Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Smelled Like Rotten Eggs

While at the Texas Book Festival last week, peddling my book, Where Love Once Lived, I told a few potential customers how the book was set in Austin, and one of the scenes took place just a few yards from where we were in that tent on Colorado Street. Here is an excerpt from that scene:
“You know,” Mr. McCullough said as he and Brian walked through the capitol grounds, “a few years back, ever’one would be staring at us.”

Brian was six foot two, and Phil’s dad was five two or three at the most. Mr. McCullough had just gotten off work at the Driskill and still had on his white shirt and bowtie. Brian wore shorts and Birkenstocks. Still, Brian knew Mr. McCullough was talking about race, not stature or clothing. Mr. McCullough was from a time in history Brian could never fully understand, but he’d read about how blacks suffered. It was a time of segregation.

They’d walked from the Driskill to the capitol without discussing a destination. The goal was to talk, and Congress Avenue just naturally led them into the capitol grounds. The grassy area surrounding the huge pink granite building was inviting this time of year. It was hot, but the shade of the trees along with a breeze made it comfortable.

Phil’s dad led the way to a bench under a tree near a water fountain. It was a pleasant place. Birds soaked the area with song, and statues stood rigid watch over the grounds while people walked back and forth, seemingly unaware of their verdant surroundings. This was the perfect place for the conversation with Phil’s dad, and Brian silently thanked God for leading them here. The realization he couldn’t ask Karen to marry him until his faith in God was stronger had come to him on the trip to California. He wanted to love God more, but couldn’t. Perhaps God hadn’t forgiven him for what he had done thirty years ago.

Mr. McCullough looked around. “When I was jus’ a kid, nine or ten I’d say, my parents brought me here.” He motioned toward the spot where they sat. “My daddy told me to drink from a sulfur fountain that was here. Said it’d be good for me and make me healthy. But there was a problem. Back then, you see, we had separate drinking fountains. One marked ‘white’ and one marked ‘colored.’”

He paused, but Brian waited for him to continue. “There was only one sulfur fountain and it wasn’t marked one way or ‘nother, colored or white.” He laughed. “Didn’t matter. We sneaked a sip when no one was about. Only once, though.” He shook his head and made a face. “Terrible stuff. Smelled like rotten eggs.”

Let me know what you think of this scene.
See: http://sidneywfrost.com/capitol.htm for additional photos of the Capitol grounds.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Texas Book Festival Was a Blast

I had the opportunity to sell my book, Where Love Once Lived, at the Texas Book Festival last weekend. Laura Bush, a former school librarian, founded the festival 15 years ago, and this year she spoke about her new book, Spoken From the Heart.
What surprised me the most was the size of the event. The streets around the Capitol were closed to vehicles and huge white tents popped up around the area. I had a two-hour slot to peddle my book in one of the long row of exhibitor tents in the middle of Colorado Street where it intersected with 12th Street.
When we first got there, I knew it was going to be big because there were no parking places available. We had to park on the fifth floor of a parking garage and lug two boxes of books down to the exhibitor tent, without the aid of an elevator. I'd originally planned to only bring about three dozen books and go back to the car for more if needed. But since it was so far to go back, I decided to take both boxes from the start, books plus a box of supplies such as bookmarks. I couldn't have managed it in one trip without help from Celeste.
There wasn't a time during the two hours that there weren't potential customers. The place was packed with people, all stopping, or at least glancing at what we had to offer.
I tried to get a book into their hands to make them feel some degree of ownership, but usually the book was quickly returned. Some took a little time to read the back cover before putting the book down. A few actually bought the book. A very few. Counting my friend Betty Caywood, who purchased two copies to give to friends, I sold a total of five copies.
However, the lack of sales wasn't a disappointment at all. I met some interesting people and learned that I can describe my book verbally. I handed out many cards and bookmarks and, perhaps, some of those will turn into sales.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: The Falling Away by T.L. Hines

This is a story of good versus evil as seen through the eyes of an unlikely group of Americans. Street people with obsessive compulsive disorders become soldiers for God. Drug users and alcoholics, drug runners and criminals, all are pawns in this battle. Cult members are sedated by the evil one to get them to infect others with hate and evil.

There are two main characters, Dylan Runs Ahead, a recent veteran of the war in Afghanistan, who was wounded at the same time his friend was killed. He is also an American Indian, but left the reservation to join the Army after his sister Joni disappeared. He felt the blame for her disappearance since he was late picking her up.

