The Root of Book Marketing

I was pulling some rather thick and determined ground cover off a bank the other day. Most of it came out without too much effort. A strong pull here, a few cuts with the lopper there, and I was able to untangle and tug the bank clean. Except for one particularly difficult root. No problem, I thought. I have all the tools I need. I got this! Here was my methodology:

A tug. It’s what worked for the others. This one? Barely budged it.

Snip. I cut around all the small root strands. Tug again. Nothing.

Shovel. I dug all around it and tried prying up from each angle. No luck.

Axe. I figured if I can get the axe head down around the base of the root, I could just chop it off. I swung the axe repeatedly and it seemed to bounce off it like it was made of rubber.

Pick. I used the long-handled pick to slice through the main root remaining. After repeated swings, I was sure it would come out.

Tug. Forty minutes later and it barely felt like I had done anything at all.

But I persisted. I would not allow this to defeat me.

Shovel. Snip. Dig. Snip. Tug. Pry. Swing. And finally, the beast gave up its soul and the gnarly stubborn thing was defeated. After much sweat. After many tools. After a variety of methods. After a prolonged persistence.

And after I had accomplished it, there was one thing going through my mind. Book marketing. Yeah, the root of all evil in my book.

Honestly, marketing is, for me, the most mundane, undesirable part of being a writer. Many times I’ve said to myself: why even bother. Just keep writing. This isn’t working. That isn’t working. Just give up.

But the root reminded me that life, like root extracting, like book marketing isn’t about one method. It’s about many methods, many tools, and many attempts over a sustained period of time.

If I gave up at AXE, that root would have won. If I only tried the shovel, I would have lost the battle. It was the combination of tools and attempts over time which did the trick.

What do you need to do in order to unlock your book marketing success? What have you tried? Keep doing what works. Keep trying new methods. Keep looking for new tools. And keep tugging, no matter what. That’s ultimately the key. The root never would have come out if I had thrown in the towel. You also won’t solve book marketing by allowing the root to remain in the ground. It’s a constant fight, but it will be worth it. One day.

I’ve Written a New Show: Finally. “Within Reach”

A colleague in the theatre industry reached out a few months ago about collaborating on a new theatre project. After some discussing back and forth, it was decided that I would write the entire show. It would consist of 10 short plays similarly themed. Today, I finished writing it. My first new full-length theatre show in two and a half years. It’s titled: Within Reach.

Before I outline what the show’s about, I’d like to look back at the other shows of similar format that I’ve written over the years. I was put onto short-form drama about ten years ago, formed a teen drama troupe, and proceeded to write and produce a number of shows over the years. I love this type of show: short plays, light sets, various genres, similar themes, and one cohesive unit. They are super fun and audiences love them. Here’s a list of my previous shows in this format:

2011 The Road Less Traveled (Penang Performing Arts Centre)

2012 Drive All Night (Penang Performing Arts Centre)

2013 Captured in Time & Space (Penang Performing Arts Centre)

2014 For All Generations (Penang Performing Arts Centre; restaged in Jeddah in 2018)

2015 Tales of Wonder (Christmas show) (Penang Performing Arts Centre)

2016 Tales of Wonder II (Penang Performing Arts Centre)

2017 Tales of Christmas (Penang Performing Arts Centre – only one not produced by myself)

2018 Stories, Vol 1 & Stories Vol 2 (Jeddah – Mix of new and older scripts)

2019 Crazy Love (Scheduled to be produced in April 2020 until pandemic cancelled it)

So that brings us to my brand new show: WITHIN REACH.

Here’s a short description about the show: WITHIN REACH is a poignant and challenging look at the past and present. It ponders the possibilities of life, the obstacles that hold us down, the inspiration that moves us forward, and the power of hope and reconciliation that come from unexpected places. WITHIN REACH is a full-length, theatrical production consisting of ten similarly themed short plays meant to empower youth and women, while encouraging everyone to engage in the human stories around them.

I’m super excited about these 10 plays. I had so much fun writing them. They were challenging and meaningful to put together. They include two historical pieces which I love. Several pieces about teen issues and four pieces specifically written with strong female roles. Here’s a quick overview of the individual pieces are about:

Booker T. Sweeps the Floor: A historical piece based on an episode from Booker T. Washington’s autobiography. Booker learns a tough lesson about hard work. But when the ex-slave dreams of going to school, he has a strange entrance exam that he was prepared for: sweeping the floor.

The One True Sport: A young teen boy is petrified when he has to take his shirt off and play a basketball game in front of a girl he likes.

Dark Social: Two teens decide to create a false, malicious video about a girl from school they are upset with. Dark Web helps make it viral, causing untold misery to all involved.

Awake & Unchanged: At the funeral of her unfaithful husband, a woman comes to grip with her life choices as her bitter daughter questions why her mother never left him. 

Four Chairs: A woman examines her life choices and tries to better understand why she made them.

Auditions: Three women show up to audition for a role in a play, only to discover that they are actually auditioning for the roles they currently play in their lives.

