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The Power of Beer

Or, How to Make Friends with Garbage Men

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So, as usual, this Thursday morning I’m sitting at the breakfast bar in my kitchen, typing away (see the banner pic above for a visual if you like). And, likewise as usual on Thursdays, I hear the telltale sounds of a garbage truck. And, of course, the bloody trash and recycling cans are still lined up along my back fence.

Damn.

So, knowing all is not lost, I head out to move the recycling cans to the road. That truck always comes later and, again as usual, the garbage truck driving by had served as my calendar alert. (Note to my dumb self: ADD a calendar alert to take out trash and recycling).

Sure enough, I spy the back end of the garbage truck as I descend the back deck steps, the two men busy loading trash from my neighbor’s house further up the road. I dutifully grab hold of the two wheeled, 50-gallon recycling cans and drag them to the road. One is bright yellow, an official “gift” from the county, the other the standard dark green with a faded recycling symbol stenciled on the sides and top. I pause a moment, rearranging the boxes and bags in this home-made can, concerned that the recycling folks will yet again mistake it for trash. (Second note to self: repaint the bloody recycling symbol).

As I’m standing there, I hear the garbage truck’s klaxon come on, and look up to see it backing down the road toward me. As in, coming BACK to get my trash. Unprecedented, right? At first I waive them off, saying the cans are recycling, fodder for a later truck. But then, I say, “Wait, I do have trash,” and run to get that can and roll it to them.

“Wait a minute,” you’re saying. “You mean to tell me that these guys went out of their way to get your trash? To come BACK for it??”

Yup.

And all because of the 100 or so bags I’d left them to pick up back in March.

Huh?

Oh, did I mention the beer?

So, full story: I had been getting the house prepped for the market all winter and early spring, and leaving increasingly large amounts of trash by the road. And then it came time to replace the basement carpet. I could have paid Home Depot to remove the old stuff, but at $.50 a square foot – meaning about $500 for the whole basement – I figured I’d have some fun with a razor knife.

My only concern was the sheer volume of trash I’d be producing, upwards of 30 bags heavy with carpet and padding. And I couldn’t stagger the pick-ups, meting out the bags over several weeks to even the load. No, the house was going on the market and the garage needed to be empty.

Enter the beer.

My home-improvement-wise stepfather suggested an excellent course of action: bribe the garbage men.

So, late one Wednesday in early April, I dragged about 20 bags to the road. It had just rained and was chilly, projected to reach the low 40s at night. Perfect. So, atop a few bags but hidden beneath another layer, I left a case of Yuengling Lager. I chose cans to avoid the possibility of breakage, even though every fiber of my being recoils at the thought of canned beer, and hoped the men would be pleased.

As far as I knew, they were. In the morning, the bags were gone. All of them. And so was the beer. And so were the bags and bags and bags I left for them the following month, as my preparations wore on.

But until this morning I had nothing but circumstantial confirmation of how effective my ploy had been.

As he walks up to retrieve my trashcan from me, the tall, somewhat disheveled and unshaven young man smiles and says, “Hey, thanks for the beer you left that time.” Behind him, his older and heavier black companion smiles a knowing smile.

“No problem,” I say. “Figured I was asking a lot.”

With another smile, they empty my trash and climb back aboard the truck as it drives off.

Mission accomplished. And all for about $18.

Is there life after the office?

Sam Baker, former maven of the fashion publishing industry, weighs in about leaving the rat race and making her own way.  The similarities to Jerrod Beams’ fears are interesting, so I thought I’d share.

What is Suburban Fiction?

Any author worth his salt writes with a genre in mind.  I’ll make no claims about my saltiness either way, but The Point of Escape was written with a couple genres in mind, one of which I’ll discuss today: suburban fiction.

Google “suburban fiction” and you’ll get articles about angst, adultery and ennui.  A 2004 New York Times article that reviews some contemporary works includes this useful description of the genre.

NYT Suburban Fiction Screen Shot

Conversely, the Goodreads shelf for the genre that pops up as the third link in our Google search includes a majority of young adult lit.  OK, teen girls’ lit.  Judy Bloom and the like.  Angst, adultery and ennui writ young.  Not exactly what I’m going for here.

“So,” you ask, “just what are you about?”

Glad you asked.  There are actually several flavors of suburban lit, all of which – unsurprisingly – draw thematic elements from those ubiquitous sprawling subdivisions and side streets.  As you can tell from the brief descriptions above, this can be a fairly dark mode of writing, inevitably contrasting with the cheery stereotype of white picket fences and 2.5 kids.  The darkness can become pervasive, as in subgenres like suburban gothic – which introduces elements of the supernatural and science fiction – or suburban noir – which slides into psychosis and horror.

My current project (yes, I’m writing The Next One even as I steer This One toward launch day) edges into these subgenres.  It’s a three-part series that takes a rather dark look at what the world of cookie-cutter houses and conspicuous consumption can do to your soul.  I hope to have the first installment in beta form by the fall, and to market before Christmas.  Weary food for cheery souls.  Ho.  Ho.  Ho.

