Open Wounds

Publicity & Marketing

F is For Phobos (Fear)

Phobos is the Greek God of Horror and Fear. Interesting. It’s also the name of one of the moons of Mars. Ph is the sound of F in Greek and there is no letter F. I didn’t know that until a few moments ago. Onward.

As a writer what do I fear? What makes me wake up in a cold sweat, shivering? Here’s my list – writer specific:

  • Not getting published.
  • Getting published (I know, I know. But sometimes when you get what you ask for its scary. Hey, I’m a neurotic New York Writer. What can I say.).
  • Having writer’s block.
  • Not having writer’s block. (because I’m thinking… when will I get writer’s block?).
  • Getting a bad review (I’ve gotten rid of my Goodreads bookmark from my toolbar. I had worn it out from obsessively checking it. It’s like crack for writers.).
  • Red pen marks (this is a hold-over from high school).
  • Having to do social marketing (I’m getting over it but only slowly. I’m still not friendly with Twitter but at least we’re acquaintances. And I’m starting to know Facebook on a first name basis.).
  • Letting go of the need for publication (if I let it go will it be more likely to occur just like the old tale that says if you want something let it go?).
  • Not letting go of the need for publication (if I let it go will it not occur in which case this is a catch 22 and I’m screwed.).
  • Losing my electronic manuscript and not having backed it up.
  • Sending out emails that get lost in the electronic maelstrom of computer generated life and not knowing that they never reached their destination.
  • Having to look for an agent again (don’t have to, it’s just a fear…)

What’s on your list?


Pissing Contest

I’ve got some things to say about panels.

I had good experiences last week at the Virginia Festival of Books but it doesn’t always go that way. I’ve also moderated and facilitated panels, workshops, interviews, small and large groups discussions and there’s a few things I think it would be helpful to have said about the experience right from the beginning about the challenges of moderating and participating as an author panelist.

Also, Meredith Cole, the moderator for one of my panels last week was just so good at moderating that I thought using her process as a frame would be useful for all to see.

How to run a panel of authors in 12 challenging, agonizing, jaw-breaking (only kidding) steps:

  1. Give the authors a theme and then try to make that the focus of the discussion. This will make the event different from the usual interview/author questions that come up over and over for authors and will keep them on their toes.
  2. As the moderator, come up with your questions ahead of time and send them to the authors a good week before the event. This will help steady author nerves and give them something constructive to obsess about other than what they will wear to the event.
  3. On the day of the event have all panelists meet half an hour before the event. This will do several things: 1) get introductions out-of-the-way, let everyone size each other up (like gunfighters) and get the authors talking (verbal calisthenics); 2) lets the moderator meet everyone and the authors meet the moderator; 3) helps steady nerves if they need to be steadied; 4) gives the moderator a chance to remind everyone how she will organize the questions, who she will go to first – those kinds of things (especially helpful if authors have not read the questions the moderator gave them ahead of time – hey… I’m a realist); and 5) it will get everyone at the event on time – hopefully – even those who are chronically late will have a 30 minute cushion.
  4. As the moderator, read the authors books so you can tailor the questions to the authors. And… it makes the author feel really good because someone else has read their book.
  5. As the moderator, if you introduce each panelist don’t read their intro from their website: but give just a few bits of information about each that spurs interest in the author but also lets the author still have something to say about himself.
  6. As the author, follow the guideline you are given when you are asked to introduce yourself. If the moderator says take only two minutes then only take two – otherwise you’ll piss everyone off something fierce. A four person panel for 60 minutes can’t have long intros. Even at five minutes each that’s 1/3rd of the time on intros. Short and specific is the way to go.
  7. As the moderator, if you want the authors to read from their book, tell them ahead of time so they can prepare and tell them how long they’ll have – and be firm about the time. Firm. Give them a number of pages (1-2 minutes a page depending on font size and speed of the reader) if you have to as a guide.
  8. As an author, if you are asked to read you should do the following: 1) choose a piece to read that stays within the time limit you’re given or you’ll piss your co-panelists off something fierce; 2) practice reading your piece out loud and with (as my son would say) fluency. Practice reading it through 3x and time yourself. Use tone of voice, body language (eye contact and facial expressions as needed) to give added meaning to your words (fluency). 3) choose something to read that reflects the theme, has sense of completeness in and of itself, and makes them want to go out and buy your book immediately creating a stampede to the cash register.
  9. As the moderator, make sure everyone gets equal time speaking to the audience. If someone dominates and they are not taken down the others will get pissed off something fierce.
  10. As an author, know when to finish and hand the mike over to your co-panelists or you’ll piss them off something fierce.
  11. Listen to what your co-panelists say and refer to what they say, when you can when you speak. For example, “I agree with what Elizabeth said about process and I’ll take it one step further…” It will feel like a conversation to the audience and your co-panelists will respond in kind because you did them a solid and actually listened to what they said.
  12. When you’re finished with the panel, thank your moderator for all the work they put into moderating (so they’ll do it the same way next time – called positive reinforcement – they made you look good so they deserve it) and your co-panelists because you never know when you’ll work together again and a panel is about synergy not independence – you make each other look good.

