For the duration of my tour, I kept a "secret" blog - invisible to search engines, the address made available only to those friends who might notice my virtual silences over the seven-week period. It was secret because I have an acute burglary phobia, one that's not entirely unearned. On my first trip to the Edgars® in 1998, I came home to find out that someone had expended quite a bit of effort trying to break down my back door. The deadbolt held, although it had to be replaced. Jack Olsen, a true crime writer who was nominated for the Edgar® three times and won once, told me in an e-mail that burglars targeted Edgar® nominees. I think Jack was joking, but I regret that I didn't clarify that before he died.
At any rate, my tour ended officially on July 31st and the blog is gone now, but I'm recycling some of the entries, just so you'll know that you didn't miss much. My stance on fulltime blogging remains as it ever was: My wrists can't take it.
Where does anything begin? (A favorite line from Stephen Sondheim.) The book's on-sale date is the 14th; my first bookstore gig is that night. I leave for a conference, Dark & Stormy, tomorrow. A week ago, I was at BEA.
But today feels like the beginning. Photo session in the morning; interview with Craig McDonald by telephone. I think I'm a crummy interview, although Craig was gallant enough to deny this.
The book-in-progress is terribly troubled and muddled, but that's just June in these parts. Even when it's going terribly, I rather like it. When I write, I feel like Harrison Withers, the character in Harriet the Spy who made birdcages. I can't find a copy of the book nearby -- a shocking, disturbing absence -- but I remember it well. He worked dreamily, a cup of yogurt at his side, twisting the wire. Progress was not particularly visible.
WASHINGTON D.C. -- Publishing has always been a little skittish talking about numbers, possibly because they're so small. But I made a rash promise yesterday; I told Keith Snyder that I would tell the truth about attendance at my readings.
So -- yesterday, Olsson's Books and Records: Sixteen. Sixteen people, only one previously known to me. Sixteen people, in the middle of a heat wave so intense that one could argue that it kept people home or encouraged them to seek refuge in the air-conditioned store. Sixteen people and five stopped at the front desk and thanked the store for having me. Sixteen people and only one lunatic. ("Have you ever considered doing a ride-along with Car 54?" What I wish I had said: "No, ma'am, I'd rather be with Adam 12.")
I count that turnout a success. I count anything above nine a success. Five-to-nine, perfectly respectable. Two-to-four, an intimate gathering. Zero: a misprint in the schedule has kept my public away. The only thing that bums me out is one. And then only because I feel sorry for the poor stranger who now feels obligated to stay and listen.
Driving home, I found myself thinking of Max in Where the Wild Things Are. A book tour is not unlike putting on one's wolf suit and raising a wild rumpus. But in the end, you just want to be home where someone loves you best. Tonight, there was white wine in the fridge.
And, to paraphrase the last line of Wild Things -- that's Sendak's version, not the one with Denise Richards, who made a different kind of wild rumpus with Neve Campbell -- it was still cold.
Note to self: You eat yogurt almost every day. And, almost every day, you peel back the lid so it spits yogurt at you. How does the Santayana quote go: Those who cannot remember yogurt are condemned to wear it. Something like that.
But then, I've been up since 5 a.m. Here's the deal: I had proposed doing a signing at my local coffee house, my satellite office, and to make a $5 contribution for every new hardcover sold. A local television program that has been very good to me, the WJZ morning show, wanted to film me live at the coffee house - at 6:40 a.m. One hitch: Spoons doesn't open until 7. But the owners and employees agreed to let us in early so the camerawoman could set up her equipment. I did my little spiel and then had an hour to write.
At moments, I doubted my brainstorm to have the signing at the coffee house. But, overall, I think it worked out pretty well. Sold 55 books (including some pre-solds), which means I'll donate $275 to Viva House. Better yet, a fan who bought three books also brought a $100 check for the soup kitchen. She's moving to North Carolina, so it was her goodbye gift to Baltimore.
The previous night, I was at the Pikesville Library. Eighty-plus people, including the guy who took me to my senior prom. (In classic "Smalltimore" fashion, his father volunteers at Viva House, too.) One woman said I looked skinny. Another said I was more attractive than my Marion Ettlinger photo. (I don't hear that very often.) So, 80 people + two compliments = a great signing.
NEW YORK -- Hey, for all I know, the skies will open up and my signing at the Black Orchid will be washed out. But nothing can kill the buzz I carried over from last night. Bless MWA, Midwest chapter, embodied by Libby Hellman Fischer and David Walker. Bless Annie Chernow, who had a conflict on Sunday, but made it to Winnetka Monday. Bless Haranders everywhere, as our camp director always said. And, best of all -- bless the actual strangers who turned out.
Plus, I think the bellman at Le Meridien in Chicago was impressed that he saw me coming AND going -- drifting in at 1 a.m., back at the curb by 6:30 a.m. "How'd you sleep?" he asked. "Great!"