Not so much The Point of Escape.  I wrote it with beach reading in mind, and so – though not uncritical of suburban life – its themes are far more uplifting, its trajectory more hopeful.  Jerrod Beams experiences all the aimless ennui of any suburban fiction hero.  But although the ‘burbs in some ways embody the Faustian bargain he has struck with the Federal Mephistopheles – they and the life they promise are the false fruits of his soul-crushing labor – Jerrod is largely happy with what he has provided for his family.  Just not how he has provided it.  That’s what he hopes to change.

The great source of that hope – the ability to take stock and the courage to change – was inspired by a non-fiction work, and places the novel itself into a new genre, something I call entrepreneurial fiction.  Defining this new genre will be the focus of my next post.

Read The First Chapter (and the Prologue)!

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Starting today, you are able to get a sneak peek at the The Point of Escape.  I’ve made the Prologue and Chapter 1 available on the 4-Hour Novel page of this site. Hope you enjoy!

Over the next several weeks I will continue to reveal chapters for those who want advance access to the novel.

And, for those of you who don’t want to wait a week for Chapter 2, I have a special deal.  Just sign up for my mailing list by clicking here.  Fill out the form and I’ll send you a PDF of the first four chapters today.  I’ll also be sure to send you periodic updates and information about upcoming projects (and I promise not to flood your inbox!).

But don’t wait.  On launch day (July 31! tick…tick..tick…) I will be taking down all advance chapters and ending the mailing list offer.  Amazon rules.  So, happy reading, and don’t forget to sign up for email updates!

Full Cover Reveal…..and a Launch Date!

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Here it is!  When I decided to offer hardcopies in addition to ebooks, I went ahead and asked my cover designer to work up the spine and back cover.  I think I said something like, “I have no idea what this should look like!”  No problem.  Less than a week later, this image arrived in my inbox.  True to form, Ares had produced a beautiful design with minimal guidance.  Perfect.  And thanks again, Ares.

And it arrives just in time because………..the release date has been set and is fast approaching.  Yes, folks, at midnight on Thursday, July 31st, The Point of Escape: A 4-Hour Novel will be available for purchase on Amazon, either as a Kindle ebook or in hardcopy.  Yay!  Between now and then I will share with you more about the book and the deals I’ll be offering.  In the meantime, enjoy this new visual and mark your calendars!

Looks Like Fun!

Alsace Biking Image

Quick Poll: Would you tour the Route de Vin by bike? I ran across these links the other day and was…intrigued.

We Have a Cover!

Thanks to graphic designer wiz Ares Jun, “the novel” now has a cover:

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He banged out this cool design with only this to go on:

Ares,
Here’s what I have in mind. I’ve attached a document that describes the novel’s plot in detail. What I can add here are some of the major themes and images.

Themes:
Escape
Self-direction (versus taking orders)
Challenging rules that we or others impose.
Finding purpose

Images:
Office cubicles (grey and anonymous)
Tim Ferriss’ book The 4-Hour Work Week, second (2011) edition – the cover is orange and red.
Jerrod releasing from a trapeze bar

I imagine a cover with a color drawing of a typical office full of grey cubicles, but with the one in the foreground somehow glowing with the colors of Ferriss’ book, the light perhaps coming from something that could remind a reader of its cover, such as a palm tree.
Please let me know what you think about the concept and the timeline for completing a cover.

Best,
J.F. Hussey

I tell you, the man’s a genius. From the grey anonymity of the cube farm, to the hopeful glow emanating from the background, to the subtle nods to Ferriss’ own cover, I’m very pleased with the outcome. Thanks, Steve Konkoly, for the introduction.
So, you’ll be seeing lots more of this graphic from here on out. And – with any luck – you’ll be seeing it on Amazon very soon!

Escape Plans

The ESCAPE Cabin

I ran across this article today, and found it to be an interesting example of how people are reaching through perceived boundaries to find better lives.

Progress and Good News

First the Progress

Just yesterday I completed the editing process for the first draft! It came in at just over 68,000 words and 270 pages, about right for suburban comedy escape-reading. I immediately sent out the text to my intrepid readers, one of whom replied by attaching the memoir she’s working on for me to edit. Fair enough, and a really interesting story – about adopting five girls from the Ukraine. I can’t wait to wade in.

In the meantime, though, I have some non-writing tasks to tackle, including updating this blog (you’re welcome!), getting together with a cover designer (I have several I’ll be exploring), and coming up with a bloody title for the book (which I’ll have to do before said cover is designed). It’s been a challenge – and a daunting one – trying to encapsulate the essence of the novel in a few words. All I know so far is the subtitle: A Four-Hour Novel. Which brings me to:

The Good News

I heard back from Tim Ferriss’s people, namely Donna, his assistant. Apparently adding “Copyright Question” to the subject line gets people’s attention.

Anyhow, the short version is that I’ve asked permission to quote from The 4-Hour Workweek, that Tim makes these calls personally, but that he is out of pocket for the next few weeks – apparently filming a new TV series. Donna promises news as soon as Tim emerges and has a chance to wade through the stuff that’s piled up in his absence. Glad to be part of that problem.

So, fingers crossed and prayers, please! With a little luck – and maybe some Divine intervention – I’ll be able to report an important green light in the coming weeks.

Cheers,
JFH

Now $0.99 on Amazon!

Displaced: A Darkening Path – Vol. I Word Count

46,417

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