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FRESH DIRT: Scott Nicholson's Journal 9-12/03

December 30, 2003
Dr. Seuss is one of my favorite authors (though I've avoided the Cat in the Hat movie like it's Ebola). My daughter got three of the animated books on video, and "The Butter Battle Book" is hilarious. The story itself is a wonderful satire of militaristic societies, but the video goes a step beyond, with spoofs of patriotic music, cheerleaders and march songs. A definite work of genius, along with "The Lorax," which probably spawned a whole generation of environmentalists.

I'm finishing up Dale Bailey's new novel "The House of Bones." I usually don't make recommendations of books by modern authors, but this is a good one. Next, I think I'm going to slide back into some Southern Gothic like Carson McCullers and Erskine Caldwell. I've been hearing about an author named Daniel Woodrell who writes something described as "trailer park noir," so I definitely need to track some down.

December 26, 2003
The U.S. mad cow case is bringing back some of the old food supply bugaboos, reminding me of how fragile life is and how small risks get blown out of proportion by the media. I spent a couple of days researching it for a newspaper article, and part of it was really scary stuff. I'm not ready to go back to being a vegetarian (which I was for a few years in college), but I'll probably be looking for even more ways to trim my beef consumption. While I think the government has been fairly forthcoming with reports, I'm troubled by some of their admissions. The mad cow disease is basically caused by feeding infected cows back to cows, and though it's an outlawed practice, not every beef manufacturer complies. Only 20,000 cows are tested each year (out of about 40 million or so that go to the slaughterhouse) and "downer cows," ones that are so sick they can't stand up, are allowed to enter the food system. I'm also troubled that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is serving as both the regulatory agency and the government apologist, even sending agents to Japan to beg them to buy our tainted meat. Some of you may remember the wonderful conflicts of interest that arose when the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was simultaneously monitoring plant safety while also promoting the wonderfulness of split atoms. The only good thing to come of this whole thing is the phrase "downer cows."

December 22, 2003
The weekend signing with Dale Bailey went well. He sold out of one of his books and I sold out of The Red Church, and there were just a few of our other books left when we were done. We were able to apply the double-guilt trip so that most customers bought one from each of us. We're doing a joint event in Hickory NC in February and will probably do a few others down the road.

I did one of my mad Christmas shopping dashes, buying most of my presents in one spree. I don't enjoy shopping that much. I'd much rather spend a day in the woods than a day at the mall. I just learned today that I won first place in a North Carolina Press Association contest. It's my fourth press award. Maybe someday if I give up writing, I'll make a pretty decent reporter.

December 18, 2003
I'm signing at the local mall with writer Dale Bailey on Saturday, trying to see if two heads are worse than one or if we'll merely cut each of our potential sales in half. Dale just released "House of Bones" and a story collection and got a rave review in the Charlotte Observer. He's an anomaly for a writer these days-- he doesn't have a website, doesn't hang out on message boards, and doesn't go around calling himself the next Stephen King. All he does is write extremely well.

What I'm reading: just finished Mary Higgins Clark's "We'll Meet Again" on audiotape, very well-plotted; a David Bowie bio I'd read a couple of years back; an early Dean Koontz novel, "The Vision" (even back then he had a gift for building suspense); and just finished "The Fog" by James Herbert, who is often considered the British Stephen King. Pretty good story and not as obtuse as a lot of British fiction. Next I think I'll read Dale's story collection, since a lot of the entries have been nominated for one award or another..

December 15, 2003
If you'd like to get a taste of my home ground, my friend Marie Freeman has photos up at her Blue Ridge blog. Marie is my "official" photographer, and I'm lucky enough to get her to do my publicity shots. We work at the same newspaper, and she wins press association awards every year. Look at her pictures and you can see why.

I've been examining the royalty statement for my first novel and I'm pleased and a bit awed by the number of people who bought "The Red Church." The rate of returns is relatively high (unlike in most industries, books are bought wholesale more or less on a fully returnable basis; a good portion of them get returned at the end of 90 days if they don't sell). I've heard the industry average for return of mass market paperbacks is 50 percent, though it seems hard to believe that only half sell. If that's true, I'm doing a good bit better than that. The print run also must have been larger than the publisher originally indicated. The other satisfying thing was that the three book clubs sold almost as many hardcover copies as were sold in paperback. The book club royalty varied depending on the club and category, and since that was a subright (my publisher gets half the money), I didn't get a detailed breakdown of sales. All in all, it still feels unreal that so many strangers read something I put down on paper a few years ago. And it's also unreal how very far beginning midlist writers like me are from the rarefied heights of the bestseller lists.

