Monday, October 09, 2006


Okay, here's a confession: I love touring.

Yes, it's hard to be away from home -- I miss Tim and the dogs more than I can say.
Yes, it is exhausting.
Yes, some aspects of it are so repetitive, it does feel like "déjà vu all over again."
No, I don't love it as much as I love writing.
And no, it's not the extended vacation or giant ego-boost some think it will be. (I don't know anyone who has been on much of a tour who has failed to have either a moment of utter humiliation or an encounter with someone who has no social graces whatsoever.)

All of that said, the greatest parts of a tour come in glimpses, brief moments of connection and wonder. Seeing friends, readers, favorite booksellers, all for a few moments at a time. Short interviews with knowledgeable reporters. The view of a different landscape from a car window, rainfall when I've lived with dry weather too long at home, the taste of something savory at an eatery I've never visited before.

I'm not the first writer to say this, but essentially, a writer writes half the book. The other half is provided by the reader, when whatever what the writer has created interacts with the reader's imagination, experiences, prejudices, tolerances. When we meet in bookstores, I'm always happy when a reader buys a book, but the real joy is hearing your thoughts, learning how your half of the books are experienced.

The days in San Francisco were hectic. I didn't get a lot of sleep the night before I flew up there, and the moment after I gathered my luggage, my escort, Naomi Epel began the day's work — I was on my way to sign stock at lovely independent stores like Diesel in Oakland, and at a couple of large chain stores where — contrary to the stereotype — I found staffers who cared about books. I got to the hotel where the ASCLD meeting was being held just in time for lunch with folks who were on the afternoon panel on advocacy.

As soon as the panel was over, I hurried back to my room, set down my materials from the meeting and gathered up what I'd need for the evening. Naomi picked me up, and off we went again for more stock signing. It was raining — although I had walked through a light drizzle at Bouchercon, it had been awhile since I had been out in real rain. It was good.

We made our way to San Mateo, and M is for Mystery. I love this store, and it was great to see Ed Kaufman and friends there.

I got back in time for a late dinner. Early the next morning, I was on another ASCLD panel. I'll just say that I am honored to be working with these crime lab directors. Their dedication leaves me in awe.

I won't give you all the details of the rest of the day, which was managed with the help of Catherine, another fine escort, except to say that visits to three excellent independent bookstores — Book Passage, Bay Book & Tobacco, and Capitola Book Café were among the highlights of my day. It was Fleet Week, and seeing the Blue Angels fly over the San Francisco Bay on the way to Book Passage was another.

I was a little early, on the other hand, for the Pumpkin Festival in Half Moon Bay, but the straw castle was already built on the Arata Farm. On a drive along the stunningly beautiful coast between Half Moon Bay and Capitola, here and there I saw a field of pumpkins, a swath of bright orange on green, something like what you can see in the photo above. (Although Kevin Connor's photo was not, as far as I know, taken at one of these farms.)

We took the recommendation of Jeff at Bay Book & Tobacco and turned inland a bit, past marshland and into Pescadero. We stopped at Duarte's Tavern, where the food was superb — the pumpkin pie there was the best I have ever eaten. I do mean ever.

We made the drive back to an Francisco after the evening event at Capitola Book Café, and after packing, I got about three hours of sleep before meeting Susan, the next driver, downstairs at 4:30 AM. Back to the airport, back to Southern California, back to Tim and Cappy and Britches.

And sleep. Which I plan to indulge in again as soon as I send off this post. But I will fall asleep thinking of rows of pumpkins, kind hosts, a story a reporter told me, and glimpses I caught of friends along the way.

Photo above by Kevin Connors, from

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