Greetings from the air over Baltimore! Today was a nice start to the Fallen tour, despite the fact that I had to get up at 5:30 AM. I didn’t know the sun was out that early. Crazy! I managed to finish the last of my packing (no one ever said “I wish I’d packed less underwear!”), then went to the Atlanta airport to start work. Well, sort of work, because signing books isn’t that hard, but you kind of forget that after the first hundred. Anyway, they gave me free coffee, which is never bad, and I was at the gate five minutes before my flight was called, which is what we in the biz call “perfect timing.”
The flight to Baltimore was uneventful but for the man next to me who was dipping snuff and spitting into an empty water bottle every ten minutes. I haven’t dry heaved like that since the last Slaughter family reunion, where all seven of my hillbilly uncles kept leaving their spit bottles around. And yet, I still managed to eat a pack of nuts and a Twix candy bar, which is a testament to my fortitude.
I landed in Baltimore around noon. A nice man met me at the gate and took me to sign more books at one of the terminal stores. A lot of the airport folks are doing a big promotion for Fallen, which is why I said “of course!” when they asked me to sign. They offered me free coffee at the store, but I was still feeling ookie from the Twix and the spit bottle, so I politely declined.
My author escort, Christina, was a bit frazzled when I finally made it to baggage claim because we had two interviews tightly scheduled, and another live interview later for Sirius XM that I could not be late for. Let’s just say we were both doing some toe tapping as we waited for my bag to drop (which sounds like a bawdy joke you might hear at an old folks’ home, but really I am talking about my luggage).
We drove into DC, where I had 38 minutes to check in and get room service. I ordered a club sandwich (no cheese) and some bottled water. I checked out the hotel minibar to see what was on offer. Snickers. Trail mix. Bottled water (six bucks!). Pringles. Every hotel I have stayed at everywhere I’ve been in the world has Pringles. Oh, Pringles. I’m not even sure what you are, but I love you.
My first interview (Jo Reed with WPFW-FM‘s On the Margin) was taped in my room, which I don’t normally do because I don’t want strangers seeing my bits and bobs, but other than a half-eaten sandwich and a torn open can of Pringles, there was nothing to outrage or disgust. Jo was very nice and asked thoughtful questions. She let me do a plug for Save the Libraries (she loves libraries, too) and didn’t say anything about the pieces of Pringles I had to shake out of my shirt.
The phone rang, and it was Christina telling me my next interview was downstairs. I grabbed my satchel and met Bill Thompson (Eye on Books) for a five-minute chat. Bill is a sweetheart and we have known each other for years, so our talk went fast. Then Christina and I rushed over to the XM studio.
I love the ladies at Fiction Nation. They are very well read, and always prepared, and I cannot say that I have ever had a boring conversation with either of them. They were especially kind today because they let me talk quite a bit about libraries and how they need help. They asked me what folks should do to help libraries, and I said don’t try to help all of them. Help your local library. I think folks can get overwhelmed if they try to concentrate on all the systems, or they can feel like a smaller donation is pointless to a large system‚ but thinking just in terms of helping your local library down the street makes it easier. That is my story, and I am sticking to it.
Library talk pretty much filled the rest of the interview. (If my publisher is reading this, don’t worry. We talked about Fallen, too) These interviews go fast when you’re having fun, and like that it was time for me to go. I managed to squeeze in a chat with my buddy Bob (R.L.) Stine, who was cued up on the phone to be interviewed after me. Bob is a great guy and a big library supporter. I am definitely going to catch up with him at Thrillerfest next month and make him promise to do a Save the Libraries event.
After we left XM, Christina drove me back to the hotel so I could take a 28-minute nap. I changed into a new shirt (the old one had grease stains on it for some reason), checked out of the hotel, and met Christina out front.
We didn’t see much traffic on the drive to the Herring Run branch library, which is in far-away Baltimore. We took a couple of wrong turns that reminded me of the opening to Bonfire of the Vanities (Christina had never been to this branch before), but we found our way safe and sound. There were lots of what I guess you would call row houses around the library and people sitting out on their front porches to fight the heat. The yards had very pretty flowers that reminded me of my neighbor’s yard at home (which looks better than mine, but some of us get heat rashes and are very pasty and can’t spend every freakin day tending their yards, so whatev).
By now, I was hungry again. Since we were early, Christina and I drove past the library in search of food. We looked for a Subway but settled on McDonald’s for dinner. I haven’t been to McDonald’s in a long time so I really enjoyed my cheeseburger Happy Meal. The girl toy (a doll) was not to my taste and I kind of regret not asking for the boy one, which was a dinosaur-looking robot. All these years without McDonald’s and I get a stupid doll. I’m not going to lie; I was disappointed.
Satiated (foodwise, at least), we headed back to the library. We found a parking space right in front of the building, which was very nice. Lynne and Anne and Poonam, all librarians, met me at the door. They had a nice display of my book jackets with some handcuffs and other police-related items in the display case. At least I hope they were for display‚ otherwise, we need to call the FBI. There was a bookseller from Barnes and Noble on hand with books, which people kindly bought.
I have to say the crowd was lively. They had a ton of questions, too. Many of them had driven quite a distance, and they listened to me read and laughed at all my jokes, so of course in addition to having good reading tastes, they are all very smart. One reader took off work and drove two hours in awful traffic to come see me (she is from Waldorf, like the salad. Remember those? Apples, walnuts, and mayonnaise, oh my). She almost missed me too, so I am glad I stuck around yapping before heading off to catch my flight.
The Herring Run branch is without a doubt an urban library, but I have to say you would never know that once you are inside. It is a sweet little branch, and you can tell by the great care they take of it that the librarians and patrons all love the place. One of my readers has lived in the area almost 25 years, and she helps out by planting and tending flowers outside the building. Most of the people in attendance at my event came from other parts of Baltimore that might have bigger or newer facilities, but I could tell that they all felt at home. At the end of the day, that’s what a library is to a community‚ right? I remember that my first apartment when I was back in college felt so bare and lonely until I started furnishing it with books.
Oh! Tee shirt idea: “home is where your books are.*”
Well, we are either about to land or the plane is falling from the sky. At least I won’t die with a bottle of spit wedged up beside me.
Your Intrepid Author,