Finished, Finally !!!!

Potential Book Cover

As in life writing a book has many hills and valleys. I was hoping to finish my book #Leaving Cleveland, last year but my editor and I parted ways, he is trying to finish his historical fictional novel and I felt he need to put all his attention to finishing his book, rather than putting my off for months.

Lucky for me, my sister in law has a doctorate in Poetry from NYU and is a big fan of my book, volunteered to do the final edit, and after two months it is complete….hooray!!!!! The next challenge is finding a literary agent that is the ” right fit” for my fictional memoir. I have been going through the website https://querytracker.net/literary_agents.php and have gotten a couple of nice rejections but still waiting to hear from others.

This may be bad luck but I did connect with an LA producer who is looking at the book. We had a good conversation and he feels the book may make a good film…I imagine I will have an answer from him by the end of the summer. Although, I would prefer for the book to be published first, if someone. like #Steven Spielberg wants to make a movie out of it I am not going to say NO! In truth I think this book would be a good fit for Speilberg being that it explores the effects of American children born to #holocaust survivors and how, even though they did not experience first hand the horrors of the concentration camps, their lives and choices are influenced by the trauma. Not to mention Steven Spielberg is a fellow Ohioan and has a great first name:)

Not to worry this book is not a downer to read…it is actually funny, quirky and a real ” page turner” I’ve been told. It is not formulaic and you will have to read till the end to ” find out” what Mark Cohen decides to do for the rest of life. Other comments from my group of “readers” about the book is that it really captures NYC in the 1980s. Little know fact from my agent in LA is that books set in a different era can cost up to 15million more to produce to create an accurate account of the time period. I don’t think the 1980’s will cost that much more…just need to find answering machines and a good costume designer…

Self publishing, my last resort….I will be giving it a year to find an agent/publisher before I consider self publishing…Not that self publishing is not a viable option. I believe in the book and feel it should be out there so I will do whatever it takes to bring it to the public. In the meantime I will be publishing excerpts, teasers….starting with my next post. So please sign up for blog to keep informed and get FREE excerpts from LEAVING CLEVELAND.

In the meantime stay well and please share this post. I promise to be posting once a week, not that I have some free time and am not writing a book….

Steven

Hold the Presses!!! An Excerpt

Confession: I had to place this blog on hold until I hear back from my editor. He is completing his novel and we seem to be having a bit of conflict. I believe it might be pressure relating to his completing his novel. I am hoping to get the final draft of my novel by year’s end.

I did want to thank you all for hanging in there and continued support. Once I get the final draft I will be more consistent with my posts. I did want to thank you with a holiday card and another excerpt from the novel. I want to wish all of you a healthy and productive holiday season and New Year.

I do appreciate your comments and feedback. Share the love.

We mean it !!!

Excerpt from the new Novel ” Cleveland” by SH Begleiter

The Roommate ©SHBegleiter2020

A week passed and I almost forgot that my sister was moving out. I was on the Upper

East Side knocking down old walls with a sledgehammer when Derek came up to me and

announced, “Well, I think it is all set. I just got off the phone with your sister and she said

you will have your new roommate by the beginning of September.”

“What?” I said irritably. “Don’t I get to meet him first to see if I want him as my

roommate?”

Derek put his hands up defensively.

“Rachel only told me that she had a friend who had a brother that was about your

age and was looking to find a place in Manhattan. I am sure he is fine. Your sister

wouldn’t set you up with a bad roommate.”

“So I have no say?”

I looked at Derek waiting for some response. He smiled.

“I guess not. It will be fine. I am sure he’s OK. According to your sister he is

studying psychology and comes from a good family from Long Island. Plus he is your

age.”

“What’s his name?” I asked.

“Howweeee,” Derek said with his best Long Island accent.

“Howie” turned out to be a guy from Rosemont, Long Island, an affluent Jewish

community. Out in public he fashioned himself the young Freud, with thick black beard,

and he was always wearing a tie and a vest with a pocket watch. In the apartment he

transmogrified into a Hassid, stripped down to his white Fruit of the Loom T-shirt

(stained under the arm pits), ankle-high sweat pants, and white socks.

