Friday, October 23, 2009

Book Signing to Benefit United Way

Below is the press release on my book signing on Thursday.

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Bristol Native Returns for Book Signing to Benefit United Way

(Williamsburg, VA • October 23, 2009) Bristol native and author Greg Lilly returns home for a book signing Thursday, October 29th at the Bristol Mall's Piccadilly from 5 – 7 p.m. to help support the United Way. Lilly grew up in Bristol, graduating from John S. Battle High School and Virginia Tech, and credits Southwest Virginia as inspiration for his storytelling drive.

His most recent novel Under a Copper Moon placed as one of the top ten historical novels in the nation-wide Next Generation Indie Book Awards. It tells the story of a mail-order bride in the copper mining boom era of the Arizona Territory during the1890s. "I lived for several years in Sedona, Arizona," Lilly says. "The copper mining town of Jerome seemed to be snagged on the side of a mountain ridge west of my house. Back in the 1930s, the place became a ghost town, but I always wondered what life was like leading up to the turn of the twentieth century when the New York Post, in 1901, labeled Jerome the 'Wickedest Town in America' and the money and good times shaped daily life."

In his novel Devil's Bridge, set in contemporary times, the main character deals with the terror of domestic abuse. "The story of the character Myra and her fear, isolation, and eventual recognition of the abuse that leads to her escape has been praised by critics and readers who told me of their similar experiences," Lilly explains. "In writing the book, I discovered the complex dynamics of abuser and victim relationships and how difficult it is for a victim to characterize their treatment as abuse." This storyline prompted Lilly to do several benefit book signings, and a portion of the proceeds from the Bristol book signing will be donated to the United Way to support its community-based objectives.

Also, Devil's Bridge places scenes in Bristol's John S. Battle High School and at Virginia Tech. "That was the first novel I wrote," Lilly says, "and I used parts of my background for the character Topher's background. He and Myra are friends in high school, then she goes to Radford and Topher attends Virginia Tech. After college they end up back in the Bristol area. Topher works at the Martha Washington Inn like I did before moving to Charlotte, N.C." He admits that Bristol created a base characterization for both Topher and Myra. "They're both grounded, but living in Charlotte's corporate environment skews their direction," he adds.

Another of his novels, Fingering the Family Jewels – a Derek Mason Mystery, features the first installment of a new mystery series. "The idea kernel came from my years of working at a large family-owned company," Lilly explains. "That situation opens up a lot of plots." The next book in the series is in production and scheduled for a summer 2010 release.

"Growing up in Bristol, I remember storytelling as a trait most people shared," Lilly says. "My parents, uncles and aunts, neighbors and friends could spin a tale that kept me enthralled better than any television show." Storytelling turned into writing and Lilly now has three published novels that he will have available at the book signing.

Lilly appears at the Bristol Mall's Piccadilly on Thursday, October 29 from 5 – 7 p.m. to sign books. A portion of the proceeds from all three books will be donated to the United Way of Bristol TN/VA.

More information about Greg Lilly and his novels can be found at www.GregLilly.com.

More information about the United Way can be found at www.UnitedWayBristol.org.
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Here's a video invitation to the book signing.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Social Network for Readers?

Social networking can chew up and swallow a lot of time. Blogging, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, BookReader (or something like that). What? Not heard of BookReader? I read somewhere that this was the place to be involved if you loved reading, but if you were an author, forget the other networks and commune with your target audience – people who love to read. I probably read that from strategic PR sent out by the BookReader company.

As a mid-list author that few people have heard about, I thought it would be a great opportunity to get my name out and expose by books to a new set of readers. Authors live on the "Island of Misfit Toys" – wanting nothing more than for readers to discover their books. So along with the other networks that I use to connect with friends, family, readers, and other authors, I signed up for BookReader.

At first it was better that chocolate. All these readers devouring books and asking for advice on what to read next. I joined groups that reflected the subjects of my books and posted a few messages to introduce myself and what I wrote. I 'friended' readers and authors. I commented on books I had read. I posted my writing tips and insights into my writing life. I signed up for the daily e-mail so I could keep tabs on what all these readers said about books, what they buzzed about, what types of books they loved, what they didn't like reading...

