PART TWO OF A JOURNEY SELLING BOOKS IN AMERICA IN THE YEAR 2017
Passing through Jamestown, SC
I wrote this blog on the eleventh day after the Las Vegas shooting. It brings to mind a quote I used in my recent novel Under The Same Sun at the beginning of a chapter titled I Heard The News Today .
“A thousand such simple tricks they played,
and after eleven days returned to themselves again, not remembering anything that had passed.”
~ Robert Beverly’s History of Virginia
Once again the news cycle has moved on from another mass shooting. There are fires burning in the wine country of California, Trump is threatening NBC and other news organizations, Puerto Rico is without clean water and electricity, and North Korea looms large.
I don’t know what event Robert Beverly was speaking of. I found the quote after I finished the rough draft of Under The Same Sun. Rich and I had just left the inn after some contentious encounters with the difficult owner. We were recuperating. Rich was painting at a house on the Cape and I was trying to get back into my novel when I found Thoreau’s book, Cape Cod, on a bookshelf in our friends’ living room. This quote jumped off the page and helped me navigate the final chapters of Under The Same Sun.
If you want to know more, you need to buy the book and read it. I’m here to share Part Two of the stories and the people I met on a recent book tour through the South.
Lake Wylie, South Carolina
Lake Wylie, SC
I met Cindy a few years ago. Her son and my daughter live together. We became fast friends. Rich and I visited her and her husband Ron last April in Lake Wylie and also at their pecan farm in South Georgia.
Cindy is a Mohegan Indian and was born on the reservation in Connecticut. Her son lent me his signed copy of Medicine Trail: The Life and Lessons of Gladys Tantaquidgeon by Melissa Jayne Fawcett, the current medicine woman for the tribe. Gladys was the medicine woman until she passed away at the age of 106. I brought the book to Cape Cod where some of the Mohegan beliefs and teachings made their way into Under the Same Sun.
After dinner, Cindy and I watched the 60 Minutes piece on the Hubble telescope. When it was over we talked about the Trail of Life and how the Mohegans may have come closest to understanding our existence after death.
When I woke up the next morning Cindy was already cooking grits and bacon.
“Something really bad happened last night,” she told me as I poured myself a cup of coffee. “I didn’t want you to walk in the kitchen and see it on TV. I thought I’d warn you first. There was a mass shooting in Las Vegas last night.”
I did not expect this to happen while I was promoting my book. I wrote the book because I want this to stop.
Flowers from Suzy – Lake Wylie, SC
We ate breakfast and watched the news with sad hearts. A good friend of Cindy’s dropped by with curlers in her hair. Suzy was getting ready for the Hometown Book Pop-Up later that night. She had three bouquets of flowers for us. She told me the story of her grandmother who had started a flower shop and how her adoptive parents kept it going and turned it into a thriving business. It seemed like such a sweet Southern thing to do, making sure we had fresh flowers for our event.
Later in the day Cindy and I stopped at the Market on Wylie wine shop where I met the owner. Barbara moved to Lake Wylie from New York. Her shop is lovely and she has the most amazing prosciutto, racks of lamb, fine cheeses, prepared meals, and wine. Cindy told her about the book. I gave her a bookmark.
“We have to do something together. A wine tasting book event,” Barbara told me.
I loved the idea. We are making plans for my return visit. “It is a win-win for the both of us,” we agreed.
Cindy and Barbara at Market on Wylie
The Lake Wylie Hometown Book Pop-Up was a huge success. I sold enough books that my sales carried me through the rest of my road trip.
The next morning I was the bearer of bad news when I met Cindy in the kitchen for coffee. Tom Petty had passed away.
Driving through the Smoky Mountains from Lake Wylie to Nashville
I met N. Frank Daniels on Facebook through another writer, Darin Strauss. We became Facebook friends and chatted about books and publishing. Frank was putting together an online imprint and asked if I’d be interested in representing my generation – the baby boomers. When I mentioned I wouldn’t be far from Nashville during my travels we made plans to meet.
Cindy asked me how I knew Frank. When I told her, she said, “You be careful. Text me when your meeting’s over.”
