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Doing Dallas for HELLHOLE

Published March 31, 2011 in Writing - 0 Comments

Two cities left of the 13 cities, and I still have energy.  In fact, with great turnouts in Chicago and Atlanta, I got a boost to keep trudging along on the marathon.  And last night’s signing in Dallas drew the biggest crowd of the whole tour—so far. Houston, you have a last chance to kick it up a notch tonight.

When I started out on this journey, it sounded like a good idea to post a blog with photos every day.  Within a few days, however, I began to realize that I had locked myself in.  Each night before I go to bed (at whatever time it happens to be), I dig out the cable and download all the photos from the camera; each morning, after getting up early and throwing everything back into the suitcase, I type these summaries in the back seat of the cab taking me to the airport.  After I check in and get through security, I find a place with a wireless signal (often a weak one) and upload the blog and optimized photos…often sweating and watching the progress bar crawl while my flight is being called and I’m supposed to get on the plane.

But I hope it gives you thorough picture of just what’s involved in meeting the fans and promoting a book.  A writer no longer gets to relax in an isolated cabin while the publisher does all the promotion; a large share of that is now part of a team effort (and sometimes the author has to do it all himself).

I flew from Atlanta to Dallas on American Airlines (I almost always fly United), and was pleasantly surprised to find that American has planes equipped with WiFi during the flight. Twitter and some services were free, or full web/email access was $9.99.  How civilized—United, get your act together!  (And stop telling me I have to switch off my Kindle reader during the beginning and end of the flight…it has the energy output of a digital watch, and you’re worried it’s going to bring down the plane?)  During the flight I did another revision of the Writers of the Future intro video script, answered the questions in an interview, and actually took some time to read part of a book manuscript from new author Saladin Ahmed (whose writing I very much admire).

After gathering my luggage, I met Kathleen, my media escort for the day. Because of the sprawling urban area around Dallas-Fort Worth, it would take us a long time to get from one store to the next, so we could reach only six dropby stores that day.  We managed two before lunch—and that one was a milestone, the one hundredth bookstore we had hit since the release of Hellhole.

Then I allowed myself a treat, having lunch with my friend Marisol Nichols—a Terra Incognita fan and a talented actress, who has been in The Gates, 24, Blind Justice, and others; she’s in Dallas shooting the pilot for a new show based on the bestselling book Good Christian Bitches (the show is from the creator of Sex and the City).  It was an oasis of non-work…and then Kathleen and I were off to visit more bookstores (four total that afternoon).

With Marisol Nichols

For dinner I met with two alumni from the Superstars Writing Seminars, Gama Martinez and Stone Sanchez, who live in the Dallas area.  We went to a local barbecue place…I was in Texas, after all.

Gama Martinez, Kevin J. Anderson, Stone Sanchez, Dominic Sanchez

The signing venue, Borders in Allen, TX, was already crowded by the time we arrived.  I realized that I haven’t been to the Dallas area for a signing in about fifteen years.  My last time here was for my space-shuttle thriller Ignition, written with Doug Beason, and since I had been receiving a lot of mail from fans asking why my tours never go to Texas, I asked Tor to add Dallas and Houston to the circuit.  A good choice!

I went into the bookstore’s back room to say Hi to the 501sters who were changing into armor and outfits—ten troopers, bike troopers, TIE pilots, a crimson Imperial guard, a Darth Vader, and four Mandalorian bounty hunters, fourteen in all.  They gave me a Star Garrison polo shirt with my initials embroidered on the sleeve (and yes, at this point in the tour, I could use a clean shirt!).  The full contingent escorted me out to the podium for my talk.

The audience took plenty of photos of the Star Wars characters, and I posed with the full group, then with just the four Boba Fetts.  They surprised me by presenting a beautiful engraved plaque inducting me as an honorary member in the Mandalorian Mercs, the Star Wars fan contingent of Boba Fett/Mandalorian costumers. I’ve been an honorary member of the 501st Legion for some time, and I am very pleased to be included among the bounty hunter scum as well.

