Mar 112015
 

Josh Getzler

Last night, my wife Amanda and I took our two older kids—almost 16 year old Joe and 12 year old daughter JJ—to see Billy Joel play his monthly club date at Madison Square Garden in an intimate performance for 19,000 of his closest friends. Amanda and I had seen him a few months ago, and these two of our three children went crazy and begged us for tickets as a Chanukah present. (Child #3, 11 year old daughter Ita, declined the ticket because the names of the musicians were not Harry, Liam or Niall, and the only thing that matters is 1D, duh (eye roll).

The night before we went, Amanda and I had a discussion of what kind of concessions crap the kids would be allowed to eat and drink, and whether we’d try to get sandwiches through security. But then we got to the discussion of whether part of the present was a concert t-shirt if they enjoyed the show, Amanda was skeptical. “They’re forty dollars and they’ll grow out of them. They don’t need shirts.” I was appalled, no more so than because she was wearing my tattered tie-dyed Dylan and the Dead t-shirt from 1987, which she co-opted to knock around in because of its worn perfection.

Let me tell you my feelings about concert t-shirts. I fundamentally believe they are ineffable symbols of growing up; they provide memories of happy moments, of watching musicians you have heard playing songs you know, pumping your arms and tilting your head back and singing; or pogoing in a club or holding hands during a date.

In my high school, wearing your t-shirt from the previous night’s big concert—at the time it would have been the Rolling Stones or U2 or Springsteen or the Dead, or for one month in eighth grade The Kinks; and if you were in certain social groups Black Sabbath or Rush or even Dio; or in others the Ramones or in others The Smiths—gave you stature, signified who you wanted to be that day. (It also was a big deal if you wore one of those t-shirts on a Tuesday or Wednesday because that meant your parents gave you a degree of freedom, and also could afford to get you frivolous tickets to a band on a school night.)

Of course, those t-shirts from the early 80s didn’t cost any $40. They were ten dollars in the parking lot of the Brendan Byrne Arena, and they were black and they had the dates and cities of the tour on the back. Often they had three-quarter-length jersey sleeves in different bright colors—I remember a Jethro Tull Broadsword and the Beast jersey with incongruous powder blue sleeves that I wore until I couldn’t see Ian Anderson’s freaky eyes anymore. But I could replay that concert better than if I could see videos on YouTube when I put on that t-shirt, much in the way that I could remember being underwhelmed by the long and not-terribly-exciting show that the Dead put on with Dylan that day at Giants Stadium. I just loved that particular tie-dye shirt.

Tull

And the concert t-shirt was also the symbol of a particular time. By the time I was in college I no longer needed a concert shirt—I had limited spending money when I went to see bands, and usually bought beer instead. So these thin, faded shirts got thinner and more ragged (and eventually considerably snugger) as I got older, and became the memories of adolescence with their own kind of nostalgic purity.

So when I looked over during Only the Good Die Young and saw the kids laughing and singing along, I knew that we needed to do it. There were no black market shirts in the lobby of the Garden, or in the corridor leading to the subway; so we went to the stand and got them their shirts. A little better quality, and softer and somewhat more artsy--and neither kid wanted the jersey--but cool. They both wear uniforms stop school so they couldn’t wear the silent brag of the Morning After t-shirt (but they had posted about the show on Facebook and Instagram anyway, so that was taken care of before the second encore). But when I came home and JJ ran out of her room to say hi, she had on her Still Rock n Roll To Me shirt. And I felt unreasonably proud.   

JJ Billy Joel
JJ Billy Joel
JJ Billy Joel

Mar 042015
 

Josh Getzler

Snow

 

On one hand, I’m tired, stressed-out, and am juggling a million important things in work and at home. I want my children to be happy and well-adjusted, the bills to be paid, my clients to be satisfied, and have a chance to talk to my wife over supper before 9:30 on an average weeknight. And it’s snowing. Again. I never want to see my boots and gloves again.

On the other hand, I have boots and gloves and a warm office and a family that loves me (most of the time). I am trying to tweak plot points in novels and arguing over marketing plans, not singing doo-wop in the subway for handouts or dodging rockets in Donetsk or wondering whether my job will still be around in six months.

Plus my son just asked me whether I think 16 is a good age to start listening to Led Zeppelin.

Have a good day, and watch out for those bustles in your hedge rows.

