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Letting loose and having fun

April 7th, 2014 · Writing

Hanging with Iron ManAt what age do we become too self-conscious to simply enjoy ourselves? We took our four-year-old son to the Strong National Museum of Play yesterday, mainly to see Iron Man, though that was just the first (and longest, as we waited an hour in line) of many activities. The one that brought the biggest smile to Grant’s face was a dance floor where the outline of his grooving body was projected onto a wall in an orgy of funky color. He was alone when he started, boogying by his own self in his Batman t-shirt, but was soon joined by several other children, ranging by my best guess from his age up to eight or nine. Whether it was the joy of dancing to music louder than they typically hear it at home or the novelty of seeing their silhouettes shimmying on the wall, the kids were momentarily lost to the rest of us. They danced without an inkling of self-consciousness and they had genuine fun doing it.

They were somewhere I can’t go.

I’m not capable of moving like that without looking around the room and thinking how stupid I must look to everyone else there. Not without a lot of alcohol anyway. Worse, I project this mindset on others, and, if you’re honest, you likely do as well. Were an adult to shed their inhibitions and wriggle around on that dance floor like they hadn’t a care in the world, I’d have a chuckle and wonder what was wrong with them. I’d excuse it if they were playing with their kid, sure, but what if they were out there alone? What a nut, right? Who else would make such a spectacle of themself?

I’ve been conditioned this way. Probably starting around junior high, when it became critical to look cool any time there were witnesses. Given the invasiveness of technology, that mindset often governs my actions even when there aren’t any humans in sight. Someone is watching. Big Brother?

It’s difficult for most of us to put our creative selves on display. Okay, maybe I shouldn’t generalize that. It’s difficult for me to put my creative self on display. For as much as I love to write, it’s hard to shake that “what if they think it’s stupid?” fear when releasing a new work into the wild, or even when first sharing it within my network of trusted readers for feedback. I had a dream last night that I was explaining to someone what the new novel I’m working on is about. Though she listened and offered polite encouragement, her body language gave away her skepticism. It was then I realized I’d left the most important bit out of my elevator pitch, the Chapter One hook upon which the entire rest of the story depends. I frantically tried to recapture this woman’s attention to explain, but in the end settled for spieling it to someone else, a man who struck me upon waking as novelist and all-around good guy Joe Wallace. I needed to tell it all to someone to prove to myself it really was a good concept.

Why does this kind of validation matter so much, even in my dreams? And how much longer can I enjoy watching my son before he falls into line and regulates his behavior based on what everyone else might think?

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Come celebrate the release of Nine Bucks a Pound

March 23rd, 2014 · Nine Bucks a Pound

Come celebrate the release of Nine Bucks a Pound with me at Starry Nites Cafe, Monday, March 31, from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. Yes, I know it’s been available for a month now, but the timing hasn’t quite worked out to celebrate until now. So please join us as we talk baseball, books, and whatever else comes up. Starry Nites serves sandwiches, wraps, soup, and more, so you can grab some dinner, a pastry, or just enjoy a hot or cold beverage. They even serve microbrews and wine.

So no excuses. Come hang out, buy a book (or two; I’ll have copies of The Greatest Show on Dirt as well), and have some fun.

Starry Nites Cafe: 696 University Avenue, Rochester, NY 14607

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Talking baseball and Nine Bucks a Pound on The Stuart Bedasso Show

March 11th, 2014 · Nine Bucks a Pound

I had a chance this past weekend to catch up with an old friend as a guest on his podcast, The Stuart Bedasso Show (Link: http://www.stuartbedasso.com/2014/03/new-show-were-talking-baseball.html). Normal topics run the digital gamut from politic to sexuality, beer, and lately gardening, but we talked about baseball and publishing, particularly my new novel, Nine Bucks a Pound. While I have a long way to go before I can claim to be anything near smooth on the radio (or podcast) I was pleasantly surprised when listening back to the recording that I was well this side of horrible. At times I actually sounded almost like I knew what I was doing. I was clearly at my best when I had a particular story to tell or point to drive home.

