You have to laugh. Without a sense of humor I really can not imagine how it would be possible to make it through this life. As an example, consider the past week in the life of a starving artist on Route 66.
Last Saturday, I started the day with the usual morning routine, worked until noon, ran home for a bite to eat, and rushed to a book signing scheduled for 12:30. In general a signing is more of an opportunity to meet and greet as sales at these events, at least in my experience, seldom exceed twelve copies.
Still, I enjoy them as it gives me an opportunity to meet the people buying my books and find out what they like and don’t like. As an added bonus I often meet interesting people that run the gamut from a World War II veteran who spent years running trucks on Route 66 to Jay Leno.
This signing started out with a surprise. I arrived about five minutes late and there was a line of people waiting with books in hand. Surprise two came when the store sold out of Ghost Towns of the Southwest in about twenty minutes.
I generally carry a case of books in the hope they would be needed for an emergency such as this. In more than six years of formal book signings this was the first time I did not have spare copies as there was a delay in filling my order. More on that in a moment.
The manager suggested I take names and phone numbers with a promise that signed copies would be available in seven days. As far as signing the books that would not be a problem as I pass the store on the way home every evening.
Well, I compiled a list of seventeen customers, some ordering two or more copies. It was not an ideal situation as some customers were purchasing the books as gifts and for that I was quite sorry that these needs could not be met. So, the best I could do was promise and provide a promotional post card.
Additionally, the store was well stocked with a previous book written, Route 66 Backroads I signed a dozen of these as well as copies of Cars & Parts magazine, a publication I write a monthly column for.
After the signing I went home to find a disc of photos from Jane Lee at the Missouri Department of Transportation had arrived so I correlated these and wrote captions. These are for the next book, Ghost Towns of Route 66.
I also took the opportunity to again edit the text. I have a tendency to worry over these projects like a dog with a bone and if it were not for deadlines they would most likely never evolve beyond a constantly edited file on the computer.
That evening we went down town for the first Chillin’ on Beale Street of the season and to meet Dale Butel and his Australian tour group. With near perfect temperatures a good time was had by one and all.
Then, early the next morning, I receive a call from an upset Dale. As it turns out the tour group encountered the bane of every small town, an absolute jerk that has zero tolerance for customers of any kind regardless of how much money they spend.
In this case it was an irate gas jockey and the incident was heated enough to almost come to blows. Rest assured, we are taking this complaint seriously and will rectify this problem before the next tour group comes to Kingman.
The rest of the week was a blur with a number of highlights, many of which led to the opening of this mornings post. The promised Bod Waldmire exhibit scheduled for May hit a snag that may have resulted in postponement so we, Chris Durkin and I, of the Kingman Route 66 Association, began initiating a plan “B” – some of our photography (my dearest friend and I) with some automobilia.
Then the material graciously provided by the Waldmire family arrived and the snags vanished, with the exception of the usual shortage of assistance. Complicating issues were the rescheduling of the Burbank signing from the 24th of April to the first of May a couple of weeks ago, which meant I would not be here for the opening or be available for set up.
The next item to push the hysterical laughter switch up another notch was an email from the book store owner in Burbank pertaining to an inability to obtain copies of Ghost Towns of the Southwest. Her order was returned with a note indicating the book was sold out and that there would be notification when it was available!
An overwhelming number of books sell only 500 copies per year. The Big Book of Car Culture took five years to sell the first printing of 5,000 copies and that was after being awarded the bronze medal at the International Automotive Media Awards. Backroads of Arizona required 18 months to go into a second printing. The ghost town book was released the first of March 2010!
This was really good news but it was also really bad news. Now we are less than two weeks from a major signing and the customers in Kingman were expecting books by the end of the week.
On the same day, I receive another call from Jay Leno. We talked a bit about steam powered automobiles and the proposed interview for his website. I should note that at a book signing in 2009 at the Burbank store we missed him by twenty minutes but received a call from him thanking me for a signed magazine. We have yet to meet in person.
With that in mind the joke got even funnier. He would be available on the 24th, the original date scheduled for the signing, but not the week after, the week that I would be there.
Then, last evening, my wife and I stop by the book store to pick up a birthday gift. I thought it would a great time to check and see, if by chance, the store had received the copies promised to customers last Saturday.
I asked the book department clerk about them. She had no clue what I was talking about. The assistant store manager gave me a blank look even though the books were stacked in plain sight on the special order shelf.
So, I offered to sign the books and even call the customers for the store. You will like this – I was told that it would be best to wait until Saturday evening when the manager was in because, “You might be a random book defiler.”
This in spite of my name being on the cover, a name that matched my license and credit card and store card. So, today we will try that again.
In the mean time there is a scramble to get books for next week in Burbank with the back up plan being signing Backroads of Arizona and Route 66 Backroads. In the mean time I am a scheduled author, with copies of Ghost Towns of the Southwest promised at the KABAM festival on May 15, and possibly at another signing at the First Friday event held in conjunction with the Bob Waldmire exhibit at the Beale Street Gallery.
So, the next week looks like this. In addition to the job that actually pays the bills- one more edit, more captions, package the whole thing for shipping to the publisher on Monday, having prints made to serve as a background for the Bob Walmire exhibit, press releases, a couple of interviews, and getting the Jeep ready for an 800 plus mile, two day trip.
Friday, I work until six, will go home and grab a few hours sleep to hit the road for Burbank at 3:00 AM. Then its the book signing, with another informal signing at Barnes & Noble in Calabasas.
Sunday, its two informal signings – one in Malibu and one in Oxnard, a couple of photo stops along Route 66, and home. Monday, its a part day at the office, get things together for the First Friday exhibit and for the visit with a Czech group touring Route 66 that will be in Kingman on the 4th of May as well as play catch up on correspondence.
Now, in answer to questions about why I do this. It is the most fun a person can ever have and it would seem that I have been blessed with a gift that it would be shame not to develop and use.
The second reason is a childhood quest to become a writer when I grow up. This is now coupled to an all consuming passion to avoid spending my senior years as a greeter at Walmart.
Last, but not least, sharing my adventures as a starving artist on Route 66 seems to help brighten folks day. It also can be used by parents trying to encourage their kids to get an education and a real job.

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