Sunday, October 15, 2017

322. Fear of Falling

Anaphora Literary Press invites submissions of full-length manuscripts of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry; there is no submission fee and it reads year round.  This is not a vanity press; it actively promotes its authors.  Its director, Anna Factorovich, does excellent cover illustrations, as I know from experience, having published two books with Anaphora.  There is one requirement: authors accepted for publication must take fifty copies of their book at a 25% discount from the retail price and dispose of them through sales, giveaways, or requests for reviews.  Small presses have to find a way to survive; this is Anaphora's solution.  But there is no time limit; one can take one year or ten or twenty to dispose of those copies.  And Ms. Factorovich is very clear and open about this requirement; if you don't think you can dispose of fifty copies, you'd better not sign up with Anaphora.  But Anaphora is fast: if your manuscript is accepted, you can have a book in hand within one month, if you choose not to have it edited (which I do not recommend), or within two months, if you do have it edited.  Here is a rare opportunity for writers willing to help market their works vigorously.  Once you're published, Anaphora may request contributions toward a catalog and other means of marketing, but these are optional.  Here are my two books:


Bill Hope: His Story.  New York City, 1870s: From his cell in the gloomy prison known as the Tombs, young Bill Hope spills out in a torrent of words the story of his career as a pickpocket and shoplifter; his brutal treatment at Sing Sing and escape from another prison in a coffin; his forays into brownstones and polite society; and his sojourn among the “loonies” in a madhouse, from which he emerges to face betrayal and death threats, and possible involvement in a murder.  Driving him throughout is a fierce desire for better, a persistent and undying hope.  In the last Goodreads giveaway, 492 people signed up, though only two books were offered.

Browder - Cover - 9781681143675-Perfect - 2

Dark Knowledge.  (Release date January 5, 2018; copies now available from the author.)  New York City, late 1860s.  When young Chris Harmony learns that members of his family may have been involved in the illegal pre-Civil War slave trade, taking slaves from Africa to Cuba, he is appalled, and sets out to learn the truth, no matter what the cost.  Since many fear exposure, he meets denials, evasions, threats, and then a murder.  What price must Chris pay to learn the truth and proclaim it?  In the first Goodreads giveaway, 587 people signed up, though only one book was offered.

For more information and guidelines for submissions to Anaphora, go here

And now, on to fear of falling.

Ever tempted to walk on stilts?  If so,
you have no fear of heights.

     We humans take for granted our erect position, perched high up on our legs like stilts, even though the rest of God’s creatures swim in the sea, fly in the air, or slither or creep on land.  We think it normal to have our feet grounded and our head aloft.  This posture gives us pretensions, a feeling of dominance and control, of being above earthy things, of being close to heaven.  But gravity dictates that things high up will come crashing down.  Maybe not right now, this minute, but sooner or later, hence our fear of falling.

     I have no special fear of heights, no acrophobia.  When visiting the medieval cathedrals of Europe, I thought nothing of huffing and puffing up circular stone stairs in a tower to an edifice’s superstructure, where I could see gargoyles barely visible from below, and enjoy a wide view of the city.  And when my friend Bill and I visited pre-Columbian sites in Mexico and clambered up the steep steps of pyramids to the very top, I found the whole experience thrilling.  And when I clambered back down again and looked back and saw Bill still way up near the top, frozen in fear, I realized he had a fear of heights that to me was alien.  He did get down again, but slowly, one step at a time.

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The George Washington Bridge, with a view from one of the towers --a view I've never had and never will, thank God.
     Am I ever afraid of heights and of falling?  Of course. When I walk across the George Washington Bridge to New Jersey, and pause midway and look down at the river far below, my knees go limp and I feel a momentary dizziness; the thought of plummeting all that way to the water, as many suicides have done, tenses me with fear.  Back in my opera-going days, when I went down to a seat in the front row of the Family Circle of the old Met (the Metropolitan Opera), I was only too aware of the steep descent before me, with only a low rail at the balcony’s edge separating me from the gaping emptiness of the theater’s vast interior, and the main floor far below.  And when today I visit the new MOMA – the Museum of Modern Art on 53rd Street – with its wide glass walls and plunging perspectives, I get nervous and move quickly to enter rooms with solid floors, relieved to be boxed in with thick walls adorned with works of art and not with views of empty space.


