Buddy Cushman Art

engaging stories of hope and joy


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Oh My Head

A ditty on the near-psychotic state into which I’ve fallen post and pre-publication of my first two books.

I spent various stretches of time within a two and a half year period writing and completing “Ring Around The Rosy”. Make that three years, and even more time/life devotion in the research and writing of my forthcoming “Astoria Strange”. (And when/if it will be forthcoming is a story I’ll get to in a moment.)WB_Cushman_Front

I’ve stated in a previous log that when it comes to understanding and following directions related to anything with even the slightest hint of technology – see, creating PDF files for book covers, formatting to meet print and eBook requirements, assembling a yoyo — I’m lost. And useless to myself.  So I have to find who can do those things and pay them to do them for me and then hope they are done correctly (which I’m discovering is almost never) when I submit them in the hopes that a book will, as if by magic, appear.

Eventually these issues/struggles/headaches were worked out with my first book and my “Rosy” saw the light of day. To date some 50 people have bought copies, for which I am exceedingly grateful, one small step toward my goal of 10,000 copies sold. However, only 20% of those purchasing people have, subsequent to reading it, gone over to Amazon and left a review – and I’m talking three or four lines, not the Gettysburg Address. I don’t know why that is, I honestly don’t, though a dark cloud of suspicion trails behind me and whispers that many if not most of the buyers never bothered to read the book. Seriously. Maybe they bought it to be nice, to be friendly, to support a first-time author. But they didn’t read it because, as has been noted in a previous post on this Blog space, 53% of everyone over 18 years of age in the United States never reads another book – not a one – after leaving high school. Which, I am coming to believe, sadly, includes my Facebook and email and Twitter friends and followers. Like, before this, I thought my friends had to be hipper than the general population. But.

What’s an author to do? I have begged and cajoled, reminded and revisited book-buying friend after friend to take four or five minutes and leave an Amazon review. Because I’ve learned that there’s something called an algorithm, and for Amazon books that magic number is 20 reviews. Twenty reviews pushes the algorithm and that pushes the book in front of a lot more people. And please let me be clear here. Short of a terrific Stephen King endorsement or a call from Stephen Spielberg, he’d like to purchase the rights for his next film, this isn’t about making money. Full disclosure reveals that for each paperback I sell on Amazon I clear a hefty $2.78. For each eBook it’s $2.02. To date my expenses to publish and then minimally market “Rosy” are something around $396. That includes a number of paperbacks I’ve bought in bulk, to sign and sell, and on those I make a little more.

The point is, it ain’t “Show me the money.” What it is, and I’m betting this is true in some manifestation or another with every author, is having the book seen/read by a whole bunch of people. Because I believe in it, think it’s good, think it has positive things to say about life, human qualities we need to be reminded of now more than ever.

This will be true for “Astoria Strange” as well, and in fact, because the number of words are much greater than in “Rosy” – more than three times greater – the book will cost much more to prinfront_covert and I will have to charge more for each book, and after all that make even less per book, like $2.44. It’s not the money. As Salem State (MA) College professor Jay McHale once said — “The tissue is the issue.”

I will have published two books in my 69th year on the planet, and my preference is that people read them, at least those among the 47% who actually continue to read after their 18th birthday. I say “will have published” because this morning I received the proofs back from Amazon’s CreateSpace publishing company for the final check before they become real, tangible, hold them in your hands things, and lo and behold, the “A” in Astoria was sliced in half off the front cover.  Maybe the book should be titled “Storia Strange”, maybe there’s an alliterative spell to be cast. Hopefully they can fix it, I like it the way I wrote it.

The writing is hard, in a way, and also incredibly thrilling – it’s beyond a mescaline trip to watch as things happen completely on their own, and characters show up never before considered. Like three homeless guys in (A)storia, and a junior high girl named Elsbeth Dowd. Never mind detectives from other states that show up in the quaint Oregon coastal town and jump right into the middle of all the hooptedoodle. Yes, there’s magic in being a writer.

The technical stuff, the half-assed attempts at marketing, the chronic begging of friends for support – I’ve come to learn that part of being a writer is what it is. Add it all up. At least for me, it means a self-publishing, rushing toward 70, left coast yippie finally living out this particular dream.


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Interview With Author W.B. Cushman – Part Two

Following is the second part of an interview conducted by Professor Emeritus Clarrisa Everglad, ftierra-del-mar-2-061rom her home in Orleans, Massachusetts, with Cushman in Portland, Oregon. The interview was conducted by phone. Please see Part One of the interview for details about Everglad’s career in journalism and as an author and interviewer of authors.

 

Everglad: Discombobulated by the cover you had designed? And who is Victoria?

