the same things, but nobody said. Someone finally had to say, though, didn’t they? And that one is me.
The wine still waits in the cellars below.
My beloved family still sits on the porch in the dark.
The fire balloon still drifts and burns in the night sky of an as yet unburied summer.
Why and how?
Because I say it is so.
I had the pleasure of being asked to drop by the Tribune Tower studios of Chicago’s legendary WGN Radio to do an interview with host Steve Bertrand. In a conversation that was excerpted on The Wintrust Business Lunch and runs in full on the Bertrand on Books podcast, Steve and I cover the book, its history and marketing, self-publishing, the Soon to be Famous Illinois Author Project, and the unbridled awesomeness of librarians.
An American Libraries Magazine post about the Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author Project folks winning a John Cotton Dana Library Public Relations Award features the grim mug of yours truly sporting a rare smile. The piece includes two pieces of visual evidence proving that I’m perfectly capable of grinning, in fact.
Truly a face made for text.
In all seriousness, though, the nod to Team STBF for their efforts is much deserved. You’ll not find a more committed, creative, or capable group, and I’m really looking forward to my adventures with them over the coming months as we try to spread word about The Journeyman to libraries and patrons all over Illinois.
Until the Post Office sees fit to issue Commons stamps, I suppose I’ll have to make my own.
So I did. (And they’re legal, too!)
Such is the beauty of Dan Fernandez‘s cover design. I can turn it into just about anything.
After making the finals in the Soon to be Famous Illinois Author Project, it’s been quite a wait to get to the ceremony. As you can see above and in this video of the magic moment, The Journeyman won.
(Yes, that’s my mom you hear kvelling in the background.)
So, wow. The morning began here, and then we capped off the evening with an absolutely breathtaking and heartrending production of Carousel at Lyric Opera. I have to say: together with the day I got married, this was one of the best days of my life. May you all have at least one like it. (And I can’t wait to see what the next year of library talks and readings brings.)
Thank you, Illinois Library Association and Illinois librarians. This means more than you know.
So April’s shaping up to be quite the eventful month, book-wise.
As previously mentioned, I find out on April 16 whether or not I’m the winner of the Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author contest. (And as a friend of mine has said, whether I come out on top or not, I’ve already won.)
A specialty of author Jefferson Smith, ImmerseOrDie is a tough-but-fair challenge wherein Jeff starts reading an indie novel at the beginning of his daily 40-minute treadmill workout. He counts every “WTF” flaw that takes him out of the story. If he hits three WTFs before his session’s finished, he stops reading, marks the time of death, and shares the details of the patient’s demise in a post. Should the book go the 40-minute distance, he then puts it through a second round to see if he wants to read it to the end. The numbers are fairly brutal: at the time the bundle titles were chosen, only 13 of 114 books survived the treadmill round. And of those 13, only these eight made it to being fully read.
As for the bundle part of it, StoryBundle offers a themed collection of ebooks for whatever price the reader would like to pay. In addition, the customer determines the split between the authors and the site and can choose to have a percentage donated to charity as well.
Needless to say, I’m thrilled to be included in this bundle with the likes of Smith, Russ Linton, Christopher Ruz, Bryce Anderson, JS Morin, Christopher Wright, Richard Levesque, and Crash Bandicoot co-creator Andy Gavin. I’m nearly finished reading the books in the bundle and have enjoyed the hell out of all of them. It’s a collection of fresh voices and top-notch storytelling chops, and they’ve made my commute seems a whole lot shorter. I highly recommend all of them.
It really doesn’t get much better than this: I’m one of three finalists in the Soon to be Famous Illinois Author Project, which is sponsored by the state’s libraries. Of any contest in which I’ve entered The Journeyman, this one’s the most important to me.
I love libraries. I love librarians.
I was sponsored by librarian Stuart Griner and the Edgewater branch of the Chicago Public Library system. (Worth noting: Stuart agreed to take a look at my book only a week before the contest deadline, which I’d just found out about when I called, desperate, and he happened to be the one who picked up the phone.)
The judges are librarians, whose opinions top the importance hierarchy, as far as I’m concerned. (Little-kid me, headed to the check-out desk with Robert the Rose Horse and The Great Pie Robbery tucked under his arm, would have agreed way back when, too.)
They announce the winner at a reception at the Illinois Library Association‘s offices in Chicago on April 16.
Fingers crossed, please, anyone who’s willing. But even if this is as far as I make it, I’m truly honored to be included with the other finalists.