An inside view at MOMA.  No thanks.
Colin Chia 

     Once, long ago, I had surgery in my right knee and after weeks of bed rest had to learn to walk again and regain, slowly, slowly, the use of my right leg, which at first bent only a little at the knee.  In the hospital I went from wheel chair to walker, and by the time I left there I was walking with a cane. The cane gave me support for many weeks and lessened my fear of falling, which was acute at the top of stairs, or when stepping off a high curb, of which there were many in those days, before the city lowered the curbs at intersections.  My fear of falling when stepping off a curb was so persistent that I carried the cane for weeks after I no longer really needed it; it reassured me, gave me confidence.  Then, once my leg muscles had toughened and my knee could bend to a right angle or more, letting me walk normally, I relinquished the cane and no longer nursed a fear of falling.

     Until recently, that is.  Now, on the cusp of my dynamic maturity, that fear has returned.  Not a fierce, nagging fear, just a sly, subtle one that from time to time flares up.  When? When clambering down stairs and stepping off a curb. Fortunately, most stairs – even those with only two or three steps – have a firm railing at hand, so negotiating them is no problem.  Stepping off a high curb is another matter, but as I step down I put blind faith in the muscles of my leg, which so far have seen me through.  But when I pass an open sidewalk entrance to the basement stairs of a store or an apartment building --  entrances usually marked with orange cones signaling danger – I get just a wee bit nervous, for the thought of plunging down into that darkness is unsettling.  I used to be fascinated by those stairs leading down into darkness, as if into some underworld of mystery, some Hades of the damned, but now I shrink from them in fear, or at least with a good dose of caution.

File:Burg Rotenhan 10.jpg
Even in an old castle -- or especially there -- scary.
Dark Avenger-commonswiki 

File:Hinomisaki-Todai Inside stairs001.JPG
Inside a lighthouse is no better.   And barefoot?
hashi photo
     During the winters of 2014 and 2015, when the city was beset for days at a time with ice and snow and slush, I prudently clung to my hearth, and was assured by nurses and therapists, when they came to see my partner Bob, that I was wise to do so, since the hospitals were full of weather-related fractures and sprains.  Once, when I did venture out a very short distance to get a newspaper, I slipped on a thin sheet of ice and fell with a thump.  So it had finally happened, the thing I perennially feared.  Was I hurt?  No, not a scratch or a bruise.  So I just slid over the ice a few feet to a spot that seemed safer, laboriously got up, and tiptoed on. 

     Nothing is more threatening to us fragile humans, whether elderly or not, than the public transportation of the city of New York.  Our buses and subway trains lurch and screech and jolt.  If I don’t get a seat, I hold on to the nearest pole with one or both hands, preferably both, and when getting off, I wait until the bus or train stops with its inevitable jolt, and then, and only then, do I rise from my seat or let go of a pole to exit.  But caution is never enough.  Once, when a bus lurched away from a stop, it caught a  bunch of us with only a tenuous grip on a pole.  We all toppled, three or four or five, but the others managed to grab hold of something and right themselves, whereas I inelegantly went all the way to the floor.  Gasps of “Oh!” erupted, and five hands stretched out to help me up.  Get up I did, clumsily, laboriously, but when others asked if I was hurt, I could announce grandly, “Not a scratch!”  “You fell just right,” said one witness, and it was true enough; in spite of my fear of falling, I seem to fall just right and bounce back up without a bruise or a scratch. 

File:R44 Interior.jpg
Poles aplenty here, but I have never, never ridden in a subway car this empty.
     Still, that fear persists, even to the point of making me hesitate to return to one of my favorite local restaurants where, as you exit, you have to descend two steps without a railing or any other form of support.  To fall there would be catastrophic, since there are outside tables near those steps, and anyone falling would crash down on a table and disrupt someone’s genteel lunching – for me, the worst outcome of all, worse than a fracture or sprain.  What could one then say?  “Excuse me, dear people, I didn’t mean to smash up your tacos and enchiladas.”  Embarrassment, shame, guilt.  Could I ever show my face in that restaurant again?  Probably not.

