Michael Haskins

Monday, November 24, 2008

Networking for writers and book signings

I am a believer in writers networking. We are solitary people, sitting often for hours, if not days and weeks, alone with our thoughts, sometimes a blank screen, and an idea. We play God to a world we create and bleed to bring our creation to life. Could God be as lonely as a writer trying to pound out that one true sentence?

I have been a member of Mystery Writers of America (http://www.mysterywriters.org/) since the ‘80s. For the past 12 years, I have belonged to the Florida chapter of MWA and have met many interesting and talented people. I live in Key West and that’s pretty far from most of the chapter’s luncheons and other activities, but the statewide membership keeps in touch via a yahoo.com chat group, as well as its monthly newsletter. Then there’s the annual SleuthFest (www.mwaflorida.org/sleuthfest) gathering that is both a social and educational experience. Non-writers are welcomed to join MWA. Check it out.

Through this networking, I was able to obtain some blurbs for my book, ‘Chasin’ the Wind.” Through MWA, I met Edgar Award winning author Megan Abbott (http://www.meganabbott.com/), Bob Morris (www.bobmorris.net), and Nancy Cohen (www.authorsden.com/nancyjcohen). I knew Jerry Healy (www.jeremiahhealy.com) and Tom Corcoran (www.tomcorcoran.net) from my first days in Key West. All of these people wrote blurbs for my book and all are popular writers.

One of Nancy Cohen’s posting on the yahoo.com group was about an opportunity to participate in the Parkland, Florida, Library’s annual author’s showcase. Nancy gave us the email address for Wendy Peppercorn, program coordinator for the library. Wendy got right back to me and I was on the program, with seven other authors.

One of the other participants was Joe Moore, a mystery writer I met a few years ago at SleuthFest.
PHOTO: Deborah Shlian, Joe Moore & Me)
Joe and Lynn Sholes have a great series going and I was able to buy a signed copy of the new Cotton Stone thriller, “The 731 Legacy.” (http://www.cottonstone.com/). While waiting for the program began, Joe and I had a brief talk about writing and it seems we share a few traits. While we all hear about writers (Steven King and Dennis Lynds come to mind) who get up and write all day, Joe and I are happy to write for three-hours straight. I often feel guilty because I get up in the morning and have my two or three café con leches, read the papers, while watching MSNBC, before sitting in front of the computer. Then there are the damn emails to reply to and/or delete, and then there are blogs to read. It was good to know that Joe felt three-hours of writing was a full day. I wasn’t alone! Writers are an insecure group.

The conference room at the Parkland Library was standing room only, as the program began. Deborah & Joel Shlian, (http://www.shlian.com/) physicians and mystery writers, were there. Deborah I knew from past SleuthFests. Their book,”Rabbit in the Moon,” is a Best Books Award Finalist.

All of us writers got to speak briefly about our books and encouraged questions. I think we probably averaged 15-minutes at the podium. It was interesting to me, that after everyone spoke, and we could mingle, only a few people came up to my table. A couple of people were interested in Key West and I sold one book. What I observed were people more interested in the price of books than in subject matter. We were a mix of mystery, youth genre, and non-fiction. Maybe, with so many to choose from, price was a top consideration.

I saw that in Vero Beach, when I signed, and that was back at the first signs of a crisis in the stock market. People came in, looked at the book, saw the price, and asked me when it would be out in paperback. I can understand that. For the $25.95 cost of my book, you could buy two or three paperbacks, or almost two trade paperbacks. While this crisis goes on, and everything points to 18-months to two years (the positive attitude!), I think paperback sales will increase. That concerns me, because my sequel, “Free Range Institution,” is at the publishers and I fear they are not in too much of a hurry to get books out – but that’s my opinion based on my fears.

The following weekend I showed up at the Miami Book Fair where I was invited to sign at the Florida Chapter MWA/Murder on the Beach Bookstore booths. This offer came via the chapter’s yahoo.com chat group. Joanne Sinchuk, general manager ofMurder on the Beach Mystery Bookstore (http://www.murderonthebeach.com/) arranged everything and had writers signing every hour, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., on both Saturday and Sunday. Each hour, two writers signed. That gave a lot of us exposure to people we wouldn’t have reached through our normal channels.

I arrived at the book fair a little before 11 a.m. to give my support to my friend Sandy Balzo (http://www.sandrabalzo.com/). (I should point out that I get lost just about every time I drive north of Florida
PHOTO: Jerry Healy, Sandy Balzo & me
so I always give myself plenty to time to get places outside the Keys) I also ran into Jerry Healy, Tom Corcoran, Les Sandiford, and Neil Plakcy (http://www.mahubooks.com/). The Florida MWA chapter had a room set aside at the fair for a pizza lunch for members. Megan Abbott stopped by, too.

After the pizza, I hung around the booth where I would sign at 4 p.m. and noticed, again, that hardback books were not selling as well as paperbacks. Some writers there to sign with paperback copies of earlier books as well sold them. I sold three, which isn’t a lot, but many people stopped and talked to me about writing, my book, and Key West. They all got a promotional postcard with the book cover, blurbs, and website, and, maybe, when my book does come out in paperback they might be looking for it.

One book sold to a young woman in the next booth, who liked Key West and scanned the book while I was eating pizza and bought it. The other two were sold to people who stopped to talk to me about Key West. One man enjoyed visiting the Keys and was looking forward to a long weekend in Key West. He was from Las Vegas and came to Miami on business one or two weeks a month. While I was talking to him, I saw a woman going through my book in the classic tradition. She looked at the cover, turned it over, read the blurbs on back, opened it and read the inside jacket copy and then started reading chapter one.

When the Las Vegas resident paid and I signed his book, I noticed she was on chapter two and thought she was going to read the whole book while standing there. She closed the cover before finishing chapter two and brought it to me to sign. She said she liked my dialogue.

At 5 p.m., I was done and ready to drive back more than 150-miles to Key West. On the long ride home, I thought to myself how lucky I am. It was my dream to be a writer since my teenage years and here I was, years later, on my way home to Key West after signing “Chasin’ the Wind” at the famous Miami Book Fair.

What a world for those of us with persistence and the writing disease.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

An unusual book signing - Colonial Bank, Ft. Lauderdale

I just finished three book signings in less than four weeks and I learned a lot about the buying public, readers, and how the current economic crisis is affecting book sales.

But first, let me tell you about meeting Patti Stegal, (see photo) the daughter of my friend Sue Harrison. Patti was in town from Illinois, where she’s a teacher. Sue bought her a copy of “Chasin’ the Wind” when it first came out, as a gift and after reading it, Patti wrote to tell me how she enjoyed the book and hoped we could meet on her next visit to Key West. Well, that was a couple of weeks ago and we met at the Hog’s Breath and talked about the book and its sequel.

It was fun meeting Patti and I want to thank her for her interest in my book and taking the time to discuss it with me.

Oct. 29th, I drove to Ft. Lauderdale, where my friend Joe LiVolsi is a VP in the private banking department of Colonial Bank. He called me about six or eight weeks before and said the bank was having a branch anniversary party with a Key West theme, and asked if I would attend and sign my book, if they bought copies.

It took me all of a nanosecond to say yes!
(Antonio “Tony” Coley, left, president & CEO of commercial banking for Colonial Bank’s South Florida region; Eris H. Sandler, president & CEO of retail banking for Colonial Bank’s South Florida region; Michael; Pam Stolarz, vice president/branch sales manager for Colonial Bank’s Bayview office; and Joe “you know him, you love him” LiVolsi, private banking manager for Colonial Bank’s South Florida region).

I showed up a little after 5 p.m. and the Colonial Bank branch was closed and preparing for the celebration. They had a room set aside for me and when I looked in, I saw three stacks of my books on a table. Wow! I’d never seen that many copies of it in one place before.

By 6 p.m., bank customers began to join the festivities. There was food and drinks and Amy Rice, the VP for marketing, met me and introduced me to bank officials and customers. I thought this would be an hour where, like in the bookstores, I would sit and sign books. Wrong.

For more than two hours, I met and talked with people about writing, Key West, my book, and living in Florida. This was an opportunity worth killing for (at least in fiction) because more than 70 people receive copies of my books, courtesy of the bank, and that’s 70 people I probably wouldn’t have reached otherwise. And, if I am lucky, that’s 70 people who will buy my sequel, when it comes out. (And maybe Amy and Joe will invite me back to sign the sequel!)

