Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Miami Book Fair, Wrecking Cars, & Computer Paranoia by Kristy Kiernan

Okay, so, some of you know of my computer woes, but for those who don’t, here’s the lowdown:

We took a longer “vacation” than normal this year in order for me to complete this new book. See, my theory was that if I scheduled a “vacation” (gosh, the quotes are really giving me away, aren’t they?), in which I had nothing else scheduled, then I would buckle down, stop obsessing about Matters of Faith, and would be able to get the final 20,000 words of my new book cranked out.


Six days after arriving on vacation my fabulous, nine month old Hewlett-Packard motherboard died. DIED. Just plain dead. This is, clearly, a problem. But here’s the larger problem: because we are on a rather remote island in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, we have hours to go to get to a Best Buy (where I bought said computer and where I have an actual extended warranty, something I normally refuse as a matter of pride [what IS that?!] but which I got at the prodding of my brilliant husband).

Once we get to the Best Buy, they would send it to Hewlett-Packard, who would take one to three weeks to repair it and send it back. No telling whether it would be one, two, or three weeks. So what was I supposed to do?

WHERE was I supposed to tell them to send it back TO? Back to my home? What if it was done in one week? Then it would sit in front of our door for another two weeks until we got home. Back to the vacation house? What if it was done in three weeks and the lucky folk who rented the place after us got a nice new HP laptop delivered to them because we were already gone?It was a bad situation. So…I chose to do nothing. As in not get it fixed on vacation, as in NOT WRITE on vacation. We were actually *gasp* ON VACATION.

Wow. VACATION is really, really nice. Do you know that this is the first time in over ten years that I’ve NOT worked on vacation? Lovely. I highly recommend it.

So we get home, and I truck on into Best Buy. They ship it out to Hewlett-Packard, and I am left with my husband’s rather awful laptop. I spend a couple of days cleaning it up ( you know, anti-virus, spyware, disc clean, defrag), and installing new software so that I can load my memory-stick back-up onto it and get to writing…and the power cord goes.

Of course the battery lasts about 45 minutes, and then I have another completely useless computer. This time we have to borrow a friend’s computer to order a new power cord (hoping all the while that my diagnostic abilities are up to par and this is actually what the problem is), and now all we can do is wait.

I can’t write, and all of my friends and acquaintances are wondering why I’ve not answered any of their e-mails for the past four weeks.

We finally get the power cord in and, amazingly enough, that was exactly the problem, and then we get a call that my HP is back and all fixed up! Wahoo! It’s just like Christmas. So I go pick it up on Friday, but I can’t get much done because I’m going to the Miami Book Fair on Saturday.
THIS is exciting. I’ve been to the Miami Book Fair as a reader, but never as an author, and I have to say that I’m pretty stoked. I’m to present with Connie May Fowler and Cassandra King, two of my favorite Southern authors, and I was going to stay the night with Bonnie Glover, author of Going Down South, and her family. We plan to go see the Rock Bottom Remainders, and to party at The Raleigh with the other authors, and she and her husband, Craig, ask me to go to church with them in the morning, and if you’ve read anything about Matters of Faith you know that I am all over that, and then on Sunday, Bonnie and I are going to go back to the Fair to see some of our favorite authors, like Stewart O’Nan, and Rick Bragg, and Russell Banks, and, well, lots of others…but then…things happen.

Mostly, I wreck my car.

I dutifully print out my Mapquest directions and make my way over to downtown Miami. Unfortunately, the actual Miami Book Fair itself is smack dab in the middle of where Mapquest is telling me I need to go. As in, there are actual blocks of downtown Miami shut off to automobile traffic, which, of course, Mapquest does not know anything about.

For those not acquainted with downtown Miami, there are many one-way streets, forcing you to really put some thought into how to work you way around to where you want to be. I am evidently impaired in this capacity, and I spend at least an hour completely lost in Miami, trying to work my way back to the Fair. I have long since given up on getting to the “Free to Authors!” parking garage, and am just trying to get to the “Sort of Close to the Fair!” parking garage.

In order to do this, I have to SLOWLY wend my way through the streets of downtown Miami, looking for the intricate combination of one-way streets that will bring me to the elusive parking garage. Needless to say, the drivers behind me are NOT AMUSED. I’m doing my best, I really am, and listen, I’m no dummy, okay? I’m not just completely blithely unaware of the fact that I am holding people up. I am making every effort to do this as quickly and efficiently as I possibly can…BUT…the person behind me is getting…


I mean, you can tell, right? He’s about a quarter inch off my ass, and though he has yet to lay on his horn, he is clearly rather IRRITATED with me. Now here’s the weird thing…

I get flustered.

Really flustered. And nervous. And I just don’t normally get all flustered and nervous while driving. I’m a good problem solver, I have quick reflexes, I know my cars’ capabilities. But, damn, this guy, being lost, being a presenter, meeting authors I’m a fan of, all of it just has me worked up, and by the time I turn onto NE 1st Street where the Suntrust International Parking Garage (NOT the “Free to Authors!” garage) is I am worked into a fine frenzy of shaky, jumpy nerves.

Guess who turns in after me?

Yep, Angry Guy.

