The Singular Exploits of Wonder Mom and Party Girl

June 24, 2010

Marc Schuster

The Permanent Press, 2009

293 Pages, Fiction

4 out of 5 stars

The question is not, ‘what happens when a suburban divorcee tries cocaine for the hell of it?’ The question is, ‘what secrets lie behind the doors and discreetly parted blinds and curtains of your neighbors?’ What are the dark and shameful habits of your coworkers? What questionable pastimes happen after the workday is done, when the work shoes and suits are back in the closet, and the kids have gone to bed?

Marc Schuster’s Wonder Mom and Party Girl is the story of a seemingly normal, law abiding, single mother named Audrey who gives into peer pressure and, trying to please everyone in her life, decides that it won’t hurt to try a single line of cocaine. I’m taken back to the days of grade school, when Nancy Reagan was the face of the Just Say No campaign but millions of kids would still D.A.R.E to use drugs. I remember that old commercial where the kid is confronted by an angry father holding a box full of drugs, demanding to learn where they came from. “You alright? I learned it by watching you!”

The war on drugs ended neither in victory nor defeat, it just sort of petered out. Did we give up? Or did the children who were being coached to just say no grow up and decide it would be okay to just say yes?

Audrey is quite likely one of these children. Now a grown up mother of two grade school girls, she is working a thankless job and putting up with her ex-husband’s new girlfriend and a cast of selfish coworkers who are more interested in getting high than looking out for Audrey’s well-being. This is a suspenseful tale that layers anticipation for Audrey’s first encounter with cocaine. As a suburban mother, she keeps excusing her sin. “I’m an adult…I’m really a good person.” Like a college freshman experimenting with marijuana,  it’s just one little taste.

The story really comes to life after her first experience with the drug. The crash, the regret, the promise to never do it again. Some people never change. Then the story calms back to its tale of mundane suburban family life, but then Audrey does another line of cocaine and returns to the video game with her daughters and starts to kick ass.

The spending spree in the mall is one of the strongest chapters, where Audrey is powered by coke and in command all the way. Just when you think she’s ready to come clean about what she’s done, you learn that “coming clean” means  admitting that she just spent thousands of dollars at the mall. On the way home, she turns into a complete bitch and we know we’re headed for disaster.

Like most American drug stories, we know where this one is headed and the supporting characters are not as well developed as Audrey. The first person narrative sticks with the protagonist and we don’t have a chance to get into the heads of her children. Her boyfriend Owen is a jazz-obsessed blur, who fades in and out of the story to suit Audrey’s needs.

It is Audrey’s downward ride to the bottom that remind us that drugs are still a part of our culture. I’ve encountered them at every job I’ve had, every school I’ve attended. Yes, even grade school where it was all about getting high. High on sugar. Or the teachers, drinking powerful coffee (as the author calls it – drugs in a cup). Chocolate, chamomile tea, bath crystals that take you away.

What about the hard stuff? The real drugs?  Sure, they are everywhere too. From leftover Vicodin capsules to a radio talk show host arrested for being addicted to pain medication to the guy at work who was fired for being drunk. We cannot tolerate these infringements on our peaceful society let we live to get high.

The search for a drug-free culture is the search for a perfect society. It does not exist. It will never exist. Instead we must face it and live our lives confronted with a series of daily choices.

The Singular Exploits of Wonder Mom and Party Girl is available wherever books are sold but you should visit the author’s site first.

Reviewed by Mark McGinty, June 2010


How to be Interviewed on the Radio

June 19, 2010

5 Simple Tips for Sounding Great on the Radio

Having done several radio interviews to promote my second novel The Cigar Maker I thought I would share some things I have learned about being a great interviewee on the radio. Here are five easy tricks to sounding great on the radio and conducting a great interview.

1. Be Prepared

You need to be quick with your words and be ready to talk. Write down a list of talking points and have them in front of you during the interview. The host will probably start by introducing you and giving you a chance to talk about your product. Have a 20 second pitch written down. I usually have about two pages of typed notes that I refer to during the show.

