There's a Somebody.
I've heard my book described as a male confessional, and while I don't agree with the characterization (or at least wouldn't have thought of it on my own), I do like the books used for comparison: Nick Hornby's HIGH FIDELITY and Rex Pickett's SIDEWAYS. Each of these deals with youngish men at loose ends, fellows who have messed up and can't see the potentially wonderful relationship in front of their eyes. (So like a guy, right?) But each, also, is a story of redemption. The stories are about men who are lost but who somehow, to some degree, find their way back. They are fellows about whom we say, at the end of the book, maybe it'll work out. Maybe they'll be okay. That's what I hope for my protagonist, Jim Bass. I hope he'll be okay. If you read the book and want to comment, or if you have questions or would simply like to chat, contact me at http://www.facebook.com/theresasomebody?skip_nax_wizard=true
So why did I choose the title There's a Somebody? Two reasons: First, it's a line from the Gershwin lyric that continues:
"There's a somebody I'm longing to see / I hope that she / Turns out to be / Someone to watch over me."
And that's what Jim is looking for, the special someone - two someones actually - who will make his life complete. The second reason for the title is Jim's affinity for "old stuff." Though he's a young man in 1994 he prefers the Standards to rock 'n roll. If you're a fan of the Great American Songbook you might enjoy some of the references and how music is used throughout the book.
I've pasted the first couple scenes below so you can get a feel for the writing style, and to see what kind of book this is.
At first I don’t know she’s talking to me. For one thing that isn't my name. For another I’m not looking her way. I’m standing with my hands shoved in my pockets, staring at a painting on the wall. The scene is three ducks on a pond and another one in flight, wings flared, legs stretching for the water. In the foreground are cattails and lily pads, and in the distance a forest. It’s only motel art, but the whole thing upsets me to the point I taste pennies in my mouth.
I turn and see it’s a nurse. She’s in the doorway, unsure, it seems, whether or not to come in.
“If you want to welcome your baby into the world, better hurry. Put this on and follow me.”
She crosses to where I’m standing and hands me a paper mask with elastic straps. The mask is pale blue. The duck painting is hung on a beige wall. I’m standing on a gray carpet. Ever since I stepped into the hospital all the bright colors have washed away. Worse, my vision is shrinking as if I’m looking through a tube. I've experienced this before when I was ten or twelve and an altar boy. I fainted dead away on the altar steps before communion. There is every possibility I will do the same here.
I look at the mask and then at the nurse. She circles her hands over her ears, pantomiming how to place the straps. She must think I don’t know how to put on a mask.
When I still don’t move she says, “It’s alright. Lots of new fathers are nervous. Just join us whenever you’re ready.” She points out the door. “Up that way to the first corridor, then right, to the end. Your mother-in-law is already in there with your wife. You’ll see us through the glass.”
She leaves and I toss the mask onto a chair. I look at the duck painting once more and now see clearly what I only sensed before: none of them have a chance. They’re all going to drown.
I walk out the door into the hall, but turn toward the exit instead of following the nurse. As I push the bar to open the door I tell her, though I know she won’t hear me, “She’s not my mother-in-law. She’s not my wife.”
# # #
Outside I sit in the car, convincing myself this is best for everyone. I make a good argument and find I’m not hard to persuade. After all, I have the past to predict the future. People who count on me suffer. People I’m supposed to protect die.
So it’s not that I’m selfless by nature, or that I’m crazy in love with the baby about to be born. How could I be? I don’t know it. But one thing is easy enough to figure; it deserves better than me. Allison does too. Allison is my girlfriend. Ex-girlfriend I’m sure, as of ten minutes ago. She’s wonderful. The best. She’ll do a great job raising the kid. And she won’t have to do it alone. Her mother and father will help. Also I know that because Allison is so pretty and funny and smart, she’ll get a new guy in nothing flat.
The thought of her with someone else pushes me over the edge. I rake crazily at the door handle, not making it in time. I throw up on the closed window, the door, the car seat. I feel better now. My face is damp and cold, sweat runs from under my arms, but at least my vision is returning. I take this improvement as the positive consequence of doing the right thing.
