Monday, December 22, 2008

Lessons Learned: Don't Promote the Weekend Before Christmas

I did two promotional events this weekend and both were duds from a turnout perspective -- which only goes to show that when folks get their holiday game faces on, look out. They don't want to talk, surf, or otherwise engage in leisurely activity that any sane person would call human (or humane for that matter).

First, I did a book signing at the Barnes and Noble in Plymouth Meeting this weekend. I must have been an afterthought in the minds of the store managers, because I was stuck at a tiny table (it was more like a tray with legs) behind another author whose sign was so huge it made it impossible for people to see me. He wrote a book about the Philadelphia Eagles with lots of pretty pictures aimed at Joe Six-Pack, while I wrote experimental fiction aimed at a niche audience. I guess I can see why he got the sweet spot by the front door and I was, well, a few steps behind next to the Boy Scouts gift wrapping kiosk.

A grand total of 3 people stopped by, but each was a rich experience in its own right.

One father talked to me for about 20 minutes about his alcoholic son, who gave up drugs but has for years been unable to kick the drink. He asked me to write an inspirational note in the book to his son, and then got it gift-wrapped and left with a smile on his face and a little spring in his step (I think). To think that my book is going to be sitting under someone's tree this year and be opened on Christmas by someone who really needs to hear its message -- and includes a note of confidence from the author to boot -- is extremely gratifying. This is the type of person for whom I wrote this book, and I guess if it somehow gets this person to put down the bottle it will have all been worth it.

Secondly, I did an online interview with Book Talk with J&J, a free promotional blog site that helps authors get the word out about their books. I got another 3 hits on this blog, 2 of which came from the blog admin and one of the site's reviewers.

Sigh. Bitten by the holiday rush bug, and stranded in cyberspace? Not exactly. Again, the audience for which my book was intended showed up, even if it was only one person. This commentor (who won the contest for a free copy) told me about a friend with a drinking problem who they thought could be helped by my book, and asked me if I thought it was appropriate for someone who was an alcoholic, rather than a child of an alcoholic. Here is my reply:

Hi C.K., Thanks for stopping by and for taking the time to comment. I definitely think my book would have meaning and insight for someone currently researching their own alcoholism. The protagonist in my book, Leysa Henko, is both a victim of alcoholism at a young age, and an adult alcoholic later in life. So, in that way, my book hits both ends of the spectrum of the disease.

Thanks again for coming by and feel free to post any other questions you have.

Best, Kenneth Kirsch

In the end, it was a quiet weekend promotionally but well worth the investment of time and energy.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours.

Yours in cyberspace,

Ken Kirsch

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Pics from my first book signing

My Second Book Signing: Same Bookstore, New Bookdate

The first signing for Demon Alcohol and the Monstermen went so well, they've invited me back!

Here are the particulars:

Date: Saturday, December 20, 2008
Time: 1:00pm - 4:00pm
Location: Barnes and Noble
Street: 2300 Chemical Road
City/Town: Plymouth Meeting, PA

I will post pictures from the first one here. They are also available on my Facebook page.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Second Interview Set for Demon Alcohol and the Monstermen

The second interview for my debut novel, Demon Alcohol and the Monstermen, will appear on Book Talk with J&J at the link above, the weekend of Dec. 20-21. Check it out. I plan to reveal more about the often spooky, creative process behind the book. While not a horror novel per se, (it's meant to be a slightly paranormal story of inspiration and hope) there are just enough shivers in Demon Alcohol and the Monstermen to keep the casual reader up at night (at least for a few minutes past their bedtime!).

Visit at any time that weekend and leave a comment about the interview to be entered into a contest to win a signed copy of Demon Alcohol and the Monstermen.


Kenneth James Kirsch

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Musical Muses Behind Demon Alcohol and the Monstermen, Part II

I became a John Mellencamp fan late in life. As a child of the 80s, I tapped my toes to a certain little ditty about Jack and Diane, but I never took the guy seriously until a few years later when he really hit the social-awareness gas with the album Scarecrow. Rain on the Scarecrow is a mainstay on my iPod as are many more of his more socially relevant songs, including Human Wheels.

