I am thrilled to be meeting with the Maricopa County Southeast Regional Library Mystery Book Discussion Group, Thursday August 11, 2016 at 7PM. Please come and join me for a fun time and an exciting and illuminating discussion about The Land of Look Behind. Register below (it’s FREE!). Please and thank you.
Chances are if you’re reading this you are A) my mother or B) an author interested in having a successful book signing. To the former I say, “Mom, you can stop reading. Also, your chocolate chip muffins were on point as usual.” To the latter, I hope you find this an informative and valuable use of your precious “non-writing” time.
Before I get into the details I’ve got to cover one critically important thing. You have to forget that you are an author and this is your book baby that you spent months and years birthing into the wide world of publishing. You are and it is, but nobody cares. At a book signing, especially for first time or little known authors, you are a salesman and your book is your product. I’ll give you a moment to let the bile settle back into your stomach. Ready? Is it okay to continue? Good. In a bookstore at a book signing you have an amazing chance to reach real live readers and let them know about your book; the more you embrace that the more successful you will be. Think of yourself as a glorified sign spinner pointing the way to an amazing story you want to share. Are you going to be okay? Suppress the gag. Suppress it. It’ll be fine. You’ll be all right. There you go. Shall I proceed? Okay then.
Here are ten things I learned on my very first book tour (because everybody loves a top ten).
- Look presentable. The shut-in reclusive author vibe may have helped you complete your novel but the bookstore and its patrons probably won’t respond to the bedhead hair bun or the hobo beard and uncombed quaff. You don’t have to rock a pant suit or find a tweed coat with patches on the sleeves but you do want to dress for success as they say. And this advice is coming from the guy who tried to convince his wife that wearing his pajamas to a book signing could become his hook, you know, “Hey, that’s the author who wears his pajamas in public.” In hindsight I’m glad I listened to her. Book signings are like dating, it’s probably best to keep your eccentricities to a minimum. Although if anybody has pulled it off let me know in the comments below so I can revisit the fedora conversation with my wife/fashion critic.
- Smile. From the moment you arrive you should be the happiest person in the world to be there. Like I said, this is your chance to talk with readers, real live people who enjoy books. You know, books, like the one you’ve written. A book signing is not a chore or a hassle, it’s an opportunity. Everyone you meet should receive a warm greeting; from the staff (who are your best friends, by the way) to every living breathing soul you meet. Remember they are all potential readers.
- Stand. There are several benefits to this, the first of which is it makes No. 5 a lot easier (but we’ll get to that). At most book signings you’ll be provided a table and a chair. The temptation is to sit in the chair behind the table. Resist, don’t do it. Stand up and remember to smile. I use the chair as a reward. I only sit down when I’m signing a copy. No signing, no sitting. I know signings can last for hours and that can be daunting but I promise nothing feels better than when you settle into that chair and write your name in the copy of your book that they’re gonna take home.
- Have something to look at. You know, besides a standing, smiling author. I have a 20×30 foam board of my book cover. Everyone knows that most people actually do judge a book by its cover so that’s something you’ll want to display prominently. I’ve seen banners, table hangers and even balloons. Have something that will draw the eye and set you apart from the rest of the store. You’ll have a stack of books but there are books everywhere, you need to stand out. Once they pause or look your way employ numbers 2 and 5.
- Engage. Now that you are standing and smiling you need to engage. Chances are the majority of people did not know you were going to be there and, even if they did, you might not be the exclusive reason they came to the store that day. You need to engage them. And unless they are impressed with your standing ability or you have an otherworldly talent for smiling that means you are going to have to say something that will get them to talk with you. “Hello” is a good start but you are going to have to bring a bit more unless you just want to exchange greeting with strangers for two hours. I like to ask them a question or comment on something they are carrying or looking at. It can be anything really. Although, I caution that you might want to be careful about walking up to a woman you don’t know leaning on the bookshelf and asking if she likes mystery. You can get some funny looks that way, uh, I mean, that’s what I’ve heard.
- Have something to say. This is crucial. You can knock 1-5 out of the park but it’s all for naught if you can’t briefly and succinctly describe your story/characters to them. Thankfully I learned this lesson beforehand. I was having lunch with a fellow author, Randy Lindsay, and he asked me to tell him about my book. I fumbled and stammered and started rambling about backstories and setup and I watched as his eyes glazed over. He then told me I needed to come up with a pitch. Not a synopsis or a book report but a short pitch that would give readers a taste of what to expect and a reason to care. It’s important that this isn’t overly complicated. You know your story is good and hopefully they’ll find out but when they stop and ask “What’s your book about?” they are really asking “Why should I care?”
