Sooooooo the coolest thing that I believe as an author, Amanda M. Thrasher, and organization, Progressive Rising Phoenix Press, that we are a part of on an annual basis is the TLA (Texas Library Association) Conference. I have attended this conference for years, signed as a featured author for at least five years, and we have committed as a publisher, for now, four years.
Being an author first, and a co-owner and CEO of an independent press founded by authors, we continually try to locate and find ways that bring the most ‘bang for our buck’ for our authors. What exactly does that mean when it comes to TLA? In case you are not familiar with TLA, it is a professional organization promoting librarianship and library services in Texas. Through legislative advocacy, continuing education events, and networking channels. The conference usually has between 5000 to 6500 attendees, if not more, and often consist of librarians (academic, public, and private), educators, consumers, category buyers, publishers, vendors, to name a few.
Being that it takes place during the week, most attendees go on their companies time and dime. This is good for us, (publishers and authors) because the visitors are pre-registered and literally plan up to a year in advance to attend the conference which brings a different type of ‘crowd’ versus people just look for something entertaining to do. So what do all of those people do?
Everyone attends sessions as they listen and learn about new techniques, equipment, products, and don’t forget they all get to network and socialize as well. Meeting the authors is always a big draw, especially the featured authors, and so many fantastic publishers are represented such as Penguin Random House, Scholastic, McMillan, Disney, Chronicle Books, Capstone, Hachette Book Group, Simon & Schuster, Little, Brown, Book Co., to name a few…. Oh yeah, and us 🙂 as well, Progressive Rising Phoenix Press.
I am not big on the author to author events (me personally), that become book swaps. However, I will always tell our authors, or any other that ask, that I believe in this particular trade conference. This one is worth saving your $’s for and vesting in the trip. It moves yearly, location, but is always in Texas. We network; share our work with the librarians, teachers, and readers. Sign books, and pick up book orders. I have attended and signed at ALA, BEA, and TLA. For us, PRPP, I still believe we receive the most value for our vested dollars in this event. If you have ever considered going, as a company, but you are not sure if it is worth it or if you are an author and you do not know if you should spend the dollars here are my top reasons for doing so:
1) It is a professional trade show; attendees are pre-registered, and that means a guaranteed X amount of participation.
2) Attendees are there with a purpose to do the following: Place book orders for their locations, receive free books for review, and to share new talent or books with their districts. If you have a new title or an old title with limited exposure, it is the perfect place to share your work with the experts or potential real buyers.
3) It is expensive, yes, but with a joint effort it can be done and is worth the $’s spent due to the added benefit of buyers, readers, vendors, librarians, educators, all under one roof at the same time.
4) Networking with different schools, librarians, teachers, readers, is priceless, especially when they are all book lovers and want to be there with you.
5) We have placed multiple bulk orders through this conference, introduced new titles and authors, and re-launched older titles.
6) Negotiated contracts for services authors cannot receive on their own, such as Lexile scoring, contact made through TLA.
7) Received great submissions & we do not solicit authors.
8) Met librarians, teachers, educators, and others that we have stayed in touch with and shared our catalog, and new titles over the year. They have come back, and picked our latest work, sharing it with their districts.
9) Featured author area: the authors are reviewed and scheduled to sign. The advertising is great, and visiting with people as you sign your work is fantastic, but having them come back year after year, remembering you from the year before as they look for your new work….is…..priceless.
10) Often it seems as if we accomplish more at this one trade show than at ten regular author events. Those often seem time-consuming, turn into author swaps, and end up with minimal unit sales.
“Yes. In fact, he just got another job. I’ll be helping him sometimes, when I can.”
“Doing what? Something demeaning, menial?”
“No, as a matter of fact, Hal is a musician. A very good one.”
Maeve knew that would sit well with her father. There was a long line of musically inclined men in his family, going back for generations. Her father had even been known to play the piano, guitar and fiddle.
“Musician? What kind of music?”
“He plays guitar that I know of. Possibly more, I don’t know since we just met recently. He has a wonderful singing voice and he teaches children to play the guitar.”
This would also score points with her father, who gave music lessons through their church.
“Really? Admirable. I want to meet him,” he said with a firm decision that Maeve knew was unshakable.
“I just met the man. Can I please get to know him and go out with him a few times, before you scare him away?”
“Scare him? I don’t scare people. I’m a pussycat. Have him meet you here. You can go to the restaurant from here.”
Maeve sighed resignedly, there was no arguing with him when he was like this. “Yes, Papa. I’ll see if he’s able to come by here.”
“If he can’t change his plans a little, he’s not a true man,” her father said with predictable conviction.
Fiddlestix asks to see the cyber warriors on the video feed. Alarmed, she sees that they are getting updates from their controller. Insisting that she be taken to their location, she wonders why the area wasn’t better protected. Sadly, it was, and all the men are dead.
