Monday, February 20, 2017

Interview with Publicist Mickey Mikkelson

Mickey Mikkelson is the Publicist/Owner of Creative Edge, a company that promotes established authors, small press authors and indie self-published writers. He works out of Calgary, Alberta, but his clients reside in all parts of Canada and the United States.

(See link below for a 1 hour video interview with Mickey Mikkelson)

NK - In the video you reveal your background as related to the publishing industry, for example, working for the Canadian chain Chapters/Indigo. You know books and you know the system. But what made you go from the bookstore chain end--the retailer--and backtrack to the start of the process--the creative authors, particularly the independent authors or those publishing with small and mid-sized publishers?  

MM - I definitely enjoyed my time setting up events within the bookstore realm; that helped shape what I am currently doing.  It was a rush and a thrill to see the staff’s faces when we lined up a big-name author like Robert J. Sawyer,  and equally so it was also very gratifying for me when we signed on a relatively new writer who had released their first book, helping that individual do very well in our store in terms of book sales. The change for me was that I saw a market for what I was doing with independent writers, helping indie authors who didn’t know how to market themselves or didn’t have time.  It is very different from simply booking events. Creative Edge is more like a one stop, full service outlet as we not only set up events, but we also book media outlets and help new writers get their name out there. And we advise well-established authors how to build on the momentum with what they are currently doing.  It’s a big difference from booking or being an events planner in a book store and for me it feels more challenging because I have to be more creative in the directions that I go.

NK - You say on the video that your favorite genres are horror and fantasy  (but of course you represent writers in all genres). Have you ever aspired to write fiction?  

MM - I have never tried to write a fiction book. My role, as I say in the video, is that I am not a writer. I don’t understand the premise or logistics of how a writer puts those words on a page or sees the vision of a book cover. I fully respect anyone who can do that and often in talking with clients am mystified by their cultural adaption and knowledge when talking about their finished products. That is not a strength of mine and I don’t pretend that it is, which is why I get a thrill from and am so honored by representing every one of my clients, established or not. 

If I was to ever write a book, it would probably be a non-fiction book about the 1960’s. I'm almost obsessed with that decade, from the events, to the music, to the happenings such as the Monterey Pop Festival, to schematics about things like the JFK assassination, or the civil rights movement. A piece of literature like that would be something I could really concentrate on. But for me the timing is currently not now, as I am clearly focused in other directions.

NK - In the video, you offer indie writers and those with small presses a lot of valuable suggestions about how to promote themselves, and also talk about what you can do for them.  And of course, you have some big-name clients on your roster who can use a few suggestions. You discussed introverted writers. Writers who cannot get out and sell their book, who can't talk easily with strangers, the proverbial garret-wordsmith who just wants to write and trembles at the idea of becoming a sales person for their work. Is there any hope for such a creature in this modern world of "Hey, look at me and my great novel!!!"?

MM - I touched on this in the video. My opinion is to keep conversations simple and to the point. People may not believe this, but sales are relatively easy in any industry provided you have the patience and belief to follow the same routine every time. If an individual sells a book the first time, my advice is to follow those same steps with each and every customer. With that, you are insured of having the success of at least one additional sale.  Why?  Because, it worked the first time. 

The problem is that with introverted people, they tend to complicate the sales process and talk too much about their product (it’s not hard to do when selling something as information-based as a book),  and this is a big reason why they literally have more success selling other people’s books than their own.  Most introverts are also shy and cannot sell themselves--rejection is scary and well, to be blunt: It Sucks!  

The best way to get over that is to literally get out there and practice the craft of selling, following a process where the conversation is simple. Assume the sale and have confidence that your clientele will buy. It’s a matter of introducing yourself right from the start, giving information in limited aspects, ensuring that you are keeping conversation relevant to the topic, but also getting your reader excited while you're doing that. And probably the most important step--volunteering to sign a copy of your book. Don’t ask permission to sign it, offer to sign it! This is a big step in the sales process and one in which 90% of book sales are lost by Indie authors in bookstores across North America--they don't offer.

The bottom line is that if an individual wants success selling product at signings, my golden rules are: be confident at all times; keep conversations simple; and even if you are not, act boastful and be passionate about what you have written. And be excited! It’s a formula that has worked time and time again for my writers and will continue to work as I coach clients through the process!


Mickey Mikkelson can be reached at:


Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Mole People and Them!

Horror movies in the past were fun.  The Mole People (1956) was and is one of my favorites from my youth when I saw it as part of a triple-feature at a drive-in showing a retrospective of old horror films. I found this one especially engaging. Another super favorite was/is the chilling Them! (1954).  So many of these charming b&w movies offered all sorts of undercurrents of a political or spiritual nature.

