Two weekends, I went to uphold the morale of another indy- and Texas-history-obsessed author at a local signing, at a bookstore which shall remain nameless because I am quite annoyed with them and don’t want to give them the traffic and it’s over a relatively piddling amount and I really ought to be big and forget about it but it’s the bloody principle of the thing and why the heck should I who subsist on freelance editing jobs and a military pension and an irregular stream of royalty checks be expected to subsidize a bookstore located in a very trendy and very likely expensive location and if they are on the financial rocks through miscalculation and their own business practices . . . well, again – why the heck should I be expected to bear some of the brunt of their various miscalculations? Oh, yeah – because I’m an indy writer, working for a teensy local subsidy press, and this enterprise is just about the only indy bookstore in town.

Getting back to my main point; frankly, doing an event at an indy bookstore or big-box outlet is usually ego-death-onna-stick anyway, unless by some miracle of persuasion, you have managed to BS local media outlets into going along with the pretense that you are a big-name-arthur. Which is what I told my new indy-author friend – who has actually had some luck with this . . . Anyway, one may as well have some friends come along, to while away the desperate hours with sitting behind the dreaded author-table and watching customers come in through the door, studiously avoiding your eye as they slither through the immediate area, heading for the Stephen Kings and the Philippa Gregorys and the latest Oprah pick.

Really – as I told my fellow obsessive – you might almost have better luck at a Christmas craft show, if it weren’t for the iron-clad tradition of authors appearing at bookstores. I know another local author who has a cute little cookbook, very well designed and edited, and she takes a table at regular gun shows. She cleans up, BTW. Guys, guns, hunting apparel and accessories. Wives and girlfriends, feeling obliged to come along, are not really much interested in the guns, apparel and accessories. Drawn to her cute little table display like insects to a bright porch light on a Texas summer evening, they are. Marketing, baby – sometimes it’s all about sorting out an unconventional venue where there are customers with money and where your product stands out.

Anyway, there were enough of my fellow Texas-history-obsessive friends showing up that we had a good time of it – alas that he didn’t have the good time that I had at the fund-raising luncheon the week before, where I nearly got writer’s-cramp scribbling messages and a stylized initial in the front of what seemed like an endless stream of my own books . . . hey, that’s a problem that is nice to have. I can get used to it. I promise onna-stacka-Bibles that I will never be a witch about this, I will be pleasant and obliging and always have time to talk at least briefly to a fan, even if it’s not a convenient time or a welcome interruption – I will make it seem like it is. I have skills that way. After the requisite time-behind-the-table was done, my author friend, three of his friends, and Blondie and I repaired to a table at Sams’ Burgers, to replenish the inner person and to talk about Texas history, a mad passion for which is shared by all of us at the table save perhaps Blondie, and then only because she is dragged into it by my interest. At the age of five, she got dragged into every significant museum and location of historical interest between the then-Iron Curtain and Gibraltar, so she ought to be used to it by now.

A matter of wry amusement to me is that I don’t have any sort of advanced degree for this. S’help me god, all I have is your basic state university English degree and only a BA at that. I did all the classes towards a Masters in public administration, way back before Blondie was born – but I swear it was only because I was bored silly and that was about the only higher ed program offered at Misawa AB . . . and the education counselor must have talked a good game or I had no sales resistance at all, because I wound up taking all the classes . . . even though I had no interest what-so-freaking-ever in public administration. Still, a lot of the classes were interesting, in and of themselves, so I suppose I took something away from that educational experience. Not that any of it applied in a way that I can see to my eventual career of scribbling respectably well-researched genre historical fiction . . . but it’s just as well there is no entry-qualification for that. Nope – no licensing procedure for those who wish to trot out our creative works of fiction before a (hopefully) appreciative audience . . . yet, anyway. There is no end to the writing of theses and papers and that sort of thing by those possessing PHDs, but very few of them have the ability to make them gripping reads, appealing to the general public.

But I was thinking, as I was scribbling this – I’ve been able to hold my own, when it comes to those matters that hold my interest – with all sorts of people, and some of them are . . . ummm, academically credentialed well above and far above my own level. I’ve always liked the thought of being an autodidact, a person who basically educated themselves, a person who read voraciously and thought about . . . things, outside the mainstream of currently acceptable intellectual thought-processes. And I’ve been thinking – that when it comes to writing agreeable, interesting and accessible genre fiction – it may be more doable to start with someone who can write vividly and with some degree of competence and discipline, and who might have learned or be taught mad historical research skills . . . than it would be to teach someone with all the skills to be a good story-teller and writer.

You know, I am also thinking – for dramatic story-telling potential, this could be a great rom-com; a serious and academically credentialed historian, married/involved with a historical novelist. Hilarity definitely guaranteed to ensue. Plot – oh, I could come up with something. I’m a novelist, after all.

Comments closed.