Sunday, December 12, 2010

Michigan in December – What Was I Thinking?

The book tour in Michigan was incredible.  The Kalamazoo Air Zoo crowds were smaller than what I had hoped for – but it was an engaging group.  The gatherings in Galesburg and Battle Creek historical societies more than made up for the Air Zoo turnouts.  I was very pleased that people wanted to get out in the biting cold to hear a local history story of a remarkable man.  Even more exciting, in Battle Creek, members of the Zinn family came to the event.  They brought a wonderful family photo album which was a treat for everyone. 

At the Battle Creek Historical Society - Kimball House Museum

I managed a few television interviews as well.  Channel 3 in Kalamazoo taped an interview which will show sometime later this month.  Doing Be Scene TV was fun too.  As it turns out the host and I went to high school together, though we didn’t know each other. 

The cap of the book tour events was appearing at the Hatcher Library at the University of Michigan.  This was Fred Zinn’s (the subject of my book Lost Eagles) alma mater and for me it felt as if I was bringing his story back home.  Some old friends from my Ford days showed up as well as members of the Zinn family. Being at the U of M and speaking there made me feel like this project had gone full circle.

Even better, I got some face time with my editor at the University of Michigan Press.  I like writing for this publisher because they worked with me on the book, as opposed to against me.  I got a chance to discuss several projects and, hopefully, I’ll have a big announcement to make shortly involving my true crime book project.   

I have a secret source for some of the crime cases I’m researching for books and I got a chance to connect with him as well.  As it turns out, my hunch on one case may have been right.  More importantly it is a story that really may demand putting to paper as a book.  Yes, I’m being vague, but you have to be on such things.  Suffice it to say I have a few new things to research. 

Some things I learned from this trip:
  • The cold temperatures I remembered from my youth were not distant memories but crisp bitter realities.  I swear I didn’t feel my feet for three days after getting to Michigan. 
  • I rediscovered the importance of independent bookstores.  I had tried for weeks to get the local Barnes and Noble to attend two of my events to sell copies of Lost Eagles.  No dice.  One B&N was more interested in a knitting and crocheting event they were hosting. Big chain bookstores carry a lot of administrative baggage and can be hard to work with.  Most seem to have lost sight that their business is to sell books – not coffee, games, movies or e-readers.  Sure, I could have brought a box of books and sold them myself – but I wanted a local business to make some money off of these events.  Michigan’s economy has been hit hard with this recession and it seemed like the right thing to do.  Gloria from Kazoo Books (a store well-worth visiting and supporting) stepped up.  She hasn’t forgotten that this business is about actually selling books.  I’m pleased to say that she sold out that week!  If you are in Kalamazoo and doing some shopping, I recommend Kazoo Books for your holiday needs. 
  • People want to read books with local ties.  Lost Eagles is strongly tied to Galesburg, Battle Creek, and Ann Arbor.  I was pleased with how some of the local historical societies got good turnout and interest in the topic.  Having the Zinn family show up at two events was wonderful because they were able to add to my story with their own family history. 
  • There is a lot of interest in WWI aviation.  I brought some application forms with me for the League of WWI Aviation Historians and about 15 people took copies with them.  WWI is often a war that is glossed over so that was highly encouraging.