Showing posts with label signings. Show all posts
Showing posts with label signings. Show all posts

25 June 2016

Damn Right, there's ME in my Characters!


by Melodie Campbell (Bad Girl)

Several times a year we do these reading and signing events.  And people ask you a pile of questions about your books.  Most are repeat queries that you’ve heard a dozen times before.  So you get pretty good at answering them.

Lately, I was asked a question that I didn’t have a pat answer to.  In fact, it really made me think.

“Do you make up all your characters, or do you put some of yourself in them?”

I’d like to say that every character I write comes completely from my imagination.  For the most part, they do.  I can honestly say that I have never seen a real person who matches the physical description of any of my characters.  (Not that I would mind meeting Pete.  But I digress…)

Back to the question:  are there bits of myself in my protagonists? 

PROOF NO. 1 (others will follow in later posts)

“I am SO not a salad girl.”

Some people say this is one of the funniest lines in my screwball mob comedy, THE GODDAUGHTER.  It is spoken by Gina Galla, goddaughter to the mob boss in Hamilton, the industrial city in Canada near Buffalo, also known as The Hammer.  Gina is a curvy girl.  She says this line to her new guy Pete, as a kind of warning.   And then she proceeds to tell him she wants a steak, medium rare, with a baked potato and a side of mushrooms.

Apparently, that’s me.  So say my kids, spouse, and everyone else in the family.

Eat a meal of salad?  Are you kidding me?  When there is pasta, fresh panno and cannoli about?  (I’ve come to the conclusion that women who remain slim past the age of fifty must actually like salad.  Yes, it’s an astonishing fact.  For some people, eating raw green weeds is not a punishment. )

Not me.  I’m Italian, just like my protagonist.  We know our food.  Ever been to an Italian wedding?  First, you load up with appetizers and wine, or Campari with Orange Juice if you’re lucky.  When you are too stuffed to stand  up anymore (why did you wear three inch heals?  Honestly you do this every time…) you sit down, kerplunk.  Bring on the antipasto.  Meat, olives, marinated veggies, breadsticks, yum.  Melon with prosciutto.  Bread with olive oil/balsamic vinegar dip.  White wine.   

Then comes the pasta al olio.  Sublime.  Carbs are important fuel, right?  And I’m gonna need that fuel to get through the main course, because it’s going to be roast chicken, veal parmesan, osso buco, risotto, polenta, stuffed artichokes (yum), more bread, red wine.

Ever notice that salad is served after the main course in an Italian meal?  Good reason for that.  We aren’t stupid.  Hopefully, you will have no room left for it.

So yes, my protagonist Gina shares an important trait with me.  She likes meat, dammit.

So you can be a bunny and eat salad all you like.  Bunnies are cute and harmless.

But Gina and I are more like frontier wolves.   Try making us live on salad, and see how harmless we will be.

Which is what you might expect from a mob goddaughter from The Hammer.

Do you find bits of yourself sneaking into your fiction?  Tell us here, in the comments.

Melodie Campbell writes the award-winning Goddaughter mob comedy series, starting with The Goddaughter which happens to be on sale now for $2.50.  Buy it.  It's an offer you can't refuse. 
P.S.  My maiden name was 'Offer.'  No joke.  Although I've heard a few in my time.

13 December 2014

Readings and Spellings





by John M. Floyd


A year or so ago, my wife and I were invited to attend a dance program featuring our granddaughter Susannah, who was at that time four years old. That afternoon, as we took our seats in the school auditorium alongside our son and his wife and family, our grandson Charlie (then six years old) crawled up into my lap holding one of his storybooks he had brought from home. Keeping my voice low (things had quieted down and everyone was waiting and watching the stage by that time), I said to him, "Charlie, why'd you bring a book along? Don't you want to watch your sister dance?"

"I might," he said, "and I might not. I think this is going to be B-O-R-I-N-G."