The average sale at book signings, I am told and personal experience has proven correct, is 10 copies. Of course, in my two signings in Key West – 80 copies at KW Island Books & 50 copies at the Hog’s Breath Saloon – I exceed that, but in all my other singings I’ve sold less or a copy or two more than 10.

So, getting more than 70 copies of “Chasin’ the Wind” to people was exciting and there were some in Key West who wondered if traveling more than 150 miles to sign at a bank was a good idea. No, it wasn’t a good idea, it was a GREAT idea! Who would’ve thunk it, a bank as a venue for a writer.

If I learned anything from this signing, it is to accept all opportunities to sign your book, no matter where it is. For a writer with his first book out, talking at libraries, civic groups, and banks can only benefit you. I have postcards with the book’s cover on it, and on the backside there’s my photo, and blurbs about the book. I always pass these out wherever I am signing or talking. In Key West there are a lot of fundraisers for worthy groups and one of the things sponsors do is ask for donations to its silent auction. I always donate a book. Getting a copy of the book in people’s hands is the name of the game. Writers go to signings to sell books, but never make the costs back, so what they are really doing is working on name recognition and setting the sale for the next book.

Another aspect of the Colonial Bank signing that benefited me is also worth mentioning. Prior to this signing, I agreed to be part of the author showcase at the Parkland Library (Parkland, Florida) and to sign at the Murder on the Beach (http://www.murderonthebeach.com/) & Mystery Writers of America combined booth at the Miami Book Fair. Joanne Sinchuk, who runs the bookstore, let me know that she only had three copies of my book, since the publisher told her it was out of stock.

That was news to me. I contacted Five Star and was told “Chasin’ the Wind” had sold out of its first printing and they would know within a week or two if there would be a second printing. So, there I was with two signings and no books!

Well, Amy and Joe had told me they ordered 100 copies for the bank signing. I got in touch with them right away and offered to buy back any books that would be left over.

For a while, during the signing, I looked at the line and thought maybe there wouldn’t be any books left. It turned out that what could’ve been bad news, not selling all the books, turned into good news, because there were about 23 copies of “Chasin’ the Wind” left at the end of the event and now I had copies for the two other signings.

I will post about the Parkland Library and Miami Book Fair signings, and how the economy affected both, next time.

FYI, the sequel to “Chasin’ the Wind,” “Free Range Institution” is at the publisher. I should know in six weeks if they will publish it.

What unusual locations have you signed at? Or, I will take suggestions on other locations that might work for a book signing. Please, let me hear from you.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Vero Beach Book Signing - Friendships are priceless

(Lynn Greene Waldenbooks mgr.)

My signing at Waldenbooks in Vero Beach, Florida, the first of October went very well. Bob Soos interviewed me on his Morning Magazine radio show Friday, Oct. 3, and we talked about my book, "Chasin’ the Wind," and the signing. Bob gave three copies of the book away to people who could answer Key West trivia questions he came up with.

(Michae, Gina & Bob Soos)

I first met Bob, and his wife Gina, when he was the general manager of US1 Radio in Key West, and Gina was in its sales department. With his Keys background, Bob had no problem coming up with trivia questions.

Two things you should know about Bob. During Hurricane Georges, Sept. 1998, Bob and his station staff stayed on the air 24/7 and were the only contact many of us had with the outside world for days after Georges kissed us and skedaddled. Second thing you should know is you can spell Bob’s name forward or backward and it’s still right!

(Book winner Marie Mack, Bob & Michael)

I stayed with Bob Friday night.

Bob has been gone from the Keys for a few years, but we kept in touch. He was a member of our Monday Luncheonaires and even today remains on our mailing list and we were on the Crime Stoppers board together. I didn’t stay in touch with Bob because I was expecting to stay with him after he interviewed me and I was in Vero for a book signing. No. I kept in touch because he was a good friend. And sometimes friendships can pay off in unforeseen ways!

Soon after I posted on my website – http://www.michaelhaskins.net/ – that I was going to be in Vero, I received an email form Miss Vero Beach. Seems she’s a fan. She’s also somewhat of an enigma in Vero and her blog – http://www.missverobeachhouse.blogspot.com/ – is scathingly popular. Add to that, that no one really knows who she is! And she likes it that way. Her comments about me are also posted on my website.
(Darlene Schade)

Okay, so I talked about how important friendship can be, let me now make a comment on belonging to networking groups, like the Mystery Writes of America. I am a member and have been since the ‘80s. Now I belong to the Florida chapter and we have a Yahoo group that discusses most anything to do with writing and sometimes if Don Bruns - http://www.donbrunsbooks.com/ - gets on we find out a little something we didn’t know about music, or an award he deservedly won in Nashville, or Bob Morris - http://www.bobmorris.net/, or his blog: http://www.surroundedonthreesides.blogspot.com/ - will pass along a new recipe – sometimes for food and sometimes for rum! Bob also blurbed my book, thank you!

But this time, Nancy Cohen - www.nancycohen.com - passed along a little info about Lynn Greene from the Waldenbooks in Vero Beach being a mystery fan and she welcomed mystery writers to sign in her store. I had an email out to Lynn before Nancy shut her computer off. And Lynn got back to me just as quickly and in a matter of hours of my first email, we had a signing date for me at Waldenbooks in Vero!

I had met Nancy at SleuthFest a few years back and she even was nice enough to give me a great blurb for my novel. So, as you can imagine, I support joining MWA even if you are not a published writer. I joined in Los Angeles, attended luncheons, workshops, funerals, beach parties, all before I was published, and continued my membership when I moved to Key West. Today, I still keep in touch with some of the SoCal members and read its monthly newsletter.
Friendships, professional or otherwise, and networking pays off, as my Vero Beach signing proves.

Now, Miss Vero did show up and I would gladly tell you her name and what she looked like, but she wouldn’t tell Bob or me her name and she wore a disguise. Knowing what a gossip I am, she expects me to tell you she’s a buxom blonde bombshell, but my trained writer’s eye picked up small telltale signs that the Dolly Parton hairdo was wig and the buxom part, well across the food court of the mall is a Victoria Secrets, so I question the buxom part, too. I can report that she is an attractive woman, her blog is fun to read, and someday Bob and I would like to take the real Miss Vero to lunch. Maybe when I call Lynn about my next book and arrange a signing, she’ll join Lynn, Bob and me. So until then, all you Miss Vero fans can ignore the buxom blondes, that ain’t her. The little sprinkling of freckles across her nose would make me think red head, but it’s only a guess.

Okay, what have we learned form this, other than I am two weeks late posting?

One, I hope, is that friendships are priceless.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

6 Things about me and books . . .

Joan Reeves, from Slingwords.blogspot.com, tagged me to write “6 things about me and books.” She also tagged: Sweet But Sassy Adina, Bill Crider, Cait London, and L. C. Hayden.

Books, as I look over my computer desk I have four room-length bookshelves above me, filled past capacity with books I’ve read and, laying on their sides, books on my ‘to read’ list. So 6 things . . . here goes . . .

1) In high school, I was anything but a motivated student. I think it was the ninth or tenth grade, while in study class, in the English teacher’s classroom, I pulled a book from a rack called “Men Without Women” by Hemingway. Mr. Carlin, the teacher, came up to me and said something like, to paraphrase, “put the book back you aren’t bright enough to understand it.” He may have been kinder, but I was insulted (you can’t hurt a teenager) and went home to borrow against my allowance and bought the book the next day. I soon devoured all of Hemingway’s books I could find at school (not many) and the library. So, I guess, I turned an insult into a bad habit, reading and buying books!

2) When I was young, before God decided to call dirt, dirt, magazines of all sorts had at least one short story in it. I got in the habit of going through all my mother’s magazines, looking for short stories; that soon had me going through the short story anthologies in the library.

3) Somewhere, out of place, I discovered the Beats! The movement was almost over, but I couldn’t relate to hippies and dropping out. I loved to read about the Beats and their writings and adventures. Of course, that led to Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road.” I think I’ve read all of Kerouac’s works and many of the other Beats, including the poetry. It was about this time I decided I wanted to be a writer and, in many cases, unfortunately, it had to do with the way Hemingway and Kerouac lived!

