Friday, November 7, 2014

Passing It On

Logan will turn twelve next month. So far he has accompanied my wife and me to every author-related event in my brief two-year stint as a published author. But more than that, Logan loves to create. In addition to writing stories, he comes up with new ideas for video games and movies (both of which he develops by acting them out in the living room, often in front of the television). For the past few weeks he has spent most of his spare time creating comic books.

Logan has a great capacity for understanding things. Sometimes I bounce ideas off him -- ideas for a scene, or a direction I'm considering for one of my novels. Most of the time his insight is spot on. He's into zombies and The Walking Dead, though, so there's that.

If you are a parent, I don't have to tell you what a thrill it is to see your child involving himself in artistic and/or intellectual activities, especially if he is following in your footsteps. Not a parent? I could probably expend a thousand words and you still wouldn't fully understand. Parents and children share a bond that can't be replicated outside that experience.

The best we can do is instill in our children an interest in positive things. A spark, then stand back and let them do with it what they will, encouraging them every step of the way without smothering them. It's a fine line to walk as a parent. I didn't do it alone, though. Not by a long shot. Sharon introduced him to our local library and makes it a regular part of their routine. Done correctly, parenting is a team sport.

Early on we noticed how much Logan looks like me. Not now, but in the old pictures of me at his age.

Logan and I have a long-standing tradition of "storytime" before he goes to bed. Not so much now, but we still do it from time to time. Storytime for us has never been a retelling of the old standards. Early on he let me know he doesn't care a wit about three billy goats, or a trio of bears breaking into a little boy's home and sleeping in his bed. Logan wanted originals. Stories I made up on the fly, with him lying there on my arm. Coming up with a new and different story every night, day in and day out, year after year, was a challenge, but he has a sharp memory and refused to let me tell the same one twice.

A few nights ago he asked me to read the latest scene in the comic book he is writing. Our conversation went something like this:

"I used to wonder how you came up with all those good stories," he said. "I wondered where your ideas came from. All those stories and you never told a bad one. I just realized that I'm coming up with ideas for comic books. They just come to me and it's not that hard."

I said something about being proud of him, and told him he has a huge talent. As he walked away, he stopped and turned to me and said, "I get that from you."

Yeah, it felt every bit as good as you're thinking it did.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Meeting Readers

book signing

Basically, I'm an introvert. More Type B than A. In school I was so shy the shy kids probably wondered what was wrong with me. On the other hand, once I'm comfortable around someone, or some group, I tend to make up for all those other times when I didn't say much. Hint: if you find yourself wishing I would shut the hell up, it probably means I feel relaxed around you, so much so that it's okay if you tell me to shut up.

As a little boy I used to hide under the kitchen table when company would come. Sometimes, if they stayed long enough, I would come out and talk their ears off, probably making them wish I would crawl back under and leave them alone.

I still get nervous when I speak to groups, but I think (hope) I'm getting better at handling it. The unexpected thing for me was how nervous I get at book signings. Book signings can either be great (you sell a lot of books and meet a lot of readers), or they can be not so great. When I first started, I feared the day I would have a signing and no one show up. Okay, I've done that. That one is out of the way. There may be more, but there will never be that first time again, so it's okay.

Last weekend I had the honor of signing books at an event to benefit a local hospice. It went well. It went great, in fact, and not just because of how many books I sold. It was a great day because of how many people stopped by my table and said good things about my books, or simply told me they had heard good things about them. What made it more special was that I didn't know any of them. Don't get me wrong, I love it when friends, family, and acquaintances tell me they like my books, but when people you don't know tell you, it lets you know your circle of readers is expanding. You sense something of a momentum, and it makes you work harder to build on it.

I'm still an introvert. I've always considered myself a bit odd. Out of my element in almost any crowd, but meeting my readers face to face, signing a book for them, posing for the occasional picture ... those are the parts of being a writer that I never saw coming. For someone who considers himself fairly good with words, I find it hard to encapsulate exactly what that feels like. Readers, by nature, are intelligent and insightful. To have your work -- your creation -- accepted by them, sometimes praised by them, is a very satisfying thing. It's exciting, inspiring, and humbling. Yes, humbling, because you realize that without your readers you would serve no purpose. Because of them, you are able to live a dream.

