Last Signing of 2012

B&N Colonie

One week from today I will be at Barnes and Noble in Saratoga Springs, NY, my last signing of 2012. The signing serves a dual purpose as my school is holding a Bookfair that day. Therefore, if you would like a signed copy of Tap Out as a Chanukkah, Christmas or Holiday gift, this is your last chance.

And if you already have a copy, no worries, come on out, say hey, and pick up another item form B&N, as proceeds form the day’s sales help the freshman class.

I hope to see you. And be careful shopping out there.

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Book Giveaway

If you’d like to win a copy of Tap Out, please head over to The Literati Press Blog to enter. The post today includes an excerpt from my novel (Tony’s first time at the gym), and is a great way to capture the attention of any MMA fans you know.

So head on over and give Starr some love. She’s shown me nothing besides. And she is awesome. Thanks.

The Darkness comes from within

In Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg discusses the Artist’s desire to create: “…though she [the artist] expresses vitality, must behind it touch down on quiet peace.”

In On Writing, Stephen King describes how he writes to Metallica. Most recently I read an interview with him and Neil Gaiman, and King discussed how he writes in his Florida home with his desk facing the wall, away from the distracting windows.

Goldberg and King are both touching on the importance of the process and how we keep it from managing us. Ever since Tap Out hit readers’ hands, I’ve had questions about my process and the environment in which I write. Most assume because of the pervasive darkness in my novel that I will lean toward King’s image: sitting alone in a dark room, cranking heavy tunes and hammering away on the keyboard.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

But first, let me explain how my office came to be.

We bought our home while my wife was pregnant with our first daughter and we had no cash; of course during the real estate bubble. Therefore, we grabbed up a two-bedroom ranch with a large enough yard for a future addition. The “spare” room became the nursery, and my wife did not want a traditional theme. She wanted something unisex and something that would last for our second child (we didn’t know the gender of either child until delivery). Also, since my wife is 100% Irish, she wanted the room to reflect that, and so why not paint the room like the hills of Ireland with cute little sheep and a rainbow, etc? And while at it, why not make it panoramic, painting the popcorn ceiling with a multi-toned sky and puffy white clouds?

Exactly.

Of course I said yes, because that’s what you do for your wife in your new home with your first baby on the way. Fortunately, our friend’s sister is a talented artist. She came and sketched and then painted, and within a week the nursery was complete. And it was perfect once our daughter was snuggled inside.

Fast forward three years, the addition has been built, and we now have four bedrooms, two daughters and I get an office. The new “bedroom” in the addition was perfect. Spartan like King’s, painted a peaceful blue, ala Goldberg. Only there was one problem: the windows in the nursery had become excessively drafty. We didn’t have the money to replace both, so a decision was made–paint the office pink, add a cutsie theme and convert it into the new nursery. As for the old? It became my office, complete with a space heater to combat the cold, with the hills of Ireland over my head.

So when I write, I guess I implore both the wisdom of Goldberg and King. The room is incredibly peaceful. When I look up while writing a scene, lost with where I want to go or what I want a character to say, I’m faced with serenity, not insanity. And I believe that is what keeps me from getting pulled too far into the darkness within. Because I crank away at my work with a fevered pitch as if Metallica–or more likely Slipknot–is roaring in my ears, but I am surrounded by peace. That balance keeps me sane and maintains the humanity within my work. It is impossible not to. I sit and write in the room in which my firstborn dreamed.

Can I get a little help?

As authors, we write, market, build platforms, create connections, and successfully live in both the virtual and real world. We do all this because that’s the job. That is not a complaint, but a fact. People with more intelligence on the matter will discuss tribes and such, and of course they are correct. But what underlies all this activity is a four-letter word: Help.

For me, someone who is ruggedly independent (at least in my mind), I struggle with that. I don’t like asking for help, and certainly do not like to the idea that I might need it. Yet, that word and all it embodies is precisely what every author needs. I didn’t get a publishing contract without my agent. Heck, I didn’t get my writing up to spec without a writers group. And now I continue to try and raise awareness for who I am and what my work is all about on social media outlets. Social media. A multitude. Of people who help.

I am new to the social platform, and not surprisingly, am hit or miss. Yet, I recently had the opportunity to help another writer, who in the past has helped me. None of this would have occurred without our connected lifestyle. And that opportunity, more than any article I’ve read or conversation I’ve heard has made all the difference, because it had nothing to do with me helping me.

I think the term “Karma” is overused and often misapplied, but maybe it works for this situation? If so, then I feel better about “getting myself out there.” Because shouting for attention does not interest me. But seeing the circular help does.

And as I consider my work as an author, this fact doesn’t surprise me. Every piece I have ever written has an element of someone needing help–the one thing I’m afraid of seeking.

Well, then, as Whitman said, “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.”

Don’t we all? Therefore, I’m coming to terms with platform and attention-seeking and all the rest, as I’m sure so are many of you. I would offer then a paradigm shift on the perspective of help. We still need to help ourselves, but more importantly, answer this: How can what you post, tweet or share assist not only you, but that multitude who has your back?

Feel free to help me figure it out.

