By Chester Campbell
Last week my colleague Beth Terrell mentioned the challenges involved in the care and feeding of mystery writers. No one knows that better than my wife, Sarah. We always travel together. At our age, you never know how many trips remain in your life's itinerary. But it does make for interesting travels.
Last weekend we drove to Frankfort, KY for the annual Kentucky Book Fair. We alternate driving about 100 miles at a time. Sarah decided to take the first turn, which was a good thing, since that avoided an early argument. I had set up the destination in our Magellan GPS, but it required a few screen taps to get what I wanted it to show--miles to destination. She objects when I start tapping while I'm driving. Really! It's not like I'm texting.
We usually start a trip with a large cup of our favorite beverage, cappuccino. Not the noisy machine-made stuff you get at a coffee shop but the powder and hot water variety that comes from pushing a button at a convenience market. We make it at home using a large container from Sam's. At any rate, we found a Love's up in southern Kentucky and took a pit stop/cappuccino break. I've had a tooth that's been giving me a fit lately (and is scheduled for a root canal tomorrow), so she had to find me a straw, which I used to keep the hot stuff directed away from the recalcitrant molar. I'm not much of a talker normally, even less with dental dynamite going off in my mouth.
I took the wheel at a rest stop shortly before we turned off I-65 on a segment of the Kentucky Turnpike. When we got back on the interstate, Miss Floosie, the GPS lady, didn't come on so I started punching the screen.
"You drive, I'll do that," Sarah said with her best frown.
We probably have more arguments about my driving than anything. Since I have macular degeneration in my right eye, she thinks I can't see well. I had just been to the ophthalmologist, who said I was doing marvelous, that I was one of two or three patients she had where the AMD apparently was slowed by the effects of severe nearsightedness. So some bad things are good.
But that doesn't give me any free passes with my wife. When I turn too sharply and bump a curb, she says, "Didn't you see that?" Of course, I saw it. I just like to jostle her around a bit.
Eventually we made it to the Frankfort Convention Center and dropped off the books I had brought. I got lots of directions for where I should be turning but didn't.
We stayed at the Capital Plaza Hotel just across from the Convention Center. It was a nice room, and we crashed for a couple of hours before time for the Author Reception at Frankfort Country Club. At this event, we sat at a large round table where more folks gathered. Sarah talked to her neighbor and passed around my promo folders. I mostly nursed my food in an attempt to keep the tooth gremlin at bay. I did talk to a mother-daughter combination on my left, learning the younger one had once lived in Nashville and knew about the Marathon Motor works (subject of The Marathon Murders). Both of them bought books on Saturday.
With my chronic cough affecting my voice and the tooth affecting everything, Sarah came to my rescue during the signing, greeting people who passed the table. When she sold a book, I autographed it with a painted on smile. We wound up selling 33 books, which wasn't bad but under different economic conditions surely would have been better.
The trip back home brought more driving discussions, but we made it safely. I'll have to say my wife is a real trooper. She saves the day when I'm selling books, and she does her best to keep me on my toes. We do a lot of arguing, but it always ends with a laugh. As long as we find our disagreements amusing, I guess we'll be okay. I feel that for a much-traveled mystery writer, I'm well fed and cared for.