New York - Day Two

>> Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Our second day in New York was a working day for both of us. Wendi was off to Random House, where she had her first day of pre-sales. During pre-sales, a few of the field reps come home to roost to meet with the folks at HQ to talk about an upcoming season. They're always working ahead, so this was the fall pre-sales. There will be a real sales conference - often held in some summery locale - later this season, when ALL the sales reps will gather. At this point, the feedback Wendi and the other few reps give can still be used to tweak things before the real deal. Hence pre-sales. Now you know.

I on the other hand got to do something much more fun - go meet the editor of Something Rotten! After a casual wake-up in the hotel room and a quick croissant and water at one of the two hundred Starbucks locations in Manhattan, I headed off in search of the subway line that would take me south to Greenwich Village, where the Dial offices were located. The thing with my map was that it would have a little red M for the Metro red line in the middle of a city block, and when I would arrive at that exact location on the planet earth, there would often not be any magical stairs leading down into the mass transit warrens. The day before I had become familiar with an orange line station or two around our hotel, but today I arrived and found no stop.

I finally found a red line, but it was headed only uptown. I consulted my map once again, and marched off down another street. It was ass cold that day, and as I lost feeling in my ears I began to despair that I would not only have to walk many freezing blocks to return to my familiar downtown orange line, but that I might conceivably be late as well - and this after starting off with an hour and a half to spare. Tracing the red line with my finger, I realized that this was the line that once served the World Trade Center. I had read that the stop was now closed, of course, but I began to wonder if that didn't mean that the entire southbound line was closed.

I doubled back down another street, resigned to hitting the orange line (which would dump me off in Soho, not the Village, requiring a further blistering walk) when I stumbled onto the entrance to the downtown red line. A Solstice Miracle! I hurried inside and boarded the metro for Greenwich Village.

I popped out of the subway almost directly across from the Holland Tunnel, which I felt obligated to photograph:

I was no doubt captured on some sort of video camera, my face forwarded to the FBI as someone "casing" the Holland Tunnel. Having considered this gigantic hole in the ground (somewhat reminiscent of the Hellmouth on Buffy the Vampire Slayer) I'm not sure I would ever want to enter the Holland Tunnel. I'm not even sure where it goes. I studied my map a few more times though, and I'm fairly sure that it does not, in fact, lead to Holland.

Despite my misadventures looking for the Metro station, I was significantly early for my appointment. Knowing how heavy the security is at the Random House building where Wendi was working that day, I figured that crashing in the lobby of the Dial building for an hour or so was probably out of the question, so I hiked around what I think was Greenwich Village. There were many record stores - selling real vinyl - so I think I'm fairly safe in this assumption. I expected a lot of hippy folks walking around smoking pot and wearing Birks, Che Guevara t-shirts, and worn-out corduroy pants, but as I said, it was very cold, so perhaps they were all inside. I did see this rather ingenious way to park one hundred cars in a lot that would ordinarily only hold twenty:

I suppose when these folks say "no in and out," they really mean it. Seriously, how many days in advance do you have to let them know you're going to need your car? I cannot imagine how extracting one of those vehicles is an easy thing to do. It's like an automotive Rubik's Cube.

After futzing around as long as I could, I hit the Dial offices. Approaching it from afar, I was able to appreciate the really cool reliefs up at the top:

Okay, so it's kind of hard to see them here. But here it is: 345 Hudson, home of Dial Books for Young Readers. (And all those lesser Penguin imprints that haven't bought anything from me and so don't matter.)

There I met Liz, editor extraordinaire. Knowing we were going to see Avenue Q during our visit, she gave me a copy of the soundtrack, which we've already enjoyed a few times. After we chatted for a little while Liz took me around to meet folks. We burst in on a meeting of the entire marketing staff, and I thanked them profusely for helping spread the Samurai gospel. Then it was off to the den of Tony Sahara, the guy who created my terrific cover illustration. (And who let me use the full illustration on my baseball cards!) His office was loaded with Star Wars toys, so he won more points in my book. We also dropped in on the gals who handle the bookstore and convention promotions.

(I should probably not say this, but that feeling has never stopped me before: if any guy was ever looking to find the single largest concentration of intelligent, attractive women in New York, all he really has to do is go work for Dial Books for Young Readers. Internships are available now. Many intelligent, attractive women are standing by. I kid you not.)

