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Sorry for the light posting around here of late. ‘Tis the season, you know. The simple fact is, there just hasn’t been much to say, even as there’s been so much to do.
Thanks to my friends at Parents, Let’s Unite for Kids, that has changed today. A couple of weeks ago, the organization’s director, Roger Holt, and volunteer Connie VonBergen interviewed me about 600 Hours of Edward. The result can be seen here. It’s a half-hour video. PLUK does terrific work, and I’m honored that the folks there have taken such an intense interest in my novel.
(I’m also thankful, in a way, for video evidence that I need to drag myself to a gym, posthaste. I joked to Roger and Connie that they looked like mountaineers about to climb me. Yikes!)
In the past couple of weeks, I’ve also taken another editing run at my second (as yet unpublished) novel. It’s been sitting on a shelf for a few months, and that distance really gave me an opportunity to reset, refocus and go at the manuscript aggressively. The story arc didn’t change, but I whacked away at some undergrowth of exposition.
Now, I’m going to sit back and watch the rest of 2009 unspool. It’s been a wonderful year in many ways — certainly better than 2008, which is the worst on record for me — and I’m eager to see what 2010 brings. First thing out of the gate: a Jan. 2 signing at Barnes & Nobles in Billings. More details here.
The folks at Age of Autism are hosting a giveaway for 600 Hours of Edward. Just cruise over and leave your name (with e-mail address) in the comments, and you’re in.
Meanwhile, over at One Book At A Time, Page has given the novel a five-star review.
It was such a moving story from beginning to end. I felt so connected to Edward, and had a wide range of emotion throughout the story. While the story ended nicely, I wanted more of it.
It was nice to wake up to this today: 600 Hours of Edward picked up a nice review from Palo Alto (Calif.) Daily News columnist John Orr. The headline of this blog post is the headline in the newspaper.
Full disclosure: I’ve known John a long time but not in any particular depth. For the better part of a decade, we both worked at the San Jose Mercury News, which at the time was a large newspaper, with more than 400 editorial employees (I hear the number is closer to 100 now). The place had three disparate newsrooms, so in general, the people you knew best were the ones who worked shoulder to shoulder with you. I was in sports, which had its own room. John was in features, in another part of the building. In the entire time we worked together, we probably shared less than a dozen brief conversations.
John touches on all of this in the review, amiably highlighting the difference between sports guys and what I can only imagine he considers to be the normal humans working elsewhere at a paper. This view is highly debatable, but I’ll let it pass.
A few years ago I worked at the San Jose Mercury News, where I was casually acquainted with a guy named Craig Lancaster. He was an editor in the sports department, I worked in features, so we didn’t know each other very well, but I did watch him win a Peeps-eating contest once. That was disgusting.
But, that’s the kind of thing people in sports departments do at newspapers, which is probably one of the reasons the Merc put those people off in their own room, far away from other human beings.
(A bit of correction: I didn’t win the Peep-eating contest. I’ve never won one. It’s not for a lack of trying.)
More from the review:
Into his well-controlled life come a young boy and the boy’s mother, who move into a house across the street. She has moved away from an abusive boyfriend.
Young boys are not to be denied, and the kid becomes Edward’s friend. Edward helps out when the abusive former boyfriend shows up. There is a scene at a hospital. Trouble ensues. A lot of trouble, and threats from Edward’s father and Edward’s father’s lawyer.
All that leads to some major choices for Edward. It leads to changing his life.
Having had a burst of book signings over the past week — and with more on the horizon — I’ve come to one major conclusion (more on this in a minute) and some assorted other thoughts (ditto).
First, the conclusion: Signings are not, in and of themselves, my favorite thing in the world. While people like Sarah Palin enjoy teeming crowds with twitterpating hearts, your average schlub author — and I’m nothing if not a schlub* — mostly sits and smiles for a couple of slow-moving hours. Now, let me be clear: It’s not the adulation I crave. It’s the human contact. In the paragraphs to come, I’ll propose some ways that you and I can do better by each other.