In 2004, I picked up Mellencamp's box set called Words and Music and found another gem that had escaped me, an homage to pride and grace called Walk Tall. One verse in particular struck me, Mellencamp singing: "No drunkards are allowed in Heaven, no sinners will get in."

That verse from Walk Tall formed the backbone of Chapter 5, Beyond Vak’s Place: Part VI, 1967-1972: The Pre-Golden Years. In Chapter 5, Leysa Henko realizes her marriage to bastard Ed Dargashian will never provide her with the love she desperately wants, and that her only grandchild is afraid of her because of her constant abusive behavior. In short, she's at the crossroads, and has to decide whether to change her alcoholic ways or risk dying alone, embittered, and in shame. For a religious woman like Leysa Henko, the afterlife was always at the forefront of her mind, even if she was in denial. In Chapter 5, that denial is stripped away in dramatic fashion, and Leysa Henko is left to ponder whether drunkards will indeed be allowed in Heaven, and if sinners will get in.

As with the other musical citations, I had to remove this one on my publisher's "advice."

Oh well. At least I get to share it with you all.


Kenneth James Kirsch

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

My First Book Signing!

Hey everyone! Come check me out at my first book signing. Info below:

Book Signing for Kenneth James Kirsch's Demon Alcohol and the Monstermen

Date: Sunday, November 30, 2008
Time: 1:00pm - 5:00pm
Location: Barnes and Noble
Street: 2300 Chemical Road
City/Town: Plymouth Meeting, PA

View Map
Contact Info
Phone: 610.567.2900

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Two More Strong Reviews! Read on!

5 Stars Out of 5
Craaack! A homerun from new author Ken Kirsch
Art M, A reviewer, 10/01/2008

I discovered a nice surprise once I sat back and started to turn the pages of this book from new author Kenneth James Kirsch. Mr. Kirsch does a fantastic job of drawing the reader into the story and making you feel as if you are actually in the room with the characters. His character descriptions are superb, clearly depicting the physical, mental and emotional traits of the major players in the story. His historical perspective really held my interest as I'm a native of Pennsylvania and I could relate to many of the small towns and cultural peculiarities he references. All in all this book was a truly pleasant surprise and one that I found difficult to put down. It's the perfect book for a cool Fall evening. I highly recommend this book and look forward to the next book from Mr. Kirsch.

4 Starts Out Of 5
Inspiring Story
L Basara, A reviewer, 09/30/2008

I was really struck by this story's message, and by the poetry that Mr Kirsch is able to produce 'see p 16' when describing certain phenomena. The book is highly memorable, and not just because of the main character's “rude awakening”. Lots of folks who come from challenging family situations 'like me' constantly struggle with whether to continue bad habits and behaviors that they learned growing up, or to do what they know is right and good 'which means doing truly hard work to overcome their “programming” as kids'. Leysa, the book's main character, is certainly inspirational and reinforcing in this regard. Overall, 'Monstermen' is definitely worth the time.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Musical Muses for Demon Alcohol and the Monstermen, Part I

I couldn't explain the story of this book without telling the story of the lyrical muses singing in my head during the creative phase.

I've heard Stephen King say he listens to the loudest rock and roll and heavy metal he can get his hands on -- AC/DC is a fave of his -- while creating his scary novels. While I tended to write in silence, locked away in the upstairs office of my Audubon, Pa. home like some subdivisioned version of The Shining's Jack Torrance, I had 2-3 songs in particular in mind throughout the whole process.

Growing up in the Pottsville, Pa., region and, later, Reading, Pa. in the 1970s and 1980s, my friends and I had it rough. We grew up barely middle class - a lot of us - and saw our parents going to work at the crack of dawn to go to dead-end jobs where they'd be stuck behind a desk or, in my mom's case, tending to the every day health needs of the criminally insane as a nurse's aide at Wernersville State Hospital in Wernersville, Pa for up to 16 hours a day.

