Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Tour (Part III): Not Lost (Much) in Houston

Mes Amis

By now you may have begun to notice a theme in my travels.

Yes, I don't have much of a sense of direction. But I was determined that by the time I got to Houston everything would be fine.

And it was.

Thanks to the intervention of a very kind man running the shuttle service at George Bush Airport. You see, I'd kind of forgotten in all my prep to arrange a lift from the airport in my arrival to Houston. Never mind, thought I, boading the plane at Minneapolis, they're bound to have train links like the Hiawatha line in Minneapolis. No worries.

Except they didn't.

And except the taxi rank was utterly empty.

So I went to see the shuttle service. And this was when the very nice man - a pure Texan Gentleman of the style I believed wouldn't really exist - informed me that I had another problem. You see, I didn't realise Houston had 2 airports. And since my middle flights were on Southwest Airlines, it was as well I was organising two lifts since the next day I had to go to another airport entirely.

So huge thanks to this man and huge thanks to my driver, who, it turned out was an aspiring author himself. Now, from our discussions I think our genres were utterly removed from each other, but let me say he had the right attitude and our discussion as we drove to the hotel was great fun. I do wish him all the best in the next step of finding an agent. Sadly I don't know what the US equivalent of the Writer's Yearbook is, but I do hope he managed to locate something.

Now, here was another case of Google Maps screwing things up. According to what I'd gathered the hotel was five minutes from the store.

Well, yes.

If you crossed a honking two lane freeway.

Lucky my hotel ran a free car service.

Except... when I decided to head over, the car was lost. For about an hour. Which mean once again I was far later at showing up than I expected. Lucky, however, that this was just me popping my head in. And what a delight to see Murder By The Book for the first time. Given recent events with the unexpected death of Asst Manager David Thompson, I was admittedly a little uncertain before walking in, but the staff and David's wife, McKenna, who manages the store were more than welcoming and soon I found myself settled in to signing some early copies for folks, and fielding all the usual questions about those darned first editions. I also spent some time browsing the store, coming out with the usual stash I'd got at all stores thus far and wondering just how much I could fit into me bags.

After this I headed back to the hotel to freshen up and booked the car with my new driver, Max (I'm sure that was his name, and I'm going to kick myself if I have it wrong), who used to work for a Scottish boss and this was probably the only person in the hotel who could understand my accent. Max was very cool about getting me where I needed to go on time, and while we got delayed by traffic lights on the return journey, still made excellent time which meant I was there, you know, before the event was due to start. I considered this a personal record for me.

Returning to MBTB, I was greeted by a strange man eyeing me up. This worried me until I realised it was Do Some Damage's own Scott D Parker, just ensuring that the wild-eyed, hobo-styled Scotsman coming into the joint was indeed his erstwhile fellow blogger. At least I knew one person was there.

After a chat with the booksellers to calm me nerves, it was showtime. And following a lovely introduction, I managed to get the show on the road.

If you want the outsider's view, go here, and get Scott's take on the show. But from my point of view, I couldn't have asked for a cooler audience, some of whom even hung around to get books signed... I know, who'd'a thunk that would happen?

Afterwards, I was still flying high on nerves, as always following an event, but the fantastic folks from MBTB eased those off by taking me to dinner where I had catfish for the first time in my life and experienced some of that Texas Hospitality. Let me say, MBTB more than deserves its reputation, and thank you so much to everyone there for making me feel so welcome. I hope one day you'll allow me to return...

And so, as I climbed in to bed that night, I felt a shiver of fear. For the next day would find me in LA, and at the mercy of my host for the next few days, Christa "Krankies Fan" Faust...

Au revoir


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