Day 13 of HELLHOLE tour: Covering Chicago

6:30 AM in the lobby of the hotel in downtown Dayton (worst in-room hotel coffee ever!), I asked if the hotel offered a shuttle to the airport—they did, but it had departed fifteen minutes earlier. So I looked for a cab outside, forgetting that Dayton is a very quiet city…no cabs, but the hotel could call for one…it would take about twenty minutes.  Fortunately, I had plenty of time before my flight.  Even more fortunately, the bellman on duty was bored (did I mention Dayton is very quiet early in the morning?), and so he shrugged and offered to give me a ride in the hotel’s other vehicle.

The Dayton airport was also very quiet; I checked in, got my boarding pass, checked my luggage in less than three minutes.  I found a Starbucks and settled in to read my e-mail and wake up (maybe in the opposite order).

During the quick flight to Chicago in a small plane, I wrote a draft for an introductory video script of the upcoming Writers of the Future awards, with the added bonus of listening to the grouchiest flight attendant I’ve ever encountered chewing out another passenger for bringing a perfectly normal sized computer case onboard.  (She was so out of control the other flight attendant upbraided her and sent her to the back of the plane.  Charming!)

In Chicago at the baggage claim I met Bill, my media escort for the day, who would take me around to stores in the area.  I had forewarned him that I wanted to do as many dropbys as possible, and he took me at my word.  Previously, I had never finished more than eleven in a single day; Bill ambitiously planned for a maximum of fifteen—but definitely more than eleven.  We had from 11:00 to 5 PM.

As we walked out of baggage claim, Brian Herbert called to discuss some fine points of the final draft of The Sisterhood of Dune, and we brainstormed for half an hour as Bill drove me away from O’Hare and out to the suburbs.  (Planning for traffic, we went out as far as possible so that we were working our way back into the city as afternoon rush-hour hit.)

We reached the first bookstore and began our routine. I’m carrying 2-sided bookmarks (the Dune backlist on one side, Hellhole on the other), and Tor sent extra copies of Hellhole ahead for the driver. Bill had called the stores ahead of time to let them know we were coming, and the store manager pulled the copies of the new hardcover from the shelves for us to sign.  We would go in, I met the manager and the store staff, chatted with them while I signed Hellhole and at the same time Bill went into the science fiction section and rounded up all the backlist titles, which I also signed.  We left quite a stack on the front desk—all eleven Dune books, the Terra Incognita novels, the Seven Suns series, Enemies & Allies, Ill Wind, the Star Wars novels, and a random assortment of other titles.

I autographed the paperbacks while Bill flapped the dustjackets on the hardcovers; then I signed the hardcovers while Bill inserted bookmarks in all of the paperbacks, and then together (sometimes with help from bookstore staff) we placed “Autographed Copy” stickers on the covers.  If one of the members of the store staff was a particular science fiction fan, I autographed one of my personal copies of Hellhole and gave it to him or her, in hopes that they would read the book and recommend it to other customers.

All told, we were usually in and out of the store in fifteen minutes, then Bill drove us off to the next one, and the next.  In downtown Chicago, where it was impossible to park, Bill just dropped me off at the curb while I ran inside, met the manager, signed the books, added the bookmarks, as Bill circled the block; when I was done, I climbed in the back, and we drove off again.  We stopped for lunch at a deli for a quick sandwich, then went on to the next stores.  By late afternoon, we had finished twelve stores in a day—breaking the record for this tour—and I got to the hotel in Oak Brook, checking in at 5 PM.  It felt very depressing to have to arrange a cab for the airport at 6:45 the next morning…before I had even gotten into my room.

I did have an hour of downtime to check email, take a quick shower, then change clothes before going to the Oak Brook Barnes & Noble to sign some of their stock ahead of time.  I was expecting an old friend, Bob, from Wisconsin, a classmate from fourth grade who had gotten back in touch with me a few years ago.  He drove down from Racine and surprised me by bringing another childhood friend, Steve—all three of us have the same birthday.  We had a chance to talk a bit in the back room while I signed stock and got ready for the talk.

4th Grade friends Steve and Bob join us for the book signing

Another writer, Brad Beaulieu, also drove down from Wisconsin for the signing—Brad is a Writers of the Future winner whose first novel, The Winds of Khalakovo, is just coming out (I recently finished reading it; a very good fantasy).  Long-time friend Leslie joined us as well, and a reviewer and blogger Christina Wantz-Fixemer presented me with a birthday present: a signed copy of her Hellhole review, just posted (yes, she liked it).  I gave a longer talk than usual, since I was close to my old hometown and I could discuss growing up in Wisconsin and wanting to be a writer.

Afterward, Bob, Steve, Leslie, and Brad went out to dinner with me, and we were joined by Dave Dorman, the cover artist for my collection Dogged Persistence and all of the Young Jedi Knights books, and his wife Denise Dorman from WriteBrain Media, who has done a lot of great publicity for me.

Dave Dorman with Kevin and a very weird lamp

Back to the hotel by 11:30 to get to bed—I had barely opened my suitcase—with a wakeup call for 5:30 AM.

I’m writing this blog in the back seat of the taxi on the ride to the airport (the sun hasn’t completely risen yet).  That’s the glamorous life of an author on book tour.

Next signing in Atlanta (Decatur) at Eagle Eye Books, tonight at 7 PM.