For the newcomer, surviving New York is all about making rent. Even though

Derek employed me part-time, I needed another job. Going through the Village Voice I

came upon an ad that read, “Sell over the phone. No experience needed. Good pay.” I

called the number, I showed up for a job interview, and I was hired. I was now a sweettalking,

sell-anything, clock-watching telephone solicitor. I was also getting very

depressed. This was not why I came to New York.

My lifeline to the world had always been my camera. I was Cartier-Bresson,

Irving Penn, Richard Avedon. Yet I was working as a telephone solicitor selling

subscriptions to Reader’s Digest to old women in Kansas. It paid the rent but it was

excruciating. For hour after hour, day after day, I watched the second hand of the clock

slowly moving towards my liberation. Worse, I was good at the job! I almost always met

my quota early.

I lasted about three weeks before I was fired for using the phones to call my

friends around the country.

Walking up Broadway to my apartment I pondered what to do next. I needed a job

to pay my rent. I wanted to get paid taking photos. I had a college degree and college

debt.

When I got home I found a message on my answering machine. It was my friend

Mark, who was free that night and wanted to get together with me. He said he had a

proposition. ###

Even Trump is in my novel: A excerpt from my novel ” Cleveland.”

As I write this post, America is waiting to hear the results of the Presidential election. I actually wrote Trump into my novel before he was President. Why? You ask. I actually did meet him and his first wife and Don. Jr (when he was around 8) Is it a true story the way I depict this encounter a long time ago? Sort of but not really.

One of the awesome discoveries I made when I first started this novel is unlike my non fiction writing , I could embellish, makeup and twist the story to fit the narrative. Seems pretty obvious but after writing 6 non fiction books, I never had the luxury.

To set the scene: Sam is now in the workflow with Izzy, the celebrity photographer. After photographing Billy Joel, twice they head do to Florida to Mar-a largo to photograph Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. for Vanity Way magazine The trip down there brings on vivid memories of when Sam and his sister Rachel would visit there maternal grandmother in Coral Gabers, back when Coral Gables was a sleepy little town.

Ivana extended her hand to Izzy and said in her European accent, “Vell hello

Izzy. It is nice to meet you. I am a big fan of your vork and Donny and I are looking

forward to have you take our portrait. Zhis is Donny Junior and ve vould also like for him

to be in ze voto.”

“Sure,” Izzy said, smiling.

“And who is zis young man?” Ivana said, looking at me.

“This is Sam. He is assisting me today.”

Ivana extended her hand to me and for some insane reason I took it and

ritualistically kissed it. “It is a pleasure to meet you,” I said. Everyone was startled,

including myself. Izzy rolled her eyes at me and Ivana stepped back. “Vat a sveet boy,”

she said.

I couldn’t believe I did that. I had seen it in so many films. Maybe Izzy would fire

me and that will be that. I could get back to a normal life.

To break the awkwardness I said I would go to set up the lights.

When I came back to the lobby Izzy was sitting on the red crushed velvet couch

with Ivana. Donny Junior was off with the nanny.

“Excuse me, Izzy. Where would you like for me to set up the lights?” They both

looked up at me.

“Right here. I want to photograph the family sitting on this couch. Ivana, what

time is Donald showing up?”

“He should be here soon. He’s out at the club talking business or something. He

never stops vorking, that man. So full of ideas.”

I set up the portrait lights and some auxiliary lights to illuminate the ornate

background. Just as I was about to load the film back, I heard a big booming voice from

behind.

“Ivana, my love, I am so sorry I’m late. I was meeting with some new clients

about a property I’m interested in. Did I miss the photo?”

“No, not at all, Donny. This is Izzy and ve have had a lovely chat about zhis and

zhat. I think ve are almost ready for the shoot, isn’t that right Izzy?”

Izzy looked at me and I gave her a thumbs up.

“Just about ready. We just need to find your son.”

