What the Hell is a Book Signing/reading?

My friend, Jason, sent the perfect photo of how I read! Pacifico is a great
My friend, Jason, sent the perfect photo of how I read! Pacifico is a great “learning aid.”

Tomorrow, Sunday, July 12, at 3pm, I will do my first book signing/reading at Del Rio Vineyards and Winery in Gold Hill, Oregon.

I honestly don’t have a clue of what you do at one of these things. My agent was not much help as she suggested I “just be myself and sell books.”

I have to say that all the marketing part of the publishing business is a real mystery to me. I didn’t realize how much time I would be pulled away from writing my sequel, More than Human, to fulfill obligations that were in the “small print.” While it will be exciting to meet people in person who have read my book,  Almost Human, I am really nervous about doing this as I am completely out of my element. It borders on embarassing to me.

I plan to give the backstory of what inspired me to write the novel and some of what is behind the characters. Maybe talk about the craft of writing and answer questions if there are any.

I would love advice and suggestions. My reading is at 3pm tomorrow. HELP! 

First Edition of Almost Human has Sold Out!

Advanced copies of Almost Human have arrived!
13 first editon copies of Almost Human are left

The First Edition of Amost Human has sold out! I have 13 copies left over from a book signing that the publiher authorized me to sell rather than send back. 

The next edition will be available soon according to my publisher. I am working on the revisions to the galleys for the next editon presently. I’m cleaning up after the proofreaders!

Autographed copies of Almost Human can be purchased directly.

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Shipping and handling listed in PayPal is for the USA (excluding Alaska and Hawaii). International shipping will vary.  

For information on book readings, signings and sparkling discussions go the my Amazon Author Page.

More Lessons From Writing My First Novel – Almost Human

Photo By Gail Fisher, LA Tiimes
Photo By Gail Fisher, LA Tiimes

It is really gratifying to be contacted by so many readers (many are fellow writers) requesting the background story on Almost Human. As a writer, it is a humbling experience to realize your work is reaching out beyond the private and often lonely effort of putting the words on the page.

Recently, I received an email from a reader in Russia (Russia!) who asked were I got the inspiration for Chapter 3, Lester and Girlie. That chapter is based on someone I knew years ago when I worked in the motion picture business who had a unique relationship with an aging chimp. He was an animal trainer in his late seventies or so. The old man and chimp, were a real odd couple, who I enjoyed visiting from time to time. The trainer was old Hollywood and claimed to have worked on many classic movies of the 30’s and 40’s. Also, he claimed that the chimp was Cheetah. Unfortunately, most of us in the animal world questioned the validity of that, but it made for a great story just the same.

Putting his claims aside, their actual relationship was touching. The chimp had the run of the trailer including her own room. Very often she even brought the old trainer coffee. The old man had the endearing habit of talking to her continuously. Their relationship was tender and loving. Clearly, they truly cared for each other in a way that blurred the line between what seemingly should separate them. He saw his chimp as a non-human being, but a being never-the-less.

I based Chapter 3 on this relationship. We, as writers, are hunters and gathers of experiences. We gather and store what we live, waiting for a time when we can re-work and insert those experiences into one of our stories. Simply, I believe a writer must live in a way that gives him material to gather, with the purpose of using it later. We always want to tell, “just one more story.”

Autographed copies of Almost Human can be purchased directly from the author.

Buy Now Button

Shipping and handling listed in PayPal is for the USA (excluding Alaska and Hawaii). International shipping will vary.  

For information on book readings, signings and sparkling discussions go the my Amazon Author Page.

Lessons Learned From Writing My First Novel – Almost Human

What happens when the line between ape and man is blurred?
The full cover of the book.

I was in Baja last week and met a reader who told me he was writing a book. He paused and continued by lamenting that he had been writing it for many years and it was not anywhere near completion. I’ve met many writers who are in this same predicament. They’re writing or “gathering” but not any closer to finishing their book–their dream. Believe me I sympathize, I was in the same situation from many years.

