The photograph is old—black, white and a million shades of grey. The date is written in ballpoint ink on the white frame around the edge of the photo. Apparently that was the way photos were printed back then, with white borders on glossy paper. This good-looking young couple would become parents in about three years but in this picture the glow of newlyweds shines through their eyes.
In the next picture the woman is standing in the doorway holding a baby wrapped in a huge blanket. The bunting covers the entire infant except for the tiny face with narrow eyes and chubby cheeks. Her mouth is a little round dark grey circle. The snow on the ground is on both sides of the steps but the stoop is clear.
On the next page of the small album the man stands next to a smiling little girl on a shiny tricycle. It must be spring time. The grass is a dark grey and the child is wearing a sweater and pants but no coat. The man also wears a sweater with a large diamond pattern on the front. Opposite this one is another picture of the girl in profile with her foot on the pedals of the trike looking toward the woman whose hands are outstretched in a welcoming gesture.
From that page forward, all of the photos include only two people—either the woman and the girl or the man and the girl. Color is introduced in the next pages. The child’s short red hair is highlighted in the sun. It is a little darker than the woman’s long locks. The child is smiling but the woman’s mouth does not look natural. She is posing for the camera.
A story is evolving with each turn of the pages. According to the date on the white border around the photograph the girl is about five years old. She stands next to the woman. They are showing off holiday dresses, looking at the camera. The joy of the season is not evident in their faces.
The child is alone now, sitting on the brown porch steps. In the picture you can see her head resting on her little hands, elbows on knees. She is fatter than in previous shots. Her face is barely visible as she looks down at the steps below her feet.
The final photo in the album is of the smiling woman dressed beautifully. Her red hair is coifed in an upswept style. Her lipstick is a darker shade of red. She poses coquettishly in her fashionable dress and the full shot shows her high heeled shoes with thin straps across the ankles. All of these details are more evident because she is alone. But more disturbingly part of the photograph is missing. The left side was squared off with the white border but the right side of the picture is ragged. The photo has been carefully cut right along the edge of the woman’s silhouette so that the gorgeous, happy expression has been captured but the person who once shared this scene is surgically removed. In the border is written “Patricia’s 30th birthday.”
Excerpts from Leroy Cooper's memoir as told to me during conversations that took place during the 2 years we knew each other. I also write humor, flash fiction, celebrity interviews, real and made up stories--see if you can guess which are which.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
Sunday, July 18, 2010
About a year ago I was polishing off my manuscript. I had made a deal with a small self-publishing house with years of experience and an excellent reputation. Friends with agents and professional editors who had been published by major publishing companies warned me: "Don't do it! Self publishing is the death knell of a successful writing career. Once you're self published," they said, "you will never be taken seriously in the industry."
Since my book was a memoir of Leroy 'Hog' Cooper, bandleader and baritone saxophone player for Ray Charles, I knew that it would only appeal to a niche audience. My market was limited and the likelihood that an agent or major publisher would be interested was miniscule. I had no writing career to ruin so I was going forward with the project as a labor of love. I would probably print only 1,000 copies and be happy to sell those.
I repeat, that was about a year ago. My manuscript was due at the publisher's on September 1. The wheels were in motion (I hate cliches), I had a professional cover design, had used an editor who was a friend and the book release party had been scheduled to take place at B.B. King's Orlando Blues Club. Over 300 people had RSVP'd and I had 3 bands scheduled to play in Leroy's honor for free. And then someone put the breaks on and the wheels came to a screeching halt. Since then, needless to say, the book did not get published. due to legal issues with the verbal contract (boy was I stupid--verbal contract with a 78 year old man whom I loved, expecting his word to follow after his death).
Back to the point. By the end of the year, self-publishing was becoming so popular that the NY publishers were starting their own imprints for writers without agents to take advantage of the market. Why lose out on their cut? If we were going to publish our books anyway, they wanted in on the action. Ah, but perhaps they were too late.
The fire behind Kindle had already started burning soon to be followed by Sony's e-reader and Nook and others. E-publishing became the new way medium. People can download books by Pulitzer Prize winning authors as well as those with niche markets for a relatively small amount of money. For a few bucks you might find a book that an agent would never have paid attention to but SHOULD have.
Let me recap. One year ago I was told that self-publishing was the worst thing a new author could do. Then I was told it was the best way for me to get my book published as long as I was willing to market it, which I would have to do even if an agent sold it to a publisher.
And then came e-publishing. Could it be that the green movement got to somebody high up in the government and convinced whichever czar is in charge of such things that printing books was destructive to our planet? To create books you have to cut down trees, create inky chemicals and glues. Surely this is bad for the environment. And so the story goes, like so many others, technology has solved another problem and will save the baby seals near the polar ice caps.
Gee, I wonder how many forests were leveled to print Al's book. Hmmm. Al, how could you? His publisher printed and sold a whole lot more than mine would have. What an 'inconvenient truth.'