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* — Incomplete in the sense that, at various points, I forgot to take pictures. I did manage, however, to make it to Missoula and back safely, which was my prime objective.

Tuesday, April 19, I left Billings for the 345-mile drive to Missoula, where I had a reading scheduled for Fact & Fiction that night. The next morning, I headed back home. In between: visits with friends, road food, inclement weather and alcohol.

Join me, won’t you?

Less than a block from my house in Billings, this was my view. I woke up Tuesday to find my SUV covered in snow.

Forty miles into the trip, I stopped for breakfast in Columbus. Norman Mailer, in Tom Grimes' "Mentor," said "You gotta eat eggs on the road." So I did.

The worst of the weather occurred between Columbus and Big Timber. For a few miles there, the passing lane was covered in snow and ice and the snow was encroaching on my lane. I was afraid I'd have to turn around ...

... but then, after Big Timber, clear roads returned.

In Bozeman, I stopped and visited with my friend Ariana, the new owner of the Country Bookshelf.

I stopped for lunch in Butte (where I met my friend David Abrams) and noticed that I had an ice-encrusted front bumper.

After lunch, I followed David through some hellacious road construction to his beautiful 1920s house in Butte.

While in Butte, I stopped by Books and Books, another wonderful indie bookseller.

Doesn't everybody take a picture of himself in a roadside restroom?

Missoula! Fact & Fiction! Yes!

Wednesday brought a beautiful day for driving home. And so I did, rapidly.

What did I leave out? Lots of stuff: pictures from the reading in Missoula, hosted by Fact & Fiction’s wonderful owner, Barbara Theroux; my reunion with old friend Robert Meyerowitz, the new editor of the Missoula Independent; my kind hosts, Lisa Simon and Jason Neal and their wonderful home in the woods; cats Maynard and BeBe, who tolerated my intrusion. During the best parts of the trip, I put the camera down — which says little for my photojournalism skills but does commend my ability to fully live in the moment. I’ll take that trade.

Coming to your town ... if your town is Billings, Missoula or New York.

* — The world being significantly downsized, what with the price of gas.

Tomorrow — Thursday, April 7, for you calendar clutchers — I’ll be giving a speech to the combined conference of the Montana Library Association and the Mountain Library Association, right here in Billings. (See, I told you it would be a small world, after all.) This happens at 2:15 p.m. at the Billings Hotel and Convention Center.

I was told that I didn’t have to prepare a speech on any particular theme, which frankly is an alarming and possibly dangerous amount of latitude, but I’ve managed to celebrate libraries and librarians without even noting the time that my college roommate had an amorous adventure in the Fort Worth Public Library. In any case, I think that sort of thing is entirely inappropriate, especially considering it didn’t happen to me.

Tomorrow’s gig launches a flurry of activity on the whole be-out-in-public front. Here’s the rundown:

Saturday, April 16: I’ll be at Parmly Billings Library, 510 N. Broadway, at 11 a.m. for a talk and presentation on 600 Hours of Edward as part of its selection for the One Book Billings program. This will be the culmination of a week’s worth of conversations around town about the book, so I predict a spike in drivers making right turns and spaghetti-eating in greater Yellowstone County. If you’re interested in taking part in any of the community conversations, please call the library at 406-657-8258. The library is providing copies of the book.

Tuesday, April 19: I need no good excuse to visit Missoula. Luckily, I have a great one: I’ll be at Fact & Fiction, 220 N. Higgins, at 7 p.m. to read from my new novel, The Summer Son, and sign copies of it. Please come.

Thursday, April 28: I point the car west again and head out to the University of Montana Western in Dillon for a reading as part of the school’s Dances With Words program. I’ll be reading selections from both books, taking questions, doing rope tricks and all kinds of other fabulous stuff.

Finally …

Monday and Tuesday, May 23-24: I’ll be in New York, baby, for Book Expo America. Forty-one years into my life, I finally visit the only city in the world worth seeing, to hear New Yorkers tell it. I’m expecting an interesting collision of literary and tourism-intensive pursuits. In other words, I’ll be the first person in history to wear an ascot and a fanny pack simultaneously.

It was sometime early last fall — I can’t remember exactly when — that Adrianne Hurtig of the Friends of the Ronan City Library sent me an e-mail and asked if I’d like to bring 600 Hours of Edward to her group on March 18. It seemed a long way off, and for a long, long time, that entry on my Web site‘s list of events was the lone beacon, a sign that, yes, I did have something to do, sometime.

