Monday, May 21, 2012

Debut Novel by Rodney Ross - The Cool Part of His Pillow

As a newly-published author, the arena of self-promotion is new to me...and daunting. I labored for twenty-plus years in Advertising and Marketing, but the product was never me. It's also where, ironically, I did very little writing, my time spent mostly calming manic producers and diva directors. But that is another sordid story for another seedy day.
But Dreamspinner Press' publication of 'The Cool Part Of His Pillow' (TCPohP) fulfills a lifelong dream, and so I shall shamelessly flog, blog, gab, blab and don a sandwich board if need to get my novel into appreciative hands.
I was a creative and brooding child, always writing: little playlets that I would act all of the characters for into a tape recorder; grade school newsletter; then, the high school newspaper. It was within that 4-year chronology that I encountered the worst and best of public education. I had a hateful Journalism teacher who was more denture click and hip pop than willing to provide sound writing advice. She often criticized me for being "wordy". Too verbose, she death rattled, shaking a palsied claw at me, as I scribbled notes about what appeared to be her male pattern baldness. 
In that same high school, I was also fortunate enough to be mentored by an English teacher who plucked me from the soul-sucking classroom of conformity and placed me in independent study. I kept a journal, which I submitted once weekly, and was assigned literature -- everything from Joyce Carol Oates to Tennessee Williams to Judy Blume! -- to write essays on and critiques of. What a forward-thinking man that teacher was, in his jeans-and-no-tie-and-feathered-hair way, and I am still grateful he and his wife are part of my life. 
Yet, when I became the Creative Director at the Midwestern ad agency cited above, I needed outside sustenance. Boy, did I need it! In my off-hours, I wrote screenplays, and later a play. The challenge then, and now, is always sitting down and writing, while also being depressingly aware that the final polish is so, so distant. Writing is so damned isolated, and isolating.

I'd like to wax poetic and say that 'TCPohP' drifted gently into my twilight and, after a few copious note-taking sessions, assembled itself during the night with the help of speed-typing elves...but building believable, dimensional characters is hard work.  I have to incorporate humor. I'm not talking rimshot jokes nor Neil Simon-ish set-ups…when I began writing 'TCPohP', I intuited this could be either casseroles and snotrags and a lot of breast-beating, or I could mine from this horrendous tragedy a lot of macabre observation, and then spin off into the scatological, the blasphemous, the politically-incorrect.
If there's any counsel I'd offer an aspiring author, it's this: be a voracious reader...digest the words of others and inhabit worlds you may never otherwise visit. For me, it was ''The World According To Garp' by John Irving that opened my eyes to possibilities in literature that didn’t exist to me prior. I can only aspire to his enduring literary prowess. Oh: and always have a damn a notepad and pen (or a mini-cassette recorder) handy. Feel free to soar. Jump-cut to Paris, France...impale a beloved character on a picket fence...make cancer go into remission...I relish that ability because, let's face it, real-life does not offer this liberty. On a more workmanlike level, you have to STAY AT IT. Practice may not make perfect, but it develops muscle.
Of course I am working on a new novel in the midst of this shilling for 'TCPohP'.  It’s about bad luck, and good -- the paths chosen when fortune smiles on us, the desperate measures taken when it doesn’t. But, for now, I'm trying to savor the fresh publication, the warmth and friendship and support I’m getting in waves. I mean, fuck! I am a published wordsmith!
The mid-40's usually represent that time in a gay man’s life when the major paradigm shifts from sexy to sensible. 
But when Barry Grooms's partner of twenty years is killed on Barry's forty-fifth birthday, his world doesn’t so much evolve as it does explode.
After navigating through the surreal conveyor belt of friends and family, he can't eat another casserole or swallow much more advice, and so, still numb, he escapes to Key West, then New York. He becomes so spontaneous he's ready to combust. First, he gets a thankless new job working for a crazy lady in a poncho, then has too many drinks with a narcissistic Broadway actor. Next, it's a nude exercise class that redefines flop sweat, and from there he’s on to a relationship with a man twenty years his junior, so youthfully oblivious he thinks Karen Carpenter is a lesbian woodworker.
Yet no matter how great the retreat from the man he used to be, life's gravity spins Barry back to the town where he grew up for one more ironic twist that teaches him how to say goodbye with grace.

Rodney Ross

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