Well I have traveled out west to promote my new memoir After the Falls. It is only October, but in Edmonton they had to de- ice the plane wings. This city is the only place where "ice fishing" is a redundant term. When I blew (literally) into town I went to all of the big box book stores where I signed books. Naturally I tried to make conversation with the twenty-somethings at the desk. Asking what type of book they liked to read, one male responded, "I work with books all day so I take a break and don't read anything at home." Ignoring this I forged on pretending that everyone had actually been enthusiastic and say to this gaggle of idle employees that my first memoir was about the 50's and my new memoir is a sequel about the 60's. They looked at me as though I have been writing about the crusades. They asked if my book should be placed into the history section. One clerk looked askance at the book saying "I really try and stay current." When I asked if anyone in the store had been here ten years ago when Too Close to the Falls first came out and was on the best sellers list for two years, and they all looked at me blankly and said, "No. Those people would be retired now."
Ok. So let's move on to Calgary. My publicity agent changed my hotel to one that looked closer to my TV station for an early morning interview. I had to be at the station at 6:00 a.m. This interview was the highlight of my trip as it was nation wide. The hotel turned out to actually be suites and the handler who dropped me off suggested that the area was dangerous and then quickly hightailed it out leaving me in the microscopic lobby. I was told that the suite wouldn't be ready for two hours. I was stuck watching the comings and going in the doll house sized lobby that had a sign that read We do not cash any welfare or personal cheques, ever, ever, ever. It was nearly a week before Halloween; however the clerk was dressed in a full on witches outfit complete with pointed black hat. She had howling noises coming out of the loud speakers and the elevator was full of cobwebs. She told me Halloween was the highlight of her year so I should expect some Hijinks and then she cackled.
I finally got into my suite that had no bedspread, tiny Dixie paper cups and smelled like a bear had just awakened from hibernation. The kitchen had pots and pans and even a pressure cooker in case I wanted to whip up a cauldron of stew. Actually after a day of tying to interest pubescent store clerks in my book, I was glad to just flop into my lumpy bed and pull up my cigarette burned blanket. The following morning I was up at 5:00 a.m to get dressed and made-up for my interview. I was all ready and then realized the hair dryer on the wall was broken. I called the desk. The witch was still on duty and said that she had no hair dryer and they were all hooked to the wall. When I asked for an empty room key she said that all the suites were filled and some people actually lived there for weeks. Then she added, "Well honey did you expect people to be checking out at 5:00 in the morning. Are you on crack?" ( I'd love to attend her hospitality school.) I faced my situation square on in the mirror. My hair was disgusting. It had dried at odd angles. If I went to the TV show I would be a total frump. At the age of 62 TV is already unforgiving. I had no choice. I walked next door and quietly knocked. Finally I hammered. A burly man in jockey shorts answered the door. I explained that I needed to use his dryer. He said, "Brother now I've heard it all." He had a resigned tone and said, "Feel free. This is worse than being at home." He then lit a cigarette and sat on his bed. As I was locating the dryer on his bathroom wall, I reminded him that smoking was forbidden in the hotel. He said, "You are some stranger who thinks she is on TV in an hour invading my place in the middle of the night and telling me not to smoke. That's rich. really rich." He had a point. I changed my tactics as I dried my hair and asked him about himself. He was a long haul truck driver who was waiting for a load to arrive. He said, "Listen Miss TV star, make sure there are no blond hairs on any of my things. I've gotten in trouble from that kind of thing before --if you know what I mean. Not many wives would buy the dryer story." When I finished he deadpanned, "Have a good day at the office, honey" and I bustled with perfect hair to my interview.
The next day I was thrilled to arrive in Winnipeg. First of all there were trees and old buildings. Winnipeg has always been a reading town and so many great writers and entertainers have hailed from there. The great Rand-McNally independent book store seemed thrilled to have me as a speaker. There was a big crowd to greet me, hear my spiel,and they were excited to buy the two memoirs. Naturally they wanted to buy the volume one first. They were looking forward to getting the 10th year anniversary edition. The person that was in charge of the signing had to say to the snaking lineup before me that they were out of Too Close to the Falls. It had been on order since September ( two months ago) but for some reason they never received the book. Many people didn't buy the second book which was in stock because they wanted to start with the first non existent book. This was a bit like doing business in Leningrad. No product and freezing temperatures.
The book industry is a really amazing business and different from all others. Companies have to push out new products all the time. There is no standard book like there are standard jeans. You have new books five times a year. It is a limited segment of the market and you really can't advertise since advertising doesn't seem to sell books. It is reviews and word of mouth. Instead they have to schlep authors from one end of the country to another and you have to interest book store clerks in your particular genre if you can interest them at all. It is the only business that has a rule that if the books don't sell in the bookstores then the publisher has to take them back. Can you imagine sending back dresses or shoes or computers that don't sell?
Finally when I got to the airport I saw a whole table covered with my new book. I asked the manager how it was doing and he replied, "I don't know. Truthfully only vampire sells."