Friday, May 30, 2008

Don’t go to Dayton in February and Other Lessons Learned on the Road

The Stiletto Gang is delighted to welcome Rosemary Harris. Rosemary is the author of Pushing up Daisies, the first in the Dirty Business series. Visit her website at

First off I should say that the folks in Dayton were wonderful. All four of them who showed up for my signing at Books and Company during an ice storm that had me crawling into my rental car on the passenger’s side because the driver’s side door was frozen shut.

When my debut mystery, Pushing Up Daisies, finally came out I was over the moon. It had been almost two years between that long-awaited phone call from my agent and my launch party. That night was almost as good as my wedding night (I said almost, honey...)

The next morning I flew to Phoenix. Through Dallas. Of course there was a delay so I arrived much later than I thought I would. Lesson two, try not to arrive in a strange city late at night, especially when it’s filled with still-hungover stragglers from the SuperBowl. Of course I was smart enough to have purchased a TomTom, a GPS device. But I wasn’t smart enough to test it out a few times before I left home. To this day, Tomasina, the voice of the Tom, thinks home is Phoenix. After checking in I settled in for a few hours of work against the backdrop of Law & Order. Lesson three, wherever you go, at any hour of the day or night some version of L&O will be on television. Embrace it. Theirs may be the only friendly voices you’ll hear for hours.

Lesson four – assuming you’re not Janet E and aren’t staying in five star hotels, pick a hotel that has a free breakfast buffet. Most of the time you’ll just want to grab a coffee and a little something, not wolf down a full lumberjack breakfast.

That day I learned to use the TomTom and “dropped in” to every bookstore that Joe Konrath had visited (see Newbie’s Guide to Publishing), did a live television interview – sandwiched in between the native dancers and a hurricane expert – and was I feeling pretty good. But it was still hours before my signing at Poisoned Pen.

Lesson five – if you find yourself with a few hours in an unfamiliar city and either don’t want to work or can’t - get a manicure. Or better still a blowdry. They’re generally inexpensive and like barbershops used to be for men, beauty salons are social centers filled with women who like to chat. That first day, it was a great warm-up for me. Everyone in the salon treated me like a celebrity, I handed out daisy seeds promoting the book and left feeling like a million bucks.

By that time the free mini-poppy seed muffin I’d had for breakfast was getting lonely in my stomach so I decided to stop for a bite. Except nothing near the store was open. I peeked into the darkened Café Monarch and saw three men cleaning up. I told them I had a signing at the bookstore in 20 minutes and didn’t have time to drive around looking for another place to eat, so they turned some of the lights on, lit a few candles, and whipped up a cold chicken pesto salad which was just delicious. It was like something out of a movie. All alone in this cute café looking across the street to where I’d be having my first signing. Later on I signed hundreds of books and had a lively conversation in the round with soon-to-be fans including the fab Lesa Holstine. It was great. I thought – I love my life!

The next weekend I flew to Dayton. What can I say? Sometimes the magic works, sometimes it doesn’t. The most difficult journey had to be my Philly-Chicago-Detroit-Denver-NY trip. On paper this seemed like a perfectly reasonable thing to do. And it might have been if I hadn’t lost my drivers license somewhere between the hotel in Philly and the airport in Philly.

Somehow, without being subjected to a strip search, I talked my way onto the plane in Philadelphia. I felt pretty smug about that until I looked around the airport and wondered who else had talked themselves through security. Lesson six – always carry two forms of i.d.

Once in Detroit, I couldn’t pick up my rental car, because I had no driver’s license. But that was okay because there was a blizzard and I wouldn’t have been going anywhere anyway. No planes were going out either so instead of spending one night at the glamorous Hilton Garden Inn at the airport, I was there for three nights, with dozens of flight attendants who were clearly doing more than watching Law & Order in their rooms at night. The Hilton offered a full warm breakfast (not free, as I recall, but under the circumstances, I loved it.) Unfortunately there was no other food available during the day except for microwaveable burritos, and a spinner rack full of individual sized portions of dry cereals. Lesson six – bring food. I now pack envelopes of tuna, protein bars, and occasionally Cheerios, which I had never eaten before but learned to love at the Hilton Garden Inn.

My husband Fedexed my passport and I was eventually able to get out of Detroit. I thought I’d catch an earlier flight to Denver (I was getting cabin fever in my tiny room.) Lesson seven – always leave half an hour earlier, even if it’s five-thirty in the morning. Who knew so many people would be leaving Detroit at six fifteen? Was there an evacuation notice that I hadn’t heard about? No, just the vagaries of the flight schedules made the airport really busy at the ungodly hour.

I finally arrived in Denver, no lost luggage, no more drama and a few lessons learned. And I’m still learning. What lessons have you learned from the road?

Rosemary Harris


  1. Rosemary: Great post! Back in the day (when I traveled about 10 weeks a year for my publishing job), I used to pack lunch to take on my flights. This was pre-9/11 but I never failed to get pulled to the side, my foil-wrapped chicken sandwich unwrapped and inspected and held up for all of the other security personnel to sniff and examine. Now, I just make sure I have pretzels, crackers, and other non-perishables because those items attract far less attention.

