This past Thursday I again had the pleasure of doing a speaking engagement at the Bigelow Senior Center in Fairfield on my latest book, 30 Minutes in Memphis: A Beatles Story. And it proved what I've always believed: The Fab Four are timeless! My audience obviously enjoyed the slideshow and videos we'd prepared, and found themselves singing along at times. I ended going way over my planned speaking time and nobody seemed to mind. Afterwards, a bunch of us posed for a group photo, and many copies of the book were sold. Yeah, yeah, yeah! Special thanks for the invitation to event coordinator Margaret Andrews, my wife Maria for manning the computer, a young volunteer named Noah for helping us iron out some technical glitches, and my best buddy Matty Paul for stopping in to add his insights and memories of the Fab Four. A splendid time was had by all.
I was pleasantly surprised to find my name in the acknowledgements for Jane Leavy’s fine biography of Babe Ruth, The Big Fella: Babe Ruth and the World He Created (HarperCollins 2018). I was mentioned for the small role I played in her exhaustive research for the book as a link from my late friend and mentor, Bob Creamer, and friend Leigh Montville, whose Ruth biographies preceded Jane’s. As the person given the task of organizing Bob’s voluminous papers for inclusion to the Baseball Hall of Fame’s archives, I got to know Leigh, and later, Jane. What a thrill to see my books displayed alongside theirs in the Hall of Fame bookstore.
Over the years I have learned how important it is to thank everyone for their help on any book I write, whether it’s a T.J. Jackson Mystery or works of historical fiction like The Rovers: A Tale of Fenway or 30 Minutes in Memphis: A Beatles Story. Jane is a class act all the way, and if you haven’t read her other fine biographies on Sandy Koufax and Mickey Mantle, you should. Each reflects her meticulous attention to detail and getting the facts right.
Although showing up in other authors’ books is always gratifying (thanks again T.S. O’Connell and Stew Thornley), I am always reminded that in this sometimes cold business, acknowledging the help or kindness of others goes a long way. So if you’re a Yankee fan or just love baseball and its lore, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of The Big Fella today. You will not be disappointed!
The year 2018 was an interesting one. We had great fun speaking to groups at Fairfield Senior Center and the Kwains Club of Fairfield about the T.J. Jackson Mysteries. Our annual appearance at the Trumbull Arts Festival was a huge success. But the biggest story was the transformation of our first self-published novel The Beatles Must Die to its present title, 30 Minutes in Memphis: A Beatles Story (see our previous blog for an account of how it happened, with a little help from our friend, Julia Baird). The end of the year saw two events that featured all of our books: The Three Kings Bazaar at First Church Congregational of Fairfield, and an Author Day presentation at Bedford Middle School in which we shared the stage with Gigi New, a fantastic local screen writer. Mrs. New and I had a fun time sharing our experiences with an enthusiastic audience of middle schoolers. Hopefully, this will lead to future collaborations! Right now, there is a project in the works ... we will let you know along the way how it's going. Until then, have a Happy and Healthy New Year, and happy reading!
Hello everybody…Just wanted to make you aware of an interesting turn of events. As you know, my latest book, The Beatles Must Die, came out the end of August. I had sent out a few advance copies to people I thought would appreciate it and help get the word out. One is John’s sister, Julia Baird, who is 6 years his junior. Unfortunately, because of it getting lost in the overseas mailing, she didn’t receive her copy of the book until early November, after the book was out.
Well, I’m happy to say she loved it, and emailed me that she’d be calling from the UK to talk further. I missed her first call, so she ended up chatting with my wife about music and the topic of freedom of expression, among other things. (Maria said she was delightful.) She said she’d try me again later in the week, and sure enough, as I was sitting at the dinner table with a mouthful of eggplant parm, she called again. “It’s her! It’s John’s sister!” Maria said, and I spit out my food and got on the phone.
Mrs. Baird repeated that she loved the story, having read it in one long sitting as her assistant brought her cups of coffee, in her office in Liverpool, where she runs Cavern City Tours (she was a special ed teacher for many years in her previous career, which could be one reason for her being so kind to me). She said the themes of the book came through strongly, and that my historical accuracy was spot-on. We talked about my lifelong interest in the Beatles (she and John were just as passionate about Elvis and the early black rock and roll singers). The whole time I kept telling myself I can’t believe I’m having a normal chat with John Lennon’s sister! So I was on cloud 9, until some 30 minutes later, when she closed with, “I just hope the powerful title/cover image you went with doesn’t discourage people from reading this story. You know, Paul, your goal is, after all, to sell books.” [I should mention here that she has written a book about her brother called Imagine This, which was later made into the movie Nowhere Boy, so she knows what she’s talking about.]