I had several opportunities to sit in on Batavia Muckdogs broadcasts with my friend Matthew Coller last summer and got a bit more comfortable each time out. He was kind enough to plug the hell out of The Greatest Show on Dirt every time I joined him. Hard to say how much that helped sales given the reach of an average Batavia broadcast, but it couldn’t have hurt.

It’s nice to have friends in radio. TV would be nice, too. Just saying. Hey, Bob Costas, those are some spiffy shoes you got there. Need a fill-in guest?

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Tampa Tribune: Nine Bucks a Pound ‘bubbles and percolates with action and tension’

March 11th, 2014 · Nine Bucks a Pound, Reviews

The first review of Nine Bucks a Pound is a doozy. Bob D’Angelo of The Tampa Tribune really delves into the issues facing both Del Tanner and his agent Ian Wicker and the consequences of the choices they make. He sums things up by calling the book “a satisfying cocktail of prose.” I like the sound of that.
Here are some excerpts:

James Bailey has a writing style that is as smooth as the left-handed swing of Del Tanner, the main character in his second novel.  Once again, the Rochester, N.Y., author has written an engaging story with characters readers can relate to — even if the underlying theme is the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

“Nine Bucks a Pound” (Sun Field Press; paperback; $13.95 paperback, $3.99 Kindle; 338 pages) explores steroid use and the decisions struggling minor-league players sometimes must face. Is it better to toil in mediocrity and never realize your dream of making the majors, or is it better to go outside the rules for that extra edge that could land you on a big-league roster?

He does a nice job of presenting both Del and Wicker and introducing their conflicts, then says:

It’s easy to dismiss those players who use performance-enhancing drugs as cheaters who will do anything to get an edge. And Bailey, in “Nine Bucks a Pound,” is not trying to make heroes of those who crossed the line. But it’s hard not to sympathize with Tanner, who makes it to the majors, becomes the American League rookie of the year, and then has to face a firestorm when his denials about steroid use begin to unravel. The decision he makes in the end shows his courageous side.

In other words, a clear conscience is the softest pillow.

After going even further into the story (it’s a very thorough review), he concludes with:
Bailey’s second novel mixes baseball, romantic tension and testosterone into a satisfying cocktail of prose. It bubbles and percolates with action and tension. Even the cover is eye-catching, as it depicts a bobblehead of a baseball player wielding a syringe like he would grip a bat (I collect bobbleheads; this idea by Rey Flores was really cool).

Nice hat tip there to Rey Flores, who crafted the bobblehead on the cover, which came out even better than I could have imagined.

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Win a Kindle copy of Nine Bucks a Pound

March 7th, 2014 · Nine Bucks a Pound, Reviews, The Greatest Show on Dirt

Once again, I’m underwhelmed by the results of a Goodreads Giveaway. Two years ago, when The Greatest Show on Dirt came out, I gave away eight copies to Goodreads readers. Of those lucky winners, just three of them actually rated it, one of whom couldn’t be bothered to write a review. I suspect the book didn’t interest the other five, as they didn’t have any other baseball books on their shelves or indicate any interest in baseball. They fall into the category of “people who just like to win free stuff,” which seems to be type that typically enters these giveaways. Which sucks for an author on two fronts. First, if the point to giving away free copies of the book is to help get more reviews, that’s a fail right there. And if that’s not bad enough, I’m out of pocket for the cost of the book and the postage.

