Book Tour Mishaps

During the run of my American Chronicles Series, Bantam arranged a national book-signing and publicity tour. Although this may sound exciting, it is anything but. You have to always consider Murphy’s Law. If there is anything that can possibly go wrong . . . it will.
On a radio show on KMOX in St. Louis, I announced that I would be signing books at B. Dalton in Mid Rivers Mall. When we got there….there were already dozens of people waiting in line . . . and the manager and the sales people were scrambling to get things ready.
“We’ve only got six of your books,” the manager said. “We’re trying to round up more.”
“You’ve only got six books?”
“We didn’t know you were coming today.”
“How can you not have known about it? This has been set up for at least two weeks.”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Vaughan, we just weren’t told.”
“It hardly seems worth the trip for just six books,” I said, clearly agitated.
As that conversation was going on, Sara walked down to the other end of the mall . . .where a HUGE sign was spread across the front of Waldebooks. MEET AUTHOR ROBERT VAUGHAN TODAY! When I walked down to check, I saw a floor dump of my books, a nearby table, pens, a coffee cup, and a comfortable chair.
“Is Robert Vaughan supposed to be here today?” I asked.
“Yes, we’re waiting on him now. He should be here by ten.”
Okay, that was my fault, I said the wrong bookstore when I was on the radio program. I hurried back down to B. Dalton, signed six books to the first six people in line, then accepted the apology from the store manager for not being better prepared.
“It isn’t your fault, don’t worry about it,” I said, graciously.
“I must say, you’re taking it very well.”
“It’s all part of the business,” I said, showing him how obliging I could be.
By the time I reached Waldenbooks, word had already spread through the mall, so most of those who didn’t get a book at B. Dalton showed up there.
“It was a mix-up between my publisher and the bookstores,” I explained. “It happens. I’m not blaming anyone.”
At a hotel, once, I found a beautiful, and very well-filled basket. The basket had chocolate, several kinds of nuts, fruit, crackers and a tin of smoked sardines, and a bottle of wine. I enjoyed it all, and when I was speaking to my publicist, I asked her to thank Bantam for supplying the wonderful basket.
“Uh, we’re paying for the room, I don’t know anything about a basket. Let me check.” A moment later she came back. “There is no basket.”
“What do you mean? I’m eating from it now.”
“You’d better check with the hotel.”
I did check with the hotel. The basket wasn’t a gratuity . . . it was offered by the hotel, for fifty dollars.
At a TV station in Wichita, I was waiting in the green room, enjoying donuts and coffee, when a young intern approached me.
“Mr. Vaughan?”
“I’m getting the Chyron ready, so I need to check on the spelling of your name.”
“It’s Vaughan…don’t forget the last “a” in Vaughan.” I flashed a winning smile. “Vaughans, with an “a” are the aristocratic side of the name.”
The joke didn’t register, as she very carefully spelled my name on a card.
“And why are you here, Mr. Vaughan?”
“Why am I here? I’m going to be interviewed in a few minutes.”
“Yes, but what is your title? What do I put under your name?”
“I’m a fandango dancer.” I laughed as she walked away. “What a doofus question that was,” I said to Sara. “What does she put under my name.”
“That was rather rude of you,” Sara said. “She was just doing her job.”
“Look, I’ve worked in TV, these shows are all planned in advance. She knows damn well I’m an author. If she doesn’t, she should. She’ll figure it out soon enough.”
A few minutes later I was on the set being interviewed by some woman who…during the break, asked me what my book was about. I had just over a minute to tell her about it.
The floor director counted down, then pointed, and the red camera light came on.
“My guest today is Robert Vaughan, author of THE LOST GENERATION. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was a wonderful read. Mr. Vaughan, where did you get the idea for this book?”
“My wife teaches school, I used to give history talks to her class, and that gave me the idea of writing books about the different decades of the 20th Century. This is about the 1920’s, I intend to do one for each decade in the 20th Century.”
“And will you do books about the other decades of the 20th Century?”
“Uh, yes.”
Whatever the next question was completely escaped me because at that moment I saw myself on the monitor. Below my picture was the Chyron: ROBERT VAUGHAN – FANDANGO DANCER
Okay, I’ll admit, it may be possible that some of these little mishaps just might be my fault.