The other main character is Quinn Simmons, who was fifteen years old when her mentally ill mother disappeared from the homeless shelter where they were staying, leaving Quinn to manage on her own. She became a member of the Falling Away to rid the earth of evil, sometime through prayer and sometimes through more extreme means. Her job in the book was to keep Dylan from being taken over by the demon Li, who ran the HIVE, a cult communal farm.

This is a book best read all the way through without stopping. Not because it's hard to read, but because it's hard to put it down after you start reading it.

I made the mistake of starting it one night after I climbed into bed hoping to get sleepy quickly and, like I usually do, drop the book where it falls as I reach up to turn off the lamp.

That didn't happen with The Falling Away.

I stayed engaged with the story straight through to the end. The author did an excellent job of quickly getting into the action while slowly, unobtrusively, inserting back story about Dylan and Quinn. However, by the time I finished the book, I knew it was not the story of God's love that I thought it would be. It reminded me of Rosemary's Baby in a way. I'm not against the use of symbolism, but I didn't find the redeeming factors I need to make the story useful and fulfilling.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” The book was donated to a non-profit organization after I read it.

Monday, October 18, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

I loved the structure of this book. Perfect for the story that was told. The chapters alternated between Paris 2002 and Paris 1942. The 2002 story was told by Julia Jarmond, an American journalist living in France, married to a French man. The 1942 story was told by a ten year-old Jewish girl ousted from home and separated from her family. Julia's daughter Zoë, is eleven.

The two stories seemed unconnected at first, but the reader knew something would bring them together somehow. And it did. The young Jewish girl searches for safety and for her family. Julia searches for happiness, and eventually, she searches for the girl who would be in her seventies.

When the stories cross each other, the story of the little girl stops. The reader is left wondering what happened to her. As a Kindle reader, I can tell you this happened at the 57 percent read mark.

It is a work of fiction, but the events that happened in France during the 1942 time are based on facts. While this roundup of Jewish people by French police is described, it does not turn the book into a documentary. It remains an interesting story about the people affected by the event.

There is much more I would like to tell you about the story, but I don't want you to miss out on the surprises to come.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Texas Book Festival

I dreamed of being asked to participate in the Texas Book Festival one day. I may have even mentioned it in a prayer sometime along the way. But I wasn't serious. It was one of those dreams about winning the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. A wonderful goal you know you'll never achieve.

Well, guess what.

No, I wasn't asked to speak at the Texas Book Festival or to read from my book. My name's not on the list of authors for the event. However, I'll be there showing off my latest (i.e. first) novel, Where Love Once Lived.

How's that?

I won the lottery!

Actually, me and nine other members of the Writers' League of Texas. We each won a two-hour slot at the League's booth. I'll be in t he shadow of the State Capitol at booths 122 or 123 in the exhibits tent on Colorado between 12th and 13th streets Sunday, October 17, 2010 between 2 and 4.

Come see me!

You can read more about it here: http://www.writersleague.org/events/10-book-festival.htm

Monday, October 11, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: No Other by Shawna K. Williams

No Other, set in post World War II time, is the story of Jakob, the son of Americans of German ancestry who were detained in Port Delamar, a fictional town based on Baytown, just east of Houston, and Meri, the daughter of the mayor.
Meri had been brought up by a mother and father who were more interested in outer appearances than true beliefs. They joined the church only because it would look good and get the mayor more votes, not because they believed in God.
Jakob, on the other hand, had reason to be bitter since his parents had lost their home and been imprisoned during the war because of their German heritage. Still, Jakob's strong spirituality gave him strength. Even so, it took time for him to forgive.
I love this book, but to be honest, I'm not sure why. Is it because it is about real people who, even though they strive to live wholesome lives, still fall short like so many of us do?
Probably. But then there's the setting. At first I couldn't see why the author decided to put the characters in post World War II time. But it was fascinating. What got my attention was that the internment of German Americans took place so close to where I live. This wasn't taught in my history classes.
By the time I finished reading the book, I knew No Other wouldn't have worked in a different time period. Still, I wondered why the author, Shawna K. Williams, decided to write it this way. Here is her response:
Sidney, it was because of a dream. I know that sounds weird, but the whole premise of the story started with a dream. I hadn't even wanted to be a writer, but the parts that I knew from the dream were likes parts to a puzzle and I had to figure out how it all fit together. In the dream, I knew the general era, but the year got pinpointed to 1947 as my research pegged other details. I knew Jakob was a little younger, and that Meri was somehow his teacher, but they were both adults. The details of that were settled through research too. I also knew his family had faced discrimination, but it was a documentary on Japanese internment that prompted me to research whether this had happened to other ethnic groups.
This book is unlike any Christian fiction I've read, and I'm sure you'll agree, it is worth the read.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Virtual Book Tours Plus

I was interviewed on Sunnybank Meanderings by Carol Brown, a fellow American Christian Fiction Writers member who lives in Ohio. See http://sunnebnkwrtr.blogspot.com/2010/10/please-welcome-new-friend-frost-how.html to read her blog. I think it turned out great. Hopefully, this information about Where Love Once Lived will reach more people because of the interview.