I'm not sure why he needed to spell it out, but I had to admire his foresight. He was prepared for anything. As it turned out, the program was entertaining, even for my grandson--but I later remembered that moment, when I was asked to do a reading from my new book following its "launch" signing at a local bookstore a couple of months ago. I decided that whatever happened that night, I wanted to try hard not to be B-O-R-I-N-G. And sometimes that's easier said than done.

King author and the signing table

I and others at this blog, including my friend Fran Rizer several weeks ago, have written about the good and bad and hilarious things that can happen at a typical bookstore signing. But what about other kinds of booksigning events, ones that include a reading and/or a speech? That kind of gig, my friends, can be a whole different ballgame. You don't want your captive audience to feel like captives.

Let me begin by saying something controversial: I don't particularly like readings. Not only do I not enjoy reading aloud from my own work, I'm usually not fond of listening to others read aloud from theirs. To me, the best way to enjoy a story or novel is to read it yourself, silently, at your own pace and in a location of your own choosing. I think that was, after all, what the writer intended when he wrote it. Besides, at bookstore readings, I've usually just finished standing in line and buying the book, which I plan to take home and read and enjoy later; why would I want to sit there and listen to the author read part of it to me now?

I know, I know: it's a chance to find out how the author expresses his writing, in his own spoken words. The truth is, though, that I don't find that very interesting. I also doubt that readers are interested in hearing the way I express my own writing, in spoken words. I'd rather read their words, and have them read mine. As a listener, I'd much rather hear authors tell us about the way they plot, and develop characters, and rewrite, and market their work. But maybe that's just me. (I should mention, so you'll know that I'm not completely insensitive, that I certainly don't turn down offers from those places that are kind enough to invite me to do a reading. I get up there and smile and soldier on, and I'm grateful for the invitation. But I make darn sure to keep the excerpt mercifully short.)

Okay, bub--close that book and step away from the podium . . .

How about those events that don't involve a reading? Maybe you're just asked to make a talk to the local Rotary Club, let's say, or to the Friends of the Library, or to a book club, or to a high-school class. Suppose the president or librarian or facilitator or teacher just wants you to tell the audience a little about yourself and your writing and your latest literary accomplishment. What's the best way to do that?

I think the wisest approach in that situation is to (1) keep your remarks brief, (2) make the audience laugh a bit, and (3) close with a question/answer session. The Q&A seems to work especially well. If what you've said is interesting to the group, there'll be plenty of questions, and if you run a bit too long it won't be your fault. But (one might well ask) what if there aren't any questions? Well, if there aren't any questions it means that what you've said wasn't very interesting, and you might as well shut up anyway. It's a lot better to finish early than to fall victim to the Baptist Revival Syndrome and drone on until your audience either passes out or walks out.

Thank goodness, you will probably find that most listeners in just about any venue seem to enjoy hearing about writers and about the process of writing. (I certainly do.) They also seem to like asking questions. (I do, too.) With any luck, you'll find that very few attendees have brought their own storybooks along with them to read in case you turn out to be B-O-R-I-N-G.

Q's from me to you:

Do any of you share my reluctance to read my own words aloud to a group? Do you enjoy hearing other authors read theirs? (I know many who do.) Do you find such readings inspiring? Enlightening? Nap-inspiring? Would you rather hear instead about how and why these authors write what they do? If you're asked to speak to a library or a class or a civic group, do you offer to do a reading as well? What advice would you give to a beginning writer, about addressing an audience?

I'll close with a sincere "Thank you!" to those who are kind enough to invite us authors to be guest speakers, and a sincere "Good luck!" to my fellow writers with any and all signings/speeches/readings that you perform. 

May all of them be F-U-N.



NOTE: I'll be away most of today at an out-of-town booksigning. (Not a reading, just a signing.) Wish me luck . . .



12 May 2012

Dream On



by John M. Floyd




I'll be out of town most of today, at a booksigning about a hundred miles south of our home.  But let me clarify that.  If you're picturing a fancy setting with banners and media coverage and screaming fans lined up out the door and around the corner, I'm afraid that ain't the case.  This is a regular, no-frills Saturday event at a chain bookstore, where my signing table will probably be about the size of a bicycle wheel and nobody will know who I am and some of the customers might be looking more for greeting cards and Hunger Games T-shirts than for reading material.  The only familiar faces I'll probably see are those of the general manager and a couple of his employees.

