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An exhausting weekend rehashed

For once, I'm not blogging about books today. I've had a brutally exhausting and emotional weekend, and I'd like to share it with you.

We had our 46th Annual St. Bernard's Summer Carnival this past weekend. The proceeds of the carnival go to the operations of the school. The normal operating days of the event are Wednesday through Saturday and have been since the late 1980s. Before it was the carnival, we called it the bazaar; it was open for three days, Thursday through Saturday, back before inflation. We opened on Sunday during the early 1990s, but it didn't turn out to be remarkably profitable. We consider the carnival to be a kick off to summer in our area; it's a chance for the school kids to see each other before people go away from summer vacations, etc. We usually conclude it with fireworks.

I've been the so-called "carnival barker" since high school. I work the school-based side, talking about the carnival rides as well as the food, attractions, and fireworks. I'm kinda like an institution there, since I've been the announcer for so long. People expect me to be there. And even though I'm 34, it's a chicken vs. egg situation; "What came first, the carnival or Sean?" More on that in a bit.

On Wednesday and Thursday, we were washed out due to rain; my Facebook page was bombarded with local folks wondering if the Carnival was on or off on those days. We didn't even open the doors. We have never, in the 46 years of the carnival, been washed out two days in a row. I've been attending it since I was 4, working it since I was 13, and announcing it since I was 15. We've had days where we've opened and closed early because of rain; that happens. But two days in a row? After Thursday, I thought we were in trouble. Using my knowledge of what we've done in the past, we were in, on average, a $15,000 hole. That's a huge amount during a four-day carnival. We managed to salvage something out of Friday, but we closed an hour and a half early due to, you guessed it, rain. We can't control the weather. We also decided to add Sunday in, as the weather was supposed to be better. As I said, we haven't opened on a Sunday since before I graduated high school.

After writing a good 1,300 or so words in the new short story I'm writing for Bruce Sarte's second holiday horror anthology, I went down to the carnival grounds on Saturday. Saturday was supposed to be bad, weather-wise. I was seriously wondering if anyone would show up. However, the sun managed to show itself and we had a decent crowd... until the rain started falling in sheets at about 7:30. We called the fireworks off and closed at 9:30, a whole 90 minutes early.

I wasn't expecting anything for Sunday. I said that if there were no people there by 5 (we were slated to be open from 1-9), I'd go home; there would be no reason for me to be there if I had no one there to tell what was going on. But around 4:30, people started showing up. By 5, we had a small throng. By 6, we had a good sized crowd, the dunk tank and pan game were hopping, and we were busy at the concession stand. I got my second wind and I stayed.

In addition, we were doing so well that by 8:30, we were contemplating staying open another hour, which we ended up doing. Afterward, I cracked open a couple of Coors Lights and we toasted the carnival's closing for another year.

So all in all, despite the hassles with the weather and having no fireworks (we only have a one-day license), I'd say our carnival was successful.


Like I said, I've been doing this carnival for just a little over half of my life. I went to school there for two years, fourth and fifth grade. Of course, I want to see the carnival succeed. I just find it odd that other than a small, core group of parents and teachers, the carnival is practically on life support, support-wise.

I give four days to the carnival every year. I'm there from half an hour before we open to half an hour after we close. The carnival, as I said, helps the school. Parents working the carnival receive a discount on their children's tuition, better known as the incentive. Yet over the past decade, our carnival has shrunk from a full offering -- I literally could list everything that we had and do so in a 15-minute rotation; now it takes me less than three minutes, two minutes if I speak fast -- to food, fried dough, a dunk tank and kiddie games under the big top. No more gambling, no more beer tent (the last time we had the beer tent was 1997, when I was 20... we also got rid of it for insurance reasons), no more basketball shoot, no more raffles.

Why has it shrunk? Yep, that's right. A lack of support from the parents.

The carnival helps the school. When the core group of parents leave, who will take it over? If we don't have new parents taking this over and supporting the carnival, the carnival will, more than likely, cease to exist. If the carnival ceases to exist, the school and PTO will either a. need to find new revenue streams that would have to generate, at the very least, $50,000 every year, or b. close altogether. St. Bernard's Elementary would unfortunately go the way of the dodo, Holy Family, Julie Country Day, and St. Joseph's.

For those of you in Fitchburg/Leominster reading this, you'll know exactly what I mean by that last sentence.

So my question is this: Why do I care about this so much when a good portion of the parents could care less? Why do I do all of this when I don't have an incentive to being there? I have no kids in that school. Why should I give up 26 hours of my time, spread over four days, when I could be covering a game or, just as productively, working on a book, when the people with kids there would rather just write the tuition check than take advantage of the incentive?