     My fear of falling is justified.  Statistics tell us that one third of those over 60 fall each year, and over half of those over 80. And those who do fall are two to three times more likely to fall again.  And to make this cheery prospect even cheerier, we are told that these figures are an understatement, since many falls go unreported.  By way of confirmation of all this, my partner Bob’s nurses and therapists have told us horror stories of seniors living alone in the city who refuse to have a home care aide, and one day are found lying on the floor in a pool of blood.  So welcome to the Golden Years, that sweet retirement we have all been working toward and dreaming of, as we toil laboriously on through our lives.

     And to top the matter off, the December 2015 AARP Bulletin, which targets seniors, reports a growing but barely noticed epidemic of falls because people are living longer, and the aging Baby Boomers are joining the ranks of the vulnerable.  Older adults fall when inside, younger ones when outside.  Examples:

·      A 58-year-old man tripped over a dog leash while camping outdoors with his wife, bruised his spinal cord, spent three months in hospitals and rehab, and has now regained bowel and bladder function, but can’t walk or shower without help.
·      A woman of 67 lost her balance while carrying a small table down the stairs to her basement, was found by family unconscious on the concrete floor, suffered brain injury, and has now improved, but still has time talking in complete sentences.
·      Ex-President George H.W. Bush, 91, fell at his home in Maine, breaking a bone in his neck. 

My advice:  Don’t go camping with a dog, and don’t carry small tables up or down stairs.  AARP warns also of invisible ice on driveways, slippery bathroom floors, loose rugs, and high heels.  Personally, I’m not too worried about the first or the last, but the middle two are a concern, as well as clutter in the apartment.

File:New-England Primer Enlarged printed and sold by Benjamin Franklin.jpg
A 1764 edition printed and sold by
Benjamin Franklin.
File:New england primer.PNG 

    Achieving heights and plummeting down from them are ingrained in the myths and traditions of the West.  “In Adam’s fall / We sinned all” is how The New England Primer, the most successful textbook published in the American colonies in the eighteenth century, introduced tender young minds to the letter A, presumably pronouncing “sinned” as two syllables to make the second verse have the requisite eight.  Adam’s fall, of course, was metaphorical, since it involved eating a forbidden apple at the prompting of mischievous Eve and the nefarious serpent (thanks to whom snakes have a bad press to this day), the serpent being none other than the wicked Tempter in disguise.  Far from plummeting, Adam and his guilty bedmate were driven from the paradisial Garden of Eden out into the hard, cruel world where we have all been laboring ever since, with death our inevitable end on this toilsome earth. 

The expulsion from Eden, with and without fig leaves.  Masaccio,
1426-28; a 1980 restoration removed the fig leaves, a 1680 addition.

     But the real Fall affecting and afflicting our universe was the Fall of Satan, up till then known as Lucifer, and his rebellious cohorts, following their revolt against God, who smote them mightily and sent them plummeting down from heaven to the smoky regions of hell.  This grandiose myth is retold vividly in Milton’s Paradise Lost, though Milton, himself a rebel against the majesty of Charles I of England,  couldn’t help but make Satan and his allies more interesting than God and his Son, and hell a far more fascinating bit of real estate than the vague and airy regions of heaven.  But the Fall of that arch rebel foreshadowed that of Adam and precipitated it since, in Milton’s telling, it was Satan’s desire for revenge that led him to investigate this new creation, Earth, and wheedle Eve into wheedling Adam into the guilty act of eating an apple. (Fortunately, apples, unlike serpents, haven’t had a bad press ever since, New York State being rich in them -- apples, that is -- and apples a favorite fruit of us all; I gobble one daily.) Satan’s Fall has haunted us down through the ages, and inspired Gustave Doré’s magnificent illustrations of Milton’s work, showing Satan and the fallen angels dramatically en route to hell.

