Tuesday, June 21, 2022
Saturday, June 11, 2022
On May 28th, I had another awesome book signing event. This time I was at Hello Again Books in Cocoa, Florida.
I was really excited about this event as Cocoa is close to my parents' house and it was an opportunity for them to see me doing my author thing. My mother came by as well as my brother. I also had several friends come by, many from high school and some who have moved into the area through the years.
Years ago, my mother used to own her own bookstore. I used to think that I was at least as good of a writer as the worst writer in that store. That was my motivation to write a book and have it published. I wanted to be on the shelves of bookstores.
To not only be on the shelves, but to be signing books and to have bookstores promote me as an event is icing on the cake. It is a very cool feeling. One that I doubt will get old any time soon.
Monday, June 6, 2022
In 2009, I took a trip to the Crossroads in Clarksdale, Mississippi. I journeyed there after five days in Memphis with no plan and no idea what to expect. As luck would have it, I arrived during the Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Music Festival. I had the pleasure of not only exploring Clarksdale, but also seeing some great local bands and meeting some great local people. Clarksdale was one of the highlights of that great adventure.
Thirteen years later, I finally returned to the Crossroads. This time, I brought my debut novel, Curveball at the Crossroads, which was highly influenced by my first trip to the Mississippi Delta.
I published the 2nd edition of Curveball at the Crossroads in November 2021. One of the biggest changes between the first and second edition is the new cover designed by famous blues artist Grego "Mojo Hand" Anderson. Grego was great to work with and did an amazing job capturing the essence of the book in the new cover. Best of all, I was able to piggyback on Grego's reputation to open more doors for the book.
One of those doors was with Roger Stolle, owner of Cat Head Delta Blues Folk Art Store in Clarksdale. Roger carries a lot of Grego's art, so I knew Cat Head would be a logical fit for my book. After emailing Roger and sharing news of Curveball at the Crossroads, Roger agreed to order copies of my book and we discussed a possible book signing. He recommended I visit during the 2022 Juke Joint Festival. After looking up the event, I quickly bought my plane and event tickets.
Not only was I visiting Clarksdale again, but I was also having my first out-of-state book signing.
To make things better, Clarksdale is Curveball at the Crossroads' spiritual home. I believe every book has a spiritual home. It could be the author's home, but it might not be. It might also be where a scene of the book takes place, but it also might not be. A book's spiritual home is the place that inspired the book. For example, if a visit to medieval castle inspired me to write a wrote a fantasy tale of knights and elves that took place in an imaginary kingdom, then that real life castle is my book's spiritual home. Although Curveball at the Crossroads takes place in Rosedale, Mississippi, Clarksdale is definitely its spiritual home.
Because I booked so late - I did not realize hotels for the Juke Joint Fest fill up a year out - I ended up in an Airbnb about an hour away in small Como, Mississippi. According to wikipedia, Como has a total area of two miles and is home to 1,200 people. Much smaller than my current home of Tampa, Florida.
Despite of, or perhaps because of its size, Como was the perfect place place to stay. It was quiet, it was serene, and my host and the guest house I stayed in was amazing. Couldn't have asked for a better place, even if my drives back from Clarksdale along Mississippi's dark, two-lane highways were kinda creepy. But that's part of the fun, and who knows, it might be the inspiration for another book or at least another scene.
I arrived in Mississippi on a Thursday afternoon. After checking in and unloading my bags, I drove to Oxford, Mississippi, home of the University of Mississippi and, more meaningful to me, Square Books, one of the most famous independent bookstores in the Southeast.
Square Books was everything I thought. A cozy, two-story bookstore in the middle of the town square, Square Books had a perfect mix of current best sellers and regional authors. After giving them a copy of Curveball at the Crossroads to sample, I bought a small pile of new books for my own collection. With luck, they will like Curveball at the Crossroads and I will be making a return trip to Square Books soon.
After grabbing a beer at an Ole Miss bar and eating dinner at a southern diner, I returned to Como to plot my weekend in Clarksdale. My book signing at Cat Head in Clarksdale was scheduled for noon, so I knew I had to leave early and get up even earlier. So after planning and plotting, and getting some new reading done, I called Day 1 of my adventure a success and went to sleep.
I woke up the next morning, ate breakfast, got ready, said hello to the horses outside the guest house, and headed down to Clarksdale. Not knowing how busy Clarksdale or Cat Head specifically would be or the parking situation for the festival, I arrived an hour early. Although I got a good parking spot a short walk from Cat Head, Clarksdale was already buzzing. Bands and bluesmen were already playing and tourists were already milling about, buying t-shirts, festival programs, posters, and other blues memorabilia.
