I’m pleased to announce a new ongoing feature here on the site—one I hope you’ll like, and that I hope will keep you coming back. I’m calling it The Secret Origin of Lincoln Crisler. I’m going to shoot for posting a new addition every Monday, and adjust fire from there. If there’s something you’d like to know, shoot me an email or comment. I won’t promise to answer—some things are definitely off limits—but you’ll get an idea of what I’m shooting for after reading an entry or two.
Some of you—though not many, I’m sure—might be asking, “What’s a secret origin?” Comic-book superheroes are the best example. Batman’s parents getting shot outside the movie theater, the Ninja Turtles being covered in ooze after being dumped in a sewer grate, Spider-man’s uncle being capped by the robber Spidey failed to stop—that sort of thing. With comics being such a huge part of my life, I can’t think of a better description than “secret origin” for the sort of posts I’ll be writing. Much of this stuff will be from my childhood, though I’ll probably get into my teenage years and early adulthood a few times, as well. All of it will be things that helped make me the man, and author, I am today.
The first installment, which will go live tomorrow, is a writeup of four comic books I received one Christmas from my older brother—four comics that are still awesome to this day. Four of the first comics I ever owned. If you’re a fan of the 90s X-Men, you’ll love the hell out of this.
Here are my top books of 2011, with a couple of bonus mentions at the end. It’s a shorter list than my usual Top Five, but that’s because much of my reading this year was published prior to 2011, and the list only covers books published this year. If you’d care to read previous years’ lists, you may do so here. The books aren’t listed in any particular ranking, except for the Squee.
SQUEE OF THE YEAR: Livia Llewellyn’s ENGINES OF DESIRE. A provocative, arousing and diverse collection of speculative fiction. Hell, I even loved the cover. I’ll definitely be re-reading this one, and I almost never have time to re-read these days. This is Livia’s debut book, and I can’t wait to read more from her. You can read my full review here, and buy the book here.
THE REST OF THE BEST:
1. Weston Ochse’s MULTIPLEX FANDANGO. Even if Weston wasn’t a career Soldier who started his writing career while in the Army (sound familiar?) and one Hell of a guy, this book would be on my list. But he is, so instead of just telling you to buy one copy, I’ll recommend you grab two. It’d be worth picking up a copy for a friend, anyhow, especially if you or your friend haven’t read Weston before. MULTIPLEX serves well as an introduction to a talented and extremely hard-working author at the top of his game and as a damn-near epic, and career-spanning, collection of his short fiction. You can read my full review here and buy the book here.
2. Kelli Owen’s WAITING OUT WINTER. This is a limited-edition chapbook, so copies might be hard to come by, but this is a fun read you should snap up if you get the chance, and a story I’d expect to see in a collection of Kelli’s short fiction. It’s an apocalyptic story without zombies, as impossible as that may sound these days, and more importantly, it’s a human story, with a fun and ironic twist at the end. You can read my full review here, and if you have a Nook, you can pick up a digital copy.
3. Stephen King’s 11/22/63. King, even at the top of his game, has a habit of being a bit long-winded. His last novel, UNDER THE DOME, was a thousand-page brick and also, in my opinion, disappointing as Hell. I really wanted to like this epic-length story of a guy going back in time to stop the Kennedy assassination–and I did. Alot. As much as an unnecessarily padded book can aggravate me, nothing satisfies me like a long book done well, that I can lose myself in for a big chunk of time. This book did that, admirably well. King didn’t beat the mechanics of time travel to death, which I greatly appreciate, and Jake’s relationship with Sadie is at least as poignant, and somewhat reminiscent of, BAG OF BONES, another favorite King of mine. The bonus visit to Derry during the first quarter of the book is the cherry on top.