File:Paradise Lost 1.jpg
Satan and his legions smitten down to hell by the Archangel Michael.  Gustave Doré, 1866.

     For all our fear of falling, we humans – some of us – are obsessed with climbing, with achieving perilous heights.  On my many hikes in an upstate wilderness, sometimes I would come across a rustic bridge or a shelter with a plaque commemorating a son who had fallen to his death while climbing rocks, perhaps near the very spot where I was standing; in his memory, the grieving parents donated funds for the bridge or the shelter. 

     We’ve all heard reports of mountain climbers scaling icy peaks in Nepal, and of avalanches sweeping them to their death.  These adventurers are obsessed with heights and the need to conquer them, no matter what the risk: an obsession that few of us share, an obsession that we admire from a safe remove, and that we admit baffles us.  Every summer there are reports of teen-age boys who, clad in light summer clothing, scale precipitous peaks, reach a ledge, look down at the ground far below, and panic; going down seems more perilous than climbing up.  Trapped up there, they often spend the night, shudder through the cold, are found by rescuers the following morning.  In one case one of the two boys was dead, and the other, close to death, whispered plaintively, “Please help me, I don’t want to die”; within minutes he too was dead. 

File:Rock Climbers on High Neb, Stanage Edge - - 752673.jpg
Andy Beecroft
     The supreme fear of falling may come in a waking dream or a nightmare, often toward 4 a.m., when the night is longest and dawn seems far away, and the body’s numbed metabolism counterfeits death.  In this dream we plummet through eons of time and infinitudes of space, down, down, down  into the ultimate doom of extinction.  No wonder we have a dread of falling.  And yet, there is a sport known as skydiving, whose enthusiasts relish plummeting for a few delirious moments through the air before opening a parachute that brings them gently to earth. 

File:Douglas en el aire.jpg
The ultimate thrill … for some.
Arteaga Douglas

Coming soon:  No idea.

©   2017   Clifford Browder

Sunday, October 8, 2017

321. Brooklyn Book Festival vs BookCon: Where Should Indie Authors Exhibit?


Reading at Jefferson Market Library, 425 Avenue of the Americas (near West 10th Street), on Sunday, October 8, 2-4 p.m.  I will read excerpts from my novels and New York stories, sign books, and take questions.  Books will be available for purchase.  I'll be glad to see a friendly face or two there.


         I’d never been to the Brooklyn Book Festival, but having exhibited at BookCon at the Javits Center last June (see posts #302 and #303), I wanted to sniff out the possibilities for exhibiting in Brooklyn next year.  BookCon had been an exciting two-day experience, but not altogether satisfying.  The BookCon exhibitors were small presses and indie authors who, like me, didn’t attend the two preceding days of BookExpo, when the book trade keeps the public out so it can talk to itself.  Banished to a fringe location that didn’t get a steady stream of attendees, we BookCon exhibitors did our best to entice attendees and sell books, but I for one didn’t meet my sales goal, even though I sold 26 books in two days.  Also, BookCon is decisively oriented toward female millennials, young women in their late teens and twenties, whereas my readers have proved to be older women and, to some extent, older men.  So I wanted to size up the one-day Brooklyn festival as a possible alternative. 

         One immediate concern: BookCon is an indoor event, so the weather doesn’t interfere, whereas the Brooklyn Book Festival is outdoors in the Borough Hall area and therefore exposed to all the rigors of the weather, though it takes place rain or shine.  In addition, I had two specific queries: (1)  Who are the attendees?  A mix of all sexes and ages or, like at BookCon, mostly younger people, especially young women?  (2) Where do they put the literary small fry like me?  In some remote location, where few attendees venture?  None of the big commercial presses would be there (though some of their imprints snuck in), but there are big small presses (Columbia and other university presses, Graywolf, George Braziller, New Directions, etc.) and small small presses (often called micro presses), and my concern was the latter.  I knew from online info that small small presses and indie authors were distributed throughout.  But I also learned that two of the areas – the 100s and 600s, meaning exhibitor stands so numbered (102, 103, 104…) – were somewhat on the fringe of the festival, which, since I might be put there, was worrisome.  Armed with these concerns, I vowed to go there rain or shine, and go I did, on Sunday, September 17, which proved to be a pleasant, rain-free day.  Surviving a chaotic subway system, after much confusion and delay I finally arrived at Borough Hall.  

