Oct 25, 2010

Stepping Out Into the World of Authorship

Note: Portions of this article appear at my writing blog: http://davidwhenderson.blogspot.com, but I thought I'd edit it a bit for inclusion over here.

The photo above was taken by Jessica Hartman
(one of the daughters of our best friends, Greg and Michelle)!

For quite a while now, I have been promoting the "Gathering of Authors" that eventually took place in Texarkana at the Four States Fairgrounds this past weekend.

I woke up very early Saturday morning, realizing that I had not printed any kind of business/contact cards!  I went to the home office frantically searching for the business cards I knew we had for our printer.  Er, make that "thought we had." No business cards.  Okay, I could just print some out on heavier stock parchment paper, but that seemed a bit cheesy and very flimsy.  I rummaged through the various types of paper we had and I found about 15 sheets of some trading card paper I had bought quite some time ago to make custom baseball cards.  I considered using it, then decided not to use it, then thought about it again and finally decided to create cards using each novel as one side of the card.

The paper has adhesive backing that you remove the protective coating and fold the paper in half.  Everything (for the most part) lines up perfectly and each half sticks to the other half, creating a two-sided trading card-sized item.  In this case, my contact cards!  

I hung out, gathering up books for my outing.  After everyone else was awake, we cleaned the house and then it was time for me to head to Texarkana, about 45 miles down the road.  Emily wanted to go with me and since Shan was going to do some shopping, they would meet up at the Gathering and Emily would go home.  Well, that was the plan, anyway.  Emily and I headed down the road.

I have been to the Four States Fairgrounds a couple times, and have passed by it MANY times on my way to a couple of the schools I service as part of my day job.  As we approached the exit, however, my daughter and I began to play a game of some sort and that was distraction enough for me to miss the exit.  It also proved distraction enough that when I realized that I should be exiting soon, I knew something was amiss.  I was seeing restaurants, stores, and other landmarks that only added to my confusion.  The fairgrounds aren't down this far, I told myself, second-guessing everything before my eyes as if awakening from a dream.  I took the last exit before going "way too far" and pulled into the Best Buy parking lot.  Firing up the Droid and asking it to route me to the fairgrounds, I discovered I overshot the exit by several miles. When I posted that fact on Facebook, my boss greeted with, "Only you could get lost in Texarkana."  I'm sure that's not true... Surely not.  I mean, there has to be someone else that could not only get lost in T-Town but get lost while driving down the INTERSTATE!  Okay, so maybe that's a pretty narrow group of folks.

Now, a normal person would find the quickest route back to the Interstate and head for the correct exit.  Not me. That would be too easy and lack the adventuring spirit I evidently possessed that day.  Instead of heading to the road behind the stores, I drove through bizarre construction patterns, missed one on-ramp, and kept driving until I found myself on a road that would eventually get me back on the correct path.  Really, I'm not even sure how I found my way.  I call it God's grace.  You call it what you want.

Once I took the exit for the fairgrounds, I followed the various signs that led to the entrance and ultimately to the building where the event was taking place.  By that time, I was sure I was the last person arriving and that everyone was standing inside tapping their shoes on the floor and checking their watches.  I was wrong on both counts.

Emily and I unpacked the car and hurried into the building.  Inside, a large circle of tables occupied the middle area of the open floor while many other tables lined the side walls.  Some people walked around, purposefully looking at each table's display or examining the displays on the walls behind those on the outer edges of the building's main room.  Other folks were still putting their displays together.  Still others sat behind their tables, reading or looking around.  I am pretty sure I saw one guy reading his *own* book.  I wouldn't wager money on it, but the book in his hand sure LOOKED like those on his table.  I approached the first table to my left (where I saw event bags, t-shirts, etc) and spotted a placard with my name and book titles on it.  It also had a picture, but the person in the photo was definitely *not* me.  I met Tammy Thompson (author and event header-upper).

"Is this," I held up the sign, "my sign? 'Cause, I don't think this is me."  I smiled and chuckled a little, hoping to make light of things.  She bit.

"What!? That's not you?" She said jokingly.  She laughed and tossed the sign aside after taking from me.  "No, you're..." she looked around the room for a moment, "Over here! Next to me."  We walked to the table where my *real* placard rested on top of a six-foot table with a red tablecloth.  A stack of event bookmarks also sat on the table.  I thanked her, and my daughter and I began unpacking my box.  I created a small twin-stack of "All This Digging" and then laid out five copies in something not quite like a fan and then did the same with "Summer Breaks."  I laid the trading card contact cards out on the table. 

