I’m All Set

It is now less than one week until I make my big public debut at the local literary festival in the southern city of Columbia, South Carolina, which has been my home for the past 8 ½ years. I have ordered thirty copies of my book to sell, and now I wonder if I am kidding myself in thinking there will be that many people interested in purchasing my book. Is there any chance that I did not order enough?

I have the business cards which I already mentioned, (Will Anyone Come) along with the Russian candy and some bookmarks. I learned a lesson from the bookmarks, which is to always order a proof copy. It turns out that the font size would likely be the last line on the chart you read at your local eye doctor, but I waited too long to order that proof. Perhaps I should give out magnifying glasses!

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The design consists of the book cover and my website along with two reviews of the book, which include few nice buzzwords and phrases not written on the back-cover blurb: genealogy, family survival, and mid-twentieth century American and Russian history.

So next Sunday, I will arrive with my paraphernalia and high hopes that someone will come chat with me. I hope that the fact that Russia is now a hot topic in the news will help to attract some visitors to my table. If not, at least I will meet some other local authors and learn what to do next time.

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The Russian Love Goes Way Back

With all the talk about our administration’s mysterious love of all things Russian (maybe he should read my book!), I thought I would repost one of my newspaper blogs regarding “he who shall not be named” and the Soviets. I had a particular article in mind, which was printed in the New York Daily News on December 7, 1988 when Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev visited New York City. It turned out that I only tweeted about the stopover in the Big Apple rather than blogged about it.

Apparently, The Orange Donald’s love affair with the Russians goes back at least thirty-one years. According to a Washington Post article written in 1986, Trump lunched with the current Soviet Ambassador to the U.N., Yuri Dubinin, where among other things, he discussed “building a large luxury hotel across the street from the Kremlin.” The following year, he flew to Moscow with his then-wife Ivana, where he met with top economic and financial advisors and toured several potential sites.

In 1988, President Reagan invited our new president to the White House (was he already imagining himself there?), where Donald Trump finally met Gorbachev and discussed both economic and interests .

When he later learned of Gorby’s visit to New York City, Trump extended an invitation to tea at the Plaza, followed by a tour of Trump Tower. To make Gorbachev feel more at home, he ordered the Soviet flag to be flown from The Plaza Hotel, which Donald had recently acquired.

Sadly, Mr. and Mrs. Gorbachev never made it to the tea or lunch, but Trump saw him later at dinner at the Soviet Mission. Now all these years later, as  President of the United States (for now), he is still tangled in the Russian web.

The article I found in my father’s newspaper collection was prophetic, stating that “The penthouse was ready. Important talks were to take place. Donald would’ve revealed his plans for a Trump Tower Azerbaijan. On the table, plans to move the arms talk out of Geneva, into Trump Plaza, Atlantic City.”

When this article was written, it was meant to be tongue-in-cheek. Who knew how close to reality it would someday be!

And by the way, the Tour de Trump is not fake news. It happened. Google it!

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Stalking the Stats

I did a lot of research regarding which company to use to publish my book, and in the end, decided on Amazon’s umbrella companies, Create Space and Kindle Direct Publishing.  I found it easy to turn the words sitting on my Word document into a paperback or Kindle book, and I had no problem having my questions answered via other writers and customer support.

However, when choosing to publish via the Amazon company, I did not realize that I could receive royalties if someone reads my book for free. This is a win-win!

Okay, nothing is usually free. This is how it works. Amazon has two avenues to do this. The first is for the truly voracious reader. For $10/month, one can read an unlimited number of books and magazines using Kindle Unlimited, or for subscribers of Amazon Prime, the reader is limited to one book or magazine each month. While there are a plethora of titles to choose from, you will not find the current best seller on the “read free” list, although my family may disagree since my book can be read for free via these two services.

Not understanding this service and being new to the publishing game, I did not check the box to enroll in what is called KDP Select when my book was first published. When I finally decided to do so, while I could see that people were reading my book by means of a very cool graph (Note: I was a math major), I saw no evidence of royalties being paid to me.

