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[StormChasing] Oh, The Places We’ll Go!

Chris says that peak storm chasing in Tornado Alley starts the second week of May. Depending on what the radar looks like (and prior personal obligations), we could depart as early as May 3. We might be gone for as little as two weeks, or as much as a month. It’s all up in the air. We will go wherever the wind takes us. (Heehee…I could do this all day…)

“I know there’s no way to tell me for sure,” I asked Chris, “but what are some of the usual areas of the country in which you find yourself?”

I’m curious, because a lot of this is going to be countryside I’ve only seen covered by Sam and Dean Winchester. It’s a lot of new territory for me!big texan

It is highly likely that we will find ourselves in:
North/Northwest Texas
Oklahoma
Kansas (Haven, here we come!)

It is less likely (but still possible) that we might find ourselves in:
Nebraska
E. Colorado
Wyoming
New Mexico
Iowa (Sarah is super excited about this prospect!)

Chris says that every season the storms seem to be tracking farther south—an interesting trend.

05twine3Noteworthy Pit Stops We Might Make:
THE TWINE BALL (Kansas)
The Twister Museum (if it still exists…and yes, I am packing my t-shirt) (Oklahoma)
Carhenge, Nebraska
The National Weather Center and NOAA (Norman, Oklahoma)
Big Texan Steak Ranch  (I will NOT be attempting the 72oz steak!) (Amarillo, Texas)

What are some of your favorite Roadside Attractions in Middle America? Let me know in the comments, and I will add them to my Possible Trip Goals list!

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Notes From the Road

Things to remember for future book tours:

* Eat as well as you can. Stock the car with granola bars, gum, and water. Stay away from spicy foods. Salads are your friend.

* Once you reach your destination, drink even more water. Like, a gallon.

* It’s not enough to bring vitamins with you–you have to actually TAKE them as well.

* When you’re all keyed up and still need to sleep decently, Tylenol PM can be your friend. (Thank you, Laura.)

* At every book store, be sure to get a business card from the store and write the name of the staff you met on it. You may want to write them a thank you note later!

* You will notice your car. I forgot how much better my gas mileage is when not stuck in traffic around DC. I also realized that the squeaking in the front wheel has become much more pronounced. And now the hatchback door won’t open.

* Always own a hatchback, so that if the trunk door gets jammed, you can still crawl over the seat to rescue things.

* It’s a good idea to factor in a few days down time after the first 5 or so appearances, so you can rest and do things…like take your car to be fixed.

I am having a BLAST on this tour. I love meeting everyone. You have all been so wonderful and amazing! And if I haven’t met you yet, you can believe I’m looking forward to it!!!

Xox
Princess Alethea

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Mo*Con V: Kelli Strikes Back

(long story, but here’s the edited version):

Bob and Kelli and I drove down to Virginia, woke Joe up from his nap, threw our suitcases (and four boxes of the LAST RITES chapbook) into Joe’s car, and started on our 10-hour drive to Maurice’s house. On the way we drove through Flushing, Negro Mountain, a Pony Pull, and October. We arrived at Mo’s around 1am. There was Jack Daniel’s steak waiting on us. I love that man. (Maurice, I mean.)

Friday morning started the way it should…with Kelli, on the trampoline. We sat back with our Jamaican coffee and watched Maurice’s awesome wife Sally mow the front lawn in her Wonder Woman boots. We picked up Brian Keene from the airport, got all pretty, and met Jerry Gordon for some really awesome cajun food at Yats. No lie — I had “chili-cheese crawfish étouffée.” Have you been to the Broad Ripple Village section of Indianapolis? It’s a little bohemian. It reminded me a bit of my beloved East Nashville (though with too many bars & not enough cool little shops…and currently four feet less water…but I digress).

