Sunday, April 27, 2014

Tour, Week 4 (Reflections)

Thunder and lightning, very, very frightening!

And yesterday was a beautiful, sunny day.

But it all feels like a big, wonderful adventure, with great people at every stop (especially the Sammiacs!). Yesterday's host in Franklin, TN was a Southern gentleman (who looks remarkably like Col Sanders of KFC) and fended off blimp-sized bumblebees with a little badminton racket. You can't make up some of the stuff we've seen, which (I think) is why it's important for writers to get away from their desks and absorb the real world. I don't know if there'll ever be a guy like this bookseller in a story I write, but there he is, in the back of my mind, with his little racket. And blimp-sized bees.

Part of this week's adventure included touring Graceland, which was way better than I thought it would be. Despite Elvis appearing in the Sammy Keyes series, I don't really have a thing for Elvis, so it wasn't like I was dying to tour Graceland. I was expecting over the top opulence, but it wasn't that way. I was fascinated by how the kitchen (which was a very busy place in Elvis's time) seemed small and functional and like something out of a tract house from the seventies.

I did, however, squeal, "The Heavenly Hotel!" when we came to the mirror-lined staircase. Man, I'm going to miss that place. (The Heavenly, not Graceland.)


Bonus remark from this week: The daughter of a bookseller in Georgia is a big Sammy Keyes fan and got her hands on an ARC of Kiss Goodbye and told me it was her favorite one.

Her favorite one!

It's not easy to wrap up an 18 book series, but this gives me hope that I've done it right.

And in other news...

I met a teacher this week who has 300 copies of Sammy Keyes books.

Did you read that right?

Yes! She buys them up and forces them on people. She is a believer. She came to an event and when I asked her why she liked Sammy Keyes, she launched into such an impassioned speech about the importance of the series that I wish I'd had a video recorder going. I've been explaining that Sammy is not just a mystery series--that there's something bigger and deeper there--but people like to put things in little boxes. Mark did get a little of this teacher on video after the program for a trailer we're hoping to put together for Kiss Goodbye, but if I'd caught what she said during the discussion, I could just press play and tell people, here, just listen to this teacher.

Sammiacs, I've determined have a remarkable ability to grow hair. Three of the ones I've met this week have amazing hair. And that doesn't include the long-haired boy who brought his collection for me to sign.

Tomorrow we go on Memphis morning news. The host said she wanted to interview us outside  the station to include the van, but since we're experiencing "extreme weather" that may not happen. And then we're off to Arkansas!

That's all for now. Thanks for checking in! And for those of you who came out to see us this week, THANK YOU! It has been so wonderful to meet all of you.

See you in the comments!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Tour, Week 3

We've seen so much this week! From thunder and lightning in Houston, TX to a remarkably sad and beautiful Civil War Cemetery in Vicksburg, MS to lush green trees and wildflowers in the meridian of highways across the south, to a historic house attached to the governor's mansion where the authors of the Alabama Book Festival were treated to a lovely meet-and-greet (with "heavy hors d'oeuvres").

Today, though, was something ... unforgettable. There was the not-so-small matter of reconnecting with the "Swear to Howdy ladies" -- the women who first introduced me to Southern hospitality and helped me with the research of Swear to Howdy. It was so wonderful to see them again and they, once again, spoiled me!

But this morning we went to Easter service at the 16th Street Baptist Church. (For you young'uns who aren't aware of the historical significance of this church, I urge you to take a little sidetrack and read this right now.)

Across the street from the church there's a park with a joyful monument honoring  the young girls who were killed during the bombing. I was already crying from across the little plaza, and that didn't get any better as I got closer.

What a horrible time. What a horrible act. What a horrible tragedy for the families.

And yet, the girls are captured there so joyfully. Like their youthful spirit lives on. And freedom does ring.

I love everything about the installation, but the shoes taken off and placed aside really capture something about childhood, joy, and freedom.

I love those shoes.

The 16 St. Baptist Church

Today's Service--the music was fantastic!

A memorial for the 4 girls by the church door where the bomb was placed.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Tour, Week 2 (Texas Big Hair & Other Random Thoughts)

I "Booked" a lady working the gas station's deli counter today. She seemed a little tired. Like she could use a random act of kindness.

In return I got the biggest baked potato I've ever seen, and a smile to match.