Feb 252015
 

8tracks:

image

This week’s Featured DJ is Douglas Purdy. Does the name ring a bell? You might know him as Spoonhead on 8tracks, or as the author of Serpents in the Cold

We got a chance to ask Douglas a range of questions about 8tracks and his book- read our interview with him below. If you made a new year’s resolution to read more, check out Douglas’ book, Serpents in the Cold- he even made a playlist for you to listen to as you read! Double whammy! 

Read More

Listening to Purdy’s playlists while reading Serpents in the Cold is a highly-recommended activity.

Jan 122015
 

Jeff Cohen

1. I will not follow your cat.

2. I will not follow you just because you follow me. I have to know who you are. I'm funny that way.

3. I will feel free to post about my books and urge you to buy/nominate/vote for them.

4. I assume you will feel free to ignore me if you don't want to read stuff like that.

5. I will use Twitter to say stuff I think is funny. If you don't, that's entirely your right.

6. I will occasionally say political stuff. Again, your option is to block, ignore or argue with me.

7. I will block you if you get personal in your arguing with me. I won't get personal arguing with you.

8. I still won't follow your cat.

9. I will follow famous people--if I respect their work--and try to get them to notice me. Isn't that what Twitter is for?

10. I won't follow people I know to be dead. 

11. I WILL follow some people I know to be fictional, if they're entertaining about it.

12. My baseball-to-posting ratio will be higher on Twitter than elsewhere. I'm an impulsive fan.

13. I do not expect you to follow me unless you want to. 

14. I will post about television, movies, sports (well, baseball), current events and things other than books. 

15. I will not post to anyone in my family, because none of them has a Twitter account.

16. I will check my Twitter account multiple times per day.

17. E.J. Copperman's account will be checked every once in a while.

18. Maxie Malone has a Twitter account. That almost never gets checked.

19. I will follow other authors, especially if they're actually friends.

20. I will not pay much attention to the number of followers I have. Perhaps I should.

21. I will follow the President of the United States. The fact that he follows ME confuses me a little.

22. I will block you if you try to impose your religion, political beliefs or sports affiliations on me. If you just want to state what they are, that's your business. Don't tell me what to do.

23. I will not always use "cozy" language on Twitter. I don't really have a problem with any word in the English language, depending on how it's used.

24. If you use one of those un-cozy words to insult or provoke me, I'll block you. I don't use them that way.

25. No. I'm not following your cat.

Big Shot

 Josh Getzler, Music  Comments Off
Nov 262014
 

Josh Getzler

 

In the summer of 1980, I spent a month at Chase Tennis Camp in a boarding school in Pennsylvania. I’d gone to camp before, but this was the first time it wasn’t in the woods with bunks, but rather a dorm setup with a roommate.

 

My roommate was a kid from Long Island named David, also 12 years old; fine kid, we got along well.  He was a slob, if I recall, but, I mean, we were 12 year old boys, so I’m sure he felt the same about me.

 

The first night we were there, David took out a little Panasonic cassette recorder and a home-made cassette. 60 minutes. I asked him what was on it.

 

“My Bar Mitzvah studying. I told my mother I’d listen every night.”

 

“You have headphones?”

 

“Um…no.”

 

So that was the last time his bar mitzvah was mentioned, and side A of the tape was never played.

 

Side B, on the other hand, contained the first half of the album Glass Houses by Billy Joel (You May Be Right through All For Leyna), which had just been released. For those of you reading this born post-cassettes, the optimal length of cassette was 90 minutes, because the typical album in the late 70s through the 80s was approximately 45 minutes, so you could fit two on one tape. The 60 minute tapes were annoying because you really couldn’t do anything with them without wasting a lot of time or cutting off the last three or four songs (or one song if you liked prog rock or live albums).

 

Sorry, digressed. In any case, for one month, therefore, I listened to Side A of Glass Houses, then the side would end, then there would be around 10 minutes of silence, and then the tape recorder would turn off with an enormously loud CLICK-THWAP, which would wake me up; and because Dave was my first roommate who also snored, it would take me forever to go back to sleep. Repressed memories…

 

I bring all this up because this evening, my wife, Amanda, and I, along with Amanda’s brother and his wife, and another couple of friends of ours, went to hear Billy Joel play in his “Residency” at Madison Square Garden. I’d never seen him, though so much of his music was part of my life (although I confess it was probably 10 years before I could hear Side 1 of Glass Houses after Chase Tennis Camp). The reviews of these shows, which he does once a month like Britney in Vegas only more badass, have been good, and it appears that at least some of his sloppiness of the past decade are behind him. And even though he has had the bald-and-grey-goatee look for a while now, I do kind of miss the scrawny kid from Long Island with the mop of brown hair.