The cyber warrior was inside, working the consoles quickly. He paid no attention to them. Deacon aimed and fired at the creature’s head. His bullet ricocheted off the skull casing, narrowly missing Fiddlestix. The cyber soldier turned slowly, eyeing him with a bland expression. Smiling cruelly, it bared sharp, metallic teeth, advancing on Deacon slowly, haltingly. It was then that Fiddlestix noticed it was damaged. The dead men had not died without a fight. The creature could hardly move. His legs were damaged. Cyber-hydraulic fluid leaked from a half dozen wounds. A puddle had gathered underneath him.
With a flick of her thumb, Fiddlestix’ communicator went back on. “Kaz,” she spoke sharply. “Initiate Shut Down Code Three Three Alpha.”
There was no response. The warrior continued to advance. “Dammit! Kaz!” It was then she heard the gunfire outside.
The thump of a heavy shoulder mounted cyber cannon was distinctive. She heard screaming over her headpiece and knew the others were in trouble. A wet ripping sound filled her ears. Turning toward the sound, she felt sick.
“Master Sergeant!” It was Harmony. “Kaz is down.”
“Coming! Deacon!” She motioned for him to follow her.
The cyber soldier couldn’t maneuver easily. It slipped in its own fluid, moving at less than half its normal speed.
“He’ll keep. We need that computer!”
She slid to a halt at the corner, glancing around to see what lay beyond. One cyber warrior was down, obviously disabled. The other stood over Kaz’ limp form, firing on the rest of the group. Pocked with bullet holes, he kept fighting as if nothing troubled him.
Fiddlestix ran up to him while he was turned the other direction, distracted by one of Deacon’s men. Sliding the cyber blade out of her arm, she stabbed up and under the metal casing that surrounded his chest.
“Harmony, activate the code!”
Harmony held Kaz’ computer in both hands. He didn’t hesitate, but looked at her in surprise. “I’m not coded to it, Master Sergeant.”
“I lied,” she replied tersely.
The cyber warrior had drawn a bead on Deacon’s man, lowering his heavy shoulder thumper to fire. His movement slowed to a stop. He shut down, falling face first to the ground.
The warrior who had been following Deacon stumbled around the corner. He didn’t fire his weapons as he searched for the best target. Without being told, Harmony pointed the computer at him and pressed he initiation code. It didn’t work.
“Stix!” his voice caught as the warrior looked his way.
“Initiate Shut Down Code Three Two Delta.” Nothing happened.
“Shit! It’s being jammed.” Taking the scanner from Harmony’s limp fingers, she jumped over the downed warrior, landing nearly at the feet of the other one. He was bleeding out his cyber fluid slowly. She decided to see if she could speed it up. Her cyber blade slid neatly into his knee joint, severing the plastic artery. His left knee collapsed and he went down.
Fiddlestix tried the code again, but it did no good. This called for good old fashioned brute force. Raising her cyber arm, she hammered the face plate of the downed warrior. He tried to fight her, but by this time, half of Deacon’s force had him surrounded. All of them were armed with brutal knives, stabbing at unprotected areas of his body.
Deacon took up a heavy gun from one of the other cyber soldiers. With all his strength and body weight, he swung at the cyber man’s head, smashing the face plate with one brutal blow. Jasper fired at point blank range into the creature’s face, blowing its head off. With a cry like a wounded animal, it fell to the floor. Blood and blue cyber fluid flowed out of his body, pooling into dark, murky purple puddles.
“Fall back,” Fiddlestix bellowed.
Dragging Kaz and the other wounded with them, they regrouped in the computer room, barricading the door.
“Why am I still here? I don’t know anything. Could you please let me get home and go to bed? I’ve been up twenty-two hours, Ms. Hasselhoff. I’m dog tired and I have to work tomorrow. Just because I’m the boss doesn’t mean I can sleep in.”
“I really can’t do that, Mr. Parnell.”
“Why not, Ms. Hasselhoff?”
Why did she have to have such a long name? Why couldn’t it be something short like Smith?
“Because Tack Carmichael was shot with your gun.”
“My what?” I stood up, knocking my chair over. “My gun? My gun? What the f*ck?”
“There’s no need for that kind of language, Mr. Parnell.”
“I beg to differ, Ms. Hasselhoff. You just told me that some asshole was shot to death with my gun and you don’t expect me to say f*ck? Of course I’m going to say it. Wouldn’t you say it? Anybody would under those circumstances. My own mother would if you told her that.”
After a moment or two of deliberation, I called Alyce. Fortunately, she answered.
“Parker!” she screeched. Alyce is a very loud girl. Nothing wrong with that, just a fact. She is enthusiastic and used to admire my performance in a very vocal manner. Does great things for a man’s ego, let me tell you. I did some of my best work with Alyce. Not sure why she always calls me by the character’s name….
“I hear you wanna kill me off.”
“Truly, I don’t, but it upsets Tito.”
“Tee toe,” she said slowly. “He’s jealous of Parker.”
“Why the hell?”
She lowered her voice, which meant she was talking in a normal volume for most people. “He thinks you’re better in bed than him.”
“See, it doesn’t help that you always call me that. It makes me seem real to him. If you called me….” I prompted, waiting.
“Blake,” she concluded. Quick study, is our Alyce. “But to me, you will always be Parker. He seems so much more real than everyone else.”