December 12, 2003
No wonder our kids are emotional basket cases. My three-year-old was watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on network TV this morning at around nine. A commercial came on, featuring a teen boy at a party smoking dope. He then gets the girl to hit the pipe and reaches out to unbutton her blouse. Cut to a shot of the pipe on the table, voice over of girl half-heartedly murmuring "No." Then some corny graphic like: "Marijuana. It clouds your judgment." Right after that, a commercial uses a child's drawings to illustrate girl finding a gun in a drawer, then the girl's friend is shown with a lot of red crayon swirls across her dress, then cut to the last picture of the perp herself, with black scribbles all over it. And the voice kicker: "I hate me."

These commercials do not educate children. They do not communicate to their target audience, which is presumably young children. They not only fail, they fail in the worst kind of way. These are obviously the products of adults who think that their "sophisticated" scare tactics will instantly turn their three-year-olds into world-wise young adults. I would be surprised if anyone involved in these goofy productions even had a child. I resent my tax dollars being wasted on this kind of disinformation. Potential teen dope smokers are not up at nine a.m. watching network cartoons, and if they are, they are smoking dope and laughing at stupid commercials that insult them. Kids who find loaded guns in drawers are most emphatically not to blame if that gun goes off. Target these idiotic commercials to the brainless people who care whether Joe Average Millionaire marries the Fear Factor Survivor and leave my child alone. Thank you.

December 9, 2003
Saving the English language: Okay, I have never used "task" as a verb.When copyediting the newspaper I work for, I always cross it out and make the reporter come up with a better option. While dictionaries say that "task" can be a verb, that use implies that some great burden goes along with it. Thus, I would accept on principle "Sisyphus was tasked with pushing a great stone," but not "Sisyphus was tasked with taking out the garbage." Either way, it's lazy and pompous writing. Better to write, "Sisyphus had to push a great stone" or "Mrs. Sisyphus told her husband to get off his lazy rump and take out the trash." Don't even get me started about the rampant use of "gift" as a verb. The one golden and inflexible rule of writing: always serve the reader and communicate as clearly as possible.

December 6, 2003
I've been plagued lately by one of the great metaphysical questions of our time: just how long is a New York minute? Is it long because New Yorkers are rushed and busy and therefore get a lot done? Or short, because because they spend a lot of time standing in line or stalled in traffic? Or is New York like a black hole that warps time by ever-greater factors the closer one gets to the center? I would be disappointed if it equaled 60 seconds. That wouldn't be right, somehow.

I just received word that I would be getting a royalty check soon for "The Red Church." Since most books don't earn back their advances, I'm pleased at the news. And extra money is always welcome around the holidays.

December 1, 2003
Wow, the last week sure flew by fast. There's a review of "The Harvest" at Eternal Night and one probably coming soon to SFSite. I'm doing some preliminary thinking on the next novel. There were a couple of others I was thinking about but this one seems to have a little more persuasive hold over me at the moment. While I probably won't get too deeply into it until I finish what I'm working on, the title and idea intrigue me.

There's always a temptation for a writer to compare himself or herself with other writers who might be considered their peers. In my case, at least in the manner in which I'm currently marketed, that would be other horror writers. While a whole new and exciting crop of them have popped up like mushrooms in a radioactive cow pasture, I can't find any way to compare them to me or to each other. I don't read a whole lot of modern genre fare, though I try to sample widely. My head would do a Linda Blair spin-around if I tried to keep up with all the new books coming out, so I've contented myself with dropping in on a few message boards like Shocklines, Horror World and HWA to get my fix. Sometimes the exchanges get a little vitriolic and juvenile (news shocker: the same percentage of writers are jerks as in the population at large), but there's no lasting damage because there's not much there to damage. One of my readers made the insightful observation that the horror audience is "deep but not wide," meaning you won't find many fans on the street corner but you might at a college or library. They lurk in all fringes and even the heart of the mainstream, and that's where you have to go to find readers.