4) During high school, I got a weekend job on the Boston Record-American/Sunday Advertiser as the midnight-8 a.m. office boy. Yeah, I know, it’s political incorrect today, but back then, that’s what I was. Following in Hemingway’s footsteps, right? I learned more about journalism those years than I ever did from higher education! I read all I could of books by journalists like Jimmy Breslin, and, of course, Damon Runyon. I wanted their style and today I will still watch “Guys & Dolls” when it’s on an old movie channel!

5) I will always be a short story fan, but by the time I moved to Los Angeles, I was reading mysteries and discovered LA had a hatful of mystery writers, long after Raymond Chandler had died. I also discovered Mystery Writers of America, SoCal Chapter and joined. Hell, the list of writers I met at the socials and dinners is too long to print here and I would probably miss more than one writer that was good to me and listened to my questions and gave answers. It was a great time in my life and got me to start writing my own novels. Of course, I had a draw full of short stories no one would publish, too.

6) Fast forward to my leaving LA and moving to Key West, end of the road – or the beginning, depending on your vision. I had come full circle; I was the business editor/writer for the daily rag, the Key West Citizen. I found time to write, while I lived on a floating home in a local marina – think of a two-story, one-bedroom house on a barge and that was my home. Come 1998 and Hurricane Georges blew the floating home out to sea and it was never found! Everything I had, including a great collection of first editions – many signed – were lost. I began to rebuild my library, but it was hard because I was living on a sailboat. But I had joined MWA Fla. Chapter and got to meet many talented mystery writers and began attending their events – 150 miles north of Key West. And I kept writing. A couple of years ago, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine bought and published my short story, “Murder in Key West,” and a few weeks later I received a contract from Five Star for my book, “Chasin’ the Wind.”

It took a lot of books and time to get from high school to Key West and published. Books are as much of a passion as is writing, in fact, I believe, as does Steve King, if you don’t’ read voraciously, you can not write.

Now, there are 6 things about me and books you could probably have lived a good long life without knowing, but I was asked to participate, so I did. What 6 things about you and books don’t we all know? Why not tell us?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Do you know your First Amendment rights?

As a journalist/mystery writer, the following quote frightens me and holds various meanings, as it should to anyone that uses the written word to make a living or to blog. So many of our freedoms are in peril these days and way too many of us are willing to give them up for feeling secure when we fly or visit the mall or drive on our roads.

Personally, I think Homeland Security is made up of smoke and mirrors and security at our airports is still being run by the seat-of-its-pants, a fact that has been proven by the media that has been able to smuggle contraband aboard plans.

It is time that the American people - the farmers, the mechanics, cooks, servers, office workers, writers, journalists, white-collar, blue-collar and no-collar workers, executives and, most importantly, our elected officials – reread the Constitution; discuss it at home, at the workplace, at taverns, on TV specials, and bus stops.

It was written to protect us from the men and women in Washington and state capitols and in city hall chambers. It was written before we had labeled influence peddlers as lobbyists and before large corporation arranged whom we could vote for.

Time and history has shown that 200-years ago, our Founding Fathers were a lot smarter than our leaders are today. Maybe it wasn’t intelligence; maybe the Founding Fathers were just honest enough to be concerned about the future of their own children and families and wanted to protect them from British counter attacks against the freedoms their blood and sweat had won. Today, it's all about profits - as we are learning daily on the news.

The Founding Fathers had all the human frailties of the times, but created the greatest document in our short history and today there are those that would line item veto sections of the Constitution. And they will, if we the people do not fully understand what it is they are trying to have us give up and stand up and say “no!”

When I first read the following quote, it sent shivers through me! Just from what I've learned over the years, I didn't even doubt it. That was sad, in itself, but then I got to question what rights I have and am aware of, per the Constitution. I am ashamed to say I couldn't list too many and I think I am someone who follows local, national and international politics.

If the written word is important to you, by writing it or reading it, it is time to stop and think about the following quote and decide how you fit into it. Novelists, poets, playwrights, journalists, and bloggers are all threatened and should pay attention because otherwise your right to petition may well be gone by the time you take notice!

Now I have to go and order a copy of the Constitution and re-learn all that stuff they tried to teach me in class that I knew was a waste of time because it would never involve itself in my life. Should I order one for you, too?

TODAY'S WORD ON JOURNALISM . . . Monday, Sept. 22, 2008

State of the First Amendment 2008:
"Perhaps one reason so many [Americans] are not fearful of, or would even invite, government limits on the five freedoms is that so few of us can even name them.
"The survey found again this year that just 3 percent of those questioned could name 'petition' as one of the five freedoms in the First Amendment. Only 'speech' was named by a majority of respondents, 56 percent. Less than 20 percent named religion (15 percent), press (15 percent) or assembly (14 percent). . . . 4 in 10 could not name any freedom--the highest such result in the survey's history.
"[These are] 'inalienable' rights for all, indeed--but in today's United States, rights that are unknown, unnamed, or even undefended, by many."
--Gene Policinski, vice president and executive director of the First Amendment Center, Washington, DC.
(For full survey results, see http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/pdf/SOFA2008survey.pdf )

Sunday, September 14, 2008

St. Augustine book signing

I did something after it was clear Hurricane Ike wasn’t going to hit Key West that I hadn’t done in more than 12-years, I drove almost 500-miles to St. Augustine, Fla. I was invited to participate in the first Florida Heritage Book Festival as a panelist to discuss journalism. I was also offered two different signing opportunities for my mystery novel, “Chasin’ the Wind.” Unlike many events, the festival paid for my hotel room.

Round trip from Key West to St. Augustine took six tanks of gas, so there was no way I expected to make that cost back on book sales. In fact, I only sold eight books! One to my co-panelist, Kay Day and three to a woman who had each one personalized to different men in different mid-western cities.

“Are these old boyfriends?” I kidded her.

“No,” she laughed. “One brother and two beer-guzzling brother-in-laws.”

So, I signed the books as she directed and mentioned that there was always a good supply of cold beer in Key West and no snow, not even in the coldest months. What I saw, as I signed, were three guys reading the book, enjoying it and passing it along, or at least mentioning it.

The fifth book went to a woman who assured me a dozen members of her book club would read it also. Of course, I told her of the small print in the back of the book that didn’t allow the passing of the book along without compensation to the author. It took a second or two, but then she got the joke and laughed. (I wasn’t joking!).

An attorney, a friendly talkative guy, bought a book and talked to me about his family’s property in Key West. According to him, they own the property where West Marine is located and he was going to town to check on it.

“I thought your book might give me an idea of what to expect when I get there,” he told me. “I haven’t been there in 20-years.”

Brian Gordon Sinclair, the Canadian writer/actor who comes to town for Hemingway Days and does an incredible one-may Hemingway play, told me both the short story and novel helped him find some local hangouts he didn’t know existed. I took it as a compliment, since Brian has been coming to Key West for years.

I don’t know who bought the other books, I guess they didn’t care if they were signed or not, but I do know that more that eight people will read the book and that is good for name recognition. And, that’s what the book signings are about. Not sales, but name recognition. Though, sales are nice.

On the way to St. Augustine, Celine and I stopped in Vero Beach and had lunch with an old Key West friend, Bob Soos. How many people do you know that if you spell their name backward, it’s still right?

Since moving to Vero, Bob has created his own morning FM radio show. And, it just so happens, I will be signing in Vero on Oct. 4, at Borders/Waldenbooks, and Bob will interview me on Friday the 3rd. Free publicity, can’t hurt and the radio station will have a give-away contest, with the winner getting a signed copy of “Chasin’ the Wind.”

Promotion has a lot to do with name recognition!

My Friday panel at the festival was on journalism and my topic was “working your own backyard.” My co-panelist, journalist Kay Day, talked about national and international outlets for freelance journalists. Kay had a lot of good insight to offer the full room. She promised to review my book on her blog, so you are likely to hear more about her. She has been published in many of the country’s leading newspapers and magazines.

The festival actually had to turn people away because the Friday event sold out!

Friday night, Celine and I tried to find a place to park in Old Town, but couldn’t. The tour of the old city was great, but I’d wanted to walk around, since so many people told me it was a lot like Key West. I’ll take their word for it.

I did get to have lunch Friday with another friend who had left Key West, Jen Musselman, and her daughter Sydney. Also got to see a friend from my days in Los Angeles, Kathy Shea. Kathy was a volunteer at the festival, so she was kept pretty busy. It was nice seeing two old friends and catching up on things.

The Saturday event was free and held at the student union at Flagler College. I got to sign books from 9-10 a.m., and then headed south.