Emily didn't care for my decorating, and she arranged the bookmarks and moved the contact cards.  Inspiration struck!  I stood a copy of each book upright with the BACK facing outward so that passersby could read the synopses while standing at my table.  In retrospect, I'm not sure that was a great idea.  I've read that the key to sales is to get the book into the readers' hands.  I was effectively giving them "an out."  They could read about the book without actually TOUCHING it.  Not smart, granted.

Emily and I decided to look around a bit, checking out other author's books and displays.  There were several children's book authors, many fiction authors and several non-fiction authors.  I met secular authors, Christian authors, a couple fantasy writers, and more than a few southern writers (which would stand to reason given the location!).  Some authors had big posters and banners, while others had their own signs.  Still others thought to bring candy in dishes.  Most of the folks had their pricing and "checks payable" info on their signs.  I was feeling more and more like the novice outsider who had mistakenly received an invitation to the ball.  Emily found an author she liked and we bought three of his books (Tom C Greer's "Adventures of Honey" series: http://www.honeyadventures.com).

Luckily, the woman next to me on my left (Tammy was on my right and I forget her name just now) was in the same boat I was - new author, first-timer.  Though, she had a VERY cool model to go with her novel and she *did* print the price of her book on her sign.  I removed my sign from its holder and wrote the prices next to the images of my covers.  I also invented an "event special" in which folks would get a discount for buying both books at the same time.

Opposite of my table, the "Kids Corner" took up a nice portion of one corner, and children of all ages were in there coloring pages, writing for a contest or listening to tories being read to them.  My daughter never left my side (at least not for a long, long time) despite my best efforts to shoo her over to the kid-friendly area.  At the other end of the room, a woman in a clown suit made balloon creatures.  Emily ended up with a monkey climbing a tree and a fishing pole with a fish on the line!  Very cool and creative - not to mention talented!

I talked with visitors and other authors.  To my surprise, a co-worker appeared and bought a copy of each book!  Then, another woman I knew from one of my area schools also bought a book!  I had sold three books within just a few moments.  Based on a talk I had with a "regular" to these things, I was told to expect to sell about half a dozen.  I was halfway there! 

Throughout the day, patrons (or authors or anyone for that matter) could buy raffle tickets to benefit St. Jude hosptial.  Drawings were held roughly fifteen minutes apart.  There were a LOT of prizes, and by day's end, even we had won four things!  According to an email I received today, the event raised $1000 for St. Jude! That is quite a success considering the number of bodies that came through.  That is, it was a small endeavor by many standards.

At one point, Shan came by and hung out with me for a couple hours.  While she was there, Greg, Michelle and Jessica dropped by, which was a total surprise!!  We had a lot of fun chatting, checking to see if Emily was letting everyone else in the tri-state area ahead of her in the balloon line, and generally making noise.

In addition to books, kids' activities, and folks, the event also featured free sandwiches, snacks, and drinks! 

Around 6pm, the kids all went outside for a pinata busting and my daughter came rushing back with a double handful of goodies!  I sold a couple more books during the day and at 6:30 or so, Kathy Patrick (the featured speaker) got up and told us about her "Beauty and the Book" endeavor, some of her life story and about her author event "Pulpwood Queen's Book Club" (and the guy version, "Timber Guys").  She is a  lively, fun woman who is taking full advantage of her time on this earth!

I offered a copy of "Summer Breaks" to each Ms. Patrick and to Ms. Thomspon, and they both gladly received their copy.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and my daughter not only stayed to spend the whole day with me (she was given the chance to go home with her Mom but refused), but she also finally went to the kids corner to color a couple pages.

I made several contacts, and may have even convinced a couple folks to give Lulu.com or CreateSpace.com a try for self-publishing.

(The "gathering." I am standing to the right of the woman in light blue near the center. You can see my head and a portion of my navy polo.)

Oct 22, 2010

Losing it

I remembered using my ATM card at walmart about a week ago.  I bought a candy bar, an all-purpose usb cable, and some batteries.  See how I remember it all? 

Fast forward to wednesday this week. I went to the tire shop where Nick works to get a new tire for shan's van.  When I went to pay, I had no card in my wallet.  Uh oh.  I searched the van. Nothing. I ran to the bank and got money to pay.  Back at home, I searched for it and came up empty.

