Posts Tagged ‘Say Uncle’

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Michael was sitting on the front steps smoking a cigarette when his parents got there at twenty to nine. They blew the horn anyway.

He went to his father’s door and tapped on the window. The electric motor whirred as the glass went down.

“I’ll drive,” Michael said.

“I don’t mind driving,” Ashton said.

“Dad,” Michael said, “we have this argument every time you go to the airport. Let me drive.”

“Oh,” Ashton said, not moving. “Well, if you want to.”

“I do,” Michael said. “Get in the backseat.”

“Hello, darling,” his mother called across to him.

“Good morning, Mother,” Michael said.

“Why don’t I just drive?” Ashton said.

“Because we don’t have time. Now get in the backseat,” Michael demanded.

“Oh, Ashton,” Ann said, “let him drive.”

“You two are always against me,” Ashton shouted. “I don’t see why —”

“Because,” Michael cut in. “You drive too slowly. You don’t deal well with in-town traffic. And most of all, because I can drop you and your luggage with the skycaps at the door and park the car while you check in. Now hurry up. You’re late, and I’m freezing.”

“Well, I’ll be damned,” Ashton said as he always did at this point. Then, as he always did, he rolled up the window, turned off the engine, put the keys in his pocket, unbuckled his seat belt, opened the door and got out of the car.

Ann sighed, of course.

“May I have the keys?” Michael asked without looking to see if they were in the ignition.

“What?” Ashton asked. “Oh, the keys. Certainly,” he said, fumbling through his pocket and then almost handing them over.

“It’s this one,” he indicated.

“I know, Dad,” Michael said, not looking.

“I was just trying to be helpful,” Ash said, patting his coat pockets as if he had misplaced something.

“I know, Dad,” Michael said, getting into the car. “Just get in.”

It was quarter till nine. It was twenty minutes to the airport.

The flight was at nine. It was a ritual.

He started the car. The chimes sounded.

“Put on your seat belt,” Ashton said, closing the back door.

“I don’t wear a seat belt,” Michael said.

“Neither does Kathryn.” Ann sighed. “I wish you kids would. Allen wears his seat belt.”

“Allen,” Michael said, squealing away from the curb and making a questionable left on yellow. “Allen wears a safety chain on his zipper.”

“You know, Allen …” Ashton began sagely.

“I’m Michael,” Michael said.

“I mean, Michael,” he went on. “In New York they have a law requiring you to wear seat belts.”

“Mmm,” Michael said, weaving around a VW and running another “pink” light.

“If you plan on pursuing this acting thing,” Ashton continued, “you’ll have to go up there. So you might as well get in the habit.”

Michael tried not to laugh.

“That truck is turning,” Ann said calmly as she jammed her brake foot against the floor.

“How is your little company coming?” Ashton asked.

That acting thing had been Michael’s college major. His “little company” was he and a group of his college friends. They performed for local events and made enough to cover gas, if they were lucky.

“We’re doing fine, Dad,” Michael said. “We really need a permanent place to work, though. We could build a reputation and a repertoire.”

“You ought to buy a place,” Ashton suggested absurdly.

“I can’t even get a Visa card, Dad,” Michael said, trying to point out the absurdity.

“Well,” Ashton said, “if you’d listen to me and save some money like Allen does.”

Michael’s knuckles went white as he clutched the steering wheel.

“And you ought to go down to the credit bureau and check your record.” Ashton needled an old wound. “I just bet you it’s that brush you had with those furniture rental people.”

“Michael, slow down, this is your turn,” Ann said, absolutely rigid with fear.

“I know, Mother,” Michael said, taking the turn at full speed.

“If you get something on your credit record” — Ashton made a hissing sound — “that’s it.”

“Michael, slow down, there’s a curve in the road.”

“I see it, Mother.”

“I wish that boss of yours would give you a raise. Have you asked him recently?”

“No, Dad.”

“Michael, the pedestrians.”

“I see them.”

“You know you ought to look around for another job.”

“I really don’t want to talk about it right now.”

“Michael, you’re following too closely.”

“Yes, Mother.”

“Well, I was just trying to be helpful.” Ashton harrumphed. “If you’re going to take that attitude …”

“Michael, if you know you’re following too closely, then slow down.”

“Mother, we’re late. Listen, Dad, when we get there, I’ll pop the trunk. You get the in-flight stuff; Mother, you go on in and check in. I’ll get a skycap and send the luggage in to you. You go on to the gate. I’ll park and catch up.”

“Michael, you need to be in the other lane,” Ann said.

“Are you listening to me?” Michael demanded.

“I don’t know why we should listen to you.” Ashton sulked. “You never want to listen to a thing I say.”

“Because I’m not catching a goddamned plane to Miami in three minutes, that’s why,” Michael screamed as he changed lanes and turned, without slowing down, into the airport drive.

The abrupt move, the squealing, the horns and the shouting stunned everyone into silence.

Michael screeched to a halt in front of the terminal and everyone followed orders in silence.

After his parents had gone in, he slipped the skycap some money, which, added to the fifty cents his father would fork over, would make a nice tip. Then he parked the car, ran into the terminal, caught up with his parents and rushed them on to check in. By the time he got their stuff through the metal detectors they were ready to board and the plane was revving.