HONORABLE MENTION: TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES by Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz and Dan Duncan. This isn’t a one-book sort of deal, where I can just throw up one pile of stapled-together pictures and words and call it good; it’s an ongoing comic series, hence the special mention. I’ve been a Turtles fan since forever, grew up watching the cartoon and have read the bulk of the original Mirage and later Archie comics turtles series’. I was stoked beyond words when I heard IDW was going to be doing the Turtles; even moreso when I learned that original creator, Kevin Eastman, was going to be on board. I’ve read the first three issues and I’m loving it. The first trade, which I’d imagine will collect the first four-issue arc, will be on sale in February, but I’m sure you can track down the individual issues at your local comic shop. Any concerns about the comic being cartoony, or for kids, or that the writers will just be rehashing what’s already been done..? Lay them aside. Already, we’ve had an entirely different Turtles origin and not a Shredder in sight, though even I’d be disappointed if we didn’t see the ol’ Shred-head eventually.
Author’s Note: Here’s another holiday reprint, a FAQ based on some questions I answered in my old, and now-defunct, online forum. There’ll be a couple more of these FAQs next week.
Once more, one of my critique group partners bounced a few questions off me on our forum, and I’m presenting them here for the edification of the masses. This group of queries pertains to the joys and pitfalls of coordinating and attending book signings. Feel free to share your own experiences in the comments section!
What do you normally do? Just call the bookstore (Barnes & Noble, Borders, etc.) and ask?
Yup. Call and ask! The worst thing they can do is tell you to piss off (and sometimes it happens, though not usually in such plain terms!).
Who do you talk to about it? A manager I assume?
You do talk to the manager. Barnes & Noble stores typically have a CRM (Community Relations Manager) specifically for putting together signings and other activities at the store. A few place these duties on the store’s general manager. FYI, if you go on the B/N site, search for stores and highlight the links, each URL has a four digit store number at the end. The email address for the CRM will always be CRMXXXX@bn.com, where XXXX=store number.
Borders, however, does not empower each store to order their own books, etc. Therefore, you make contact with the manager and they’ll get in touch with the regional ordering rep… it’s an extra step though, and make sure you stay on top of them. The independent stores I’ve worked with typically reserve event planning for their managers, as well.
And you can sell your books at these things?
Yeah. The best arrangement for the author is when the store orders the books. Most stores won’t do business with you if your publisher doesn’t offer a 40% discount and a return policy, so make sure your publisher offers those. If they do, there’s no earthly reason why a store shouldn’t be willing to order your books, though several managers have given me an unearthly answer or two. There’s no risk to them; if you don’t sell out, the return policy means the publisher will take the unsold books back.
The other way is to sell on consignment. You bring the books and the store takes a cut. Your local indie might just give you your share out of the drawer, but the big chains won’t, and you’ll have to wait for a check from corporate. I’ve done this once, and only because the store hadn’t ordered the books as previously agreed upon. I had copies in my truck and wasn’t about to tell my wife we detoured to Mississippi with a two year-old for nothing!
What does the store get out of it? Your promotion bringing in people to hopefully buy other stuff?
They get profit on the books you sell, and yeah, some people might come in to see you and leave with other merchandise. That’s always a plus! Also, like I said before, the store is venturing NOTHING. If you only sell one copy, you both win.
What are some tips or things to look out for when getting this going?
Depending on your publisher, you can sign at three Barnes and Nobles and still have a fourth tell you they can’t order your book because it’s Print on Demand. All this means is that the publishers print the books when ordered, thereby saving themselves warehouse costs, etc. Corporate logic still seems to equate this to self-publishing. Be patient while they finish shooting themselves in the foot, and just call the next store on your list.
Schedule signings at least a month out; most stores put together a calendar of events, print a poster, etc. and also need time to order the books.
Stay on top of the managers even after the signing is scheduled. Sometimes, they forget to order the books. Sometimes, there’s an ordering/delivery snag. Always, they forget to call you about these things until either the day before the signing or not at all. And guess who looks like a moron because they’ve posted on Facebook, blog, etc. about the signing that is no longer happening? Not them. YOU. I hate that shit.
Do a press release for the media in the area surrounding the location of your signing. I’m not going to lie; unless you’re famous, 9 out of ten media outlets you email won’t give a damn, but one is better than zero, right? I’ve done newspaper, radio and Internet interviews in conjunction with various signings and book releases. It’s fun, gives you more material for your website, and increases awareness of your work, even if only by a small fraction.