Denise Dietz

I wonder how much it would cost to rent a billboard on Sunset Boulevard?

That thought occurred on a golden-hued day in September, 1992. Colorado in the fall. There’s nothing on earth like it. Aspen leaves were shimmering, John Elway was leading the Broncos to early-season victories, the mountaintops outside my window looked like the whipped cream on a Dairy Queen sundae, and my first published novel, THROW DARTS AT A CHEESECAKE, was due to come out in a few short weeks. I was on my knees but I wasn’t praying — in retrospect, maybe I should have been.

Instead, I was cutting out the paper bookmarks I’d had printed at Kinkos, 10 to a page, 100 pages. The bookmarks showed a picture of my cover [in black and white; I couldn’t afford color], a one paragraph synopsis, an author quote from Diane Mott Davidson, my book’s ISBN (at the time I wasn’t even sure what an ISBN was!), and the name of the restaurant where I waited tables (I kid you not). My tongue cleaved the corner of my mouth. If the scissors slipped, I’d lose a precious bookmark. I had spent all the money in my promo fund and I couldn’t afford more bookmarks…

Flash forward to September 30, 2006. I sat behind a long wooden table, thinking that the name of my panel, THE EVER-CHANGING MARKETPLACE:  WITH A HUGE AND GROWING NUMBER OF NEW BOOKS EVERY YEAR, HOW DO YOU GET YOUR WORK NOTICED?, was almost as long as some of my book titles 🙂

Sipping from an opaque plastic cup filled with ice water, I wished it was filled with one of Joe Konrath’s Bloody Marys. I stared at the expectant faces of Bouchercon attendees. Outside Madison’s Concourse Hotel, a Farmers Market was in full swing. On almost every block, up and down State Street, motionless, decorative cows uttered silent moos.

The mic was only inches away and I was tempted to sing "Old McDonald had a farm…with a moo-moo here and a moo-moo there…"

Or, as a University of Wisconsin grad, class of mumble-mumble, I could sing:

On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin!
Plunge right through that line!
Run the ball clear down the field,
A touchdown sure this time. [U-rah-rah]
On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin!
Fight on for her fame
Fight! Fellows! – fight, fight, fight!
We’ll win this game.

On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin!
Stand up, Badgers, sing…

Funny how I can remember the U of Wisconsin fight song when I can’t remember what happened two months ago. If a cop ever said, "And where were you at 7 pm on the night of August 25th, Ms. Dietz?", unlike most TV show scripts, I wouldn’t respond: "That was two months ago, right? I believe I was eating steamed clams at Boondocks."

I’d probably say, "I dunno," but if I had the nerve, I’d say, "Bloody oath, Officer, do YOU remember where you were at 7 p.m. on the night of August 25th?"

Returning to the subject at hand…I sat on that Bouchercon "Promotion Panel" and felt time accelerate faster than the hands of a black and white clock in a film noir movie. And although the audience was SRO, no one left the room. My fellow panelists – J A Konrath (Joe), Rob Walker, KJA Wishnia (Ken), and Dirk Wyle – had a lot to say.

I had planted a friend in the audience – Rick Mofina – so he could ask a specific question during the Q & A [it was his idea, I swear]. Unfortunately, time ran out before Rick could say, "I heard you wrote a poem for this panel, Deni. Would you recite it for us?"

So I’ll "recite" it for you now:

I was walking along a beach one day,
And thinking thoughts of woe,
When I tripped on a tarnished oil lamp
And stubbed my damnfool toe.

I rubbed the lamp with the heel of my palm,
And chuffed like Stephen Booth.
I waited but nothing happened,
And I scowled at my lack of couth.

Then all of a sudden a genie appeared,
And I couldn’t believe my luck.
He asked why I looked so awfully sad,
And I said my career was…stalled.

He said I had three wishes,
But he added a caveat.
I couldn’t wish for wealth, or eternal youth,
Or the murder of a cat.

Career-related my wishes must be,
He said with an evil grin.
World peace and a clean environment
Was up to political whim.

I’d like billboards on every highway, I said,
Like the good ol’ Brill Cream days,
‘A little dab of Dietz will do ya’
Might make a catchy phrase.

And I’d like to sing on Idol,
With my latest book to flog,
I really don’t care what the judges say,
As long as they mention my blog.