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You can find my books all over the place. To date I've released three: The Night Train, Norton Road, and Blinders. You can find me at my website, on Facebook, or Twitter, but you won't find me under any tables.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Halloween Story

A Bag of Snickers

by Carl Pardon

Cort Hatcher hadn’t always been a drunk, but a drunk he was and there was no denying it. He opened the door of his mobile home and stepped out onto the plank porch in his bare feet. It was cold, the first cold morning of the season. Soon the frost would come and coat the landscape with brown. His was a small lot but private, with trees of varying species dotting his yard. Fall was his favorite time of year but it never failed to plunge him into melancholy.
            He eased himself into the wooden swing that hung from the rafters by chains and cradled a hot cup of coffee between his massive hands, hands that had once been hard and calloused. A gentle breeze blew right through his white cotton t-shirt and green checked pajama bottoms.
            “It’s cold this morning.” Sometimes Cort talked to himself. He raised the blue cup to his lips and took a sip. “That’s hot. Feels good, though.”
            The coffee warmed him but his system needed more. “Not today. We’re not giving in this time.” Even as he spoke the words, his mind slipped through the door, to the kitchen, and into the cabinet beside the refrigerator. Whiskey. “No. It’s Halloween and I can’t be drunk when they come this time.” He remained in the swing and took a deep breath. It was not quite cold enough yet to see his breath when he exhaled. “Not this time.”
            Every year Cort decorated his yard with square bales of hay and jack-o-lanterns. Ghosts and goblins hung from his trees by the dozen. Some people go overboard with Christmas decorations but not Cort. Halloween was his obsession. When he finally rose from the swing he descended the concrete steps, three of them, and made an inspection of the decorations. It wouldn’t do to appear sloppy tonight.
            Each tick of the clock brought Cort one second closer to nightfall. His hands trembled as his internal organs thirsted for alcohol. By noon his head pounded. Even his eyes ached. “Just a few more hours. We can do it. A promise is a promise.” He paced the floor, ate a sandwich for lunch, then went out into the yard and checked the ghosts and goblins again. Not a second passed that the bottle in the kitchen didn’t cross his mind. At two o’clock he drove to town and bought a single bag of miniature Snickers and a dozen red roses. When he returned home, he placed them on the coffee table and stood back to admire them, then sighed and checked the clock again.
            At long last the sun began to slide below the tree line. Inch by inch it fell until all that remained was a faint splash of orange in the western sky. They would come soon. He had to be ready. How surprised they would be to find him sober this year. He made one more pass through the yard, this time lighting the candles inside the jack-o-lanterns. Nine glowing pumpkins would greet them. Last year there were eight. Next year, ten.
            Cort stepped back inside and turned off the living room light, leaving the porch light on of course, lest they think him not at home. There was no bottle on his mind now, not now. Sobriety felt strange to him, though, like some long lost recollection that can no longer be. “They should be coming any minute now.” He waited.
            An hour passed. They were late. Then another. Perhaps they weren’t coming this year. Suddenly he wondered if their visits had been no more than drunken fantasies? His heart raced. His throat grew tight. He needed a drink. “No! Not yet. They’ll come. They have to come.”
            Fifteen more minutes and still no lights in the driveway. The tremble in his hands was violent now, so violent he could barely hold a glass of water without wetting the floor. “Just one little drink. Something to calm me. They can’t see me shaking like this.” He rushed to the kitchen and pulled open the cabinet door. There it sat. All day it had taunted him. He reached in and grabbed it, then hesitated. “Just one drink. One! Not two.” He twisted the cap off and raised the bottle to his lips. The aroma of the dark whiskey calmed him. The doorbell rang.
            “Trick or treat!”
            Cort jumped at the sound. “They’re here! And to think I almost ruined it.” He recapped the bottle and returned it to its spot beside the crackers then hurried to the front door. On the porch stood a boy of six and a woman of twenty seven, both dressed in costumes. Cort knew their ages because he knew their identity.
            “Ah, look at you! You’re a pirate this year. Grand.” Cort pushed open the door and stepped out onto the porch and immediately fell to his knees in front of the boy. “I was afraid you weren’t coming.” He reached out but the boy withdrew. “Yes, I’m sorry. No touching.” He looked up at the boy’s mother and strained to see her face behind the black veil. Her costume never changed. She wore the garb of a lady in mourning.
            “Take off your mask, Timmy, and let me look at you,” Cort said to the boy. The boy raised the pirate mask and smiled. “I’m sober this year,” Cort said. “Just like I promised. Are Snickers still your favorite?”
            “Yes, daddy,” the boy said.
            “Oh, look at me,” Cort said, fighting back the tears in his eyes. “I’ve forgotten to bring them out. Wait right here. Don’t leave.” He pushed himself to his feet and quickly retrieved the bag of candy and the roses from the coffee table. When he turned back toward the door his visitors were gone. He ran outside and called for them, yelled for all he was worth, then fell to his knees and sobbed like a child, clutching the bag of Snickers and the roses to his chest. Almost an hour passed before he righted himself and began to walk down the driveway. When he reached the road he turned left. Gravel crunched beneath his feet with every step.
            With nothing but the moon to light his way, Cort walked for two miles then turned right into a narrow drive, then through a metal gate. He could navigate the cemetery with his eyes closed, as the moon was not always so bright when he came here. There is nothing more private than a cemetery at night. He walked leftward, along the fence for twenty paces, then right for fifteen more. Sometimes he counted them off as he walked, but not tonight.
            Two headstones stood side by side, the bottom dates the same. Nine years ago today. Halloween. “Timothy Ray Hatcher. Born June 23, 1995. Died October 31, 2001,” he said aloud. There were no tears now. He had cried himself dry. “Janet Ann Hatcher. Born August 3, 1975. Died October 31, 2001. In God’s loving arms.”
            Cort stared at the granite for a long time, then placed the bag of candy before one and the roses before the other. It was a slow walk home. At times he forgot where he was or what he was doing, such was his grief. When he reached the end of his driveway, the eastern horizon had an orange glow. The nine jack-o-lanterns in his yard were silent, their faces dark. The ghosts and goblins hung motionless out of respect as he made his way up the driveway, onto the porch, and into the kitchen. “Three hundred and sixty five more days,” he said, as he opened the cabinet beside the refrigerator.

