Monday, September 11, 2006

Acknowledge that!

Patty here…

First of all, I'd like to congratulate our Jacqueline. Her novel MESSENGER OF TRUTH was number 12 on the Los Angeles Times Bestsellers list on Sunday. Yeah!

I spent the weekend in Chicago. While I was there I took in the King Tutankhamun exhibit at the Field Museum of National History. Back in the seventies, I saw another Tut exhibit that was touring the U.S., featuring hype grander than the Valley of the Kings.

Back then Tut-abelia was everywhere. Of course, there were current buying opportunities in the Field’s museum gift shop. How about chocolate wedges in a Tut tin, or a winged scarab mirror, an ancient Egyptian dog collar, a Tut blowup doll (hmmm), or a limited edition Limoges coffin with mummy box for $299.00. That was hard to pass up. Remember all that reproduction pharoah’s jewelry that was for sale back then? Well, it's back. But my favorite item was the death mask tissue box. You pull the tissue out through the nose. It’s one of those things you buy on impulse because it makes you laugh (or groan), but once home, you slap your palm to your forehead and say, “What was I thinking?”

On Saturday night after the exhibit, I attended a cocktail party in Winnetka. I was standing outside enjoying a balmy Midwestern evening surrounded by a group of accomplished and interesting men—a urologist from New York City, an environmental lawyer from Cambridge, Massachusetts, and a former ambassador to the Philippines. They were all indulging me by brainstorming plot ideas for my fourth novel. It was amusing party conversation but, you never know, I might be able to work in a scene that includes a cystoscopy, Imelda Marcos’s dancing ability, and the endangered habitat of the stephanotis floribunda vine. If so, I’d want to thank them.

I’m getting ready to write the acknowledgement page for my third novel SHORT CHANGE, which will be on bookstore shelves July 2007, and I’m wondering whom to include. So many people helped and supported me that if I thanked them all, the acknowledgement section would be longer than the book.

I used to think that everyone would love to have his or her contribution recorded for posterity. I remember when Elizabeth George acknowledged all the students in her writing group in her novel DECEPTION ON HIS MIND. That was in 1997, long before I was published, and I was thrilled to see my name in print. Something happened recently that made me think that everybody might not feel the same way.

I was writing a scene in SHORT CHANGE in which Tucker had to interview a probation officer. Of course, I could have made the whole thing up, but I wanted the information to be authentic, so I called the Los Angeles County Probation Department and after being put on hold, transferred, and given alternate numbers to call, I was finally connected to a probation officer. I sketched out the scene I’d planned and he told me no way, no how would that ever happen. I proposed a few more scenarios, but his answer remained the same.

“Is it because it’s illegal for you to give out that information?” I said.

“No. It’s unprofessional.”


At first I was discouraged, because I thought I’d have to change the way Tucker got what she needed. Then I realized that my probation officer had inadvertently created a perfect character in the exact scene I needed, Tucker trying to coax information out of somebody who didn’t want to tell her anything. It was full of conflict and since the guy was a good sport, it also held a fair amount of humor. At the end of the conversation I asked him if I could acknowledge the contribution by mentioning his name in my book. He chuckled and said, “No way, no how.” The experience left me wondering if authors need permission to thank their sources.

21 comments:

  1. I knew King Tut.

    I was a friend of King Tut.

    And that photo...is not King Tut.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Ha! Your sense of hilarity is why I love your books, Paul. Your theory is probably correct, but actually that was one of the more interesting features of the exhibit. Forensic anthropologists used the CAT scan of the mummy to reconstruct your buddy, Tut's, head. Interesting look, but I don't think he has a future in Hollywood.

    ReplyDelete
  3. from Jacqueline

    Hey, thanks, Patty - without you I would never have known about the LA Times, being as I am in very un-sunny Minnesota.

    And I appreciated your comments about the Acknowledgements page. The man I call my Cheef Resurcher cannot be named for security reasons - even though he is well past retirement, he was important enough to be bound for life by the Official Secrets Act in the UK. So, I gave him a nickname and we both know who he is. Saved him from having to kill me, I suppose.

    And congratulations on the new novel, Patti.

    One last word - having waited in line for six hours to see the King Tut exhibit when it came to London during my student years, I have to say that by the time I got in I couldn't care less what he looked like, I just would have liked a chance to strangle the little brat. I can still remember my aching back and feet - and that was at an age when aching body parts were for the over-30's!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Jacqueline! You have your very own Deep Throat. You must know that I'll try to compel you to spill the beans about his identity. It's just my nature. Heh, heh.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I saw the King Tut exhibit in Melbourne (AUST) in the late 80s, I think. And although Bob and I went and visited an Egyptian exhibit in Boston a few years back for research for a painting he'd been commissioned to do, and I haven't really been interested in seeing it again anytime soon. I prefer museums with few people in them so I can actually see the exhibits. Unfortunately, this is rare. :-D Last time we were in London (2001) we visted the British Museum: not only were there a million kids and people, but there was a lot of construction going on as well. Sigh.
    I like the fact that Jackie's Cheef Reesurcher has a 'past'. Cute. I like English war espionage stories almost as much as I like English murder mysteries. :-D
    Yep. Acknowledgements can be tricky at times. My husband has even thanked the members of pop-group ABBA for the music and inspiration in one of his books. They didn't seem to mind...
    Cheers
    Marianne

