Whiskey Thieves, Geary Street, 10 p.m.

My head swims from free drinks after reading passages of my novel at bar. Then I’m invited to another bar, the free drinks decided to go snorkeling in my head. One Jamison, two Jamison, three Jamison, more. I walk over to Whiskey Thieves to introduce one last drink to the party in my brain.

She sits next to me at the bar. She is semi-gothed out. She wears fishnet stockings. Teasing. Exposing the dark skin of her legs. I say hi. She tells me her name and I immediately forget. She is from Chile.

Do you know Hocico? she asks.

Not personally, but I’m familiar with their music.

I’m not the type of guy you would think would have his pulse on an EBM project from Mexico, but I’m full of surprises.

Come to Death Guild with me, she says. It’s a long running dance club in San Francisco that caters to a goth crowd and actually plays music I like, but for some reason I can’t stand the place.

No, I say and sip more whiskey to snorkel through my head.

Yes, you come, we’ll go back to my place first.

Her place?

Let’s go, I say and the snorkeling alcoholics in my brain come up for air and applaud and they call my libido friends in my brain and we watch as the Chilean wiggles her skinny body down the street in those excellent fishnets.

At her place she turns on the radio and brings more Jamison friends for my brain. I grab her close and she turns around and rubs her sweet butt against my pelvic area. Blood reinforcements are called in and my penis starts to expand.

There’s an Italian film called Stanno tutti bene. It has nothing to do with sex, but the title means, Everybody’s Fine. She rubs on me and everybody’s fine. Really fine.

Do you know this song, she asks and puts on a Hocico CD. I nod and go in for the kiss. The kiss is good. I never understand how a kiss can’t be good, but there’s a phenomena in San Francisco of women who can’t kiss. It’s quite shocking to a newly single man.

When I’m with a woman, I listen. Those subtle shifts of moans. Those sporadic shutters of their insides. I listen without a stethoscope.

We kiss and I pull her hair. She moans and pushes her pelvis into mine and we dry hump, me in my slacks and her in her mini-skirt and fishnets. I listen and grab her hair twisting her head to the side and plant one on her neck. She squeals and her dark eyes ask for what’s next.

I tease. I’m soft. Soft kisses on her Chilean ears. Then I pick her up and throw her onto the bed and rip her shirt off. I dive into her erect nipples and nibble and bite and finally teeth with a light stroking of the tips with my tongue. She pushes her chest as far into my mouth as those sweet little a-cups could go. I want her in ecstasy. I grab the back of her head so she can’t move and went in for more mouth kisses.

The little libidos and alcohol molecules in my brain brought out the sombreros and did some type of Ukrainian wedding dance with each other.

She gives half moans and half screams as her neighbors in that Tenderloin apartment either want to kill us, join us or be us.

She jumps out of bed to switch Hocico CDs. I’m out of breath and my body has a subtle shake, waiting for more teasing and sexual wrestling. That Mexican pig fucking industrial act, cock blocking me.

 

We’re going to be late for Death Guild, she says as she fixes her shirt and the Ukrainian wedding dance stops in my head to put their elbows on the bar. They go in wait-and-see mode.

Death Guild. Posers aching to reclaim an era long gone by. Death Guild, we’ll keep this going after Death Guild. My penis actually retracts knowing it will be released into action later.

As we walk to the club we mouth raped each other at every stop light. Every doorway was our chance to fondle each other for a few seconds and move on. I forget we’re going to Death Guild. I forget we bought another bottle of scotch that we drain as we suck face and walk.

Then the blackout.

Fade in:

Int. – Night – Death Guild

Tony and girl from Chile dance and fall. Tony falls on top of her. She’s lucky it was Tony and not some corseted Krispy Kreme.

Fade out.

Fade in:

Int. – Night – Death Guild

Tony looses the Chilean and looks around the club for her, oh snap, they play a Nick Cave song. Tony can’t resist the pull of his favorite singer so he dances alone.

Fade out.

Fade in:

Ext. – Night – SoMa

Tony still can’t find her so he hails a cab home. Whiskey Thieves calls him for one last drink.

Int. – Night – Whiskey Thieves

The bartender asks with a smirk, how did it go?

I can’t believe she talked me into going to Death Guild.

He laughs.

The party in my head is no longer interested in sex play and brings me home to pass out and eventually leave my bloodstream.

I still can’t remember her name.

I’ve been thinking about place recently.

How setting can affect pieces in fiction and non-fiction, short pieces and longer works.

I sat and waited for someone one night, a long time ago, and I was taken by the way the streetlights and the storm that was moving over the streets reflected off the wall of bottles behind the bar. I figured it was probably important to remember the way it looked, in case I wanted to write it into something someday.

And lately, I’ve been thinking about the places that I grew up in, and how they might affect future narratives – or even how future narratives might be entirely about them.

Place, you know? How does place figure into things? What makes for a good description of place? Who are the authors who are good at doing this?

Aside from Brin Friesen, that is?