When my daughters both heard about this they said, “Mom, you don’t meet up with people from the Internet.”
“We’re meeting in a bookstore,” I told them.
“Yeah, but still…..” They went on, continuing to lecture me.
With Frank Daniels at Books-A-Million ~ Nashville, TN
Frank and I met at Books-A-Million. I talked about my book and he shared his first novel, Future Proof, which was originally launched on his Myspace page. The good reviews and a book tour he embarked on, similar to mine, got the attention of HarperCollins who picked up his book and sent him on a book tour to places like Chicago and L.A.
Life got in the way and it took him a few years to write another novel. By this time the publisher was looking for “more marketable, commercial writing”. Frank self-published his second book, Sanctuary, with CreateSpace.
At the time I met Frank I hadn’t heard from Politics and Prose, an Indie book store in DC, but a cousin of mine in Pennsylvania had tried to set up a Hometown Book Pop-Up at his local Indie Bookstore in Collegeville. He was given the same song and dance.
“We don’t sell books published by CreateSpace.”
We brainstormed. Frank currently works as a sales rep for a distributor. He delivers food to grocery stores and sets up displays. I told him I once worked for a distributor selling speciality food items. We commiserated about the receivers who rule the back rooms of supermarkets like crazed dictators of banana republics.
He also said, “I won’t ask how old you are because that’s rude but are these the worst times you’ve lived through?”
I told him about my Dad the U.S. History teacher.
“I remember him being upset in 1968. The assassinations. The riots. The Democratic National Convention. He hated Vietnam. I was eleven back then. I think it was the violence that upset him. Now he’s worried about democracy, and I am too.”
“Yeah, me too,” Frank said.
Out in the parking lot we said our goodbyes. He was over a foot taller than me but we managed a hug.
“Be careful out there traveling solo,” Frank said. “Text me when you get to your hotel.”
I checked into the Fairfield Inn in Louisville at one in the afternoon. Luckily, my room was ready. I asked the woman at the front desk about the waterfront area. She gave me a lot of info and a map.
“I guess I picked the right hotel,” I said.
“You did,” she said. “But don’t be out alone after dark.”
I walked the streets, took photos, then headed to the Riverfront Park. It was a muggy day and I was pretty sweaty when I saw Joe’s Crab House in the distance. It was three o’clock but I had skipped lunch so I walked another half mile, found a seat at the bar, and ordered a cold beer and the best crab dip I’ve ever had.
Ohio River from Riverfront Park, Louisville, KY
The young woman tending bar told me she was working two jobs to save money for med school. We talked for a long time. I told her about my Messages From America and how I couldn’t find any south of the Mason-Dixon line. She replied, “Oh, you won’t find them. Everyone around here thinks everything’s just fine.”
I asked her about the bridge you can walk across to Indiana.
“It’s a long walk. You won’t be back before dark and you don’t want to be on that bridge in the dark.”
She told me she saw Bernie Sanders there, on the Kentucky side, after he won the primary in Indiana.
“I wanted to vote for him in the primary but I couldn’t because when I was eighteen and still living at home I registered Republican. It was too late to change my party. A lot of kids around here do that, they register Republican like their parents. I’ve since fixed that.”
I paid up and told her I was going to Whisky Row.
“I mean I have to try the Bourbon while I’m in Kentucky. I don’t know if I’ll ever be back, it took me this long to get here.”
I had told her about having visited forty-five of the fifty states and how Kentucky was one of the five I still needed to visit.
“That’s so cool. Just make sure you’re back at your hotel before dark,” she said.
Whisky Row ~ Louisville, KY
Whisky Row was hopping on a Friday night. I met a couple on a pub crawl and asked which bar they recommended. They directed me to Sidebar, a quiet place, not quite busy at five o’clock. I asked the bartender for a local recommendation and he suggested Angel’s Envy. It was smooth and delicious.
I was still hungry and decided to try another bar before it got dark. The pub crawl couple had also recommended The Troll Under The Bridge so I walked over for a nightcap. Hey, you know, there was no book pop-up here in Louisville. This was strictly for me, a night in Kentucky to add to the bucket list. As my friend Midge said back in Isle of Palms, “vacation properly.”
