The Cigar Maker Wins a Slam Dunk Review

May 16, 2010

Would love to see more like this one from Small Press Reviews…it really needs no introduction.

Epic is perhaps the best word to describe this dense and moving novel, for it has both the multigenerational sweep of works like John Steinbeck’s East of Eden and the social awareness of John Dos Passos’ USA Trilogy. All of this is to say that for his sophomore literary outing, McGinty has done nothing short of producing the great American novel.

Read the complete 5-star review here.

Art A Whirl Day One in the Books

May 15, 2010

Bring on Day 2!

Day 1 was supposed to start at 5:30 but at 4:30 people started to trickle in. I sold a copy of The Cigar Maker to the first person I talked do. I had to do a lot of talking but piqued her interest enough so that she decided to buy a copy. For the rest of the night I was visited by a steady stream of friends and strangers and sold a nice amount of copies – including one stack to a book club. I’ll be visiting the book club next month for dinner and wine and an intelligent book talk.

We’re at Svedberg Studio at 34th and Tyler. Here are some photos of last night:

Svedberg Studio in NE Minneapolis

Lupi setting up our nook

Our table, overflowing with stuff (free cigar if you buy the book!)

Low angle shot, photo by AZ.

Ready to go!

An impressive Friday night turnout gave us all high hopes that Saturday will be a fantastic day. The weather gods came through – it’s sunny and warm and should be a great day to hit all the nooks and crannies of North East Minneapolis and check out all the artwork this city has to offer. Read more about NE Minneapolis’s open studio and gallery tour, Art A Whirl.

Finally, Lauri Svedberg who owns the studio, has been awesome. Just awesome! Please check out Lauri’s website, where you can preview all of her fantastic artwork!

And if you’re in the Cities this weekend – you won’t want to miss Art A Whirl!!

Cigar City Magazine Prints “Cigar Maker” Excerpt

May 13, 2010

The May/June issue of Cigar City Magazine is out. They printed an excerpt from Chapter 6 of The Cigar Maker….The online issue will be posted soon but in the meantime, here are some scans…

First the cover and table of contents…looks like a great issue. I can’t wait to read the story on Fidel Castro!

Cigar City Magazine is available at the S. Tampa Barnes and Noble, and a few other locations in Tampa. For the out-of-Tampa folks, you can subscribe or order individual issues for as low as $5 online.

Please remember to check out The Cigar Maker, available on both paperback and Kindle!!

“The Cigar Maker” Making Rounds on The Net

May 12, 2010

Now that The Cigar Maker has been out for a couple of weeks, it has started to make the rounds on the Internet. Here is a summary of what’s been going down…

  • Possibly the coolest shout comes from Cigar City Magazine, a great magazine from Tampa, Florida that celebrates the history of the Cigar City. They published an excerpt of the book in their May/June issue and will be publishing excerpts in their next three issues. Their online version will be up soon, and I’ll link you as soon as I can!
  • A little blurb on Ybor City Stogie. Looks like a political website but they gave me a shout, with a link to the book’s official site.
  • picked up a press release and posted it to their site. They also requested a review copy, so I’ll be waiting to read their review in a few weeks.  
  • Cigars in Review magazine, a brand new publication that reviews cigars, posted a link to the book’s site on their page. They’re also running an ad to promote the book to cigar shops nationwide.  
  • Here’s a cool little forum called Friends of Habanos. One of their members picked up the press release and posted it to their site. They like my name, and I’ve seen some sales come in directly from this forum. Thanks, Friends of Habanos!
  • There was this great review by Celia Hayes on Blogger News Network. 8-9 more reviews are pending, so I’m bracing for the feedback. Hopefully the book continues it’s favorbale critical reception.
  • If you live in Minneapolis, Art a Whirl is this weekend, a great art festival featuring over 500 participants. I’m having a book signing to officially unveil Cigar and it’s listed a one of the festival’s special events.
  • Finally Big Time Attic threw together a nice little blurbie-blurb, with pictures of the book’s maps drawn by cityscape extraordinaire Kevin Cannon. They also have an image of the book on Kindle, where it was recently #1 in Cigars. Check it out!!

If you haven’t picked up your copy of The Cigar Maker, now is a good time. Pick it up on Amazon or wherever books are sold. It would make a great Father’s Day gift!!

When was the last time someone read you a story?

