Book envy

Update: Well dang. Yet another: Tom Field co-authored Modern Masters: Lee Weeks, hot off the press.

My former co-worker Alison Bass has a new book out:

Side Effects: A Prosecutor, a Whistleblower and a Bestselling Antidepressant on Trial. Very cool – it is (or was) showing up as a best-seller on several of Amazon’s categories.

We’ve already noted (sometime) fellow club member Howard Goldowsky’s excellent set of chess essays and stories, Engaging Pieces.

Another former co-worker, Carol Hildebrand, teamed up with an executive chef (her brother) to write a series of books based on the idea of cooking great dishes each of which use only three major ingredients.

I also used to work with David Rosenbaum, who won awards for the mystery Zaddik, and my boss and mentor Lew McCreary, who wrote the creepy The Minus Man, which was then turned into a movie with Owen Wilson, Brian Cox, Sheryl Crowe, Dwight Yoakam and other luminaries. (Lew is in the movie – he doesn’t have any lines but gets poisoned in a Wendy’s.)

I have major, major book envy. Just saw a stat that said something like 80% of US survey respondents “think they have a book in them”. I certainly have my one novel mapped out to a large degree in my head. It involves the world chess championship, two brothers who haven’t spoken for a decade, an ex-stripper whose real name is Desdemona, two fun Eastern European complete knuckleheads and a gruff Armenian who tries to bully the nerdiest chessplayer and gets one of the top-ten all-time great comeuppances in geek fantasy.

My wife says it doesn’t sound like a commercially viable project.


6 thoughts on “Book envy

  1. I wonder what it is about your place of employment that seems to inspire writing careers. Or is it that the jobs attract creative people?

    Commercial viability might not be a concern, if your primary goal is to see your idea in print. If that’s the case, let me urge you to consider self-publishing via a print-on-demand (POD) company, such as, and With traditional publishers, there is a high barrier to entry (acceptance of your manuscript); they pay you an advance on royalties and do a bit of marketing for you. With a POD, there is little or no screening of manuscripts; you pay them a fee up front (about $500 to $1500) for printing services, plus whatever editorial or design services you would like; they do no marketing for you, and typically pay higher royalties. It’s possible to suffer a net loss on the deal, but the personal and intellectual rewards might justify the effort.

  2. Hi Ray – I work in publishing so it’s not surprising that people write. What surprises me is that (for example) Lew can write during his day job and then go home and write more.

    Self-publishing is the route Howard took; I don’t think it’s an option for me right now, but we’ll see.

  3. The farther I remove myself from the project, the more I see it was, in some ways, a vanity stunt and a waste of time and energy; however, as nothing is completely black and white, there were benefits: I learned what type of effort is required to publish a book, I met some interesting people, produced something tangible for my years writing, and I made a small profit (how do you like that — a semi-colon, a colon, a question mark, a period, an M-dash, and parenthesis, all in one sentence?). At the time, a big stroke to my ego was when John Watson asked me to do his ICC radio show. That was nice, but then he left me off his list of archived shows, presumably because I didn’t “fit in” or was not as interesting as the others.

    In writing, there is a fine line between presumptuousness and quality. The only true writing is done for oneself, yet good writing must remain interesting for the audience. That’s why my next major piece of writing is going to be a “memoir” of my time trying to improve at chess, and I’m only going to publish it if somebody else wants to pay me for the manuscript. In other words, no more self-publishing. I’m going to write for myself, and only if a someone else feels that others would enjoy reading it, will it be published.

    But first I have to show some progress, before I even talk…


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