Was it worth the time and expense? Yeah, I believe so. I was told going in that promotion was as much involved as writing; and that is the truth. I’ve been to NYC, LA, and South Florida, and now North Florida, met a lot of nice people and hope created a fan base, no matter how small.


Monday, September 1, 2008

My Southern California Book Signings - Part III

(Before blogging about past signings, I want to let you know of two recently scheduled signings in Florida. On Sept 12 & 13, I will in St. Augustine at the Florida Heritage Book Festival – www.fhbookfest.com – and on Oct. 4, I will be at the Waldenbooks in Vero Beach, Fl., from 1-4 p.m. If you are in the neighborhood, please stop in and say hi.)

My signings in Southern California were in mid July and, I believe, were successful and fun. But, it was also work. I went to the Los Angeles area in July 2007, to personally talk with the bookstore owners, and drop off my press package, which consisted of a photo, bio, website info, and copies of blurbs by established mystery writers that would appear on the book’s jacket. I also promised copies of the books ARCs – advanced reading copies, which are used by reviewers. I sent ARC copies, as soon as they arrived.

I first joined the Mystery Writers of America when I lived in Los Angeles and found out in June 2008, that July was the SoCal chapter’s off time. How soon we forget! A friend from those days, one I hadn’t been in touch with for way too long, writer Diane Pugh (now married and is Diane Emley – http://www.dianneemley.com/) replied to my email to the club’s newsletter. She explained there were no meetings in July, but put word out on the club’s Yahoo.com page that I would be in town for signings.

While firestorms ravaged Northern California, sunny Southern California is still over crowded, smoggy, and hot. I stayed with my sister in Malibu where the temperature never rose above the mid 70s (winter temps for me), but a short ride over the mountains to the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles remedied that. Temps were in the 90s. I can say this about LA, you can see what you’re breathing! When I left, 12-years ago, the state said it hand a handle on smog and it was diminishing. No way, José!

My first signing was at “Mysteries to Die For,” in Thousand Oaks – http://www.mystriestodiefor.com/ – a ‘must stop’ bookstore for mystery writers and Heidi and her staff are friendly and supportive – something a first-time writer appreciates!

My book, “Chasin’ the Wind,” and notice I would be signing were in the window right next to a notice about Robert Crais’ signing. Bob’s large fan base might see it and be curious enough to come in and check my book out!
(photo: Mysteries to Die For/ Kevin Hart & Patti Bolter)

I brought Key West Hog’s Breath Saloon foam cup holders for all the stores – http://www.hogsbreathsaloon.com/. You put your beer bottle in them and they help keep it cool. I left six with Heidi for her and the staff.

The afternoon signing went well and my cousin from Boston, Kevin Hart, was in Santa Monica for a concert and showed up. That was a great surprise. I talked, briefly, about where the idea for the book came from and then signed.

Somewhere in the past I read, or was told, that an average sale at book signings was 10 copies. I sold my 10 copies plus, and some were presale orders. I am sure the store’s email newsletter helped, since it gave the book a good mention. That was Saturday, July 12.

Sunday, July 13, I met some friends at “My Way,” a bar in Montrose. Norm Cote has been a friend forever and he participated in a jam session there one or two Sunday nights each month. Another friend, Rob Murdock, had copies of “Chasin’ the Wind” he wanted me to sign for his daughters. You remember the old commercial, “I’d walk a mile for a Camel?” Well, imagine how far I’d go to sign three copies of my book!
(Photo: Norm Cote, Rob Murdock & Michael at My Way Bar)

Rob showed up, I signed the books, listened to Norm play, and got to hang out with the bar’s owner, Steve. I was fortunate to spend time with everyone, because a few weeks after returning to Key West, I called Norm and found out that Steve had a massive heart attack and died.

Kris Williams, the event coordinator at Barnes & Noble, in Encino, was one of the only major book chain people to get back to my request for a signing. She was kind enough to explain the store’s policy for signings was set to include the major best sellers and local authors only, but she and some of her associates had read my ARC and enjoyed it, so she invited me to sign stock. It’s not a book signing, but it is getting copies of my book into the mystery section of Barnes & Noble, so, of course, I said “Yes.”
(Photo: Kris Williams, event coordinator at B&N in Encino)

When I walked into the store on Tuesday, from the back parking lot, I remembered that I had attended many signings of MWA members there. Making it even more exciting to have my book displayed where fellow writers would see it and how surprised I was to find “Chasin’ the Wind” displayed in the store’s ‘New Arrivals’ section.

Kris got six Hog’s Breath holders, too.

Thursday, July 17, I signed at the Flintridge Bookstore & Coffeehouse in La Canada-Flintridge, between Pasadena and Glendale – http://www.flintridgebooks.com/ . The store had just opened in 2007, when I stopped by and offered to sign. Sandy Willardson, the event coordinator was supportive in 2007, and said the store employees enjoyed the ARC and looked forward to my signing.
Two other signings in the area, Book ‘em in South Pasadena and Mystery & Imagination in Glendale fell through, so I was very appreciative to Sandy for her support. Sandy put three of the Hog’s Breath cup holds in a raffle and staff got the other three.

She even had a sign in the window about my signing and called me “author and adventurer.” Go figure, I guess my sailing to Havana a few times made me an adventurer!
(Photo: Window display at Flintridge Bookstore & Coffeehouse)

Sandy introduced me and then introduced my sister Patty, who told awful lies about my misspent youth. Maybe they weren’t lies, exactly, but it wasn’t the way I remember things.
It was a fun evening and some friends from my past showed up and I sold more than my quota of books.

My next signing was on Saturday, July 19, at the Mystery Bookstore in Westwood – http://www.mystery-bookstore.com/ . When I lived in LA, the store was on Beverly Boulevard and one of my favorite haunts, especially at signings.

Since moving to Key West, the store has moved and been sold. Bobby McCue, the manager wasn’t there last year when James Lincoln Warren – http://www.criminalbrief.com/ – brought me to the store. JLW is a short story writer and has a popular blog that also features other short story writers. Via emails, Bobby and I communicated and finally with a good old phone call established the signing date. Later, closer to the signing date Bobby called and asked if I’d share the signing with San Francisco writer Michelle Gagnon – http://www.michellegagnon.com/ – and her two books, “The Tunnels” and “The Bone Yard” are terrific thrillers, so, of course I
said yes.
(Photo: Joe Bolter, Michael & Michelle Gagnon)

Michelle and I planned to meet for something to eat before our afternoon signings. I was walking around Westwood with my niece, Alexis Bolter and nephew, Joe Bolter when my cell ran. It was Michelle trying to locate me. She was at a Starbucks and I was on the sidewalk less than a yard away. We met and not only is she a talented writer but she is also beautiful!

Bobby, Sarah Chen and Linda Brown greeted us at the store and had area by the door filled with items promoting our books. I eventually got to sign the “arrest records book” the store has had for years. I read the signatures and comments by some of the famous mystery writers I had been reading for years. It was a wonderful feeling to add my name and comments to the book. I gave them the last six Hog's Breath drink holders.
(Photo: Sarah Chen, Bobby McCue, Michael & Linda Brown)
Because of presales, I actually got sell my quota of books at the store and then Bobby had me sign stock!

I flew back to Key West the next morning and was still flying high from the experience of signing my book in some of the best bookstores in the country when the jet landed in Miami. As I exited the smaller prop plane in Key West, I still couldn’t believe I’d just come back from LA and book signings. It was like a dream come true, no, it WAS a dream come true and I want to thank everyone at all the bookstores – Florida, NYC and SoCal – that helped make a novice feel and look like a pro.

To see photos of all those that heped make my book signings successful, go to http://www.michaelhaskins.net/ and click on photos.
(Photo: Michael signing arrest register at Mystery Bookstore)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Friday's Forgotten Book

(When Patti Abbott asked me to write a blog about a book I thought had been forgotten, it didn’t take me but a nanosecond to know what book it would be about. When I pulled it off the bookshelf, I realized I couldn’t explain it without going into explanation of the author, because the book affected my teenage years and the author a good part of the rest of my life.)

Writer Dennis Lynds had many claims to fame in his lifetime; being one of the most prolific writers in America has to be the one that will remain on the record books for years to come.

If you are new to the mystery genre, the name may not be recognizable. But Dennis wrote under many names, the most popular being Michael Collins, the creator of the Dan Fortune series, but there were others: William Arden, John Crowe, Mark Sadler, to name only a few.