I stayed late to autograph everybody’s books as well as the store stock—a wide range of Dune, Seven Suns, Terra Incognita, Star Wars, Batman and Superman…several of the stormtroopers asked me to sign the insides of their helmets.  Kathleen finally dropped me back at the hotel by 10 PM, and I took the time to unpack and then repack my whole suitcase.  (I hadn’t been able to do anything more than rummage for new clothes in days, and by now it was getting disorganized.)

Then to bed for six hours before getting up again for the trip to Houston, the last stop on the tour.  Tonight at 7 PM.  Barnes & Noble, River Oaks Shopping Center, 2030 W. Gray Street, Houston, TX 77019

 

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HELLHOLE Book Tour, Week Two: Atlanta Pizza Party and Book Signing

Published March 30, 2011 in Writing - 0 Comments

I’m in the Atlanta airport right now, getting ready to board…seems like I just got here yesterday.  Wait, I did…

Yesterday, after rounding up my baggage in the claim area, I met the driver Robert, who had already arranged his schedule of dropby bookstores.  It felt strange to be coming through the Atlanta airport for something other than DragonCon.  Rebecca and I have come to DragonCon for the past twenty years or so, missing only once; it is definitely one of our favorite cons of the year.  The town seemed empty without all the extra fans.

On the short flight from Chicago, I had managed to work on the draft of the Writers of the Future video script, but while I rode in the car, I used my laptop (love my new, small MacBook Air; it’s perfect for traveling) and my Verizon card to log on and catch up on email, answering questions from the audiobook narrator for the upcoming rerelease of my first novel Resurrection, Inc. from audible.com.  Brian Herbert called and we discussed a few more changes to Sisterhood of Dune, and then I hit the first bookstore.

We hit 7 dropby bookstores throughout the day.  [Insert description of all the other days and all the other dropby bookstores.]  It’s now two weeks since the release of Hellhole, and with the evening signing in Decatur, GA, Brian and I have hit a total of 98 bookstores.  So far. And I still have Dallas and Houston to go.

Because I have so many special fans in the Atlanta area, Tor Books arranged for a pizza party at Capozzi’s, a local Italian restaurant near Eagle Eye Books.  Fifteen very close friends came, including Special Forces members, DragonCon staff, other writers, and just friends; it was great to see them outside of a convention setting. We had plenty of pizza and salad and cannoli, then trooped over to the bookstore.

With DragonCon Writing Track director Nancy Knight

With Special Forces members Brian Conway, Melissa Arredondo,
and David James

The bookstore hadn’t expected quite so many people to show up.  All the seats were quickly filled, then people sat on the floor, then stood in the back.

Maybe Hellhole isn’t such a bad place after all…

David James and Brian Conway try to intimidate the audience

After my talk, I was whisked to a back room where a chair and table were set up, and I signed books until the line was done.  Our friend Shannon, who is always disturbingly helpful, took a great many photos.  (Shannon had been the media escort for Rebecca and me when we were guests at a Disneyworld celebration in 1996 and we’ve kept in touch ever since.)

Back at the hotel afterward, I walked a couple of blocks to have a beer at my favorite Atlanta microbrewery, Max Lager’s; two years ago at DragonCon, Max Lager’s had brewed a special “AnderZone IPA” and hosted a large party and reception for me and my fans.  Now, I just quietly enjoyed a beer.

Up again at 5:45 AM to get to the airport.  Dallas tonight—my first Dallas-area signing in fifteen years—at the Borders in Allen, TX at 7 PM.

 

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Day 13 of HELLHOLE tour: Covering Chicago

Published March 29, 2011 in Writing - 0 Comments

6:30 AM in the lobby of the hotel in downtown Dayton (worst in-room hotel coffee ever!), I asked if the hotel offered a shuttle to the airport—they did, but it had departed fifteen minutes earlier. So I looked for a cab outside, forgetting that Dayton is a very quiet city…no cabs, but the hotel could call for one…it would take about twenty minutes.  Fortunately, I had plenty of time before my flight.  Even more fortunately, the bellman on duty was bored (did I mention Dayton is very quiet early in the morning?), and so he shrugged and offered to give me a ride in the hotel’s other vehicle.

The Dayton airport was also very quiet; I checked in, got my boarding pass, checked my luggage in less than three minutes.  I found a Starbucks and settled in to read my e-mail and wake up (maybe in the opposite order).

