RED BANK, NJ -- Did you ever feel like the last pickle in a jar, or that one untouched cheeseburger, cold on the plate after a big family picnic? Doesn’t SOMEbody want me? I knew I was taking a chance when I agreed to this appearance--not exactly a prime location for a reading and book signing--but my apprehension ratchets higher as I pull up to the valet parking sign. Thunder, lightning, and steady rain have been assaulting the Jersey Shore since dawn, but now it’s a deluge, the spring storm drumming hard against the black top and the windshield of my Chevy pickup. NEGATIVE THOUGHT #1: Nobody’s coming out in weather like this. RESULTING STRANGE THOUGHTS A,B,and C: Nobody but worms. There’s hundreds of the desperate little critters on that strip of grass over there, searching for dry ground. It’s too bad worms don’t read. I could scoop up dozens, saving their lives. They’d feel obligated to buy my novel. In fact, if I remember my biology correctly, I could rip all the worms in half and sell TWICE as many books. I leave the pickup’s engine running and unload my box of novels, magazine reprints, chapbook-giveaways, business cards, and three packs of Rolaids, then dump everything just inside the doorway. No sign of the valet parker. Inside and dripping wet, I am ushered to an empty meeting room with 20 chairs and a sofa, a table of coffee and cookies, and opposite that, a wall of glass that looks out on the gray, storm-tossed Navesink River. I set up my stuff and sit down to wait. It’s 12:45. The show--me--goes on at 1 o’clock. Five minutes later my twenty-something daughter shows up to help. While I’m dispensing laughs, wisdom, and authorial insight, daughter Jane will sell books and collect the money. At 1:15, the room is still empty. Jane says, “Why would you do a book signing at a nursing home, Pop?” You know, I’ve been asking myself the same question. “Well, it’s more than a nursing home,” I say. “There’re lots of independent people here--folks in their seventies. And the marketing director is a friend of mine. She sent out flyers to all the families, had a big story written for their newsletter.” Jane glances around the empty room. It’s 1:20. “That must have been some story,” she says. Someday scientists will discover there’s a gene that passes on sarcasm. At 1:30, my friend Mary the marketing director comes in, the room still empty but for silent Getzes. All smiles and controlled energy, however, Optimistic Mary is undaunted by empty seats and disappointed novelists. “The weather hurt us,” Mary says. “We’ll have to do this again another time, maybe a summer boat cruise with a wine tasting and live entertainment.” I nod. “Yeah, free booze and Bruce Springsteen might get a few of my friends to come. Think we could give away vacation homes?” “You’re so funny.” NEGATIVE THOUGHT #2: Maybe I’m funny. Maybe I’m not. But nobody’s ever going to know one way or the other if I don’t get people to read my book. RESULTING STRANGE THOUGHTS A and B: Maybe I need to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge dressed as a giant tuna, my villain's choice for a murder weapon. Or kidnap a major book reviewer for the New York Times and hold them hostage until-- Nah. Maybe I just need to get back on the telephone and wear out another pair of shoes. I did arrange one other signing, April 14 inside a real bookstore, River Road Books in Fair Haven, NJ. And on April 18th I catch a plane to Miami Beach for Sleuthfest, a convention of mystery fans and writers. Besides filing an “on the scene” report for you readers, I’ll sit on an author panel entitled “The Road to Publication--Advice from Recent Travelers.” I don’t think I’m going to mention the worms. Glad you’re still on the bus. Jack Getze

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