Cushman: I have the technical skills of a snail – probably less. When I realized I was done with Rosy, I’d edited and re-edited, had my wife Susan do a thorough editing, which is a significant skill of hers, and received feedback from my official readers Jamie and Pat, now it was time to publish. Initially I went the traditional route, sending applications and copies of parts of the book to five traditional publishers. All that netted was two formal rejections and three no replies. After a couple of months I decided I needed to self publish, and when I discovered that self-publishing through printing houses was going to cost more than I was able and/or willing to spend, then I had to self publish, go the route of Amazon CreateSpace and Kindle Direct, also making use of the ability to reach more on-line and brick and mortar outlets via IngramSpark (a $49 fee) and Draft2Digital. This is probably unnecessary information, the point is I needed a cover and spine and back cover, and I needed the 52K plus words of Rosy formatted correctly for these companies upload requirements. And I could do none of that. So I turned to Fiverr

Everglad: Fiverr?

Cushman: An internet site where you can hire people, starting at $5, for all kinds of different technical and not so technical services. And reading through various people’s pages I settled on a woman in England named Victoria to create the cover art. It cost me $26, likely the best $26 I’ve spent. She offered unlimited revisions, amazinoriginal-rosy-coverg for that amount of money, beginning her process with what I had messaged her about the book and what I felt would be the best images for the cover. Her first image was vastly different from the one that is the cover of Rosy now. On the right is her first image. Too dark, too much of life left, Teddy and Matt much different than how I saw them. Only Rosy felt right. So I gave her feedback and she made another and this went on, back and forth across The Atlantic, for three weeks, maybe a little more, before I felt it was right. Which included having Marvin with brown skin, which wasn’t there through many of the versions she messaged me. But, long story long enough, to get back to the word “discombobulated”, which goes back to your question about how much I knew my characters before they appeared on the pages, to see her creations of Teddy and Matt, after all the changes, it was a little weird. Because now, when I pick up the book and read various sections, the young men on the cover are who I see when I hear them talking. So, it’s really interesting.

Everglad: I can see that. I’ve never actually had this conversation with an author before. It is interesting.

Cushman: Thanks. I’ve already decided to use Victoria again for my next book, “Astoria Strange“.

Everglad: Is this a book you are planning to write?

Cushman: No. It’s nearly done now. It’s a collection of stories, interwoven in their setting and sharing of characters, set in Astoria, Oregon, a small town on the Ocean about 100 miles from where I live. They’re told from the point of view of stories in a newspaper column that focus on subjects outside of what would be considered normal. Anyway, I’m working on the final story. When I’m done there’s going to be a significant re-write and editing process. When it’s all done I’ll hire Victoria again for the cover and back cover art.

Everglad: Is this book something you began after you’d finished Ring Around the Rosy?

Cushman: No. I began Astoria long before I started the story for the submission request that would evolve into Rosy. Close to two and a half years ago now.

Everglad: And you are hoping to have this book completed and published sometime this year?

Cushman: My goal is to have it published before the end of April.

Everglad: Now that would be quite the accomplishment, Mr. Cushman. Not publishing anything until age 67, then having a second book out less than six months later.

Cushman: It will be very cool if I get it done.

Everglad: Will this be a book similar in length to your first?

Cushman: It’s already nearly three times longer than Rosy, just over 150,000 words so far. Three of the stories, including the one I’ve been trying to finish for months now, are nearly the size of small novellas. Fortunately the stories are meant to be read one at a time, and many are, in fact, typical short story length.

Everglad: I’d like to talk more about the new book in a few moments, if we can, it’s a surprising addition to the breath of the interview’s original intention. But, let’s get back to your Rosy.

Cushman: Professor, if you’ll indulge me for just another minute, I want to reference a particular aspect of Astoria to expand on a point I was making a while ago about, what for me is the joy of writing fiction. Not only from creating something from nothing, something that wasn’t there before – a person, a coffee shop, a factitious newspaper – but also getting to play while doing it. Getting to goof on myself, which is really it, to play while writing, to flash on different times in my life and different people I’ve met and known along the way. And to bring those people, I don’t mean them or any of their personality, but to borrow their name as I create someone knew. I keep using the word thrilling because that’s how it feels.  So, to make the point, in the third of my “Astoria” stories I introduced a new character, a female police officer named Ruthie Thompkins. I needed a name for an officer right there in the story and this name popped into my head. But I didn’t make it up. Back in my high school in Wareham, Massachusetts, probably about 50 miles or less from where you live Clarrisa, there was a math teacher, head of the math department, names Ruth Thompkins. Lots of the kids in school called her Ruthie. So, I’m needing the name for a female officer and trying to think up a good one, and the name Ruthie Thompkins flies into my head and I go ahead and type that. So, I borrowed on a piece of my childhood. And that’s what I’m talking about, because there’s something in the doing that weaves my entire life together, make it richer in some kind of way, and, I used this word before, honors a time in my life.