I love Booking people. It just makes my day!

One girl I Booked outside a restaurant messaged me after realizing that I was the author of one of her favorite books. I was already gone. Whoosh! I'm like a ninja gifter--swift, and maybe a little scary.

Probably a lot scary.

I know I was to the family trying to eat donuts in the 70/70 (temp/humidity) Texas morning outside Round Rock Donuts in (you got it) Round Rock, TX. When I Booked 'em there were donut bits lingering on chins and big bites halted mid-squish.

At least nobody choked.

There was a woman in a gas station/food mart bathroom that looked like she could use a cheering up, but somehow getting Booked in a bathroom seemed like it might not go over too well.

(I'm chuckling here, thinking about handing one under the stall divider. Yeah, that would be a little psycho, even for me.)

Other random thoughts, to share with you, my blogettes...

I understand why a lot of Texas women sport big hair. It's not just to keep with the "everything's bigger in Texas" motto. Uh-uh. It's the humidity. You should see my hair. Limp-Locks here has Texas-sized hair. It's up and out and proud. Like a head of six-shooters sticking out every which way, ready for action.

(There's no taming Texas hair. Just go with it, girls. You fight it, you will lose.)

The guy who announced us at BookPeople in Austin was crazy. (Random thoughts, I tell you. Don't expect segues!) He stood on the table to announce us, and the introduction was so funny. And he instantly laced the Sammy Keyes shoelaces I gave him into his high-tops. 'Nuff said!


That's all.

Well, other than that it's drying right now.

Tumble, tumble.

Living out of suitcases is an art.

I'm in the finger-painting phase.


Toll charges in Texas are confusing, stressful, and unfriendly. No instructions. No booth people to approach for clarification. Just confusing lanes and flashing lights and honking horns. If we come home to tickets for toll violations, I'm gonna march my Texas hair back to the Lone Star State and have some big words with the Toll Rangers. Their system stinks.

And that is all for tonight! Tomorrow is a huge day, with 3 presentations and a long drive into Louisiana.

It is also our son's birthday.

The first one we'll have missed since his birth-day.

And before I get all sad about that again, let me say thank you so much for checking in, and good night!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Tour, Week 1

The Earth w/o Art is Just ...Eh
This tour is crazy!

Why did all of you know that before I did?

And I took such efforts to be organized, too. Why can't I find anything?

At least the store visits have gone well. Four days, four stores...and we have met some outstanding people.

And four Sammiacs! (Well, five, if you count one of the  moms, who was up to speed on all things Sammy, too.) I am so excited to have met them in person, and it was wonderful to hand off custom Sammy Keyes shoelaces and horseshoes.

And Mark's book has gotten a great reception, which has been wonderful. Booksellers pre-read his book because he was coming and seem almost surprised when they say, "I really like your book!" Like they weren't expecting a book about a band on the road to resonate with them. Surprise!

My favorite thing so far (besides meeting Sammiacs) has been doing the "Booked" giveaways. It's like reverse punking. You go up to someone out of the blue and give them a book. I've taped a yellow slip of paper (like mini-caution tape) to each book that says, "You've Just Been Booked." Then I've been randomly giving books away at intersections, rest stops, and gas stations. Our van is packed to the gills with stuff, but by the time we get back home it will be mostly empty. There are boxes and boxes of "Booked" books, plus all the stuff we're giving away at the book signings. It's a pretty epic sleigh of stuff!

I've also really been enjoying our "windshield time" -- just driving across our country. The scenery changes so much in fairly short distances, and I'm really enjoying soaking it all in. (I may have a different view of this after the next two days, because we're going through New Mexico and across Texas. And even I know that Texas is more than a few inches wide!)

We've been doing a jogging tour of each new location, and in Prescott (at over a mile high, elevation wise), I was a winded l'il sea-level dweller. I love doing a jogging tour of new places because you see things you wouldn't normally see just driving around. Like the welding place in the picture. I could build a whole story around that place, and I like people/places that intrigue me in that way. What's the story here? What's the back story here? Don't you just want to know?

Anyway, enough for now! I've got so much to do before we hit the highway early tomorrow. Thanks for checking in, and to the Sammiacs who came to the events -- if you want to identify yourselves by all means, comment away. I'm hoping to meet more of you next week...

Meanwhile, keep your eye out for the tour van--maybe you'll get Booked!