You need to sound credible and if you’re bumbling with your words the listener will not take you seriously.

2. Know Your Audience

It is very important to understand the show’s audience and to speak to things that will interest that group. Talking to other authors on Blog Talk Radio is much different than speaking to seasoned cigar smokers on The Cigar Authority. For one audience, I talked about the writing process, my characters and my experiences in publishing. For the other audience, I talked about the history of the cigar industry, how the struggles of the early 20th century cigar workers are still relevant today, and my favorite cigars.

The host or producer should be able to provide a demographic breakdown of their listeners, so you can adjust your talking points accordingly.

3. Educate and Entertain

The worst thing you can do when answering questions is to give short answers lacking in substance.  Example. The interviewer will likely ask where you live, or where you are from. Take a look at two possible interviews.

#1 Guest Gives Brief Answer

Host: You live in Minneapolis, right?

You: Correct.

#2 Guest Gives a Little More

Host: You live in Minneapolis, right?

You: I live in Minneapolis, where the Minnesota Twins have put together a terrific team and are having a great season in a brand new outdoor ballpark.

Which interview is more interesting?

Since you know your audience, you should be able to provide information that either entertains or educates them. Don’t spend a lot of time talking about yourself, unless you have some interesting anecdotes that relate to your product. Overcome the “so what?” factor and keep giving the listener a reason to take another look at your product.

4. Control Yourself and Your Environment

You do not want to control the interview or the show. Leave that to the host. What you can control is you. Your voice, your environment, your audio posture. Find a quiet room and beware of outside noises like airplanes, lawn mowers, pets and curious children. Sit outside in your car if you must but know that the airwaves can be sensitive and you don’t want a ringing doorbell to distract listeners from your pitch.

Project your voice. Speak a bit louder than you normally do and make sure you sit up straight. Hunching over can muffle and weaken your voice. I actually stand up when I’m being interviewed on the radio, and imagine I’m giving a presentation to an auditorium filled with hundreds of people.

And don’t forget to mention your product! Don’t rely on the host to do this for you. Instead of saying, “my book is about blah blah blah,” the listener who just joined will appreciate it if you say, “my book, The Cigar Maker, is about…”

Do plenty of name dropping – of not only your product but your website.

5. Make a Strategic Follow Up

After the show be sure to follow up and thank the host and/or the producer. But your promotion doesn’t end when you hang up the phone. Offer to provide several free promotional samples of your product. After two of the shows I did, I offered to send 3-5 books that the host could give away to listeners on future shows. If they are giving something of yours away, that means they’ll be talking about it, no matter where you are or what you’re doing. It’s free media and free media that you will not have to manage. Your presence will linger long after the show and the free items will create buzz, which is exactly why you went on the show in the first place!

Mark McGinty is the author of The Cigar Maker and Elvis and the Blue Moon Conspiracy

Perdomo 10th Anniversary Maduro

June 17, 2010

Photo by Daniel T.

This cigar gave me a nice buzz. Granted, I haven’t smoked a maduro in awhile, but this one hit the spot. I headed on over to the Golden Leaf in Uptown Minneapolis to pick up some sticks for my dad’s Father’s Day gift, and to resupply my own humidor. The Perdomo rep approached me, introduced himself and said they had a special going: buy any Perdomos and get the Perdomo 10th Anniversary puro for free. What man in his right mind would resist such an offer?

The Perdomo 10th Anniversary is made with attractive Cuban-seed Nicaraguan Maduro wrappers and had one of the smoothest finishes I’ve tasted in a maduro. The cigar is beautiful, with a dark, even wrapper and an even roll. With an aroma of fine, slightly sweet, slightly damp tobacco I was worried that the tightly packed cigar would have a tight draw.

