My new novel, Why Stuff Matters, will be released in the UK on October nineteenth. I’m currently involved in a blog tour, where I write essays and do Q&A’s for different British blogs. I’ve noticed that a few of these blogs have won awards for being stars in literary critique circles, so I have high hopes for good reviews and good sales.
Why Stuff Matters is about a grieving widow, Jessica, who inherits an antique mall from her mother. The elderly people who have booths in the mall are eccentric, cynical, and so acquisitive that they undercut one another, scheme over the possessions of the dead, and, in one case, kill in order to hang on to their stuff. When Lizzie, Jessica’s precocious and larcenous twelve-year-old stepdaughter, is dumped on Jessica’s doorstep, the dynamic between old and young is hilarious. I had so much fun writing it!
And more good news is that my publisher, Arcadia, has such faith in my novels that they’re getting a foot in the door of the American publishing industry by distributing Old Buildings in North Texas in the US starting in April. It’s a bit overwhelming, but also an honor, to be their flagship.
So, as you can see, I’m quite excited by how things are going.
Though I’m busy writing, I’m also traveling.
We are in Albuquerque for the International Balloon Fiesta, which attracts “hundreds of thousands” (quoted from their website) from all over the world, and provides the lion’s share of the annual income for the town and its tourist industry. The weather is gorgeous, the people are nice, and the restaurants, shops, and galleries are interesting. The main event is the Mass Ascension, a designation that holds cultish undertones and rings oddly to the ear. The Mass Ascension takes place on opening morning, when over six hundred balloons float upward from a grassy field at sunrise. It sounds like a magnificent sight.
But Albuquerque messed up.
We get on the hotel shuttle at five-thirty in the morning, which takes us to a park-and-ride in a mall parking lot, where buses will pick us up to take us to the balloon park. When we arrive at the mall our driver is shocked to see a line of two thousand people, three quarters of a mile long.
“This doesn’t look good,” she says, concerned. “I’ve been driving this shuttle for six years and I’ve never seen a crowd like this.”
It’s dark outside, and very cold. Getting to the end of the line is a hike, but spirits are high. Kids still in their pajamas scamper around. Old women huddle beneath blankets. As usual, I haven’t dressed appropriately. Freezing, I tuck myself between David and a man I’ve just met, hoping for vicarious warmth. All around us, strangers talk and laugh with one another. In our conversations with the neighbors in front and back, it’s evident that many have paid for airline tickets and expensive hotels rooms in order to see this one event.
The line is so long and circuitous that the buses we are supposed to board aren’t in sight. The sky grows lighter. We shuffle forward at a pace of twenty yards every five minutes.
At sunrise, seven o'clock, the event that we traveled so far to behold, and got up so early for, takes place twenty minutes away. Twelve hundred people still wait for rides in the mall parking lot. Fury flies through the air.
There is no apology, no acknowledgement that a mistake was made, no explanation, no refund. Speculation abounds among the frustrated and enraged people.
“How did this happen?” Freezing feet stomp hard into the tarmac.
“My ticket’s right here.” Waves the ticket so all can see.
“What do we do now?” A disbelieving whine. This question is applicable. We have been dropped here and have no transportation back to the hotel until nine-thirty.
A common speculation makes its way through the line. This massive error is being blamed on “the computer”. The weak-ass excuse is that “the computer” sent everyone who bought their ticket online to this particular parking lot instead of evenly dividing them between the five other pick-up points.
I pull out my phone and search for the nearest breakfast place. There’s an Egg and I just up the street. David and I leave the line and head toward the restaurant.
Anyway, the whole situation is rotten, rotten, rotten. It’s left me feeling sour and vindictive toward Albuquerque. Twelve hundred people. Fifteen dollars per prepaid ticket. Eighteen thousand dollars. I hope Albuquerque chokes on it.
This morning we’re on our way to Steamboat Springs in Colorado.