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For more information on me and my novels, please visit my website or join me on Facebook or Twitter.
          

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Mississippi Library Association Review - NORTON ROAD

My second novel, Norton Road was recently reviewed by Mississippi Libraries, a publication of the Mississippi Library Association. The review is viewable on the Mississippi Library Association website in PDF format, but it is not easy to link to, so I am posting it here in its entirety, unaltered (except one instance where I corrected the spelling of my last name). I would like to give a special thanks to the writer of the review, Heather Pohl for giving me permission to use her review in promotional materials.


Purdon, Carl. Norton Road. Createspace, 2013. 332 pp. $14.99 (paperback)

Oscar ‘Pap’ Jones is at war. Armed with a small red toolbox and flashlight, Pap leads a campaign of mechanical sabotage and mischief against the “noisy, dirty, sawdust-belching invasion of his privacy” next door, Khane Manufacturing. For two years Pap has conducted nighttime raids against Davis Khane, trying to put the furniture factory out of business. His raids soon cause the owner Davis Khane to retaliate and enlist the help of former deputy sheriff, and aspiring sheriff candidate, Bodie Craig.

Pap’s war with Khane, which includes the unfortunate skunk and microwave incident, comes to an abrupt end when he is accused of murder and hauled off to jail. In order to survive he must destroy Bodie, whose passion for money, power, and a woman he can’t have has quickly turned into deadly obsession.

