Friday, September 19, 2008

Seven Wheelchairs

Yesterday my copy of Seven Wheelchairs arrived by UPS, and I promptly read the first five chapters. This is the new and compelling memoir by Gary Presley, who contracted polio almost fifty years ago and has been wearing out wheelchairs ever since. Never mind that Gary is a friend of mine; this dude can write. Gilion Dumas has written an excellent review for The Internet Review of Books.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Gila Cliff Dwellings

This article recently appeared in Southwest Senior.

Gila Cliff Dwellings:
Ancient beauty within easy reach

By Bob Sanchez

Apparently, the Mogollon valued privacy.

If so, they found the right place in the remote and rugged terrain north of present-day Silver City. For about a hundred years around the thirteenth century, they lived on the relative safety of a cliffside near the banks of the Gila River. The Mogollon (pronounced muguhYON) eventually moved on for unknown reasons, perhaps joining and blending with the Apache and other groups. Whites rediscovered the caves in 1878, and by 1884 looted many of the remaining artifacts. Yet plenty of evidence remains of human activity: stone walls, areas for cooking and food preparation, and forty large rooms.

About six hundred years after the Mogollon departure, my wife and I decided to visit these Gila Cliff Dwellings. Friends told us they had made the trip, leaving Las Cruces at 6 a.m. and returning at 10 p.m. Ouch. That didn’t sound like a day trip to us.

We delayed our visit until we purchased our RV, then did a little web research that turned up Doc Campbell’s RV site in Gila Hot Springs, only a short distance from the dwellings. We eagerly planned our first trip. Of course we could have driven our car and stayed in a motel. Silver City is about 42 miles away, making it a good jumping-off point. A couple of small, no-frills campsites are also available between the Visitor’s Center and the trailhead. My wife and I chose to stay at Doc Campbell’s, with hookups for electricity, water, and—does life get any better than this?—a sewer connection. (To borrow a title from Willa Cather: O Pioneers!)

The round trip from Las Cruces is only 300 miles, but parts of the route are slow going. We took I-10 to Deming, Route 180 north to Routes 152, 35, and finally, 15. This allowed us to bypass the tricky part of Route 15 that is closed to vehicles longer than 20 feet because of the narrow road and sharp bends. That excluded us and our 25-foot RV, and it kept us from seeing Pinos Altos, which may be a good overnight stop for auto travelers with its Bear Creek Motel and Cabins. But even if you’re driving your car, be careful on that lower part of Route 15. An email correspondent told me that on the same day we went, he drove that stretch in his car and got stuck by trying to turn around on a hairpin turn, resulting in a 2-1/2 hour delay until help arrived.

Not that the rest of Route 15 is a superhighway; it’s slow and winding, but worth it. Stop at the Visitor’s Center for information and books, or drive directly to the parking lot at the trailhead. From there you can see the magnificent cliffs. You’ll pay a nominal admission charge of $3 per person (cash and exact change required), unless you have a Golden Age pass. Knowledgeable volunteer docents cheerfully answer questions and chat with visitors. Twice daily, they offer free guided tours beginning at the dwellings. Just cross a footbridge over the Gila River, and you’re on your way.

The trail is a one-mile walk with log steps and a series of footbridges that criss-cross a mountain brook among ponderosa pines, cactus, piñon, junipers, and Douglas fir. Though the walk is easy enough, the trail rises 180 feet, including one steep section. Benches are available along the way in case you tire, and you may find a walking stick helpful.

It takes only a few minutes to get your first glance at the ancient cliff dwellings. They are a marvel—no structure could be stronger than a series of caves shielded by several hundred feet of sheer cliff. It’s made of a congomerate spewed out about 28,000,000 years ago by a pair of volcanoes.

It’s easy to see the appeal, having an isolated location well-protected from elements and enemies, with access to water and wildlife. The Mogollon created forty rooms inside the six caves, and the people were probably quite safe from wild animals. They hunted and fished, grew corn, beans, and squash. Yucca proved to be a versatile resource for food, material for sandals, needles, and even soap. Archaeologists estimate the dates of the Mogollon cliff occupation to be from 1270 to 1300 AD based on close examination of artifacts left behind, for example, analyzing core samples of the wood in the vegas.

