Kind Words Keep Coming

(Well that’s embarrassing. I realized this morning I’d already posted this as a tag to an earlier post. I had saved them in a file for something else, and just forgot I’d already used them here.

Oh well, I’m still proud of them. And the couple of grafs at the end are new, so that’s something.

I’ll try to keep on top of things better, – jb)

Enthusiastic reviews continue to come in for “Chrissie Warren: Pirate Hunter.” These were logged recently on the book’s Amazon page.

“I bought this book to bring with me on a cruise to the Caribbean, and enjoyed every minute of it. John Baur writes exceptional pirate stories, and this was no exception. His attention to historical detail, geography, and character development was great. I felt like I learned a lot about the pirate era from reading this book. I’m 43 and enjoyed this book, but my six-year-old daughter will enjoy it too when she gets a little older, maybe 8-9.”

Chris John

“I really enjoyed this book. Great storyline, full of adventure, and very entertaining. Well written without any holes, the author did a great job tying everything together. It was also nice reading a good story that is clean, thus making it suitable to young adults and adults of any age. I highly recommend it for anyone wanting to be carried away on a high seas adventure in search of a villainous pirate! I hope a sequel is in the works, arr!”

Mark Beal

All I can say about it being “clean” is – The first draft was read, chapter by chapter as I wrote them, to the fifth grade class my wife was teaching, over the course of the school year. The kids helped steer the story, and they’re all listed in the acknowledgements. Obviously, under the circumstances I couldn’t put in anything that would get me in trouble with the teacher. She can be really strict!

And yeah, Mark, I’m planning a sequel. Two, actually. As soon as I finish the two and a half other projects I’m in the middle of.

And Chris, great thinking! I can’t think of a better place to read “Chrissie Warren: Pirate Hunter,” than in the Caribbean. After all, that’s where I wrote it! My wife’s fifth grade classroom overlooked the sea, she could have tossed a stone (or a student!) from her classroom window and hit the waves. It’s a wonder they ever got any work done there.

jb

 

 

Shaping Up to be a Busy Year

It’s shaping up to be a very good, very busy summer.

I’ll be traveling with many, many copies of my book, “Chrissie Warren: Pirate Hunter,” and hoping to come home with a lot fewer. So far, I’m scheduled for:

– NOLA Pyrate Week, March 25 through April 3. Don’t known how many of the weeklong activities I’ll be able to take part in, it’s also spring break and there are a bunch of things I’m committed to for the family. But I’ll definitely be taking part in event at the Algiers Library 9 a.m. Monday at the Algiers Library, and will squeeze in any others I can. (And it’s safe to say I’ll have a few copies of Chrissie on hand, “just in case.”)

– April 2, I’ll be doing a presentation on marketing at the Jambalaya Writers Conference in Houma, Louisiana. I’m pretty excited about this. My presentation will also make for some good blog posts, after I try it out on a live audience.

– June 4 and 5, I’ll be at the Blackbeard Festival in Hampton, Virginia, where I’ll be doing a reading and selling books.

– Aug. 12 and 13, I’m going to be at the Beaufort Pirate Invasion in North Carolina. They’re setting up a special author and artist space.

– Sept. 19 is International Talk Like a Pirate Day. On the 17th and 18th I’ll be in Cedar Key, Florida, for their Pirate Invasion, with a reading scheduled at the local library.

All of those events are the pins in the map, so to speak. Now I have to schedule other events en route or in neighboring towns. I have a list of potential venues provided by fans and I’ll be on the phone next week trying to set things up.

And there’s still the Tybee Island Pirate Festival in October, which is supposed to be another of the good ones. I was set up to attend that one last year, but Tori started her new job the beginning of the week and really wasn’t in a position to say, “Oh yeah, I need a couple of days off at the end of my first week.” Did I mention she usually travels with me? She might not be able to make Beaufort this year, but she’s definitely up for the rest of it.

