The drive from OKC to our overnight was a long one, but worth it. We were staying at the (extremely) rural home of my online friend/beta reader/collaborator Nan. Clark, while not always useful for much more than a laugh at book events, was always willing to drive and carry the heavy stuff, so drive he did, until 11:45 p.m. in Alma, AR.
Cop stop #3. I handed him the insurance, a drill I was quite familiar with now. A state trooper appeared at his window.
“Did you know you’ve got a tail light out?” he asked, a 30-ish white guy with short dark hair and a friendly tone of voice.
“No, sir, we didn’t. Sorry about that.” Clark sounded very mature and looked him in the eye. I was proud. He handed the officer his license and insurance.
The officer checked out our credentials then was back. He asked a few polite questions about our origin, destination, and what we were doing in his fair state, then sent us on our way with our third warning. Clark and I switched and I drove the last 45 minutes to Nan’s.
As we drove up her long, winding driveway between cattle on either side, Clark said, “Mom, you don’t really know his woman. For all you know, she and her husband are vampires, and you’re making us spend the night in their lair.”
Allie laughed, but I could tell that neither of them were fully confident in my decision to home-stay.
“She’s an ordained minister.”
“So she says.”
“I’ve been to her website.
“That can be faked.”
“Clark, it’s going to be all right, and, if it’s not, that’s why I have my giant son along.”
We pulled to a stop and got out. Nan met us at the door. For a vampire, she was perfectly hospitable, and showed us all to our sleeping quarters. She’d even prepared a gift basket for Petey and me. I slept like a rock, although I’m not so sure Clark and Allie did.
The next morning was lovely. I truly enjoyed Nan and her husband. The two of them are farming and raising cattle organically, and we talked a lot about healthy eating. And we laughed a lot too. Around lunchtime, Eric texted me.
“I asked Clark to get a picture of you with Nan, but he said he can’t because vampires don’t appear on film.”
I laughed out loud. “Nan, I’m sorry to admit this, but Clark is a little worried you guys are vampires.”
She smiled. “I am a little pale.”
Clark said, “See, Mom? I told you.”
Later, we caravaned to Benton, AR, two hours away and just south of Little Rock. Almost immediately, red and blue lights flashed in our rear view camera.
Clark pulled over. At least we still had the insurance information out and handy.
A young, white officer with short brown hair spoke in a friendly voice. “Did you know you’ve got a tail light out?”
It was deja vu all over again.
This time I spoke. “Yes, sir, we were pulled over late last night, and we’re headed to town now to get a tail light. We stayed with some friends near here last night.”
“Vampires,” Clark said, under his breath.
I ignored him, and the officer seemed not to hear him. “Who was the officer? Was he nice to you?”
“Super nice.” I handed him the warning.
“Oh, I know him, we used to work together. Good guy.”
Actually, I suspected they were related. But, then, isn’t everyone in Arkansas?
After the obligatory questions about the book tour, he waved us off with a warning, and we were on our way, again. We arrived in Benton with no further mishap. For the first time, we truly missed the generator, as it was blazing hot, and surprisingly humid.
Siri directed us to a nearby auto parts store, and Clark “helped” Nan’s husband change our tail lights. It turned out every single one of them was out except for a single bulb. I suspected Indiana’s roads were to blame.
The event itself was quite good. We had our vampire friends there, of course, and a childhood friend of Eric’s big brother, from the islands. But on top of that we had wonderful foot traffic, and watched the books leave the store in the hands of happy customers. One child wanted Puppalicious badly, but her mother was short on funds and had already purchased Saving Grace and Clark Kent. Nan couldn’t stand it. She handed the woman $12, and Puppalicious to the daughter.
“Oh, thank you,” she said, her eyes glowing.
“Now, you get a 2nd one free because it’s buy one get one free. Do you want to buy your Mommy a present?” Mom had her eye on Leaving Annalise.
“Sure!” she said.
I pointed at Leaving Annalise, and the woman nodded. Now her eyes glowed. I’ve never enjoyed signing two books as much.
As much as we would have liked to stay longer and have a late dinner with Nan and her husband, we didn’t dare risk another sundown needed to move on to our overnight camping spot. And I needed to work on Loser. I had taken the day off, but it was due to the printer by close of business the next day.
I worked into the night and from sunrise the next morning. I’d love to say I saw Jackson–it was my first visit–but I saw nothing but the Barnes and Noble parking lot when we got there. At 4:30 pm, I clicked save, and then submitted the completed book interior. It felt damn good. After a few swipes of makeup, I hustled into the store, leaving Petey and Allie sweating it out together with the Bookmobile on and it’s cab a/c on full blast.
The store bustled and had good, positive energy. As soon as I started setting up my table (and by now I had become a bit obsessive about just how my table should look, causing Eric to warn the kids off, “Don’t touch the table, just haul in the stuff and do what she tells you.”), customers appeared. I did a brisk business with people I’d never met, and it was fun. But the best was yet to come.
Earlier that day while I was working on Loser, my mind seized upon the first name of a friend’s husband, a friend I’d lost touch with a decade before, who had lived in Jackson at the time. I’d searched for her over the years on social media, and done so again before the tour, but I couldn’t find her.
“Kelly!” I shouted.
“Huh?” Clark asked.
Angela was married to Kelly. I Googled their names together and up popped an article about their adopted children. Buoyed by this confirmation of their continued existence, I looked up Kelly’s law firm, and I emailed him from their site, asking him to put me in touch with my old friend.
He answered in moments, and within minutes Angela and I were texting.
So that is how, with short notice, Angela and her three kids knew of my signing and showed up en masse. It was a real delight to see her and meet them. It turned out she was a big reader, so she took a full set of my books plus lots of extras for her neighbors.
We forgot to take any pictures in Jackson
But otherwise, we rocked it. Here are some photos from Benton. Emphasis on some. Because vampires don’t show up on film.
Manager in Benton Hastings
Customer in Benton
We overnighted in Mississippi with not a vampire in sight, and we were off to Shreveport and our possible generator before dawn the next day.