Sunday, March 30, 2014

Ready Or Not, Here We Come!

Okay, we are just about set for the Road Show.

No, that's a complete lie. We are miles away from being about set.

And where are we going to fit this mountain of stuff we've got staged for loading into the van? The back seat it removed, but it's still going to be tight. We've got customized drum heads for each of the stores, a huge box of Sammy Keyes shoelaces (not to mention ten pounds of horseshoe charms to go with them), 20 cartons of hardcover Sammy Keyes and the Night of Skulls and 10 cartons of hardcover Swear to Howdys to raffle off at stores (and give away to random strangers at red lights and rest stops...can't wait for that part!). Then there are our (large) suitcases, plus equipment, a big box of books on tape and CDs (for all that "windshield time"), bags and bags of necessary stuff, a box of road snacks and...and...and...a hose.

Yes, I packed a hose.

(We're not supposed to take the van through a car wash. It's one of those super-shrinking kind.)

Really hope to see you at one of the tour stops, but if we're not coming to your area on this loop you can follow along.on Facebook at SammyKeyesBooks, and on Twitter at @WendelinVanD (for the "she said" perspective) and @MarkHParsons (for the "he said)-- we'll be very active there. Please help spread the word!

And now I'm off to find a giant shoehorn.
Or a vanhorn.
(Wait, there's one of those on the steering wheel.)

Anyway, ready or (like me) not,  here we come!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Call the FBI!

I'm in Indiana. Flew here today.

So, why am I in Indiana now when I'm leaving on tour in the radically quick blink of an eye and will be here in the crazy van next month?

Because of the FBI guy.

Regular readers will remember him. The one stuck sitting beside me on a flight to Arkansas? The one who thought I was psycho? (Here's a refresher--or introduction--for anyone who wants one.)

Well, it turns out his daughter took my e-mail (which I wrote after the FBI guy's nice wife sent me a nice letter of thanks for the box of books this psycho author sent) to her school's librarian and the school's librarian (who happened to already have something like 150 copies of Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief for class sets), started looking into having me do a school visit.

And here I am in Indiana.

I wonder if the FBI guy will show up. Maybe I should do something clandestine. Or go missing! Yeah, what if I went missing (but still knew where I was, so it would be okay, okay?) and they sent out the (da-da-da-da) FBI!

Clearly, I need to get some rest before tomorrow, so I will keep this short and say, Goodnight from Indiana!

(And from me, too!)

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Follow Us to Pooh's Corner

I want you to know I listen. And try to remember. And use notes and files to help me remember!

I don't always succeed, but I want you to know I try.


Example: For the Southern Loop of the upcoming "He Said, She Said" tour Mark wanted to turn back after our stops in Alabama, but we decided to go east as far as Atlanta for two reasons:

1) I was supposed to visit Little Shop of Stories in Decatur, GA in January 2011 on The Running Dream tour, and although I made it to Atlanta there was a 'freak storm' and I was iced in, stuck in my hotel room for 3 days.

2) Our faithful blogette, Jessica, is in the Atlanta area and asked us to.

Before we leave on the Southern Loop, we wanted to send initial queries to the Northern Loop stores. We picked out a logical route and because of the time frame between the release of Sammy Keyes and the Kiss Goodbye (9/9/14), and warnings about November weather (snow!) in the northern states, we determined that we had to turn back after St. Paul, MN.

But my really good friend's friends and family live in Madison, WI. "Please, please, please, can we go to Madison?" I asked (well, okay, begged) Mark. "It's not that much farther!"

"Have you looked at the map?!" he asked, implying that I needed to get real..

"It's only a few inches away!" I said, giving him my best happy puppy look.

"Very funny."

As motivational backup, I called my friend. She called her peeps. Pretty soon I was forwarding to Mark a barrage of e-mails about us must-going to Madison.

So Madison, WI got a little orange dot on our map.(Mere inches, I'll have you know, from the orange dot on St. Paul.).And I sorta assured Mark (h-hm, promised?) that that was the very farthest we would go. I was all for turning back after Madison. After all, I have zero experience driving in ice or snow.

So we finished planning the route back west, putting up little orange dots through Iowa and Nebraska and Wyoming. It was logical. No upping or downing. Or backing and forthing. Much more streamlined than the Southern Loop.

And then...

Yes, and then.

I went through my saved correspondences making sure we had listened to all the requests from people wanting to get their Sammys signed.

"Uh...where's Grand Rapids?" I asked across my desk over to Mark's.


He didn't even look at me, or ask why.

I sighed. And stayed quiet.

"We're turning back at Madison," he said.

I sighed. "I know." But then I just couldn't take it. "Just read this," I said, handing over the binder with saved correspondence.

To his credit, he took it. And then he sighed. "Pooh's Corner?"

I nodded. "We'll have to go through the Hundred Acre Wood to get there."

Either that, or take a ferry over Lake Michigan.

It wasn't going to be easy. Or cheap.

But then he read the letter. And after a few mild curses he knew there was no getting around it.

We had to go to Pooh's Corner.

Any bookseller who loves Sammy Keyes as much as this one does (and for all the right reasons), has been hand selling my books since the first one came out, and tells everyone looking for books with strong female characters about Sammy Keyes should be on The List if at all possible.

And this was possible.

Just not easy.

Or cheap.

Anyway, please know that if you wrote me, I tried. If your town / bookstore doesn't wind up on either loop it's not for a lack of wanting to visit. We've spent hours and hours trying to accommodate as many requests as possible.

If you haven't seen it already, here's the Southern Loop schedule. For the Northern Loop we should have a tentative list sometime...soon. Or at least a picture of a map with dots!

