Last week, I finished the official “World Tour” for the launch of Covenant, with a final bookstore meet and greet with my friends Bill Gagliani and Dave Benton at a Barnes & Noble in Racine, WI. She didn’t realize it at the time, but the store manager’s gift to us all – special Kringle pastries – made for a perfect bit of celebratory “cake” to close the book tour. I’ll continue to have some bookstore and convention appearance dates over the next few months, but the “hit as many stores in as short a period as possible” formal “tour” is now done. I’m still catching my breath. I knew over the summer when I set up the book tour for Covenant that it was an aggressive schedule. And it was! From September through October, I did more than two dozen signings and promotional events and visited more than 50 bookstores to sign copies of their stock in Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Missouri, Kentucky and Tennessee. While I had intended to blog a lot more along the way, once I got into October, there simply wasn’t time…Keeping up with the mundane things like getting the grass cut or fixing the front doorbell at home took up all the free time I had left on the rare days when I was at home! I did want to memorialize some of the last few stops in this blog, though it’s now long afterwards on some of them. Because overall, it was a fun few weeks. October, Part One: During the first week of October, I spent an afternoon at the Borders in Matteson, IL, which was another homecoming in a sense for me – the store is right across the street from one of the malls I used to go to a lot as a kid (I miss their video game arcade!). It was a busy afternoon at the store and we sold lots of books… and they asked me to come back to spend an afternoon at the store on December 20, which I’m looking forward to. A few days later I did a live fiction reading at Twilight Tales in Chicago, and then a Borders signing in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood. The latter turned out to be a pretty slow night, but a friend of mine from work came down, as well as the guys behind www.horrorsociety.com. Plus, I talked to one customer for awhile who was sitting in the horror aisle all night, reading Brian Keene’s The Rising. I had to laugh at that – of all the books he could have been reading, and it was one that I actually served on as a copyeditor for the original Delirium Books edition! That weekend, I took my last “road trip” to promote the book, driving down to St. Louis for two days. On the way, I met a very supportive Barnes & Noble manager in Springfield, and stopped at a couple stores in Bloomington, IL as well. On my first night in St. Louis, I signed at a Barnes & Noble on LaDue Road, and while it was a deathly slow night in the store, I still met some interesting people (who hopefully will enjoy the books I signed for them!) and found a newspaper article about my St. Louis signings in the local News Democrat, written by Elizabeth Donald, a fellow horror author who I met at the start of the book tour at Dragon*Con in Atlanta! Just an example of how “networking” can pay dividends that you never expect. Meeting Elizabeth was actually one of the best things that happened to me at Dragon*Con (which was the start of the book tour). She was great fun to hang out with — we had dinner one night with Jonathan Maberry — and she’s been trucking some of my books around to downstate Illinois and upper Missouri conventions over the past month! I spent Friday night in St. Louis at an airport Motel 6 (no roaches this time!) and the next morning bounced around to a handful of Barnes & Noble and Borders stores in the St. Louis area to sign copies of Covenant for them to display with “autographed copy” stickers. Just after lunch, as I was getting setup to do my second formal book signing in town at the Borders in Brentwood, MO, I had a damper put on my “St. Louis Tour”. I got a call that my son was being admitted to the hospital for pneumonia! Since I was a 5-hour drive away, we went ahead with the signing, which was very successful, but I was worried the whole time. I did meet a couple of big fans of horror, and turned one on to Edward Lee’s new Brides of the Impaler novel before she left the store. (She also picked up Covenant and Needles & Sins!) I also got to rekindle my friendship with Gwen from the goth band Grigori 3. We met a couple years back at a Chicago area Goth fest and found out we both grew up in the same subdivision (though a few years apart!), and since then she’s relocated south… it was great to chat with her for awhile (though a booksigning is never really the best place to have an in-depth conversation!). Next time we vowed to set aside some time outside of the bookstore to catch up! One of the bookstore’s staff tried to get a picture off my cell phone of the two of us together… but they all came out shaky. So I took one of just Gwen holding a couple of my books. Cellphone cameras pretty much suck, but this one turned out ok. After the signing, I hit the road home fast, but was just as quickly slowed down — Just over the border of Illinois I got pulled over by a state trooper, who gave me a warning (thankfully) when I told him I was headed to a hospital 4+ hours away. Unfortunately, with that piece of pink paper sitting on my passenger seat, I was forced to drive a lot slower on I-55 than I would have otherwise! In any event, I stopped home and picked up some clothes for my wife and then hit the hospital around 11:30 p.m. that night. We both slept in “bed-chairs” in