Saturday, October 31, 2009

Publicity Horror: Technical Difficulties

From a screenwriter/director:
I had to go to a festival screening of my film and answer audience questions afterwards. Suddenly the reel came on upside-down and backwards. Then it stopped. Then it came back on, but with only half the picture. Then it stopped. Half the audience had trickled out by then, to go to other screenings.

I just wanted to run away and hide in a manhole. But at these things you have to stand there as though it couldn’t matter less, and everything’s fine.
This person has completed another feature film, which is making the festival rounds. All the projectors have worked perfectly. So far.

Publicity Horror: The Woman in the Front Row

It's Halloween, time once again for Publicity Horror Tales. This one's from the author of a bestselling social satire, which I'll call NOVEL.

I gave a talk about NOVEL. This 60-ish woman came and sat right at the front, all eagerness and taking notes. When we got to the Q&A session, it soon became clear that she was furious that I had had a success with NOVEL, and that she could have written the same book--only much, much better.

She went on and on. The moderator tried to shut her up, but the audience sort of enjoyed the coliseum aspect of it.

She said, "The thing is, I could have written this book."

I said to her, “I'm sure you could have. But the difference is, you didn’t and I did.”

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Blacklist is Born

From the New York Times, June 27, 1941:

My father, who belonged to Actors Equity and was a founding member of the Screen Actors Guild, in August 1940 was named as a Communist Party member in "closed" grand jury testimony that was leaked to the LA Times the next day.

From the New York Times, February 3, 1942:

In May 1953, in the middle of the roadshow run of "Pal Joey" (in which he was the Equity rep) Dad was called to testify before the Dies Committee in New York.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Horrors Begin: Stupid Author Trick

From Anytown, USA:

Anonymized to protect the clueless.

An author is invited to present a workshop about creative writing at a writing center with more than 100 members. Said author accepts, then later backs out for reasons that are not the fault of the writing center.

Author, whose book is about...CREATIVE WRITING, then emails writing center and asks that the review copy of his book be returned to him, rather than left in the library of writing center with more than 100 members.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Scare Me, Please!

Halloween's coming, which means it's time once again for Publicity Horror Stories. Send the most spine-tingling tales from your crypt, whether you're an author, publicist, media escort, bookseller, journalist, reader. . .whatever.

Confidentiality 100% guaranteed.

Email: blog(at)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

No Brian, You Don't Always Have to Look on the Bright Side

On "The Daily Show" last week, Jon Stewart interviewed Barbara Ehrenreich (my new hero) about her new book, BRIGHT-SIDED: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America.

She brought the house down when she tartly declaimed:
"I never think delusion is OK."

My sentiments exactly.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Barbara Ehrenreich
Daily Show
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Political HumorRon Paul Interview

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Parsing Aesop

I was feeling guilty that I wasn't exercising enough, because the hospital discharge instructions said I should walk 20-30 mins a day. So using a walker, yesterday afternoon I crept about 10 yds down the street, then 120 ft from front to back yard.

Afterwards I got sorer & droopier. This morning I could hardly move & my left foot was more numb. Off to the surgeon, who said the sciatic nerve was flared again. When he'd operated last week, it was so red & inflamed that he was surprised there'd been any immediate improvement. Now I'm flat on my back & on steroids. Again.

New instructions: All walking is to be done in the house--from room to room, up/down the stairs.

Moral: Slow & steady wins the race.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Guest Post: Strength in Numbers

Book Promotion 101 alum Sally Nemeth (THE HEIGHTS, THE DEPTHS, AND EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN) reports on last week's West Hollywood Book Fair.

(That's Sally by the balloons, doing her Mama Rose impression.)

I am a lucky author. No, my publishing house doesn't do squat for me promotionally, I didn't win a major award with my very first novel, and I'm not on anyone's bestseller list. What I am is a LAYA.

I'm one of the Los Angeles Young Adult authors. And what we've found over our three years of existence is that when it comes to promotion and appearances, there is definitely strength in numbers.

We were organized as an ad hoc listserve by YA author Cecil Castellucci. Initially what we did was share information online, have cocktails, gather for parties and bitch about our publishers, agents, publicists, etc.

Then last year, when the BookExpoAmerica and American Library Association conventions were held in Los Angeles, we saw it as a call to action. We figured we could make a bigger splash at both events as a collective than as individuals. We came up with the idea of presenting a live game show--LAYAPALOOZA--with games based on YA lit guaranteed to amaze and amuse. We invented some absurdly funny quiz show games, got some righteous swag to give away (including our own books), and were not afraid to make total fools of ourselves onstage. And it worked.

