Friday, December 12, 2014

Happy Holidays to All!

Hi, All!
     Before I get to the purpose of this posting, I'd like to mention a very special group I visited with recently.  The "Ulysses S. Grant Camp of the Sons of Union Veterans" asked me to come to their Winter meeting to talk about Ain't No Harm to Kill the DevilAin't No Harm takes place mostly in the year 1856 -- and the Civil War started in 1861 -- so the topic of the book was of great interest to this group.  The members of the Ulysses S. Grant Camp group dedicate a great portion of their lives to helping preserve American history and heritage.  They also perform an incredible array of "good deeds" every year, ranging from visiting with veterans groups to making hospital visits to helping with dedications to helping preserve important monuments and battlefields.  As a matter of fact, they seem to be constantly busy -- and help so many people.  I'm attaching a picture of a few of the members of this amazing group.  The uniforms are absolutely stunning.
     I'm also writing today to wish everyone a happy and healthy holiday season.  The holiday season is a great time to sit back and reflect on past events and the possibilities of the upcoming year.  I'm grateful and thankful for so many things -- and wish all of you the very best of the holidays and a glorious New Year!
    Here's to a wonderful 2015 for all of us!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

"Indies First" -- Part 2

Hi, All!
     Please forgive me, but I'm going to be a little "preachy" in this post.  Last Saturday was "Indies First" day, a day when authors donate their time to help out independent booksellers across the nation.  I mentioned in my last note that I was going to be helping out at Left Bank Books in St. Louis, Missouri.  I had an absolutely WONDERFUL time doing that -- and helped find homes for a pretty good grouping of books.  What I wanted to mention today, however, was just how glorious the atmosphere was in Left Bank Books on Saturday.  What I mean by that is this:  The independent booksellers truly are unique in how they serve their patrons (incredible personal attention and care).  The stores also have a marvelous "book smell" to them, a smell that all lovers of good books know.  They are "comfortable" and "slow paced" -- as it should be when we are 
browsing through shelves of books.  They also stock titles from smaller presses, a bonanza for those who like to dig in other territory than best-sellers and "recommended" major titles.  I think my experience Saturday can best be summed up by something I saw one of the staff members do when a customer asked for a specific book and where it could be found in the store.  Rather than just pointing the customer in the right direction, the staff member said, "I'll be happy to show you the way -- please follow me."  First, it was completely obvious that the staff member was, indeed, "happy" to do this for the customer.  Second, I followed their conversation, and the staff member not only got the customer to the shelf where the book was housed, but the staff member also made the time to tell the customer about half a dozen similar titles that might be of interest.  The staff member then stayed there until all of the customer's questions were answered.  After the staff member left to go back to the front of the store, the customer and I made eye contact.  I said, "This is a great store, isn't it?"  The customer, without missing a beat, replied, "No, it's a beautiful store!"  I just smiled..... because that was so true.
     So, I suppose the "moral" to my preaching this morning is that we should all treasure the independent booksellers and do all we can to support them.  I know it is a great temptation to order books from the gigantic e-retailers out there, and I "get" why people do that: they believe they will save a few dollars here and there (but that isn't always true!).  However, is a savings worth it if doing so leads to the demise of one of our greatest treasures?  I think not.  And, many have said to me over the course of time that they make orders for books on-line because that can be done from the home computer or via a smart-phone or similar device.  Today, most of the independent booksellers ALSO have the capability of ordering the SAME books for individuals by on-line means, and if that is done, many of the independents actually profit (not a huge amount, but at least somewhat) from helping customers do that.  In short, whatever we can do to protect and support the independents should be done.  We must keep our treasures prospering!
     I'm also going to attach below a couple of pictures of "Indies First" day at Left Bank Books.  It was so much fun for me to help these good folks find their next books to read.  Oh -- the young man in the picture informed me he is actually using my book Olivia's Story in his doctoral dissertation about issues of race in America!  That made my heart smile.
     I would like to wish everyone a happy, healthy, and wonderful holiday season --and a very Happy New Year.  And, as always, happy reading!