What’s the best way to evoke the spirit of a place? To call it forth? Should place become a character? Is it that important? Does it depend on the place?


Discuss.

A friend and I, sitting and discussing the latest girl I’d fallen for. The waiter, walking through the glass doors and seeing us in conversation, set our coffee in front of us apologetically, hers a sculpted cappuccino in a white porcelain cup, perfectly dusted with cinnamon and chocolate, mine a latte with a napkin wrapped protectively around the heat of the glass.

I promised to answer your publishing questions so here are some thoughts about agents.

The first step to getting your book published is finding a literary agent. Why do you need one? Because agents know how to judge if your manuscript is ready to send out, and they know the editors and the publishing houses that are the best match for your work. Most of the big houses won’t even consider looking at a manuscript that does not come via an agent, so this is the place to begin.

So how do you find an agent?

The first thing you do is find the books (hopefully successful ones) that are most like the manuscript you’re trying to sell. Are you writing humorous essays ala David Sedaris? Are you writing literary fiction with Jewish themes ala Nicole Krauss? Are you writing teen vampire stories ala Heather Brewer? Once you find a stack of books that are most similar to your manuscript (i.e. you think you would share readers with that author), then turn to the Acknowledgments page. Sometimes it’s at the front of the book and sometimes it’s in the very back. This is where the author very likely thanked his agent for all of her help. Write down the name of the book, the author and the agent. And keep doing this until you have a list of 5 to 15 names.

Another way to develop this list of potential agents is to join PublishersMarketplace. I think it costs $20 a month, and that fee is definitely worth it at this stage in the game. Once you sign in, you can look up any author you want and find out which agent represents them. You can also see who else that agent represents and what they’ve sold.

Okay. You have your list of potential agents, so now what?

Now you send them a very short letter that gets them excited about your book and about you. Think about how you’d describe your book in a single sentence. And if asked for more detail, how would you describe it in, say, four sentences?

Here’s an example of a letter:

Dear Ms. Agent X,

I thought you might be interested in my newest manuscript because my writing has often been compared to your client, Christopher Marlowe.

I’ve just finished a tragedy called ROMEO AND JULIET about two teenagers who fall in love despite the fact that their families hate each other.

Set in Verona, Italy, young Romeo and Juliet fall in love against their family’s wishes and are secretly married by Friar Lawrence. Later, Romeo interferes in a fight between the warring families and ends up killing Juliet’s cousin, which results in his banishment. Friar Lawrence sets up a plot for them to get back together by helping Juliet fake her own death. Romeo thinks she’s died and kills himself. Juliet wakes up and sees that he’s died and kills herself as well. Their deaths unite the feuding families.

I run a theatre group. I have strong interests in ghosts and sword fighting. And I’ve published my poems in the local newspaper.

Thank you so much for your time, and I hope you’ll allow me to send you my manuscript.

Sincerely,

W. Shakespeare

Is it the best letter ever? No. In fact, it’s all off the top of my head, and I should sit with this for a week or two until I get it right. But it’s short and to the point, and it contains the elements that an agent needs to make a decision.

If you’re really good at these pitch letters, you’ll be able to capture your writing style in the letter. Someone trying to sell satire should have a punchier letter. If you’re trying to sell a horror story and manage to write a summary that gives the agent chills and makes her turn around to see if something is stalking her from behind, then you’ve done well. If you’re like most writers and your letter undersells your manuscript, then include the first two pages of the book in the letter. It won’t hurt, since it may be the poetry and the iambic pentameter that brings the agent to her knees.

And that’s it. You send out these letters, and see what happens. If agents start asking for partials (the first 50 pages), then you know your letter is working. If after reading the partials, you are asked for the entire manuscript or you get detailed rejections, you’re on the right track. If you hear nothing or you get form rejections, that’s a sign that either your letter or your manuscript (or both) need some more work before you continue.

Want to know more about agents? I interviewed mine here. Want to add to the discussion? Jump in!

TNB TV 
The trailer for author Brad Herzog’s new travel memoir, Turn Left at the Trojan Horse — A Would-Be Hero’s American Odyssey (read an excerpt here). A modern-day Odysseus in Kerouac clothing, Herzog plunges into a solo cross-country search for insight. With middle age bearing down on him, he takes stock: How has he measured up to his own youthful aspirations? In contemporary America, what is a life well lived? Or even a heroic life?

Postcards I sent home when we were last on vacation together so that you would have something to look forward to on our return.

1.

Dearest,

I booked this trip with the Endless Travel Agency because you said getting there was half the fun. How much more fun, I thought, when getting there takes so much longer than necessary?

The three hour layover in Zembla alone added two weeks and seven pages to our itinerary, but think of all the culture we’ve absorbed in the airports these last months. Who knew they had Sbarro in Shangri-la?

I’m watching you sleep as I write this. You look beautiful, even though you haven’t bathed since Xanadu.

Tomorrow, you will awaken with a chloroform headache. I’m sorry, My Love, but what’s one more flight delayed?