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More Adventures with Dick and Sara

Because of the nature of my business, we have never been tied down to any one spot. Once, about 35 years ago, Sara showed me an ad in a national magazine.
You are invited to come live, for free for the summer in a rustic, mountain top cabin, where you will baby sit with goats and commune with nature, while the owners visit civilization. An IBM typewriter and a well-stocked personal library will be available for your use. Write an essay as to why you should be chosen.
“You’re a writer, write an essay,” Sara said.
I did, and two weeks later we learned that we had been selected.
The cabin…and it was a cabin, not a house, had one common room, plus a sleeping loft. It was located in the Blue Mountains of Oregon.
“You are 73 miles from gasoline or groceries,” a man, who asked that we call him Papa, explained. Papa was a former aeronautical engineer, Joanie, was a former English professor at Berkley. Considerably older than either of us, they had “dropped out” during the sixties, and now lived on a subsistence farm, with their only income being the occasional money one or the other made from writing an article.
“I would be interested in knowing how you happened to pick my essay? What did you find most persuasive?”
“You were the only one who responded,” Papa said.
After warning us that we had to be constantly aware of forest fires, they left us to our own devices. There was electricity, and a black and white TV set, which got the very weak signal of one channel. They had an old wood-burning stove as a cook stove…as well as a wood-burning pot-bellied stove for warmth. The toilet was outside, with no front door, but with a beautiful view. The shower, like the toilet, was outside, with nothing to provide privacy but the 73 miles of separation from town or neighbors. The water came from a long hose that snaked down the mountain side from a spring. You had to time you shower just perfectly, to take advantage of the warming effect of the sun on the hose…before getting a cold blast from the spring.
And there were goats; Twileth, and Sable. Our only job was to milk them every morning. I tried, but found I was totally inadequate to the job. Sara, who had grown up on a farm, did very well . . . and she accused me of purposely failing.
Twileth was pregnant, and had babies while we were there. Baby goats are amazing little creatures. When I went out to feed Twileth and Sable one morning, I was greeted by three baby goats….not helpless and lying there like newborn puppies, but 100% active, bouncing around, jumping up on structures, and ready to play. Our two young boys, Joe and Tom, were with us then, and they bonded instantly with the new little creatures. As it turned out, the baby goats enjoyed sucking on their ear-lobes.
Then I got sick. I’m not talking about a little cold, or a slight upset stomach, or not feeling well. I’m talking sick, as in I was sure I was going to die, sick. I had insanely high temperature…followed by a chill that was so severe that it wasn’t possible to get warm. I remember sitting in a chair and noticing that it was about 9:30 in the morning, then glancing up at the clock a minute later to see that it was 7 PM. I had lost an entire day, in the blink of an eye.
We had telephone numbers to call if we spotted a forest fire, or if a goat got sick, but nothing for a real doctor. I called a number for “transients in need of a doctor.”
“What’s wrong with you?” the doctor asked.
“I don’t know. I’m weak, dizzy, and headachy. And sometimes I’m so hot that I feel like I’m about to catch on fire, then I have a chill where I feel like I’m at the North Pole.”
“When you have chill like that, wrap up in a blanket. When you are hot, take it off,” the doctor said.
“That’s it?”
“What else do you want?”
“Nothing, I guess.”
The problem with the illness is it would come for about three days….then go away. I thought it was over, but it would come back.
Then, just as it began to ease its grip on me, it hit Sara. We had no idea what it was, but we were afraid that would hit the kids, so as soon as Papa and Joanie came back from one of their trips, we told them we were leaving, and we explained why.
Now Sara was going through the same thing I had gone through, so she lay in the back seat of the car, alternately burning up, and freezing to death throughout the long drive back home. By the time we reached Sikeston, though, she was in one of those periods where the illness was gone, and it had now been almost two weeks since I had shown any symptoms, so we didn’t bother to see a doctor. That night though, it came back for her, so the next morning, she went to see her brother in law, who was a pediatrician, but he was family. He ran tests on her, and then on me, and it turned out that we were both suffering from Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. We learned, also, that one in four die, if they get no treatment. We were prescribed massive doses of tetracycline, and I took the prescription to the drug store.
“Is this for a child? It’s quite a large dose,” the pharmacist said.
“No, it isn’t for a child.”
“Still, this is a large amount, even for an adult.”
“It’s for two adults . . .my wife and me.
“Oh? For both of you?”
The pharmacist smiled. “All right.”
“Why did he smile?” I asked my brother in law a little later.
My brother in law laughed. “Well, it was for both of you, and he is probably wondering which one of you gave it to the other. This is also what would be prescribed for a sexually transmitted disease.”
I noticed, that for the rest of the time we lived in Sikeston, that particular druggist never looked at me without a knowing smile . . . and I never disabused him of his notion.