During the quick flight to Chicago in a small plane, I wrote a draft for an introductory video script of the upcoming Writers of the Future awards, with the added bonus of listening to the grouchiest flight attendant I’ve ever encountered chewing out another passenger for bringing a perfectly normal sized computer case onboard.  (She was so out of control the other flight attendant upbraided her and sent her to the back of the plane.  Charming!)

In Chicago at the baggage claim I met Bill, my media escort for the day, who would take me around to stores in the area.  I had forewarned him that I wanted to do as many dropbys as possible, and he took me at my word.  Previously, I had never finished more than eleven in a single day; Bill ambitiously planned for a maximum of fifteen—but definitely more than eleven.  We had from 11:00 to 5 PM.

As we walked out of baggage claim, Brian Herbert called to discuss some fine points of the final draft of The Sisterhood of Dune, and we brainstormed for half an hour as Bill drove me away from O’Hare and out to the suburbs.  (Planning for traffic, we went out as far as possible so that we were working our way back into the city as afternoon rush-hour hit.)

We reached the first bookstore and began our routine. I’m carrying 2-sided bookmarks (the Dune backlist on one side, Hellhole on the other), and Tor sent extra copies of Hellhole ahead for the driver. Bill had called the stores ahead of time to let them know we were coming, and the store manager pulled the copies of the new hardcover from the shelves for us to sign.  We would go in, I met the manager and the store staff, chatted with them while I signed Hellhole and at the same time Bill went into the science fiction section and rounded up all the backlist titles, which I also signed.  We left quite a stack on the front desk—all eleven Dune books, the Terra Incognita novels, the Seven Suns series, Enemies & Allies, Ill Wind, the Star Wars novels, and a random assortment of other titles.

I autographed the paperbacks while Bill flapped the dustjackets on the hardcovers; then I signed the hardcovers while Bill inserted bookmarks in all of the paperbacks, and then together (sometimes with help from bookstore staff) we placed “Autographed Copy” stickers on the covers.  If one of the members of the store staff was a particular science fiction fan, I autographed one of my personal copies of Hellhole and gave it to him or her, in hopes that they would read the book and recommend it to other customers.

All told, we were usually in and out of the store in fifteen minutes, then Bill drove us off to the next one, and the next.  In downtown Chicago, where it was impossible to park, Bill just dropped me off at the curb while I ran inside, met the manager, signed the books, added the bookmarks, as Bill circled the block; when I was done, I climbed in the back, and we drove off again.  We stopped for lunch at a deli for a quick sandwich, then went on to the next stores.  By late afternoon, we had finished twelve stores in a day—breaking the record for this tour—and I got to the hotel in Oak Brook, checking in at 5 PM.  It felt very depressing to have to arrange a cab for the airport at 6:45 the next morning…before I had even gotten into my room.

I did have an hour of downtime to check email, take a quick shower, then change clothes before going to the Oak Brook Barnes & Noble to sign some of their stock ahead of time.  I was expecting an old friend, Bob, from Wisconsin, a classmate from fourth grade who had gotten back in touch with me a few years ago.  He drove down from Racine and surprised me by bringing another childhood friend, Steve—all three of us have the same birthday.  We had a chance to talk a bit in the back room while I signed stock and got ready for the talk.

4th Grade friends Steve and Bob join us for the book signing

Another writer, Brad Beaulieu, also drove down from Wisconsin for the signing—Brad is a Writers of the Future winner whose first novel, The Winds of Khalakovo, is just coming out (I recently finished reading it; a very good fantasy).  Long-time friend Leslie joined us as well, and a reviewer and blogger Christina Wantz-Fixemer presented me with a birthday present: a signed copy of her Hellhole review, just posted (yes, she liked it).  I gave a longer talk than usual, since I was close to my old hometown and I could discuss growing up in Wisconsin and wanting to be a writer.

Afterward, Bob, Steve, Leslie, and Brad went out to dinner with me, and we were joined by Dave Dorman, the cover artist for my collection Dogged Persistence and all of the Young Jedi Knights books, and his wife Denise Dorman from WriteBrain Media, who has done a lot of great publicity for me.

