Boasts, Ghosts And Radio Hosts

No costume for me this year, unfortunately. I was thinking about going as Duff Man, but I just wasn't able to get my belt of beer cans ready in time.

I wouldn't have gotten a chance to wear it, anyway, as my co-author Rob Riggs and I were invited to the Texas Book Festival at the state capitol over the weekend. What an event this thing was! Seeing so many people excited about books — hell, seeing so many people who could read — raised my faith in society a couple of points.

We even held a panel discussing Weird Texas. Thank you to everyone who showed up, too! (Except maybe the smarmy little heckler in front.) No joke, people were actually standing along the walls and sitting in the aisles. Is this how one measures success? When people violate fire codes to see you fumble with PowerPoint? (And a special thank you to Your Company's Computer Guy who knowingly scoffed from the audience, "Just hit Ctrl-F!")

The event's organizers kindly put me up in a hotel while I was there, too. And we're not talking the No-Tel Motel. It was the downtown Marriott. A real hotel. Being used to sleeping in whatever $40 room I can find on the road, this was a real treat. We're talking love seat, chocolates on the bed, real water glasses, feather pillows and a $4 bottle of Evian. And if you leaned into the corner of the window, you could see the capitol. For once, I didn't have to check the sheets for discarded needles before crawling into bed. But once I realized the most likely demographic to buy recreational drugs would be the wealthy, I checked anyway.

The book festival people even sent me a gift basket. This is what I imagined book promotion to be like. Sure beats free muffins. (I must reiterate, however, that I still would have done it for muffins.)

Originally, I had planned to get there Friday night, but I agreed to do another radio interview Saturday morning. It being Halloween weekend, I understood the hosts would be interested in the spookier aspects of the book — ghost stories, stuff like that.

Well, it was lucky I was monitoring my e-mail at the time, because 10 minutes before I was due to air, I got a message from the hosts asking that I call right away. Apparently, they had lost my phone number, as well as the press release on the book.

When I rang them up and spoke with one of the hosts, I discovered for the first time that — get this — it was a restaurant-review show. They were interested in haunted restaurants — none of which, I must point out, are in the book. I explained this and the host asked me what kind of ghostly stories I did have. As an example, I reviewed La Llorona, the woman who murdered her children for love, then committed suicide and now haunts the Rio Grande. The host's response? "Well, we don't really want to do violence or death, anything like that." There really aren't a lot of ghost stories about kindhearted grandmothers who passed away surrounded by loved ones.

So I told them I had other sources and would be ready with some restaurant hauntings by show time. On hold, I yanked relevant books from my shelves and crammed frenetically for the next 7 minutes, reviewing stories and making notes. When we hit the air, I was ready. I had a good five restaurant ghost stories set to spook the listening public. Yet, I barely got through one tale and they bumped me for the manager of an allegedly haunted Spaghetti Warehouse.

I missed cocktails at the governor's mansion for that.

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