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UNITED KINGDOM BOOK TOUR DETAILS AND PICTURES!
23 March, 2015: I boarded a plane from Newark, NJ and traveled to London. It had been five years since I'd visited and I was beyond excited to return. The flight was smooth and the seat next to me was empty--a good sign. When I arrived in London, a car waited to take me to my hotel located across the street from the Gloucester Road Underground station. It didn't take me long to re-acquaint myself with the Underground network--an efficient and easy-to-navigate system. If you disagree with this, try traveling on the New York City Subway system!
Gloucester Road Underground Station
My hotel room was clean and comfortable. It was an older hotel so the floors squeaked. I also had a ghostly roommate (no extra charge!) who turned on this one lamp at odd times during night. The elevator was tiny and I only used it when I had my luggage – otherwise I climbed the winding stairs. I loved the heated towel rack – I gotta get me one of those!
Millennium Bailey Hotel Stairs
24 March: I started the day by meeting Laura, my UK publicist. She kept me on task and made sure I arrived at all my events. I visited two schools – one in the morning and one in the afternoon. The afternoon group was huge (about 250 students), and I was worried because big groups tend to be chatty. However, Ms. Legg, kept them all quiet and polite! She was a marvel, inducing both profound terror and the utmost respect. Ms. Legg is going to appear in one of my novels - no doubt. The group ended up being a fun group overall, a couple boys in the front row started asking silly questions (like what my favorite farm animal and cookie were) just to stay out of class a bit longer.
School Visit - Yes, I talk with my hands :)
That evening, I arrived for my event at the Forbidden Planet and I met my cyber-stalker, Renée and a few other Facebook/email friends. There was a nice crowd (considering it was a Tuesday night) and I read a scene from Shadow Study. We stayed well past closing time but the staff at the Forbidden Planet didn't mind as Shadow Study sold plenty of copies, enough for it to make the FP best seller list!
Attendees lined up at the Forbidden Planet event in London
Signing a Poison Study T-shirt and a big stack of books
25 March: More school visits. I really enjoyed talking to a group of year 7s and then later I talked to a group of year 9s. Too bad that visit was spoiled by one very rude boy. He surprised me and I was speechless, because everyone in the UK was super polite. After the school visits, Laura informed me that saying, “pissed off” was considered cursing in the UK. Oops!
Big Ben up close
The blogger party at Harlequin's offices in Surrey was the highlight of the day. Approximately twenty book bloggers attended (two drove from North Wales, spending a total of 11 hours in the car!) At first, everyone stood around a bit awkwardly, but then broke into smaller groups and I mingled, trying to talk to everyone. The lovely ladies all left with a goodie bag, including a signed copy of Shadow Study. To read about it from a blogger's perspective click HERE.
26 March: I talked to students in the "Brain Box" of the Birmingham Library. What a beautiful place inside and out! It's a gorgeous modern library, but they kept the original Shakespeare Room from the old library. Too bad funding was being cut, effecting programs and library hours.
A loyal reader with ALL 13 of my books!
My event at the Waterstones in Birmingham was attended by almost 60 people! After an intense Q&A session (no I didn't reveal plot secrets – no matter how nice they asked), I signed books and met up with a few friends – so nice to see Reema again (Congrats on the wedding!) and met a couple email friends like Annika! It was funny how everyone kept apologizing for bringing all my books for me to sign. First I TOLD everyone to bring them and second, how is that a BAD thing?? They supported me by purchasing and reading them – it was the least I can do. Plus it was fun!
Attendees at the Birmingham Waterstones Event
27 March: My last school visit was in the morning. My presentation of the "Life of a Book – From Creation to Publication" was well received by all the schools. But it was the spoof of the Poison Study book trailer that earned the most laughs. Click here if you want to view it: Poison Study Book Trailer Spoof
As I hopped on the tube in the afternoon, I started to feel like a Londoner despite my American accent. I've learned it wasn't about the accent, but about the word choices. For example, they say, “snaps” instead of “photos” / “holiday” vs. “vacation” / “The Ladies” vs. “The Restroom” / “bits” vs. “pieces” etc… I found that if I used the British word, it took a person longer to hear the American accent. Also while waiting for the tube, I noticed the wind picked up well before I heard the train coming. The air was blowing pretty hard by the time the train arrived – fascinating that the train pushed all that air in front of it.
28 March: I finally met Jo! A friend and kindred spirit (we're also the same age) that I met through my books. She accompanied me to my booksigning at Waterstones Piccadilly. She helped me schedule this event (and a few others) since my UK publisher believed that people wouldn't attend a weekend event. I guess they forgot to inform the 50 plus people who showed up on a Saturday afternoon ;). Jo also took me to Fortnum & Mason, a posh shop that sells tea. I bought a sampler and have been enjoying it very much. I wish I bought the typewriter teapot (shown below), but I didn't have any room in my luggage (which consisted of a backpack and one rolling suitcase--pretty good for a 3 week trip!).
A drool-worthy Tea Pot
A bunch of readers stayed until the end and we all went to Restaurant 21 for an informal get together and I now have 11 more friends. Most didn't know each other, but by the end of the evening, they were exchanging emails – seems they all have excellent taste in books ;).
