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Feb 23 15

Monday’s Rant: The Death of the Message in Marketing

by Richard Sutton
Take one.
Take one.

“So… I really, really want to talk about how excited I am that we can all watch videos about my newest idea.”

How may televised interviews with entrepreneurs and media artists have you seen lately that begin with the word, “So”? Maybe because I wasn’t born in the eighties or later, it jars me every time I hear it. What surprises me the most is how frequently I hear it. Aside from its hurried style and less-than-sincere tone, I wonder where the younger business people, writers and media artists who use it constantly learned how to communicate? Given an on-the-air opportunity to pitch their idea, service or product effectively, they instead launch into a “hand-held-camera” style of speech: jittery, nervous and prone to skip ahead. Little help comes from most of the interviewers who seem to be more interested in fulfilling the time-count than capturing useful information for their viewers.

It probably annoys me more because of my years working actively in marketing and advertising. Back in the day, ad men were taught to show some respect for the market and especially for the target. Talking “down” to your prospective customer was strictly forbidden. You didn’t want to write or speak in a stilted manner, but you didn’t want to sound like a feckless teenager either. Now, it seems perfectly acceptable for a business person to speak to their target audience as if they were all rushing down the hall in their dorm, trying to get to a class.

The idea of life-style appeal wasn’t lost on me, but to dumb-down the message really gives the consumer every opportunity not to listen to it. It makes it unimportant, no matter how “high-energy” or young-vernacular it might be.

When I was coming up in the business, I was taken under the wing of a succession of older, knowledgeable professional people. I learned from making mistakes, of course, but also by seeing how carefully crafting a pitch message could pay off in improved recognition and product sales. As I watch what passes for the current refinement of the techniques of the biz in commercials and pitch interviews, I’m beginning to get the impression that the intent and consideration of the core of the message has been lost along the way.

Not that the current video crop are not beautifully produced and edited. Not that lifestyle appeal isn’t reinforced in the choices of diverse spokespersons wearing bright, engaging, diverse-themed clothing. No, those values are all very “current”, upscale and culturally sensitive. However, what I’m seeing more and more is evidence that the state of the art in marketing has moved from improved product awareness and positioning, to high-recognition for the producer’s portfolio and resume. I can’t even begin to count all the commercials I’ve been seeing that fail to end on a logo image or any visual reinforcement of just who is footing the bill for putting the message out.

When “trademarks” were so strongly touted beginning in the late 1940s and name branding became the focus of the advertising industry in the 1950s and 1960s, it was for a reason. The Golden Age of Advertising had a lot to do with the amount of gold spent on projects. There was a great deal of effort and time put into empirical studies of how humans reacted to images and how much repetition was necessary to achieve recognition in various mediums. Both psychologists and neurologists were brought in to discuss and investigate the hard-wired side of our memory and our emotional responses. It was as much science as art.

Today however, the selfie is king. Conscious direction and planning in marketing seem to have been discarded as so “old-tech” they are just not useful. What replaces them is a focus and concentration upon individual moments frozen in time, then looped together. Engaging as they might be, they are very easy to forget. Impressions that only feed the most fleeting emotions without addressing any real thought are very easy to completely forget.

Which is why despite enjoying the production values in a flashy, new commercial for a chain of shoe stores this morning, I couldn’t tell you which store or even the names of the brands carried. But it might be because I’m too old, or too male, or just out-of-the-loop-duJour. Or not.

So… maybe we should really be talking about just what the messages we send are really supposed to do?

You think?

Feb 22 15

by Richard Sutton

Retold, brilliantly, by author Robert Davidson…

The Bagpiper

838886199_56282daaffTime is like a river. You cannot touch the water twice, because the flow that has passed will never pass again. Enjoy every moment of life.

As a bagpiper, I play many gigs. Recently I was asked by a funeral director to play at a graveside service for a homeless man. He had no family or
friends, so the service was to be at a pauper’s cemetery in the Nova Scotia back country.

As I was not familiar with the backwoods, I got lost and, being a typical man, I didn’t stop for directions.

