Thank you very much to Powell's for hosting me as the guest-blogger this week. I enjoyed telling Powell's blog readers about carcasses, trash finds, and hidden trails — things I won't even tell my neighbors. Now that were at the end of series, I'd like to consider the term "guest blogger." I imagine an appraiser on an episode of Antiques Roadshow
: "This is a guest-blogger, an antique innkeeper's tool. It's a long cudgel for whacking unruly patrons. How much did you pay for it?"
A few hours before I left my house for a book show across the continent, my boxes of books arrived. I'd heard a few days prior that the boxes had been briefly in my town before the UPS guy gave up and took them back to his lair. In the afternoon I had a premonition, so I drove to the post office where I found the UPS driver talking with our postmaster, Charlie, who was signing for the boxes for me. Charlie and I are friendly; he was an Olympic hockey goalie, a Harvard graduate, a Vietnam vet. He saves wheat pennies for me, because he knows I collect them. I'd already told him about Swell. So I used his knife, opened a box, and inscribed the very first edition of my novel to him.
I was thinking of Charlie later when I endured the security check at the airport. Evidently a new tactic is to chat people up. Where are you going? Why? I told her a book show in Oakland, California. She asked if I were a bookseller, And then I got to say it: I'm an author. And I whipped it out. She read the cover aloud, "Swell a Novel by Corwin Ericson." She checked the name against my ID. I hoped she'd look at the author photo on the flap, but instead she asked if it were fiction. All novels are fiction, I said. Well, I'll have to buy it, she said. Then I went to go hop around in line as I tried to take my shoes off while emptying my pockets.
My point is, the only three people who have seen my fresh-from-the-box book have been in uniform. Two of them federal.
When I received my ARC a few months ago — that's Advance Reading Copy (or actually "Advanced" as the publisher had written, which prompted a young friend of mine to ask if there were a kids' version) — I showed it to a cat. Then I brought it with me as I walked out to the beaver ponds, where I met a brand new neighbor. He asked why I had been crawling. Garnets, I told him. He was excited and wanted to collect minerals with me. This had never happened to me before. Usually I pull a few out of my pocket and explain what they are. People are typically unimpressed. This new neighbor was around 20 years old and pretty stoned. I showed him the book. We crawled up the hillside together. His dog thought it was strange and wanted to get on with the walk. A mile later, the dog came yelping back with some porcupine quills in his muzzle. I was glad I had a multitool with me — the blade and pliers were necessary for doctoring the dog.
We brought the very unhappy dog back to the new neighbor's house. His girlfriend showed me rods of green tourmaline, and said they were from a town nearby, but she was sworn to secrecy about the location. I showed her the book. I never saw them again, but their landlord told me their dog had been to the vet three times with quills before they moved away.