my son’s hospital room (slept is a debatable term here), but he got to go home the next day at lunchtime. All three of us are still fighting off head/chest colds 2 weeks later! October, Part Two: The last few dates of the “tour” stayed mostly close to home; I did two stores in my home town of Naperville (including a Borders where I actually set my “sales record” for highest number of books sold at a signing), as well as a Barnes & Noble down the street from my work. The night after that was the Racine date, which I’ve already mentioned. Tigerlady – a friend of Bill’s and mine from MySpace drove down from Madison with her husband, so it was cool to catch up with her again (we met her at the Milwaukee Massacre convention earlier in the summer. We also met a really funny woman who bought both Covenant and Bill’s Wolf Trap while verbally sparring with Dave Benton for at least a half hour. Hopefully she’ll pop up the next time we do a group event! So here we are… Halloween. You’d think I’d be out doing some big event tonight, but actually… I’m working today (in fact, this post probably won’t even make it online til tomorrow)! My dayjob’s annual convention is this week, and so, like last year, I’m actually missing my favorite holiday. I did get to see my son dressed up in his Halloween costume yesterday before I left home for a week (he looked like a monster from “The Wild Things”) as he was on his way out to a party. I’ll have to wait til next year to go trick or treating with him (I did take him to do early voting yesterday, but that’s hardly a replacement LOL). So that’s it… a whirlwind few weeks that, at last, is wrapped up. Over the same period as all this Covenant promotion, I’ve also been editing my 3rd novel, The 13th, which I’ll be turning into Leisure Books this week. Once that’s done, I’ll finally be able relax for a couple weeks, and take a few days vacation to Disney World. I can’t wait to see Shaun’s face when we arrive in the land of the Mouse. As far as celebrating my favorite holiday, Halloween – I’m not skipping it entirely — I’m looking forward to watching the latest George Romero movie next weekend, to have my own private, belated Halloween. And then, only then, will my haunting season be completed! (I’m just hitting the “pause” button today on the calendar for a week LOL). Hope all my friends had an All Hallow’s Eve worth screaming about!
I’ve gotten lots of great reader comments and reviews for Covenant this month, as well as a handful of interviews! Here are some links to the chatty stuff:
My old friends at Circlet Press did a nice in-depth chat with me this week which you can read here.
I did a reading last night in Chicago at Twilight Tales, which posted a short interview here.
My former college newspaper, The Daily Illini did an interview with me when I was on campus last week with you can read here.
The Horror Fiction Review posted an interview in its September issue here.
And one of my local newspapers, Suburban Life did an article / Q&A with me to promote my local signing dates here.
This week was like a return to all my old stomping grounds!
On Wednesday, I did a signing at a Borders in LaGrange, IL, a town that I remember visiting as a kid because my dad worked and banked near there when I was growing up. There used to be a classic old outdoor clock in the cobblestone courtyard area near the bank that I remember always looking at. I never thought as a kid that I’d grow up to sign in a bookstore there. Especially to sign two high school girls’ hands!?!
Then yesterday, I spent the afternoon at a Borders in Matteson, IL, across from Lincoln Mall, where I used to go a lot as a teen to play video games in their arcade.
I’m looking forward to visiting both stores again soon!
On Thursday, I did something I never thought I would do in my life — I returned to the University of Illinois as a “guest lecturer” — for a reading / signing at the Illini Union Bookstore.
Geri and Shaun drove down with me (we had lunch at the Market Place Mall which has had an impressive makeover since I last visited) and stopped at a couple bookstores to sign stock before we hit the university and walked around the quad a bit.
Back when I was in school there (20 years ago) the bookstore was actually inside the Illini Union building. But these days, it has its own giant two-story building across the street from the quad on Wright Street.
The student newspaper where I used to work as a night reporter (and where Joe in Covenant gets some of his background) has moved twice since I was there, and apparently has some pretty impressive digs on Green Street these days, though I didn’t get the time to visit.
While the turnout for the event wasn’t phenomenal (there was no advance local media support plus it was a gorgeous day outside) I did meet a professor from the university, and was interviewed by the Daily Illini (where I once worked!) as well as two journalism students.
But the best part was in finally meeting a longtime fan (and MySpace friend) Sheila, who brought her mom and daughter down to the event.
I read “The Right Instrument” as well as a couple chapters of Covenant, before talking with Franne and Scott at the bookstore about some future events.
Afterwards, we met an old friend of Geri’s and had dinner at the best pizza place in UIUC then or now — Papa Del’s — before driving the 2.5 hours back home.
Viva la Alma Mater!
Last weekend I spent Friday through Sunday hanging out as a guest at the Chicago Horror Film Festival at Chicago’s Portage Theatre… and had a bloody great time!
