Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Pot Thief Tour 2010 - Days 43-44

The next-to-last signing was at Bookworks in Albuquerque, a great independent bookstore in the North Valley next to a Flying Star CafĂ©, a popular chain in the Duke City. I showed up early to check in and told the staff I’d be next door eating dinner and would be back by the start of the 7 PM event.

Halfway through my meal, a lady approached me hesitantly and thrust out a copy of one of my books. “I’m terribly sorry to interrupt your meal,” she said, “but the people next door told me you were here. Would you sign this copy of your book I just bought?”

Of course I did so and thanked her for buying it. The people at nearby tables heard this exchange, and I think a few of them showed up at the event. This is the sort of personal touch you get only at Indie stores.

The final event was at Tome on the Range in Las Vegas (the one in New Mexico), another Indie store in the home of New Mexico Highlands University. The manager, Michael, introduced me, and it was obvious from his description of my books that he had read them. I did a talk and a reading. Then there were cookies made by a woman from El Salvador whose baked goods have made her an important part of the community.

We spent the next day in Carlsbad where we descended 750 feet below the surface of the earth to do the hour-and-a-half walk around the Big Room of Carlsbad Caverns. We had intended to stick around for the bat flight at sundown when the evening sky is darkened by the thousands of bats emerging to feed. No wonder there are no mosquitoes in Carlsbad. But I was tired after the walk and perhaps also feeling the effects of too many days on the road, so we made an early night of it.

Today I stopped in to say hello to Julie at Front Street Books in Alpine, Texas because she had ordered some books a couple of weeks ago during the tour, and I wanted to say thanks. Also, I like her and her store, and Alpine was a convenient stopover. To my surprise, she wanted more books, and I left the last ones I had with her on consignment. I guess that marks the true end of the Pot Thief Tour for 2010. I’ll post one more time – a summary of the whole thing - after I get home and have time to organize my thoughts.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Pot Thief Tour 2010 - Days 36-39

We spent four days in Las Vegas, Nevada for the annual Public Safety Writers Association Conference. It was great fun because we knew most of the attendees from last year. I was on a panel dealing with promoting books despite the fact that I know little about the topic. That is part of the charm of the conference - beginners and pros share the stage. On my panel, Marilyn Meredith and Sunny Frazier were the pros.

We had a big-time writer as the keynote speaker. Simon Wood told us how to create suspense. I try to avoid suspense, so I didn’t find his talk useful. I did find it interesting, however. He is a bright and engaging guy.

If I were to rate the conference as a novel, I would say it was thin on plot, had a good setting, and great characters.

My favorite presentation was by Professor Lai Orenduff who talked about understanding visual images and how that applies to book covers. I confess to some bias, but the presentation was riveting.

The Pot Thief Who Studied Ptolemy won first prize in Fiction Book category of the PSWA annual writing contest.

I managed not to lose a cent in the casino by using the foolproof method of not playing.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Pot Thief Tour 2010 - Days 34-35

It took two days to drive from Santa Fe to Las Vegas, and the thing I noticed most was how much Arizona differs from New Mexico. They were one territory in the late nineteenth century, and they are both largely desert punctuated by mountain ranges with pine, spruce, aspen, and cool air. But when you cross the border just west of Gallup, the mesquite and juniper disappear. Only chamisa and sage remain, resulting in a prairie-like vista. Signs of human habitation are rare. In New Mexico, Interstate 40 passes through half a dozen Indian reservations, each dotted with small villages, a scattering of isolated houses in the countryside, and – unfortunately – several casinos along the way.

The Navajo Nation starts in New Mexico, but most of it is in Arizona, and it is huge. The Navajos have no casinos and their major population areas are not along I40. At one point west of Winslow, we could see a hundred miles in every direction and there was not a single man-made structure in sight.

When you leave the high desert and climb to Flagstaff, you enter a distinctly western town with wide streets, cowboys, and lumberjacks. There are Hispanic residents of course, but the city lacks the Hispanic flavor so obvious in Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Still, it has a charm all its own, and the historic downtown remains a thriving center.

As you continue west, the drop from Flagstaff is precipitous. Runaway truck ramps are frequent, and we understood why when we saw a truck with smoking brake using low gear to try and make it down the mountain in one piece. The drop continues until you reach the Colorado River, only three hundred feet above sea level. We chose to cross at Bullhead City. Having spent three hours crossing Hover dam last year, we didn’t want to risk it again while the construction of a new road there continues.

Across from Bullhead City on the Nevada side sits Laughlin, a miniature Las Vegas with gleaming high-rise casino/hotels, their air conditioning, glitter and gaming machines powered by the electricity generated by the river they face. Two hundred miles downstream, the river shrivels to a saline trickle, robbing Mexico of the drinking water and agriculture the river once provided them.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Pot Thief Tour 2010 - Day 32

The four-days, four-different-towns, four events blitz is over, so I had a chance to relax and get ready for my ride on the New Mexico Bookmobile. New Mexico is the only state that sponsors a rural bookmobile, three of them actually, that go to remote villages with no libraries. A reporter and photographer from New Mexico Magazine were supposed to ride along and do a feature story on me and my books which are in the bookmobile collection. If you noticed the subjunctive construction in that last sentence, then you have perhaps correctly inferred that the trip was cancelled. The bookmobile I was supposed to ride in blew its radiator, and there was no open date on my tour to re-schedule. NM Magazine reaches about a hundred thousand readers, so this is a major loss in terms of publicity. I though about getting one of those magnetic signs to stick on my car door, but Lai vetoed it on the grounds of good taste.

Mike Orenduff

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Pot Thief Tour 2010 - Day 31

The final event of the four-days, four-different-towns, four events blitz, was at one of my favorite stops, The Black Cat Bookstore in Truth or Consequences. Who wouldn’t like a bookstore by that name in a town with that name? Rhonda runs the used bookstore at the north end of the historic downtown, serving coffee and pastries and hosting events like the poetry reading I attended and participated in. No, I’m not a poet, but they wanted me to read from one of my books. I saw a lot of faces from last year. When one man I recognized from last year said he wanted to buy the second book because he’d enjoyed the first, I asked him if he wanted me to sign it. He said he did, and I said, “John, right?” He almost fainted. What he didn’t know is that I had overheard Rhonda greet him when he came into the shop.

Mike Orenduff (putting my name here because Marilyn Meredith reminded me that the automatically added names are too small to read)