After a week at work, my book, Pete's Garage, is being mailed out today to its first potential publisher: Anvil Press. The research I've done suggests it would be a good match - Canadian press, publishes fantasy and urban themes, accepts unsolicited manuscripts. Or so I hope.
I try not to get too worked up about it. Publishing in my experience has been entirely a crapshoot. For twelve years now I have occasionally been able to get something published through mailing out blind, and I continue to think that someday someone somewhere is going to read my book and recognize that I can, in fact, write. We'll see how this latest round goes. Part of what I want to do this time is keep track of having sent it on this blog, for posterity if for no other reason.
Frankly, I'd love it if I could be one of those nephews or cousins or daughters of publishing executives or business owners who could have their stuff published without any of this throwing my bread upon the waters necessity, but c'est la vie.
Because I am somewhat tense, I might just as well talk a bit about the project, just to get it out of my system. For those who might be interested, the novel begins thusly:
"I have had a few perfect things. A friend-infested dive a few blocks from home with good music and an open mic. A car that ran ten years without repairs. A bratwurst I ate for free on a downtown corner one winter when it was freezing, granted by a woman who had known Annie Lennox as a little girl. And a building. The one I found at the corner of Buford Road and Seventh Avenue, on the Jersey shore west of Staten Island. Once, it was a hotel. Now it was my hotel. A crumbling three-story shell, it was as much empty space as I could want."
I must admit, I have struggled with the Annie Lennox reference since the beginning. The book is about musicians and the lives around musicians, and a musical reference fits. Ms. Lennox must be as significant a past musical personality as any popular singer. And I did, in fact, once know a woman who had known Ms. Lennox as a little girl ... that was Katherine, who when I was 23 was 64 years old. It would make her 88 now, if she was still alive. 88 is my lucky number (if that's even relevant) so maybe that bodes well.
It was funny how we found out our older friend Katherine knew Ms. Lennox. We had Katherine over for dinner, and somehow had gotten onto the subject of musicians - this being back in '87, when my wife Michelle and I were in a choir with Katherine - and had mentioned Annie Lennox in passing. Katherine, who was as British as it is possible to be, perked and mentioned that she had known an 'Annie' with that last name years ago ... but Katherine did not listen to modern music in any sense of the word, and did not know who the Eurythmics were. But as chance would have it, we had a video of the Eurythmics on VHS and we popped it in to see. And sure enough, Katherine recognized "little Annie" instantly, as Katherine called her. She was astounded to see what Ms. Lennox had become - the video we played, I remember, was Missionary Man. But Katherine was pretty cool for what I thought of then as an 'old person.' Apparently, as a young girl Ms. Lennox had always been in love with music, which Katherine remembered very well, and she had trained to play the flute as a young girl. My wife's minor at that time was in flute, so it just seemed one of those moments with connections all over.
As a writer, I feel you have to take these things and put them together with an image that fits into your story. My main character, Pete, spent some time living on the street ... and although this is only alluded to in the story, I like the image of him desperately needing food and being given it by this vendor who - as it happens - has something to say that would really, really matter to Pete. There isn't any need to go into further detail. Anyone who read the novel, and who came again to this first chapter, would smile. That is enough for me.
The opening paragraph is thick with that. None of it is precisely explained in the opening, not even why he wants the hotel. By the end of the first chapter, you know how he bought it and what its for ... but I have no reason to tell the reader this right off. I want the reader to keep reading. My themes are all in place: music; comaraderie; overcoming hardship; and rebirth.
It's very important in the writing that the reader never sees any of this. So if you, the reader, didn't see it, then I am doing exactly what I'm supposed to. I'm trying to pull you into a story you haven't read so that you'll keep reading ... and so the theme can sneak up on you and grab you before you've realized you've finished the book and you're only now getting it.
I've been told that this is a good opening.
I hope the publishers think so.