    Your trip sounds alternately amazing and horrible, but the most striking thing is that you made the best of it, a life lesson most people have yet to learn. All best--Maggie Barbieri

  2. First off, good luck with your new book. I can't wait to read it!

    Learned lesson - carry all medicine, a change of clothes (double underwear), and make-up on board the plane. After a lost luggage episode, I now prepare better.

    The suggestion about the food is really good, especially now that US Airways (and maybe others) will no longer provide snacks for Coach travelers...sodas remain free though. My preferred travel snack is a mixture of peanuts, dark chocolate M&Ms and raisins.

    BTW, I found out last year that 5:30-7:00 AM is an extremely busy time for the Wash/Balt airports too. I guess it's for all the people flying for business.

    This summer I have to be at the airport at 4:00 AM so I can be ready for a 5:00 AM flight. The shuttle is picking me up at 3:00 AM...YUCK!!!

    -- Becky Hutchison

  3. Congratulations, Rosemary on your book's success!

    My road trip tips? I've learned to pack a light bulb that is 100 watts or better so I can read via hotel room lamps. Also I have found packing extra batteries for the hotel tv remote is a good idea, if you're like me and don't like getting dressed and going down to the front desk for them at 10 pm.

    aka The Southern Half
    of Evelyn David

  4. I have no road trip tips, but I loved yours, Rosemary! And, it was a pleasure to meet you at the Poisoned Pen. I can now always say I was in the audience when you made your first public appearance for your very first book.

    Some of us here in Arizona are now waiting for the second one!

  5. Many thanks! I just delivered the manuscript for book two and it's scheduled to be released next March. Tentative title is The Big Dirt Nap.
    Re: packing a light bulb? I pack an extension cord when I go to the Caribbean - maybe I'll do the same for next book tour.

    Four am? I hope you're going some place fun!

    BTW I'm really impressed with the jazzy job you did with the pix. Cool!

  6. Hi Ro,

    I just posted a comment, but didn't see it arrive, so I'm sending another.

    Did you keep a journal from day one?

    If I ever sell my series, I plan to do that because I can remember faces, but sometimes forget names.

    I like the way you take lots of photos with the people you meet.

    Thanks for the tips! I too am looking forward to reading your next book. I LOVED Pushing Up Daises.


  7. Hi Ro,

    It's Fran. While you did tell me about some of your travel "adventures" reading them brought back a classic of my own.
    Rule of thumb: Never assume a day trip will not include at least one night. On what I thought would be a quick jaunt and back to upstate New York for business, turned into an overnight.(cancelled flight-tiny airport) I had no pjs, hairbrush, toothbrush or anything remotely suitable for sleeping. I rinsed my pantyhose in the sink of a cheap airport motel. In the morning they were still soaking wet. So on a 11 degree January morning, in Rochester NY I wore a wrinkled suit (yes, with skirt), and nothing but the blazing whites of my legs with calf-high boots! When I tried to use the hotel vending machine the previous evening, for toothbrush, toothpaste and a comb, I dropped the money in and condoms came out. They apparently ran out of everything else. This is all true. So despite what everyone tells you, NEVER, EVER pack light.
    And btw, can't wait to ready Book 2!

  8. Hi Ro
    I don't have book published yet, but I've been on a little bit of a road trip with a friend who does.

    Seems she went to a conference that she thought was in Miami so she scheduled a signing in Miami. However, the conference was really in Deerfield Beach, an hour plus drive.

    Poor thing was kicking herself so hard that we were afraid to let her drive, so a mutual friend offered to drive and I went along as moral support. A really interesting experience.

    By the way Ro, really loved the book.


  9. Great post, Ro, and loved your adventures. Dayton's a bit different from the time you spent in Africa building libraries, I take it?

    Best of luck on the book. I'm thrilled to say the next in The Black Widow Agency series, SPUN TALES, will be out July 1st! Maybe we'll cross paths again soon.

    Felicia Donovan
    The Black Widow Agency

  10. Hi Rosemary! I loved reading about your adventures and reading PUSHING UP DAISIES after we met at a couple of conferences. By the way, I planted a couple of packes of the seeds you hand out, and they are coming up nicely in my garden. Good luck with book two AND with your travels. I'll be heading to California in July to visit our youngest son and taking your advice to heart.

  11. Dear Rosemary,

    I wanted to see you. I really did. It was the fault of the guy who slid across our driveway and, well, got stuck there, that I didn't get out. That. and my really generally sweet husband hiding the keys and saying "You have never met this woman, and you are not meeting her tonight."

    Please comes to Dayton when it's not icy (I suggest June, but July & August are OK too...) and we promise to show up and even take you to dinner.

    For that matter-- we officially offer dinner to any DL author who contacts us to say you're coming... unless there's another ice storm! (When I moved to Dayton from Madison, WI, I thought I'd see less winter. Not so. It's just that the snow melts and then freezes instead of having the sense to lie there all snowy-- and we have ice storms. Oh, well. There are consolations, and I married the best of them.)
    Lin in (surprise) Dayton