On Thursday, I searched the Charger and came up with nothing.  I called the hotel in Conway and they had no record of it being found. Hmm.  Well, I called the bank and no one had used it since my trip to wally world.

I went to the bank and had a new card ordered, cancelling my current one.

When I got back home, the card was sitting at the foot of the bed, propped up on a little fold on the bedspread.  I had checked everywhere in the house.  Weird.

Well, at least I know it wasn't lost or being used...

Oct 15, 2010

While waiting for the kids...

While waiting for the kids to get done at church on Monday, I took a few random pictures inside my car.  I know, I know.  Eventually, someone will take the camera away from me...

Oct 13, 2010

Recent Random Photos

Here are some random photos I took recently (all except the flowers at the church were taken as "drive-bys"):

Oct 11, 2010

Misinterpretation of "The Stream's Secret"

While working on my Master's degree, I took a class that focused on the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.  One of Dante Gabriel Rossetti'smost famous poems is "The Stream's Secret."  It is a haunting, romantic tale.  At least, that's how *I* took it.  In fact, I wrote a short-short story based on what I thought was happening in the poem.  Turns out my interpretation received very mixed reviews.  At least it sparked conversation. Note: When this was written, I was still pretty 'young' in my writing development.

A Misinterpretation of "The Stream's Secret" by David W. Henderson (c)2000, 2010

Peter knelt in the long, thick grass along the stream. Intently, he watched the water flow over rocks, under branches, and around a few grassy knolls. He could see the bottom of the stream perfectly. The rocks and pebbles danced along the bed without moving. Light played with the rippling water, animating the inanimate. He tilted his head slightly, his right ear bent ever so carefully toward the bubbling brook. He held his breath. The bubbling, fumbling stream did not speak to him. He sighed deeply and shook his head.

"Did you not see?" Peter asked the stream. "Did you not hear?" he yelled out, clenching his fists at the brook. He stood, his well-pressed trousers now wrinkled and stained green from the grass. He paid no attention to his pants. Slowly, he turned, stretching his arms out in a wide arc to the place that had been behind him.

"She was here," he told no one. Taking two steps away from the stream, he pointed at the ground where he now stood. "She was right here," he repeated loudly. He fell to his knees, slumping over himself until his hair rested on the ground. Tears fell from his eyes onto the grass. His body heaved as he sobbed, still crunched like a child hiding from the seeker. The mucus from his nose dangled toward the ground, swaying with each sob-ridden breath he took. Finally, it broke, landing in a pool beneath his nose.

Suddenly, he slammed one fist into the ground. Absently, we wiped his pressed jacket sleeve across his face, taking with it tears and snot and pain. He stood, ignoring the grass stains on his sleeves where his elbows had rested on the ground. Spinning on one heel, he turned to face the babbling brook once again.

"Why won't you talk to me?" he scorned. He took two steps back toward the stream, brought his leg back and kicked his patent leather shoe at the water. A plume erupted as his foot surfaced from the depths of the stream. Ignoring the soaked sock in his shoe, he kicked at the stream once more. Again, the stream answered with a fountain of water where his foot exited through the surface. Now, the stirred dirt from the bed hid the stones and rocks that were once visible. The stream's flow carried the sediment away from Peter, as it carried Sarah not long ago.

Sarah was beautiful. He long, coppery hair flowed down over her shoulders and covered her breasts. She was exquisite. Her long, cream-colored arms could reach the night sky and pluck out a star. Her shapely, toned legs coulee leap a rainbow and land her in the pot of gold at the end of it. Her satiny smooth skin glistened in the morning dew as she lay in the grass.

Peter turned, looking over his shoulder at the spot where he had been sobbing. "As she lay in the grass," he said aloud. His eyes darkened as he turned his gaze back toward the stream. That horrid stream. That keeper of secrets. His heart pounded in his chest. His breathing had become deep, heavy. He clenched his jaw tight, then spat into the water. "Keeper of secrets," he growled.

His mind flashed - Sarah lay in the grass, nude. He blinked at the stream. Flash - her lover beside her. He stared at a rock on the stream's bed. Flash - her lover slain. Rippling waves cannot break his stare. Flash - his around her throat. His jaw clenched tighter. He dragged her into the stream. His jaw moved, emitting a sharp "pop" as his teeth rubbed against each other. Sarah kicked, squirmed, twisted. Her face plunged into the stream. He wide eyes stared at Peter in disbelief. Her mouth moved, "Peter! Peter!" Her lips formed words, but make no sound. "No! Peter!" Air rushed in and out of her lungs, making bubbles at the surface. The babbling brook became violent at the intrusion. Dirt, rocks and sand all tossed and churned wildly as Sarah splashed in the water.