I discovered Dennis Lynds while I was a senior in high school and his book, UPTOWN DOWNTOWN, Signet Paperback 1963, had just come out and it affected the direction my life would take. It was the early ‘60s, the beginning of the end of the Beat Generation and the first inkling of the hippie movement and time of teenage angst.

UPTOWN DOWNTOWN is a story about Dave Garber, an up-and-coming executive in NYC, but at night another Dave Garber emerges, one who strums a guitar in Village bars, frequents free-and-easy parties in dim, beatnik attics.

The book fully portrays that time when writers and artists, experiments in drugs and sex and jazz, were all mixed together and you had an enthusiasm for life and living that was dying a slow death. It mirrored my weekend trips to coffeehouses on Beacon Hill in Boston.

UPTOWN DOWNTOWN influenced my decisions at the time, because I wanted to be a writer and part of a living movement, even if it was fading from the mainstream. The dropout attitude of the hippies held no appeal, where the live-life-to-the-fullest mantra of Dave Garber and the Beats did. The weekend coffeehouse-poetry readings I attended were right out of UPTOWN DOWNTOWN and I latched onto the tail end of beatnik movement, and dropped into life instead of dropping out.

Almost 20-years later I met Michael Collins at the mid-March writers social hosted by The Mysterious Bookstore in Beverly Hills – since then, it has moved to Westwood and no longer holds the social because it conflicts with other literary events in LA. I was a fan and asked to have my Dan Fortune books signed. We got to talking and I discovered Michael Collins was really Dennis Lynds; I did not connect the man and UPTOWN DOWNTOWN at the time. I did guess that he took the name Michael Collins because of the Irish rebel and leader in the rebellion against the English in 1916 and he laughed and said, “Yes, that’s why I took the name.”

We became friends and Dennis was always supportive of my writing. We attended Mystery Writer of America, SoCal, meetings and socials at the Sportsmen’s Lodge in the San Fernando Valley, often sitting in the bar afterward. When I discovered why the name Dennis Lynds sounded familiar, I told him and got a thank you and a smile.

Dennis was more than a friend, he was someone I looked up to. As Michael Collins, he was able to turn Dan Fortune, a one-armed private detective, into a successful and popular character and series, when the rest of us were writing about superheroes without limitations!

He did it with well-written, well-plotted stories that often asked hot-topic questions and just as often gave the answers; and he did it with some of the best writing in the genre.

I moved to Key West in 1996, but kept in touch with Dennis and his wife Gayle, and we often emailed back and forth about my sailing trips to Cuba and how he hoped to someday visit Havana and maybe meet me there.

In 1998 Hurricane Georges attacked the Lower Keys and blew my two-story floating home out to sea, with my more than 1,000-book library and worldly possession on it, never to be found. Think of it as a one-bedroom house on a barge.

I mentioned it to Dennis in an email and told him how I was starting over and had bought a sailboat to live on. A few weeks later, I received a plastic covered copy of UPTOWN DOWNTOWN in the mail. He had remembered after all these years!

My library is almost rebuilt, now that I am back in a house on solid ground, and books written by Dennis Lynds, no matter what name he used, sit on the shelf above my computer screen, so that I often think of him when I am writing. In between the hardback copies of books, bearing the name Collins, Sadler, Crowe and Arden is the small, plastic covered paperback, UPTOWN DOWNTWON, and it stares down overpowering all the others because it reminds of my youth and how it, and its author, helped direct me to where I am today.

Dennis wrote most everyday for eight hours, or more. How I envy him for that. He was driven and loved writing. And that paid off, because so many of us love reading him.

For more information on Dennis, his life and his writing, go to http://www.dennislynds.com/.

Michael Haskins

Sunday, August 10, 2008


“Chasin' The Wind”
by Michael Haskins Hardback: 238 pagesPublisher: Five Star, Gale Cengage LearningISBN-13 978-1-59414-638- Copyright 2008

The cover of Chasin' The Wind has palm trees gilded by a setting sun and a boat, silhouetted on a patch of gleaming water. All else in the peaceful scene is darkness. The cover artist perfectly captured the essence of this book, the first Mad Mick Murphy Mystery, by Michael Haskins.

Set in Key West, the darkness beneath the bright surface of this tourist mecca is revealed in the opening sequence when Murphy, former globe-trotting investigative journalist, stumbles upon the near-dead body of his friend and fellow sail enthusiast.

Haskins has a lean, spare style that gives you the facts and paints a picture of the Key West known to its denizens but rarely seen by the tourists. Forget the glitz and glamor of the other odes to Floridian excess as seen in book, television, and film. "Chasin' The Wind" is the real deal. It's the bite of lime in a mojito, the festering, relentless antipathy still nurtured for Fidel, and the spray of salt in your face when you're on the water.

Mick Murphy is not some unrealistic super hero sleuth. He might be the guy you pass on the street. He's known tragedy, and he's haunted by the past. He probably isn't extraordinary in his beliefs: that loyalty and friendship are everything and that justice should be sought.Haskins has created an intelligent sleuth, and you'll get a kick out of following Mad Mick Murphy from Key West to Cuba in "Chasin' The Wind."

You'll wish you could hang with Murphy in a seedy bar and share a beer while you wait for the next book in this promising new series.

Takeaway Truth:
Small publishers are nurturing some big talent. If you're a reader, start buying some of these heretofore-unknown authors on a regular basis.

SLING WORDS aka Joan Reeves.
Just call me Paige Turner. Oh. Real name is displayed? Well, darn. I was hoping the Paige Turner moniker might make me a hot commodity. Guess that means I'll have to write great fiction instead. (But that's sooo hard! *whine, whine*) You want to know more about me? Hmmm.... At this moment in time, I guess I'm a multi-published author of fiction and a hard-working freelance writer published all over the web (under my own name, pseudonyms, and as a ghost)...yada yada yada. Need to know more? Just go to http://www.joanreeves.com,/ for details. Joan donates the copies of books she reviews to various libraries.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Book Signing - Part II, Florida & New York

I’ve written a little about my early book signings in Key West and South Florida and you can see photos from all my signings on my website, http://www.michaelhaskins.net/, if you are interested. If you came to any of the signings, you may find your photo there.

Marshall Smith, owner of Key West Island Books, hosted my first signing days after the release date of “Chasin’ the Wind.” I sold 80 books and he told me the only person to sell more at a book signing was Carl Hiaasen. It was a wonderful event and great for my nervous ego that thought only a few friends would show up.

(Photo: Georgia & John Parks with Michael at KW Island Books)

Charlie Bauer, general manager of the Hog’s Breath Saloon held a signing in the upstairs writers’ room at the saloon and I sold 50 books. Again, my local support surprised me! Local writer and friend Tom Corcoran showed up and that was a pleasant surprised. Tom was a lot of help with my book and his support helped me push ahead to finish. I thank Tom (http://www.tomcorcoran.net/) and Boston writer Jerry Healy (http://www.jeremiahhealy.com/) in the intro to my book for their help and support.
(Photo: Michael and author Tom Corcoran, Hog's Breath Saloon)

Joanne Sinchuk, from Murder on the Beach, Delray Beach, Florida, was a gracious host and her newsletter review helped sell about 10 copies of my book to people who couldn’t attend the signing. Joanne hosts the bookstore at the Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America’s SleuthFest – a writing conference – each year and her store is a must stop at for writers signing in South Florida.

The store is surrounded by some very good restaurants and I had dinner with journalist Emily Roach and Internet guru Ernie Deck, who I worked with in Key West before Emily kept getting better job offers and left. Ernie, of course, can work the Internet business from anywhere. It was nice to see them.

The Coconut Grove Bookstore is new and I was one of the first authors to sign there. Its newsletter mailing, obviously, is small but it advertised the signing, the turnout was low, but interesting because I was able to talk in depth about writing and my book to the few people who attended, something you cannot do at a more crowded signing.

Joe LiVolsi a friend of my son-in-law Paul Carpino (and now my friend as well) helped arrange a signing at the Broward County Library. Being that I get lost as soon as I hit the turnpike in Florida City, I am not sure where the signing was, but it was at a senior center in the Ft. Lauderdale area and well attended. I sold more than 10 books and had an interesting Q&A with the audience.

