I felt like a real hot shot author this week. On Friday, I visited Oomphotography, a Chicago photo studio, to take pictures of my two cover models for the first three Ted Saves the World books. There are a lot of authors who might use stock images or get their designers to take care of all the photo work. But since I’m a bit of a control freak, I organized the cover shoot with Oomphotography’s help. The models, Cordelia and Michael were really fantastic to work with, and we took some great shots. I can’t wait to reveal how everything turned out when the first cover has been edited and designed.
I also sent out the second draft of (most of) Ted Saves the World #1. It’s scary to let the book out of my hands and let people see it when it still needs a little bit of work. You need to really steel yourself against any impending criticism. But I know that this is how a lot of professional self-published authors get their books to be so highly regarded, so I’m willing to deal with the fear of putting myself out there in return for a better end product.
There are a lot of other things in the works as well. I’m planning four promotional events in June that will be hosted right here on BryanCohen.com. Fantasy lovers will be able to get their fill with more than 50 books available at just 99 cents each. Keep an eye out for those goodies on June 13, 14, 27 and 28.
Here is the conclusion of A New York Moment.
A New York Moment, Part III
I’ve been told that I’m more comfortable around famous people than most. On the outside, it may seem that way, but on the inside I have the same reaction as everybody else. I’d seen Meredith Vieira reward and crush the dreams of hundreds of people in the last decade of syndicated “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.” When I met her, the fear bubbled up, though her ear-to-ear grin made me feel more at ease than I could have otherwise.
“Hi Bryan, I’m Meredith.”
It’s always astounded me that even celebrities introduce themselves that way. I shook her hand. I’d never seen so many rings on one person’s digits. I estimated there were six different rings on her right hand alone.
“It’s great to meet you.”
“I hear you’re from Chicago. I love Chicago! Both of my daughters go to Northwestern.”
I was having small talk with Meredith Vieira. Later, I realized she probably had similar exchanges with most Chicago folks, but at the moment, her gentle words put me at ease. Before the exchange could go much further, Rick the producer said that it was time.
I was instructed to take my place behind the “hot poker table” and I took in my surroundings. The giant screen stood ominously before me. Upon it, I’d see the questions that would make or break my chances of fulfilling my $8,000 goal. Rick and Meredith looked at a green index card and discussed its contents. Each contestant had two or three stories that Meredith would use to help the audience and the viewers at home to get to know the contestant. My lead story was a choice between my self-publishing writing career, my 30-pound weight loss or my Jell-O wrestling experience from my freshman year of college. Just one minute before the cameras went live, the producers decided to go with the Jell-O wrestling story. Meredith wished me luck and the producers gave me the cue. The familiar music began and the crowd started to cheer.
“When you’ve gone head-to-head in a Jell-O wrestling match with an adult entertainer, answering 13 questions for a million dollars seems like a cake walk. Let me introduce you to today’s contestant, Bryan Cohen.”
All of the nervousness I’d held inside evaporated. My years in theatre made me calm in front of a crowd. As the cameras rolled, I entered the zone. I was ready to play. Meredith and I joked about the story, and the crowd ate it up. Before long, Meredith dispensed with the formalities and jumped into the game.
For a split second, I saw the names of the questions before they were randomized on the large screen. The bottom question, which was rated as the easiest on the board, had shifted up to the second slot. The rest of the order would be completely unknown for me going forward. I took a deep breath.
The first question asked what color a foreign country changed the water in its fountains to commemorate National Hemophilia Day.
“The fountains remind me of a pool of Jell-O,” I said.
“You have a one-track mind, Bryan.”
Laughter filled my ears. The audience was on my side. I’d need them if I used my ask the audience lifeline.
The answer of “red,” stuck out to me as pretty obvious. I reasoned it out loud as I’d been instructed before selecting my answer. Meredith made no effort to trick me, telling me it was correct almost instantaneously. The answer put $500 into my bank. It was the second lowest dollar amount on the board, but I was happy to make it through question #1.
