Archive for June, 2007

Contest Update

Saturday, June 30th, 2007

Very interesting.

The response to the contest so far has been underwhelming, though not without excitement, as the sole contributor predicts I will be on the Ellen Degeneres Show — something which I had not thought of, even in my wildest dreams. Fingers crossed the Degeneres folks are reading this commentary and are getting ideas of their own!

A Contest!

Wednesday, June 27th, 2007

That’s right! A contest! Read on . . .

Mr. Sebastian and the Negro Magician is beinig published next Tuesday, July 3rd. This is a day I’ve been waiting on for some time, as you might imagine, and as I’ve waited I’ve spent many a sleepless night (until the Ambein kicked in) thinking about all the wonderful and not-so-wonderful things that might happen to the book once it made landfall. The sad truth is, months of anticipation usually make for a disappointing reality: I’ve imagined some pretty remarkable things for this book, things that will never, ever happen. Among them:

  • A front page review in the New York Times Book Review.
  • A movie deal
  • Oprah Pick
  • Surprise bestseller

Alas, what are the chances? All of them could happen, conceivably, but the chances are slim, very slim, slim and none. This anticipation thing is a recipe for disappointment. But would it make it any better for me if I imagined

  • Being panned by NYTBR?
  • Not being reviewed at all by the NYTBR?
  • Not reviewed at all?

No. I’ll probably be disappointed no matter what, because that’s just me. But I can’t stop wondering.

Do you wonder too, dear reader(s) of this commentary? Do you have a prediction of what will happen when this book makes it out into the world?

If so, I want to hear it. And if your prediction comes true, I will send you a beautiful poster of the beautiful cover of the book. It measures approximately 10 by 15, and it’s printed on glossy photo paper.


  • Prediction has to be specific, not vague or obvious. “It will be available in bookstores across the country.” No poster for you.
  • Prediction can’t be something you yourself can make come true (unless you are the editor of the NYTBR). “I will buy the book” won’t cut it.
  • Prediction has to be specific. “The book will hit the bestseller list and climb to #18.” Wouldn’t that be great!
  • The predictions don’t have to be positive.

The contest will remain open until I can predict when the book will be remaindered.

Good luck!

The Writer’s Life (again)

Friday, June 22nd, 2007

Sometimes (lots of times, really) a writer (me) might write something he likes but in the end is just not publishable for a variety of reasons: it may not be any good, foremost among them.

But at other times it’s just a little thing you wouldn’t want to kill a tree for. That’s where something like this handy blog-like thing comes in. I can publish it myself on the web! Typos and all. So here is one example.

The End of Time: a Fable

One by one he had his flawed and fractured parts replaced and repaired, until he became something more than simply human. It wasn’t what he’d planned on doing; it happened gradually, over time. His own private evolution.

It all started innocently enough. When he turned fifty, he got a hip replacement. Early-onset osteoarthritis in his right hip had made walking unbearable – and tennis unthinkable. So he went under the knife, got a new femur and a hip socket, and after a few weeks of painful, intensive rehabilitation it was amazing, a miracle: he could walk again. No limp, no pain. A month later, he was back on the tennis court, agile as a cat. And he had long sexy scar running down the side of his leg he would tell women was the result of an encounter with an enormous bear.

The new hip made him feel young again; unfortunately, he wasn’t. Fifty, it turned out, was not the new forty; it was fifty. Long hours in the sun had turned his face into a leathery mask. Dark, splotchy, lined and cratered, it looked like an old boot. So he went to a doctor, and had this face replaced by a new one. He hadn’t intended to get a entirely new face, he’d really only wanted to improve on the old one. But the operation pushed and pulled at his flesh in unforeseen ways. His small, round face became long and angular; for the first time in his life he was handsome. People he had known for years squinted and stared: he was nearly unrecognizable. “Eddie?” they’d say, after a moment of confused scrutiny. “Eddie,” he’d say. Sometimes he’d wink, sometimes he’d smile. “The new and improved version.”
It was the hair that gave him away, so thin on top (it looked like the frayed end of an old rope) you could see the permanent welt he’d gotten when he fell off a jungle gym as a child, ashen gray patches along the sides. The implants took care of that. The implants – he thought of them as seeds, his balding pate the fertile garden – made his hair flower. He dyed it brown because that brought out his failing green eyes, his eyes which were then surgically enhanced to make them see what they hadn’t seen in years, the beautiful details of his newly vibrant life. Then he had his two front teeth capped because he never liked the way one edged over the other. The other teeth he had whitened with a kind of acid.