    ReplyDelete
  6. Oh, Patty,
    Congratulations on your new book!
    I made my twice yearly pigrimage to the Book Barn in Niantic CT on Saturday to wade though (hopefully) old or out of print authors, and guess what! I found an uncorrected advance copy proof of Cover Your Assets. Forgive me, I couldn't resist. I know I should be buying the real published thing from the bookstore so you can share in the profits, but, but, but...I added it to my growing pile of old Aaron Elkins, and couldn't bring myself to put it back. I know, they say confession is good for the soul. :-D
    Gonna read it real soon now!
    Cheers
    Marianne

    ReplyDelete
  7. Marianne, I'd be happy if you just shared a laugh or two while reading the ARC. And oh yes, the exhibit was so crowded I couldn't see many of the items.

    I'm of fan of Aaron Elkins, too. Just before my first book came out, I met him at a conference. He and his wife were so warm and encouraging to a newbie like me that I will remain his fan forever.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Most law enforcement types I talk to don't want the acknowledgment. They help simply because they're sick and tired of seeing movies and books get it wrong. And because they like free beer.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Free beer? Duh, why didn't I think of that. I'll agree, though, law enforcement types are paranoid about having their hands slapped for telling company secrets.

    ReplyDelete
  10. A BIG HAND to Jacqueline for her leap to that position on the LA Times Best Seller list......and she did it without so much as one spot on GMA......how's that happen??!!
    Perhaps as has been pointed out before, a GOOD book creates an audience........something to contemplate,since this blog is supposed to pontificate on the "NAKED TRUTH about Literature and Life."

    ReplyDelete
  11. Anon,

    Both of my books were L.A. Times Bestsellers. No GMA spots, but it's amazing what happens when you let your mother loose in a bookstore with a Platnum VISA.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Patty, surely, your two best sellers had some real merit, your Mom's Platinum Visa not withstanding! I appreciate your "self deprecating" tongue in cheek response. Your reply is in contrast to an author's postings which is only about self aggrandizement, a bunyanesque ego, or an inflated sense of self worth. None of those "musings" seem to offer any insight into the TRUTH, naked or otherwise, about life or literature.
    Here's wishing you even greater success on your new novel ----best of "luck."

    ReplyDelete
  13. Thanks for your insights and best wishes, Anon. Will look for much greater naked truths for next Monday's post. Sheesh, the pressure.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Patty, I can't believe you came home without the death mask tissue box! It might have made it to "dreaded fruitcake" status as a gift to be passed on each Christmas.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Patty,I have never seen you post froufrou nor come off as a maven to be heeded like a God......to that extent, the pressure is off.......looking forward to your next [Monday] post

    ReplyDelete
  16. Oh, Louise, what a great idea. A gift for the person who has everything-- Dry-stick-in-the-throat fruitcake housed in a death mask tissue box!!!! Simply brilliant.

    Anon: Whew! Thanks for letting me off the hook.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Oi, you lot!! You have no idea of the odyssey I went to in this country to make my wedding cake eight years ago! Yes, a traditional Aussie wedding cake is a FRUIT CAKE: with apricot glaze, marzipan layer and royal icing on top. That story is a blog on it's own. :-D Me facing an American supermarket baking shelf for the first time: "what do you MEAN, All Purpose Flour?" As it was, I managed to convert everyone to whom I sent pieces of the wedding cake to. Maybe it was the moistness of the texture - upending a bottle of brandy over the cake as it comes out of the oven and watching it sizle and hiss for the next few minutes might have been part of it. Or the half inch thick layered apricot glaze, marzipan and icing. I had orders for Christmas cakes for the next four years after that!
    Let me tell you guys, you have never had a REAL fruit cake - only dry and dusty imitations. Which only seems reasonable since most wedding cakes over here these days are iced stale yellow cake and cardboard. :-D
    Cheers
    Marianne "Gourmand Dessert Cook extraordinaire"

    PS: I send gift boxes of homemade gourmet chocolate cake, truffles and bakalava out every Christmas. You have no idea how nice publishers are to me after receiving one of those. :-D

    PPS: I'll send my fruit cake recipe to anyone who asks for it! :-D

    ReplyDelete
  18. Marianne, seriously? You'd give us your recipe? It sounds YUMMY.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Patty,
    Of course! Email me at mothra2k@cox.net and mention the cake recipe, and I'll pass it along. I haven't spent time on writing up of my stories from the kitchen trenches in my 'Guerilla Guide to Cooking' for ages. Might give me a boost to working on it again. :-)
    So, do I also send recipes for some Aussie favourites like: Lamingtons (squares of vanilla cake rolled in chocolate icing and dried coconut); Anzac Biscuits (er, cookies - being a favourite from WWI onwards); or Pavlova (merangue with fruit and whipped cream and not much else)?
    Dang, now I'm hungry...
    Cheers
    Marianne

    ReplyDelete
  20. Stay tuned for my email request. Would you like the recipe for my Vegemite upside down cake? (Only joking)

    ReplyDelete
  21. The reason I got curious about the 'Cheef Resurcher' is because it is so typical for a person from India to prononuce the two words in the way you wrote it! Is it true?
    On a more important note, I loved reading the book.
    Kusum Dhyani.

    ReplyDelete