Kelli took a nap, the boyz played Magic, and Joe and I explored a bit around Broad Ripple. It was a nice little respite before Maurice started the show and we had chicken marsala (a now-staple and tradition of Mo*Con because it’s The Princess’s favorite). Open Mic Nite began last year as a poetry-reading homage to Linda Addison, and I swear it’s one of the best things we’ve ever implemented. It’s a great way to break the ice and introduce everyone to each other — the new blood and the old regime alike. To get a feel for the range of genres and talent, the senses of humor (you’ve all seen the performance of “Dracula’s Winkie” by now), and to kill Brian Keene…again…and again…and again. We met Wes Southard, remembered what a talented poet Lon Prater is, and made faces at Gary Braunbeck when he trampled like an elephant over his allotted 5 minute time slot.

Saturday started off with a bang once everyone got in and settled — Sara Larson brought the coffee filters and evolved from Maven to Goddess of the Kitchen. Kelli hopped up on stage with her I-wanna-have-sex shoes and announced exactly how she’d be running the show: she’d be picking the panel participants out of the audience, and in the absence of moderation she expected everyone else to ask questions, provide comments, and keep the conversation going. And you know what? They did. We did. And it was a beautiful thing. Of the three panels that day, I think Wrath James White was the only participant on all of them (way to be opinionated, Wrath). The blogging was informative, the spirituality was intriguing, and the sex was hilarious.

The art reception was ramped up this year — we had our own little wing of the church (which was unfortunately rather far from the festivities…but we had the wine). I got to chat with Steven C. Gilberts a little more, which is always a pleasure, and I was very impressed at Jim Leach’s wood block prints. Next year I’ve requested that there be a short — maybe even 15 minute — panel introducing all the displaying artists and giving them a little time to talk about their art, their inspiration, and their processes. Essentially, to have all the conversations I didn’t get to because I was too busy manning my table. I sold five pieces!! I’m super stoked about that. And, as promised, I’ll be putting a few up on Etsy in the next few days.

The other Fabulous New Thing this year was a running live Funky Werepig show Greg Hall hosted in the middle of everything. As people wandered in and out of the art reception, Kelli dragged guests on stage to be questioned. I have to tell you, the more I know Greg Hall, the more I love him. Who doesn’t love a man who makes everyone laugh? And I’m still one of his son’s Top Three Girlfriends. I hope Greg’s on hand to do it again next year — it not only kept the energy of the day upbeat, but we now have it to look back on forever and ever and ever.

I gave a sneak-preview reading of AlphaOops: H is for Halloween to a very excited crowd, and then we took up two tables in a massive signing of Dark Faith. (I held up the line with all my glitter pens. And I so don’t care.) It was amazing to be part of something so big. This a very important book…and gorgeous to boot. (Do you have your copy yet? You need one. Use this link.)

But “carnivorous vulvasaurs” or not, somewhere in the middle of that last panel I hit a wall, the wall that demands I de-Princess immediately. But I was surrounded by dozens of people — I couldn’t just be “off.” It’s a convention — and not just ANY convention, it’s MY convention, the convention I reign over as royalty. “Off” is just not allowed. So I subtly removed my tiara and hoped no one would notice. It wasn’t 15 minutes before Jerry looked over at me and said, “You’re like Maurice with all his costume changes.” “What?” I asked him. “Weren’t you wearing something different a minute ago?” he said.

What a difference a tiara makes.

I went back to the hotel fully intending to change and return to Maurice’s house for Part Two of the festivities. Instead, I cried about my lack of focus and my sudden (and not a little scary) lack of convention stamina. So I wasn’t there for the buckets of Absinthe or the Black Hole Liquor Store — Kelli’s got those covered in her happy con report. But Joe reminded me of something very important: family. I’ve jokingly referred to Mo*Con as a “geek family reunion” before, but I needed to remember what that meant, exactly. Of the 75 people that attended Mo*Con this year, I’ve known most of them for four years. They made me their princess. I’ve slept on their couches and roomed with them at conventions. I’ve cried on their shoulders too, and escaped to their houses, and sought refuge in their basements. I’ve read to their children and talked to them about their divorces. I’ve got their numbers in my phone and–thanks to Twitter–I talk to them every single day. These are people who are going to notice when I’m upset or tired or frazzled — not because I’ve suddenly fallen “off”, but BECAUSE THEY LOVE ME. Because those are the kinds of things that people who love you notice. We call those people family. And I cried all over again, and there was no green fairy to wipe my tears.

