The Mother’s Day weekend is ALWAYS busy in bookstores.
I’m not sure why that is. Perhaps it is because your average mother has already spent a lot of her lifetime in hard labor – first carrying the growing baby for nine long months and then cleaning and feeding and raising that same child – sometimes while carrying and cleaning and feeding and raising another child or two or three or so.
Some mothers even have to spend time raising and cleaning and feeding their husbands throughout their married existence – given that some fellows are not quite as self-sufficient as others.
Husband – “Honey? How do you work the microwave?”
Wife – “Put it in and push the button.”
Husband – “Which button? I’ve never done this before. Is it this button?”
“Or this button?”
“Or this one?”
At which point the wife in question probably gets tired of hearing her hubbie push those buttons and so she gives up in exasperation and drops whatever she was really doing and goes out into the kitchen to help her husband.
We fellows are raised by women – mostly – and a lot of us never learn how to take of ourselves unless we have to and if we do we most likely wind up running to the nearest MacDonalds or Tim Hortons and finding some bought-and-paid-for proxy-wife to put the thing (whatever it was) into the microwave and push that button.
Let me tell you – being a Mother is HARD work.
I was lucky in that I learned to cook some time ago and I actually have a pretty good idea on which button to push on the microwave although I nuked some smoked sausages in a bowl of water this morning and let me tell you I really should I have just given into my masculine instincts and chopped those suckers and thrown them into a fry pan. The darned things tasted more like hotdogs than decently sizzled sausages.
Let me tell you about cooking.
I learned to cook when I was about eighteen years old. I had been raised in Northern Ontario by my grandparents and my grandmother was a truly wonderful cook and she let me in the kitchen to eat and do the dishes – but that was it. She showed me once how to fry an egg for a Boy Scout badge – but after that I was mostly on my own.
I learned how to cook in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia when I came east for a visit about forty years ago. I came to meet my Mom who had lived out here most of her life.
My parents had one of those geographic divorces early on in their marriage in that Dad went about as far west as he could travel and Mom went about as far east – to Nova Scotia.
Mom worked in the Yarmouth Library for an awful lot of years – and I guess where this is about Mother’s Day I really ought to tell you more about her but I want to tell you about her husband, Irvin.
Irv has been a mailman and a hunter and a pitcher of baseballs and a card player who could cheat if he wanted to but didn’t really need to. He was a chucker of darts and a raiser of rabbit hounds and I’d show you a picture but I don’t really have the time or inclination to run and hunt for the photo album to scan in – so instead I will just tell you that he kind of looks a little bit like a rougher and shorter less-Photo-Shopped version of Sam Elliott.
Well, Irvin came down to the kitchen one morning and caught me trying to make French Toast in a sauce pot.
In my defense I had read an article on camp cooking in one of those outdoor-type magazines written by fellows who most likely haven’t seen the woods since back before Mark Trail raised his first pup tent – that talked about making a French Toast compote – which really wasn’t French Toast at all.
“What you doing, Steve?” Irvin asked me.
I muttered something in return that I couldn’t say in church unless maybe I had just dropped the offering plate on my toes.
So he took that pot from my hands before I hurt myself with it and took time out before his hard day of delivering the mail to show me just how to make French Toast – and if I had time I would tell you more about that but I am just finishing up my morning coffee before I head off to my job in cubicle hell.
Steve Vernon – spinner of yarns and author of more books than you shake an abacus at – has still got himself a day job.
You want to say something I got two words for you. Vacation pay and pension.
All right – so that was more than two words, if you want to get statistical about it.
Learning how to cook that French Toast gave me a little bit of confidence and in later years I learned one heck of lot more about cooking from watching James Barber, the Urban Peasant, on television.
And no – James Barber did not look a THING like Sam Elliott. Maybe more like Richard Attenborough, from Jurassic Park.
Which – in hindsight – doesn’t have much to do about this blog entry today – but sometimes a fellow sees a road and he just has to get up and wander down on to see where he gets to.
I started this blog entry this morning before I went to work because I was tired of jumping up and down yelling at all of you folks to go and buy my e-book while it is on sale for a measly 99 cents over at Kindle this week
Click this cover to order UNCLE BOB’S BOOK OF GENESIS at Amazon.com
(dang, how did that get there?)
Today I want to talk briefly about a couple of book signings I have got coming up.
I have got a book signing Friday evening at the Halifax Shopping Centre Coles bookstore from 7 – 8:30pm.
I’ll be at the Bayers Lake Chapters on Saturday from noon to two pm – as well.
I like book signings. A lot of authors don’t. They moan and they groan and if I were not such a diplomatic fellow I would call them all a pack of pickle-nosed wusses – but I am diplomatic so I will instead show great concern about their high moral ethics and anti-social tendencies.
Me – I like to meet my reading public. It makes my day to see somebody pick up one of my books and actually pull money out of their pocket and give it to somebody or read it themselves or best of all read it first and THEN give it somebody else.
I like the fact that they actual VALUE and enjoy my hand-scrawled signature which really ought to be used in a this-is-how-NOT-to-sign-your-name hen-scratching self-help video.
I sell an average of about fifteen to twenty books at a book signing, make a few more royalties and end up grinning by the end of the day.
Beer always tastes good after a book signing.
So let me end this entry with a reprint of my previously blogged article, FLY FISHING IN THE RIVER OF POSSIBILITY – A DOZEN TIPS FOR MAKING YOUR NEXT BOOK SIGNING A SUCCESS.
