No Dead Poets in Deadwood


South Dakota Festival of Books, Deadwood SD September 25-27

I don’t do a lot of book events anymore.  During my first novel, every bookstore I did a signing at closed, or so it seemed, so I decided I’d spare them the insult that I was apparently causing, and stay away.  This event seemed like something to do so we made a weekend out of it in the hills, and my daughter, wife and I all made the 7 hour journey to Deadwood.

This event rotates between Sioux Falls and Deadwood and well the Sioux Falls gathering seems to have a bigger and a spendier crowd, but well…. who knows?  The Buffalo Roundup was also being held at Wind Cave NPark as was some Crazy Horse march….IDK, maybe should have stayed home but heck…..

While I sat and watched the people mill by and generally not buy anything, from me nor anyone, I made a survey of people at my booth.  Back the last time I did this event I got beat up by lesbians over the symbols on my novel, Marks of the Forbidden, which is a long and really weird story.  I also got inundated with aspiring (desperate?) authors looking for me to publish them….I had to literally throw a manuscript at a guy, and to literally through literature is not a good thing.

Here, I got handed a recipe for “cashew beef” which I learned elsewhere isn’t copyright-able.  You can not copyright a recipe…who knew?  I got a 2016 Calendar of flowers given to me….not sure why.

I struck up three conversations about owls, then a fourth, mostly owls in the person’s yards but in one case it was a discussion about whether an owl would be scared of a bear…?  I kept going with it hoping for a sale…no sale.  I talked about horses, and about people in Milbank I knew and some I didn’t know.  I talked about the Blue Cloud Abbey, a place I wasn’t nice to in my book Anders Zorn: Unveiled.  One guy I even talked about Sweden with, in his case, he was an exchange student on Lake Vannern.  All of these people had one thing in common, they didn’t buy anything.

I talked to a woman about where she could learn Swedish (Sweden maybe?), I got a possible invite to a bird event, and was even told the South Dakota Magazine would be interested in me, but alas…I’ve been there before.  I won’t get an email and nobody will call..oh well, it is what it is and that the way it is…promises…no calls.

Now I had a couple of people literally run away from my booth, and I even had one that admitted that the story sounded good but being Dutch Reformed, she couldn’t have anything like that in her house.  I was thinking of asking what “that” was or noting the fact that my best fan is a Dutch Reformed Naturist but I let it drop.  I had a woman who wanted some advise about camera lens so I had the opportunity to waste time with her explaining the price point of lens for her, and she was on such a budget.  It amazes me each time I do this how long I can talk to someone about life, Milbank, kids, my books, birding, and even with a personal connection…they don’t buy.  I’d hate to be selling these people food.  They take the literature but it seems like for them, buying a book is just short of a marriage to these people, commitment issues with books or something….this is only a $16 investment, it isn’t like a new car……whew!  I guess the FED is right, the economy sucks, but these same people are busily gambling at the slots…Luckily there was other things for me to do.

SD Poetry Society Open Mic

sd poetry


Where do bookish English majors go after hours in the seedy place like Deadwood?  Poetry readings..?….We went to a poetry event, no this wasn’t either the Dead or Deadwood Poet Society it was sponsored by the SD Poetry Society and they had an open Mic where anyone, well seemingly anyone (I didn’t sign up so they could have kicked me off, IDK) could go up and recite their poetry.  It was actually very good.  Many of the poets present have quite a bit of talent.  Above is Bruce Roseland, the “Cowboy Poet” reading one of his pieces.  The only interesting thing was one woman from Sioux falls via Mississippi, apologizing for swear words and then announcing that everyone present was adults, and then went on.  I wanted to cover over my 15yo daughter’s ears mockingly but she has seen and heard more than a 15yo probably should…..more, I guess, to discuss with her therapist if she needs one.

On the way out of the event we walked past a sign advertising a concert, REO Speedwagon.


Suddenly I felt nauseated.  Of all the bands of the 80s, all of them… Nothing, and I repeat NOTHING was worse, more lame, sickening, than REO Speedwagon.  I even destroyed one of their albums (thank GOD!) at good ol’ WRPN FM 90.1 in my days as DR. Diskord,  Gosh….that band sucked.  I even did a parody of their title song “I can’t fight this feeling”  I spare you all but the chorus…

“Because I can’t stand this singing anymore”

I’ve forgotten what I started dying for

“Holding my head I fall upon the floor

“Come crashing through the door

“;cause I can’t stand this song anymore”

I guess I could have said this at the open Mic for poetry but they would have really in all likelihood gave me the boot, quality South Dakota Poets and this…………I would prefer to let REO die a slow and painful death………..

