Two new Olympic sports, for your consideration

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I wonder what I need to do in order to get new sports introduced and implemented. To start, I need to acknowledge the silliness of some Olympic sports. I use rhythmic gymnastics and whatever that trampoline jumping this is as two examples for two useless sports.
My friend Adam has taken the biathlon for his special brand of obsolete and/or silly sports. Originally known as Military Patrol and was at one time used as an active competitive sport for Nordic military units, the use of skiing and shooting did prove stamina and accuracy. In fact, some of the same skills are still being used. If you were to go through Marine Corps Force Recon qualifications, you could potentially have a 5 mile run, an obstacle course, and then suddenly be brought aside to fill out thinking challenges such as a puzzles or math problem. These types of seemingly disparate challenges make the solver think on his feet and force them to concentrate when under strain.
But it’s much more fun to think of new and exciting sports, right? How about another shooting sport for the Winter Olympics? I’m thinking of Ski Jumping Skeet!

ski jumper
skeet_shoot_man_clear_sky

Yup, take the excitement of ski jumping off a 120 meter ski jump with your trusty Ithaca-brand 12 gauge on your back. As soon as your ski tips leave the ramp and you’re out in the Wild Blue Yonder, it’s time to grab the trusty blaster and yell out, “PULL!” as you line up a shot on the clay pigeon before you run out of airtime. Oh, and remember, you’re still being critiqued on how well you land your Telemark, but make sure to engage the safety and clear the barrel in case you wipe out.
On a bit more serious note, (as if I’m ever going to be serious), I have a thought for a new sliding event. If anyone watches off-brand sports on a Saturday afternoon, Red Bull has taken to show their own brand of extreme sports. One that has peaked my interest is Crashed Ice. If you’re unaware of what this is, it’s essentially having guys in hockey gear and pads racing down a narrow and descending ice path to see who can navigate the twist and turns and sudden drops in elevation. As a current hockey player playing in a local beer league, this has obvious interest for me.

RED BULL CRASHED ICE - Reigning world champion Croxall takes Ice

But what if we can apply this to the Olympics?? I mean, we have Bobsled (2 and 4 man), Skeleton, Luge (single and dual, ew!). So why can’t we have a guy in hockey pads and a good set of Easton’s take-off and skate the track?? There’s nothing holding this back from occurring because it’s an excellent example of an individual effort for stamina, balance, and skill as a racer and skater. I will also add this will eliminate any advantages the sled makes and focuses on the Olympian, not their equipment.

Think about it, some of the most revered sports focus solely on individual effort without excessive gear such as twelve foot bobsleds made by BMW and tested in wind tunnels. Figure skaters, alpine skiers, and snowboard cross racers all have to strap on their skis or skates and go forth with not much more. How about sending a couple hockey players down the chute and see who gets there first and in one piece? As a motivator, promise them some wings and beer waiting at the finish and see the level of competition increase tenfold!

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The author (kneeling, second from left) celebrating a first place with with a fake Stanley Cup. Well worth the effort!

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Going all Old School to find an agent

First, some confessions need to be made. I am old enough to having to write high school term papers on a manual typewriter. I have searched for jobs through the original job board, the classified section of the Chicago Tribune. And I had send out many, many resumes via mail, fully knowing the delicacies of proper handling to avoid smudges and knowing the correct weight of the paper that would surely impress a future employer.
Second, I have caught up and kept pace with the modern world. I now type essays, papers, and of course my novel using MS Word. Sites like CareerBuilder and Dice not only show any new and exciting jobs, I can also send them an immediate cover page and resume with a click of the button. And I tend to text my wife more often than I call her. (I should work on the last part)
Having said that, I find it curious that a couple prospective literary agents still insist I send them my query letter and first chapter via snail mail. Everyone, I mean everyone, is electronic these days. But in order to get a copy of The Outer Marker in front of these old stalwarts, I’m forced to use paper, a stamp, and an SASE in case I want to know what they thought of my humble work.
And to be honest, I don’t mind and kinda like it even if it makes me complete a couple extra manual steps requiring ink and paper. In fact, it may actually put me a couple paces ahead of another prospective author who doesn’t want to deal with the hassle of sending in a manuscript. And also, I can envision the recipient handling my manila envelope, checking out where from the world it was sent, and then using a paper knife to unlock my letter as his new client.
Here’s to having some good news come back my way – via a Self Addressed Stamped Envelope.

