I’m Not Famous! But I’ll Take The Ego Boost.

Yikes! I didn’t mean to go five days without blogging. I don’t think I’ve done that all year. You’d think I’ve been busy or something!

Well, the truth is, I’ve been busy. Or something.

Not just busy figuring out which beer I might possibly like (edge: India Pale Ale, maybe). I’ve also been wandering through corn mazes (okay, one) and buying used bread machines (again, one) and hosting dinners for friends (two friends, one dinner). I often remark that, for a guy without a job, my days are pretty full. I didn’t even have time for a movie last week (although that may be a good thing). I’ve also developed quite a fondness for parentheses. (Can you tell?).

And I’ve been remiss in talking about my book, even though there’s been a lot of excitement happening there.

My first royalty check.

A few weeks ago, for instance, I received my first royalty check. Talk about a proud moment! Sadly, it wasn’t enough to buy a sports car with – was, in fact, barely over $100 – but that’ll at least get me a nice set of floor mats. It’s a start, in other words. Maybe I can put that car together piece by piece. With the next check I’ll add the fuzzy dice, then a tire…in about thirty years I might have a decent car! Seriously, though – it was very exciting to tear open that envelope and hold the check in my hand. It felt like redemption to me, a reward for all the hard work I poured into my novel. My blood, sweat and tears, with a dollar sign attached. I couldn’t help but think back to the moment I knew I first wanted to be a writer. I’d entered a short story contest sponsored by the local library when I was 13 years old and, to my surprise, won first place for my age group. How gratifying to be holding a check some not-quite-thirty-years later, payment for the words that spewed forth from my imagination. I mean, I’ve been paid for my writing before – freelance stuff and as part of my job, of course – but this was different. For one thing, I wasn’t writing for anybody else except me. For another, No Time For Kings was a labor of love, definitely one of the achievements I am most proud of. I still get goosebumps when I hold a copy in my hand. I stare at the cover and can hardly believe I’m really a published author. A friend told me I should frame the check, but I do have bills to pay, so I promptly cashed it. I did put the money aside for something, though…I’m just not sure what yet.

Maybe more beer.

I’ve also been signing copies of the book for friends. That’s always a surreal moment for me; here are these people I’ve known for years, many of them coworkers, handing me pens and treating me like I’m a celebrity or something. Don’t get me wrong, it feels good, but when the same folks I barked at for leaving a sheet of paper in the copier suddenly want my autograph, it’s a bit funny. My friend Pam wrote on my Facebook wall the other day, You are one of only two famous people I know. Ron Underwood * was at my high school reunion, gave him a hug. Reading that, I had to laugh. I’m not famous! I’m just me!! Ron Underwood worked with Billy Crystal. I worked with…well, Pam, who is an awesome person but has never once hosted the Oscars.

* {a director probably best known for City Slickers, though I had to look this up.}

Signing books is fun, though. Coming up with something clever, witty and personal takes a bit of effort. I’m not saying I’m always successful in this endeavor, but I try. I have a sort-of tagline that I can expand upon depending on my relationship with the person. Sadly though, my handwriting sucks. I mentioned in the ol’ blog a while back that cursive writing has become obsolete, so busting it out again after all these years has been interesting. The aforementioned Pam had to ask me to decipher what, exactly, I wrote in her book after signing it, and even I had to pause and reread it a couple of times.

Most exciting of all, though? Yesterday I attended my first literary event. Every October, the Oregon Convention Center hosts Wordstock, the largest book and literary festival in the Pacific Northwest. It’s a three-day event that features authors, publishers, and other writing-related groups, and promotes writing in the classroom and community. If you’re an avid reader or a writer (aspiring or otherwise), it is the place to go. A month ago, my good friend and business associate Chris, editor-in-chief of Portland Book Review, snagged a last-minute booth at Wordstock. She made me an offer I couldn’t refuse: in exchange for volunteering at the booth for a couple of hours, she would let me bring along copies of my book to sell. Chris is awesome; we have both supported each other over the years. She read my original manuscript for No Time For Kings years ago when we both worked together at Blue Cross Blue Shield and encouraged me to continue writing, while I introduced her to Heidi, a friend who had started up a business venture called Sacramento Book Review in 2008 (which led to Chris launching Portland Book Review this past March). It’s amazing how influential we’ve been on each other’s lives over the years. Standing in the booth yesterday morning, I said to Chris, “Would you ever have believed, eight years ago when we were stuck in a crappy call center job downtown, that we would one day be exhibitors at Wordstock, you pushing your publication and me selling my book?” We are both following our dreams, and that is amazing.

