Monday, September 21, 2015

The Company You Keep

The other Saturday, I got to participate in a town festival in central Illinois, where I sold books and met folks. Here is the thing: I have a sign that lists the price of $8 for any of my books, plus an optional, quick, free palm reading for anyone who buys a book. This has been my practice for years, in homage to the character of Naomi, Nick Borja's cousin, who is featured reading Michael Penfield's palms in Haunted

The reactions I get to this little perk are everything from outright disapproval and almost visible repulsion to "Could you read my friend's palm, too?" All of them make me laugh. But what really drove the point home to me was when I spent a Saturday selling books and reading palms at a Psychic and Paranormal Expo. I sold more books and read more palms at the Expo than I ever have before or since. And the conversations were amazing. 

Let me backtrack a bit. For some years, I was on the board and planning committee of the Love Is Murder (now called LimCom) mystery writer's/reader's conference. One of the funniest aspects about that conference is that the setting allows complete freedom to talk about murder and all its grisly details. Walking down the hall, you can hear sentences like "I just need to know how to kill him off slowly enough so that he has time to say a few things before he dies" and "Does anyone know how to poison someone so that they die instantly?" and "But that kind of round would leave an exit wound the size of Manhattan" and "I don't think you can strangle someone with piano wire and not draw blood." Talk like that, while walking down the street, would probably raise eyebrows, if not result in a call to the cops. But at that particular conference, talk like that was the norm. We even imported extraordinary ER doc William Ernoehazy, MD to address concerns and answer questions exactly like those listed above. (Dr. Bill, as we all call him, is also a Navy Vet, martial artist, and sharpshooter, so he's unusually qualified for the interests at LimCom.)

What I'm driving at is that since I write paranormal/supernatural ghost-obsessed stories, my kindred audience, so to speak, would be present at something like the Expo. I've never before had so many people come up to me out of the blue and start telling me ghost stories and sharing other paranormal experiences. I've never before had a woman buy my book, bring back a daughter and buy another book, then bring back yet another daughter and buy a book so that all three of them could have their palms read. That was awesome! That's where a young man told me all about so that I could see who died in the house I grew up in - the haunted one. It's also where I could read someone's palm and talk about past lives without raising so much as one hair of an eyebrow. It was the most fun book-signing I have ever done in my life.

The town fair, much like the literary fest I'll be attending next month, draws a more diverse crowd, a lot of whom are earnest church-goers and who find my interests and palm-reading offer to be a bit beyond the pale. Maybe a few steps closer to eternal damnation, I'm not sure. I will sell a book or two at one of these things. When I sell a book, I consider that to be a victory and my day there is complete. I mostly go to meet other writers and exchange ideas. (I collect people as well as books, but that's another topic.)

Going to all of these events has afforded me the opportunity to people watch, talk to those who are so inclined to talk about my pet subject matter, and sell a book or two. At any event, I get invited to fairs and festivals and I pack up my books and go, and I enjoy myself.

But dang, when it comes to meeting and greeting the public, I gotta find me another paranormal expo!

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