Sailing the salesman ship

Actually, the GM and his staff might be the only people I see, period.  One never knows.  (Erma Bombeck said she once had a booksigning where, in the course of the day, only two people stopped at her signing table: one guy asked for directions to the restroom and the other asked her how much she wanted for the table.)  But so far this year I've been pretty lucky, in terms of crowds and sales and foot-traffic.  The events are always fun, the folks who work at the stores are consistently friendly and accommodating to visiting authors, and I get to meet some really interesting people, many of whom, thank God, buy a book or two.  I and my publisher will be forever grateful to these store managers and their regional bosses for allowing me to come as often as I do.


Occasionally I even meet a "fan," although I try not to let that go to my head.  Anytime I start to feel the least bit cocky, fanwise or famewise, something always happens that reminds me of my insignificance. True story: a guy rushed up to me at a signing awhile back, said he was so excited to finally meet me, and added, "I've read every one of your books, Mr. Grisham."  I almost hated to reveal my true identity, and when I did he wasn't too pleased about it either.  He slunk away looking as if I had just foreclosed on his home and shot his dog.  The sad truth is, the only things JG and I have in common is our home state and our first name.  My books aren't even novels; they're collections of short mystery stories.

The view from the cheap seats 

Even though I am but a tadpole in the ocean, I can't help feeling incredibly fortunate.  I'm not a famous writer and never will be (I'm not even sure I want to be), but I thank my lucky stars that I'm in a position to do every day what I love to do and that I've been able to achieve some small level of success at it.  How many people can make that claim?  And now and then--not often, of course, but now and then--someone e-mails me or phones me or sees me at a signing or a conference or our local Wendy's and tells me he or she enjoys my stories. That's a heartwarming thing for any writer to hear.

Besides, I just love the writing process.  It's therapy, it's fun, and--let's face it--it's a pleasant distraction from that real world where unpleasant things so often happen.  Unpleasant things happen in my stories too, but that's okay--those are things that I make up, and I can deal with them in ways that I also make up.  Spinning tales is not only puzzle solving (which I love as well), it's the ultimate power trip.  In my little fictional world, I'm the emperor.  I can make these people do anything I want them to do, anytime I want them to do it.  Where else does that happen?

I heard or read someplace that it is the height of arrogance to assume that anyone would ever actually want to read the things that we dream up and put on paper.  Whoever said that was probably right.  But the fact is, when someone does tell me he likes what I've created--whether it's an editor or a reader--that kind of validation makes me feel anything but arrogant.  It makes me feel grateful, relieved, and humbled.  And, at the risk of repeating myself, unbelievably lucky to be doing something that's this much fun.

Social insecurity

If writers are really as confident as most readers think we are, why is praise of almost any kind so good to hear?  Well, it's because we're not as confident as most readers think we are.  Almost all the writers I know, whether successful or aspiring, struggle with self-doubt.  Most of them tell me that when they finish writing a story or a novel, they wonder quite seriously whether they'll ever be able to come up with another one--or at least another one that anybody would want to read.  We've all heard the adage about only being as good as your latest effort.  Because of that, we writers like to be--and need to be--patted on the head regularly and reassured that all is well.


I once heard bestselling mystery author Steve Hamilton (a great guy as well as a great writer) describe the way he felt when, early in his career, he took the stage to receive a prestigious award--the Edgar, I think it was, for his novel A Cold Day in Paradise.  He said he walked up in front of the huge crowd, looked out at the vast sea of faces, and thought: What are all you people doing in my dream?

I like that.  I can relate to that.  Fiction writers not only create dreams, they sometimes walk around inside them as well.

But I do know I'm not John Grisham.




BY THE WAY . . . tomorrow is Mother's Day.  Don't forget to set your mothers back one hour.