...nothing here is promised, not one day... Lin-Manuel Miranda

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I've been remarking that it's the month for "L" authors to be touring. No, this isn't like "oysters 'r' in season" at least I don't think so. I don't think any of these folks are affected by red tide; I can't how well they go with black bean sauce.

But in marking the calendar and reading the "books" section of the newspaper and reading the mailings I've been getting with new books and knowing some plans, I got a case of the giggles when I saw that in this month of June, Laura was touring. And Lee. And Louise. And Lisa. Further than that I dare not go in case we discover some deep hidden meaning and solve the DaFluffy Code or something.

But in some cases, these are authors who are new to touring and in others, it's old hat. And in some cases (okay, 3 out of 4) I know the authors. And some have been sharing their experiences of touring. And in some cases, I've been trying to live vicariously because it's Louise's first tour for her first book and (squeal alert, turn down the volume) isn't this EXCITING!!!!!!

So you know how it is, you start wondering "how would I cope if I were on a book tour?"

It's a given that book tours are, for many of us readers, GOBS O' FUN, because we get to see authors as they whip through town. It's a given that tours can be very strange things because here we have these people who perform their magical whatever it is they do (I hear it involves a lot of staring at a computer screen) in total private. And mean, what do we know? We just know that they disappear for weeks and months and the next thing that happens, poof, there's a book and poof, if we're lucky they come to our town. For all we know, they're affable and sociable and articulate; just because they do this very singular, very private thing in front of a computer screen doesn't mean they're anti-social any more than anyone in any other career might be. But it's got to create some form of whiplash, don't you think? These often disciplined folks get up every day and write - often at disgusting hours - all alone in a corner, or an office, or at the coffee place that lets them set up with a laptop for hours, or in between everything else. But it's a singular profession and then poof, out they go amongst us. Strangers to a large extent, although as they get known, as certainly Laura and Lee are known and have said, sometimes friends show up. Sometimes they're on-line friends sometimes they're people they actually know. Sometimes they're people from The Past (I'm hearing more and more of those stories lately) and have told a few of them myself. I recently told my favor book-signing story to a bunch of friends who hadn't heard it before. It's one of my best star turns and I owe it all to a total stranger. I'm also very proud of the moment last December when we were at the Christopher Moore appearance for THE STUPIDEST ANGEL and I got to say something funny which was just perfectly timed from something HE said and I got to make the entire audience laugh, much as he had been making us laugh. (My face hurt for about an HOUR afterwards from laughing so much. And the line was about having enough Vicodin for everyone. It was appropriate at the time. You hadda be there. Trust me.)

And while we readers are of course intelligent and charming and wickedly funny and when they come to our town, we ask these writers nothing BUT intelligent charming and wickedly funny questions, well there might, just might be some other people out there who aren't as skilled and spiffy as we are. So it might be that on some nights, these authors who, without a doubt, know that most writers nowadays don't GET book tours so they know yeah yeah how lucky they are, but oh MAN, some days it must be hard to be Touring Author Person.

So I'm putting myself in their position and wondering how I'd do. Heh, heh. Part of me is "oh wow" because I still like going into hotel rooms for the first time and poking around and seeing if they have good shampoo and if they have enough hangers and which parking lot the room looks out on -the front or the back. And how far am I from the elevator. I like hotel rooms. They're not glamorous exactly but I'm not blasé; I've been going into hotel rooms for decades and they are still mostly groovy to me because mostly I'm in a hotel room for a fun/good reason. Mostly for years now, I'm in a hotel room because I'm at a convention. So okay, it's a teeny itsy bitsy glamorous. I like the robes, I like the room service menu (even though it's an outrage what they charge for coffee and I cannot ring myself to pay it mind you.) (But I could, if you see what I mean.) I'm rather fond of hotels that give me cookies and which provide tub duckies.

Traveling is however WAY less fun for me than it used to be. I'm not a bad traveler but I'm not great; I get a little anxious. In recent years, it's not exactly anxiety but I have reason to be concerned that things will go wrong. Going wrong happens; hey. Sometimes the airline mislays your flight crew and finds out they were shanghaied by someone and put on ANOTHER airplane. Fog happens. Equipment problems happen. I never expect perfection. Things HAVE gone wrong and there's not reason to doubt they will again. It's stickier now. Whether it's that "the computer says that's a handicapped accessible room so it has to be" - no, it's not - or my favorite to date, united losing, yes LOSING my scooter - it's messy when I travel. So I can't just hop up and go. Years ago when, yes, they stole our flight crew and we were stuck in - oh god was it Detroit? I was still walking. If I were using the scooter, I'd probably still be there, trying to get home. Horrible night, just horrid.

And then I see these writers on leg one, or leg 12 or leg 426 of their tour managing to be charming, and listen to the questions and act fresh and interested and seem to be genuinely glad you showed up at their signing and asked that question. And it can't be that all writers are actors. I have to assume it's the sort of thing that keeps me going at conventions - adrenaline to some extent. I mean I know for lots of people the joys of chocolates on your pillow are long gone.

Of course, admitting that I think about how it would be to be on a book tour means I'm admitting to having thought about the other stuff too. Okay, so yeah, I HAVE imagined using a pseudonym. And no, that's different from picking your Hobbit name or your porn name. I did it ages ago and I can't recall when; it's not that I don't want to be known by my own name but as I've gotten older, I've gotten horribly horribly twitchy about the Spelling Thing and I know, KNOW that 81.5 percent of the time, I'd be mis-filed, mis-shelved, mis-catalogued and all those people who so wanted to read my book wouldn't be able to because the store clerk couldn't find it in the computer when they looked up that author's name. But I did it. And I do it still because one of the only ways I can GET stuff is to imagine myself DOING the same stuff. And thinking that, in the long run, I'd end up depending a lot on the kindness of strangers. I mean can you see what a mess I'd be if my flight got in late? Good gods, folks, lately it takes me two hours to get going in the morning. By that time, the "Ls" are likely finishing a radio interview, have worked on chapter 4 of the next book AFTER the next book, have been to the exercise room, had their breakfast and are bushy-eyed and bright-tailed. And ready to be coherent and charming.

And so I wonder when it stops being glamorous. That's not that these writers - the Ls and all the others I know who tour around - on their publishers' money and on their own dime at times - don't appreciate it, I'm not saying that. I would bet you that every one of them is glad to do it. Tired maybe but glad. I know that when I have seen an author on tour who's been doing it for a while and it's book seven, they still ARE interesting and charming and delighted to see the people who schlepped out to see them. And they still are keenly aware that they have this job that requires them to be alone a LOT and that what they're doing now is the exact opposite the antithesis of what they DO as a writer. So I hoe that while all hotel rooms after all must look alike, and it's no longer interesting WHAT cable stations you can get at the Hilton in Wherever Falls, or Santa Whatever, and that you really stopped collecting the little soaps 3 tours ago because you've got enough for every charity drive until the NEXT millennium, man I'm glad authors still get to go out on tour.

And I'm glad, I guess that they tour even if they don't come to my city (as Lisa Scottoline isn't, so it's not a perfect 4L trip this time) because what tends to happen is even if I can't get to see someone (as happened this time, sniff) I get to hear somewhere down the line (as happened this time, yay) "Oh, my god you were SO right!!! This author is so cool!" And then I get to knock the dust off my Stetson, nod, and ride off into the sunset because my work here is done.

Oh, Petunia Sandybanks. What's it to you?

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