(Photo: Michael and Joe LiVolsi at Anthony's Runway Restaurant)

I mention the number of books sold, because I have been told that 10 books is the average number sold at signings. Yeah, I know, you don’t meet expenses with just 10 sales. Again, I’ve been told that people will go home and think about you and your book and maybe, if impressed, they come back and buy one. Others will remember you and come back when you are signing your second book.

So, I guess, you could say touring is more about creating name recognition than it is about sales; that maybe why small publishers do not help authors with touring. All of my signings have been at my own expense.

I have one last signing in Florida on Sept. 12-13, at the Florida Heritage Book Festival in St. Augustine. I will be talking about journalism as well as mystery writing. If you are in the area, come in and say hi.

I wanted to have a book-signing event at The Mysterious Bookstore in NYC, but the store manager, Ian, explained that they only host book release events and, since I wouldn’t be in the area until June, it wouldn’t be a release event - my book came out in March. However, he did offer to order copies of my books and invited me to come in and sign them. If you don’t know, this store is the ‘Godfather’ of mystery bookstores and I knew that in July many of the ITW authors in town for Thriller Fest would be stopping there to sign.

Otto Penzler, the proprietor of The Mysterious Bookshop, which celebrated its 30th anniversary on April 13, 2008, was the publisher of The Armchair Detective, the Edgar winning quarterly journal devoted to the study of mystery and suspense fiction, for seventeen years. Penzler was the founder of The Mysterious Press, which he sold to Warner Books and is now an imprint at Grand Central Publishing. He currently has imprints at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in the United States and Quercus in the U.K.

Having signed copies of my book in Penzler’s store was an achievement to be proud of – thank you Ian, Sally, & Dan! – and I am, and if you are in the NYC area, please stop in and buy a copy! It’s a great place to browse and find great new and classic mysteries.

My son-in-law Paul Carpino drove me into Manhattan. The bookstore is located in Tribeca and, not being a visitor to NYC, I am not sure what that means, except that it has something to do with actor Robert DeNiro and his film festival. I know the construction in the area made the air dirty, the streets dirty and it was 100° outside.

After meeting Sally and Dan (see photo in previous blog) Paul and I found an Irish pub one block over and had a late lunch and a few cool beers. Paul assured me that traffic along the river was light, but for someone from Key West, it was too slow and congested. However, since Paul was doing an average of 80 mph on the Jersey turnpike, the 20 mph along the Hudson allowed me to regain my composure.

Last year, I was in Los Angeles to set up my ’08 book signing and was not aware that the ITW’s Thriller Fest would be that same week. Also, I missed Hemingway Days in Key West and the Key West Haskins-Herce Family reunion! But I got to LA, signed in some great stores, and made my 10+ sales of books. And I got to meet and sign with author Michelle Gagnon. Michelle’s new book, Bone Yard, is terrific, go out and by it, if you like to be scared! http://www.michellegagnon.com/.

You can Google the bookstores I’ve mentioned to find out more about them and receive their newsletter, where you’ll find signed first editions of books, old and new. If you are not familiar with these stores, check them out.
(Photo: above, Joe Bolter, Michael and Author Michelle Gagnon at the Mystery Bookstore, Los Angeles; bottom, RaiEtte and Julio Avael with Michael at KW Island Books signing; center, Michael signing books at the Flintridge Bookstore and Coffeehouse in the LA area. Notice the sign, it refers to 'author - adventurer Michael Haskins.' Who thought that up?)

Next blog, LA Book Signings. Please come back.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Book signing adventure - part one

I’d written my book, in blood it sometimes seemed, but it was all worth it when I received the email from a small publisher informing me that there was a contract in the mail. Ah, I beamed to myself, as I danced around my crowded home-office; the gods had finally smiled on me!
(Photo: Sarah, Bobby, Michael & Linda
at The Mystery Bookstore - Westwood, Calif.)

Little did I know that the hard work hadn’t even begun. My small publisher did nothing to help with book signings, and only a little for getting reviews, so off I went on my own and soon discovered that my excitement wasn’t necessarily shared by the rest of the world.

In July of 2007, I went to Los Angeles and visited bookstores I had haunted for years when I lived there, and soon had six tentative book signings for July ’08. Everyone wanted to see an advanced reading copy. My disappointment was that Barry at Book ‘em in South Pasadena wouldn’t deal with my publisher, so there’d be no signing.

I knew going in that the distributor gave little to no discount on my book, but a store could order directly from the publisher and, using my signing code, receive a forty-percent discount. I thought that was a good deal. Most of the major bookstore chains won’t take the time because their ordering is done from the main office and it creates too much extra paperwork.

So, okay, I had promises from Heidi at Mysteries to Die For, in Thousand Oaks; from Bobby at The Mystery Bookstore in Westwood; from Sandy at Flintridge Bookstore and Café (a store that had just opened); from Christine at Mystery and Imagination in Glendale; Lise from Dutton’s in Brentwood, and, finally from Kris at the Encino Barnes & Nobel.

As soon as I had the ARCs, they went off to the five stores. My first disappointment was when I talked to Christine in Glendale, she said the store was moving away from mysteries and featuring SiFi authors. Popular local mystery authors were an exception.

More bad news came via Internet news. Dutton’s, an old, well-established bookstore I often went to for signings, was closing. Loss of both signings was sad, but Dutton’s closing was heart-rending sadness, but the other four confirmed their commitments to my signings and the dates were set up for the second week of July ’08.

It was another high in my life as a writer and, I assure you, the feeling was worth all the blood I had spilled and money it had cost me.

Oh yeah, I had long ago gone through my publisher’s advance! But that’s a whole other blog!

Fast forward to the end of December ’07, and my daughter Chela’s New Year’s Eve wedding; I arrived in the NYC area a few days early and had my son-in-law Paul Carpino (my daughter Seanan’s husband) drive me around the NY/NJ area to visit all the chain stores at malls and stand alones.

Mostly they were Barnes & Noble and Border bookstores. I left off my press kit with each store’s event coordinator and that included an ARC. I called back in February ’08 and each store declined to do a signing, mostly because I wasn’t a local author. I had thought ‘Key West author signing’ would’ve brought people into the stores, since many of the guests to Key West come from that area. If I were a marketing expert maybe I’d have a regular income.

Friend and fellow writer Megan Abbott suggested I talk to Ian at The Mysterious Bookstore in Manhattan. I called and Ian was very polite and asked me to send an ARC. I did. The Mysterious Bookstore in Manhattan is the holy grail of bookstores. When I called back, Ian said he would order my book, but unless I was able to do a release party around the publication date he couldn’t doing a signing event, but I would be welcomed to sign stock. I jumped at the offer, because having my signed book in The Mysterious Bookstore was something I wouldn’t have even considered, if it hadn’t been for Megan’s email. (Photo: Sally, Dan & Me at The Mysrterious Bookstore).

My schedule and financial situation wouldn’t let me fly to NYC for a weekend at the end of March, but stock signing was more than I had figured on and I was happy.

Check back in a few days I will tell you about the book signings. There are photos on my website: www.michaelhaskins.net.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Nobody Move, this is a review: Chasin' the Wind

For anyone who has visited Key West, or any Caribbean island, the first thing they notice is a phenomenon known as ‘island time’. Things travel at their own pace. If a beer takes 10 minutes to get to you, so be it. If you have to wait in line 15 minutes while the clerk and a shopper chat, life goes on. What visitors don’t realize is that ‘island time’ is just one outward sign of an entire lifestyle which is totally foreign to most Americans and Europeans. While non-islanders see it as rudeness and slothfulness, locals wonder what all the rush and demands are.

Michael Haskins gives us a glimpse of ‘island time’ and island life in his debut novel, CHASIN’ THE WIND, which is set in and around Key West’s ‘Old Town’. With ‘Mad Mick’ Murphy, a freelance journalist, as our tour guide, we are exposed to the sultry lazy days and the laid-back bar hopping island nights that most of us secretly envy. One would almost expect Hemingway to walk through the door and start an argument at the bar.

Mick, who has a supposedly violent past, has spent most of his career writing about Central and South American foreign affairs. He has made Key West his hermitage from the ghosts of his former life in California when he is suddenly confronted with violence and the need for revenge upon discovering the murder of one of his sailing buddies. Haskins takes us on a wild-wind journey of inept local police, mysterious agents from competing ‘agencies’, Cuban espionage and soulless murderers. The story rushes you along the surface so fast you think you are sailing on the Gulf Stream.