The e-mails arrived and sometimes they led me back to BookReader to comment or to check out a book that people posted reviews on, but then it happened: Television pushed its way into discussions. Like nicotine, TV buzzed the readers with easy topics of conversation. 'Have you read John Morgan Wilson's Rhapsody in Blood?' 'No, but did you see CSI last night?' And off the discussion drifted like an exhaled plume of cigarette smoke leached into other group discussions. 'What's your favorite Brad Pitt movie?' 'How do you fix your Thanksgiving turkey—bake or fry?' 'Has Glee strayed too far from its original story?'

In the past month, I don't recall a single e-mail update that had anything to do with reading or books. The one I received today let me know that the moderator had posted a poll question in the "Mystery Novels" group: 'Who is your favorite 70s band?'

I guess in a way that's a mystery since it a question... Okay, these types of polls and discussions are great for Facebook and MySpace. I do them there. It's fun to get to know people and remember things about old friends.

But, BookReader? It brings people together with a common passion – reading – but I guess it's only human nature to expand that to other subjects to discover how else your BookReader friends are like you.

Social networking as a promotional tool for authors? Nope, it's a place to let your mind relax after hours of revising a manuscript. Because really, even if I want you to discover and read my books, what I really want to know is: Can you believe Project Runway last night?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Duck!





Just back from a week on the Outer Banks (OBX) of North Carolina – Duck, NC. We usually go to Ocracoke Island at the southern end of OBX, but that added two to three hours to the trip, and many people talked about how much they liked Duck, so we made reservations and loaded up the dog and headed to Duck.

First, the rental house had a great location: two blocks from the ocean (I could hear the waves and see them from the rooftop deck), and about four blocks from the main "downtown" part of Duck. We rode our bicycles everywhere.

Secondly, I worked on revisions for the next Derek Mason Mystery. I'm going to print it again and get the red pen going. After this revision, I'll be ready to ship it to my first readers to get their critiques.

Back to the OBX since I'm still in that vacation state of mind... Some recommendations & commentary for your Duck vacation:





Atmosphere

NC Highway 12 shoots straight up the islands. North of Kitty Hawk, it's the only main road. That's nice and not so nice. It can be really busy like it was on Labor Day. We had difficulty crossing the two-lane road on bikes and on foot. But after Labor Day, the crowd thinned and Duck took on a small town feel.

Live oaks and pines shade the streets of Duck and reminded me a little of Carmel-by-the-Sea – okay just a very little. On the west side of NC 12 (Duck Road), the Currituck Sound nestles up to shops and restaurants for great sunsets. To the east side, the road is lined with shops and restaurants too, but behind them are several blocks of beach houses that overlook the Atlantic. There is no public access to the beaches in Duck, so you have to be staying in a neighborhood to use the access paths (no parking at the paths).

The Outer Banks are family-oriented. Even though we timed the week so that school had started for the kiddies, there were a number of children running around, mostly under school age. Some of the restaurants had exhausted toddlers wiggling and whining at their parents table at nine o'clock at night (hint: young children get tired and bored with adult dinner conservation). Along with the young parents, Baby Boomers enjoyed the town and so did those of us somewhere in between. It was a nice mix of age groups. I'm not sure that's true all year round with summer bringing in more older kids and college students.



Activities

Drinking, dining, shopping, swimming, bike riding, kayaking, parasailing, surfing, fishing are all popular in Duck. I did the first five. A low pressure rambled up the shore and brought several days of rain and the ocean was too rough for any human activity.




Shopping

Book Stores

I checked out two great book stores, Island Books and Duck's Cottage Coffee & Bookshop.

Island Books (http://www.islandbooksobx.com/) is in the Scarborough Faire Shoppes. The place is packed with books and a knowledgeable staff. It's easy to spend a few rainy hours in there.

Duck's Cottage Coffee & Bookstore (http://www.duckscottage.com/) is located at the Waterfront Shops. The coffee is wonderful and creates an aroma to enjoy while lingering among the books. Enjoy the historic home's front porch to drink coffee and read a good book. They host a book club too.




Art

Greenleaf Gallery (www.outer-banks.com/greenleaf/) is really the only fine art gallery in Duck. Other stores have some crafts, but if you're a serious art enthusiast, you need to visit Greenleaf. It is next door to Scarborough Faire Shoppes and across from Aqua S Restaurant & Spa.



Restaurants

The two exceptional restaurants are: Red Sky Café and Aqua S.