 

And he gave us a two and a half hour throwback to a time of saxophones and story-songs, to the Entertainer and Paul the Real Estate Novelist and Virginia (and even Uptown Girls). And every time he sang a beautiful, tender love song like Always a Woman or Just the Way You Are, he concluded with, “And then we got divorced.” Everyone knew every song. And unlike U2, whom we’d seen a few years ago at a stadium where it might as well have been on TV it was produced and remote, this felt relaxed and fun, even as his band was ridiculous. And he even brought on Sting and John Mellencamp for cameos (it was a great show, albeit extremely…non-diverse).

 

This has been a long fall. I had surgery on my shoulder, we planned and executed my daughter’s bat mitzvah (she did not have a cassette of her part), and watched business fluctuate and get busier and busier. But as I stood there at the end and waved goodbye to Brender and Eddie, I realized that, as Amanda’s grandmother used to say—and which she said to our daughter on Sunday—“Kid, you got it good.”

 

Happy Thanksgiving.

 

Sep 292014
 

Jeff Cohen

Note: For an update on the MISSING HEAD CHALLENGE, see below. You'll want to read this.

Seriously: Have I ever given you any indication that I know how to get thousands of people to look at a blog piece? On a good day, I get 200 people to visit here.

You're a little ticked off now, right? Think I misled you?

But marketing is a necessity to the author. (Don't ask, "The author of what?" Just go with it.) It's not about trickery and it's not about lying to the reader. Do those things and you might get someone to take a look. Once. What are you going to do now that you've annoyed them? What have you accomplished?

I can't claim to have the magical formula that will bring the thundering hordes to your blog post, your Facebook page, your web site or your front door. Anyone who tells you they know for sure is lying or mistaken. But I can tell you what certainly DOESN'T work, and I can say so with confidence, since I have tried each one and watched it fail in a spectacular fashion.

  1. Promising a visitor something you can't deliver. (See above.) This is especially good at getting people mad at you. Because the intelligent ones will realize immediately that you're a fraud, and the less intelligent ones will try what you advocate, fail, and blame you.
  2. Making general statements based only on your experience. If you want to blog about yourself, that's fine. I do it sometimes, and posts about my daughter, my dog and my wife have attracted some of the larger audiences I've gotten here. But don't try to extrapolate your experience and make the reader think it will definitely apply under any circumstance. You don't know, because your experience is just that--yours.
  3. Stating something without doing the research. If you want to make a statement, make it. But be sure you're right. I have gone off on a tear at times here and made statements that, when I was typing them, felt great--only to find out I was astonishingly wrong. Colossally wrong. I mean, wrong. Check first.
  4. Politics, religion--what could go wrong? Everything. Write about the "forbidden" topics if you want. That's your right. But go in knowing for sure that your opinions are definitely going to piss some people off. And maybe you know in your heart they're just wrong, and what the hell--maybe they are. It won't convince them of anything and it won't make them less mad. It's fine to do if that's the kind of blog you want, but don't be naive about it--you're going to annoy. Be prepared to deal with the consequences.
  5. Making your post a flat-out sales pitch for your book. I have done this one (see two weeks ago, sort of) and I promise you I will do so again. That's perfectly fine--this is a forum about crime fiction and I write crime fiction. The reader is always free to click elsewhere. But doing nothing BUT hawking your book is just going to bore and irritate. The fiction you write isn't the only place you have to worry about entertaining an audience. And by the way, I have a Question of Missing Headbook that came out last Wednesday and another coming in less than two months.

This week's reminder: The MISSING HEAD CHALLENGE is now extended to this Wednesday, October 15! Before then, buy a copy of THE QUESTION OF THE MISSING HEAD by E.J. Copperman/Jeff Cohen and take a photo of yourself with the book (or title page of the ebook). Post said picture on Facebook or Twitter for all (especially me, so tag me on it) to see. For everyone who does that on  I will donate $3 to ASPEN, the Autism SPectrum Education Network, and our own Josh Getzler's HSG Agency will match the donation. And our own Terri Bischoff's Midnight Ink will match THAT donation. And our very own Marilyn Thiele will add $1 each, to bring the total to $10 per picture! That pledge is good for the first 100 people to post--be one of them! 

Also: I'll be at the Barnes & Noble in East Brunswick, NJ on Tuesday (Oct. 14) at 7 p.m., talking (because try and get me to stop), signing and taking MISSING HEAD CHALLENGE pictures with anyone who has a copy of the book. Come by if you can--Cathy Genna of the B&N there really knows how to put on a show!

