Rachel Thompson

Jack Canon's American Destiny

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Orangeberry Book of the Day - Honest Sid: Memoir of a Gambling Man by Prof. Ronald Probstein

1 Play Ball

Take me out to the ball game, Take me out with the crowd Buy me some peanuts and cracker jack, I don’t care if I never get back, Let me root, root, root for the home team, If they don’t win it’s a shame

For it’s one, two, three strikes, you’re out, at the old ball game. Jack Norwich and Albert Von Tilzer (1908)

“Ronald! Ronald! Get up!” The voice was that of my mother trying to awaken me, the place a run down hotel near Times Square at about two or three o’clock in the morning. I was a good-sized five-year-old, so it took a great deal of pulling before she finally managed to get me out of bed. She threw some clothes on me and, with muted cursing, dragged me toward the fire escape with one hand while holding a suitcase in the other.

As it turned out, there was no fire; our unusual exit was the result of being considerably behind in the room rent. In the Depression days of 1933, when residents were in arrears, it was common hotel practice to lock the room door from the outside at night. That way, no one could leave undetected with his or her belongings.

Scrambling through the window onto the fire escape, my mother swore again as she caught her high heels in the grating. She managed to get her shoes off and, holding the shoes and suitcase in one hand and grasping me with the other, she led me down a couple of stories to the lowest level.

By then, I was fully awake. Peering down I saw a dark, menacing chasm. In reality, we were only about ten feet above the sidewalk of a back alley where the most frightening aspect was a jumble of garbage cans, but I was certain that fanged, wolf-like creatures were hiding in the dark shadows below, waiting to jump out and attack us when we reached the bottom.

It was then that I heard my father in a stage whisper calling, “Sally, have you got the kid? You okay?”
“Yes, damn it, but I can’t get the ladder down. The latch is stuck.”
My mother struggled to release the catch that would allow the ladder at the bottom of the fire escape to slide to the ground. My fears heightened as I watched my father scramble around the alley below. He picked up a discarded wooden crate that he carried over and put down underneath the fire escape. Standing on it, he said, “Pass me the kid.”
After pulling me into his arms and setting me down, he helped my mother climb down. For a moment the three of us stood gathered together on the pavement amidst the rubbish and cans, a family portrait of an American scene that Norman Rockwell never captured on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post.
My father possessed an optimistic disposition that no amount of adversity could dampen. What little money he brought in he made by taking bets on the horses. Unfortunately, he was not very successful. Like most bookmakers, he assumed that the customer is usually wrong. Acting on that assumption, he all too frequently took a bet he couldn’t cover. If the horse finished in the money, my father sometimes had to scramble to come up with the payoff.
Known around Times Square as “Honest Sid,” he followed the aphorism, “To live outside the law you must be honest”—since the penalties for dishonesty in the underworld can be far more severe than those meted out by the justice system. Whether or not his nickname was totally accurate, my father had no desire to find himself with broken kneecaps for welshing on a gambling debt. Skipping out on a hotel bill, though, was something else again. He looked upon it as a game of wits in which he was just one of many players.
That night my father was in his usual good humor as we walked hand in hand a few blocks to a rooming house where he had found temporary lodging. He turned to me and, despite my mother’s glare, said, “See kid, I told your mother it would be a cinch.”
My father was born in New York City on November 7, 1894, the next-to-youngest of twelve children. His father, my grandfather Nathan, had emigrated in 1868 from Austria at nineteen to seek his fortune in America, mainly at the card tables, staking himself with the money he made from his occupation as a jeweler. In 1876, Nathan married Rebecca Breiter, an extremely pretty young girl of seventeen who lived with her family on Delancey Street, a Jewish ghetto in New York’s Lower East Side.
The tone of my grandparents’ marriage was set early on when my young grandmother was expecting their first child.
“Becky, pack your bags. We’re leaving New York and going to England in three days. See, I got the tickets!” my grandfather exclaimed, waving them in his hand as he burst into their little flat. “Cousin Morris has that big store in Manchester—he’s written me and they could use a jeweler,” he continued.
“But why now, in such a hurry? And England—when I’m already five months along?” my grandmother blurted out.
“Please, don’t ask questions,” was the imploring reply.
All of the necessary arrangements were made with the help of my grandmother’s family, and within a few days they sailed for Liverpool on the Adriatic, one of the White Star Line’s express steamships that traveled the Great Circle route of the Atlantic from the United States to England. These iron-hulled ships were powered by steam-driven screw propellers but were still rigged with tall masts and canvas sails. On board, the first-class passengers were pampered in plush staterooms and a grand saloon furnished with marble fireplaces and plump velvet chairs and settees.
By contrast, my grandparents’ berth was a bare wooden stall lit by oil lamps with a canvas sleeping cot that folded away so a table with attached seats could be lowered for meals. In “the cellar on the ocean” there were two toilets for every hundred passengers, but my grandparents remembered the worst part of the ten-day voyage in steerage as the foul smell leaking from the engine room. The smell, the incessant noise of the screw, and the roll of the ship in heavy seas combined to make for a difficult journey, especially for a young woman pregnant with her first child.
During their voyage, my grandfather finally told his wife the real reason for their abrupt departure. He had lost heavily at cards and then borrowed money from loan sharks to cover his debt. In short order, he lost the borrowed money and realized that he had no chance of repaying the loan. Fearing for his safety, he decided to flee to England. Not only did a job await him, but most importantly, he would be beyond the reach of the loan sharks.
“Don’t worry, Becky. We’ll go back soon as it’s safe,” was the only consolation he could offer his wife.
They arrived in Manchester where their first son, Jacob, was born. The following year my grandfather felt the heat was off and he kept his promise to his wife. The family returned to New York City, moving into the same tenement on Delancey Street where Rebecca’s family lived. They were extremely fortunate to get a small four-room flat facing the street, although only the front room received direct light. They also had the luxury of a common indoor toilet in the narrow hallway. In case of fire, however, there was little chance of escape because the narrow stairways and fire escapes were crowded with furniture and boxes. In the hot summer months the fire escapes were also overflowing with tenants seeking relief from the fetid air indoors.
At the time, the English novelist Arnold Bennett remarked during a visit to New York that the Lower East Side “seemed to sweat humanity out of every door and window.” Factories, garment shops, laundries, and cigar shops crowded the rows of densely-packed dark tenements. Small shops and pushcarts lined the streets; the teeming throngs and cacophony of vendors hawking their wares gave it the feel of an aviary caged by tenement walls.