Red Sky Café (http://www.redskycafe.com/) was recommended to me by a friend. We ate there a couple of times and I have to say it would be worth the trip alone. I had a chef's special one night of Mediterranean Scallops (or some name like that) that had scallops with feta cheese and olives. This was the best meal I have had in a long time. We went back and I had the Caribbean Jerk Mahi with mango salsa and Brad had the Halibut with Grits – both delicious without overwhelming the taste and texture of the seafood. Ask to be seated at one of Victor's tables, great server and bartender.

Aqua S (http://www.aquasrestaurant.com/) was on our last day. Just by chance we decided to try it for lunch. The fish was fried and I didn't want a crab cake, so I ordered a Veggie Burger. That veggie burger was the best one I've ever had: fava beans, lentils and garbanzo beans with the right amount of spices. I recommend it when you've had enough seafood.




Duck turned out to be a relaxing vacation. Rainy days and sunny days gave some nice variety. I can't say Duck is better than Ocracoke Island at the other end of the OBX, just different. Duck has a bit more shopping and restaurants – more tourist-oriented. Ocracoke is still a fishing village that's hard to get to. Duck is just a short drive from the other OBX towns if you want to enjoy more activities, but I found a week there provided plenty of relaxation and entertainment.


It even helped me finish a draft of the novel.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Editing the next Derek Mason Mystery

I have started editing the next Derek Mason Mystery. It feel great to have the complete book printed out, in a notebook, and red pen in hand.

Now is the time I make sure all the clues work, that the murderer is fingered, that the innocent get away smelling... okay.

As I've said in past posts, Derek meets up with Topher and Myra from Devil's Bridge in this book. It's turned into a lot of fun for me, and hopefully, interesting for the readers.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The new definition of "Traditional" Publisher




Publisher’s Weekly reported that in 2008 “On-Demand” books outpaced “Traditional” book production. 275,232 titles were produced and warehoused while 285,394 titles where produced and stored digitally.

A little history on book production technology: Print-On-Demand (POD) is a technology where a digital copy of the book is stored and used to print an original book when an order is placed. It’s like Wendy’s making your burger for you when you order it instead of making them hours earlier and keeping them lined up and waiting for customers. And this weekend at BEA in New York, the "Espresso Book Machine" will show how these POD titles can be printed in a bookstore when a customer requests it.

From the news release from Bowker, I’m guessing that they define "traditional publishers" as those that print and warehouse books. Now, I know that books keep longer than burgers, but the longer they’re warehoused, the more it costs the publisher, and eventually an author who doesn’t sell big in the first few months, has his books pulled from the distribution channels – the title is then out-of-print.

More publishers are seeing the benefit of POD technology and the savings in warehousing costs. Although the per book print costs are more, I'm surprised that "traditional publishers" haven't switched. The just-in-time model has been used in other industries for over 25 years. For authors, the books digital storage fees are small enough that the title can stay in print for years without having to achieve a profit in the first few months.

These statistics show that in order to survive, publishers are dropping the warehouse and moving to the technology of the 1990s -- finally. I know that both publishers of my books have used POD. They are "traditional publishers" that employee editors, graphic designers, marketers, pay royalties and pay advances, but they are also technology savvy.

A snide swipe at technology can be found in the reporting of POD produced books by the old guard of publishing since the innovators in most industries are the small and new players looking for ways to enter the market at a lower cost. Early POD publishing focused on short-run books, self-published books. That’s no longer the case with many small, independent, and boutique publishing houses using the technology.

As the report shows, POD publishing has become the popular majority in book production, so we need a new term for "Traditional Titles" -- how about "Warehoused Titles"??

POD titles are the new tradition.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Amazon De-Ranking, De-Spicable

This Amazon "glitch" that de-ranked and removed "adult" books from its lists and search engines will open doors to the other on-line retailers.

It has been noted all over the Internet that this selective removal focused on the GLBT category. My GLBT books were taken off the rankings, but my historical novel remains.

Amazon sells books and is able to keep titles for their entire lifespan, but the censorship cannot be tolerated. Authors are stuck in the middle: We want to sell books, but we don’t want to be set aside as second class, brown-wrapper authors just because our category isn’t liked by the Amazon policy makers.

Other retailers can’t compete with Amazon’s price points, but knowing that lists and search engines aren’t censored is worth a dollar or two more.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Historical Fiction Represents Culture?

One person said that historical fiction doesn’t represent the culture of a place.

Then what does?