I wish I had an answer.

I've selflessly given 21/22 weeks -- just four weeks shy of half a year in real time -- of my life to this carnival. I'd like to see the carnival get to 50 years. It would mean I'd be at 25/26 years of service, second only to the principal and his wife. I have great memories of this event, going all the way back to my elementary school days.

Do I think it will get to 50? As I look upon the past weekend, I'm not too optimistic. There is thunderous death knell tolling over the carnival, and I don't want to see it take its last gasps.


Take a trip inside my mind

The mind of an author is an exciting place. Inside are the ideas of millions of stories, each yearning -- sometimes begging -- to be released to the world. Sometimes there are swashbuckling tales of heroism and piracy; others are more romance in nature. Pick up any book by any author, and you can look inside their heart and soul with every turn of the page or every click of the Kindle arrow.

And then there's my mind.

Inside my mind at this very moment are a tale of terror in a big U.S. city; a tale of a private investigator in Colonial Boston; of a young couple from different backgrounds in 1962 Boston as a wrecking ball looms; of a high school football coach who has gone overboard on the high life in Los Angeles; of a New York City rapidly changed... and so much more.

Would you like to see how my mind processes these things, these ideas, onto the computer screen? Join me... I promise you a fun ride.


Sometimes, I surprise even myself...

Minor spoiler alert here.

Today's sign that I made a smart decision in publishing MODEL AGENT before ROGUE AGENT, especially since I wrote MA after I wrote RA: There is a scene in ROGUE AGENT where a Queens Park Rangers F.C. fan tells Jaclyn and her partner that he doesn't follow the Premier League, since QPR is in the Football League Championship, the level below the Premier League in the English football pyramid.

A quick glance at the current Championship table indicates that QPR is about ready to secure promotion to the Premier League for the 2011-12 season.

That means a quickie edit is called for -- of course, I could leave it the way it is and hope QPR gets relegated after a year in the Premier League, since the book is set two weeks before the start of the 2012-13 season.

Decisions, decisions.


My thoughts on Amanda Hocking's deal

First of all, a disclaimer. I consider Amanda Hocking a friend. Not only a peer in this author thing, but a friend. A-Money and I are part of a little writer's clique called The Indie Author Mafia, which includes several of today's top Indie authors. In the time that I've known her, I've found that Amanda is a true lady. She's humble, talented, and not only that, she's one of the nicest people you'd ever want to sit down and talk with about anything -- except American football. Nosireebob, Amanda doesn't like the throwball. But seriously.

That being said, I don't speak for Amanda. I don't represent her. But as her friend, I have to defend her. I have no qualms in saying this: I am truly happy for Amanda and her new publishing deal with St. Martin's Press. For those of you who aren't, and are questioning her for doing such a thing, well shame on you.

There's been plenty of talk about the blogosphere today about what this means. Some are decrying her for "selling out." Some are saying that it just means traditional publishing is the way to go, and that Barry Eisler is off his rocker for turning down $500,000 from -- stop me if you've heard of these guys before -- St. Martin's Press to self-publish his new two-book set.

Let's cut to the chase right away. It means this: Amanda is doing what she feels is best for her career, much like Barry feels saying thanks but no thanks to SMP earlier this week. She doesn't want to wear all the hats that we in the self-pub side of publishing do. She wants to write, and she'll let Steven Axelrod, a man she trusts, and her new staff take care of everything else. The people at St. Martin's have treated her like gold.

Now, for those of you putting her down for this... seriously: who wouldn't take what she earned (that's in italics for a reason) for her new series? Four books with a MAJOR New York publisher with an advance in excess of $2 million. Seriously? People are riding her ass because of this? Seriously?

Quick aside: Amanda writes in her blog that it's not about the money. With her, it's definitely not about the money. She's made plenty. The money just happens to be a pretty effing sweet perk of the deal.

Put yourself in Amanda's shoes. Would YOU, in Amanda's place, with her already large readership that grows exponentially by the minute, turn down a four-book deal worth more money than you would ever see in your lifetime? Would you, in Amanda's place, turn down a deal that would put you in front of a whole new segment of READERS (remember, it's the readers that we do this for) that had, until this week, never heard of her/you?

If you answer no to any of these questions, you need to make an appointment with your psychiatrist. Tout suite. I don't care if this pisses people off. You're crazy if you think she shouldn't do this.

