Sunday, May 14, 2006

Stilettos Tour: Austin Leg

I'm home from Austin. Actually, I got in late last night and promptly collapsed, then got up for church and the subsequent church picnic/covered dish lunch, then got home and collapsed again (well, first I watched Friday's Dr. Who while reading the newspaper and catching up on crossword puzzles). Soon I will collapse again because the past few days of little sleep with lots of activity are really catching up with me.

There are authors out there (who are not me) who get real book tours, where they fly to their destinations, are met by escorts (no, not that kind of escort) who drive them from bookstore to media interview to booksigning to hotel. They stay in nice hotels and order room service so they can rest up for the next busy day on their schedule.

Here's my kind of "book tour":
I loaded up my car and got on the road to Austin. Before I really got out of Dallas, traffic came to a halt as they closed the left lane of the freeway for construction. The only thing in that left lane that I could see was the truck holding the cones to close off the lane. Then there was a stalled truck in the only open lane, so they had to re-open part of the closed lane (which proves how essential that lane closure really wasn't). Finally, I hit the open road, but it was still bumper-to-bumper traffic. I stopped in the town of West, which is in the middle of Czech country, for gas. Because it's the middle of Czech country, every gas station convenience store is also a kolache bakery, so I got a ham-and-cheese to eat as lunch on the road and a couple of apple kolaches for my "room service" breakfast the next morning.

When I got to the Austin area, it turned out that the exit I needed to take to cut across the north part of the city to get to my hotel was also the site of a Barnes & Noble -- and by going there, I bypassed the huge line of traffic at the next signal. While I was in the store autographing the copies they had in stock, I sold two copies. One was to a lady who passed by, noticed the books and asked, "Is that series any good?" I told her it was excellent, then admitted that I might be biased because I wrote it. Then I made it to my hotel. I'd managed to catch a special on, so the cheapest hotel room I was able to get in the city was actually an efficiency apartment in one of those extended-stay places, which meant I had a kitchen, too. I headed out to get some milk and juice for breakfast and some takeout for dinner, and I started to suspect that my car has developed a homing sense for bookstores because a random turn I made led me right to a Barnes & Noble. They had a few copies of the new book, and while they didn't seem enthusiastic about me signing them, they also didn't stop me. I then got groceries, picked up some fajita tacos at Taco Cabana and returned to the hotel to relax, eat, watch TV and read.

I had to check out by 11, which meant that I did my usual thing of waking up every hour or so to make sure of the time (even though I doubted I'd oversleep to that point). There was another B&N I knew of on my way toward my booksigning, and there was supposedly a Borders nearby. On the way, I made an emergency Sephora stop because I'd forgotten my perfume. A quick squirt of the sample, and I was set. At the B&N, they jokingly asked me to prove I was really an author, so I showed them the photo in the back of the book, at which point they said that maybe I was the evil twin. They had copies of both books, and said they'd display them up front. That was the B&N at the Arboretum, so go visit because they're cool. I finally found the Borders and signed books there while having a conversation about whether my last name is really Swedish or Norwegian (structurally, it's Swedish, but the family is in Norway and has been going back as far as the family has been traced).

I found another couple of B&Ns on the way to my signing, while I struggled with Austin traffic. I think the traffic there is worse than in Dallas because in some respects it's still a small city that's outgrown itself. So much was familiar from my college days, while so much was really, really different. Back in my day, the area that now has the upscale shopping center with a Borders and Central Market was a rather run-down mall I went to only because it was across the street from the only Target I could get to via city bus (no car my freshman year).

The signing was fun. I think for the first time ever, I sold more books to people who'd never heard of me before and just stumbled upon me because they were in the store than to people who came specifically to see me. "Carla in Austin" (a frequent commenter at LiveJournal) showed up with three giant red stiletto-shaped balloons. They were great for attracting attention. I left one with the store after the signing to display with my books and managed to stuff the other two in my trunk. My dad the physics teacher swears that having a trunk full of helium was not the cause of my good gas mileage on the way home or the Saturn's rare ability to actually pass in the climbing lane in the hill country. He says I had a tail wind. Rats. I thought I had the gas crisis solved.

Anyway, my friend Julie Kenner (author of Carpe Demon) came by, as well as another writer friend, Bridget. I got at least a little taste of old Austin when Bridget and I went to dinner at Chuy's after the signing. Then it was time to head home. This time, I took the back roads, and I may have changed my mind about where Katie's hometown is. I thought I'd narrowed it to far north Texas, but I'm thinking that there's something about certain parts of central Texas that works. There's even a town called Fairy in that area. I may have to go explore later.

Now I have a day to get ready to go to Daytona Beach for the Romantic Times convention. I suspect it will be a busy day.

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