Historical fiction is fiction, but the culture of the time and place the novel is set plays a huge role. The setting becomes a character. In Under a Copper Moon, I researched the people, the town’s history, the attitudes, the food, the fashion, and the laws that dictated how a character would live and work and love.

All the bigotry, prejudices, and narrow-mindedness revealed itself just as the kindness, justice, goodwill, and caring trumped those lower, petty attitudes. It reminded me a lot of current culture – good and bad are present and celebrated by different groups.

You can read historical accounts, old newspapers, diaries and journals of the people who lived during the time. I did. But to take it a step further, to parallel what our ancestors struggled with and how they coped in their lives, to parallel that with our own requires imagination and literary license that binds the storytelling of true non-fiction.

The fun part is to look back with 20/20 vision. I could visualize the culture of Jerome in the Arizona Territory in 1894 and I could experience it today. I pulled the types of events and characters that would have led the town to its current way of life.

The key is reading historical fiction with an adult view and bringing your own experiences to the story along with the recent history of the setting. From my past in corporate instructional design, I realize that adults bring experience with them to everything they do (unlike children who seem to need more details and repetitious, routine, rote learning) and this allows an author to use a phrase that brings more to the table than the mere words. For example: “those people.” An adult sees the words and knows it is something uttered by a person who sees himself as superior to another group of people, usually by race, gender, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, physical abilities, etc.

Novels embrace you and your willingness to ‘walk in the shoes’ of another. Some readers find this difficult and remain outside the characters and plot while others immerse themselves and their lives in the fiction with the added reward of seeing a different place and time in the context of their own lives.

Historical fiction gathers up the culture of a certain place and time and stirs it with our own. It represents the culture of a place more than facts and dates; it adds the spice of knowing the future and framing the past to help illustrate how we made it here in one piece.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

My/Derek's Dream

I wrote this in 2007 and added it to the file for the next Derek Mason Mystery. And forgot about it.

Today as I re-read what I wrote yesterday, I noticed this at the end of the document and it fit perfectly in what I wanted to work on today. Odd, since I hadn't looked at this in over a year.

It may end up in the final revision or it may not, but today it fit the plot. "He" made sure I saw it when I needed to.

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I woke from a dream, oddly calm since it had been a dream of my death.

In the house I grew up in, I had waited along with two other people—I think friends from elementary school, now grown. My mother paced the front yard, checking the road for someone, then stopping to tell me I didn't need to do it.

The sway of the thin branches of an elm ushered in a breeze and with it a scent of summer rain. Nervous glances to each other, the two people waiting with me began to walk toward the road then ran as they reached the pavement.

“It will do no good,” my mother said.

I knew they were scared and running would be their way of fighting back, futile or not, it was something for them to do.

We stood in my childhood bedroom and I picked through the suits I own today. Holding out the black one I had worn to Walterene’s funeral, I said “This will do, but I doubt I'll have an open casket, so I guess it really doesn’t matter.”

“They may be able to do something with the collar,” my mother said.

“Waiting is the hardest part.”

She nodded and lowered her thin body to the bed.

The sheers underneath the heavy drapes blew in the wind and I wondered if I’d feel the blade. Only for an instant, I thought, since the mind will be separated from the body or more realistically the head will be sliced from the torso. Beheaded…

Decapitated… The thought didn't bother me. I knew he was coming, and when he arrived, I’d die.

And waking up, I felt calm. As if I had accepted my death and only waited for it without fear or regret.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Value of a Writer

The economy has had a chilling effect on businesses…and writers. At one time, a business valued its corporate identity and how its communications reflected the professionalism of the brand. But the economy seems to have cut corners in many company communications.

Yesterday, I received two e-mails from major magazines trying to drum up advertising dollars (I do some freelance marketing and receive e-mails from advertising reps). Here are examples of why writers (and basic writing skills) are important:


“Being one of the most poplar annual sections, readers use this piece throughout
the year to find information on popular activities, restaurants and attractions…”

Misspellings & misplaced modifiers


And another:

"Moving outdoors, PUBLICATION NAME also looks at works by ARTIST NAMES, to see how the art effects the landscape, and whether outdoor art tranlates to increased museum attendance…"

"70% of PUBLICATION NAME readers colect art."

Misspellings & confused word: effects vs. affects (Even Microsoft Word could find these.)


I’m not trying to be the grammar police, and I do make mistakes, but come on people, don’t cut out editors and writers and think your sales staff can navigate the English language.

Hire a writer. We’re cheap!