Don’t go to Dayton in February and Other Lessons Learned on the Road
The Stiletto Gang is delighted to welcome Rosemary Harris. Rosemary is the author of Pushing up Daisies, the first in the Dirty Business series. Visit her website at www.rosemaryharris.com
First off I should say that the folks in Dayton were wonderful. All four of them who showed up for my signing at Books and Company during an ice storm that had me crawling into my rental car on the passenger’s side because the driver’s side door was frozen shut.
When my debut mystery, Pushing Up Daisies, finally came out I was over the moon. It had been almost two years between that long-awaited phone call from my agent and my launch party. That night was almost as good as my wedding night (I said almost, honey…)
The next morning I flew to Phoenix. Through Dallas. Of course there was a delay so I arrived much later than I thought I would. Lesson two, try not to arrive in a strange city late at night, especially when it’s filled with still-hungover stragglers from the SuperBowl. Of course I was smart enough to have purchased a TomTom, a GPS device. But I wasn’t smart enough to test it out a few times before I left home. To this day, Tomasina, the voice of the Tom, thinks home is Phoenix. After checking in I settled in for a few hours of work against the backdrop of Law & Order. Lesson three, wherever you go, at any hour of the day or night some version of L&O will be on television. Embrace it. Theirs may be the only friendly voices you’ll hear for hours.
Lesson four – assuming you’re not Janet E and aren’t staying in five star hotels, pick a hotel that has a free breakfast buffet. Most of the time you’ll just want to grab a coffee and a little something, not wolf down a full lumberjack breakfast.
That day I learned to use the TomTom and “dropped in” to every bookstore that Joe Konrath had visited (see Newbie’s Guide to Publishing), did a live television interview – sandwiched in between the native dancers and a hurricane expert – and was I feeling pretty good. But it was still hours before my signing at Poisoned Pen.
Lesson five – if you find yourself with a few hours in an unfamiliar city and either don’t want to work or can’t – get a manicure. Or better still a blowdry. They’re generally inexpensive and like barbershops used to be for men, beauty salons are social centers filled with women who like to chat. That first day, it was a great warm-up for me. Everyone in the salon treated me like a celebrity, I handed out daisy seeds promoting the book and left feeling like a million bucks.
By that time the free mini-poppy seed muffin I’d had for breakfast was getting lonely in my stomach so I decided to stop for a bite. Except nothing near the store was open. I peeked into the darkened Café Monarch and saw three men cleaning up. I told them I had a signing at the bookstore in 20 minutes and didn’t have time to drive around looking for another place to eat, so they turned some of the lights on, lit a few candles, and whipped up a cold chicken pesto salad which was just delicious. It was like something out of a movie. All alone in this cute café looking across the street to where I’d be having my first signing. Later on I signed hundreds of books and had a lively conversation in the round with soon-to-be fans including the fab Lesa Holstine. It was great. I thought – I love my life!
The next weekend I flew to Dayton. What can I say? Sometimes the magic works, sometimes it doesn’t. The most difficult journey had to be my Philly-Chicago-Detroit-Denver-NY trip. On paper this seemed like a perfectly reasonable thing to do. And it might have been if I hadn’t lost my drivers license somewhere between the hotel in Philly and the airport in Philly.
Somehow, without being subjected to a strip search, I talked my way onto the plane in Philadelphia. I felt pretty smug about that until I looked around the airport and wondered who else had talked themselves through security. Lesson six – always carry two forms of i.d.
Once in Detroit, I couldn’t pick up my rental car, because I had no driver’s license. But that was okay because there was a blizzard and I wouldn’t have been going anywhere anyway. No planes were going out either so instead of spending one night at the glamorous Hilton Garden Inn at the airport, I was there for three nights, with dozens of flight attendants who were clearly doing more than watching Law & Order in their rooms at night. The Hilton offered a full warm breakfast (not free, as I recall, but under the circumstances, I loved it.) Unfortunately there was no other food available during the day except for microwaveable burritos, and a spinner rack full of individual sized portions of dry cereals. Lesson six – bring food. I now pack envelopes of tuna, protein bars, and occasionally Cheerios, which I had never eaten before but learned to love at the Hilton Garden Inn.
My husband Fedexed my passport and I was eventually able to get out of Detroit. I thought I’d catch an earlier flight to Denver (I was getting cabin fever in my tiny room.) Lesson seven – always leave half an hour earlier, even if it’s five-thirty in the morning. Who knew so many people would be leaving Detroit at six fifteen? Was there an evacuation notice that I hadn’t heard about? No, just the vagaries of the flight schedules made the airport really busy at the ungodly hour.
I finally arrived in Denver, no lost luggage, no more drama and a few lessons learned. And I’m still learning. What lessons have you learned from the road?