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August 2004

Goodbye, Yellow-Brick Road

L. Frank Baum is said to have grown so tired of Dorothy Gale and her ceaseless adventures in Oz that he tried to make the entire kingdom invisible at the end of The Emerald City of Oz. ("Is said" -- note seamless use of conditional sourcing that lets me off the hook if I've gotten this story wrong, or perpetuated an apocryphal tale.) Then again, the Gnome King had just tried to invade Oz, so one understands why Princess Ozma decided to cloak her land beneath this protective coloration -- or, more correctly, complete lack of coloration. It didn't work. The Gnome King came back. As did the readers, whose devotion forced Baum to keep writing. Oz was so beloved that not even Baum's death could not end the series, which was continued by other writers.

By a Spider's Thread tour So, mindful of the limits of invisibility, I plan to disappear after my Aug. 7th appearance at the Mystery Company in Carmel, Indiana. But my definition of "disappear" is pretty loose. I'll still be here once a month. I'll keep contributing to The Memory Project and show up at a handful of literary conferences through the fall. But it will all seem very subdued after this past month, in which I was at home only eight days out of thirty-one -- and I had local appearances on five of those eight days. It would have been six, but I plumb forgot a television appearance on July 18th. Again, I apologize to Eliza of WBAL, who was a very good sport about my absentmindedness.

Anne Lamott has written eloquently about the crack-cocaine buzz of publishing a book. In the past month, I received a jolt of attention -- reviews, profiles, radio and television interviews. In particular, Tracy Cochran of Publisher's Weekly made me sound much smarter than I am, while Diane Rehm's insightful questions inspired me to try and meet her articulate standards. While I was on the road, e-mail and the Internet brought a steady stream of good news. In San Francisco, I found out from Sarah Weinman's indispensable blog that Every Secret Thing had been nominated for a Barry; Jeff Abbott, who put together this amazing Q&A; for his website, e-mailed me in London when Every Secret Thing was nominated for an Anthony.

But the best part of a book tour is, as always, meeting readers. If I were Miss Nancy of Romper Room, I could hold up my Magic Mirror and see all of you again -- Aldo and Chip and Andi and Jan and Jerrilyn and Paula and Mary Elizabeth and Maria and Helen and Karen and Donna and Ayo and Pat and Dave (finally Dave!) ... But the fact is, I knew Miss Nancy. Miss Nancy was an acquaintance of mine. Miss Nancy once took me to the racetrack. (True story, she was a former racehorse owner and quite the handicapper.) I am, alas, no Miss Nancy, who liked to describe herself as Baltimore-bred and buttered. She died in 1997, two years after I had the privilege of meeting her.

Meanwhile, there's a book to finish, not to mention a short story and tons of e-mail I've yet to answer. There's also a gutter hanging by a thread, trim that needs painting, a shower door that really should be sealed properly. I suppose some writers write to tour, but my hunch is that most of us, even the gregarious ones, tour in order to write -- and, again, we wouldn't have that privilege if it weren't for readers. For those of you who asked, I leave you with this link to the Diane Rehm interview -- and this one to a Crime Zone interview, as suggested by Sander at Harrogate. (The Publishers Weekly piece is by subscription only.) See you here and there. I'll be the semi-invisible one, a la Martha in Half Magic.

And if you don't know Half Magic, I can think of no better way to spend August than reading the complete works of Edward Eager. Highly recommended, especially for the Harry Potter besotted.Laura's signature

Final tour dates:

Aug. 4th: Wood County District Public Library, Bowling Green, Ohio, 7 p.m.
Aug. 5th: Aunt Agatha's, Ann Arbor, Mich., 7 p.m.
Aug. 7th: The Mystery Company, Carmel, Ind., 2 p.m.

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