Friday night at the fest I finally met a bunch of folks I’d only previously known through e-mail, including members of my MySpace friend list, the gang from www.horroravenue.net (who ran a table of horror garb next to me), Brian Kirst from the Horror Society and more…
Jimmy Z from The Horror Web was there selling shirts, so we talked a bit (and thanks to Jimmy for the Tiffany Shepis shots on this page). I also met festival hostess Kenzie (she of the red nurse outfit) and festival PR maven Jessie (pictured here in full zombie makeup). Thanks to Jessie for the bulk of the photos on this page since I forgot my camera the whole weekend – check out her full gallery of photos from the weekend on her MySpace page!
Two bands played late on Friday instead of movies, which may be why the crowds slowed, and I found myself wishing I’d brought the laptop along so that I could have gotten something done instead of just sitting there in the lobby staring at the other vendors… of course, when I brought the laptop the next day, on Saturday, it turned out to be useless — the lobby was busy virtually all day and night on the “big day” of the film fest which ran from 1:30 in the afternoon until midnight.
Saturday, unfortunately, I got a late start on the fest since I blew out a tire on the way down (gotta love changing a tire on the shoulder of I-290 with your back to the traffic whizzing by just a couple feet away! Now THERE’s a horror story!)
When I walked in the door finally, I met Uncle Dougie and the ChicagolandHalloween.com crew, who did a video interview with me and handed me two custom-made mugs that had my book covers and website banner emblazoned on them, in thanks for my donating a couple signed books to their contests this season.
That was a really cool thing, and a little later another pretty cool thing happened – a radio crew was out doing some videotaping for YouTube promotion of their station, and interviewed Scream Queen Tiffany Shepis, who has appeared in dozens of horror flix, at my table.
Tiffany was a riot, picking up the Dark Arts Books anthologies Like a Chinese Tattoo and Sins of the Sirens off my table and shilling them, and then performing an impromptu dramatic reading from one of my stories from the Vigilantes of Love collection!
I can’t wait to see that tape.
I left the table for a few minutes to catch some bits of Bonnie & Clyde vs. Dracula, one of Tiffany’s two films in the fest, which looked like a lot of fun, as did the campy Fright Flick (a movie about a dysfunctional crew shooting a horror movie who are getting picked off one by one by a serial killer).
I also saw most of the “Scream Queen” contest, hosted by Ron Fitzgerald (star of the movie Magus) who did a masterful job at the mic. There were definitely some “bloodcurdling” moments in the contest, not the least of which came from Chad Savage‘s 6-year-old daughter, who took 3rd place.
I missed the Zombie Pinups contest Chad hosted, but I did meet Rich Koz, the legendary Chicago “horror” host who is rarely seen without his rubber chicken.
Towards the end of the night, the lobby had pretty much emptied as everyone left was in watching the showing of Midnight Movie. So I abandoned the table, took my popcorn and plopped down to actually enjoy something as a fest viewer rather than participant! It was a fun movie that played on a nice twist on point of view — in the movie, the film that is showing in a theatre where a group of people are trapped is actually exactly what is being seen from the point of view of the serial killer who is knocking off the film watchers one-by-one.
During a post-screening Q&A, I learned that the director is originally from Wheaton, the next town over from where I live, which was kinda cool.
I got home at 1:30 a.m. and 6 hours later woke to a toddler in bed with us, suggesting that it was time to go downstairs for breakfast 🙂 After an intense play session with Thomas the Train, I cut the grass and headed down to NTB to get my tire replaced before hitting the third and final day of the film fest.
While the tire was supposed to be there by 1 p.m., it was actually about 2:40 p.m. when the laggardly wheel rolled in from another shop, and so I once again arrived late for the start of the fest. Which was ok… Sunday started slowly, but then gained some steam as the day moved towards the Deviant Desires model exhibition (which consisted of a bunch of the attendees getting made up in professional blood and gore makeup and showing off the work on stage) and the fest award ceremonies, where Tiffany Shepis took best actress.
I enjoyed another “healthy” dinner of nachos and cheese and had hoped to catch the final film of the fest, Evilution. Unfortunately, the fest got a bad DVD of the film, and the promoters were scrambling at 11:15 p.m. to find an alternate copy to show (they handed out donuts to those who had been waiting for an hour in the theater).
Since Monday was going to be a busy day at work, I didn’t get to stick around to watch the last award-winning flick of the fest. Kind of a bummer, since I’d hoped to end the film fest by actually watching a film! Nevertheless, it was a fun weekend, and I met lots of cool Chicago-area horror fans over the course of the three days!