Wednesday, March 18, 2009

DAY FOUR: Victoria Zackheim

I was thrilled when I signed the contract to have my first book published. Let me rephrase that: …to have my book self-published. In 2001, that was considered a near-fatal choice, but I had spent sixteen years writing, revising, deleting and self-deprecating, so it was time. And yes, editors read it, nice things were said, but nobody wanted to publish it. The publisher was small and had no budget for PR, so all expenses—including travel and advertising—fell on me. If The Bone Weaver was going to sell, I'd have to make it happen. But how hard could it be, pulling together crowds at readings, newspaper and magazine reviews, popping flashbulbs and fans lined up with my book, waiting to get it signed? Oh, silly me. But I did manage to get into the groove of self-promotion and got invited to book fairs around the country. I was thrilled whenever I boarded a plane, knowing that someone was meeting me at the airport, holding up a paper with my name. All very Isabel Allende-like…unless the driver is waiting at the wrong gate.

I landed in Seattle during the worst storm of the year. When I arrived at the reading, I was pleased to find twelve people there. I admit to some ego deflation when the bookstore's owner mentioned that a children's author had spoken that same morning—to a crowd of five hundred. I drove up to Vancouver for the final event on this tour. It went very well, great attendance, lots of books sold. I thoroughly enjoyed the funky room at the old Sylvia Hotel on English Bay, and the sushi dinner after the event was quite good, although I could have done without the food poisoning.

The last big tour for the novel in south Florida. Fort Lauderdale in November had been such a success that I decided to return during the height of the season, when sun-loving tourists and winter residents arrive from New York and Chicago to avoid the cold, get in some golf and wear Bermuda shorts in pastel colors. I had ten bookings scheduled over seven days and put 1200 miles on the rental car. The last day was a Barnes & Noble event, but the events manager was home sick and the posters were tucked away somewhere. Standing at the podium, I looked into the crowd of one, an elderly woman. I thanked her for coming and she sweetly explained that her husband was in the reference area looking for information on prostate disease. She needed a place to sit down. Taking the personal approach, I sat with her and discussed my novel. When I was finished, she took a book from the pile and asked me to sign it. “I hope you enjoy it,” I told her, filled with gratitude at her kindness. “Oh, I probably won’t read it,” she said. “I'm buying it because I feel sorry for you.”

For something a little different, check out the fun stuff at WretchedReviews!

Recommended Books
Probable Claws, by Clea Simon. This novel is part of Simon’s delightful Theda Krakow Mysteries series that always includes a cat, real animal issues, and a crime. In this novel, shelter politics, the question of euthanasia, and the murder of a shelter worker are at the heart of the story. The publication date is April 10, and it’s now available for preorder

PEP TALKS, WARNINGS, AND SCREEDS by George Singleton, illustrated by Daniel Wallace. According to Readers Digest Books, this one is Everything you ever need to know to become a real writer (meaning one who actually writes), in bite-sized aphorisms, kind of like Nietzsche’s Beyond Good & Evil meets Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird.


  1. Thanks for the shout out, Victoria! In truth, my series (including Probable Claws) doesn't really have rascally cats -- just rascally humans! It's been praised as an "uncutesy" series for cat (and mystery) lovers.

  2. Clea, I went into the text and corrected that...sorry if it was misleading to the readers. Your Publishers Weekly review was brilliant! And here it is:
    Probable Claws Clea Simon. Poisoned Pen, $24.95 (264p) ISBN 978-1-59058-564-1
    Music journalist Theda Krakow once again proves a feisty and determined sleuth in Simon's lively fourth cat-themed mystery (after 2007's Cries and Whiskers). Theda alternates between the cat world, dominated by her pet, Musetta, and the Boston area music scene, about which she writes for local magazines and newspapers. When her retired policeman boyfriend, Bill, buys into a successful club that's a cop hangout, Theda can't help feeling a little jealous, though she admits she also has a problem with Bill's attitude—he's too patronizing. Meanwhile, contaminated cat kibble at the animal shelter run by her friend Violet may be the work of a poisoner. When Theda, guided by blood on Musetta's paw, discovers Rachel, a shelter vet, lying on the treatment-room floor with a fatal stab wound, she gets arrested for Rachel's murder. Well-drawn characters, a plot with many strings to unravel and plenty of appealing cats make this another winner for Simon.

  3. Thanks so much! I'm honored to be in such company here!

  4. Loved all of this about what it is like being on the road to promote your baby! People sometimes don't realize that some of the hardest work an author does is AFTER the book is published!

  5. Lord, yes, if there's anything harder than touring the book, I don't want to meet it or piss it off. Writing is the fun part.

  6. there is nothing like a Victoria Zackheim book reading. I am sorry for anyone who doesn't attend. There are no droning authors. Everyone is full of personality and zip. And you learn so much. Also, the friendliness!