“Thank you, Michael,” Ann said, hugging him.

“Sure, Mom.”

“Don’t forget to get the car —”

“I won’t,” Michael said, hugging his father. “You all have a good trip, and don’t worry about anything.”

“Don’t be lonely,” Ann called back just before they vanished.

“I won’t.” He smiled as he lied.

And they were gone.

As he drove back into town, he sang with the radio, thought about Kevin and tried not to be lonely.


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We are pleased to announce the digital re-release of the novel Say Uncle by Eric Shaw Quinn.

To purchase the novel for your Kindle, click HERE or for your Nook, click HERE.

If you have an iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad and would like to download the Kindle application please click HERE

If you have an iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad and would like to download the Nook application please click HERE

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Ho, ho, ho,

Greetings from Greater Christmasville!

To mark the digital re-release of Say Uncle, video is coming to EricShawQuinn.com on Christmas Eve Morning! There will be a special reading by the author live-ish from Christmasville starting at 9:00 am that morning.  We’ve spared no expense.  Joe came over with his camera, we bolted a desk lamp to a coffee table and used the back of an old picture for bounce light — see photos.  All to bring you the finest in Christmasville video and a reading to celebrate Say Uncle’s first electronic publication on Amazon and Barnes and Nobel dot coms.

That’s right, first Garbo and now Eric Speaks! AND you will finally be able to buy Say Uncle for your Kindle, Nook or IPad!!  Is it Christmas or what?!

So, barring any technical catastrophes – and I think we got most of those out of the way during the filming itself – I’ll be seeing you right here, on Christmas Eve Morning!

Meanwhile, there’s a new installment of The Perfect Party today.  And, the story’s exciting finale will be posted on Christmas Eve Eve, otherwise known as Thursday.

Hope you’re having a great holiday season and that I’m making some small contribution – a smile here and there – with all these monkeyshines.

All best wishes and a Very Merry, Christmahaunakwanza to you and yours –  Eric

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For those of you who’ve been wondering – I hope – the re-release of Say Uncle progresses.

Just for the record, on the overwhelming advice of those who had an opinion the last time I wrote about this here, I did not re-type the book.

For those who don’t remember or didn’t read the previous post:

Say Uncle, my first novel is no longer in print thanks to the evil machinations of publishing.  That is, the original editor moved to a different house.  His replacement, to prove that his was longer, cut my novel in favor of the nonfiction work of someone in the, at the time, unheard of profession of blogging! There was some pretense that they wanted to avoid “conflicting” titles on the same topic, but my editor’s replacement eventually manned up and alluded to things and staff changing.

Fast forward to today.  I’m experimenting with the emerging new world of electronic publishing.  Traditional publishing seems increasingly interested in only publishing books that relate to movies, TV, reactionary right wing politics or Oprah.  These subjects employ the strange modern technique called advertising as yet untried in the publishing field.  I mean, why try promoting your product when you can add sea monsters and zombies to the well known works of authors dead so long you don’t have to pay them? Right?

Since I’m still alive – just barely – and hope one day to be paid so I can eat and stuff, I’m striking out on my own and testing the ePublishing waters by re-releasing Say Uncle as an eBook.  The advantage is that Say Uncle is out of print and I’ve already written the sequel that my replacement editor passed on when he dumped me in favor of that blogger! Sniff. Sob.

The only problem with the Say Uncle Redux was that it was written in the before times way back in the 90’s and I have no final digital file.  I was planning to re-type it and said so here to the hue and cry of those who thought the endeavor madness.

“Scan, scan, you fool.  Have you not heard of OCR?” or words to that effect met my sentimental rhapsodizing over the experience of revisiting my own words from long ago Eric.  Well I’m nothing, if not lazy, so I figured what the hell, right?

My computer genius Brett could not cause the scanner I actually own to work with my computer despite the fact that both are manufactured by the same company.  Don’t computer and software companies just make you want to get some pitchforks, torches and villagers together for a little rampage?

Brett, or Sir Brett as he shall be heretofore known, pulled a Galahad and took a copy to some undisclosed scanner.  He returned in less than a day with the whole thing on a thumbnail drive.  And poof, my troubles began.

Delighted as I am that I did not have to re-type the bloody manuscript, scanning is not quite the miracle labor saving device it might at first appear.  True, the book is scanned.  Sadly, none of the formatting scanned with it.  No paragraph returns, no quote marks, and if e looks too much like c then Sean becomes Scan, and let’s not talk about seat.  Spell check can only go so far and it becomes all about editing.  But I didn’t have to re-type!

I’m working with an expert on formatting books for ePublication.   Next week I should have Say Uncle in a form that I can edit before I convert it to the form it needs to be in order to translate successfully to the eFormat.  Whew.

So, new book soon.  I’ll let you know.


