Your novel is published, the reviews are in, the mad whirl of book promotion, signings, blog tours, and book tours are finally over.
Well, if you’re lucky, your novel will take on a life of its own, and continue to strike a chord with readers. That’s what happened with my sixth Dead-End Job mystery, Murder with Reservations, published seven years ago.
Helen and I worked as hotel housekeepers for that mystery, and I learned a lot. I cleaned rooms at a Holiday Inn Express, a pleasant, comfortable hotel. Also, a clean one. I measure other hotels by its standards, and I’ve walked out of hotels I thought were dirty.
When I was a hotel housekeeper, my mustard yellow smock worked better than Harry Potter’s Cloak of Invisibility, and at six feet tall, I’m hard to overlook. But no one sees a hotel maid.
I worked with another maid, and the pair of us made 28 beds a day, cleaned 14 bathrooms and the honeymoon suite. You have not lived until you’ve cleaned chocolate out of a honeymooner couple’s hot tub.
Fortunately, my partner preferred cleaning the bathrooms, so I got to dust and make the beds. After my first day of making beds, my back hurt so bad I went to bed with a bottle of Motrin.
Hotel housekeeping isn’t like cleaning house. It’s like cleaning ten houses. In one day.
Here’s something else: DO NOT USE THE HOTEL COFFEE POT.
Why? You’ll be sorry you asked, but here goes:
My cleaning partner was a bit absentminded and would occasionally wipe the hotel coffee pot with the same rag she used for the toilet.
And when two men shared a room and one was in the bathroom, the other would sometimes use the coffeepot as a urinal.
There. That Starbucks in the lobby doesn’t seem so expensive, does it?
This is the only hotel coffee maker I will use. Note the paper cups. If a hotel provides mugs, I wash mine before using it.
My biggest tip: $2.38 and a can of peach nectar.
Most people don’t tip hotel housekeepers. I didn’t, until I worked as one. If I stayed in a good room, I figured the maid was making good money. Why should I give her more?
Wrong. If she’s lucky – and most hotel housekeepers are women – she’ll make minimum wage. My cleaning partner told me, "If everyone tipped me a dollar a day, I could stay off welfare and my daughter would be proud of me."
One dollar. How often have you handed that much or more to a street person or the bellman who rolls your wheeled suitcase up to your room?
For a hotel housekeeper, a $2 tip can make a difference.
Murder with Reservations debuted at the Malice Domestic mystery conference, and the people who attended got the message. Nearly everyone there started tipping the hotel housekeepers. When Femme Fatale and sister mystery writer (Daughter of Ashes) Marcia Talley was traveling with two busloads of US Naval Academy midshipmen – her husband, Barry Talley was music director – she asked those 70 young men and women if they’d tipped their maids. Of course, they hadn’t.
Marcia made them all get off the bus and leave a tip.
I can’t count how many people have told me, "I didn’t tip until I read your book."
Tipping hotel housekeepers makes a big difference in their lives – and helps my novel live on in a small way.