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October 03, 2005


By Harley

Saturday I went to Duarte. Where, you may ask, is Duarte? And why go there?

Well, Sarah’s on her whirlwind Official Tour for THE SECRET LIVES OF FORTUNATE WIVES. I’m on the pedestrian-paced, 7-months-after-publication, do-it-yourself marketing & promotional circuit. I show up for book clubs, library panels, and author festivals whenever invited. Conquering the world, one reader at a time. Where two or more are gathered, I’m there. I’ll climb Mount Everest, if asked. Like most new-ish authors.

My fellow Book Tarts have written, collectively, 2.7 million novels. I’ve written two. I don’t have the experience to tell the waste-of-time gigs from the worthwhile ones, or even figure out the criteria. Number of bodies that show up? Books sold? Miles driven? Media interest? Quality of life experienced by my husband and children while I’m on the road? Time spent not writing my current novel?

I operate on vague instincts.

Saturday my instincts propelled me an hour or two east, to the Duarte Festival of Authors, located on the grounds of a retirement village. Which looked very appealing, life in a quiet place where you ride around in a golf cart and someone does your grocery shopping for you and there’s always time for Scrabble.

The festival itself was not large; I’ve been to Kozak family dinners that were more populated. On the plus side, no scuffles broke out. And Naomi Hirhara was there, and Ray Bradbury. Naomi and Ray! Yes, there was a moment when there were more people on the mystery panel than in the audience, but eventually they outnumbered us (although we could’ve taken them, in a fight.)

On the way home, I pulled off the freeway at Forest Lawn, took a nap, changed in the car into a red dress and heels, then drove to North Hills to meet my husband and firstborn at a wedding, where the firstborn was a flower girl. Where my husband asked The Question.

“How many books did you sell?”

It’s not about books sold. Lee Goldberg told me this last year. It’s about forming relationships with the booksellers, who, hopefully, sell your book long after the attendees have gone home.

The problem is, my husband has not yet met Lee “to know him is to love him” Goldberg and thus is not as moved by this wisdom as he might be. Nor is he distracted by notions of serendipity, supporting library fundraising programs, good karma, or paying one’s dues. He wants to know how many books I sold.

Four. Including one to a freelance minister and one to a 9th grader. Also, one conspiracy theorist Vietnam vet promised he’d check out DATING DEAD MEN from the library.

This was not the hoped-for answer. My husband had had a grueling day with the children, including getting Flower Girl costumed and pep-talked and now the wheels of his brain turn in a furious Cost-Benefit Analysis. 4 books sold versus record gas prices and the fact that my ancient Mercedes is already in the shop, suffering exhaustion, necessitating my use of his car for the trip to Duarte, piling on the miles. At this point, I make the huge tactical error of mentioning that next weekend I’m off to Orange County, and then Fresno.


Our fellow wedding guests pause in the eating of their skewered chicken to listen in. I notice their interest, my husband’s apoplectic face, my own rising blood pressure. I excuse myself from the table.

I leave the wedding, walk to the car, take my laptop from the trunk, sit on the curb in my red dress, and spend 18 minutes on Chapter 19 of Novel #3. Focusing on murder calms me down. I return to the wedding. My beloved is now calmer too.

It’s probably best not to tell him about Lee Goldberg’s reaction to Fresno: “Why, in the name of all that is holy, are you going to Fresno?”

Because it’s there, Lee. Because it’s there.

Happy Monday!


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» When to Say No from A Writer's Life
Yesterday, I was a guest at writer's conference at a hotel out in Simi Valley. It was one of those small-time conferences where the paid attendees were vastly out-numbered by the invited authors, 90% of whom were self-published (One of [Read More]


It's so TRUE! It's so True. Could relate 100% to this, Harley.
Though, now on book #6, not much has changed. One thing I've noticed is the gold/silver relationship with the fans. You see the old ones and think GOLD! Then new ones come to the signing and it's SILVER! I'm just so freaking glad to see both.
Never thought of stopping in a wedding to work on chapter 19. Are you that far already? You go, girl.

Yes, but the chapters are short. And I didn't leave the wedding mid-ceremony or anything. It was during dinner, but before the toasts.
That's bad news, though, Sarah, that by Book #6 you're still doing the Two Hundred Miles To Sell Four Books thing. Don't tell this to my husband, please.

Harley, I would come see you if you read at a DUMP, and I'd bring everyone I knew. :) I finished DATING DEAD MEN last night and LOVED EVERY PAGE. I am sorry it's over, but knowing DATING IS MURDER awaits cheers me up. (I've got to read MYSTIC RIVER in between for the 2-person "book club" my husband and I have.) Keep up the good work, and tell your husband that four books sold is nothing to sneeze at.
(P.S. I'm the one who wrote you last week about DDM putting me in mind of Pynchon's CRYING OF LOT 49, btw.)

Hey, I wonder if those retirement villages have applications that actually ask if you're retired? I mean, what could be a more perfect working environment for a writer? Somebody cooks your meals, cleans your room, even brings you your daily vitamin, right? Maybe we could take the twice-weekly water aerobics class? Hop the Friday bus to see a play? I'm thinking I could be packed & ready to move in a couple of hours. It sounds heavenly to me right now.

Your husband better be nice to you, Harley. He's a lucky guy, and he should remember it, because there's a LEGION of men out here who would gleefully volunteer to drive the beautiful and delightful and infinitely talented Harley Jane Kozak to Fresno (or anywhere else she wanted to go), carry your books, and cheer for you in an otherwise almost-empty bookstore.

And you were stunning in that red dress, by the way.

FRESNO??? You're supposed to come to B-E-R-K-E-L-E-Y!!! Those Fresno people have ALL the fun... DAMN!