This, of course, freaks me out more than anything that has happened so far. For one thing (TOUR GUIDE: Welcome to the inner workings of the fiction writer’s brain! Settle in and enjoy the whole crazy ride! Please keep your arms and legs inside at all times, books will be signed at the end of your adventure…), is this pissed off driver REALLY a book lover going to the Miami Book Fair? Did he REALLY intend to go to the Suntrust International Parking Garage? Could this REALLY be that coincidental?

Orrrrrrrr… is he a homicidal madman who’s going to leap out as soon as I park and pistol whip me into a quivering heap of bloodied flesh clutching my little trade paperback novels to my chest, crying out for a media escort to come save me?

As I search desperately for a space it seems that Option #2 is the only believable scenario. Seriously, this guy is—to borrow one of the few Yankee expressions I treasure—WICKED PISSED at me. Finally on Level Three North I see an open space. I hesitate, briefly, because it seems a little slim for my car, but then I look in my rearview mirror, and this guy is right there, he’s so close I can’t see his bumper, hell, I can’t see his HOOD.

Sound is carrying in that freaky way that sound carries in parking garages, and I hear his engine rev and then…then… I LOSE MY MIND.

I, for some strange reason, fight or flight, whatever, I turn into the space and instead of simply pulling in, I…POUND ON THE GAS.

The car, all 335 hp of it, LEAPS forward and SLAMS into the guard rail, taking it from, what? 60 mph to 0 in about 1.3 seconds.

I wasn’t wrong, by the way. The guy behind me is so irritated by my behavior that he SQUEALS past me up the ramp and into the nether regions of the garage, never to be seen again (though I fantasize that he shows up at my talk to have his copy of MATTERS OF FAITH signed).

I am left stunned, shaking, and yes, I admit it, sobbing. It was not so much the impact, but the leaping of the car, the feeling of being completely out of control, that leaves me a basket-case. At 39 years old, I have never been the driver in an accident. I have never run into anything, never bumped anther car, never scraped a wall or come too close to a parking pole. In fact, I haven’t even had a traffic ticket since I was 18 (running a stop sign, my one and only ticket).

I then had to pull myself together, go talk to an audience (which was rather upset that Connie May Fowler didn’t show. As I began my presentation several members of the audience got up and walked out, clearly finding greener pastures now that Connie May wasn’t sitting up there with me and Cassandra King. I get it. I understand. That’s okay. Of course what they don’t know is that Cassandra and I held a raffle for a 2009 Lamborghini at the end of our talk.)

Cassandra King was gracious and entertaining, and the audience that remained was incredibly involved, and we all had a good time with the Q & A session.

But my husband was suddenly called out of town for work, leaving our pup without anyone to feed or walk her for much too long, and frankly, I was ready to just get back home with my severely damaged car (it didn’t LOOK that bad, but there was almost $4,000 worth of damage to the front end) and my severely damaged nerves.

Still…I’m looking forward to next year.

Really, how bad could it be?

Oh! And that computer? Yeah, it came back on Friday…then went right back out again on Monday. I’ve grown convinced that the universe doesn’t want me to finish this book.

But I’m going to anyway.


JD Rhoades said...

Yikes! Heck of a vacation. At least you had a nice island to fret on...

Did you get angry guy's license plate number? Because anyone who scares Our Kristy is up for a beatin'.

Have you considered writing in longhand? When I went to Wisconsin a couple weeks ago, I decided not to take the laptop, but did take the nifty little Moleskine notebook I got for Christmas last year. Started on a new novel and blazed through the first thousand words in about 45 minutes on the plane. Amazing what you can accomplish with no Internet to distract you. Only problem is going to be deciphering my awful handwriting when I transcribe it.

Anonymous said...

Man! What a story. I feel for ya.

Kristy Kiernan said...

Thanks, Dusty! No, I never got the license plate, I was too shaken up to get out and look!

Anonymous said...

It was not a great day at the Miami Int'l Book Fair but, Kristy, you were wonderful. The wry way you have with words, your great sense of humor -- everyone loved you and rushed out to buy Matters of Faith.

So, we didn't party with the big guys/gals. They missed out! Incidentally, another author in peril needed "your room." Norma Jarrett, author of The Sunday Brunch Diaries," stayed with me instead. We turned in before eleven. Party animals!

Next year?


Ad Hudler said...

Okay, Kristy...this is strange but true: I wrecked MY car in Miami during Miami Book Fair when I was touring with "Southern Living." Only the angry guy was an angry woman, who instantly called her very-large brother, Jesus, to the scene....this was in Hialeah. Nuff said. Oh...and I don't mean THE Jesus, I mean a Hay-Zeuss Jesus.

Geez, maybe we West Coast Floridians just can't handle the driving conditions of the big See-Tay.

Ad Hudler

Kristy Kiernan said...

Bonnie, definitely next year! Thouhg I hope to see you before then, of course :-)

Ad, no way! And maybe you're right. But I swear, I've driven all over Miami perfectly serenely, even in traffic, even with crazy people whacking on my windows, even in near hurricane conditions. I don't know, something in my just snapped!

Ad Hudler said...

Promise me something,Kristy: We all love your thoughtful,serious novels....but PLEASE write a funny one some time, too....because you really are one of the funniest bloggers I know!