Clarksdale is not a very big town. Bigger than Como, but not very big compared to other metro areas. Downtown Clarksdale, home of the Blues Museum, the Ground Zero Blues Club, Cat Head, and several juke joints, is only a few blocks. But due to a decline in the national and regional economy, Clarksdale relies on its music festivals to generate revenue. Even though the Juke Joint Festival wasn't officially starting until Saturday, there were already several vendors and food stands on the streets of downtown Clarksdale. And wherever a performer could fit, there was someone playing the blues. They played in front of stores, in stores, on corners, on the railroad tracks, and even on the back of trucks. Live music was everywhere.
After briefly checking out the scene, I walked into Cat Head. Roger was already busy, but found the time to set me up in a front corner of his store. He had several copies of my book already in his store, so I grabbed all his copies for my table. I also brought several copies signed by cover artist Grego "Mojo Hand" Anderson.
Within five minutes of setting up, the first customer walked to my table looking to buy a book. When he saw I also had two Curveball at the Crossroads posters that I was using for the table, he offered to buy one of those as well. First customer, first sale. Also sold a poster to boot.
Customers ebbed and flowed through Cat Head for most of the early afternoon, perusing the shelves, checking out the wares, and for many, walking to my table to see what I had to offer. Within the first hour, I sold the copies Mojo Hand signed and was running low on the other copies. Over ten books were gone in the first hour. I was excited.
By the end of the second hour, I was out of books. Every copy Roger had in his table of books was sold. People were excited to talk baseball and blues. Among the customers who visited my table was Michael Kinsman, head of the San Diego Blues Festival. Michael and I talked about future orders and his idea of presenting the book to prominent blues media writers he knew. Not only did he buy a book, he wanted more to share with others!
All in all, it was a fantastic book signing. I did not expect to sell out. Even Roger admitted maybe he should have ordered more. But, on the other hand, two hours is a good amount of time for a book signing. I had the rest of the day and the rest of the festival to enjoy.
For the remainder of Friday, I walked the streets of Clarksdale, consulting my festival program on which bands will be in which bars when. I saw some absolutely fantastic acts, from acoustic street performers to full electric bands, culminating with Ted Drozdowski's Coyote Motel. Coyote Motel was blues with a stoner groove. Very cool stuff. In a bit of coincidence, one of their better tunes was called "Josh Gibson", after the 1930s Negro League baseball star. So baseball and the blues started and ended my day.
Driving back to my Airbnb Friday night was another adventure. The roads from Como to Clarksdale formed a square, with Como in the northeast corner and Clarksdale in the southwest. To return to Como, I could go north first, then west, or west first, then north. I decided to retrace the path I took to Clarksdale, heading north first, then west to return to Como. What I did not think about, however, was how dark and lonely those two-lane Mississippi highways were. Rural Mississippi at night is complete darkness. Ain't nothing out there but you, the road, the woods, and graveyards.
I woke up Saturday morning, again said hello to the horses, and drove back to Clarksdale. I started the day seeing renown bluesman Terry "Harmonica" Bean. Terry Bean was a must-see for me. Not only because of his music, but because of his backstory. Back in the 1980s, Terry Bean was a can't miss baseball prospect from the local high school. Legend has it, he could throw over 90 miles an hour with both arms, and was as good a pitcher as he was a hitter. He was the real deal with a ticket to the pros. Then it all came crashing down with an injury to his right arm.
If that sounds familiar, it's because it is the backstory of JaMark Reliford, the main character in Curveball at the Crossroads. Except, whereas JaMark made a deal with the Devil to return to baseball, Terry Bean followed in the footsteps of other family members and became a bluesman. He has been playing the blues ever since, travelling the roads and performing in small bars and juke joints throughout Mississippi. Along the way, he has become an encyclopedia of the region, blessing listeners with stories of how life used to be in the Delta.
Following Terry "Harmonica" Bean, I met with my old friend "St. Louis" Frank Chambers. Frank is another walking encyclopedia. He used to travel from St Louis to Clarksdale regularly until moving permanently to Clarksdale years ago. I met Frank at the Riverside Inn in Clarksdale during my first visit in 2009. The Riverside Inn is a historical landmark that the people of Clarksdale are refurbishing after years of wear and tear. In 2009, I stayed a few nights in the hotel and Frank was a regular in the lobby/lounge, mingling with the visitors and catching up with "Rat", the owner of the establishment. Frank and I connected on Facebook and have been in touch ever since. Although he doesn't go the festivals anymore and age is starting to catch up, he is still as connected and personable as ever. We went to Clarksdale's best (maybe only?) Mexican restaurant for lunch and caught up on the last 13 years.