I can't speak for other writers, but I have no desire to be the "next" Stephen King or Dean Koontz. While their successes are well-deserved and enviable, the truth is that all writers must create their own roads and discover their own journeys of the soul. And then put it down on the page. Stephen King can't tell my story for me. Dean Koontz would never focus the warped lenses through which I view reality. Shirley Jackson is dead but she still can't understand me. This path is lonely, frustrating, and, in the end, the work is never done and the tales are never all told. That's the pity, and that's the joy. I hope all writers feel that way, because it is an exhilarating freedom from comparisons of worth, sales, readership size, or money. I'll win my race because I'm only competing against myself.

November 24, 2003
The new Literary Guild catalog featured "The Harvest" again on their "bestselling thrillers" page. Little do they know! They pitched it as "For fans of Bentley Little." I haven't quite figured out their strategy-- whether they feature books they're desperate to get rid of or books that they think their customers will like. I think the guild has a good presentation for it, playing up the main character's psychic abilities instead of the "evil force" thing favored by the publisher. I guess they both know the audiences they are going after, so I just have to trust their judgment. As if I could do anything about it if I didn't.

The new project is ripping along nicely, about 1,000 words a day. Mostly I just want to get it done and move on. It's going to take some major work down the road and I think it will need to sit on the shelf until spring. Winter always gets me in the mood for something cold and depressing, anyway. Reading: "The Lost and the Lurking" by Manly Wade Wellman and "We'll Meet Again" by Mary Higgins Clark.

November 23, 2003
I'm more or less officially finished with "The Harvest" tour, besides a Dec. 20 Christmas signing in the local mall with author Dale Bailey. All in all, it was very satisfying, though I don't think I signed as many copies this time around. However, I got way more books in the stores, and a decent amount of publicity, and the stores report that the copies sold well both before and after the events, so I can call it a success on those fronts. Most writers don't care when or where you buy the book, as long as you try it. I haven't tallied the miles for this tour yet, but maybe around tax time I'll know how much this cost me. I met some really cool people along the way, and even a few people who called themselves "fans" of my work. That is amazing to me, and very humbling.

The NPR show will air during the second week in December. I'll try to track down specific stations and times later. I'm also a chat guest at Biting Dog Press on Dec. 6 at 9 PM EST. My HWA chat a month or two back was a lot of fun, so I hope you'll stop by and cyberize with me.

November 21, 2003
Our live panel last night went wonderfully. About 30 or 40 people were in the audience, and the panelists included Sharyn McCrumb, Lila Hopkins, Charles Price, and me. The theme was loosely centered around Appalachian fiction. The hour-and-a-half show was being taped by Radio South, which produces "The Spoken Word." The edited segment will air on 39 NPR stations in the south during the second week in December. We each had to read a few pages. I was a little nervous, since I had to read first, but by the second sentence I was able to slip into the character of Chester Mull, my old mountain farmer from "The Harvest." All the panelists were witty, especially Sharyn, and I got a few laughs myself for my unorthodox views on Appalachia. It was especially satisfying to be able to talk about hillbilly stereotypes in an intelligent forum.

I marked out the dirty words from the excerpt I read, then gave Sharyn that copy since she blurbed the book. She has just signed with my publisher for two books, and her next project is really neat, though it won't be out until 2005.

November 18, 2003
It's a frightfully foggy night here, and with the black bones of trees outlined against the gray wall of nothingness, I'm in the mood to hit the keyboard for some spooky stuff. The Southern Appalachians have had a mild autumn so far. We have a ski season and a Christmas tree industry, so winter doesn't really save us from tourists.

I'm preparing for a panel that will be taped live before an audience on Thursday, then aired on NPR's "The Spoken Word." The organizer wants us all to get together for lunch and plan what we're going to talk about. I told her I've been on a number of panels and have never rehearsed, and most worked out well. Oh, well, it seems this is the way these things are supposed to be done. I also have to go through and find a PG-13 excerpt to read on the air.

November 13, 2003
While I consider myself a staunch defender of the English language (to the point that I'll never use "impact" or "gift" as a verb), I think I'm ready to surrender. Watching the national news last night, a report on war polls came up with a box that read "Do Iraqi's want the U.S. to leave?" Now I suppose "Iraqi's" might appear as a possessive form somewhere, such as the "The average Iraqi's idea of freedom is George W. Bush the heck out of his life." And it might appear as a contraction for "Iraqi is," such as "This Iraqi's willing to accept the blame for 9/11, even though he doesn't deserve it." But there's no way to wrangle "Iraqi's" into the form used on the televised poll box. I wonder how many millions of Americans saw the handiwork of that news staffer who failed to master elementary school grammar and usage before going on to the propaganda mills. I also wonder how many impressionable minds saw that usage, assumed it was correct because "It can't be wrong if they show it on TV," then went out the next day and committed their own apostrophe catastrophes.