Let me know if you have any other rules to add. There’s always room for more structure. The one thing I run from as quickly as possible is the moderator who says to a group of authors, “Let’s just get there, mix it up, and see what happens.”

Run away.

Now.

As fast as you can.

Don’t look back…


Flesh Fleche

Back at the Virginia Festival of Books in Charlottesville.

 

The Charlottesville Fencing Alliance is off Allied Road and McIntyre a short fifteen minute walk from the Omni. I visited two evenings last week, fenced 8 times (thanks Ken 2x, Dave, Drew, Emily, Sarah, Chairon, and Aron for your lessons in humility) , winning 2 of 4 the first night and 1 of 4 the second, for about 90 minutes each night, talked shop with the members between bouts, and pitched my book to anyone who would listen. I left four copies of Open Wounds to be used for prizes in tournaments, a ton of book marks, and a lot of sweat.

 

 

 

 

The director, James Faine, was a great host and has a terrific club to boast about. They fence foil, sabre, and épée with a good number of sharp épéee-ists on hand – a number of which are lefties – always tricky to handle. That’s a nice way of saying they kicked my butt.

The picture of the fleche is Ken (red hair) with a perfect touch against Sarah.

I’m still a bit sore from all the leg work but I’d do it again in a second. I’ll have to bring my equipment when I go to New Orleans next month – see if I can get in another evening of swordplay. Oh yeah, and sell some books!

 


Doing the Rocky Dance

I was away last week at the Virginia Festival of the Book. I did no blog entries. I’ve been in Charlottesville Virginia, moving between the Omni, downtown, Emmit Road B&N, Allied Road Charlottesville Fencing Alliance and Allied Yoga. Oh, and the AMTRAK station.

I took a seven hour AMTRAK ride down and wrote some while my butt rode the rail. That made me smile.

Here’s the other thing that made me smile besides the beautiful town, the nice and friendly people, and the warm weather and flowers.

Barnes & Noble in Charlottesville carried my book there. There’s no other B&N in the country that carries my book. But in Charlottesville VA, they carry it. That’s cool.

It’s in two different places, the New Teen Fiction section and the table with all the books from the book festival authors – at least that’s where it will be until the end of today when the festival closes. This was the best series of events I’ve ever done. Seriously. If you ever get the chance to do this as an author, don’t hesitate, do it.

Panel I, Fiction: Conspiracies and Obsessions – I did with three very cool authors – Alma Katsu (The Taker), Amelia Gray (Threats), Virginia Moran (The Algebra of Snow) – and an even cooler moderator named Meredith Cole. Meredith knows how to moderate (not as easy as it would sound). She gave us a series of questions she would ask ahead of time, met us 30 minutes before the event to get to know us and help us settle in, and read all four of our books so that when she introduced us and asked us questions she knew what she was talking about. Meredith rocks. And, she’s a heck of a good mystery writer herself.

There were over 60 people at the even at the Barnes and Noble in town. They were standing in the aisles and sitting on the floor. That was a very cool thing to see. I don’t know who they were there to see and I don’t care. We all had a good audience to talk to and the panel kicked butt. Seriously. These women were funny and interesting and I added a touch or two myself, but watching the ladies work, I wanted to be in the audience myself. I had fun and… sold ten books, at least as far as I can remember. j

The Festival volunteers were helpful. The B&N staff were helpful. I probably had too much coffee because my hands shook. Or it could have been the influence of the Christianity section behind us. Or that might have been my nervousness showing. In any case it couldn’t have gone better.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you about the fencing. Oh yeah, and Panel II with Elizabeth Nunez.


The Nose Knows

st-armands-circle-shopping.JPG (21340 bytes)St. Armands in Sarasota.

The Circle Book Store – the only independent book store in the area.

I stopped in with Max and Karen, looked at the YA section – searched for Michael Grant’s Gone (it’s next on my list) and finally, when the register was clear, wandered over to say hello to the bookseller in charge.

I had brought a copy of my book and surreptitiously signed it. I was ready.

I chatted a bit about the book, gave her my pitch and all the usual accompanying information about availability at Ingrams and Baker & Taylor. She smiled at me and seemed interested then said, “It sounds good. I think I’ll read it first myself.”

My job was done.

I walked over to where Karen was looking at a book and gave her the thumbs up. She stopped for a second and looked at me. She stared at my face.

“What?” I said, leaning in close.

“What’s that big pen mark down the middle of your nose?”

“What pen mark?”

“You had that on when you talked to her, didn’t you?” she asked.

I nodded and wiped the mark off. “It’s off now?”

“Yes.”

And so it goes…


Conspiracies, Obsessions, and Crossing Boundaries

Virginia Festival of the BookIt’s coming.

My first book festival in which I’ll be on a panel discussing a subject that has to do with my book.

