I know, two posts in one day, right? Well how do you spend your birthday?
Ugh! I’m all fired up. I just got a call anticipated, and dreaded with equal fervor. Some time ago I posted about someone close to me who considers himself a writer. I refused to name him then, and I won’t now, but I will say this. He is my brother.
We have nothing in common beyond our family. And none of us are close. We do, however, maintain a false sense of caring by calling each other on our birthdays. Usually no big deal, but this was one call I didn’t want to take. It’s inevitable the conversation will be skewed so it’s all about him. I think he could call anyone on my birthday and have the same conversation. In fact, the last three times I talked to him he asked me the rather odd question, “So, what do you and Mrs. Sarcasm do when your together?”
First of all, WTF? And second, and third, why weren’t you listening the first two times I told you. But then, it wasn’t about him.
So less than a year ago he told me he was writing a book. This after asking to read an early draft of my novel, but then never actually reading it, just letting me wonder for three years what he thought. During this conversation I learned he knew nothing of query letters, his wife was his proofreader, and he only needed to write one draft.
What more did he need? he asked. After all, he runs a website for syndicated columnists. He’ll have no problem getting published. “I’m not,” he said, “just some guy who decided to write a book one day.”
I never go to the family Thanksgiving, and I’m so glad this year, because my sister informed me my brother invited her to his book signing at Barnes and Noble in our hometown. The same town that is the setting for his book, but which he left more than twenty years ago because there were better places to live. Now has an unexplainable affection for this place and takes his young son on a tour every year and they spend the night in one of the local motels. In fact, I used this very hotel in Sister Very Pretty. Here’s an excerpt:
The brisk air nipped at Seymour’s cheeks, but he was only going a couple of blocks and saw no need to further strain his ten-year-old car. Monty’s Grill, a diner just down the street from Perpetual Martyr, was a magnet for the underemployed, downtrodden and morally inept. Attached to a $30 an hour motel, Monty’s was cast in a hazy film of kitchen grease and cigarette smoke. Grimy windows concealed a collage of humanity Seymour wished he weren’t a part of.
Now, before you start throwing jealousy accusations my way, let me be clear. My brother has done nothing to be jealous of. I might be jealous of an accomplishment, but he self-published. Anyone can do that. The problem is most people buying books don’t know the difference. And the people who find out he’s a “published” author will now laud false pride. I made my feelings on self-publishing quite clear here. I tried to explain it to my parents but I’m sure to them it came off as jealousy as well. So be it.
Here’s the rub. I knew he was going to call. I knew he was going to bring up his book, and his forthcoming book signings. I gave myself permission to go off on him. It is my birthday, after all.
Sure enough, he asked if anything was happening with my writing. Bait. I knew it. I took it. I was prepared. This is how it went.
“Maybe you don’t know this,” he said. “My book came out this week.”
“Your book?” I played along. “When did you get an agent? And a publisher?”
“No agent. I have a publisher.”
“How’d you do that?”
“I just called ‘em up. We made a deal.”
“What kind of deal?” I asked. “Who’s this publisher?”
He told me, and I said, “I’ve heard of them. That’s self-publishing.”
Of course he tried to spin it. His reason for doing this was that he wanted to be published by the end of the year. He’d heard from someone bragging about 150 rejections. He didn’t have time to waste on getting rejected.
“Did you have an editor?” I asked.
“They proofed if for me,” he said. “I edited it. I don’t need some editor telling me how I should write my book.”
And that pretty much summed it up. I imagine he expected gushing praise, but frak! No one hijacks my birthday for their selfishness. I let him know I had the time and patience to go the traditional route, using real publishers and real editors. There were a few moments of awkward silence. And no congratulations.
We’ll see if he gets a birthday call this year.