Scarlet Letters

The not-so-private thoughts and rants of Elizabeth Donald, journalist/author and founder of the Literary Underworld.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Voices in River City

Greetings from Madison, Ind. Well, actually... Carrollton, Ky. It's kinda the same place. But not really.

I was invited to be a guest author at the Madison Author Fair, hosted by the lovely folks at That Book Place in Madison, Ind. I was happy to accept, especially since my good friend Stephen Zimmer was to attend with his crew from Seventh Star Press, and I always prefer events where I know someone. I'm shy.

Right up to departure, however, I was having the biggest trouble finding a place to stay. Madison has a number of chain hotels, all of which were $100 a night or more and I am seriously lacking in hotel points at the moment. There were a couple of independents, which had some fairly negative reviews... and while I am not picky, I do have minimum standards. Safe, clean and no bugs. I've stayed in too many fleatraps where critters rode home with me in my luggage, unsavory gentlemen watched too closely as I entered my outdoor-corridor motel door, and - best of all - that place where the door didn't lock. Yay!

But right across the state line lay Kentucky, which is having an awesome special in its state park lodges: two nights for $90! Can't beat that with a stick. And it was only twenty minutes away! I like state park lodges. The rooms are generally decent, prices are either very good or ridiculous, natural surroundings and usually quite secure.

Um. Except the good folks of Inditucky decided this was a good weekend to tear down the only bridge across the Ohio River.

This had two effects: my drive from Madison to the state park was approximately 55 minutes instead of 20, and the crowds at the book fair were less than half their usual level, according to my compatriots.

No matter. I still had a great time. The volunteers were, I kid you not, the most attentive I've ever seen. I don't think an hour passed without one of them coming by to offer me hot coffee, a bottle of water, snacks from the break room. Sure, most book fairs have volunteers. But this is the first one where I pulled up, opened my trunk to unload the books, and magically FIVE YOUNG PEOPLE appeared as if popping out of a Warner Bros. cartoon to help me unload. They were cheerful, helpful, friendly and honestly seemed interested in books. It's enough to renew your faith.

Sales were... well, let me explain my philosophy. I don't measure the success of an event by the number of books sold. Instead, I measure it by a vague mental ratio of books sold vs. the number of feet past the booth. If only fifty people pass me and I sell 10 books, that means one in five bought. That's pretty good. If 16,000 people pass me and I sell 10 books, that's Dragoncon. (Just kidding, you know I love ya, Atlanta... but please buy books. :))

So in terms of my philosophy, I did just fine. The ratio of books sold vs. feet past the booth started slow, but really picked up toward the end. And I've heard from several other authors at the fair that last year, the weather was awful and you still had to jostle people out of your way. It's the bridge, they said: without that bridge, it's just too hard for Kentucky folk to make it up into Madison and vice versa.

Still, conversation was pleasant and the company was marvelous. The bookstore was more than hospitable (they gave us cake!) and only one customer ran away from my booth declaring I was a "scary lady." (I'm harmless!) Sadly, I had to turn away a customer: a boy no older than ten wanted to buy Nocturne. I told him it was unfortunately an adults-only book. He was quite disappointed.

(Side note: I don't sell my rougher stuff to kids unless there is a parent present and that parent has been apprised of the content of my work. Some of the vampire and zombie shit is not the kind of thing I'd like the Boy to read until maybe last year, and there's one or two things I've written I still wouldn't let him read. Each parent has the right to decide for his or her own kid, but some kids hear "vampires" and think Twilight. Uh, not exactly, kiddos.)

And now I am happily ensconced in my lodge room again. Last night it was a pleasant surprise: while it is unfortunately in the outdoor wing (and of course in the creepy dark unlit far end, thanksalot), it's a lovely oak-paneled room with vaulted ceiling, comfy bed and a balcony. Couldn't ask for more, especially at this price. It was blissfully silent and peaceful.... last night.

Tonight, there's a wedding. The musicians were packing up when I came back after the post-fair dinner with... just about everyone who worked the show. There were guys in disheveled tuxedos and older couples in churchy clothes wandering about. And that's fine... except now I have neighbors in my creepy unlit wing.

They're not yelling or fighting. They're not playing music. I don't even think they're raising their voices. But I can hear. every. word. they. say. Not clearly, not enough to follow the conversation beyond every fifth word. But enough.

It's all right. After last night's marathon drive, four hours of sleep, all day being Author Woman and dinner with the gang, I'm beat. There is no brain for writing. Well, except for long, rambling blog posts. Tomorrow I'll sleep in, and maybe get a little writing time before hitting the road back home.

I hear they've been cleaning.

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