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Sunday, October 01, 2006

Adventures In Book Signing

Yesterday, I had a book signing at the Mall of America in Bloomington, MN. There were about a dozen authors all together, including Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer, Barbara Samuel, and other local writers from Midwest Fiction Writers. The event coordinator for Barnes & Noble asked us to be at the Sears Court around 6:45 because the question and answer period (GAH!) started at 7pm. This is the prologue to Patti's Great Book Signing Adventure.

I quit writing about 5pm to start getting ready and I really didn't want to stop because I was having a totally fab day, but I did anyway. I actually did really well here, and even changed purses and found my Eternal Nights bookmarks. The computer room is still a shamble of boxes from my move, so this feat is not to be taken lightly.

I was out the door by 6:05 and feeling good. Well, as good as a shy person can feel going to a public event where she might get asked a question in an audience full of people. I pulled right onto the highway, got right onto the freeway and traffic was relatively light. Since I work in the general area of the mall and make the commute in about 25 minutes, I figured with time to find a parking spot, I should be right on schedule, no problem.

Wrong, big problem. The freeway I needed to take to the mall was closed at Hwy 100 because they were fixing a bridge a little farther east. Since this had been fairly well-publicized, I figured most people would avoid the area and take alternates. I planned to get off at 100 going south and figured I wouldn't have any difficulty.

The traffic jam up began miles before Hwy 100. Brake lights came on and the right lane (where I was because I was planning to exit soon) was backed up to hell and gone. The other lanes were moving faster, but then those were the ones that were closed up ahead to funnel everyone into the right and onto the detour. Of course, much to my irritation, the cheaters would zoom by in the middle and left lane and then cut in. We sat. And sat. And sat.

A woman in an Expedition loaded with people decided she was getting in front of me no matter what and nearly took off my right left panel in the attempt. The language in my car got a little blue. And then I sat some more.

I looked at the clock, I saw my precious lead time had dwindled considerably. Come on, I said, let's just get me to the south exit. After an excruciating wait, I finally reached my goal. I shot past all the traffic waiting for the northbound detour and zipped south. My alternate route, American Blvd, should be the first left.

It wasn't. But surely 84th turned into American. As I'm driving along, seeing the speed limit signs (30 mph) and the signs warning that the limit is strictly enforced, I dug out my cell phone at a stop light and called my parents for help. They weren't sure if 84th turned into the road I needed or not, so Dad went to dig out the map while I talked to my mom. I approach France Avenue, realize that this won't turn into American. I knew that beyond doubt. All I needed to do was get into the left lane and turn onto France, find American and I'd be set. Unfortunately, I couldn't get over to the left.

So I'm stopped at the light, trapped in the right-hand lane, and I hear someone tap their horn. I start looking around, "what?" The light's still red, is this person honking at me for some reason? As I look in the rearview mirror, I notice the car behind me is a police cruiser. Is he the one honking? At me? Why? Does whatever city I'm in have a law against talking on the cell phone while driving? I never talk on my cell phone while I'm driving, but I'm lost! I'm thinking that I'm going to be late, that I don't have time to be pulled over. I'm thinking at least if he does pull me over, I can get directions to American Blvd.

The light finally turns green and I drive a careful 30 mph, but I'm waiting for the lights to come on. They don't. I'm still talking into the phone as I drive and my mom is asking me for cross streets, trying to get me farther north. I finally make it to the left lane and I find a through street that takes me to American. I hang up the phone, knowing I have a straight shot into the mall now.

American Blvd was under construction. Periodically, it was down to one lane which meant all the people in the left lane had to get into the right. There are fast food restaurants and Home Depot and Sam's Club on this street and all the patrons of these establishments want to get onto this road. There are stop lights, and because of construction, one stop sign. It's now after 6:45. I'm late.

I hate being late, but this is worse because I'll have to get onto stage during the question and answer period while people are talking and looking. For someone who's shy, this is almost as bad as having to talk in front of the crowd.

