Tales From the Road
The wild, sometimes weird world of book peddling.
It was delayed by about a month due to businesses’ lingering COVID-19 concerns, but my in-person book tour for “Restitution” is finally happening. I’ve been meeting with readers and signing book copies at multiple stores and venues over the past few weeks, and I have several more stops planned; some already announced, and others about to be — including some places I’ve never been to before.
I’ve enjoyed getting back out there among the public, face-to-face, to talk about writing and storytelling, and I’m appreciative of the bookstore staff who make these events happen. They seem pretty excited to be doing them again too, perhaps because they help usher in a return to normalcy.
The readers have been fun to talk to. Some of them are already familiar with me and my work, but a lot of them aren’t. In fact, that’s a big reason why I do so many of these events in the wake of a new book release. It’s an opportunity to pitch the Sean Coleman Thrillers to individuals who probably otherwise wouldn’t have heard about them (or me). I’ve brought in a lot of new fans this way, and I know that includes a number of you who subscribe to this newsletter.
Glad to have you!
The conversations I have are typically quite good, and they’re not always just about my books. I also run into a lot of aspiring writers and authors who are interested in the process, including the publishing market, and want to learn more about it. I’m always more than happy to offer my insight in these areas, since I remember quite well being in their position about 10 years ago, and not knowing how to move forward. Some of these individuals even share with me what they’re working on, and their projects include some pretty interesting topics.
Over the years, I’ve also discovered that — for some people — there’s a curious aura surrounding the spectacle of an author standing beside a glitzy event poster, with a stack of books sitting on a table in front of him. It’s hard to explain, but it seems to act as sort of a permission structure for individuals to share their innermost, often highly personal thoughts with that author — the kind of stuff that would typically only be shared in a close-knit family setting or perhaps a counseling session.
I’ve seen it at other authors’ book signings well, but it’s of course different when the focus is on you.
I remember composing the below tweet after one such exchange a few years ago:
Perhaps the allure with authors is similar to that of bartenders and hair-stylists, in how people feel immediately comfortable confiding in them with whatever’s on their mind. Regardless of the reason, I’ve heard it all… from the details of intense family squabbles and serious medical conditions, to near-death experiences and far-out government conspiracy theories involving bean sprouts and “chemtrails.”
But a conversation I’ll never forget was one I had back in 2018 with a guy who initially seemed pretty ordinary. I shared a little bit of where the jarring exchange ended up on social media that night:
Only, I managed to keep a straighter face than Michael Scott did.
The aforementioned gateway, as the man explained it, was in his basement behind a wall. Thankfully, it had remained mostly shut while he lived there. I say “mostly” because the demonic powers that were kept at bay (I assume by studs and drywall) occasionally spilled through into the basement’s living area and moved billiard balls across the family’s pool table (which, all things considered, seemed fairly harmless).
After the man’s mother passed away, his brother sold the house (I would imagine without disclosing that part about the underworld to the realtor). Now (or at least at the time he told me the story), the guy’s biggest fear was that the current homeowners would inadvertently open the gate.
“Well, let’s hope that doesn’t happen,” I remember telling him. “That would really suck.”
At the time, I honestly couldn’t think of a better way to close out the conversation, but the man seemed to take my response in stride, and we wished each other a cordial farewell.
I was reminded of that exchange by an incident that took place at my book signing last Saturday, coincidentally at the same bookstore. It went down near the end of the event, which had overall gone well. Since I love telling stories, I figured I’d share it with you all today.
There were no longer any store patrons in front of my table, as it was getting late in the day and a snow-storm was starting to brew outside. That’s when a stocky man with an oversized coat and thick-framed glasses power-walked through the front entrance. His eyes shifted across the inside of the store as the electronic doors closed behind him. The moment his eyes met mine, he made a beeline straight for me.
Now, I’m actually pretty used to this sort of thing. As I think I mentioned in a previous newsletter, store customers occasionally mistake me for an employee. This is because I’m somewhat dressed up, and am usually standing there like I’m available to assist people with something. Judging by the man’s brisk pace, I assumed he was going to ask me where the restroom was. But that wasn’t the case.
When he reached my table, I couldn’t help but notice that he bore a striking resemblance to former U.S. Congressman Barney Frank, though his disheveled hair looked closer to that of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders. There was a strong stench of cigarettes on him, and his face tightened as his attention began shifting back and forth from me to my event poster.
“What is this?” he asked in a loud, unreasonably agitated tone. “Who are you?” he demanded.
I was a bit taken back by the man’s brashness. He had an accent that I couldn’t place (I’m terrible with accents), but he sounded very similar to the late German-born comedian, Brother Theodore. He also matched Theodore’s rhetorical intensity.
I politely explained who I was and why I was there.
“You say you wrote this?” he asked skeptically, snatching a copy of my book and looking it over.
“Uh, yes sir. It’s my latest book.”
“What is it about?”