After lunch, Frank and I went to the Riverside Inn to see how the old place was doing. The inn has seen better days structurally as a tree recently punctured the roof and the wooden foundation needs updating. But because it is a cultural landmark, they are getting grants and donations to fix it up. Although I stayed there during my first trip, I asked if one of the new caretakers for the old place could give me a tour. From Aretha Franklin to Ike Turner to JFK, Jr to Bessie Smith (who died in the building when it was a hospital), the names of people who stayed in the Riverside Inn is long and distinguished.
I said farewell to Frank, left the Riverside Inn, and returned downtown to the Juke Joint Festival. I stopped in the Delta Blues Museum as well as Ground Zero Blues Club. The Ground Zero Blues Club is partly owned by legendary actor Morgan Freeman and his picture graces the wall along with so many other blues and Clarksdale legends. I bounced around for a few more hours, saw a few more musicians, and even returned to Cat Head to buy myself some swag.
By Saturday evening, I had two shows left to see, Terry "Harmonica" Bean again and Christone "Kingfish" Ingram, a 23-year-old blues phenomenon who has already played the White House and won a Grammy. Kingfish was to not be missed.
Although I saw Terry "Harmonica" Bean earlier in the day, there were two reasons why I failed to give him a copy of my book after his morning show. The first reason was because I left before he finished. The second, and more important reason, was because I was out of books. However, in my visit to Cat Head, I saw they had two new copies of Curveball at the Crossroads among the books. So, yes, I bought a copy of my own book to give to someone else. Such is the life of a small writer.
When I got to the Delta Blues Alley Cafe, Terry was setting up. I was able to talk with him for a minute or two and present him with a book. He thanked me and told me that he was the Mississippi equivalent to classic '80s baseball stars Dwight Gooden or Bret Saberhagen. Hopefully we can talk baseball and blues again sometime.
Terry "Harmonica" Bean's show early Saturday evening was a fun jam, not too dissimilar from his morning show, but with a better crowd. He rocked some John Lee Hooker-style boogie blues and got folks dancing. There was also beer served at the evening show, so alcohol was probably amplifying the audience participation.
But unfortunately for Terry "Harmonica" Bean, his show overlapped with the headliner for the entire festival, the star of the region, the next great blues ambassador, Christone "Kingfish" Ingram. After 30 minutes of Terry Bean, folks started filing out of the Blues Alley Cafe to walk the few blocks to Kingfish's show.
For some interesting reason, the concert coordinators of the Juke Joint Festival decided to set Kingfish up in an old bank, not outside on the main stage of the festival. The bank was a cavernous old building, with the word "BANK" outside, just as you expect an old bank to be in a old southern town. There were a few hundred chairs aligned inside the bank with band's setup along the back wall. Although the building had the frame of a bank, it lacked any of the inside bits and pieces, such as a teller counter, offices, and any other furniture. Perhaps it was biggest empty building in Clarksdale.
Layout aside, when I got there, I found a spot close to the side of the "stage". I was approximately 15 feet from Kingfish's left. So I never saw him head-on, but it was probably the closest I have ever been to a Grammy winner performance.
For those who haven't seen or heard of Kingfish, he is the real deal. Straight from the cast of Buddy Guy and the 3 Kings of the Blues - Albert, Freddie, and BB, Kingfish has the chops and riffs to play the blues the way the legends did. He has been blazing a path through the blues scene with his first two albums, already winning the aforementioned Grammy, being featured on national TV, and playing the White House for the Obamas back in 2015. He is as big a deal as deals come in the blues.
Interestingly, when I was scrolling through my pictures from my 2009 visit, I have a pic of Kingfish playing in a kid's band when he was 10 years old. Now 12 years later, I had a chance to see him again.
Kingfish did not disappoint. He rocked through several of his own songs and many blues standards. Although it was a short show - only an hour - he proved again that he is the future of traditional blues.After Kingfish's stellar performance, I rolled back to Como, full of all new blues memories. My flight back to Tampa was early on Sunday, so I missed the final day of the 2022 Juke Joint Festival. But from my trip to Oxford, to my book signing, to lunch with an old friend, to closing with Kingfish, my return to the Crossroads was a huge success.
Tuesday, May 24, 2022
Super excited to reveal the updated book trailer for Curveball at the Crossroads. Like George Lucas in 1997, we made some visual changes to our original video. You might notice the 2nd edition cover. That cover definitely pops more than the first cover and gets more readers' attention.
