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September 2009


An acquaintance of mine is heading to Antarctica next week, and I long to join her. It is the same longing that I feel when, in my youth, I read about some boy stealing away from home on a raft. Or, in more adult reading, an adventuresome Casanova making another conquest. I don’t mean that the longing feels the same, I mean there’s same distance between the experience that I long for and what the reality would be like.

I’ve always held high romantic notions about grand empty places, such as Antarctica or the deserts of northern Africa, notions sparked by movies such as Shackleton’s Antarctic Adventure (in IMAX) or Lawrence of Arabia. In such picturesque films, even the worst of storms look absolutely inviting. Of course, how much hardship will a professional cinematographer endure just to get his shot? No, the nasty truth is better found in the written word, because to in order to write about something, you need only to survive it. Or, at the minimum, leave your journal in a place where it will be found.

Take The Worst Journey in the World for example (the title proves to be a bit of an understatement.) The book details the hair-raising, Scott-led expedition to the South Pole. It is a chronicle of death that would put SAW V to shame. Nearly everyone dies, to almost no purpose. Scott himself, along with three members of his party, did manage to reach the South Pole—but only to discover that he wasn’t, as planned, the first person to arrive there. No doubt chilled by disappointment, his party froze to death on the return trip.

This isn’t really the stuff dreams are made of. I went over to Amazon and clicked the “Surprise Me!” button for the book and, just by scanning my randomly-picked page, I found this gem: “The temperature was -47f., and I was a fool to take my hands out of my mitts to haul on the ropes…I started away…with all ten fingers frost-bitten.” Having read the book, I can tell you that—from the moment they set foot off the boat—there isn’t a page that doesn’t contain some hardship words struggle to describe; this little bit of frostbite is nothing compared to what comes later.

Another work of warning is The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, T.E. Lawrence’s 784-page tome about his time in the desert during World War I. It is the book on which the movie Lawrence of Arabia is based (and, by based on, I mean, used some of the wittier lines, not necessarily in context.) While the movie does depict hardship, it is a dramatic hardship, the overcoming of which bringing about great glory. For example, the capture of Aquba. In the movie, Peter O’Toole sets out with fifty men on a terrible march across The Nefud, a flat stretch of desert referred to by the locals as “God’s Anvil” because of it’s destructive heat. Upon accomplishing this impossible task, O’Toole doubles his glory by turning back into the desert—just as the sun rises, mind you—to recover a stray member of his party. His reputation as a god-head now secure, he converts a huge army with a single speech and they over-run unsuspecting Aquba in a glorious manslaughter.

In truth, the journey is a lot less dramatic. There’s only a few men at the start of the long journey, a campaign through a string of villages along which they try to convince anyone they meet to join them. Their army is slowly raised as they make their way to the coast, without any epic battle against the heat or the desert. T.E. himself barely participates because he is clutched with fever the whole time. What he describes instead is the never-ending rashes he endures (in the worst places imaginable), and then how the constant thirst makes the rashes seem calming. To top it all off, camels reportedly smell really bad, as does everyone on them. As for crossing God’s Anvil, they apparently never went anywhere near The Nefud.

So I should know better. But when I imagine myself in Antarctica, I see myself wandering alone in the complete peace that is only possible when you are hundreds of miles from even a hint of civilization. The snow is packed hard and flat, and the sun is warm on my back. I wear the lightest of backpacks because around mid-afternoon—when I’m a little peaked—I plan to stop at a coffee shop, curl up and do a little reading. I’ll sit around until I’m bored, then refill my Arctic-grade Thermos (the one that can keep coffee warm for hours at -47f—and such temperatures aren’t really that bad, you know, once you get used to it.)

So this Antarctica of my mind doesn’t really exist. The reality is, if I went there, I would be crowded in some shelter, small and cramped because it takes a lot of fuel to warm the place, and fuel must travel a long way to get there. Outdoor tasks would be determined by lottery, with the loser earning the privilege. And, since I agree with Baron Munchausen that is better to live in a happy fantasy than a bland reality, at the same time my friend is flying around the globe for her remote adventure, I’ll be seeking my own down at the Grand Lake Theater.

So as this amazing day winds down, and the book ranking slowly drifts off with the setting sun, I am both stunned and overjoyed. I appreciate so much that so many of you bought the book, spread the word, and even checked in to encourage me throughout the day. I really couldn’t have asked for more; this day has exceeded all expectations.

Now comes the lull. The books will be shipped, arriving to most of you on Tuesday. Many will start reading it then, many will wait. I will go home now and pick up the fragments of my life (and my room), catch up on a half-year’s sleep, and, over the next few months, ease into the idea of starting all over again. Somewhere in that time, most of you will let me know (and hopefully Amazon) what you think of the book. It is my hope that every one of you will enjoy it, and that at least a few of you truly love it. The least I can do, by way of thanks, is to provide you with a few days of pleasurable reading.

I know it will be some time before I see another day like today. In the coming months, some of you may have enough enthusiasm for the book to make a big impact on its life. But the enthusiasm that all of you have shown today–that which got The Deadfall Project into the spotlight and kept it there all afternoon–has had an impact on me personally that is beyond expression.

Thank you all so very much,

Brett

Tomorrow you’re going to have a unique opportunity. For a mere $15 dollars, you can make a young boy’s dreams come true. This boy:
The Boy

Even before he could think clearly, stories had formed in his yet-unformed palate. Very few people understood him at first; they felt he was merely babbling. But as he learned a few words, he spun tales of things he had slapped, of parents kept awake, and of the deep wetness below.

Moving forward to when he was four, this kid (we’ll call him Royce) was moved halfway down the Eastern seaboard, from New York to the rurals of North Carolina. He barely noticed the difference at the time; a few people were missing, and a few had replaced them.