Life’s Choreography: Two women dancers are working with a difficult choreographer, who keeps riding one of the women particularly hard.

The Other Side of the Wall: A young couple celebrate the night when they get engaged as their neighbor is going through an emotional breakup. Each one doesn’t know what’s happening on the other side of the wall.

Write Therapy: A creative writing teacher volunteers to mentor youth in a juvenile criminal center. But she targets one intelligent yet jaded detainee for a surprising reason.

America’s Game: Based on the true story of Octavius Catto. In 1871 Philadelphia, teacher and black activist Octavius Catto is meeting with his students when he hears of tension at the local polling place. As he goes to investigate, he is assassinated by merciless Frank Kelly. Both Kelly and Catto are whisked into another dimension to Cosmic Court where Catto chooses a strange form of justice: baseball.

Where and when will WITHIN REACH hit the stage? Well, that’s yet to be determined. Stay tuned.

If anyone is interested in learning more about any of these shows, please feel free to reach out to me.

It’s a good day when a new show has been written. It will only get better once the lights turn on.

There are no bad ideas.

You might be tempted to think that some ideas are just bad. Not true. Ideas may have just been brought to life prematurely. Before I explain, here are two rules I follow as a writer:

  1. Keep all ideas. Keep them on file. Keep them on speed dial. Often new ideas will arise and you’ll get excited about them. But then when they hit the paper, they stare blankly at you and you don’t know what to do with them. I have a lot of old word documents with play titles with nothing but blank pages. But keep them!
  2. Connect new ideas with old ideas. New ideas emerge.

I was listening to the radio this morning in the car and a song came on. The phrase in the chorus struck me, and as I usually do, I fixated on that phrase and wondered what it would look like if I wrote a play or something based on that idea. I thought it worth exploring.

When I got home, I flipped on the laptop to get down a few thoughts when the car phrase reminded me of something I had started writing many years ago. As I started wading back through old files to find it, I came across another abandoned idea which suddenly intrigued me. I started re-chasing that one and before I knew it, I was working on two old pieces which will become two new pieces for a show I’m writing.

It’s fun when ideas compound on each other. So another axiom I live my writing life by: there are no bad ideas. There are ideas which haven’t come of age. There are ideas which haven’t yet developed. There are ideas which lack the crucial link which will take them in their eventual direction.

But there are no bad ideas. Keep them moving in your mind. One day they will all make sense. Or at least some of them will. I may not outlive the usefulness of some of my ideas.

Turned

I arrived back in NY less than two weeks ago not really knowing what to expect concerning restrictions and “the feel” of life after 15 months in a pandemic. What I found was what I suspected would be the case sooner rather than later: life feels pretty normal. It feels completely different from what it did in January when I was last here.

There were always questions like: will life ever feel normal again or Even when it’s over, will things really go back to the way they were before?

I always suspected that they would. We are not a long-minded bunch, us humans. We easily forget, and we want what we want. And we will do what we want to do. And so it is.

No masks. I’ve had my first couple handshakes for over a year. Crowding in long lines. Laughing, singing, smiling. I saw hugging. I saw normal life.

I was at PNC Park last week, and even at 50% capacity, it had a normal feel. People were cheering. There were fireworks. If someone who hadn’t heard of the pandemic saw the scene, they would not have questioned any of it. Businesses are chirping, bars are packed, and the grand summer season has allowed people to turn the corner, to breathe, to move on and remember just how sweet life is.

May we not forget all that happened, but may we embrace a point in time that we have all been longing for.

A Year on Zoom

I finished teaching my final drama class today via Zoom. As I waved goodbye and wished a happy summer to the final stragglers who lived through a year on Zoom, the magnitude of the year hit me. I taught an entire cohort of students and I met them only once in person.

The bizarreness of this year doesn’t have to be explained to anyone. Each person has their own stories of how life has changed and how our human interactions have changed along with it. Two weeks ago I was able to bring in small groups of students to the school’s stage for them to have one opportunity to feel the lights in their eyes and perform a script to an empty auditorium.

Here’s what struck me the most about this experience:

  1. I didn’t recognize some of my students. Many were taller than I had pictured on Zoom. A few were shorter. Of course the masks didn’t help.
  2. The fun of being in-person and doing real drama can’t be duplicated on Zoom. Sure, there are adaptations that were made and some stage drama became filmed video drama, but that’s a paltry replacement of the real thing. The movement, the laughter, the jokes, the physical acknowledgment, the face and not the screen – all of these were so wonderful to experience once again.
  3. It won’t take long to get back to normal. Now, I’m not predicting when this will all end, but I firmly believe that once the masks are off and we are back in person, that slowly, slowly things will become normal. Our pre-pandemic actions will emerge and we’ll get the hang of crazing human interaction. It’s who we are. We’re not meant to be distant creatures, half-seen, with shorts and barefeet hidden out of site (as good as that all feels notwithstanding.) We will move on, we will forget, we will touch, and breath, and feel fully human again. I think this because as we interacted in our scripts, we all loosened up and it felt right – and that was only after 45 minutes together.

