As is so often the case, there’s a song running through my head today.
Here I sit in the railway station,
Got a ticket to my destination.
I’m on a tour of one-night stands
My suitcase and guitar in hand
And every stop is neatly planned
For a poet and a one-man band.
That’s my life right now, only it’s airports and rental cars not a railway station. And there’s no guitar stowed away among the luggage, but there are plenty of pieces of electronic equipment–laptop, iPad, iPhone, Garmin. The poet part is right because After the Fire is out there selling like crazy, but it’s not a one-man band, either. There’s Bonnie Abney, the character Second Watch. (More on her later.) There’s may daughter-in-law, Kathy, who wears one hat as my IT Gal and her current one, driving the Miss Daisies and making sure no purses or other vital pieces of equipment are left behind. And then there yours truly.
So let’s just say it’s a three-woman band.
But the one-night stand part is absolutely on the money. Monday we flew into Albuquerque, checked into the hotel, and then did an evening event. Tuesday we flew to Dallas. Wednesday we drove to Austin. Yesterday we drove to San Antonio. Tomorrow is Houston. The day after that is Oklahoma City, and that night after the OKC event, we fly to Nashville. That’s a miracle almost because we get to stay in the same hotel for TWO NIGHTS!!! That’s almost like going on vacation, and we may even have enough time to send some clothing–underwear most likely–to the hotel laundry.
This is my first experience of being on tour WITH a character. Most of the time, I’m the one in charge and the one telling characters what to do and say. It turns out that Bonnie is a character of a totally different sort. She talks back. She has her own opinions. And we’re having fun out here on the road, but we’re also working. Talking about the journey that brought us to the writing of Second Watch makes for an emotionally draining experience for both the audience and for us. We leave the venues, return to our hotels, and fall into bed. I’ve noticed that in books characters can work almost ’round the clock and not get tired. Bonnie’s and my case, both character and author tend to run out of steam later on in the day, and that’s why Kathy’s presence is so vital to our current enterprise.
Kathy is young. (Forty something is young, right?) She is energetic. She is organized. And she’s bossy when the occasion calls for a certain level of bossiness. It’s 5:01 pm right now–Central time in San Antonio–and Kathy has decreed wheels up at 6:15 in order for us to make it to the signing event on time. That means I’m keeping an eye on the clock. Several nights ago I changed the time on my computer to the right time zone. The night before that I wasn’t so smart, so I was ten minutes late for wheels up. (Did I mention Kathy is also a tough task-master?) She’s also good at wrangling crowds and keeping folks moving. There was one stop along the way earlier in the tour, before Kathy joined caught up with Bonnie and me, when we could really have used her help in ushering an over-staying guest away from the table. By the way, Kathy also has a keen sense of humor.
I know when we’re out on the road that a few clueless people will ask Bill, “What’s it like to be married to a famous person?” For Pete’s sake, what’s it like to be married? That’s the real question. Being married means two people are pulling together in the same direction through thick and thin, and famous or not famous has NOTHING to do with it. I was shocked when I recently discovered that my granddaughters in Spokane have been subjected to a similar kind of nonsense. “What’s it like to have a grandmother who’s famous?” Well, gee whiz! I don’t know. She buys us pizza on occasion and at Thanksgiving she makes a mean turkey? Again, I’m a GRANDMOTHER. If you ask, I will show you the pictures to prove it, and I will also bore you silly with my grandchildren’s wonderful exploits. Again, famous or not has nothing to do with it.
Kathy, however, has now been asked a similar question. “What’s it like to have a mother-in-law who is famous?” Kathy, who was raised in Palouse (yes, it’s a TOWN, as well as an AREA) and who does not suffer fools lightly, immediately took charge of that question. “It depends,” she said with a completely straight face, “on whether she’s riding her broom or her Hoover Vacuum Cleaner that day!”
Today, I think I’ll leave both of those at home. I’ll just settle back in our rented Yukon and let Kathy do the driving.
Again, and for the record, has anybody seen my purse?