Saturday, December 26, 2009

Booksignings where you find 'em

I wrote a blog on Murderous Musings last February about "Selling Outside the Box." I mentioned the necessity of finding other venues for booksignings besides brick and mortar stores. I'm still pursuing it with my critique group partner Beth Terrell.

Our latest venture was a few weeks ago when we set up a table to sign and sell books in conjunction with a Ladies Day Luncheon at Old Hickory Country Club in Old Hickory, TN, a Nashville suburb. The club was founded by employees of DuPont back when Old Hickory was a company town built around the plant that manufactured cellophane and rayon. In later years it produced a variety of products and became fully automated, cutting back to a fraction of the work force it once employed. But the country club still flourishes.

Despite a cold, blusterous day with winds hitting 40 to 50 miles per hour, the ladies came out and enough bought our books to make it a successful outing.

I did another non-bookstore event in November, attending the annual Kentucky Book Fair in Frankfort. With the economy still slumping, we didn't see as many book buyers as in some past years, but those who came happily grabbed  up the books. Although the local Joseph Beth Booksellers store handled the sales, I brought my own backlist and did quite well.

Other events Beth and I took part in during the fall included a Fall Festival at Scottsboro United Methodist Church on the other side of Nashville and the Main Street Festival in Gallatin, seat of the next county to the east. I also did a signing at the Cheatham County Public Library in Ashland City, in the bordering county on the west (see photo above with wife Sarah). It was also the location of much of the plot for The Surest Poison, my new Sid Chance mystery.

I also participated in the Estill County Reading Celebration in Irvine, KY, and the Southern Kentucky BookFest in Bowling Green. Last March, Beth and I signed books at the second annual Market Place at Goodpasture Christian School, near where I live in Madison, TN. A lady who bought one of my books there invited us to take part in the Old Hickory Country Club event.

On January 16th, we'll be going back to the Manchester (TN) Public Library's annual Adult Reading Program. This is a return engagement for an event we first took part in during 2009. Three other members of our Sisters in Crime Chapter from Nashville will also be there. The librarian was thrilled at our participation, and the book buyers seemed to like us, too.

Selling at events like these help spread your name about and bring in new fans for your books. An especially appealing feature is you bring your own books and don't have to worry about returns. I'm with a small press where I get a good deal on buying my books, so it's strictly a win-win proposition.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

How to Write a Novel

First you sit down with a pencil and a piece of paper. A pencil? In this day of PCs and laptops and Alphasmarts? A pencil can’t get you on Twitter or Facebook or Maybe not, but it can jot down all those notes you gather to get started.

John Steinbeck used as many as sixty cedar pencils a day in his writing, and Ernest Hemingway was a major pencil user. I don’t advocate writing your mystery in pencil, but the marvelous little device is a must during the creative process. Look at this neat display of penciled notes on my desk. Okay, neatness isn’t my specialty.

There’s a website called that has all kinds of info on the wooden widget. It notes that the pencil is the only portable, lightweight invention that can draw a line 35 miles long, average 45,000 words and correct its own mistakes.

If you thought it was a latter-day invention, you’re way off the mark. Scribes in ancient Rome wrote on papyrus with metal styluses that left their mark on the forerunner of paper. Some early styluses were made of lead. This led (a little humor there) to calling the legible part of the pencil "lead," although it’s made of graphite.

The first lead stick pencils were wrapped in string. Sort of like those peel-off China markers that will write on most anything. During later times, the lead (or graphite) was inserted in a hollow wooden stick.

Pencils first came into popular use when mass produced in Germany in 1662. The first U.S. pencils were fashioned by a cabinet maker in Concord, Massachusetts after they became unavailable from England because of the War of 1812. Incidentally, Leonardo da Vinci did a lot of pencil sketching. Don’t know how much penciling Dan Brown did while writing Leonardo’s Code.

Meriwether Lewis, the famed explorer of the Lewis & Clark Expedition, carried “1 Set of Small Slates & pencils” on his historic adventure. Which brings us back to mystery writing. My character Sid Chance in The Surest Poison was the former police chief of Lewisville, Tennessee, a fictional small town near the Natchez Trace where Meriwether Lewis died in 1809.

One other note regarding the noted explorer, a small town not far off the Trace named for him, Lewisburg, is home to one of several pencil manufacturers in southern Middle Tennessee. Nearby Shelbyville, better known now for its Walking Horse Celebration, was once called Pencil City. Tennessee became noted for pencil making because of its abundant supply of eastern red cedar, the best wood for writing instruments.

The Shelbyville Pencil Company, which started in 1933, gives their pencils four-to-seven coats of paint and can turn out 400,000 a day. But no doubt the yellow variety called No. 2 is the No. 1 choice of writers.

Now you know how to write a novel. The next question is what do you put in it? Words, of course. And where do you get them? Can you spell t-h-e-s-a-u-r-u-s?

Checking the date on the entry below this one tells me I have neglected this blog the past week or so. I've been holed up working on the next Greg McKenzie mystery. I'll try to do better in coming days. Depends on how well the new book, tentatively titled A Sporting Murder, plays out.