After the Book Fair, 3-28-15

So this past weekend was my first book fair, but before I tell you how it went, let me tell you how I thought it had a real possibility of going. When it comes to work or business, I worry about the things that can go bad and let the things that go good, care for themselves. It’s a habit. For me it’s a way of making sure that everything goes as well as it should, but also, it lends itself to a sense of negativity that can be perceived by those around me as a downer. Truth be told, it isn’t a downer, it’s paranoia, and my greatest fear was that I wouldn’t sell a single book.

Now for the update. The morning drive to the venue couldn’t be better, weather-wise. It’s Florida, in March, need I say more? But for me none of that mattered, the car could breakdown, there could be a traffic accident, there could be an overzealous highway patrolman, or a simple flat tire. Any one, or combination of all, could and probably would, cause my first public appearance as a published author, to be ruined.

The forty-five minute journey took over an hour due to the fact that on a Saturday morning, when traffic should be light, it wasn’t. Good thing I thought about that and left a few minutes early. Unfortunately, each and every traffic signal along the way had a fully functional L. Davyd Pollack approach detector, which timed the switch from green to red in a perfectly choreographed display of delay. Fortunately, I worried about that too and my early departure time accounted for it. The entire trip was long and excruciating, and made even longer by the longest train on record that reached the railroad crossing just in time to light the flashing stop signals, and drop the barricade bars right in front of me. I did not account for that but alas; we arrived right on time, maybe five minutes later than planned but as they say, good enough for government work.

Then it was time for us to set up the display table and it all went very smoothly, which should have been a hint of impending doom. With a place for everything and everything in its place, the display table looked great, inviting, but not intimidating. When I looked at it from the front, I thought to myself, this is a table I would buy a book from. I was relieved—but my relief was fleeting. When I originally registered for the book fair, I specifically inquired about access to electric. Part of my presentation was to have my Kindle ready and waiting to show off my website/blog, and how easy it is to buy my books online. I was assured that there would be access to power and to my great surprise, there was. Only one problem, the access was twenty feet away and the extension cord that I brought just in case access to electric wasn’t as accessible as advertized, was only fifteen feet long. And the downward spiral begins.

However, defeat was not to be snatched from victory so easily. Thanks to the help of fellow author, R. L. Austin and his six-foot multiple-plug extension cord, my power problem evaporated. Thank you R. L.

There I was, front and center sitting behind my first book fair display ever, ready to take the ultimate insult, the biggest slap in the face an author can experience. That being, not selling even one copy of the marvelous book I poured my heart and soul into for the past ten years. The fair opened at 10:00 a.m. and at first nothing, but what do you know, a few minutes later a customer approached. I was nervous, real nervous and my presentation was a little stilted, and then, the customer nodded and moved on. It was okay though, first time jitters and all. Being in sales (one of my real life jobs), I knew there would be more chances to screw up and moments later, there were.

Shortly after, another potential fan walked up and heard a more polished version of my spiel, then pulled out his wallet and bought. I don’t know for sure, and of course, I can’t prove it, but I think there’s an excellent chance that I made the first sale of the book fair. My greatest fear evaporated just as easily as my power problem. A few minutes after that, I think I may have made the second sale of the book fair. And guess what. I sold the second book to that poor gentleman who had to endure my stumbling and stilted first pitch. He walked around to all the tables and after giving everyone a once over, came back to me. All I can say is WOW.

At this time, it should be pointed out that I’ve said us and we, not just me. This isn’t a mistake. My girlfriend Miranda, along with her son and daughter, joined me for this momentous opportunity to fail. The kids are still too young to stay home alone. Though I was fully aware that witnesses to my potential failure could only serve to make the experience worse, it was a good thing they were there. First and foremost, I wouldn’t be alone should I totally embarrass myself, and second, they were a great help. Her son took it upon himself to make sure that the sales force had all the promotional supplies they needed, and her daughter (the aforementioned sales force), used those supplies to the best of her ability. Thanks again guys.

In sales, there’s a saying and it goes something like this. He/she can sell ice to an Eskimo. Having been in sales, I knew many people who claimed they could. I never actually met anyone who had a snowball’s chance in H—Florida of doing so. That is, until yesterday. After watching Miranda’s daughter work, all I have to say is Eskimos, beware . . . and don’t forget to hide your wallets. By the way, it won’t do you any good. You’re going to buy the ice, but if you make it too easy, the poor child gets bored.

