Monday, May 28, 2007

Crossing the Mississippi

Today was much better, with the sun shining and the cats not caterwauling. We drove to East Memphis, Arkansas and then north into Missouri, where we stopped in New Madrid for a close look at the Mississippi. The view was hazy, but here is one photo:

We passed through mile after mile of flat farmland, and it looked to me as though they were growing crops enough to feed the world. We crossed the river over a single-lane bridge at the point where the Ohio flows into it. There was no place to photograph the confluence of the two rivers, but my, it was impressive. Kentucky lay on the other side, and the landscape promptly goes from flat to gently rolling.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Now we're beyond Hope

We woke up to heavy rains in Dallas this morning. Parts of the city had ten inches overnight, and I read tonight that floods washed an SUV into the Pedernales River and drowned six people. By the time we were underway, the rains were off and on, and conditions gradually improved as we very carefully drove east about 20-30 mph under the speed limit.

The closer we got to Arkansas, the taller and denser were the trees. A portion of our ride reminded us of the old Route 3 heading towards New Hampshire, which used to have a heavily wooded median strip. It's very green down here.

I wanted to see President Clinton's birthplace in Hope, Arkansas, so we took Route 67 off the main highway. Hope is larger than I expected, about 10,000 people. Here is his first home:

All in all, our drive to Little Rock was dull. In the evening I'm trying to keep up with my fiction writing.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Texas wildflowers

We woke up to fog and rain in Midland, with 60-degree temps, not the kind of weather we normally associate with Texas. Our destination for the day was Dallas, which we made easily. The countryside has turned green, with plenty of trees and a slightly rolling landscape.

Texas highways display wildflowers in abundance this time of year. We stopped to take some photos, and here is a sampling:

Friday, May 25, 2007

Are we there yet?

Today, we (two humans and two cats) got into our jam-packed car and departed from Las Cruces to Cape Cod, Massachusetts, a roughly 2500-mile trek. George, our male Bengal, protested from inside his carrier, and I presume he was also speaking on behalf of his more mild-mannered sister Gracie. We made it across West Texas hill country, land of Texas limestone, mesas and buttes, 80-mph speed limits, and lots and lots of nothing much. We'd had rain for a couple of hours, which brought out the strong smell of the creosote bushes. There is something clean and appealing about that smell, even though it reminds me of telephone poles and railroad ties.

Here is a Texaco station where we'd contemplated a quick rest stop. Frankly, their offerings were limited.

Somewhere past Van Horn, the land flattens out into a plain. The land has no trees to speak of, but lots of smaller bushes, and in the towns we begin to see lawns, small but lush. Oil wells begin to dot the countryside, small rigs that bob slowly up and down and look like praying mantises devouring their mates. Then the cities of Odessa and Midland appear, apparently so closely linked that billboards refer to Midessa.

So we are spending our first night in Midland, which proclaims itself "the home of President George W. and Laura Bush." Lacking an invitation to join them, we are staying in a La Quinta Inn.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Toni Causey's very (very, very, very) good debut

I just posted this review of Bobbie Faye's Very (Very, Very, Very) Bad Day on Amazon. The author is Toni McGee Causey, and it's published by St. Martin's Griffin.

Bobbie Faye Sumrall is the type of gal a guy could really be attracted to--in the same way a moth is attracted to a flame. This tart-tongued Cajun's day starts out with the destruction of her trailer and with her accidental parcticipation in a bank robbery, and this is before things start going downhill. Bobbie Faye is Contraband Days queen, and at the center of this insane romp of kidnapping, intrigue, suspicion, threats, car chases, gunfire, voodoo and a string of utter disasters is Bobby Faye's homely tiara. Bad guys want it and will kill to get it, even though it seems to be worthless; Bobbie Faye won't give it up because it represents her family's highest achievement.

Toni Causey's achievement is to pack so much disaster (and laughter) into a single day. Bobbie Faye's Very (Very, Very, Very) Bad Day is a lively, thoroughly enjoyable summer read.

Saturday, May 19, 2007


Recently, online sales of my novel have been slow. I check my Amazon rankings frequently—too frequently for my mental health, probably—and have watched my Amazon sales rankings sink, sink, sink from a high of 125,000 to a low of over 1,000,000. I haven’t shared this pain with my wife, because I know she’ll say what she always says: “Relax. You're supposed to be having fun!” (Nancy has this annoying habit of telling me what I need to know.)

Anyway, during that whole dismal slide, the Amazon message on my book's page said, “Only 4 left in stock—order soon.” That “4” never changed for a couple of weeks. Then tonight after watching a movie I sat down and acted on one of my more harmless compulsions and checked my Amazon ranking. Well, lordamercy, my book had risen to 76,000! The Amazon message said “Only 3 left in stock—order soon.” THEY SOLD ONE BOOK and my ranking rose by about 935,000 places. That's the highest ranking the book's ever had. So I thought at that rate I'll be #1 if only somebody else will buy my book. So, compulsive person that I am, I refreshed the screen and learned that I'd dropped 40,000 places.

Is there a pill to cure my Amazonitis? Don't tell me that I'm supposed to be having fun. I AM having fun, damn it. I AM!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Joel Frey's new book

The other day, I met Joel Frey and his fiancee at an El Paso Writer's League meeting. Joel has written a memoir of his not-so-distant college days, entitled Two Sides of a Cypress Wall. I'm looking forward to buying and reading the book when it's published this summer.