And if your bookstore / town is on either list. please turn out! And bring your friends. Forward the schedule. Please tell people! There is no "next time." This is it, and after all we've put into making this happen, it sure would be nice if people turned out.

Hope to see you at Pooh's Corner. Or somewhere in your neck of the Million Acre Wood.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

A Little Boost

I tend to throw myself into things.

Not Dumpsters...although I have been known to pull a Sammy Keyes with those, too.

No, I'm talking about ideas. I get an idea about something and before you know it I've thrown myself into it and work, work, work until it's a reality.

Name any book I've written, and that was my process.

The Exercise the Right to Read campaign was like that. Building the website, getting schools to participate, running the marathon...

26.2 miles? Whose crazy idea was that?

The "Pirate Party" was like that--something I did as a celebration of the "halfway" point in the Sammy Keyes series (which was for Dead Giveaway, which is pirate-y in a Billy Pratt sort of way, which turned out to be the 5/9 point in the series, not the half, but I didn't know that at the time).

Mark & me (and Valerie Lewis of Hicklebee's, San Jose)
The Pirate Party was insane. We rented a ship and cruised around the harbor with booksellers and librarians from all over the country. Nancy and my agent, Ginger, flew in from NYC. It was so much fun, and I gained a whole new appreciation for booksellers and librarians because they ALL dressed in "pirate" -- and totally outdid my costume (although Mark's was majorly awesome).

There was also the Flipped premiere that I hosted at a local indie theater. O-ver-board again! (And nary a pirate in sight.) I was on my hands and knees (as were Mark and Nancy) pasting down our own Avenue of Stars for the guests -- again, people who'd been supportive of my career over the years.

The stars from the Flipped movie
And now there's the tour(s). Good grief. Can I just relax a little? Do I really have to get the family van wrapped in books? Do I really have to make posters and fliers and postcards and do all the things I can think of to make the stores happy they hosted us?

Well, apparently, yes.

Maybe I am just a serial overdoer. Maybe I have an unhealthy need to please. Maybe I'm afraid of failure. There's probably some deep-seated psychological reason why I do the things I do, but there are also rational reasons. What contributes to this insane tour of independent bookstores is having grown up in a family that ran a small business. It instilled in me an appreciation for what it takes to make a small business work. It's not an easy thing.

There's also the matter of saying thank you. Sammy Keyes is (or soon will be) 18 books strong. Some of these booksellers have been hand-selling my work since Hotel Thief came out in 1998. I think a thank you is definitely in order.

Some of the stores we've called to see if they'd like to have us visit are, like, "Why are you coming to [Small Town, USA]?" It's hard to explain to someone who doesn't know you or understand that the awards on your books haven't put a barrier between you and remembering what it's like to balance the books of a small business. It's hard to explain the bit about 'thank you'.

The "He Said, She Said" Road Show Wagon!
Some owners are suspicious in a What-Do-You-Want-From-Me? sort of way.

It's been interesting.

And understandable, which is too bad.

Right now, Mark's researching Wind City Books in Caspar, Wyoming. He's super good at this researching stuff. When he's going through a store's website or Facebook pages, he often calls out things like, "I love this place!" or, "Look at this beautiful high ceiling!" or, "Check it out! They have a dog!"

(Indie stores: If you have a resident dog, we will come.)

Wind City Books looks like a cool little indie. So does Main St. Books in Lander. (Mark tells me they have the bonus feature of a coffee bar, and if you've seen our Spring tour routing, you know why this is of interest to him.)

We'll probably call these Fall tour stores next week, because we have to get that ball rolling before we leave on the Spring tour. Maybe they'll be suspicious. Maybe they'll be excited. Either way, we'll do our best to win them over and give them a little boost in faith that sometimes people just want to say "We get it," and "Thank you."

Sunday, March 2, 2014

New Process

When the ARCs (advance reader's copies) for Sammy Keyes and the Kiss Goodbye arrived I cried (again). It just sort of hit me (again). But they arrived with the re-copy-edited manuscript, which meant that I had to quit ignoring that, although the story was already bound as a pre-book, it was not yet a book and I had work to do.

This was the first book in all the times I've been through this (seemingly endless) revision process that I received the ARCs along with the manuscript. So it set up a  new process for me, without me even realizing it.

Usually, I get the manuscript and I go through all the mark-ups and weigh what's been suggested (and wonder if the comma that's been edited out wasn't one that was put in by a different copy editor during the previous go-round).

This time, I had the ARC in front of me, too, and (just for ''fun') I picked it up and started reading it. It sucked me right in! But by the end of the first chapter I'd already noticed three little things that I thought could use tweaking.

So I checked the manuscript to see if the copy editor had noticed those tweakable areas, and sure enough, there were notes by two of them. Which showed me that I wasn't just being picky. If I stumbled and she stumbled, some smoothing definitely needed to be done.

What I wound up doing, was reading a chapter of the clean version ARC (with no notes from anybody), making corrections in the ARC as I saw fit, then turning to the manuscript and going through the copy editor's notes and suggestions. There was always some overlap, plus I got the benefit of being able to read the story for flow and humor and sense (like, is it clear to whom that pronoun is referring?), without the distractions of other people's notes.

It took me over 30 books to discover it, but I really like this new process.

And I really like this book.

I know that statement will drive some of you crazy (because you're dying to read the book, not because you think I'm an egomaniac), but this book makes the series feel whole. I know I said before that I thought I should maybe stop after Sin City because I loved the way it ended, but writing Killer Cruise was very satisfying in the Sammy/dad arena, and now with Kiss Goodbye, I know it really is time.

That didn't mean I didn't cry (again) when I read the last page.

And I predict that 191 days from today, you (my beloved Sammiacs) will, too.