MUSINGS OR BLOGGING?
31 December 2008
I continue to hold book signings at local book clubs, and at Military Installations. Again Colonel Harry Townsend and I were invited back to Graterford Prison in Pennsylvania by the Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter #466 on Veterans Day. These affairs are usually held in the prison chapel and are attended by local para-military groups, local mental health, religious and political representatives. We updated the group on the latest activities of the 555th Parachute Infantry Association. We were warmly received although we only spoke for a few minutes each, they showed their gratitude as we thanked them for their honorable service to our country.
I also spoke at a luncheon by the staff of Kennedy Krieger, a Baltimore medical activity that specialized in serving children. I have been invited to speak to some cadets at the U.S. Naval Academy in February 2009.
31 January 2007
At the Triple Nickles Reunion held in Columbia South Carolina in 2005, I was asked to introduce the guest speaker, Major General William Caldwell, then commander of the 82nd Airborne Division. The general did an excellent job explaining how his command supported Katrina's aftermath, and the War on Terror. I donated some of my novels to be given to his troops. He took them to Iraq and Afghanistan to be placed in the battalion libraries there. General Caldwell has since been assigned to Iraq and appears on television from time to time explaining major activities there. One of his duties is the spokesperson for our Army in Iraq.
On Veterans Day in 2006, at the request of The Vietnam Veterans of America, Graterford, PA Chapter #466, I represented the 555th Parachute Infantry Association (The Triple Nickles) as guest speaker. I was accompanied by Colonel Harry Townsend. We thanked the men for their service and enjoyed refreshments with them after the formal part of the Service.
Our 2006 Reunion was held at Fort Leavenworth, KS. Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, our host, dedicated a monument to the Triple Nickles and participated in the unveiling. He was assisted by Joe Murchison, President of the Triple Nickles and Walter Morris, the first black man to sign up for airborne training. The likeness on the bust on the monument is that of a young Walter Morris. Throughout the years, Morris has served as the "roving ambassador" for the organization appearing on numerous network shows being interviewed by the likes of Tom Brokaw and other anchors. The General will be leaving to take command of our troops in Iraq soon after his promotion to four stars.
I attended a prayer breakfast sponsored by Morgan State University in Baltimore recently. General William "Kip" Ward, a Morgan graduate, was the guest speaker. Ward was our guest speaker in 2003 and is our senior military member on active duty. He was recently promoted to four stars and is presently the Deputy Commander of the European Command.
I will represent the Triple Nickles on a panel in Washington at the Department of Veterans Affairs on 8 February 2007 Black History Month Observance Program. The Tuskegee Airmen, The Buffalo Soldiers and the Montford Point Marines will also be represented.
22 November 2004
Over time some amusing things occur after the book is published. I thought I’d share some of them with my readers. Most of them have to do with the make up and design of my book covers. As with anything else for sale, the attractiveness of the product is what draws the buyer to it. Once a person selects a book from among scads of others, there might be cause to examine it further, to perhaps read a synopsis to find out if the subject in the book is one that he or she might be interested in. Since my books are mysteries, I start with the location where the majority of the action is, or something distinctive about the location that drives the story line. Thus I use a map as a backdrop for the story to indicate to readers where they are about to go on their reading journey. So far I have only published two books and on the cover of each is an attractive building. I suspect I will always want the map there. Right now the building on my next book is questionable.
Some months ago I wrote a letter to a magazine publisher and sent him a copy of the book with hopes of getting some publicity for my first mystery, “The Search for Rosita.”
Right you are, Mr.________. That is a picture of Walton Hall I took some ten years ago while vacationing in England. The town of Walton is about seven miles from Shakespeare’s birthplace and dates back to 1279. I met the former owners, Lord and Lady Hamilton who sold it to a timeshare conglomerate. They were descendents of Charles I, and she wrote a book about it as well as other British nobility. I stayed there and I wanted my detective, Joe Kepper to stay there while he searched for that wicked Rosita.”
