Author Two-for-One on May the Fourth

Strange first week of May so far for 2013.

My apple trees started blooming on May Day:

May Day

Terry and I celebrated (as best we can on a Wednesday) our 27th anniversary.  He bought me a bouquet and card and a gift (which I won’t share here but greatly appreciate):

Anniversary Bouquet

The very next day, May the 2nd, it snowed.  For real.  Since I had to drive through it, I didn’t take any photographs, and most of it melted as it hit the ground.   Visiting authorial dignatory John Scalzi commented on the situation via Twitter:

My own photo taken after dropping off my Hallmark riders at 7:10 a.m. on Thursday morning, May 3rd, facing north with the Sheraton (fka the Hyatt) where Mr. Scalzi was probably still snoozing:

North from Crown Center

Saturday morning, May the 4th (officially or unofficially international Star Wars day), I put $20 worth of gas in the Bonneville.

Why is this significant? I wanted to meet a couple of authors signing during a book fair at the RT Booklovers Convention hosted by the Sheraton at Crown Center.

Because I drive a vanpool, Terry and I don’t fill up our personal vehicle but once a month or every six weeks. From long experience, I know I need a minimum of three gallons of gas to make a trip to Kansas City and back home. Three gallons of premium (required for both of our Pontiacs) is close to $4 a gallon (I think I paid $3.699 at Quick Trip yesterday), so I rounded up to the nearest $10 increment. I also grabbed $20 cash from an ATM so I’d be able to buy the book fair pass ($5 at the door). Parking at Crown Center is free on the weekends (Huzzah!).

So, for $10 in gas, $5 at the door and free parking, I got to meet two of my favorite authors:

RT13 Book Fair Excursion
John Scalzi, author of The Human Division, recently released in hardcover and earlier released as a serialized ebook.  Shown here signing the only print edition of one of his books that I own, Zoe’s Tale. Oddly, it’s also the only one I have yet to read.  I own all the rest of his books, but in ebook format, and didn’t think having my Nook Color or new Samsung Note II signed would be a good idea.

RT13 Book Fair Excursion

Sarah Zettel, author of The Quiet Invasion, one of the best first contact stories I’ve ever read, and the Isvalta series.

I almost didn’t find Sarah in this chaos:

RT13 Book Fair Excursion

Authors were spread out across a dozen rows of tables in alphabetical order, except for headline authors like Scalzi, who were segregated along a back wall (or a quiet corner in Scalzi’s case):

RT13 Book Fair Excursion

Sarah should have been on the last row near Scalzi, but only one other “Z” author sat there and it wasn’t Zettel. I despaired of traipsing slowly through all the rows, mostly because all these other authors really didn’t have anything I would go out of my way to read. The entire convention was sponsored by “Romantic Times,” a genre I normally avoid like the proverbial plague. I’ll tolerate a well written romance, if it’s a subplot in a fantasy or science fiction novel. Otherwise, I’ll pass.

I did find Sarah, in a special section devoted to young adult readers. Her latest book, Dust Girl, is apparently in that subgenre.

I returned home, arriving back before noon.  Terry and I topped off our anniversary celebration by grabbing the last two available VIP seats for the 7:30 p.m. showing of Iron Man 3 at the Legends 14 Theaters.  We liked it and we sat through the credits to watch the Easter egg final scene.  Cute.  The only thing missing was Black Sabbath or even some AC/DC in the sound track.  I think it would have been a nice touch over the final montage before the credits rolled.

Rothfuss Raises the Roof Under Left Bank Books

Saturday evening, I found myself in the basement under Left Bank Books in downtown St. Louis with several hundred other ‘friends of friends’ waiting for Patrick Rothfuss to speak about Kvothe, Denna, musicianship, spoilers (and appropriate punishments for people who deliver them), poetry, guinea pig abuse and writing advice (using Oot to demonstrate his point).

Patrick Rothfuss Reading at Left Bank Books
Patrick Rothfuss Reading at Left Bank Books

Earlier in the afternoon, after Terry and I had drooled over several gorgeous classic muscle cars at Fast Lane in St. Charles, Missouri, we ventured downtown to seek out the best parking options around Left Bank Books.   We found a sea of green celebrants overflowing the streets, and most of the street parking discouraged by order of the police for the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade (five days early).  What with the construction, blocked off streets and pseudo-Irish crowds, we aborted our reconnaissance and returned to our motel.

Concerned we might need to take the MetroLink rail, I called Left Bank and asked if the parade and parking situation would clear up before the event.  They assured me it shouldn’t be a problem.  Terry didn’t think he would do well walking the half mile from the closest rail stop nor standing around the book store for a few hours, so he opted to stay in our room but wouldn’t let me take the rail.  So I left extra early in order to find the best parking spot.  I lucked out and got a nearly front door spot before 5:30 pm. I fed a dollar’s worth of quarters into the meter (which amounted to one hour’s worth of parking grace) with the intention of getting change for a five when I retrieved my pre-ordered hardcover inside the store.

I picked up my pre-ordered (but completely undiscounted full retail price) copy of Wise Man’s Fear at the counter and asked for change to feed the meter.   I learned I didn’t need to pay for parking downtown on Saturdays or Sundays.  My signing ticket placed me in the first group, thankfully. I found a quiet corner and read another chapter in Magician: Master while I waited for the basement room to officially open at 6:00 pm

Left Bank Books borrowed the basement room, obviously setup for a house band including mics, speakers and a soundboard, for Pat’s reading.  I snagged a third row end seat so I could move freely down the left aisle for photographic angle freedom.  After only a few minutes, Pat arrived and began pre-signing a few books, mostly from the front rows (he almost got to me before the official start time) and families with small children.

Pat started his talk with a few ground rules, after noting the basement venue (complete with band equipment and beer dispensing) might prove to be his most ‘rock-n-roll’ event setting to date.  While he encouraged photographs, he emphatically requested a ban on all video, providing some hilarious examples and excuses.  I had hoped to record his talk, but my video camera had lost it’s charge overnight when I left it in the cold trunk overnight, and his request made it moot anyway.   He moved on to spoilers, and his loathing of those who spoil, especially those who ask questions and proclaim them not spoilerish (a sure indication the question will be a spoiler).

For the next hour, Pat answered questions with humorous anecdotes.  He finally took a break from Q&A and polled us for something to read, placing a short non-spoiler section of Wise Man’s Fear, some of his own poetry or one of his humorous weekly advice columns from his college days.  We more or less agreed on the latter and thus did I learn of Pat’s penchant for guinea pig abuse (you really had to be there).

After a few more questions, Pat retired upstairs to begin the signing gauntlet.  At even just one minute per person, he probably had six or eight hours (starting at 8:30 pm) of arm numbing signatures to write.  I actually made it back to the motel about an hour later.

Pat signing two hardcovers for me and two for my uncle.
Pat signing two hardcovers for me and two for my uncle.

I had a fantastic evening listening to and laughing with Pat.  If you haven’t yet read his first novel, I highly recommend The Name of the Wind.  I hope to finish the sequel, The Wise Man’s Fear within the next week or so.   And even though, according to Pat’s research, fantastic fiction is in the literary basement (pun intended I’m sure), just slightly below science fiction and barely above westerns and romances on said totem pole, his novel dominated the NYT Best Seller’s List (for Fiction) it’s first week after release!