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A comment from Sara’s Husband

Several years ago Sara and I went to San Angelo, TX for a Western Writers’ Conference. Near Kerrville, the “check engine” light came on.
“What’s that?” Sara asked.
“Nothing, don’t worry about it. Those lights always come on, they don’t mean anything.”
“Don’t you think we should have it checked?”
“Oil pressure is normal, temperature is normal, don’t worry about it.”
“I’d feel better if someone would check it.”
Wheeze, cough, clank, poof….the engine stopped.
“All right, I’ll look at it.”
We were on a two-lane, low-traffic road so nobody came by for about ten minutes, then a pickup truck stopped, and two young men got out.
“Can we hep ya?”
“I just blew an engine.”
“Billy Bob, you get ‘n the back, and we’ll take these folks back to Kerrville.”
“Okay, Frank.”
Sara and I got in the truck and Frank did a 180, headed back toward Kerrville.
“Billy Bob is a bronc rider,” Frank told us. “I’m his manager, I’m brangin’ ‘im on ‘till we can qualify for a major rodeo.”
Frank kept looking over at me. Because we were going to a Western Writers convention, I was all cowboyed up…cowboy hat, bolo tie, cowboy shirt, belt buckle as big as Scott County, jeans, and cowboy boots. I don’t smoke….but to add to the effect, I had a teabag in my shirt pocket, with the tag hanging out….certain that it would look like a pouch of roll your own tobacco. I might add that….at the time I was of a size that could best be described as “grand.”
“Where you folks headed?” Frank asked.
“Western Writers convention.”
Whoowee, I’d sure like to see the horse YOU’RE goin’ to ride.
“WriTers, with a “T”, not riders.”
I let it pass, after all, he was giving us a ride.
Once we reached Kerrville and made arrangements for the car to be picked up, we started walking toward a near-by burger doodle. Sara was still very upset, and reminded me that she had suggested, in plenty of time, that we get the car checked. Finally I reminded her that it could be much worse….it could have been an accident and one of us might have been hurt. She agreed that it could be worse.
“I wouldn’t feel so bad if you weren’t wearing that getup.”
“Sara, we are in Texas. I’m dressed like a cowboy because I’m just trying to blend in.”
“Yeah,” she said. “You’re blending in all right. You look just exactly like every other 300 pound cowboy with a teabag hanging out of his pocket.”
It all turned out all right…once we got a new Volvo engine delivered to The Volvo Center in San Antonio to be put in our car. We rented a car…drove home and got a cashier’s check from the Bank of Sikeston for $5,100.00 then returned to pay for it. Only then, did we learn that the check had been made out to “The Vulva Center.”

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Writing the Western Novel

Where does the West begin? Is it west of the Hudson? West of the Mississippi? West of the Pecos? Today, as we go west in a mini-van on I-70, or in a Boeing 777, we can’t help but think of our grandparents, and their grandparents who made this long journey before us, by wagon, steam locomotive, or perhaps in a ’37 Ford on Route 66.
A better question would be, where does the Western, the quintessential American story actually start?
The answer to the question is, all of the above. Because the truth is, the Western story lives in the heart of anyone who has a love of history, who has a strong moral sense of right and wrong, who appreciates self-determination, courage, and above all—honor.
I love writing stories of the West, because I’m not just writing, I’m living them. Here is an example. In the story I’m writing now, someone just made a snack of “apple croute.” I got the recipe from an 1880 cookbook, so, of course, I had to try it out. It’s a thick slice of French bread, grilled in butter, cinnamon, and sugar and topped with sliced apple, which is also cooked in butter, cinnamon and sugar.
But trying recipes isn’t the only way I relive the past. The internet is a wonderful window onto the world—and not just today’s world, but the world of yesterday. With access to period newspapers, I know that in Bismarck, Dakota Territory at the time of my current work in progress, rib roast is 15 cents a pound; I know that Mrs. W.H. Thurston arrived in Bismarck by the 7:00 p.m. train from the East, on November 3, 1882, and that Frank Briggs, the good looking young boomer of Mandan, came over the creek Tuesday, to enjoy for a brief time the gay whirl of city life.
Writing is a participatory art. As a writer, I provide the material by which the American West of the nineteenth century can be reconstructed. But because the writer and reader are a working partnership, it is up to you the reader to create that world in your own mind. I put the words on paper, but you experience the sights, sounds, smells, and textures of the story, reproducing every shade, shadow, tone and tint.
If I have done my job properly, in CLAIMING THE HEART, for example, when you step through the front door of The Empress Hotel in Fort Worth, you will no longer be sitting in a chair in your den, or on the beach, or wherever you are reading the book…you will be in the lobby of The Empress Hotel. Gabe and Jose won’t be just ink smears on the pages of a book, they will be dear friends, and you will experience their trials and triumphs with them.
I invite you to share these time travel journeys with me in all the books I have written so far, and in those yet to come. Happy reading.

