Sunday, August 29, 2010

Flank Hawk: Reader Comments

I am like many authors. I write because I have what I believe are interesting stories to share. One thing authors appreciate is when a reader takes the time to indicate what they thought of a book or story--verbal or written.

I figured I'd share my most recent emailed comment (I mentioned David in a previous post):

I got Flank Hawk from you last weekend at the Yellow Springs book fair, and just finished it. Fantastic book, and I cannot wait for the sequel. I love the world you created, it has some great possibilities.
Looking forward to seeing more from you.

Sure, there's something to money motivating a writer...hey, it helps pay the bills. But meeting a reader's expectations--that motivates a writer to do a better job next time out even more.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Agnostic's Prayer from Creatures of Light and Darkness

One of the things I enjoy about Roger Zelazny's works is the unique characters he creates, including their voice revealed through dialogue.

The short prayer which is the topic of this post comes from his work Creatures of Light and Darkness, published way back in 1969 (Okay, not way back for everyone--but I was pretty darn young when it first came out). I first picked up a copy of the novel for a dime from a used book cart at BGSU's Jerome Library after long evening working in Government Documents. The paperback's pages were yellow even back then (1986), but I still have the book. And recently it's been re-released!

The prayer is not referred to as "The Agnostic's Prayer" in the novel, but it comprises one of the more famous quotes from one of Zelazny's characters. Creatures of Light and Darkness is a fun and interesting SF novel with a definite Egyptian Mythology twist. It's not as good as Lord of Light, in my opinion, but close and well worth the read.

In any case, here is the prayer a the character named Madrak utters at the request of a bit part character who is about to commit suicide for money--to be given to his family.

An interesting 'prayer' to be sure. Let me know what you think.

The Agnostic's Prayer
"Insofar as I may be heard by anything, which may or may not care what I say, I ask, if it matters, that you be forgiven for anything you may have done or failed to do which requires forgiveness. Conversely, if not forgiveness but something else may be required to insure any possible benefit for which you may be eligible after the destruction of your body, I ask that this, whatever it may be, be granted or withheld, as the case may be, in such a manner as to insure your receiving said benefit. I ask this in my capacity as your elected intermediary between yourself and that which may not be yourself, but which may have an interest in the matter of your receiving as much as it is possible for you to receive of this thing, and which may in some way be influenced by this ceremony. Amen."
(Roger Zelazny, Creatures of Light and Darkness, © 1969)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Yellow Springs Book Fair, Follow-up

Well, I got to the sight of the Yellow Springs Book Fair a little after 7:00 am to set up. No, it didn't take me that long to set up for the 9:00 am official starting time, but I wanted to get a good spot under a tree to avoid direct sunlight on a long hot day or for a bit of protection against rain. Getting there early also gave me a chance to pitch in and help others set up. Although I brought sunscreen, the large umbrella I also brought came in more handy. It sheltered me and the table, protecting copies of Flank Hawk and keeping things dry.

Forecasts indicated the rain was supposed to arrive in the late afternoon. Well, shortly before 11:00 am, episodes of sprinkles came through. The light rain continued off and on and by 1:00 I packed it in, just before serious rain settled in--lucky timing. Many of the other vendors and the other authors had already left, or were leaving. Books do not react well to rain, although most sellers had plastic to cover their tables of books. In any case, the crowd had died down to hardly a trickle by then.

I'm glad I attended the event and held out through the sprinkles longer than most. I made some sales, so Flank Hawk found more readers. I also met a lot of neat folks, which is one of the best parts of such events. I met some people affiliated with bookstores and selling, a couple authors, a host of casual to avid readers, including some readers interested in writing themselves. I got some advice from a a young guy named David on a book or two to read (add to my list/stack) and I met a pilot named Gary who is a real history buff and sent me some links to WW II websites and picture albums.

Speaking of pictures, there are none of this event--although me sitting with my umbrella over the table might have been an interesting pic. I didn't bring a camera and my cell phone is the most basic of sorts. My wife was going to drive down to take the girls to the nearby Young's Jersey Dairy, but I was packing up when they called to check on the weather.

After driving home, guess what? I took a nap. Two days of meetings, inservice and classroom prep at work for the new school year starting on Monday, and I was up well before 6:00 am to get to Yellow Springs, so I was tired. I know, for many people, 5:40 am is regular wake up time, even on a Saturday. After this blog post I'm going to work on getting files and lessons ready, so I'd better end.

Even though it turned out to be a shortened and drizzly-day event, it was worth it and I'm looking forward to next year's book fair.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

30th Annual Yellow Springs Book Fair

I'll be one of the authors and sellers participating in the Yellow Springs Book Fair this Saturday (August 21st). It runs from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Free and open to the public.

200 S. Walnut Street (Downtown Yellow Springs, Ohio)
On the grounds of Mills Lawn School

The book fair is sponsored by Dark Star Books and Super-Fly Comics and Games.

For more information, visit the Dark Star Books website.

Hope to see you there!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Quotes and a Favorite from Winston Churchill

Sometimes what others have to say resonates within the times the words were spoken. Sometimes those same words remain relevant beyond the year or decade they were first uttered. I find this true of many things Winston Churchill said.

