Friday, April 11, 2008

Snow Day in Cowtown

The Fatal Tide World Tour (aka, As Far As I Can Travel Before My Visa Card Implodes) began inauspiciously yesterday morning. I'd been booked to do a 7pm reading—my first for my book—in Calgary at the McNally Robinson bookstore (sadly, due to close in July), so I had checked through security at Victoria at 8 am to catch my 9:05 am flight. All was well... until a Westjet employee announced that flights to Calgary and Edmonton had been canceled due to a freak snowstorm. We trundled back through security, collected our baggage, and chaos ensued as several ill-formed lines tried to muscle their way to the Westjet counter to get rebooked.

When it was my turn, I learned the earliest they could get me to Calgary—assuming the snow stopped—was 8 pm. Uh oh. I pleaded my case: first-time author, book launch, yadda yadda. All they could do was suggest that I try Air Canada. The AC rep had a seat for me that (the weather gods willing) could get me to Calgary for 6:00 pm. That was tight, but my only option—even at $160 extra.

Bruce, my buddy in Calgary, confirmed that a blizzard had blown through town but seemed to be clearing. He was hopeful when I was nearly despondent. He promised to let the bookstore know I might be late. I asked him, if it was necessary, to read something to the restless hordes as my "opening act". (I was half-joking, but Bruce did turn up with one of his articles in tow just in case: semper paratus.)

I had an eight-hour wait in Victoria International Airport. Not as bad as it sounds (except for the Starbucks sandwich), as I was able to write the hour-and-a-half conference paper I have to deliver (on the nonfiction novel) this Saturday in Banff. Still, my heart sank when—an hour before take-off—I glanced up and saw that my new AC flight had been delayed 25 minutes.

Getting to the bookstore in time was now impossible. Getting there not so late as to be embarrassing was barely within the realm of possibility...assuming there were no more delays. The plane arrived on time, the AC crew (god luv 'em) did a NASCAR fast turnaround, and we were in the air by 5:15 pm Calgary time. I settled into my seat, turned on a little trancey Sufi music on my iPod to calm down, and then, just before she passed out from exhaustion, the woman beside me announced, "I heard it's snowing in Calgary again."


In the end, the afternoon flurries passed and the plane touched down at 6:40pm. I sprinted through the airport, decided to forget about my luggage (I could return for it later), grabbed a rental car and sped toward downtown Calgary—where I'd never been before. Thankfully, the Flames were playing that night, so the streets were barren and I made good time. At 7:15 pm, Bruce was standing outside McNally Robinson to catch my car keys and find a parking spot. I dashed up the stairs (of what's a gorgeous and soon to be much-missed bookstore) to greet my adoring crowd of... well, four. (Five once Bruce returned.) All except one were friends that I had guilted into attending. And the last attendee was a friend of one these friends. So much for the power of an advertisement (two weeks in a row!) in the Globe Books section.

Still, I was ecstatic to have made it against the odds. I gave a brief reading. I think it went well. (Who knows: it was a blur.) I sold and signed four books. I signed six more for the folks at McNally Robinson (the world's coolest bookstore! buy all your books there!) Then a bunch of us went out to a James Joyce Pub for a Guinness in the neutron-bomb quiet of downtown Calgary.

Of course, if my reading tour continues this way I'll bankrupt myself long before I get further east than Manitoba. If my Cowtown experience were one of those MasterCard commercials, here's how it would read:

Extra cost to make sure I got to Calgary on time: $160

Number of books sold: 4

Total revenue on sales: $120

My take on those sales: $18

(Not entirely true: I only get royalties once I sell the first 5,000 books, for which I got paid my advance. So actually I made nothing.)

Economics of my book tour so far: idiotic

Good karma from not missing the first reading for my first book: priceless

(P.S., Thanks to Bruce, Ken, Nic, Janice and Emilie, as well as Tyson and Thomas at McNally—you guys made my night! As the old saying goes: a man will always remember his first book reading...)

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