I repeat: Who wouldn't take that? I certainly would. Dangle in excess of $2 million -- and let me keep my merchandising and film rights (George Lucas taught me well) -- in front of my nose, with the opportunity to reach many more readers than I am reaching now, and yes, I would sign that deal, and then pull a Roger Clemens, misremembering anything I said in the past about self-publishing over traditional. For $2 million, definitely. For $1 million, definitely. For that number, I'd be a brainless buffoon to turn it down.

Quick aside No. 2: Baseball season starts in seven days, and if you think that and taking a swipe at Roger Clemens in the same sentence puts a smile on my face, well, you know me too well.

Amanda's writing is worth that much. She worked her ass off. She put out some pretty solid books; paranormal romance is hot. She became the darling, her books took off, and boom! a publishing deal has landed in her lap. Good for her! I do not blame her one bit. Take the money and run, kiddo.


Amanda said on her blog that she has several more books that she will self-publish even before this new deal kicks in. Perfect. This news will help her self-published titles, new and old.

She has the already built-in fan base of over one million books sold for nine books. Pretty damn sweet if you ask me. More than likely, those people who bought those books will buy her new self-pubbed titles. With the news of her new deal, those who read the New York Times (and the LA Times, which also followed her path to this contract) will want to know what Amanda Hocking is all about. They'll either a. Buy a Kindle or a Nook, or b. download the Kindle/Nook app for their iPhone, iPod Touch, BlackBerry, Android, PC or Mac, and then c. buy/read Amanda's books. She will have new fans, and those fans will buy the new books -- regardless of price -- starting in 2012 when her deal with St. Martin's kicks in. Amanda will more than likely earn that advance out, and will make St. Martin's plenty of money to recoup its investment in Amanda's work.

In all seriousness, she's in a position that many of us would consider a soggy dream come true. Let's stop the jealousy, stop wondering if this is a sucker punch for indie publishing, and let's just be happy for Amanda. She deserves this.

And who knows? Maybe this will happen to one of us someday. Just work hard like Amanda Hocking, and the world is at your feet.


Cleaning out the writing closet

I've been rather quiet on the blogging front lately. Of course, I've been on a blog tour, hitting several different book blogs, getting the word out about MODEL AGENT, which is quickly turning into my best-received book of the eight novels I have out now. More on the eighth book in a bit.

Last weekend, I started doing some serious edits to the remaining two Obloeron prequels. Of course, Estee was finishing up the first. I managed to get the next two books edited for voice, the second one sent to Estee for a full edit after she sent me the first, and with the exception of ROGUE AGENT and ROYAL SWITCH, I can declare my editing backlog cleaned out. I'm still awaiting beta reader notes on ROYAL SWITCH, but there's no rush on those.

To me, that means I can get ready to start working on new projects.

I start brainstorming Vam Yankees tomorrow.


In the past few weeks I've also written a couple of short stories, including a horror short story that will be featured in an anthology this November, as well as a baseball flash fiction (500 words) story that will appear on Karen Wojcik Berner's Bibliophilic Blather blog on April 8, which is Opening Day at Fenway Park.

And last but not least... drum roll, please... THE RISE OF THE DARK FALCON, the first Obloeron prequel, is now live on both Kindle and Nook! It's published under the name Sean Sweeney, not John Fitch V. Keep that in mind.

Until next time, happy reading.


A song for the Indie Authors out there

A little something for the holiday I made up and stole from Budweiser. Of course, Budweiser is a trademark of Anheuser Busch, St. Louis MO). This is dedicated to my fellow authors who congregate at Kindleboards.com.

Bud Light presents Real Men of Genius... (Real Men of Geniussss) Today we salute you, Mr. and Mrs. Kindleboards Author.

(Mr and Mrs Kindleboards Authorrrr)

You give the proverbial middle finger to New York publishing, because you're too good for "traditional" book houses.

(Up yours, Agency Model)

Names like Fitch, Dalglish, McAfee, Arenson, Hocking, Victorine and Imogen -- folks who are willing to do the grunt work of getting their prize winning work out to the masses, because they don't want to grow up and get a real job.

(I ain't deliverin' no pizza)

Uploading and clicking publish may kill puppies to some people, but it's making the big shots in Manhattan channel their inner Darth Vader (Noooooooooooooo!) and go on killing rampages because you're putting them out of business.

(Gutenburg's wee-eeeping)

So go on with your bad self, indie author, crack open a Bud Light and rack up those Christmas sales, because without you, there would be thousands o' readers complaining about carpal-tunnel this holiday season.