Third, I’d like to guest on Oprah,
I’d say something to make the news.
But I wouldn’t play monkey or kangaroo,
Like that idiot, Tom Cruise.

"Granted!" the genial genie said,
As he pruned his lips in a smirk.
I wondered if I had done the right thing,
But — like chicken soup for the dead person – I figured it couldn’t hurt.

The genie lit a cigarette,
And sang a few lines of Bob Dylan’s,
Then he vanished in a puff of smoke,
Looking just like Robin Williams.

I thought I’d accomplished much that day:
Billboards, Oprah, a song.
The only thing is, when the billboards appeared…
The artist had spelled my name wrong.

Just like my Bouchercon panel, my blog time has run out, or maybe my internal clock has run down, but I’ll be writing a "Further Adventures of Promotion" blog in November. By then I hope to have some [more] Bouchercon photos.

Here I’m giving a signed, first-edition EYE OF NEWT to audience participant Lee Green, immediately following my Bouchercon Promotion Panel. My lovely,Deni_lee_green talented moderator, M. Diane Vogt, announced at the very beginning — 9:01 a.m. — that panelists would give books and/or other goodies to members of the audience who participated in the Q&A. Most Q&As occur toward the end of a panel, and ours was no exception.

As I said before, no one left the room.

A free book for a question? How cool is that?

As you wish,


  1. Naomi

    Great post and great poem, Deni.

    It is quite amazing how things have changed, marketing-wise.

    BTW, I went to college with Elway, so I enjoyed a full four years of his quarterbacking, but the team still never made it to the Rose Bowl during that time!

  2. pari noskin taichert

    Boy can I relate to that poem, Deni.

    I’m amazed you can remember the fight song for U of W.

    At U of M, I remember: Hail to the victors valiant. Hail to the fighting heroes. Hail, hail to Michigan, the leaders of the West.

    There’s more, but that’s all I retain after all these years. Plus, I don’t buy U of M is the leader of the West . .. No. The New Mexico Lobos could swat down the Wolverines anytime. Well, anytime in my dreams..

    Thanks again for the post today.

  3. Deni Dietz

    The New Mexico State Aggies weren’t too shabby either, Pari – at least in basketball 🙂

    I remember the U of W fight song because I was an avid Badgers fan, even traveling to other Big 10 schools to cheer them on. Today, I feel the same way about the Denver Broncos. Win or lose, I’m an incredibly loyal fan.

    Speaking of which, I love that you went to school with Elway, Naomi. Awesome.

    My amnesiac in EYE OF NEWT dubs himself “John Elway” because he can recall the blonde cowgirl who rides a white horse around the football field when the Broncos score [a major clue to the mystery, of course]. I was hoping the whole team – and all the coaches – would buy copies of NEWT, but, to my surprise, that never happened.

    Next time I’ll use the Manning brothers. Or the Barber bros.

    Deni 🙂

  4. Deni Dietz

    Thanks, Elaine, but it’s probably better that they didn’t. My poem is, in a sense, anti-promotion. At first I thought they’d put me on that panel to play Devil’s Advocate. After all, when it come to BSP, Canadians are WAY too polite to indulge.

    But then, I AM a Canadian Yank, eh? 🙂

    In case anyone was wondering, Joe Konrath got up out of his chair and moved amidst the audience like a hirsute Phil Donahue. Facinating to watch.

  5. B.G. Ritts

    ‘Give a cheer, give a cheer for the boys who drink the beer in the cellars of Old Braddock High. They are brave, they are bold for the whiskey they can hold…’

    Now I can remember that from high school, but Pitt’s fight song is nowhere to be found in my memory banks. Hmmmmmmm…

    Love the poem, Deni. As to the “where were you at 7 pm on the night of August 25th” question, I’ve always wondered about that. I can rarely remember what I was doing two days ago.

  6. Deni Dietz

    LOL, B.G.

    As to where I was two days ago, I was in front of my TV, on the edge of my seat, watching the Broncos whup Cleveland’s, er, butt. Heh.

    But would that alibi hold up in court?

  7. Replica watchestzo

    Not much on my mind lately, but I don’t care. Eh. I’ve just been letting everything pass me by these days. Nothing seems worth doing. I just don’t have anything to say recently. My mind is like a void, but shrug.

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