“I wanted to write a story about a Canadian hero who wasn’t hanged,” Carl Dow told me in conversation some months back.
Gabriel Dumont was the hero, and Black Grass was the resulting novel, a novel which led me down the path to being a publisher. Of course, I am biased – the shared last name is no accident – but I read the book in manuscript form in one sitting, coming up for air with the rising sun.
Short story collections are a notoriously hard kind of book to sell. Short story collections by first-time authors are even more so. Nevertheless, I published Carl Dow‘s collection of stories, and the BumblePuppy Press’ first commercial book, The Old Man’s Last Sauna because I believed in 2013 – and still do! – that these stories were good ones and deserved to be read.
Though “O! Ernie … What have they done to you?” is set shortly after the Second World War and directly concerns the “red scare” of the post-war era, it is a story that is just as relevant today as it is to the era in which it is set (consider the cases of Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, and Chelsea Manning, if you believe that times have really changed).
Beyond the politics, “O! Ernie …” is both a deeply human tragedy, and a study in resilience and the stubborn triumph of the human spirit even when faced by an implacable foe.
I re-read the story for the first time in a long while last night to write this introductory note, and found myself deeply moved by it all over again. It will be available to read for free for only one week – if you like it, please consider buying the book from which it is taken!
Setting the Black Grass promo train in motion (again)
Of course it’s tempting to blame the worldwide pandemic for the lack of a real push on promoting Black Grass; cancelled book fairs and television appearances are a real thing.
I can also point to my darling daughter, pictured with me above. Though there are currently two of us at home to take care of her, she still demands a fair amount of attention (which I gladly provide, make no mistake about that!).
And there is my related work as a “daddy blogger” over at PapaZesser.ca, not to mention the time I have spent figuring out how to maintain and remodel this (apparently) rather kludged WordPress site.
Even so, despite the exceptional circumstances of our times and my own complicated situations, I have not done enough in terms of doing what a publisher is supposed to do: sell books!
After all, the stories in The Old Man’s Last Sauna range from good to bloody exceptional, and Black Grass is a genre novel that transcends genre, a story that will surprise and delight and excite discerning readers. So I want people to buy them!
But there is, as I have been learning (too slowly), more to publishing than editing copy, laying out the interior and (second time smart!) hiring a real artist, Magdalene Carson, to create a cover. No, a publisher has to promote the books they publish — they need to sell the books they publish.
So, without further ado, if you have been wondering whether Black Grass is worth your time (and money), I have written about how and why Black Grass inspired me to start this company and, perhaps better still, we have finally posted the opinions of 15 advance (or beta) readers of Black Grasshere.
Does Black Grass appeal to English Professors and receptionists? Does it resemble the works of Sir Walter Scoot or Louis L’Amour? And is Carl Dow a sexist, or was he a woman in a previous life?
We at the BumblePuppy Press were delighted when Carl‘s friend and colleague, Randy Ray, told us he wanted to put his skills at as a publicist to work for us.
Last week, Randy got down to it while on vacation in Florida (what a world!) and we are seeing the fruits of his labours already! Carl was interviewed on Peter Anthony Holder’s Montreal-based podcast, The Stuph File Program.
You can read Carl’s thoughts about the interview here, or you can just listen to interview by clicking below.
The full program can be found at The Stuph File. Look for program #0551.
And of course, Black Grass is available in print and e-book editions from your favourite online retailer. And autographed copies can be ordered directly from us.
Once, when having a few beers with the department head of a Journalism school, he said to me: “I’ve experienced you more than once being interviewed on radio and television in both English and French. On television you’re always relaxed, but on radio you seem nervous, at least for the first few minutes. You’d think the opposite would be true. Why is that?”
I thought for a moment then I said, “We all use body language when we speak. I’m sure that If I sat on my hands I’d be tongue tied. Therefore, on television, I’m most always sure that the camera is at least on my upper body and therefore is transmitting my body language along with my words. On radio that luxury is absent, Therefore it takes me a few minutes to channel all of my body language into my voice.”
Recently I was interviewed Peter Anthony Holder for his Podcast. The Stuph File. I spoke about my newly published novel Black Grass.
I haven’t been interviewed on radio for more than 50 years. I leave it to you to judge if I made the grade. You can listen to the interview below.
(And of course, don’t forget to buy the book! It is available in both paper and e-book editions through most online vendors, and autographed copies can be ordered directly from my publisher here!)