The downside to this is that, because CHASIN’ THE WIND is a thriller, Haskins gives the novel the feeling of a New York minute. Mick Murphy is someone you want to get to know, someone you want to relate with; however, we are never really given the chance.

The end of CHASIN’ THE WIND has sequel stamped all over it, and I really hope that that is true. Michael Haskins has the wonderful ability to evoke the sights and smells of the island out of thin air, and it doesn’t hurt that he has Mick drinking Jamesons like most of us drink water. Haskins just needs to give us the same feeling for his characters, and to let the ‘Mad Mick’ Murphy series find some island time, so we can get to know the characters, their interconnections, and the plots better. – Josh Schrank

Posted by Declan Burke, May 31, 2008, at 12:13 AM http://www.crimealwayspays.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Michelle Gagnon and I will sign at the Mystery Bookstore in LA

On the weekend, Bobby McCue from the Los Angeles Mystery Bookstore called and set a time for my July 19th signing, 2 p.m., and asked if I'd mind sharing the time slot with California writer Michelle Gagnon. I am so honored to be signing in one of LA’s oldest and most prestigious bookstores that I would sign with the devil, just to be included.

Well, I Googled Michelle (and you should too) and found a very attractive young lady and, if reviews are any way to judge, talented too! I am glad she’s not the devil, because I would be happy to sign with her anywhere, any day! That's Michelle to the right, and below is a quote from her webpage:

“Michelle Gagnon is a former modern dancer, dog walker, bartender, freelance journalist, personal trainer, model, and Russian supper club performer. To the delight of her parents, she eventually gave up all these jobs for an infinitely more stable and lucrative position as a crime fiction writer.
“Her debut thriller THE TUNNELS was published in the United States and Australia, and was an IMBA bestseller. Described as ‘Silence of the Lambs meets The Wicker Man,’ the story involves a series of ritualized murders in the abandoned tunnel system beneath a university.
“The following book in the series, BONEYARD, depicts a cat and mouse game between dueling serial killers in the Berkshires. “Michelle is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, and International Thriller Writers.
“In her spare time she runs errands and indulges a weakness for stale cinema popcorn and Hollywood blockbusters. Hopelessly addicted to Scrabulous, she's seriously considering a twelve-step program. She lives in San Francisco with her family.”

I’m reading “The Tunnels” now, but should have saved it for the flight to LA, because, I am told, you can’t be afraid of flying if something else is scaring you! How, I have to find out, did someone who looks so gentle write this book? I have to find out and it is somewhat out of jealousy!

I hope, if you are in the Los Angeles area on July 19th, you’ll stop by and say hi to both Michelle and me.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Book-signing tour troubles, thanks to gas prices

This weekend I will need to gas up the Miata and, for the first time, pay more than $4 per gallon! My friend Lee Fairchild is visiting from Ohio, where he said gas prices are still within the high $3 range. I assured him it would be closer to $4 by Memorial Day.

The price of gas has blown my book-signing budget. I knew going into this that signings didn’t pay for themselves in sales, so I budgeted for gas, food, and, where needed, lodging. Signings sold books but, more important, got my name out there for the next book and that was okay, while I could afford the loss. Now, I am not so sure I can.

I am still waiting to hear back from Barnes and Nobel in Ft. Myers, Florida, and Glendale, California. Ft. Myers is about five hours by car. I don’t know what that calculates in gas dollars. I am not even sure how disappointed I will be if the deal falls through and I don’t have to make the drive; that is sad.

I already have my airline ticket for Los Angeles, and three signings arranged and two more possible, so I have to make that trip. I will need to rent a car and gas in LA has been $4 for a while! I am staying with my sister, so that will help cut down expenses, but I hadn’t budgeted for all the local gas increases and that will hurt my pocketbook in LA.

I have filed an application to be in the Vero Beach Book Festival in November and I have already been invited to the Florida Heritage Book Festival in St. Augustine, in September. Fortunately, that St. Augustine festival pays for my gas and hotel and I have a friend, Bob Soos, in Vero.

In today’s Miami Herald, there was a story on how gas prices are affecting food prices and how low-income families are coping; apple sauce instead of apples for the kids, milk at one meal only, etc.

Down here, at the end of the road, food prices have always been higher than in the mainland, but now it’s even worse. Market prices are up, restaurant prices are up; it seems everything but salaries are going up. $4.09, I’m sorry, four-point-zero-nine, and nine-tenths is the average price per gallon here.

What’s up with that 9/10th of a cent? Are we stupid or what? $3.99 & 9/10th isn’t $4? You have to give the greedy-little-bastards credit, because they have stayed way ahead of the public in all this. They’ve know how far to stick the knife in our back and turn it slowly until we said ‘thank you.’ And we are smiling as the blood is siphoned from our bodies, one precious drop at a time.

Like most Americans, I am looking at ways to save money. Less eating out, more planning before heading out in the car, car-pooling on weekend trips to Old Town. We have even talked about staying on the sailboat Friday nights, if there’s a reason we need to be back in town on Saturday. Of course, who would feed the dog and rabbit? It’s always something!

If you are doing something to cut back, so you can afford gas, write and let me know. For now, I’ll just get back to finishing my novel. I am only a couple of chapters from the ending and then there’s a short story I’ve outlined ready to be written, but what do I do after that?

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

My tribute to the greedy-little-bastards or, why high gas prices are good for writers

I have left my Jeep under the house (I live in a stilt house, I didn’t bury it) and bought a 2001 Miata. The Jeep got 15 mpg, on a good day, and the Miata gets 30 mpg most any day. I have gone from almost $100 a week in gas to about $30. That’s a pretty good savings. I am also a lot more aware of my running around in the evenings and on the weekends and schedule things now, like dinner, movies, a trip to the Hog’s Breath.

According to my friends, and reports on the news, I am not unique in this. People have begun to put the gas-guzzlers in the garage and turned to more gas efficient vehicles. Here in the Florida Keys that includes scooters and bicycles. I live 15 miles from downtown (not much in miles if I were still in LA, but miles and miles here in the Keys) and it’s too far, and unsafe, to ride a scooter on US1, or a bicycle.

Before we all began to support the new robber oil-barons, I might have driven to town and had breakfast on Saturday morning at Harpoon Harry’s and then come home to write. Now, thanks to gas prices and the greedy-little-bastards who bought the White House, I stay home Saturday morning and write or read.

I dislike big cities, but I suppose if I lived that kind of lifestyle, my daily routine may not have changed as much because of gas gouging, since there are so many places you can walk to (and face the possibility of being mugged) when you live in the heart of an overcrowded metropolises.

So, I can thank the greedy-little-bastards who are pillaging our savings, driving food prices to skyrocket and keeping many of us from taking driving vacations, because I am staying home writing the last chapters of my novel’s sequel and catching up on reading. If I had to guess, I’d say I am only about three-years behind in reading, where last year at this time I was five-years behind!

I’ve even stomped around under the house with a cigar and Jameson on the rocks, plotting out a short story built around the recent Key West Songwriters’ Festival and think it is workable! If gas had been less than $2 a gallon (yeah, get real, we’ll never see that price again!) I would probably have driven downtown, stopped at Finnegan’s Wake, Schooner Wharf, and the Hog’s Breath, and maybe not been so far along in the short story idea.

So, this is my tribute, and thank you, to the greedy-little-bastards for keeping me at the computer writing as they rape and pillage the American dream, horde their billions in quarterly profits, eliminate the middle class, while they tremble because they realize it could all come to an end in January ’09.

Of course, if the Democratic Congress lack of cajones is example of what the next administration holds for us, it is the American people who should be trembling, because there is less and less for us to lose and the plundering may not be stoppable.

Monday, April 28, 2008

So, where did the errors come from?

I wrote my book. It took about a year, but if you put my actual writing days together it would have been a full six months. It took a lot of sweat, a lot of rewriting and mental anguish. The publisher sent it to an editor in NYC and it came back to me with a few minor corrections.

I was asked if I really wanted to leave mention of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro in the final chapters. At that time, Castor’s illness was all over the print and electric media and, of course, the Cuban exiles in Miami were celebrating his expected death.

I couldn’t avoid mention of Castro and assured the editor that the Washington CIA, who were predicting his death, would have a hard time finding the island of Cuba if they left Key West and headed south. The government’s view of Cuba is tinted by the Miami exiles and, a lot like Iraq, what it knows about Cuba is what it believes the exile community wants to hear.

