Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Friends make East Side signing enjoyable

Heading back to the East Side, albeit on "OSM" or Other Side of Mack, in this case, the side growing up I could only dream of, was really a great experience. The signing at the Barnes & Noble tonight was more than exciting, it was fulfilling. Don't get me wrong, I'm still THRILLED--nay, tickled--that anyone finds my stuff interesting enough to merit shelling out hard-earned bucks for it, but to take the time to come out specifically for me to sign it? That's not only humbling, but it's a great honor and a real thrill. I was able to meet a really nice woman named Ann Marie who had corresponded with me a few months ago. If you're reading this ANN Marie, it was brought to my attention that I added an "e" to your name that doesn't belong. My apologies. This was brought to my attention by another fine woman, also named ANNE Marie, who happens to be pals with the aforementioned A.M. Another couple folks came out, friends from the ad business. Tom Kozak, a talented artist and former art director from the Detroit Ad scene, wandered in and lent his support. It was great to catch up with him and hear that he and his wife have their own marketing/pr/art business and are doing great. Andy Ayrault, one of the funniest men I've ever been around, stopped by with his beautiful wife Kim and their 14 children. OK, I embellished; they have four kids--TWO SETS OF TWINS! And if you have ever seen Andy and Kim, they're like 7 foot tall, so collectively they have maybe 14 normal kids' worth of kids, if you know what I'm saying. My sisters Janet and Nancy came out as well as my bro-in-law, Paul. Always nice to have familial support. And lastly, my best friend growing up, Russ Beigas (see pic from summer), had a sixth sense that he'd be seeing me, and made the trip to Grosse Pointe. "Rusty" is one of the true great guys I've known in my life, and whenever we see each other, which is too infrequent, it's like we never miss a beat. I grew up mere miles from that bookstore, and it was a strange sensation being there with a guy I spent so much time with as a kid, playing baseball, riding bikes and endless hours drawing pictures. Even though he doesn't own an email address, I want to say, "Thanks Rusty. You're the greatest."

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Barnes & Noble signing, Grosse Pointe Wednesday

Hey everyone. I'll be at the Barnes & Noble on Mack Ave tomorrow, from 6-8, signing only. If you're out that way, please stop by and say hello. Signings can be very lonely, at least for hacks like yours truly. So if you're looking for last minute holiday gifts for the 16+ loved one in your life, here's your chance. Or just come by and make fun of me.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Detroit Noir worth losing sleep over

Sometimes I work way too late. Like until 2, or 3 am. Most of the time by the end of the week, all I want to do is check out at around 11 and sleep until 10 in the ayem.
Yeah, right.
What usually happens is I'm off to one of my girls' (or all three) swim meet, usually out of the house by 7 in the morning. So the thought of working all day coloring animatic frames then high-tailing it to Birmingham tonight for a 7 pm book reading wasn't at the top of the list of things to rejuvenate my weary bones. But man am I glad I went. I was able to meet two extremely talented authors who until this point were either voices on a telephone or email pals. They being Michael Zadoorian (he wrote the wonderful Second Hand) and Dorene O'Brien (she wrote Voices of the Lost and Found, among other things). The two of them, along with Roger K. Johnson (his story in Detroit Noir is Hey, Love) and Craig Bernier (his contribution to Noir is Migration)read excerpts of their stories. It was really exciting to hear four distinctly different voices express their vision of the city, and the people that inhabit it. There are many other stories in the book, from authors I've heard of and some I haven't, but what I find fascinating is that the two editors, E.J. Olson and John C. Hocking, had enough drive and vision to contact the Akashic folks (the publisher) and say, "Hey man, what's the deal? How can you have a noir series and not include the D?" They convinced Akashic that they were the two men to edit it, and we're all the richer for it. A book like this will inspire more fiction from local authors looking for an outlet. The readings were spirited, touching, funny and sad, sort of the feeling I get thinking of my old neighborhood on the city's East Side. I had my book signed by the four authors who read as well as the editors. It was also noteworthy that all the authors were students of WSU professor Christopher T. Leland, who was also in attendance. There was a great crowd, and I think everyone left feeling that it was an evening well spent. Dorene O'Brien, whose book I'm devouring right now, read an excerpt from her contribution, Honesty Above All Else. The stories from her collection of short stories are dark, startling and at times absolutely haunting, and seeing this woman and meeting her in person, it was hard to picture her putting those words on paper. I always find it amazing what disparate images can come from the soul of artists whose exteriors do not match their words. Mike read a touching and witty, The Lost Tiki Palaces of Detroit, with verve and the adman in him was just below the surface. Pick up the book and let me know what you think. Maybe if we're lucky, some of us will get a chance to submit to Detroit Noir, Volume 2. A special shout out to Andrew Brown, an author whose work fits perfectly into that setting. With a little luck and hard work, he'll probably be published nationally before Akashic decides to Call for Entries on DN II.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Sunshine in November

