Sing, muse — of six authors and one long-suffering spouse on a quest for Glory in a rented minivan.
Together we gathered one at a time, here and there, cramming into a tiny red Ford and tootling off to a park-and-drive in a town called DuPont — where we were assured the cops are bored and the parked vehicles are uncommonly safe. There, we were greeted by the minivan driver and his wife, and then we jaunted out to a place called “Lacey,” where the final member of our party awaited. And then we were seven: Mark Henry (the driver) and Mark’s wife Caroline (the navigator), Mario Acevedo (the corner sleeper), Kat Richardson (the leggy), Caitlin Kittredge (the chipper), Richelle Mead (the squished), and yours truly (the hanger-on).
We reached Portland a bit before suppertime, and although the boys’ signing was scheduled to transpire at the Beaverton Powell’s, our hotel was right down the street from the downtown location of that fine store — so we jaunted over there for an hour of vanity.
Yes, vanity. If you’ve ever wondered what published authors do in a book store, the answer is Make Giant Nuisances of Ourselves. And, er, take pictures of our own books. Because we still can’t believe anyone anywhere ever actually buys them, that’s why.
While we were there, Mark got a bee in his bonnet (or a bug up his butt, or whatever) that we were all going to sign the Great Wall of Powell’s. In case you’re unfamiliar with this concrete column of infamy, here’s the short version: it’s a painted concrete support in the center of the speculative fiction section, and lots of famous authors have signed it. It’s become such a notorious item that Powell’s keeps it under lock and key, via the application of a plexiglass sheet which is screwed down over the signatures.
I was uneasy about this. I am not half as well reputed as any of the folks whose signatures I saw; but Mark has giant swinging brass balls, and as they clanged noisily together, over the din we heard an employee inform us that he’d get a screwdriver.
In other news, Mark is totally my new hero.
And it looks like this is going to run ridiculously long, so I’m going to hide the remainder of this post behind a cut tag. Click it if you want to read the rest.
While we were there, the employees were kind enough to pull all our stock and urge us to sign it, which we did with great aplomb.* And since I’m on the subject of the employees there, let me take a moment to say for the record that they were a bunch of exceedingly kind folks. I mean, hell. One of their smallest, most crowded fiction departments was invaded by a plague of writers who were making demands and snapping photos of one another as if we were members of an Emmy-nominated sitcom cast or something.
But the Powell’s folks were gracious and accommodating. They made us feel like rock stars, and I really can’t thank them enough.
Upon leaving the main Powell’s branch we piled back into the minivan and used some Crisco and a shoehorn to extract ourselves from the parking garage; and then we headed out for the other Powell’s — out in Beaverton. We stopped at a Panera for dinner and were ultimately ushered out of this establishment by a manager who couldn’t wait to get started on the company Bread Bash. You may safely guess that a great deal of speculation took place about what a “Bread Bash” might involve. I rather like the idea of people jousting with baguettes or having pillowfights with the sourdough loafs. But I suspect that it was something far more boring, probably involving annoying corporate Team Building exercises that embarrass everyone present.
But anyway. Our bellies filled with soup and sandwiches, we began the long and arduous drive across the strip mall parking lot** to the Beaverton Powell’s, where they were ready for us. And by “us” I don’t just mean “Mark and Mario, who were the Official Signers.” The employees had been
duly warned about informed of our little caravan, and they pulled the books of everyone present. Since we have no shame, we took pictures of them.
Finally it was time for the guys to get their reading on. Cue the hilarity. Why hilarity? Well, let’s see. Our first reader read from a chapter about zombie socialites who seduce and eat frat boys after promising them group sex at a low-rent hotel. Our second reader boasts titles like The Nymphos of Rocky Flats and X-Rated Bloodsuckers. And the reading took place right next to the children’s section, out in the open in front of God and everybody.
Mark got the worst of it. Bless his heart, Mark’s zombie socialites have mouths on them that would make Showtime blush — and this only made his reading irresistible to little girls in pink sweatpants. And somewhere at the back of the store, a tiny voice asked with honest intellectual curiosity, “Mommy, what’s a gang bang?” But her mommy was not amused.
Mark took it like a trooper, possibly because he couldn’t see the little girl — because God knows that we audience members (who were facing her) were about to completely lose it over this stubborn kid.
Next up, Mario flipped open to a chapter and began reading much more loudly than Mark; and one of the introductory lines was something about how he’d NEVER HAD SEX WITH A VAMPIRE BEFORE — at which point two boys (maybe twelve or thirteen years old) immediately sprang forth from the shelves and made themselves comfortable at the back of the seating area.
By the time Mario was deep in the throes of sexy-time character banter, the boys’ mothers had retrieved them and dragged them out of the store. Poor boys.
When the readings were over and all the parents of children who were not yet old enough to vote had vacated the premises, we did one of the things that writers do best: we socialized. As it turned out, an old friend of Mark’s from high school had showed up [:: waves :: at Dan, who apparently found him through this webpage of mine], and likewise we were briefly joined by Meljean Brook. (Shown here with Richelle.)
But once the fanfare had finished and Great Aplomb was put away, we were all desperately thirsty and in need of liquid refreshment of the alcoholic variety. So, minus Maljean, we trooped back downtown and went in search of adult beverages.
Our quest led us to an Irish-themed pub-type place which pretended that we were invisible; so after about fifteen minutes we abandoned the joint and went across the street, where we were regaled with the live musical stylings of Some Dude with a Very Drunk and Screamy Female Friend who was HAVING A BIRTHDAY or something equally scream-about-able. We paid up and left, and right around the corner (go Portland!) we found a much quieter bar where we could lounge around and gossip like old ladies for another hour or two.
Finally, we were all exhausted — so we walked back to the hotel and turned in for the night. I got to sleep with Kat Richardson. Of course, Mario was wrapped-up like Crazed Burrito Man over in the other bed, trying to keep us awake by staring and giggling at us. It did not work. We conked out.
In the morning, Mark took Mario to the airport and together the remaining Team Seattle participants groused over $3.25 coffee at the hotel restaurant. The French toast was pretty good, though. Even so, I wish we’d made it out to Voodoo Donuts. I’ve never had a voodoo donut and I was looking forward to trying one, but alas; it wasn’t in the cards.
The trip back was much quieter, not because of Mario’s absence but because we were so worn out from the drive and debauchery that it was all we could do not to sleep face-down on our sneakers. Eventually we were all sorted out and returned to our respective homes, and now … yes.
Well. Now I’m sitting around updating my webpage, when I really ought to be working. But in all fairness, I’ve written one freelance article draft today, pinned down the details of another assignment, unpacked, cleaned house, and I’m on the verge of grabbing a few groceries — so I can’t complain that I’ve been altogether unproductive.
And by way of being furthermore productive, I’d like to remind everyone that tonight — at the University District Bookstore — Mark Henry and Caitlin Kittredge will be reading yet again. 7:00 o’clock tonight. I’ll probably be there, since I’ve been so motivated and catch-up-oriented today, and you should all show up too. Listen to some really great fiction. Support some fantastic local authors.
Come on. You know you wanna.
* “Great Aplomb” is my nickname for my favorite purple pen.
** In our defense, it was raining. And it was a big parking lot.