Deming book signing

Here is a nice photo published today in the Deming (NM) Headlight. The caption reads:
'When Pigs Fly'
Bob Sanchez, author of "When Pigs Fly," signs a copy of his book on Friday at the Marshall Memorial Library. Sanchez is a Las Cruces resident and first-time publisher of the crime caper set in the Sonoran Desert. (Matt Robinson/Headlight Photo)

Saturday, May 12, 2007

This Li’l Porker Goes to Market

For years, the idea of self-publishing was anathema to me, all tangled up in my mind with vanity publishing. Serious Writers Don’t Go There, I thought. We are supposed to write our novel and then beg perfect strangers for approval.

But life is too short—and in my family that’s more than a simple cliché. Why waste it chasing after agents and publishers? I decided to make my latest novel, When Pigs Fly, a test case for self-publishing. My friends called my book “the li’l porker,” and it was time to go to market.

Granted, some self-publishing companies give off a bad odor. But research showed that iUniverse has a good combination of quality, reputation and price, so I signed up with them.

For the most part, they’ve done well by me. They have an orderly and businesslike publication process requiring input from the author; in fact, they leave most decisions to the author, the biggest exception being the pricing. For my 300+ page book they selected $18.95. That’s high for a paperback, but apparently not for one printed with print-on-demand (POD) technology.

Is the $18.95 a gating factor for buyers? I think so, but some people are buying it at full price. For a while, Amazon offered it at a 30% discount, but not anymore. iUniverse sells it at full price and always has. I keep a stock in the back of my car for readings I do in the Las Cruces area, and those copies generally go for $15, a price that leaves me a little margin. My goal is not to maximize income, but to maximize readership while recouping the bulk of my expenses.

Before you join me on the self-publishing path, you need to decide on your goals and evaluate companies with those goals in mind. My own goal is to gain a wide readership while earning back my investment. I no longer care about agents or traditional publishing houses, and will almost certainly self-publish any subsequent novels. On the other hand, credibility for my work is important.

Oops. Do "credibility" and "self-publishing" belong in the same paragraph? A lot of people turn up their noses at the whole business as though they were passing a pig sty. Just try to get your book reviewed. Very few people will review your book. Kirkus Discoveries reviewed mine, but I paid them for it. Midwest Book Review specializes in reviewing self-published and small-press books, so they reviewed mine. A couple of other reviews are in the works, and I actively sought out all of them.

Anyway, when my book came out in November 2006 I sent an email to all of my friends and some of my old neighbors and acquaintances. I tried to use a light tone in keeping with that of the book, so I made silly but true statements along the lines of "It'll make you laugh, but won't improve your love life." It was a reasonably effective launch to my most likely market niche, and sales got off to a good start.

Also, I converted my personal website into a platform for promoting WPF, though driving traffic to that site is an ongoing conundrum. An inexpensive Google ad seems to make a small difference.

It's not clear how much help Amazon reviews are for sales, but I solicited friends to post reviews if they liked the book. Right now I have 14 reviews, 12 of which are there because I asked for them. Mind you, not everyone values Amazon reviews, because they are assumed to be biased.

It's hard to gauge my online sales in the short term, as iUniverse reporting lags two months behind (they have to wait for reports from Amazon, etc.). So sales reporting is one area where I'm not completely satisfied with iUniverse.

Selling books directly is quite satisfying. So far, my sales in signing events have averaged five books-modest, but the interaction is fun. The other day I even turned down a sale, because a lady who hadn't heard me read wanted a copy for her 13-year-old granddaughter. I explained about the profanity ("only a little") and adult situations, and we agreed my book was a bad choice for a child. The nice lady was probably thinking it was like Charlotte's Web. But then other customers give me a big smile and say how much they're looking forward to the read, and that personal interaction I'd miss if only bookstores and websites carried the li’l porker.

(The above article appeared in the May 2007 issue of The SouthWest Sage, published by SouthWest Writers.)

On the road in Deming, New Mexico

Yesterday I drove to a book signing in Deming, New Mexico, an hour west of Las Cruces across desolate desert landscape. The Marshall Library hosted my quiet little event, which despite local publicity and a large outdoor marquee that read, "Bob Sanchez -- Author Book Signing May 11," attracted only two librarians and a local newspaper photographer. So I sat and read the first chapter of When Pigs Fly to a pair of very nice ladies, and I sold two books. I also donated one copy, so the event was a financial loss. Big deal. It was fun.

According to a local resident, Deming is a city with no "nice" neighborhoods, only those that are tolerable and those that aren't. Methamphetamines and housebreakings are apparently a big problem there, and there is some spillover of violence from Palomas, Mexico, about 30 miles to the south. (In Palomas this week, five people were murdered, including one person who arrived at U.S. Customs in a bullet-riddled car.) Well, this all came as a surprise to me, as I'd pictured Deming as just a sleepy little burg.

So my novel travels ever so slowly toward immortality, one lonely copy at a time.

(Oh, by the way, the Marshall Library has a display of YA books, which prominently includes copies of The Killing Sea by Richard Lewis, my online acquaintance who lives in Bali, Indonesia--which, if it isn't paradise, it's the next island over.)

Sunday, May 06, 2007

My Pig Squadron

Here are flying pigs friends have given me since my novel came out. These winged wonders occupy a place of honor on my desk.