One of the people who was missing was his grandfather. We’ll call him Tom because that is, in fact, his name. Tom had one daughter and, from her, two grandchildren. And they all moved away in one fell swoop. So Tom came up with a unique way of closing the gap: he purchased two tape machines. He gave one to his daughter and used the other to record original stories he wrote for his grandchildren. These he mailed to them regularly.

These stories, Royce has always felt, were wonderful, but he will never really know. His age was too tender when they had been played for him, and the tapes are long since lost—wrenched from a storage unit by unfriendly hands, possibly those of its own caretakers, men ignorant of what they had taken.

These lost stories became a source of many fantasies in Royce’s life. He would think on them often, imagining what was on those tapes—or what had been, until they were overdubbed with Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, or whatever is it storage-unit thieves had an ear for. And thus at an age far too young to even be thinking of children—or even aware of the exciting process from which they were created—Royce started to imagineer his own stories, the ones he would tell his grandchildren someday. And while he was never able to verify it, Royce became convinced that his grandfather was a brilliant storyteller, and that story-telling flowed in his blood. And this belief chewed at him his whole life.

Royce—we’ll call him Brett, because that is, in fact, his name—lived a bountiful life, blessed by steady work and serious women. And yet he shrugged off all his gifts, unsatisfied with what he had been given, and dedicated himself to the most unprofitable pursuit of writing. And to this day, he has completed no less than five first-halves of novels, three rough drafts, five unpurchased screenplays, and now, after five years of focused work, a finished book called The Deadfall Project.

In writing this book, Brett tried to avoid the many pitfalls that became his fellow first-time writers: he has picked a topic which did not focus indulgently on his own life. He makes no mention of how great he is, or of how pitiful he is. He casts no blame on society or his parents. He does not reveal to the world his homosexuality.

In fact, all he really does is take a simple act of terror and allow it lead to car chases, gun fights, and international intrigue. Sure, this is a tale of love and redemption; but what Brett hopes you’ll take from it is a sense of shit-in-your-pants excitement, and of oh-my-god I need to sleep but I cannot put this book down-style fulfillment.

It is also his sincere hope that, after you have read it, you will recommend it to others—not because of any relationship that you have with Brett himself, not because he loves your cats, and not because he nearly killed himself building your giant piece of art—but merely because you feel it is a book worthy of your recommendation, a book you would pass on no matter who had written it, a gem that you felt lucky enough to be one of the first to read.

And, on the off chance this doesn’t prove to be the case, well, maybe next time.

buy The Deadfall Project at Amazon!

Lame-azon. Dumbazon. Suckazon. This is the direction all of my creative juices have been flowing over the past few days: thinking up insults with which to refer to Amazon, verbally encapsulating my feelings about the screwed-up listing of my book on their website. In other words, I am wasting my time.

I have also been pestering my customer service rep the printing house, to the point where she must certainly be questioning her life choices, those that brought her to the unhappy position being my customer service rep. But I am wasting my time. A bus driver—master and commander of her own ship—might be able to give you a free ride, but a stewardess can not; she is just a helpless cog in a big machine. All she can be is nice.

The one direct action I’ve been able to take is to build a refresh page, a web page that, while open, reloads the broken Amazon listing of my book every thirty seconds. The idea, I tell myself, is ease my way into their awareness, like a distant light flashing on a dark horizon, subliminally attracting your attention. But I am wasting my time. This more like shooting BBs at the gates of Jeff Bezos’s ten-million dollar mansion; the most I’m likely to do is rouse security.

So I write letters to the Amazon customer service department, where some poor fellow, fifteen payscales down from the people who can actually help me (and probably several continents over) politely cuts-and-pastes various sections of the FAQ from their web page, sending me notes like “That book appears to be out of print, I suggest you try our book search program to find a used copy.” I attempt to engage him in discussion, telling him, “Oh, no, that’s not true. I know for a fact that The Deadfall Project is still in print. In fact, it’s life has just begun. Here are a few hundred links that will show you otherwise…” But I am wasting my time. My replies don’t even go back to the same customer service rep; they are randomly forwarded to someone else in what, I imagine, is a stadium-sized room, tightly-packed with men and women earnestly searching the help section on the Amazon website, seeking the most appropriate response to cut and paste.

So for all that I am doing, I am doing nothing. While some of it is frustrating, some of it does make me feel better. And of the latter, none more than just cursing of their name.

Assazon.

I’m afraid that “Buy My Book” day has been postponed. It appears that Amazon is being a little coy; it knows I want its ranking, and its free shipping on orders over $25, and so it hasn’t listed the book yet. Not properly, anyway. Though initial conversations led me to believe that this process would take them no more than a week (which would be today,) different people within the same mega-corporation are telling me it could be two or three times that long. So, I’m getting conflicting stories and the only thing I am certain of is that they don’t treat Dan Brown in this manner.

That being said, my current prediction is that Buy My Book Day has only slipped until Thursday. But I really don’t know. I do know that, in the grand scheme of things, a few days or even a couple of weeks doesn’t really matter to the life of this book. Still, it’s got me down; having my momentum broken because someone can’t be bothered to type a few things in a computer just right now.

Anyway, what I want more than anything is simply for you to buy my book. From anyone, at any time. So if you can’t or won’t wait, The Deadfall Project is available at other booksellers. Abe Books and Alibris both have it available (and, to their credit, have had it since the official date of publication on the 4th.)

But if you can not only buy the book, but also wait, that would be most grand.

I’ll post again when I have a firm date, but if you want to be sure you don’t miss it, email me to get on my mailing list. I will also keep the status updated on the book’s webpage, facebook, and twitter, should you find yourself curious.

And, as Miss America 1968 once said, “Thank you to everyone, everyone where.” Words as heartfelt to me today as the day they were first uttered.

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