Less easy to see is why they left after living in the area for only a century. Drought, perhaps? Over the centuries, other people used the caves for brief periods and then left. The Chiricahua Apache once lived in the area until the United States forced them onto reservations in the 1880s. In 1907, Congress and President Theodore Roosevelt established the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument and the Gila National Forest. If you’d like to learn more before your trip, see the Park Service’s website. On that website, be sure to click the “History & Culture” tab, which leads to the boring-sounding “Administrative History.” Don’t let the drab title fool you. This has plenty of additional information, including useful sketches of the dwellings.

During the summer, the trail to the dwellings is open from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m., and you have to be off the trail by 7 p.m. Hours vary by season, so check the website or call 575-536-9461 if you’re visiting another time of the year. The Park Service advises visitors to wear sturdy clothing and to bring water.

If you live in Las Cruces, be sure to visit the Gila Cliff Dwellings at least once in your life. You’ll see a place of serene beauty that thrived in a time before recorded history.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Thinking outside the bookstore

Here is another set of notes from a Penny Sanseveri teleconference, this one entitled “Book Signing Gold.” Again, she knows I am posting this information. Penny owns Author Marketing Experts and provided this information for free. Thank you, Penny.

Book signings are boring. Where you spend your time selling books is important. Selling eight books at a signing is pretty average.

People don’t want to be sold. They want to know what is in it for them to buy and read the book. Think outside the bookstore. Bookstores don’t like authors blanketing the area. The first event you have is good for 90 percent of your audience. Subsequent events yield less.

Friends and relatives don’t always buy your book.

Seasonal angles allow you to plan events. If a bookstore has a newsletter, try to get into it—at end of the month if possible, to maximize your exposure in the issue. Contribute to the newsletter if that is possible. If a bookstore has a community relations manager, that is the person to contact. For self-published authors, it may be necessary to leave copies on consignment.

Specialty stores are good. When you make arrangements, send a confirmation letter including info on how to obtain or reorder copies of the book. If possible, find out who is on their media list.

A 2-3 hour session is good, as well as a 20-30 minute talk.

Barnes & Noble stores sometimes have an “author’s night.” Try to partner with them.

Consider collaborating with another author on a “buddy system.” event. Mixing genres is okay. Consider promotional items such as bookmarks, bag stuffers, etc.

Spread out signings in a given area over time.

Build a relationship with the stores. Be friendly.

Regional promotion can be very helpful.

Publishers buy shelf space and floor space in bookstores.

Penny will also offer an event concerning signings outside the bookstore.

Stores may do some posters, but they often allow you to put up your own.

Instead of requesting a review by local media, pitch an idea for a feature. Signings can be used to generate local media attention.

Rule of Seven: You need 7 exposures to get people to recognize and purchase the book.

If you have a newsletter, make sure people sign up for it.

Craigs List is a great place to post free events. On the day of an event, fax the media’s assignment desk, and let them know why people should attend.

Bring copies of your book in your car. Don’t assume that copies of your book will be available at an event. Bring your own copies just in case someone forgot to order. “Autographed by author“ stickers are worthwhile. Autographed books are a great gift idea.

Always show up early and stay late at events. Marketing is about movement and message. You do not necessarily have to read a chapter of your book; you can always talk about the craft of writing. Be really creative. Passion sells. Be engaged in your topic. Show you believe in it. Record yourself for the first few sessions. Don't overwhelm the audience with info. Keep presentations simple. Practice. Get honest critiques before hand.

The best way to sell a book is to talk about it. You can even sell at Starbucks—best to go through the local stores rather than through Corporate.

Be sure to send thank-you notes.

Typical discounts: 40% at bookstores, and 20% at non-bookstore events.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Red Sox fan endorses When Pigs Fly

Die-hard Red Sox fan and booster of the arts Dave Douillette recently found his mother Ruth’s copy of When Pigs Fly and intends to bring it with him to college, where he hopes it will fulfill his lit requirement. “This is an awesome book,” the sophomore said, noting the tome’s heft and bright colors. “I definitely might read it.”

Mr. Douillette reportedly asked his mother what was in it for him if he allowed her to take his picture with the celebrated book. Ms. Douillette denied coercing her son. Meanwhile, New Mexico author Bob Sanchez brushed aside allegations that he paid in the low single figures for the prized endorsement. “All I promised was a link back to Ruth’s great blog,” he insisted.