Thursday, May 29, 2008

Hot! Live! Author!

A couple weeks ago, I gave a talk to the Victoria Writers' Society in James Bay about the rollercoaster ride of publishing my first book: from conception to proposal to signing the contract to writing the first draft to editing the final draft and now my ongoing attempts to flog the beast like an old mule, with digressions into the vagaries of working with agents and publishers and copy editors and publicists.

The group had lots of great questions, some of which I even had answers for, and one of their queries was: "Do you have any books to sell tonight?"

Alas, my answer was no—still is, in fact—as I've blown through the 10 free copies I got from my publisher and have yet to order another box at my author's discount. Not wanting to miss a marketing opportunity, I made a rash, spur-of-the-moment offer: If anyone from the VWS bought a copy of Fatal Tide and wanted it autographed, I would come to her or his home and sign the book.

My response generated a laugh but so far no takers, so I've decided to extend the promise to anyone in the Greater Victoria area: If you buy a book from a local bookseller and drop me a line (email me at dleach[at], I will personally cycle to your abode (or meet you downtown or on campus) and inscribe the title page with my John Hancock (at a time and date that weather and my wife both permit).

Copies should be available at the better independent bookstores in Victoria and Sidney. I know Munro's has several, Bolen Books has stocked a healthy supply, and the UVic Bookstore (who graciously hosted my launch) still has enough hardbacks left over to build an addition to the Great Wall of China.

Sorry, Internet orders don't qualify, so save your proof of purchase. You've got to do a little leg work and support the local booksellers who support local authors, and then I'll be happy to saddle up and ink my thanks in person.


To avoid Internet pranksters sending me on wild goose pedals to non-existent addresses in Metchosin—which likely counts as "lesser" not "greater Victoria" anyway (joking, Lorna!)—I'm asking for a little verification. Book-buyers who want an authorial visit and an autograph must snap a quick digital pic of themselves holding Fatal Tide and email it to me, along with how they heard about the book, when and where they bought it, and what they think of it so far (be nice!). After that, we can set up your signing-by-cycle.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Monday, Monday

The good folks at Monday Magazine didn't have to do anything more to promote Fatal Tide, considering that John Threlfall had already run a Q&A with me about writing the book. So I was surprised and thrilled to learn that there is a full-on review (again by John) in this week's issue.

I was delighted, of course, that it is a positive and enthusiastic review—especially from a reviewer, who (as I already knew and John admits) "really has no interest in the subject matter."

I was even more delighted to have such an attentive reading of the book in a concise and informative article. John gives a better summary of the book's action and background than I've managed to (on the dustjacket copy and in many interviews), and he also manages to convey how (as I'd hoped) the various elements of the book tie together, like the narrative strands of a novel rather than the chunky, stand-alone chapters of a conventional nonfiction book.

I really did try to write the manuscript (and struggle immensely with the challenge) in a way that draws even those readers with little interest in adventure racing or extreme sports into the setting, the characters, the issues, and the drama of the action. In John's case, at least, it seems to have worked.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Adoption Papers

One of the more embarrassing habits—nay, obsessions—of first-time authors (and likely many publishing veterans, too) is Google-stalking their own books, in search of any mention of their "baby" in the deeper reaches of cyberspace.

Last night, I was committing another such act of literary onanism, when I came across unexpected news: I've been adopted!

The announcement appeared in an edition of the Kings County Record in Sussex, New Brunswick (east of Saint John). Apparently, the regional library is running an "adopt a book" campaign to raise money for new titles for its collection. I don't fully understand the logistical details, but a "tag tree" of books will be erected in a local mall for potential philanthropists to choose from. The first two books have been adopted already to kick start the campaign, and one—selected by the mayor of Sussex, no less—is Fatal Tide. (The other is
Extraordinary Canadians: Lord Beaverbrook by David Adams Richards, so I'm in esteemed company.)

The news is both an honour and a surprise. Despite the book's maritime focus,
there hasn't been much media attention about the book on the East Coast yet, beyond my memorable foray into talk radio. So I have to thank the honorable Ralph Carr (photo: centre) for spreading the word in New Brunswick. It feels good to be adopted.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Keeping Up

I've been busy the last few weeks trying to keep up with Simon Whitfield, the Canadian triathlete who won the sport's first gold medal in Sydney in 2000. He lives and trains in Victoria, and I've been researching a profile of him for explore magazine. I've been hanging out and watching him train for the world championships in Vancouver next month and ultimately the Summer Games in Beijing in August.

