Monday, 23 April 2012

This week's word is: TOURING

A bunch of renegade authors...
Hello, dragon fans. Phew! What a week. It's hard to know where to begin. After a lengthy sleep on Monday, the author poked his head through the hotel room curtains to discover that Houston was dull and overcast, which was completely at odds with what we'd expected of Texas. But everything was soon to change. After a couple of muddling days, the sun came out, the temperature soared and the cowboy hat went on (him, not me). Up until then, we had only done a couple of small events including one at the very welcoming Beth Yeshurun school where we met author Adam Gidwitz and saw him give an hilarious presentation about his book A Tale Dark and Grimm. Then on Wednesday the big stuff kicked in...

Last time the author was in America, he was touring alone. This time, he was part of a package of authors which included Jennifer A. Nielsen, Sarah Mlynowski, Michael Northrop, Augusta Scattergood (wonderful name), Elizabeth Eulberg, Siobhan Vivian and Maggie Stiefvater. American fans will know there are some pretty talented writers listed there. On Wednesday morning, the authors were invited to present their latest books to a crowd of 250 librarians.  But rather than simply stand up and read, each author was asked to select a piece of text which could be dramatised and performed from a script.  The authors were split into two groups.  The author found himself paired with Jennifer & Sarah. First off, the group performed a scene from THE FIRE ASCENDING, with Sarah as the evil warlord, Voss.  It went very well, judging by the 'oohs' when we reached the end, as did a piece from Jennifer's book The False Prince (which we highly recommend, very 'Merlin-esque').  But the highlight was the performance of a scene from Sarah's book, Whatever After, which is basically a topsy-turvy retelling of the Snow White story.  The author was cast as 'Evil Evelyn' who tries to persuade Snow White to eat a poisoned cookie.  Let's just say he won't be winning any oscars for his performance as the wicked Evelyn, who first appears as a little girl in pigtails, but the librarians of Texas will certainly remember him for it.   

Later that day, five of the authors visited the wonderful Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston, where they each gave a brief presentation of their books and not only signed the books for sale, but signed the bookshop wall as well.  See if you can spot the author's attempt here.

Thursday rolled around, and with it the opportunity for our hero to speak on a panel with the engaging and erudite fantasy author, Blake Charlton.  In front of an audience of about 200, the two of them answered some tricky dragony questions, such as: How do you decide on the characteristics of the dragons in your stories? Erm, he doesn't. We show him!  And: How do you start the process of building your worlds? Answer: I write something down on my pad for him. Next!  After the panel, the author signed for an hour and met and chatted to a whole bunch of librarians, charming them mercilessly with his English accent until I prodded him with my isoscele and reminded him we needed to go on to an event at a public library in Houston.

From here on in, the week really becomes the story of two very dedicated female fans, Lauren and Rachel... Blog followers will perhaps remember how we reported that a few weeks ago, the mom of Lauren wrote to the author telling him that the dragon books had helped her daughter through treatment for lymphoma.  Well, on Thursday afternoon they turned up, dressed in T-shirts emblazoned with the word HRRR!  Next week, we will hopefully show a picture of them - or the author dressed in one of the shirts they presented to him.  Meetings like this just prove what a small place the world can be and how books can bring people together. Hrrr!

That event in Houston was the last before we got onto another plane and flew to the amazing Salt Lake City in Utah. Salt Lake is built on a flat basin of marshland cradled to the east and west by the snow-capped Wasatch and Oquirrh mountain ranges.  A quick call home to Gwendolen confirmed that The Winter Olympics were held in SLC in 2002. The author, while he thought the mountains were beautiful, could not understand how it could be 80F on the sidewalks of the city and yet snow could be seen on the mountain peaks, "they don't seem high enough, Zookie" he said. I then reminded him that we were actually some 4,000 feet above sea level and had he brought his oxygen mask...?

By now, we had met our wonderful media escort, Marisa, who drove us to a Barnes & Noble store in Layton, UT, where we met acting store manager Blaine, who worked extremely hard all night to bring people to the author's signing table. It was a great event in two ways because we got to see the lovely Jennifer Nielsen again and we sold a fair number of books.  Amazingly, people were buying the WHOLE SET, which is one of the benefits of writing a series, folks. 

But what of the other girl, Rachel, we mentioned?  Well, she turned up at the fantastic King's English Bookshop in SLC where the author gave a presentation to a small but willing crowd the next day - out in the bookshop garden, no less.  Rachel had been following my blog posts and had persuaded her mom to drive for TWO HOURS to come and meet me.  That's dedication for you.  Hrrr!

And we can't let this post go by without thanking the Costco store in Orem, who invited us in for a couple of hours to sign books for any shoppers who happened to be intrigued by the strange Englishman next to the cut flower shelves who was promoting his latest dragon book. UK fans, think of seeing him in a branch of ALDI and you've got the picture.

And we are STILL not finished with the tour! Just a couple more days to go.  If anyone out there is still keen to see the Last Dragon Chronicles author, his final event is at 6pm in Provo City Library, one we are very much looking forward to.  Until next time, happy reading.  Hrrr!

The author tries not to fall into Utah's great salt lake...

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