I’ll also be carrying some other books, written by me and my pirate partner Cap’n Slappy. We have found that a table with more than one title on it draws a better crowd.

So it’s starting to look like a productive time coming up, with a lot of road trips and I hope a lot of fun – and book sales.

This week’s words to focus on when I work

If you boldly risk writing a novel that might be acclaimed as great, and fail, you could succeed in writing a book that is splendid. You get what you dare, baby, and if you want big, you dare big. – Leonard Bishop

Risk big. Risk BIG.

Two new blurbs

Just collected these off the Amazon page for “Chrissie Warren: Pirate Hunter.”

I bought this book to bring with me on a cruise to the Caribbean, and enjoyed every minute of it. John Baur (co-founder of Talk Like a Pirate Day) writes exceptional pirate stories, and this was no exception. His attention to historical detail, geography, and character development was great. I felt like I learned a lot about the pirate era from reading this book. I’m 43 and enjoyed this book, but my 6 year old daughter will enjoy it too when she gets a little older, maybe 8-9. – Chris John

I really enjoyed this book. Great storyline, full of adventure, and very entertaining. Well written without any holes, the author did a great job tying everything together. It was also nice reading a good story that is clean, thus making it suitable to young adults and adults of any age. I highly recommend it for anyone wanting to be carried away on a high seas adventure in search of a villainous pirate! I hope a sequel is in the works, arr! – Mark Beal

 

 

 

End of the Week Odds and Ends

Jambalaya Writers Conference

I’ve been asked to take part as a presenter in the Jambalaya Writer’s Conference in Houma April 2. I’m pretty excited about it. I have no idea why they asked me, but I’m going to give it my best shot.

I’ve been asked to present on marketing. I know a bit about that, although not knowing about a topic has never slowed me down before. And I will educate myself all the more in the next month. It’s not a paying gig. They’ve got a hotel room for me and my wife, Tori for the Friday night, and she gets to attend for free. Mostly it’s a chance to get myself out there, and to sell some books.

Good Will

Filled a chink in my cultural armor recently. Finally saw “Good Will Hunting.” I know, the movie is almost 20 years old and it’s not like it was a big secret. But somehow I just missed it, then never got around to catching up.

What a terrific movie. I really loved it. The story, the performances, everything. It’s not just a good story. The story about it is a good story. Two young guys trying to make it in Hollywood and not getting very far, so they wrote their own movie and somehow got it made. And it was so good they ended up winning the screenplay Oscar.

It’s a movie that makes you feel like, whatever you’re doing, you can do better. And you should. It was inspiring.

(It was also the first Minnie Driver movie I’ve ever seen. Seriously. Seen her on a couple of TV things, but never seen a movie with her. Isn’t that odd? But now I have.)

Not A Sociopath, Please

On the Killzone blog, they have a regular feature where people submit the first page of their work in progress and get it critiqued, first by one of the bloggers, then by readers in the comment section. It’s always kind of interesting, but this week’s critique had a kind of horrifying fascination. Unlike most of the submittals, this one was really bad. My rule in making any comments is to find something positive to say before I suggest any areas for improvement. It was impossible with this one.

You can take a look at it here and see if you agree with me.

It suggests a rule for writing: You should make your main character someone who, if not necessarily likable, is someone the reader at least will be willing to share a couple of hundred pages with. Failing that, at least make the character believable. A character, purportedly some kind of private detective, who slaps her client in the third paragraph for “back talk” and threatens to punch his teeth out when he refers to her as “Ms.” isn’t quirky. She’s a sociopath.

Progress and A Thought

I like where my WIP is going, but I recognize there may be a problem, the kind of problem that would get ripped up in first-page critique. No, the main character isn’t a sociopath. I save the sociopath for third chapter.

No, it’s a style thing. I know why it “breaks the rules” but I also know why I want to tell the story that way.