I felt pretty comfortable behind the booth at Wordstock.

The festival was a lot of fun. I loved mingling with fellow authors and publishers, and it was a real joy to talk with people about Portland Book Review. I’m proud of my association with it, and think Chris is doing a wonderful job. She’s put together a great team of people who are getting paid little (if anything) to make the venture a success. Our booth had a ton of traffic, and the positive response was overwhelming. As for my book? By the end of the day I hadn’t sold any copies, and while this was mildly disappointing, it wasn’t surprising considering the huge number of books available for sale at the festival. Nearly every booth was stocked with literature, so the competition was fierce. Even Powell’s was there, for crying out loud! But I talked it up a bit, and hit upon the idea of sticking a bookmark advertising No Time For Kings inside the free copies of PBR we were handing out. By the end of the day, I must have handed out over a hundred. My hope is that will translate to at least a few sales down the road. Plus, copies of my book are still there for the duration of the festival, so there’s always a chance I could sell a couple yet. I had a blast just hanging out there, talking with people and roaming the aisles. I even met Lisa, a fellow blogger and self-published author. At the end of the day, Brad with PBR whisked me away to a conference room and conducted a twenty-minute interview for their Audible Author series, to appear on their website later this month. It’s a tape recorded interview that was lots of fun to do, and made me feel once again like a bit of a success. I’d love to do Wordstock again next year; maybe Chris and I can split the cost of a booth.

I’m hoping by then, I’ll have a second novel to sell.

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28 thoughts on “I’m Not Famous! But I’ll Take The Ego Boost.

  1. You got a few chuckles out of me since I can relate to the whole royalty check thing. I love your optimism in thinking you’ll soon be able to afford a tire. I’ll let you know when my royalty checks lead me out of the candy bar aisle and into the auto parts store. ;-)

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      1. I want to know how I can get SIGNED copies of both your books! Your two of my fave bloggers and it would be lovely to support you two. Think of it as me personally buying cupholders for your car. Because I know how important coffee (and tea, right Madge?) are.

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  2. Gosh, you must be so proud, Mark. I couldn’t be happier for you. Personally, I think $100 is great for a firsrt check.

    I totally enjoyed reading “No Time for Kings.” If any blog readers haven’t ordered a copy, they are missing out!

    Hooray for you! Hooray for “No Time for Kings.”

    Kathy

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  3. Whew…you posted just in time…I was seriously going through withdrawals!! 5 days is wayyyy to long there Mister Man!!

    You had me laughing at this post Mark, especially when you wrote you had to pause and re-read what you wrote. The times I had to do that when taking an order and I couldn’t read my own writing…yeah…I totally get that one!!

    This is all so exciting and I am truly blessed and privileged to know you and to have read your book. You don’t ever have to do a hard sell on this chickie to buy anything you write…that is a given my friend.

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      1. Oh….thanks for the reminder on the Brussels sprouts…I was going to buy some….hehehe.

        Lucky for me, I was able to put the order in the computer, otherwise, nobody would ever get their food…lol

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  4. “it was very exciting to tear open that envelope and hold the check in my hand. It felt like redemption to me, a reward for all the hard work I poured into my novel.”

    A HUGE CONGRATULATIONS, Mark!!!

    Woot! Woot! Woot!

    I am so freakin’ happy and excited for you!

    LOVE the shot of you behind the booth! You look like a PRO!!!! And I have a feeling you’ll be doing more and more of that in the future too! Perhaps, Barnes and Noble? YES!

    Wishing you continued success with your book, buddy!

    You GO, boy!

    Cheers!

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    1. Good for you, Carl! Let me know when it’s out and I’ll buy a copy…err…

      Right. I don’t have a Kindle. Yet, anyway. But if/when I do get one, I’ll be sure to download a copy of your book.

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  5. Mark – I love it when authors take pictures of their royalty checks. That’s MOST inspiring to us aspirings. You do look quite comfortable at the author’s signing booth – I’m sure you’ll have more pictures to share with us with your career going so well. Keep us posted on all your latest literary adventures. ;)

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  6. Wordstock sounds like THE place to be. I must make it a plan to attend sometime. I’m so thrilled for you that you got to be a part of it. Congrats, congrats, congrats on the wordstock exposure and the royalty check and going after your dreams.

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