May 6, 2010

Imagine: you’re at work, sitting at your computer typing away, or trying to interpret a bunch of numbers on some spreadsheet, or stacking boxes, or unpacking this and that, or doing any boring no-brain menial task that causes you to space out and dream of sandy beaches and cold beer. Happens to me several times a day. The radio helps, so does the iPod but what if you could enlist a friend to sit and read to you? Whatever you want them to read, they will read. Novels, short stories, local news, national news, political commentary, sports updates, poems, Mad Libs…Well, this is the way is used to be in the cigar factories of old.

See that guy sitting up high on that platform? He’s not the lifeguard, he’s called el lector or the reader. Cigar workers used to hire a reader to sit on that raised platform (called a tribuna) and read whatever they requested. Novels were chosen by popular vote and el lector regularly translated news from the local papers. These were educated men. Men who could read in Spanish, English and sometimes Italian as well as other languages. He had to have a booming voice, and in some cases, used a unique voice for each of the characters in the novels he would read.

The lector wasn’t always a man. It was rare, but there were female readers. This painting by Ferdie Pacheco is one interpretation of a female reader at work. I urge you to check out Ferdie’s site. It is filled with amazing paintings, many related to the scenes and culture of Tampa, Florida, the world of The Cigar Maker.

Many cigar workers were illiterate, but not ignorant, and the readings of the factory lector helped to shape their opinions on politics, world events, sports and most of all: labor and factory life. The cause of Cuba Libre and the fight for Cuban independence meant many cigar workers favored populist, revolutionary, pro-worker literature. Books like Les Miserables were favorites.

Some readers wrote their own populist literature which they read to the friendly hoards, urging the workers to fight for workplace rights, better treatment, fringe benefits – these rabble rousers infuriated management and were labeled as radical agitators. But what could the managers do? Outlawing the factory reader meant the cigar workers would go on strike and not return until the lector was again seated at the tribuna.

The readers caused, as you can imagine, a world of conflict in the cigar factories. This conflict and the world of the cigar workers is explored in great detail in The Cigar Maker.

Are the readers still around? The rise of the radio put most of them out of business but a few of them are still around. This one almost looks like he’s calling BINGO numbers…

The vocation has been classified by NPR as a job of yesteryear. An obsolete occupation. But their purpose lives on! The lector was replaced by the radio and now CDs, iPods, personalized Internet music sites like Pandora and the occassional visit to youtube serve as some of our many (and necessary!) daily diversions. In a technological world of rapid innovation, where Sony Walkmans and tape decks have all but disappeared and vinyl records are nostalgic relics, I look at my iPod and wonder how long it will be around. It’s a 2 GB Nano, already obsolete by Apple standards. When it reaches the end of its life and eventually falls apart, I wonder what I’ll move to next? Would be boss allow me to hire a talented voice-actor to sit and read my favorite stories?

The Cigar Maker is available for pre-order

February 22, 2010

Head on over to The Cigar Maker official site, read some reviews, learn about Tampa and reserve your copy of The Cigar Maker. Free shipping is available until the end of the month…And if you order The Cigar Maker together with Elvis and the Blue Moon Conspiracy you can save yourself a little money. The books are available together for $24.99.

Here’s a cover image, with a blurb on the book….

The Cigar City. The year is 1898. Young Cuban rebel Salvador Ortiz and his family have escaped the hardship of war-torn Cuba, but the union halls, cigar factories, and dark alleys of Tampa are filled with violence and vendetta. Salvador must defy constant labor strife and deadly corruption in a one-industry town known for backroom cockfights, street thugs, late-night abductions and mass production of the world’s best hand-rolled stogies. An ideological battle for control of the cigar industry tests Salvador’s self-respect and love of hard work as he fights to abandon his rambunctious, outlaw past and lead his proud Cuban family into a colorful immigrant society. His wish for a peaceful life as a husband, a father, and a man of dignity is threatened by a lawless underworld and a cultural conflict with a dangerous, bloody history.

Drop by the official site to read excerpt and check out some interiore images from the book (the maps by Kevin Cannon are just awesome!). And reserve your copy today!!!

The Cigar Maker cover is released!!!

February 18, 2010

A great cover is so important, and Lupi nailed this one…

The Cigar Maker will be available June 1 – you can reserve your copy today by visiting

Be sure to click for a larger image!!


Don’t forget to check out more artwork by Lupi right here.

Which photo should appear on the back of The Cigar Maker?

January 30, 2010

****New improved pictures will be up later****

#1 just a normal guy

#2 your stereotypical cheesy author photo

The Cigar Maker: Excerpt #2

December 2, 2009

Here is another excerpt from THE CIGAR MAKER (coming out summer 2010)….From Chapter 1…


Cuba, 1875

Salvador was learning the farming trade, but his father quickly gave him an education in politics. “Spain is draining Cuba of its natural resources,” Ernesto told his son. “They are giving nothing back. All the wealth generated by Cubans is feeding the Spanish. They own our government and our property and leave us no opportunity for self-determination. Shouldn’t every man have the right to decide who enjoys the fruit of his own labor?”