Norton Road is a multiple viewpoint novel that successfully transitions between the three main characters: Oscar ‘Pap’ Jones, Sheriff Sam Gant, and sheriff candidate Bodie Craig. Through these transitions the reader is able to see the story from all sides, making the characters much more than one dimensional. Purdon gives a clear picture of Pap’s hatred for the factory, Sheriff Gant’s life outside of the small-town police department, and how Bodie Craig’s many passions become one giant twisted obsession. The reader really gets to know the characters; wanting to not only know where they will end up, but also rooting for them along the way.

While Norton Road does not contain strong adult language, it does contain mature themes and is not suitable for young children. The novel will, however, appeal to Mississippians who have lived in similar places as well as anyone who is a fan of contemporary murder mystery fiction. Public libraries, especially those interested in collecting works written by Mississippi-born authors, should consider Norton Road when purchasing for their collection.

Heather Pohl
Acquisitions and Adult Services Librarian Columbus-Lowndes Public Library 

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For more information on me and my novels, please visit my website or join me on Facebook or Twitter.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Mississippi Library Association Review of BLINDERS

My third novel, Blinders was recently reviewed by Mississippi Libraries, a publication of the Mississippi Library Association. The review is viewable on the Mississippi Library Association website in PDF format, but it is not easy to link to, so I am posting it here in its entirety, unaltered. I would like to give a special thanks to the writer of the review, Tamara D. Blackwell for giving me permission to use her review in promotional materials.


Purdon, Carl. Blinders. Lexington, Kentucky: Carl Purdon, 2014. $14.99 (paperback)

Blinders is Pontotoc County, Mississippi, native Carl Purdon’s third novel. Set in Mississippi, it is the story of Dale Criss who, after serving 25 years for killing his high school sweetheart, has just been released from Parchman Prison and is now returning home. No one in his hometown is happy about his return and most think he should never have been released; when a former police officer is murdered, it seems to confirm everyone’s suspicions.

The novel opens with a prologue depicting the final hours of Dale’s trial in a seemingly corrupt courtroom with an arrogant sheriff and a gun-toting judge, combined with an inexperienced court-appointed lawyer and a gallery that’s clearly out for Dale’s blood. The scene resonates with the reader, leaving the distinct impression that Dale did not receive a fair and impartial trial. The reader’s sympathies are tested from the beginning, though, by Dale’s recklessly irresponsible choices and behavior – indeed, at times he appears to be his own worst enemy.

Thrown into the mix are two lawmen with very different attitudes towards law enforcement and how it should be implemented, and who are constantly butting heads to see who will prevail. Trap Malone is a by-the-book kind of man that believes there’s only one line to follow and it should never be crossed. Challenging Trap’s authority is Chief Deputy Carson Webster, a remnant of the former sheriff’s administration who preferred his old bosses’ style of justice and is a constant irritant to Trap. While Carson’s adamant desire to put Dale back behind bars at any cost tests Trap’s resolve, it is his wife’s betrayal, however, that has him questioning everything he believes in.

This well written book has a fast-paced plot that will appeal to contemporary fiction readers who enjoy action and suspense. While the book does have violent content, the violent scenes are short and the worst takes place “off-page.” Carl Purdon’s exciting book is suitable for most adult audiences and is recommended for all public libraries.

Tamara D. Blackwell
Reference Services
Bolivar County Library System 


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For more information on me and my novels, please visit my website or join me on Facebook or Twitter.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Recharging The Batteries

Sometimes, regardless what your job is, you just need to get away from the grind and recharge your batteries.

I've been working on the sequel to The Night Train for a handful of months now, plus holding down a full time day job. About a month ago I was driving back from Ohio and got on the Natchez Trace Parkway in Nashville. Those first few miles on the Trace reminded me of one of my favorite places on earth.

Gatlinburg.

The Great Smokey Mountains are spectacular year round, but especially when they slip into their autumn garb. My wife and I honeymooned in Gatlinburg in March of 2001, then went back for our first anniversary. Our son, Logan, was born the following December (you do the math). Both times we stayed in a cabin called Little Cabin In The Woods. We didn't get to go back for a few years and, by that time, the cabin -- our cabin -- had been sold, so we stayed elsewhere. Last month I did a Google search and found that cabin again, managed by a different company. The only open weekend in October was this past weekend, so I booked it.