“Donny, Donny. Come here sveetie. Ve are ready for ze voto.”

“I only have about five minutes, then I have to get back to this meeting, Izzy, so

make it quick,” Trump said. I could tell Izzy was not happy with his order and wondered

how she would respond. She looked at me and asked if the camera was ready and I

nodded my head.

“OK, now I want Donald standing behind Ivana, and Ivana, you are sitting on the

red couch and little Donny is sitting on your lap.”

This was to be one of the most formal portraits I had ever seen Izzy take and I

wondered what she was up to. Everyone did as they were told.

“OK. Is everyone ready? Look here.”

Izzy took one photo and said, “OK, perfect. That’s it.”

Donald looked startled. “How do you expect to get a great shot of me by only

taking one picture?” he asked.

“You only have five minutes so I’ll take my chances,” Izzy responded.

“No, no, no. That is a huge mistake. What if someone had their eyes closed?”

“Then one of you will look like you’re sleeping,” Izzy said.

“OK, OK. How much time do you need?” Trump asked.

“Twenty minutes and total control,” Izzy said.

Trump looked at her and smiled.

“I like you. You’re a good negotiator. Not as good as me but you have . . .

chutzpa. Is that how your people say it?”

“My people?” Izzy asked.

“You know what I mean,” Trump said. “Let’s get started. You now have nineteen

minutes.”

Izzy went into action and got the trio to look ridiculous without them realizing it.

It was at that point that I realized her genius as a portrait artist. It wasn’t so much about

the lighting, the composition, or any of the formal elements of portrait photography. It

was how she took control of her subjects and had them submit to any whim she could

imagine—the more provocative the better. Her gift? Setting her subjects free. From what?

From the burdens, the clich.s, the prison house of their celebrity. And to what end? The

aggrandizement of her own celebrity!

I couldn’t believe my luck. Me, a slump out of Cleveland Heights, was an assistant to

a genuine American genius!

Another Excerpt from my novel Cleveland

I suppose the true sign of a good novel is the opening sentance. So, in this post I am putting it all out there and printing an excerpt of “opening” . Since it is the first few pages there is no need for an intro.

For all my Cleveland friends living in Cleveland, please don’t be offended by my desire to get out of Cleveland as a young man. As we all know growing up in Cleveland had some great and scary moments. In my novel, Sam Cohen goes back to Cleveland, flashbacks, a novel device give context to the story.

A metaphor for the transitional time in life might be ” we are like seeds from the milkweed flower. At some point the wind carries the seeds in all directions to grow.” Our protagonist got swept all the way to NYC, the beast.

©Felix the Cat

I wanted out of Cleveland and so after college I had moved to Toronto, hoping to land a

job as a news photographer, only to be told by the Toronto Star that I needed to live six

months in Canada before I could be hired. I probably should have known this. I had a

friend in Boston who said I could crash on his couch until I found work and so I jumped

in my Toyota Corolla and drove back to the US, heading southeast on Route 403,

hugging Lake Ontario to Niagara Falls, and then connecting to Interstates 190 and 90. I

had $500 in my pocket.

To this day I cannot sit for long periods in a car and not conjure up unpleasant

memories from my Cleveland childhood, such as Sundays after temple school when my

family, minus my father who was always working, would jump into the powder blue

Oldsmobile and “go for a ride.” My mom would pick us up at the temple with the car

radio tuned to the “Melody Hour.” We’d go out to lunch to Corky and Lenny’s Jewish

Deli. Afterwards, my mom would drive us around the wealthy neighborhoods of Shaker

Heights to look at the mansions. My sister Rachel would complain about our modest

home and demand we move into a bigger one. Eventually the complaining would get so

bad my mom would stop the car in the middle of the road and explode in anger. “Just

shut up!” she’d yell. “We live in a fine home and in a good neighborhood. Count your

blessings!” We’d all sink back into our seats and remain silent for the rest of the car ride.