I finally arrived an hour late and saw the funeral guy had evidently gone and the hearse was nowhere in sight. There were only the diggers and crew
left and they were eating lunch. I felt badly and apologized to the men for being late.

I went to the side of the grave and looked down and the vault lid was already in place. I didn’t know what else to do, so I started to play.

The workers put down their lunches and began to gather around. I played out my heart and soul for this man with no family and friends. I played
like I’ve never played before for this homeless man.

And as I played “Amazing Grace”, the workers began to weep. They wept, I wept, we all wept together. When I finished, I packed up my bagpipes and
started for my car. Though my head was hung low, my heart was full.

As I opened the door to my car, I heard one of the workers say, “I never seen anything like that before, and I’ve been putting in septic tanks for
twenty years.”

Apparently, I’m still lost….it’s a man thing.

# # # #

Thanks! We needed that!

The-Tuzla-Run-196x300

“Robert Davidson’s great novel, in the tradition of Tom Clancy, throws a mis-begotten group of adventurers, assassins, ex-military and oddballs at the morass of war-torn Bosnia. Their task? To drive a unarmed UN convoy carrying relief supplies through the ragged countryside, on impassible roads with well-armed enemies behind every bush and bombed-out building.” Five Star Amazon Reviews…

 

Feb 17 15

Some Ol’ Mardi-Gras Voudou…

by Richard Sutton

lebontemps02It’s been a long, very cold winter this year. I usually enjoy the serene beauty of the occasional snowfall, but with the stuff on the ground more than a foot deep for weeks, despair finds its way in. We haven’t been sleeping that well, either.

This morning, at a quarter to seven, we were suddenly awakened by the raucous sound of a crowd cheering and whistling. Very loud, I couldn’t tell if it was coming from outside, or… inside. Terrified, I crept down the hall and around the archway into the living room. A low, trombone growl alerted me that if it was a home invasion, at least they brought instruments!

The traditional sounds of “Things Ain’t What They Used To Be”, began blasting from our loudspeakers, to paraphrase Clement Moore, it soon let me to feel I had nothing to dread. Why of course not. It’s Fat Tuesday, and the parade bands are tuning up… somewhere along Saint Charles Avenue, far to the South, where it wasn’t actively snowing.

We’d been to New Orleans in January where my grandson and I contracted the flu. Still, some good old voudou must have hung on, to spring free when it was needed the most, up here in the frozen North. I went into the den, with a lively step, to turn down the music. We keep our gear in a tall entertainment armoire with doors that close so we don’t have to look at the electronics when we don’t want to. I’d closed those doors securely when I retired for the night a few hours before. One door, lay slightly ajar… just wide enough.

I knew when I saw that, how the magic had worked. One of our cats is a bonafide tunnel-cat, preferring to tunnel under bedclothes and inspect dark places in his spare time. This morning, he must have crawled up inside the armoire and stepped on the remote lying next to the receiver, to turn on the music. It had been set to our Satellite Radio station (Sirius/XM Channel 67, Classic Jazz) yesterday afternoon. I switched it off when it was time for the news.

So that’s what I’ve decided to tell myself instead of the alternative, which is that the ghost of Marie Laveau, knowing we were beginning to let the weather get us down, sent one of her familiar spirits over the miles to bring a little Mardi Gras cheer just when we needed it. Besides, I’ve got two handy bathrooms here.

Laissez le bon temps rouler! Where are those purple crew beads anyway?

Watch the live NOLA Parade Webcam: http://www.nola.com/paradecam/

Feb 8 15

Working with text typography: The Font Test

by Richard Sutton
The Printer's Devil and Quoins which were the typographer's tools for hundreds of years before computerized typesetting was introduced.

The Printer’s Devil and Quoins which were the typographer’s tools for hundreds of years before computerized typesetting was introduced.

In order for writers communicate with readers, our words need to be presented in the most legible, effective ways possible. Selecting and manipulating typography to these worthy ends has filled entire libraries with nuanced discussions dating back to Gutenberg, but for our present purposes, we can simplify the process.