MEMPHIS -- So the Peabody Hotel has a tradition in which five ducks march from their penthouse suite every morning and enter the fountain in the lobby at 11. They leave at 5, marching to a John Philip Sousa song, "King Cotton March." Did I watch? How could I not? The best part was that one duck, a mallard, went maverick, kept swimming around and around in circles, refusing to leave. My kind of duck.
Yesterday was fine, a 2-W day. [A reference to days in which I manage to write and work-out.] The morning television interview was lovely; I came after the 17-year-old local essayist and before the hydrangea expert. I wish this exchange had been on camera:
Anchorwoman: He started writing at 6. I was playing with Play-doh at six.
Me: I was eating it.
The midday radio interview was cancelled, alas; the host, who is said to adore the book, awoke with laryngitis. So now it's official: To the Power of Three will strike you dumb.
The signing at Davis-Kidd was very good. If I include the woman and baby who had to leave because the baby began shrieking the moment I opened my mouth -- If Laura Lippman doesn't strike you dumb, she'll make you wail like a banshee -- I had 13 people total.
Oh, and I got a pretty fabulous review yesterday from the Rocky Mountain News: "Lippman clearly joins the ranks of the most important and best American crime writers." If you insist. And Andi had incisive things to say at Bookreporter.com. Yes, she's a friend, but don't doubt her objectivity. Andi's fierce, to quote Tyra Banks. (Oh, like you've never watched America's Next Top Model.)
NEW YORK -- "Hold the gold door." That's what the young P.A. called out as she escorted me into the building where the CBS Early Show is filmed and I felt very much like Charlie Bucket entering Wonka's factory only a) taller and b) fatter. (Remember, the Buckets were VERY thin.)
In the Green Room, I met Carol Story, the producer for the segment. And to my amazement (and gratitude), I was given a very full make-up and hair touch-up. I was escorted to set, did my five minutes with Julie Chen and, bam -- not even an hour later, I'm back on the streets of New York, in my real clothes and my still overly made-up face. I was told that it went very, very well; the gauge is that people in the control room actually listened.
Julie Chen is gorgeous, by the way. And I was glad, in hindsight, that the snooty clothing store forgot to remove the security tag from the blouse I bought just for this appearance because otherwise Julie and I would have been matching. Oh, but I so look forward to taking that blouse back for a refund. [Follow-up: They tried to wiggle out of it, said all sales were final. I said: "But in essence the sales transaction was never completed because YOU LEFT THE SECURITY TAG ON IT. How can the sale be final if the article of clothing can't be worn?" As David Banner said: Don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry.]
And By a Spider's Thread just moved up to #76 on the USA Today list. All in all, a very satisfying morning.
So, in the middle of all this, I actually finished the second draft of my 11th book yesterday. Wrote almost 3,000 words in the a.m., a climax that I found very satisfying in that people were behaving intelligently and yet it still seemed exciting, with exigencies that the characters could not control for. Headed out to Viva House for the first time in five weeks, helped make more than 600 sandwiches, came home and wrote the final chapter, about 1,700 words. Finished in time for the family movie date, Charlie Chocolate and the Chocolate Factory. (An aside: the movie is far from perfect, but I would like to spearhead the movement for Deep Roy to be nominated for best supporting actor. Solving the Oompa Loompa problem is no small thing, although I do wonder if this means that bad bottle tans will no longer be compared to Oompa Loompas. In other words, will Deep Roy supersede the old public orange Oompa Loompas in the public imagination? I heart Deep Roy.)
The end of my book surprised me a little. And it needs so much work. But I have ten weeks to do it, ten weeks in which I have very few obligations except writing.
Do you like touring, people ask. I always reply: It's the best job I've ever had. And I like quite a bit of it -- the friends, the fans and booksellers who have become friends, visiting new cities. Sure, there will always be a few boos and catcalls. (I'll confess here that Liz Phair's "Extraordinary" is on my iPod and it moved into heavy rotation while I was on tour, largely because of this verse: "See me jump through hoops for you/You stand there watching me performing/What exactly do you do?/Have you ever thought it's you who's boring?/Who the hell are you?")
But what I really love is the writing life. I even love the fact that it's not secure. It's like a romance one must never take for granted.
Again, thank you for the company. You kept me sane. Well, as close to sane as I get.
This Just In
Baltimore will be the host city for Bouchercon in 2008. I'm excited about the decision, in part because Sisters in Crime was founded in Baltimore at the 1986 Bouchercon. I also think my hometown is the perfect backdrop for a mystery convention. Poe's grave! The old "Homicide" headquarters! The falcons on the Continental Building where Hammett once worked! But, okay, this is cool, too. Come 2008, I plan to be the Pearl Mesta of Charm City. Don't know the reference? I bet this guy does.