However, the all-time record holder for egregious misuse belongs to my local pharmacy store. Marked in expensive, die-cut letters, the store has a special section devoted to "hearing aid's."

November 11, 2003
I started to type a rant about how I hate the novel I'm working on and that I should toss it out and start a new one, but I've usually tried to keep my bad news, rejections, general bummers, etc, to a public minimum. I'm not sure whether my goal is to present an optimistic face of success to the world or if I'm afraid that I'll start noticing the sheer mass of my mistakes and failures. The only reason I haven't quit this novel is that I'm determined not to be a quitter, because anytime you give up once it gets much easier to do so the second time. There's some quote somewhere to the effect that "Hard work provides long-term gratification but laziness provides gratification right now."

Aw, shucks, things aren't that bad, anyway. I've resigned myself to the fact that this novel probably won't get published so I'm free to just have some fun and play with it. But I need to get it done before Christmas so I can go on to a couple of other things. I know "The Harvest" just came out but it already seems so long ago and I'm fighting a feeling of waiting around to see what happens next. As a self-diagnosed control freak, such a condition spells D-A-N-G-E-R.

November 8, 2003
Recent reads: Cat Chaser by Elmore Leonard and The Regulators by Richard Bachman. About to start: The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick and Scaredy Cat by Mark Billingham.Watched "Sling Blade" last night, a wonderful, wonderful movie. I've always thought Billy Bob Thornton was overrated, but between this movie and his singing with Warren Zevon, he's okay in my book.

Elmore Leonard has some great, concise and witty writing advice at his site. A few of you may know I'm working on a book about writing, with a ten-year plan, figuring I need to have at least 10 books out first so people can pretend I know what I think I'm talking about. I can't quite put my thoughts into the pure form that Leonard uses here, but we have similar philosophies. Basically, any time you start feeling like a "writer," you should push yourself away from the keyboard and start thinking like a human being again.

November 6, 2003
Perhaps you've followed the flap over the Ronald Reagan miniseries that CBS dropped like a hot potato after being criticized by the Republican Party. Living proof that the "liberal media" is an absolute myth, and I say this as a journalist of 10 years' experience. Apparently the fictionalized history offended some because the writers put words in Reagan's mouth for conversations to which no one was privy but him and Nancy. Yet CBS (and all the other stations) will run the "true story" of Pvt. Jessica Lynch, who admits she can't remember hardly anything of her terrible ordeal. The mistakes of history are created not by history repeating itself, but by historians.

For the record: Reagan came in on a wave of optimism that helped pull the United States out of a recession. He also circumvented the Constitution by selling weapons to our friends in Iran, pushed the country into record deficits even as people like Neil Bush (the current president's brother) plundered billions in savings and loan scandals that the taxpayers had to clean up, ended up with the most corrupt cabinet in history, and joked on a live microphone that "We're bombing Russia in five minutes." For those who want to credit Reagan's militaristic stance with knocking down the Iron Curtain, that credit should be shared with all administrations of both parties dating back to Eisenhower, as well as the strong allies in Europe that we've now lost. Sure, all this could have happened just as easily if a Democrat had been president, and for the record, I'm not a Democrat. But I lived through the 1980s once and I don't want to do it again via television. Anybody who expects the media to be motivated by anything other than profit is delusional anyway.

November 2, 2003
Saw the movie "Dreamcatcher" yesterday on video and I was very disappointed. I haven't read the novel and I probably won't now. I'm listening to the Richard Bachman book "The Regulators" and I like the concept behind it. It's fairly gory but there's plenty of characterization as usual with King. Also reading the Al Franken liberal-fest "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them" and still working on Stewart O'Nan's "The Night Country." I'll be revising a short story tonight, one that has been sitting around for a while. I've been way too slack with my short stories lately. I used to write at least one per month in addition to my novels but I've only written three this year, plus one novella.

October 30, 2003
A lot of my friends think Halloween must be my favorite time of year since I often use supernatural elements in my writing. I think what I most enjoy about the holiday is the elemental, primordial freedom that others embrace. It's a day (and night) for dress-up and pretend, a time of masks and celebration. That hearkens back to ancestral instincts regarding fire and mystery, tribal dances, superstition and the fear of unseen forces. Cool. To me, every day is Halloween, because this whole universe is nothing short of magical and wondrous and a bit fear-inspiring. The lines between the alleged real and the absolute impossible are so thin as to be invisible.