For BEA, we contacted the Association of Booksellers for Children and performed LAYAPALOOZA in their hospitality suite, to great acclaim. At ALA, we performed at the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) pavilion and garnered quite a crowd, awarding Dum-Dums for wrong answers to the likes of Arthur Levine and Jay Asher. We set up a group MySpace page and at both events gave out rubber bracelets embossed with our URL:

Since then, we've been invited to perform LAYAPALOOZA at Vroman's Books in Pasadena, at the November California Library Association meeting and in January at Changing Hands Bookstore in Phoenix, AZ. And now all PALOOZAs are followed by book signings.

As a group, we've always talked about how book fests never get teen lit right. They either strand authors on the kiddie stage, where no teen would be caught dead. Or they put us on panels with other YA authors, where we blather to a room full of people who want to be YA authors about what it's like to be a YA author. Neither format attracts our target audience: teens.

Fellow LAYA Leigh Purtill and I approached the West Hollywood Book Fair with a proposition: If they'd set up a dedicated teen tent, we'd provide at least two hours of programming for it and rent a booth at the fair. We told them that, rather than present our own work, we'd adapt short excerpts of our books "readers theatre" style, and have an ensemble of teens perform the texts. If teens are performing, we reasoned, they'd tell their friends and families to come. VoilĂ ! Target audience achieved.

To our amazement and their credit, the WeHo Book Fair organizing committee agreed. They said that if we succeeded in getting an audience at the teen stage, the LAYAs would have slots at the fest next year, and for years to come.

On Sunday, October 4, the LAYAs INVADED WEHO! Ten members whose books had been published within the year, along with 10 teen readers, took the fest by storm. The organizers have yet to do a post mortem, but we're pretty sure they'll be having us back.

We learned a thing or two. Next year we'll sell our own books at our own booth all day, rather than have a fest seller handle a single signing after the performance. Thus we can sign throughout the day and more of us can participate in the fest, rather than just LAYAs with books published that year. And the more of us on hand, the more attention we draw.

Next week, invited by YALSA, we'll be performing in pairs at libraries throughout Los Angeles as part of Teens Read Week. It's a great way for us to get to know area librarians, YA authors' best friends. The LAYAs are now something of a brand, all because we joined together to promote our work--and YA literature as a whole.

Not bad for a bunch of solitary authors.

Friday, October 09, 2009

I Survived!

What a crazy 2 weeks it's been:
  • Monday 9/28 - 8:45am: visit to emergency room for lumbar and leg pain; 3pm exam by osteopath.
  • Tuesday 9/29 - 1:30am: another ER visit; 2:30pm exam by physiatrist & house showing (canceled when we arrived at doctor's office; GRRR); 6pm dinner with AJ Jacobs & posse before his event for THE GUINEA PIG DIARIES at the Tattered Cover (which I was too sore to attend).
  • Thursday 10/1 - 4pm: house showing & neuromuscular massage at*
  • Friday 10/2 - Literary Ladies Luncheon (see 10/9 New West article by Janet Singleton!)
  • Monday 10/5 - 11am: epidural steroid injection by physiatrist.
  • Tuesday 10/6 - 10am: exam by spine surgeon, who set up immediate surgery; 5pm neuromuscular massage; 6:30pm dinner with Agent Kristin.
  • Wednesday 10/7 - 8:30am pre-op physical with GP; 3pm shrink session.
  • Thursday 10/8 - 6am check-in for 7:30am surgery (moved up from 10:30--YAY!).
The surgery went fine. Though my back hurts like hell, my leg's already improving and I feel better than I ever dared dream. Thanks again for all the encouraging comments, especially from Alan Orloff, who gave me hope when I needed it most.

Enough of the sweet stuff. Now for the bitter...

Darling Husband's job--the one that moved us to Denver in Dec 2005--was eliminated in June. So our Blue Cross/Shield plan is now under Cobra. (How fitting that US health coverage is named for a venomous snake.) The surgery had to be pre-approved by Blue Cross, else it wouldn't have been scheduled. The first thing I had to do when hobbling into the hospital's registration office yesterday morning was submit my insurance ID card & driver's license. Then I had to sign & initial a gazillion forms.

After I was lying in a gurney prepped for surgery--with glasses off, so I couldn't read anything--I had to sign and initial even more forms. The kicker came just before I was knocked out, when I was given a form agreeing to pay the surgeon's assistant, who's an independent contractor. The surgery can't be done without her, but Blue Cross doesn't believe it takes 4 hands to:
  • slice into the back with the aid of a microscope;
  • move aside the spinal cord & sciatic nerve;
  • cut the bulge off a lumbar disc;
  • cut off protruding arthritic knobs at the end of 3 vertebrae that have changed 3 discs from elastic white to hard black;
  • staple everything closed.
So the surgeon's office will submit the payment request and Blue Cross will deny it. Then the surgeon will appeal and months later Blue Cross will relent and pay the claim. Maybe. Otherwise we'll have to make a payment plan with the surgeon's assistant. By then DH will have a new job. Maybe.

