Thursday, March 15, 2007

The true story of book tours

In keeping with my themes on writing and related tasks, I want to share the details of a tour. Not a big money, five star hotel tour but a down and dirty, make as many stops as possible, honest to goodness book tour. Paul Levine and I talked about other subjects and in a few weeks I’ll post on a few more controversial topics. This tale of touring is a two-parter. Believe me I need another blog to tell you about how another author made lewd advances toward me. Or At least he tried. I know, I know, I shouldn’t use names. I don't want to name names but this is his website: I'd be ashamed but he is a pretty good writer. I'm just happy he finds an aging FDLE agent attractive. Considering the age difference, I'm flattered.

I wrote two weeks ago about the second week of my tour. No real details or revelations because I was still on the tour and computer time as well as energy was limited. Last week I posted a blog on being a writer which I had written earlier and had online ready to go.

This is the reason for my efforts. Filed of Fire. Pretty isn't it? My thanks to Putnam's outstanding art department and the way they captured the difference between this book and my Bill Tasker series.

I’d like to add a deeper look at a tour now. Now that I’ve returned home after three weeks in a car, in hotels and on planes. I think every writer reacts to tours differently. Every tour has its own characteristics. I’d also like the touring authors out there to share their favorite tour story with us. If I get some good one’s I may compile them for future use.

Here's the rental I had on the last leg f the tour in South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. Mustangs look good but are not what you'd call practical or comfortable.

This is what an average tour for me is like. Not the wildness of Steve Hamilton’s fantastic story of touring the former East Germany. A story best told in his deadpanned delivery and good natured insights. Believe me, if you have a few minutes ask him about it.

This leg of my tour for Field of Fire started after a thirty-five hour break at home between the first two weeks and this week. I left my house at 4:00am eastern time. That is four in the damn morning. A two-leg flight through Houston to Los Angeles arrived, after delay, about one thirty. Then I had my first pleasant surprise. While acquiring my rental car at Enterprise the young manager behind the counter saw I was fro Florida and said he was too. In fact he was a FSU grad too and gave me the FSU alumni discount. Sweet. I love that kind of stuff.

Then I was on my way. In LA traffic. Alone. I felt like a Disney animated dinosaur let loose into the unknown world with predators all around. I had to make the trek to Thousand Oaks which was further than I thought. I had a 4:00 pm Pacific time signing at Mysteries to Die For. Wait a minute, did that mean I had traveled fifteen hours from my front door to a bookstore? Yes it did. Welcome to the world of book tours.

The great ladies at Mysteries to Die For could not have been more accommodating and nicer. I had a very pleasant group for a Saturday afternoon in Southern California and knew, instinctively that this trip was worth the effort. I met one blog reader named Tom who proved to be an outstanding guy.

This is where I veered off the book tour path and did something unusual for me. I checked into a hotel up in Valencia, which is north and east of LA. I met up with the super sharp Harley sisters, Shannon and Shar and we walked through one of the reasons I had traveled cross country on a Saturday. They have an interesting concept of creating DVD’s which instruct budding writers on different aspects of writing. So far they have a medical forensic DVD featuring Doctor Doug Lyle, Jerry Healy on how to get your novel published and how to write a PI novel and Kris Neri on writing Killer Mysteries More information can be found here : These kinds of courses would cost hundreds of dollars at a local college but the Harley sisters were bright enough to put them onto DVDs. Their site has all the details.

My area was guns and police tactics. Go figure. But they had heard about my demos at conferences and saw my shtick at Thrillerfest and invited me to go through the most common questions writers have on police tactics. I also covered the most common mistakes. Let me tell you, I thought it’d be a breeze and then I’d go out a have some fun. I was dead wrong. After filming much of the day on Sunday I was spent. Even the hot tub at the fabulous Hyatt had no interest for me. But I was impressed by their professionalism and studio.

The two photos are from Sleuthfest in 2005. Author J.A. Konrath is about to learn the peril of volunteering and I go over the fine points of an MP-5 machine gun.

Monday was a built-in down day. I worked out and hung out by the pool at the Hyatt. A film crew at the hotel was shooting a new HBO show which I didn’t know and now don’t remember but it was interesting. I also wrote. That’s something I did every day using my trusty Alphasmart. It's the only way to stay on deadline with novels, articles, investigative reports and even blogs.

By Tuesday I was renewed. I moved to a hotel in Santa Monica near the L.A. Mystery Bookstore. It gave me some time to hang out with my buddy Gregg Sutter. That’s right, the same guy Field Of Fire is dedicated to. One of the guys who took the time to guide me when I was just starting to write. Elmore Leonard’s legendary researcher. He gave me an inside tour of the overlooked community of Venice, which used to have a whole network of canals and still has four or five.

The signing at the LA Mystery bookstore gave the lovely Linda a chance to ridicule me and Bobby a chance to show people what he must put up with on an everyday basis. He is a saint.