New Jersey favorite son Bruce Springsteen wrote the soundtrack to my childhood and teen years, and I wiled away many a day and night jamming to Born to Run and Darkness on the Edge of Town.

Born to Run was Springsteen's shot at the big time, and its nostalgic last look back at his teen years "echoed down them hallways in the night." But it was the decidedly less upbeat followup, Darkness, where Springsteen at last became an adult and worried out loud if his working class parents' fates might be his own, or those of his friends.

Springsteen lashed out angrily at the workaday fates of his parents in a little-remembered song called Adam Raised a Cain. The lyrics of this burner of a song, more than any other, rang through my head endlessly as I wrote Demon Alcohol and the Monstermen. In particular, the following stanza, formed the basis of the entire underpinnings of my book: "In the Bible Cain slew Abel. And East of Eden he was cast. You're born into this life paying, for the sins of somebody else's past."

In fact, the stanza actually appeared on the very first page, until my publisher, ahem, kindly advised me to remove it due to copyright infringement. (What they really were saying was they were too lazy to go through the legal hoops of getting the okay from Springsteen's people to use the lyric).

That's enough for now. More on this subject at a later date. Thanks for reading.


Kenneth James Kirsch

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Reviews Are In! (Well, one review anyway)

This from a reader on

"Customer Reviews
Number of Reviews: 1
Average Rating: 5 stars out of 5
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Showing 1-1
A tense, spooky, but loving tale of Prohibition-Era alcoholism and modern day recovery
Michelle B. from Austin, Texas, A reviewer, 08/22/2008

Kenneth James Kirsch has penned a winner with this debut novel. The characters are very skillfully drawn, and you feel an instant connection with and sympathy for the main character and victim, Leysa Henko.

Leysa Henko immigrates from Russia to America in 1917 with her older sister, Maryska, father Devak, and mother Ionna. Devak, an abusive alcohlic, opens a tavern in the hard-drinking town of Tallenook, Pennsylvania. Ionna is an angelic mother who teaches her daughters independence and how to be headstrong in a time of turmoil for women fighting for suffrage in the U.S. When Prohibition threatens the family tavern, and Ionna is weakened by tuberculosis, Devak presses his daughters into service delivering vodka door to door to Tallenook's horrific alcoholic shut-ins -- the Monstermen.

The book follows Leysa's descent from bubbly blond immigrant to embittered alcoholic adult. As a child, Leysa is visited by and supported by ancestors who've passed on. But as her view of the world turns dark, she can no longer tune into the help of her spirit friends and she is left to fend for herself. This is a true page-turner that will have you looking over your shoulder and around corners -- and leave you with a lump in your throat. Highly recommended."

I'm floored! -- and hoping for 100 more just like it!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Upcoming Appearances

I'll be appearing as follows in the next few weeks:

1. September 10, 2008.
A copy of the cover art for my novel, Demon Alcohol and the Monstermen, will appear on the Authors Promoting Authors blog site: Purchase info will be included as well.

2. October 2, 2008.
I will be appearing on the online radio program Today's Author at 8:30 p.m.
To ask me questions: 1-646-200-4071
To Listen and Chat: The show is aired LIVE at and an active chat session is online. After the show is aired, it is available for download at

3. October 9, 2008.
A copy of the cover art for Demon Alcohol and the Monstermen will appear on the Virtual Book Tour De Net blog site: Purchase info will be included as well.

Orange Clouds Blue Sky, a novel by J. Hale Turner

I wanted to take a second to recommend a great writer of children's books, J. Hale Turner.

J. Hale Turner's new book is called Orange Clouds Blue Sky. Check out the cover art and synopsis below, and visit J. Hale Turner at to learn more.
Almost sweet sixteen Skye Patterson is in a total panic, searching frantically for her younger sister, Starr, who disappears in the mall of all places.Autism combined with curiosity and mischief can label Starr more than just a handful.To face their uptight parents is another unbearable consequence, causing Skye's teenage declaration of independence to appear more and more dismal.
Time may heal old wounds, but patience is not Skye's best quality. She is bound and determined to find a solution to save her family's oncoming disaster for which she feels responsible.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Demon Alcohol and the Monstermen Excerpt

Here's a brief excerpt from Demon Alcohol and the Monstermen:
Chapter 6: Baptism by Fire(water).

