One Reader’s Review

I will not adequately convey how much I have invested in the publication of my first book – Year of The Pig.  At the best, I can tell you that it took more effort, determination, and sacrifice than anything I have attempted since my Master’s Program at Auburn University.  While initial reviews have been uniformly positive, I can’t help but grit my teeth and wait for the first reader/reviewer who sees more negative than positive in Year of The Pig.  In the meantime, it is comments from educated forest landowners like Paul L. that help put me at ease.  He sent the following comment today (August 30, 2011) via email, and I thought I would share it with the world at large. 

Mark, I picked up your book yesterday to check it out before the grand event and couldn’t put it down until done.  I don’t know how to entice people to pick one up, but the deal is done once that happens.  It was fun getting to know you better vicariously.  My condolences to Katia, but she must have known you well enough to share the blame.  Joseph is a lucky boy.  I grew up in AL, but wouldn’t compare to the novice “inside the fence” hunters, but thoroughly enjoyed the experience despite my inadequacies in your comfort zone.

Two questions you can answer at the meeting:

1.       How do you find anything but a large school in Pleasant Home?

2.       What happened to the intended book about panhandle flora and fauna?

Thanks for all you do helping restore the Piney Woods.

Smoke & Blood

My book’s official publish date is September 1st, 2011. I’ve been scheduling book stores, interviews, lectures, and conferences for every spare moment between now and the end of the year. I’ve already got somewhere between two and three dozen venues, interviews, and presentations scheduled, and that’s in addition to my full-time job
I travel and talk a lot for my dual position with a major southern university and a nonprofit organization. Most of this time is spent in the natural range of longleaf pine which stretches from southeastern Virginia through eastern Texas.

Examining my calendar, I saw a scheduled presentation in west Alabama on an early Monday afternoon, followed by presentations in south Mississippi from Tuesday through Thursday of the same week. Since travel time allowed, I decided to schedule a book signing somewhere in east Mississippi while traveling between venues. Things didn’t work out quite the way I expected them to.
I’d be passing through Waynesboro, Mississippi on my west, so I got on Google and looked up contact information for the one bookstore in a pretty big area that did not limit itself to Christian publications.
I called them up, and a pleasant young lady answered the phone. I said “I’m looking for a bookstore in Waynesboro, would that be you?” She assured me it was and after I explained that I was looking for a venue for a book signing, she said “I’ll let you talk with the owner.” She passed the phone over and another feminine voice asked if she could help me.

“Yes, I’m giving a talk around Grove Hill on a Monday afternoon, and then I’m headed over for a workshop in Hattiesburg. I was wondering if you would be interested in hosting a book signing.”

She said “Tell me about your book.” So far so good.

“It’s being published by the University of Alabama Press. It’s nonfiction. It’s about hunting feral pigs and land management.” This was the usual introductory line that I start off with before going into a more detailed explanation while referencing all the great reviews that have been coming in.

She cut me off, “I’m not interested. Thank you.” And she hung up on me!

Now, if I had been calling a book store in San Francisco or Los Angeles and I had gotten this response, I don’t think I would have been quite as shocked. But in fact, I have called bookstores in LA and the Bay City, and no one has come close to being this rude to me!
This was Waynesboro, Mississippi for God’s sakes! It’s a little off the beaten path and it is completely surrounded by: forests, feral hogs, and people who should be very much interested in my book.

I had planned on calling other venues to fill a few holes in my calendar, but I put the phone down after that kick in the gut. Call me over-sensitive, but I’m just not used to be treated like scum because I was trying to set up a book signing.
After thinking it over a bit more, I believe I should have used my other book description.

When I first started planning my book tour I called a friend who’s a professor at Humbolt State University to see if I could lecture to some classes while on my west coast leg of my tour. Considering the students and professors I’ve known from Humbolt, I constructed a slightly more evocative description of my book:
“When you open this book you will smell smoke and the pages will drip blood and bourbon.

This is a true story of a goal set and pursued relentlessly.  It’s an accounting of an 11-state, odyssey over a 12-month period in which I pursue and kill feral hogs using every means available. I describe the hunts, how I saw the pigs affecting their environment, how the pigs came to be in the areas I hunted, and how the land managers viewed these pigs and were addressing the invaders.
In the end, I believe the reader will find, as I did, that pigs are but one symptom of a larger disease.”
I practiced this talk on my five-year old son. When my advance copies finally arrived he asked me “Is this the book with smoke and blood?”
So the big book debut/kickoff is Saturday September 1st. It’s my first book. It’s all new to me. I’d be happy to answer any questions that arise.

Among other topics I’m considering:
How to get into venues – that don’t immediately hang up on you like that rude woman in Waynesboro did!
How sales go at different venues.
Ways to publicize different venues.
Ways to get your book into the mass media.
The larger world of hog hunting literature.
The larger world of literature associated with longleaf pine.
Authors I know, and advice they’ve given me.
Taking my book back to the small town I grew up in.
Tying in book events with University lectures.
How I lined up my publisher.
How to survive on feral pork, squirrel, and boiled peanuts.
Whatever else comes to mind over the coming one-year post publishing.

My first try

This is the very beginning.  My first blog entry at Sweetbill.com occurs approximately six weeks prior to the official book debut and publish date of September 1st, 2011.  The debut party will take at the Auburn University, Solon Dixon Forestry Education Center http://sdfec.auburn.edu/ in Lower Alabama (LA).

I’ve worked out of the Dixon Center for a little over 16 years now.  My first introduction to the Dixon Center was as a Teaching Assistant (TA) for Forestry Summer Camp in the summer of 1992.  It was hot and wet that summer.  This summer (2011) started off hot and dry, but it’s getting wetter.

I didn’t know I was going to write a book in the summer of 1992.  I knew I was working my way towards a career in forestry.    Except for a few months when I toyed with the idea of become a commercial diver, and a few more years considering an island life as a SCUBA instructor, I’ve stuck with the idea that I’d be a forester.  I studied forestry for between 7 and 8 years.  I worked summers in a sawmill while I was getting my undergraduate degree.  And now I’ve worked full-time in the profession for 16+ years.

My first attempt at writing a book started about 10 years back.  It will probably take at least ten more years to bring that project to fruition.

Year of the Pig - book Pig Hunting Methods, Ethics & Land Management

I came up with the idea for Year of the Pig in early 2007.  I immediately put pen to paper, or fingers to the keyboard, and I didn’t stop until I handed in what I thought was a near finished manuscript in July, 2008. It wasn’t as polished or as finished as I thought it was.