Sadly, all I could find on You tube for the entire movies were two uploads of The Mole People from a SF group that likes to chat and comment throughout the film, which is annoying if you actually want to watch it--the link is a trailer--; and Them! which can be viewed in the second link but the quality isn't wondrous. Enjoy!


Friday, February 17, 2017

Is it Me, or Is It Pesto?

I can't be the only person on the planet who does NOT like pesto.

Pesto is:

- crushed basil leaves
- crushed pine nuts
- garlic
- Parmesan cheese
- Olive oil

Mix and serve on bread or as a sauce for pasta.

What's not to like, you say?  First and last, it's the smell.  When I eat pesto, mercifully, my taste buds dull pretty quickly, but the scent lingers and leaves me a tad nauseous. I like basil. I like garlic. I like Parmesan cheese and olive oil.  It must be the pine nuts. They are the tiny, edible (they say) seeds of the female cones of pine trees grown in Canada and Siberia--yes, those cold countries!

Would you eat a pine cone?

Apparently these seeds are expensive.

Pine nuts are high calorie--100 grams of dry kernels = 675 calories. They are reputedly nutritional perfection, rich in Omega 3 fats, Vitamin E in abundance, B complex, magnesium, calcium, zinc, potassium, yadda yadda yadda...  I DON'T CARE!

The taste is described by others as sweet, buttery, subtle, delicious, but is none of those things to me. I've heard people say the scent of pesto brings to mind wandering in a forest. This is not the smell of a pine tree at Christmas. It's a strange forest of alien-scented flora and is what I imagine the Aokigahara Forest in Japan smells like--the forest where people go to commit suicide.  Let's just say I would prefer not to be lost in a forest that smells of pesto.

Even the word 'pesto' sounds like Italian for 'pest'. I won't go into the look because I stumbled upon a reviewer I've linked below who did a fine job describing the look and conveys my feelings perfectly.  This fortunate reviewer has not tasted pesto, so you are getting a description of the other senses.

I say, bring on the Marinara, the Carbonara, Pomodoro, Alfredo, Bolognese, Vodka, Puttanesca and Marsala!  Pesto? Forget about it!


Thursday, February 16, 2017

Review--Revenge of the Vampir King

For authors, it's awfully hard to get a book reviewed by a reviewer who knows the subject matter thoroughly and can evaluate it within the context of the whole genre or subgenre. Elaine Pascal is one of those learned reviewers; she knows what vampire literature is all about.  Here's her review of Revenge of the Vampir King on Hellnotes.


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Pistachios, and the Evil Thereof!

My New Year's resolution, which I just decided yesterday I needed to make, is to eat only a handful of pistachios a day. Okay, maybe two handfuls, but spaced hours apart. To that end, I bought salted pistachios, reasoning that while they are a tad tastier than the unsalted that I usually buy, too much salt isn't good, it raises blood pressure, etc. Such knowledge should help me keep it to two handfuls a day, which is surely under the prescribed 50 pistachio recommended dose. That has to be a good thing.

I've discovered that I am addicted to pistachios but also allergic to these little nuts. I wondered about my reactions to hundreds of pistachios a day so I checked it out on the Internet, the Holy Grail of a lay person's medical knowledge. Too many pistachios and wham! The system reacts.

Pistachios are a funny nut. When I eat cashews I really don't want more than 5 or 6 a day. When I eat walnuts, 2 a day pushes it for me. But pistachios? They are small nuts, trapped in a small shell with an enticing split which begs to be pried open. I often feel like a pre-historic woman foraging for nuts all day long. I'm convinced I could eat hundreds of pistachios a day. I could live on pistachios. Which, IMHO, makes pistachios an evil nut, calling to me all hours of the day and into the night. And since I don't have the strength to resist, and like every other addict on the planet, with my particular poison I try to push the envelope and get away with indulging as much as I want. I'm trying to fight the addiction in the only way I know how without having to give up pistachios completely: I'm taking care of the more crucial BP, instead of worrying about my feeble digestive issues, or weight gain from these high-fat nuts.

Did you know that pistachios are native to the middle east and are one of the oldest flowering nut trees? Archaeologists have determined that we humans have been enjoying them for about 7,000 years. Pistachios have been used as a dye, and also a remedy for everything, from toothache to sclerosis of the liver. It takes 8 to 10 years for a plant to produce a crop. They have a long storage life and travel well, making them a necessity as the ancients travelled the Silk Road that connected China to the West. As to the negatives, besides being high fat, and the added salt, an allergic reaction consists of symptoms that range from itchy skin (hives) to a severe form of anaphylactic manifestations that include breathing difficulty, abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea.