I look around and from the back seat find a sweatshirt to clean myself. I wipe my hands, my pants, the door. When I’m as good as I’m going to get I put both hands on the wheel and stare out to the overcast sky. June Gloom they call it here in Southern California. I can barely make out the white shale cap on Mount Baldy only ten miles away.
June, I think again. School and graduation. If I’d stayed in class three more weeks I’d have coasted to a diploma. Allison made it, and she was big as a house. But I couldn't stay on track. I couldn't hold a thought long enough. My refuge was physical work, where I didn't have to think at all. Just lift and tug and carry and walk.
I start the car and drive south on Garey, toward the freeway. This is a commercial area with flower shops, a tux rental, CPAs, the hospital’s billing office. But down side streets are the old houses with orange California poppies and purple lupine in the yards. I take comfort in seeing things grow. In seeing color again.
I head west toward the school, my old life, but pull off before I get there to park in front of our apartment. Inside, I pop open two paper grocery bags and toss in clothes; five pairs of jeans, five white T shirts, five pairs of white socks, my good Reeboks I only wear in the gym, three jocks, a fistful of underwear, a toothbrush and a razor. I change my shirt, then wet a towel to wipe down the inside of the car.
But before I leave I take a last look around the room. On the little round breakfast table there’s a Michelob bottle with a candle sticking out, various colored waxes running down the sides. Behind the tatty couch is the bullfighting poster we stapled to the wall. Across the room, a bookshelf made of cement blocks and bare plank boards.
More importantly I see what isn't there: Sunday mornings, reading the paper with Allison snuggled against me on the floor. Us watching old movies late at night, or drinking coffee and hitting the books for school. I see us making love everywhere, as if we had to mark every inch of the place with our combined scent. I see her belly growing, me thinking she is the most beautiful girl in the world.
I return to the car with my clothes, leaving behind all the furniture and dishes, not that there’s much. But they’re the things Allison and I bought together like we were really building a future. Although technically, I guess, I bought them because I’m working and she isn’t. She had a scholarship and plans to be a shrink. A Marriage and Family Therapist, I can hear her correct me. She’ll be good at it, too. I should know. She’s worked on me enough. We called it her homework.
“Your sister’s death wasn’t your fault,” she told me a hundred times.
What I could never make her understand is that not guilty is a world away from innocent.
Risks and challenges
Risks? Just two: utter failure and crushing humiliation.
But I don't define failure as the inability to get this book printed. I could go to Staples and have the manuscript bound, and call it a book if that's what I was after. My goal for THERE'S A SOMEBODY is to be the start of my publishing career. In nearly every other endeavor in my life I've felt like a place holder; I was good enough to get the job done, but it never felt like ME. That is until I started writing. It's the one thing I cared deeply about, and the one thing I felt I understood.
At a point in my education I had the privilege of meeting and then studying under best-selling author Elizabeth George. She taught us the discipline of writing. "Bum glue" she called it. Keeping YOUR seat in THE seat and getting the work done. Eventually I was awarded a grant from her foundation and for a year I got to live as a writer. I produced my five pages every day, and just as importantly I learned I have the focus and perseverance for this kind of work. Plus I really like it. I love words (as I'm sure you do), I love playing the scenes in my head. I love, as Larry McMurtry once said, "Making sh*t up." In fact I've now finished a second novel, where the protagonist is a character introduced in the first book. If you'd like to know more about that, write me.
The second risk is humiliation. Whenever you do your best and then put the work out there to be evaluated, you run the risk people won't like it. You worry you'll look foolish. You're afraid to hear those words, "Why did you even bother?" I don't think that will happen here, I sure hope it doesn't happen. But it could and that's the risk.
A risk I will avoid is neglecting to thank a couple fellows who helped me put this together: Frank Lisciandro advised, directed, and shot the video, and took my author photo. Dee Boyles designed the book cover. Both continue to support me and this project beyond what I could hope for. Thanks, guys.
One Challenge: My hope is to find a publisher with good distribution. Nowadays even established writers are responsible for the bulk of their promotion,but a publisher with good distribution would certainly make things easier. Also, bookstores are reluctant to carry a self-published book unless it comes through a company with an acceptable return policy (affectionately known as 'ship and duck'). But there are a growing number of publishing houses catering to self-published authors, and I'll use one of them if necessary.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (33 days)