During the weeks between the time I booked the cabin and the day we left, Sharon and I reminisced about those first two trips. We were both excited to go back to the Little Cabin, and hoped it would be as good as we remembered. It was.

The inside decor had changed just enough to notice. We remembered things as we walked through it. Logan, who is eleven now, absolutely loved it. He made a "perch" in the living room window seat and spent most of his "home" time sitting there reading a book or playing video games.

Sometimes he just sat and stared out at the mountain view. Sharon and I loved seeing him enjoy the trip as much as he did.

We did other things. Outside things. Fun, adventurous things. I played (and won) miniature golf for the first time in my life, but
that cabin made the trip special. No, I take that back. Sharon and Logan made the trip special. The cabin provided the setting for special.

Our vacation was like the novel I'm writing. It had a beginning, a middle, and sadly, an end. It had characters (I met this unique guy from West Virginia -- a coal miner, who said he had faced down a six foot black bear) and adventure. The mountain roads provided twists and turns. We didn't always know what to expect. There were weather changes and a storm, and thanks to the Little Cabin In The Woods, it had the perfect setting.

Unfortunately, we were too early for the fall show, but green is a pretty color too. Tuesday morning we packed and left, grumbling as we walked out the door, off the porch, and down the steps. Can't we have just one more day? At the last minute we decided to take the long way home over the mountains and were rewarded with a sneak peek at fall. The trees had slipped on a light jacket of yellows, browns, and reds since our trip over two days prior. Unexpected, like that twist I slipped into the scene I wrote on the back deck just before the storm forced me inside the night before.

I would be hard pressed to think of anything that would have made
our vacation better. Anything except more time, that is. If I ever turn this writing thing into a money-making venture, I see a cabin in our future.

This morning I went back to the day job, a little sad it's over, but thankful we had the opportunity to go. We made memories, and added one more chapter to this novel called us.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Basic Book Promotion

Carl Purdon
My New Business Card
How can I get people to buy my book? It's a question on almost every author's mind. We've all clicked those links, you know the ones -- the links that promise answers that don't exist. Even though we know there is no magic answer, we still click.

We click because we think we've written the next bestseller (if you don't think that about your book then why did you publish it?) but we can't figure out how to let people know.

Family and friends, co-workers, Facebook acquaintances, these are all great first steps, but unless you are already famous, you simply don't know enough people for Amazon to notice. Millions, maybe billions, of people flock to Amazon. They buy books, but how do they know your book exists? If it's not on the charts, they won't, unless someone tells them.

Word of mouth is one of the best marketing tools a writer can have, so every new reader puts you one step closer to your goal. Most readers may be surprised to know this, but even the simplest mention of your book (assuming they enjoyed it) sends the author into orbit and makes him or her that much more dedicated to writing something new. Writers are sensitive by nature. We crave feedback. Readers are our lifeblood. They are what make us sit for countless hours driving ourselves crazy for just the right way to make that next sentence pop (that's how novels are born -- one sentence at a time).

Every writer should have a website -- somewhere people can go to get all the information they need about you and your books. Provide an easy way for people to contact you. Facebook is also one of the fundamentals. An author needs not just a personal Facebook profile, but a Facebook Page (the business version of Facebook). Then there's Twitter, Google+, Goodreads, LinkedIn, Pinterest, the list goes on and on.

Over the last few days I came to realize I've been overlooking another basic promotion tool. One of the most basic, in fact. A tool almost as old as business itself. What is it you ask? A simple business card. Yep, I've been trying to sell books since 2012 and have never had a business card. I corrected that this morning thanks to the ease of creating almost any promotional item on VistaPrint. The hard part is coming up with something catchy, which I hope I accomplished.

There is no magic bullet that will rocket your book to the top of the charts. Writing is an art. Marketing is pure business.

What is your marketing strategy?

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Carl Purdon is the author of The Night Train, Norton Road, and Blinders. He can be found most days on Facebook and Twitter.