Saturday, May 17, 2008

Sunday's Guest Blogger, Baron Birtcher

Baron R. Birtcher
Blog: May 18, 2008

Aloha, Y’all.
Apologies for the mixed patois, but I’m on week six of an eight-week signing tour promoting my new hardboiled mystery, ANGELS FALL, the third book in the Mike Travis series. The tour has thus far taken me to Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, Phoenix, Dallas, San Antonio, Tyler—and most recently— Houston, hence the newly acquired “y’all” that I now find so useful.

I had the great privilege of signing (and talking story, Hawaiian-kine) with the lovely, charming and talented Deborah Atkinson at the LA Times Festival of Books a few weeks ago, and I offer a very large mahalo for her kind invitation to join you as a Guest Blogger.

I couldn’t help but notice that there have been a number of entries regarding the pros, cons, and vagaries of touring to promote our work, so I hope you will indulge me if I weigh in on the topic as well.

I’ve had a bit of time to ruminate on the subject—some of which while staring at the front door of one or another Big Box bookstore feeling a bit like a carnival barker (or something even less dignified). Like many of you, I’ve spent my share of face-time with the Endless Talkers, the Let-Me-Tell-You-About-The-Book- I’m-Writing(ers), the You-Should-Write-MY-Life-Story(ers), and my new personal favorite: the reader who painstakingly inspects every aspect of your book—from cover art to binding—quizzes you on the content, then informs you, “I never read anything that has a Prologue.” What? Excuse me?

Then I had one of those unexpected, big, hairy reality-checks.

I received an email from a reader who actually apologized for missing a workshop I did while in Arizona. It was one of the kindest, most heartfelt pieces of correspondence I’ve received in quite a while, and more than a little humbling. It ended with the phrase, “I just wanted you to know that you are living the life I have always dreamed of.”

Wow. Right between the eyes. Then I remembered: “Me, too.”

Forgive the forest-for-the-trees metaphor, but it’s easy to get our noses pressed right up against the tree bark, and temporarily forget what an enormous privilege it is to be able to have the freedom to practice the craft of writing, to experience the thrill of holding a book in our hands that contains the end-product of the stories we worked so long and hard to create; and most importantly, to meet and talk with the people who read them. And, of course, our collective lifeblood, the Book Sellers. We couldn’t do jack squat without ’em.

I have come to look forward to signings as the culmination—the final act—of the writing process. Sure, the travel can be an Industrial Grade Pain in the A** but so worthwhile. Always a great reminder of the real reason we do what we do.

I’m honored to be a part of this industry, and to share shelf-space with y’all (there it is again…) And I’ve never encountered a more helpful and generous group of writers than those who write Mysteries. You have my greatest respect and gratitude.

A hui hou,
Baron R. Birtcher


Charles benoit said...

You're preaching to the choir, Baron, but I still love to hear it! It IS cool, no doubt about it - and I even love the Grade A Pain in the Ass stuff, too, since, when you look at it the way you suggest, it's not a pain at all but a necessary part of the process. Now, when does you're tour swing you to Upstate New York?

Vicki Delany said...

Thanks for your comments, Baron. (Is that your real name?). I was supposed to have a signing yesterday at a big box store; I called Friday to confirm. Yep, we've got you down. Phone rings 2 minutes later - uh, we don't have any of your books. It has it's ups and down to be sure, but the ups are all worth it.

Rick Blechta said...

Geez, I killed a baron in my 4th novel. Hope you don't take that amiss.

Great post. When a writer gets an email like the one you received it makes it all worthwhile. I haven't been that lucky, but at yesterday's signing, a spoke to two gentlemen from Australia who work in Toronto. One was flying to London and wanted a book; the other bought one that interested him.

The interesting part was the discussion that evolved (and they were very kindly aware that lots of people were walking by (that's handout time while I carry on the conversation) and we chatted about a recent CWA Dagger winner, The Broken Short by Peter Temple, who is also Australian. To cut the story short, a few minutes later, the gentleman returned with a copy of The Broken Short and handed it to me. He wanted my opinion on it and had purchased it to give me. So here I am at a signing and a customer is buying me a book!

To quote Charles, "How cool is that?"

Thanks for dropping by, Baron. Feel free to pull up a chair and jump in on any conversation.

Rick Blechta said...

Note to self: Always hit PREVIEW before posting comments.

Donis Casey said...

You're right about the mystery community, Baron. Some of the best people hang out there. I've met a couple of big name authors who get that deer-in-the-headlights look when you mention that you've written a book (I guess their first thought is "what does she want from me?") But mystery novelists, even some Very Big Names, seem to know that there is plenty of good luck and fame to go around, and they don't mind sharing, or even letting you in on any secrets they may know.

Debby (Deborah Turrell) Atkinson said...

I need this reminder often,especially when I'm finishing up a manuscript and am feeling the pressure of a looming deadline. Insecurity in the form of reluctance to let go seizes me. And then I listen to my friends in this generous,supportive field.
Thanks, Baron, for putting it so eloquently.

Baron R. Birtcher said...

Thank you, everyone, for your kind comments. I had a blast. Continued success to all, and mahalo for letting me join you!


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