Boy, was I wrong. It had a great pull. A perfect little chee-gar. A bit on the side of heavy, but that’s the way I like it: with lots of smoke. I thought the cigar might burn a little too fast but the burn was even, with a slight crease at first that quickly evened out. This was fine tobacco, on the sweet side, with some mocha thrown in for good measure, and very, very smooth. Although this was a maduro, it didn’t taste or feel like a maduro, not until I was about halfway in and realized how strong the P- 10th A was. I did not have to tend to this cigar at all, and was content to sit back and listen to the Minnesota Twins finish a great game against the Colorado Rockies. The Perdomo took me all the way from the 5th inning until Jon Rauch’s 1-2-3 inning to end the game and secure his American League leading 17th save of the year.

I had some red wine with the cigar – a standard cabernet with a twist of tonic water and a pair of ice cubes. This might not have been the best drink to accompany the Perdomo as the wine was a bit too dry and didn’t help to compliment the Perdomo’s heavy taste. I might have been better off with a light beer or even a Diet Coke.

As I reached the end of the cigar I was pleased when the flavor barely changed and the cigar retained its shape and burn. I took a walk around my house and found a swarm of ants gathered on the walkway leading to the front door. We’re talking about a massive invasion of thousands of ants, piled three high, crawling from the cracks to face the world for the first time. I had a cigarette lighter in my pocket and a nice white-hot ash ready to fall from my maduro.

Ants don’t like my hobby as much as I do.

UPDATE: the Perdomo image above is from Casa Fumado.

Reviewed by Mark McGinty, June 2010. Mark McGinty is the author of The Cigar Maker.

Two of My Characters – in Comic Book Form!!

June 15, 2010

Coolest thing ever. Check out Salvador and Juan Carlos at a cock fight during the opening chapter of The Cigar Maker!

This comes from Lupi (be sure you check out her site!) whose latest endeavor is Bantam a comic she created for Lutefisk Sushi which is a silk-screened bento box filled with original mini-comics from Minnesota artists. This summer the 4th edition will be out and it’s always filled with some of the most creative and original artwork and stories you can imagine!

Some Misconceptions About Authors

June 11, 2010

Okay, let’s clear these up right now.

Authors make a lot of money selling books

Yeah, right. Seriously though, some do. Most don’t. Sarah Palin made millions, more than enough to quit her day job. On the absolute opposite end of the continuum, Joe Schmuckarola, who you’ve never heard of even though he lives right down the street, sold a total of 4 copies of his self-published underwater crime thriller. And he bought one of those copies himself, just to see what it would do to his Amazon ranking (it sent his book from 2,341,556 to 341,457 — but only for about two days, until the ranking promptly fell back into the 2 millions).

So we make money, but our bottom line is a direct result of the amount of intelligent effort we’ve invest in our marketing, the commercial appeal of the work, and the ability to talk about our books in a way that either entertains or educates the public.

Authors are famous, or will be one day

You don’t write a book and get famous, you get famous and then write a book.

Authors worked their tale off to perfect their craft, labored for hours to win the attention of an agent, sent their manuscript in and waited and waited until a giant NY publisher called and wrote them a giant check

Naw, anyone can write a book these days. Really. It’s not that hard. And it’s only going to get easier. Check out Garrison Keillor’s article on The End of an Era in Publishing.

In school, authors received high marks in English, spelling, grammar, etc…

I was terrible in English class, still can’t spell, have awful grammar and a limited vocabulary. I scored much higher on the math portion of the SAT than that other section. My reading comprehension scores were always the lowest of all my standardized test scores. I’m great with numbers, but struggle with words. Ultimately I’m a storyteller. Discuss the nuance of  Jane Eyre? No. Won’t even try.

Authors are backed by a publisher who handles all their publicity and marketing

If this was true I wouldn’t be writing this. Or posting a link to the official website for my newest book, The Cigar Maker.

Thanks for reading, gang! See you next time!

War Crimes, Chemical, Biological and Nuclear Weapons, Great Reviews

June 10, 2010

Working out an outline for my next book….tentative working title is Unit 731. Read more about Unit 731 on Wikipedia…We’re talking World War II, we’re talking biological and chemical weapons research, we’re talking war crimes, we’re talking atomic bombs. We’re talking about redepmtion!!