This time around I decided to give away just two copies, figuring the real value of the contest is just getting some word out on Goodreads about the book’s release. I also noted in the description, “Please note: This is a novel about a baseball player. If you don’t like baseball or reading about baseball, well, don’t say you weren’t warned.” (What I really wanted to say was, “please don’t enter, so maybe someone who does will have a better chance.”) In just over a week, 284 people entered the contest. A frighteningly high number of these folks are what I would call “virtual book hoarders.” One woman had more than 35,000 books on her Goodreads shelf, of which 45 were on her “read” shelf. Forty-five down, thirty-five thousand to go. Wow. That’s a lot. To put that in context, if you were to read a book a day it would take you 96 years to get through 35,000 books. So, yeah, I call mental illness on that one.

Anyway, the contest drew to a close in the wee hours last night. Two winners were selected, neither of whom would appear to be in my target audience given the books on their virtual shelves, but hopefully they will read and review it anyway, or maybe hand it over to someone they know who will.

I’m not holding my breath.

Instead of sitting here going blue in the face, I will stage a new contest for two copies of the Kindle version of Nine Bucks a Pound. How you enter is by commenting on this post sometime before midnight Sunday, March 9 (and with daylight savings time this weekend, that’s one less hour than you might think, so get cracking). In your post you will tell us all your favorite baseball novel and what you liked best about it. One winner will be chosen based on the best response, the other by random selection from all those who entered (assuming more than one person does). Your obligation, should you be so fortunate as to win this book, is to write an honest review on Amazon.com (and Goodreads if you so happen to frequent it).

Here’s a description of Nine Bucks a Pound:

For every A-Rod or Manny Ramirez seeking to boost his game to elite levels via illegal means, there have been scores of unheralded players toiling in the minor leagues, desperate to impress the brass enough to simply survive and advance. Young men who have dreamed of playing in the big leagues since they were old enough to swing a bat. When their natural ability alone isn’t enough, the black and white blurs to gray, their fear of getting caught using banned substances outweighed by a more consuming fear of failure.

Three seasons into his professional career, Del Tanner can read the writing on the wall. A contact hitter at a power position, he recognizes his days in the Twins organization are numbered if he can’t match the production of the other first basemen in the system. When his aspiring agent suggests he try steroids, Del makes a choice that will shadow him for the rest of his career.

In his second novel, James Bailey (The Greatest Show on Dirt, 2012) humanizes the players fans are so often quick to demonize. Nine Bucks a Pound ponders life on baseball’s fringe and the dreams that tempt a young man to heed the devil on his shoulder. ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark says, “Bailey hasn’t just given us a great read. He’s given us an important window into a topic we can’t seem to stop talking about.” Adds Russell Rowland, author of High and Inside, “Bailey expertly explores how the desire to succeed at any price can lead to unexpected consequences, mostly involving a man’s relationships with others, not to mention with his own conscience. This is a powerful story about the perils of success at any price.”

Sound interesting? Have at it, for your chance to win a Kindle copy. (Note: If you don’t have a Kindle or a Kindle app, you are welcome to buy a print copy from Amazon for a mere $12.56.) And if you can overlook the fact that you’re actually hurting your own odds in a sense (don’t be selfish, now, kids), please share this post.



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Nine Bucks a Pound now available!

February 21st, 2014 · Nine Bucks a Pound

Nine Bucks a PoundI was aiming for March 1 and somehow came in ahead of schedule, even with a last-minute snafu regarding a misspelling. I will never, ever misspell the word “ventricle” again. I know it now backwards and forwards. I lay in bed last night spelling it to myself and cursing for having to re-upload the print version of my book to Amazon’s CreateSpace site. Even still, I’m more than a week ahead of where I figured I would be, so it’s hard to complain.