- Have something to give. A bookmark, a business card, a poem, an excerpt from the book, something you can hand out in a hurry. Something they can take with them. Ideally this will have information about yourself, your book, your website or how to find you on social media. Remember this is an opportunity to meet the readers and for them to meet you. The reality though is they might already have an armful of books or a shelf full at home. They might not be the kind of person who decides on the spot and needs time to think it over. Give them something to leave with so they’ll remember that presentable, standing, smiling, engaging author who had something to look at and something to say once they’ve returned home.
- Freebies. You might argue that this could be looped in with ‘Have something to give.’ well it could but I’m trying to get to ten, so sue me. Freebies can be completely unrelated to you or your book. Have candy or popcorn or maybe a raffle for a copy of a previous work. Freebies are another good way to entice people to talk with you and a great way to engage with readers. Don’t have any expectations that your freebies will lead to book sales, because often they will be gobbled up by children or a window shopper with a sweet tooth. It’s just a nice gesture to passersby.
- Bring your own writing utensil. Along with a table and chair, most booksellers will offer you a pen to sign with. While I appreciate the thought I always bring my own pen, one that I am comfortable writing with and trust to have plenty of ink, glide smoothly and not leak. Do yourself a favor, spring for a couple of nice pens and always bring them with you.
- Be grateful. When someone stops and talks with you, thank them and wish them well even if they aren’t interested in your book. Remember your best friends (the staff)? Thank them for hosting you and taking care of you while you were there. Send a note to the manager or owner after you leave and let them know how grateful you are for the opportunity to meet with them their readers. You will never be sorry for being grateful and you’ll never know what it might mean to the person receiving gratitude. Think about the last time anybody thanked you for anything.
So that’s it. You do those ten things and you just had a successful book signing regardless of how many books you signed. You’re welcome.
Three hundred years ago, a soldier named Jarvis journeyed deep into Jamaica and discovered a land of myth, treasure, and danger. Now Gideon, who served in Jamaica as a missionary, returns armed with Jarvis’s journal to follow the enigmatic clues with his best friend. But they quickly discover there are forces who would kill to keep the treasure secret. Travel into Jamaica’s treacherous cockpit country in this spine-tingling thriller.
Like most of you voluntarily reading this, I love Star Wars. One of my most vivid childhood memories is going to see Return of the Jedi in theaters when I was six (I wanted an Ewok so bad). I watched Empire Strikes Back on HBO repeatedly one summer, seriously every time it was on (Obsessed I was). When I was eighteen and hungry for more Star Wars I read a series of books that were set several decades after Episode VI and was able to catch up with Han, Luke and Leia as generals, parents and Jedi masters. I dreamed that one day I would see those stories on the big screen and on December 18th that dream will become a reality. I still cannot believe it.
I have followed the news and consumed the promotional materials and trailers like a wampa at a free tauntaun buffet. As JJ Abrams is famously secretive, there is still much we do not yet know about the story for the new film but I thought I would take a stab at guessing the identity of some of the characters and the plot. This is strictly my theory based solely on the trailers and the interviews I have read from the cast and crew, so these cannot be considered spoilers (The odds of me correctly guessing the plot are approximately 3,720 to 1). And yes, I put way too much thought into this.
First, I believe that Rey, played by Daisy Ridley, is without a doubt Luke Skywalker’s daughter. They have purposefully withheld her last name and from the international trailer we hear her say she is waiting for her family. Furthermore in an interview Ridley said her character was abandoned on Jakku when she was five years old. Combine that with the knowledge that the First Order is the re-incarnation of The Empire and has been hunting Luke Skywalker as the despot who murdered the noble Emperor Palpotine and spread chaos through the galaxy (which I believe will be the propaganda The First Order uses to recruit people to their cause). Giving further credence is the fact that we have not yet seen Luke and much focus in the marketing has been on Rey.
We know from Abrams and Kathleen Kennedy that Episodes VII, VIII and IX are a continuation of the Skywalker saga so we are going to be introduced to the next generation in this film. Could she be Han and Leia’s daughter? Sure, and she would still technically be a Skywalker, but why would Han and Leia, who are still clearly around and capable, abandoned their daughter on a desert planet? It doesn’t make sense.
What does make sense is that Luke had a child and for her protection left her on an isolated desert planet just as was done for him. Luke separated himself from her so she would not be hunted and nobody would know of her relationship to him. Meanwhile, Luke goes off and lives in seclusion to hone his connection with the Force like his mentors Yoda and Obi Wan. And this is where the action picks up in The Force Awakens.