We’re fortunate that technology now allows us the luxuries of easy trial and error. Instead of hours of painstaking work, locking up a type tray and spacing the letters out with thin zinc strips to ink and print a galley proof, an entire book’s text font can be changed with only a couple of clicks of the mouse.

It’s a capability that is especially useful when choosing the typography for our work. We can select exactly the font that does the best job putting our words before our readers. I call it the Font Test, and it yields results that can be surprising as well as very useful.

My own books appeal mostly to adult readers, many over fifty, so I select the size of my text based upon legibility first. All of the test examples that follow, were set exactly the same way, in 12 point fonts, single spaced, no paragraph indents or extra line spacing. You can always do this yourself using a full page of text, sized to the exact trim-size of your book. This way, you can adjust the column width carefully, if using justified text, to minimize the visual problems that justified text can create as a result of the variable letter and word spacing. Some of the visual issues that cause eye fatigue when reading pages of text are vertical white “rivers” of linked white spaces running up and down the page, white holes, too much hyphenation and other issues that can be simply massaged away by adjusting the column width to the most optimum for reading and viewing. The place I start is a column wide enough to accommodate 39-42 letters and spaces of whatever type size you will be using, in which ever font you want to test. In the following examples, I set up an optimized width for Times New Roman, 12 point, but did not change the width when each font was applied to the text. You’ll see what I mean when you compare them.

You’ll see that the differences between fonts are quite startling, both for relative ease in reading, and also for the number of words that can be accommodated on a page. It almost appears that different sizes were used, but these are all 12 point. You can skip ahead, if you don;t need a quick overview of type design variables. It won;t be on the test.

You’ll notice also that the difference in legibility between sans-serif (no feet) type such as Arial and serif type such as Caslon are quite distinct. Also variable is the depth of the ink coverage, resulting in variations in the overall “grey” of a page when viewed with eyes slightly out of focus. Too much contrast over pages of text, can be quite tiring for the eyes. One of the primary reasons for this, is the differences in what is called x-height. X height is the relative measurement of the height of a lowercase letter (x makes a good comparison) against the full height of the capital letters. The higher relatively, the easier a font is to read, but it can get tricky if the x rises too high. Another consideration is the amount of stress in each letter form, caused by the play of the thick and thin strokes. Too much again, makes for hard reading, as does a font that is too compressed left-to-right. Condensed fonts can produce more letters per column width, but as text, it becomes too visually fatiguing when the compression is more extreme. Extended fonts, ditto. It isn’t such an issue in headline sizes, though. Of course, every designer has their favorite fonts

I suggest you go through the following samples, noticing as many differences as you can. It’s a process that will help make your own books easier to read, and can also add the shine of professional polish to your page design, once the right font, size and column width has been selected. You’ll also have to experiment with the kind of paragraph returns that you want to use, but remember, that introducing large amounts of white space between paragraphs can be very tiring for the eyes and slow down the read. I prefer a simple indent of less than 0.3″ for most of my books, but I have also added small bits of extra spacing, usually no more than three points, to returns for paragraphs, but it depends on the style of the book, the quantity of dialog, how you set dialog apart, etc. While there are so many variable details, it can set your head spinning, the place to start is with a page that looks good to your eyes, after trying out a selection of different fonts and sizes.  Have fun with it, and don’t be afraid to get really quirky, just for fun. You’ll doubtlessly pull back to a more legible type selection, but you’ll have something to compare it to, at least. You can also print out your range of font selections, trim the pages to their trim size and elicit responses and choices from readers you know.

pencilbullet

If you have any design-related questions, don’t hesitate to leave them below the samples, or just your impressions. I’ll be sure to reply in a timely fashion. Here’s the Design Cents page link, for more information about book design. I’ll be adding new articles every couple of weeks.