As of this hour the Kindle version is available for purchase. The print version should go live on Amazon this weekend. It says it could take up to five days, but I’m optimistic it won’t be nearly that long. If you want to be among the very first to read it, here is the link for the Kindle version: http://www.amazon.com/Nine-Bucks-Pound-James-Bailey-ebook/dp/B00IKROMOA/

Update (2/22/14): The print version is now available on Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/Nine-Bucks-Pound-James-Bailey/dp/0615939155/

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All systems go for March 1 release date

February 16th, 2014 · Nine Bucks a Pound, The Greatest Show on Dirt

I think I’m done. Finally. I’ve lost track how many revision passes I’ve done on Nine Bucks a Pound over the past couple of years. A couple of them were too extensive to even call revisions. They were more like rewrites. Slowly, over time, the story took the shape it’s now in, which is significantly different in all but the main concept from how it began back in the fall of 2008, when I wrote three chapters for a writing workshop. To look back on it now brings to mind Doc Brown from Back to the Future:

“It’s taken me almost thirty years and my entire family fortune to realize the vision of that day, my god, has it been that long. Things have certainly changed around here. I remember when this was all farmland as far as the eye could see. Old man Peabody, owned all of this.”

It’s not quite back to the days of Old man Peabody, but to put things in some perspective, I started writing this book a year before my son was born. He’s now four, and starting to read and spell words himself.

None of those initial three chapters survived the journey, though three of the main characters (Del Tanner, Ian Wicker, and Ryan Edsell) were concocted there. Wicker and Edsell have remained relatively true to their original form, though Del went through some changes. He came off too passive and meek in early drafts. He’s got more personality now, someone who makes, and eventually owns, his decisions instead of simply reacting to the world around him. The meek may inherit the earth, but in the meantime no one wants to read about them, because they’re too boring.

I finished checking my final (hopefully) corrections this weekend. All that’s left now is to order a proof of the book and confirm everything looks as it should on paper. Once I’m satisfied with that, I’ll convert it to ebook format and upload it to Amazon. I’ve been targeting March 1 for a release date, and I’m optimistic that I’ll make that, plus or minus a couple of days depending on how things break.

Now comes the fun part, marketing it (he says, tongue planted firmly in cheek). In theory I’m starting off ahead of where I was two years ago when The Greatest Show on Dirt was released. Now I just need to remember everything I learned along the way.

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The 800 Club: Slow but steady sales pile up for ‘Dirt’

January 3rd, 2014 · Nine Bucks a Pound, The Greatest Show on Dirt, Writing

When I released The Greatest Show on Dirt in February 2012, I had no idea whether to expect 20 sales or 20,000. Pipe dreams of crashing the New York Times bestseller list aside, publishing a book independently is a daunting proposition. In some ways, writing the book isn’t the hard part. It’s the marketing and doing the things that are required for potential readers to discover your book that make me feel the most helpless.

I was fortunate to receive some nice reviews and good publicity in a variety of places in the months after my book came out. Tom Hoffarth of the Los Angeles Daily News reviewed it as one of his 30 Baseball Books in 30 Days feature that April. The Raleigh News & Observer ran a nice Q&A interview on Easter Sunday. I did several other interviews, including a fun one in May when I watched a Durham Bulls game with Aaron Schoonmaker of WRALSportsFan.com when I visited North Carolina for a friend’s wedding.

Each time a story ran, I could see an immediate spike in sales. That is the beauty of self-publishing. Real-time numbers. It’s a curse as well, because one quickly becomes addicted to checking the figures. When they don’t budge for three or four days, it’s a challenge to shrug off the disappointment.

Slowly but surely, however, sales of The Greatest Show on Dirt have accumulated. This week they topped 800, which the realistic part of my brain appreciates as no small achievement. (I don’t have 800 friends and family members, so most of those purchases were by people I’ve never met.)

That breaks down as 537 ebooks and 263 paperback copies, just about a 2-to-1 ratio. Over the past 12 months, however, ebook sales have outstripped print sales by 4 1/2-to-1, which is more in line with what I’ve seen other authors describe for their sales. I suspect the catalyst there is Amazon’s “Customers who bought A also bought B” engine, which essentially rewards the hot hand, which in my case is the Kindle version.