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The honest (but not so cool) let down

So today was good news and bad news sort of day. The good news is I have found the Goodreads website much more enjoyable and easier to use to promote the book (and I’m not saying that because this blog will now copy over to my dashboard!) After being added to their Author’s group, I was introduced to an easy-to-navigate starter page that took me less than an hour to set up. I hope I can find and target the sci-fi demographic I so badly need. My wife Jen still doesn’t seem to understand why her twins-club friends are not racing out to purchase my book. I keep telling her they’re more likely to decide on Fifty Shades than a science fiction novel because that’s what they want to read, regardless of loyalty.
And now for something completely different: A query letter rejection from an established literary agency written in the “To whom it may concern” format. I wrote of this problem in my very first blog post. You take the time to craft a kick-ass query letter, seek out and pinpoint the perfect literary agency, only to have a generic letter sent back with no personalization whatsoever, you will always wonder whether these folks on Madison Avenue appreciate the effort you’re putting out. All I have to say is at least this specific agency acknowledged that they were unable to write back to each author because they were receiving two hundred query letters a week! I find that hard to believe when they said they used to receive one hundred a month in the past, and thus the reason why they cannot answer each letter personally.
But of that’s the case, I think I’ll have to take this in stride, take a more pragmatic and optimistic view of the current situation, and perhaps write a better query letter so mine is the one the next guy will pick out of the bunch.

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How many free copies constitute a loss when you have nothing to lose?

I recently found a new literary site called Goodreads that advertised that authors can receive promotion and visibility to their work. So, of course, I sign up and begin to peruse the website and all what it has to offer. As I delve deeper into the content, I find I have a couple friends who are marked as “Goodreaders” so this immediately brings me to a better sense of security. (One really must be careful with any type of webpage, including those which promote reading).
Soon I get to the section that details the opportunity for an author to promote their book. I see it’s a dashboard that provides an opportunity to showcase yourself (good), another section in which you can provide free copies as a raffle basis (better), but if you choose to promote you book there’s no chance you can sell it (not so good).
Now I’m left with a decision to either raffle off the book, provide it all free which does promote me but doesn’t leave much in my account because I have no other books to sell, or not even posting any of it.
I may see if I can place an excerpt in the dashboard with a chance of steering the potential reader to the main website. Perhaps there’s a way in which I can promote myself without giving away too many free copies. If I can find it, I’ll pursue that avenue. More details to follow…

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A fresh start for the New Year!

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I hope everyone has had a wonderful Christmas season and I wish everyone out there a festive and cheerful New Years!
As I’m still looking for a print publisher, I have been making a couple searches outside the US for E-book distributors. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, there was a Dutch company that seemed very promising and I wrote to them asking for further information about an English language sci-fi book joining their ranks. They replied with a positive sounding letter until I read that I would need to be listed as my own publisher with a monthly cost of thirty Euros. I answered that I couldn’t justify such a fee considering I only have the one title to sell and wouldn’t recoup my losses. Oh well, I think I’ll look to New Zealand e-book distributors next for shits and giggles.
One item that has surprised me is the lack of publicity I’ve made so far with the e-book. I honestly thought my mid-summer promotion of the Outer Marker release had hit as many people as I could find in my circle of friend and acquaintances (think: ad nauseum). But I’ve only recently been told by two friends that they had no idea I had written a novel. It all started when one of my beta readers posted a request on my Facebook page asking for information on how to gift my novel to a friend. After informing him to head over to the Smashwords website (I even added a coupon for him as my own Christmas gift), I was surprised that other friends started posting comments to the tune of, “Indy, what novel?!?” and “How did I not know about this??”.
I’m going to have to seriously push this to people’s front burner so at least no one will be caught unaware of my little accomplishment. I mentioned earlier this fall that I have a small circle of friends. I figure my now I have informed a total of 600 people of this and I need at least 10,000 within the sci-fi demographic in order to gain traction for book sales and word of mouth promotion. This will be an uphill battle but it’s a challenge I’m looking forward to accept.
I won’t be online for a week or so. We have our annual New Year’s vacation at a house rental in Door County, Wisconsin (imagine being in the thumb in Wisconsin’s mitten shape of the state). For twelve years we’ve stayed at a house rental in Sturgeon Bay overlooking Lake Michigan. Here’s the website in case anyone out there is ever vacationing in the area: http://www.marysbeachhouse.com/ Call Mary if you’re veer looking for a place to stay up North.
I will redouble my efforts at this book promotion once I get back home. And again, I wish everyone a prosperous and happy 2014!