Sunday morning I helped Chef Rob chop things for his Mediterranean/California salad while he prepared a garlic pasta dish and the most succulent Chateaubriand I have ever put in my mouth. (I’m telling you, it was a divine experience. NEVER miss Sunday brunch.) Goodbyes were lingering, as always, but they came with a contract for my story in the upcoming Nick Cave anthology from PS Publishing…so there was hope in the sadness. We drove home through a constant rainstorm–the fog made every town we passed seem as if it were on fire, and we had to pull over in West Virginia when we couldn’t see the road anymore. I had heard something from my friends about rain in Nashville too–but April always brought tornadoes and flash flooding so it was nothing I hadn’t heard before. (Or so I thought…but I digress. More on that tomorrow.) There were candy bars and red Doritoes and catnaps and white knuckles…and more goodbyes…and then it was four in the morning and we were back in PA and it was over.

We still can’t quite believe it’s over. I barely saw Maurice (he was a bigger whirlwind than ME, and that’s saying something), I didn’t get to say goodbye to Jason Sizemore or Geoffrey Girard, and I have that nagging feeling that I’ve left something behind. I suspect it might be family.

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CUL8R, MR. B8R

One of the things I noticed when I first moved up North (North obviously being the opposite of South), was that a significantly higher percentage of cars on the road had personalized license plates. It’s kind of brilliant I think — if the price of personalized plates is low enough to entice folks to participate, that’s money in the pocket of the DoT. It *also* helps out the local police. What was the number of the car that hit you/sped by at 90 mph/was being driven by a drunk llama? BGRKING is a lot easier to remember than YJC 2249. Personalized license plates tell you a little bit about the driver you’re sharing the road with (MIZTHNG), or give you something to ponder at stoplights (HIHOAG*).

I’ve thought about what I’d get on a personalized license plate like I think about the tattoo I’ll never get. Tops on the list is THIRD…but South of the Mason-Dixon line, it was a whole lot less Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game and a whole lot more Dale Earnhardt. Besides, I kind of like the idea of being anonymous on the road singing showtunes…and in the parking lot with bags of all my Christmas shopping.

On the road trip to the coast this weekend, we passed an SUV with the license plate: MR B8R. I laughed and pointed and didn’t dive for my camera fast enough, so all I got was this fuzzy iPhone pic…but I promise, that’s what it said. Clever, right? The first thing one thinks is: Wow! How the heck did they get that through the License Plate Censor? That’s awesome!

And then the Reality Side of your Mini Wheat pipes up and says: Wow! What a freaking MORON. I mean…really? Are you going to lend your kid that car? Do you want that to be in your family photos, or on the CCTV when you speed through that next red light? Will you be able to apply for your parking pass with a straight face? And what do you tell the CEOs when you apply for the big job that comes with that assigned parking space? It’s something they’ll laugh about for five seconds…and then talk about at the water cooler forever. No matter how sweet your ride, no one is probably going to offer you up to take the Big Client out for drinks. Go ahead and offer to be the designated driver for a night out with the guys, ’cause you’re going to want to borrow your buddy’s Impala for your date with the hot chick that wrote on your napkin.

I wonder what was going through this guy’s head when he applied for the plate…and what goober at the DoT let it slip past. The possibilities are endless. But I can guarantee you the second he throws a Kleenex out the window, someobody’s mobile will have dialed the local PD.

Now I’m curious — what’s the most intriguing/interesting/idiotic personalized license plate you’ve seen?

(*Lone Ranger + periodic table of the elements: “Hi ho, silver”)

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