I’ll be curious to see how the release this March of my new book, Nine Bucks a Pound, affects sales of the old one. I expect they’ll feed off each other, but it could take awhile for momentum to build. Early on it will likely be Dirt propping up the new book, though in time my guess is it will work the other way around. However it unfolds, I’m excited to see what the new year brings.

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Nine Bucks a Pound: Cover reveal

December 13th, 2013 · Branded, Nine Bucks a Pound

Nine Bucks a PoundAt long last, it’s time to unveil the cover of my second novel, Nine Bucks a Pound. Over the summer I envisioned this being ready well before December. I tend to plan ahead for just about everything, sometimes unrealistically so. I can see things bursting into being months ahead of their realistic birthdays. Some of the delay is due to external forces, some of it is on me. Mainly my indecisiveness regarding the name of the book.

Even once I realized Branded was well played out, I kept coming back to it because it’s what I’d called this manuscript for well over two years. It was all that really fit, at least in my head. So I came up with Nine Bucks a Pound and it seemed to work, but somewhere, in the hind quarters of my brain, doubts lingered, occasionally gathering critical mass and storming the fortress walls. “How about this one?” I kept badgering one particular co-worker. When he finally responded to one of my emails with a simple, “my condolences to your wife,” I realized it was time to get off the pot.

So here we are. Nine Bucks a Pound. Will it need some explaining? Possibly. Though as my friend pointed out, who would pick To Kill a Mockingbird off the shelf and know by its spine just what was in store? The artwork on the cover, that needle-wielding bobblehead, should do most of the heavy lifting here. Anyone who lays eyes on him and can’t immediately sense what’s in store is loitering well beyond the fringes of my target audience.

We’re getting to the part of the program where my nerves take over and I get a little twisty inside when I anticipate the release, which, if all goes well, is now just 2 1/2 months on the horizon. There’s so much to do in the interim, not least of which is getting serious about starting in on book #3.

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A bridge of my own

October 24th, 2013 · Nine Bucks a Pound

Some people I used to work with received some bad news about their jobs last week in the form of a severance package. Their jobs disappear Thanksgiving week. So they’ll have a lot to be grateful for while carving up the bird this year.

This kind of news always kicks off a few predictable conversations:

1. “Whew, glad it wasn’t me.”
2. “If it had been me, what kind of a job would I want to look for?”

My answer to No. 2 usually rolls out in kind of a Peter Gibbons voice. “I don’t think I’d like another job.” Or I’ll briefly dream about what it would be like to make enough money selling books to be a full-time writer, a real rarity, as most authors I know still hold down a day job of some kind. And then I start thinking about Milo Tanner.

Milo is the father of my protagonist in Nine Bucks a Pound. His new father, I should say. I killed his old father. And mother. And wife. They deserved it. They were lame. The world didn’t need their ilk. From their ashes rose Milo and Gwen, Del Tanner’s mismatched parents, and Dana, his high school sweetheart. Milo is my favorite.

After a life-threatening spinal tumor in college robbed him of any practical use of his right hand–dashing his future as guitar player in the up-and-coming new wave band Loose Vowel Movement–he sank into an understandable depression. Eventually, however, he snapped out of it, knowing he had a wife and a young son to care for. Milo sent out dozens of resumes, desperate for anything that would spring his new family out of his parents’ basement. The only response came from the Department of Transportation, regarding a job as a bridge tender on a bascule lift bridge, of which there are a number still in operation in Seattle, where much of the book is set.

I wanted something different for him, something that would suit his philosophical mind. What better place to work than a tower above a bridge, where he could survey the world while controling traffic flowing both on the ship canal and the road passing above it.

As I researched what exactly bridge tenders do, I kind of fell in love with the job. I watched YouTube videos on bascule bridges over and over and over again (and briefly got my young son hooked on them). I could picture working in a tower like that. In my mind it’s peaceful. The bridge operates on the same technology that has lifted and lowered it for decades, well back into the 20th century. There’s something comforting in that. Not to mention, the job can’t be outsourced to India.

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