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Eventually, I trolled the Amazon KDP author communities and learned how to find my complete royalty report, which consisted of payments for kindle purchases, book purchases, and “free reads.” There is a formula which is used to determine the payments for the free reads, which differs each month, but it appears to be about ½ cent per page.

While not a lot, my profits for a Kindle free read is not much different than when someone buys the Kindle version. And I must admit that it’s pretty cool watching the graph tick upwards as my story is being read. I sometimes stalk my own stats.

So as a consumer, when I read someone’s book via my subscription to Amazon Prime or listen to Amazon’s streaming music, I now feel better knowing that the writer or musician is still being paid something.

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The Politics of Candy

I have been having many feelings swirling around my head regarding my upcoming attendance at the local book festival and have discussed my preparations in my previous post, Will Anyone Come. I belong to several writers’ groups on Facebook, so I posed a question regarding the type of props that I should bring. The suggestions ran the gamut from business cards to bookmarks, postcards, and a poster, but the most often-repeated suggestion was candy. Since I have become quite the expert on research, I called upon Google, where I leaned about Russian candy.

There were sites where I could order it from Russia, but that was expensive and too much of an effort for a local event which may bring few readers to my table. Further research revealed a European market not far from my home. Who knew?

Imagine my excitement when I was told by the woman who answered my inquiry that “We have tons of Russian candy.” So yesterday, my husband and I went on a field trip to check it out. While their ad claimed to sell food from 25 Countries including Germany, Poland, England, Russia, Italy, Ukraine, Romania, we saw more Russian products than any other.

It turns out that there really was a “ton of Russian candy,” so I sought out the Russian-speaking woman working in the store. Once I explained the purpose of my purchase, she agreed with me that buying the very delicious, but also very expensive, chocolate was not prudent, so we settled on a bag of assorted hard candies.

Now this is the part where a bag of candy got political. The proprietor of the store suggested that I bring the candy in a dish but leave the bag at home. It turned out that, although the candy is Russian, the manufacturer is from the Ukraine. And as we all know from current events, Russia and the Ukraine are not good friends these days.

So my candy will sit in a dish, and hopefully, no one from the Ukraine will visit my table and discover my secret.

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Will Anyone Come?

I was happy to learn that I was selected to participate in a book festival later this month as a local author in my community. Now I need to research what I need to do as an author.

While I have attended such events in the past, it was always as a reader, so I never paid attention to what I need to do to attract people to my table. I immediately began to worry. What if no one comes? This could be embarrassing! Maybe I should wear a disguise.

mustache-glassesAnother major concern, which I bet is not common to many fell attendees, is knowing that the festival will be one week prior to my hip-replacement surgery. I read that I should be standing if at all possible. Perhaps this will be a time to hit the pain meds in advance of my debut. Such a problem!

I need to collect sales taxes, so I called my state department of revenue to ask if I need a license. Thankfully, since this is not an on-going sales event, I am not required to apply for the $50 permit. That is a relief, because I will be shocked if my profits exceed the price of a license. I was instructed to collect the taxes and send them in ASAP, with the notation “one-time event” written in large letters on the top of the tax form.

What sort of props should I bring other than copies of my books? I had business cards printed with my name, website, and contact information, and my daughter is lending me small easels on which to display a few copies of Do Svidanya Dad.

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Since it is my steadfast policy to never buy anything without a price, I asked her for suggestions on how to show all my “fans” the cost of the book. As a photographer who participates in bridal shows, she suggested I print up a listing of the costs and display it in a photo frame, which she will also let me borrow.

Since my book may attract genealogists, I have considered bringing some of my “finds” from the National Archives, but I am not sure if that is a good idea. There is such a lot to think about. In any case, it will be fun mingling with other writers. I am excited to have been asked to participate. Will anyone come talk to me that day? I will let you all know.

And incidentally, for anyone not living in the Columbia, SC area, you can get a copy of my book on Kindle for 99 cents beginning tomorrow.

Try it, you’ll like it!