Borough Hall, minus the book fair.  Impressive.

         Borough Hall, an imposing Greek Revival building dating from the 1840s and once the City Hall of the independent city of Brooklyn, is rich in history and by itself worthy of attention.  But I was there for the book festival, so off I went with my young friend Silas, who met me there, to see the 600 area close by, at the south end of the festival, where vendors’ stands topped by white canopies looked from a distance like rows and rows of tents. 

         My immediate impression: though seemingly on the fringe of the festival, the 600s were jammed with attendees, the narrow aisles so packed that you had trouble seeing the books in the stands.  “Are they just looking, or are they buying?” I asked two vendors, and in each case got an emphatically positive response; they were buying, and buying in quantity.  And who were these attendees?  All ages, sexes, races – truly, a good mix of the city’s population, and eager buyers at that.  For me, a good sign, though I wouldn’t be sure until I checked out the seemingly even more remote 100 area at the north end of the festival.

The Brooklyn festival at its most crowded.
Silas Berkowitz

My BookCon aisle at a quiet moment, with me on the left in front.
At BookCon there were too many quiet moments.

Silas Berkowitz

        On we went into the heart of the festival, where the 200, 300, 400, and 500 areas were clustered in close proximity, with the splendid pillared façade of Borough Hall looming in the background, and the likewise impressive county courthouse looming to the east.  Colorful displays of books on all sides, more than you could ever check out in their entirety.  Banners, posters, signs, and free bookmarks and business cards everywhere, and of course T-shirts, though rarely any candy.  Indeed, what didn’t I encounter there by way of stands?  For instance:

·      Coral Press: Stories that Rock (“musical fiction”)
·      I  LOVE  MY LIBRARY!  (the Brooklyn Public Library)
·      Lumina: What is Resistance?  Prose and Poetry, Multimedia, and Visual Art!  Submit (a magazine)
·      Selina Alko, Sean Qualls (with a picture of an embracing mixed-race couple), offering children’s books
·      92 Y: Unterberg Poetry Center 2017/18: The Voice of Literature
·      Fruityland Health, inspiring children to eat healthy through books and games
·      Sociosights Press, transforming society one story at a time
·      Love Centered Parenting, cultivating family wellness through heart-centered parenting
·      Bellevue Literary Press, books at the intersection of the arts and sciences
·      ECW Press: curiously compelling books
·      Bordighera Press, nonprofit publisher of Italian and Italian-American literature
·      CaribbeanReads, featuring Caribbean writers
·      Jane Austen Society of North America, promoting the works of you-know-who
·      House of Speakeasy: Where authors and audiences come together in innovative and sustaining ways
·      So What? Press, distributing comics
·      Green-Wood – yes, no kidding, the cemetery -- offering “history, art and nature”

And many, many more.  I was grabbing bookmarks, business cards, and other portable mementoes right and left.  And the 100 area, when we finally got there?  Just like the 600 area, it was teeming with attendees.

         Vendors I regret having missed:  BOMB, BookThug, and Grumpy Bert.  Who knows what they were offering?

         I bought three books.  At stand 227 I found Poets Wear Prada, a small poetry press based in Hoboken, N.J., whose name I love, and met a bearded older poet named Robert Kramer and bought two slender volumes of his poetry, Wordglass and Veer, both with attractive covers, for all of ten dollars; he was delighted to sign both.  And at booth 302 I encountered an indie author named Debbie Boswell, who was selling her self-published novel House of Mirrors.  When I asked her how she was doing, she confessed that her sales this year were scant, but added that that’s how it is in this game, one year good and the next one not.  She was charming and upbeat, and when I came away with Silas, having obtained her e-mail address, I suddenly decided to give her a lift by buying her book and went back at once to do so; she too was delighted to sign it.

