I Spent A Week In Heaven And It Only Cost $350

I’d love to do a full recap of my Southwest book tour with all of the details and anecdotes to really make you feel like you were there with me. But you weren’t and I was too busy/tired while I was there fully document it as I normally do so today you’ll be getting the highlights. Overall it was an amazing experience. There’s always talk that book tours aren’t worth it etc. and that’s likely true for a first novelist if the cost for the tour had been thousands of dollars. But it wasn’t. More on that in a bit.

First we had The Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Arizona. This was fun because it was my very first bookstore event. I’d met the staff the night before so I felt more comfortable than I would have normally even though I showed up right in the nick of time. It was great to see Owen Laukkanon again and it was real pleasure to meet David Joy for the first time. He’s one of those great guys who makes everyone around him smarter and better looking and makes everyone feel welcome and like family.

Our talk went well, I didn’t embarrass myself too much and we sold a few books. It was almost as fun signing stock as it was signing the books people shoved in front of me. I loved it all. I did make the noob mistake of forgetting to bring in my special signing pen and the stickers I brought to giveaway, but that was the only fluke so that’s not bad. Afterward I spend a bit of time having drinks with the authors and some old friends from the crime fiction community and then I had every intention of going back and getting to bed early because I had a very early flight the next morning. Instead, I ended up hanging with some folks I went to high school with at a dive bar until way too late at night. The next morning I felt awful and wasn’t quite sure I’d make it to the airport alive. But all I needed was to buy a giant red Gatorade, eat some crackers, and throw up twice in the most disgusting gas station bathroom I’ve ever been in and I was good to go.

I was more prepared for Houston. Kind of. When my plane got in I ate at Wendy’s at the airport then Skyped with Becky and Natalie for a bit before heading to my hotel for a nap and a hot shower. I showed up early this time because I wanted a chance to browse the store before the event. Instead, the staff put me to work signing stock and pre-orders. I didn’t mind because 1) I’d remembered my special bullet pen and my swag and 2) they had me signing in the back office that smelled like books and literary glitter. That was so much fun even though my signature varied widely across the books. The event went great, even without Duane, and yet another person from my high school showed in support. Afterward we went out for dinner with the staff and authors and had a nice dinner and nice conversation and I told them all how intrigued I was by the seedy neighborhoods of Houston and, particularly, the run down peep show hut across from my hotel. I’m really the worst dinner guest ever.

Saturday I battled rain the entire day heading down to Austin where I watched SXSW fans almost get hit by cars a hundred times, had fun chatting books with Scott Montgomery at MysteryPeople, and then ate some great chili, tamales, and gumbo for lunch. On the way back to Houston I stopped at a roadside BBQ joint that was nice and rundown inside. The food was great but too expensive for the atmosphere I thought. My rented Nissan Rogue got much better gas mileage than I expected. I stopped once along a dark deserted side road to Facetime with Becky and the kids, then wondered how close I’d come to being murdered and never found but made it back to the hotel in time to finally go to bed at a decent hour and head to the airport the next morning without any assistance or vomiting.

So thanks to McKenna Jordan and everyone at Murder by the Book for really getting this whole thing started. Thanks also to the great staff at The Poisoned Pen Bookstore as well as my cousins Sandi and Paul Sutton for letting me stay with them. And finally, thanks to Jason Pinter for having faith in me and for publishing Murder Boy otherwise this whole trip would have been very awkward. Both stores have signed copies ready to go and you can click here for info and getting one for yourself.

And finally, a note on the cost. I have to admit I was a bit jealous hearing about my fellow authors being out up in hotels and chauffeured around by their publishers, but then I smacked some sense into myself and realized how incredibly lucky I was to be there. Part of that was some prudent spending and guerrilla traveling tricks. Becky and I travel quite a bit so we’re members of lots of airline and hotel clubs and AAA and keep eyes out for deal and such. So here’s the rundown of costs for this trip.

Arizona Leg:

  • Flight – $0 due to flights credits I got coming back from Bouchercon and volunteering to be bumped.
  • Hotel – $0 stayed with family
  • Rental Car – $103 due to discounts through my employer.

Texas Leg:

  • Flight – $0 due to same vouchers
  • Hotel – $97 with one free night thanks to hotel reward points
  • Rental Car – $88 with employer discounts
  • Fuel for road trip to Austin – $31.00

Meals and such were another $30 or so giving us a total cost of about $350. Not bad for four days halfway across the country to sign at two of the biggest mystery book stores around. I also spent another $150 on books between all three stores and technically that’s a business expense but it’s not like I wouldn’t have bought these books otherwise.