Thursday, February 4, 2010


I got a check in the mail on Tuesday because between August 1, 2009 and January 31, 2010 I sold 12 paperback copies of my novels. I know that doesn't sound like much, but considering I still don't know who is buying them, and the total of my marketing "effort" has been word-of-mouth and this blog and the web site (, I'm pretty excited!

It's gratifying to know someone is reading my books and--presumably--liking them (as they're buying the sequels). Would sure make me excited if I knew who these people were or if they were to drop me a letter (hint hint).

And I'm still averaging 15-20 copies of my books sold for Amazon's Kindle platform each month, including my newest offering: All the Time in Our World (parts 1-3 are now available, the conclusion will be available at the end of February). Anyone with tips on how to "expand my scope" (as Barney Fife was known to say) will find in me a willing ear.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Why is it considered good, let alone a classic?

As the author of several phenomenally unsuccessful novels which sell almost 20 copies a month on Amazon, I feel qualified to write on the following subject if for no other reason than that I have a computer with an operating keyboard (unless you count the F5 key, but what’s that for, anyway?):

J.D. Salinger has passed away in the last week at the age of 92. For those of you who don’t remember, Salinger was the author of a book that has sold more copies than most of my books have words in them: “The Catcher in the Rye”. Because of this novel, and a few short stories only English majors from the 1960s remember, Salinger is regarded by many as the greatest American novelist of the 20th century.

I am not one of those people.

I didn’t have to read “Catcher” for school. [My suspicion: at least 80% of the sales of this book were because students were required to purchase it for some lit class in high school or college.] I read it because I had read the novel “Shoeless Joe” by W.P. Kinsella (the novel the excellent movie “Field of Dreams” was based on) and one of the main characters in the novel is Salinger and several reverences are made to “Catcher”. So I was actually one of those rare people who went out and read the book entirely of my own volition; purchasing it at a used bookstore in Abilene, TX, along with a copy of Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” which I enjoyed more than I thought I would.

Now, for all its praise as a “classic”, it’s really hard to find someone who has actually read “The Catcher in the Rye” all the way through (and most of them are now high school English teachers). Most people picked it up (because they had to) and read just enough to write a (bad) book report, before abandoning it. If you are one of those people, let me clue you in on what you didn’t read: it didn’t get any better.

“Catcher” is the rambling account of an amoral, self-obsessed teen-ager who thinks the world should be a whole lot nicer to him but isn’t willing to be any nicer to it. The main character, Holden Caulfield, throws around swear words like a junior high boy who has just discovered them … which is pretty much who he is. While chronologically old enough to be out of junior high, Holden has the mind of—at best—a sixth grader. The novel is a paean to stunted growth, which I guess is what makes it so popular. Holden is held up as a hero by many people because he doesn’t conform to society. But really, if you’ve read the book, he’s not a rebel like George Washington Carver (who rebelled against a prejudiced system and changed the scientific world) or Ghandi (whose passive resistance re-wrote a continent) or even Bill Walsh (whose “west coast offense” changed the way modern football is played). Holden’s just a petulant little man-child whose brain is in his pants—making him not so much a rebel as a poster-boy for our modern entertainment scene.

Salinger lived out the years of his life after “Catcher” as a recluse. This mystery has long added to his reputation for cool. Is it just barely possible that, maybe, deep down in his heart of hearts, he was really sitting back and laughing at all the people who had based their life on his piece of printed dreck? I like to think so.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Who Reads About Garison?

I still don't know who's reading about Garison Fitch. I can check my account at Amazon and see that—this month—I have sold several copies of my books about Garison (and even a couple copies of the books about his grandson ["All the Time in Our World"]) but other than the one friend on Facebook who told me she bought a copy, I have no idea who these people are.

Yes, I realize that's SOP for most authors. John Grisham probably gets a lot of fan mail, but I doubt that he gets a letter from every one of the millions of readers each of his books have.

Still, I'd like to know. Part of it is curiosity. I'd like to know where they heard about my book and whether they would recommend it to a friend and if they prefer Kindle or actual paper. I'd like to ask those questions.

There's another aspect to it all, though. I wrote and re-wrote "First Time: The Legend of Garison Fitch" for over a decade. And then, there was the publishing mishap, followed by another majore re-write and the adventure in self-publishing. That was followed (many years later) by my foray into publishing with Kindle (which has worked out better than I ever imagined!).

Over that time, and through it all, Garison has become something more than an imaginary character to me. My brain knows he's a fictional person, but I've also gotten to know him so well that when writing "Lost Time" or other, unpublished, works wherein Garison appears I have occasionally run into walls. Not that I don’t know how to write for Garison, but that I know too well! I write a bit of dialogue, then think, “Garison wouldn’t say that.” Or, “Garison wouldn’t say it that way.” Or, I’ll put Garison into a situation that I know he wouldn’t get into.