Dave Dorman with Kevin and a very weird lamp

Back to the hotel by 11:30 to get to bed—I had barely opened my suitcase—with a wakeup call for 5:30 AM.

I’m writing this blog in the back seat of the taxi on the ride to the airport (the sun hasn’t completely risen yet).  That’s the glamorous life of an author on book tour.

Next signing in Atlanta (Decatur) at Eagle Eye Books, tonight at 7 PM.

 

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HELLHOLE Tour Day 12—Birthday and Booksigning in Dayton

Published March 28, 2011 in Writing - 0 Comments

With yesterday’s lunch of fried chicken and dinner of pepperoni and sausage pizza, it was not a good cholesterol day (and it didn’t lead to a good night’s sleep either).

My next destination was Dayton, Ohio—and I would be driving from Lexington, Kentucky.  (If I went by air, I would have to fly from Lexington to Chicago, then Chicago to Dayton…a 5–6 hour process, including baggage and security hassles, whereas I could just drive in 2 hours or so.)  The weather had turned to sleet and snow the night before, which left my rental car covered with ice and snow, the windows and trunk cemented in place.  Naturally, the rental car had no ice scraper, but I improvised by taking a clipboard out of my suitcase and using that to scrape off the layers.  This weather is much different from sunny and warm San Diego from just a few days ago (really, only a few days?  Seems like many cities in between.)

After getting directions to the interstate and stopping at a Starbucks for a venti coffee, I headed north toward Cincinnati.  It was a nice drive along a rolling landscape and plenty of horse farms. I called Rebecca on the way, then used the phone GPS to navigate me to the first bookstore, a Barnes & Noble on the north end of Cincinnati.  There I met up with my media escort Kathy—who has taken me on at least three area book tours in the past, and we arranged to return my rental car.  I did four dropby signings in Cincinnati and Dayton, ate a quick sandwich at Panera Bread, dropped off my bags at the hotel, then we were off to Books & Co for my 2 PM signing.

I received a warm welcome at the store—this was the largest crowd at any signing yet on the Hellhole tour, including nine members of the Ohio Garrison of the 501st Legion (and Rebel Alliance)—including stormtroopers, bike troopers, clone troopers, two Jedi Knights, and a full-fledged Chewbacca, who escorted me to the podium.

Several people brought out birthday cards for the table, including one signed by everybody in the audience (thanks, Lisa Anna!); one pair of fans brought home-baked cookies (they had driven 3-1/2 hours from Ann Arbor and stayed overnight for the signing).

After my talk, the audience had plenty of questions, and then the line formed, according to numbered tickets they’d picked up ahead of time.  I met many fans with whom I’d been corresponding on Twitter or Facebook, and I spent an hour signing their books, as well as all the remaining store stock.  Afterward, the 501sters made a presentation in the back room, bringing out a special cake they had made with the garrison logo as well as my name (of course, I had to stay long enough for a piece, while I signed all of the 501sters books).

Fellow author Mike Resnick and his wife Carol came up from Cincinnati to take me to an early dinner; they waited around in the bookstore while I finished up with the author duties, and said goodbye to the 501sters and the store staff. My sister Laura called to wish me happy birthday as Mike, Carol, and I were on our way to McCormick & Schmicks restaurant.

Over dinner (I treated myself to a small lobster, one of the few nice meals I’d been able to enjoy with the hectic schedule), we spent a couple of hours in conversation, discussing the dramatic changes in publishing and our efforts in ebook publishing.  Mike has been doing very well by making his old books available in his own electronic editions; Rebecca and I have been working on making our backlist available as well.

The nasal, computerized voice of my phone GPS directed us back to my hotel.  I got in early, which was just as well—not only am I now 49 (that sounds so old!), but I’m also tired from the tour.  No wild partying tonight.  My parents called, and my sister-in-law Cindy called, and then I logged on to Facebook to find nearly 400 birthday wishes.

On this tour, I missed my grandson Harrison’s first birthday and I was also away from home and family on my own birthday, but the wonderful outpouring from local and online fans made me have a happy day anyway.

Tomorrow morning, it’s an early flight to Chicago for my signing there at 7 PM in Oak Brook.

 

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