I’m very excited about this. So far I’ve been to a few (3) conferences (ALA, BEA, and a NYC Dept. of Ed Librarians Conference) and each of them I’ve signed and done some author speed dating but no presenting on panels.

It seems like a cool thing that an author would do. I’m excited about it.

The Virginia Festival of the Book invited me (thanks to my great publicist JKSCommunications!) and as a Yankee, it’s a real honor to have been picked. Maybe the road trip last summer down south paid off. Whatever Goddesses were looking out for me I’m one happy camper.

I’ll be on two panels.

Panel 1: Conspiracies and Obsessions – novels of unravelling lives – with Alma Katsu, Virginia Moran, and Amelia Gray (and me). It’s an adult author line-up, not YA. I’ll have to think about the context but it sounds like a good fit for Cid Wymann and Open Wounds.

Panel 2: Crossing Boundaries – novels about family drama, love, and loss beyond borders – with N.M.Kelby, Jacqueline E. Luckett, and Elizabeth Nunez (and me). I can’t forget me. Also adult novels but I think I’ll fit in with Open Wounds just fine.

The festival is on March 21-25 and I’ll be on panel 1 on Thursday the 23 and panel 2 Friday the 24. If you’re in Charlottesille VA around then… come say hello. I’ll be the author with the big smile on his phiz.

And here’s the real kicker. The panels will be at a Barnes and Noble. They won’t carry my book normally in store (although they do sell it online) but I’m betting they carry it for the festival. Oh yeah. Uh huh. Oh yeah. I’m still stopping at indi New Dominion Bookstore – oldest in VA. That’s going to be even cooler. Maybe I can convince them to carry my book…

Here’s the link: Virginia Festival of Books


Joemamma and Leafing

Open Wounds was selected by two review sites as best book of 2011. This is cool.

With small distribution to bookstores and mostly online sales the fact that my book has reached so many people (enough to get a second printing and hopefully, soon, a third) is a testament to my publicist JKS Communications (Julie Schoerke, Marissa, and Samantha) and all the review sites they were able to get copies of my book to. Evelyn Fazio at WestSide also had a lot of faith in my book right from the start and gave it as much of a push as she could.

Joemamma’s review from Life Happens While Books are Waiting was one of the first bloggers out there who reviewed my book and I had the wonderful opportunity to meet her, her daughter Jennifer, and her granddaughter Victoria for lunch when I was in Denver last spring. I had the best time talking shop with the three of them and it really set the marker for me in meeting reviewers and getting to know the review side of the marketing puzzle. They are book-lovers and good people. Getting listed on her site as best book she read in 2011 is an honor.

Megan’s review site is Leafing Through Life and I met her at BEA last year. Her review of Open Wounds just came online. It’s funny because she was hesitant about picking my book up to read and once read says it’s the best book she’s read in 2011. There is nothing quite like finding treasure buried beneath an unsuspecting cover. Check out her review using the link.

Not a bad way to start out 2012.


Got Teen Fiction?

Coming soon at Gotteenfiction, a new site I’ll be part of…

Two week count down for the online opening…

In the mean time I’m back to my book and the click-clack of keys.


Lemonade and the Predatory Lemmings of Pricing (part 1)

Okay. This is a long entry but stay with me. I want to hear what you think.

So I checked out the fuss about Amazon and their predatory price app.

Let me see if I get this straight.

You go into a store and scan the bar code of a product using your cell-phone and get a comparison price from Amazon. And, you get an additional 5% (about $15 off a $300 dollar order) discount on your order. And you send the location of the store to Amazon.

Do I like the way it sounds? Not really. Is there anything anybody can do about this? Not really. Is it legally predatory pricing and therefore able to be stopped by a court of law? For example is Amazon purposely going to sell their products at below cost in order to steal customers? No. Not, as far as all I have read.

So what is going on around here? Is this capitalism at its best? Am I a socialist? Do I want the best product to win at the lowest price?

I’ve been trying to figure out what this could mean to independent booksellers. You know, how pissed off should they be over this for it seems many are pretty pissed off.

Let me take apart the two sentences above.

You go into a store and scan the bar code of a product using your cell-phone and get a comparison price from Amazon. And, you get an additional 5% (about $15 off a $300 dollar order). And you send the location of the store to Amazon. 

1. Amazon is telling people to go into stores to compare prices. Now that doesn’t sound too bad to me. Go into a bookstore and scan a book price in to get a comparison price. Go walk or drive or take mass transit, journey to a book store – a bricks and mortar store, in person – walk in the front door and search for a book you want to buy, passing impulse purchases along the way, maybe talking to a bookseller on your way to finding the book, maybe having a latte if there’s a café attached to the bookstore, look at the price, scan it and comparison shop. I don’t know about you but so far I’m good with this operation. Anything that gets a customer into a bookstore is a good thing. Come in out of the rain. Rest tired feet while paging through a current bestseller by a window seat. Comparison shop. If they’re in the store they can buy from you. If they’re sitting at home on their sofa surfing the internet they can’t. So chalk one up for Amazon for pushing people into stores where they can breathe in the aroma of books and be confronted by your your flotilla of warm, friendly, and knowledgable booksellers.

