There and Back Again available at Left Bank Books!

I received a message today that Left Bank Books, the most awesome indie bookstore in St. Louis, has accepted There and Back Again:  A Decade of Travel Tales to be sold at their store and on their website (www.left-bank.com).  This will be for the paperback version of the book. Supporting a local independent bookseller feels great and I hope that many of you in and around St. Louis will visit the Central West End and check out this great bookstore.

The address is:  Left Bank Books,  399 N. Euclid Ave.,  St. Louis, MO 63110

Link to my sales page:  http://www.left-bank.com/book/9780996307116

Thanks to the folks at Left Bank Books!

So why did you decide to write about…

In the last few days I have gotten some interesting questions about Painted Wings, through Facebook and Goodreads. I have heard similar comments and questions from family and friends, comfortable enough to ask. The questions usually sound something like, “Tim, where did the idea for the book come from and why did you decide to write about lesbians?” There are lots of possible responses. Let me try out a few of them.

Around two years ago, when I decided that I wanted to devote some serious energy to writing, I took a class at the community college called, “So you want to be a writer”. The instructor was a young man who had recently completed his Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts at a Missouri university. In other words, he was at least 22 years old. I remember two of his foundation messages. First, you will never make any money as a writer, so don’t even try. And second, do not under any circumstances, write a novel about sex, from the point of view of a middle-aged man. After the release of Fifty Shades of Grey, every middle-aged guy was writing an erotic novel with a virile, middle-aged protagonist. I decided that if my first novel was going to have sex scenes, they would have to be different from my personal experiences. I’m sure that my family and friends appreciate that, too!

Those of you who read my book of short stories, There and Back Again:  A Decade of Travel Tales, are familiar with the actual creative spark for Annie’s story. Rachel and I were staying at a country inn in New Hampshire, where I read an entry in a guest journal in our room. A woman who had stayed in the room several weeks earlier wrote about the beginning of her summer of adventure. She had gone through a painful divorce and was starting over. Rachel and I talked about her that night over dinner. We had a million questions about her divorce and her summer road trip. I asked Rachel whether she thought that the woman might have met a handsome stranger at the inn, who looked like George Clooney or Richard Gere. Rachel was watching our attractive, tattooed bartender, and without skipping a beat said, “No, I think she meets a woman.” The seed was planted.

I spent many hours communicating with Stephanie, my editor, about plot, characters, grammar, and a million other things. During one conversation toward the end of the writing and editing process, I posed the question whether she thought that a guy could be taken seriously, writing a story about lesbian characters. Stephanie thought for a minute and replied that the story was really Annie’s story, and Annie was not a lesbian. Annie was heterosexual and during the course of her summer was experiencing some new feelings and attractions. I thought that was an insightful answer. I had heard a program on National Public Radio around that time that talked about the concept of “sexual fluidity”. The idea was that there is a range of feelings that people experience that may change over time, related to sexual attractions to either sex. These were common feelings, especially for women. The discussion on NPR was consistent with Annie’s journey.

So far Painted Wings has received a handful of reviews on amazon.com and three reviews from a literary website called Readers’ Favorite. None of the reviewers have mentioned anything about sexual orientation or lesbian erotica. They describe the novel as being about dealing with loss, starting over, exploring diversity and challenges relating to our prejudices. They also talk about the positive way that the story reminds us of the wonderful things that are there for us all, if we open ourselves to new experiences. I told Rachel, “They get it!”.

Last year I created a publishing company, Cedar Lake Publishing. Self-published authors are encouraged to do that. The tag-line that is printed under the company name says, “Celebrating diversity, one book at a time”. That is what Painted Wings is intended to be, a celebration of diversity. I haven’t decided on the story for my next book yet, but I bet it will explore another aspect of the beauty that can be found in our differences! I’ll keep you posted.

The First Reviews Are In!

Thanks to Audrey, Bill and Sue for submitting the first reviews of Painted Wings on the amazon.com site.  There were over 60 readers who took advantage of the two day, free offer to order e-books!  There were even readers from England and Australia.  I hope many of you take a minute to write a brief review.  I received the first two of three official reviews from a website called Readers’ Favorite.  I was pleased that the reviews were positive and impressed that the reviewers appreciated the social messages of the novel.  You can read the reviews on the review page of this website.  Thanks to all who have supported the book!

New Book Release: Painted Wings for Kindle

Painted Wings by Timothy ImhoffGreetings!

After months of writing, editing and working through the thousands of steps in the self-publishing process, Painted Wings is now available as a Kindle e-book through Amazon.com.  More information can be found on either the Amazon site, or on this website.

On Wednesday and Thursday, Oct. 28th and 29th, you will be able to order the e-book for free.  After that, it will be at the regular price.  I was pleased that Amazon offered this opportunity.

It’s been quite a journey taking a story from the idea stage to seeing the finished product on the Kindle.  I hope you enjoy reading about Annie and her interesting road trip!

Regards…

Tim

A Message in a Bottle

Rachel’s week had been a challenging one and I surprised her by inviting her on a weekend “stay-cation” at the Chase Park Plaza Hotel in St. Louis. We had done this once or twice a year, for a few years. It didn’t require much planning and always was fun. Our plan was to visit the opening of a new exhibit at the Contemporary Art Museum, go to a movie at the independent theatre at the Chase, and have an elegant dinner at Café Eau, our favorite restaurant inside the hotel. We reserved a room for Saturday night and were all set.

