Saturday, June 28, 2008

Reviewers and Other Interesting Characters

As a new author, I’ve paid close attention to reviews written about my geezer-lit mystery novel, Retirement Homes Are Murder. Fortunately, the reviews have been positive. But let me tell you a story I read about a reviewer who got in hot water for writing a review of a book that had not been written. Reviewer Kristian Lundberg claimed a book by an author named Mattsson had a weak plot and poor characterization. Unfortunately for the reviewer although the book had been listed in the publisher’s catalogue, the author had not yet written it. When confronted with this little fact, the reviewer admitted, “I got worked up in advanced about Mattsson because I detest her so greatly. But let’s hope the book is published so I get the chance to say it for real.”

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Author Goes Criminal

Two days ago I received three traffic citations, was tested for DUI, got frisked and handcuffed. No, I’m not really a scofflaw but was helping as a volunteer for police training. Last fall I graduated from the citizen’s police academy in my community, and the police department asked for volunteers for new officer training. So at eight in the morning we gathered to stage domestic violence, vagrant and traffic stop scenarios. I was the driver for a simulated traffic stop. I acted like I was out-of-it, tried to get out of the car, called my lawyer on my cell phone, didn’t have my registration and had an expired insurance form. They trainees called in the information on their radios, checked me out and in one case found an outstanding warrant on my fake id (I’m not 24 years old). I learned how an officer needs to approach the driver’s side of the car, standing behind the driver to block the door if the person tries to get out and staying out of range if the driver reaches for a weapon. They were trained to ask, then demand and then take action if the driver became belligerent. Police work entails a lot of repetition with the infrequent dangerous encounter. They have to be ready for normal people and the crazies so I had a chance to represent both.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Book Returns

I just listened to a National Public Broadcast report on book returns. It addressed a subject I’ve been concerned about since my first book was published last year—the unique aspect of book publishing where retail outlets can return any book to a publisher for credit. Coming out of the computer data storage industry where I worked for thirty-nine years, this is a very strange concept to me. Apparently, it started in the depression era when book publishers instigated the policy to encourage books retailers to keep ordering books. I’ve seen examples of this when I order books from my publisher. On several occasions I’ve received a signed copy of my book that was returned from a book store. The NPR report said that 25% of books are returned. When you look at the transportation expense that will only increase as oil prices escalate, this policy has a significant cost to the whole book selling infrastructure. As a relatively new author the positive benefit is that bookstores order my book. The downside is that’s it’s impossible to get a good reading on how many books have been sold, and the royalty statements and checks are delayed and reduced to account for returns. As the economics of print run size versus transportation costs change, I expect to see more small print runs and print-on-demand processes to address a just-in-time inventory approach as exists in other industries.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Retirement Home Visit

Yesterday I visited a retirement home nearby and was impressed by the active and interesting seniors living there. One 96-year-old resident showed me the large-type copy edition of Tony Hillerman’s Skeleton Man she was reading. In the lobby when I arrived, groups of residents were competing at a game of beanbag baseball, throwing beanbags through the holes in a wooden box to score hits and runs. Upstairs in the lounge a gray-haired lady played WII golf, accurately teeing off and in four shots sinking her final putt. I was reminded of 102-year-old Elsie McClain, who I referred to in an earlier post, shooting a hole in one at real golf. One of the resident managers told me of a resident who complained one time of grasshoppers being in her room. No one could figure out how they got there, until she was seen one day trapping them outside and bringing them into her room.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Demographics of Aging Continued

Behind Florida, the state with the second highest percentage of people age 65 and older is West Virginia, followed by Pennsylvania, North Dakota, Iowa, Maine, South Dakota and Rhode Island. It’s easy to understand why Florida is the leading state because so many retired people move there. These other states share a common characteristic. As the population ages, the older people stay in-state while many of the younger population immigrate elsewhere. But the states with the fastest growth in aging population include Nevada, Alaska, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado. Living in Colorado I’ve seen that older people move here to enjoy the outdoor lifestyle and often to be near children and grandchildren.