There is a special place and time (an event one might call it) that alcoholics go to – those who drink alone, and most of them do at one point or another, sometimes for years at a time, despite their insistence to the contrary – called, for lack of a better term, “The Drunk’s Dark.”

The Drunk’s Dark is where the solo drinking – the real damage drunks inflict on themselves – happens. It’s usually done in either the living room or bedroom of one’s apartment or house; sometimes the kitchen for the hardcore drunks who like to deny themselves even the comfort of a padded sofa during these periods of queerly pious self-abuse and loathing. The time is usually around 1 to 3 a.m.

The Alone Hours, you might call them, occur after the lighted, pretty, social part of the drinking is done at the neighborhood tavern, or Elks Lodge, or dinner party – the kind you see in all those wonderful beer and liquor commercials with the beautiful people in their perfect clothes and their perfect teeth feeling perfectly content with their perfect drinks. Yes, friends and neighbors, after the back-slapping comes the back-stabbing. Nothing celebratory, or beautiful, or perfect, about it. This is where the drunk comes to do their penance, pay their fines, and rot away in their mental jail cells.

It’s also where the drunk goes to ponder their condition, their lot in life, and recount who is responsible and why, and, goddammit, how they would exact their revenge if only they could. If only this bastard wasn’t holding them back, or if that job had turned out differently and the stupid bosses would have made them supervisor instead of that other suck-up. The drunk rarely cries during these episodes because, after all, it’s all someone else’s fault, isn’t it? And that’s not something to cry about. It’s something to get pissed off about – to drink over.

The hour is quiet and the house is quiet. No TV, no phone, no radio. Just a drunk and their booze. There is no sound whatsoever, save for the dull landing of the hand on the metallic bottle lid, the tearing and simultaneous unscrewing sound as the metal lid scrapes against the threaded top of the bottle. Unscrewing that lid slowly, the initial resistance, then giving way, and spinning it on the tabletop is the triumph of control that every alcoholic craves. To a drunk, it’s that goood. The feeling of unfettered and guilt-free victory, the full-body tingle of discovery. The anticipation of release, of liberty, letting go of the questions without answers, letting go of the caring.

The light clank of the bottle as it brushes against, and then settles, on top of the glass for balance before the tip. The drunker they get, the louder that clang as the bottle struggles to find pay dirt on the top of the glass. It’s not uncommon for the drunk to find chips of glass on the kitchen table, or on the floor, where it’s discovered the next morning and accompanied by a hung-over pronouncement of “Oh, shit-damn-fuck. Goddamn glass on the goddamn floor! What the fuck?!”
Some drunks, when they’re really wasted, will use the threads on the top of the bottle as balance on the side of the glass. Call it an insurance policy, a failsafe, just in case the damn thing slips.

Then, another slight clink as the top of the bottle penetrates the glass for the pour. Followed by a muted glug-glug sound as the booze finds its way into the glass at last. At this point, the drunk feels their only joy in the process; they might smile even as they think: “Yes, that’s it baby, there ya go. This is victory, a victory for me. Look what I’ve created, world. I’m in control. I’m pouring my own drink in my own house, that I bought/rent with my own money, and it’s me doing it, you fuckers, it’s me. I’m in control here. I’m the boss of this one-person-booze-show. Me. No one else but me.”

The power is in the penetration as well; don’t let anyone tell you differently. Even drunks themselves are at a loss to understand, or even recognize, the sexual overtones of The Drunk’s Dark. Men are always the bottle, women are always the glass.

Then, the drinking. Followed by the loathing, the sorrow, and the utter aloneness of it all, the wretched rejection of life.