Nancy, you'd be kicked out of Retirement Village in 3 days for excessive productivity. And Mary Louisa, you're the first reader to report sandwiching Dennis Lehane in between my two books. I'm honored.

I bet you don't count books read in a six month window "sandwiched" between your two books, do you? :) Really do intend to read Dating Dead Men in the next month or two. Gives me plenty of time before book 3 comes out.

Keep in mind that book signings may bring readers you never know about. Some people don't attend but will start reading based on recommendations of friends who were there.

And then there are people like me who love going to book signings and will read book 1 in a series, which I often got when it came out, right before a signing for book 2 so I know if I want to continue with a series. If it weren't for signings, I'm sure I wouldn't have found many of the authors I currently love and buy as soon as they come out.


Did anyone HAPPEN to mention that DATING IS MURDER is a finalist in the mystery category for the Southern California Booksellers Association's annual award?

Fresno. Dear gods.

Hey, I had fun in Fresno when I signed there with the Divas in 2000. They have a great SinC chapter in the Valley, and we had a full house at the Borders. So you're not gonna hear me trashing the place. Was Naomi there, too? And Ray Bradbury, you say? Sounds like a stellar event to me. (And I'm just back from the "Little Apple," Manhattan, KS, where I had a great time at the GMMC and in Lawrence with Carolyn Hart, et al. But it's good to be home!)

This was funny and I love the whole notion of the book tarts!---

Fresno, oh my god.


(I must be a book tart too, maybe, considering what I write!) but I'm just starting out....

Your husband sounds exactly like mine! Everything has to relate to "number of books sold." I think he's starting to figure out that it's not like any business he's ever been part of - that there are so many intangibles, and there's no real "immediate return" on anything you do.

But I was at an author's fair this past weekend very similar to the one you mentioned. The interview on the local cable access station - by the fifth string high school journalism student - made the entire trip worthwhile, I'm thinking.

I'm not that familiar with Fresno - although I did find an excellent shooting range there once (cheap ammo, good selection of rental guns) and a place that's famous for chicken pot pies. But Duarte - now that could surprise you. On Saturday afternoons, not far from where you probably were, is a parking lot full of food booths set up by Indonesian families who cook their specialties and sell them. You can sit on tables in the parking lot and eat great food for little money and talk with a bunch of Indonesians who are always surprised and pleased to see anyone else there. Then - not far - just off Duarte Road in Arcadia is Din Tai Fung - the L.A. branch of the most famous Shanghai-style Chinese dumpling house in Taipei. YUM!

Well, Harley, see what you missed! That's what you get for underestimating a place like Duarte. (Eric knows good places to eat everywhere--it's almost scary.)

OK So I had a brilliant idea reading the blog today...I think I need to open a "center" for anyone who is creative...yeah! I love it....A place where an artist-of any kind-could come and work...and be fed and taken care of...yeah...I am liking this idea...sitting of course right on the ocean-my favorite place! yep, I think this could work...well until I tell my husband about it and he says "and how much will this cost me??" MEN!!! they just don't understand :)

If I knew anyone of the writers I read was coming to a location close to me, I would make sure I was THERE!!! and buying a book or 10 :)

A shooting range in Fresno? Din Tai Fung near Duarte? Why wasn't I told of this?
Oh -- because I didn't need to be sold. Just the thought of a car trip, where I get to listen to grown-up music and pull over and nap, whenever I feel like it . . . I wonder if there are any bookstores in Bakersfield?

Don't know of any bookstores other than the big box sort, but there's a way fun Basque restaurant - The Noriega Hotel. It has its own jai alai court outside the bar and family style meals with a bunch of Basque families and shepherds, starting around 7pm, around big, long wooden tables.

Where in OC will you be? I'll show up...I can't imagine what a drag it is to have such lousy attendance at these things...Mind you--I'm a huge "When Harry..." fan, so if I'm not warm and fuzzy to you at first--remind me that it was just a part you played!!! J

I'm going to give a keynote speech at the OCRWA birthday party (or is that RWAOC?) and I'm not sure where it is exactly (because it's only Monday) but I'd love a friendly face in the audience. (at least, you indicate you'll warm up.) Because frankly, I'm terrified. I'm so spoiled, having 6 or 7 people show up -- I make them all introduce themselves and say what brought them there . . . but to have to actually speak? And sound moderately lucid? Uh, Nancy, can I borrow that Distinguished Alumni speech of yours?

Take heart - on one of these trips, in one of these small groups, you will meet a reader who will become a vocal and loyal fan, who will send e-mails to everyone he or she knows to go and see you at your next stop, and then they'll tell their friends, and so forth.

I have met and championed writers I never would've tried but for their visit to our local book shop - now those writers' books grace the shevles of most of my family and friends. In fact, the Blackbird sisters and Bubbles are now favorites on a few select streets in Stone Harbor, NJ (in the summer, Boca Raton, Miami and Palm Beach, FL in the winter), all from a visit by those book tarts to Oakmont, PA. So don't think of it as selling four books - think of it as an exponential formula for expanded sales of your next book AND the paperback re-releases down the road.

Also - Excel can generate some fabulous graphics to show your husband this theory in color pie charts....unless it's better juts not to bring it up again...

Sorry - that was 'just' not 'juts' there at the end. Although juts is a good word and now I'm going to use it today.

How does one spell-check a blog entry?

P.S. Did you get that not-so-subtle push to come to Oakmont? Check with Sarah and Nancy - the Festival of Mystery is right after some convention and lots of authors drive up together.

You did great Harley, Last year I was part of that festival, and sold three books to my fellow authors.

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