I managed to get stopped at nearly every light. When I got closer to the mall, I had to deal with tourists (the Mall of America is a huge tourist destination) with license plates from all over the place who didn't know where they were going. American Blvd ended up taking me near the Ikea store. Do I need to tell you how crazy it was around that store? I maneuver through it, find the traffic lights that will take me into the mall. Nebraska, who was in front of me, cuts into the left turn lane, but I stay to go straight. Sears is to my left, this will be just perfect.

As I drive onto the mall property, I notice the road I'm on won't go to the left. I have no choice except go to the right. The road I'm on doesn't curve around the mall as I'd thought, it takes me into a parking garage on the opposite side from where I need to be. If you haven't been to the MOA, this place is huge. I'll never make it in time if I have to run across the entire mall. I climb the ramp to the top, then go back down again. I circle the mall. No Sears. Where the hell did they hide Sears?

I see it in the distance and turn into the ramp. It's crammed with cars, all searching for parking spots that are non-existent. It's 7pm.

Last year, I'd spent 10 or 15 minutes circling before I'd finally found a spot at the very back of the lot. This time, I make the decision to just get to the next through lane and park at the very back and run in. That will be faster. I get stopped. Two cars are in front of me and one of them is waiting for a mini-van to pull out. The woman is making no effort to rush. She lollygagged around forever. I'm afraid to look at the clock.

She finally, finally pulls out and car number one zips into the spot. Number two goes, but I see a car edging out nose first (he'd pulled through when he'd parked). Is he leaving? I wait for him and sure enough, he's pulling out! Thank God! It's right next to the spot where car number 1 parked so I have to wait for those people to get out of the way before I can pull in. I clamber out and walk at a pace just short of a run into the building.

I find Barnes & Noble which is just in front of the Sears Rotunda, but there are no authors there. There are all kinds of tables set up and women in pink T-shirts, but no books, no writers, no familiar faces. OMG! Where are they?!?!

I pop into BN to ask where the book signing is, but everyone is busy and the store is packed. I pop back out again, eye the women in pink more closely, but no, that's not who I'm looking for. Maybe if I got closer to Sears?

I almost head the wrong way, toward Bloomingdale's (they don't call me wrong way for nothing), but I see a sign and turn the opposite direction. I'm almost to Sears when I spot another stage with chairs set up in front of it. I'd found my group. It seems that Sears Rotunda and Sears Court are two different things. Who'd have guessed?

There's more good news--the QA hadn't started yet and the one open seat is right on the end next to the stairs. I scramble onto the stage. It turns out I'm sitting next to Jenny Crusie. We introduce ourselves and I open the bottle of water and take a big gulp.

The questions start. I'm sitting directly behind the loud speakers and I can't hear the questions or the answers, not even when it's Jenny Crusie giving the answer. I've been praying for weeks now that no one ask me a question. No one did, however, Jenny held the microphone out to me once on a general question. I managed to avoid it. The second time, I didn't. I had to speak into a microphone in front of an audience!!! Plus the people on the upper levels leaning on the rail to watch. Gah! Gah! Gah!

No, I was not smooth. The question was if you could write anything, what would you write? I was already writing the books I wanted to write so I said I was lucky my publishers were open to it "no matter how bizarre my work gets." Yes, I called my stories bizarre. They're not bizarre, they're just a little bit different, but they're paranormal and/or futuristic, they're supposed to be different.

I was amazed by how full the audience was and by how many questions they had. It seemed to go on forever, but I also felt really distant from it all. I was still discombobulated from my wild ride to the mall and that surrealism remained through the autographing portion of the session.

I ended up being the last one to leave, but I was talking to a couple of great employees from BN and we were talking paranormal books. I hope I didn't come across like an idiot, but with me, I never know.

The freeway going westbound was open, so I made it home without any incidents or delays, washed the makeup off my face and went online. I was too wired to sleep and too tired to write. I finally went to bed about midnight, woke up a little after 5am, and despite my best efforts to sleep some more, I only dozed. While I dozed, I dreamed I'd written a manga novella. It was advertised in a home and garden catalog. I'm not even going to try to guess what this means.

And so it goes. Another glamorous and exciting night in the life of a published romance author. :-/