Last Saturday morning, I joined Simon, coach Joel Filliol (who took the photo) and the rest of Team BAMF (Google it to discover the essence of this very un-Canadian acronym) near Beacon Hill Park for a running session. I felt proud of myself as I kept up with the group on their 2K warm-up loop through the park.

Ha! Then, after Simon tutored me in "dynamic stretching" techniques—basically, showing me how to kick my own ass before he kicked mine—we all dashed off for a set of "interval" runs around the same grassy loop. Or rather, they all dashed off and I chugged behind in the fading distance, eventually getting lost in the scrub around the petting zoo, and arriving back to the start line so late and so ragged that Simon and the fastest runners had already set off again for interval #2 after a two and a half minute rest. Simon did four more intervals at the same relentless pace. I was near cardiac arrest after my one.

I'd heard a lot about The Kick—the impressive sprinting power that Simon used to win gold in the most dramatic fashion at the Sydney Games. But to witness it in person, up close (however briefly), is another thing entirely. To watch Simon Whitfield run is to realize the sheer animal potential that lies dormant, largely vestigial in most of our ObusFormed, cubicle-farmed bodies—the essence of our savanna heritage that still hums deep within our genes.

We were made to run. And a few of us still can.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Making Radio Waves

I woke up early this morning to steel my nerves for a live radio interview that—because it was with a morning show in Halifax, four time zones away—was set to begin at 6:30 am. My publicist at Penguin had set it up, and I was thrilled, as it was the first bit of East Coast media attention for a book that's based on the Bay of Fundy. The show was called "Maritime Morning", and for some reason (the homey name, my failure to do basic fact-checking), I had assumed it was on CBC Radio, and had told different friends and family members as much.

I anticipated a laidback, touchy-feely CBC-style interview. You know, the host asking me to describe my writing process or the "emotional arc of the book's tragedy". That kind of thing.

I realized something was up, however, once the show's producer got me on the phone and then put me on hold to await the host. Over the tinny line, I could discern advertisements—on the CBC? that didn't seem right—including one for a company that promised to help people break their leases. Definitely not the Mother Corp. I quickly Googled "Andrew Krystal", and realized that my interviewer was the morning host at a Halifax talk-radio station, broadcast in Moncton and Saint John, too, and one with a controversial reputation for confrontation. A shock jock, if you will, although one of a less crass, more Canuck bent than notorious U.S. radio personalities.

And then he introduced me and we were off and running. I immediately wished I'd brewed myself a pre-interview pot of coffee, as I didn't feel caffeinated enough to keep up at first with the Gatling Gun line of questioning and opinionating. But I soon got the hang of it. Krystal wanted to have a go at "extreme sports" and the people who participate in them: "Isn't this just Darwin's way of weeding out the morons?" he said at one point, or words to that effect.

I was accustomed to the standard dance of the radio interview, the gentle back and forth between interviewer and interviewee, the softball Q returned with a languorous A. That wasn't going to work on News 95.7. So after the break, I took a different tack and disagreed with Krystal at every opportunity, defending outdoor adventurers and describing the psychological benefits of organized wilderness competitions—the experience of "flow", the harmony of mind and body, like a runner's high.

"Wouldn't it be safer just to spark up a reefer?" countered Krystal, which made me laugh, but at least I had the presence of mind to reply, "But not as healthy."

In the end, after a final flurry, we agreed to disagree. He thanked me for coming on and said he had enjoyed Fatal Tide—in his introduction, he had even read aloud from an early chapter.

My radio experience wasn't what I'd expected when I'd gotten up this morning, but it was challenging and fun. In fact, for a good half hour afterwards I was buzzing from the after effects: more adrenaline rush than pot high for sure. Just like in outdoor sports, there is a flow to a radio interview—especially a fast-paced debate—that can feel almost as exhilarating. And you don't even have to wear pants.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

In the News

There is a nice mention in today's Ottawa Citizen of my cover article for explore magazine about the Howe Sound kayaking deaths, with a passing mention of Fatal Tide. The Citizen runs a weekly "Magazine Stand" section that looks at two or three current magazines and their contents; the Globe and Mail does the same, but the Citizen, I find, tends to focus more on Canadian publications and writers... which can always use an extra leg up in an intensely competitive industry. The Citizen is also one of the last remaining daily city papers to run truly comprehensive book coverage: i.e., not filled with wire-service reviews.

The Toronto Star is one of the others. Interestingly, my book recently got mentioned not in the newspaper's Book section but by one of the columnists in the Sports pages. I was thrilled for coverage (especially when someone uses the phrase "excellent writing") wherever it appears, of course, but I'm still awaiting (nervously!) the first kids-gloves-off review in the Books pages of a newspaper or magazine.