He was younger than he had been in years.

His wife made him feel old – her existence was evidence of his former life – so he left her, and began dating women his daughter’s age. He made love to them (hard as a rock, Eddie, thanks to those wonderful pills), but always in the dark. Because while his face mocked time his body celebrated it, and he couldn’t bear to have them see it in all of its softening droopiness. There were pills for that too though so he took them, he started working out, and his muscles sprang to attention. On a good day he could do a hundred push-ups. And they were all good days. After that he left the light on.

The outside of him was looking pretty good, but things weren’t faring as well on the inside. At fifty-seven, he felt his heart starting to give out on him, tests confirmed it, so he had a pacemaker installed. Whenever his heart died, the pacemaker brought it back, and it all happened in less than a second. He had his arteries cleaned out as well, and after that he never had to think of his heart again.

Time passed. All of his friends either died or drifted away into their inexplicable senescence.

It was sad.

Eddie, however, continued to plow through life. He was like Attila the Hun. He rose so quickly on the corporate ladder he was a blur, and by the time he was sixty-nine was at the very top of it. He could go no higher.

Cancer tried to conquer him, and couldn’t. He told the doctor, “Cut that sucker out,” and the doctor did. He cut into him like a good steak and took out parts of three organs and Eddie never missed them. The doctor drained out all of his old blood and gave him six pints of the brand new stuff – Grade A blood, the best you could get. He was back on the tennis court in a week, in bed with a woman who could have been his granddaughter in two. He ate what he wanted to and did as he pleased. Everyone he knew hated him, of course, but he never knew people for very long. Like everything else in his life, he kept things fresh. He had a different group of friends every financial quarter.

And this is the way he lived for a good long time, never looking back . . .


In stories about people like Eddie Johnson, we’re always waiting for the comeuppance, the payback. We know it’s wrong to play with the natural order of things, and people who do suffer the consequences.

But not Eddie.

The End

No brag, just fact

Monday, June 11th, 2007

That’s how we say it in Alabama. At least that’s how I said it.

I found this out a little while ago but I wasn’t supposed to say anything about it, for some reason. Maybe in case they changed their minds. And the cat may still be in the bag, in which case I am herewith letting it out and setting it free.

The news is that Mr. Sebastian and the Negro Magician has been chosen as the #1 Booksense pick for the month of July. For those of you who don’t know, Booksense works with many, if not most (all?) of the independent booksellers in the country, and every month they (some, a few, a couple of them in a smoky backroom?) get together and pick some of the books they like and, well, they liked mine enough to put it first on their list. Which is amazing. I’ve never been #1 at anything before. Thank you to all the booksellers who had a part in making MSATNM #1.

Check out my tour schedule. I’ll see you soon.

Be afraid

Saturday, June 9th, 2007

I made the sign, God made the dog, and Bill Bamberger took the picture.

One in a million

Sunday, June 3rd, 2007

Actually, my book would be one in about a million two hundred and fifty thousand: that’s around how many books were published last year, anyway; this year, probably more. Nowhere is this made clearer than at the BEA — or Book Expo America. It was held this weekend in New York City. Doubleday flew me up for an event, and afterwards I wandered the book-laden halls of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. It was hellish. It was like wandering the midway at the most crowded state fair you’ve ever been to, except everybody wore glasses and carried Ingram bags instead of hotdogs and cotton candy. It’s hard to realize how many books are out there, and how many publishers there are publishing them, until you see them all in one place. It’s not heartening. Had I gone there before ever publishing a book it might have made me wonder, Why bother? Even if I ever did get a book published, how would anybody ever find mine amid all the others?

I still feel that way. But that’s not my business. I like to write so I write and then it’s up to them. And they have a tough job.


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