Despite being derailed by interview cancellations and a brief stint in jail, I was able to get the divine roosters & angry clowns book tour back on track with a recent stop in Prescott, Arizona, at the Southwest Prepare or Die Expo.
Initially I had misgivings about attending the survivalist convention, a three-day event that featured vendors, expert presentations and networking for those interested in surviving Doomsday. Specifically, I was uncertain how my humorous novel about a group of quirky strangers surviving a calamitous solar storm would play with people who tended to find nothing funny about apocalyptic events.
My concerns however were dismissed by my publicist Butch Whistles who had arranged the promotional appearance. Butch believed talk about my book would serve as a light hearted, off beat counterbalance to the event’s all doom and gloom agenda.
Listening to Butch, I had to give him credit. He was definitely thinking outside the marketing box, creativity that seemed to bear fruit almost from the moment I was greeted by Zena Goines, the exposition’s event coordinator.
Zena was a perky young woman armed with a bright smile and clad in a black military-style flight jacket, khaki work pants, and low-cut army tactical boots. In one hand she held a clipboard and in the other a 13-inch stainless steel bowie knife.
Zena talked excitedly as she ushered me over to the conference room where I was scheduled to deliver some prepared remarks, answer a few questions before I headed to a back table to sign copies of my book, which was at that moment on sale in the convention center lobby.
According to Zena, divine roosters & angry clowns had been generating great interest among the attendees, enthusiasm which was clearly on display as we walked into the room. It was filled to capacity, with almost every person holding a copy of my book.
As I took a seat on the stage, I watched Zena walk up to the lectern to introduce me, my eyes filled with tears. Despite the book tour’s rocky start, it was now unfolding the way I had long envisioned. I was on cloud nine.
My euphoria however began to quickly dissipate as Zena began to read the biographical sheet that Butch had sent to her. In a gushing voice she informed the assembled crowd that not only was I a leading space weather expert on coronal mass ejections but that my book was a cutting edge how-to-guide on surviving such a dreaded event.
When Zena reached the part about the deep contribution divine roosters & angry clowns had made to the survivalist movement and the countless lives it would undoubtedly save, I became lightheaded, my head swirling with a thousand thoughts, chief among which was what type of drug and alcohol- induced stupor had compelled Art to write this packet of lies.
I began to compile a list of the best way to kill Butch upon my arrival back in San Diego, going so far as to determine where to dispose of his body and what plausible explanation to give to the police to account for his disappearance, when I heard Zena call my name and the room erupt in applause.
Reluctantly, I stood up, gingerly walked over to the lectern and closely surveyed the crowd, a collection of men, women and children in various forms of survivalist dress, all of whom seemed to be equipped with assorted types of weaponry.
My first instinct was to inform them that Zena’s introduction of me may have been a bit misleading but instead settled on faking a heart attack. I began to clutch at my chest but was interrupted by a large, heavy set man in fatigues and bush hat holding a serrated multiuse military shovel.
The man wanted to know why I had chosen to write about solar flares and not what he considered to be more deadly galactic events such as hypernovas or gamma ray bursts. The question seemed easy enough to answer, and so I loosened my grip and explained that a massive solar flare opened itself up to more humorous plot lines.
Unfortunately that answer didn’t seem to be the proper response as murmurs of discontent rippled throughout the crowd, unhappiness subsequently articulated by a very pregnant woman wearing a hunting vest adorned with a dozen ninja throwing stars.
She stood up from her seat with great effort and, brandishing a three foot, straight edged tomahawk above her head, pointedly informed me that there wasn’t anything funny about being exposed to radiation poisoning from a massive coronal mass ejection.
Her statement quickly led an elderly woman dressed in a safari jacket to stand up and angrily wave a copy of my book about. The woman, who had a medieval crossbow with a steel arch hooked over one shoulder, was furious that my book was filled with a lot of “inane yakking” but offered no practical steps on how to survive a solar storm.
Among her numerous complaints were that I not only failed to mention how to build an electromagnetic-pulse-resistant bugout vehicle but also an insulated Faraday cage to protect electronic components from electromagnetic radiation.
Before I could respond, a thin-railed man in a camouflaged hooded sweat shirt holding a 15-inch machete with a rubberized handle heatedly exclaimed that the book also contained no clear cut instructions on how to line the interior of a home with radiation-shielding mesh.
His revelation brought immediate gasps of disbelief from the audience, which led to people to furiously flip through the pages of their books in order to confirm the glaring omission. Soon there was a whispered chorus of “fraud” and “imposter” reverberating throughout the room.
I was beginning to sweat profusely as the mood in the room turned ugly. I needed to take control and so contemplated returning back to my fake coronary. But instead to my surprise I decided to announce that there had been a great misunderstanding, letting them all know I wasn’t an expert in anything and that my book was just a fictional, comedic tale with no survivalist applications.
I looked over at Zena and cracked a half smile, hopeful she would help me out, but Zena no longer looked like her cheerful self. Her face grim, she waved her clipboard at the crowd and announced in an icy voice that she had been duped by me. Her announcement caused the audience to develop a collective narrowing of the eyes. Their ugly mood soon turned to accusations of fraud, quickly followed by demands from those who had purchased the book that I refund their money.
Perhaps it was the prospect of financial loss, but at that point my mood turned from fear to one of great anger. I heatedly told the horde that there was no fraud being perpetrated. The book’s contents were clearly spelled out in its back cover description. Either they had failed to read it or, worse, had and were simply too moronic to understand what it meant.
My outburst was a decision inexplicably made and later regretted as my accusation of mass stupidity caused a chilled silence to fall over the room, a quietude agonizingly amplified by the sight of several people fingering their weapons, including the pregnant woman who had unpinned a steel throwing star from her vest.
I knew I needed to flee the room but my brain was paralyzed, unwilling to allow my feet to move. Then in my deepest moment of despair, a feeling of great shame overwhelmed me. These people were bullies and there was only one way to deal with bullies. So, I screwed up my courage, stared defiantly at them before I proceeded to run screaming from the stage. My action must have taken them by complete surprise because they sat motionless as I streaked toward the exit at the front of the room.
Unfortunately my escape didn’t catch everyone unaware as just mere feet from safety, I was waylaid from behind by a throwing hammer flung by a twelve-year-old girl in pigtails. The force of the blow threw me into a wall, at which point I grabbed onto a mounted fire alarm for support. As I slid to the floor into unconsciousness, my hand pulled down on the handle.
While the assembled survivalists had prepared themselves to confront pandemics, mega tsunamis, nuclear war, global economic collapse, and self-replicating killer robots gone amuck, they were apparently unprepared to deal with a ringing fire alarm. The result was a panicked mass stampede out of the room, a hysterical exodus that left me trampled underfoot. When I awoke the next day in a local hospital, I had a severe concussion and numerous broken ribs.
In addition to my bodily injuries, I was soon charged with intentionally setting off the fire alarm and ordered to pay for the damages caused by the fleeing mob, a cost that effectively wiped out any profits I had made from the book sales at the convention.
So, I am sad to say that until my physical and psychological recovery is complete, the divine roosters & angry clowns book tour is now indefinitely suspended.