Author, Actor, Playwright, Excellent Parallel Parker

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

Sunday, August 15, 2010

My Trippy Trip to the Poisoned Pen

I flew to Phoenix last week to stump for Ashes to Water at The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale. It was trippy. First of all, Phoenix is an oven, and I forgot my five-day deodorant pads. Just as well, because they wouldn't have worked for an hour, much less five days. I remembered to floss, however, so I flashed the pearly whites with confidence. My pretentious fountain pen leaked on my raw silk suit, but that wasn't because of anything I forgot to pack. I'm finished writing about my personal hygiene now, so you can keep reading.

The evening was trippy for more reasons. I had the pleasure of sharing the bill with Diane Noble (in the colorful wrap). I'd been seeing Diane's book, The Sister Wife everywhere, so it was great to meet her and learn about this Avon Inspirational. I also got to meet Will, the events coordinator, who last April finally caved as I forced myself onto his calendar. Thanks again, Will, for taking a chance on an unknown, and to the friendly staff at PP for making me feel at home. I can't speak for Diane, although I'm quite sure you made her feel at home as well. She seemed happy enough, anyway.

Many of the kind people there showed up because of new best friend and journalist Robrt Pela, who contacted his peeps and urged them to attend. How great is that? Robrt, if you're out there, and I know you are, I will never forget this kindness. Thank you for your warm hospitality and support. I think I love you. No, I do. I love you. There, I said it.
This visit was also trippy because I got to meet someone I only know from Twitter. How often do you meet people you follow on Twitter? Okay, maybe it's not so unusual, but I don't get out much. I was pleasantly flipped out to meet Lesa Holstine, book blogger, tweeter and mystery lover, who was kind enough to stop by, and will include our event in an upcoming blogpost at

Trippier still to see longtime friend Michael B. I live in Virginia so we get to see each other like, once in a decade. And he had read Ashes to Water! I think the last thing he read was Catcher in the Rye about forty years ago, so I was honored. In a subsequent email, Michael shared his reaction:
"I had never been to anything like that before.  It was really interesting. Your initial presentation was not at all what I expected. I really liked it--sort of a cross between a synopsis, a statement of literary philosophy, and a sales pitch. Then Diane Noble did her presentation, and it was in the same style. Is there a kind of conventional structure for book signing presentations? Is there a lot of variation between events?  Are some book signings very different from others?"

All good questions, Michael, and I'm sure the dozens of people who read my blog every year would like to know the answers, so here you go:

No, Michael, there is no conventional structure for book signing presentations. One must be ready to adapt to everything from a throng of adoring fans, to a room full of no-shows. I am more experienced with the latter, and have become quite adept at buying rather than selling books at the stores I visit. 

Yes, Michael, there is a lot of variations between events and yes, some book signings are very different from others. In Seattle, I stood on the sidewalk and tried to pull people in from the street. Seriously. In Portland, the bookstore owner interviewed me as patrons walked past. And in Minneapolis, I stood behind a podium and extemporized my way into an incoherent corner and embarrassed myself. That is why I composed a formal presentation. I delivered it only once before, in Richmond, because the bookstore owner specifically asked me not to read from the book, and I figured it would be a good idea to have something to say other than, "Hi, I'm Irene and I wrote this book."

You didn't tell me what you expected of the evening, Michael, but I bet I can guess. You know me primarily as an actor, so I bet you thought I was going to read, didn't you? I would very much like to read from Ashes to Water, but have been asked on three different occasions not to do this. I suspect our hosts are used to seeing authors put people to sleep in this way. It's a shame, really, but you can see how a reading, or in my case, a dramatic presentation would be just plain odd, especially if no one showed up to see it.

What would be ideal? Well, for me, I'd love to do a combination presentation/performance along the lines of my solo performance piece, Rules of the Lake, which is about the role of memory when composing fiction. But the proper venue for that would be a theatre, and it would have to be billed as a theatrical performance, not a book signing. Hmm. I think I'm starting to get an idea, here.

Anyway, thank you for your email, Michael, and thanks again to you good people out there who actually show up to these things. As you've clearly figured out, you don't have to buy a book to attend. We want to hear your ideas, and have the opportunity to convert you to readers. And should you feel compelled to shoot us an email afterward, oh my gosh, that would be just too wonderful to imagine. (Thanks for doing that, Michael and Paul.)

My next stop is my hometown, DeLand, FL, where Ashes to Water is set. Talk about trippy. I'll be hanging out for three hours as part of DeLand's Hot August Nights celebration, so come on out, DeLand, and say hello. I can't wait to see you again. And don't worry. I'll remember my deodorant.


  1. Irene,

    That's funny. I've actually met a few people I knew only from Twitter or Listservs. They don't always look like I expect, but they are everything I've come to enjoy personality-wise. (Is that a word?) The people I've met are just as much fun in person. I wish you'd had a chance to read from Ashes to Water. I would have liked to have heard that reading.

    Continued good luck! (The pictures aren't great from the event. It will be posted in a day or two. Didn't get the camera fixed until Friday.)

    Thank you, Irene.

    Lesa -

  2. It was actually in Milwaukee that you decided to compose a formal presentation...


    Hello everyone, I am Evans Torttor from USA and want to use this medium to express gratitude to MIKE LARRY for fulfilling his promise by granting me a loan, i was stuck in a financial situation and needed to refinance and pay my bills as well as start up a Business. I tried seeking for loans from various loan firms both private and corporate organizations but never succeeded and most banks declined my credit request. But as God would have it, i was introduced by a friend named Esther to MIKE LARRY LOAN FIRM and undergone the due process of obtaining a loan from the company, to my greatest surprise within 48hrs just like my friend Esther said, i was also granted a loan of $387,000.00 USD; So my advise to everyone who desires a loan, "if you must contact any firm with reference to securing a loan online with low interest rate of 3% and better repayment plans/schedule, please contact MIKE LARRY LOAN FIRM. Besides, he doesn't know that am doing this but due to the joy in me, i'm so happy and wish to let people know more about this great company whom truly give out loans, it is my prayer that GOD should bless them more as they put smiles on peoples faces. You can contact them via email on {}