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Book sales during the Pandemic

Nancy Baxter, Senior Editor Hawthorne Publishing

Book sales have always done well during times of crisis, though one can’t say those sales are always in bookstores. Bookstores, like other businesses which have had to close or open on a limited basis, have needed to use ingenuity to survive and many have been able to do that—some not.

Barnes and Noble stores used the opportunity to rearrange and redecorate their stores, which they had intended to do anyway. They have “temporarily” removed the comfortable chairs scattered throughout the stores. One manager in Williamsburg Virginia says, “Those chairs will be back, but we don’t know just when.” The new look is intended to combine comfort and modern taste, but not neglect traditional bookstore ambiance.

Our own sales at Hawthorne Publishing are slightly down on the backlist titles, and our two new books are just ready for posting, so we can’t say what the traditional ordering patterns are for our “from the Hawthorne website” sales.

One thing we see for certain is how old-fashioned book marketing can affect a title, even in this day of Zoom and virtual massive advertising and Amazon’s glitzy marketing to the customer.

We employ some of all of this, but our basic market is Hoosier afficionados—people who have an interest in Indiana history, from our mainline website and catalogues. Orders continue to come in, but slower than usual, possibly because our greatest market is Indiana libraries and they have been closed or only recently opened again.

Most interesting and impressive are sales of one book from our small Winds of Change Division, which features books of a spiritual nature. We have featured “popular history” books from several denominations with a focus on the Christian Science congregations across America and the world. There have been major sales for one title from the UK and Europe through specialty bookstores there and continuing sales of hundreds of this title throughout the pandemic, just from the website.

What is it? The title is Cracking the Camouflage Ceiling: Progress through Faith Persistence and Progress During the Early Integration of Women in the Military by Chaplain (Colonel) Janet Yarlott Horton. This story, which I helped develop and edited, is by one of the first three women chaplains in the U.S. Army. Colonel Janet joined the army in the 70s, when women were just being admitted to the armed forces, and she and the other “faithful few” females both in the chaplaincy and the armed forces in general faced strong opposition and outright hostility on the part of both enlisted men and officers. The stories Colonel Horton tells are surprising in their intensity, as officers sneered at her, kept her from rightful recognition, chased her down the road, and even spat upon her.

But this is a story of courage, perseverance and trail-blazing. And of faith; each chapter of the book is headed with a Bible quotation, or sometimes a quote from Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, the study handbook of Christian Scientists. Colonel Horton became an example for other women, particularly in the chaplaincy, as she patiently stood for principle and military protocol and procedure when issues arose. Prayer became customary for solving problems with men and officers; after all, Janet Horton was a chaplain.

There is much to learn about the chaplaincy of the armed forces in this book. Protestant, Catholic, Jewish and Muslim chaplains serve and often work together. No denominations are emphasized or observed, and the training of all is to be able to serve different faith traditions.

Interesting is the variety of postings where she served, including Indianapolis’s Fort Harrison, with a final posting at the Pentagon. Janet Horton was present but out of her office on the other side of the facility when the plane hit the Pentagon on Nine Eleven. Her office was one of those hit. Her story of all the Pentagon chaplains entering at the end of the day to accompany the mortuary corps into the burnt-out Pentagon is touching and inspiring.

This book has been predominately sold, surprisingly, by a method known by booksellers for some two-hundred years: word of mouth. More on that in the next blog.

Click back to order Colonel Janet Horton’s book Cracking the Camouflage Ceiling.

Posted in Book Publishing, Writing Non Fiction |

Streaming TV series during confinement at home: the Morse Detective Series

Nancy N. Baxter, Senior Editor Hawthorne Publishing

I confess I have become addicted. With a new, large-screen TV and Amazon Prime for the first time, we have “improved” the staying-at-home time by getting interested in, and viewing, English detective series. There are many types on Prime, probably twenty or thirty different detectives, male, female, black, white, working class, spy-types, brilliant misfits and gentlemen and ladies. Their settings range from the British Isles to India and Canada.

We sampled various English series ready for streaming. We had experienced this year’s detective series on weekly TV, which we found often of poor quality. The recent PBS English series like “Grantchester” Season Five don’t add up at all to the richly portrayed and plotted series from about 2000 to 2015. Weak, repetitive plots about the mistreatment of certain groups, and hard-to-believe personal conflicts, stereotypical portrayals and poor acting on the point of the leading characters have dragged down this sparkling and usually interesting genre. So we didn’t know how good the earlier series were.

