HELLHOLE Tour Day 12—Birthday and Booksigning in Dayton

With yesterday’s lunch of fried chicken and dinner of pepperoni and sausage pizza, it was not a good cholesterol day (and it didn’t lead to a good night’s sleep either).

My next destination was Dayton, Ohio—and I would be driving from Lexington, Kentucky.  (If I went by air, I would have to fly from Lexington to Chicago, then Chicago to Dayton…a 5–6 hour process, including baggage and security hassles, whereas I could just drive in 2 hours or so.)  The weather had turned to sleet and snow the night before, which left my rental car covered with ice and snow, the windows and trunk cemented in place.  Naturally, the rental car had no ice scraper, but I improvised by taking a clipboard out of my suitcase and using that to scrape off the layers.  This weather is much different from sunny and warm San Diego from just a few days ago (really, only a few days?  Seems like many cities in between.)

After getting directions to the interstate and stopping at a Starbucks for a venti coffee, I headed north toward Cincinnati.  It was a nice drive along a rolling landscape and plenty of horse farms. I called Rebecca on the way, then used the phone GPS to navigate me to the first bookstore, a Barnes & Noble on the north end of Cincinnati.  There I met up with my media escort Kathy—who has taken me on at least three area book tours in the past, and we arranged to return my rental car.  I did four dropby signings in Cincinnati and Dayton, ate a quick sandwich at Panera Bread, dropped off my bags at the hotel, then we were off to Books & Co for my 2 PM signing.

I received a warm welcome at the store—this was the largest crowd at any signing yet on the Hellhole tour, including nine members of the Ohio Garrison of the 501st Legion (and Rebel Alliance)—including stormtroopers, bike troopers, clone troopers, two Jedi Knights, and a full-fledged Chewbacca, who escorted me to the podium.

Several people brought out birthday cards for the table, including one signed by everybody in the audience (thanks, Lisa Anna!); one pair of fans brought home-baked cookies (they had driven 3-1/2 hours from Ann Arbor and stayed overnight for the signing).

After my talk, the audience had plenty of questions, and then the line formed, according to numbered tickets they’d picked up ahead of time.  I met many fans with whom I’d been corresponding on Twitter or Facebook, and I spent an hour signing their books, as well as all the remaining store stock.  Afterward, the 501sters made a presentation in the back room, bringing out a special cake they had made with the garrison logo as well as my name (of course, I had to stay long enough for a piece, while I signed all of the 501sters books).

Fellow author Mike Resnick and his wife Carol came up from Cincinnati to take me to an early dinner; they waited around in the bookstore while I finished up with the author duties, and said goodbye to the 501sters and the store staff. My sister Laura called to wish me happy birthday as Mike, Carol, and I were on our way to McCormick & Schmicks restaurant.

Over dinner (I treated myself to a small lobster, one of the few nice meals I’d been able to enjoy with the hectic schedule), we spent a couple of hours in conversation, discussing the dramatic changes in publishing and our efforts in ebook publishing.  Mike has been doing very well by making his old books available in his own electronic editions; Rebecca and I have been working on making our backlist available as well.

The nasal, computerized voice of my phone GPS directed us back to my hotel.  I got in early, which was just as well—not only am I now 49 (that sounds so old!), but I’m also tired from the tour.  No wild partying tonight.  My parents called, and my sister-in-law Cindy called, and then I logged on to Facebook to find nearly 400 birthday wishes.

On this tour, I missed my grandson Harrison’s first birthday and I was also away from home and family on my own birthday, but the wonderful outpouring from local and online fans made me have a happy day anyway.

Tomorrow morning, it’s an early flight to Chicago for my signing there at 7 PM in Oak Brook.