Archive for June, 2010

Early Notes on Shimmer (part 2)

June 28th, 2010 Comments off
I found a whole series of notes I made before – sometimes years before — writing Shimmer. I don’t remember writing any of these notes. Which isn’t necessarily surprising – I’ve re-read any of things I’ve written and there are sometimes pages and pages I don’t remember writing. These were notes I was taking while working on another manuscript, Powdered Milk. I usually do that — take an increasing amount of notes on the next project while finishing the current project. It keeps me from panicking about finishing the current project.  And it my mind in two places. 8/30/97 A very tall building. Maybe an insurance company. With lots and lots of file cabinets. (And one day we have to open them up.) 10/19/97 Somebody using computer boxes to make a fort entrance to their cubicle 1/14/98 First line: As a kid I had dreams (or, I’d started having dreams where I could fly. I didn’t launch myself off of buildings, though. Didn’t take firm Superman steps that catapulted me up into the air. Instead I only brought my right leg up to my chest, in a moment lifted the left, my tightly curled body hovering a few feet off the ground. 12/8/98 The Vice President of Sales is reluctantly telling me that Kenny G. is, really, not very good. 12/9/98 Buttery. 12/12/98 So much of my life is conducted from the sitting position. 2/14/99 buttery “We’d entered a period of half-finished projects.” “I’m looking forward to this movie. I think it’s going to be sordid.” 4/6/99 Lying. It is definitely about lying. And, probably, money. And definitely a big, growing company with lots of turnover. whole divisions. whole floors. And there is a sales office and other offices, out in the field, removed from the home office. “I’m sitting in a Holiday Inn outside Cincinnati watching Spectravision at 2 in the morning, just five hours from a meeting, and I still haven’t gone to sleep.” 4/7/99 The constant effort to keep one’s office clean — the floor, the shelves, the desktop, the unique and separate parts of the desktop, the computer, the emails, the desktop of the computer. The ants crawling in through windows after a rain. Even here on the 23rd floor. Collabra, Marimba, Outlook, Copeland. Naming, we are constantly attempting to name, to make sense of, define. We call our computers anmials, our programs people, our areas countries, our floors continents. We have code names, we have cover names, we have version numbers and subverion roll outs. 4/8/99 No sleep. Employees coming and going. Hiring and company meetings and memos and emails and small and large and all kinds of meetings. But what is the product? 4/19/99 Somewhere out of NYC, some office that does “data processing’ and that is really retyping all the information from one legacy system to the new system. And maybe the growth, the investment, something was built on the notion that they had found a solution to bridge the gap — implicitly, they’d done it through a computer. But, they hadn’t. They’d lied. They (he?) bury the cost by having the same typing group do other things — check processing, payroll, mail processing. Something. Maybe there are multiple groups. That bridge — originally so simply a task — broken into a series of smaller steps, all coded and blind-boxed, and kept in order by barcodes and maybe an all-important customer code. And the customer code is a single point of failure. The multiple groups, maybe some parts of the bridge are handled by independent contractors who type and retype one part of the piece and then pass the information along. No one can know what they do. Or who they work for. Maybe these groups are separate companies, owned largely by the main character (or characters). Maybe he had to turn to some outsiders, who now are holding this against them.
Categories: About Shimmer, Posts Tags: , ,

Early Notes on Shimmer (Or, How I Started Shimmer Before Madoff Was Even a Fraud)

June 25th, 2010 Comments off
Virtually every interview I’ve done about Shimmer has involved questions about Bernie Madoff. The pre-promotion of the book was occuring as the Madoff story was unfolding, more details coming out every day or week. And the hardcover was published within weeks, I believe, of his sentencing in New York. On some level, this was good, because it drew attention to the book. But there were downsides. The Madoff connection cast Shimmer in even more thriller-esque light. The book isn’t a thriller, but was sometimes perceived as one – because it involves a Ponzi Scheme and lies and so on — and the Madoff parallels only supported that, as it empowered reviewers and interviewers to throw out words like “timely” and “prescient.” During many interviews, I end up spending a great deal of time politely explaining how the book is not a true thriller and was written long before – 10 or more years before – the Madoff story broke. With that in mind, it’s not surprising that another downside of the Madoff comparisons was a certain skepticism among book sellers that Shimmer had been bought, let alone written, before the Madoff story broke. It’s as if the book sellers were concerned Shimmer was a quickie book, written simply to capitalize on the Madoff story, almost like one of those “unauthorized” biographies that come out when a star dies and/or is imprisoned. I always said that I’d written the first version of the book 10 years before it was published, which is true. But the other day I found a file of notes and ideas for stories and novels. The dates are 1995 and 1997, when I’d finished a manuscript for a novel, High of Sixty, Occasional Rain (about a bankrupt bill collector hiding out in Alaska) that was being shopped in New York. I was trying to figure out what I’d work on next. I didn’t start Shimmer till 1999 — instead I worked on Powdered Milk (about a reporter covering a series of arsons in New England) — but was making notes about ideas for Shimmer before then. Here are some of the notes. In one form or another, all of this made it into the novel: New York 4/22/95 Riding in a cab that’s squeaking … the sound echoing through the car, cruising up Broadway. 7/4/97 The walls lined with file cabinets, the grand views of Colgate in New Jersey. Living on the 39th floor of a building with a subway stop in the basememt. Maybe this is the novel where there’s something that happens, some freak accident, one click too many on an insurance form, and the character is wronged. And, or, also, there’s the proposal at work, some … campaign, a new product feature, something that begins to spiral, build and escalate. All of it’s in New York. All of it is in buildings. In the winter. In the dark. I’ll post some more from the note file soon.