Our penultimate stop was to meet Lauri Hornik, Vice President and Publisher of Dial Books. I laid it on pretty thick when I told her that Dial was one of my A-list publishers and that I was thrilled to have landed there, but I wasn't lying. We talked about Something Rotten, which comes out this fall, and even discussed further ideas for more Horatio books. (Yeah buddy!) Then, to my surprise and delight, Lauri remembered and asked about my Fasting Girl project, which has sat by the wayside lo these many months as I finished editing Something Rotten and began writing the first draft of The Brooklyn Nine, my middle grade generational baseball book. I'm afraid I broke the rule I gave the attendees at my very own recent marketing seminar and went on and on about the Fasting Girl story, rather than just giving her a two-sentence blurb. What was I thinking? Well, she seemed interested, even when her eyes glazed over and she put her head down on her desk. She told me she was just resting her eyes, so I kept talking. (Kidding.)

Our last stop of the day was Brad, who is the guy in the office who makes sure the manuscripts are where they need to be at every step in the process. I liken his position to that of the folks in traffic when I worked at the radio station. The traffic department didn't follow vehicular traffic, they organized the on-air commercials and drops, and made sure that everything that was supposed to play hit the airwaves at the right place and time. I didn't know publishers had such a position, but considering the number of manuscripts they must be juggling at one time, it makes perfect sense.

In addition to being the managing editor, Brad is also going to co-edit The Brooklyn Nine with Liz. The idea for the book was originally his, and I was tapped to write it. He had a copy of the Baseball Encyclopedia when he was a kid (just like I did - and still do) and we immediately found common ground when it was revealed that we had each programmed the stats of Dead Ball era baseball players into computer games and played out seasons with long-gone teams. In his honor, I've made a point of dropping some of the better players of the 1908 season into one of the stories in the book, including Three-Finger Brown of the Chicago Cubs. (In the last year the Cubs won the World Series, by the way.)

The three of us did lunch at John's Pizza, where we had a waitress who will have to appear in something I write someday. She talked like she was out of sync with the universe, but I couldn't decide if she was ahead of us or behind us. Liz asked for a refill on her Diet Coke and I asked for one on my regular Coke, and our waitress says, "Right. Okay. One regular Coke, one regular Diet Coke." I couldn't tell if she was messing with us, or just kooky. Maybe both. The pizza was great - well worth the hype - and I had a great time chatting with Brad and Liz. They made the mistake of asking me about other ideas for sequels to Something Rotten, and I launched into my take on The Tempest, my favorite Shakespeare play. (I hope I get to write that one some day!)

I have no pictures of any of this, of course, so you may think I made the whole thing up. I didn't, I promise! I briefly debated pulling out the camera and getting pics of Liz and Brad, but somehow felt it would be a little too amateurish. So here I am without illustrative graphics.

After I left the Dial offices, I met up with my friend Brian from New Jersey. He and I hit Forbidden Planet, a massive comics shop near New York University. It ROCKED. I could have spent all day pouring through the indie titles. I picked up a Tick omnibus I had missed out on the first time around, and Above and Below, two shorts by James Sturm, author and illustrator of the phenomenal graphic novel The Golem's Mighty Swing. Brian made off with that Sonic Screwdriver he'd been looking for. That led to, oddly, the first of two Dr. Who conversations I would have with two separate people in two consecutive days in New York. Brian and I hit a diner afterward, where I regaled him with my plans to take the DC Comics company by storm, unbeknownst to anyone at DC Comics or anywhere else outside that diner.

Wendi got through with her meetings around four o'clock, and I took a train uptown with Brian, where we parted. Wendi and I had planned on going out to eat at a fancy restaurant, but we had both had big lunches and were pooped, and so opted instead for a stroll down to Times Square and cheesecake (for Wendi) at Junior's in the Theater District. One thing I have observed about New York is that the closer you get to Times Square, the more quickly the waiters try to turn your table. Standing up signals an army of busboys who swoop in like winged monkeys. I have seen a table completely bussed and reset before I have even donned my coat. While I admire the efficiency, it does give one the impression that you are not allowed to linger or loiter anywhere in Midtown Manhattan. Everything there is in constant motion, with brief pauses for eating and drinking. Another New York lesson learned: always always always use the bathroom before you leave a restaurant. It may be your last chance until you return to your hotel room.

Our plans for a big evening together on the town petered out with our flagging energy and our aching legs, so we went back to the room where Wendi crashed and I watched Star Trek: TNG and The Daily Show with the sound muted and the closed captioning on. After reading a little television I hit the sack. It was an odd end to a great day in the city, and I went to sleep dreaming about the next day's destination: Brooklyn.


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