A small, wry smile crept on Peter's face. He blinked twice then focused his gazed on the spot where Sarah drank her last breath. The smile on Peter's face softened as he pictured her there in the water. The stream bubbled around and passed her. Her face rested above the surface, peaceful and calm. Sarah stared blankly at the stars above. Peter leaned over her and slipped his arms around her. His lips covered her soft, smooth cheeks with tender kisses. He took one hand from behind her back and gently stroked her hair as it waved lazily in the stream. Tenderly, he kissed her lips as softly as a new lover on his wedding night. He gazed into Sarah's lifeless eyes, then closed her eyelids, sealing each with a gentle kiss. Again, he slipped both of his arms around her and embraced her, pulling their two bodies together. After a few moments, he released her. She lingered at first, not wanting to leave her lover. But, finally, the stream urged her along and she relented. She began to move, but stopped suddenly as she planted her feet into the stream's bed.

Peter's eyes widened at the sight of his Sarah's hesitation. His heart raced as the gravity of his mistake comes to his full attention. Sarah was not dead after all! She had stopped to be with him! He smiled - a small, shaky laugh escaped his lips. He stood, meaning to help her out of the water. As he bent over her, she moved away from him. Her feet still seemed planted, but her body drifted away from his reaching arm. The stream continued to push her, helping her along as it turned her body away from his. Her head pointed downstream. Peter's arms dropped to his side and she slumped to the ground beside the stream. Sarah drifted away from him, forever.

If you'd like to read the poem, you can find it: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/archive/poem.html?id=174291

Oct 9, 2010

How the Lord keeps me humble

Friday was the big Open House/Grand Opening of our new education service center.  I got to see a lot of folks that I hadn't seen in along time - folks I worked with 5-6 years ago and folks I used to work with when I was in college.  Now, THAT is going back a ways!

I also met with folks I work with more frequently and more recently, but that hadn't crossed paths with since moving to the new building.  After the ribbon cutting outside, we moved inside for speeches and special "thank you" presentations.

For the event, I had created two slide shows: One with iPhoto/Slideshow that ran as a scrapbook of photos of the building during construction through completion with lots of pictures of our actual moving.  That one ran on the digital signage screens we have in the hallways.  The other was a "Who we are/What we do" presentation that ran on the four screens we have in the conference area.

At the end of the presentation, we showed a video from http://www.acknowledgmentmovie.com/ and passed out bags of blue wristbands to the honored guests.  They then handed those out to the people they thought made a difference.

So, where does the "humbling" part come in? 

It comes in because Lindy called me (and Phoebe and Karen) out by name during the presentation for our hard work and positive attitudes during the past few months.  I appreciated the recognition (though I don't think I worked any harder than some of the other folks we have who also busted their rears during all of this), and it was very humbling to be standing there with all those folks looking on as Lindy described some of the things we had to go through technologically to get things going.  Before my head could even start to swell, it came time for the final presentation...

You see, our PA/Video system has only one output when using the portable (and very loud) PA speakers.  So, during the presentation, I had the wireless microphone audio plugged into the PA system.  When the movie started, I was supposed to move one wire (yes, just one, single wire) from the microphone system to the computer for the movie.  That way, the sound from the movie would come out of the PA speakers.  I had checked and practiced this little maneuver the day before.  I knew it would work.

When it cam time to make the switch, I opened the back of the cabinet and saw wires, connections, equipment, etc and my mind went blank for a moment.  It was as if I had just been given a surgical knife and had cut open a patient - it was a jumbled mess in there and I wasn't recognizing anything.  What is all that stuff?  Where am I? Everyone is watching me! Who am I?  And then, I got my wits about me and move the wire - to the wrong plug.  Okay, let's try this other one.  Nope.  How about this one? Nope.  Holy smokes... 

There I was, the hard-working, dedicated tech guy that believes the answer is always either "yes, we can do that" or "No, we can't do THAT but we can try THIS..." who suddenly couldn't fight his way out of a wet paper bag.  With everyone watching. Brilliant.  And humbling.  The Lord knows how to keep me in line, right where I need to be.

