Author, Actor, Playwright, Excellent Parallel Parker


Rules of the Lake and Ashes to Water are now available for Kindle and Nook!



Thursday, May 27, 2010

How to Book a Signing if You're Middle Aged and Still Allowed to Drive

I occasionally have trouble with anterior cingulated and prefrontal cortices.

Oh, you too? Annoying, isn’t it?

To those of you under age 40 (and I harbor no bitterness or jealousy, in spite of what court records say), you’ll be experiencing it soon enough. It’s called middle age. It’s tough on the brain. You have to make lists, develop mnemonic devices to hold onto names, stare long and hard at your husband’s face in case you have to pick him out of a line-up. And if you’re an actor, you worry you’re going to live out the classic actor's nightmare, only you won’t be asleep:

What play is this? When do I go on? Did we ever rehearse this? Why am I not wearing clothes?

My prefrontal cortice failure cost me money this week. My step-daughter (hi Chelsea!) invited me to speak to her book group, and I dutifully wrote it down in my date book. On the wrong day. So now Hotwire.com won’t let me change my hotel reservation (the hussies), and I’m paying for a DC hotel room whether I sleep there or not.

You’re damn skippy I’m going to sleep there! I save used baggies and tinfoil. You think I’m going to let a hotel room go to waste? I’m a Democrat, fer chrissakes.

Now, to make hay. (When you’re middle aged, you get to use sentence fragments and say things like "make hay," one of the many benefits of getting closer to death.) Unless the holiday traffic beats me into submission, I’m going use the day to call on independent DC bookstores. Here’s how it will go:

ME: Hi! My name is Irene, and my debut thriller is coming out in June. It’s called Ashes to Water, and so far, the advance buzz has been great. May I tell you about it in 150 words or less?

HER: Who’s your publisher?

ME: F__ S__. (Protecting the innocent)

HER: Take a walk, sister.

That is called an obstacle. An obstacle is what a hero must overcome in order to move the story forward. Here is how I will overcome that obstacle:

ME: Yes, F__ S__ isn't always bookstore friendly, but are you aware that they do offer a standard industry discount for signing events, and will allow you to return unsold books?

HER: Since when?

ME: It’s a fairly recent improvement in their otherwise Draconian customer service practices.

HER: Does Ingram have your book? (For the uninitiated, Ingram is a large book distribution warehouse. Bkstore owners like doing business with Ingram because ordering is easy and shipping is fast.)

ME:  Only in Tennessee, but if you order from Ingram, you’ll only get a 20% discount.

HER: Take a walk, sister.

That is called a second obstacle. A second obstacle is like a first obstacle, only by now, the bookstore owner has dropped eye contact and is going back to what she was doing before you walked in, which, if it’s a bad day, was probably figuring out how much longer she can afford to stay open. If it’s a good day, she was probably wishing she had more copies of Garfield Saves the Day, as that seems to be the only book leaving the store in a bag. Now it is time to build rapport.

ME: Wow, I bet you’re wishing you went into dermatology along about now, huh?

HER: Excuse me?

You see what I did there? I got her asking questions. And her eye contact is back. It’s a little intense, but it’s all good.

ME: I said, Ashes to Water is a Florida thriller about a young woman named Annie who confronts her father’s accused murderer, and comes to believe in the woman’s innocence. This pits her against her erratic and unwell sister, whose very existence depends on a guilty verdict. So now, Annie must choose between her sister and the woman accused of murdering their father. But can she save them both?

HER: What do you want from me?

ME: A signing. No one has ever heard of me, and I have only two family members in the area, but I'll mention your store in my blog and pass out bookmarkers.

HER: Let me get my calendar.

Ta da!  Now the bookstore owner has forgotten she hates my publisher, has forgotten she cannot afford to order books from Ingram, and has forgotten she came THIS CLOSE to being a dermatologist. All she can envision is my shining face and a store full of DC readers longing to get their hands on a page-turning thriller by a debut novelist.

And, unless I look down and realize that I forgot to change out of my pajamas, that is how I will make hay from a situation caused by anterior cingulated and prefrontal cortice failure.

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