Big thanks to Bill McArdle at TampaBayNightLife.tv for the video work and my friends Steve Carney and Patro Mabili for their voices.
Unlike George Lucas, in my new trailer, Greedo doesn't shoot.
Monday, May 16, 2022
On May 1st, I had the pleasure of selling and signing my books at Sunshine Book Company in Clermont, FL. Clermont is a little town outside of Orlando and the Sunshine Book Company is a cute little bookstore near downtown.
We had a great event and several friends and family were among the visitors, to include my brother, my nephew, and friend and fellow author Vale Anoa'i. Also attending were a few pro wrestling friends Vertigo "The Cure" Rivera and Hardkore Ferrari. No headlocks or piledrivers were needed for everyone to have a great time!
Coming soon: on 5/28, I will be at Hello Again Books in Cocoa Village, Florida for a book selling and signing. Hope to see everyone there!
Sunday, May 8, 2022
I am super excited about this book signing. Whereas my last book signings we at my book's spiritual home, this book signing will take place where I grew up.
Years ago, my mother owed a bookstore called Once and Again Bookstore in Melbourne, FL. Unfortunately, due to hurricanes, economics, and trends in book buying, she couldn't stay open. But it was there that I came up with the idea that I was at least as good as the worst writer in any bookstore. I still think that.
Now Curveball at the Crossroads is in multiple bookstores across Florida. Some are there on commission and some are there because the bookstore ordered them. Either way, readers can find my debut novel.
For many of these bookstores, I would like to do book signings. That requires coordinating and scheduling. On Saturday, May 28th, I will be at Hello Again Bookstore in Cocoa, Florida, the closest independent bookstore to where my mother had her own bookstore years ago.
Tuesday, April 12, 2022
I am happy to announce that I will be at the Oxford Exchange Book Fair in Tampa, Florida on April 28th, 2022. The Oxford Exchange is located at 420 W Kennedy Blvd, Tampa, FL 33606. I will have copies of Curveball at the Crossroads - both the first and second editions - as well as my other books to include the underground sensation The Man Makes You Work.
This is the second year I have done the Oxford Exchange Book Fair. It is an awesome experience and introduced me to a bunch of other authors. Writing and bookselling is such an individual endeavor that to meet others in the same boat is really cool. As an author, I was able to see what others were doing and compare and contrast best practices. At worst, you meet other authors to follow on social media.
I am particularly excited about this year's event even moreso than I was last year's because of the excited surrounding second edition of Curveball at the Crossroads. To showcase a product I am proud of that looks great to an audience of book fans should be a lot of fun.
I hope to see everyone there. For more information on the Oxford Exchange Book Fair, check out their website by clicking here.
Tuesday, April 5, 2022
Super excited about this news.
My book is going home. Home to the Crossroads.
I have been wanting to do a return trip to Clarksdale, Mississippi for several years and the publishing of Curveball at the Crossroads is providing the perfect opportunity. I will be signing copies of Curveball at the Crossroads at the Cat Head Delta Blues and Folk Art store in Clarksdale on Friday, April 22nd at noon to 1pm.
I visited Cat Head years ago and it was one of the coolest stores I ever been to. Now to sign my book there and to be an advertised part of the festival is an awesome feeling. Big thanks to Roger, the owner of Cat Head for being receptive to the idea of me swinging by. And a big thanks to him for already posting Curveball at the Crossroads for sale on his website.
Also, for my book collectors: I will also be selling several copies of Curveball at the Crossroads signed by the cover artist, Grego "Mojohand" Anderson. Mojohand is famous in the blues scene as he has done countless posters, album covers, shirt designs, and anything that can show an image. He is fantastic and highly recommended if you like blues art.
My upcoming trip to Clarksdale will also be my first out-of-state book signing, so that also adds to the significance of the event. It is easy to market my book to my local area, but to have reasons to go interstate and spread the word about Curveball at the Crossroads is a great thing.
I hope to have some great pictures from Clarksdale. Hopefully some with a copy of Curveball at the Crossroads. After all, the Mississippi Delta is the spiritual home of Curveball at the Crossroads.
Friday, April 1, 2022
In this segment, I talked with Torian about the development of the audiobook.
He discussed his process in creating voices and his thoughts on voicing the Devil.
Includes Chapter 11 of the Curveball at the Crossroads audiobook!
The audiobook is available by CLICKING HERE.
Monday, March 7, 2022
Here is part 2 of my interview with Curveball at the Crossroads narrator Torian Brackett. In this part, we talk about the development of the audiobook. Torian Brackett discusses his recording process, his initial thoughts on the book, and the voice of the story's play-by-play announcer.