Anyway, what I’m thinking of doing eventually is posting the first couple of pages here and getting feedback. Not right away. Not until I’m sure that the beginning of the story is solid. Then it’s always interesting to get some insight, to find out if a reader thinks the same thing that you thought when you’re writing.

I used to belong to a critique group at the local library. But they’re schedule changed, then my work schedule changed, and it became impossible for me. Too bad, I really enjoyed it.

That’ll do for now.

Getting Back to Work

Lost time the last month because of work – covering for a co-worker I ended up working 13 of 15 nights in a row, that kind of takes it out of you in the morning – and working on the next installment of “The Islands of Bones,” the serial I’ve been writing for Mutiny magazine.

It’s tricky, writing in installments. I guess that’s how a lot of writers in the past, notably Charles Dickens, did it, and they did it without the help of a computer. Initially I had only a vague idea of the story. I had the character and starting point and a general idea of what it was about. I thought it would be a four-part story – the online magazine is quarterly. But it kept growing. I just turned in the fifth installment, and it will probably require two more to finish it out.

I also made a few mistakes – gave the ship one name in the third installment, a different name in the fourth. And as I write, things occur to me that would help, but they would involve changing things I’ve already written. Typically that’s not a problem, we all do it. That’s what rewrites are for. But in this case, the earlier parts of the story have already been published. It’s set and I just have to play the next hands with the cards I dealt.

I’m glad I’ve committed to this, and I like the story. It’s been an education. And when it’s done – assuming it’s eventually done – I’m going to clean it up, do a little rewriting, then make it available as a free download online. Because you’ve got to feed the franchise, right.

I’ve also got an almost completed story that Mark (my friend, Cap’n Slappy) and I wrote in our semi-functional, back and forth way. I’m going to clean that up, finish it, really work it into a publishable project, and get that available to readers before Sept. 19.

So that’s what’s on my plate. The WIP – “In Blackbeard’s Hand” – the serial, and the Caper story. That ought to keep me busy, especially since I’ve also got all that work to do selling “Chrissie Warren.” Then I have to get to work on the sequel to that.

Enough of this blogging! I have work to do!

Blackbeard vs. Trump

Are Capn’ Slappy and I prescient, or just really lucky? Probably lucky, but don’t automatically assume we’re *not* psychic, or at least psycho.

In our 2008 book, “The Pirate Life,” we had fun comparing Blackbeard with blustery business mogul Donald Trump. At the time we wrote it we kinda hoped he would take offense and launch a feud against us. It’d great publicity, and it wouldn’t cost us anything! But no such luck.

We never in a million years would have guessed what the future had in store for him. If we were writing it today, it might be a little different, but probably not that much. Anyway, here’s what we wrote eight years ago.

Blackbeard vs. Trump

(Excerpted from “The Pirate Life: Unleashing Your Inner Buccaneer,” by John “Ol’ Chumbucket” Baur and Mark “Cap’n Slappy” Summers, published by Kennsington Publishing Corp. and copyright 2008. All rights reserved.)

One was an icon of his age – a ruthless, take-no-prisoners type who terrorized merchants and moguls in his lust for booty.

The other was Blackbeard the pirate.

It seems you just can’t escape Donald Trump these days. He’s had his television show, his face is on book covers, he’s constantly picking fights with celebrities, his name is plastered on buildings all over the world. They even named the most powerful suit in the game of bridge after him.

If there’s any pirate personality who compares, it would have to be Blackbeard. He wasn’t the most successful pirate ever, but he was far and away the most colorful, the most bombastic, the best known. In a world where the appearance of success is as important as success itself, that’s no small thing.

Here’s our point-by-point comparison.

HAIR

Blackbeard: Put burning fuses in his beard to create that demonic look.

Trump: Puts so much “stuff” in his hair (if that *is* his hair) to create that Teflonic look. If he lit it, it would probably go up in a fireball that would put Blackbeard to shame.

TRADEMARKS

Blackbeard: Shouted “Open fire!” with a sword thrust gesture.

Trump: Sneered “You’re fired!” with a cobra-like hand gesture.