Finn, played by John Boyega, is a Stormtrooper with The First Order. He sees some things that make him question the propaganda he has been fed his whole life. Possibly the torturing of Poe Dameron, played by Oscar Isaac, or the burning of the settlement by Captain Phasma, played by Gwendoline Christie. Finn helps Dameron escape from a star destroyer and he himself is shot down in the process, crash landing on Jakku. He meets Rey, who has returned from a successful scavenging run inside a fallen star destroyer, just as TIE Fighters show up and start blasting the Hoth out of everything. They escape in the Millennium Falcon where they meet Han and Chewbacca. “Chewie, we’re home.”
Uncle Han has been searching for Rey since they learned of her existence and needs her to help find Luke and bring him back out of hiding because there is a emerging threat to the galaxy. The new quartette travel to a distance planet to speak with the pirate Maz Kanata, played by Lupita Nyong’o, as they believe she has knowledge of Luke’s whereabouts, or possibly because she has his lightsaber. Or both? Kanata, who lives in the temple with all the flags, fills Rey in (and also the audience) as to some of the events of the last thirty years and a bit of her family history and why Luke left her. (I’ll hedge my bet slightly here and say that since Kanata is described as a pirate the temple might not be her base of operation, it could very well be the headquarters of The Resistance and Han is taking her to Aunt Leia.)
In the meantime, Captain Phasma and The First Order shows up and starts wrecking shop outside the temple. Troopers capture Han, Chewie and Finn but just in the nick of time they are rescued when Poe Dameron and the rest of The Resistance show up and an epic X-wing/TIE Fighter battle ensues. General Leia, who orchestrated their rescue, arrives and is reunited with Han. Rey meets Aunt Leia and Finn officially joins The Resistance.
The First Order is forced to retreat and Captain Phasma must report their failure to General Hux, played by Domhnall Gleeson. From interviews by Gleeson and Abrams, Hux is an ambitious General who has his sights set on running The First Order. His rival is the Vader fanatic Kylo Ren, played by Adam Driver, who is the disciple of Supreme Leader Snoke, played by motion capture wizard Andy Serkis. Kylo Ren, if that is his real name, is obsessed with Vader and the dark side and collects Syth relics. He wants to finish the work of his grandfather to bring order to the galaxy and turn Luke to the dark side. “Nothing will stand in our way. I will finish what you started.” That’s right I said it, his grandfather. Kylo Ren is none other than Han and Leia’s prodigal son. Boom! (Whaaaaaaat??)
Snoke is the master behind the scenes and while General Hux is focused on completing and activating their terrifying weapon (a new Death Star) from the Star Killer base on the ice planet, Kylo Ren is tasked with hunting down Luke and any potentially Force-sensitive life forms, a.k.a. his cousin.
While General Leia, Admiral Ackbar (that’s right, he’s back), Poe Dameron and the rest of The Resistance address the impending threat posed by the new Death Star; Han, Rey, Chewie and Finn continue on the search for Luke.
I have no idea what happens from here but this is how I would love to see Episode VII end. Kylo Ren catches up with his father, his cousin and Finn on a remote forest planet where both parties believe Luke to be hiding. Ren attacks them and cuts off Han’s hand (it’s Star Wars, you know it’s gonna happen) and is bearing down on Finn. Finn produces Luke’s lightsaber (which he’s only wielded a couple of times) and prepares to defend himself. Ren soundly defeats Finn and is about to end him when out of nowhere a cloaked figure appears and Force pushes Ren through about a dozen trees with power and intensity we have never seen. The figure turns to Rey and Finn and removes his hood to reveal a grizzled and bearded Luke Skywalker. [Cut to black] Bring on Episode VIII!
Things I hope “I’m Luke Skywalker. I’m here to rescue you.”
-Han and Leia are indeed together in this movie.
-Leia will have honed the Force and will have senses and abilities of a Jedi
-Rey has Darth Plagueis’s staff.
-Supreme Leader Snoke turns out to be Darth Plagueis.
-We see the bones and skull of a certain Gungan Senator in the background of a shot.
-Any character who says “midi-chlorians” is immediately dismembered and thrown down a long shaft.
Things I fear “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”
-Finn is Lando Calrissian’s son. That’s just stupid.
-Rey built BB-8. It was idiotic to have Anakin be the creator of C3-PO, don’t do that again.
-Han dies in this movie.
-Chewie dies in this movie.
-Luke has turned to the dark side.