About the Book Trailer

June 22nd, 2010 Comments off
I made my own book trailer, which is somewhat unexpected. There’s sometimes a perception that writers are luddites. But I’ve always been a closet computer geek. Working with the photos and music was not quite as strange is it might seem. It’s a bit like writing, trying to create a scene from various pieces. In this case, it was music and photos and text. Normally, I’ve only got the text to use. Which is enough, by and large. I’ve always tried to write visually. Write with sound. Use dialogue to set a volume. Use breaks to shift the tone, to put emphasis on one image or another. I couldn’t do everything I wanted in the trailer. The text breaks awkwardly in a few places. It would have been nice to have some video. But it was cathartic, in a way, to have control over one part of the marketing of the book. Not least of which because the trailer is slow and quiet. So much marketing tries to be loud. It has to be. I get that. But the trailer, like the book, is quiet. One of the nicest things written about Shimmer was by Rene Kirkpatrick from Third Place Books. She called the book “quiet and intense.” A lot of nice things have been said about the book, but her quote ends the trailer. It always will, as far as I’m concerned. When I leave one of the morning TV talk show interviews about the book, and I’m back in my car, I sometimes watch the trailer on my iPhone. To calm down. To readjust. Morning TV talk shows are very, very loud. Very, very fast. The book is fast, people tell me, although I didn’t me for it to be. I meant for it to be intense, I suppose. But quiet and intense.
Categories: About Shimmer, Posts Tags:

“It’s about a guy. He runs a company.”

June 19th, 2010 Comments off
I have never been good at describing what I write. Even a year after Shimmer was published, two years since it was bought, I still struggle with the right description of the book. This is not because Shimmer is somehow a particularly difficult book to summarize. It’s because I have some gap in my mind, some blank spot in my brain that can’t write a decent synopsis. There are some phrases I like well enough. Some sentences seem okay. “A dark, sometimes comic novel about the people and friends at the heart of a lie.” “A quiet and intense novel about a conflicted hero, and an ethical trap.” “A novel about self-deception and arrogance. About the commitments we make to friends and family and the strangers we look past every day.” But then I’ll think that those descriptions are all slighly off, too simple or too contrived. Emphasizing one aspect of the book too much over another. “Robbie Case is a star CEO. Robbie Case is a millionaire. Robbie Case has a secret.” “In just 3 years, Robbie Case has grown his company from 30 people to over 5,000. Except all of it is based on a lie.” “One man, one company, one disastrous lie.” There’s truth in each of those sentences. Some are even a little bit catchy, as they say. But none seem quite right. I wish books were sold without explanatory text. Just a black cover, a title, and the first chapter to read. I’ve gotten better at this, I will say that. Two years ago, when I was telling my brother that I was going to have a book published, most of the conversation was about the long time — almost 15 years – that I’d spent writing but not getting published. About 20 minutes into this, he asked, “So what’s the book about?” “Well,” I said. “It’s about a guy.” I paused. Thought. Considered my words. “He runs a company.” I stopped there. “I think you’re going to have to find a better description than that,” my brother said. I’m still working on it.
Categories: About Shimmer, Posts Tags: , ,

Shimmer: Now In Easy-To-Open “Paperback” Edition

June 13th, 2010 Comments off
The paperback of Shimmer comes out July 1. Word has it that the books are already at the warehouse. I’ll get a copy soon. There were a lot of years when it seemed like I would never get a book published at all. To have the book come out in hardcover, then in paperback a year later, is incredible, somewhat surreal and still surprising. There’s an updated trailer for the book at, and the uncomfortably self-indulgent site about me,, has been updated too. I’m back on Twitter as well, and Facebook, and generally doing whatever I can to promote the paperback. Over the course of this month, for instance, selections of the first chapter are being Tweeted by @ShimmerTheBook. ( In the end, though, there’s only so much I can do. I knew that before the hardcover, but especially so now. In the end, it’s about the publisher and the booksellers and the reviewers. I had great support from the publisher and bookstores last time, and the reviews were great too. I hope it’s the same this time. I haven’t put any updates up here in some time. Once marketing of the hardcover wound down in the fall, I needed to write. It’s hard to focus on promoting the book and write at the same time. At least it is for me. Through the fall and winter, I was able to work on edits of another manuscript, formerly called High of Sixty, Occasional Rain and now called Owned but still focused on a bankrupt bill collector living in Alaska. My agent is shopping it to publishers. It’s a painfully slow process. I have to block it out most days. And then I was finally able to start a new book in the winter. It’s about a couple and their four children. I’ve tentatively called it Perfection. It’s meant to be funny. Thanks for listening.