(Mr and Mrs Kindleboards Authorrrrrr)

Merry Christmas, everyone.

John's Amazon Author Central US page
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History in TBTC could repeat itself

Everyone and their grandmother know I'm not a fan of the New York Yankees. After all, I was born in Massachusetts and have lived here all my life, which means I'm a die-hard Red Sox fan.

But with the Yankees now trailing Texas 3-1 in the 2010 American League Championship Series, it does look bleak for the Bronx Bombers, doesn't it?

Yep. You're nodding along.

I think otherwise.

I offer you this snippet from TURNING BACK THE CLOCK, which I wrote four years ago (and will celebrate the first anniversary of its release next weekend; I also have a 50 percent off sale on the ebook version at Smashwords with coupon code KU34T... ebook will be $1.49). It takes place during game seven of the 2003 ALCS:

In this big game, things started out well for Greg and his buddies: the Red Sox jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the second inning after Nixon homered to right field and Jason Varitek scored on an error. Two innings later, Kevin Millar made it 4-0 with a leadoff solo home run. By that point, Greg was high-fiving his friends and the people around him — Boston had a comfortable lead, and it looked like it would be smooth sailing.

But this was the Yankees, and no one in that bar counted them out.

In the bottom of the fifth, Jason Giambi led off the inning by teeing off on a Martinez fastball to cut the lead to 4-1. Two innings later, Giambi did it again, this time with two outs. Pedro then allowed an infield single and then a single to right, and by that point, fingers began to cross throughout the bar. Some put their hands together and brought them up to their faces, their lips barely touching their index fingers. They were deep in prayer, hoping that Pedro would get out of the jam.

Minutes later, they all began to exhale, as Martinez struck Soriano out. Greg led the clapping parade as Pedro walked off the mound toward the Boston dugout. He pointed to the sky, and everyone clapped even louder.

“Yes! We’re going to the World Series!” Tony said. “It’s about time, and our drought will come to an end.”

“Don’t get ahead of ourselves,” Greg cautioned before taking a small sip of beer. “We still have two innings to play.”

Tony looked at Greg askance, as if he couldn’t believe what he had heard.

“Are you kidding? We have them on the ropes!”

After another sip, Greg looked at him and asked, “Do you trust this bullpen?”

Tony grimaced. He knew Greg was right about that Red Sox bullpen; they couldn’t be counted on. The Boston bullpen had been a teeter-totter all season, and in what could be the pivotal game of the season, Greg certainly didn’t seem to want to rely on them.

Of course, the Yankees came back to win that game and broke Boston's hearts. I shall now proceed to bang myself over the head with a dull spade.

What does TBTC have to do with this year's series? It means you can't count the Yankees out of any situation.
It may be 3-1, but when the two teams take the field for a playoff matinee Wednesday (Seriously? Matinee baseball in October? Since when?), I expect the Yankees to close the gap and send the series back to Texas.

And no, Lady Estee did not make me write this. Just sharing my thoughts and a little history with you.

John's Amazon Author Central US page
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Random book stuff from Johnny's staycation

The past couple of weeks, I've been on a staycation from sportswriting. From novel writing, not so much.

A little more than a week and a half ago, I was sound asleep. A vision popped into my head of a gun fight in an office building. I had to vault from bed and write what I saw down, and that became part of the concept for my next novel, which I will begin writing in about a week.

In addition, I took a day trip to Boston in relation to this project, just to get a few details down; if you happened through Boston and saw a goateed individual wearing an Arsenal shirt and carrying a legal pad on a clipboard, yeah, that was me.

On the train ride in, I wrote two pages of plot for my second YA novel; I finished it up the other day. Hopefully I have enough material for a full YA novel, or else it'll be a novella. If you're keeping track at home, that's my next two novel projects, all outlined in less than two weeks.

And earlier this afternoon, I wrote up an outline for a short story that I will probably write tomorrow.

That's the fun for me for now. Hope you're reading something fun, preferably by me or one of my friends.

John's Amazon Author Central page
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In a 72-hour span, yours truly has been humbled no less than twice. One was a lesson in overestimation. The second was an awe-inspiring experience that every author wishes for.

On Thursday evening, I drove down to my old haunt of Southbridge, Mass. for a book discussion and reading of TURNING BACK THE CLOCK. I set up the reading a couple of months ago, and I thought that with my base in that town -- I was the sports editor at the Southbridge Evening News for a year, and I also broadcast local games -- would fill the Jacob Edwards Library's Reading Room with people that I hadn't seen in a couple of years. I always felt I had been appreciated during my tenure, working hard to promote youth sports and the like.