Things suddenly felt a little more normal. I went into my standard elevator pitch, describing Sean Coleman a little before transitioning into a brief synopsis of Restitution. But I only got a few seconds into it before the man interrupted me.
“That sounds very educated,” he said, eyes remaining on my book.
I didn’t understand his meaning. My description of my protagonist was that of a layman security guard with a drinking problem, and what little I managed to get out about the story had to do with three characters driving to Las Vegas. Neither nugget seemed particularly relatable to education.
His eyes then lifted back to mine. “Educated… but not good,” he added, shaking his head and lowering the book back down.
It suddenly occurred to me that he wasn’t talking about the book at all, but rather the articulate way in which I had just described it. I sounded “educated,” and to him, that apparently wasn’t a “good” thing.
In other words, he was personally insulting a stranger he’d known for no more than 30 seconds — a stranger who’d been nothing but friendly and respectful to him.
You can’t win ‘em all, folks. (At least the guy with the demons in his basement was a nice dude).
But to tell you the truth, I wasn’t offended. I have pretty thick skin and found the whole thing secretly amusing. I nodded my head, assuming that would be the end of the exchange. But this guy wasn’t quite done dressing me down.
“This is somebody's fantasy,” he said matter-of-factly, dropping my book on the table. “I’m not interested in your fantasies.”
Wow. Even the mere concept of fiction seemed to piss him off!
When he abruptly stormed passed me, and disappeared down the main aisle of the store (I assume on his way to the non-fiction section), I grabbed the notepad I’d been tracking book sales on, and wrote down the details of both the man and our conversation — especially that last line.
Why? Because when inspiration for a new book character and/or dialogue comes along, you don’t want to dismiss it. You want to remember everything about it for later tailoring. An added bonus is that it can also provide fodder for a weekly newsletter.
Thank you, nonsensically angry guy without a filter. I owe you one.
Have a good story about a random person telling you off for no apparent reason? Tell me about it in an email or in the comment section below.
Speaking of the Cone of Silence…
A couple weeks ago in this newsletter, I argued that in today’s political environment, “the more important and consequential a topic is, the less intelligible the discourse surrounding it tends to be.”
A perfect (and hilarious) example presented itself on a news program in India last week, when the host brought on opposing guests to talk about the war in Ukraine. For your viewing pleasure, I won’t offer any more detail on the below segment, other than to beg you to watch it (with the volume turned up) until the very end of the clip. Your patience will be rewarded, believe me.
On the air…
Last week, Mark Reardon from 97.1 FM Talk in St. Louis had me on his show to talk about RESTITUTION, Ukraine, the 2024 election, and other things. You can listen to our conversation here (I come in at the 17:30 mark).
I’ve been doing a series of fun interviews for my publisher over the past few weeks. They’ve been with fellow authors, and I’ve been the interviewer. Below is a quick snippet from one (with Lindsey Rowe Parker), but you can check them all out in their entirety on BQB Publishing’s YouTube Channel. Enjoy.
A few months ago in this newsletter, I brought up “Dry Heat” by Len Joy. I was honored that Len asked me to write a blurb for this very good novel. The book officially released last week, so I figured I’d remind people to make sure and check it out.
Here’s my blurb:
“Dry Heat” is an engrossing tale of a high school athlete, with a very promising future, whose life and aspirations are thrown into turmoil by a series of ill-fated decisions and bad luck. Author Len Joy masterfully draws in the reader through a realistic depiction of youthful innocence and naivety overwhelmed by spiraling misfortune. The well-developed characters are interesting and relatable, and the dialogue is both convincing and endearing.
The compelling drama of “Dry Heat” flows in and out of the lives of strained families, into the courtroom, and ultimately on to retrospection. At no point does the reader lose interest in the story or their deep investment in its unforgettable characters. Highly recommended.
Have you ordered your copy of RESTITUTION?
Interested in a signed copy? You can order one (or five) here.
Already read and enjoyed it? I’d love if you could leave a review for the book on Amazon.
Obligatory Dog Shot
“Please sir, can't you spare a crumb?”
This week, we’re going back to 1981 for Don Henley’s first solo album, “I Can’t Stand Still.” I’d say that it’s probably the worst of the three he released, but that’s more of a reflection of how good the other two were — especially 1989’s “End of the Innocence,” which was just excellent.
Still, that first effort produced the iconic “Dirty Laundry,” which is probably — to this day — the best song ever written about the media.
That’s all for now. Thanks for reading today’s Daly Grind.
Want to drop me a line? You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. If you haven’t subscribed to this newsletter yet, please click on the “Subscribe now” button below. Doing so will get these posts emailed directly to you.
Also, if you’re not caught up on my Sean Coleman Thrillers, you can pick the entire series up at a great price on Amazon. And if you’re interested in signed, personalized copies of my books, you can order them directly from my website.
Take care. And I’ll talk to you soon!