Thursday, June 29, 2006

Pirates and Assassins and Booksellers, Oh My!

Does blogging take away from writing? My answer these days is an emphatic YES. Therefore, it’s GOOD NEWS that I’ve neglected these parts… at least, it is for my Work-in-Progress. I am working away each and every day for six to eight hours, and getting more excited about it by the minute. My agent has been very enthusiastic, too. I’m just thrilled to be writing this project and I cannot wait to complete it!

Part of my absence is explained by our one-week trip to SO CAL! Disneyland was magical—as always. Have you ever tried the Disneyland Hotel? It was great to have such easy access to the park (via Monorail), but I can’t say I was treated like a Princess. More like one of her mice. The room was small, but sufficient. If anyone out there is booking a Disney trip, try the Grand Californian instead. There, you have easy access not just to California Adventure, but pretty easy access to the Magic Kingdom, too. Plus, the hotel is brand new, and the rooms seem like they'd be bigger. No matter how sweet she may appear in her polka-dot dress, you just KNOW Minnie is going to knock you down, bash you over your head with her umbrella, and steal your purse.

Still, you can at least try to get a nicer room for your $$$. Another tip---book through AAA.

Diabetes-wise, our son’s blood sugar numbers were HORRIBLE! Later, a friend told me that most likely, his insulin became warm in the LA sun. Sitting within his insulin pump all day, instead of within his pancreas as would be the ideal situation, the insulin simply warmed up and lost potency. That, combined with the excitement (your pancreas and mine can respond to adrenaline surges—our son’s pump, sadly, cannot…) led to super-high numbers. We rarely saw a reading below 200—and many in the 300s. (Your blood sugar and mine normally run between 80-120.)

Pirates of the Caribbean was closed. Bummer! They were re-doing it in anticipation of the new Johnny Depp movie. Does this mean there will be a hologram Johnny Depp in the middle of the ride? If so, I predict two-hour waits next year.

Also, the movie is premiering at Disneyland, right there in New Orleans Square over the water. This made for tough walking through part of the park, as all the New Orleans Square traffic was redirected through Adventureland.

Still, I am addicted to Disney. Meeting Mickey was a grand moment in my life. He did not seem to remember me from last year, but that’s okay. Minnie was nice to me. I did her dishes on the way out the backdoor. No one thanked me, but she let me wish in her wishing well. I wished for better blood sugar numbers.

We did get them, upon returning home. I'm pretty sure the warm insulin was the problem. Our Northern California weather is MUCH BETTER for insulin!

While I was gone, this bizarre thing happened to my fellow California author Barry Eisler.

I guess some indy bookseller (now, don’t get me wrong, I LOVE AND ADORE indy booksellers) got all hyper about the fact that Barry, after a reading at the indy store, asked directions to Barnes and Noble, where he was going to sign stock. Apparently Barnes and Noble was in the same shopping area, so Barry didn’t see why it was offensive. But the bookseller became very upset with Barry and threatened to kill his career, a la the hero of Barry’s books, assassin John Rain. The impassioned email exchange is posted on Barry’s blog.

Go over and read it for yourself! It’s VERY Marlon Brando as Don Corleone. After reading it, I was so flipped out I thought I'd turn and find a bloody horse's head next to me!

They actually sell these as pillows, do ya know? Romantic.

(While you're at it, check out Lee Goldberg's thoughts on the matter.)

What do you think? I tried to put myself in both positions. I’ve been both an author signing books, and a bookstore worker (although I only foamed lattes, and not even at an indy. It was at the Colma Barnes and Noble, the town where the dead souls outnumber the living. I was not responsible enough to sell books, 'tho I did once make a latte for Rob Schneider.)

As an author, I don't see a problem with Barry signing stock at another store other than the particular indy that hosted his reading. Hell, Joe Konrath is planning to sign books at 500 stores this summer. I think that for authors who have the time and inclination, it is perfectly within their rights, and I know Joe would say it was within their RESPONSIBILITIES to sign as much stock as possible, anywhere it exists.

However, would I have asked directions to Barnes and Noble from an indy bookseller? Lots of indies are hurting from this type of competition. I don't think I would have made this choice, out of tact. For instance, knowing my favorite indy Book Passage’s history with B&N, I definitely wouldn’t ask THEM for directions unless I wanted to get clonked on the head by the latest John Updike!

(Well, thinking again, I probably WOULD have done something like that. I end up doing crazy, tacky shit all the time without exactly knowing it. It is completely in character for me.)

But seriously. No one at Book Passage would really do that. Nor would they threaten me with career assassination. They’re too damned nice! However, I would not blame them for laughing their heads off at me after I had left.

As a bookseller—was it worth getting so upset? Well, since I worked at a chain bookseller, maybe I can’t answer that. I just foamed lattes and stole espresso shots until my eyeballs fell out.

A more parallel situation was when I worked at high school for a local department store, Henderson’s of Sycamore, before it closed due to competition from the malls. This is somewhat similar to a struggling indy forever dogged by competition from Barnes and Noble. Now, I didn’t own the store. I was just a flunky. But, let’s say I did. Let’s just say a customer had asked me directions to the mall. I would have politely given the directions. Then, after they had left, I would have cried.

Still, that’s not quite the same as what Barry did. He asked not as a customer, but as a… hmm, I guess as a vendor, sort of. How horrid would it be if the representative from Donna Karan had asked me how to get to the mall from Henderson’s? Well, to be honest, it would be annoying. In my head I would say, “Have you heard of a map? A phone book?” However, I certainly wouldn’t threaten the vendor. After all, a fella’s gotta eat.

The fracas does say something about how much B&N and its ilk are hurting indies, though. I sense a lot of pain in that exchange.

Personally, the local B&N sucks. They can never find anything, they are tiny, and they have no café. However, that’s about to change. And it's scary.

Here is what Book Passage says about how B&N are now attempting to horn in on Book Passage’s territory:

Thank You

We have been amazed and touched by the tremendous outpouring of support from our customers regarding the Barnes and Noble dispute. We are extremely grateful for all that you have done and continue to do.

As many of you know, the Corte Madera Town Center has now confirmed that it is leasing the former Marshalls' space to Barnes & Noble for a bookstore that will be almost three times larger than the present Barnes & Noble store. We have no doubt that Barnes & Noble will be trying to target us, just as they have other independent bookstores over the last 20 years.

The issues in this dispute go beyond just us. Independent bookselling is at risk everywhere throughout the country. And in Marin County and throughout the country local citizens have to fight to regain control of their communities from out-of-state landlords and big-box retailers. If you want to get involved, please email We will also have more information about this in the future on this website.