Type Font: Arial

Type Font: Arial

Type Font: Caslon 540

 

Type Font: Century 7512 No. 2

Type Font: Century 7512 No. 2

Type Font: Constantia

Type Font: Constantia

Type Font: Garamond

Type Font: Garamond

Type Font: Goudy Catalog

Type Font: Goudy Catalog

Type Font: Times New Roman

Type Font: Times New Roman

Feb 2 15

February Interview: Author Geoffrey Gudgion

by Richard Sutton

71XSRnn3XALOne of the most enjoyable reads I can remember is Saxon’s Bane by Geoffrey Gudgion. I read it shortly after it was released in 2013, and have picked it up again. The subtitle, You Can’t Escape the Past has sent me shivers since I first read it, and the story is so beautifully woven into its setting, it’s stayed fresh in my memory. I’ve also known the author for a number of years now since we first met in an online writer’s forum where we were all honing our work ceaselessly. I considered all Geoffrey’s hard work and expect that my readers would be interested not only in Saxon’s Bane, but in the man behind the book…

Geoff, how long have you had the dreaded writer’s itch? Have you always worked at letters?

I started my working life in the Royal Navy, way back in the Cold War era, and made my first, embarrassing attempts at creative writing during long deployments. I was with a Norwegian torpedo boat squadron off North Cape when the RN decided to sponsor me to study at Cambridge University. Five years after graduating, I was arrogant enough to decide that the RN wasn’t quite ready for me, and I switched to a business career. Here, too, I consistently failed to reconcile work with writing. My epiphany came after a blistering row with my boss, when I took a career break, finally finished Saxon’s Bane, and never went back. I now write full time, which doesn’t please the bank manager but I’m totally chilled.

Geoff, Can you give the readers a quick elevator-ride kind of idea of what Saxon’s Bane is about?

Saxon’s Bane is a thriller with a subtle, supernatural twist: past and present collide during the excavation of a Saxon warrior’s grave. It’s a time-slip, written in both the present day and the Dark Ages, where the present begins to mirror the ancient, bloody past.

Did you have any personal experiences which brought you to this story?

I think a lot of first novels are autobiographical to some extent, and yes, I gave the protagonists some personal experiences, both good and bad. Horse riding. Love. Hearing someone say “this one’s dead, too”. I used my imagination for others. If the reader can’t see the join, then I’ve done my job as a writer.

I can’t imagine the feeling of hearing that spoken aloud. I had no idea that was something from your past. Saxon’s Bane is full of compelling history. How did you amass the historic details and research the locales involved?

I had a wonderful, chalk-dusted, port-crusted professor at Cambridge who taught me to ‘read’ the history buried within the English landscape. Apart from that, the internet and the British Library in London were invaluable. There’s a danger that the research becomes so interesting that you stop writing.

Author, sailor, Geoffrey Gudgion

Author, sailor, Geoffrey Gudgion

I’ve actually had that happen myself, just last year. Scary. Did you write your first draft thinking of a specific reader or did you write the story for yourself?

Neither, Richard. I was writing for the story, for this idea that was fighting to land on the page. When I started Saxon’s Bane, I had no idea of book publishing or marketing, and I didn’t understand genre at all. It was only after I was signed up by an agent that I discovered the practicalities of ‘genre’, and the problems of being ‘cross-genre’; a bit of historical, a hint of the supernatural (fantasy), and a plot that was described as a ‘thriller’. That’s a marketing challenge in an industry that thinks in genre boxes.

My own inspiration often comes from different directions at once.Were there any specific allegorical ideas you wanted to address? Did the characters’ storyline unfold itself during the writing?

We all build our own realities, so I challenged both the main characters to decide how much of their experiences were ‘true’. The male protagonist has come back from the edge of death, and doesn’t know whether what he saw there was real or a product of his own mind. A woman archaeologist doesn’t know whether she is being given a preternatural understanding of the bodies she is exhuming, or whether she is losing her grip on ‘reality’. Those were interesting dynamics to explore.

How do you establish the characters in your work? They’re all very memorable, even the supporting ones.

I give them their bones, but they flesh themselves out. At the beginning of the first draft, they are like cartoons, two dimensional. As they acquire substance in my mind they not only become real on paper, they help shape the plot. I find that exciting, getting to know them so well. Leaving the characters of Saxon’s Bane to start on Catherine Bonnevaux was like abandoning old friends. I still miss them, and may ask them to join me in a future book.