I did a radio interview yesterday (to air Friday) and the show host read a few sections from The Harvest, taking care to point out the literary merits of some of my sentences. It was a really nice feeling, since I tend to think of myself more as a storyteller than a writer. Of course, genre fiction is often considered a subliterary form, something for the unwashed masses. My feeling is that I'm happy to see people reading anything, period. I don't care if it's the backs of cereal boxes, comic books, camera instructions, or recipes for exotic mixed drinks. I'll be co-hosting a college radio show in the morning, and some of you have given me great suggestions for Halloween-themed songs. I hope the station has a good library so I can get some of them on the air.

October 26, 2003
My three-day book tour blitz was exciting, with some special moments along the way. Best of all was going to Henderson NC to speak to some high school students, who were inquisitive and curious and whose teacher had been reading them stories from Thank You For The Flowers during the week. These students rekindled my faith that young people are still interested in reading and will someday make the world a better place. I sold 44 books there, and I hope I created a new generation of fans as well as inspiring those among them who want to be writers. In Chapel Hill, I met a woman whose nephew is now in the Philippines but who attended Appalachian State, the same as me. She is going to send him one of my books. Presenting at the Triad Writers Workshop on Saturday was a bunch of fun. I'm sometimes unconvinced about the benefits of workshops, but this one was relaxed and featured a lot of really bright people who had a genuine desire to learn and succeed. It was refreshing for me and got me excited about my own work. I hope to do more of these workshops in the future. I did my "Whose Story Is It?" workshop and did presentations on promotion and the business of writing.

October 21, 2003
I was checking FictionWise to see which of my stories they have posted for download and saw that "Murdermouth" was the best-selling horror eBook. It probably will have sunk by the time you read this, but it's always nice to get even a brief moment under the spotlight (unless your pants are down and teenage girls are laughing at you). I did an interview this morning that will air on WNCW on Thursday, a station with four translators that gets good overage in the Carolinas. Got the new David Bowie CD "Reality" and I'm enjoying it. He also has some great art for sale. Maybe someday when I'm rich I'll buy one of his cheap prints (starting around $300). I'd like to be a painter when I get old but right now I hope at least one of these numerous career changes pays off before I die. So far, writing has been the most successful and natural, so I reckon I'd better stick to it.

October 19, 2003
My interview on Sci Fi Overdrive will air in the wee hours tomorrow (or early morning of you live on the West Coast). It's scheduled for the fourth hour which starts at 5 a.m. EST. Okay, okay, nobody wants to get up that early to listen to the show live on the Internet or one of the 23 stations in the Business Talk network. So just wait a week and catch it at Cosmic Landscapes.

I'm looking forward to finishing up these book signings. This coming week is probably the "peak," since I'm taking two days off work to go to the Piedmont, though I have a few events in November. Despite my love of book signings, I think next year I'm only going to do a dozen, then try to really maximize publicity for those. All in all, it's been a different sort of tour this year (though mine aren't really "tours" in the usual sense of the word since it's a number of single, unconnected stops more than anything). More on that after it's over.

Reading: "Bringing Out The Dead" by Joe Connelly, "The Night Country" by Stewart O'Nan, and "The Fog" by James Herbert.

October 16, 2003
A discussion on book reviews, or rather the vociferous and relentless attacks of a few unhappy people, came up on the Horror Writers Association message board a few days ago. The consensus seemed to be that every writer has received bad reviews at some time or another and that most people endure them with good grace. However, there is concern that the Internet has ramped up strident people's ability to mount personal attacks disguised as criticism, especially in situations where the person remains anonymous, as is the practice on many message boards and online bookseller sites.

My take on it is that bad reviews are the same as rejection slips. You get through the bad ones and they become insignificant over time. The good ones should be taken with the same grain of salt, because the writer is often perfectly aware of a book's flaws. Reviews are pretty much removed from the writer's daily battle with the keyboard, and though a few well-placed reviews have the power to boost sells by a fraction, word of mouth and bookstore enthusiasm carry far more weight. Essentially, reviews are the waste product of the industry, created after the entire work has gone through the digestive system of the publishing industry. They often come too late to have any real effect on a book's prospects, which are pretty much determined by the time a publisher puts an offer on the table. A bad review of a book that receives a six-figure advance is not going to cause the publisher to pull back its advertising campaign. A great review for a lower-tier genre slot book is not going to lift it into the stratosphere of the New York Times Review of Books.

