Saturday, December 29, 2012

Guest Blogger Michael J. McCann

Michael J. ('Mike') McCann lives and writes in Oxford Station, Ontario, south of Ottawa, on seven acres in the Limerick Forest. Born and raised in Peterborough, also in Ontario, Mike earned a B.A. (Hons.) in English from Trent University, and an M.A. in English from Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario. He is the former editor of Criminal Reports (Third Series) with Carswell Legal Publications. He also spent fifteen years with Canada Customs as a Training Specialist, Project Officer, and Program Manager at the department's National Headquarters in Ottawa. He is married with one son.

Having Fun at Book Signings

This September at the Word on the Street book festival in Toronto, Rick Blechta and I had an interesting conversation about book signings and how some of them don't unfold the way you might expect. Book signings are an important way for us authors to maintain an active public profile and market our latest publication. They're often a fun way to meet the reading public and make a personal connection with them. Occasionally, though, they end up leaving an odd taste in your mouth afterwards. Sometimes, they just make you laugh.

This summer, shortly after the publication of Marcie's Murder,

I had a book signing in a Chapters store in Ottawa. To be frank, that signing was a disaster. The staff were very kind and patient, but they had set up my table directly in front of a very large display of the Fifty Shades trilogy. At the time, those books were at their peak of popularity, and while you might think that being situated in front of a raging bestseller would help my own sales, the opposite was the case. People flooded around my table the entire afternoon without making eye contact with me, fully intent on grabbing one of the trilogy's boxed sets before they sold out, yet again. I didn't sell a single book that day. I drove home wondering if I should make the switch from crime fiction to writing mommy porn.

At another Chapters signing I was seated at a very lovely antique-looking writing desk with a drawer in it. For some reason, the desk was positioned ao that the drawer was facing out towards the customers. Being a naturally nosy sort - I do write crime fiction after all - I opened the drawer and found a collection of paper napkins and plastic stir sticks. Not very interesting. The afternoon was very quiet. One of the few people who approached the signing desk was very interested - in the desk! She looked it all over very carefully, admired the hand-turned spindle legs and the brass fittings. And, yes, she opened the drawer to check the contents. I spoke to her, but she didn't look up at me, didn't look at my collection of books. She managed only a non-committal grunt before running her finger along the finely polished edge of the desk, and then walked away. Perhaps, I thought afterwards, while driving home, I should switch from crime fiction to making antique furniture.

At yet another Chapters signing, I was located in front of a large display of Chef Michael Smith's latest cook book. I happen to be a fan of Chef Smith, and since it was once again a too-quiet afternoon at the signing desk, I spent some time thumbing through his book. At one point a lady wandered up, browsing the other cook books. I asked her if she seen the one I was holding. We chatted about Chef Smith and she decided to buy the book. Well, I thought, at least I can sell somebody's books. Then the lady politely asked what I was doing there. I directed her attention to the table with my own collection of books, which up to then she had not noticed. Did I mention that she was polite? Yes, I did. She bought one of my books, also. Mission accomplished!

Some book signings are, as I have suggested, just plain fun. This past fall, I had a book signing event at Britton's on Bank Street in Ottawa - in an area known as The Glebe. Britton's is a magazine and tobacco shop where Ted Britton and Linda Wiken have begun what they call the Prime Crime Bookshelf. (Linda, for many years, owned and operated the Prime Crime Mystery Bookstore in Ottawa, the place for mystery readers and writers in Ottawa.) They set me up at a little table on the sidewalk for the signing. It was a cloudy day, and rain was imminent, but I had the time of my life, chatting with people on the sidewalk, and watching traffic on the street. Charles de Lint, the World Fantasy Award winning author, who lives in Ottawa, stopped by for a newspaper, looked at my books on the way out, and offered words of encouragement, one writer to another. City buses pulled up to the curb every twenty miniutes or so - there was a bus stop close by. At one point, a bus stayed directly in front of my litttle table for several minutes. I think by then I was feeling a little giddy from fatigue and exhaust fumes, because when I noticed several young fellows were staring at me from their seats on the bus, I made eye contact, and picking up one of my books I engaged in an elaborate pantomime between the book, myself, and the table, urging them to get off the bus and buy a copy. One lad shook his head. I pretended to cry. Everyone at the back of the bus began to laugh just as the bus pulled away. A passerby on the street gave me an odd look and kept on walking. Then I was alone again. Okay, I thought, that was fun. And someone on the bus might even remember my name the next time they enter a bookstore. You never know. As in, "Hey, that's the weird guy who was selling mystery books on Bank Street!"

We live in hope. Don't we?

You can visit Mike's website at:

Follow his blog at:

Find Mike on Facebook at:!/pages/Michael-J-McCann/130617140389341

Follow him on Twitter: @MichaelJMcCann1

Find The Fregoli Delusion, Mike's latest book, at:


Irene Bennett Brown said...

Wonderful fun, despite the truth of it. Thanks for the post!

Michael J. McCann said...

You're very welcome, Irene! Glad you enjoyed it. Mike.