Pet Rocks

So, my brain tends to wander into various odd corners of my memory.  And this morning, for no reason whatsoever, I thought of Pet Rocks.

A Pet Rock, for those who don’t know, is an ordinary rock enclosed in a nice package that informs the buyer that this is, indeed, a Pet Rock. And these rocks became wildly popular for a while in the 1970s. Why?  Well, the idea is sort of funny.  And I think a whole new generation of “baby boomers” (aka my generation) had gotten through college and were starting out in the real world, where they found they had neither the time nor the energy for actual pets.

Thus, a craze was born. And why were these rocks wrapped in cellophane so ridiculously popular?

Who the heck knows? Pet Rocks, or beanie babies, or R.L. Stein books, or some other odd corner of the marketing world, just catch the popular imagination. And only for a short time, before we all decide on what will be the next craze.  People are paid a lot of money to anticipate these things.  Most of the time, these people fail.

I managed to benefit from one of these crazes myself in the late 1980s.  What did I do?  I wrote the novelization of the new Batman movie –the one starring Micheal Keaton.  At that time, there had been very few successful superhero movies (the Superman films had done well – that’s about it).  No one expected much from another caped hero film.  And Batman had been around forever, in comics, movies, and the campy TV show from the 1960s. Sure, the new film would sell some tickets.  But nobody expected it to be ther newest craze.

How did this happen? The Warner Brothers’ publicity department had done their job, and everybody knew about the film.  But the public is aware of a lot of films. What was different about this one?

My theory is that Jon Peters (film producer, hair stylist and Barbara Streisand’s boyfriend) made a mistake.  Novelizations are supposed to be released at about the same time the movie comes out,.  In those days, though, publishers would put their books out one month before their actual “pub date), so, for example June books would show up in the middle of May.  Peters didn’t know this (I assume) and released the novelization something like five weeks early.  This fueled the public’s imagination, and a popular movie became a craze.  My book was a New York Times bestseller for 13 weeks.  I was interviewed by newspapers, magazines, and the Today show. It was translated into dozens of other languages, and ended up selling more than 800,00 copies in the US alone.

Because of work-for-hire contracts, I made some money from this, but not a lot.  But I got a big boost in the fame department, with bookstores giving all my books special displays. And then it was over.  I wrote the follow-up novelization for the second Batman film, but that book just did solid – rather than spectacular – numbers. They gave the later novelizations to other folks, and the later films were not as good as the first two.  I went back to writing the sort of stuff I usually write and continued to have a fair amount of success.

\But for a couple of months, there, I got to ride the craze.

Now this is distracting.

Want a little noise?  Have a crew working replacing your roof, scraping off the old shingles and hammering down new ones.  This is especially true if one’s office is on the top floor.  Wow.

We have an old wooden house built almost a century ago.  It’s got  big roof.

We also have bats – at least some of the time.  On three occasions, bats have gotten loose in the house over the course of twenty years.  We guess that they nest in the area close to the top of the roof, a crawlspace that we have no access to.  The last bat showed up when we were watching a Hammer horror film, which was sort of a neat special effect.

We’ve learned to open doors and windows so that the panicked bats can escape.  Besides that, we have a live and let live attitude towards the creatures.

But what happens when the bat’s  home is assaulted by so much vibration and noise?  I assume they all leave until the noise is over.  I would probably leave if my PC wasn’t set up on the third floor.  But this, too, shall pass.  The roofers will finish the job, our roof will no longer leak – and maybe our bats will find some peace and quiet.

Actual bookstore sighting!

This coming week, on Thursday, January 10, I will be signing books at Pandemonium Books and Games in Central Square, Cambridge.  Jim Moore will be there with me, promoting his newest book, GATES OF THE DEAD, along with his previous grimdark fantasies (They are all fabulous reads.  You should come in and get signed copies!)  We will also be reading from our work, answering questions, and telling you things you might not already know, all from 7 to 9 pm.

I’ll be bringing my whole new TEMPORARY MAGIC trilogy, along with the new omnibus edition of the Exploits of Ebenezum.  This is the first time these books will be available in an actual bookstore in the Boston area, so everybody should come out and buy them just to snub Amazon!

Pandemonium is located across the street from the Central Square Post Office.  The first floor is full of books, the basement is full of games.  I’ve been associated with the store in one way or another many times over the years — for a while I taught an sf writing course at the store alongside Jeff Carver.  They are good people, and we all should be going there more than we do.

I hope to see lots of you at Pandemonium!temporary human cover

Live! This weekend!

So, the big Halloween book fair is taking place in Haverhill this weekend, and I will be there, along with about a zillion other authors.  A lot of folks are introducing new books at the fair.  I’m bringing a new one too.  But, typically for me, it is not a horror novel.  My first three novels, a.k.a. the Ebenezum trilogy, are now selling for fairly big bucks on the Amazon marketplace.  It’s enough of a price increase that I realized I could produce an omnibus edition of the three books for considerably less than the price of used copies. So I did, and I’ll have copies of this sucker for sale at 20 bucks a pop.  It’s a good looking book.  You need one for your library.  Really.