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Three new endeavors (Well, two new and a follow up)

My debut novel has been electronically published for over two months and I still monitor my e-book sales. I’ve fallen into the classic habit of searching the Smashwords website to see if there have been any previews or sales. But, as you can expect, once the book has hit the plateau, then don’t expect much traffic.
Two items I intend on doing to help sales will be business cards and searching out other e-book distributors. The business cards angle is pretty straightforward, but instead of the card displaying my business; it’s focused on the book. It should have the all the basics, author’s name, genre of the book, location of where it’s available, and of course, the title of the book. One item I’m mulling over is whether I can get the cover art of the novel on the back of the card, but I don’t know if it will be too small to read or if it will be too cost prohibitive.
While I’m still writing to agents looking for my opportunity to break into print publishing, I had a thought of whether there are other e-book distributors in other English speaking countries. I sometimes think it’s selfish to only look at the US for book sales when it’s quite obvious there are potential readers around the world. If I can find the time today, I may do a couple simple searches for retailers outside the borders of my country. More on that later…
Lastly, I still continue looking for an agent. However, the newest challenge I’ve come upon is the agent who doesn’t have a formal website or who uses archaic methods of query submission. I ran across one agent from the 2013 Guide to Literary Agents who wanted me to submit an SASE along with my submission. The problem is that they are so vague I don’t know whether to provide a query letter or whole manuscript?
So, for those out there looking for an agent and realizing they are exacting on their demands for submission (font size, word count, etc) I happen to have stumbled across some agents on the other side of that spectrum.

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The evolution of Black Friday (and the de-evolution of Thanksgiving)

How did we lose Thanksgiving? I understand that stores want to begin their Christmas decorations and sales earlier, so we as Americans became acclimatized to seeing Santa right after Halloween concluded. So as the veterans and the turkeys get pushed out of the way, there’s a whole lotta focus to the end of December and the gifts that need to be bought. However, no one seemed to realize that once Thanksgiving is over, there’s an entire month that the shoppers have in order to seek out the best bargains and acquire the perfect gifts for their loved ones.

Thanksgiving falls on a great date when you think about it. The last Thursday in the month of November. Why is that an awesome date? Because it allows for a long weekend after you’ve visited family and friends and expressed your “thankfulness”. Apart from schmucks like me (I’m working today, albeit from home), the Friday following Thanksgiving allows for everyone to wake up, get a coffee, and calmly get in line at their favorite store, even if it’s at 5am. But retailers began to go earlier and earlier in their store hours (Door Busters is a very popular catchphrase this year) until they intruded right into the meals. So it’s no longer Black Friday, is it? And Black Thanksgiving has kinda a creepy and dark connotation to it.

I was driving home last night from Chicago’s south suburbs with my wife and kids after celebrating Thanksgiving at my aunt and uncle’s house. As we drove in the late night, I was lamenting of the traffic on the Tri-State Tollway and full parking lots at various stores as we passed them by. Turning to my wife, I mentioned how nice it will be to get home, put the little ones to bed, and relax afterwards being as we are not the type of family who rushes out Thanksgiving night to buy up presents.

What does she do when we get home? Yep, throws on her coat and explains that there’s a sale at Target she simply cannot let pass by. Christ! After my rant in the car, she takes off and doesn’t get back until after midnight. Oh well, I can’t win this battle either.
I can’t alter the retailing giants nor the spending habits of millions of consumers, but I would like to hope that eventually there will be a backlash and we could potentially revert some of these “door busters” to their proper place. After all, it’s got a whole day named after it, doesn’t it?

Oh, and I wouldn’t be remiss if I didn’t wish everyone a (belated) Happy Thanksgiving!

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