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On Writing #5: Redux

I’m bringing my novel Say Uncle back into print!
I’m going to try my hand at digital publishing. Then, maybe I’ll publish it in traditional print form, too. If that goes well, maybe I’ll bring out the sequel that I wrote but which my turncoat publisher refused to release. We’ll see. It’s all very new and exciting and I hope I can count on your support.
It’s also presented me with one of my most interesting exercises ever.
Say Uncle was published back in ancient times – 1994. The process of publishing simply bears no resemblance to those primitive earlier days. I’m not sure I could have been a writer before there were computers. The prospect of retyping an entire manuscript every time I had to edit it, well, I simply could not have faced it.
And I wrote this, my first book, in long hand, as I did everything back in the before times. But I then typed it up on a 300 pound “portable” Compaq and saved it on giant, actually, floppy disks. Then I printed it out. The last time was at a HUD office in East L.A. where I was temping. It shut their network down and took all day to print out.
Once printed the hard copy was sent to agents and later publishers. Each edit was done by hand, on paper. I then made the changes, reprinted and sent another paper copy. Finally, the publisher typeset the book, which involved someone there typing the whole manuscript over again. Then they sent me a paper copy. I marked changes and sent it back. This happened a few more times. Finally, the book itself was printed.
Today, things I write might not be printed on paper until they are published. I guess, with digital everything and Kindles, iPads, Nooks and eReaders eventually books will only ever be printed as collector’s items. Who knows?
The point is, the only final copy I have of Say Uncle is the book.
Hence, my interesting exercise. I have to retype the whole novel in order to publish it digitally. Alas, no file I have is final.
I love Say Uncle. It has a special place in my heart. It’s my first and so it will always mean something more to me. But I wrote it in the early 80’s. I would not be much of an artist if my writing style and skills had not changed and grown in 25 years.
Picasso’s early rose and blue periods hardly hinted at the cubism that he came to be known for. Da Vinci apparently kept the Mona Lisa with him all of his life. I wonder if he kept working on it? Perhaps that’s why it is considered such a masterwork. Or did he simply say one day, “That’s it. All through,” and hang it over the sofa?
So here I am, faced with retyping words chosen 25 years ago to describe emotions and events by a twenty-five-year-old. I am committed to preserving the original, to recreating exactly the book that’s in the Library of Congress. On the other hand, I don’t write this way anymore. I don’t even feel this way anymore.
That is to say, I feel the same things, but I feel them differently.
I’ve always thought reading was an incredibly intimate process. When I read your words, I’m actually having the thoughts that you had in the order and evolution that you had them. Through reading I get to experience personally the greatest thoughts of the greatest minds that ever were. Nothing is more intimate than that.
If you know me you’ve probably heard me say that or something like it at least once and, forgive me, probably more often. But it never occurred to me that I could have that experience with my younger self. This book was always very personal to me. It isn’t autobiographical in that I’ve never raised a child. It is in that it’s as close as I’ve gotten so far in life. It was my best imagining of what sort of parent I would have been at that point in time.
I started retyping after I exhausted every other conceivable option. I’ve only just resigned myself to the task.
It’s jarring. My first impulse, as is so often the case with youth, is to “correct.” There’s some insight in that for me. I really just want to change it. Whether that would be an improvement is debatable. I hope I’m more flexible than that with young people or just other people.
Not far along, I’m taken with the intensity of everything. I suppose since the feelings were new, they felt stronger. How intriguing to taste the salty tears of my youth on a palate jaded by experience and the knowledge of how much worse it can be.
I don’t know yet if this will be my Julie and Julia exercise – and dear god help me to be a better human being than that woman – but I’ll keep you posted. I’ll certainly let you know when it’s done and the book is again available!
Meanwhile, the thought that comes to me most comes from the original Peter Pan, J. M. Barrie: God gave us memory so we might have roses in December.
I don’t know if I’m quite at December yet, but I do want to say to that twenty-five-year-old me scratching on yellow pads at the kitchen table: “Thanks for the memories.”

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The hardest part of writing is believing in yourself.

Writing is very solitary.  Alone you create a world, a universe, that exists nowhere outside your head.  Without validation or any other human interaction, cruel or kind, you create beauty, tragedy, joy, love, terror, all the colors that seem to you to make up the cosmos you have yourself divined.  With no authorization and no special powers, you play God.

It’s a bit of a high wire act and it keeps me in a state of duality.  Because I earn my living as a writer, there is the flight or fight anxiety of wondering whether a book will “sell” or if I’m just kidding myself about whatever I’m writing about or being a writer at all.  But there is also an incredibly seductive quality.  Spending time in a world of my own choosing, where things work out the way I want is irresistible.

There is a point a few weeks short of the ending of whatever book I’m writing where I probably shouldn’t drive or operate heavy machinery.  I get behind the wheel, sing along with Duffy or Michael Buble on the CD player and wonder idly about a scene I’m planning or a character I’m in the process of discovering.  Suddenly, the CD is repeating and I’m miles from where I started, occasionally not even where I’d intended to go.  The experience is that intense and complete for me.

To be fair, I can also lose an entire afternoon to updating my Netflix Queue.  Perhaps that’s just the way I think and possibly it’s thinking that way that makes me a writer.  I don’t know.  I do know that once I’ve discovered that place, the more I long to be there.


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