And so, after a somewhat sleepless night, I awoke with the idea of changing the title/cover, and emailed Julia to tell her. She said that was wonderful, and offered to have me bounce ideas off her. So began a week’s worth of correspondence. Finally, I hit on 30 Minutes in Memphis: A Beatles Story, and she said, “Eureka!” My sister Carol Young, who created the original cover, did the alteration to the design; my formatter, Judi Fennell, adjusted the text; I obtained a new ISBN, and we were in business. Amazon has pulled the first book (except for used copies on the secondary market), and the new one will take its place. And Julia Baird, who graciously sent me an autographed copy of her book, said she’d be passing along a copy of 30 Minutes in Memphis to her friend, Sir Paul. Wow.
So, what does this all mean? Well, as Julia reminded me, people DO judge a book by its cover (or title). Of course, I’ll be making this a teachable moment with my students. For those of you who own a copy of The Beatles Must Die, I guess you have a limited edition book. And for those of you who haven’t read it yet, I don’t think you need any more of an endorsement than the one from the person whose brother is on the cover.
The inaugural Saugatuck StoryFest will take place October 11-14 in Westport at various sites. We are honored to be participating in Saturday's festivities with our own author table on Jesup Green near the Westport Public Library. All of the T.J. Jackson Mysteries will be available for sale and signing, as will The Rovers: A Tale of Fenway and our newest book, The Beatles Must Die. Click on the link below, and then on the PDF icon on the upper left, for a complete listing of daily events and participating authors and speakers.
Additionally, StoryFest coincides with Westoberfest in downtown Westport on Saturday, Oct. 13, from 1-5PM. There will be food, beverages, live music, and a host of activities for both adults and children.
We hope to see you at StoryFest!
On Monday evening I had the pleasure of doing a presentation on the history of Fairfield's witchcraft trials of the 1600's, which was the basis for the T.J. Jackson novel Curse of the Fairfield Witch. Afterwards it was fun visiting with the Kiwanis members during our signing session. Thanks to Tove Vanderblue (pictured with me) for the invitation and a great dinner. And thanks to the Kiwanis Club for all you do in the Fairfield community as well!
The combination of glorious weather, a huge crowd, and some neat books led to our greatest day of sales ever at the 40th Annual Trumbull Arts Festival. We actually sold out of three titles: Curse of the Fairfield Witch (T.J. Jackson), The Rovers: A Tale of Fenway, and our newest book, The Beatles Must Die. We saw some old friends and made many new ones. Thanks to Emily Areson for coordinating such a great event. Hope to be back next year!
Now that our new book, The Beatles Must Die, has been released, it's time to thank those who assisted on my maiden voyage into self-publishing. So, thanks to author Sam (Curtin) Dambach for her info on CreateSpace, Denise Meinstad for the editing, Kat Sheridan for the blurb consultation, Judi Fennell at Formatting 4U, Carol Young (The Creative Barn) for the great cover art, and Caroline Ferrante (The Majors Productions) & Sean McCabe for the video teaser.
Don't forget to share the book info with others!
We're happy to report that a new shipment of The Rovers: A Tale of Fenway has been ordered for this summer by the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Coooperstown, NY for sale in their book store. Meanwhile, a few copies of Robertos's Return: A T.J. Jackson Mystery are still available on site. This has been quite a run at the HOF for both books, as the Hall's inventory turns over constantly. Thanks to Drew Taylor at the HOF for continuing our business partneship!
This past week we made an appearance at Fairfield Warde High School to discuss the writing process, specifically historical fiction, which is the basis of the T.J. Jackson Mysteries series. I was blown away to see my face on the electronic message board in the hallway, and by the turnout-close to 100 students and faculty. We talked about the steps in writing a historical fiction novel, from research, to drafting and editing, developing compelling cover art, and using social media for publicity. With Curse of the Fairfield Witch as a focal point, we also showed the book's promotional trailer. The students were attentive and asked great questions at the end, and books were purchased by the district. Special thanks to FWHS head librarian Gayle Attruia for the invitation, and headmaster David Ebling for his warm welcome. We hope to make school visits such as this a permanent part of our yearly events!
My thoughts on past, present and future ideas relating to my writing.