Sep 102014
 

Josh Getzler

Like many of you (I’d guess most of you), I received a very cheerful email from iTunes this morning, letting me know that I was one of the lucky 500 MILLION account holders music lovers who received, free of charge, the new album by U2 in their iTunes library. Then they said the following:

 Never before have this many people owned an album — let alone on the day it was released. This is a big moment in music history. And you're a part of it.

OK, let’s talk about this for real for a minute. What U2 did, fundamentally, was participate in a publicity program not unlike a Kindle free book promotion, only iTunes eliminated the step where you need to get the ebook into your device—it simply put it there. And frankly, that’s fine, if perhaps cheesy. But then to call it “a big moment in music history” where “never before have this many people owned an album” is eye-rollingly disingenuous. What’s more, it speaks to numerous arguments about value/worth/price of a product.

When I began to work in minor league baseball in 1996, I took over an organization in upstate New York which had, for five years, effectively given away its tickets to every game through a (badly thought-out and inefficient) coupon system that made it unnecessary for any fan to pay for a ticket. The previous operators reasoned that they would make their fiscal nut by getting people into the park for free, then having them purchase food, beer, and merchandise. Didn’t work. Going to a game was thought of as, first and foremost, a Cheap Night Out, and fans were not in fact spending more money on hot dogs because they had budgeted a certain amount for the evening and then had more because of the free tickets. Rather, they spent the same amount or less, because everyone knew that the tickets were going to be free—they had no value, so there was no real savings. The first thing we did when we arrived in town was to set a real value for tickets—albeit a very low number—and while fewer people came initially (because they resented paying for something all of a sudden which had previously been free), those who did actually spent more on food and merch because their expectations had shifted from being a Cheap night to a Fun night.

There have been lots of conversations recently, in the Hachette/Amazon fight, over the way Amazon has stated that less expensive ebooks sell more copies, and therefore will pass the break-even point with the current pricing models and make authors more money while charging less to the customer. I think there are legitimate arguments to be made on both sides of this. But there is also a significant danger in basing a policy on lowering prices all the time for all products. Amazon itself saw this a few years ago when WalMart stood up to it, and there was a Race To Free for a number of titles. For one or two instances, a retailer can deal with it (and the authors were receiving full royalties so they didn’t suffer, even as it cost Amazon and WalMart money—much as Apple is losing sales on U2 albums in the interest of a splash and enormous distribution). But as a policy…tough to maintain. Amazon clearly believes it has the winning algorithms to make more money for itself while charging its customers less and paying its authors more. If it emerges victorious, we will have to see.

Which brings me back to U2. I’ve been a fan of this band for more than 30 years (JEEZ!)  I saw them for the first time at 16, and again at 43. I’ve bought all their albums, and worn out many of them. They haven’t been particularly in the forefront of my mind since I saw them at Giants Stadium a few years ago and thought they were…fine. But when I’m on shuffle and Sunday Bloody Sunday or Beautiful Day or Magnificent comes on, I realize that they are the hall of famers they are.

They also release a TON of odds and sods and remixes and dub versions and acoustic demos, so when I got word that they were releasing their new album for free, I figured it was one of those. Which is to say, because it was for free, I figured it had (virtually) no value. It was just going to be a gimmick, and would be worthy of the eye rolling, and would take U2 further out of the middle of my consciousness.

Then I actually listened to it, and thought it was terrific. It’s new, but hearkens back to The Old Stuff I Love, and feels like a real ALBUM, with an overarching theme (albeit a possibly pretentious one, but hey, it’s Bono) and soaring choruses etc. And I suspect, that by simply spamming it to half a billion people, they’ve actually UNDERSOLD it. How about that?

 

Quick Note: I’m going to be going on the Disabled List for a couple of weeks for shoulder surgery. This slot will be taken by some terrific guests—Danielle Burby will write next week, and author Todd Moss (The Golden Hour) the week after. See you down the line! 

 

Aug 252014
 

Jeff Cohen

UnknownMy home state of New Jersey has something of an image problem, and it is one that can teach us all something about first impressions, images, perception and memory. In other words, you can learn a lot about writing a story and promoting it if you think about New Jersey.

Yes, I'm serious.

The thing about my beloved home--and no, I don't mean that ironically--is that it is a Activity_2006compressed version of the United States. Very compressed. We're the third smallest state, and yet we have the most densely packed population per square mile. There are almost 9-million people here, and you have to figure at least some of them are not being held against their will.