I’m happy to leave this year behind, and as the summer months fade, may we all be one step closer to remembering human experience in all its glory.

Yes, it’s free – A DIAMOND FOR HER!

I love this novel. A DIAMOND FOR HER: MYTHS & TALES OF THE WINASOOK IRON HORSES. Probably most enjoyable novel I ever wrote. I love it so much that I’m giving it away.

A one time only special – May 27-May 31 – it’s FREE on KINDLE!

I believe in this book, and I want to get it into the hands of as many people as possible. So please get yourself a copy. Please spread the word and tell others – anyone who likes historical fiction, romance, or baseball! And finally, if you enjoy it, please leave a review.

He loved her enough to build her a baseball stadium. With a tip of the cap to the works of W.P. Kinsella, A Diamond for Her is a historical and magical story of love between two people—Raymond & Rochelle—and two grand institutions—America & baseball.

In 1920, railroad man Raymond Blythe had a series of disturbing dreams—giant creatures with Greek names playing baseball. Determined to discover their meaning, he sets off on a bizarre quest to find a connection between Iowa, Theodore Roosevelt, baseball, and his deceased father. While searching for answers at the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh, he meets a young librarian named Rochelle Christy. This meeting sets him on another quest—to win her hand in marriage even if it means he has to establish his own baseball league in Pennsylvania’s Allegheny Mountains.

Summer Read Gear-up: Trilogy Super-Sale all Weekend!

There’s never been a better time to give this unique and exciting The Forgotten Child Trilogy a try. Wed-Sunday this week! Hit the link below and get ready for some great beach reading!

Reviews:

“A unique, entertaining, and deftly crafted novel by an author with a genuine gift for imaginative and engaging storytelling.” – Small Press Bookwatch, Midwest Book Review

Know Your History: Octavius Catto

I’ll admit. I was not familiar with the story of Octavius Catto – black activist after the Civil War – until I came across his story in an unexpected place: MLB historian John Thorn’s terrific book Baseball in the Garden of Eden: The Secret History of the Early Game.

Catto was very much a renaissance man. Catto was an educator of boys in Philadelphia. He was an abolitionist, who helped fight for the passage of the 15th Amendment in 1870, securing voting rights for blacks. (Note of remembrance: women still had not attained suffrage at this time.) But of all the things he loved, perhaps his “rose bud” moment as he died, he loved baseball. He was an accomplished ball player who ran the Pythian Base Ball Club of Philadelphia. They even had an undefeated season in 1867.

His sudden demise is a tragic one. On election day 1871, the first time that Catto would be able to exercise his right to vote, he got word of voter intimidation voters coming from the Democrats – especially amongst the Irishmen of the city. Wanting to protect himself, he left his school and went to Freedman Bank, withdrew $20, then continued on to a pawn shop, where he purchased a hand gun. As he was walking through the streets, gun in his pocket, an Irishman named Frank Kelly recognized him, brushed passed him, turned around and shot him in the back. Catto fell to the ground, but as he tried to get up and escape, Kelly approached and shot him dead in broad daylight, amongst many witnesses.

Kelly was put on trial and acquitted by an all-white jury.

I’m fascinated by this tragic tale for a variety of reasons. I have already written a play about the incident and I’m looking to do some more creative writing surrounding it as I think it has much to say to us today. It’s going to involve some fantasy. Maybe you didn’t see that twist coming! Stay-tuned for more about this remarkable ballplayer.

His courage and ballplaying skills were largely forgotten to history, except that a statue of Catto was erected in Philadelphia in 2017. A man who earned the right to vote but never got to exercise it. A man who loved the game of baseball, but never again suited up to play.

Who are the other lost heroes of the American past? I’m sure they are longing to have their stories told as well.

Public Domain

A Talk about A DIAMOND FOR HER: My Radio Interview

I had a fun, hour-long radio interview with Fran Lewis about my novel A Diamond for Her: Myths & Tales of the Winasook Iron Horses. I mean, what author doesn’t love to talk about their own works?

I answered a wide-range of questions about how the idea of the book germinated to some of the crazy stories and chapters included. I also talk about historical figures Theodore Roosevelt, Satchel Paige, Gus Greenlee, and Jackie Robinson.

Here’s an archived link to the interview if you are so inclined:

I do believe a Winasook Iron Horses player could have used this ball and bat. Enjoy!

A New Favorite Review of A DIAMOND FOR HER

Bonnie @ Bonniereadsandwrites wrote a terrific review of my newly released novel. She states:

“Mark W. Sasse has created a book that is captivating, remarkable, and full of the American spirit.”

and …

“In the tradition of W.P. Kinsella, Mark W. Sasse brings the magic of baseball to life.”

Head on over to her terrific review site to read the entire review:

Remember, if you want a paperback copy, please ask for it at your local independent bookstore. They need your support!