This is where Leysa Henko, a tired, skinny woman 57 years old with eyelids so puffy they seemed to be holding the woes of the world inside two leathered, worn and world-weary bags, found herself the evening after Joshua, Claire and Hope visited for that dreaded lunch. A manhattan sat in front of her in a glass, a triple-strength, non-judgmental friend accompanying her into the wee hours of the night, like it had so faithfully done so many times before. A Pearl filtered cigarette sat in the between the crystal sharks’ teeth of a thick glass ashtray; smoke trailed from it in a solitary chimney – rising in three straight chimneys at first, then swirling into a kind of weak nicotine funnel as it neared the ceiling.

Demon Alcohol and the Monstermen: No Fun and Games

Downer alert. Downer alert. Downer alert.

To answer a lot of questions about the reason for writing an intense, spooky "message novel" like Demon Alcohol and the Monstermen in these heady days of frothy Chick Lit, frothier Memoirs, froth-free Goth Horror, and Celebrity Cookbooks, read on.

Easy. I had a message I wanted to get out. Strike that. Had to get out.

Demon Alcohol and the Monstermen is about alcoholism, child abuse, endangerment and indifference. The backdrop is Prohibition. The victim is a little 5-year-old blond girl from Russia.

"But Ken, we've heard it all before. Remember the guy from Oprah who was caught with his proverbial pants down when he lied about his addictions in his own 'fictional' memoirs. And haven't we all been Dave Pelzer'd to death about this topic already?"

The answer: No, and No. It hasn't all been done. It hasn't all been said.

You haven't heard the issue of alcoholism and parental neglect worked over like this.

I'm not saying I'll have the last word on this subject, but I will have a word.

Read the next post for an excerpt. And let me know what you think.


Kenneth James Kirsch

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Great Free Blogs Promoting Authors

I'm going to start a catalog of sorts of cost-free online ways to promote what you write. Since joining Facebook, I've come across two really great ones:

Authors Promoting Authors (APA) is the brainchild of writer Tina-Sue Decross, a published author and another who is sympathetic to those of us seeking to promote online.

This site requires a quid-pro-quo on the writer's part. The day after your book appears, you have to post the next author's book and a blurb about it on your blog. You have an active blog as well, so if you don't have one yet, get cracking!

This one provides book art and a blurb about the novel as well.

The folks who run these blogs, Tina-Sue Decross and Karina Fabian, respectively, are great people doing a great service to all of us. Be sure to visit their blogs and spread the word.

Demon Alcohol and the Monstermen will appear on authorspromotingauthors on Sept. 10 and on virtualbooktourdenet on Oct. 9 .

I will be promoting an author myself as part of the agreement with APA and just to pass on the names of writers I admire and read.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

What's That Smell? (An Interactive Exercise)

Writers strive for vividness. Vivid descriptions, vivid colors, vivid sights, memorable items in a room or setting -- something, anything, that will catch the reader's attention and put them there. In the book, in the room, in the story...

More often than not, the writer will go right for the eyes and neglect the other senses. "See what I see," the writer seems to say. But what that rationale is missing is the most powerful image-evoking sense of them all: The Sense of Smell.

We see more with our noses than our eyes when we read. Hit the subject right on the nose, so to speak, and you will paint 100 pictures with a single scent. Consider this passage:

"See here... this writer's den has a cherry wood desk with a hint of red skin underneath the surface brown. The desk is freshly dusted so it gleams and the red is no longer hiding, it is prominent. On top. An heavy glass ashtray sits in the upper right corner, cluttered with clumps of discarded pipe tobacco. "

What is this writer missing in conveying the scene of the writer's den to the reader? There are at least three olfactory clues in this passage that would convey the scene of the den much better if the writer was perceptive enough to pick up on them.

1. First of all, we know the desk is freshly dusted. Was it dusted with a lemon wax product, or straight ammonia, or a damp (perhaps musty) cloth? And how powerful is the smell from each -- what does it contribute to the overall smell of the den?