Notes from the Road

In the eight weeks since Tap Out was released, I have held six events, from bookstores and libraries to an MMA gym and a local bar. Throughout these events I’ve taken notes on what worked, what didn’t. For those of you interested, here’s what I’ve learned:

Libraries:

I went to one local library on September 25th. For those of you who are unaware, as I was, Yom Kippur began at sundown. Thus, traffic at the library was not high. Fortunately, I was able to talk leisurely with the patrons who did show, as well as the booksellers who were with me. Next year I will be much more mindful of the calendar.

Bookstores:

I held three events at bookstores. One with an independent and two with a big-chain store at two of their locations. The indie store was as charming as ever, and I spent a fair amount of time chatting with those who turned out, but traffic was, again, low. I cannot attribute this to the calendar, and can only wonder about my promotion. I relied on Facebook, twitter, flyers and postcards. People knew, but not enough, so possibly a different medium would have been a better fit.

The chain stores were a night and day experience. One was holding a book fair, and the sight of so many people flowing through the aisles would make any author or publisher smile. I received a lot of attention, both from people who knew I was going to be there, and from those who had no idea who I was. I stayed for an additional hour because the traffic was so brisk and signed the remaining copies of Tap Out. Definitely a success.

I went to the other chain store location on a Sunday, and that right there, might have been my flaw. It was quiet. Very quiet. However, I did have sales and I did meet people, who are now hopefully new fans. I even challenged a teen to read the first page of Tap Out and if he liked it, well, we could talk. If he didn’t he could throw it at my face. Fortunately, he was glued to the page, as every teen boy I’ve set this challenge to has been. It’s a wonderful sight, and for that a worthwhile event. And they let me sign all their stock, too.

MMA Gym:

If you put the author in a cage, the fans will come. Seriously. This was a fun event because of the location and its atmosphere. Fighters were sparring off to the side while I was signing. I had hardcore music playing. Everyone who wanted a copy signed had to take off his or her shoes to enter the cage with me. Just beyond cool. I would strongly suggest to any writer to find a location that in some way is an integral piece of your novel and go there. Good times all around.

Local Bar:

There’s just something perfect about an Irish bar on a cold and rain-filled Friday afternoon that screams, “Books!” No there isn’t. What a local bar offers on a Friday at 4 pm is a place to go, forget about the week, eat, drink and be merry. And oh, yeah, check out that guy’s book. Far and away McGrievey’s was the best experience. There were many factors at play that I believe suggest why my bookseller left with only two copies: food, drinks, friends and community support. The owner was kind enough to donate appetizers from 5-7 pm; I arrived at 4:00, because that’s when happy hour begins; and people came out to be part of something fun, unique and cool. I will hold a signing for every book I sell at McGrievey’s because all the necessary elements for a good time were under one roof. And book signings, in my opinion, should be more party than anything else.

Final Thoughts:

While some events were more successful in terms of sales, it is impossible to know the effect one sale may have. Word of mouth is enormous, so I do not discredit the value of any of the more quiet venues.

Promotion via Facebook and twitter is sensible and free and worked well for me. I distributed hundreds of flyers and promotional postcards. I don’t know what return I received from them, at least not in person, so I can’t judge in either direction.

At signings, stand as much as possible. Some locations aren’t amenable to such, but if possible, be upright, even at a pub table. There’s just something natural about meeting a person face-to-face, as opposed to making them do the work of stooping and questioning.

As feasible, find a novel setting to hold a signing. Give people something else to do besides buying a book and chatting. Yes, they may love you and your work, but if you can provide more than just your presence and words, go for it.

I thank everyone who hosted me. Without your willingness I would not have had nearly as much success as I’m enjoying. Next fall, when my next novel is out, we’ll do this again. Sure I’ll tweak some things, but I’ll retain the core purpose: connecting readers to the author. I cannot stress how important that is. The people I met and had a moment to speak with will remember me. And hopefully because of my work, I will stay with them, and they will want to meet me, again.

Top Ten reasons to come out to Barnes and Noble this weekend:

10. The Twin Bridges are finally open.

9. You can get an early start on Christmas shopping.

8. I’ll be there.

7. Free Wi-Fi.

6. Not only books, but toys and games.

5. I’ll be there.

4. Starbuck’s coffee.

3. On Saturday, a percentage of proceeds go to Guilderland High School.

2. Seriously, I’ll be there.

1. You can get your copy of Tap Out signed.

I’ll be at the Colonie store on Saturday 11/3, from 2-4.

I’ll be at the Niskayuna on Sunday, 11/4, from 2-4.

If you haven’t had the chance to make it to my other events, no worries, come on out and say hey. These are the last two events I have scheduled before the holidays, so if you want a signed copy for a certain someone, this is it.

Hope to see you.

Another look at Tony

I spin the dial on my locker and then check the schedule taped inside. It’s Monday, but I don’t have a clue what day in the rotation it is. A girl nearby closes her locker. “Hey, what’s today?”

She looks at me, squints, and her mouth forms a wiggly line, like she wants to say something, but can’t find the words. It’s always like this. Kids know I’m trash from who I hang with, but not from the way I look. I keep myself clean, ironing board in the bedroom and everything pressed. I do my own laundry and make damn sure my kicks stay spotless, so if I’m on my own, they have to guess. “Monday.” She presses her books close to her chest.

I shake my head. “No. What day?” I point at my schedule.

“Oh.” She straightens. “C-Day.”

“Thanks.” She’s got her back to me before I speak, but at least she spoke (13).

Tap Out