And that’s a wrap. (long post. grab your soda. skim at will.)

It’s Saturday…right? And I’m in Phoenix? I think so. Hold on. *looks out window* Yuppers, mountains and desert. Phoenix for sure. In a few hours, I will be visiting the super-neato indie bookstore, Changing Hands. Here’s the info:
CHANGING HANDS
Saturday, February 9th
2 pm

This is my first gig without my delicious partner in crime, Shannon Hale. I won’t know what to do. I’ll just turn to the empty space to my right and say, “Isn’t that right, Shannon?” And there will be complete silence and I will nod and then laugh out loud and say, “You better stop that, you loon!” and then I will sing only the “Turn around” parts of “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” I miss her already. She is a class act, that lady, and BOOK OF A THOUSAND DAYS is a lush, romantic, wonderful book. But I know she is now home with her family, and that, strangely enough, I come a distant second to her hubby Dean and those two yummy children of hers. It’s odd, isn’t it? I guess foxiness only gets you so far.

Yesterday, I woke up at 4:00 a.m. EST and took two planes to get to Phoenix. The kind and calm Shonna James picked me up and threw some food at me, and we immediately went to a school visit at Basha High School where they rocked my socks. Big love to you, Basha High! They cracked me up, and I wish I could have spent a full day with them. I appreciated that they asked me the question I had asked Shannon in Miami, which was, “If you were in an 80’s Hair Band, what would it be?” and my answer was (real band) Def Leppard and (made up band) Goalposts of Satan, which tells you just how tired I was. (I made Shannon come up with her faux band’s signature anthem/ballad. Shannon is a genius and so her anthem was, “Unicorn on the Cob” and she made up lyrics that had me crying I was laughing so hard. I want her to record that right now. Unicorn on the Cob. I’m laughing as I type.) I particularly loved the girls who have a club called the Chuck Norris Hierarchy. (Hello, Christine, Jo Bob, Jessica, Nachelle, and Kelsey!) They gave me one the Chuck Norris Hierarchy Application Form–Standard, which asks such very important questions as:
Please mark which party you are associated with:
* The Ninja Village
* The Pirate Crew
* The Free Ice Cream-Pony Party
* I am above such trivial discrepancies

And people wonder why I love writing for teens.

After Basha, it was on past the dairy cows feeding (GOING BOVINE, anyone?) and a mad dash to Dobson High School where I had a group of about twenty for a writing workshop. I love doing writing workshops. Teens are completely amazing writers and often don’t know it and this was no exception. When we did the making up a story together exercise, and they were shouting out various scenarios, it was inspired lunacy: Lisa Marie on bucolic Coronado Island ends up controlling a tsunami with her mind; Helena the opera singer secretly fears she is a mute…as so often happens with opera singers; and one girl wanted only to understand herself…yet, feared she would never understand herself–it’s a French New Wave film, without the smoking and shaky camera. Dobson writers, I bow to you. I had a blast doing the workshop (the writing was terrific and insightful and true) and I hope everyone at Dobson did, too.

We ran super late (sorry, Caitlin! We’ll set up another time to talk when I’m back in NYC!) and so I went directly to my in-laws’ house. It was so nice just to chill with my father-, mother-, and sister-in-law, my two extremely adorable nephews, and a house full of crazy dogs who will eat anything you don’t have locked away…and I do mean ANYTHING. (Actually, that description kind of fits me…) We went for Mexican food (green corn tamales–SWOON!) and I was so full I had to waddle out to the car. It was such a nice end to a busy day just to be with family. Then I came back to the hotel and crashed.

This morning, I did a quick interview on “Good Morning, AZ” with the beautiful Tessa whose shoes I wanted to steal right off her feet. (But I didn’t, ’cause I think that’s the kind of thing that warrants a security escort and a restraining order.) I was so nervous I could have run screaming from the building. I kept having to remind myself to breathe. But it was fine. I think. I hope. I did ask the cameraman to use the camera that turns me into Julia Roberts, so, you know, if I didn’t look like Julia, just give your TV a little kick.

After today’s signing, I take a flight to L.A. so I can catch a red-eye to NYC, getting in at a bleary-eyed 6:35 a.m. EST. Whew! I plan to wear my pajamas all day Sunday and not brush my hair and not sing one single syllable of “Total Eclipse of the Heart.”

It’s been a wild, fun, surprising, exhausting, terrific time. I meant to post about Miami before I left Miami, but was having Internet issues. What follows is my original post.

FROM MIAMI:

Pssst! Hey–you wanna know a secret? Yeah?

Here is something you may not know: It’s warm in Miami. I know! Shocking, right? So, you know, if you’re, say, packing for, gee, I dunno, a book tour–yeah, let’s say a book tour–and you’re going to Miami, there is really no reason to pack a sweater, jeans, tights and knee-high boots. None whatsoever.

Guess who had to go straight to the Gap and buy some tees and a pair of sandals? I hear a rumor it’s also warm in Phoenix, where I am headed next. Don’t ask me what I was thinking when I packed all this gear. Clearly, I was not thinking at all.

It’s 80 degrees and SUNNY! YIPPPEEEEEE!!!! My toes are painted bright red, which is a happy, happy toenail color; it says, “Halloooo! My toes are your friends!” (No, I haven’t gotten much sleep at all. Why do you ask?) Shannon and I are on the very last leg of the World Domination Tour, aka, The Book Babes Tour, aka The Torso Twins Tour. Tomorrow, the Torso Twins will no longer be conjoined. Shannon will go back to Utah and I will go to Phoenix and then home to Brooklyn. *sniff* I miss her already. But tonight is our last event together. Come on down if you can.

