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Tour Life: The Long Way

Location: Everett, WA

Miles: 4954

Morale: Not the highest

Munchies: Wilted kale salad with chicken, Eagle Harbor IPA

Is this really where I belong?

We made the Pacific Coast at 1400hrs PST yesterday, over sixteen days and nearly 5000 miles since we set out from Charlottetown in the middle of May. I was born on the west coast and have always felt drawn back here as if by a magnet.

But as I stood at the ferry terminal in downtown Seattle, I searched myself for any feeling that I’d made it home, that I’d arrived, that I’d accomplished anything at all.

I’m not sure I found it.

I operate on a reservoir of hope. It’s partially why I chose this career; I love knowing that with every book I put out there’s no ceiling on what it could accomplish, no limit to the places it could take me. Of course, that means there’s no floor, either, which is oftentimes stressful as shit, but like I said, hope.

The weeks leading up to a book’s release are when hope is at its most abundant. It’s easy to get caught up in the inertia of the publicity machine; there are interviews and guest essays and everyone’s retweeting your tour plans. And you’re proud of the book and you’ve worked damn hard on it and the early reviews have been by and large excellent, and you allow yourself to believe that this could be THE book.

I love that time.

I love the hopefulness.

I’ve had high hopes for GALE FORCE. For this tour. The advance for the book is small enough that given my previous sales history it shouldn’t be too difficult to earn out, relatively speaking. I’d hoped that enough people would be as excited about reading the book as I was about writing it that I’d be able to lock down a few sequels for Captain McKenna Rhodes and the gang.

I’d hoped, honestly, that I’d see a reason for optimism as I crossed the country. That Lucy and I would see numbers at my signings. As it is, I have a handful of very faithful, very wonderful readers and friends who come to my events year after year, and I’m so grateful for their support and don’t take it for granted, but this is my seventh book tour and I’m still really lucky to pull a dozen people to see me.

Meanwhile, people have been emailing and texting to say they can’t find the new book in Barnes & Noble or on Amazon. It’s all anecdotal, but it sure doesn’t bolster that reservoir of hope.

I’m not trying to say that my life is bad. I was just hoping to see a few more new faces as I hit the road, to get a sense that this book might sell well enough that I can feel secure in this career a little longer.

I had a blast at every one of my events, but, man, it’s sure getting old trading excuses and rationale for low numbers with sympathetic booksellers. If it’s a sunny day, it’s too nice out to be in a bookstore. If it’s a rainy day, it’s too miserable out to leave the house. Too hot. Too cold. Wrong time of year.

Or maybe I’m just not a very big draw.

I felt lonely and uneasy yesterday. I arrived on Bainbridge Island a bit early for my event and took Lucy for a walk along the waterfront. Eagle Harbour is a pretty little town and it reminds me very much of places I would have visited with my erstwhile partner and I’m ashamed to say that as I was walking I felt the pang of her absence so acutely it literally staggered me.

It’s been nearly a year.

My event was quite wonderful. The bookstore was very dog-friendly and Lucy had the run of the place. We had a handful of attendees who all seemed to have a good time, and I had dinner afterward with my friend Jim Thompson, who’s a big supporter of this blog and who indulged me in some deep and honest conversation, which was a highlight of this trip.

The last couple of days saw some beautiful driving, too. We took two-lane highway from Missoula to Sandpoint, Idaho, on Wednesday, and then followed US Route 2 across the top of Washington State as the sun set, and the views were otherworldly, both with trains and without.

Yesterday, we conquered Stevens Pass, where the temperature dropped to 8C and I had to pull out my toque when it came time to shoot trains.

I suppose I’m just tired. We’ve crossed the continent and I could probably use a break. And I can remind myself, obviously, that the people who’ve read the book have really loved it, and that it’s still possible that this initial enthusiasm could snowball into something bigger.

It’s possible that there could yet be demand for more McKenna Rhodes books.

It’s possible that I can continue to do this.

But still:

Is it possible to feel discouraged without feeling the world owes me anything more than it's given me?

Is it possible to miss someone without ever wanting to see them again?

I do.

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