I got little sleep last night because every time the nurse turned off the lights & left the room, some machine started beeping wildly. First it was the one that inflated cuffs around my calves every few seconds to keep blood clots from forming (and me from relaxing). Then it was the IV machine. Then it was the oxygen pump. Then it was the oxygen pump monitor.

"Look," I said, "give me another Valium so this stupid stuff won't bother me anymore, OK? And give the machines Valium, so they'll calm down too."

I got the Valium. Don't know if the machines did, though they did shut up eventually.

I was back home and in bed by 1:30pm, after having belted down a couple of Valium so I'd be sure to sleep. A nanosecond after DH finished tucking the covers under my chin, Max leaped onto me. Within minutes I was zonked out with a 14-lb purring heating pad draped from crotch to chin.

Not 2 hours later my bliss was shattered by a phone call from a lady at the hospital billing office. What could she possibly want? Well, it seems that Blue Cross, which just this morning had approved the physical therapist's request for a walker, told her that my insurance had expired months ago. Kudos to me for not swearing a blue streak when I told her to call Blue Cross back and inform them how extremely wrong they are.

I'll bet that the people in Congress fighting universal health care--whose generous coverage is funded by our tax dollars--don't go through crap like this.

Is this a great country, or what?

*Note to FTC: I received no goods, payments, services--or even dinner--from any persons or entities mentioned in this blog post. Though considering the cost of health care, I would have gladly accepted medical kickbacks.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

I Fall to Pieces (again)

In January I posted my New Year's Resolution on my Facebook profile: To have no major surgeries in 2009.

A month ago I was doing GREAT. My oft-operated right arm was improving vastly, thanks to neuromuscular massage from the amazing Dirk McCuistion at After 3 years, I was able to wear my favorite pants again because I could reach over to pull up the side zipper. I'd made it. No surgery for me!

In late August, I, who could never bear to exercise on my own, started doing ballet & yoga exercises every day--even several times a day. Within a couple of weeks I could do ronde de jambe with a fairly good turnout, lift my right arm with much less clunking and curl up into Child's Pose. To further get into the spirit, I bought my first pair of ballet slippers in more than 25 years (men's because my feet are so huge).

Wow, I thought, I'm doing so well maybe I'll start grooming the draft horses at Four Mile Historic Park again. Or maybe even go for a trail ride before the stable at Bear Creek Lake Park closes for the season. (I haven't been on a horse since Feb 2008.)

Two weeks ago Sunday, I woke up feeling as though I'd been run over by a truck. Draggy, flu-ish and achy all over--especially my lower back. It took me a good 10 minutes to creak into Child's Pose. I kept exercising, but could do less each day. I'd been able to lift my butt 6" off the floor doing The Bridge. By last Sunday night I couldn't raise it 1mm. My left leg was hurting like hell, worst of all in Child's Pose.

After a night of sleepless agony on the bed in my office (Darling Husband was in our room for his own safety), when I got up Monday morning my left leg buckled under me and the foot was numb from instep to big toe.

Oh @#$! Off to the emergency room, where an MRI determined that the herniated disc between L4 & L5, which I thought had healed after 4 years of quiescence, had herniated even more and was pressing on the sciatic nerve. Hence the trouble with the leg. I saw my osteopath that afternoon, who set me up with a physiatrist next day, and a spine surgeon today.

Everything was fine and dandy until bedtime, when the IV painkillers I'd gotten in the ER wore off. My left thigh and calf were in excruciating pain, made worse by either ice or heat. After hours of writhing and sobbing, at 1:30am I was back at the ER.

"What can we do for you?" asked the kindly doc.
"Shoot me," I responded. And I meant it.
"We can't do that."
"Then shoot me with drugs." I meant that too.
"Any drugs in particular?"
"I really like fentanyl."
"OK. We can do that. But we'll start you off with a patch, rather than an IV."
"Yeah, whatever."

I got the fentanyl patch but it didn't help enough. By the time I was sent home at 5:30am, I'd gotten 3--or was it 4?--IV doses of fentanyl. Later that day (Tuesday) physiatrist Barry Ogin put me on a 6-day course of oral steroids and set me up for an epidural steroid injection. "However," he warned, "these are palliatives. They'll ease the inflammation and lessen the pain, but won't cure the bulging disc."

Right he was. The oral steroids decreased the pain for 3 days and scrambled my brains for 6. Yesterday's epidural made walking easier and lessened the pain in my ass in one spot, but gave me a new, sharper pain 2" above it. My left leg is still weak, and now is also numb from knee to ankle on the outside.

Today I saw spine surgeon David Wong. BOOM! On Thursday morning he's doing microsurgery to cut off the bulge in the disc and the arthritic spurs on 3 vertebrae that are pressing into it and 2 adjacent discs.

So much for resolutions.