My own personal belief is that a great number of the unsupported and ill-informed anonymous reviews on places like Amazon.com are the sad work of pathetic failed writers. Who else really cares enough to go out of their way to diminish themselves even as they desperately try to inflate egos that are as gap-riddled as gut-shot balloons? If these bitter tarts put half as much creativity and energy into their writing as they did in crafting their needling, whiny insults, maybe they'd feel a little better about themselves.

October 12, 2003
The Frightfest event at Lazy Lion Bookstore in Fuquay-Varina, NC, was a howling success. Michael Jasper, Drew Williams and I got to meet some true-blood horror fans and had some fun signing skulls and posters. The store had a story contest as well, giving away some cool prizes such as the aforementioned skull. Michael is not only a gifted writer in his own write (John Lennon pun), but he also edited a new anthology called Intracities that has a powerful line-up, with people like Tim Pratt, Jay Caselburg and Jason Erik Lundberg. Drew is author of the vicious novel "Night Terrors." Both of them teach writing as well.

Got a write-up and review in the Durham Herald-Sun, one of the larger dailies in the state. My interview with Sci Fi Overdrive will be taped on Tuesday and air between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. on Oct. 20.

October 8, 2003
Having an inquisitive three-year-old keeps you on your toes, especially when you don't want to be a liar. Recently my daughter has been on a serious spiritual search, or at least asking obvious questions that are difficult to answer. Such as "Does God wear shoes?" and "Are there chairs in heaven?" Other favorites include an explanation of exactly how angels transport people to heaven and whether or not God needs to sleep. Since I'm not a theological bigot, I try to answer in a fair-minded and general way, since my own beliefs are of a non-personified god, a uniting energy. However, since my daughter has been christened in the Catholic church, I have to make room for those beliefs as well. If I had to pick a religion to live and die under, I would choose Taoism, but of course it's more of a philosophical system and has the disadvantage of a lack of ritualism and no nifty relics or manuals to purchase. My general take on organized religion is that I wish more people would try to live under the tenets to which they allegedly subscribe. "Do unto others" may sound a little corny but it's a cornerstone of most major religions.

October 3, 2003
We had our killing frost last night, and though most of my tomatoes were already gone, my green peppers expired even as they were still blooming. I've already started a big compost heap in the center. I picked a nice little garden spot this year and it produced beyond my wildest dreams. I hope to expand it next year, and also begin letting much of the back yard go to meadow and forest. With development starting to encroach upon our property, and a bulldozer parked in the field next door, I want to build as much of a buffer as possible, so I can at least pretend to be far removed from civilization. This plan remains in effect until we can make our move to the country and get a farm.

Local elections are coming next week, and though I'm just outside the town limits and can't vote, it will be interesting to see whether voters go for candidates who favor the protection of neighborhoods or candidates who favor private property rights. All I know is that I am never in my life voting for any candidate who is a Realtor, developer or bulldozer operator. Even the strictest zoning laws, at least in my experience, still overwhelmingly favor the rights of individuals over the rights of the general public. While I'm a libertarian in spirit and philosophy, individualism taken to its extreme is nothing more than pure selfishness.

October 1, 2003
Strange things happen when you make yourself available. Because my signing scheduled for Raleigh on Oct. 11 was moved to Durham since the Barnes & Noble community relations manager transferred, my publicity efforts in Raleigh were undermined. But the move led a reporter for the Durham Herald-Sun to write a feature that will run the day before my signing. His wife invited me to speak to a nearby school during my next stop in the area, with accompanying media coverage. From tiny acorns mighty oaks grow, or at least sickly saplings.

I look forward to taking a break this weekend and maybe going camping. Tomorrow, I have to testify before a local zoning board about a condo development near our house. It's been an interesting process, and my experience in journalism has helped me build my case. My job has many invisible benefits, not the least of which is having an excuse to meet a wide variety of strange characters whom I can meld into my fiction.

My interview on the Dragon Page show will air on BookCrazy Radio on Oct. 2 (the entire six-hour show cycles through four times that day) and then on VoiceAmerica on Oct. 4. It also runs on several small AM stations.

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