Debbie Boswell signing a copy of her novel for me.  A quiet (too quiet) location.
Silas Berkowitz

         Some stands announced their theme clearly.  With Revolution Books (604) you knew at once what they were up to.  At Verso Books (315, 316), one glance at their titles told you that they too were putting out radical literature, over one hundred books a year.  I wasn’t looking for radical literature, but was glad that these two stands proclaimed their theme clearly, so I didn’t linger.  One that tempted me was Freebird Books, a Brooklyn press at stand 511, whose staff emphasized that they were solely concerned with books about New York.  Since New York is the subject of my fiction, nonfiction, and blog, I of course lingered there, examining their display of used books relating to the city’s history and culture, including some battered specimens that could serve as primary sources.  Having too many books at home, I managed not to buy any, but I spent a good bit of time at their stand.

Talking with Counterpoint Press, an independent California-based press, but here I didn't buy.
 A busy area, as seen in the background.

Silas Berkowitz

         Having exhibited at BookCon, I was keenly aware of disappointing vendors by lingering briefly, perhaps taking a bookmark or other memento, and then passing on; given the number of stands, I had to do this repeatedly.  But I did interact with two other stands.  At the Harlem Writers Guild stand (640) I heard an African-American woman explain how, a generation ago, their organization had been founded to give a voice to black writers ignored by the mainstream presses – an initiative that I applauded.  And at the stand of Austin Macauley Publishers (121), a London-based press newly established as well in New York, I was invited to fill out a book submission form with my contact info, so they could follow up with me later.  Rarely does even a small publisher invite submissions this readily, so later I checked them out online.  What their website doesn’t make clear is that they offer standard contracts to authors whom they deem the most promising, and an alternative plan to others that involves the author’s helping subsidize publication.  Some critics call this a disguised form of vanity publishing, which they emphatically deny.  I shan’t pronounce upon the matter, but the mere fact of the accusation online dims the appeal of their offer.  They did indeed follow up with a gracious e-mail a few days later, but I shall probably keep shy of them.

Something was going on in front of Borough Hall, but we didn't investigate.
Silas Berkowitz

         Silas and I covered the whole festival in an hour and a half; I doubt if we missed a single aisle, though we ignored various programs on stages here and there, as well as author events and signings.  At the cost of two very tired feet, I felt I had come to know the Brooklyn Book Festival better than BookCon, where I exhibited last June.  Here are the lessons learned:

1.    Announce your theme.  With Revolution Books and Freebird Books I knew at once the kind of books they offer, and lingered at the one but not the other.  Many stands displayed a host of books without helping me decide whether I should browse or not; often I passed them by.
2.    Add color.  Colorful book covers and signs get attention.  I would even take it one step further: from the waist up, exhibitors should wear colorful clothing, whether shirt, T-shirt, or sweater.  At all costs don’t be drab.  There were a number of stands that were exactly that: drab.
3.    Stand, don’t sit, when it’s crowded.  Standing, it’s must easier to interact with people.  But when it’s not crowded, rest yourself by sitting.
4.    Smile.  At several stands people sat passively, glum-faced, as if the world had passed them by.  So I passed them by as well, without even glancing at their books.
5.    Not too many books.  Some stands displayed so many books that I was at a loss to find ones that interested me.  Better to display fewer books and focus attention on them.  To this rule there were two exceptions.  First, stands that announced their theme, since this gave the guidance needed.  Second, well-known small presses, since people would flock to them knowing what to expect.

         With visitors thronging every nook and cranny of the festival, how could a stand observing these principles fail to attract buyers?  Yet indie author Debbie Boswell, graced with personality and the warmest of smiles, wasn’t doing well; why not?  Probably because her stand, and the two on either side of it, weren’t on an aisle with more stands just across the way.  Their stands -- 301, 302, 303 -- faced a large open area that didn’t channel visitors in their direction.  So a few vendors may have the bad luck of being assigned such a location, and there’s little you can do about it.  That and the possibility of bad weather – maybe a hurricane hitting on the very day of the festival – are two negatives in an otherwise positive set-up.