Naturally mythology surrounds such an ancient nut. The Queen of Sheba is rumored to have decreed pistachios as exclusively a royal food, forbidding commoners from growing nuts for their personal consumption. Nebuchadnezzar, the ancient king of Babylon, planted pistachio trees in his fabled hanging gardens. In the first century A.D., the Emperor Vitellius brought the prized nuts to Rome. In the Muslim legends, pistachios were one of the foods brought to earth by Adam.

Here's a chart which lists the nutritional value of pistachio nuts.  Just because I can't eat more than one or two handfuls a day, that doesn't mean you can't enjoy these tasty morsels.

Pistachio (Pistacia vera),
Nutritional value per 100 g. 
(Source: USDA National Nutrient data base)
PrincipleNutrient ValuePercentage of RDA
Energy557 Kcal29%
Carbohydrates27.97 g21.5%
Protein20.60 g37%
Total Fat44.44 g148%
Cholesterol0 mg0%
Dietary Fiber10.3g27%
Folates51 µg13%
Niacin1.3 mg8%
Pantothenic acid0.520 mg10%
Pyridoxine1.7 mg131%
Riboflavin0.160 mg12%
Thiamin0.870 mg72.5%
Vitamin A553 IU18%
Vitamin C5 mg8%
Vitamin E-?22.60 mg150%
Sodium1 mg0%
Potassium1025 mg22%
Calcium107 mg11%
Copper1.3 mg144%
Iron4.15 mg52%
Magnesium121 mg30%
Manganese1.2 mg52%
Phosphorus376 mg54%
Selenium7 µg13%
Zinc2.20 mg20%
Carotene-ß332 µg--
Crypto-xanthin-ß0 µg--
Lutein-zeaxanthin0 µg--


Monday, February 13, 2017

WIHM (Women In a Horrible Month)

Winter anyplace north!  This particular one in 2017 is a killer in many ways. Because of freezing rain (aka: ice, aka known as black ice) on roads and sidewalks, the number of vehicular accidents has escalated this year as has the number of pedestrian injuries.  In North America's north, meaning Canada and the Northern United States (Mexico is, of course, part of North American but immune to such weather), the news is full of '100 car pileups on Highway --', and injuries and fatalities on city streets. In January, some hospitals in Montreal, the city I live in, reported dealing with 5 times the number of snow and ice related injuries as the previous year, and another hospital's ER was at 165% capacity due to injuries from falls. People are breaking everything in the way of bones but particularly, one hospital said in the same newspaper article, wrists.

What statistics exist for past winters point to older people and older women as racking up the highest number of injuries from slipping on the ice. 

I work at home and don't like to go out when there's ice on the sidewalks. But if I must leave home on such a day because I need to shop for food or go to the post office, I UBER my way around the city. More than once I've asked an UBER driver to help me get to the car or from the car to my front door because the sidewalk between was an ice skating rink--one UBER driver, a 30ish man, slipped and fell before he could help me across the sidewalk!  

So, women (and men), what can you do to guard your safety this winter and every winter during icy conditions, short of staying indoors until spring? There is a good solution (besides rock salt, which you can only put on your own property and only when the temperature is above -13C or 8.6 F).  I bought these little miracles when I first came to Montreal and would die without them (and also succumb to the cold without my polar mittens, another immediate buy on arriving, and another story). 

What, you ask, is this magic cure for walking on ice?  Clampons! 

There are many types of clampons, from the style I've linked here which is similar to what I own, to heavy-duty ones with chains and spikes for the Arctic.  Most of us just need them for day to day traversing our world of ice. In this link, the clampons are rubber, which fit easily over shoes and boots, with rubber guarded spikes on the soles.  It's a good idea to remove them from your boots and shoes when you're indoors, since the spikes are metal and can damage floors. But outdoors? Yay, Clampons!

These are also Clampons but a different design so you strap them onto your boots and shoes.  Called:


Saturday, February 11, 2017

...And This Changed Too!

Everyone connected in any way to publishing, from publishers, editors, agents, printers and distributors to writers, booksellers, librarians and readers, knows that this industry has altered dramatically over the last couple of decades.  The then and now differences have been discussed ad museam...except for this...

Back when my first novel Near Death was published by Pocket Books in 1994, I was sent 30 'authors copies' to do with as I wanted. These were not meant for reviewers, because the publisher was happy to send reviewers copies, but if I came across a reviewer or interviewer I met face to face, I had a copy to give them. But the 30 not-for-sale author's copies were for me personally to hold onto as a hedge against retirement one day (Ha! Joke! Like that will happen!), but really to give to friends or fans and people in the industry.  I did that with those copies and when I ran out, I just had to ask for more and my editor had them shipped to me for free.