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Genre – Biographies & Memoirs

Rating – PG13

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Author Interview – Brian Francis Heffron

Who is your favorite author and why? Ernest Hemingway reinvented the novel and I think he deserves credit for his work, not for the farce of a life he lead as a hyper masculine character. His books are all beautiful and engaging. His sentences are solid and purposeful. There is no waste or extravagance: Just powerful but simple writing and storytelling.

Can we expect any more books from you in the future? Yes, I am now working on a new novel entitled LARKIN’S DAY. It is a the history of a family of Irish rebels who founded the Irish Citizen’s Army which was a key factor in the Easter Rising in 1916 that freed Ireland from British domination. The story is a family’s placed against the backdrop of the events of 70- years as Ireland went from a colony of England to a Republic. Only the north of Ireland remains in British hands and it will soon be majority in favor of uniting with the republic. I hope to have this book ready and waiting when Ireland celebrates it’s 100 year anniversary of the Eater Rising in Dublin. This book will reveal the true reason that the IRA killed Admiral Mountbatten in 1978, a secret that no spy agency in the world was ever able to discover.

Where do you see yourself in five years? On the New York Times Best seller list J

Are you reading any interesting books at the moment? I am studying the painter JMW Turner and may wind up writing a book about him. He basically invented and glorified “landscape” as its own art form and I desperately admire the discipline he showed to his art: For instance he always carried a sketch book and was constantly drawing everything he saw.

What contributes to making a writer successful? Tenacity and good storytelling skills…but not necessarily in that order. 

Do you have any advice for writers? Write three pages every day without fail.

With refreshing depth, distinct literary merit, and highly original poetic phrasings that spill from the pages like paint, Colorado Mandala is poet Brian Heffron’s debut work of literary fiction. It mines the complex landscape of post-Vietnam America to unearth the deep connections that bind individuals together, and also ferociously rip them asunder. Illustrative, luscious, seductive, and engaging, this rare piece of craftsmanship will stir the senses of any one who thirsts for artistic expression, or who longs for an era in our country now utterly, irretrievably gone.