In New Jersey, one finds some of the most famous beaches in the country. We have lovely suburban areas sitting right to some very accessible and cosmopolitan cities. Great restaurants, hiking, historical areas, theme parks, skiing (if you're into that sort of thing), Aerial-view-of-atlanticprofessional sports teams, casinos, performing arts centers, cultural events, theater, swimming, fishing, music, comedy, film, nature, and one-of-a-kind sights like Lucy the Elephant, which I will not picture here because you just have to see Lucy to believe it.

But there's a problem with the state's image: we are seen, for the most part, as a toxic waste dump run by the mob. Yes, there's political corruption in Pinelands_bridgeNew Jersey and guess what--there is wherever you're living, too. We actually seem to be better at uncovering and dealing with it than other places, so it gets more publicity.

I believe the problem with New Jersey's image is much more basic, and much simpler to explain than a perception of politicians who close down bridges as forms of retribution or gangsters who somehow aren't quite good enough to work in the big city.

It's Newark Liberty International Airport.

To be more specific, the problem is that most people who don't live in this area come to New Jersey through the airport, which is mostly in Elizabeth, if the truth is told. You get out of the airport, and no matter which way you're headed--onto the train to get to Manhattan or south on the NJ Turnpike--you have to pass through the area surrounding the airport to get to any of the other lovely images I've posted today. And this is what you'll see:

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That's the first impression you'll get. So people come to New Jersey--admittedly they're usually on their way to New York or Philadelphia and too cheap to fly into those airports--and when asked about the Garden State, their minds will flash onto the image above. (And we're not even discussing the smell.) When they could be seeing something completely different:

Overlooked-Attractions

New_jersey_nj

Ar116154535359674

S
o what's the lesson to take away? If you're writing, make sure you start off at a gallop. Get something into your first chapter, preferably your first page (bookstore browsers are notoriously fickle and have short attention spans) that will grab the reader's interest and make your book a must-buy.

And consider the first words anyone will see online about your book. Think about how you want to introduce it. As Terri's post last Thursday points out, cover copy is written well in advance of the pub date. Be involved with your editor, the publicist on your book and anyone else on the team that creates the final package. Make the right first impression.

Be the Pine Barrens. Be Met Life Stadium. Be the Jersey Shore. Be Atlantic City, if you must.

Don't be Newark Airport.

Click Bait

 Books, Josh Getzler, Music, Writing  Comments Off
Jul 302014
 

Josh Getzler

So a friend of mine, editor and author Bryon Quertermous, late of Angry Robot and Exhibit A, took his family to Disney World. In his absence I'm going to be stepping in for him later in the week on his website (www.bryonquertermous.com), but I thought I'd tease it with a little background and explanation on the topic.

It started when I read a Facebook post by Ron Currie, Jr. last week with a link to the Warren Zevon song Boom-Boom Mancini (from the amazing album Sentimental Hygene https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PZS3uDu8jy8) saying that the next time someone wants to know how to write stories, Ron would guide him to Zevon.

 

I would say that’s a great start. And it got me thinking about the artists I listen to whose songs are themselves narratives. These troubadours have always appealed to me, and I’m going to use my time on Bryon’s site to talk about several of my favorites.

 

But as I was thinking about which songs to discuss, it occurred to me that it was going to appear weird if I didn’t explain something: This particular set of artists—perhaps because I was riffing off Zevon—is specifically white, male, and (in a general sense) rock. Not hip hop, not country, not female (and Lord knows there are many great narrative voices in all three, so don’t comment about the lack of, say, Biggie or Johnny Cash or Suzanne Vega or Renaissance). Perhaps we’ll get there. And I’m not going to do Tom Waits because he’s kind of like Bonnie Raitt to me—I know I’m supposed to like them, and I understand their talent, but, I just can’t…

 

So check in tomorrow over at Bryon’s site. Then comment there, here, on Facebook—I’d love to hear your thoughts, opinions, people I missed, why I’m nuts, and why you’re all rushing to download the catalog of a broken up pub band from Australia that writes songs about cannibals and war and lovers finding time to talk between work shifts and a lonely divorced man who loves Saturdays because every Saturday is Father’s Day. (Teaser: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYKNqftCkSQ)

And then maybe next time we’ll get into songs by female country rappers.

Jul 292014
 


The newest addition to the Mulholland Classic series is James Sallis’s Death Will Have Your Eyes. This espionage novel is suffused with music references. For the optimum reading experience, press play on the playlist above, pour yourself a cup of coffee (black), and crack open this slim, spare book to enter the world of a re-activated spy.