I put everything back the way it was and started over.  Sure enough, I found the right plug.  Now, this probably took all of 30 seconds to a minute, but to me it felt like I had blown the whole thing.  Fortunately, the video has captions, and also fortunately, everyone got to hear the important parts.  Phoebe said it worked out fine, and that had everything gone without a hitch, we would have had to supply a lot more tissues. 

The newest item on my "to do" list: install a splitter so I never have to mess with the cabling for the PA system again... Well, I'll still have to mess with it but maybe it won't be so "humbling" next time. 

Oct 4, 2010

Well worth the money...

While looking for... well, nothing in particular, I decided to search Amazon for "Public Domain Books."  Here are a few that I think are definitely worth checking out.  Why not? They're FREE!

Oct 3, 2010

What a "free preview" weekend meant to me

I enjoy the weekends where DirecTV flips the switch and lets us watch movie channels for free for a few days.  It usually reminds me just why I don't bother with movie channels in the first place.  Besides, I can always hit the vending machine for a flick or rent one from PPV or off the Wii.

This weekend, I decided to watch a couple movies - you know, since they were free and all.  The problem with free weekends?  The movies generally stink.  You would think the movie channel folks would put out their very best stuff since they are trying to entice folks to pay the subscription fee.  Usually, they run their own shows (not movies, just dumb self-produced programs and series) or they run movies no one ever watches, free or not.

Surprisingly, there was a noce selection of flicks to choose from: The Shawshank Redemption, The  Princess and the Frog, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Hancock, several others I cannot recall right now.

I opted for a few: Mermaid, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Rookie of the Year (though there were several baseball-related movies at various times!), and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Mermaid (2007) (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0995747/) follows a young girl who saves a guy from drowning and she believes she can make wishes come true.  It's in Russian with subtitles (yes, I am *that* kind of movie watcher), and is really quite a beautiful story.  The girl disappears from her mother's life, basically, but the mother never seems to wonder where she went or even miss the girl.  Alisa (the girl) is on the verge of coming-of-age, but is not quite sure how to get there.  She experiences love, materialism, parties, reality and fantasy.  Without spoiling the ending, I will say it certainly was not expected (or at least, the *exact* ending wasn't for me!).  It's a very good movie.  Watch for a couple of nude scenes, though (also not necessarily expected). 

Rookie of the Year (1993) (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0107985/) is an "oldie but goodie" in my book.  It follows the story of a boy who hurts his arm in such a way that he can pitch like no one has ever seen.  He becomes the star (closer) pitching rookie for the Cubs.  Like an story about a 12-year old boy, there are family matters to deal with, fallen heroes that don't turn out as we had them in our minds, first loves, and fighting with best friends.  It's pure fantasy and absolute fun!  Sure, I cold have popped in the DVD, but why bother when it was free and I didnt have to get off the couch?

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009) (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0844471/) is an animated film based on the book of the same name.  Hapless inventor creates a machine that turns water into food.  It's got some very funny moments and is a cute family movie.  There are the issues of overeating, father-son relationships, and love.  Like Wall-E, this movie beats us over the head with issues of overeating when given the chance (that is, we will eat ourselves silly if the food is plenty).  Though, to be fair, that mainly applies to two characters: the mayor and one of the children.  Still, it was obvious there was a message in the humor.  (I don't want a message, I want a fun movie I can escape from all the messages I get bombarded with all day. Thanks.).

Now, don't let my dislike of "message movies" make you think this movie was not worth watching - it is worth seeing if you haven't yet!  A lot of fun and several great lines.  My favorite being: "Come on, Steve! There is Diem to Carpe!"  Great stuff!

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0075860/) follows several people (two, mainly) as they are overcome with an obsession for a mountain they have never seen and for a particular sequence of music notes the have never heard.  Of course, it ends up being a government cover-up.  I actually saw this movie in the theaters when it first came out.  1977 was the year for sci-fi (you may recall a little movie called "Star Wars" was released that same year).  Close Encounters is full of 70's cheesiness, yet somehow remains a good movie.  I'm sure that would be Mr. Spielberg's doing.  Until this weekend, I never paid attention enough to make the connection, but at one point in the movie, the spaceship is playing music and as Richard Dreyfuss is on screen, the ship is playing the "Duh-Dun" music from Jaws.  Funny stuff!  Certainly worth taking a walk down memory lane (just ignore all the government cover-up messages).  If you've never seen it (or are too young to have even heard of it), check it out as an alternative view of sci-fi films of the era.