One morning Ernesto’s lessons abruptly ended, and Salvador was forced into the world to find his own education. When shots rang out in the distance and the sound of approaching horses grew louder and louder, Ernesto frantically woke his only child and ordered him to run across the fields and hide in the forest. “Go now, boy! Step lively and don’t look back!”

Those were Ernesto’s last words to Salvador.

The boy ran until he was hidden by a giant Ceiba tree. Watching from afar as Spanish soldiers on horseback trampled through the village and set the modest bohio homes ablaze, Salvador saw the fragile shelters of wood and palm fronds collapse into flaming piles as many of the villagers, including Salvador’s mother and father, were captured by the soldiers and executed by their rifles.   

The image of his mother and father on their knees before a gang of Spanish troops, with his sobbing mother begging God’s mercy before rifles exploded, became seared into his memory. Salvador fled into the forest carrying nothing but his father’s rusty dagger and a hatred and complete mistrust of anything Spanish.

When he finally made it to the city of Pinar del Rio, and met Juan Carlos on the streets begging for food, it became easy for them to steal from the aristocrats responsible for their plight. For Juan Carlos had also lost his father and a brother at the hands of Spanish soldiers. Young, vengeful Carlito carried a pistol and a machete in a canvas duffle bag and hoped to join a band of rebels but had little luck finding an army that would lead him into battle against the Spanish.

“I like you, Ortiz,” Juan Carlos told him the day the teenagers met on the street. “Your story is like mine. It seems as though we’re the last of a dying breed.” The truth was that Juan Carlos could use another man to help him rob a local Spanish bookkeeper he had been watching for over a week.

“You have a knife, I have a gun and this man is a Spaniard. Not only that but he has money. I have been watching him for many days now. Every night after he locks his office, he walks down the block to the Spanish bakery where he has a cup of coffee and a pastry before heading home. We go in right before he locks up and split our earnings right down the middle. If we’re successful, we rob the bakery tomorrow.”

Salvador, as if transfixed with the unending memory of his mother’s head being blown apart by a Spanish rifle, nodded and gripped the wooden handle of his knife. Normally he wouldn’t consider stealing, and would rather work for his daily meals, but he had been numbed by grief.

“Yes, we are stealing,” Juan Carlos said. “But we are stealing back little pieces of our own country. We are reclaiming what is ours.”

Salvador thought of his father’s blood, spilled on Cuban dirt. “Let’s go.”

On Carlito’s signal the boys entered the bookkeeper’s office and less than a minute later were running from the scene with enough pesos to eat for several days. It was easier than Salvador thought it would be. The bookkeeper was a man used to the confines of his office and did not compare to the menacing Spanish soldiers Salvador had eluded in the countryside.  “You’ve got guts,” Juan Carlos seemed to admit later on, as they divided their money in a secluded alley. “If you were afraid, the bookkeeper couldn’t tell.” Juan Carlos was satisfied that he had found a partner and the duo spent the next weeks robbing aristocrats, begging for food and eluding the authorities. When he decided it was getting too hot for them in the city, he introduced Salvador to Victoriano Machín, the charismatic young ruffian who would eventually become the legendary bandit El Matón.

Click here for more snippets from THE CIGAR MAKER….

Thanks for reading! Comments are always welcome…

NEEDED: Proofreader!

November 30, 2009

Now that THE CIGAR MAKER is complete and I’ve moved into the publishing stage, I am desperately trying to avoid typos and spelling/grammaitcal errors. With a 145,000 word book this is quite a challenge, and frankly too much for one man to handle on his own. I’ve been fortunate to have a couple folks do a pass for spelling but as I sit down to format the pages and review excerpts I’m noticing more and more little ones that were missed.

What I need is for someone to go through the entire manuscript and find as many typos as you can (hopefully there aren’t many left)…If you are interested please email me at with a brief blurb on your history as a writer, editor or proofreader, as well as your requirements. I am looking for a fairly quick turnaround – within 30-45 days from the time I send you the manuscript (we can work around the holidays).

For a brief sample of what this book is about you can read an excerpt here.

If you are interested, I will send you a couple pages to proofread, to get an idea of your style and your attention to detail. I am on a limited budget so you must be willing to work cheap!! Of course, your name will be mentioned in the acknowledgements section of the book…



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