The next question asked what was the name of the world’s largest frog. All the answers were unified by their relation to the Bible. Between Judas, Caan, Moses and Goliath frog, I went with the obvious answer. If I hadn’t known it was going to be the easiest question on the board, I might have given it a second thought. I selected Goliath frog, and Meredith awarded me with a correct answer. The randomized dollar amount flashed on screen. The figure of $25,000 popped up with graphics of fireworks around it. I immediately ran over to my wife and hugged her. If I walked away from the game at any point in the first 10 questions, I’d get half of my bank. Unless I tripped up from here, I’d have my $8,000 goal and then some.
The rest of the game was played as cautiously as my practice rounds with Swam. I asked the audience on a 1960s hairdo question, even though I was leaning toward the correct answer of “Beehive.” That took my bank up to $25,600. A question on the show “Cheers” rewarded the incessant TV watching of my youth with a $7,000 correct answer. Before the commercial break, a tricky question about how many sliders were in half of a White Castle “Crave Case” crossed the board.
“Do you eat much White Castle?” Meredith asked.
“I’ve been on a diet for the past year. So… no.” I said.
Even though I was leaning toward the correct answer of 15, I used one of my two remaining jump the question lifelines to skip both the question and the dollar amount. $15,000 flashed on the screen. That was money I wouldn’t be getting my hands on. Meredith took my hand in hers and the show went to a commercial break.
“I would have guessed 30, I’m glad you jumped that one,” she said.
I was happy to have Meredith on my side, even if the questions weren’t. The next question was about state flags, and asked which flag featured the date December 7, 1787. I leaned toward Delaware, explaining that it was the first state to join the union. I wasn’t completely sure though, and with one jump the question left, I took it. The answer was indeed Delaware and I missed out on $10,000.
With no lifelines left, I was resigned to walk as soon as a stumper came along. Fortunately, the next two questions were well within my wheelhouse. My wife and I both loved the movie The Artist, so when the name “Uggie,” came up in the next clue, I already had my answer and another $3,000 locked up. Question #8 was about the term for “a live performance” and “1,024 megabytes,” and between host, cache, bit and gig, I went with the correct choice. Another $5,000 entered my bank to put me at $40,600.
There were two questions remaining before I could reach the game’s hallowed second round. If I answered question 10 correctly, I’d be able to keep my entire bank. The visions of what $40,000+ could do for my life danced through my brain. There was a chance I’d know the answers for the next two, but I knew I’d have to play it safe to keep my goal intact. I looked back at my wife and smiled.
When question #9 came up, even before the answers displayed, I mentally put on my walking shoes. Meredith asked which U.S. president was the first to throw out the first pitch on Major League Baseball’s opening day. I had no clue whatsoever. Of the four, Theodore Roosevelt was the greatest sportsman I knew. I assumed Taft would be out due to his “big bones,” and I knew nothing about Harding or Cleveland. With a lack of a sure answer, I told Meredith that I would be walking away with $20,300. It was a good thing I walked too, because the first choice I eliminated, Taft, was actually the correct answer.
As the show went to another commercial break, Meredith whispered in my ear.
“Let’s go see, Amy.”
Seeing as I was completely dumbfounded by my luck and being on national TV, I was willing to comply with simple commands. After some more small talk between myself, Meredith, and my wife, we walked off the set, signed some paperwork and exited ABC Studios. I sat with Amy, her cousin and my mother on a bench in Central Park to let it all soak in. I’d survived and accomplished my goal.
Eight months later, after keeping my haul a secret, Amy and I hosted a viewing party for all our friends two days after the episode aired on WGN. Three weeks after that, I had the biggest check of my life in my hands. I was so glad I’d taken the time to make that list over a year earlier, not just because of the money, but because I got to put that Millionaire feather in my cap for the rest of my life. This storyteller had a new story to share. And it came with more than a few fringe benefits.
Top Image: Flickr Creative Commons William Howard Taft by Political Graveyard
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