The Troll Under The Bridge ~ Louisville, KY
The bar was below street level, no windows, dark and rowdy. The local couple was sitting on stools at a tall table.
“Hey,” he shouted. “Too quiet for you over there at Sidebar?”
“Yes,” I said.
“Us, too,” he said.
I took the last seat at the bar and ordered a Knob Creek and a wedge salad. The man sitting next to me had cerebral palsy and spoke haltingly. He told me he had returned to college at the age of forty and was studying political science at a small school I’d never heard of. He wanted to discuss current events. He was curious about my politics and polite in his disagreement. He expressed interest in my book so I gave him a bookmark although I didn’t think he’d buy the book.
“I better get going,” I said. “Everyone’s told me to be off the streets before dark.”
“They’re right but I think you might be a little late on that.” He looked at his watch. “It’s six-fifteen.”
I went out the door, doggie bag in hand. The wedge salad was an entire head of iceberg lettuce. I climbed the stairs to the dark street. How did that happen so quickly?
Whisky Row was just getting started for the night but one block away the streets were quiet. I had four blocks to walk to my hotel.
A black family turned the corner onto the street I was walking. The older woman used a cane and held her husband’s hand. A young couple walked in front of them. I hustled up behind them.
The older woman turned around and said, “What you doin’ out here alone?”
“I had an early dinner while it was still light and didn’t realize it got dark so quickly.”
“You walk next to me,” she said.
I sidled up next to her and we started a conversation. They were visiting from Atlanta.
“We’re here for the whisky,” her husband said. “What brings you here? You sound like you’re from Boston.”
I told them I had lived in Boston for several years and I also lived in all six New England states at one time or another. Then I told them about how I came up with the Hometown Book Pop-Up, visiting places authors don’t usually go. How I was visiting friends and taking my book to the readers.
“I like that,” their daughter said.
Everyone wanted a bookmark so I passed them around.
“Under The Same Sun,” the matriarch said. “I like that. How’d you come up with that name?”
“Well, like I said, it’s a story about small town America during the recent election and how we’re all in this together. We really do live under the same sun.”
“Oh indeed, yes we do” she said. They all nodded their heads.
We were now at the corner of the street where their Marriott was to the right and my Fairfield Inn was to the left, about a half a mile apart. The daughter looked up and down the street. There was no one around, just an old woman sitting on a lawn chair in front of a liquor store.
“It looks clean,” she said. “But I think we’ll walk you to the door.”
“Oh, I’ll be okay,” I said. “It’s well lit around here and it’s a busy street.”
“We’re going to walk you to the door,” the older man said.
I thanked them when we got to my hotel and told them to contact me when they read the book, the link to my webpage was on the bookmark.
“We sure will,” they all said.
Walking Louisville, KY
There is no safe place in America. I didn’t intend to be out after dark but it happened. There’s a passage in Under The Same Sun, a scene where Emily Heaton and Henry Howard plan a camping trip in the woods on a summer night just before their senior year in high school. It’s a special night. They’re both nervous and find themselves talking about all sorts of things. Emily mentions her grandmother’s worries and fears. She tells Henry, “One thing I know for sure, I don’t plan on living my life within the confines of fear.”
A little later Henry kisses her on the cheek and says, “I like what you said about fear. It’s a crazy way to live your life.”
John Steinbeck once said, “Many a trip continues long after movement in time and space have ceased.”
I believe this is also true regarding the people we meet on our journey through life. I believe we carry with us everyone we encounter and all the places we go. They make us who we are. They frame our stories and provide a compass. If we close our minds and judge before we experience we become one type of person. If we open our hearts and listen with open minds we will become someone else.
We live in difficult times that could possibly change us. These days are filled with fear, anger, judgement, and sometimes hate. But my compass directed me to the good people who are still out there. Kindness prevails.
***Please buy the book. Help me spread the word. Write an Amazon review. Support an Indie author. Tell your friends. Together we can make a difference.***