Two characters…good guy vs. bad guy. Chase scenes. Sharp dialogue. Thriller. JG Ballard meets John Hersey.

While we’re at it – if you haven’t seen these reviews for The Cigar Maker, please check them out. They’rrrreeee great!!!

The Historical Novel Review recommends The Cigar Maker to anyone who enjoys probing into the neglected corners of history.

Blogger News Network calls it a window into an unexpected and fascinating world.

Small Press Reviews calls it the great American novel!

Supply vs. Demand: The Economics of Book Sales

June 7, 2010

How are you selling your book? Are you trying to get it in bookstores, making it available online, getting it in every library in the country, setting an online store?

Or are you getting yourself in the news, creating a buzz, letting the general public know that your book exists and overcoming the Who-Cares Factor?

Some authors make the mistake of spending nearly all their time trying to get their book stocked on bookstore shelves. It’s nice to see your book on the shelf, no doubt, but then what? With thousands of books on the shelves, who will even notice that it is there? Who will care? The problem with this approach is that people, even people casually browsing a bookstore, already know what they want. They might not know exactly what they want, but they have a good idea. Your book ends up going virtually unnoticed.

Instead of relying on a store to push your work to the reader, send the reader into the store.

Even if the bookstore doesn’t carry your book, they can order it. Some people, if they really want to read your book, will ask for it, make the bookstore order it, even pay for it in advnace. People read either because they want to be entertained or educated. If you can convince them that your book will do exactly this, you are one step closer to sending mass amounts of people into the store to demand their copy of your book.

Case in point: Sarah Palin. Her book sold millions of copies and not because millions of copies were available. Say what you want about Mrs. Palin, she (and her publicist) was able to create a stunning level of demand for her book. As soon as it went on sale, the people gobbled it up faster than a turkey headed for slaughter during a half-term governor’s television interview.

Does this mean you need to become the governor of a large state, spend $150,000 of political contributions on clothes, get involved in a primetime media war with your daughter’s ex-boyfriend and quit your job to go on a major speaking tour? That would certainly help but most of us simply don’t have the time for all that stuff. Instead, here is what we can learn from Sarah:

Get in the news

Send a press release tailored to your target market. People will be paid to read it. Get a radio spot, or a few radio spots. Reach as many potential readers as you can. Or take a note from Sarah and do something unusual that media outlets can’t resist!

Hit the blogs & social networks

Blogs are more important than websites. They have lots of readers. Millions. Establish a presence there by getting to know the owner, sending a relevant press release directly to them, volunteer to write guest articles, register as a user and post, post, post! Link everything to your (branded and professional-looking) website. And make sense. Don’t post just to post, but have something educational or entertaining to say.  Stuff like this actually works but only if you really understand your audience…

Make yourself credible

Okay, the former governor is still struggling with this. But she’s at least trying to look like she knows what she’s talking about. You have to do this too. Borrow from the success of others and use words that paint pictures. Instead of saying that your book is about “The life of a former politico” say that your book is “A modern day 1984 written in the style of John Grisham.” This will help to establish your brand and your credibility as an author.

Check out Dr. Wayne Dyer’s website. I have no idea who this guy is but his website makes him look like a friggin’ expert. I would go to this guy for financial advise, to get a tooth pulled, to learn about Egyptian mummies, and to fix my car, plumbing and television set. He looks like a damn genius.

Try Everything

Interest is going to come where you least expect it. Just when you thought they wouldn’t give a damn, try them again.

And don’t give up!!!

If you can create an interest in yourself as an authority or an entertaining personality, people will be interested in your work and will venture into the online and brick & mortar bookstores to check out your book. At that point, they already know what they want. It’s your job to create demand and convince them that what they want is your book!!

And so I can put my money where my mouth is, I’m going to direct you to The Cigar Maker official website.