LIONHEART BOOK TOUR
First of all, I’d like to announce the winner of the second Devil’s Brood book giveaway that I ran on the Richard and Ragusa blog. The winner is Karen Johnson, and I will mail it to you, Karen, as soon as I get your address. I will do a Lionheart book giveaway before the end of the year, so stay tuned.
I have updated my website, although my webmaster has not added the new material yet. I will have a section for Lionheart interviews and reviews, which I will probably put up as a blog, too, to make it easier to find. I’ve added to the writers I recommend, to my favorite websites and blogs, research recommendations, and my Medieval Mishaps.
The book tour was wonderful, if tiring, since I was in a different state each night. I don’t have as much energy as I once had, especially now that I am what the French so delicately call “a woman of a certain age.” But adrenalin can compensate for sleep, at least in the short run. What I enjoyed the most was getting to see old friends in several cities and to meet so many of my Facebook friends.
At my first stop, the Chester County Books in Westchester, PA, I was delighted to have a brief reunion with several members of my Eleanor Tour, including Emilie, who flew in from Canada. I’ve talked about how much I enjoyed that tour, but the best of it was that I came home with so many new friends. Elizabeth Chadwick is doing a William Marshal tour next September and Margaret George will be doing a Tudor tour for Elizabeth and Henry VIII, and I hope they are half as lucky as I was, for I found 36 kindred spirits, and how rare is that?
From Westchester, I went to Cincinnati, home of one of my all-time favorite interviewers, Mark DeWitt of Cover to Cover, on WRRS-FM; if any of my readers live close enough to catch Mark’s show, I am so envious! I also got to spend a little time with good friends I hadn’t seen in years, and that evening I had an event at Joseph-Beth Booksellers, which is one of my favorite bookstores. One of my readers drove all the way from Memphis, over eight hours, and when Michael Link, the manager of the store, heard that, he gallantly presented her with a tee-shirt for her loyalty. The next day I was at Schuler Books in Lansing, Michigan, and had a very interesting discussion about animal rescue before the reading. On Friday, October 7th, I was still in Michigan, but this time in Ann Arbor, home to another bookstore I love, Nicola’s Books. Here I ran into the only glitch on the trip, when the hotel did not have room service in the afternoon. Writers depend upon room service to keep us from starving when we are on the road, as meals are never scheduled as part of the itinerary, and it is not that unusual to have nothing to eat all day after an early morning, hurried breakfast. Fortunately, I was meeting old friends before the reading, and so they swept in like the cavalry and took me off for a hasty, late lunch. I live in a county that now has no full-service bookstores since Borders closed; we hadn’t had an independent bookstore here for over twenty years. So when I am doing book tours, I find myself envying readers able to visit bookstores like Nicola’s any time they like; I hope you realize how lucky you are! Ann Arbor is also where Tristan was given a toy that he loves almost as much as his stuffed duck; photo on Facebook for the curious.
When I said there’d been only one “glitch” on the tour, that wasn’t quite accurate. There was actually a major snafu, thanks to Facebook. It began in Philadelphia, when Facebook declared that it did not recognize my netbook, the same one I’d used in France and at home this summer. I was told I needed to answer security questions to have my account unlocked. I was willing to do that—until I saw what they were demanding, that I identify five pages of photographs of my Facebook friends. Since I had close to 2,400 Facebook friends at the time, the vast majority of whom I’ve never met, I couldn’t have met that challenge with some personal help from Merlin. To add insult to injury, Facebook’s alternative was a snarky comment that if I could not identify the photos, I should log on with a computer they could recognize. If any of you heard a primal scream of frustration wafting across the country, now you know the source. For four days, Facebook exiled me to Siberia, and then, suddenly and without explanation, they allowed me to access my account in Texas. That lasted just one day, for as soon as I crossed into Arizona, I was back in purgatory again. If you all will indulge a mini-rant, this photo identity idea is beyond stupid. Many Facebook users “friend” people they have never met, especially for business purposes. Moreover, I’d wager that some of us would have trouble identifying flesh-and-blood friends since many use photos of their children or pets as their Facebook I.D. When I got home, I was not happy to discover that apparently there is no way to contact Facebook directly; their Help Center only offers forums, no phone numbers or e-mail addresses. It is like dealing with the C.I.A. M-5, or Mossad. So short of hiring a plane to sky-write over Mark Zuckerberg’s mansion, I am not sure how to communicate my complaint. Suggestions welcome.
Murder by the Book in Houston is a wonderful bookstore; I love to come there. We had a good turnout, I got to meet several of my Facebook friends, and learned how Texans pronounce Palestine. (I’ve always been interested in regional flavors; when I lived in the French Quarter years ago, my apartment was on Burgundy Street, which they pronounced with the accent on the second syllable.) I can recommend a nice restaurant, too, that is not far from the bookstore, the Raven Grill, where I was able to have dinner with friends afterward; this free time was a rare treat, made possible by the fact that the reading was an afternoon event.
Returning to the Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, Arizona is always like a homecoming. While I was very sorry to miss seeing Barbara and Rob, the owners, who were out of the country, I was grateful to Diana Gabaldon for offering to host the event in their absence. We had another long-distance reader for this signing, who flew in from Atlanta, saying that Diana and I were her two favorite authors and she wasn’t going to miss it. I got to meet quite a few Facebook friends here, and because it was an afternoon signing, too, I had more time to chat with people afterward, which meant a lot to me. Sadly, the reality of an ungodly early flight the next morning kept me for being able to have dinner with a friend; maybe next time, Christy? But I was able to extract some information from Diana about her new book, The Scottish Prisoner, due out next month. This is one in which Lord John will share star billing with Jamie, as it takes place in 1760. For anyone who has not read Diana’s Outlander series, you’ve been missing a lot. But on the other hand, you’ve been spared the interminable wait between her books, just as by coming so late to George R.R. Martin’s Ice and Fire party, I missed fuming and fidgeting for five years as his readers yearned for A Dance with Dragons to be published. It is such a lovely feeling to discover a writer, become smitten, and then find out that this new love is a prolific one, with many backlist books waiting to be read.
The next day, I was in St Louis for a reading sponsored by Left Bank Books and the St Louis County Library. Another very good turnout, and—drum roll here—new readers, people who confided to me afterward that they’d never read one of my books but were going to remedy that with Lionheart. I also got to chat with several of my Facebook friends, which made the evening special for me. This was my first visit to St Louis, and of course I never got to see any of the city, but at least I got a glimpse of their famous arch and my hotel offered a dramatic view of the Mississippi.
I then got to come home for several days, and on Saturday, the 15th of October, the tour ended at one of Barnes and Noble’s flagships in Princeton, NJ. This is a remarkable store, so well stocked and well organized. Because it was an afternoon event and I arrived early, I had more time than usual to chat with the audience, so it was a perfect way to end the tour. Again, I was taken aback by the distances some of my readers had come: a couple from Rhode Island, Facebook friends from Long Island and Staten Island, and one man all the way from Washington, DC. That is such a huge compliment, and reassuring proof that there are still so many people who love to read, love books, and find history as fascinating as I do.
October 30, 2011.