Sunday, November 1, 2009

Arizona Recap

It's November 1st, the first day of National Novel Writing Month. As a NaNoWriMo participant, I really should be charging into my next novel today, but as a procrastinator I'm blogging about my trip first. Any other NaNo folks, by the way, can buddy me if you'd like to. I'd buddy you, but I haven't figured out how. Still, consider yourselves loved.

Moving on.

This trip was planned to kill two birds with one stone. I was invited to sign at the Poisoned Pen and thought a good time to do that would be when a nearby drop zone, Skydive Arizona, had their Halloween Carnivale, because lots of skydivers would be there and maybe I could interest them in Final Approach. The downer of this plan meant missing Halloween with my kids.

Mid-afternoon Friday I landed in Phoenix and, through the magic that is GPS, managed to find my hotel with only minor detours. The weather was incredible, so I went for a run. I actually ran from my hotel to the bookstore and back, mainly for fun but also so I'd know where I was going later. Saw a few bikes, but no other runners. I guess folks don't normally run through the cute little shopping districts. Not much of a shopper, so what do I know.

Not long afterward I met my publisher, Rob Rosenwald, and editor, Barbara Peters, for the first time, which was fantastic. Rob took me for a ride in his cute yellow Smart Car. I think those are the coolest little cars so getting to ride in one was a treat. Rob stayed and had a glass of wine with Barbara and I and then left us alone to enjoy dinner and talk about publishing and book projects. I liked hearing her thoughts about book selling, editing, and planning out a series. We spoke about future plans for my main character, Emily Locke, and talked about a timeline for the next book and long-term plans for how and when to finish the series.

From there we went to the Poisoned Pen, where Rob and Barbara had warned me we may not have a crowd. It was the Friday night before Halloween after all, and local bars were likely to pull in any foot traffic off the streets. Being a long-time soccer mom, who looks forward to quiet Friday evenings now, it hadn't occurred to me that planning a signing for the Friday before Halloween might not have been the wisest choice. So the rest of the world is still partying? Really?

Anyway, we had a few. Jessica Tribble, my associate publisher, joined us and that excited me to no end because I just adore her. Plus, I think she might be my long lost twin, only younger and much better read. Barbara treated the group to drinks and snacks at a restaurant next door. We sat outside, under the most entrancing heat lamps I have ever seen, and talked about Final Approach in the fresh night air. Since the group was small, we were able to talk in depth about many things. A few folks were also new writers, and it was nice to be able to talk with them about writing and publishing, in addition to talking to them about this particular book and series. The Internet came through once again as I was finally able to meet my friend Sian in person after months of Twittering and Facebooking. Very fun.

Saturday morning I drove down to Eloy and enjoyed the novel desert landscape and some loud country music. I found the drop zone, this time thanks to their good website directions because they're so far off the beaten path (as most drop zones are) that GPS couldn't save me. The friendly staff helped me set up a little table and I settled in to watch the skydivers and maybe sell a few books. Winds were high, over twenty knots, so for a while nobody could jump. The optimistic part of me thought that maybe the grounded skydivers would wander past my table and take an interest in the book.

Not so much.

Skydivers were there to skydive, not to buy books. Lots of people came by to ask about the book, some expressed interest, most ate the candy I had there, but only one bought the book. One showed more interest in the book I was reading than he did in mine. I've given a lot of thought to this since yesterday and have decided that, rather than view this as an ego crusher or big disappointment, I will consider it an exercise in humility enhancement.

So I missed Halloween with my kids to sell a single book. Maybe the biggest dose of Mom Guilt yet. I'm still so glad I made the trip, because it was completely worth it to finally meet Rob, Barbara, Jessica, and Sian in person. But if I could turn back time with the benefit of hindsight, I'd have flown back to Houston on Saturday morning and been home in time for trick-or-treating. Then I'd have had both the highlight of my trip as well as the time with my kiddos.

The experience also reinforced what I already knew. My main concern in the whole writing endeavor is coming through for my publisher and the indie stores. When the book launched in Houston, I didn't want to disappoint the store by not turning out a crowd. Same feeling in Scottsdale. A small crowd is always fine, but no crowd would have been hard--not so much for me--but because I'd have felt badly about the staff's efforts. Eloy was a mixed animal. The worst part of that experience was driving back to Scottsdale wondering how to break it to the book store staff that I sold one book. Patrick was a sport. Smiled and laughed with me and wished me a good weekend.

Humility enhancement.


  1. It's like when I used to play golf. If I had a particularly bad round, as I walked off the course, I always tried to think about what I learned that day. Since I usually had a particularly bad round, you would be absolutely amazed at how much I know about golf, at least how not to play it. And how not to do something can be at least as valuable as how to do it.

    So here is what you learned: don't do signing on Fridays, especially before a holiday. Don't waste your time going to jumps, or, in the future, health clubs or marathons, tri-athalons, or Mt. Everest climbing expeditions, depending on your setting, because your market is readers, not participants, unless they are also readers.

    On the bright side, you got meet your team, spend quality time with Barbara at a critical time in your next project, which will no doubt improve it, and you got to have a king-sized bed to yourself for a night (not a small thing). As for missing Halloween, just have your kids put on their costumes, eat chocolate and buzz around the house until you're screaming ENOUGH. It will be like you never went away.

    I'm probably not the one to talk to about missed Halloweens, however, because I haven't had much affection for the holiday since my own son almost got killed at a Halloween party when he was three. He was Batman that year, and had a very long cape. The party room in our apartment building in New York was accessed through the front room of the health club, which held all of the aerobic machines, bikes, rowing machines, treadmills. A person was using a treadmill as he walked by, his cape caught in the back roller, and he was reeled in--by the neck--like a small fish on a motorized reel. He landed on his side, which is the only thing that saved him, so the cape was cutting into the side of his neck, not his larynx. Had he landed on his back he most likely would have been killed instantly. Since then, the whole Halloween and costumes thing has scared me.

  2. David,

    Exactly. It was a good learning experience. And timing for meeting with Barbara couldn't have been better. This story of your three-year-old Batman bothers me. I had a three-year-old Batman this year. Were you a Seinfeld fan? It draws to mind the quote from the show: "Who wears a cape?" I'm glad he wasn't hurt more seriously and can surely appreciate your Halloween aversion. The kids came out unscathed by my absence, as evidenced by the three full grocery bags of candy on my couch right now.