Suffice it to say that halfway through the fair, when many of my co-authors had already packed it in for the day, L. Davyd Pollack and his dedicated sales force (headed by mom Miranda, an excellent networker), were still closing deals and moving books. All in all, it was an outstanding success for me as a new author/publisher.

Now, to put things in perspective, I didn’t sell out. At the end of the day, I still had a box of books about two thirds of the way full, which I gladly had to load back into the car. Why gladly? Because, when I arrived that morning to set up the display table, I brought in two boxes, both full.

Thanks to everyone, especially all my new fans. I couldn’t have done it without you.

The Here and Now, writing time

When I was a kid, I started working in construction as a laborer. It was hot and it was hard work, but I used to make twice as much money as my friends who had more traditional after-school jobs, so I kept at it. Still, I looked forward to the day when I could get up in the morning, head out to an air-conditioned office, and spend the day working in comfort.

Boy-oh-boy, how life has changed. Now, I sometimes go days without seeing the sun or taking a walk outside, mostly because I lose track of time. First, I start my day by writing, and then it’s lunchtime; after lunch I go back to finish one last thing, and then it’s dinner. The next day is the same, and so on. I know it sounds strange to lose big chunks of time like that, but if you write regularly, you probably know what I’m talking about.

The first time it happened to me, it was winter in Florida, which more closely resembles a cool summer anywhere else. We really only have two seasons, rainy hot summer, and not so rainy-not so hot summer. It was one of those Florida winter days that I woke up before the sun, got ready for work, and headed out the door for an early start. Yes, I used to get into the office early so I could get some writing done before the workday began. I almost never got to work early to get actual work done.

About forty-five minutes after settling in behind the keyboard, I felt some pretty strong hunger pangs, strong enough that it brought me out of my writing world. Back then, I was a one-man show and there weren’t many distractions; it was easy to get lost in the words. Phones, problems, customer complaints, all vanish unless they had a part to play in my writing world. It was a glorious way to start the day and the beginning of a habit I still enjoy today.

As for the hunger pangs, while not being a part of my writing world, somehow they got my attention. My grumbling gut was not to be denied. So I hit the save button and decided to go to Burger King for some breakfast. This was years ago when BK Lounge was better than McDonald’s (I think they both blow today). It was still dark and I figured that if I hurried, I might have enough time left to do some more writing before having to suffer another tedious workday.

To save time I went to the drive through. I was planning to order my usual, two sausage and cheese sandwiches (no egg, I hate eggs) and a large cup of coffee, then bring it back to the office. But the menu board wasn’t working so I had to drive up to the first window to place my order. The teenage girl slid the pass-through window open and asked me for my order and when I gave it to her . . . she just looked at me like I was from another planet. At first, I didn’t think much of it because, well, she was a teenager working a full shift at BK lounge. If she were one of the sharper tools in the shed, she’d be on her way to school, or at least waiting for a bus to take her there. After all, it was a school day. I figured she couldn’t cut it in high school and recognized her limitations early enough to start forging a career in cashiering, so I cut her some slack and repeated my order. She just kept staring at me like I was morphing into my true alien form right before her unimpressed and very condescending teenage eyes.

The next thing I knew, there was a twenty-something pimple faced guy standing next to her. His badge said, Assistant Manager Dave. Dave looked at me (Davyd), straight in the eye and said with as sincere a voice as a condescending twenty-something-assistant-manager could muster, “Sir, we aren’t serving breakfast anymore, it’s dinnertime.”

A moment or two later, both burger professionals realized that I was in the process of realizing what time of day it was, and when they did, they couldn’t help themselves, they started to laugh. I could hear two or three others behind the fry cooker laughing too. And yes, there were customers inside waiting to place orders and shaking their heads, wondering about the moron at the drive through. I could see them in the convex mirror behind the cash registers. I couldn’t see clear enough to tell if they were laughing but I think it’s safe to assume here.

Anyway, I finally boarded the here-and-now train with everyone else, ordered two whopper meals, and then pretended as if nothing happened. Why two meals? Simple. One to eat on the way back to my office and one to eat while I worked. I was starving and apparently, I hadn’t eaten anything all day—also, I still had a lot of writing to do.

True story. Has this, or something like it, ever happen to you?

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