Same with Heather. I know these characters so well that writing about them is less like writing fiction and more like writing biography. I think part of why I want to hear from people who have read my books is I want to know if they Garison and Heather (and Sarah, Edward, Marianne, Bat, Jody and Joe and Ellen) seem as real to them.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Time of Why

Jerry Seinfeld said that when you walk into a bookstore you have the fiction section and the non-fiction section. In other words, one group is telling the truth and one group is lying.

So, why lie about time travel?

I have always been fascinated with time travel. Who doesn’t have something in their life they would like to go back and change? I have made stupid mistakes I wish I could go undo. I have also done things that I really enjoyed and wish I could enjoy them again. Let alone “big” things like go back to Dallas in 1963 and prevent a presidential assassination—or just back to 1980 and somehow have the Astros win that one-game play-off they should have won anyway.

What if, though, I were to travel back in time and make things worse? This is the dilemma of Garison Fitch. He has traveled back in time and, when he returns to the future, the world has changed. Should he go back and try to change things back to normal?

Of course, in Garison’s world, the strange new world is the one you and I are used to. Garison grew up in the Soviet Americas, where the Republic of Texas existed just across the southern border and Japan ruled the western half of the continent. His decision is whether to live in this whacked-out world of the United States, or see if he can undo what he’s done.

Why write about this? Because I find it fascinating. What if I went back to 1986 and treated the girl I was dating then better? I’d like to not be known (at least to her) as a jerk, but what if in so doing I somehow messed up meeting my wife in ’88? I think I’d hate that. What if I could somehow prevent my wife from having a miscarriage in the summer of ’96? Well, then I wouldn’t have my youngest son. I know I’d hate that, even though I’m sure I’d love the other child.

And, of course, I wouldn’t know about any of these changes if the change were made.

It’s probably just as well that I can’t change the past. But it’s still fun to think about.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Heather Dawson Fitch

Heather Dawson Fitch is based on several real-life people. She is this incredibly pretty woman, with Olympic-caliber volleyball skills, and also a lawyer. So, how does she find happiness living in a canyon halfway between nowhere and nowhere else?

Because Heather has never felt in charge of her own life. Her looks made people automatically assume things about her that she didn't agree with. She was too good at volleyball not to be noticed (especially when her ability was combined with her looks). She was a lawyer because she was smart enough and because she came from a family of lawyers.

Heather, more than anything else, would love to be average. She would love to be able to walk down the street and not be noticed. She'd love to join an organization--any one--and not be almost immediately made an officer. She is constantly at war on this score with people's assumptions and her own natural abilities. For all her desire to be anonymous, she can't help but do whatever she does better than anyone else. She sees her inability to combat this streak in herself as her one great weakness.

It's part of why she fell in love with Bat Garrett. In him, she thought she had found someone who was almost immune to her looks and was only interested in her inner being. What broke her heart was not just his leaving her, but the sudden realization that--all along--his seeming indifference was really because he was in love with someone else.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Quantum Reality

Most modern time travel fiction that I've read or seen is based on the idea of multiple realities. From a fictional standpoint, this resolves the old time travel connundrum of "Could I go back in time and kill my grandfather because wouldn't that cause me to cease to exist?" If we say there are multiple realities, then the person who travels has not so much traveled in time as to another reality, one in which they are free to kill their grandfather, shoot their dog or whatever, but the outcome in that reality won't in any way effect the outcome in their "starting" reality.

The "logical" conclusion of this idea is that there are an infinite number of realities out there, each spawned every time a decision is made. This morning, when you had to choose between strawberry jam or grape jelly for your toast, you spawned several realities. There's the reality where you chose grape, the one where you chose strawberry, the one where you decided not to have jelly at all, the one where the toaster caught fire and burned down the house, leaving just a charred reminder of your sorry existance underneath the rubble of the kitchen table, etc.

People who support this theory of multiple realities will often say there is theoretical math that proves the possibility of multiple realities. The possibility. You see, it's not really provable (as normal people define "provable").

Therefore, the universe of Garison Fitch (which includes "All the Time in Our World" as well as anything else I've written) assumes that the possibility is not a possibility and works from the assumption that there's only one reality and one timeline and Garison somehow altered it. This makes some people mad. They have so fully bought into the concept of multiple realities that they cannot conceive of a story based in and on a single reality.

What strikes me as funny about this is: "Dude! It's fiction!" The nature of fiction is to tell a story that isn't in such a way that the reader thinks it could be, or--at the very least--understands the premise. So if I, as the author, want to tell a story predicated on a single timeline (or on the concept that the sky is plaid or that politicians are innately altruistic) then a] that's my right and 2] it behooves me to stay true to my premise within the story (unless it's part of the story that the character is finding his assumptions challenged or changed).