Here’s a few strategies I’ve learned from writing Almost Human. First, and foremost, write the ending. I had been writing this book for years and my novel just kept growing. My editor and teacher, Kathryn Lynn Davis, after reading several chapters asked me, “How does the novel end?” When I couldn’t tell her, she gave me the single most important piece of advice that helped me finish my book! “Don’t send me another chapter until you’ve written the ending.” It took me several chapters to accomplish this but once I did, I had a road map to line up my plot development and character arcs. So, after many years of writing on and off, I finished the novel in the next six months! While this may not work for every novelist, it worked for me.

I set myself a goal to write three pages a day no matter what. Very often, on a particularly productive day, those three pages flowed and grew to twenty or more. But most importantly,  I wrote every day because that’s what we do, writers-write!

Also, I did very little editing as I wrote. I didn’t try to get my narrative perfect at the expense of the flow. I wrote and filled it out later. Sometimes as a warm up before my three pages.

I was fortunate to be invited to join a writers’ group that included several published authors led by a creative and insightful leader/author. The feedback and advice on how to to improve as a writer and navigate the publishing world was priceless. Just make sure it is a good group that truely critiques your work–no matter how painful. The goal is to become a better writer not participate in a mutal admiration support group. These writers were honest and skilled. I am very grateful.

And finally, I work hard at trying to live a life worth writing about. This can be referred to as “gathering” or “research,” I call it just having fun living life’s adventure. I feel drawing from our experiences makes our work ring true and gives it credibility.

I know while this worked for me and certainly is not exhaustive, it may not work for every writer. I wrote this because of how often I’m asked by readers how I managed to finish my novel.

Oh, it helps to have a worldclass, New York Times Bestselling author as your editor.  Thank you Kathryn Lynn Davis!

Autographed copies of Almost Human can be purchased directly from the author.

Buy Now Button

Shipping and handling listed in PayPal is for the USA (excluding Alaska and Hawaii). International shipping will vary.  

For information on book readings, signings and sparkling discussions go the my Amazon Author Page.

The Back Story to Chapter One and Two of Almost Human

moja
Ken Decroo with Moja (signing chimp) e. 1984

Several readers have asked me how Almost Human was “born.” I was working as the technical adviser and chimp trainer on a movie that starred Karen Allen and Armand Assante. One evening we were out relaxing after a long day of filming on location in Albuquerque, New Mexico. After a few drinks Armand commented on how human-like my chimp, Mike seemed. I put on my university professor hat and began pontificating on all the traits we humans shared with chimps including my work as a linguistic research assistant on a project in Reno that had successfully taught chimps to communicate using American Sign Language (ASL) as used by the deaf.

That evening after the bar closed I went home and wrote the second chapter where Dr. Turner is lecturing about the similarities and differences of chimpanzees in a University lecture hall at the University of Nevada, Reno. I had worked there on the signing chimp project. I wrote that chapter in about 1984 or so on an old Royal typewriter. Just before dawn, as I finished writing, Gordon Lightfoot’s “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” played on the radio. I put another paper in and wrote the first chapter before going to work.

Advance copies just arrived!

Advanced copies of Almost Human have arrived!
Advanced copies of Almost Human have arrived!

Advanced copies of Almost Human have arrived from the publisher. I have autographed and sent them out with an invitation to a private release party (email from evite). The advance copies are sold out but you can get copies on Amazon.  Many thanks to all of you who were early supporters of my work.

Lessons From the Road: He No Longer Lives in Brasil

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The flight from LAX to Rio de Janeiro (GIG) had been a long one but while tired I was excited to be at last joining the movie company to film on location. I had been hired to train Jaguars and was the only America working for the British film. When I met Gabriel at customs, I soon discovered that I had stepped into a surreal world and time. He stared right through me wearing a sweat-stained t-shirt that read “Kill Them All and Let God Sort them Out.” I could just make out a faded French Foreign Legion logo on a worn canvas bag slung over his shoulder.

In a thick Portuguese accent, he said in rehearsed English, “Welcome to Brazil,” and commenced to orchestrate us through customs. This was the tone that the shooting of this movie would take for the better part of a year. We filmed in fifty-five different locations that year which took us from the coast to deep in the jungles of the Amazon. We were on a golden voyage, a real old school adventure and it was 1984. Each day took us further from what we knew to a world of wild animals, jungle darkness, danger, Voodoo and real outlaws. We were a long way from home.

