So I flew to Chicago this past weekend as the PRESSURE tour continued its path of destruction. Most of it involved driving around with Joe Konrath, whose novel CHERRY BOMB (the sixth in his “Jack Daniels” series) came out last week. We stopped at 20 bookstores, where I scrawled my name on whatever copies of PRESSURE they had on the shelves.

But there was also time for touristy stuff, most notably the Sears Tower (now the “Willis Tower,” but if I said “Willis Tower” you’d probably think “WTF is the Willis Tower?” whereas if I say “Sears Tower” you probably know what I’m talking about) which now has these clear plexiglass boxes protruding from the top floor, where you can walk out and see straight down 103 stories. It’s freaky. Really, really freaky. It’s unlikely that the people in charge would approve this whole idea if the bottom of the box were likely to drop out and send you plummeting, but it’s still pretty unnerving.

We left Joe’s car in a parking garage during this adventure. It’s self-pay parking where you feed your ticket in when you return. The machine ate the ticket, then wouldn’t take the credit card. We pushed the button for assistance, and a pre-recorded voice insisted that somebody would be with us shortly. We waited. Joe went to look for an employee. We waited and pushed the assistance buttons on the other machines. Joe returned, his mission unsuccessful. We waited. We all went looking for an employee, any employee. There were none. (Note that this was Friday afternoon, not Sunday at midnight.) 45 minutes later, we pressed the emergency button. A pretty light flashed. Nobody came. We noted that this would be a superb place to break into somebody’s automobile. We also prepared ourselves for a burst of pure rage in the likely event that an employee finally showed up and explained that we had to pay the maximum rate since we didn’t have the ticket.

That didn’t happen, though, because nobody ever showed. Finally, we got in Joe’s car, waited for another car to pull out, and rode its bumper, hoping that the gate wouldn’t come crashing down on us. Actually, I kind of hoped that it would, since it wasn’t my car and I was actively seeking blog material, but it didn’t and all was well.

We had dinner with Charlaine Harris, which was way more fun than wandering around a parking garage. She gave us free DVDs of all of the unaired TRUE BLOOD episodes. Okay, not really, but she probably would have if I’d used puppy dog eyes.

By pure coincidence, we stopped at a Barnes & Noble store where fellow Leisure and Delirium author John Everson was doing a signing, so I babbled at him for a bit. Rhonda Wilson, who’d driven six hours (!!!) for this event, was also there. She brought lots and lots and lots of books for me to sign–in fact, I believe it’s the largest collection of my stuff outside of my own, which is way more Jeff Strand writing than anybody needs to possess.

(By the way, the “largest collection of my stuff” comment is a CHALLENGE! Everybody reading this should vow to beat the record! Purchase, purchase, purchase!)

My wife went to the American Library Association conference while Joe and I drove around, and she acquired approximately 8,371,009 free books. 

Bill Breedlove held a truly awesome BBQ, whose guests included most of the aforementioned people along with Martel Sardina. Bill has a pet pigeon that pecks on his arm. He didn’t flinch when the pigeon pecked on it, so I assume that the pecking was more gentle than it looked or that the nerves in Bill’s arm have worn away. 

I ate several Chicago dogs, including one with a satanic sport pepper that still burns.

The main event was a signing at the Centuries & Sleuths bookstore, which also included KILLING RED author Henry Perez. I was completely brain-fried by then, but managed to babble my way through a Q&A. PRESSURE sold out quickly and several people were left PRESSUREless, although they were polite and did not form an angry mob. 

And, yes, Joe Konrath’s wife does indeed exist. I always kind of assumed that his “wife” was an amalgam of dozens of women who lived with him for three or four weeks then ran screaming into the night, but there is actually a woman who seems to be able to handle the torment. She deserves your respect.

Anyway, it was a great weekend. Thanks to Joe for letting me crash at his place and driving me around Chicago for three days!

Next weekend: Drop-in signings around southern Florida, along with an official signing at Murder on the Beach on Saturday, July 18 at 5:00 PM ( and at the Ft. Myers Barnes & Noble on Sunday, July 19 at 1:00 PM. 

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