Hanging out at Restaurant 21
29 March: 12:30 pm Sunday afternoon in rainy Manchester. I was very worried about this booksigning since it was a Sunday and, even in America, we avoid having events on Sundays. There was a beautiful sign outside the Waterstones and a small queue waiting inside (my worry dissipated). Since I was 30 minutes early, I went up to the manager's office to dry off and for a pot of tea (love, love, love the tea in the UK!). By the time I go back downstairs, the line was three times as long and had hooked toward the door! I started signing right away and talking to everyone and the manager kept bringing me pots of tea and chocolates for those waiting in line. He hovered worriedly over me at 3 pm (the time I was supposed to stop) and I saw the line was still hooked around and out of sight. I assured him I'd stay until the very end. The bookstore sold out of books just when I finished the line at 4:30 pm! I dashed to the “ladies” after all that tea. About six readers had also stayed and we went to the Ape and Apple Pub for drinks and a fun chat about books, cats, and life.
Sign at Waterstones in Manchester
Readers waiting in line - lots of love in Manchester
Manchester Ferris Wheel
30 March: I took the train to Edinburgh, Scotland. It was about a 4 hour trip, which I think wasn't that long, but the locals disagree. I said 4 hours is “around the corner” in Texas, but I guess when you're used to be so close to everything, that would be a long time. The scenery was green rolling hills with lots of grazing sheep and small towns – very similar to rural Pennsylvania where I live.
The Scottish National Gallery
The Gatekeeper's cottage
I arrived in Scotland and the first thing I noticed about the area was the weather. It was INSANE!! (I'm not exaggerating - I have a degree in meteorology). I walked from downtown to my hotel in the afternoon and, when I started, it was raining, then it poured, then sleeted, then snowed, and by the time I arrived (looking like a drowned rat) the sun was out and the skies were blue (but the wind never stopped). It was a 20 minute walk! Taking snaps with that crazy weather was a challenge. I bought a lambswool scarf to keep warm (then bought four more as souvenirs for my friends). Thank fate for hot beverages!
A hot mocha
When I looked at a map of Edinburgh, I saw a tavern named The Black Cat and I just had to go there for lunch (those who read Shadow Study know why). I had the best Fish and Chips of my trip there and I talked to the bartender, telling her about my fictional tavern in Ixia also named The Black Cat. I gave her a postcard about the book and if you ever go there, please tell them I sent you :).
The Black Cat
Nice view of Edinburgh behind me - it's either windy or my hair has gone Medusa on me ;)
The evening's booksigning wasn't as big as the others, but it was nice to have more time to talk to my readers (including a mother and kids from America) and to give my hand a rest – it was very sore after Manchester!
Side view of Edinburgh Castle
31 March: I met Stacey and Scott (Facebook friends) and we toured Edinburgh castle together. Lots of fun despite the freezing cold wind and rain. I met up with more Facebook friends - Toni and Heather for lunch, and had dinner with Emma, Jennifer, and Brandi at the Haymarket Pub (they couldn't make the signing). I tasted Irn Bru for the first time – a carbonated beverage that has an orange-ish flavor – it was good, but too sweet for me. Overall a lovely evening!
Left to right: Jennifer, Maria, Brandi, Emma
1 April to 5 April: My husband and daughter arrived and we spent four rainy days doing touristy-stuff like visiting the Science Museum, the British Museum, the Sherlock Holmes Museum, Greenwich, a boat tour on the Thames, saw Big Ben and Parliament. No we didn't buy a selfie stick like all the other tourists, but relied on the kindness of strangers. We also went to the Harry Potter Studio Tour with Jo and Mark on Easter Sunday. Best Easter Ever! The tour is heaven for Harry Potter fans and I recommend that you purchase the audio/digital guide if you go.
British Museum main courtyard/lobby
All aboard the Hogwarts Express!
6 April: My family returned home and I traveled to Bristol. The sun was shining finally! It was beautiful and I walked around the city snapping lots and lots of photos mainly of the boats along the River Avon. I had a booksigning at the Waterstones Bristol Cribbs-Causeway. They sold out of tickets and approximately 70 people attended – on a Monday night!! I answered questions and then signed books. The staff were super sweet and it was a great event.
Bristol, UK - Look at the reflection
The Ferry boats were fierce ;)
Attendees at Waterstones Cribb-Causeway
A fun group of booksellers
7 April: I visited Bath. I'm interested in a Ph.D. creative writing program at Bath Spa University so I went on a campus visit and met with a few of the instructors. Another beautiful location! When I left, I see a black cat sitting on a wall and I think it was a sign that I'm supposed to go there for my Ph.D. (I saw a ton of dogs on my trip, but no cats) My husband, tho isn't convinced....yet!
Bath Spa University Corsham Court Campus
Roman Baths in Bath
The warm bath waters appeared green - cool reflection, tho
8 April: I visited Stonehenge. This was one of the highlights of my trip and I really didn't expect it to be. I figured it would be over-rated – one of those tourist traps that a person who enjoys traveling does just to check it off a list. I was wrong. It was a gorgeous day – sunny and warm and not crowded. I paid for the audio guide and was glad I did! Something about the site just resonated with me. I liked the fact you weren't allowed near the stones – it added to the mystery of the site. Plus the view was uninterrupted by people – just the stones that have stood there for thousands of years! It was an awesome end to a fantastic trip!
Thanks to all of you who came to one of my events (or met up with me)! You rock! I can't wait to return. Next time, I'll make sure to visit Wales and Ireland as well!