DRINK

Blackbeard: Rum with a sprinkling of gunpowder.

Trump: The blood of the exploited working class.

COMBAT

Blackbeard: He and his crew excelled at vicious hand-to-hand fighting.

Trump: Cast of “The Apprentice” excelled in whiny catfighting. Ditto Trump and the targets of his scorn.

EPONYMS

Blackbeard: Named his ship Queen Anne’s Revenge.

Trump: Names everything after himself.

MODUS OPERANDI

Blackbeard: Paid off local officials to allow him to continue his felonious ways.

Trump: Hangs out with celebrities and politicians to enhance his own image.

WENCHES

Blackbeard: Enjoyed them, but his marriage to the sea was a source of acrimony.

Trump: Marries them, and is now a source of their alimony.

Another Trip to the Post Office

Been making repeat runs to the Post Office mailing copies of the book to people who paid a little extra to get signed copies. The wrapping them and addressing them and then the standing in line is a chore, but it never gets old. Because, you know, people actually paid money for my book! And they’re paying a little extra to get me to smear some ink on the title page. Because let’s face it, my penmanship is not what you’d call good. Sister Ann Thomas. Miss Frickie and Sister James Marie would take turns smacking my hand with a ruler if they could see it.

I had extra copies sitting under my desk because the one book event where I planned to sell quite a few got rained out, and I was sick as a dog for another one. So I let the word out that people could order them directly from me (instead of CreateSpace) and they could get a signed copy of the paperback. The response has been worthwhile. And setting it up was pretty easy.

For those considering a similar set up, the online e-trade site Big Cartel is really handy. It’s free if you’re selling five or fewer items, It gives people an easy way to buy your book and get you monet, and that’s the first rule of retail – if people want to give you money, make it easy for them to do so. All you need is a bank or PayPal account for Big Cartel to send the money to. Then you pack the book up and send it off. There’s no wait, you get paid every time an order comes in. Nice.

We checked out envelopes and mailers and packing material, and then Tori came up with a better solution. A single paper grocery bag can wrap two books – probably more but two is good enough. And our local store sells ’em for six cents a bag, so that’s a no brainer. It takes a little more time, but it’s worth it.

One other warning – the lines at the post office are getting holiday long, and the people behind me – who have seen me with this one box – get grumpy when they see my open it at the counter and take out 20 or 30 packages, each of which has to be weighed individually. Ah well, Christmas.

Got one more to wrap and mail off tomorrow and I’m caught up. Then I’ll post to give people one more chance to buy for Christmas, and with a little luck have a few more to ship off. And then in January it’ll be back on the road.

A Solid Delivery from FedEx

We all do it – don’t we? The FedEx truck heads down your street, or the brown UPS van, and you watch it drive by, maybe with your arms extended as if beseeching the driver, but he drives on by. Sometimes he acknowledges the comedy with a smile or a wave, but usually he’s in too much of a hurry and drives on by.

I’m not alone in this, right? We all do it? Or is my penchant for street theater surfacing again?

File Dec 01, 1 08 41 PMAnyway, the FedEx guy drove down the street yesterday and – he stopped at my house! And dropped off two boxes of books!

It’s the hardcover, a special, one-printing-only version, signed and numbered by yours truly, with special interior illustrations only available in this edition. And, like I said before, people were willing to pay a premium to get it. It was my alternative to trying a Kickstarter campaign. In truth, it was only semi-successful – I didn’t sell as many as I’d hoped, but did sell more than I’d feared. So I made back a little of the overhead for getting the book out.

And I’ve gotta tell you – as exciting as the first box of paperbacks was when it arrived, the hardcovers were so much more. There’s something about a hardcover that is so much more impressive. It’s solid. It’s a book.

It’s also a quick and easy Christmas present for my kids, who no doubt will be thrilled. (Well, it’s “a” gift, not all any of them are getting.)

