The Long Weekend (Part One).
I am a wreck today. The following is the description of just Saturday.
The following involves comic books stores, parades and fireworks. Scroll down to whatever interests you (not everybody is into fireworks) (Actually, check out upcoming posts. This became a post all on its own).
Saturday, drove to Port Angeles for a signing, at The Odyssey Bookshop (Mapquest it, and the following places).
Craig Whalley runs a nice little shop, very plain raw wood shelves, brightly lit, in what was once a frontier bar, that retains walls and ceiling lined with the original tin tiles, painted bright white. Very attractive.
Craig used to own Pulp Fiction, the only comics shop in PA. But when Marvel shot itself in the foot (and how many of us could have told those fanboys NOT to mess with the actual book market if they didn't have the margin to take the burn?), Pulp Fiction, in Craig's words, "Crashed and Burned." Marvel, of course, doesn't respect its retailers, and that is always a BIG mistake, because those guys interact with the all-important customer. Marvel is a putz. And a bunch of amateurs. But that's enough of that, why beat a dead AND rotten horse?
Along come Diamond Comics Distributors Free Comics Day. I managed to get myself together enough to be a Bronze Sponsor. Yay. But I did NOT get myself together enough to figure out there were no local commie book shops. Hey, we moved, we had leakage and woodstoves. Whadaya want? And I was learning to fish and dig giant horse clams (after years of being away from water, I had a SERIOUS seafood deficiency, and your health comes first).
At the last minute, called Craig, and asked him if he was interested. He was very tentative, and that's when he used that "crash and burn" line. Ow. Damaged goods. Would have to be very gentle with this poor little whipped puppy (I can so! No, I can. Really). Kick Marvel here.
Since I'm the semi-volunteered West West Side stringer for the Peninsula Daily News, I cobbled up an article and a photo of me, and got it in. Well, things happen. My editor, John, has had a bit of a crash-and-burn in his own life (it's serious stuff, and he needs major slack cut), and the press release just didn't happen.
Anyway, Dan and I drive around Lake Crescent on Saturday (always lovely!), and I turn him loose in town (and he heads for the local nice Irish pub and a pint of Guinness), and settle down at the little outside table Craig has provided.
Now Craig's all "We don't have much good luck with signings," and apologetic. I tell him, don't worry, a signing is a signing, it'll be all good. It's a bit windy, but I've pasted on my deal-with-the-public smile, and I'm all ready. So he goes back into the shop, and I wait.
It's pretty disappointing, and the wind is lifting. After all, nobody wants to talk to a writer just sitting at a table on a sidewalk. But that's what Craig wants, and we'll see what develops.
Pretty soon out comes Craig, looking kind of apologetic, and we get into a whole spiel on the commie book, the Marvel crash, and the future of the art form. Have we NOTICED the guy with the camera standing there? We have not. We're so intent on our own little industry history, we haven't even noticed he's taking pictures and got a recorder on. When we DO notice him, we find out if he's from the Peninsula Daily News, and he's "got everything he needs." And he extends John's apologies for not getting the press release in!
Welp. If you don't think Craig is impressed. And happy. Look at all the free PR! Whee! And I'm all "Whew!" but I'm not showing it. Now we'll get a good shot of me at work, with a good camera. And a better article. I'm a FICTION writer, damnit, not a journalista. I've never had any training in writing except typing millions of words. This is the ONLY training that counts in writing fiction, because trained fiction writers are boring as hell, and their training sticks out all over them (you can even tell which textbooks they've been reading) but journalists really do need school training (awright, Twain didn't, but journalism back then was more like fiction anyway).
Craig goes back into the shop, but pretty soon he's out to check on me again. The wind has gotten really sassy, now, and you can imagine trying to hold down an art-form that is enamored of flying air, anyway. So we set up again back in a nice little cranny in the middle of the store, and I get my own silk-brocade-covered Rococo chair, and I'm all warm and comfy now (summer up here is like winter in Texas, remember).
Craig is back chatting with me, and all of a sudden, John, the editor at PDN, shows up. Well, ain't this cozy? And John's funny and chatty, anyway. So now the editor of the damn paper has come down to see Craig's shop. Can it GET any better?
Sure can. Craig gets a phone call. A couple customers know about this Free Comic Book Day. They are desperate to find SOMEPLACE in on it. He says no, but he's got a writer here who is a Bronze Sponsor.
Anyway, John the Editor has fun talking to me about this commie book biz, and I give him a copy of THE DESERT PEACH, and he goes his way (and the contents shocks the hell out of him, and he starts kidding me later about what I write, trying to use humor to get his head around it, and this is why I'm now signing email to him, Donna Barr, The Woman who Writes About Nazis).
I find myself facing three potential fans – the ones who called? – and they're all delighted that there is SOME kind of comic book thing going on here. Pretty soon they're into my books, and they won't let me give them any. They buy 'em and I sign 'em.
Craig comes back, and buys the remaining Graphic Novels. We agree that now The Odyssey Bookshop will be the contact point for comics in Port Angeles and the whole region. And good ones – not those ratty spandex things. No. Instead -- Eric Shanower. Carla Speed MacNeil. Pete Sickman-Garner, if I can manage it (I LOVE that guy's "Hey Mister."). My humble self. And I've got this little plan to present him with a present from our industry…
The signing goes on for a bit, and at 3:00 Dan's ready to take off. Craig has had to leave. I gather up the remaining staple-bound books and hand 'em to his XO – "Seed stock," I grin. "Remember – the first one's free."
Comics are back in PA -- and NOT in a commic book shop, where "comics are for kids," according to the minds of benighted prosecutors and judges. They are in a book shop, where adults go to find books, and where children are supervised! I would like, in the end, to destroy the comic book shop and industry as separate from the book industry. And I would like to destroy the book industry as it is today -- including the idiot returns policies. I want everything available everywhere, under the umbrella of art and literature. Call me an activist anarchist, if you will.
(On the way home, catch people wearing renaissance costumes, selling jerky by the side of the road, funding for a project. Do a quick photo-op and email pickup for later. There will be PIRATES and possibly a major guest star in Port Angeles in October – stay tuned!).
And drove home on 112. This time of year it's gorgeous. But those tight curves for an hour start a wrench in my left arm and back. I'm gonna pay for this.