DAY 1: Harker Heights Barnes & Noble, just outside of Fort Hood, Texas
It’s not a bad idea to kick off the official tour in the place where you wrote the book, even though you will be incredibly nervous, thinking someone will throw Texas tomatoes at you (which are of course much bigger and much riper than anywhere else in the country because Texans do everything bigger and better), or, worse, no one will show up. But, maybe, there will a full house, even people standing up in the aisles, and they might seem to actually like your reading, gasping at just the right spots, acting like they want more. You even see a few of your old neighbors and gals from Alpha Company FRG (yay 2-7 Arrowhead!).
But just when you think you might have done everything right for one whole day of your life, I am going to remind you of something foolish you might have done earlier that afternoon. You may have driven around your old neighborhood in the incredibly obvious Lincoln Continental that your publishers sent to indulge you. Be warned that if you make that mistake and ask your driver to swing by your old house, he might decide to stop in the middle of the street and show you a picture of himself with Sean Puffy Combs from the last time Puff Daddy was doing a concert at Fort Hood. While the driver is scrolling through his cell phone pictures, you might see all the children in the neighborhood, who were just playing dodge ball on your old yard, stare at that big black car, then start to scatter for their homes, and it might even seem like they are screaming. That’s when you will ask your driver to hurry up and drive away but for some reason he will just take his time making a K turn in the middle of the street, then hand you his phone to show you a picture of his Texas-bred football playing son. I tell you all of this, because when you are smiling at Barnes and Noble, signing books and chatting away, the woman who lives in your old house will peer at you, a little embarrassed, and asked if there is any chance that you drove by her house earlier? She will be with a couple other of your neighbors, who will also be staring at you a bit oddly. And you will feel yourself go all red and wonder if you should lie, but you will nod, and she will tell you how there has been a pedophile loose in a dark car, how the entire neighborhood was worried sick all day when their children came sprinting in talking about a big black car lurking.
This will now be part of your legacy, how you wrote a book about Fort Hood, and when you came back to town, you scared the hell out of all your neighbors’ kids.
But it will still have been a close-to-perfect day.
You might also be a bit nostalgic as you leave Fort Hood the next morning, wishing you had more time to get on base, to see the front gates and Battalion Avenue and those tanks and helicopters outside of the First Cav Museum that you wrote about. And you will close your eyes for a minute, think of the neighbors and FRG wives who now have soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, all those Fort Hood heroes, those soldiers and spouses and families, those who deployed, those who stayed, and be grateful to them.
DAY 2: Tattered Cover Books, Denver, Colorado
This will be one of the most beautiful book stores you have ever seen. You’ll also get to hang out with Charles and Marti, who are the most enthusiastic, loveliest booksellers ever, and you will want to bring them back to your hotel, feed them chocolate, and listen to their author stories all night, they are that wonderful. I got to glimpse two branches of this fab indie—the cavernous, labyrinth, books-in-all-the-nooks one down town (LoDo location), where I got to sign a tremendous stack of You Know When the Men Are Gone, as well as the refitted old theater with the statue of an old man that you will be certain is a real old man (Colfax location). When that old man hasn’t moved a hair from the time you arrived until the time you are about to leave, you might wonder if you ought to alert a clerk that they have a corpse on the premises and wonder if you should really ruin your night by being the bearer of bad news. Fortunately Marty points him out definitively as a statue and the crisis is averted. (Podcast of the reading, minus any mention of the old man, can be found at http://authorsontourlive.com/siobhan-fallon-podcasts-you-know-when-the-men-are-gone/)
Day 3– Book Passage, Corte Madera/San Francisco, and Capitola Book Cafe, Capitola/Santa Cruz
Book Passage! Fabulous in every way! Elaine Petrocelli and her incredible staff will make you feel doted upon and adored. Olivia Boler, your friend for a decade and one your best readers, gives you a smile and a thumbs up during your entire reading. Michael David Lukas, author of The Oracle of Stamboul, shows up and he has even brought his sweet mom to help cheer you on. As you leave, Book Passage packs you up a little to-go bag of goodness–soup! Two pints of it! I ask my kindly media contact, who drives me all the way from San Fran to Santa Cruz and back again, if he wants some, but I say it in the kind of way that definitely lets him know I really don’t want to share, sort of, “Um, you don’t want any of this spectacular soup that I am very quickly devouring, do you? Since, you know, you are driving on a windy California highway, and I have already put my dirty spoon into both pints?” He graciously demures.
(DO try to talk to Rick Klieffel of Agony Column/KUSP 88.9 if you are in Santa Cruz, he has the most amazing radio voice, asks really insightful questions that make you sound smarter and more thoughtful than you actually are, and he’s fun. Podcast of this interview can be found at the Feb 6, 2011 segment at http://www.kusp.org/shows/agony.html)
Capitola Book Cafe will have been worth the drive. There might be another fantastic standing room only crowd.
The Blue star Moms will be there talking about their soldier sons and daughters in Iraq and Afghanistan (more about their amazing charity at http://www.santacruzbluestarmoms.com/).
And a bunch of your army spouse friends from the Defense Language Institute at Monterey might be there, having smushed into a big van to surprise you. It will be another great day altogether, actually, it will all have been too good to be true so far, which is why you deserve what happens next at…
DAY 4: Powells at Cedar Hills Crossing, Portland, Oregon
You might be getting a little cocky there, cowgirl, thinking your boots are mighty nice. Which is when you ought to get your come-uppance. And it will come. Maybe at Powells in Portland, which is enormous and beautiful, and the event planner might have put out way too many chairs that will remain empty, even though you start your reading about fifteen minutes late, hoping some stragglers will come by from the gaping wide entrance to the mall beyond.
Be prepared, there is a chance you might actually get heckled. Maybe heckled is too cruel of a word, but while you are begging the five people in your audience to ask you a question (one of them is your husband’s wonderful second cousin, the other an army wife friend’s mother), three very pretty teenage girls will come strolling through, talking to each other loudly, and they will sit in the last row and begin elbowing each other, as if on some kind of dare, and then all three will shoot their arms in the air and since you are answering a question and don’t immediately call on them, they will start shouting out things. Like, “DID YOU WRITE A BOOK?” and/or “WHERE ARE YOU FROM?” and even “IS THIS FICTION OR NONFICTION?” which will illicilt something like impressed high fives from her friends. At this point you might have forgotten what you were talking about, stop speaking, look at the teenagers, Irish skin of yours getting flushed and red, and you will feel like a teenager yourself that just slipped near the water fountain in the gym and landed on her butt. You answer all three of the teenagers questions, trying to be witty and self-deprecating in hopes that you will get a laugh, but you don’t get any laughs, you just get pitying looks from the five people in your audience, which makes you manically try to be even funnier but you are just not very funny to begin with on good days, and you will go back to your nice hotel room feeling very very tired and a little scared about the readings to come. But come on, no more pity party, this is your dream, so you take a bath, tell yourself to buck up, and get ready for an incredibly early wake up call and the next day’s adventure in LA…
Links mentioned in this blog:
Market Heights B&N http://store-locator.barnesandnoble.com/event/68695
Tattered Cover http://www.tatteredcover.com/
Book Passage http://www.bookpassage.com/
Santa Cruz Blue Star Moms http://www.santacruzbluestarmoms.com/
Capitola Book Cafe http://www.booksite.com/texis/scripts/community/eventcal.html?sid=4892&cal=1