What was great was seeing friends as well as fans. My friends Jan Long and Emily Bronstein made the journey from the far reaches of LA county and were a welcome sight. My new friend Tom, who had been at the Mysteries to Die For signing, also showed up. And of course my friends from right here at Naked Authors, Patty Smiley and Paul Levine were there. Just seeing a few familiar faces made me feel like a giant. I gave my usual mix of stupid police stories, why I started writing a new series, how hard life is, blah, blah, blah. Then dodged a few Paul Levine loaded questions.

Here's Patty, Paul and me. Hint: I'm the fat one. A recently retire LA County Sheriff’s Detective was there and we compared notes. He is a big guy with a huge scar on his knee. He told me how it happened: Playing tennis in the Police Olympics. “Wow,” I said, “You really need a better story for such an awesome surgical scar." He promised he’d work on it.

Then I went out to dinner with Patty and her really cool husband, Bill. They proved to be the nicest, most genuine couple you could ever hope to meet. We were not alone at dinner.

This is where things turned a little hazy, perhaps “odd” is a better word. I was introduced to a beautiful and intelligent woman named Renee. Who the hell could this be I thought. Then Paul explained that this woman is his wife. What the fuck did he just say? His wife! As in she knowingly entered into a contract of marriage with him. Don’t get me wrong, Paul is a good guy. No, a great guy. Smart, creative, funny. But you’d have to meet Renee to fully understand why I was confused. I wondered if perhaps she had suffered a traumatic brain injury or maybe she was a heavy narcotics user. Then she explained it to me. They had dated and she had a severe allergic reaction to something. While still in anaphylactic shock she consented to his far-fetched request of marriage. Now things seemed a little more understandable.

They took me to a great Italian restaurant where they treated me to a fine meal. I love rich friends. I learned a little more about the publishing industry, the blog world and, obviously I was fascinated by the weird shit that can happen as a result of anaphylactic shock.

The next morning, Wednesday, I took a hour to tour Santa Monica beach. The Pacific is a big deal to a redneck who spent his whole life on the Atlantic. I had seen the big ocean before, from other trips to California and just about every country in Central America at one time or another. But this early in the morning with joggers on the beach and no military presence, it looked very relaxing and inviting.

On the way to the airport I stopped for an early lunch and met some very friendly LA cops. They agreed to pose for the below photo and I thought it was appropriate because some of Field of Fire takes place in LA and it involves a serial bombing.

This is my last image of LA. Cops helping out a fellow cop. I love this job.

Next week: The final stops- Shelby's revenge.


  1. Jim is right. Bad tuna led Renee straight from the paramedics to the altar.

  2. You are a bit typing impaired, Jim. "Filed of Fire" could be a very interesting book but something completely different than the one you've written.

    Sorry, it's the copy editor in me.

    Your tour sounds like a lot of fun, although I'm waiting to hear about you and Shelby (he referred to some incident as well on First Offenders today).

  3. Love the tour notes, Jim. And I'm delighted that you had such a good time with my pals Patty and Bill and Tom in LA. They make me want to move to Southern California.

  4. Come on Born, cut Pauly some slack. He has many redeeming qualities other than just being a great guy. He has that whole outstanding writer thing going for him. Plus I hear he makes a killer Dark 'n Stormy (or is that a Mojito?), and he keeps the fabulous Renee supplied with those chocolate teddy bears from K. Chocolatier, which in my book makes him not just great but perfect.

  5. Louise, come on down! We'll keep the light on for you.

  6. "Bad Tuna" sounds like the name of a band (maybe Hot Tuna, post-Jorma).

    I liked FILED OF FIRE. Somehow sounds like the story of Harry Potter's first summer office job after he graduates from Hogwarts?

    Glad the tour's going well, Jim, and great post!

  7. Oh, Cornelia, I love it:

    Harry Potter and the Filed of Fire

    Maybe JK Rowling shouldn't hang up her hat after all...

  8. That was the original title.

    I do need an editor for the blog. It's tough to keep up with everythng.

    I read FO this morning. Shelby is a liar! Actually we had a really good time Houston. He's actually being nice not revealling my real idiosyncracies.

    Paul, Patty, Jeff and others really did make it a fun trip.


  9. C'mon, Born, just skip all this boring stuff and get to the Shelby part.

    And who is that 12-year-old sitting on the hood of your car?

  10. And this is why I have a beard most of the time. Who wants to look like a pudgy adolescent?

    We can't all be dignified Stephen King look-a-likes.

  11. I'm saving revealing those idiosyncracies for when I really need them...

    Stephen King/David Terrenoire. Anyone ever seen them in the same room together? Thought not.

  12. And we are d---ed glad you came to visit us in Thousand Oaks, Jim!

    Tom, T.O.