As you know, I’ve had the distinct pleasure of reading an early proof of your second novel. In both of your books, first impressions are often mistaken or at least more complex than they appear initially. Is the construction of potential mis-directions and side-alleys part of your approach intentionally?

I like ambiguity, I like subtlety. You have to build complexity over time, otherwise the reader gets indigestion. And I have to admit, sometimes I don’t know where I’m going, so the characters have a way of taking me in interesting directions.

What’s in the works for future release, right now?

My second novel, Catherine Bonnevaux, is now with my agent. It’s also a time-slip with a supernatural twist, set on a crumbling English country estate that’s been in the same family for over six hundred years. The dynasty was founded with a terrible oath. In the present day, the family has forgotten the oath, but perhaps the oath has not forgotten the family.

With a hook like that, I’m sure it will be sold in no time. With all the work, are you finding any time for fun these days?

Last year, an old friend took me sailing along England’s South Coast and across the Channel. We anchored one night in a wild, desolate inlet where the only sounds were the screams of seagulls. As we sat in the cockpit, drinking wine and talking with the ease of old friendship, the falling tide revealed the bones of dead ships. It was an atmospheric place, near a town that had been sacked by the Vikings in AD 876. I wondered what else that mud might reveal, and decided that for my third book, I’m going back to where my working life began; the sea.

Ahhh… the Mother of us all. You know that salt water is one of my weaknesses. I certainly can see you’ll have plenty of first-hand knowledge to add to the new project.

Richard, it’s a great honour being invited to be part of your blog. Although we’ve never met face to face, I’m sure that if we were ever to sit watching the tide go out with a bottle of wine beside us, it would be a very convivial evening. One day, I hope.

As do I. The world is not so big, after all. Only 3147 km from Land’s End in Cornwall to NYC! Thank you for giving your time to educate us about your process and share some hints about projects we’ll see soon.

lands-end-flickr

Note: I recently sent this video link to Geoffrey, of a hundred-year-old, gaff-rigged Herreshoff 30 sailing again after a full restoration. It’s an engaging, exciting video that anyone who like messing around boats will enjoy.

Jan 25 15

Free Short Story!

by Richard Sutton

vermontwoods96tnMy extended short story, Vermont Woods: A Music Fable is now available for Kindle, over the next four days completely free! Here’s the link:
http://www.amazon.com/Vermont-Woods-Music-Richard-Sutton-ebook/dp/B00SNJ9K0Q

Jan 24 15

Upcoming Novel: River Traffic

by Richard Sutton
This emerging cover design comes from an image I shot in 2013 on a sunset cruise up the Mississippi in NOLA

This emerging cover design comes from an image I shot in 2013 on a sunset cruise up the Mississippi in NOLA

A longtime work in progress, I’m again working on my WW2 novel which has a new title and a provisional cover design. I expect it to continue to evolve, but today, I’m posting a few opening pages for you to taste to see if they’re a flavor you enjoy…

Cristobal, Canal Zone, October 1944

First Mate Walter S. Reilly sat thumbing his rosary while studying his shoelaces. There was enough shade here to block most of the sun’s late afternoon heat. His ruddy coloring and light blue eyes didn’t get along too well with the tropics, but he never let that stop him. A light breeze was coming in off the water, cooling him almost to the point of comfort. But comfort alone wasn’t why he was here. He could close his eyes, inhale the wet, jungle smell as it mixed with the salty air, and if he let his mind wander enough, it almost felt like… home.

While the sun continued to slip into the unseen horizon, the shadows under the eyes of the looming stone Jesus grew sterner and sterner. In Reilly’s mind, there was nothing there but accusation and blame, so a stern demeanor suited the Lord’s face. Last night’s bottle hadn’t sat too well, but there was always today’s… waiting. He settled back, waiting for his stomach to settle down a bit more as the breeze wafted over him, sending him back. Back in time and back over the miles. Back home. But which one?