We looked a little around town…

Deadwood SD Highlights


There are slot machines everywhere but as far as i can tell there are no “Titty Bars” in town despite many names that would allude to such, I think the girls got kicked out 100 years ago and all that remains in Kevin Costner and some casinos with retirees gambling.  This is NO Las Vegas

Of Course the stand by historical person in town is Wild Bill Hikkock who got shot here before Deadwood was even a in a territory, was actually an illegal settlement but due to the gold, the Native Americans first got pushed out, then they got mad and Custer got massacred and then the Natives got even more massacred BUT George Hearst et al got rich.  So in America, that is what really mattered.

wild bill

Wild Bill’s grave, with Silja standing in front, my daughter couldn’t get out of bed on Saturday morning.


View of Deadwood from Mt Moriah Cemetery






We spent my “profits” Saturday night at the Roundhouse, my daughters favorite restaurant in Lead.  I had no hope of actually breaking even and this has been usually my best book event, and I’m a pretty good table talker but book buyers are a tough crowd, here tougher.

Now I wasn’t shut out, I did sell some books, but I would not be surprised that the 13 books I sold were about the best results for anyone.  I would have probably done better if the people next to me had actually showed up, or I got a better position, or if many on my row hadn’t punted and went home early, or..or..or..if…if…if….but who knows?

Now, I know some of the stuff people write is probably good but, good or not, some of this literature just will never sell, and to be honest, fiction is a really tough sell, kids books are an even tougher sell, dog stories on the Colorado River….?  C’mon folks……A couple of my older novels were never even picked up once the whole event.  I bet I had 200 laughs for people reading my title Boobies, Peckers, and Tits though, a laugh and a chuckle though doesn’t get you a sale but that was payment enough and it was fun telling the story and it was nice people telling me that sounds like an interesting adventure but for such a few amount of people to actually purchase something.  I used to think it was just that people don’t read anymore but this was a book festival.  It was amazing to think, that many people said they would find my experience amazing, but well they didn’t think it was amazingly enough to take the adventure home.

I was also surprised that no one admitted to being a nudist during the whole event, although one children’s book illustrator almost..almost came out to me, she bought my book so she is okay with me..

On a good note, I didn’t have anyone yell at me for being offensive, I had no tiffs with lesbians, and in general short of my poetry experience and the painful flashback to REOS nothing odd happened, by and large it was fun talking to everyone.  My advise to anyone thinking of making writing a career…..don’t quit your day job,……I call fiction writing my addiction because just like drugs, alcohol, or whatever, you end up in the same place, the gutter and poor.   For a South Dakota author in the age of Amazon without a connection to Manhattan to sell a book, a fictional book…yea…….get real.

Me?  I’ll be waiting by the phone for some of these calls I was promised..yea….not!


5 thoughts on “No Dead Poets in Deadwood

  1. REOS worst band ever? Come on there are many contenders for that honor, all of which are more acutely painful to listen to. Try being trapped in a car with a fan of Black-eyed peas, Pearl Jam, and Phish, all vomit inducing Grateful Dead wannabes. Making the case for a ban on any performance of funk metal let’s include the Red Hot Chilis. As a former DJ, Styx, Wings, and Rush should be high on your unlistenable list. Don’t get me started on Bruce Springsteen who stole his stage moves from Van Morrison, sound from Bob Dylan, and lyrics from Neal Young. REOS was the biggest selling band in the world one year (1973?) and has sold more albums than Agatha Christie has books. (Although if sales were the measure of greatness we’d all be kneeling at the feet of the Eagles and Tom Petty, two very average pop acts). Happy book touring. Bill

    • Okay, Captain Beefheart would be worse..I know. Maybe it was just that sickly song I loathed and so I turned them all off, gives me the willies just thinking about it and I was a DJ way back….My roomate in College Hugo hated hated Alabama, threw their records out the window, scratched them, refused to play when they came up, but again they sold well………black-eyed peas I can listen to never done phish, afraid to try…….O

  2. It just doesn’t seem that people in a place called Deadwood would be your target audience. Not that I know…, just saying…
    Might have better luck finding your people in Seattle (solstice arts festival), or Portland (the west one), or San Fran…, but as for Deadwood, I assume you’re out for the adventure, not for the sales.
    Don’t despair though. Please put a copy of your last two aside for me. I’m thinking having a copy of all the published works will make my set more valuable ;-)

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