John Thaw as Inspector Morse

John Thaw as Inspector Morse

In its heyday Inspector Linley and Barbara Havers in “The Inspector Lynley Series” are seen speeding through about fifteen episodes now available on Prime and cleverly stopping bad guys from Cornwall to the Lake District (the script writers always have the team requested on loan to come from their London posting). The variety of settings and characters is wonderful and the interaction of the detectives originated by novelist Elizabeth George believable, even though the TV version has a much prettier and thinner version of Havers than George’s chubby gal.

At best, the variety of geographical police department in these series allows us viewers to sample the countryside of Wales, Scotland and beyond. Best in this “scenic sleuthing” department is “Shetland,” which is a series of about ten episodes on Prime which reveal not only a sensitive and intelligent detective and his staff in dramatically excellent portrayals, but also the starkness and wind-swept beauty of the Shetland Islands, about which I knew very little.

As a writer I see the elements of excellence in story-telling in the best of these English detective mysteries. The elements of the spinning of tales has remained the same since the greatest of all the adventure stories was told about 600 B.C “The Odyssey.” Set up a variety of characters and settings amidst which the leading characters will journey, give all the characters flaws which emphasize human nature, bring in a variety of exciting adventures before the revelations, keep everybody in suspense until at the end and pepper the narrative with songs/poetry/ background.

Colin Dexter’s Morse was a marvelous series of novels before his episodes were adapted for TV. There are 33 episodes, originally seen 1987-2000. His character Chief Inspector Endeavor Morse played by John Thaw is salty, very intelligent, basically a loner who yearns for companionship and the best detective in England, relying on his experience and instinct—and the desire to go beyond.

Kevin Whatley as Lewis

Kevin Whatley as Lewis

His assistant Lieutenant Lewis, a working class “natural” played by Kevin Whatley, is a perfect addition to the plot as well as a foil for the older Morse. Beautiful women adorn each segment and Morse usually ends up taking one or two to the local pub for the English beers he habitually downs (and which are ruining his health.)

These episodes, with soaring or ominous background music and the settings of green and blossoming traditional Oxford University, appeal to the viewer’s ability to concentrate. They are a real embellishment to the genre established by Edgar Allan Poe in his scary short stories of “ratiocination,” like “The Purloined Letter.”

We hated to see the series end, unusually, with Morse actually dying. I’m looking forward to having Prime pick up the “Lewis” series which was done later in time and shows a mature inspector, well trained by Endeavor Morse in the earlier episodes.

Nancy Niblack Baxter has written her own detective novel set in Indianapolis 1895: Charmed Circle. It is Novel 5 in the Heartland Chronicle Series.


Posted in Book Publishing |

Doings of our Hawthorne Authors During the Pandemic…

By Nelson Price, author of Indiana Legends

Let’s hope the health care workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic are not forgotten. Nearly 200 years ago, when an epidemic swept through (and nearly wiped out) the brand new city of Indianapolis, a tireless physician was hailed as a hero — yet who remembers Dr. Isaac Coe today?

Doc Coe is not among the more than 160 famous Hoosiers from all walks of life – ranging from frontier explorers to astronauts, Olympic athletes, musicians and movie stars – featured in my book Indiana Legends: Famous Hoosiers from Johnny Appleseed to David Letterman. That’s because the notables in the book’s profiles and vignettes were selected on the basis of their fame (or, in the case of a few like John Dillinger, their infamy), and Doc Coe long ago stopped being a household name in the city  that he helped save.

As Indianapolis enters its Bicentennial era – amid a health crisis that often seems overwhelming – I’ve been doing my best to bring renewed attention to Doc Coc and the malaria epidemic of 1821. A New Jersey native who was the second physician to arrive in Indianapolis, he came just a few months before the epidemic that impacted almost every family in the wilderness town being created in mosquito-filled marshlands as the state’s new capital.

The doctor left his home office – it was located on what later was called Monument Circle – to treat malaria victims, working tirelessly to nurse those he could help recover. The epidemic killed at least 72 residents of the frontier town; more than 25 of the children who died were buried in Plague Cemetery, the city’s first graveyard. (A memorial plaque is on the approximate site of the cemetery; ironically, the site was near today’s classroom buildings for medical students on the IUPUI campus.)

During the shut-down of so many endeavors with the current epidemic, I have continued to host “Hoosier History Live”, a radio show on WICR-FM (88.7) that explores all aspects of our state’s heritage. I’ve devoted parts of several shows to Doc Coe and the forgotten malaria epidemic that nearly ended the city at the get-go. In addition to the pioneers who succumbed, dozens more were so terrified that they packed up and left, moving to settlements they felt were safer.

