By Debbie Burke
In Montana, Labor Day weekend is summer’s last hurrah for camping, hiking, and outdoor recreation.
It’s also the date for “Rumble by the Bay,” a classic car and truck show where the streets of Bigfork are closed to display more than a hundred vintage vehicles with glossy enamel paint, fender skirts, and wide whitewalls.
This was our fourth year doing the popular panel. In the past, we followed Plan A: we spoke from a covered pavilion stage while the audience sat in Adirondack chairs on a large lawn adjacent to the bakery/bar that hosts us. While the lovely Swan River flowed past, they enjoyed pastries and beverages and we revealed how we kill people on the page.
Here’s a photo of a previous year.
I also wrote about the gathering in this post.
For three years, Plan A was successful.
However, weather doesn’t pay attention to human plans.
And this year, it rained.
While gearheads across the street rushed to put up convertible tops, we writers moved to Plan B.
We and our audience got cozy under the awning in the bar’s patio.
A lady I didn’t know approached holding my book Deep Fake Double Down and asked me to sign it. Her name was Susan but that’s all I knew about her. Then she settled in with the rest of the audience.
In the past, we had talked from the stage and needed sound equipment. Now we sat at chairs and tables in an area small enough that people could hear us without mics.
Plan B worked great. The atmosphere was intimate, like a gathering of friends chatting about reading and books. The questions were intelligent and thought-provoking. People felt free to comment and expand the discussion.
Susan mentioned I was scheduled to appear at her book club that’s led by one of my Zumba teachers. I said, “Oh, cool. I’m looking forward to the Zumba Book Club.” The audience laughed because apparently no one had heard of a Zumba book club. That also led to a discussion about how authors often find readers in unexpected places.
Leslie, Mark, and I were thrilled to enjoy spirited interaction with avid readers who share the interests and concerns that our books address.
We weren’t performers elevated on a stage but guests at a book club in the home of a gracious host.
In prior years, car show folks had drifted through on their way to the bar, causing a bit of distraction. Of course, we want the venue to make money, but that lent a different tone to our presentation.
This year, Leslie made the observation: “…a good percentage of the audience had come to hear us. They didn’t just happen on us and that increased their engagement. The rain may have washed away the other folks and left us with that core audience.”
I can’t speak for the others, but my book sales were better than in past years!
One attendee commented to Mark, “It was like the three of you were in my living room.”
Sometimes Plan B turns out better than Plan A.
Post script: After our presentation and book signing, the sun came out and we enjoyed a stroll through real steel classics and shiny chrome. Here’s what I have my eye on as soon as my books sell a million copies.
Post-post script: Yesterday I met with the Zumba Book Club and Susan was there. I offered a Steve Hooley Deep Fake Sapphire pen as the prize for people who signed up for my newsletter (thanks again, Steve!). As I scanned the entry slips, I recognized Susan’s last name and asked her, “Are you related to Dr. Fxxxxx?”
“That was my husband.”
Dr. Fxxxxxx had been our wonderful dentist for many years until he passed away. He was so gentle that my father-in-law would fly all the way from San Diego to Montana for Dr. Fxxxxx to do his dental work. I was happy to share that story with Susan and it obviously pleased her to hear that patients still remembered her husband’s kindness.
Time for the pen drawing. The winner was (drumroll) Susan Fxxxxx.
You can’t always plan a happy outcome. Sometimes it just happens.
TKZers: Did you ever need to change plans at the last minute for an event, either as a presenter or as an attendee?
Did the change cause things to go awry?
Or did a rain cloud show a silver lining?
“This is a truly unique mystery with a distinctive, all-too-plausible premise and memorable characters.” – BookLife Prize
Available at major booksellers at this link.