Now, it’s just a little more than twenty-four hours away. I’m excited as all get out to see Ronan and meet these fine folks who love books and help keep reading alive in their small town. The event starts at 7 p.m. at the Ronan City Library, 203 Main Street SW.

The long weekend that begins with tomorrow’s road trip includes two other stops:

Friday: A reading and signing at Fact & Fiction, 220 N. Higgins Ave. in Missoula. It begins at 5 p.m.

Saturday: A signing at Chapter One, 252 W. Main Street in Hamilton. It begins at 11 a.m.

If you’re in the area, I hope to see you at one (or more!) of these events.

And in other news …

If you head over to the “Craig’s novel” section of CraigLancaster.net, you can take a peek at the first chapter of my second novel, The Summer Son. I hope to soon have some salient details on its emergence.

Oh, and one more thing …

If you’re a member of Goodreads and want to read 600 Hours of Edward, please consider throwing your name in for one of five copies I’m giving away. And hurry. At last count, 144 people were already queued up.

If you happen to be in the vicinity of Columbus, Montana, tomorrow — and I should point out that in the context of Montana, “vicinity” means “roughly 300 miles in any direction” — please drop by the Stillwater County Library from 4 to 6 p.m. I’ll be chatting up the Friends of the Library and other patrons about 600 Hours of Edward, autism, publishing, Tony Romo‘s role in literature and anything else folks want to talk about. It’ll be a good time. (I’m just kidding about the Tony Romo part, although the Dallas Cowboys quarterback is a fixture in Edward’s world.)

That’s the launch of what’s shaping up to be a busy couple of months for me and the book. Three weeks later, on Feb. 25, I’ll be joining with my friends at Parents, Let’s Unite for Kids to present a session on autism and the way that reality intersects with art in my book. My good friend Connie VonBergen will talk about her experiences as the mother of an autistic child, I’ll chat about the underpinnings for Edward (an Aspergian) and how the character was drawn. That event runs from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Mary Alice Fortin Center at Billings Clinic, Rooms B and D. It’s free and open to the public.

Then comes March …

Missoula: At long last, I'm headed there.

I’ve lived in Montana for nearly four years now, and can you believe that I haven’t traveled to Missoula since I got here? (I have been there several times in the semi-distant past.) Anyway, that will change next month, when I have three events lined up in Missoula and the “vicinity”:

  • On Thursday, March 18, I’ll be at the Ronan City Library for a chat with the Friends of the Library group there. The address is 203 Main Street SW, and the event begins at 7 p.m. 
  • On Friday, March 19, I’ll be at Fact & Fiction, 220 North Higgins in Missoula, for a reading/signing. That runs from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
  • On Saturday, March 20, I’ll be at the Chapter One bookstore in Hamilton, 252 W. Main Street, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. for a signing.

Then it’s back home. But the following weekend, Saturday, March 27, I’ll be back at it, with a signing and perhaps a reading at Red Lodge Books, 16 N. Broadway, from 3 to 6 p.m.

It’s safe to say that I’m looking forward to each and every one of these events. Please join me.

Please keep an eye on my calendar in the coming weeks. I’m hopeful of stringing together some appearances that will take 600 Hours of Edward into various corners of the state/region.

Here are a few things on tap that I’m particularly excited about:

  • Thursday, Feb. 4: I’ll be at the Stillwater County Library — 27 N. 4th Street, Columbus, MT — to chat with library patrons, do a reading of 600 Hours and sign copies of the book. 4 to 6 p.m.
  • Thursday, Feb. 25: I’m teaming with Parents, Let’s Unite for Kids for a discussion about autism and mental-health issues. It will be held at the Mary Alice Fortin Center at Billings Clinic, 2800 10th Ave. North in Billings, Rooms B and D. The event will include discussion, Q&A, a reading and a book signing. That runs from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. (By the way, here’s an interview I did with PLUK last month.)
  • Thursday, March 18: Road trip! I’m headed to Ronan to chat with the Friends of the Library about my book. That will be at the Ronan City Library, 203 Main St. SW. It starts at 7 p.m. (Some other Missoula-area events are in the works, so check back soon.)

UPDATE: And here’s one more …

  • Saturday, March 27: Signing/reading at Red Lodge Books, 16 N. Broadway, Red Lodge, MT. 3 to 6 p.m.

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