Well, I’m back from California. What a journey, what an experience. As many of you know I recently attended the L. A. Times Festival of Books, hosted by the University of Southern California (USC). The event was a tremendous success and I wanted to thank each and every one of you who came out to visit with me. I truly enjoyed speaking with you all. You only helped to confirm my belief that the Fantasy Fan is the greatest fan of all.
Where to begin? Without boring you with all the minute details, I will only highlight the specific experiences that came to mind. My trip was pleasant. The flight arrived on time (thanks Continental …err United), I got to watch 2 movies during the flight (The Tourist, and Gulliver’s Travels … eh and huh), and the weather was gorgeous. This was my first trip to Los Angels in more than thirty years, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had high expectations, but granted, I come from Tampa, so it’ll take more than palm tress and beaches to impress me.
Well, we didn’t start off on the right foot. Now maybe I caught the terminal on a bad day, but from where I arrived, the place was a disaster. LAX was kind enough to say ‘Sorry, please excuse our mess’, but man did they understate our mess. It looked as if the place was stripped bare – walls, floors, everything. Okay, no problem, trying to better themselves. Don’t judge a book by its cover and all.
We got our bags and hailed a cab. The man hailing the cab appeared nice enough until he opened his mouth, cursed like a sailor. Am I in the city of angles? Maybe he was just having a bad day. Beyond the cabbie that thought he was Jeff Gordon at the Daytona 500, this was the worst of what I experienced on my journey.
The morning of the event I couldn’t sleep. I woke around 5:00 and thought about everything wrong that could possibly happen. What if it rained? What if the people didn’t like the idea? Dread the thought … what if nobody showed up?
I eventually went to get some breakfast with my wife. No rain, not even a cloud in the sky. Check that fear off my list. I sat outside on the balcony and sipped coffee as I stared out at the boats docked in the marina. I wished I could sail away. No, stay focused. I have work to do. After a quick bite and some pleasant conversation, I had to admit, I started to feel a little better about the day.
We hailed a cab and drove to USC. The first song I heard as we pulled away from the hotel was the Beatles, ‘And I Love Her’. Awesome, my favorite band! This is a good sign. The weather kept true to form and there was no traffic on the way to the campus. Yes, this would be a good day. We were dropped off at the entrance of the festival and you could feel the excitement in the air.
We arrived an hour earlier than anticipated (concierge over exaggerated the time and distance), but that was okay. I didn’t want to chance being late, and I wanted to get the lay of the land. By then there were already hundreds of people at the festival with many more arriving. My confidence grew, but that was short lived.
The first thing you realize when you enter an event like this is that there are hundreds of booths in attendance, and everyone in those booths are trying to sell you something. To make matters worse, the gentleman who occupied the booth before me had no one visiting him. Panic started to set-in. What did I do? What was I thinking? Why did I come here? Thank God for my wife. She saw the doubt grow in my eyes and she took control. She simply told me to do what I had to do and she would take care of the rest.
It was now 11:30, show time. I went into my booth and felt despair for the author departing, as he carried away two bags full of books. I looked at the table in front of me and saw seventy-five books sitting there waiting for me to sign. My first thought was, seventy-five books? How was I going to carry home seventy-five books? My wife looked at me and told me to have fun. She grabbed a handful of books and started working the crowd.
It wasn’t long before the first person showed up. Thank you, God! One down, seventy-four to go. Another person then showed with a few friends … okay, this is getting a little easier. The next thing I knew, there was a line of people waiting for me to sign their book. I was blown away! They were very respectful, asked wonderful questions, and were true fans of the genre.
In the end, I signed all seventy-five books in less than an hour and I didn’t have to twiddle my thumbs. I actually had to apologize to people looking for a book. Now I wished the publisher had brought more – regardless, great relief. That in a nutshell was my experience.
What’s next? Well, for starters, it’s time to stop marketing and time to get back to writing the next novel. For all those who received a book, I hope you enjoy. To those others who spoke with me and didn’t receive one, please visit my sight, I will try and accommodate you the best I can. As for the experience, I will simply say to anyone considering doing this – do it. All you need is a willingness to take a chance in life, and some loving support. You may be pleasantly surprised.