Happy Fourth of July—from a major geek

Every year at this time we go on the road to sign our history books at various historic sites. At the beginning, we started doing this on our own, because we thought it would help us connect with booksellers at “non-bookstores”—typically gift shops at historic sites associated with the Revolutionary War.

The signings went well, and as more historic sites opened accounts with our publisher, Quirk, the publisher started asking us to do more of them. Last year, they actually chipped in for some of the travel. In some years, we drove from our home in NC to Washington, DC, Philly, Boston, and Newport RI. It was exhausting but we thought it was worth it.

I did a post at author M.J. Rose’s website a while back talking about why I thought we were able to sell 100 books a day at some of these places. Book signings sell some books; they’re just not cost-effective. Having the publisher chip in greatly reduces the hit we used to take when we did this on our own. But we can’t fool ourselves and think that because we did a signing in DC that we’re triggering book sales in Nebraska. Doesn’t happen.

It got old fast, guys. Last year, by the end of the fifth day in as many cities, we were fried and vowed not to do it again. But we’re on the road again this year, albeit on a vastly curtailed schedule. July 4th we sign at the National Archives in Washington DC, where the Declaration of Independence is housed. July 6th we sign at the visitor’s center at Colonial Williamsburg. We’ve been working on the road as well. A newspaper in Long Island, Newsday, asked us to contribute an op-ed piece about common misconceptions about U.S. history. The article runs in the paper tomorrow; it’s already posted here.

And while here in DC today, we were asked to do a TV interview with The PBS Newshour. We couldn’t refuse. The interview will run tomorrow night at 6 PM and 10 PM on the East coast. It was so totally last minute that we actually wondered if we should buy better clothes. (I only packed my signature cargo shorts.) But it wasn’t necessary.

I’ll post the video to that interview tomorrow when I find the link…

Denise and I are both children of the 70s and grew up obsessed with the Bicentennial. When people ask why I do these signings, my answer has more to do with this guy than the wisdom of signing books these days. This is me and my brothers in Feb. 1976. (I’m the guy in the middle.) Mom made the outfits…

I was a major geek back then. Besides the Bicentennial, I was into terribly uncool things:

* magic

* Norman Rockwell (probably caused by all the art classes I was taking back then.)

* Tolkien

Probably still am. 1976 was pivotal in two important ways. It was the year the Jim Hutton TV series “Ellery Queen” was running. My friends and I became hooked on the Queen books and I discovered grown-up mysteries and crime novels for the first time. That year saw me also picking up a copy of E.L. Doctorow’s Ragtime at a library book sale. That book blew me away. I loved the language and the melding of real-life people in a fictional story. I was only about 11 but I knew I’d just read something special.

That year is forever bound up in those discoveries, and it’s one reason I like the Fourth of July. It reminds me of the kid I was, and one of my major geekiest years ever.