Ebenezum Trilogy

That’s got it covered

theothersinbad72When you’ve just sold your first book, you have no control over who will do the cover. I was lucky.  I got Walter Velez.

In the 1980s, Walter was the artist to go to if you were writing funny fantasy.. He had had great success painting a series of covers for the Robin Asprin “Myth” books, and my series, starting with A MALADY OF MAGICKS, lived in the same neighborhood.  So my publisher (Ace) tapped Walter to do the job, and he came through with a great cover. It shows our wizard in bed, flanked by his worried apprentice and a small dragon peaking through the window. Walter put a great deal of detail into all his paintings, and this one showed an elaborately carved headboard, feting three words in Latin. The words roughly translate to “What, me worry?”

The book was published, and went through three printings very quickly. I think Walter’s painting had a lot to do with that. Walter did the covers for my next eight books.  They all sold very well.

I had no direct contact with Walter, but I did talk regularly with his agent, Jill Bauman (also a fine artist, btw.) Jill and I already knew

Malady_Of_Magicks

Yes, amazingly enough, the cover for the audio book looks exactly like the one for the e-book!

each other by then as convention buddies and shared video nights at Alan Ryan’s apartment.

Jill read the books for Walter, and told him which scene would best fit on the cover. I got a call from her about my second book, A MULTITUDE OF MONSTERS, asking me  to describe exactly what a Bog Wombler looked like. We agreed it should be very large and only have one eye. You can see exactly what a Wombler looks like if you study Walter’s painting for the second cover.

Ace decided it was time for  a different artist for book # 10, THE OTHER SINBAD. The new covers were okay, but they lacked the spark of Walter’s work. In fact, as I got ready to release my Arabian Nights series as e-books, I asked Jill if she could get Walter to paint new covers.  He did.  And they’re great. (The books themselves will be available shortly.)

I was hoping to hire Walter to paint the cover for a new Ebenezum book (which, fingers crossed, will also come out shortly.) But Walter passed away recently, and that new cover will never be.

I’m very thankful for all Walter did for me.  And I hope, wherever he may be, he’s still painting those fantastic covers.

 

 

Adventure cat has left the building.

So, 16 years ago, some friends of ours found a mother cat and her kittens hiding under their front porch. They offered us first dibs, and we took home two sisters. Names? The first thing that popped into my head was George and Gracie, named after the famed Burns and Allen comedy troupe of long ago. So George and Gracie they became. Gracie was the more shy of the two, ready to run at loud noises. But George wanted to get into everything. A couple times during their kittenhood, we were sure George had gotten outside, only to find her stuck in some impossible to get to corner behind the washing machine. So George became Adventure Cat, along with a few other nicknames (Doodle Dumbkins. Georgus Pussycattus, and baloney belly were a few.) She settled down (somewhat) as she grew older, but was always a spirited cat. A couple of months ago, she suddenly decided to revisit some of the habits of her youth, such as sharpening her claws on my right sneaker (it was always the right sneaker.)Looking back on that now, I wonder if that was my cat’s attempt to get back to “normal” even though she wasn’t feeling up to snuff.

George soon started to decline. She lost a lot of weight and stopped grooming herself. Eating and sleeping were her only activities. And she started having fits, lying on her side with her paws waving wildly (our vet said it was called “paddling.”) She had had a small fit a couple weeks back, after which she could not walk for a few minutes. This was on a weekend, so Barbara and I decided to wait and see if it happened again, which it did two weeks later. And this fit was far more violent than the first.

So to the vets we go, and find that George has lost an additional pound in the six weeks since we took her in for her physical. The vet ran some tests, looked at George’s history, and said the fits were most likely a symptom of cancer. So now our poor cat, who doesn’t much seem to be enjoying life anymore, is going to have ever-more-frequent fits. We talked to the vet at length and decided it was time to put her to sleep.

I cried. Barbara cried. We held little George (and she had become smaller in her illness), wrapped in a towel. The vets had given her a sedative, and she looked as peaceful as we had seen her in months. The vet gave her the final injection, and she was gone.

It is amazing how attached one gets to ones’ animals. George had a pretty comfortable life, until the end. And I’ve got one final story to tell.

George was a self-centered cat, with this odd streak of oblivious behavior. We live in an older wood-frame house, and we get mice from time to time. Gracie is the mouser in the house. The poor rodents never stand a chance. Gracie had gotten the mouse out from behind the piano, and the rodent fled in terror, directly across George’s front paws. George did not even look down at the mouse crossing her path. She was interested in more important things, like dinner.

So goodbye to Georgus Pussycatus. Having her as a part of our lives really was an adventure.