Michael Haskins

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)

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