I feel fortunate and blessed to be able to make a living doing something I love. After 20 years in commercial art & design sales, 18 of them at a leading Detroit creative studio, being employed as a staff artist, and having the chance to draw every day keeps me invigorated and aware of how important it is to take the gifts God gives us, even if we're not the best in our field. By using them every day, they become stronger, just like any muscle when we try to stay in shape (something I've struggled with since the onset of children). So even on a dreary day like today started out as, I feel alive and connected to the world, because that part of my soul that needs creativity feels sated. Hope all of you out there are making the effort to continue developing the gift within you that makes you unique. JB

Friday, November 9, 2007

The conundrum of bookstore support

I received an email from a friend and bookstore owner, Pamela Grath today, that offered an article that appeared in todays issue of Shelf Awareness, a newsletter for booksellers. It was somewhat scathing in reference to authors posting an Amazon link on their websites for their book, but no link to The article contained some comments from independent bookstores that offered various reasons why links to indies should also be on their website's home page. An overwhelming theme was to not only give consumers a choice as to where to spend their money, but also to highlight an obvious dilemma; why should we, as indies, prop up you authors and not get a little love in return? It got me thinking how confused I am as a just-published author. My publisher, Momenum Books, is a regional press out of Troy, Michigan. They've set me up with signings at both indie stores and chains such as Barnes & Noble and Borders, throughout the northwestern part of Michigan and the Detroit area. New to the game, I asked many times if I should direct people intrerested in buying the book to go to the chains, the indies or Amazon. The answer is always Amazon. This is because sales flow on the web, especially for a regional book (Eight Dogs Named Jack is available only in Michigan and parts of Ohio) attract the distributors to make bulk purchases from the publisher. What's even more confusing is that the indies oftentimes order their books from these same DISTRIBUTORS!
But I confess, that my homepage ( lacks links to indies. It's got the ol' Amazon logo right there, ready to be clicked on and direct folks outside of Michigan (that was my intent) to my Amazon page (currently plum full of 7 reviews). I do list Dog Ears as a favorite link, but that's on my bio page.
I will soon be making an adjustment to my home page. I am going to actively seek out the indies that carry my book and return the favor by posting their website links on my HP.
However, here's another interesting side-bar. I was recently fortunate enough to have a story from the book, Measure of a Man, exerpted in Traverse Magazine's November issue. The magazine has a 50-state subscribership, but primarily appeals to the upper northern part of the lower penninsula. So I was puzzled that a couple of indies up there refused to carry a display sign that reads, "As featured in Traverse Magazine." But the lack of support is not limited to the indies. There's the Borders by my house, less than 3 miles away, and that I have a signing at in November. My book is there on an "order-only" basis, yet the Borders on the East Side of the city featured my book prominently displayed next to some little-known thing titled, "Harry Potter and the something-something" (tongue totally wedged in cheek). People in my community that want to support me, and the local economy, by buying the book from a local bookstore (I know it's a chain, but a few indies don't stock my book) can't do so as readily as clicking on Amazon and getting it delivered to their door.
Man, all I'm trying to do is write stories and sell enough books to get the next one published. It gets to be crazy, confusing, and zaps the energy out of you.
Neal Rubin, a local columnist, told me upon a garbled congratulations for being published, that he'd love to have a book and not have to do any signings. I am totally down with what he means.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Support local authors: Buy Detroit Noir

A friend of mine, Pamela Grath, who owns Dog Ears Books and runs the Painted Horse Gallery in Northport (visit her blog at connected me with Dorene O'Brien. Dorene's compelling book of short stories (Voices of the Lost and Found-Wayne State University Press) is a must read for anyone who wants to discover an original voice from someone who knows how to lay it down. Dorene and another local author of note, Michael Zadoorian, known for his debut and excellent book, Second Hand (Dell) are included in Akashic Books' latest Noir series, Detroit Noir. Dorene mentioned in a recent email that some of the authors will be at local readings/signings in the area. I look forward to one coming soon at the Borders in Birmingham. Below is a description of Detroit Noir from the Amazon page:

Book Description
From crime stories in the classic hard-boiled style to the vividly experimental, from the determination of those risking everything to the desperation of those with nothing left to lose, Detroit Noir delivers unforgettable tales that capture the city's dark vitality.

Includes stories by: Joyce Carol Oates, Loren D. Estleman, Craig Holden, P.J. Parrish, Desiree Cooper, Nisi Shawl, M.L. Liebler, Craig Bernier, Joe Boland, Megan Abbott, Dorene O'Brien, Lolita Hernandez, Peter Markus, Roger K. Johnson, Michael Zadoorian, and E.J. Olsen.

Give it a try.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Eight Dogs a finalist in the USABookNews Awards

The publisher let me know that 8DNJ was selected as a finalist in the USABookNews Awards, Fiction, Short Story category. My first reaction to this news (after, "is there a cash prize?") was the old, "Any organization that would give me an award is one I wouldn't want to belong to." But then I got to thinking, even though I have absolutely no idea what the USABook News is, I'm sort of happy that they selected my book as a finalist. So I thank you USABN, wherever you are.