It was a great weekend if you were a cold germ. A few billion of them took up residence on a short-term lease in my sinuses this weekend, leading to numerous doses of medicine and nights of sleep interrupted by snorts and flutters.
You know how these things go: the tickle in the back of the nose that turns into a visitation in the night from sprites stuffing mini-sausages in the sinus cavities. Then there’s the days spent with tissues at hand for sudden explurgations followed by apologies for scaring the cats. Showers are accompanied by a neti pot and further explanations are going to stop right there.
By Sunday I was feeling somewhat better, which was good because I was down to attend the Hershey Public Library’s festival for families as a Local Author. The authors got a table each in the center of the building near the entrance to set out their wares and intercept families wandering through to drop off their raffle tickets or attend the various demos: animals from ZooAmerica, martial arts from the local societies.
It took us awhile to get moving so we got there within minutes of the festival opening. As we were setting up, the wife noticed all of the other tables had some form of candy lure. She sped off to the store to close the dreaded Candy Gap while Author and daughter finished setting up.
It was a pleasant several hours spent, selling a few books, but mostly talking to people. The hard sell is simply not in me. The thought of moving through the crowd, handing out flyers like a Vegas strip hustler gives me the heebie-jeebies. I’d resent the hard sell on the other side of the table, so why should I inflict it?
When I was going to Bouchercon years ago, there was a couple who were walking billboards for her series of self-published novels. They didn’t just hustle, they went the Full Hustle: pinback buttons on their vests, bookmarks in hand, T-shirts, even little Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups with a bit of cardboard taped to it touting their books. Can’t remember who they were now; haven’t thought of them for years.
The first couple of encounters were pleasant. Then you’d see them coming and you’d kinda shy off, duck into a side room, edge to the other side of the hall. Not to be rude; you don’t want to do that, but because you know that the terms of the encounter have been pre-set: Ask me about my books!
I’ll bet they moved a lot of books, so good for them. I wonder if they’re still going? I hope so. They would be perfectly positioned to take advantage of self-publishing today.
Anyway, the festival. It was near-perfect weather. Cloudy, but not rainy, so people could move around without dropping from heat stroke, or taking cover from a sudden downpour.
The day turned into brief encounters with people, improvised conversations with strangers who opened themselves up in sometimes fascinating ways. From my research while writing “The Complete, Annotated Mysterious Affair at Styles,” I had learned that Agatha Christie was a careful watcher of people, their appearances and mannerisms. She didn’t want to use the whole person, just a part of them to inspire here.
So I decided to do the same: to watch and listen, and see what happens.
* The older gent who taught art. We discussed the difference between the two movies based on Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None”/”Ten Little Indians.” He preferred the 1945 version starring Barry Fitzgerald.
* Seen from across the room, a man with tats running down his arms, including the word KNOTTY emblazoned down a forearm. What story lies behind that choice?
* The young woman from Hong Kong who beamed when I recognized the Shinkansen badge she wore. Michael Palin rode one in his documentary “Around the World in 80 Days.”
* The charming girl in a karate gei who read several Christies from the school library. She also likes Nancy Drew and the Boxcar Children. Her mother read Christie as well in her original language. What language? Croatian.
* The stylishly dressed woman whose paper in grad school on feminism caused her conservative teacher to give her an essay on the subject by Dorothy L. Sayers. I knew Sayers wrote quite a bit, but I missed this.
I wished I could spend more time with these people, but I’m grateful for the time I had.