Now I’ve gotta sit down and start signing them. They have to go out by the end of the week. I’ve bought a special pen for them (which also can go on my taxes as a business expense) and I’ve gotta get to work.

Sometimes the gods are against you – and a note on Na-No-Wri-Mo

File Nov 01, 2 47 17 PMSometimes it seems even God doesn’t want you to sell books, or Mother Nature or whoever.

The Louisiana Book Festival was Saturday. It’s a pretty big deal in the world Louisiana letters – usually draws crowds in excess of 20,000 book lovers who spread out over Capitol Park in Baton Rouge (or as I like to call it, Red Stick.) Big pavilion-style tents filled with publisher’s displays fill one side of the park, along with tables spread across the park with authors and literary groups hawking their wares. That’s where we were.

But this year the weather forecast was forbidding – not just rain expected, but a big damn storm on the horizon. The organizers – who already had their hands full dealing with the fact that the city had scheduled some kind of parade the same day, closing half the downtown streets – did the best they could. They moved the exhibitors tables from the park to the neighboring Louisiana Museum. Some of the tables were inside, but most were crowded into the large covered area outside. That included us.

It wasn’t ideal – there was no real traffic flow from the tents for the big guys to us small fry exhibitors. The traffic flow was never in the thousands, and rarely in the hundreds. But starting at 10 in the morning, scores of people made their way over between cloud bursts to see what we had to offer.

I talked to a lot of folk. I pitched the book. Tori and I were dressed in pirate garb, of course, and that always draws people. Gave out a LOT of postcards with ordering info on them, and sold and signed a small handful of books. (By the way, I love my Paypal card scanner that turns my phone into a cash register.)

And then the weather started turning. A flurry of rain, then a break, then another flurry. The tables toward the outside were getting wet, and one by one they folded up and went away. Even worse, the crowd petered out (I almost said dried up, but as the afternoon went on, nothing was dry.) Even our display was getting damp as the winds picked up and blew the moisture in.

Around 2 p.m. the rain stopped again, but by this time half the exhibitors in the covered area were gone. Even worse, the crowd was gone. They just didn’t want to deal with the weather. And though it wasn’t raining at the moment, the sky to the west was turning black and the wind was blowing harder. We packed up.

We had brought everything in a large suitcase – books, display material and props, some of the pirate gear, everything. It was heavy, but it was water proof.

We got it all packed up and started dragging it across the park towards the car, and that’s when the next wave hit. Even before the rain, the wind hit. I saw one of the big pavilion tents for the big-time exhibitors kind of blow up – all the sides blew straight out as the gust hit it, and people inside were suddenly scrambling to secure everything. We made it to the corner of the park, and it was raining like hell. Tori had parked the car two blocks away. I didn’t know where it was, so she told me to wait with the suitcase on the bank’s porch while she went and got it.

By the time we had everything packed up and were sitting, panting in the cab, we were soaked to the skin. Good thing we’d had the foresight to bring extra shirts, so we peeled the drenched pirate shirts off, donned our T-shirts and headed home, windshield wipers slapping.

We didn’t make back our investment – mostly the cost of the table space and the mileage to and from. But we’ll give them another try next year. We learned some lessons Having variety of product is important. Not just the one book. And make sure you bring plenty of change – more than you think you’re going to need. Rule No. 1 in selling is, when the customer wants to give you money, make it easy to do so.

But if the weather isn’t going to cooperate, there’s nothing you can do. There’s really no way to plan for six inches of rain. So we sold some, but not as much as we’d hoped. We’ll give it another try next year.

But we’ll keep our eye on the weather.

It’s National Novel Writing Month

I don’t have much to say on this. Every month is novel writing month to me. My daughter, Kate, has taken part four times and completed four. So she’s in again this year. It’s a good idea, I think. Whether you complete a story or not, it can’t help but build an appreciation for how hard this can be.

I’ll leave the final word on the subject to writing guru and author James Scott Bell in the Kill Zone Blog.