         Should I exhibit again at BookCon, I planned to do away with the fun, “with-it” signs that I used last June, and to use more serious signs to attract older visitors.  But now, having got the “feel” of the Brooklyn Book Festival, I think that I would use the fun signs there.  For example:


And to establish the unifying theme of my books:


Or maybe just


         And the books I bought?  I have finished House of Mirrors and done a glowing Goodreads review of it.  Also, I have not only finished the poems -- very sensitive poems -- in Wordglass and Veer, but have learned that poet Robert Kramer has had an interesting life: a vet, a Fulbright scholar, a teacher and much-published author and translator – which makes him well worth knowing.

         Here is my comparison of BookCon and the Brooklyn Book Festival, having exhibited at one and visited the other.

  1. BookCon is indoors, so weather shouldn't affect it, whereas Brooklyn is outdoors and exposed to the elements.
  2. BookCon is oriented toward female millennials, whereas Brooklyn attracts readers of all ages, including the older women (and some men) who buy my books.
  3. BookCon lasts two days, Brooklyn only one, so that Brooklyn vendors are putting all their eggs in one basket.
  4. BookCon in 2017 charged attendees $35 on Saturday and $30 on Sunday, whereas Brooklyn is gloriously free.
  5. BookCon charges exhibitors much more for a small booth for two days than Brooklyn charges for a small stand with a canopy for one day.
  6. BookCon gives exhibitors a lead retrieval device that lets them capture attendees' contact information, including their age range and the genres they're interested in, by scanning the attendees' badges; Brooklyn does not.
  7. BookCon representatives were available, helpful, and very patient both before the exhibit, during, and after it; as for Brooklyn, I can't say, not having exhibited there.
  8. BookCon has spacious johns readily available, whereas Brooklyn had none within sight (not that I was looking for any), and only one permanent one indicated on the plan of the festival.  (Even if you're focused on books, in the long run the bladder imperative cannot be ignored.)
  9. BookCon 2017 grouped small presses and indie authors not attending BookExpo in a special section on the fringe of the exhibition floor that got uneven traffic at best -- sometimes lots, sometimes almost none -- rather than a steady flow, whereas Brooklyn mixes big and small small presses and indie authors throughout, so that in all areas (with a few exceptions) they get a steady stream of visitors.

         My conclusion:  Look out, BookCon, for the Brooklyn Book Festival is a savvy competitor that attracts a wider range of attendees, admits them free, and charges vendors much less to exhibit.  Will I exhibit at BookCon next year?  That depends on several things, including above all the location (remote or more central) of the section.  I don't criticize BookCon for its tilt toward female millennials; I simply question whether it's the place for me.  Significantly, in her report on BookExpo and BookCon, Angela Bole, CEO of IBPA (Independent Book Publishers Association), suggested that BookCon was appropriate for those interested in reaching an audience of young adults or readers in their twenties, but otherwise she advised giving it a pass. Interesting, but I will decide for myself.

          And Brooklyn?  I'll exhibit there for sure, though with a prayer for location on a crowded aisle, no hurricane, and a john within a short walk.  But are these two huge book events competitors, or do they supplement each other?  Will I exhibit at one or both?  I have yet to decide.  Meanwhile I hope that this post will also help others decide.  As for how it feels to be marketing your books in public, see my next post, "Authors Are Whores."


All books are available online as indicated, or from the author.

1.  No Place for Normal: New York / Stories from the Most Exciting City in the World (Mill City Press, 2015).  Winner of the Tenth Annual National Indie Excellence Award for Regional Non-Fiction; first place in the Travel category of the 2015-2016 Reader Views Literary Awards; and Honorable Mention in the Culture category of the Eric Hoffer Book Awards for 2016.  All about anything and everything New York: alcoholics, abortionists, greenmarkets, Occupy Wall Street, the Gay Pride Parade, my mugging in Central Park, peyote visions, and an artist who made art of a blackened human toe.  In her Reader Views review, Sheri Hoyte called it "a delightful treasure chest full of short stories about New York City."

