Friday, July 29, 2011

Unfinished Business #9: The Dragon’s Ark DIY “Book Tour” (Part I)

The World of Dragon's Ark

You may have noticed a sag in my marketing efforts for my novel Dragon’s Ark (Ambler HousePublishing; $15, available in POD through your local bookstore, Amazon, Barnes& Noble, Powell's Books, and in e-book versions on Kindle, the Nook, and at Scrib’d).

The reasons for my slow activity may relate to the High Summer Season; certainly, with its tiny resources, Ambler House, a midget micro-publisher, is no Random House; and I’m definitely at work on my next novel, a 1920s Prohibition gangland saga titled Butchertown, which is rat-a-tatting along very nicely.

At least I’ve managed to squeeze in a “book tour.”

The “book tour” lasted two days. On Thursday a week ago, my loving, ever-patient wife and I jumped into the Rav 4, rushed north and east through California’s overbuilt Central Valley, then huffed and puffed up Highway 50, through gold-painted and oak-studded hills into the magnificent California Sierra. We crossed Echo Summit at 7,382 feet and wound down toward South Lake Tahoe, then turned south on Route 89 over Luther Pass to enter small, but beautiful, remote and magical Alpine County: "Two people per square mile and you," they say. To which, I would add, "And a certain, shark-eyed immigrant fiend."

Our two days in the mountains were really a long overdue Thank You tour to express gratitude to those friendly, hardy souls who happily shared with me bits of information and local lore about life as it’s lived in a remote mountain community. They also received free, signed books. For me, it was just being there, after three long years away.

Dragon’s Ark, I must inform the unfortunate many who have not yet opened the door to its darkling world, is far from a pinpoint portrait of Alpine County, a necessity dictated by the story that took wing during a summer sunset in 2003. For one, the county’s population was actually too small. So I doubled it, from around 1,100 to 2,200, constructing a whole new (and larger) town in the eastern flats, snug against the Nevada border like a dusky puzzle piece. For another, it was imagination that raised the titular mountain and cut the deep mysterious canyon it looms over like a cold-eyed god.

Town, mountain, canyon: three things you should not expect to find when you take the Dragon’s Ark literary tour of Alpine County (renamed “Monitor County”).

The first real landmark we came to was Sorenson’s Resort, just past the intersection where Highways 88 and 89 briefly melt together. Renamed “St. Ives” (from a brand of skin lotion, not the nursery rhyme) for the novel, it’s the serene piney setting for the novel’s first horror and about the most popular, well-known spot in the area, even constituting its own separate community. We always try to stay here when we come up, but this time, no affordable cabins were available.

We decided to save Sorenson’s for the trip out and drove on to Markleeville, Alpine County’s major urban center, whose teeming population of 150 has rocketed up to 200 since my last visit. Fortunately, unlike other rural tourist destinations, Markleeville has not yet tarted itself up too much, remaining funky around its soft edges among the pine-blanketed mountains. We actually had trouble parking in front of our motel, The Creekside Lodge, a clean and simple second choice for Alpine County getaways.

The Sheriff's Office

Thanks to construction delays on Highway 89, we were too late to make it to the Alpine County Sheriff’s Office, where I intended to leave my first copy for Christine Branscombe and Tom Linder, who provided law enforcement and search-and-rescue information.

We walked around for a while. I found a nest of fearless barn swallows in the motel breezeway (photos turned out poorly). We hiked down to Markleeville Creek, listened to the silver song of a high mountain stream, no better music in the world (no not even Bach and Debussy).

 A block from downtown Markleevile

Elizabeth needed a nap and I needed to tire myself out to fight off oncoming insomnia, so I drove out to Grover Hot Springs State Park (past where major characters Dave and Carla Sutton and smooth, sneaky Bob Garner dwell). In addition to its hot springs, (favored by Russian tourists), this is also one of the best spots around to hike and camp. This is also where Dave Sutton was caressed by the sweetly eerie dreams that inspired him to move to Monitor County.

Grover Hot Springs
I hiked through a wide meadow under a clear blue sky and golden sunlight, along lively silvery Hot Springs Creek. Sierra peaks loomed on three sides. I hiked until I felt good and tired, two miles and well over an hour, took pictures, got pleasingly lost, and prayed that, when Death comes calling, we would meet here. But I safely found my way home, tired like I wanted to be.

 Henry West's Throne

We had dinner at the Wolf Creek restaurant (setting of atleast one scene) and hoisted a few at the attached Cutthroat Tavern, joshing with the locals, showing my book around. (In the novel, the bar’s front stoop is the jealously guarded throne of angry, alienated, alcoholic, arachnophobic, agoraphobic, and fiercely colorful Henry West.)

Then it was to bed, and a restless night.

(To be continued)

Copyright 2011 by Thomas Burchfield
Photos by author, copyright 2011 by Thomas Burchfield

Thomas Burchfield's contemporary Dracula novel Dragon's Ark is available right NOW, published by Ambler House Publishing. It can be ordered in both paperback and e-book editions through your local independent bookstore, through Amazon, Barnes and Noble,  Powell's Books, Smashwords, and Scrib'd. His original comic screenplay Whackers  is now available in a Kindle editon, also from Ambler House. Other material can also be read at The Red Room website for writers. And if you're still not tired of him, he can also be friended on Facebook, tweeted at on Twitter and e-mailed at tbdeluxe [at] sbcglobal [dot] net.

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