Attendance at book events can be unpredictable, and often the opposite of what you expect. I have learned somewhat painfully that garnering the attention of the media and the reading public in big cities outside of my Ottawa home is difficult. More people attended my book launches in Sudbury and Thunder Bay than in Edmonton or Vancouver. Go figure. Edmonton, where all the papers and airwaves were full of rhetoric about how to get pipelines built and oil moving to market. Vancouver the green, where pipelines and climate impacts are in the news constantly. Maybe people are just plain worn out. Maybe a warm summer evening is better spent outside than going to a book launch. Puzzling, but it is what it is and the many great moments on this trip outshine the disappointments by far. Still, it’s kind of weird that I have sold more books to curious people at EV chargers and even to long-distance bicycle tourers than at book events in Edmonton and Vancouver.
Still, by the time I headed out of Calgary after three weeks on the road, only two boxes (32 books) out of the ten (160 books) I loaded up in Ottawa remained in the car. The rest have been sold, given as thank you gifts to people who hosted me or placed in independent book stores for future sales. And then there is the one very well-travelled box I’ll discuss more below!
Day Fifteen (Vancouver)
On my June 17 rest day in Vancouver, leading up to the evening’s launch event, I was able to post the audio version of the first chapter of Burning Souls on my website. I’d recorded it some months earlier with the help of audio and voice wizard and friend Mike Giunta. But I had yet to figure out an easy way of putting it online. Enter my 26-year old son Eric. What a difference one generation can make for certain things. What had defied 55-year old dad, was a snap for his son. Now I’ve added SoundCloud to my took kit, along with MailChimp and WordPress. It really wasn’t that hard, with the right guidance. But will I remember how to do it by myself next time? Good thing Eric can usually be reached.
Speaking of Eric, he and his colleagues at Landyachtz—an innovative Canadian longboard and bike manufacturing company based in Vancouver—were glad to play host to the Vancouver book launch. Of all the interesting venues that have welcomed me, the Landyachtz bike store on Union Street bike was surely hitting a new level. Situated on a hugely-popular east-west bicycle route and easily accessible by transit as well as by car, all the ingredients were there for a huge success. There was even a courtyard for mingling and signing books. So somebody smarter than me will have to explain what went wrong. Total attendance: 4, including Eric and two friends. In Vancouver!!
Still, I am grateful to Landyachtz and to Eric for giving it their best shot. And to James, working on his own book, for coming out.
Day Sixteen (Vancouver to Victoria by car and bicycle—70km)
When I’d learned some weeks earlier what it cost to take a vehicle over to Vancouver Island and back, I decided to make this visit by bicycle. OK, you’re thinking, David has really lost it now. A book tour, with each copy weighing in at 668 pages and half a kilo, and he wants to do part of it by bicycle! Ah, but I had a plan. I would ship a box in advance by Canada Post to my host in Victoria, drive Belle to a park-and-ride near the Tsawassen ferry terminal, then simply roll on with change of clothes and a toothbrush. Then a second event was booked for Victoria. Would one box be enough? Best to err on the side of too many copies than not enough. So, a second box was sent to the new host, old friend Adrian.
The ferry ride and bike ride went to plan. On a sunny but blustery day I savoured the Lochside Trail, and then the Galloping Goose as I approached Downtown Victoria. By the time of the June 18 event, I was set up with one box of books, charming hosts at the Hub and great expectations. Alas, the attendance was again small. In Victoria! So, off I would go to event number two the next day with my panniers and rack groaning under the weight of 12 books, as well as my own reading copy. Oh yes, plus the (slimmer) book I purchased from audience member Philip Symons — Surviving Civilizations Collapse (With Hope, Love and a Little Humour).