The production company knowing we would be filming in the backcountry of Brazil decided to employ a fixer, a bodyguard to look after me and my crew. If you didn’t know the year you would have thought that Gabriel was playing an outlaw in a ’40s movie set in a Banana Republic. He wore a Panama hat tilted over one eye and a loosely fitting white linen shirt that covered the pistol which he always carried in his waist belt. Simply put, his job was to keep us safe and make things go smoothly. And he did it with dedication and vigor over the year of our filming. Gabriel and I developed a close friendship that grew out of sharing a dangerous adventure that required us to live by our wits and depend on each other.

He didn’t really speak English and I didn’t speak Portuguese. But fortunately most everyone in the country spoke Spanish so I relied on it to get us by. It didn’t take me long to observe that Gabriel was known and feared by everyone we encountered. He was closely connected to the cocaine trade of South America. This was after all the 1980’s.

Gabriel could get you almost anything and he could make almost anything happen. But his real specialty was making problems go away. But I didn’t realize how good he was at this or how seriously he took his job until one evening after a long day of filming.

We had found a great little open-air bar that was terraced on a river looking out into the jungle in a little village near one of our locations. Besides serving great local drinks, it had the best garlic, sautéed shrimp I had ever eaten. So most evenings you could find the production company there. We were young and single and as such fit right in with the young crowd in the village. But as we got more familiar this caused jealousies with some of the locals that we didn’t realize until that evening.

A mixed group of us were enjoying ourselves drinking and dancing on the terrace. It was late and most of us had had our share of the local drink, Pinga or Cachaça, a dangerously strong and delicious spirit distilled from sugarcane when a man barged in yelling that we had not given him a job and had taken all the women of the village.

My friend, Colin, who being Irish held his drink better than the rest of us, stood up holding a drink out as a peace offering. But the man picked up a bottle and threw it hitting him squarely in the forehead. Colin fell like a sack of potatoes bleeding profusely. Several of us including Gabriel jumped up to give chase, as the man darted out and into the cover of the jungle.

Several minutes later, I found Gabriel and a few of his men in a clearing where they had the man on the ground. Hastily, Gabriel sent me back with one of his men after assuring me he would take care of the matter. And trust me, there was no arguing with Gabriel when he was working. So we attended to getting Colin to a small clinic where they very efficiently sewed him up.

For days afterward, Colin who didn’t speak Spanish asked me to question Gabriel as to what happened to the man. Gabriel always gave a vague answer and quickly changed the subject. This didn’t satisfy Colin who pestered me to continue asking.

Finally, after about a month this, while having lunch, Colin pressed me to ask again. This time, Gabriel was at the end of his patience. He pulled his pistol out and laid it on the table, leaned forward and leveled his dark, hard eyes on me and said, “Tell Colin to stopped asking me about the past. Let’s just say the man no longer lives in Brazil.”

I never asked Gabriel again.

Almost Human – The First Paragraph of Chapter 1……..

AHFinal2Lettering
Book Cover – Publisher’s Proof

As many of you know, I’m participating in a writing blog, Writing 101. We are to work on describing a setting; a place we would like to be transported.

There are two places I like to be–on two wheels going fast or on the deck of a ship far out to sea in a storm. I saw this as an opportunity to share the beginning paragraph of my first chapter of my novel, Almost Human. It will be released in May 2015.

I would love feedback on if I’ve succeeded in setting the tone of the story with my description of setting. So for better or worse, I hope you enjoy it!

Chapter 1 – Somewhere off the coast of Equatorial Africa, 1938

Malice brewed far out in the Southern Atlantic, where two winds met from different quarters of the world. At first, they stalked each other, blowing blasts between calms as they circled. But in the dying embers of sunset in the empty spaces of the Equator, they combined with a force that turned the calm tropical seas of summer into a caldron of froth and fury. A storm was gathering. It brooded alone for a while, gathering its force until it sent out the first signals of doom at dawn with steep running swells that raced out from the eye. They grew in force with each mile, forming giant walls of death which caught the shipping lanes asleep.