Everglad: I do understand what you’re saying, Mr. Cushman. One of the joys of writing fiction.

Cushman: Here’s the last thing about that. And this comes more under the idea of seeing where the story takes me, which you asked me about earlier. I typed the name Ruthie Thompkins because I needed a name, a one-time name. But, honestly, to my surprise, Officer Ruthie Thompkins showed up two stories later, again primarily in passing. But, two stories after that, in a story titled “Rat Boy“, not only is Ruthie driving her cruiser onto the pages again, but now, by the end of that story, she’s become a much more important player. So, there’s no surprise to me when, over the final three stories, she plays key roles. She’s become one of the primary characters. And she showed up, originally, because I needed a name and I remembered a name from my high school.

End of Part Two

 


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Where’s Michael Jackson When You Need Him?

Early in the recliner, quarter past six or so, drinking coffee and reading a book of essays by Aldous Huxley just the other morning, a solution to the ongoing problem of racial relations in our country flashed in my mind. I want to write about that now, in addition to a number of related thoughts that have floated through my eclectic head since then. I’m going to ask The New England Patriots football team Tom Bradyto Dont+Hightower+Philadelphia+Eagles+v+New+England+-9o5BGTijL6lhelp me out here. And also a couple of young guys from the world of music.

But first, a fun quiz. Of the two young men pictured here, both New England Patriot football players, who do you believe is more likely to be stopped by the police driving through town? (See answer below.)

So, here’s my idea, you know, how to fix things. It’s a two-part plan. The first part will take only a few thousand people to work. Part two will require a few more, probably 250 million. But we’ll get to that in a minute. Let me start with this premise: there are unequal justice opportunities for members of different races in the United States. Maybe you believe that or maybe you are a practicing ostrich – with your head buried deep in the sand – and don’t. But for the sake of this blog post, let’s say you do. (Spoiler alert – remember the fun quiz?) Recent widely and rightly publicized events in this country have brought this question – which has actually been a current and legitimate question for about 300 years now – to the forefront of our national, and hopefully personal, attention. You can believe what you want about Michael Brown and Eric Garner as people and still agree that the question of how justice is meted out in this country has been raised again, in a more than 15 minutes of fame way. There is a spotlight on our legal system, and all kinds of things – behaviors and interventions and mindsets and assumptions and consequences and accountability – all of that and more is right here, right now. Just turn on the TV.

The question is, what will get done about it? Is it today’s front page news but buried on page 12 tomorrow? Will something else, say apocalyptic weather, take its place. There is always that chance, it is often how we roll, and if that becomes the case all the opportunities that raise their hand during crisis, especially crisis of heart-breaking and stunning sadness, will be missed, and we will not have grown yet one more time. Which brings me to part one of my solution. I respectfully suggest that every person of color on a professional sports team in our country refuse to suit up and show up, refuse to play even one more second of his or her chosen sport, until the leadership of the country – national, regional, local – calls for a time out and establishes vast community conferences, with free food, in which — and here’s part two — those 250 million or so residents of our country participate. And the deal is that we don’t do anything else until we figure out how to turn the country around and begin moving in the real direction of life, liberty, and justice for all. It might take a couple of weeks of sitting and talking together, really talking, but it won’t be that hard to figure out – really – it won’t be. There just needs to be the will. The collective will. And I guarantee that if every person of color stops playing sports until it gets figured out, the will will come.

You know why? Here’s another question. How many people in our country who have deep-seated and questionable views about how one person should be treated versus another, are sports fans? Live and die for sports? “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts during warmups are a start, but the super rich and super racist ultimately chuckle over those feeble efforts toward justice. But stop playing the games. Stop playing all the games. Permanently. It’ll work. Believe it.

My sophomore year in college I had a black kid from my high school as a roommate. When I told my mother – bless her soul – before the school year, she asked me why I had to live with him. My Mom was not a racist. But she had some old fashioned ideas. At the end of that school year my Mom asked me, one day, why I couldn’t be more like him. My black roommate. This after she got to know him. It’s like Mos Def kept telling Bruce Willis in “16 Blocks” – “people can change”. That same kid with whom I roomed, who always had it way way more together than me, was encouraged to look into a technical school after graduation by one of our esteemed high school counselors, while I was encouraged to go to college. Sad and stupid.Elvis-elvis-presley-36015244-596-596Michael-Jackson-michael-jackson-19665848-1000-1280

Which brings me to these two cats. You know them. A southerner and a northerner, both wildly successful and downright agents of change in the world of music. Nothing was ever the same again after they both showed up. Brothers from another mother. One of them sang this: “Take a look at you and me, are we too blind to see? Do we simply turn our heads and look the other way?” The other this: “I said if you’re thinking of being my brother, it don’t matter if your black or white.”