2. If you want the lower priced product then order it from Amazon and they’ll send it to you in a few days, maybe longer depending on delivery method. Okay. So again. I’m not sure Amazon has a winner here. It’s a week before christmas and I’m in a store with a product I want to buy as a gift in my hands and I can either take that product home with me right now – have instant gratification – and cross off another gift on my list of gifts to get for the holidays or I can order it from Amazon for a reduced price, maybe a few dollars, but it may not make it here by christmas and I won’t know for sure until it’s in my hands delivered to me by UPS or the postal service. I can’t help but think most people will pay the few extra bucks and leave the store with the product. I’ve probably spent the extra bucks anyway on either gas or mass transit getting to the store in the first place. If I’m an independent bookstore I’m still liking this deal.

3. So let’s say that you go the Amazon way and buy the book online from them at a reduced price. Forget about the gas you spent money on to get there, or the transit fare, or the travel time. You want your discount so you get it. You still have to get out of the store, the wonderfully friendly, beautifully designed, warm with coffee smell permeating the air independent bookstore, with staff who know book lists backwards and forwards and who can recommend and sell the book socks off your feet. Go ahead. Try to leave the store without picking up a stocking stuffer. A game maybe? A bookmark? Reading glasses? Book light? Mr. Potato Head?

Go ahead. Make my independent booksellers’ day.

Am I looking at this the wrong way or what?


Four Calling Agents, Three French Editors…

Three things I learned this year about publishing (please remember I don’t expect everyone to agree with me. These are based on my experiences this year).

  1. It’s better to be published by a legitimate press than to be self-published. Even if it’s a small press – if you want your book to be carried in a store it has to be available from Ingrams, Baker and Taylor, and or Folio. These are the big distributors in the business. I found in every instance in approaching booksellers and managers in over twenty bookstores across the country that as soon as I told them I was not self-published and that the books were available from Ingram or one of the others I was treated instantly differently (ie: better).
  2. Marketing is like a second job all by itself. I now work a full time day job, teach yoga twice a week, write, and do marketing for my book. I spend at least 1-2 hours a day marketing (twitter, facebook, blogging, emailing, interviewing, reviewing books, etc…). And that’s probably low. Finding a balance between marketing and writing is key to surviving your first publication.
  3. The publishing business is crazy. Agents leave the business without telling you, publishers are put up for sale seemingly out of the blue, subsidiary rights can be sat on, writers are just as competitive as world class athletes when it comes to snagging a seat at a full table of librarians during author speed dating, books don’t show up at readings, managers who’ve been called ahead of time about your store visit can’t remember talking to your publicist even though it was only 24 hours ago, Goodreads is like crack (or craic) for writers, it seems no two writers have the same writing process though most would agree it’s incredibly hard work to do (find a writing process and to write), and finally once your book is published writers you’ve never met before will help you to sell it through blurbs (which are key to getting your book looked at by just about everybody in the business and many readers looking for a new author to read.

After Christmas I”ll have to come up with some writing resolutions. That will take some thought. Here’s something though. For the last twenty years I wondered if the coming year would be the year I finally published my first novel. This year I don’t have to wonder anymore.

And that’s a very cool thing.


A Good Friday Hang-out Dittie

It’s Friday. I love Fridays.

Today is an especially good Friday (no pun intended) because I’m meeting Andrew Smith this evening and hanging out with him.

I don’t really hang out much not being a real hang out kind of guy – but I thought I should say the words because they would make me sound cool. I got special dispensation from my family to have a hang-out night. I mean… it’s Andrew Smith.

So I’m going in to the city early and not working (really, I’m taking the day off). I’m going to have an hour or two of precious writing time before I meet Andrew. And I’m looking forward to it. This is after going to my son’s holiday show at school in which he will be singing with his class all kinds of christmas and holiday ditties. Now there’s a word, ditties, that doesn’t get used much these days. Maybe this post will help it make a come-back… probably not. And I’m really looking forward to hearing him sing. He’s been practicing a lot. Anyway it’s going to be a great Friday from beginning to end.

Oh yeah. I’m bringing my books to get signed too. Seriously. This chance won’t come around too often.

The Girl Next Door

Also I’m reading on Saturday in Manhattan in Gramercy.

Fellow WestSider Karen DelleCava (author of the YA debut novel A Closer Look) was invited to read at the NYC LearningSpring School Book Fair this Saturday and was kind enough to get me and another WestSider Selene Byrack-Castrovilla (author of Saved by the Music, The Girl Next Store, and Melt) invited too. All three of us will be reading from our novels and signing books this Saturday, December 10th, 247 East 20th Street NY, NY from 1-3pm. If you’re in the neighborhood, come on by.

A Closer Look



The Honey Bee Latte

I’m doing a reading at my favorite coffee shop in Jackson Heights called Espresso 77. I have one of their mugs and a t-shirt at home. If they were a football team I’d be a fan. If they were a rugby team I’d play for them. As it is I’ll just have to settle for being a frequent customer.