Gradually the number of free copies diminished. By 2004 when St. Martin's published The goth Bible: A Compendium for the Darkly Inclined, I received 20 copies of the book. I asked for more and had to pay for them, plus shipping.

The last anthology I had out was co-edited with Caro Soles, nEvermore! Tales of Murder, Mystery & the Macabre 2015, from Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing.  My co-editor and I received 2 copies each. Edge is a small publisher, but I'd been editing books for them since 2009, and for every previous anthology I had received 10 free copies. The publisher did send a box of 30 specifically to get into the hands of the 26 contributors plus the 2 copies for each for us.  As we were touring heavily for this book, we asked the publisher for and received 15 copies  to hand to reviewers or interviewers or others who might help the book along and did receive those.

Now it's 2017 and I have a new novel out, Revenge of the Vampir King, from Crossroad Press, and I believe 1 free copy might come my way.  Why? Read on:

I used to give copies to many of my friends and supporters, including other writers, plus reviewers I'd meet or interviewers when I did radio or TV interviews, and other writers did the same. I have many books signed decades ago by writer friends.

At conventions, back in the day, publishers held huge parties and had tons of copies of books in the room for anyone to take.  I recall my World Fantasy Convention--New Orleans 1994 launch of Near Death--the publisher had sent boxes and boxes of books and everyone got a free copy.  That was common. Today, the largest publishers have launches at conventions and there are two copies on a side table, if that and not just a poster of the cover, and no one in the crowded room feels at liberty to take one of the those copies.

Over the years I had to become highly selective until now it's a matter of giving a 'gift' of a print book to friends who, for example, have hosted me in their home.  It's a gift I pay for. I've not asked but I suspect friends wonder why they no longer get a copy of my newest book.

Here's the skinny:

A publisher giving an author books is a cheap perk because a print run is a low cost for the book, the size of the run depending, and the size of the publisher and the quantity of books they do with a particular printer depending. The cost could be as low as $3. to $5. for a book that sells for $12. or $15.  But many books now are done by POD--print on demand. This is a good option for a book that won't be a best-seller. Anyone-publishers large and small and self-published authors--can use POD, it's just a set-up fee for the files and then when books are ordered, the number printed and shipped. But the cost is significantly higher than a print run.  That same book selling for $12 or $15 might cost $7 to $9 as a POD. Obviously, POD printing 10 or 50 or 150  or 1500 copies this way is a lot more expensive than printing 25,000 or 50,000 books via a web-press printer.

But what's happening with POD is that if an author wants copies of his/her own book to give away, they must buy them.  This greatly diminishes the number of books one can give away.

And of course, sometimes authors will go to events where they can sell their books and have always had to buy copies for those events. Normally authors get a discount when buying from a publisher, around 45% or 50%, depending. Paying 50% less off the retail price for a $15 book means it costs the author $7.50 per copy. Factor in shipping, plus tax, and if crossing a border, duty, and if the book is published in another country (say, US and Canada crossing), the exchange rate is in there too, the cost goes up significantly by about $3. to $4. per copy. Now the book costs the author $10.50 or $11.50 and it sells for $15, so the author will make $4.50 or $3.50 for each book she or he sells at a convention or expo for $15. And at these events, buyers expect to pay less than they would pay in a store, so if the author sells the book for $ can do the math.

Does this matter, whether or not the author makes any money by selling their own book directly to the public? After all, the author reaches new fans, and that's important for future book sales, and often gets at least a little promo in the media. But how many people in another business would spend 30 hours over 4 days plus set up/tear down/travel time to/from and in some cases the cost of travelling to and staying in another city for $0 $$s?  Not many. And given that while prices of production and retailing of print books has escallated, advances to the author have for most mid-list writers dropped; many writers have counted on earning something at direct sales events, at least enough to pay for the drinks the introverts have to knock back afterwards to cope with such overwhelming extravaganzas!

All this to say that these days, what I offer friends is an ebook. I know a lot of people who prefer print books and will say that, and in many ways, I do as well. Print is easier on the eyes than reading on a screen, especially for those who work on computers. And there is nothing like the look and feel and smell of a print book--it's comforting. But ebooks have benefits: ereaders are much lighter to hold than print books. The new screens on, for example, the Kindle Paperwhite do not strain the eyes like a computer screen. And the bottom line for the writer is that publishers will usually give the writer copies of their book in electronic format, so one has epub, mobi and pdf to give to friends and to any reviewers stumbled across, or to interviewers who have been kind enough to focus on the writer.

I suppose it's a little like the old days where publishers gave writers 30 plus copies of their print book to do with as they liked.  A little like that.  But I miss all the free copies and handing a book to a friend, or reviewer or interviewer I'd run across at an event.  It feels a tad more personal than getting a business card with an email address and jotting down the preferred format. At least to me.