When I was waiting tables at the Red Lobster in Colorado Springs, I ran into a psychic who was standing in the restaurant lobby, next to the live lobster tank. He was called "The Cowboy Psychic," and that’s no lie [I know it’s true because he handed me a business card]. He stared at me and said, "You have an energy that tends to scare people." Before I could say, "Excuse me but table 2 is waiting for her strawberry margarita," he added, "But deep down inside, you have a fragile ego."
So this week my Quibbles and Bits is: FRAGILE EGOS R US
Upon meeting a stranger–and in most social situations–the conversation frequently goes like this:
"What do you do, Deni?"
Several interesting images flutter through what’s left of my mind but I usually say, "For a living?"
"I’m an author."
"Are you published?"
"How many books have you written?"
Written or published? "My 14th book will be out next spring," I reply.
"Have I ever heard of you?"
What I want to say is: "Sure, if you track the N.Y. Times bestseller lists, peruse airport kiosks, and read the ‘from a book by Denise Dietz’ in the credits of a popular movie starring Tom Hanks or (be still my heart) Johnny Depp."
What I do say is…
Well, to be perfectly honest, after 20 years in the book biz, I haven’t doped out the quintessential response yet.
Writers tend to have fragile egos. Yes, I know that’s hard to believe. But all you have to do is attend a mass booksigning and note the line in front of…oh, say, Mary Higgens Clark, and then look at the expression on the face of Mary Midlist.
Surprisingly, my most successful mass signing was at Houston’s Murder By The Book. To my right and sitting across from me was Sue Grafton. The line for Sue wended down the aisle of the store, out the doorway, down the block, around the corner (and for all I know, all the way to the Astrodome). As a fan, I was awed to be in the same room as Sue Grafton (for the record, Sue is very, very nice). As an author, I decided to make lemonade…
When the people in line halted in front my table, I said, "Why don’t you read this while you’re waiting?" and offered a copy of my latest book. Bravely, I added, "If the first page doesn’t make you laugh, don’t buy it."
I sold out in less than an hour. Thanks, Sue, sincerely.
During a lengthy layover at the Ft. Worth/Dallas airport, a young woman noticed my T-shirt–dark green with FOOTPRINTS IN THE BUTTER in white letters on the front, an Ingrid Beaumont Mystery co-starring Hitchcock the Dog on the back. The young woman commented on the shirt–a surpisingly large number of people do that in airports. I explained that I was an author and she said, "Have I ever heard of you?"
I had been traveling since 5 a.m. I was tired. I said, "Probably not."
She said, "What have you written?"
I said, "Well, my first mystery series stars a diet club leader. The titles are ‘Throw Darts at a Cheesecake’ and—"
"’Beat up a Cookie’!" she exclaimed. "I loved that book. But I had to wait until my dad finished it. He loved it, too."
She asked for my autograph.
The above happened 5 years ago (6 years this November, but who’s counting?) and I’m still living off (and high on) the ego gratification.
Some authors may not have fragile egos, but I compare my ego to Humpty Dumpty’s cracked shell.
One "shattered ego experience" resulted in my funniest booksigning anecdote. I was scheduled to sign at a bookstore in California. The store owner had advertised in the L.A. Times. He’d handed out fliers (for weeks) with every book purchase and had a professional MEET AUTHOR DENISE DIETZ sign at the front of the shop. Refreshments included real wine, non-alcoholic wine, cookies, punch, brownies, and various hors d’oeuvres.
I arrived early to find the store empty, except for the owner and his assistants. I was scheduled to give a talk before the signing. The hands on the clock moved as slowly as the hands on the clock in an Orson Welles flick. No one showed. Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. The store owner began to sweat. Then apologize. Profusely. I tried to ignore my shattered ego, but all I kept thinking, over and over, was: All the king’s horses and all the king’s men, couldn’t put Denise Dietz together again.
Suddenly, from a small office in the back of the shop, a voice said, "C’mere, you guys. You’ve got to see this."
Inside the office was a tiny, portable TV. On the screen, in living black and white, L.A. cops were following a white Bronco…
Unlike Mr. Dumpty’s shell, I carefully glued my broken ego back together and subsequently wrote the following:
THE NIGHT NO ONE CAME
I’m really sorry, Deni dear,
I cannot fathom why no one’s here.
We put the date in ‘Main Event’
And hundreds of invitation were sent;
The wine is chilled, the cookies baked,
Your books are stacked, the yard’s been raked!
Oh wait, there’s John at the TV;
He’s calling us to come and see
A car chase…cops…a celebrity.
I have other "shattered ego stories" — if you want to hear ’em — but I’ve been thinking of contacting several authors and putting together an anthology.
Maybe Mary Higgins Clark and Sue Grafton would like to contribute.
Maybe Johnny Depp will star in the film version.
Why yes, I write fiction.
Over and out,