Afzal and Julie are the owners and they are both wonderful people who’ve helped build community in our neighborhood through good coffee, food, and cool atmosphere. My wife and son and I hang out there a few times each week – and have done so since they opened up three years ago. I walk by it every day going to and from work.

I did an interview with the Queens Tribune on the bench outside the front door last summer. My son showed some of his artwork there thanks to Afzal (who is an artist also) and now I’ll get a chance to do a reading of Open Wounds.

If you’re in town and want to come by, it’s a small shop with Gimme coffee from Brooklyn (which is awesome if you like coffee) and well-trained baristas that make just about perfect cappuccinos and lattes every time. I’ll be drinking their seasonal Honey Bee Latte and reading/talking about Cid and Lefty and the Open Wounds gang for an hour. Most of the time I drink tea but once a day, late in the afternoon, when my energy is low and I’m on my way home from work…

There’s nothing quite like doing something this personal in your favorite neighborhood hangout.

Sunday Evening from 7pm-8pm.

Espresso 77.


Cambridge Library Author Trio

Going to Cambridge MA this week for two days. Cambridge public library will be hosting an Author Trio event this Wednesday the 16th that I’ll be a part of with the wonderful Amalie Howard (author of Bloodspell) and Leigh Fallon (author of The Carrier of the Mark). We’ll be reading and answering questions so I hope to see you there if you’re in the neighborhood.

I’ll also be visiting local indies in the Cambridge/Boston area and a fencing salle or two (Bay State Fencers on Thursday the 17th in the early evening from 5-7pm) before I head home late thursday evening.

OWS

Oh… and the pictures are of Occupy Wall Street Zuccotti Park. We went on Friday, Veteran’s day, and took a bunch of pics. I also gave their library a copy of Open Wounds to add to their reading list. I’ll be putting up pics of the demonstration all week.


The Scrum of Speed Dating

At the New York City Department of Education Library Services Conference in Brooklyn (that’s a mouthful) I was invited to do speed dating with librarians. I’ve done this before. At BEA in NYC . At ALA in New Orleans. As a matter of fact one woman I speed dated at ALA liked what I said enough to invite me to this NYC event. I feel like I can get a librarian to date me (or read my book which is probably more important). Well, you know what I mean. Connections, connections, connections. It is about relationships.

So these are the rules. There are tables full of librarians and in this instance all the authors were grouped together at one side of the room. There were some dozen tables and about 14 or 15 authors. I have to say I had to fight the competitive response. Because as soon as the microphone sounded authors sprang into action to find the biggest table first.

Some observations.

I shared my first table with a more established writer. We were nice to each other. Cordial. Smiled. We shared our time. But I could see it in her eyes. Neither one of us was going to share a table again.

When the buzzer sounded to shift tables you had to be fast or you wouldn’t get another table and would have to wait or share your time. I have to say. I’m slow and I need to get faster. Either that or talk less. At the least I have to be more aware of the buzzer. Because if you’re slow you miss the chance to get a seat at another table. The woman in charge took pity on me and found me an empty table three times in a row. Thank you, un-named librarian who helped this author to find his groove. Five librarians bought my book that afternoon – always a good thing. By the last table I, having to skip one round because I wasn’t quick enough to grab a seat, waited behind an author at a large table and as soon as the buzzer rang, took her seat. Another author raced over to try to sit in what would be my seat. I looked at him and shook my head slowly. Not this time. He moved away with a strained smile.

Some events just bring out the best in me.

 


7 Years Lost and Hard Labor Found

I went to Harlem today to visit a middle school’s eighth grade – PS/MS 161M, Don Pedro Albizu Campos School on 134th and Broadway. It’s right next to City College where I spent a year taking graduate classes in their creative writing masters program. I ran out of money after one year and never went back, but it was a good experience never-the-less. My friend Leslie set it up. She’s an Assistant Principal at the school and, after reading my book, accepted my offer to come in and talk about it with her eighth grade students.

The Library/Media Center was packed with 40 eighth graders, one teacher, and the Librarian/Media Center specialist. They had a smart board ready for me. I laid out my fencing weapons – a foil, a sabre, an épée, and a stage rapier, then talked for twenty minutes, read for twenty minutes and answered questions for ten.

Q&A can be tricky with eighth graders. There can be a lot of silence. These kids were great but I was worried at first as only one girl raised her hand. A boy and another girl seemed to raise their hands but then put them down. Perhaps it was peer pressure or maybe they were just stretching.

I called on the girl with her hand still assertively raised. Thank God she had a question. She opened a notebook she had with her, gazed down what seemed like a list of questions she had prepared, and asked the first of half a dozen that she would try to get to. I don’t remember what her first question was because right after I answered it five hands sprang into the air, then another few right after that. And the questions were good and they kept coming. Here’s a sampling of them:

  • How does publishing work? How do you get a book published?
  • Did your parents support you in trying to be a writer?
  • When did you know that you wanted to be a writer and what made you come to that decision?
  • What do you think it takes to be a writer?
  • Are you working on anything new?
  • Who was helpful to you along the way – like teachers or other people?
  • Have you met famous authors since your book was published?