We arrived at the Contemporary Art Museum in the early afternoon. There were two new exhibits that had opened earlier in the week. One was called “Laurie Simmons: Two Boys and the Love Doll”. The exhibit consisted of two series of photographs of life-size inanimate figures. One series focused on two male CPR dummies, each posed in front of a computer. According to the printed descriptions, the characters were in some sort of a cyber-relationship and the message was about human interactions in a world filled with technology. The second series of photographs was of a life-size, latex, female love doll from Japan. The attractive and realistic doll was posed in a variety of scenes and dressed in various outfits. Some were sensual and some were not. There was only a little nudity.

The second exhibit was titled, “Occupational Therapy”. The exhibition featured the work of 20 different artists. The part of this exhibit that captured our attention the most was a piece of performance art by an artist named, Pedro Reyes. His piece was titled, “Sanatorium”. Two volunteers wearing white lab coats, manned a table to greet visitors and sign in people who wanted to actually participate in the mock therapy experiences. Once you provided your name and signature granting permission to participate, you filled out a short questionnaire describing how you were feeling: stressed or relaxed, happy or sad, focused or distracted. One of the white-coated young women then provided a tour of four therapy rooms. The first had a large white maze set up on a table in the center of the room. On shelves across one wall were hundreds of common objects. Participants were asked to retrieve objects from the shelves that represented their life and to arrange them however they wanted to in the maze.

The next therapy room had a table filled with several buckets and several wine bottles. Both buckets and wine bottles had rolled-up scrolls of paper placed in them, one in the neck of each bottle and lots of the scrolls in each bucket. The clinician explained that in this session, participants would write down a personal secret, roll it up and tie it with twine. Participants would place their secret in one of the buckets and select any secret they would like from one of the bottles on the table. One would trade their personal secret for the opportunity to read a secret submitted by someone else. We assumed that the secret that we would write would be shared with future participants.

The third room contained another large wooden table and several chairs like you would find in a school. On one side of the table were paper and colored markers. On the other side of the table were two typewriters. The clinician explained that in this session the participant would tell the clinician a story about their life. The clinician would then draw a picture, depicting the story as the participant typed out their story.

The final room also had a large wooden table and chairs. On the table were tools to print a message with alphabet stamps. Participants were asked to think of the epitaph that they would like printed on their tombstone and to use the tools and alphabet stamps to print out the message. The finished project would be attached to the wall for others to view.

At the end of the visit to each of the four rooms, Rachel and I were asked to choose one session to participate in. Rachel chose to let me be the subject and I chose the room with the “secrets”. The clinician escorted me into the room and we both took a seat. She handed me a slip of white paper and pen to write down my secret. I thought for a few minutes and then wrote down my secret. “My wife and I ran in a nude 5K race at a clothing optional resort in Florida”. I thought that would be unexpected and pretty funny too, for someone who would trade for my secret. I carefully rolled up my secret and tied a length of twine around it. The clinician did not read it and instructed me which bucket to place it in. The bucket looked like it held fifteen or twenty other secrets. I was then invited to select one secret from the mouth of one of the wine bottles. I didn’t really have a strategy. I just picked one that called out to me. I hoped it would be funny, like mine.

I slid the twine off of the rolled up slip of paper to reveal the secret. It was written with a ballpoint pen. The first thing that struck me was the poor spelling and penmanship. The message was printed and was very sloppy. Some words had been crossed out so that the author could start the word over. The line of printing was not straight and sort of meandered down as it crossed the paper. My guess was that it was written by an adult, not a child, and the author was not very skilled at writing. This is what the secret said: “I hav always been a disgrase to my family”.

After reading the secret and staring at it for a minute or two, the clinician instructed me to roll it back up, secure the twine around it, and place it back in the bottle. She then gave me the sheet of paper with the before and after questions. I was again asked to rate how I was feeling. I was surprised to write down ratings that indicated that I was less happy and a bit more stressed than before my session with the clinician. The secret that I had selected and read had made me both sad and curious.

Who had written the secret message? Why did the writer think that their family viewed them as a disgrace? Had they done something terrible? Was the writer a man or a woman? Perhaps it was something about the handwriting that made me imagine that the writer was a man. What was his relationship with his family like now? Did they spend time together or were they estranged from each other. Who were the family members that were referred to in the secret? Were they parents, siblings, a spouse, or maybe his children?

I told Rachel about the “therapy session” and about both the secret that I had written and the secret that I had selected. She laughed when she heard that I had written about our funny running experience. As we talked about the message about the man and his family, an idea began to form in my mind. Perhaps this was not all that it appeared. Maybe the desired outcome for viewers of this piece of performance art was to create a genuine emotion. The secret that I had read had accomplished that outcome. I had felt saddened, concerned and anxious. Were the secrets rolled up and placed in the necks of the bottles written by real visitors like me, or were they carefully written by the artist to elicit a variety of emotions? I wished that I could read a sampling of the secrets to find out.

Rachel and I decided that it was more interesting to imagine that the secrets were authentic and that the authors were real people. Rachel reminded me that the subject matter for my first novel, Painted Wings, had been a “found story”. A found story is an idea for a story that you sort of bump into during your daily life, that piques your interest and curiosity. Who knows? Maybe this story about a message in a bottle will turn into a future book. Stranger things have happened.