Author, Actor, Playwright, Excellent Parallel Parker

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

Monday, August 2, 2010

Depending on the Kindness of Strangers, or Stumping For Ashes

Last week, while you were sweltering in our new global climate, I was in Seattle and Portland, wearing a light jacket and feeling God in each cool breeze. I’m told September is particularly gorgeous in this part
of the country. For me, that would be a bad thing. I would probably swoon alot in public, and be removed for my own safety.

My first signing event was at the Seattle Mystery Book Shop. I knew my name wasn’t going to pull people into the store, so I assailed unsuspecting tourists (and other readers) on the sidewalk. “Hi, I’m the author of this book,” I said, thrusting a bookmark into their personal space. “I’m signing here this afternoon. I hope you’ll stop in.”
A few people took me up on it, and as others flew past, I had some friendly (if brief) conversations. One lovely woman named Angela stopped and said, “Well, I don’t really buy books, but thank you for the bookmark.” A few seconds later, she came back. “I’m a librarian,” she said. “That’s why I don’t buy books for myself, but I do buy for the library. Do authors like it when libraries buy their books?” I must have started jumping up and down at that point because she took a step back.
“We LOVE librarians,” I said.

“But, if your book is for free, don’t your sales suffer?”

I almost told her my sales couldn’t suffer any more if they were crucified upside-down, but opted to play it cool. “For many authors, libraries represent our largest sales percentage. If it weren’t for libraries, many of us would never find a readership.” 

“Oh, okay. I always wondered that.”

By the time she moved on, I’m pretty sure I had convinced her to buy a copy Ashes to Water for every library in the glorious state of Washington. That’s the way I roll.

JoAnn from the most wonderful store in Seattle bought multiple books from me, and hear me now, if you like contemporary art jewelry, apparel and handwovens, there is no better place than Ragazzi’s Flying Shuttle on 1st Avenue. JoAnn owns the store with her sister. GORGEOUS jackets, scarves and jewelry. It’s my new favorite store and JoAnn is my new best friend.

And JB, Gretchen and Fran at Seattle Mystery Book Shop could not have been nicer. It was very generous of them to host an unknown author and treat me as if I was Stephanie Meyer. Before I left, I signed their stock, their guestbook, and contributed to their blog. I’m honored to be among the illustrious authors they’ve hosted.
From Seattle I drove to Portland, OR, home of Murder By the Book. I was very impressed with the foot traffic in this revitalized neighborhood. At first I thought I’d wandered onto a special city event, but no, it was a normal Saturday on Hawthorne Boulevard. I was prepared to throw myself into the fray, but Barbara, Jean and Jackie made me very comfortable inside. They asked me questions about the book, my journey as a writer, and what it takes to promote a book these days. To my surprise and delight, a dear friend from my Michigan days dropped in with her fiancé and made my day. Thanks Emily and Zack. It was wonderful to see you.
While I don’t have Stephanie Meyer nervously glancing in her rearview, worried I’m going to catch up with her sales numbers, I do have something she doesn’t have. Because I am willing, in search of a readership, to traipse across country on my own dime, visit with independent mystery bookstore owners, and talk to folks on the sidewalk, I get to meet the folks who champion my book. Like Blanche Dubois, unknown authors like me depend on the kindness of strangers, and in Seattle and Portland, we're in good hands.


  1. This is great! I love the handing out bookmarks. Who doesn't love a bookmark plus it informs and if people don't buy the book right away, they have the reminder to do it later.

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