HOUSTON—Last Stop on the Hellhole Tour

Landed in Houston, grabbed my luggage, met my driver Charles…this is all seeming very familiar, getting into a routine, running smoothly.  Must be time to wrap it up.

Over the course of the day we drove to eight bookstores.  Sprawling Houston has a very large geographical area (mostly filled with malls, restaurants, and freeways…at least that’s what I could see from our car).  Charles and I had a lunch of good Mexican food (a requirement secondary only to barbecue…and we wuld have barbecue for dinner).

Over the course of this tour, going from bookstore to bookstore in city after city, it’s very interesting to see the differences in attitudes from store staff.  As I stood at the Information desk counter signing copies, sometimes the bookstore workers are just working a job without much apparent interest in books; other staff members are very engaged, excited to meet an author, to talk about books in general or some of mine in particular.  We made a practice of carrying extra copies of Hellhole in the car, and if a bookstore person was a particular SF enthusiast, I signed a personal copy and gave it to him or her.  At one Houston store, the manager said she had three devoted fans on staff, and in order to choose who would get the book, she got on the employee intercom and asked for the first person who could name the title of a Kevin J. Anderson book.  The first person who came back with a response received Hellhole.

We finished with enough time for me to stop by the hotel for a quick shower, a call home to Rebecca (because I knew it would be a late night), and to change into my new Star Garrison black polo shirt that the 501st Legion had given me in Dallas the night before.  (Black fabric = barbecue-proof, so I was planning ahead.)

We arrived at the store early and signed piles of books in the break room; meanwhile, another group of 501sters changed into their full armor for the event: stormtroopers, a clone trooper, a Death Star Gunner (the first one I had seen), a Boba Fett, a snow trooper, Darth Vader, and a Jedi Knight.  It was hot and humid (Houston, after all), and the guys had a couple of “wardrobe malfunctions” to take care of while they were suiting up [I heard, “There’s velcro caught under my thermal detonator.”]  But the delay worked to our advantage, because the evening traffic was particularly bad and many people arrived at the bookstore late.  The store played Star Wars theme music and we all trooped out through the ground level, and then a full line of stormtroopers, Vader, Boba Fett, Jedi, and author rode the escalator upstairs to the event area.

A very good crowd, almost exactly the same size as the crowd in Dallas—so I have all the data necessary to convince Tor to send me to Texas again on the next tour.

After signing the books (many large bags or boxes of books, since it had been so long since my previous appearance in the area), a bunch of us had arranged to go to a local barbecue joint, Pappas.  By coincidence—I swear!—all of the male invitees had other plans and dropped out, so I was forced to go to dinner with five young women, including  a Special Forces member and another alum of the Superstars Writing Seminar.  We were sitting at the table, feasting on ribs, brisket, chicken, sausage, cole slaw, and yams; another customer stopped, looked at me surrounded by all the ladies, and said “Man, you must have died and gone to heaven.”

Aryn Scheuermann gave me a ride back to the hotel, where I downloaded the photos from the camera, packed up the bags, and got ready to go home.  The end of the tour!

All told in 17 days, we hit 114 bookstores—13 formal events, 99 dropbys, two mail-order stores.