I rambled on for about five lines over the normal one page query letter. Guess it was that or perhaps the missing SASE the reason I never heard from him.Because of my military background, I sometimes get to hold signings at Post or Base Exchanges on military installations. An exchange is the equivalent to a department store where service people both active and retired get to shop. Usually the exchange people will put up your poster along with an announcement of the time and date of your signings. While my books aren’t exactly prudish, sometimes when the situation requires it, there are utterances that one might not want to use in the presence of his or her minister. On one occasion a couple entered with their young son, with the father in the lead. He obviously knew what he wanted and was headed directly to it to make his purchase. The son followed. The wife, seeing my attractive poster, stopped, picked up a book and began poring over it while I talked to another potential customer. The other person left and I asked if she wanted me to tell her about the book. She left saying, she had read enough and had decided to purchase it but she needed to get a check cashed and “I’ll send my son back to purchase the book”. A while later the young man returned saying his mom wanted him to make the purchase. I asked him whose name did she want in the book when I signed it. He said “My name, Michael.” It took me by surprise. I asked, “How old are you, Michael?” He replied, “Fourteen.” At this point I had myself a small dilemma. I gave the young man his change and promptly wrote on the inside page of the book above my signature: “To Michael: (Not to be read until you are eighteen!). Upon leaving his mother came by and smiled. “Thank you” she said.
Several months ago, a couple in the airport in Atlanta spotted someone reading my book and the wife’s curiosity was aroused by the striking cover. A closer look showed my name at the top. Not knowing that I was now an author she picked up her cell phone and dialed our number awaking my wife and I from a deep sleep. You can imagine me trying to explain who this excited woman was calling our home at 2:00 am in the morning, wanting to know about a book I had written. They were people I had known many years but had been out of touch. Her husband took over my Special Forces detachment and returned it to Vietnam for a second tour in the mid sixties.
One evening while attending a dinner/concert at a local church, I saw a gentleman whom I had seen several times at social affairs. We had spoken but had never been introduced. I felt I knew him well enough to let him know I had written a book and he might be interested in buying one. The place was crowded and practically impossible to get through to where he was seated. Taking a bookmark from my inside coat pocket, I handed it to a person seated at his table and pointed in his direction. I then headed to the dessert table to pick up desserts for my wife and I. Before I could make my selection, the gentleman joined me at the dessert table and returned the bookmark saying he had started reading a copy that morning. He said he had borrowed it from a mutual friend. Of course I was a bit taken aback but delighted. The next time I saw our mutual friend I, jokingly accused him for cutting me out of a sale. Laughing, our friend said, “He came by to see me and he saw it on my coffee table…
The above incident started me to wondering. Do the people who buy my book actually read it or is it because of the pretty cover? There is some addition proof that makes me believe it ‘s the latter. It is a damning piece of evidence.
My wife and I made a trip to Montreal with a travel club some eighteen months before The Search For Rosita was published. The trip was quite enjoyable and when I started writing my novel I thought a neat place for Rosita to hide out was the same hotel we had visited, The Queen Elizabeth. It was an elegant hotel with 1250 rooms, terrific ambiance several restaurants, one where the waiters were in formal attire. In the book, I describe the hotel in great detail and anyone staying there would remember the experience. Quite a few members of the club bought my book but only one has come up to me and to say, “John, isn’t the hotel in your book the same one we stayed in when we were in Montreal?” Didn’t anyone read my book? I know, they bought it because IT LOOKS GOOD ON THE COFFEE TABLE!
And then there are the compliments that make a writer believe it’s all-worthwhile. The first one is from a gentleman whom I admire and respect and who has held positions of great responsibility. It was an email about “Peril in Parksdale.”
“Doggone, John Mann. We just returned from an extended trip and in yesterday’s mail was your latest book about my buddy, Joe Kepper. I started to casually scan the book this afternoon and cannot put it down. In fact--------had to call me twice for supper, and I missed half of the Notre Dame Stanford football game. You have to show some mercy to a beat up------- ------.
And then there was one I just received this past week.
Dear Mr. Mann,
I wondered how this lady planned on my signing the book if she was buying it from B&N. Yesterday I found out. A copy of the book came in the mail along with a first class self addressed stamped envelope and a note requesting my signature. I put it in the mail this morning. On the first line after her name, I wrote: “To-------, A very determined lady”. She had paid more than $9.00 to get my signature on that book and had not read a line. I called her and told her the book was on the way. She said she did not want to start reading until the book was signed.
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