Here is one of his quotes that stuck with me. It resonated back in the 1940s and remains relevant today. While the quote can obviously be applied to world politics and conflict, I think it also can be applied to smaller venues such as local politics or personal situations in one’s life.

"If you will not fight for right when you can easily win without blood shed; if you will not fight when your victory is sure and not too costly; you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival. There may even be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves." --Winston Churchill
Also, this quote is one of the items that sparked the writing of my short story "Seconds to Eternity" which will soon be released by Aberrant Dreams and their recently revamped website.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Interview: Kindle Author Blog

Click on over to the Kindle Author Blog and check out my interview, and don't hesitate to leave a comment.

Interview: Terry W. Ervin II

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Bookstore Restocking

Copies of Flank Hawk are on the shelves of various local and semi-local shops and bookstores. Every four to six weeks I either make a point of stopping in or I contact the stores to check on how sales have gone. Some staff and owners prefer calls, others prefer emails, but none mind a polite visit. Some sell signed copies on consignment, some ask me to bring copies they purchase at a discounted rate, and others order through Ingram/Baker & Taylor. For the latter, I go in and sign after the copies arrive. Yes, I keep a list, including numbers and rates and preferences.

Stating the obvious, placement does make a difference. Face out is superior to spine only (I thank the wonderful cover art from Christine Griffin for that). Height is important too. Eye level placement is best. I'm not sure if there is a difference between above or below eye level. The thing is, there are a lot of books out there competing. Not every one can be at eye level or face showing, or otherwise prominently displayed. Even luck has a place in this, especially as shelving is usually by alphabetical order.

Another observation is that each owner has a different strategy. Some place Flank Hawk in the YA section. Others in the adult science fiction/fantasy section. Some copies show up on the staff picks or are placed on the local author shelf. Some bookstores even place copies in two or more places. A few shops that don't focus on books carry Flank Hawk and place it next to gift cards or knick knacks.

No store or venue that I've approached has declined to carry Flank Hawk. And none has been shut out, but some do far better than others. Maybe there's a reason--certainly how hard they push it. Their regular customer base is certainly a strong factor. I'm sure there's a little luck in the mix as well.

Usually when I stop in, I plan ahead and do some shopping. There's always a card to send someone or a book to read or give, or even some candy to pick up for my daughters. Beyond being polite, I'm cognizant that the places that carry Flank Hawk are businesses. Sure, they're making a profit with each copy they sell, but it is taking up space on their shelf. Something else could be there. Besides, supporting a business that is supporting you only makes sense.

A few final observations to share. I've always given at least one copy to the owner or a staff member to read. When first approaching owners, I often suggest they read Flank Hawk and see if it's something they want to carry. Sometimes they've taken the copy I handed them and immediately looked it up and made sure that they could order it. When they're seeing if it's in the system, they're also looking to see the discount rate they can purchase it at, if it is a POD book, if it can be returned, and even if it's from a press they've not been impressed with in the past. Sometimes at that moment or upon my return (when they've had a chance to read Flank Hawk), the owner comments on how they've been burned with stocking really horrible self-published and vanity press novels. And some small presses haven't impressed them either. Beyond that, an author can learn more than a bit from a bookstore owner or a staff person who's been around a while.

I'm half way through my current round of checking. Flank Hawk is continuing to do slow but steady sales. As always: One sold here, two there, occasionally three, and sometimes none a place or two. Maybe it's not a NY Times Bestseller rate, but it means readers are giving my novel a try, which is why I write: I believe I have interesting stories to share.

It also makes me wonder what would happen if my publisher had strong marketing and a reach into bookstores across the country like major NY houses do--Would my writing sell, without that personal connection with bookstore owners and staff? Does the signed edition make a difference?

Maybe someday I'll know.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Local Places: Hocking Hills State Park

My older daughter and I made our second annual trip to Hocking Hills State Park here in Ohio. Pretty neat place. Our trip was delayed as my daughter had injured her ankle earlier in the summer. Make no mistake, there's lots of hiking, climbing and all around traversing oddly shaped rocks and ledges and near ancient steps carved from the rock. We visited on a Tuesday, avoiding crowds of visitors.

We mainly explored Old Man's Cave, Rock House and Conkles Hollow.

Included are few of many pics. My skills with the camera are anything but legendary--what would've been really really cool ones didn't turn out.

It was still early in the morning, for example, when we visited Rock House. Adding that it was cloudy, pictures in the huge cave-like formation was kind of difficult.
It's truly a great experience. If you've not visited Hocking Hills State Park and ever get the chance to, don't pass it up!

Oh, and for you writers, a great place for ideas and settings.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Five Considerations Before Joining a Crit Group

Based on emails received, the article linked to below is one of the more popular ones I've written. I think it stems from the difficulty writers encounter while seeking not only readers for their works in progress, but also trying to find effective ways to improve their writing. A solid crit group can do that, and provide networking and other support. With that in mind, remember that all crit groups are not created equal, and some are counter productive with respect to a writer's improvement and success.

If you're a writer out there and seeking an established crit group, Elysian Fields, an online group I moderate, has an opening. Contact me for details (see bottom of page for the Elysian Fields link).