My Life in Nebraska

Years ago, when I still permitted myself a very tiny slice of time for television, I enjoyed the antics of Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer in the British comedy series, “As Time Goes By.” In particular, I wholly identified with the rather reclusive and mildly anti-social Lionel Hardcastle, author of the not-exactly-best-selling book, “My Life in Kenya.”

Here I am today, years later, struggling for recognition of my own not-exactly-best-sellers. But unlike Lionel Hardcastle, who in the series would have stood on his head to avoid another appearance or book-signing that his enthusiastic publisher would arrange, I am a publicity-hound.

I’ve written before about my attempts to self-promote–and unfortunately for some of you readers, you are the unhappy beneficiaries of these attempts. But in addition to blogging about my fiction, I do make serious attempts to reach out to potential readers whenever I can. This, of course, includes my pitch at scientific seminars that I deliver (and if you don’t believe me, you can ask one of our own about about the seminar I gave this winter in Toronto). But another source of my victims efforts is public libraries.

Some time ago I was able to convince the Omaha Public Library system to purchase a few copies of my novels, and there are 4 of one novel and 2 of the other circulating among the city’s dozen or so branches. More recently, I made a concerted attempt to interest libraries in the towns and villages scattered across Nebraska and eastern Iowa. I searched for the emails of librarians, personnel involved in acquisition, websites with forms and so on for about 80 different libraries. I wrote or contacted them all. In the ensuing time since, I know directly of sales of about a dozen copies. And I received one invitation to come for a lecture/book signing about lab lit, mental health, science and more.


So this past week, I drove out in my Prius 105 miles northwest of Omaha (and back on a couple gallons of gas) to the charming town of Norfolk, Nebraska. Norfolk is the 9th largest town in Nebraska with just under 25,000 people, and sports a very pleasant library, with a nice electronic sign to let people know of special V.I.P.s who have been invited for presentations. I learned that Norfolk, which sits at the north fork of the Elkorn River, had its name mangled at one point and therefore ended up Norfolk, rather than Norfork.

In all, I had a wonderful evening, pretending to be Lionel Hardcastle, and talking about my novels, explaining lab lit, the dire straits that scientists are facing today, and generally answering outstanding questions from interested library patrons. I even sold a few books. So all in all, I’ll adapt my motto from the famous Americanism of “Have Gun, Will Travel.” For me, it’s “Have Novels, Will travel.”



About Steve Caplan

I am a Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska where I mentor a group of students, postdoctoral fellows and researchers working on endocytic protein trafficking. My first lablit novel, "Matter Over Mind," is about a biomedical researcher seeking tenure and struggling to overcome the consequences of growing up with a parent suffering from bipolar disorder. Lablit novel #2, "Welcome Home, Sir," published by Anaphora Literary Press, deals with a hypochondriac principal investigator whose service in the army and post-traumatic stress disorder actually prepare him well for academic, but not personal success. Novel #3, "A Degree of Betrayal," is an academic murder mystery. "Saving One" is my most recent novel set at the National Institutes of Health. Now IN PRESS: Today's Curiosity is Tomorrow's Cure: The Case for Basic Biomedical Research (CRC PRESS, 2021). All views expressed are my own, of course--after all, I hate advertising.
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5 Responses to My Life in Nebraska

  1. cromercrox says:

    Your efforts at self-publicity do you credit. Back here in realio trulio Norfolk, I have enrolled by LabLit gothick horror novel By The Sea in Kindle Select, which allows me to sell it for free now and then. I’m doing just that between 17 and 21 May to coincide with the Cromer and Sheringham Crab and Lobster Festival.

  2. And there I was getting all excited that you were in Cromer. 🙂

    This, of course, includes my pitch at scientific seminars that I deliver
    Yes, he did..

  3. Steve Caplan says:

    Ahh, such a pleasure to be among friends on this site. Truly a greenhouse compared to the nasty world out there on Occam’s Corner.

    Cromer is definitely on the list. My kids are in love with photos of Heidi the retriever.
    That is, if they let me enter the UK….

    • cromercrox says:

      I expect that passports and customs people here are most unlikely to read the Guardian, still less comment on it.

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