We’ve all seen those lonely writers sitting at those tables parked in front of bookstores. We’ve watched them slowly growing cobwebs behind stacks of sadly unsigned books.
Heck, I have even been one myself, over the years. Signings are never predictable.
Just last month I found myself outside of the Coles Bookstore in the Halifax Shopping Centre. This can be an awfully tough spot to sign in. People come to this mall with high-test boutique shopping in mind. I have seen them sprint past my book table – aimed towards dresses and jewelry and the cellular phone experience and, of course, the food court.
If I sign and sell a dozen books at this mall I figured I was doing great.
But I love that bookstore – partly because of the location – so handy to my home. Partly because the people who work there really love their job and they mostly know me by name and always go out of their way to make this writer feel right at home. Even on days that I’m just browsing the bookshelves they always smile and say “Mr. Vernon, how good to see you.”
So I go there and I do my best and this October I signed and sold twenty copies of my books. That is a fine fat day for a book signing author.
Which goes to show that you can never tell how a book signing will go. That is the number one tip for writers scheduled for a book signing. Anything is possible. Don’t go there figuring you know everything there is to know. You are a writer, after all – which means that you make stuff up. Which means that you need to believe in the power of possibility.
Anything can happen.
So abandon all preconceptions. The fact is we’re just fishing. And I can tell you a fishing story or two. Most of them all begin with “I went fishing and stood on the side of the river” and end with “the mosquitoes bit but the fish did not.”
Here are ten of the never-before-told secrets for signing success.
1. Make sure your bait is fresh. Remember – you are sitting in a building filled with books. Make sure that yours stands out. Set up a display. Bring a few photo stands to prop up copies. For the launch of my now-out –of-print weird western-horror I brought a small stuffed buffalo, tastefully zombified. For Lunenburg Werewolf I bring along a small stuffed wolf – all right, so he’s a husky, but don’t tell him that – you would only hurt his feelings.
Mind you, not everyone will have such an easily illustrated motif as reanimated bison, but anything that stands out stops people. A snazzy sign, a portrait of your main character, a funky colored lava lamp. You’re a writer, use your imagination.
2. Find the right fishing hole. Position your table close to an entrance. Heartily hail the folks who walk in. Wave to those who walk out. Keep smiling and have fun. Sooner or later people will come closer just to see what you’re so danged happy about.
3. Have a sharp hook. Get your patter ready. People are busy creatures. If they stop to listen to you they want it to be a succinct experience. On the off-chance if you happen to bore them to tears then at least they’ll be able to extract themselves quickly from what might otherwise be a sticky experience.
Hopefully, you won’t bore them.
“Hi there. I’m launching a new book today.” If they come closer to listen, reel them in. “This is my new book, YODELING WITH MALAMUTES, a heart breaking tale of a Swiss dog sled racer with deep-seated Iditarod dreams.” Talk to everyone who’ll listen. You are fly fishing in the river of possibility. Keep the fishing line dancing.
4. Keep casting and stay friendly. A lot of folks aren’t really interested in what you’re selling. Pity them quietly, but don’t browbeat them into conversion. It won’t happen. If folks bustle past, smile and say “Enjoy your browse.” Maybe they’ll stop on the way back.
5. Don’t forget to keep that fishing line dancing. Avoid long conversations. You’ll miss potential customers. Know when to shut up. If the person skims the first couple of pages, let your book do the talking for you. Odds are, you probably sound better in print, anyway.
6. Keep your feet in the water and stay hydrated. Have a drink, you’ll need it. Not a coffee, that’s bad for your breath. Have an herbal tea or a bottle of water – but make it a small one. Easy does it on the maximum-grandiose-large. The bookstore bathroom is a long walk away.
7. Bring a bright and shiny lure. Have a blurb clearly typed up for bookstores with PA systems. “Welcome to Check It Out Bookstores. Today we have novelist Steve Vernon signing copies of his new book PIZZA SCREAMS – A TALE OF DEEP ANCHOVY LOVE. He’s at the front entrance. Come and chat with a real bearded author.”
8. Don’t throw anything back. There is no telling who you will meet. In a two hour signing I met a school principal who hired me to teach a workshop on storytelling and writing; a radio host who lined me up for an interview, and the head editor of a local publisher who signed me on for my next book. Remember – the world is watching you, sitting there at your table full of hopeful books. Sometimes opportunity knocks, and sometimes you hold the door hard against the right set of knuckles.
9. Try and personalize your signature. I make it a point to chat with the person I am signing for and find out who they want it personalized to. Sometimes they are buying the book for someone else. Be prepared to just sign in generically – for the folks who are buying it as a gift idea but haven’t got an idea who to give it to.
10. CHECK YOUR SPELLING! This is very important. There are a lot of ways to spell a name. Ask them to spell the name – no matter how much you think you know how to spell the name “John” sooner or later you are going to run into a “Jon”.
11. Keep a tally on how many you sell. Sign a few before you go. I recommend signing them with a little space up top. That way, when you come back to this store for another signing you can always personalize it with “To John” in the blank space you’ve left up top.
12. Here’s my last bit of advice. No matter how hard the day goes, no matter how few copies you sign and sell – remember to have fun while you do it. You’re fishing, aren’t you?
I would like to dedicate this blog to my stepfather Irvin Chatelois and my grandad Hanlan Vernon – both of you took me fishing and neither of you laughed too hard when I caught nothing but a handful of stickleback perch.
I’m pretty good at book signing – but I SUCK at fishing.
Yours in storytelling,