Day Seventeen (Victoria to Vancouver by bicycle and car—70km)
Attendance at my second Victoria event was considerably better. The discussion was great, and I was able to empty my panniers of all but two books. But hang on, hadn’t I posted a second box to this venue? Yes, indeed. There it was, courtesy of host David Merner, intact, unopened, and very heavy. I was definitely not going to be cycling 35kms to Swartz Bay with a 10kg box of books. “How far to the nearest post office?” I asked. “Just across the street,” I was told. Kind Virginia accompanied me there, but I was on my own to make a big decision: should I ship these to somewhere like Calgary, where I could pick them up and put them back in the car for possible sale on the remainder of the tour? Or, with my wife and daughter due to join me in Calgary, occupying the car space that all my books had been until then, was this going to end up being a superfluous box that travelled all the way from Ottawa to Victoria and back again unopened? I did a quick mental count: number of events remaining; average books sold per event; number of books remaining. I decided to post it back to Ottawa. This would be one well-travelled box, and Canada Post would be the main beneficiary!
I’ve been making a list of the “most unlikely places to sell a book.” Halftime during the Raptors game at a motel in Valemount BC had been the leading contender. Then I rolled up to the sheltered waiting area for the ferries leaving Swartz Bay and greeted the two bicycle tourers with a “where are you from/where are you going?” From Victoria, they were doing a short tour of some of the Gulf Islands. “And you?” they asked. “Book tour,” I responded. Quizzical looks preceded a “And what is your book about?” I soon had a new leader for the most unlikely sale location.
Day Eighteen (Vancouver to Chilliwack—120km)
Belle and I made the easy spin to Chilliwack (more than just the name of an Eighties rock band!) where the Sardis Library hosted my book event. An evening spent with hosts Deb and Chris using the 110V portable charger got Belle back up to nearly full. I left pretty full too, thanks to Chris’ cooking!
Day Nineteen (Chilliwack to Golden BC—620km)
This was a day of long drives, punctuated by several fast charges and a very pleasant lunchtime book event in Kamloops at the Smorgasbord deli. If you’re in the Kamloops area, drop in to the Smorgasbord on 7th Avenue, Among all the other great items in their store, you can now find a few copies of Burning Souls. Buy local, and save on the shipping costs!
This was also a drive of endless beauty. I had planned to halt in Revelstoke, but the weather was fine, the roads relatively quiet and this was after all, the longest day of the year. It somehow seemed right to drive as the sun lit up the mountains and to spend the night in Golden, BC.
Day Twenty (Golden BC to Calgary AB—300km)
Making excellent time and progress after a fast charge in Field, BC, I arrived in Lake Louise at about 11am. Early enough to find a parking spot, but just barely. I wasn’t going to join the thousands of tourists clambering to take the usual pictures. Instead, I’d head up the Icefields Parkway for an hour or so, before turning around and heading back. Some day I may ride the full Jasper to Lake Louise route, but this day I got a wee taste.
I couldn’t linger. I needed to get to Calgary by supper, leaving enough time for an 80% fast charge on arrival. I’d need it for the drive to Lethbridge the next day.
I had to make a short stop in Canmore, AB though. I’d been told I should visit Cafe Books and see if they would stock my book. As I waited for the EV charging spot nearby to free up, my windows down, I heard a familiar question: “How do like your Bolt?” The usual conversation about EVs ensued: how far I could drive on one charge, where was I from and what brought me to Canmore? You know how this ends. Sid from Canmore is now the proud owner of a signed copy of Burning Souls. Purchased in the parking lot behind Cafe Books.
While charging at the BMW dealer in Calgary (thank you!) I took a look at my odometer/display. I had averaged 15.4 kilowatts per 100km since Vancouver. That means a range in excess of 350km per full charge— through the Rocky Mountains, with a bicycle on the back!
Day Twenty One (Calgary to Lethbridge—220km)
Just in time to be joined by Marie-Odile and Anna, or maybe because of them, I sold a full box of books in Calgary. Most at the Calgary Unitarian church, where I delivered a guest talk as part of the Sunday service, and a few more at Shelf Life Books (who now stock the book). So, as I wind down the active “book tour” part of my trip, and shift into “family vacation” mode, Belle now carries only two boxes. That’s 32 copies for three remaining events in Nelson, Kenora and at Rock Island Lodge on Lake Superior. Then, of course, there will be some new Most Unlikely Places to Sell a Book moments. I hope I’ll have enough. Or should I get that box now on its way to Ottawa shipped to Wawa?