2. Also, we know the dusting brings out the red in the desk. But does the cherry base of the wood have any hint of the fruit scent left in it, and would it come out at all if the dusting product used was really powerful? Would the smells mingle at all, and what might that smell like?

3. Lastly, and most obviously, we know the writer was a pipe smoker. This is one of the most distinctive and distinguishable smells around, and it gives the reader an unmistakeable image of the den's owner: bearded, mid-40s or 50s; jacket with patches on the sleeves; professorial type who may or may not have a British accent. In this case, the writer has only to describe the smell left in the den by the pipe tobacco and the reader already "sees" the character.

Lastly, put yourself in the scene and decide which smell predominates, and which are secondary. Close your eyes, remember the scents and the character who owns the den, and breathe deeply. It should all come clear to you.

If you're interested, rewrite the above passage about the den scene and put in the smells to go with the sights and see how much better you can make it. Post your response to this posting. Let's see how many different takes we can get.

Bye for now.


Monday, September 1, 2008

Where else to find me

I'm on Facebook, search for Kenneth James Kirsch or Demon Alcohol and the Monstermen.

I'm also on MySpace,

Upcoming Appearances

I'll be appearing as follows in the next few weeks:

1. September 10, 2008.
A copy of the cover art for my novel, Demon Alcohol and the Monstermen, will appear on the Authors Promoting Authors blog site: Purchase info will be included as well.

2. October 2, 2008.
I will be appearing on the online radio program Today's Author at 8:30 p.m.
To ask me questions: 1-646-200-4071
To Listen and Chat: The show is aired LIVE at and an active chat session is online. After the show is aired, it is available for download at

Three reasons why Sarah Palin is bad news for the US

1. Sarah Palin supports teaching creationism in schools.
Didn't we just get finished killing this whole Intelligent Design nonsense a few years ago? After we figure out the mess in Iraq and redirect the right resources to Afghanistan, the next thing a new president must do is to Stop The War On Science! Evolution is proven my neocon friends; you lost the argument, get over it. And teaching both would be just as bad. Can you imagine the confusion?

2. The Whole Abortion Mess.
Dear Gov. Palin's own daughter is pregnant now, but I'm sure it won't change her stance a bit. Extremists like Sarah Palin see issues as black and white, not in shades of gray. People who disguise their unilateral focus, and resulting bullying, as leadership are simply incapable of thinking across the spectrum of solutions. We don't need any more so-called leaders with tunnel-vision. Can you imagine her talking to Putin? "Sorry Vlad old pal, it's my way or the Siberian Highway..."

3. Plain Old Idiocy
Sarah Palin wants Hillary supporters to vote for her simply because she has the same genitalia as the former first lady. Sarah Palin can't hold a candle to Hillary intellectually and she sure as hell can't give liberal or moderate women who study the issues a single decent reason to vote for her. The blatant pandering makes me want to throw up.

Welcome to the Kenneth James Kirsch Author Blog!

Welcome to my blog. I'll try to keep it short. I don't have time to waste my time or yours!

I'll cover a lot here and welcome comments:

1. BOOKS: First off, I'll tell you about my book. I just published my first novel, Demon Alcohol and the Monstermen. It's the tale of a Russian little girl, Leysa Henko, who immigrates to America in 1917 with her family and is terrorized by the town's alcoholic miscreants, the Monstermen. I may even post the random excerpt from time to time.

It's available on,, and, among other book selling sites.

2. POLITICS: I'm a very free thinker. Liberal on some causes, conservative on others. Somewhere in between on most.

3. OTHER AUTHORS: I'll tell you what I'm reading, why I like it, who I've heard about, and how I heard about them.

4. PROMOTIONAL APPEARANCES: I do radio shows from time to time and discuss the issue of alcoholism and child endangerment dealt with in my book. I hope you'll tune in.

Also, I'm participating in a new service called Authors Promoting Authors, a new blog-specific promotional avenue for authors. I hope you'll follow me over there.

5. FOOTBALL: Love it. Take it very seriously. Big Cowboys fan.

6. WHATEVER YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT: Post comments and they could very well become a topic.