A prayer asking forgiveness began to form in his constricted mind but he was sending it out, not to the Savior, but to his wife. The one farthest north. Maybe to both of them; so maybe he could just nap for a few minutes, first. He settled back against the bench and let his legs straighten out in front of him. As Reilly’s eyes slowly closed, his chin settled against his chest.

# # # #

“Wha’z that?” The military cop who’d brought the dead seaman in, leaned over the examination table and stared at the dirty linoleum floor. He’d heard the sound of a coin, or a key, or some small metal object hit the floor as they rolled the body over. Normally, Chief Petty Officer Hastings didn’t get involved once he’d completed the forms and dropped the corpse, but today, the examiner was missing his assistant, Guillermo, who’d left early for a family quinceanera. Annoying was the least of it. The way they ran things down here, it amazed him they ever got anything done, or right.

“Y’ hear that? Som’thin must’ve fell out his pockets.”

The Examiner, Dr. Nunez y Chavez, glanced down, then stood back from the rust-streaked table to see if he could spot whatever Hastings heard. “I see nothing on my side…” His eye caught a glint of metal caught in a broken-off section of torn flooring under the table’s edge. “Wait – there is something. A coin?

Nunez y Chavez bent over stiffly, one hand upon the table to steady himself and came back up holding a small, light brass coin. He offered it to Hastings, who took it and held it up to the light for a better look.

“Well… I’ll be damned. It’s a Brooklyn Trolley token! “ A smile crept across Hasting’s face as full recognition set in. Brooklyn. That was a place he knew pretty well. Then he wrinkled up his dark eyebrows and said, aloud, “But… I thought this guy was from… “ He reached over to where the departed seaman’s billfold was lying near a pocket knife in a chipped, white porcelain tray. He flipped it open and ran his fingers over the contents, then pulled out a small card. “Yeah, this guy Reilly was from New Orleans. Wonder why he carried around a token for a Brooklyn trolley?”

The Examiner raised his hands, palms up. “There’s no saying why these men do anything. Why do they drink so much? Why do they fight so much? Can you tell me?”

“Not me, Doc. It’s a mystery.” Hastings lifted his palm up towards the light, where the filigree pattern of lines on the token caught the light. He gave it one more glance, then put the billfold and the token back into the tray. He asked the Examiner what he wanted him to do, adding, “You think I should wear some gloves?”

“Why bother. No blood or vomit – there’s a sink and some soap in the corner if you have hesitation or something about handling the dead. They are just dead.”

“Nah. I got no problems with that – I bring lots of ‘em in.” Hastings didn’t really like it much, but didn’t want his squeamishness to show. They removed the dead man’s boots and socks, and tossed them on the floor, then began removing his clothes to inspect the corpse for signs of injury. After turning it over once more, the Examiner reached for his clipboard. There was always a new Certificate of Death ready to go, and he began filling out what he could. “Chief Hastings? You know his captain? Captain Moresell?”

“I think so… yeah!” Hastings had already taken several steps back from the table, adding, “Why y’ask?”

“Well, someone needs to contact him so he can make positive… uh, I.D., you know?”

“I guess I can find him. Their tug is over at the Pilot Quay. He’ll be around a few more days now, since he’s gonna hav’ta find a new Mate, eh?”

“Today would be best.”

There was such a tone of finality in the Examiner’s voice, Hastings just repeated him. “Today.”

Nunez y Chavez glanced at the clock on the wall then back to the table, where he lifted the dead man’s arm and tried to work the wrist joint. “When did you say you found him?”

“It wazzn’t me. Some kid said he was just lyin’ on a bench all the way up the Paseo to the Kid’s Park across from that Jesus Statue. Thought he was just sleepin’. I think the little bastard was gonna roll ‘im or somethin’, you know? But he got scared and found me eatin’ my breakfast on the corner. Brought me over to the bench.”

“Yes, yes, but what time was it?”

“Oh, yeah… maybe eight forty?”