But this was the best. It wasn’t one of their questions. It was their answer to a question that I asked them. “Which would you rather do, take seven years to write a novel or one month? How many say seven years?”

Almost half the room raised their hands. I was in a bit of shock. I didn’t think any would.

“How many say one month?”

The other half raised their hands.

“Of those who said seven years, why did you say that?”

The girl who asked the first question raised her hand. “Because if it takes seven years then when I hand it in, it will be perfect.” Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.

“And why one month?”

A boy raised his hand. “If it takes only one month then I’m writing really well, really fast.” Brilliant again.

I left three books with them – one for each class teacher and one for the library. How could I not? And whoever said middle school years were the lost years?


Sweat and Tiffany’s – Goodbye Seattle

Okay. Okay. The downhill was worse than the uphill. The walk to Salle Auriol on Harrison was long with stretches of darkness, empty parking lots and offices. At one point I saw a guy on a bike going up a hill I was coming down. We were on a small level space between two monsters. He rested a few moments then put his bike into gear and started pedaling. I really felt for him and hoped he had at least 21 speeds to choose from.

I love fencing salles.

I really do.

The clashing of swords, the sounds of coaches speaking with heavy Polish, Russian, or Hungarian accents, and the energy of fencers competing and honing their craft. Sometimes there’s laughing and smiling, even though they’ve been stuck hard in the chest. Everybody learns from everybody. And as new meat, people swarm to fence against me because I bring new techniques to learn about and figure out how to defeat. It’s a great place.  Did I mention the smell of wet and dry sweat?

Salle Auriol is just such a wonderful place. The business manager,Catherine, met me and gave me a tour of the salle, hooked me up with the three épée fencers in that night, talked to me about my book (she’s a budding novelist herself) and recommended a good place to get food and drink. I fenced against three opponents (I’m probably getting their names wrong so I hope they forgive me) Carmella, Marla, and Greg. Carmella took me apart quickly in my first series of bouts, though I was glad to get a few runs of touches in to remind myself of the skill I can call upon with a little bit of focus. Basically Carmella was good and she gave me a lesson that I only had to pay for in sweat.

Greg was next and he’s only been fencing five months. I focused my work on point control, trying for stop thrusts and thrusts to his wrist. He’s a researcher, doing work on cancer and the immune system. He face lights up when he talks about his work and about this sport he’s found called fencing.

Marla works at Tiffany’s and loves it. She’s also a good épéeist. We were well matched and traded the first two bouts, both close. Her coach was watching from a seat at the end of the strip and gave advice like, “You have to get out of the way of his blade,” and “Don’t let him hit your wrist,” after I scored three touches in a row in just that spot. It made us both laugh. Nothing like a coach with a good sense of humor. Marla won the final bout 5-4 on a series of infighting attacks and ripostes that ended with her final downward thrust hitting me in the ankle. Touché, Marla, you earned it.

After a late dinner at Serious Pie (that’s it’s name, really) I walked another half hour to the light-rail station (flat with no hills) and just about midnight, walked back in the hotel front door.

I’m ready to be home. I know my wife is ready for me to be home. Too much traveling this week and too much double duty on her part keeping the family moving and attending to her consulting work. She’s definitely had the harder work of the two of us.

Oh yeah. And there’s the world cup of rugby final to see.


Hill of Humongosity – Seattle Day 2

Usually a little walking does not daunt me. I walk at least an hour every day just to the subway and back and taking out the dogs. But the hill you climb from Pioneer Square to Capitol Hill and the Elliot Bay Bookstore is brutal. I got a ride downtown this time and skipped the light-rail then figured I’d just walk the thirty minutes to the bookstore.

How tough could it be? I walk fast. I figured I’d make it in 15 or 20 minutes max.

It was cool and misty but I was sweating heavily by the time I got to the top of Capital Hill and over onto 10th Avenue. Capital Hill shouldn’t be called a hill. The word just doesn’t suit it. Hill of death. Hill of humongosity. Ankle-break hill. Mountain called hill. Really.

Elliot Bay Bookstore is a big indi and I wanted to make an impression. I’m sure my disheveled look and the beads of perspiration rolling down my forehead did the trick. Bookseller Mathew was kind enough to take my book.

“Can I give you my pitch?” I asked.

“Not necessary,” he said.

He checked to make sure he could get it from Ingrams and to make sure it was not self-published (yes, these things do, in my experience over the last six months marketing my book, matter). Satisfied with both, he assured me he’d get it into the hands of their YA specialist. Then he kindly got me directions to the Club Auriol, Fencing Salle – just 30 minutes … down hill … north of where I started.

“Downhill?” I asked.

He nodded sagely.

“Well,” I said, “it’s better than up hill.” And off I went. Back to sweating.