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From Tips on Life and Love

This is the link to an article that you might find interesting.

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Things That Are Too Funny to Pass Up!

My husband got an e-mail from one of his friends today. He said it came from a letter to the editor in an Australian newspaper, but I want to share it. The writer of the piece comes from Albury.


When I was a kid we never had drought after drought. Then we started with daylight saving. We started with a little bit, but now we have six months of the year daylight saving. It has just become too much for the environment to cope with. It is so logical, for six months of the year we have an extra hour each day of that hot afternoon sun. I read somewhere that scientific studies had shown there is a lot less moisture in the atmosphere which means we get less rain. I believe this one hour extra sun is slowly evaporating all the moisture out of everything. Why can’t the Government get the CSIRO to do studies on this, or better still, get rid of daylight savings. They have to do something before it is too late. Chris—–

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Romantic Times Review for Claiming the Heart May 2012

Sara Luck 4 stars Mild
Setting: 1870s Texas

Luck captures the true essence of the Texas frontier, as she builds her story around the expansion of the railroads and the determined men and women of the West. Readers will find this well-researched novel more a work of historical fiction than romance, but it’s still a fast-paced story with plenty of action and engaging characters.

Summary: Gabe Corrigan wants nothing more than to see the Texas and Pacific Railroad stretch across Texas, with Fort Worth as the nexus. He works to raise the money needed to expand the railroad, but his marriage to Southern socialite Marthalee is a thorn in his side. When their union is annulled Gabe is free to court spirited businesswoman Josie Laclede. Swept up in Gabe’s dreams, Josie begins to fall in love. They travel to Washington, D. C., where they meet President and Mrs. Grant as well as General Custer. Josie believes in happily ever after, but when Gabe’s wife reappears, everything will change, unless Gabe has the courage to fight for Josie’s love. (POCKET, May, 390 pp. $7.99) review by Kathe Robin

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Together, 24/7

When someone asks how long we have been married, my husband sometimes doubles the actual number of years, explaining that, “Because we are together, 24/7, we have spent as much time together as couples who have been married twice as long. At first blush, that sounds like an ideal situation. After all, we love each other, why wouldn’t we want to be together constantly?
Marriages in the military, when the spouse is gone on long deployments, or marriages where there are frequent separations because of business, create problems, and there are support groups, books, and on-line sites that tell such people how to cope. But marriages where the husband and wife are together, constantly, have no such support. They should have, though, because home businesses, and internet “commuting” are becoming more common, and more people are finding that such togetherness has its own obstacles to overcome.
I was still teaching school when I married my husband, a successful novelist, so, for the first several years ours was like any other marriage, except he stayed home, and I left for work every day. But then I left my teaching job, and there was a dramatic change in our situation.
He still went to work every day, but going to work was merely going to his office, which was just another room in the house. That made him easily accessible, and in the beginning, that created some problems. I would want to talk, or go somewhere, or involve him in some activity, not understanding the concept of deadlines. (Boy, do I understand deadlines now.)
And if you think being married to a writer can have its pitfalls, what about a writer being married to a writer? Writers are, by definition, vain people, and when we ask each other’s opinion on something we have just written, what we are actually doing, is asking for confirmation, such as when my husband said: “Honey, this is the greatest piece of prose I have ever read in my life. Surely, your book is destined for a Pulitzer.”
Well, all right, it’s possible he was being just a bit sarcastic. But, we have learned to deal with writing egos, and while we often have “spirited discussions,” the bottom line is, we do depend upon each other for editorial advice. I’m better at it than he is, I’ve been editing his work for many years. But since I’ve only recently been published, he is still new at the job
Here are some tips on making a 24/7 relationship work:
1. Find your niche in running the house. My husband loves to cook, and does so often. For example he makes breakfast every morning, sometimes making a concoction he learned in the army, SOS. He says it means Superior Old Sauce, but I have a feeling there is another meaning to it. He will do dishes, he doesn’t do clothes.
2. Find separate places in the house during work hours. My husband loves to write to classical music, I find that the music gets in the way of my writing. We solved that by having separate offices in the house.
3. Think how lucky you are to be together, 24/7. This is the person you fell in love with, appreciate that fact, and show that appreciation. Think of it as an office romance, “with benefits.”


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