Remember this? www.youtube.com/watch?v=QkkLUP-gm4Q “Don’t taze me bro.” Did Eric Garner struggle like this? No. He just didn’t breathe, cause he couldn’t. Is justice delivered the same way to one and all?  Are things even in this country? Will it change? Will it change if everything other than the National Hockey League shuts down? Because all those people that everyone cheers so wildly for are, well, a different color. And they don’t want to miss their games. You don’t want to miss your games. So, yeah, I’ll go and sit and talk with them for a while. Will it?   You damn skippy.

Here’s another thing. I have a great marketing idea. A get rich scheme for sure. I am creating a line of dolls, actually only two dolls. Both of the dolls will be those kind that have a string on the back that you can pull. When you pull the string of the first doll he will yell the “F-Bomb” on national TV, over and over again. Pull the string on the other and he will be stopped and frisked, over and over again. Pretty much anywhere.  I call them Tom and Dont’a.  And there’s the answer to the quiz.

By the way, up top are Tom Brady and Dont’a Hightower of the New England Patriots, left to right, and down here are Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson, singers up there in heaven.

“If you want to make the world a better place take a look at yourself and make that change.”

www.youtube.com/watch?v=PivWY9wn5ps

We can fix this. No more games.

 

 

 


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Gone But Never Forgotten

“Well, I guess that’s it.”

Royal Davis said that in 1964. It was later in September, after we had tried a few more times to keep our club going. We just couldn’t do it.

Two years earlier, right after school started when we were in the seventh grade, Royal and Bruce Sylvia and me decided one day after playing football on Royals’ front lawn that we were going to start a secret club. We called it “The Boys Club”. Only the three of us were members. Royal lived six houses down from me on High Street, right where Route 6 came up the hill and kept going up past the town hall on the way to New Bedford. His father was a Doctor and they had a lot of money. It was a big white house with a nice lawn that ran between the house and Route 6. When we played football there we often had built in fans, people sitting in their cars waiting for the light to change on Route 6. It was after one of these games that we went into the garage at the end of Royal’s driveway – big enough for two cars and a second floor loft, and we made the decision to start a club for after school meetings. We decided that we would build the club in the space between the side of the garage and the fence that separated the next house, back towards my house. Over the next three weeks, after school and on all three Saturdays, we found pieces of lumber and some big old painters canvas sheets, and Bruce’s mother gave us four old folding chairs – our clubhouse wasn’t a total secret – and early in October we had our first meeting of “The Boys Club.”

It was so cool. We had a table of an old telephone cable wire spool and some candles and flashlights. We had a bunch of magazines we all collected and “borrowed from home” and a couple from five-finger discounts too: ‘Mad’ and ‘Field and Stream’, ‘National Geographic’, three old ‘Playboys’, and two brand new ‘Fast Cars and Fast Girls’, the ones Bruce slipped under his jacket in the 5 & 10. We had a radio too, it ran on batteries, and whenever we were just hanging out if was turned on to WBZ or WMEX — Bruce Bradley, Dave Maynard, Arnie “WooWoo Ginsberg or some other cool disc jockey playing rock and roll.

We always shook each others hands to start our meetings. We vowed to stay friends forever. Usually there was some snack one of us had smuggled out of the house, raisins or fig newtons, even m & ms. Every once in a while we pulled out a hidden stash of old pipes and a bag of cherry blend tobacco and smoked and told stories of school that day. I think it was three, maybe four times, in those two years we had a female friend, or two. There was even some kissing. Royal told us one time, alone in the club house,  that he had touched Patty Harmon’s left breast. That was a big deal.

Our club house meetings two or three afternoons a week went on for two years. Then, in the fall of 1964, it stopped working. Bruce transferred to a Catholic High School over in Dartmouth, and didn’t get home til just before five every afternoon. Royal had always been going to a private school in Marion, the next town over, but when he became a freshman his parents made him join a debating team and a scholars club and that meant he didn’t get home until much later three days a week. I just walked a few more yards over to my home town’s high school, across the parking lot from junior high, so nothing changed for me, but there was usually no one around. We tried Saturdays a couple of times, but Saturdays are best when you just get up and do what you decide to do then.

So the last Thursday in September of 1964 – when we all met after dinner –  Royal said “I guess that’s it”, and the three of us shook hands and went home. I wouldn’t have said we went our separate ways, but I guess we did. When we said goodbye to The Boys Club.