In the heady, hippie backdrop of Pike’s Peak, Colorado, in the tumultuous 1970s, three souls swirl together in an explosive supernova. Michael is the flinty-eyed, volatile former Green Beret, whose tour in Vietnam has left unbridgeable chasms in his psyche and secrets that can never find light. Sarah is his fair-haired paramour, the ethereal Earth Mother widow of a fallen soldier and single mother to a ten-year-old son Stuart. Paul is a young wanderer, who is drawn in by Michael and soon bears the mantle of both minister and scourge. As they are drawn together, and torn apart, each is changed forever. And our hearts race along with them, through the rocky, raw Colorado terrain amidst the blood sport of man and beast.

Laying bare the loss and acceptance of a pioneering age, Colorado Mandala shines revelatory light on the crazy, glorious, and romantic notion that each generation conceives anew: that love can be a spiritual gift shared openly rather than coveted, or hidden, or hoarded. If you wish to go barefoot again and climb an unspoiled Colorado trail, look no further. If you long for something to wake you up in simple, clean language, a shimmering story awaits. Awaken to what you have always known: simple truths show you the way home. With his gripping and unforgettable Colorado Mandala, it is clear that Brian Heffron knows the way.

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Genre – Literary Fiction

Rating – PG

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Website http://www.brianheffron.net/brianheffron.net/Welcome.html

Review: Our Little Secrets (Montana Romance) by Merry Farmer

Our Little SecretsOur Little Secrets by Merry Farmer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Which character could you relate to best? Charlie, her character is a little forward for the time in the book, but she was very easy to connect with.

Were there any other especially interesting characters? Oh where to start, first Phineas for not allowing others to dictate how he lived his life. Delilah for being able to take control with any problem.

How did the main character change during the novel? Michael and Charlie learn that it is better to trust each other with a secret than not.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from the author.

View all my reviews

Tamara Hart Heiner – Choosing the Right Publisher

Choosing the Right Publisher

by Tamara Hart Heiner

There are so many different kinds of publishers out there, and much of it depends on what you want out of your publishing company. I thought of this the other day when reading a friend’s blog and she mentioned how her agent is shopping her book around.

I’ve often heard that getting an agent is even harder than getting published. But if you want to get published by one of the big dogs, you gotta have an agent.

That’s where I decided I didn’t want to get published by a ‘big dog.’ Or at least, I didn’t want to spend three years trying. Of course I wouldn’t mind if one of them decided to publish me. But I decided to go with a small press, one that still took author submissions. This path ended up working out for me.

There are other presses that are only for certain genres. Others are only certain formats. Some companies (like the former Mystic Moon Press) are primarily e-books. Others might only be POD (Print-on-Demand) or you might only be able to buy through Amazon.com and not bookstores (like Marcher Lord Press).

Here’s what I wanted: a company that I could directly submit to, that would offer me a contract, that would pay for all of the printing/distribution costs and offer me royalties, that would get my book online and into bookstores, and that would represent me well. I found it, in WiDo Publishing.

So, while you are shopping for publishers, here are some questions to consider:

1) Do I require an advance? If so, how much?
2) Where do I want my book to be sold? Bookstores? Online? Independent bookstores, specialty shops? All?
3) What is my genre?
4) Who is my audience?
5) How much to I expect in royalties?
6) How many people do I want my book to be available to?
7) How much marketing am I prepared to do?
8) Do I want to work with an agent?
9) Do I consider this a ‘starter’ book to get me in the door, or do I expect this to be my bestseller?
10) Will I be happy with a small press or do I want a bigger name?

Marketing is going to be a huge part of your decision. If you self-publish your book, you know you’re signing up for a ton of marketing. There is no company behind you, no financial backing, no support group (other than your friends and family). On the other hand, everyone seems to think that if one can just “get an agent,” very little of that stays the same.

The truth of the matter is, even if you go with a traditional publisher, you better be prepared to do some heavy marketing. I am always surprised when I see or hear of authors publicly complaining that their publisher is not doing the marketing they expect when the author himself is not doing anything to market either. If the author is not willing to put forth some effort, what makes them think that the publisher is going to have the confidence to do so? It’s a joint effort.

So really, what’s the difference between self-publishing and traditional publishing when it comes to marketing? There shouldn’t be any. You should promote yourself and your book as aggressively as any self-published author.

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Genre – YA

Rating – PG

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Connect with Tamara Hart Heiner on Facebook & Twitter

Blog http://tamarahartheiner.blogspot.com/