Doc Coe, for his part, scolded state leaders for choosing a swampy site for the new state capital merely because surveyors had determined it was Indiana’s geographic center. Blaming the malaria on “vapors” from the swamps, Doc Coe didn’t use the terminology of modern physicians and medical historians, who have more sophisticated explanations for the 1821 epidemic. But they say the pioneer doctor was on the right track in pointing to the ill-advised setting for the new city as a major factor.

In addition to sharing his story on the radio show, I have devoted some “shut-in time” to writing an essay about the 1821 epidemic and Doc Coe for a book that will be published in connection with the Bicentennial era of my hometown.

By the way, when Indianapolis residents celebrated the city’s Centennial 100 years ago, they had not yet forgotten Doc Coe and the devastating malaria epidemic. Pageants and parades in 1920 featured costumed re-enactors depicting the folk hero physician.

There even was a costumed character billed in brochures as “Mosquito”.

Photo Credit:
Dean E. Jane Luzar
Founding Dean, IUPUI Honors College
Professor Environmental Economics
IUPUI Honors College

Posted in Books on Indiana |

What have our Hawthorne authors been doing during the “duration” of Corona Virus shut-in?

Lou Ellen Watts, the author of Sleeping in Dixie’s Featherbed tells us what happened for her.

Lou Ellen, whose home is Franklin, Indiana, had a full contingent of appearances for her book in Indiana and the deep South, but that was then, and there was a new “now.” Here is her personal story.

A few months ago we returned from vacation just as the corona virus “attacked”. My freezer was full of microwave dinners and I had lots of canned goods so I thought I had enough food to last forever. But now it has been days of self – confinement and Mother Hubbard’s cupboard is starting to look pretty bleak.

Since I am in the category of the elderly, I am hesitant to roam the grocery store and search for something other than microwave dinners. But I thought that I could get up at 6 AM and shop with the other elderlies at the break of dawn when the grocery stores open early for those over 65. I was told that one store required an ID showing that you are “one of those”. I remembered seeing part of the parking lot at Walmart designated for Pickups only. This could be the solution.

My computer skills aren’t the best in the world but I have ordered some things on line before so this couldn’t be too hard. I pulled up Walmart and clicked on “Pickup and Delivery” then selected “groceries”. A whole list of items with pictures flashed across the screen with “Add to Cart” underneath. This was going to be a piece of cake.

I went through and selected what I thought I would want. Next the computer said, “Create a Google Account”. What did that mean? I had a Walmart card, wasn’t that enough? I tried to create the account but couldn’t figure it out. So I went back to the beginning and started again. This time I saw that “delivery” was an option and decided that would be a better choice. I went through the list again, pressed delivery and didn’t have to create a google account. I clicked on review and noticed that the groceries were to be delivered from Rushville. That didn’t sound right so I closed the site up then started again. Now the list came up with only bananas listed. Where were the other items I chose? By this time I was totally frustrated and shut the computer off and went to the pantry and got the last Oreo.

Maybe Meijers store would be easier so I typed in Meijers clicked on “Pickup”, then chose “Groceries”. Pictures came up just like at the Walmart site and I began choosing. But I couldn’t get more than a few items to choose from. Does that meant that is all I can order from there…no Oreos, no butter, no hot chocolate? I scrolled all over the page trying to see if other items could be ordered. I pressed “return” and it did exactly that, returned then closed the whole computer off. I got up and found one stale Pop Tart and ate it.

By this time I was totally frustrated but I knew I had to do something or I would have to get up at dawn and go to the store with the other elderlies to shop.

My last choice was Krogers. The procedure was the same as the others: “Pickup”, “Groceries”, “Select”. Yahoo, it worked. I punched in my credit card number and saw one last message on the screen, “Review”. There was my list of 30 items. I began scrolling down the list and was pleased at first but then realized that I had ordered 4 loaves of bread, 3 cheese cakes, 3 bottles of orange juice and some miscellaneous items. Surely there was a way to correct that mistake but why take the chance? I might have to go through the ”Pickup”, “Groceries”, “Select” procedure again and maybe even create a Google Account.

I closed the computer and went to get a goodie to eat. There was nothing but a container of whipped cream. I yanked the lid off and squirted some of the foamy cream in my mouth. About that time my husband wandered in and said, “What’s that foam all over your mouth?” Embarrassed that he might laugh that I was eating whipped cream right out of the container I slurred, “I was just brushing my teeth.” Then clutching the whipped cream behind my back I slowly made my way back to the computer for reinforcement.

Posted in Welcome |