I arrived Tuesday around noon. While Shannon was still winging it in from Utah, I went to Our Lady of Lourdes Academy for a school visit. Yeah, I know–it IS amazing that the sisters let me in. You’d think there would be an alarm that would go off or something the minute I walked through the doors, but no. Shockingly, they were GLAD to see me, unlike the sisters who used to help host my Brownie troop at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Corpus Christi, TX. (Apparently, it was already clear that not only was I desperately in need of perpetual help from Our Lady, but I was going to make the worst Brownie in the history of Brownies. My “sit-upon” lasted a day, if that. However, I did love the girl who made her sit-upon out of a Jack Daniels logo. I kid you not. But I digress.) The Ladies of Lourdes were much, much fun (Thanks to Melanie and Nicole for the rockin’ intro.) and they actually gave me coffee and treats. I was tempted to eat them all myself, but there is definitely something about being in a Catholic school that says, “please share with others.” Thanks, Lourdes Academy! You are a class act.

Shannon and I had a blast at Books & Books in Coral Gables. It is a darling bookstore, complete with cafe, and you just feel so cozy in there that you don’t want to leave. Shannon and I found the store’s collection of hand puppets, and you know it’s a good time when the hand puppets come out. I chose an ice cream hand puppet–Neopolitan–and Shannon choose Cookie Monster. Then, in a shocking act of carnage, my ice cream hand puppet ATE Shannon’s Cookie Monster. Shannon pointed out that no matter what, my puppets always managed to eat her puppets within a few seconds, and that explained the kind of books we both wrote. She is the good twin. I am the evil twin. Thus endeth the lesson.

I have to tell you about the amazing girls who dressed in costume for the event and who made charm bracelets for Book of a Thousand Days and Crescent Eye necklaces for The Sweet Far Thing. People, they MADE JEWELRY for this event! They rock so hard! The charm bracelets had icons from Book of a Thousand Days-a pine cone, a book, My Lord the cat. And the Crescent Eye pendants are awesome! Thanks to Lorena, Erika, Julie, and…oh, I’m so sorry, the last girl’s name is slipping my Swiss Cheese brain right now, but her anagram name was Bryer or Briar or some variation on that theme. Apologies. Anyhoo, they were totally amazing. And a big thanks to the most lovely Emily Pardo for making it all happen. (And thanks to Jorgeann, our fantastic media escort, for keeping things running smoothly and with a smile and humor.) AND….they presented us each with a stuffed cat: a black-and-white one for Shannon named, “My Lord,” and a white one for me with a heart charm necklace that reads, “Mr. Bubbles Kitty.” My life is complete. I like to walk around with Mr. Bubbles Kitty on my arm, stroking him while discussing my evil plans in a bad, vaguely Eastern European-meets-German Bond Villain voice. I’m telling you, if you want the elevator to yourself, just do this. Works like a charm.

We started off the evening by hugging random people in the audience. That’s the way to really keep people nervous and paying attention–just run down the aisle and start pulling them into an embrace. (You should probably shower first. That’s my advice.) Shannon told the hilarious tale of waddling along the beach at eight months pregnant with in a bathing suit that had filled with sand while she sat in the ocean. I call her “Poopy Pants” now, but I say it with real affection.

After the signing, Shannon and I went to the Biltmore with the lovely and charming Ms. Sue Corbett. It was a beautiful, warm night, and we ate dessert outside and chatted and laughed (Sue has a great laugh) and talked about writing, motherhood, the general awesomeness of teens, and George Clooney. A fabu end to a long, fun day.

Next, Shannon and I paid a visit to Gulliver Preparatory. We had two classes of 9th and 10th graders. We owe a fruit basket to Zachary, sweet, sweet Zach, who let us mercilessly tease him. Zach, your story rocked, and I don’t care what that girl said, you are absolutely a catch, bucko. That evening, I had the pleasure of dining with Danny and Kennie, who brought me mixed CDs, one of which is an LP of ’80’s covers, and many edible treats in a “Reading is Sexy” messenger bag. And you know, it’s funny–everywhere I wear that bag, people look at me and make growling noises like tigers in heat. That is the power of reading, people. It increases your foxiness ten-fold. “Rrraowr!” I love you, Danny and Kennie. 110%, baby. Shannon and I also had the pleasure of dining in Davie, FL, with Molly Kinney, Annie Leo, and Beth Blankley, librarian-goddesses from Nova Southeastern University. I love librarians–they are some of my super heroes. If you are at all crafty, may I suggest you make a cape and maybe some laser goggles for your local librarian? You can even borrow Mr. Bubbles Kitty’s Bedazzler.

POST-SCRIPT TO MIAMI:

Our last event was at the B&N on N. Kendall Drive where they made the mistake of leaving Shannon and me alone in the back office. They had not been adequately warned, apparently. Shannon and I promptly discovered trouble in the form of the cafe banners they use for the various sandwiches, and so we made ourselves crowns out of them. For the evening, Shannon was Egg, Sausage and Cheese Muffin, and I was Egg Florentine Muffin. The point is, we both spent the evening addressing an audience with paper sandwich marker crowns on our heads that advertised us as kinds of muffins. But we had protein to us, and that’s an important building block in any diet. We ended our tour with our signature song and bid adieu to Miami and each other.

And now, it is 12:44 and I had best pack my not-really-unpacked-but-still-chaotic suitcase and get my booty down to Changing Hands.

I

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