I had planned to go to two fencing salles in two different parts of town but at 7:15pm I knew I would never make it to both. So I went for the closer of the two – Salle Auriol. And I figured I’d work the opposing muscles in my legs on the downward haul – always searching for balance.


Orca Pass – Seattle, Day 1 of 3

The next four entries are from last week in Seattle.

Facilitation Skills training in Seattle, teaching court practitioners how to facilitate training sessions around an online curriculum.

One day of travel.

One day of work.

One day of travel home.

Mockingbird Books

Sue Nevins at Mockingbird Books

Sue Nevins at Mockingbird Books

I stayed at a hotel in the South Center, near the airport so I had to really work to get downtown. Shuttle to the airport. Light rail to the last stop. A bus and some walking took me to Mockingbird Books.

Sue Nevins was prepared for me, having looked up information about Open Wounds on my website. This has never happened before. I don’t have to pitch. She has questions already ready for me about where to place the book shelf-wise based on language and content. Sue is incredible.

The store is a beautiful bookstore thriving selling children’s books, with a small café and children’s play area. If we lived in Seattle we’d be hanging out at Mockingbird. And Sue knows her books. For almost half an hour she gave me a tour of books that my son might like. I left with four. He got Amulet: Stonekeeper Book 1 (a beautiful graphic novel of mystery, spookiness, and adventure), Sticky Burr: The Prickly Peril (graphic novel about burrs – work with me on this it’s very funny and cute and good for budding artists with graphic novel potential), Merlin (Merlin’s story at the age of 12) and Virus on Orbis One (science fiction to give my son something a little different for him to chew on).

I should do a better job of planning these things out. My publicist (JKS in the hands of Sami Lien who does all the finding of bookstores I should hit and contacts them to see if they’ll take a visit with a smile and calls the fencing salles too) draws a big net. I’m ambitious but come up against the constraints of time and transportation every trip.

Sue told me I should go to Third Place Books also because it was in walking distance – only about twenty minutes – and they had a good pub underneath them. I was thirsty and I needed to eat dinner. The three-hour time difference was knocking me out.

At Third Place I talked to the owner, Michael Ravena, and he seemed pleased both at Sue’s referral and to listen to me talk briefly about Open Wounds. He read a few pages of different parts of the book while I watched, and smiled at a description of Nicolai Varvarinski. “That’s great,” he said. With a handshake and a thank you, I asked for directions to the pub.

The beer (Seattle has a lot of home local brews) was good and the food was even better. The World Series was on the television – no world cup rugby but that can wait until early Sunday morning when France and New Zealand will remake the clash of the titans.


Of the Number One Thousand

Open Wounds has gone into its second printing.

As of last week 1,042 copies have been sold and some 968 copies are out there in the USA at Ingram, Baker & Taylor, other distributors, Amazon, and independent bookstores near you.

So the decision was made to do a second printing.

This is good news mostly due to the help of  my terrific publicist Julie Schoerke and the JKSCommunications gang of Marissa, and Sami. And of course, all the folks who gave up their cash and pulled the book off the electronic or wooden shelf.

Thanks everyone.


SpotPress and BlogWord

Question two from CWPost students.

How do you start a blog?

This was asked by an older adult (not a younger 18-21 adult) returning to school and clearly enjoying herself. So she wanted to write for herself – “I like writing,” she said – “and knew there was this thing called blogging and wanted to know how to start one. “Can you keep your blog private or does it have to go out to the world and can you just ignore twitter and Facebook and stuff like that in your blog?” If I could ignore twitter and Facebook I believe I would but they are necessary tools of the trade. Blogging on the other hand is both fun and stretches writing muscles.

But seriously, when she asked me this question all I could think of is that I am so not the guy to answer these questions. Although I’ve started four blogs in my life so far and written for an equal number of other blogs, I’m not an expert in any way shape or form on blogs. I’m not disciplined enough (though I’m getting better) to write every day on mine, and I struggle with writing short rather than long. So I’m going to direct you to some great writer’s blogs and a blog on blogging that gives you a primer on how to start at the end of the post.

Matthew Rush’s The Quintessentially Questionable Query Experiment – because he has a number of great posts on blogs in general and how to use them for marketing. He also runs an incredible clinic on writing query letters.

Andrew Smith’s Blog Ghost Medicine because he has this terrific voice, keeps his entries short and weaves an ongoing narrative each and every day. Oh yeah, and he’s a great fiction writer to boot.

Cheryl Rainfield’s blog because of all the cool things she does on it with video’s and photos, and contests. And she’s a great fiction writer also.

How to write a blog that People Want to Read – it’s from about.com so it has to be good.

How to write great blog content – from Problogger (how can you go wrong with a name like that?).

How to Create a blog in 4 easy steps – again from about.com and very helpful/practical.