I got there at about 5:45 p.m. and was greeted warmly by librarian Margaret Morrissey, a lovely Irish woman, and by Ashley Malouin, who set up the event; it turns out Ashley is originally from Fitchburg, and I know her grandmother from when I was in school. Margaret told me about all the promotional work the library did -- social media, Internet listings, displays inside the walk way -- as well as the nice announcement The News put in the paper that day. Along with the work I did through my personal Facebook page, I hoped it would be a smashing success.

As the clock inched toward 6:30 p.m. (the start time for my discussion), I noticed a peculiar thing. The room was practically empty except for a gentleman doing research. Even the crickets hadn't arrived. Ashley came in at 6:28 and saw the lack of people. She frowned. I really think the library wanted this to be a success, too.

Not wanting me to feel bad and coming all that way with no one to talk to, they were able to recruit a couple of workers from the children's library downstairs to come up and listen. A few seconds later, an older couple -- I believe from a writer's group -- came in and listened. Margaret and Ashley joined in. About 45 minutes in, the gentleman doing research joined in.

All in all, it turned out to be not so bad. It did, however, taught me to not overestimate and get geeked up for such an event. As I've read before, you really can't gauge what an event will draw, especially on a gorgeous Thursday evening at the end of July. I want to thank Margaret and Ashley for making me feel so welcome; I'd love to come down again, perhaps in the spring when the next baseball novel comes out.

The second humbling happened yesterday.

I increased my readership by leaps and bounds toward the end of the month; I promoted tirelessly to the point of avoiding everything else (note to self: the dishes and laundry need to be done). I decided to do a sponsorship of Kindle Nation Daily's free book listings. My sponsorship day was yesterday.

The results are staggering.

Whenever I go into my local Barnes & Noble, I see stacks of hardcovers from many different traditionally authors; sometimes the big name authors will have stacks of anywhere between 25-40 books on that table; Star Wars usually has a good bunch.

If digital copies were hardcovers, I would have sold out my allotment yesterday, as well as anything put on back order.

(Quick aside: If you're not on Kindle yet, what are you waiting for? You have access to a 24/7 bookstore, and there is no waiting list, no such thing as back order.)

I had an incredible day yesterday, gaining many new readers; 68 to be exact, and all were Kindle readers. I gained one this morning as of this writing. The humbling lesson here: Be thankful that someone, people I've never met before, is/are reading what I've written. That is a thrilling -- yet humbling -- prospect, especially when it was 69 readers in less than 24 hours.

And I'm not going to overestimate how many new readers I will gain today, or in the future, either.

John's Amazon Author Central page
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Dating in the eReader World

My girlfriend and I have been together for nearly 13 months. Estee is a beautiful, Ivy League-educated young woman. Yours truly is a simple high school graduate who just happens to be an author. Why, do you ask, is she with me, when she could have doctors or lawyers?

The answer: Because I read.

Yep. That's right. It's not because of money or how many degrees I have on my wall (looks at the barren wall). I read, therefore I am loved.

Guys, let's face it. Women LOVE men who are intelligent. Women LOVE men who read. Women enjoy talking about books, and love to bring their men into a conversation about books. And with the advancement of eReaders into our lives, a guy in possession of an eReader, whether it be Kindle or nook, Sony or Kobo, will have a better chance at scoring a date than a moron who doesn't read.

Imagine it: An idyllic college quad with shade trees and a young man sitting against the trunk. He's reading the newest John Fitch V novel on his Kindle. He's not the best looking guy on campus, but he's read the classics -- TURNING BACK THE CLOCK, for instance -- and enjoys talking about literature. He'd much rather read than go out and get sloshed at a party.

A young woman, about the same age, walks through the quad and sees this young man reading away. She stops and admires him from a distance, wondering what he's reading. She feels the light heft of her own eReader in her backpack. She grins a little and her eyes brighten. She decides to walk up to him.

Her: Hi there.

Him, looking up: Hi... how are you?

Her: I'm great. Whatcha reading? You show me yours and I'll show you mine. *winks*

Him, feeling his heart accelerate a tad: Excuse me?

Her, blushing: Your eReader. *she pulls out her own*

After a few minutes of gentle conversation about books, she gives him her number. He goes back to his book, reading with a smile on his face.

eReaders will be the new conversation starter, folks. And a guy carrying an eReader will be overwhelmed with digits. Remember: an eReader is small enough to carry in the cargo pocket of your shorts/pants! Instant digit catch, guys.

Your Uncle Johnny wouldn't lie.

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