Another Great Review!

May 29, 2010

That makes it 3 out of 3. It is a big relief to get good reviews. Huge. After working on this thing for 7 years, to know that people – complete strangers – critical readers – are enjoying The Cigar Maker is more rewarding than sales and profits. Take a look!

We get beautiful glimpses of Cuban culture, and Cuban society. We learn of the common people who never lead charges, build skyscrapers, or become captains of industry, and yet are quietly heroic as they sacrifice for their families and their children’s future. The story here is about a Cuban American family, but in a real sense, it is about every immigrant family that dared to risk everything in the hope of making a better life.

Here is the complete review: from The Historical Novel Review.

Tampa Book Signing Recap

May 25, 2010

We flew from Minneapolis to Tampa for a week of family, food and books. Three Cigar Maker events were planned: 1) A private “VIP” party at my parents’ house, 2) the official Tampa launch at the Tampa Bay History Center, and 3) a book signing at Tampa’s Inkwood Books. I had no idea how we would do. There has been plenty of interest in Tampa, so I was optimistic. Overall, it was a great week and we did better than we expected.

First, a couple shouts in the Tampa Tribune…both of them unexpected.

Should I be embarrassed to be mentioned in the same “Things to Do” panel with Gil Mantera’s Party Dream?

Anyway, The Tampa Bay History Center insisted on only ordering 18 copies of the book, claiming that some of these book signings can be kind of slow. It was sunny and roughly 95 degrees – a great day for the beach or the boat, and many don’t even venture outside when it gets that hot. Traffic at the museum was low, not much more than a trickle. But we did sell all of the History Center’s inventory and had to break into our own supply, selling about a dozen of those. Overall it was a good day. The museum was happy, we enjoyed a nice family reunion and I got to reconnect with several people that I had not seen in years, including an old friend from college, my godfather, and many aunts, uncles and cousins.

My cousin/uncle Joe Vasquez. Isn't there a character named Vasquez in the book? Yes! Joe's mother is Olympia...isn't there an Olympia in the book too? Yes indeed. Get it?

So after a good day at the History Center (who also ordered more books for their inventory) we had a couple days to hang around in Tampa. Then it was off to Inkwood Books for a Tuesday night signing. I didn’t know how this one would go and at first I was really nervous because there were only about 4 people there. But the place filled up quickly and soon every seat was filled.

I started this thing out by chatting with the first few who were on hand. Note to authors: FIND OUT WHERE PEOPLE HEARD ABOUT YOUR BOOK. I asked one guy and he said he read about it in the paper and then went to Amazon to read reviews. The reviews are what convinced him to make the drive to the bookstore. This goes to show how important Amazon reviews are!!!

Once the crowd started to fill up I asked if there were any questions right away. There were none so I gave an opening remark and started reading the first chapter. Good thing I had a water bottle ready because my throat dried up right away. Now the crowd really started to fill in and soon every seat was filled. About 10 pages in I stopped reading and asked for questions. There were a lot. Here are some, with answers in blue.

“What do you know about Tampa, living in Minneapolis?” I have a lot of family here and have spent a lot of time here. Both grandfathers on my mother’s side were cigar makers from Cuba. Lots of research, etc…

“How long did it take you to write this book?” 7 years

“How do you sell it to people in Minnesota?” If they mention cigars, I sell them on cigars. If they talk about history, I sell them on the history. It is much easier to sell in Tampa sine the story takes place here. Much harder to sell in Minnesota.

“How many characters are actual historical figures, or real people?” Only a few. Maceo, Teddy Roosevelt, Calixto Garcia. 95% of the characters are fictional, but the story is based entirely on true events.

“Do you have an agent?” Don’t need one. Not yet.

“Would it make a good movie?” Yes! Are there any agents in the crowd?

After the Q&A, I kept reading, finishing Chapter 1. People actually applauded when I was finished and then they lined up to have their books signed. One lady asked me to come speak at her school, to give an inspirational talk to the students about how, to quote the great George McFly (actually Marty) “If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.”

The gals at Inkwood Books said I did a good job because I was preparred, I had things to talk about, and I kept the audience engaged and entertained for a long period of time. They said they’ve had some authors who have nothing preparred. They talk for two minutes and then it’s over. I can’t imagine showing up for an event like this and not being preparred…I mean, isn’t this what authors live for? Anyway, I had fun and I think the crowd did too.

Overall, great week. If you haven’t checked out The Cigar Maker, make sure you clicky-click and pick up a copy. If you HAVE read it, please post a review to the book’s Amazon page. These reviews mean more than you know!! You can post your review right here.

Thanks for reading! Looking forward to the next event!!


The Cigar Maker in the Tampa Tribune

May 21, 2010

Check it out…completely unexpected…they gave me a full color image with a blurb about my signing at Inkwood Books on Tuesday night. Hope this brings out a few people who otherwise had no idea….

If you are in the Tampa area, here are the details…

Tuesday May 25th, 7:00pm – 9:00pm
Inkwood Books
216 South Armenia Ave, Tampa FL

Join Mark will participate in a book talk and signing at Inkwood Books on Tuesday, May 25th.

Visit to learn more.

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 Lost Secret of the Green Man

May 3, 2010


Tiffany Turner

 Trafford Publishing, 2009

 120 Pages/Children’s Fiction

4 out of 5 stars

Tiffany Turner’s second book in her The Crystal Keeper Chronicles series, The Lost Secret of the Green Man is engaging fantasy for children, although some children may get bogged down in the first half of the book until the action picks up. It took a while to gain speed but once it did, the story was charming and fun.

For the most part, the book is well-written, imaginative children’s fiction with an efficiently sketched cast of appealing characters designed to keep most children reading.  

While a bit heavy handed on New Age imagery, practices and beliefs—magic crystals, ley lines, etc.—the story does offer some good, old-fashioned life lessons…and fun. (At times, the book felt a bit like a kiddy primer for New Age lifestyle, but maybe that’s just me.)

At times, the fantasy genre has a way of breeding clichés like no other genre, and Turner skillfully uses them to her advantage. After all, how many times can one read about fairies and the like without feeling trod upon by unicorn hooves? The author takes familiar children’s fantasy concepts and overused characters head on, leveraging the common annoyance for them and all the while poking fun. Turner uses this technique wisely (and sparingly) and just when you’re thinking, I feel another cliché coming on, the author gently ribs her own character and effectively disarms the cliché. Regarding Balkazaar, the evil sorcerer, Wanda remarks, “This time his smile was more akin to evil overlord in most movies. You know, the bad guy thinks he can always win type. He went back to twisting his mustache.” How honest! How can you have a story with a spunky, precocious (of course!) tweener battling the most grievous evil in the entire known universe, and not have some fun?

The Lost Secret of the Green Man is available from Amazon. Be sure to check out the author’s website.

Reviewed by David Stucki, April 2010