So, I did a bit of a compromise and assumed Castro would be out of power by the time the book came out. So I referred from the present tense of Castro to something along the lines of “now that Castro was out of the picture,” this and that . . . (you’ll need to read the book, because I am not giving it all away here).

As it turned out, my book’s Cuban segment reads like something out of today’s news!

So then the book was sent to an other editor, who I believe was in Texas, for continuity in punctuation and those things we were supposed to learn in high school English, but didn’t.

Eventually, I received the manuscript back with a gazillion corrections. So much for high school English. I had to reply line item by line item. The editor questioned my use of commas, quotes, and other punctuations. I had to note if I agreed or not and, if not, what I wanted done. My reply filled 20 single lined pages! But, some of that was for mistakes I found and that they somehow screwed up from my copy. For instance, the word “lightning” was italicized throughout the book. Why? I did not send my copy in that way. Also, all Spanish was in italics in my copy, but not in what was sent back to me. Some Spanish was, some wasn’t. I italicized all the Spanish, again.

I did spelled the Bahamian beer Kalik wrong (Kalick), but sent in the correction. In the first half of the book it is spelled wrong and then it's correct in the last half. Go figure! The list goes on, but you get the point.

So, you can image my surprise as I read my author’s copy and found about half my corrections were not made!

In reading other books, especially from the big NY publishers, I am often surprised to find mistakes, but I do find them. I have had good sales in Key West and even my good friend Dick Wagner, once my editor at the KW Citizen, called to say he enjoyed the book. When I asked him about the mistakes that bothered me, he said he didn’t notice. I guess that’s a good thing, but how do the error make it in after two editors and then my own corrections?

Oh yeah, the best one. I misspelled Ronald Reagan (Regan) and no one caught it, so, when speaking at libraries I always get a laugh when I say it is obvious that the editors were Democrats, because no Republic would misspell his name!

What kind of mistakes have you found in your readings?

Monday, April 7, 2008

My Key West book signing

Key West Island Books took out print and radio ads for my signing on April 5. I also had mention in Solares Hill*, Paradise (weekly newspaper art/entertainment supplements) and the Keynoter, as well as interviews on US1 Radio, 104.1 FM; SUN 99.5 FM, and WGMX/MIX 94.3 FM. We don’t really have local TV in the Keys, but if we did, I would’ve found a way to be on!

Of course, I have heard the horror stories from writers about book signings from hell where no one shows up and I lived with that anxiety for about a week! Imagine, my hometown and no one shows. Okay, I knew some close friends would be there, but the public was another story.

I showed up at the store at 4:30 p.m., much to the laughs of Marshall Smith, owner of the shop, as he pointed out to Suzanne, his sales assistant, that he predicted I’d be early. What Marshall didn’t know was that I inherited being early for everything from my father. Suzanne told me people had showed up Friday, thinking the signing was that night. Now that’s being early!

Well, at 4:45 p.m. Tom, an old sailing friend, showed up and bought 10 copies for members of his family who live off island. A good contingent from ROTARY arrived and bought copies, as did Paul Clarin (the man who took my book jacket photo), lots of old friends, and some people who just heard about the book and wanted a copy. There was also a fair turnout from my Monday lunch group, the Luncheonaires.

From years of attending book signings, I know that the average book sale during a signing is as low as 10 - 15 copies. That’s what I expect, at best, when I sign outside Key West, but Saturday the bookstore sold out its 50 copies. I had a box-and-a-half of books in my car and all but six of those sold! Marshall said he sold80 copies! When I asked if that was a good thing, he laughed and said yes.

I know Marshall deserves most of the credit, because I think the radio ads reached a lot of people, since it ran for a week and up until about 4 p.m. on April 5.

It was a high and I enjoyed singing until 7:30 p.m. and then met with many of the book buyers at the Hog’s Breath Saloon and celebrated. I think I still have writer’s cramp in my right hand, and I say that with a smile!

I also want to add that on Friday, I was on 99.5’s "Hoebee in the Morning" show and he paid me a complement, long before I arrived at the studio. Bill told listeners that Thursday night his cable TV went out, so he figured he’d skim the book, so he could talk to me about it Friday morning. Then he said the first few pages captured his interest and he read until 12:30 a.m. and had to force himself to put the book down and grabbed some sleep, since he had to be up at 3 a.m.! Hoebee said he never read a novel (or textbook) in his life! But, he loved “Chasin’ the Wind.”

I’ve known Hoebee for about 10-years and take his comments as my best review to date. The fact that he said this on the air before my arrival, I took as a major compliment. Thank you Bill Hoebee!

I will be signing this Thursday at Murder on the Beach, 7 p.m., in Delray Beach, and on Saturday, 3 p.m., at the Bookstore in the Grove, in Coconut Grove. I will sign again in Key West on April 25, 4-7 p.m., at the Hog’s Breath Saloon. If you are in town for Conch Republic Days Celebration, come on in and say hi.

*You can read the full Solares Hill feature review of “Chasin’ the Wind,” by Mark Howell, on my website: www.michaelhaskins.net.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The AP Stylebook and language

I am up early each morning, to the chagrin of Celine, and usually switch the TV news shows between the local ABC and Fox news programs. I am most interested in the expected weather conditions and both stations give predictions for Key West, even though the stations are in Miami or thereabouts.

I’ve been involved in journalism most of my life and, unlike fiction, journalists have stylebooks that give rules on writing. I used the AP Style Book in Boston and, again, years later, in Key West.

What does early morning TV and AP Stylebooks have to do with one another? I’m glad you asked. On both TV stations, the weather person and traffic reports use the word “towards.”

“The storm is moving towards Miami.”

“The traffic has stalled north bound towards the 95 from the interchange.”

Wondering what’s wrong? I think most people would because, more and more, I hear people using “towards” in conversations.

I wrote a business story a long time ago and the editor at the Key West Citizen, Bernie Hunt, pointed out to me that in American English there ain’t no such word as “towards.”

“It’s a British usage,” he told me and, being an Irishman who grew up outside London, Bernie would know. He also was part of the news team in San Diego, California, who won the Pulitzer for newspaper coverage of a commercial airliner that crashed at the city’s airport.

Since then, whenever I hear someone on the TV news use “towards,” I cringe. Shouldn’t the electric media know better?

It doesn’t end there. The word “over” is another misused word that drives me crazy and this one, I admit, I regularly abused. That is, until copy editor Van Trotter explained the correct used of “over” and “more than.” We were at the Green Parrot Bar on Whitehead Street, a couple of blocks from Ernest Hemingway’s home. A journalism background didn’t hurt Hemingway’s writing and, some would say, it helped him form his unique style.

Somehow, Van and I got to talking about work and he told me every time he drives by a MacDonald’s he goes crazy when he sees the golden arches and the words: over a billion sold (maybe it says 10 billion, but you get my point).

“Over!” Van said, or maybe even yelled and scared some of the late-night drinkers (this was after we put the paper to bed at 11 p.m.). “The cat jumped over the moon, is right, but over a billion sold, is wrong!”

So, what’s the right way? “More than a billion sold,” he said. “If it involves math, numbers, comparison, it’s ‘more than’ not over. Numbers don’t jump over things.”

The AP Stylebook has pages and pages of correct usages for newspapers. So why, as mystery writers should this interest us? I think it is important that we get it right in our stories. And, getting it right might be having a character use the wrong “towards.” It is also a good idea not to have someone educated in England use “toward.”

Idioms change by locations. Sayings that make sense to someone in Boston may confuse the hell of a person in Mississippi. For example, in N. Quincy, where I grew up we called soft drinks “tonic.” When I moved to California, it took me a good year to stop asking for tonic when I wanted a Coke or Pepsi. Tonic, in most other states is just that, tonic water. Gin and tonic, please.

So, if I was reading your story and the character was from Massachusetts, maybe Quincy, and he or she asked for a “soda pop,” I would notice your mistake.

Mystery writers don’t usually kill people or blow up buildings, or do the crimes they writer about, but they do have to research guns and bombs and violent death. It shouldn’t stop there. Maybe Hemingway was not entirely wrong when he said, “writer what you know.”

I would be hard pressed to write a Faulkner story, since I have never traveled through, or lived in the Deep South. Remember, from Key West you have to travel north to reach the South! Honest.

So, know your characters and where they are from. If they are from somewhere you ain’t been, rethink them. Because there are readers out there that will write you every time you make a mistake with a weapon, locale, boat, airplane, or accent!

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