BOOK & BLOG
May 26, 2008
Books of the Week:
Three supernatural books in a row while I was on tour! All of them have strong points and a few weak ones, but all are worth reading. Marta Acosta’s book has moments of being absolutely entertaining. It’s the story of a Latina woman, Milagro De Los Santos, who’s struggling with the loss of her WASP boyfriend. Milagro is a delightful narrator, though a bit predictably fiery and lush. However, she’s smart as a whip and full of determination. When she’s bitten in the throes of passion by a very attractive man she’s just met, her body goes through some dramatic changes. She’s more or less kidnapped for her own good by Oswald, the biter, and recovers on his country estate with his extended family which includes his fiancé.
Though some of the revelations in the last thirty pages come as no surprise to the reader, there are several hours of fun in HAPPY HOUR.
A KISS BEFORE THE APOCALYPSE has its moments, too. Boston private eye Remy Chandler is an angel. To find out what he’s doing as a private eye, and why he lives among humans, you have to read the book. Remy’s beloved wife is dying in a nursing home, but she can’t achieve her natural end because The Angel of Death has gone missing. Okay, this is an unusual plot twist, and one reason I was intrigued enough to finish this book. As a neat aside, Remy can communicate with his dog, Marlowe. Marlowe is just a regular dog, but he comes across as a fine character. The large cast of supernaturals and a human best friend, a policeman, make this book faintly reminiscent of the Jim Butcher books, but Sniegoski is completely different in tone.
Natasha Mostert’s SEASON OF THE WITCH was highly recommended to me by my publicist, and after I read it, I could see why. I have to say this book is excellently written, but I grew a bit exasperated with the lead character, Gabriel Blackstone (whom I kept picturing as “Lost’s” Naveen Andrews, for no reason whatsoever). Blackstone is a thief, and he’s hired to find information. A client whose son has gone missing hires Blackstone to find out what happened to the son, whose last known companions were two beautiful sisters who live in a unique place called Monk House. Blackstone has some unusual abilities, and they lead him into a deep involvement with the sisters and into extreme danger. It’s always hard to watch a character knowingly go into mortal peril -- especially when the book is not a romance, where you can be fairly sure the ending will be happy. There are no guarantees in this challenging and eerie book.
The tour this year was easier on me than the previous two, and I’m a little hard pressed to say why. Part of it is simply being used to the regimen; airplane, hotel, store, airplane, hotel, store. Part of it is being confident in my packing. And part of it is that I didn’t have as many very early starts to the day as I did last year. By early, I mean catching a plane at four-thirty in the morning so you can be on “Wake Up, Podunk!” in the next city to publicize your evening signing. That’s a schedule that can grind you to dust very quickly. I did a few shows this tour, but none of them were scheduled that horribly, and the people who interviewed me had actually read all or at least part of the book. I suppose it won’t shock you if I tell you that is often not the case.
The greatest aide when I’m touring are the media escorts. In case you haven’t considered this career option, media escorts take care of visiting authors and other celebrities who’ve written books. A media escort greets you in the baggage claim area and helps you with your luggage, pulls up his/her car to the curb so you can load everything in, and takes you to eat lunch, gets you to the bookstore for your evening event, drives you to your hotel, and takes you to drive-by signings in between these fixed points.
(A drive-by signing is when the media escort calls the store to tell them you’re dropping by, and if they pull all your stock from the shelves you’ll sign it. They then sticker it and put it back. A good media escort often stickers the books for the store, so all the clerks have to do is re-shelve the merchandise.)
Media escorts also know their city well enough to help you out when you say, “I need more toothpaste, some hose, and a tiara.” They’ll take you to places where you can obtain these things. If you say, “I’m starving and I want some Thai food,” they can find out where you can eat Thai. The worst media escorts are simply drivers who can find the bookstores. The best ones are lifesavers. They stand by you during the signing, flapping the books for you and making sure everyone in line has a post-it note with their name printed on it so you’ll know how to inscribe the book. They make sure you have water to drink. They make sure you get a chance to go to the bathroom. They’re ready to steer away readers who exhibit alarming behavior, and they’ll ask you if you have “rescue me” signal.
As you can imagine, they have a lot of stories to tell. If you’re a drinker, they know. If you’re rude and irrational, they know. If you’re not exactly celibate on the road, they know that, too. I’m not saying escorts tell stories with names attached, but you can imagine that word gets around in the escort industry.
So what do you need to be a media escort? A reasonably new and reliable clean car with luggage space. Knowledge of the roads and geography of your city and its surrounding suburbs. Some general facts and figures about your city; population, major industries, chief ethnic groups, housing prices, colleges. A long list of phone numbers and a charged cell phone. Lots of tact and the ability to exchange small talk with almost anyone. These are the basics.
I must have met at least eight or nine media escorts during this tour. Some of them I’d been with before, and it was like seeing an old friend: Hi, Mary Anne in Houston! Hi, Gillian in Portland! I love you! The ones I hadn’t met before ranged from excellent to “just a driver,” but I’ll tell you the bottom line I was glad to see each and every one.
© 2009 Charlaine Harris