In mid-June I was in Germantown Tennessee to speak to a heritage/historical organization about my book “War in The Mountains”. I had met the leader of the group in early March at the Mid-South Military History and Civil War Show, and he had invited me to be their June speaker. I try to never say “no” to speaking requests. I drove from Colorado to Memphis for a three-night stay, allowing time for the speech as well as visiting bookstores in the area.
While my book was the main topic of the meeting, the ensuing discussion ranged over various aspects of the Civil War, and I learned as much or more than what the group got from my speech.
One of the attendees was a retired University of Memphis professor who has written books on the Civil War. He told an interesting story of having met the famous author Shelby Foote. This reminded me of a period of my youth when I was reading everything I could on the Civil War, and I had acquired Foote’s highly regarded trilogy a year after the final volume was published. Although a novelist, Foote is mostly remembered for “The Civil War: A Narrative”, a work that took twenty years to complete and in my opinion it is one of the best set of books ever written on the war. The retired professor’s absorbing story was one of the more interesting parts of the discussion, but everyone contributed, and the meeting went well beyond the time set for its conclusion.
This was the main purpose of my journey, to speak on how I came to write “War in The Mountains” and to meet others interested in history. But while in town, I went by two Memphis bookstores, the Barnes and Noble where I know the manager, and the “Novel”, an independent bookseller. I was pleased that both stores had several of my books on their shelves. I roamed about both stores, looking for anyone browsing in the history area (or the “mystery/thriller” section) to start a conversation about such things as reading and favorite genres. Talking with passionate readers is always enjoyable and most of them gladly receive a bookmark or flyer that I hand out about my books. Of all the places I go to (Military History and Civil War Shows, regional Gun Shows, museums, and library events), bookstores are the best for promoting my work. Wherever I go to speak, I always go by local bookstores to see if my books are there and, if not, I often query the manager asking that they stock my books. Often these requests get a favorable response.
Once I returned home I continued promoting my books in other ways. There were some lingering issues with the web site which I’ve largely redesigned to spotlight my novel “Alaska Deadly”. Another change is a new listing of the many Amazon books I’ve read and written reviews of. I’ve found this is another way to try to reach new readers, especially in the historical or mystery/thriller genres. But my attention is not just on my two published books. I’m looking ahead toward writing the next book.
Although I’m already into chapter three of the sequel to “Alaska Deadly”, I won’t finish it in a year like with the first book. I’m slowing down, intentionally putting more thought into the process, developing a plan, writing a statement of goals, and thinking about a plot outline. This is all quite different from how I wrote “Alaska Deadly”. Also, this time I have the benefit of critical reviews by readers of the novel, valuable information to aid me in writing the next book. Many of these negatives are a result of the minimal planning I put into my first novel. Then I had ideas of where I wanted the book to go, and I wrote it “by the seat of my pants” in a year and I was quite pleased with the result. Some reviewers agree that it’s an engrossing mystery thriller, but others have pointed out flaws that I didn’t see when I wrote it. This has been a learning experience that will benefit me in writing the sequel.
At the moment I have only a vague idea of where the next book is headed so as part of the planning process I’m traveling to Alaska’s North Slope next month to gather information and gain a vision of what’s ahead. Sometimes you have to see and feel the surroundings of what you are writing about if you are going to get it right. In the process you may find the true purpose of your work. I can’t say now what the outcome will be but once I return from Alaska I believe I’ll know the direction to go.