Oh, there were signs, my slippery friend

I've been to a few book signings in the last little while. Signings are one of my favorite things about being a book seller, and I'm happy to say that I've improved somewhat in my demeanor when meeting the authors. Somewhat. At least I don't get as nervous as I used to, and I usually say something fairly intelligent.

A few months ago, T Jefferson Parker spoke for about an hour and signed books at the Café des Artistes here in town.

He was promoting his latest novel, Iron River.

He had a lot of interesting things to say about the writing process (or I should say "his" writing process) and the state of publishing and literature in general. The two things I took particular note of are, first, he said he finds writing a story to be a journey of discovery. If he feels good about his characters and has a place to start, he goes for it. For him, there's 'more stumbling along making it up as I go along'. He wrote an outline once for one of his books and ended up using it when he got stuck, and it really helped. Then he wrote one for another book, and when he got stuck he tried using it, but it was awful, so he usually doesn't use outlines.

Second, he thinks e-books are going to be shoved down our throats whether we like it or not. But he thinks real books will always be with us (though there may be fewer of them), because books don't have batteries that run down, they're portable, and stuff like that.

Afterwards, while he signed my books, we chatted a bit about being English majors in college, and how fun it was to just read all the time. (Except Moby Dick. We didn't talk about Moby Dick, but if we had, I would've had to tell him that wasn't fun.)

Then, a couple of weeks ago, Gary and I went down to San Diego to see Raymond E Feist, who was on tour for his latest book, At the Gates of Darkness.

Feist is always interesting to listen to. He's a great storyteller, and he had some interesting stories about how he realized he wanted to be an author, where some of his ideas come from, and what he's trying to accomplish as he finishes off his series. He also advised anyone who wants to be a writer not to necessarily major in literature, but to just read a lot, and to read the right kind of stuff, like Shakespeare, etc. I was waiting for him to mention Jane Austen, and he finally did, but only as a kind of afterthought. Anyway, he mentioned a long list of authors and books that he recommended, including Moby Dick. Someone in the audience said Moby Dick was boring, and he said read it anyway, or at least watch the movie with Gregory Peck. I think he was kidding.

Since I realized from the last time he signed that I didn't need to say anything to him, I just let him sign books in peace.

Finally, last week was our Friends of the Library annual luncheon, with guest author Jacqueline Winspear. She is currently touring the country for her latest Maisie Dobbs book, The Mapping of Love and Death.

Since the Maisie Dobbs books are set in post-World War I England, our luncheon committee decided to decorate for the period, and they did a wonderful job. The tables were decorated with poppies, old maps of Europe, and postcards and old photographs (originals, not photocopies) of the trenches during the war and the English countryside during the 1920s and 1930s. Someone got one of the Vintage Auto Club members to bring their classic red MG (Maisie drives a red MG) over to the venue and park it outside. A couple of the board members even dressed up in period clothing. It was fabulous.

Table settings with poppies

Judy, the luncheon chairperson, with period display

Marlo, the Friends' board president, in period clothing

Pat, the Friends' treasurer, in period clothing. The little
watch/brooch pinned to her jacket belonged to her grandmother.

I want this car

Of course, we sold books before the program. The Friends and community members are very generous in helping raise funds to build our new library.

A selection of our offerings

My cohorts: Jean, Roberta, and Jane --
the bookstore management group

Jacqueline Winspear was a wonderful speaker, as always. This is about the fourth time I've heard her, and she is always interesting and well informed. She gave some background about how she came to write the Maisie Dobbs books, and told an intriguing story about the events that led up to her writing the latest book, the seventh in the series.

She also signed books, of course, but I'm sorry to say that, although I wasn't nervous, my budding glibness failed me and I managed to say something quite lame to her. I won't tell you what it was, but trust me, it was moronic. My only hope is that I was so quiet she didn't hear me. Oh, well.

Fortunately, as with T Jefferson Parker, no mention was made of Moby Dick. All in all, we had a grand time.