If you love the city (or hate it), this may be the book for you.  An award winner, it sold well at BookCon 2017.


"If you want wonderful inside tales about New York, this is the book for you.  Cliff Browder has a way with his writing that makes the city I lived in for 40 plus years come alive in a new and delightful way. A refreshing view on NYC that will not disappoint."  Five-star Amazon customer review by Bill L.

Available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

No Place for Normal: New York / Stories from the Most Exciting City in the World

2.  Bill Hope: His Story (Anaphora Literary Press, 2017), the second novel in the Metropolis series.  New York City, 1870s: From his cell in the gloomy prison known as the Tombs, young Bill Hope spills out in a torrent of words the story of his career as a pickpocket and shoplifter; his brutal treatment at Sing Sing and escape from another prison in a coffin; his forays into brownstones and polite society; and his sojourn among the “loonies” in a madhouse, from which he emerges to face betrayal and death threats, and possible involvement in a murder.  Driving him throughout is a fierce desire for better, a persistent and undying hope.

For readers who like historical fiction and a fast-moving story.


"A real yarn of a story about a lovable pickpocket who gets into trouble and has a great adventure.  A must read."  Five-star Amazon customer review by nicole w brown.

"This was a fun book.  The main character seemed like a cross between Huck Finn and a Charles Dickens character.  I would recommend this."  Four-star LibraryThing review by stephvin.

"This is an easy read about a hard life.  Interesting characters, a bustling city, poverty, privilege, crime, injustice combine to create a captivating tale."  Five-star Goodreads review by John Wheeler.

Available from Amazon.

3.  Dark Knowledge (Anaphora Literary Press, 2018), the third novel in the Metropolis series.  Release date January 5, 2018, but copies now available from the author.  Adult and young adult.  A fast-moving historical novel about New York City and the slave trade, with the sights and sounds and smells of the waterfront. More excerpts to come.

Browder - Cover - 9781681143675-Perfect - 2
The back cover summary:

New York City, late 1860s.  When young Chris Harmony learns that members of his family may have been involved in the illegal pre-Civil War slave trade, taking slaves from Africa to Cuba, he is appalled.  Determined to learn the truth, he begins an investigation that takes him into a dingy waterfront saloon, musty old maritime records that yield startling secrets, and elegant brownstone parlors that may have been furnished by the trade.  Since those once involved dread exposure, he meets denials and evasions, then threats, and a key witness is murdered.  Chris has vivid fantasies of the suffering slaves on the ships and their savage revolts.  How could seemingly respectable people be involved in so abhorrent a trade, and how did they avoid exposure?  And what price must Chris pay to learn the painful truth and proclaim it?

Early reviews

"A lively and entertaining tale.  The writing styles, plot, pace and character development were excellent."  Four-star LibraryThing early review by BridgitDavis.

"At first the plot ... seemed a bit contrived, but I was soon swept up in the tale."  Four-star LibraryThing early review by snash.

"I am glad that I have read this book as it goes into great detail and the presentation is amazing.  The Author obviously knows his stuff."  Four-star LibraryThing early review by Moiser20.

4.  The Pleasuring of Men (Gival Press, 2011), the first novel in the Metropolis series, tells the story of a respectably raised young man who chooses to become a male prostitute in late 1860s New York and falls in love with his most difficult client.

What was the gay scene like in nineteenth-century New York?   Gay romance, if you like, but no porn (I don't do porn).  Women have read it and reviewed it.  (The cover illustration doesn't hurt.)


"At times amusing, gritty, heartfelt and a little sexy -- this would make a great summer read."  Four-star Amazon customer review by BobW.  

"Really more of a fantasy of a 19th century gay life than any kind of historical representation of the same."  Three-star Goodreads review by Rachel.

"The detail Browder brings to this glimpse into history is only equaled by his writing of credible and interesting characters.  Highly recommended."  Five-star Goodreads review by Nan Hawthorne.

Available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Coming soon:  Authors Are Whores.  What it's like to peddle your wares in public.

©   2017   Clifford Browder