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Спасибо (Spasibo—Thank you)

As I mentioned previously, it took a village to write this book—the people I interviewed who took the same route to the United States in 1941 as my dad within weeks of him, librarians, archivists, kind friends and family who helped edit and make suggestions to improving it, two college professors, several writers of books with content pertinent to my book, and a dear friend who introduced me to a Russian translator at her retirement party. I could not have written Do Svidanya Dad without their help.

Today, after many attempts at scheduling and rescheduling, I finally had lunch with my retired friend, Lynn, and the Russian translator, Pete. We had not all gotten together since Lynn’s retirement, so our gathering served as a reunion as well.

Both Pete and Lynn had read my book, and were happy to see how their contributions became a component of the story. I was unaware how humble a man he is, but he continually kept trying to minimize his importance to me. In fact, more than once, he apologized for not helping me enough. Ridiculous!

I understand the difficulty in translating documents which were written in Russian script. How many of us need translations of English script, particularly when written by our family physician! But the diary I had, which was written by several people—some sections in very eensy-weensy script—must have been particularly challenging.

There was no way I could have known the route my father’s sisters and parents followed when they were fleeing from the German army after the town in which they were living was invaded—had it not been for the help of Pete. And I never would have met Pete if my friend Lynn had not met him on a trip to Russia several years ago.

So many things happen for a reason. Than you Pete and Lynn, or as it’s said in Russian, Спасибо (Spasibo.)

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Knock Knock. It’s Just the FBI– Updated

Based upon all the “excitement” at our airports this past weekend, I decided to look back at an older post, a reminder to some, but fresh for my newer readers. This was written almost eight months ago, and since then, quite a lot has changed.

At the time the event in that post occurred—sometime during 1956—my grandmother was living in the Soviet Union, but she was considered to be a stateless person. While reading the post, try substituting USSR/Russia with Syria, and communists with terrorists. It sounds like it could have been written today.

I did not know I was a psychic.

Do Svidanya Dad post: June 6, 2016

My father refused to speak about life in the USSR so the FBI paid him a visit. Could something similar happen under a Trump administration?

At the time—sometime in the mid 1950’s—Dad had served four years in the Army during World War II and an additional ten months stationed at Fort Hood during the Korean War. He had not seen his mother for almost sixteen years. He was a young man who had honorably served his country twice.

My immigrant grandmother had the unfortunate luck to be born in Russia, so when she and her family tried to return to the United States after living in the USSR for ten years, it was more difficult for her than her children since she had never become an American citizen. My grandparents had begun the naturalization process while living in New Jersey from 1913-1931 but had only obtained their first papers.

They learned that leaving the Soviet Union was not as easy as setting up residence there. A world war fought on Soviet soil did not help their repatriation. As I mentioned in a previous post, Dad was the first to be given his travel documents to leave.

So after years of writing letters (many of which I found in a box at the National Archives) to just about anyone who would listen to him, it must have been a slap in the face to be visited by the FBI simply because he would not speak at a meeting of the Boonton, NJ Lions Club about his years spent in Russia. This was during the time of the Red Scare led by Senator Joe McCarthy. (The Resurrection of the McCarthy Playbook)

My grandmother and three of her grandchildren were stuck over there, so my father did not want to do anything to jeopardize their return. He was trying to maintain a low profile because he was afraid for his mother and his brother’s children.

He must have been happy to watch Senator McCarthy being censured during a hearing in 1954, when attorney Joe Welch said to him, “Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness.” When McCarthy tried to continue attacking a young lawyer he accused of having communist ties, Welch uttered the famous line, “Have you no sense of decency?”

Tensions surrounding fears of communists infiltrating our country began to diminish, but the FBI visit to my parents’ home sometime in 1956 proved it was not over.

Now as I listen to the news and hear the plans rolled out by Donald Trump, I wonder what could happen to a Muslim family who may want to bring a mother or grandmother to our country or return here from a visit abroad. Will the FBI visit them if they refuse to speak about life in Iraq or Iran or even attempt to communicate with them? Will their grandma be permitted to join her family in America if our president is Donald Trump? Will he suggest banning them from becoming attorneys or law enforcement officers or serving in the military because of their religion or ethnicity?

Hmm! It’s something to think about. “Have you no sense of decency Mr. Trump?”

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