Every goddamn Sunday!

excerpt from the Novel ©Clevend by S.H. Begleiter

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Another Excerpt and the Writing Process..Cleveland

As I had mentioned in my earlier post, most of my writing happened during the hours of 3 am and 6 am. For some reason, I am the kind of person that can wake up at 3 am and start my day. It may have been because for 10 years, while I was living in NYC , I played saxaphone in a blues band, the Broken Hearted Blues Band. Our gigs would end around 2 AM and I would have to be up early, usually around 6, and get ready to work my photography job ( corporate photography). It wasn’t so bad, since corporate photography paid my rent. Rent, one of the biggest motivators when you live in NYC. Over the years ,I have developed this Pavlov’s conditional response to be alert at any hour and avoid homelessness.

You are probably wandering why I have included this pencil drawing of the Pulitzer Prize writer Alice Walker. Well, she is in my novel, as are other famous people, who I have actually spent some time. So I wanted to include the excerpt from my novel Cleveland of when I met Alice at her cabin in Northern California to end this post…. PS..This is a second draft and I am waiting to get the final draft back from my editor Peter…who is furious at me ..that is another story ….

My editor, Peter, always told me to just write, ” don’t worry about grammar and spelling, just write the story down. This is one of the mantras I used while writing. I often wonder if Peter regrets giving me the advice, now that he has to edit my work. It is liberating and at times joyful to watch the word appear as the story takes shape. Unlike most writers, I don’t throw away any drafts. The story is so clear in my mind, that the words flow, perhaps not grammatically. I have read that when you begin writing a novel know the ending and I thought I did. I did know the ending up until I finished the novel. Once, I finished the novel, I felt the ending was NOT right. So, I changed the ending…and feel I nailed and so does my editor. It was nice to get a note from him that ” you really pulled it together, I even got choked up at the end….but I am getting ahead of myself.

the writer Alice Walker

Excerpt #2 Alice Walker…a pivotal moment..

To set you up..Sam has been working for Izzy for a while and traveled to California to assist Izzy on a shoot for Vanity Way.. Important…this is second draft and may need some changes but there ya go…enjoy ….

I handed Izzy the camera and she continues to talk to Alice. The conversation between Izzy and Alice becomes sparse and turns into a few directorial comments by Izzy before she announces, “we’re done.” Izzy hands me the camera and says “we’ll leave as soon as you pack up, “and walks back into the cabin with Alice.  It’s dusk and quiet again. I think to myself “that was a short session.” As I pack up the gear I look around at the serene landscape and imagine my father hiding behind a tree, trying to not be seen by the Nazi’s that are pursuing him.  I imagine if this were Poland 1939, the woods would be full of terrified Jews trying to survive the wrath of Hitler. My father being one of them. I am not sure why my thoughts move in that morbid direction in such a safe and faraway place in a different time. Although I am second generation of the Holocaust survivor and never experienced the horrors of my father, I can never feel complacent in an apparently safe place. Somehow, I have inherited my father’s memories without even knowing the details. 

Izzy and Alice come out the cabin and Alice approaches me to say goodbye. I walk up to her to shake her hand. She holds my hand with both of her hands and looks me the eye. “We all have a pain and conflict inside us, I write about it to make some sense out something I can’t comprehend and try to soften the hurt. I hope you can find a way to reconcile yours. “I am bewildered by her comment and stumble to say, “thank you.”   As I walk away, I wonder if she was reading my thoughts, was the expression on my face? How did she know? On the drive down the mountain pass, I finally tell Izzy about Alice’s comments. Izzy starts laughing. “She wanted to know a little about you, I guess she is always looking for new characters for her novels. I told her you were thinking of getting a sex chance and were conflicted about your sexual identity,” Izzy said laughing. “Why would you even think that!” I said incredulously. “It was the first thing that came to my mind, and, well I thought it was funny.” I sank back into my seat and thought about it for a while and stated chuckling. So much for mindreading. 

from the Novel Cleveland ©SHBegleiter

Thanks for reading and stay tune for more stories about the creation of my novel ” Cleveland”…subscribe to receive personal notices ….Enjoy you weekend.

Steven