Tag Archives: publishing

Before it was History… It was News

While waiting to get the new novel The Printer & The Strumpet edited and proofed, I started looking ahead and musing over the next book in what may become a series of novels, perhaps, The Misadventures of Leeds Merriweather, book 1, 2, 3, and so on. Leeds got great reviews and decent sales in The Patterer, and the new book picks up his life’s story after he’s forced to move to Boston before the American Revolution.

I poked around some familiar blogs and online sources looking for something cool and groovy from that period that might provide inspiration. Then I came across a familiar act of protest that is so much like what is playing out in America today. What if history is repeating itself?

It was July 9, 1776.
After they gathered in the town square to read the Declaration of Independence for Washington’s troops in New York, soldiers and civilians tore down a statue of King George III and carved it into itty-bitty pieces.
And you thought Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and the other Confederates are getting their just desserts.

Bowling Green in lower Manhattan, NY

The rebels shipped chunks of the statue to a foundry in Connecticut where they were melted down to make over 42,000 musket balls, ammunition that was later used against the British army. A few pieces of the statue survived, including part of the king’s coat and the tail of the horse he rode in on. Those are now on display at the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia.

But what happened to the statue’s head?
It’s a mystery.

According to some reports, the mob lopped off the king’s head, intending to hoist it on a pike in some future protest. But after the statue had been dismembered and all the pieces piled into a cart, the rebels were waylaid by a tavern where the liquor was flowing in celebration of their deed. The plot thickens!

While the protestors were inside drinking and carousing, it seems that some Americans still loyal to the king took advantage of the moment. That bronze and lead Royal Rubble was left in the unattended cart outside. The Tories were able to run off with the king’s head and bury it in a secret location. Then, when they thought it was safe enough, they dug up the head and shipped it back to England.

No one has seen it since.

What will become of the Confederate statues and monuments that are justifiably coming down today, either at the hands of mobs or enlightened politicians? And will Americans a hundred years from now even know they existed?
Just wondering.

AND NOW! Another bad sentence from the world-famous Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. A contest for the WORST opening sentence to an imaginary novel, (which we won in a previous century). From Robert R. Moore, North Falmouth, MA:

Emile Zola wandered the dank and soggy streets of a gloomy Parisian night, the injustice of the Dreyfus affair weighing on him like a thousand baguettes, dreaming of some massage or therapy to relieve the tension and pain in his aching shoulders and back, and then suddenly he thought of his Italian friends and their newly invented warm water bath with air jets and he rapturously exclaimed that oft misquoted declaration — “Jacuzzi!”  

Sneakers, Panhandlers & Why I Play the Lottery

People who are not afflicted with the DNA of serial dreamers are smart enough to avoid playing the lottery. The odds are astronomical. Not quite as bad as the odds of getting an agent and certainly better than getting a New York publisher to bite on your novel these days. But I play the lottery and I can blame Freddy.

More than fifteen years ago my wife and I took a trip to New Orleans. Somewhere near Cafe Du Monde we were approached by a skinny little panhandler in a dirty and torn t-shirt who said, “Five bucks sez I can tell ya where ya got your shoes.” I looked down at my generic Converse sneakers and wondered what was the catch. So I negotiated with the guy, who said his name was Freddy, and told him that I wouldn’t commit to the bet, but I’d grease his palm if I liked the answer.
He said, “Ya got them on your feet.”
Lame as that was, I gave him the three singles in my pocket. (It wasn’t worth the $20 bill I had left.)

Five or six years later I was visiting the folks in California. My buddy Dave and I went up to The City for lunch on Fisherman’s Wharf. We strolled along the Embarcadero and stopped at a plaza on the edge of the San Francisco Bay to gawk along with all the other tourists at the jugglers, the mimes, the human statues and musicians. We were standing there, trying to get a smile or even a blink out of the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz when I felt a tap on my shoulder. “Ten bucks sez I can tell ya where ya got your shoes.” Apparently inflation had hit Freddy the panhandler too. It was the same skinny little dude in the same t-shirt.

I cut a deal. Ten bucks, but he’d have to give five to the Tin Man if I could tell him where he got his shoes, and I would get to go first. I studied his battered Nikes and said, “Ya got them on your feet, dude.” I won’t repeat what Freddy said but hey, I got a smile out of the Tin Man at last.

I am not making that up. So what are the odds of getting hit up by the same panhandler with the same schtick more than five years and 2,275.8 miles apart? What are the odds of being in exactly the right place at exactly the right moment in time to have that experience just once, let alone twice in a lifetime? Imagine the thousands of possible deviations, delays and decisions that could have come between me and Freddy 2.0. Really, now?

I don’t have a clue what the odds might be, but Freddy made a believer out of me. And so I buy lottery tickets and hope that one day, as I am handing my dollar to the convenience store clerk, little Freddy the panhandler will be sitting on my shoulder and whispering in my ear. Let’s get lucky; baby needs a new pair of shoes.

As the foeman’s axe descended, Ragnar Thyorvaldsson thought — quickly, but with uncannily prescient anachronism — that his paltry contribution to this raid would not be recorded in the great sagas, or even a minor tale, but at best he might be remembered centuries hence only as “third oarsman” in the Boys’ Own Book of Viking Adventure Stories.

Paul Dawson, Vancouver, BC, Canada