But first, a disclaimer
It would be the height of dishonesty to say that the exercise isn’t about selling you a book. It is. As much as it might entertain both of us to chat happily about this or that or compare favorite movies, in the end, I want you to take the book. That said, I’m a big boy, and I learned a long time ago that I don’t always get what I want. I can take it if you’re just not interested. OK? OK.
What you need to know
1. I’m not going to attack you: I’ve grown so amused by the customers who enter the store, see me sitting front and center, avert their eyes and take the most circuitous route possible to whatever part of the store they want to visit that I finally printed out a sign that graces the signing table: “Author will not bite unless you ask him to.” At the very least, it’s a conversation piece. It’s also a guarantee.
2. If you have the time, I’d love to chat: About anything, really. Whether you take a book or not, I’m going to have to sit there. Hearing what folks are reading or doing helps the time go by and helps me be more aware of the world around me.
A few weeks ago, at a Borders signing, a woman and her teenage son stopped by the table. While she ended up buying a book (thank you!), most of the conversation centered on what the young man held in his hands: The Grapes of Wrath. It was a blast to be able to chat with him about it and to tell him not to dismiss the turtle chapter, that it would all become clear once he was done. I’m thankful they stopped by.
3. Laughter is the opposite of soul-crushing: There’s a caged-animal-on-display aspect of signings that a lot of authors find distasteful. We have a lot of reasons for being there — promoting our work, supporting the stores that stock our titles, maintaining the court-mandated 150 yards from all schools — but I haven’t met an author yet who doesn’t appreciate the folks who come by, crack a joke and let some oxygen back into the room. So to those who do us this valuable service, I say thanks.
What I need to do
1. Have a good answer for this question: “What’s your book about?” All I can say is that I’m honing it.
2. Get up from the damned table: At my first signing, I never left my seat, and I sold about three books in two hours. Subsequent efforts have involved more movement and, not surprisingly, more sales. Just as important, they’ve led to more satisfying interactions with my favorite kind of people: the kind who love books.
3. Bring candy: No lie. It makes the table more inviting. I’ve been heavy on the chocolate of late. If you’d like something different — particularly if you’re going to be at the Billings Hastings this Saturday — let me know in the comments section.
* — Lest you think that I’m being falsely humble here, I point you to this excellent essay in the Indie Reader magazine on the death of the book tour. In it, Charles Stillwagon of the Tattered Cover bookstore in Denver says of midlist and debut (that’s me) authors:
“Why would they think that anyone would want to come out to meet them?”
Why, indeed. Let’s take the over-inflated bastards out back and kick the bejeezus out of them.
Just lined this one up last night:
I’ll be at Hastings in Billings, 1603 Grand Ave., on Saturday, Dec. 12, from 2 to 4 p.m. If you’re around and doing some Christmas shopping, please drop by.
A couple more that are imminent:
Today (Dec. 5), I’ll be at the Shrine Auditorium in Billings from noon to 5 p.m. for the Writers Roundup, part of the Festival of Trees fundraiser. The Shrine is at 1125 Broadwater. If you love books — and especially inscribed books — this is the place to be. The lineup includes Marion Cadwell, Cara Chamberlain, Fred DeFauw, Hap Gilliland, Barbara Graham, Tami Haaland, Sue Hart, Brooke Jennings, Craig Johnson, Janet Muirhead Hill, Harley O’Donnell, Bernie Quetchenbach, Lela and Harry Schlitz and Dick Wheeler. Sale proceeds benefit Sigma Tau Delta at Montana State Billings, and go to support textbook scholarships for English majors, the annual outstanding English major award, a campus poetry contest, conference attendance and other academic activities. It’s an excellent opportunity to pick up some Christmas gifts and support literature, language and writing.
And tomorrow (Dec. 6), I’ll be at the Hastings in Great Falls, 726 10th Ave. South, from 1 to 4 p.m. for a signing. My dad, who grew up around Great Falls, is making the trip with me, which will be fun for both of us.