Please go to her blog today, read the article, and add a comment.

This is called a virtual tour and I am planning to do more in the future. Although I met Carol through the ACFW bookclub, I have a list of bloggers who are interested in Christian fiction. I've sent review copies to several of them and will contact others. One turned me down for an interview because her calendar for the year is full. She said for me to check back in December to get scheduled for 2011. That seemed so far away when I first read her email, but now it is just around the corner.

Speaking of schedules, I have a book signing scheduled for December 5 at my church. The plan is to have a book sale day for members and others to buy Christian books for Christmas gifts. In addition to having my book there, I've been asked to be there to sign the books.

And, you most likely know I have a book signing scheduled for January 15, 2011 at BookPeople in Austin. I don't know what to expect there, but before the date of the signing, I'll contact my Austin friends and encourage them to stop by. Some of them probably don't know about the book.

I'm looking for other ways to publicize the book and would appreciate your comments. But, today, please check the interview here: http://sunnebnkwrtr.blogspot.com/2010/10/please-welcome-new-friend-frost-how.html.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Where Love Once Lived Ready for iPad

Well, I'm glad to say I finished converting Where Love Once Lived to the epub format which means it is eligible for the iPad and many other eReaders.

It took longer than I thought it would. Since I already had a Kindle version, I figured it would be a simple job to repackage it according to the epub rules. It wasn't.

But, now that I know how to do it, the next time I do it should be faster. I lost track of time and don't know how many hours I spent building the file. And, by file I mean a zip folder with three subfolders and more than 20 files. All I know is that I used most of my free time Sunday and Monday working on it.

When Celeste came in from shopping today, I checked the clock and it was 1:30 and I realized I hadn't had lunch yet. I remembered she had planned to eat out with Sally, so as soon as they came in I knew I'd been at the computer way too long.

But, still, I couldn't stop. I had just reduced the number of errors from the ePub validating procedure from several hundred to four. I was close to being finished and couldn't stop. Then it was down to one error and I couldn't see it. My eyes hurt from staring at the xml tags so I decided to take a lunch break.

I warmed up some excellent leftovers and sat down in front of the monitor while I ate hoping something would make sense. And then I saw it. The last error. The last hurdle between having a bunch of meaningless bits and having an eBook.

I had left out the extension for one of the files.

I didn't stop eating. I just smiled. I had the answer. Now I could take my time and enjoy the food.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Sunday Should Be a Day of Rest

Sunday has always been a day of rest for me, probably because I have a tendency to work too much anyway and use the Lord's day as an excuse to slow down. I held at least two jobs all my life, my main computer programming job and my teaching job. In addition, I spent a great deal of time singing and writing with little income to show for either of those activities.

So, yesterday, being Sunday, I surprised myself by working on the computer after church. After lunch, Celeste watched football and then played golf until dark. All the while I worked on creating an eBook version of Where Love Once Lived that would work on eReaders other than Kindle.

Perhaps surprise is not the right word for how I felt. At first it was guilt. But I quickly came up with a rationalization for working on Sunday. It was okay because I had worked all day Friday for the church. Now, that makes sense, right? Friday, a day I would normally write, was taken up with creating the PowerPoint slides for the church. It took longer than usual because it was World Communion Day and we had a more traditional service.

So, instead of relaxing or meditating Sunday afternoon, I struggled with learning how to build an epub file. Even with my training as a web developer, I had trouble grasping the concept. Finally, I found an example to study. I found it in a book called ePub Publishing Guide by Nicholas Pang. I'll do a formal review of the book later, after I actually create an error-free epub file based on what I've learned.

But, the day ran out before I was successful, and not completing the project yesterday made me feel even worse for working on Sunday.

Was the whole effort wasted? No, I still learned a lot about the process even if I don't have the final product yet.

Would I have been more successful had I waited until today to work on it? Probably. I needed rest. I needed exercise. I needed to get away from the computer.

What do you do on Sundays?

Friday, October 1, 2010