Nunez y Chavez looked up towards the high window on the far wall. Without turning back to Hastings, he said, “He must have been there all night.”

# # # #

The deceased’s big oceangoing tug, U S S Libby Island, lay against the quay wall between two barges. Hastings stood leaning on a bollard until he saw some activity, then he called out, “Cap’n Moresell ‘round?”

A seaman on his way to the engine room heard Hastings’ shout. “Yeah – I’ll get ‘im for ya,” he called back, heading below. In a few minutes, the wheelhouse door swung open and a large, rough looking customer wearing the scrambled eggs on his cap’s visor walked over to the nearest rail and called down to Hastings, “Whaddya want, Hastings? You got trouble?”

“Yeah. Sorry, Cap, but we found your mate.”

“Where is the sonofabitch anyway? He was supposed to be aboard by now? You got Reilly in the brig?”

“Nope. He’s dead, Cap.” Hastings hated to deliver this kind of news dockside. He added, “The Examiner needs positive ID and … well, I didn’t really know him.”

“Why the hell not? You hauled him in twice this week alone!”

Hastings shuffled his feet, then replied, “Yeah, but Somebody’s gotta take his belongings and notify the next of kin. I can’t do that. That’s your job, I guess.”

“Yeah, yeah. My job.” The gruff tug captain turned and started down the gangway to deck level. The stair rungs echoed a hollow metal sound. He walked over to where the bulwark was gated. A wide wooden plank lay across the gap to the dock. It bent a bit, Hastings noticed, as the big man stepped across it.

Hastings gave him the details and the time. Moresell just rubbed his chin, his head shaking slowly back and forth. Finally, the tug captain said, “OK, I’ll get down there in an hour. That OK with you?”

“No problem at all. See ya ‘round!” Hastings replied cheerily, almost free of this sorry detail.

He headed towards the base, where he’d have to rehash it all over again, explaining why he was late to report. Then there were the forms. As he passed a clump of palms that leaned out over the seawall, he noticed the slick, greasy water rising and falling in a slow rhythm like one of those dance numbers he always heard in the bars here. Hastings had been thinking how ridiculous it was, for him to be planted down here in Rummy Heaven with a war on, since his posting here last October. There must be some place he could do something better than this. Maybe shoot some Krauts or Japs?

Deep down, he even wished he were back home in New York. At least at the Navy Yards, there was more to do than round up drunks and haul dead sailors to the morgue. A parrot flew overhead. The flash of its bright colors just made him feel worse. It made him more homesick. Damned token. he thought, why’d the stiff have to have that in his pocket anyway?

1928 IRT Trolley Fare Token

1928 IRT Trolley Token

Jan 20 15

New Freado Interview –

by Richard Sutton
Just one more indulgence...

Just one more indulgence…

Freado is a reader site that connects readers with the kinds of books they enjoy. I recently was asked some questions about my current projects and was pleased to see it posted on their site. Here’s the interview…

1. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Born in California in 1952, I grew up all over the Western USA. We never spent more than one year anywhere until I was in Junior High School, so I learned how to self-invent pretty early. It’s probably the reason I have as many stories percolating on my back-burners as I do. I hit the road my sophomore year at college after my guitar was stolen and eventually hitch-hiked my way to New York City from the Oregon commune where I’d built a small cabin in the woods. I found New York the most welcoming place I’d ever made a home, and stayed. Working as a ski mechanic somehow led me to my career in advertising, communications design and copy writing. by 1985, it was time for a change so my wife (the marketing professor…) and I decided to become Indian Traders and bring authentic Native handmade work and fine arts back to the NY market. Our gallery was open until 2007. Retirement meant that I could concentrate on my stories and learning the craft of fiction, which has so far produced six books and a few extended short stories.
2. Describe your book On Parson’s Creek in 30 words or less.
Imagine a “new kid” stuck in a tiny school in a logging town. Wandering, he discovers a frightening mystery hidden in the woods near his home. No one wants know about it.
3. What was the hardest part of writing your book?
OPC was a departure from my typical writing, usually in SciFi/Historic Fantasy. I wanted to explore a bit of my own past as well as some questions that have swirled around my head since I was a teenager spending a lot of time alone in the Oregon woods. The story grew from a couple of real incidents, which I fictionalized. Before I knew it, I had written a YA novel. The single hardest thing was to keep the writing voice appropriate for my main character but keep it the voice of a sixteen year old, not the man he grew into.
4. What books have had the greatest influence on you?
My writing wellspring comes from five titles, in chronological order beginning with L. Frank Baum’s Tik-Tock of Oz when I was eight, The Lord of the Rings, Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles, Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End and Walter M. Miller’s A Canticle for Leibowitz. All kept my young mind endlessly occupied and engaged, spinning off what-ifs and theoretical imaginings that have still not completely quieted. Also Herman Melville’s sagas, James Michener’s Historical Fiction, particularly Centennial and The Covenant. There have been so many, but these are the core.
5. Briefly share with us what you do to market your book?
Never enough (laughing…), that’s for sure. I have sent out print press, ePress releases and ARCs to reviewers in key demographic/regions based upon looking at online responses and reading groups. I maintain an imprint site with as much cross-linking as I can get. I maintain active Facebook and Twitter accounts that I engage with daily as well as a few book-related and marketing sites in a few of my genres. I’m always looking to add new venues, while always comparing results and costs, as I live on a pretty strict budget. Of course, if money were no object, I could really get some market penetration, but since it is, I’ll just have to do it over time, a reader at a time.
6. How do you spend your time when you are not writing?
My Dad taught me that if I can’t fix something, I had no business owning it. That made me a lifelong researcher and hands-on student of everyday engineering. I keep our house, car and grounds running happily (most of the time). I also do daily online market research, keep my voice accessible in various writing and reading communities, play some six-string music, spend time with our kids and grandkids, wrangle our cats, listen to classical and more of said six-string music and of course, write.
7. What are you working on next?
I’ve been writing and researching a longer historical novel/family saga set in both Red Hook, Brooklyn and in New Orleans during WW2 and before. It’s meant some travel down to the Gulf and upriver for which I’m very grateful. My wife’s family is connected in both places, so it feels right whether on the B.Q.E. (Brooklyn-Queens Expressway), driving down to the bayous or in The Quarter (The Vieux Carre) in New Orleans. It’s the story of a Brooklyn tugboat captain who ends up living two lives, one in NY and one in Louisiana and a secret government mission that finally gives him some redemption. I expect it won’t be a completed draft until 2016, which will make it the longest time between titles since 2009. I’ve released two other books during the time I’ve been working on this one, so there may well be other, shorter titles to come if my more typical muses get too pushy along the way. I try to plan, outline and annotate my work, but in the end, the story takes me where it will and I just sit back and enjoy the ride.
Dec 30 14

2015? Where do we go from here?

by Richard Sutton

gtlasses_smAs the year runs into it’s final day, I’m full of questions about what the next year will bring us. The times we’re living in are not as stable as the ones I grew up in, nor do they offer all the opportunities I grew to expect. Usually one to scoff at the idea of New Year’s Resolutions, I can see now that this New Year will require some changes of each of us if we are to make the best of it.

I wish everyone the best opportunities and joy in the coming year. There are many problems confronting our entire human family right now. Some of them affect the entire world we live in. My sincere wish is that we get back to speaking together about our issues, fears, concerns and ideas. Face to face, if we can, but any way possible.

I’ve seen how the technology of online communications makes it so easy to simply pass along someone else’s ideas, someone else’s agenda, without really getting to know all the details. Cut n’ Paste is a real timesaver, but it can also be a dangerous thing if it becomes a crutch to use instead of actually engaging. We’re better than that, all of us and we all have a serious stake in making our lives happier and safer. Really share. Talk to each other. Listen to each other. Engage.

That’s my only resolution for the coming year and beyond.

Dec 24 14

Wishing you all…

by Richard Sutton

… from this day forward, all the very best of this and every Season. All the warmth of your family and friends, good health and everything you need to feel safe and happy!

peace2014