Doing laps in the LA Fishbowl

Adventures in Publishing: Accordions and Folk Tunes

Wherein we learn that, despite all the awesome coddling that comes with being at a super publishing house, they will not do EVERYTHING for you. 

Lookie what I got!

If I’d a known accordions weighed a ton,
I woulda written them heavier.

No, I’m not taking up a new hobby. I’ve rented it for a shoot of… Still Life Las Vegas, *The Trailer.* Yes, nowadays people make little filmed previews of their books to help sell them on the Internets. Just like the movies! Except, with less explosions, usually, unless you’re John Grisham.

So, how it works is, the publisher just whips up a little movie and submits it for your approval—

ah, no.

If you, the writer, would like this little (unproven) boost to book sales, you are free to create one yourself. Unless, I suspect, you’re John Grisham. Then you have Joel Schumacher make one for you, and, oh yeah, IT’S A REAL MOVIE.

As a non-John-Grisham-type writer, I find that living in Los Angeles and working in the entertainment industry has given me a distinct advantage—notably, knowing people who know how to shoot these things, and make them look good. My voice director for “Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness,” Peter Hastings, also happens to have mad skills in a number of fields, and filmmaking is one of them. I’ve seen his work on a few music videos (did I mention he also plays the bass and was in the band Doozy?) and loved them.

This Jack-and-Master of all trades very graciously offered to help me create my trailer.

It’s amazing, the help you find around you when you need it, and ask.

A few days ago I watched an evening of filming—one of the main characters in my book, Emily, playing the accordion. Peter brought in someone perfect for the role— accordionista extraordinaire Gee Rabe.

I write the role of an Asian female accordion virtuoso, and voila, she appears (watch out, Lucy Liu, better jump quick if you’re interested!). Gee hoisted that accordion onto her shoulders, started in on Torna a Surriento— and away we went.

This is from the perspective of me on the floor,
swiveling her around on a stool as she played. Hi-tech!

We had a lot of fun.

Speaking of Torna a Surriento— if you, as a fledgling writer, decide you’d like to use a snippet of an old Italian folk song in your book and find an English translation on the internet and put it in, not thinking about who wrote the translation because, really, you’re not even CLOSE to needing that kind of information and they’ll get it all sorted out later (the aspirational, vague but authoritative they) in the remote possibility that you do get it published, IF YOU HAVE DONE THIS, don’t forget about attending to this question, and certainly don’t wait until copyediting is asking for rights to said translation.

Oh! Do we need it?

Why yes, yes we do.

Here is where you find that the they you thought would handle this is, in actuality, you. THEY (the copyeditors at the publishing house) would like you to make sure that rights are available to all songs used in the book. Anything more than one line. That’s what they are there for, to make sure no one (including you) gets sued down the line. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any attribution for the translation of Torna a Surriento that I was using. While I’m pretty sure it was a literal translation that no one would lay claim to, a legal headache is the last thing anyone wants.

The solution? Why, write your own translation! This is more easily done if you have an Italian mother who can transcribe the song word for word for you. Here’s my version of Return to Sorrento. It’s not a literal translation, but my interpretation of it:

Looking out I see the water,
It glitters like a memory,
Like the face I can’t let go of
All my days and in my dreams

Smell the fragrance from the garden—
Orange blossoms fill the air
With the scent of sweet remembrance
Of a time when you were near.

And you said “I’m leaving, farewell.”
In my arms you would not stay.
From this land of love, my darling,
You took your heart and turned away.

Come back, my love
Please torment me no more,
Come back to Sorrento
Don’t let me die!

Feel free to use it. Just give me credit!


I’m doing a reading challenge this year, and I invite you to join in! It’s one that’s been making the rounds on Facebook, but originally culled from a blog site called Modern Mrs. Darcy. The challenge gets you to read twelve books in as many months, and it gives you different criteria to choose each book. I’m not sure I’ll be able to get through it (that’s more than double what I usually read, unfortunately) but who doesn’t want to read more? (well, my son, but that’s another matter). Right now I’ve finished Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?  by Roz Chast (book recommended by someone with good taste), and I’m starting on Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng (book on the bestseller list). Join in! And we ALL know what book we’ll choose for the category “book published this year”— yes?

January 30th, 2015 - Still Life Las Vegas


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