WordPress linkbecause I use them and I like them. Click the button that says get started here

What I told this woman was the following. First I said you don’t have to pay attention to twitter of Facebook if you want to just blog for yourself. Second I said there are things called privacy settings that you can use so you blog only for yourself and no one else can or ever will see your work if you don’t want them to. Then I said there were two blogging programs to look at -Blogspot and WordPress and that although I’d used both I liked WordPress more because for me it is more intuitive and easier to use.  She had tried Blogspot also and didn’t like it so she was excited at each of the concrete answers I gave her. I told her to follow their tutorials – they walk you through the process. That’s really all I’m qualified to say about blogging. Really.

But here’s what was so cool about talking to this lovely woman. She wanted to exercise her writing muscles. She wanted to see what she could do. It’s the kind of response to writing that is so hard to get from most people because I think most look upon writing as a chore and not a pleasant one at that. Writing is so much a part of the way I express myself I almost forgot about this aspect of writing. This woman had just discovered writing as an act of self-expression and it had turned her on. How cool is that?


Resonate…

… as in evocative of past memories.

CW Post Reading

CW Post LIU Reading

The reading at CWPost was great. At least I had a good time. I think the students did also. As my friend and professor from undergraduate days, Dr. Joan Digby said, “There were a lot of people asking questions so that’s a good sign that you didn’t scare them away.”

I’ll get to the student’s questions and my answers over the next few day’s posts. Today it’s about the pictures and what resonates for me.

I went to Post as an undergrad and Dr. Digby (who is in charge of the honors program and has been so since I was there) has since invited me back a number of times to read short stories and talk about my various careers to students. It’s great to have a teacher believe in you especially long after your class-taking days are over. I’m taking her to lunch next time we get together. This kind of faith keeps a writer writing.

Art Museum at CW Post

So the reading, in the art museum at Post, as the inaugural event for their newly opened poetry center, was very cool. There was standing room only with over 70 folks in attendance – young adults to older adults pretty much 18 and up. It was something to stand there with my book in front of me and speak to folks who were in my seat thirty years ago.

It resonated like a long, loud, ringing, Om.


Brain Freeze and The Slurpie of Doom

I was interviewed by Johnny Tann yesterday for his talk radio show From My Momma’s Kitchen.

It was an hour-long and I have to say I was nervous about it. I’ve done interviews before and I’m usually nervous about them. That is as it should be. They are anxiety provoking experiences.

Things I worry about include:

  • What will I say?
  • Will I say too little? Will I say too much? I have an hour to fill…
  • Will I embarrass myself? My family? (My wife would tell me before every improv show I did, “don’t embarrass the family,” which, of course, is exactly what you do in improv but…)
  • What if I get brain freeze and can’t think of a thing to say? (It’s the slurpie of public speaking and these days I use simple breathing techniques to get through it but it does still happen.)
  • What if I say something that doesn’t make sense? (Do I ever make sense?)
  • What if I say something that makes sense but is stupid? (That puts me back to embarrassing.)
  • What if I say the word ask like ax and my family hears about it (my wife and son have been trying to help me get the New York out of my accent but it’s tough going – it doesn’t seem to want to leave.)
Since I teach public speaking I know these are all normal things to think about – to worry about. And I have ’em just like most people do too even though I’m pretty experienced at the game of speaking. But when it’s talking about my book and myself and not content that I’ve come in to teach (HIV/AIDS, Leadership, Cultural Diversity, Relapse Prevention) it’s different. This kind of speaking is about me and I find that uncomfortable. It is humbling. It is grounding. And believe it or not it is also, when it’s over especially, a bit of fun.
It helps in these situations to have a good host. Johnny was a great host and had great questions and made me feel at home. If you haven’t checked out the show here’s the link:
Now it’s time to worry about something other than the giant slurpie of doom.

Post Toastie – Reading

I’m off to CWPost tomorrow, my alma matter, to do a reading at the new Poetry Center. The head of the Honors Program, Dr. Joan Digby (I get to call her Joan and not Dr. Digby these days and I still can’t get used to it) has been a supportive presence in my writing life since I was an undergrad with her in her newly started honors program way way back when.

She taught me one of my first and really powerful lessons as a writer. In a tutorial with her on writing we spent a whole semester rewriting and reviewing one short story that I wrote.

I rewrote is 16 times.

I counted.

And I still remember each of the 16 times.

This taught me the importance of rewriting – what it can do and how it can change and improve a manuscript. I’ll have to tell that story at the reading. It runs from 12:30-1:20. Here’s a link to the event at Post on their Greenvale LIU campus: Poetry Center.


From My Mamma’s Kitchen – Talk Radio Interview

I’ll be interviewed tomorrow by Johnny Tan – Tuesday morning 9/20/11 from 11-12noon ET on FMMK Talk Radio on his weekly radio show From My Mamma’s Kitchen. It’s the whole hour and it will be archived on his site afterwards so if you have a chance check in and listen.

Here’s the link for the show:

What will I be talking about? His opening question to all his guests is, “Tell me about yourself from birth to now.” Gulp! How long do we have? Seriously, it’s going to be fun. And he takes questions from the audience so feel free to call in and ask away.