Wednesday, May 17, 2006

On NOT Puking, Because I am Such a Delicate Little Flower

By Cornelia

I am a puker. I admit it. Nervous states seem to take up residence in my stomach, but only temporarily.

For many years, starting in my late teens, this condition made itself most apparent when I was required to board an airplane. Like Our Jacqueline, I was not a happy flyer. Shortly after college, I traveled around the world for a year with my sister Freya, our friend Melissa, and Melissa’s boyfriend Peter. My mother joined us for India and Nepal.

During the course of that year, I ran through the entire lexicon for barfing listed in that early Eighties non-fiction masterpiece, The Preppy Handbook: Technicolor Yawn, Worshipping the Porcelain God, &c. Freya and Melissa and Peter and Mom did their best not to sit next to me on the various planes, or even at the departure gates in New York, London, Zurich, Frankfurt, New Delhi, Kathmandu, and on and on.

A month of hypnosis in Boulder ten years ago has helped with the flying thing, but my abdominal cavity can still be fraught with peril on other nervous-making occasions, let me tell you.

Last week I did the first four signings for my book, A Field of Darkness. I am happy to report that I did not barf at a single one, though I worried I would at the outset of each.

The first night was at M is for Mystery in San Mateo, bookstore of the marvelous Ed Kaufman. I figured if I could make it through the initial five minutes, I might be okay—a prediction that proved happily accurate. Cara Black had come down from San Francisco to introduce me, and I think there was something magically soothing about her gracious presence.

The second night saw me at Cody’s on Fourth Street, here in Berkeley. I announced to the inimitable Tova Zeff, who introduced me, how proud I was not to have yakked the night before. One smile from her made it all feel better.

Friday I arrived at Bay Books in Monterey, where I couldn’t quite bring myself to warn glamorous owner Joti Situ about my possibly imminent public reacquaintance with what I’d had for lunch, though I did caution my sister it might be better to sit in the second row.

Saturday saw me at the magnificent Mysterious Galaxy Books in San Diego, for their thirteenth-anniversary “Book Mitzvah” party. By this point, I was so proud of my previous puke-free performances, I dared a wee bit of bragging to the lovely Elizabeth Baldwin.

“I hope you won’t mind if we record you, today,” she said.

“Oh man,” I replied, “I really hope I don’t barf.”

“We can edit it out of the tape,” she said. “Don’t worry. Would you like me to get you one of our special author buckets, just in case?”

“Author buckets?”

“Yes,” she said. “We keep a bunch in the back. We will of course ask you to sign it, after, and then we’ll hang it on the wall. With ‘The Others.’”

“I take it you have the contents bronzed?”

“Of course.”

I love Elizabeth Baldwin.

Yesterday, I got an email from author Susanne Pari, asking whether I’d be interested in joining Our Jacqueline and Cara Black on a mystery panel at the upcoming Book Group Expo on June 17th. I said I’d be honored, and then proudly announced that after my first four signings, I remained happily barf-free.

She wrote back to ask whether I’d ever heard the story of the poor author who bolted offstage to vomit during her interview at the Herbst Theater, but neglected to remove the lapel mike first.

That sounds like something I would do. Seriously.

And I have to tell you that I worry about this coming weekend. On Saturday, I’ll do my first joint appearance with Lee Child, at Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, Arizona. I don’t think I can imagine anything more excruciatingly humiliatory than the prospect of barfing on Lee. I mean, he’s BRITISH. And tall and stuff. And he has been so very kind to me.

Luckily, we will not be on the same flight to Houston for our signing at Murder by the Book on Sunday, so I can puke to my heart’s content on that plane in relative anonymity, should the need arise.

Please keep your fingers crossed that I manage to contain myself once I get to Houston, though. I’m sure Lee would be eternally grateful.

(here is what I'm thinking of wearing...)


  1. You did a stellar job at M is for Mystery, and will do so again in Phoenix and Houston! Have a grand time, Ms. C!


  2. Yay for the Cornelia Tour!!

    Please take some pictures and post them!

    Good luck with Lee and tell him that we love him at The Bookseller to the Stars. We love you C, we are all so proud of you. xx

  3. You will not puke on Lee Child but if anyone could handle such an incident with grace & charm & probably wit it would be Lee!

    You will do just fine, famous author. I have confidence in your ability to continue with a barf-free book tour.

  4. Having been privileged to attend one of your signings, I can happily assure you that you have absolutely no need to worry about barfing (although I certainly sympathize, esp. re: planes ;-)

    Anyway, you are a wonderful public speaker: witty, charming, lucid - no *um*, *like*, *yaknow*, or even the dreaded *like, yaknow*.

    You'll be swell, you'll be great, and so on....


  5. OH, my dears! Will you all run away with me? We can start an organic bakery in Vermont and live off the fat of the land......

  6. Didn't you buy Lee the special plastic suit for Christmas, just in case?

  7. You'll be fine. But I'm bringing a bucket when you're in LA. Just in case.

  8. And I'd be most honored to sign it for you, Stephen, if you'd like....

    Hey there Sandra!!

  9. as long as we can grow pot Cornelia... and strawberries and raise young roe deer. xx

  10. Can we eat the deer, Mark? I mean, just occasionally...

  11. I've always felt that if you must yack on a person, it is best to choose a British person upon whom to yack.

  12. Ah, Karen. Then if I do yack on Lee, I will tell him it was your idea. And then if you meet him at Book Passage, we'll introduce you as "Kimi."

  13. Well, another fun post from Cornelia, barf buckets and all.

    For some reason, I've had that 'I want you' song by Savage Garden in my head all afternoon - especially the "swimming with a raincoat" line...

  14. I have been listening to this great CD of Hank Williams at the Grand Old Opry that my friend Alice burned for me, Sandra. Grace and I have been driving through Berkeley yodeling, with the windows rolled down.

    Fave today is "Hey, Good Lookin'," but that's pretty much my fave EVERY day.

  15. Sorry, Cornelia, but L.A. only allows projectile vomiting in trendy nightclubs on the Sunset Strip. Just to be safe you may want to revise your itinerary to include one or two of the trendiest. I'll be the one waving to you from behind the velvet ropes.

  16. Oh gods I SO adore Elizabeth Baldwin too. What a wonderful fabulous terrific way to make you feel at ease. And a special bucket - how FAB,how caring how chi-chi!

    Let's all chip in and buy Lee a tasteful poncho. I went poncho shopping a while back so i can attest to the vast array of color, quality and style.

    I ADORE the new wardrobe. I think the pearls are a BIT swanky, I admit, but it's ADORABLE, my sweet. How mahy people can carry off pearls and a chain saw. It's YOU. And is SO outdoes that outfit I bought at Bouchercon, I'm jealous. You know not everyone can accessorize the way you do.

  17. Cornelia,
    Finally, a Sister in Bile! I have the same worries about an impending book tour that won't be scheduled for over a year, and I'm already nauseas just thinking about it. I have advice for those stock pickers out there -- buy stock in Ativan, Pepto and Code IM.
    Share your secret for pulling through, would you?
    And sincerest congratulations on how everything has gone with the book. You are an inspiration! Have fun!

  18. Sisters in BILE!!! I think we need t-shirts...... SinB? Or maybe SinBad? (Sisters in Bile and Dramamine?)

  19. T-shirts sound like a good idea. Forewarning seems only fair!